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Heeding the Warning Signals in ePublishing

In light of the recent occurrences at NCP in which the publisher took a partial from an author and inserted it into an anthology without her permission and allowed others to finish the story for her, again without her permission, I wondered what impact that had on readers.

Whenever I hear of a publishing fiasco, I am torn in two. Half of me feels terrible for the authors in the situation that they are in and the other half feels frustrated with the authors. Now, I think the situation that Somers finds herself in right now is fairly unique. Unless the contract specifies that a work is shall not to be used without the permission of the author unless it is for the specified contracted purpose (i.e., novella, inclusion in a specific anthology, or full length work), the contract term may be vague enough that NCP could do with it what they want. It might have taken alot of foresight to have avoided that nightmare.

I heard from one source that NCP sales have actually increased for some authors since news of its issues have come to the forefront. Is it possible that the increase could be attributed to positive coverage at Romantic Times where NCP followed a popular epublishing trend and brought cover models? Is it possible that the contretemps between the authors and the publishers have actually increased visibility in a positive way?

The NCP incidents as well as others, such as Chippewa/Lady Abell and even Ellora’s Cave to some extent, make me anxious about providing those companies with my credit card information. Generally speaking, I will not buy direct from any epublisher unless I have to other than Samhain and Loose ID. But I have purchased ebooks released by epublishers from places like Fictionwise and Books on Board and occassionally, Allromanceebooks.

I feel for authors who run into trouble with publishers, who have been taken in by them, who have lost out on royalties that are owed and so forth, but what responsibility, if any, do I have as a reader to not purchase from a particular publishing house? Alternatively, if I continue to buy books from a publishing I know doesn’t treat its authors well, aren’t I enabling those houses to continue to mistreat authors?

In struggling with this issue, I considered that it is not the responsibility of readers to police publishers. If there is a publisher whose actions offend a reader, she is perfectly within her right to not buy from that publisher and tell others about her decision in a pubic way. However, a reader should not feel guilty about a purchase she makes at a troubled publishing house. For me, it’s easy to say that I won’t buy another book from New Concepts Publishing but that’s because I haven’t bought a book from NCP in years. It would be much harder for me to make that cut from Loose ID who is putting out a much anticipated fourth book in the Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon. I just don’t know how long my principles would be able to withstand the temptation. (maybe all of a day).

But I also think part of my frustration with the epublishing industry is with the authors themselves. Blogs often publish warning signs about authors but frequently those warning posts will come with authors from that house chastising the blogger for spreading false and malicious rumors. Authors often ignore the warning signs, both before submitting and after. I was reading AbsoluteWrite Forum’s Bewares and Background Check the other day and I consistently marvel at the authors and wannabe authors who constantly oppose the good warnings that are doled out by those with experience.

Other authors, it seems, would give anything ANYTHING to say that they are a published author.

If you didn’t read the comments during the last NCP thread, there are attorneys out there in the US (even for those who live outside the US) who will read and review a contract for $250-$1000.00. This is a service that authors should use and if they don’t . . . I think you can fill in the rest of that sentence. I do feel badly for these authors who go to a publishing house and are treated badly and I am happy to provide a service here to alert others but I wish that authors would heed these warnings more so we would have less of them and I wouldn’t have to struggle about where and from whom I should buy my books.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

60 Comments

  1. Shreela
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 04:50:41

    I read this blog’s stories about NCP’s recent scandal, and also at Karen Knows Best blog, which I followed the link from a commenter whose three chapters were made into an anthology/round-robin book, and read her side of the story too.

    At first, it seemed to me that there were some vague areas about the contracts involved, but after reading about NCP disclosing authors’ real names along with their pen names at Karen Knows Best blog, and the seemingly-strong circumstantial evidence that quite a few NCP authors might actually be fronts for NCP owners, I’m very glad I never bought anything from NCP. If they’re going to pull those kinds of stunts, I’d certainly think twice about trusting them with credit card information. Plus, it’s not very ethical to “out” authors choosing to write behind pen names.

  2. Cindy
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 07:17:17

    I too haven’t bought from NCP in several years, but a few weeks ago, I had intentions of doing so. I had joined their readers loop on yahoo, mainly to read the gossip, admittedly. The customers are not getting a fair shake either, it seems. Books not delivered (not sure if this is contained to just print or e-book as well), even to one of the reader’s bookstore.

    Emails were ignored, no one was answering the phones, etc.

    In light of this partial being finished by someone else and published, it worries me that there is an author on said loop trying to contact them about the query she had sent them. They’re not answering her either.

    All in all, that is one very interesting loop.

  3. Charlene Teglia
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 07:47:00

    I don’t think it’s the responsibility of readers to police publishers. It’s the responsibility of authors to investigate before they sign, and to be willing to walk away from a bad deal or a house that’s too big a risk. New epublishers pop up every day; that doesn’t mean they know how to run a business. Even if they have good intentions, it’s a risk for an author. Far too many seem willing to sign any contract on any terms to be published. And continue to sign with a house they know is unprofessional, ignoring warning signs.

    Authors letting themselves get taken isn’t new; this is why vanity and subsidy publishers and book doctor scams have been around for years, long before the advent of epublishing. What is new, I think, is the sheer number of epublishers as technology makes it easier to enter the industry without the huge capital investment traditional publishing requires.

  4. JaneO
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 08:29:29

    It seems foolish to expect readers to police publishers -‘ I doubt most readers know anything about publishers behaving badly. Until I started dropping in to read posts here, I thought the only publisher who behaved badly was the one I used to work for, and I thought he mistreated only the people who actually worked in the office, not the authors. In fact, I heard from some authors that he was very good about paying royalties promptly. (Nonfiction only, Don’t bother submitting fiction proposals.)
    Most readers probably don’t pay much attention to who publishes what, and if they read reviews, they are reviews of authors and books, not reviews of publishers. So yes, it’s up to the authors to protect themselves. Anyone who signs a contract without going over it carefully with a lawyer qualifies as TSTL.

  5. Ellen F.
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 08:57:37

    “It seems foolish to expect readers to police publishers -‘ I doubt most readers know anything about publishers behaving badly.”

    I agree; it’s not readers’ jobs to protect authors. However, since most e-book readers are on the internet, I suspect this stuff gets around more than most of us realize, and because e-book authors tend to be out there on the loops so much and interacting with their readers, readers may feel a little protective of them. I’ve seen some readers on various boards and loops react to such situations with a good deal of anger (which, of course, does not prove they aren’t still buying from the publisher!).

