Why POD Contracts Could Be Bad For Authors

03 Mar

Ed Bott recently wrote in a Forbes article:
“Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.  I read EULAs (End User License Agreements) so you don’t have to.  I’ve spent years reading these, looking for issues or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.  I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.  Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output.”

Well, Apple is not the only one who is greedy, it seams Mr. Bott  yet hasn’t seen the contracts between most POD service companies and authors:
Some POD publishers will do anything to make it financially and logistically impossible for you to switch to another POD publisher if  you are unhappy with their services or if you want to become an independent publisher.  Their contracts might include a clause, buried in the middle of their contract that states they own all rights to the materials you have paid them to create:

  • Editing,
  • Cover design,
  • Custom interior illustrations or
  • the final edited and formatted copy of the interior of your manuscript.

Imagine paying someone hundreds, or even thousands of dollars,  to edit or format your book but not getting a copy of the final, edited version for your own use?  Why should any author pay for something they will not be able to take with them and use it elsewhere?

Most authors don’t read the fine print or don’t let it check buy an attorney – an essential step in every business dealing.  They only realize that they have signed over all their production file rights to the POD publisher until it is too late.  Here are some samples of contracts, which seem to be fine, until a legal advisor explains what they mean:

Company 1
Charging $1022 POD fees
: “We may agree to provide you a file containing an image of the cover of your Title (‘Cover Image’). Contingent upon your receipt of such Cover Image, we hereby grant you, during the term of this Agreement, a worldwide, royalty-free right to use the Cover Image for any lawful purpose related to promoting your Title.”
You think this sounds fair?  Think again… It means, you can only use it to promote and market your title while they’re publishing your book and, per the wording above, they aren’t required to give you a copy at all. If you use one of their templates, they own the rights to that file, too. This means you can’t use the cover you paid them to create if you move to another publisher in the future. A No-Go!

Company 2
Charging $1517
for Cover design and interior formatting:
“We will retain in our possession all of the materials submitted by you. We will have no obligation to provide to you any submitted materials or production files at anytime or for any reason.”
Do not sign this!

Company 3
Charging $1972
for their POD services
“The Author acknowledges and agrees that (publisher) retains all property rights and all ownership of all data, files, and materials that (publisher) prepares for the publication of the Work, including but not limited to production data, files, and materials, whether or not completed, in the possession of (publisher) and/or on (publisher)s’ computers and servers. This means:  files and data that have been generated by (publisher) (i.e. design files), are the property of (publisher).”  First of all they are not publishers, but a ordinary service company.  You pay for it – and they own it….
Not a good decision to sign this in a contract!

Company 4
Charging $1324
for their POD services
“We will retain in our possession all of the materials submitted by you. We will have no obligation to provide to you any submitted materials or production files at anytime or for any reason.”
A No-Go!

Company 5
Charging $999
for their POD services
“Author shall have the right to purchase the text (for sums, between $300 and $1,500!) and cover digital production files of the Work in PDF format upon the effective date of termination of this agreement.”

This means: You pay them once to create the files, and you have to pay them again to receive a copy of it from them. This seems to be the most ridiculous and greedy contract clauses in the entire POD industry!

What you just read are excerpts from the most popular POD companies’ contracts:  CreateSpace, AuthorHouse, Xlibries, Trafford and iUniverse….  

Author beware!  It seems to be much safer to hire your own editor, graphic / book designer and formatter, than to go through POD services – as these companies are charging pretty high fees, and on top of it all they earn  royalties from each of your book that is sold.

If you compare POD services to other contractors you hire, for sample to have new roofing on your house:  What would you say if the roofer has a clause in his contract that he owns the roof (for which you paid him top dollars) and if you want to sell your house later, you would have to pay for transferring the roof into your possession – if this is possible at all…  Not a good thing.




Hyper Smash


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