First, a definition. A small press is a publisher that’s independently owned (i.e., not part of a bigger conglomerate, as with large publishing houses like Penguin Random House), and has low annual sales income and profit. Traditionally, small presses also released limited numbers of books–some fewer than 10 a year–but digital technology has made publishing cheap, and these days many small presses have substantial publishing lists.
Digital technology has also driven a huge increase in the number of small presses. Whether they’re ebook only or a mix of ebooks and print, digitally-based small presses save money up front by eliminating the cost of large print runs and warehousing, making it much less expensive to set up a publishing business.
Smaller publishers play an important role as an alternative to the giant conglomerates. More flexible than the corporate behemoths and the bigger independents, largely free of the shareholder expectations that drive the major houses in pursuit of profit, they can afford to take on authors and books that the larger houses may overlook or be unwilling to risk. They can serve niche or specialty markets that aren’t profitable enough for the big publishers to bother with. They may spend more time on their books and authors, through better staff-to-book ratios or an explicit publishing mission–personalizing the publishing experience in a way the conglomerates often don’t.
Small presses may also be open to re-publishing out-of-print books, making it possible for established writers who don’t want to self-publish to bring their backlists back into circulation. Just as important, they provide alternatives for writers who don’t want to go the agent route, or who’ve tried to find an agent without success. Most small presses accept submissions direct from authors. Indeed, agents often aren’t interested in working with them, since they tend to pay tiny advances or no advances at all.
Small presses fill an important role in the publishing ecosystem. But there are some things to consider if you’re thinking of submitting to them.
– Lack of stability.
It’s tough to make it as a publisher. Even for well-capitalized publishers run by experienced people, the attrition rate is high. For amateur small presses, it’s astronomical. Many go out of business within the first year, sometimes without ever publishing a book (2007 was a particularly volatile year in that regard–this post from the Dear Author blog gives a partial recap). The sudden death of your publisher can create big problems, especially if the publisher doesn’t bother to return rights before it vanishes. It’s good policy to hold off on querying a new small press until it has demonstrated some staying power.
For an extended discussion of risks of signing up with a brand-new publisher, see this post from Writer Beware’s blog: New Publishers: To Query or Not to Query.
– Lack of competence.
Once upon a time, the substantial financial outlay involved in setting up a publishing company was a deterrent to dabblers. These days, it’s so cheap to become a publisher that anyone can do it, whether they know anything about publishing or not. All that’s required is to open an account with a digital service provider such as Lightning Source or an electronic aggregator such as Smashwords, slap up a website, and put out a call for submissions.
Like the amateur literary agent, the amateur publisher is often sincerely well-intentioned, with a genuine desire to do right by authors–but lacks the skills and knowledge to do the job. This can result in bad editing and design, author-unfriendly contracts, minimal marketing and distribution, missed pub dates, and unpaid royalties, as the publisher’s poor planning and shoestring budget pushes it into logistical and financial trouble. Sadly, it can also spur unprofessional or abusive behavior from the publisher or its staff (for instance, browbeating or penalizing authors who question or complain), especially if things start to go bad.
The tale of the abrupt demise of Entranced Publishing provides just one cautionary example of the problems that can arise. This kind of story is unfortunately very common.
– An abundance of sharks.
The ease and cheapness of digital technology has also made it very easy for unscrupulous or dishonest people to become publishers. From vanity publishers masquerading as legitimate small presses (see Vanity Publishers in Small Press Clothing, below), to “author mills” that seek to turn a profit on enormous author volume and skimpy services, these companies are the Venus flytraps of the writing world, lying in wait for the inexperienced or desperate authors who are their sustenance of choice.
– Small sales and exposure.
Small presses’ limited budgets–and, often, limited expertise–often means limited ability to distribute and market. Many small presses are capable only of distributing online (a problem if your goal is to see your book in bookstores), and may do little in terms of marketing beyond maintaining a website and posting on social media. Small sales are the likely result. For really obscure small presses, sales may never rise into three digits.
– Lack of professional credit.
