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Trouble at LoveStruck Books?

I received an email from an author of LoveStruck books who received her rights back, even though she hadn’t asked for them. Strange, no?

Karen Scott also has a report of Whiskey Creek Press’ decision to charge its authors “$90 printer set-up fee” for any books that are print published versus ebook published.

I’ve also heard of another ebook publisher who is charging the full selling price of a book to the author when the book is returned rather than the discounted author price (i.e., the wholesale price).

These practices seem very odd to me but maybe the ebook business just runs itself differently.

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

21 Comments

  1. veinglory
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 22:55:47

    Hardly. Publishing is publishing and money should flow to the author.

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  2. Angie
    Dec 09, 2007 @ 23:42:40

    The two fee-charging incidents don’t sound to me like they have anything to do with the e-book end of those businesses, though. They both have to do with the hardcopy books those publishers produce, so I wouldn’t say that it reflects on the e-book business, but rather on the small-press paper book business. These look to me like either people who see their authors as cash cows (i.e., scam publishers), or people who had no idea going in just what it costs to run a publishing house and are now scrambling desperately for whatever revenue streams they can claw out of the ether (i.e., clueless newbie publishers who thought it’d be easy and cheap to start a small press, or to expand their e-book publishing house into the paper book business.). Neither option is really preferable from the writers’ POV; while it’s nice to know that your publisher didn’t actually set out to rip you off, the end result is pretty much the same. :/

    (Unless I’m misunderstanding and the third instance refers to charging authors for the “return” of e-books, which would be all kinds of messed up.)

    Angie

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  3. Sarah McCarty
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 07:51:47

    None of the above are standard practice , but as Angie said, are a way for publishers to augment their income for whatever reason they deem justifiable. Authors go along with it because, 1) they want to see their book in print, 2)they don’t want to make waves, 2) or they just signed whatever without understanding completely what they were signing when a contract was put in front of them.

    IMO, if the publisher cannot afford to take a book to print or is unwilling to take a book to print, then it makes much more sense for the author to hold onto their print rights rather than give them to that particular publisher. They should at least explore the profit and loss of self publishing for the print side of the book before they enter into a contract with a house that charges the author in addition to the already substantial royalty percentage for the privilege of having their book put in print.

    I will say I don’t believe that a house gets to say, “We’re an e-publisher so don’t look at what we’re doing on the print end of the business.” Questionable business practices are just that, no matter where they occur in the business and do reflect the philosophy of the people in charge. Pretty much, what a business does on every level is important to the author and should be taken into consideration so the author can make an informed decision as to whether to sign with that house or not.

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  4. Jaci Burton
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 08:36:23

    And my question to those two fee-charging practices are, does it say the publisher can do that in the contracts, or are they just making it up as they go along? And if they just decided to do this, wouldn’t that violate the contract? Because certainly there has to be some sort of print clause in the contract in order for the book to go to print.

    And ack. Ack ack ack. It simply sucks no matter how you look at it. :-(

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  5. Jules Jones
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 09:29:25

    Whiskey Creek Press has been charging that set-up fee for print books for some considerable time. I can imagine rare situations where that would not necessarily be a vanity press operation (specifically, where they do not claim any rights in the print book and do not take any cut from the sale of print books, including via kickbacks from or part-ownership of the printer), but as far as I’m aware WCP is in fact operating as a pay-to-play vanity publisher on the print side of the operation.

    The set-up costs of print are part of the normal cost of doing business as a publisher and should not be passed on to the author, any more than fees for cover art, editing etc should be. That goes for publishers primarily doing business in the epublishing sector just as much as it does for those primarily doing business in treeware. Yog’s Law: “Money flows towards the author”.

    And in case anyone’s wondering — the only money I paid out for my print book at Loose Id was the price of the paper, envelope and stamp required to send them the hardcopy of the contract. That is how it should be.

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  6. Jules Jones
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 10:20:13

    Here is a good primer on stealth vanity presses, by someone who is a) a greatly respected editor in the sf genre, b) a long-time campaigner against writing scams.

    Follow the money

    Link-spamming is likely to follow as I dig up a few more links. I’ve been meaning to update that section of my links page for months; I now have a good incentive.

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  7. TeddyPig
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:01:36

    Yeah sounds like Risky Creek Publishing is a stealth Vanity Press although it sounds from Piers Anthony’s site like the owner does not hide his vanity very well.

