Thursday, June 02, 2016

unsnarling the snarl

The recent Month9 mess (small press cutting back their list due to health issues of the lead person, stories coming out about lack of support and non-payment going back a couple of years) has me wondering about how you handle a situation like that. So, here are my questions.

1. If you have a contract with a publisher and have not yet been published by them and information starts to come out that they are less than ideal as a publisher, is there any way to get out of the contract? Does this change based upon where the book is in the process? Signed but not delivered, delivered but not edited, fully edited and up for pre-order, etc.?

2. Does a book that's already up for pre-order count as a book that's been published? At that point are you just stuck going forward with it no matter how ugly?

3. What would you say to a writer who wanted a buy-out clause built into a trade publishing contract from the start? I've seen so many publishers go bankrupt or sour that it seems to me a prudent thing to have, but I suspect most agents would think I was absolutely insane to demand one.

4. If you are a writer who gets caught in a mess like this and your debut sales are horrible as a result, do other publishers take that into account when you try to get your next contract? Or is it the kiss of death? I'd think this happens often enough that they have to give some leeway, but then again it's such a competitive field that there are always shiny new authors to sign instead, so why bother with tarnished goods.

(1) You can "get out" of a contract only with the consent of the other party unless the other party has breached the contract. Since "the author must have confidence in the publisher" is NOT one of the terms of the contract, losing confidence doesn't have an impact on the contract at all. The only exception to this is if the contract has not been signed and fully executed (ie you've got signature of both parties, and the on-signing payment.) If you don't have a fully executed contract, you can (most likely) withdraw from it. Contract law varies by state so this is something you'll need to consult an attorney about. Almost everything can be negotiated, but it does take both parties wanting to negotiate something to get started.

(2) Once it's got an ISBN and is available for sale it's published. Obviously, the sooner in the process the better if you're contemplating making a change. Again, you're stuck unless the other party breaches the contract or is willing to negotiate to let you out of the contract.

(3) A potential client who starts issuing instructions about what they want in a publishing contract is a bad risk. There's no such thing as a buy out clause in a standard publishing agreement. No publishing company would tolerate it.  The publisher invests thousands of dollars in overhead and production, expenditures that they and you and I hope adds value to the book. A contract that allows a writer to "buy back" the book at any time for something as amorphous as "losing confidence"would potentially cost them a lot of money.

A writer saying they've "lost confidence" in the publisher is so abstract as to be meaningless in a contract.  How would you prove it? How would you disprove it?  Most of the time when I hear writers talk about how publishers have screwed up, it's on things like "it was a bad cover" "my publicist sucked" "my editor left." Those are just normal woop and warf of life in publishing.

That said, your contract should have a bankruptcy clause, and a non-performance clause. The non-performance clause says that if the publisher doesn't pay royalties on time, and correctly, and doesn't fix the situation within a specific amount of time when notified, the rights revert to the writer. That's measurable. And paying royalties on time is to be expected. It's completely in the control of the publisher. There are no aesthetics involved. Run the report. Send the report. Pay the writer.

There is also a provision for reversion of rights if the publisher fails to publish within a certain time frame, or does not keep the book in print.

(4) Lots of writers survive idiot publishers.

What you really need here though is how to avoid getting snarled up with one of these over eager, under capitalized "we're here to fix publishing" people.

Here are the big red flags:

1. New Kid On the Block. One of the things I beat into my minions is "don't be first." Brand new start ups are fun, and exciting, but someone is learning the hard way when the boots hit the ground. I prefer they learn on someone else's client.  With a start up publisher, I like to see at LEAST two years of sales. Not just acquisitions, two years of books on the shelf. And make sure that authors are getting paid for those too.

When Amazon went into the publisher biz, I can remember laughing at all the snafus they encountered. Just cause you're good at selling books doesn't mean you're good at publishing them. Which leads to flag #2.