Many writers hope that publishing with a small press can be a stepping stone to bigger things–and indeed it can be. But hundreds of such publishers exist, and new ones start up all the time–and in such a hyper-crowded marketplace, it’s difficult for one publisher to stand out from another. You can’t assume that a title from a little-known small press will be regarded as a genuine publishing credit–especially if the press isn’t capable of producing a professionally designed and edited book.
The small press world can be a murky place. If you’re considering submitting to a small press, it’s essential that you carefully evaluate the company ahead of time, both to assess its professionalism and to be sure that what it can do for you is in line with your goals for publication. Below are some suggestions to help.
– Is there a fee, or do you have to buy something?
Many small presses can’t afford to pay advances, but they don’t ask for money. No matter where you encounter it in the publishing process, a fee or a requirement to purchase something (finished books, editing, or cover art, just to name a few) is a sign either of a vanity operation or of a self-publishing service. Don’t be fooled by terminology: some self-publishing services call themselves “indie publishers,” and a growing number of vanity presses describe themselves as “hybrid publishers.”
Fee-charging publishers posing as “traditional” small presses can be inventive about hiding or attempting to sanitize their fees. For examples of these sneaky practices, see Vanity Publishers in Small Press Clothing, below.
– Did the press solicit or spam you?
Reputable publishers do not advertise for authors on Craigslist or in writers’ forums, or buy ads online or in print, or (usually) email authors out of the blue with invitations to submit. Writer Beware’s blog provides some examples of why you want to avoid publishers that spam.
– Are there any complaints about the press or its staff?
Do some research to find out. A websearch on the publisher’s name will sometimes turn up information–often on authors’ websites or in their blogs (see the Links section, below, for more suggestions on where to research). You can also contact Writer Beware; we’ll tell you if we’ve gotten any negative reports.
Don’t skip this step. Some small presses that fail under one name start up again under another; and staff who leave under questionable circumstances may start their own publishing enterprises. Here’s one example: a small press that fell apart under accusations of nonpayment and other problems, and whose owner, using a different surname, started a new company just a few months later. It’s a very, very good idea to do some digging into a small press’s business background so you can be reasonably sure it doesn’t have a seamy past.
– How long has the press been in business?
As noted above, there’s a high attrition rate for new small presses. This can work out badly for you, because a publisher that liquidates or goes bankrupt can tie up your rights, or may pass them on to third parties without your permission. Sudden failure is a possibility with any small press–their finances are often precarious–but if you sign with a publisher that’s just starting up, or has been in business only a few months, you are really taking a risk.
Look for evidence that the press has been actively issuing books for at least a year (two years is even better), and that it has a decent backlist of published books (not just one or two). Both of these things suggest at least some stability, and show that the press is capable of taking books all the way through the production process. You’ll also be able to judge important things like quality, design, and how (or whether) the press is marketing its books.
Alternatively, be wary of a publisher that started up many years ago, and has published only a handful of books since then. Putting out two or three books a year is not a self-sustaining business model, and suggests that the publisher is a part-time hobby.
– What are the staff’s credentials?
Do they have publishing, editing, or marketing experience? If not, how does their experience dovetail with publishing and bookselling? Be wary of publishers that don’t provide any staff information on their websites.
– What’s the website like?
Is it professionally designed and easy to navigate? Is the text well-written and formatted? Do the links work? The website is the press’s business face, and should reflect a commitment to professionalism. If a press isn’t capable, or doesn’t care enough, to create an attractive website free of typos, grammatical errors, and the like, what kind of books will it produce? On the other hand, a glitzy website is not a guarantee of quality.
Also, a reputable publisher’s website will be book-focused–it will publicize its authors, and try to attract readers. A questionable publisher’s website will be service-focused–it will promote itself, and try to attract writers.
Be wary of any small press whose website contains large amounts of verbiage about how closed-minded the traditional publishing industry is, or tells scary stories about how hard it is for new writers to find publication, or touts itself as providing revolutionary opportunities for overlooked writers. It may be an author mill trolling for clients, or an amateur endeavor staffed by frustrated authors.
– How are staff paid?
Many cash-strapped small presses pay their staff not a salary or a flat fee, but a royalty on the books on which they work. This saves the publisher cash upfront, since it only has to pay if it gets paid.