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  8. Jules Jones
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:13:19

    More linky goodness, to the blog of a lawyer specialising in intellectual property. He has a nice little matrix in this post, regarding commercial publishing, self-publishing, and vanity publishing:
    http://scrivenerserror.blogspot.com/2003/07/continuing-from-wee-hours-of-this.html

    Note that a vanity press is not necessarily a bad thing. An honest vanity press that offers decent quality printing at a reasonable price without pretending to be anything other than what it is can be the right publisher for certain things.

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  9. Jennifer McKenzie
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:15:23

    Let me just say that I’ve used the “Print option” with Whiskey Creek Press and paid the PRINTER set up fee.
    The thing is that another publisher I’m with has gone with print and found that books returned are killing them financially. Whiskey Creek anticipated this problem and, in response to author requests to be printed and distributed on Amazon, came up with this alternative. The option is there for us to print our book. The cost of the print book is about the same as Ellora’s Cave books (cheaper through PawPrints directly, an option on Amazon).
    and they’re very well done so far as I’ve been able to tell.
    I recognize that this isn’t a normal practice, but for me, it was a great opportunity and I don’t regret it.
    They’re up front with their print options and the contracts are clear about what an author is getting into. Plus, I knew all this at the beginning. I chose this option for my book.
    If a WCP author doesn’t choose the print option, there is never any cost to the author for the ebook.
    So far, I’ve been treated well there.

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  10. Jules Jones
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:22:04

    Jennifer, what you have there on the print side of WCP is a vanity press, and you are paying a fee to be published, however much they pretty it up by calling it a fee to someone else. Commercial publishers pay for the cost of printing themselves; they don’t expect their authors to pay for it.

    Vanity presses are a good option for some projects, but don’t be under any illusions about what they are.

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  11. Barbara Sheridan
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:27:37

    What I find interesting about this “printer fee business” is that EPIC doesn’t seem to find anything wrong with it.

    Let me qualify that by saying this opinion is based on comments I heard at the EPIC con in 2006. At the publisher panel when the various representatives were telling who they were and what their companies published, this fee was brought up and the panel moderator said that since it was a fee “imposed by the printer” it was acceptable because the publisher wasn’t requiring it.

    I’m not an EPIC member any longer so I don’t know if this is still their position. I rather hope it’s not.

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  12. Barbara Sheridan
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 11:30:56

    The thing is that another publisher I'm with has gone with print and found that books returned are killing them financially

    And this is why a smart publisher will hold back a reserve amount against returns from print royalites.

    Charging authors is just not what a solid company does.

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  13. karma
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 14:15:53

    Returns of mass market books are the reason most e-publishers go out of business fast, and the reason many e-pubs put only a handful of their catalogue into paperback format. But there should be no returns if the publisher goes into the POD paperback format. I’m mean, come on…”print-on-demand” equals no returns, no warehousing, etc.. Therefore, companies that are POD (such as those who use PawPrints, etc.) wouldn’t be receiving returns, would they? Then why would they charge the authors a set-up fee? Simple….they don’t want to shell out the cash as a company expense, but put it on the author’s shoulders, thus making it a vanity press, plain and simple. Whiskey Creek, Wings Press, Awe-Struck, etc. all fall into this category.

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  14. Jules Jones
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 14:36:56

    Unfortunately print-on-demand *does* equal returns if a publisher wants to have any hope of getting the books distributed anywhere outside the online retailers. The book distribution system on the US operates on the assumption that book retailers can return copies that don’t sell — by and large they won’t order in books that can’t be returned. Nowadays they often won’t even special-order non-returnable books for customers, because they’ve been burned too often by vanity press authors who special-order their own books and then don’t collect them, in the hope that the shop will then be forced to put the book on the shelf. If you see an epublisher’s print-on-demand titles in your local Borders, you can pretty much assume that that publisher takes returns, unless it’s one of the cases where a local author has wheedled the store into stocking his or her book.

    So any publisher that’s serious about getting distribution in bricks-n-mortar stores will make its print catalogue returnable, regardless of what printing technology they use. What print-on-demand does do for a small press is make it possible to do very small print runs at an economically viable price.