2. Lack of actual publisher experience.  I admire start ups, and I'm an entrepreneur to my finger tips but I also think that starting a publishing company with no publishing experience is a recipe for disaster. Some publishers recover from those disasters. Some do not. Generally the ones that do are the publishers who are building strong relationships with bookstores, reviewers, agents and other publishing pros who will help them. What they are NOT doing is trashing anyone in public (see #5) And they are publishing a small to moderate size list. Which brings us to point #3

3. Number of books published.  A one-person operation proposing to publish 100 books a year is ludicrous. You simply can't do all the work required for something like that.  Given small publishers often wear three or four hats (marketing, finance, overseeing acquisitions, foreign rights) they should plan to publish FEWER books not more.

They go for volume because they are looking for revenue. If they need to publish 100 books a year to pay everyone, they are headed for a reckoning that will not be pretty.

This is just plain accounting. Intentions, good bad or otherwise, don't come into the equation.

4. A website that is more about persuading authors to submit books than about actually selling the books they publish.  By way of comparison, look at any website for a successful non-megawatt publisher. Even if they do take unagented submissions, it's not the focus of the website at all.

Examples: Hawthorne Books, The Permanent Press, Tyrus Books

5. Denigrating people who ask questions or write critical comments in a public space.  One does not run a business like an audition for a remake of Mean Girls.  Well, I guess you can, but thanks, I'll be doing business elsewhere.

I have certainly had my share of uncomfortable conversations and interactions with publishers. You'll notice they have not been in public, nor will they ever be in public.  If a publisher talked about any one of my clients in public the way that the Month9 publisher did, I'm not sure what I'd do, other than this:

It's very very easy to get sucked in to "someone wants to publish my book" and forget to ask some essential questions.  That's why you have those questions written down and you know to ask them before you get too giddy to think straight.

And the last, and biggest red flag of all time:

6. Publishing is Broken; We're Going to Fix It.  Confidence is a good quality in a entrepreneur. So is iron clad optimism.  Hubris is not.  Someone who tells you they're going to fix an industry they've never worked in is textbook hubris.

A lot of people come up with terrific ideas to improve things.  The one I love most right now is this:

But when someone tells you they're going to fix a problem, it actually has to be a problem. 

If you think what kinds of books get published is a problem, you can't tackle it from the acquisitions side. You have to tackle it from the sales side. What people buy is what publishers tend to publish. If you think not enough science fiction is being published,  tell me how to find more science fiction readers, not that you're going to publish more science fiction books. Hubris is thinking that if you just publish it you can sell it.I wish that were true; wishing does not make it so.


Sam Hawke said...

I have a friend going through the fun of a small publisher closing. Fortunately, they're handling it as well as, well, as well as you could really expect for a business winding down. They're not actively screwing anyone over.

Ah, more things to worry our little woodland hearts. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Oh boy ahoy !

This, my dear reef riders, is why one needs an experienced agent to help propel the boat on which you want to 'sale'.

Lucie Witt said...

This whole Month9 fiasco has been illuminating. I hope everyone thinking of publishing with a small press finds this post.

On the impact of the acquisition side: so many people from underrepresented groups have shared problematic comments (I don't connect to this nonwhite character, this character doesn't feel authentic, we already have an "asian" book this year/we already have a Roxane Gay/etc) from editors for book that have gone on to do well (Older's Shadowshaper is an example, which went on to be a NYT bestseller). Implicit bias is real in all industries, publishing included, and sometimes to the detriment of smart financial decisions.

That is not to negate the very real point about the sales side, or the point about hubris with small pubs.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Getting an agent. A good agent. I had a very small publisher offer to publish me 3 years ago. What a horror that would have been. My book was not ready- it was at best in middle drafts and that publisher has already gone bye-bye.

As Janet has said so many times- publishing is a business. All its bias and insanity is not personal - it must make money so it must find readers. And while you may be the world's greatest kale existential writer with a very cool one eyed purple people eater protagonist, if there are no readers for your stuff, not even a mega publisher can get sales. No matter how much you may lament the gross under representation of one eyed purple people eaters in today's fiction.

This is a difficult hurdle for the anxious writer- be careful what contract you sign. If you are entering the fray agent free, do your research on the publisher. Make sure you are selling your book and not your soul.

InkStainedWench said...