It’s not always so great for staff, though, who have to work on spec; and if the publisher does a poor job of production, distribution, marketing, or all three, sales may be dismal. This can become a recipe for frequent staff turnover, as editors and designers realize that their hard work isn’t going to be adequately compensated–a problem that has a direct impact on authors, if their editor or cover artist quits in the middle of the process.
– What about the backlist?
Investigating a small press’s backlist can tell you many things. For instance, Amazon rankings can give you an idea of how the books are selling. (One of the better explanations of the mysteries of Amazon sales rankings is provided by publisher Morris Rosenthal.) The number of books the press is issuing each month can give you a sense of its publishing volume. Tiny numbers may indicate a hobby press, while big numbers (dozens or even scores of books a month) may be a sign of an author mill.
Reviews from trade publications (like PW and Booklist) or from high-traffic book blogs (like Book Smugglers), as well as blurbs from established authors, suggest that the press is actively working to market its books. If the reviews and blurbs are all from obscure book blogs or the press’s own authors, on the other hand, or if there are no reviews or blurbs, it may not be doing much marketing at all.
Are there any gaps in the press’s publishing history? A hiatus of several months or years suggests logistical or financial problems; ditto for a press that abruptly stops issuing books, regardless of how active its publishing program may have been before then. Missed publication dates are also a red flag.
– If the press does print editions, does it accept returns?
This is a sign of a professional operation, even if the press doesn’t do much offline selling (it’s also a practical necessity for offline selling, since bookstores won’t order books that can’t be returned). Some small presses put a lot of restrictions on their returns policies, though, so be sure to ask for details.
– Are the books professionally produced and edited?
Order one or two to find out. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. Questionable or amateur small presses often produce shoddy, poorly-formatted, error-ridden books with ugly, unprofessional-looking cover art. Error-free text and attractive covers are no guarantee that a press is reputable, of course, but their absence does suggest a lack of professional expertise, and won’t enhance your book’s appeal.
– Is the pricing reasonable?
High prices can especially be a problem if the press produces print editions, since digitally-printed books have a bigger unit cost than offset-printed books, and must be priced higher to ensure the publisher’s profit. Inflated prices will alienate readers. Compare cover prices with similar publishers, large and small, to be sure the press is pricing its titles competitively with other publishers in the market.
– What distribution is in place?
Distribution is a vital component of book publishing. The wider the exposure, the more sales there are likely to be.
For ebooks, the press should distribute through the whole range of major ebook platforms (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, etc.), distributors/aggregators such as Smashwords, and international ebook retailers such as Flipkart and Gardners.
For print, the press should at a minimum have distribution through a wholesaler such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, so its books can be sold on the websites of major retailers like Amazon and can be ordered by brick-and-mortar bookstores. Even better is a relationship with a distributor as well as a wholesaler. A distributor provides a sales force to sell the press’s books into brick-and-mortar stores. A small press whose books are stocked in physical bookstores, even if only regionally, will likely have higher average sales figures than one whose books are only available online.
For a discussion of the important differences between wholesalers and distributors, see Misleading Terminology, below.
– What kind of marketing does the press do?
Does it produce a seasonal catalog? Send out unlimited review copies? Advertise? Attend book fairs, writers’ conferences, and/or genre conventions? These are all important components of book marketing, in many cases done long before a book is offered for sale.;
Many small presses have limited budgets, and can’t afford to do much in the way of marketing. They expect their authors to play a major part. This is fine, as long as you’re up for it and the publisher is honest about it. Be wary, though, of publishers that try to turn their authors into an unpaid sales force. No matter what you may have heard, the entire burden of marketing should not fall on you; your publisher should be a partner in the marketing process, undertaking efforts of its own. Especially, a press should not pressure authors to become customers by buying their own books for re-sale.
Don’t take the publisher’s marketing promises at face value; Writer Beware hears all the time from authors who were promised the moon and got little or nothing. Research the publisher’s marketing efforts to make sure it’s doing what it claims.
– What about the contract?