    Furthermore, a publisher which is treating its authors badly is often treating its readers with much the same disdain. Even if readers aren’t driven off by a publisher’s poor treatment of authors, they may well be driven off by poor customer service. So eventually, one way or the other, I think sales for such a publisher will tend to drop. I’m not saying the readers have the slightest obligation to protect authors; I’m just saying that sooner or later, I think bad behavior tends to bite a publisher in the… pocketbook.

  6. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 10:40:12

    Yikes, how many more times must this be said? Refusing to buy books from certain publishers hurts individual authors more than the corporate entity!

    A far more fair and sensible approach would be to discourage new authors from submitting to the bad guys and encourage existing authors to terminate their contracts if and when possible. Writers must find the names of e-pubs somewhere, and if all those “somewheres” (author blogs, industry blogs, Piers Anthony, P&E, EPIC, etc.) regularly publicized ass-hattery, the bad guys would wither and die from lack of product.

    BTW, I’ve noticed that some really fine authors have recently left Torquere. What’s that all about?

  7. areader
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 10:49:10

    BTW, I've noticed that some really fine authors have recently left Torquere. What's that all about?

    There was something on Karen Scott’s blog about Torquere press a while back.
    http://karenknowsbest.com/category/torquere-press/

  8. veinglory
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 10:55:09

    I continue to disagree that all ebook authors should use a lawyer. You may have to spend money to make money, but if you are spending more money than you make you are IMHO doing it wrong. The average ebook *doesn’t make* $500 in its first year. And there is enough contract information out there to make an informed and sensible choice not to invest in a legal opinion. No kind of blanket advice is going to make authors safe from exploitaton, and given the variability in legal expertise I have certainly seen bad advice and false security coming from an author advised by a lawyer who is outside their real area of expertise (i.e. familiar with print or screenplay contracts only). If anything the NCP case is almost unique in involving a bad contract rather than an okay contract that the publisher is not honoring. Although a couple more publishers currently closing in on the drain do also have bad contracts, which I know by reading them myself after researching ‘dangerous clauses’ and ‘necessary clauses’ at places like Absolute Write and Writer Beware.

  9. veinglory
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 10:59:46

    I didn’t leave Torquere, but they didn’t renew either of my longer works so they kind of left me.

  10. Leeann Burke
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 11:36:27

    I agree with you Jane readers shouldn’t feel bad for purchasing ebooks from publishers that authors know aren’t up to par. Most might not even know about the problems.

    Personally I have purchased ebooks directly from these publishers The Wild Rose Press and LBF Books. If I’m not comfortable going through a new publisher to me then I’ll purchase their ebooks at Fictionwise (I spend big there) and All Roman eBooks.

    I do feel for the authors who are caught with publishers who aren’t being fair. I keep an eye on websites like Absolute Write, but I also wonder if the negative comments are true ones or from people who want to spread a bad word about them. I do believe that it’s up to the author in question to do his/her homework before signing a contract which in my mind includes getting a lawyer to look over your contract. Better safe than sorry.

  11. Bernita
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 11:40:51

    I suspect most readers care first and foremost about the story (stories), only secondly about the author of the story or series, and publishers a remote and distant last. That’s if the publisher is even on most readers’ radar.
    Which is why some readers did not understand or care about Savagegate. Some certainly seemed to feel that the plagiarism issue endangered their supply of stories.

  12. Treva Harte
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 12:01:06

    1) Readers really don’t care unless the publisher is bad enough or stupid enough to interfere with them–like not send paid for books or have very badly written stories. And that’s fine for the readers. They want to read. They don’t want to police. Who would if given the choice?

    2) Contracts tell you the priorities of a publisher, which can be useful. More importantly, contracts work when you have a question on something specific which it addresses and you believe that all parties will do their best to make things work. Contracts can’t repair destroyed trust. If you don’t trust or want to work with someone, even a good contract doesn’t help…unless it tells you how to get out of the contracted relationship fast.

  13. Mike Briggs
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 13:00:28

    Readers shouldn’t need to police publishers. When a book is first penned, it’s automatically protected by copyright. All reproduction and distribution rights are protected. Those protections are backed by some very draconian penalties for infringement.

    When the authors signs a contract, they license another entity to exercise some sub-set of those rights. The contract is the key, and authors need to be smart enough to not sign a contract that gives too much away for too little. Lawyers may be involved — it’s a cost of doing business. Writing is, after all, a business for all it’s wrapped up in brightly colored dreams. Once the contract is signed, it’s too late to change your mind or decide that you didn’t want to license foreign sales or derivative works. Also, either register your copyright, or make darn sure your publisher registers it in your name (most responsible publishers do the latter). If you end up in court, a registered copyright signals that you had intended to protect this work as a commercial product, and entitles you (among other things) to sue for your attorney’s fees in addition to other damages.

    If a publisher takes a partial and has it completed by a third party, they’ve just published a derivative work. Unless that was spelled out in the contract, the author has ground to sue the publisher. That’s while traditional publishers are very careful about making ANY changes (even correcting obvious errors) without the author’s permission.

    It’s a cruel world in publishing, and dreams die every day. However, part of becoming a professional author is taking ownership not only of the creative, artistic process, but also of the legal and business related portions of the job. Negotiating fair contracts, and being willing to walk away from a baited hook are skills that every author needs. The ugly truth is that it’s not all unicorns and fuzzy bunnies out there, and author’s need to have the business skills to evaluate what they’re signing and prosecute publishers who exceed the terms of their contracts. The readers can’t do it, and shouldn’t be expected to.

  14. kirsten saell
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 14:03:26

    Yikes, how many more times must this be said? Refusing to buy books from certain publishers hurts individual authors more than the corporate entity!

    I don’t know about that. Ellen Ashe was able to sell her NCP books through her website, as her contract said nothing about exclusive rights. She went out of her way to ask readers to not purchase from NCP.

    Yes, it usually hurts authors. But when you know the beast is breathing its last and will soon collapse, well, best to get it over as quickly as possible. If NCP goes down, the sooner it hits bankruptcy the better it will probably be for everyone–including the authors. I know if I was trammelled to a publisher who refused to release my rights, who did not put any substantive editing into its books and repeatedly failed to deliver to customers, I would just want an out, even if it meant I made no money.