Oh, I do like "woop and warf"!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP: Thank you for asking these questions. What an absolute mess, as I skimmed through the month9 debacle that some of its clients are undergoing. shudder... And not only treated clients but also did not speak well of publishing or lit agents in general.

Another question from this novice writer: Is the on-signing payment le Sharque mentions in #1 the same as an advance?

Thank you, Janet, for pointing out and explaining the red flags. I need the obvious.

DeadSpiderEye said...

So I followed the link and: "paranormal romance". Now I know I'm hopelessly out of touch but you gonna tell me that really is a genre, cos it just seems an teeny weeny bit creepy. It brings to mind an incident when I found myself scrambling for my socks, after I found a pair of handcuffs under her pillow.

Lucie Witt said...

DeadSpiderEye: paranormal romance is typically urban fantasy and romance mashup. Think vampire romance like JR Ward.

DLM said...

There are a couple of small presses I'd consider working with. I'd consider them because I know authors who have been with them for years, and they're satisfied. One of the quotes in the article Janet linked above, from an editor saying it makes them sad when an author takes a bad contract just to be published, unfortunately rings true and loud with this story (and all the others we've seen).

Research is work, research is no fun.

But it's a lot more work coming out of a bad contract unscathed, and dealing with the shockingly personal vitriol so many of these kerfuffles seem to cause to leak out of people's mouths/keyboards.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Lucie Witt: Right, romance with vampires, corpses kept ambulatory though their appetite for the blood exsanguinated from damsels enslaved to the power of their arcane fascination. Not creepy at all then?

CynthiaMc said...

It's all confusing and terrifying.

But I keep telling myself I survived as a manicured fashionista cream puff at Air Force basic training (well the manicure pretty much went to hell the first day but I graduated with honors, so it was worth it).

It was easier writing for newspapers. Column due in half an hour, done. I'm a perfectionist, so with novels I rarely think I'm done because I always think there's something I can do to make it better. I don't do that with screenplays. Those flow for me. I see the movie in my head and I write it down. Maybe I shouls stick to that. But then what do I do with the trilogy and the other novels (one tells me it wants to be a trilogy too?

I am never taking vacation again. It's too complicated.

Lucie Witt said...

DeadSpiderEye: not creepy at all lol

Colin Smith said...

Actually, I'm surprised, and maybe a little impressed that you DIDN'T say, "Get a good agent." One of the authors quoted in the article said her agent warned her about going into a deal with this publisher, but she did anyway. I don't have the time, skills, nor inclination to navigate the publishing world without a helping hand/fin, which is why I want an agent. Even if I could self-publish, or sign with a small press, I'd rather not have all the other stuff that comes with it. But that's just me. Others may have broader shoulders and more of a business/entrepreneurial spirit. :)

Colin Smith said...

DeadSpiderEye: I have read what I think would be considered paranormal romance, though I read it as YA Horror: ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake, and its sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. The first was definitely more on the horror side, and the second perhaps more on the paranormal romance. I enjoyed them, anyway.

DLM said...

Truth be told, I'm not so sure "normal" romance isn't fairly creepy half the time ... (Seriously, I find fixations on fairy tale relationships and certain gender assumptions horrifying. Anyone ever watch any Bachelor/-ette show? Those are more dangerous than any vampire.)

Lennon Faris said...

Oh man, when I read this it just makes me feel ignorant. I mean, smarter now, but... now I know even more of what I don't know. This is what I was hoping my agent would know all about. I'm wondering now if that is presumptuous and naive of me? Would an author ever tell their agent 'no don't submit to that publisher b/c I don't like what I've heard' without severely offending the agent?

Haha, I love DeadSpiderEye's take on vampire stories. Just goes to show, whether or not people like something or not is all about presentation.

Susan said...

As someone who had lost a lot due to illness, including the ability to do my job per my usual work ethic, I felt sympathy for the owner of Month9. Until I read the article. Holy cow--smoke and mirrors, indeed! I feel terrible for the authors for having to experience this!

