Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Read the Contract!: Caveat Emptor!

Caveat Emptor: Latin, Let the buyer beware. A warning that notifies a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are "as is," or subject to all defects.

Nowhere is this warning more important than when an author signs a contract to publish their book. Now I know that for an author who has been struggling for years to be published, the euphoria of actually being an offered a contract for their book may be overwhelming. So sing, dance, get out the champagne. BUT before you sign the contract READ it. Read every single word. Look at what is there and what isn’t there. Just because your good friend talked her advance up from $1000 to $3000 doesn’t mean you will. Just because she increased her percentage of royalties from 35% to 50% doesn’t mean you will do that either. Especially if you don’t have a dozen bestsellers under your belt already.

Does the company help you promote your book? Do they challenge book piracy? Who pays for cover art and editing? How often do they send out your royalties? Have you heard stories about authors not getting their checks regularly? What happens of the company goes bust? This is very important as companies go belly-up with distressing frequency. Do you automatically get your rights back or not?

Google the company and do some research. You really should have done all this before you submitted your book to that publisher, but if you didn’t, at least do it now before you sign the contract. And if you can’t understand the contract, warning lights should be going off in your brain. Get someone to explain it to you. Whatever happens don’t just sign it and hope it’ll be okay. It’s much better to submit the book somewhere more reputable, or self publish it.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...


Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

It never ceases to amaze me that there are people who still sign contracts without reading/understanding them.

Janis said...

Good advice, Helen. I'm so torn about what to do re publishing, but I do know I'll read every word of any contract I'm offered.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

It's always a gamble. A good publisher can go bust. But all you can do is list the pros and cons, do your homework, then step out knowing you've done your best.

Fran Lee said...

I agree that no one should sign a contract without knowing what it means. I am especially distressed by those so-called-publishers who claim they are the biggest...that they have thousands of authors and books...and that they offer you advances "like NY authors get". One of these that I am familiar with actually pays the author a couple of dollars, sells their Print-on-demand books for $25 a shot, and prints ANY book subbed, no matter how awful it may be.

No one buys these thousands of books...especially when some of them are about 125 pages long, have tacky covers. (The author pays for editing and covers BTW) The poor author ends up buying dozens of the books at a 50% discount (even at the 50% discount the books are too expensive) to try and sell them at book stores.

And the royalty rate? LOL! The "royalty" these companies pay are the usual 6.5% print book rate. Unfortunately, none of the authors I have spoken to actually have any of their books sold off the publisher's website so they have never gotten a royalty check.

Please beware of these jerks. If you want to publish a book, send it to a REAL editor...Like Helen Woodall...and get a real opinion of its worth.

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Oh yeah, there's some true horror stories out there.