    I bought one book from NCP. It was only the second ebook I ever purchased and it almost soured me on the entire notion of ebooks. It was awful. No content editing to speak of, repetitive, boring, looooooong sex scenes, zero character development, a slapped on HEA. I love dirty books, but this one was just unbearably dull and stupid. I was unsurprised to discover recently that the author is really one of the owners. Which makes me even less likely to ever buy another book from them.

  15. Bernita
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 14:07:39

    Refusing to buy books from certain publishers hurts individual authors more than the corporate entity!
    Depends on whether or not the publisher is actually paying out the royalties earned.

  16. kirsten saell
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 14:33:47

    Depends on whether or not the publisher is actually paying out the royalties earned.

    True dat.

  17. Kristin
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 14:44:39

    First, I agree with Emily who pointed out that most e-published authors would be LUCKY to earn back just the $250 to $1000 you quoted as a ‘contract reading fee’ from a lawyer. The best way to avoid issues is to READ everything you can on the internet about the e-publisher you might be interested in. There’s even a lot of info to be found out about publishing contracts, if you look hard enough.

    However, the problem lies in good publishers (like NCP, which has been around for YEARS) who ‘go bad’ over time. There is no way to predict that a good company which has good sales and a good track record will suddenly go nutso on a writer. Those are fluke occurrences. I can’t blame an author for not doing their homework, when all of their homework (up until recently) probably was very positive for NCP.

    But I have seen my share of e-pubbed authors who have been burned once (sometimes MORE) with bankruptcies or the like, who continue to sub their books to untested publishers…either brand new ones or some with no visibility whatsoever. THOSE are the authors who truly are TSTL, in my opinion. You should be learning from your bad experience and figuring out what to avoid…but some just jump right back in!

    I think the problem is wanting a book in print NOW, and some of the better e-pubs have LONG waits for a submission and then a longer wait for the book to be published. To think a book might be in print in a matter of weeks or months, rather than a year or more in some cases looks awfully good to a writer who doesn’t have the druthers to be patient and wait for the more reputable epubs.

  18. Jennifer McKenzie
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 14:54:33

    Any publishing experience can be a crap shoot. That’s my opinion. It’s a gamble. Just like starting my own business, there may be pitfalls along the way.
    So far, I’ve been EXTREMELY lucky. I’ve had positive experiences at all of my publishers. Readers shouldn’t feel guilty. The choices I make are mine.
    Tomorrow, I may wake up to a firestorm around one of my publishers. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. The reality is that in publishing standards, style, personnel and exposure can change very quickly. I don’t “expect” it to remain the same.
    I can only say that the publishers have been good for me.
    You know, it’s not easy to research pubs if you’re new and don’t know what to look for. I was lucky to have found a writer’s forum that gave me valuable information.

  19. kirsten saell
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 15:11:44

    You know, it's not easy to research pubs if you're new and don't know what to look for. I was lucky to have found a writer's forum that gave me valuable information.

    There are things you can look for, though, even not knowing about all the warning sites. That is: cover art, website design, blurbs and excerpts, cover price. And then you buy a book or two, see what the editing is like. Ask yourself if you would want your book to go out into the world with a substandard cover and typos galore, displayed on a poorly designed website. Those are things any newb can find out when they hunt down submission guidelines.

  20. Fae Sutherland
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 15:23:14

    But I have seen my share of e-pubbed authors who have been burned once (sometimes MORE) with bankruptcies or the like, who continue to sub their books to untested publishers…either brand new ones or some with no visibility whatsoever. THOSE are the authors who truly are TSTL, in my opinion. You should be learning from your bad experience and figuring out what to avoid…but some just jump right back in!

    Agreed completely. I cringe when I hear about people who were entangled in some epubs closing turn around and begin happy dancing because they sold same said books to another, equally iffy, untried epub. And, almost without fail, those authors end up being burned again and going “Why meeeeee?” Well, because you didn’t put your book with a reputable, tried and tested publisher, that’s why.

    I never quite understand the “Well, I got rejected by the top epubs, this tiny start-up was my only choice!” Perhaps then I’d suggest writing another, better book and continuing to try to sell to epubs that aren’t still wet behind the ears. Harsh? Maybe. But if the only epubs willing to take one’s work are shady start-ups, maybe you’re just not ready for publication yet. Write more, work harder, don’t settle.

    I’m not saying that’s the case for the NCP authors, most of them anyway. There’s some very impressive writers on that list of authors released the other day. I’m just saying that as long as there are authors who think they *deserve* to be published, there will be shady publishers willing to exploit that when the real publishers turn them down cold.

  21. K. Z. Snow
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 16:33:12

    First, I agree with Emily who pointed out that most e-published authors would be LUCKY to earn back just the $250 to $1000 you quoted as a ‘contract reading fee' from a lawyer.

    Definitely more the rule than the exception, sad to say.

    Yes, it usually hurts authors. But when you know the beast is breathing its last and will soon collapse, well, best to get it over as quickly as possible. If NCP goes down, the sooner it hits bankruptcy the better it will probably be for everyone-including the authors.

    I agree, closure can be a blessing in disguise. However, “as quickly as possible” is the operative phrase here. Some of these buggers are tenacious . . . and, even after they’ve seemed to breathe their last, manage to prolong authors’ suffering by delaying reversion of rights.

    As for researching the markets, I think it’s essentially a matter of exercising a.) patience and b.) common sense in Web surfing. Shouldn’t be too difficult for a writer to figure out key words that will open large lodes of helpful links.

  22. kirsten saell
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 16:43:29

    As for researching the markets, I think it's essentially a matter of exercising a.) patience and b.) common sense in Web surfing. Shouldn't be too difficult for a writer to figure out key words that will open large lodes of helpful links.

    That’s certainly true. The traditional wisdom is to query from the top down, and that only makes sense. But that doesn’t mean that if you finally get accepted by a 12th-tier publisher, you should jump on it. Maybe, just maybe, you aren’t ready for publication and ought to spend some time honing your craft.

    I recently came across a multi-published author who was ecstatic about finally placing her “first” novel–the very first book she ever wrote. The publisher was one I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole (not shady, per se, but certainly not a shining example of epublishing success), and I wondered why the author didn’t just cram that manuscript under the bed where it probably belonged and let herself enjoy her current success. Or rewrite the novel and try some top-tier publishers now that she has a bunch of credits under her belt.

