Author Beware…it’s a long post

23 Nov

Stop Sign99% of all manuscripts will be accepted by vanity publishers (aka subsidy publishers), and will be published – as long as the author is willing to pay their (totally inflated) prices.

I am sure you have seen these small ads in literary magazines or on the internet:  “If your book deserves publication, send your manuscript now to …”.  And authors do not have to wait long for a response to their submission.

The main goal of these vanity publishers is to have their printing company busy, so they are not really into executing the work of a traditional publisher.  A background check reveals in almost all cases that they are either printers or affiliated with a printing company.  I was shocked to learn that even one of the best Canadian book printing companies went into vanity publishing a year ago.

Authors are certainly surprised when they encounter a publisher who wants money up-front. It should be the other way around shouldn’t it?  After the author, having signed a hefty check, eventually learns that paying for publication is no guarantee that a single copy of his book will appear in any book shop, not even the local ones.

Many vanity publishers will charge somewhere between $8,000 to $20,000 (or even more) to publish a book depending upon its length. Why would an author pay $20,000 when he or she can have the same book printed for $1,500?

Nevertheless, the contract will be full of promises: What exactly will be paid to the author for subsequent reprinting, subsidiary, for audio and e-books, mass-market paperback rights, TV & Radio rights, merchandising and commercial rights and even film and foreign rights – to make the author believing that his “publisher” actively solicits his manuscript in Holywood.

Vanity contracts include usually a certain amount of “free” copies for the author; sometimes even as much as 10 books and if he/ she require more, they have to be paid. In reality, he / she is paying for them twice…

The stock of unsold books remains the property of the publisher, so if there is a chance to remainder them later, he takes the proceeds. In most cases, only a certain number of copies in an edition will actually be bound; the rest will remain in the warehouse as flat printed sheets until required, which is probably never.

Vanity / subsidy publishers are not concerned with editing, promotion, sales or distribution – unless the author pays additionally. For most vanity books, neither exists, and should review copies really being sent out: Reviewers are wary of vanity presses because they know that little attention is paid to the editing of the book. Unless the vanity house has a proven distribution and sales organization, the author is going to have to sell it himself and usually the book sells fewer than 200 copies.

As seen in a Vanity publisher contract:
In the event of bankruptcy or liquidation of the publisher for any cause whatever, the author shall have the right to buy back the publications at fair market value to be determined by agreement or arbitration.” (That means, die author has to pay a second time for all his unsold books).  “If the author does not purchase remaining copies of the book, the representative of the publisher shall have the right to sell same at the best obtainable price without payment of royalty to the author.”  Unbelievable! Unethical! Criminal!

Beware of these signs:

– Don’t trust flattering letters concerning your manuscript.
– Be suspicious of vague promises of quality production. You will not get it in writing…
– Be wary of promises to sell television and film rights, serial books and other money-making options.
– Read, read and read once more the contract.
– Don’t pay a dime, get a copy of the contract and show it to a lawyer that is specialized in contract / copyright law.
– Watch out for contract clauses, that allow the publisher to renegotiate his initial pitch, and also where the “Publisher shall have the right to license the rights set forth”.

Beside their over-the-top printing prices, Vanity publishers might cheat you in a contract that expires only 50 years after your death and with worldwide rights, even universe rights – a contract that a friend of mine signed in Ontario, Canada (and paid dearly).

“The author hereby grants the publisher, during the full term of copyright, the sole and exclusive right to manufacture, print, publish and sell and to otherwise use, as set out further in this agreement, including, but not limited to, acting as agent and/or exercising any or all subsidiary rights, throughout the universe the work.” And: “The copyright remains with the author, until fifty (50) years after the death of the author. All covenants and grants of the author shall bind the author’s successors or assigns.

Despite all the warnings, there are still writers who fall into the trap of vanity / subsidy publishing. As soon as one vanity publisher goes out of business, another fills the gap.  




Hyper Smash

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Publishing Contracts


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