Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tips To Avoid Scammy Publishers

A follow-up to yesterday - here are a few things to watch for when submitting to small presses:

1. Publishers do not exist to help aspiring writers. They may have that as part of their goal, but publishers exist to help readers. If the website focuses on "helping writers" then that means writers, not readers, are their customers. This is a classic sign of the stealth vanity press - the publisher that only attaches a dollar amount to the contract when they send it to you.

2. As I said yesterday, look at the publishers' product. I recommend buying two books - one in your electronic format of choice and one in print (if they do print). Is the quality acceptable? How many typos - a couple are acceptable, a lot are not? What does the layout look like?

3. Look at their existing authors. How many do they have? If it's only two and three and more than one have the same last name - I suggest waiting rather than risking on what's obviously a self publisher moving into publishing other people. Some people have made that leap successfully. Most fail.

4. Do not sign over rights the publisher will not be exercising. I.e., do not sign over the audiobook rights unless the publisher does audiobooks and has a strong history of doing them right. Try to keep as many of your rights as you can. Never sign over the copyright.

5. Make sure the contract has some kind of sunset/reversion clause. A good publisher will have periodic opportunities to renegotiate the contract. Look also for a way to get your rights back if the book isn't selling. What if the company goes out of business.

6. Do not sign a non-compete unless it is very limited. It is good manners not to release your self-published book the same month as the one your publisher is doing, but saying you won't release anything for a couple of years? That's too much. If the publisher wants first refusal on your next book, make sure that is time limited - give them X days (90 is standard, but 60 is better) to consider it rather than letting them sit on it.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and cannot give actual legal advice. This is based on the experiences of myself and others).