    So yeah, even the ones who you’d think would know better can behave in ways that make you shake your head.

  23. Kristin
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 18:07:59

    I cringe when I hear about people who were entangled in some epubs closing turn around and begin happy dancing because they sold same said books to another, equally iffy, untried epub. And, almost without fail, those authors end up being burned again and going “Why meeeeee?” Well, because you didn't put your book with a reputable, tried and tested publisher, that's why.

    Here, here, Fae!

  24. Keishon
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 19:31:32

    As a ebook reader, I haven’t bought much from any epub with the exception of Samhain. Most times it’s the shopping cart/process that is so off-putting that it is often not worth the bother.

  25. kirsten saell
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 20:11:54

    As a ebook reader, I haven't bought much from any epub with the exception of Samhain. Most times it's the shopping cart/process that is so off-putting that it is often not worth the bother.

    I once tried to buy a book from one (fairly well-known) epub and their site told me I had to lower the security settings on my computer in order to navigate their checkout. Um, I don’t think so.

  26. roslynholcomb
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 20:12:20

    Depends on whether or not the publisher is actually paying out the royalties earned.

    Yanno?

  27. Cindy
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 20:38:36

    As a reader, I actually joined the NCP loop because I was hearing things about the customer service. And yes, there certainly are customer service issues all over that loop. The only ones replying are the authors.

    But some of us readers are also writers and in efforts to be published, seeing this sort of thing on said loop is very enlightening and is a vital part of research when it comes to where I want to submit and who I would trust.

    As for purchasing, in the past six months I’ve purchased from three e-publishers. Linden Bay, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. Not had a spot of trouble with any of them.

  28. SonomaLass
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 22:47:07

    Whether I should care or not, as a reader, once I know that a publisher is getting a reputation for shady dealings, I have real trouble buying from them. For me it’s a personal sense of ethics — I try not to buy products made in China, I buy fair trade coffee, that sort of thing. My consumer comfort zone does not include enriching people who are exploiting the workers who produce the goods they are marketing.

    I’m sure that’s not true for everyone; I suspect that heading to the NCP site to check out what’s up, for instance, caused people to browse and see things that interested them. And some of them probably bought. Sort of that “no such thing as bad publicity” idea.

    There’s also truth, though, in the concern that bad business begets bad business. If the publisher will screw the author, what stops them from screwing the reader eventually? From a reader perspective, I would definitely hesitate to do business with someone whose business practices seem deceptive, dishonest, etc. Self preservation.

    I worry about the effect on the overall industry, too. Hate to see good pubs tarred with the bad brush!!

  29. Emmy
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 02:16:32

    I’ve been similarly conflicted by the e-pub mess.

    Like Jane, it’s very easy for me to boycott NCP for the simple reason that I’ve never purchased anything from there. I’ve not even been tempted, so it’s not terribly difficult to refrain. Nor was it difficult to leave Iris alone when they stopped paying people and checks got to bouncing.

    However, if authors start blogging about larger e-pubs, I’d have to stop and think for a few minutes. I’m a reader. I read books. I don’t want to have to police the e-pub industry, particularly when there are books by multiple authors I enjoy at a particular publisher, not just the unhappy ones. Should I punish the authors whose works I enjoy by not buying their books, simply because one or two authors at the same company are unhappy about their contracts not being renewed?

    It’s kind of like high school, where when one girl in the clique didn’t like someone, we all had to hate them as well. Even when we had no personal reason to dislike someone or something.

  30. Jules Jones
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 03:51:00

    Emily’s right about the twin problems of lawyers costing more money than you’re likely to make on your first couple of ebooks, and finding a lawyer who understands what they’re doing with book contracts. But even so, you can educate yourself well enough to spot some of the obvious traps, if you’re willing to spend some time looking around and asking — *before* submitting your manuscript. Something we see over and over on the Absolute Write forums is new authors coming in to ask “so-and-so publisher/agent has accepted my book, does anyone know anything about them?” This isn’t the way round to do it, folks. Check out the publishers and agents first, and educate yourself on what a sane contract looks like.

    As for whether readers should police publishers — no, I don’t think they’re obliged to in general, although I greatly appreciate the work the reader bloggers do in publicising problems. But some of the problems authors run into should be heeded as warning signs for readers as well. Not necessarily at the “steal the credit card number” level, but if a publisher isn’t answering emails from authors, they may also not be answering emails from readers about problems with an order.

  31. Lynne
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 06:26:10

    I don’t necessarily think that consumers MUST police bad companies in any industry, but it’s a commendable choice, in my opinion. Like SonomaLass was saying, I also do my best to avoid buying products from companies that have a habit of exploiting their workers, screwing up the environment, and/or supporting anti-democratic, fascist practices or governments.

    Sure, maybe a boycott of a bad publisher hurts business in the short run for those authors the publisher hasn’t yet screwed over, but I think it’s better for everyone and the industry in general to starve unscrupulous, unethical companies out of the market sooner rather than later.

    @Jules, I ran into so many problems several years ago with ordering books from NCP that I knew I’d never submit any work to them. Emails went unanswered for weeks, and it finally took threatening a chargeback to get them to deliver my order. I’ve gotten a lot pickier these days about who gets my credit card number.

  32. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 11:16:16

    What Jules said. I would add that taking other authors opinions as what’s a fair contract is not advisable. Fair is a subjective term. Seriously, I’ve heard author’s praise some publishers contracts as fair yet when I’ve seen the contracts, I’ve been left, quite literally, stunned by how utterly unfair they are. And how far reaching the unfairness extends.

    If you don’t speak legalese, don’t know what the industry standard interpretation of clauses are, don’t know the basics of what should be in a literary contract, don’t know what the terms mean and don’t know what terms are associated with what practices, then do any number of things suggested here for help, but don’t sign until you know EXACTLY what it is you’re signing. That just can’t be emphasized enough. If you’re planning on having a career then it’s going to stretch beyond two books. Something to consider is that the ramifications of that bad contract likely will, too.