Whether because of ignorance, greed, or a combination, terrible contracts are common among small presses. Problems include life-of-copyright grants without adequate reversion clauses, demands for copyright transfer, claiming subsidiary rights the publisher isn’t capable of exploiting or licensing, paying royalties on net profit (as opposed to list price or net income), retaining a financial interest in the author’s work even after the contract has terminated, claiming the right to edit at will without seeking the author’s permission, tying next-book option clauses to current contract terms, imposing kill fees for early termination, tying rights reversion to purchase of overstock, offering a contract that’s not negotiable…the list goes on. And on.
Contracts are a minefield for authors, who may not have the knowledge or experience to recognize bad contract terms, or to grasp their implications. Don’t just assume your contract is OK, or take the publisher’s word that its terms are standard (for these and other unwise assumptions, see this post from Writer Beware’s blog). Get qualified advice (if you seek legal counsel, be sure the lawyer has experience with publishing and is familiar with publishing contract terms, otherwise s/he may not be able to help you). Writer Beware will also answer questions if you email us.
See the Links section, below, for a list of contract terms to avoid.
– Is the press forthcoming?
Does its website name its staff and provide biographical information (so you can assess their experience)? Are your questions answered promptly, fully, and without evasion? A publisher that isn’t transparent about its business, refuses information, or scolds you for asking questions is a publisher to avoid.
As writers become more aware of the pitfalls of vanity/subsidy publishing, many less-than-honest pay-to-publish operations are trying dodge the vanity label by omitting mention of their fees on their websites and other public materials, or by shifting their charges to areas other than printing and binding. I often hear from writers who are confused because they’ve been offered a contract by a publisher that describes itself as “traditional” or “small press,” but wants its authors to make some sort of financial commitment in order to be published.
If asked, such publishers vehemently deny that they are vanity/subsidy publishers. After all, they don’t accept everyone who submits! Or they aren’t asking their authors to pay for printing–just to finance their own editing, or to commit to pre-selling a certain number of books.
But whether you’re shelling out cash for book production, finished books, or adjunct services, the bottom line is the same: you are paying to see your book in print. A publisher that turns its authors into customers has little incentive to get books into the hands of readers, and is not likely to invest resources in marketing and distribution.
Here are some of the “alternative” charges you may encounter from vanity publishers in disguise (for the names and M.O’s of some particularly stealthy vanity publishers, see this post from Writer Beware’s blog):
– A setup fee or deposit. Publishers that require a setup fee will tell you that you’re not paying to publish–just contributing to the cost of preparing your book for printing, or making a “good faith investment” in your own success. Some publishers promise to refund the fee under certain circumstances (usually carefully crafted so they’ll almost never be fulfilled).
The setup fee often isn’t large by vanity standards–a few hundred dollars–but since such publishers typically use digital technology to produce their books, and don’t do print runs, it more than covers the cost of production.
– A fee for some aspect of the publication process other than printing/binding. Some publishers ask you to chip in for editing, or for your book cover art, or for publicity (real publishers provide these things part of the publication process, at their expense). Services may cost thousands of dollars, and are often minimal and not of professional quality.
– Fees for “extra” services over and above the basics of publication. The publisher may offer you the opportunity to pay for expedited editing, or special website placement, or inclusion in book fair catalogs, or enhanced marketing. These services are optional–so the publisher can claim it’s not making authors to pay to publish–but there’s often heavy pressure to buy them, and authors who don’t pull out their credit cards are treated like dirt.
– A claim that your fee is only part of the cost, with the publisher fronting the rest. The publisher may tell you that it will spend as much or more on your book than you’re being charged, or that the services it provides–warehousing, distribution, publicity–are worth far more than your “investment.”
At best, this is an exaggeration; at worst, it’s lie. Since most vanity publishers these days use digital technology, provide minimal editing and marketing, and access the same wholesale distribution channels employed by self-publishing services, their production and distribution costs are minimal. Most of the time, your fee pays the whole freight, plus the publisher’s overhead and profit.
– A pre-purchase requirement. Some publishers include a clause in their contracts requiring you to buy a specific quantity of finished books–from a few hundred to several thousand copies, often at a paltry discount. This can be more expensive than straightforward vanity publishing.