When you enter into an arrangement like this--in whatever regard, but especially with something as precious as your artistic work--you're agreeing to a certain level of trust. The authors have their job--to write their books--and they're trusting the company to publish, promote, and pay. Life happens, yes, which is why I originally felt sympathy, but as the owner of a company, you still have a responsibility to your clients.

What this ultimately comes down to is a question of character. She didn't seem to have much respect for her clients, and respect goes a long way in any relationship--a business partnership like this notwithstanding. Character tells you a lot about who a person is; who a person is can tell you a lot about how their company is run and, in this case, how your books and you, as the author will be treated.

I can only imagine how exciting it must be to sign with a publisher (or an agent) for those who choose that route, but I think it goes beyond loving the book. The book is an extension of the author--the author needs to be treated with the same respect and care, and they need to be able to trust the people they're doing business with so they can succeed.

Great question, Opie. My best wishes to anyone encountering this--trust your instincts.

Linda Strader said...

I'd love to go the agent route, but it hasn't happened yet, so I am also trying small publishers. Too bad the small publishers Janet listed are all in "suspension" mode for submissions.

Craig F said...

The easy extrapolation from this is that the Road To Hell Is Paved With Twitter Pitches. That is where so many with visions of the next Harry Twilight get sucked into these things.

It is hard to see red flagged dangers when both sides have their eyes filled with such visions. Calm down and look under all maze pieces and hungry games. There are good stories coming out of these things too.

It might seem that fighting to secure the services of an Agent is hard. It is not as hard as all of the other options. At least if you do secure an Agent you will have an advocate to fight with you. Otherwise you only have an attorney standing there with their hand out. They will stay as long as you can pay them. Yes, finding and securing an Agent will lead to more peace of mind in the long run.

french sojourn said...

Janet, with all these pearls of wisdom, I figure, in three weeks my tiara should outshine Liberace's. Nice post as usual, thanks.


E.Maree said...

One thing I found *incredibly* helpful here was to make pro writer friends. Visit cons, and talk to people with Big Five contracts, mid-list contracts, small pub contracts, self-pubbers and everything in-between. People who're unafraid to talk business.

A couple of years ago, when Month9 requested a full of one of my projects, a pro writer buddy stepped in to warn me that he'd heard troubling stories from Month9 offers and would recommend I steer clear.

If you're still in the query trenches and haven't yet found a shiny agent friend to steer you true, talking with writer friends is an absolute godsend. For introverted woodland types it can be hard to get out there and speak to writers that are further on in their careers than you, but having a varied network of experienced writers is amazing. I couldn't be without my writer buddies.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

"That's measurable,"said the queen.

Losing confidence is abstract. Not getting paid is measurable. Slamming business partners in public is measurable and stupid.

I woke up this morning with a drawing for a cartoon in my mind. A shark wearing an ermine collared coat, big toothy grin, sceptor in hand. And squirrels underfoot scattering for shelter. After seeing that image, the sceptor should be a flame gun.

Cindy C said...

I have to admit I wasn't aware of the Month9 mess, but I am now. Holy moly what a mess. Reading this was way scarier than any Stephen King novel!

DeadSpiderEye said...

Colin Smith: Coincidentally Kendare Blake cropped up as a topic while I was musing over young adult with my lady of the bookshelves in Smith's. We both tripped up over the name, it being somewhat similar to Kendra. Myself, I get a bit confused with the Romance label, does it mean veiled eroticism, forbidden love or fantasy? Usually the sleeve notes offer a clue but they're usually a little circumspect with titles on the young adult shelves.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I hadn't heard about the Month9 situation, but I'm not really surprised. My heart goes out to the author, and even the publisher. It sounds like she went into it with great intentions, then got quickly overwhelmed and lost patience and compassion underneath the business of trying to keep her company afloat.

The authors are still the victims, of course - but didn't we just have a discussion about sympathetic antagonists?

It seems like no matter what you do as an author, there's a possibility that something will go wrong. That's all of life, I guess. It just makes me grateful for this blog and the help Janet gives so freely. We may not be able to avoid every pitfall, but we can avoid some of the big ones!

Karen McCoy said...