  33. Toddson
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 12:29:33

    I’d just like to mention that once in a while an established author will have problems with their work being … mangled. I’m thinking specifically of the case where the state of New York compiled an anthology of works by a variety of authors and one – Anna Quindlen, I think – was surprised to find that the editors had gone through and removed any material that they deemed sensitive or possibly controversial. The intent, seemingly, was that the high school students who’d be reading the book should not be exposed to anything that might upset someone, somewhere, for any reason at all.

  34. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 15:32:38

    I continue to disagree that all ebook authors should use a lawyer.

    Emily’s quite right. Very few authors have the wherewithal with their first contracts. And it seems that if you make your name with the smaller pubs, then you are looked on more favourably by the bigger ones. Certainly, it helped me land my current contracts.
    So it’s a crap shoot. Go into it knowing what you’ll get. Probably. Low sales, next to no promotion, maybe substandard editing. But if you work it, put yourself about a bit, it could work out well.
    Make sure you’re not committing yourself to every book you ever produce. Negotiate the contract so if there is a next look clause, it’s limited. Don’t give them the book of your heart unless you have a definite strategy for it. Enjoy the experience and be ready to bury the book, if you have to, or turn your back on it. Keep your own standards as high as you can, so if the publisher turns out bad, you don’t do it too.

    For the reader – I have a credit card I only use online, linked to a subsidiary bank account, and they’re linked to Paypal. That does help me feel sure enough to buy books online, wherever they are. But, like Jane, I’m still careful where I buy. Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, Loose-Id, Total E-Bound and Cobblestone are on my list, with a couple of others.

  35. Jane
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 15:47:54

    I don’t understand why the equation is “I’ll spend money on a lawyer when I have a contract that will earn out that expenditure.” When you have a startup business, there are tons of things that you spend money on that you might not earn a return for years down the road.

    If you didn’t have a computer and wanted to write, would you say that you are only going to write in pencil and paper until you earned enough money for a computer?

    It’s an investment in your future. The failure to seek counsel on a contract seems to me that you are saying that the work being contracted for isn’t important enough to invest in. It might be important enough to complain about loudly if you get screwed over, but not important enough to protect going in.

  36. Nora Roberts
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 16:03:04

    ~Go into it knowing what you'll get. Probably. Low sales, next to no promotion, maybe substandard editing. But if you work it, put yourself about a bit, it could work out well.~

    I realize I started in print–and it was a long time ago–but I don’t understand this sentiment. This settling for low sales, next to no promotion and particularly substandard editing. Or considering the cost of professional assistance re a contract as too expensive.

    If I hadn’t been agented with my first contract, I would have found a literary attorney. And I didn’t have a wad of money, nor was my on-signing money princely.

    However, I knew not a lot, Silhouette (my first publisher) was basically a start-up company in 1980. I wouldn’t have signed anything without professional advice, and I wanted, very much, to be published.

  37. Jules Jones
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 16:41:26

    The problem is that not all lawyers are created equal in this. A perfectly competent family lawyer can be worse than no lawyer at all for a publishing contract, because they will happily give the nod to clauses that look innocuous but are bad news in a publishing context. You need to do the research to find an appropriate lawyer, and by the time you’ve done that, you may well have learnt enough to spot at least the obvious stuff yourself anyway. And you need to learn how to do the initial screening yourself, so you can rule out the ones that aren’t even worth spending money on a lawyer to tell you that you shouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.

    By the time I saw Loose Id’s contract, I did know enough to spot obvious red flags, and to check that they’d covered the obvious things. I was reasonably confident that the contract was one that was worth considering, rather than immediately running away, but finding a lawyer who knew more than I did wouldn’t necessarily have been easy. The one thing I knew I had to have advice on was the indemnity clause, because those can bite very badly indeed. For that I sought advice on a forum where a couple of IP lawyers used to do pro bono work giving general advice on contract issues. (No, I can’t direct people to it because it doesn’t exist any more.)

    When they wanted to add a contract to cover print rights, I was able to use a friend of a friend connection, and ask an agent to look it over for a one-off fee. Again, there are problems with this route, because there are a lot of people who call themselves agents, but who are either clueless or outright scam artists.

    Of course, if you can find a good agent who will take you on as a client, they’ll do the contract scrutiny as part of the job of agenting. The trouble is that it’s hard to find an agent who’s worth having if you have only an epublishing contract. That’s not because epublishing is automatically poor quality, but because it’s small press, and doesn’t pay enough money to make it worth an agent’s while to represent an author who doesn’t also have some prospect of getting a New York contract. I made $7.5K last year from epublishing, which is better than some print-published authors do, but that was no advance, all royalties and unpredictable; and as long as I write only in a genre that an agent can’t sell to New York, I’m not a good bet for any agent I’d actually want to have representing me. I’ve had a respectable agent say straight out that he liked my writing but simply couldn’t sell what I had, and would like to see anything I wrote in a more marketable genre.

    So I’m not going to say that someone going for an epub *must* get a lawyer, although I’d strongly suggest that they join one of the author groups that includes contract scrutiny as a benefit, and make use of it. But writers really, really must do some basic research on a publisher before they ever submit.

  38. kirsten saell
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 16:44:52

    If you didn't have a computer and wanted to write, would you say that you are only going to write in pencil and paper until you earned enough money for a computer?

    You might if you had to purchase a new computer for each book you wrote…

    It’s not an unreasonable expense if you’re dealing with one publisher for multiple books, but if each book is only going to earn you in the hundreds of dollars and each contract is from a different publisher, you’d have to pay someone to look at every one of them. Between that, the cost of website upkeep, promo, etc, you could potentially never make a dime from your writing. You could end up in the hole for every book.

  39. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 17:01:31

    but I don't understand this sentiment. This settling for low sales, next to no promotion and particularly substandard editing. Or considering the cost of professional assistance re a contract as too expensive.

    I think this expectation that settled into epublishing as “the norm” is probably the most frustrating and most divisive obstacle there is for authors positioned within this market. Publishers take advantage of it to work in more and more unfavorable clauses as standards, and authors (In the larger scope) are unable to discuss the changes or potential corrections en masse because of it. The defensive hue and cry is simply too loud and drowns out the discussion of the issue at hand. As was seen during the Triskelion debacle, the initial NCP debate and even this issue.

  40. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 17:12:01

    You might if you had to purchase a new computer for each book you wrote…

    Unless a body was incapable of learning, highly unlikely. Literary contracts all have common shoulds and should nots. Terms are all common. Market practices are specific and come with their own specific terms. The nice thing about knowledge is that once learned it belongs to the individual forever.