– A pre-sale requirement. A similar contract clause may require you to pre-sell a certain number of books prior to publication, or to “guarantee” a minimum number of sales (usually, exactly as much as is needed to enable the publisher to recoup its investment and make a profit). You don’t have to buy them yourself–you may be asked to find “investors” or organizations to commit to purchases–but if you don’t deliver the sales, the publishing deal is off.
This is an especially tricky variation on the pay-to-publish scheme, because it allows the publisher to claim that it’s not asking you for cash. But it’s not an author’s job to be a salesperson for his or her own books–that’s what the publisher is supposed to do.
– A sales guarantee. If your book doesn’t sell X number of copies within X amount of time, you must agree to buy the difference. Most authors have an over-optimistic vision of the sales they can achieve, and figure they’ll never have to pay up–but vanity publishers’ nonexistent marketing and distribution ensures that they’re usually wrong.
In an especially sneaky version of this ploy, the publisher pressures authors to buy their own books for re-sale, but doesn’t allow author purchases to count toward the guarantee total–so authors are snagged twice, once during the honeymoon period (the six months or so before the first royalty statement arrives), and again at the expiration of the guarantee period.
– Withheld royalties. You get no royalty income until the cost of production has been recouped. In this manifestation of vanity publishing, you don’t have to physically lay out any cash–but money that should be yours is kept by the publisher, which amounts to the same thing.
– Pressure to buy your book yourself. The publisher may not contractually require you to purchase your own book–indeed, it may make a big deal of telling you that you don’t have to buy anything. Even so, it will put you under heavy buying pressure–for instance, providing an Author Guide that extols the financial benefit of buying your own book for resale, or bombarding you with special incentives designed to spur author purchases, such as extra discounts or contests for the month’s top seller.
These are all signs of a publisher that relies on its authors as its main customer base, and therefore has little interest in selling books to the public. Unfortunately, if the publisher employs such tactics, you usually don’t find out about them until you’ve already signed the contract.
– A variety of other sneaky tactics. Some examples from Writer Beware’s complaint files: requiring authors to pay for publisher-sponsored conferences or lectures or “publicity opportunities”; requiring authors to sell ads that are bound into the company’s books; hawking company stock to authors, despite the lack of an appropriate license; requiring authors to hire the publisher’s staff to perform various services. The permutations are endless.
Whether through ignorance or an active desire to deceive, small presses may use confused or misleading terminology to suggest that they provide more services than they actually do, or to distract authors from nonstandard business practices. Here’s how to decode some of the common terms you may encounter.
“Traditional publisher” is a term of relatively recent origin. It was invented before the turn of the century by a notorious author mill to suggest (falsely) that there was a meaningful difference between it and the self-publishing services whose business model, except for the upfront fee, it otherwise followed very closely.
At the time, “traditional publisher” had no established definition, since self-publishing was embryonic and there was no need to make a distinction. (“Commercial publisher” or “trade publisher” was more appropriate.) However, the seismic shifts in the publishing landscape over the past decade and a half, which have transformed self-publishing from a last resort for the desperate into a viable alternative career path, have created the distinction on their own, giving meaning to a term originally intended to hoodwink naive authors.
Small presses often call themselves “traditional publishers.” The implication is that though they’re tiny, they’re essentially just like Penguin Random House or HarperCollins in business practices, quality, and integrity. But “traditional publisher” is still a very fluid label, and you can never really be sure what it denotes. You can probably count on the publisher not to ask for money on contract signing, but other components of the true traditional publishing model (rigorous selectivity, professional editing and design, competitive pricing, effective marketing) may be missing, and elements absent from that model may present (nonstandard contract terms and business practices).
Publishers that call themselves “traditional” aren’t necessarily dishonest. Many are simply inexperienced. Either way, be aware that the term tells you nothing about how the publisher selects, produces, and markets its books, or how it treats its authors.
Wholesaler vs. Distributor
Often, if you ask a small press whether it has a relationship with a distributor, it will tell you that it does. It may even claim that it has “worldwide distribution.” But most often, what that actually means is that their books are carried by one or more wholesalers.