What E. Maree said. A varied network of pro writer friends is a blessing indeed. I have an author friend who went through this with another small publisher, and (thankfully) was able to get her rights back. And yes, it was measurable (Angie, I loved your imagery in that regard!)

Colin, from what I've heard from my YA writer cohorts, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is indeed a horror. From what I understand, the difference between a romance and a non-romance is that the romance element hinges on the story, and the story would without it.

Colin Smith said...

DeadSpiderEye: In my experience YA romance can go from innocuous high school dating, to shirtless guys with hands touching the small of the back, to some quite uncomfortable and surprisingly graphic (I mean R-rated graphic) scenes. Of course one person's R might be another person's PG-15, but my point is, there is quite a range. I tend to avoid Romance in most categories--just not my thing. I read Kendare's books because I was intrigued to know how one might write horror within YA, and her novels were recommended to me by someone who reads YA horror. The first novel definitely leans more toward horror, and it is a good story. The second didn't work as well for me because a) it leaned more toward the paranormal romance, and b) a lot of it takes place in the UK, and I'm quite sensitive to clich├ęd "British" dialog, and some of the Brit scenes didn't ring true. But the basic story is still a good one, and I'd recommend the duology to those interested in YA horror/paranormal romance.

Colin Smith said...

Karen: Yes, ANNA is definitely horror. GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, at least to me, is more paranormal romance, though it has its share of scares and horror.

Lucie Witt said...

Looks like today on Reddit YA authors are discussing small pubs for anyone interested:

Karen McCoy said...

I believe you, Colin! :) I haven't read GIRL OF NIGHTMARES yet, but hope to.

Just me said...

Normally I just lurk, but today's post had me wondering. Could an author caught in a bad contract sell the contract to another author or someone else?

Publishers can sell contracts. The bankruptcy clauses are mostly useless because a bankruptcy judge can decide the contract is a company asset and sell it to cover debts. (See Triskelion.)

Yes, reverting rights is better. But if an author has a bad option clause or a bad non-compete and is not getting paid for the book(s) in the contract anyway, could they sell it to someone else to provide the future books? That person would also receive any royalties due which is why authors would not normally want to do that. But if you're not making money anyway, could you? Has it been done?

BJ Muntain said...

'Small press' isn't the problem here. There are a lot of very good, reputable and stable small presses. Many have been in the business for years, if not decades.

Another thing to watch out for, with a small press - along with the red flags that Janet has given, which are very important - is the people. If you sign on with a small press, you will be working pretty closely with the people - the editor, the publisher especially. You really need to be sure you're all on the same page. And because small publishers have fewer people, if one of those people (the editor or the publisher especially) becomes ill, everything is thrown in a tizzy. Economic changes affect small publishers more - I know one publisher that is trying to figure out how to deal with the current American/Canadian exchange rate, because their printing company is American.

And one more thing to look for: Does the publisher have an agreement with a distribution company that can get your books into bookstores? Like Ingrams or Baker & Taylor? A lot of vanity presses claim they can do this, but they can't. Or you get newer publishers saying they're working on getting this type of distribution... but do they actually get it?

(I, too, like 'woop and warf'!)

Cheryl said...

DLM, a lot of romance isn't about the fairy tales and gender assumptions anymore. Sure, some of it is--I've thrown down a few recently-published books in disgust at asshole heroes--but it's changing rapidly. And it has very little to do with what Hollywood thinks about romance.

There's a danger in consigning romance to a ghetto of "it's unrealistic crap". Books written by women about women get enough of that already.

If anyone's curious, check out Courtney Milan. Some of her books are perpetually free on all the download sites.

Julie Weathers said...


One of the Bachelor shows featured a cowboy who rodeoed with my oldest son. He's actually a pretty nice guy. He wasn't too excited about the manipulation and drama in the show and I'm not sure he would have done it again, but it was an experience. No, it didn't work out. Living on a little Texas ranch was too icky for her.

There are a lot of romances that are pretty well done. Jo Bourne combines hers with spy stories. She's also one of those authors who's good to study for how to do dialogue right.

There's good and bad with all genres.