  41. Jules Jones
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 17:19:35

    That’s the problem, Sarah — they *do* vary wildly around the various epublishers. There are nasty gotchas buried in otherwise reasonable contracts (such as the top tier epub with the option clause from hell which is the primary reason I’ve never submitted there), and contracts that don’t have any terrible clauses, but also don’t have appropriate clauses to cover common situations. Of course, if the contract deviates wildly from normal practice, that in itself is a warning sign that perhaps the publishers know less about the publishing business than is desirable.

  42. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 17:36:30

    . There are nasty gotchas buried in otherwise reasonable contracts (such as the top tier epub with the option clause from hell which is the primary reason I've never submitted there)

    But what should and shouldn’t be in there doesn’t vary. (And it should be kept in mind e contracts are NOT the equivalent of NY contracts) So if an author gets educated in that, along with the industry standard interpretation of the clauses, they’ll recognize coined phrases that have no relevance except as an excuse for the publisher to skim more profits from the unwary. They’ll know when something is missing. They’ll know what the option clause should be restricted to (if it should even exist at all). They’ll know enough to know if they can negotiate it themselves or whether they need an attorney.

  43. kirsten saell
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 19:13:35

    Unless a body was incapable of learning, highly unlikely. Literary contracts all have common shoulds and should nots. Terms are all common. Market practices are specific and come with their own specific terms. The nice thing about knowledge is that once learned it belongs to the individual forever.

    How do you learn much of anything from a lawyer reading it over and telling you “this looks fine”? Can’t you learn just as much (or a heck of a lot more) from taking a contracts course or doing research online?

    They'll know enough to know if they can negotiate it themselves or whether they need an attorney.

    And that’s exactly my point. There are a bunch of people around here who act like the only way to go is to have every contract vetted by a lawyer, and in my opinion, that’s the best option. But not everyone has the kind of lucrative career where they can just say “Oh, I don’t know anything about that, I let my agent/lawyer handle all that stuff.” For them, there are other ways to get educated so they know when to sign and when to take a hike.

    but I don't understand this sentiment. This settling for low sales, next to no promotion and particularly substandard editing.

    Well, the low sales can be out of even a publisher’s hands, but promo and editing? An author shouldn’t have to settle with those.

  44. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 19:34:56

    How do you learn much of anything from a lawyer reading it over and telling you “this looks fine”?

    I don’t know. I’ve never done that. I usually ask them to walk me through the contract and tell me what the clauses mean. I do so with a note book and pen in hand. An then I ask questions. And then informed as to what I’m reading, what they mean and how the clauses play into each other, make decisions.

    But not everyone has the kind of lucrative career where they can just say “Oh, I don't know anything about that, I let my agent/lawyer handle all that stuff.”

    No I agree. Most of us start at the beginning with no income and a whole lot of hope, but considering our contracts are our career on paper, it’s not the place, IMO, to start cutting corners.

  45. Marissa Scott
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 19:43:05

    But not everyone has the kind of lucrative career where they can just say “Oh, I don't know anything about that, I let my agent/lawyer handle all that stuff.”

    Not everyone fits in that category, to be sure, and not everyone can say that or even if they could, would.

    It takes most people years to get published. Putting aside say $25 a month in preparing to achieve your goal – the same way you prepare for the investment of purchasing a house or retirement or kids college fund, a trip to Disney world, just as you plan for that, you should plan to invest in your career.

    I sure as heck am not wealthy nor am I published–YET. But just I have invested in a website and the expense of that, I have invested in contacting an attorney specializing in Intellectual Property. Why? Because I’m investing in my career and the security of it. Do I have a lot of money? Nope, I sure don’t… but to me, the security of knowing what is what legally is well worth the extra hours I work at my day job to cover the cost. WELL worth it because it’s a long-term investment and one that is going to impact my career in the future.

    Honestly, isn’t $150-300 to get a contract explained to you in detail so can understand and learn the jargon worth the security of your future? I sure think so… and I’ve got the notes in a spiral bound notebook to prove it.

  46. Ann Somerville
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 19:56:10

    I’m getting a tad fed up with everyone quoting the cost of getting a contract looked over as a few hundred dollars. Sure, maybe it is. I still think for the first few contracts with a epub, provided you do your homework and don’t give them the story that you would kill yourself rather than lose, it’s a calculated risk. Some will want to take it, some won’t. But a lawyer looking over the contract won’t be enough if you have to sue.

    What happens if you end up with an NCP situation, or god forbid, dealing with Kira Takenouchi or her ilk? And you live outside the state, or worse, overseas? You think it will be cost-free to engage a lawyer then? Even if you win, you won’t see a penny in damages or costs from someone like Kira, or a broke epub. You could spend thousands (not just in lawyer fees, in calls, documents, lost writing time) in a pyrrhic victory, and in the end, all you’ve got is a story which you can’t resell because most epubs won’t touch previously published stuff anyway. Most of us aren’t Nora Roberts and never will be. We’re writing disposable fiction which is only precious to us, in the end. We have to be realistic.

    If you’re earning big money, spend the money to protect yourself. But don’t imagine that this is the end of the costs if you have to fight to defend your rights. If you’re American, and you received a healthy advance, and you know you can resell your fiction to another publisher – in other words, if you are talking about print publishers – then you should hire a lawyer. If you’re not in that game, the cost/benefit analysis is something that needs to be thought about. I’ve read all the advice here, understand the points made – but I’m still not taking my Samhain contracts to a lawyer. If Samhain fuck me over, I can’t afford to do anything about it. I’m taking the risk they will, because their rep is good enough that I’m betting they won’t. End of story. For most e-authors, that’s going to be all we can do.

    Be alert, educate yourself, ask more experienced authors about contract clauses, ask around, do what you can. But don’t pour money down the drain on ‘insurance’ that you can’t afford to claim on. Whoever said that in any dispute, the lawyers win, was dead right.

  47. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 20:26:58

    Ann,

    That 300 dollars up front, even in the NCP situation, would save the author thousands in the back end. And the circumstances where the lawyers win? Those tend to be the ones where an attorney is hired after the fact to clean up a mess that could have largely been prevented or mitigated by a little proactive legal counsel.