Many people use the terms “distributor” and “wholesaler” interchangeably. But there are important differences (for a more in-depth discussion, see Distributor vs. Wholesaler: Getting Your Book on the Shelf, from Writer Beware’s blog):
- Wholesalers (or wholesale distributors) provide warehousing and fulfillment services for publishers. They keep publishers’ books on hand (in either physical or virtual form, depending on the publisher’s business model) and fill orders as they come in. Examples: Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Bertram, Gardners, Brodart.
- Distributors (sometimes called master distributors) do everything a wholesaler does–plus, they maintain sales forces to sell publishers’ books into bookstores. Distributors are also much more selective than wholesalers, carefully scrutinizing a publisher’s list before agreeing to work with it. Examples: PGW/Perseus, Independent Publishers Group, The Book Service, and Orca.
For ebooks, this distinction doesn’t mean much. But for print, there are major implications. For volume sales of print books, there needs to be a balance of online and offline availability–your books need to be sold not just on Amazon, but in actual physical bookstores. Without the direct sales component supplied by a distributor’s sales force, it’s unlikely this will happen, unless you yourself can persuade a store to stock your books (which, no matter what your publisher may tell you, is not your job).
The bottom line is that a small press that works only with wholesalers will be selling only online. If you care about real-world shelf presence, this is something to take into account.
Available in Bookstores
Many small presses are eager to assure you that your book will be “available in bookstores.” Unless the press works with a distributor (as distinct from a wholesaler, as noted above), what this usually means is that your book can be special-ordered by a brick-and-mortar bookseller, usually on a pre-paid basis, sometimes with an extra charge to cover shipping and handling.
Unfortunately, inexperienced writers often assume that “available” means “stocked,” and expect that their books will appear on bookstore shelves. Less-than-honest small presses take advantage of this by failing to explain what “available” actually means, or by skewing their use of the word in ways that encourage authors to make unrealistic assumptions.
“Everyone Has to Self-Promote”
Operating on tiny budgets and with limited staff, small presses often don’t have the resources (or the skill) to effectively market their books. They may rely on their authors as an unpaid sales force, and justify this by claiming that “everyone,” even bestselling authors with the biggest houses, must self-promote.
This is true. However, the book promotion that authors do–setting up signings and readings, booking appearances, blogging, maintaining websites, writing articles, social media presence, and so on–is intended to be done in partnership with the book marketing the publisher does–sending out ARCs for review, producing catalogs, attending book fairs, advertising. The author, in other words, doesn’t have to go it alone.
When small presses tell authors they must self-promote, however, they often do mean the author must go it alone, with the publisher’s only responsibility being to maintain a website, see that books are listed with retailers, and process royalties. Some presses won’t even provide review copies, or write elaborate promotion instructions into their contracts (and penalize authors who they perceive are not doing enough).
Any small press will expect you to actively promote your books. But the burden of promotion should be shared, and the press should never browbeat you or blame you for poor sales. It’s a very good idea to find out, before signing up with a small press, exactly what sort of marketing effort it puts behind its books–and what it expects you to do.
There’ve been many euphemisms for vanity publishing over the years: subsidy, co-op, joint venture, partnership, just to name a few. The newest of these is “hybrid publisher.” So-called hybrid publishers claim to combine the best of self-publishing with the best of traditional publishing, or something of the sort; but the bottom line is that in order to see your book in print, you must hand over money for services that are little different from those you could by from an straightforward self-publishing service. You can slap a fancy label on it, but it’s still pay-to-play.
Researching Publishers and Checking Reputations
- Successful novelist Piers Anthony maintains an internet publishing resource that lists and describes epublishers and small presses, and flags those that have problems or are the focus of complaints.
- The Erotic Romance blog provides lots of information, including publisher listings and sales figures, with a focus on epublishing.
- The Dear Author blog covers the romance industry, and frequently provides news and updates on epublishers and epublishing.
- Writer Beware’s Thumbs Down Publisher List: the publishers about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories and complaints over the past several years.
- Writer Stacia Kane provides some excellent tips for evaluating a small press, and contrasts the website of a reputable small press with the website of one of the most infamous of the author mills.
- An informative blog post from literary agent Rachelle Gardner on sussing out legitimate publishers.