Adele said...

I'm starting to miss cultural references: This "woof and warf": Janet has used it before and I thought she meant "warp and woof" and got it mixed up. But nobody else has mentioned the matter and for all I know it's a hip reference to some Netflix show I've never heard of. Anybody? Janet?

Adele said...

Oops. "Woof and warf" of course.

Adele said...

Is that my computer changing the spelling after I typed it perfectly? I'm going to try again: woop and warf.

Jessica Snell said...

Whoopin' Warf is a hard-partying Klingon, right?

Donnaeve said...

I'm just woopin in to warf a brief comment.

This post is almost like ESP. I was curious about the publishers I've seen on Publisher's Marketplace I'd never heard of, and this post made it click for some reason. here are recent examples that caught my eye:

Unnamed Press - 16 deals

The Book Group - 36 deals

Opposites Attract - 1 deal (yikes)

Groundwood Books - 5 deals

Maybe some of these are imprints of larger pubs.

Lucie Witt said...

I just spent some time on that reddit link I shared above and it is extremely informative. Anonymous (but vetted) authors are sharing their experiences and pointing out the (in retrospect) red flags.

E.D. Martin said...

I'm confused about this: "A potential client who starts issuing instructions about what they want in a publishing contract is a bad risk." If authors are expected to take an active part in their writing career, shouldn't they have a say in the contract?

Panda in Chief said...

Very interesting question from the OP, and one I have experience of, I am sorry to say. Not with the publisher mention here, but with another one which shall remain Nameless in Seattle, as they were founded by lawyers and I am extremely wary of that kind of shark.

Anyway, they were one of those new kid on the blocks we have a brilliant new publishing model publishers, where each author has to form a team of (allegedly) qualified cover designers, editor, marketing person, and project manager. Everyone is compensated for their work by a royalty share, the exact amount of which is determined by negotiation when you set up your editorial group.

I got recruited by someone who was actually on the payroll, and she put together a small team of herself as editor and a book/ cover designer. She was hoping to build their children's list. We were working together wonderfully, and had done some fabulous collaborative work along with the book designer to really fine tune my wordless picture book.

Just the week before we were going to do the final approval, I got a call from her, telling me that the upper powers that be were making some changes, which, long story short, made her an offer that she had to refuse and she left the company. I was completely freaked out, as not only was I staring down the barrel of my book getting no support once she left, but one of my closest friends was about to die later that day from lung cancer, and I had been spending a lot of time with her, so was not in a good state of mind to hear terrible news. My (now former) editor said, "I can't tell you what to do. You will have to decide if you want to continue wit NiS" I decided without editor there to support my book, I would be better off self publishing.

Fortunately, I had just run a very successful Kickstarter campaign to get some capital to do the professional scanning. So I was able to extricate myself from said small innovative publisher, pay the designer and pay the editor, and then self publish the book.

Recently I have read several articles on the implosion of Nameless in Seattle publishing company, and many authors are finding themselves on the hook for paying their publishing team members even though their rights are reverting to them.

I wish I had had this advice from Janet two years ago, but for me, all turned out well, other than my quirky, beautiful picture book is less than it might have been had I not made multiple errors in my querying and publishing journey. there no end to the number of ways we can screw up?
I'm so happy I have an agent guiding me through the labyrinth now.

Chin up, OP. On to the next book.

RachelErin said...

I would appreciate the reference to woop and warf as well - last time she said it I suggested a correction because I thought it was an accident. (Lots of non-weavers mix those terms up).

kimofthebooks said...

Umm, not sure is Janet is using a weaving metaphor for the fabric of life that is the publishing biz, but I'd understood it to be "woof and warp" (see also: weft and warp)

The Sleepy One said...

Lisa, the "on signing payment" is the first portion of the advance. Usually, the advance is split into several payments. Some are half on signing and half on delivery; a friend who used to work for a major house said they split the advance into thirds: one third on signing, one third on delivery, one third on publication.

