Tag Archives: Publishing Contracts

Less than Minimum Wage for Authors?

Are you thinking about approaching an agent or publisher for your next book? Do you know what clauses publishing contracts usually contain? How do you read a publishing contract? What your income will be – compared to author-publishing? This blog post and the following two will help you to “take the con out of the work con-tract”.

Wikipedia explains: “A publishing contract is a legal contract between a publisher and a writer or author, to publish written material by the writer or author. This may involve a single written work, or a series of works.” And as with every legal contract, authors are faring better when consulting a lawyer that is specialized in publishing contracts – BEFORE – they sign it.  


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Traditional Publishing Contracts – Part One of a Series

You might remember an article How Harlequin Publishing Deceives Their Authors from last summer in this blog, about the planned class action suit against the publisher. Today I stumbled about a sequel of J.A. Konrath’s blog: Harlekin Fail, Part 2, where he explains the contract practices of the trade publishers in general, and how they deceive their authors. From today on we will look more closely into these practices.

When offered the opportunity to publish traditionally, about two-thirds of self-published authors are interested. The supposed prestige of a traditional publisher, the wide distribution a publisher can generate and help with marketing, are the reasons, cited in surveys.
However the perception of traditional publishing is often not up to date in public, as the way of book marketing (and the whole traditional publishing business) has totally…

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How to Choose an eBook Publisher – or DIY

There is quite a difference between a real e-book publisher who pays an advance and then publishes your finished book or an e-book publishing company which is in reality often vanity publishing and takes a certain commission from your book.

And then there are author service companies who charge small fees to produce your ebook, but then do not tap into your royalty and where you can earn 100 percent of your ebook whole sale price.  In all three variations the e-book retailers (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Diesel etc.) always get a percentage of the e-book sales, mostly around 30%, for providing their sales platform, point-of-sales cost, money transfer fees, workforce, marketing etc.

Compare e-book publishing company commission rates.|
E-book publishing companies hook you to have your book published without investing a dime, but as they act now as the official publisher they retain a big portion of your e-book sales to themselves – which is often not a good deal for you. They offer free ISBN numbers, an amount that is negligible ($25), and then take 15% commission (Smash Words).  If your book becomes successful you lose out on a lot of money!

Your investment will not be more than $500 and $900 if you research for professional, yet inexpensive editing, cover design, ISBN number (free in Canada), book formatting and uploading.  Author service companies such as offer all these services, but don’t act as publisher and don’t take any commission from the whole sale price. You receive 100%.

Read the fine print; know your contract.
Before you commit to publishing an e-book with any company, always read the fine print.

Contact a lawyer who is specialized on publishing contracts and copyright issues and who can check your contract before you sign!

Research copyright details
Every publishing company plays by a different set of rules. Make sure that the e-book publisher you use allows you to retain the rights to your work.

This is another reason why you need to let a lawyer screen your contract.

Screen the e-Publisher
E-publishers can be anything, from very amateurish to very professional:

  • Is their website professionally designed and easy to navigate? Is the text well-written and formatted? The website is the publisher’s shopping window, and should reflect professionalism.
  • Does their staff have publishing, editing, or marketing experience? Beware of publishers that don’t provide this information on their websites.
  • How long has the publisher been in business?  Are there any complaints about the publisher or its staff? A web search on the publisher’s name (and words such as “complaint”, ”issues”, “problems”, “caution”) will sometimes turn up information–often on authors’ websites or in their blogs.
  • Are other writers happy with the publisher? Contact a few of them, and ask.
  • Order a couple of the publisher’s books. Are they of good quality? Professionally presented? How’s the cover art? Do they show signs of having been edited? Have they been proofread? What’s the caliber of the writing? Bad, poorly formatted, and/or sloppily-edited books do not encourage readers to return for more.
  • For print books, if the publisher produces them, the royalty rate will be lower, but shouldn’t be less than what print publishers pay for trade paperback books–7%-10% of list.
  • What’s the optimum price for an e-book? There’s no consensus, and prices are all over the map. The big print houses charge as much as $14.99, while independent e-Publishers tend to stick to the $4.00 to $7.00 range.
  • How does the publisher market itself and its titles? As noted above, e-book authors are expected to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for marketing and promotion, but a professional e-Publisher will actively support its books–for instance, investing in some form of meaningful advertising to attract readers to its site, sending out press releases and advance reading copies, and attending conventions and book fairs.
  • How forthcoming is the publisher? A reputable e-Publisher should be willing to answer your questions about things like sales figures and formats, give references, make its contract available for your review, and in general to provide information about itself and its publications (preferably on its website).
  • A publisher that charges a fee or requires you to buy something as a condition of publication is either a vanity publisher or a self-publishing service, no matter what its claims to the contrary.

EPIC, an association for electronically-published authors, has a helpful list of contract clauses to watch out for. Explore their “Red Flag List” to find clauses that could become an issue with your future publisher.


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Once more: e-Book Royalties

“Publishers have been demanding control of ebook rights and the lion’s  share of the proceeds since before there were ebooks or proceeds, and now it really is a deal breaker.  Their contracts presently are giving their writers between 15% and 25% of the proceeds from ebook sales.

But Amazon and Barnes & Noble are allowing any writer, no matter if previously unpublished or blockbuster best-seller, to sell their own e-books directly on their sites and set their own prices within certain parameters.  And these self-publishing writers get up to 70% of the price of every ebook sale – not the 25%, which now seems to have evolved into the so-called “industry standard.”

Compare the numbers for an ebook put on sale directly by the writer at $9.99 and the same ebook put on sale by a publisher at  say $12.95. 
In the first instance, the writer makes $6.80 on each sale, in the  second, through a publisher and the “industry standard” only $3.25 …

Read this whole article by bestseller author Norman Spinrad:



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