- From Dear Author: detailed information on what to look for in an epublisher.
- Precautions for Small Press Authors: from Writer Beware’s blog, suggestions on researching small presses, and how authors can protect themselves from problem publishers.
- Also from Writer Beware’s blog, a rundown on the lies dishonest fee-charging publishers tell to attempt to convince writers that they’re “real” publishers.
- E-mail Writer Beware. SFWA has assembled a large archive of documentation on publishers that engage in questionable practices. Send us the names of any publishers you’d like to know about, and we’ll summarize for you any data that’s in our files.
- Preditors and Editors provides lists of agents and publishers, with “not recommended” notations to indicate those that charge fees or engage in other writer abuses.
- A good spot to research the reputation of small presses: the Bewares and Background Check area of the Absolute Write Water Cooler. Check the index first, to see if the press you’re interested in has already been discussed.
- Google Groups is a searchable database of newsgroups, with message archives dating back to 1981. Writers often post questions or complaints to these grous.
- The vital importance of reading your publishing contract–a step that many authors skip.
- Evaluating Publishing Contracts: Six Ways You May Be Sabotaging Yourself. Should you believe your publisher if it promises that a nasty contract clause will never be enforced? Or trust it if it tells you that contract language doesn’t mean what you think it means? How these and other assumptions could come back to bite you.
- From the Australian Society of Authors: Contract FAQs.
- Discussions of contract clauses, from Writer Beware’s blog:
- Bad contract clauses: temporary transfer of copyright, royalties paid on net profit, an outrageous reversion clause.
- The dangers of termination fees in publishing contracts.
- The importance of reversion clauses in book contracts.
- Editing clauses in book contracts: how to protect yourself.
- Early termination fees in publishing contracts: a cautionary tale.
- A comprehensive blog post on issues to be aware of in digital publishing contracts, from editor Angela James.
- A list of red flag/yellow flag publishing contract clauses, from the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition (EPIC).
- Agent Rachelle Gardner on the book contract clauses she is most likely to negotiate.
- Keep Your Copyrights, a copyright information resource from Columbia University, includes a helpful section on publishing contract clauses, both good and bad.
- This article from publishing and entertainment attorney Lloyd J. Jassin is written from the publisher’s perspective, but provides a helpful checklist of the components of a book contract.
- RX for Contracts, an article from publishing lawyer Daniel Steven.
- Publishing lawyer Mark Fowler provides some suggestions on resources for getting advice and information on publishing contracts.
- Attorney David Koehser offers some tips on How to Read a Publishing Agreement.
- From the Authors’ Guild: Ten Book Contract Traps.
- How to Request Rights Reversion From Your Publisher, from Writer Beware’s blog.
- More termination suggestions from Writer Beware: Getting Out of Your Book Contract (Maybe).
- And on the flip side, our post on the wrong ways to try and escape your deadbeat publisher.
- From author and former agent Nathan Bransford, a glossary of publishing terms.
- Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published. A comprehensive resource from author and editor JaneFriedman.
- How to Choose a Publisher: an overview with helpful tips from author Lynne Connoly.
- Editor Angela James on keeping your expectations of your publisher reasonable.
- Publishing in the Future: The Potential and Reality of POD, by Sean Wallace of Prime Books, offers an excellent discussion of a variety of issues associated with publishers’ use of digital technology for print.
- The Passive Voice, a blog run by an intellectual property lawyer, keeps tabs on the publishing industry from a legal perspective.
- The Association of American Publishers, a trade group for publishers in the USA, provides useful info, industry stats, and a list of member publishers.
- The Independent Publishers Guild, a similar organization in the UK, also lists its member publishers.
- The Independent Book Publishers’ Association (formerly Publishers Marketing Association) is a US-based group focusing on smaller presses.
- Ditto for the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN).
- The Complete Review provides a substantial list of independent publishers and small presses.
- NewPages.com’s List of Independent and University Publishers.
- Lida Quillen’s list of electronic publishers.
- The International Digital Publishing Forum (formerly the Open eBook Forum) is a trade and standards organization dedicated to the development and promotion of epublishing.
Links checked/Page updated: 5/31/15
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