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  15. Angela James
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 14:53:31

    Returns of mass market books are the reason most e-publishers go out of business fast, and the reason many e-pubs put only a handful of their catalogue into paperback format. But there should be no returns if the publisher goes into the POD paperback format. I'm mean, come on…”print-on-demand” equals no returns, no warehousing, etc.. Therefore, companies that are POD (such as those who use PawPrints, etc.) wouldn't be receiving returns, would they

    Totally false. Samhain Publishing, for the majority of our books, does what is termed as print on demand. But print on demand doesn’t necessarily mean you go to the store, order the book and a copy is printed for you and then shipped from the printer. In reality, our printer, in this case Ingrams, prints stock for us to fill orders, but also keeps inventory on hand. It’s not a traditional print run, like NY, but also not how people think of print on demand. A lot of pubs use this, it’s not as though the method was invented just for Samhain, lol. Ellora’s Cave used to do it this way, though they now do their own printing. Other epubs, like NCP and others use print on demand but still have returns, because books are fully returnable and yes, do get returned because of stock lingering on the shelves.

    For this reason (of returns), Samhain Publishing instituted a reserve against returns in our contracts a year ago. Or yes, we’d have gone under long ago. It has nothing to do with mass markets, as we don’t print those. Trade only.

    Therefore, companies that are POD (such as those who use PawPrints, etc.) wouldn't be receiving returns, would they? Then why would they charge the authors a set-up fee?

    Strictly speaking, there would be no returns for this type of printing, that Whiskey Creek and others are doing, because it is true POD. It’s like printing your books through Lulu (only you’re giving the publisher a cut of the money). The set up fee is charged by the printer, for setting up the book originally in the database. I would assume that those publishers who’ve gone this route have determined that they wouldn’t sell enough books to cover the cost of the setup fee so would not do print at all, except that the author wishes to see their book in print.

    For authors who are doing this, paying this fee, I think it’s hard to understand the term vanity press and not get upset by it. The fact is, if you’re paying this fee, you’re essentially paying, like anyone using Lulu, to get your book in print. Even if you make money off the print eventually, the money didn’t flow to you, you paid them to do it and then also said they could have a share of the profits. Again, in this case, money isn’t flowing to you. That’s the main sign of a vanity press. No matter where the fee originates, the publisher passes it on to you. Most publishers assume this fee as a cost of business and that’s why the get the bulk of the royalties on print.

    Now, all that said, if you’ve chosen this option and are happy with it, then that’s really all that matters, right? If in the end, you feel you ultimately made the right decision, you get to see your book in print and you’re making money on the deal, then what does it matter if your publisher is called a vanity press?

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  16. veinglory
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 18:19:35

    Indeed, and well summarised. Regardless if what is it called and how it is justified it seemed very clear to me that for the author it is *better* to have the publisher pay the printer rather than having the author do so. It also indicates the publisher has reason to believe they will recover that cost. Whether you deem paying some fees acceptable or not is another matter but it is not at all uncommon or unreasonable for authors to draw the line at doing so–especially as many presses will equivalent or better sales levels wouldn’t dream of asking them to do so.

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  17. veinglory
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 18:21:03

    *sigh* apologies for the typos.

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  18. Jennifer McKenzie
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 21:17:52

    Now, all that said, if you've chosen this option and are happy with it, then that's really all that matters, right? If in the end, you feel you ultimately made the right decision, you get to see your book in print and you're making money on the deal, then what does it matter if your publisher is called a vanity press?

    Thank you. I actually knew Whiskey Creek was considered a vanity press. And I agree with the term. I object more to the name “Risky Press” and characterizations of “shady”, but again I see the point.

    Yes, I know I “paid” to have my book printed, but I wouldn’t have gotten the quality editing experience or the Amazon listing on my own. I just didn’t have the smarts. So, yes, I was glad to turn all that over to the publisher. But WCP is an epublisher. If I wanted my book in print, I knew I had to do the print option and pay PawPrints.

    Do I wish I was with Harper Collins or Bantam? Hell yeah! Am I working toward that? Yes, I am.

    I’m happy with this book whatever name is given to the way it was published.

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  19. Jennifer McKenzie
    Dec 10, 2007 @ 21:19:38

    Can’t we talk about Lovestruck now? LOL. I’m kidding.

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  20. TeddyPig
    Dec 11, 2007 @ 00:38:19

    I object more to the name “Risky Press” and characterizations of “shady”, but again I see the point.

    Well from the number of people stating they have (or did) not get royalty statements from Whiskey Creek Press, even when they asked for them, well that sounds shady to me.
    Maybe some people are and some are not.
    That sounds even worse actually.

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  21. veinglory
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 14:42:10

    Possibly the LoveStruck one was rights retruned when the contract expired?

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