    In my lifetime, I’ve had several situations where a strong contract made all the difference both in the cost of resolution and the ease in obtaining that resolution. Nothing like having everything very specific ad clear cut to reduce the ability to twist, turn, and argue.

    And, of course, no one is insisting anyone has to get legal counsel before signing legally binding documents that can make or break their career aspirations. It just seems prudent.

  48. Ann Somerville
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 20:37:34

    That 300 dollars up front, even in the NCP situation, would save the author thousands in the back end.

    With respect, you have no idea if it will. And the authors are still going to have to pay a lot of money to sort it out. Only they know if it’s worth it.

    You can have the clearest contract in the world, and the clearest possible breach, but if the other side are bloody-minded, it will cost a hell of a lot of money to drag them to court. NCP are clearly bloody-minded enough to bring this all the way to a court, regardless of whether they’ll win or not. If I was in that situation for a story I’d given an epub, I’m sorry, but I’d write it off rather than waste the money suing. I simply don’t have that kind of money, and never expect to make that kind of money from writing.

    , no one is insisting anyone has to get legal counsel before signing legally binding documents that can make or break their career aspirations

    No, but a lot of people are making out that we’re absolute morons if we don’t. An epub failure or contract mess isn’t going to make or break a career. It’ll sting, and it might cost some royalties. But let’s not pretend this is big league stuff for most authors. No epub that I’ve heard of contracts for anything but the one story in hand. That’s the limit of their effect. Now if we were talking about options and so on for future work, yes. But that’s not the reality.

    There seems to be a disjunct between Americans and non-Americans on this issue. All I can say is I know what I’m risking and how much I’m prepared to lose. If you don’t know that, then not having a lawyer look over a contract might be the least of your worries.

  49. kirsten saell
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 21:37:41

    And, of course, no one is insisting anyone has to get legal counsel before signing legally binding documents that can make or break their career aspirations. It just seems prudent.

    Yeah, that’s awfully doomsday, isn’t it? And I’d feel that way if I thought I didn’t have a hundred other books in me. But lucky for me, Samhain isn’t that top tier epub with the “option clause from hell”.

    An epub failure or contract mess isn't going to make or break a career. It'll sting, and it might cost some royalties. But let's not pretend this is big league stuff for most authors. No epub that I've heard of contracts for anything but the one story in hand. That's the limit of their effect. Now if we were talking about options and so on for future work, yes. But that's not the reality.

    Well, there is that one epublisher that wants first dibs on everything you write–but authors can find a way around even that. It’s not like you have to write the kinds of books they want, is it?

    There seems to be a disjunct between Americans and non-Americans on this issue. All I can say is I know what I'm risking and how much I'm prepared to lose. If you don't know that, then not having a lawyer look over a contract might be the least of your worries.

    There is a disjunct. As a Canuck, I’m happy leaving the lawyers to starve. And though I hate to call the books I write for Samhain “disposable fiction”, it is an apt term, really. I know if they decided to screw me over, I’d pretty much take the cornholing and kiss them goodbye afterwards, rather than waste untold time, money and energy fighting to get books back that are worth nothing now that they’ve been deflowered.

    Yes, this is a career. Yes, I take it seriously. But paying lawyers fees that are roughly equivalent to the yearly earnings of a given book is like hiring a CIA trained chef to helm your corner bistro, when you could be doing the cooking yourself. In a cost/benefit analysis, you have to consider both sides of the equation.

  50. Shirley
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 22:48:22

    I gotta agree with you there, Kirsten. Not that some e-authors can’t make a decent living off their work, they can from what I understand. But paying an attorney to read over a contract, IMO, is ridiculous. If an author can’t make it through the contract’s legalese and come out the other end with a good idea of what’s up then they should probably steer clear – unless it’s with a major print publisher where the potential for monetary gain could be ten-plus fold e-book royalties in the long run. And the advance would easily cover the attorney fees.

    Actually, from an old lady’s perspective, every contract you enter should be understandable. I wouldn’t sign something I couldn’t make out on my own. Nor would I sign something if I had questions but the presenter of the contract failed to answer them satisfactorily. Then again, I was raised with a strong sense of not getting screwed over – which my father felt he had been when he lost his job during the Depression. I wasn’t born until later, but he never really got over that and instilled in me the gumption to stand up for myself and look out for ‘thieves’, LOL!

  51. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 23:35:14

    Kirsten,

    I’m sorry for not understanding your point sooner. It’s a foreign concept to me, but I can see your position based on how you view what you’re selling in the e-market. Still, I do think you’d be surprised at just how cost effective it can be to resolve a dispute when backed by a solid contract. Something to think about for those whose epub series catch on and want to transition it to the bigger NY market. Or even for those who want to simply expand/transition. Clear rights can be worth serious money down the road. And maybe I’m old school, but as writers I think we always need to be facilitating now those opportunities waiting down the road.

    FWIW-I’m pretty legalese savvy, but when I sat down with an attorney, I was surprised at the industry standard interpretation of some of those straight forward looking clauses. Turns out, they’re not so straight forward. Knowing this ahead of time, I was able to negotiate around them, but without that inside info, I never even would have thought to address them. Later, that hour consult with the attorney turned to to be some of the best money I ever spent on myself and my career.

  52. Sarah McCarty
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 23:40:51

    Kirsten,

    I’m sorry for not understanding your point sooner. Disposable fiction is a foreign concept to me, but I can see your position based on your explanation. Still, I do think you’d be surprised at just how cost effective it can be to resolve a dispute when backed by a solid contract. Something to think about for those whose epub series catch on and want to transition it to the bigger NY market. Or even for those who want to simply expand/transition. Clear rights can be worth serious money down the road. And maybe I’m old school, but as writers I think we always need to be facilitating now those opportunities waiting down the road.

    FWIW-I’m pretty legalese savvy, but when I sat down with an attorney, I was surprised at the industry standard interpretation of some of those straight forward looking clauses. Turns out, they’re not so straight forward. Knowing this ahead of time, I was able to negotiate around them, but without that inside info, I never even would have thought to address them.

  53. kirsten saell
    Jun 30, 2008 @ 23:56:35

    I can see your position based on how you view what you're selling in the e-market. Still, I do think you'd be surprised at just how cost effective it can be to resolve a dispute when backed by a solid contract. Something to think about for those whose epub series catch on and want to transition it to the bigger NY market.