On a side note, I signed a contract with a great small press (with lengthy publishing history) recently and then the Month9 stuff came out. Being a woodland creature, I briefly had a moment of panic, but then remembered the research I'd one, including chatting with one of the press's current authors and reading several of their titles. :)

Oh yeah, so I sold a book . . . :)

BJ Muntain said...

'Warp and woof' are weaving terms. Ms. Janet is playing with the words by changing them up.

ED: You don't start telling the agent their job in the query letter. Such discussions happen once you are a client.

Colin Smith said...

O Sleepy One! What's this about a book sale? You know we want deets! The whole warpy woo... or whatever... :)

Megan V said...



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*clanks stein*

The Sleepy One said...

Colin, I sold a YA thriller to Poisoned Pen Press. It should come out late 2017. The current title is The Last To Die.

It's official (contracts and signed, etc). I'm looking forward to starting the editorial process.

Colin Smith said...

Sleepy: Excellent! Congrats. :) Be sure to keep us all posted on progress.

Joseph S. said...

Just me
I will restate your question a little as to whether a writer in that predicament can sell his contract.

First, you look at the contract. It may prohibit “assignment.”

Even if you are allowed to assign the contract, all you can assign are the royalty rights or copyrights (Subject to the publisher‘s primary rights). Publishing contracts are personal services contracts, which means the author cannot delegate his duties and obligations under that contract. The author is responsible for fulfilling his contractual obligations (subject again to the term of the contract that may absolve the author from continued duties if the publisher defaults in some manner) even if someone else gets any royalties.

And of course the big questions – Who would the author sell those rights to? And for how much money?

The author could sell the copyright, which may be worth something if the publisher releases the rights, which the company may do if it is defunct.

In case I wasn’t clear on the big point, the author cannot destroy or diminish a publisher’s contractual rights by “selling” the contract to someone else.

I hope I came close to answering your question. It was an interesting question. Thank you for giving me a reason to do some thinking today.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Had to laugh over "woop and warf". Took me a while to realise it was a spoonerism. Then I laughed again. vIyaj. So many layers of metaphor.

Whenever I hear horror stories like these, it makes me grateful to have been published with The Wild Rose Press, who have treated me very well. They pay quarterly, always on time, and have good communication policies.

Still, having gone small press, and having dipped my toes in indie, I am still desirous of going commercial with a Random Penguin, as my mates who've done so speak well of the process.

Meanwhile, Sleepy One, do tell us about your sold book.

Joseph S. said...

Congrats The Sleepy One.

I'm with Colin. I'd appreciate reports on your insights through the editing and publishing process and distribution process.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I was quoting Janet.

Congratulations to the Sleepy One. Is that going to be your pen name? I think I know who you are and would love to tell everyone here at the Reef but I wouldn't want to breach your privacy.

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats, Sleepy!

John Davis Frain said...

Congrats, Sleepy. I feel a certain kinship with your name at the moment. And yes, as others have said, do keep us up to date with the process as you meander through. Great success to you!

Been a tad busy of late, but must say (though few will hear me at this hour!), it's always good to end the day at the Reef and get caught up. Thank you, Queen, for presiding over such a fine neighborhood.

DLM said...

Cheryl and Julie, I meant in life, not in books. :) There are plenty of actual womena and men buying into the whole fairy tale deal, I know people myself whose self-awareness goes *poof* when it comes to romantic/sexual relationships. The worst one happens to be a guy, actually.

abnormalalien said...

Wow congrats Sleepy!

The scariest part of reading the whole Month9 debacle is how many of the authors interviewed had a self-blaming attitude because they thought everyone else was happy. The whole group was supposed to be some kind of happy family supporting each other and yet no one was mumbling in the background about how Dad was missing the most important soccer game of the season.

Panda in Chief said...

Congrats to Sleepy One! I have a friend who has about a half dozen or more titles published with Poisoned Pen, and I think she is very happy there.

Miles O'Neal said...

QueryShark said, "One does not run a business like an audition for a remake of Mean Girls."

But apparently one can run presidential primaries that way. Now this year all makes sense.

Miles O'Neal said...

I find it sickening that a publisher has screwed people over but they're afraid to take the publisher to court. Ugh.

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