    Who knows? I may end up regretting not getting that official legal advice, but for what I’m writing, and my expectations for it, I’m okay for now. My publisher doesn’t have that dreaded, hideous option clause where they claim first look at EVERYTHING YOU WILL WRITE EVAH!!!11! If they did, and weren’t prepared to waive it, I might have walked away, because although I don’t mind taking a risk on one book (or two or three or ten), I feel very differently about taking the same risk on EVERYTHING I WILL WRITE EVAH!!!11!

    And the contract is for a fixed number of years–not in perpetuity. If I make it big at Tor one day and I want rights back on those early books, they’ll revert back to me on request when the contract expires.

    And as Jules advises, I did some serious research on epubs before I even thought about submitting–nearly a year of nosing around, sniffing out gossip and dirt and controversy. In the end, there were only four publishers I was willing to even sub to, and it turned out that my top choice wanted my book, yay!

    It is disheartening when you see authors on forums asking: “What do you know about so-and-so, I just got a full request from them.” WTF? You’re supposed to ask that question before you send your query! If authors are asking those kind of questions, they’re probably going to get burned sooner or later, lawyer or no.

  54. Ann Somerville
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 00:07:10

    It is disheartening when you see authors on forums asking: “What do you know about so-and-so, I just got a full request from them.”

    Better that than after they sign the contract, which happens.

    What’s *really* disheartening is when you try to warn other authors about a dodgy contract clause (which happened to me – the first pub I signed with had a unilateral cancellation clause without them having to give any reason, which they exercised without warning), and authors try and negate that warning because they’ve signed that stupid contract and assume it will never happen to them so there’s no problem.

    Other authors can be your best ally – and your worst enemy. I would say that if you hear ten songs of praise and one bad report about a publisher, listen to the bad report with all your heart and investigate it further. All too often those caught up in a failing publisher are desperate to keep the thing afloat, even if it means lying.

    Bad reports are red flags. But no red flags does *not* mean the publisher isn’t in trouble. Unfortunately, neither does the fact a bunch of authors claim to be happy with them. Caveat lector.

  55. kirsten saell
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 00:27:51

    Other authors can be your best ally – and your worst enemy. I would say that if you hear ten songs of praise and one bad report about a publisher, listen to the bad report with all your heart and investigate it further.

    Agreed. I do know some authors who are not as happy with Samhain as I have been, but the problems seemed to be more issues with editors, and personalities not meshing rather than anything that would particularly alarm me–such as being wishy-washy on release dates or sloppy with royalty statements or meddling with my characters’ sexual orientations and practices, haha! These may not be books that I pet lovingly and croon to when no one’s looking, but I still want to write the kinds of books I want to, and sometimes that means–OMG!–f/f sex. Or no sex–gasp!

    Caveat lector.

    Ain’t that the truth.

  56. Mike Briggs
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 01:03:50

    FWIW-I'm pretty legalese savvy, but when I sat down with an attorney, I was surprised at the industry standard interpretation of some of those straight forward looking clauses. Turns out, they're not so straight forward. Knowing this ahead of time, I was able to negotiate around them, but without that inside info, I never even would have thought to address them. Later, that hour consult with the attorney turned to to be some of the best money I ever spent on myself and my career

    I agree completely. I’ve looked over a number of publishing contracts and felt I had a solid handle on their contents. I’m well educated and (although I can’t type) my grasp of English is reasonably solid. When a good literary agent goes over those same contracts, I’ve found a number of phrases that have a legal meaning quite different than their apparent meaning.

    Perhaps the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t favor a publishing lawyer or an agent in all cases, but if I were betting my career I’d prefer to be safe. Writing a decent book represents a considerable amount of time and effort. Ideally, even after the original sale you may get additional revenue from audio books, foreign sales, movies, electronic publication, comic books etc. if you manage your rights carefully. A badly written contract tends to grab all of these rights and assign them to the first publisher. A little money spent on the contract can insure that when opportunity knocks, it comes to YOUR door.

  57. Jules Jones
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 04:48:31

    I should point out that I was in a position to get an education on contract perils from people like IP lawyers, agents and New York editors. My local science fiction con had a strong writers’ track with panels on the subject; there are various science fiction fandom forums online where such people hang out and do their best to teach baby writers how not to get scammed, or simply exploited by otherwise decent publishers. (It’s not just epublishers with grabby contracts; the big respectable print publishers will offer unagented newbies boilerplate contracts that are bad news.) So I was able to look at a contract and see whether it had stuff that I should run away from, and whether there was stuff that I didn’t like but could live with. I *don’t* recommend taking the “it’s just plain English” route, because sometimes the apparently plain English isn’t.

  58. Ciar Cullen
    Jul 01, 2008 @ 11:00:25

    I’m printing up a bunch of “I survived Triskelion” t-shirts. I respectfully submit, Jane, that you’ve oversimplified the situation a little. Whether someone should boycott a “bad” publisher is a personal choice, and I would not put that on a reader. Most readers don’t have a clue what’s going on with the pubs. But the epub business…good companies go bad, bad companies don’t always look as bad as they are, there are disgruntled authors out there (I know of a few regarding Samhain–are we to stop working with that great company?)–it’s just not as simple as you suggest. A lot of these issues happen with brand new writers who are trying to break in and don’t have a clue what some of the pitfalls might be. And yes, they may get happy just to be published and not do the due diligence. It’s called live and learn. I doubt anyone here hasn’t made a bad purchase or entered into a bad arrangement at one time or another.

  59. Lisa Logan
    Jul 14, 2008 @ 15:59:14

    Sure, hiring a lawyer is great, and those with money to invest in their writing careers are in good stead. Still, this doesn’t guarantee success any more than not using a lawyer’s eyeballs guarantees failure.

    No amount of telling someone to spend money will make dollars magically appear. Some don’t have $25–or even $5–a month to spirit away for a rainy publishing day, but this doesn’t mean barring them from being pubbed. It merely means finding creative ways around it…like educating ones’self on contracts. Something all writers should do anyway, which doesn’t mean depending on a lawyer’s nod to save the day. A contract may look fantastic, but this doesn’t mean the publisher will honor it.

  60. Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » Epublishers and spotting the bad ones
    Jan 01, 2009 @ 22:34:15

    […] Dear Author on what authors should look for in an epublisher, and warning signals in epublishing. They also documented a spectacular meltdown by an author/publisher which, unfortunately, […]

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