Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When Bad Publishers Happen to Good Writers

Back by popular demand...

Publishing warning signs for Dummies (and newbie authors)

If you’re a writer, I don’t have to tell you that writing a book is hard work and getting published is even harder. Publishing companies are inundated with submissions, and more and more small presses are popping up. Unfortunately, some of them prey on new and hungry writers. If you’re not careful, your hopes and dreams can turn into despair and nightmares.That's what happens when bad publishers happen to good writers.

Anyone can call himself a publisher. All you have to do is put up a website, spout promises, and declare yourself a publisher. The desire to be a published author can sometimes cause writers to don rose-colored glasses that color their judgment. Before signing with a publishing company, interview them, so to speak. They will be, after all, working for you. Just because someone offers to publish your work, it’s not a given that they’re legitimate or that they’ll be fair. If you’re not careful, you could end up signing away your rights to your characters, settings, and future books.

It's easy for rogue publishers to be less than truthful to new authors. They think they can (and often do) tell an unpublished author anything, because newbies don't know better. Since true learning comes from life experiences, it would be nice if newbie authors could learn from the mistakes of others.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on the Internet. But I have heard enough horror stories to compile some dos and don’ts you should know about before you sign on the dotted line. Some of these will be easy to spot when you're offered a contract, and some will take some investigation. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort. And if red flags start popping up, then run.


•    Look at the publisher’s online presence. Scrutinize their website and social media pages. What sorts of things do they post? They should have a solid social media presence with both quantity and quality posts. Publishers should have active, engaging websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages. Their websites and posts should be professional, nit free, and up to date. 

Note: this step should be taken before you submit your work. It’s much easier psychologically to cross a publisher off your query list than to turn a publishing contract down. Once you get an offer, those glasses turn rosey.

•    Google, research, and investigate the company and the people associated with it. Do an Internet search on the publisher’s and the company’s name. How long have they been in business? Check to see if they’re listed negatively on Preditors & Editors, Writers Write, Absolute Write, or other online writers’ forums. “But they may have changed their ways since that was posted,” you say. Yeah, and Elvis might still be alive.

•    Look for positives as well as negatives. How do their authors feel about the publisher? Verify positive experiences. Contact other authors who have had works published by them. Yes, someone has to be the first author for companies just starting out. But don’t let it be you. If you find negatives, can’t find positives, or can’t find anything about the publisher at all, then run like there's no tomorrow.

•    Verify quality for yourself, don’t take someone else’s word for it. Examine books the company has published. At the very least, read an excerpt from Amazon’s “Inside the Book” feature. Are there nits? Bad grammar? Poor formatting? Poorly written work? Make sure the editing and the product is quality.

•    Be clear on their royalties policy. You’ve worked hard and deserve to be compensated, so make sure the wording in the contract specifically states how the publisher pays royalties and on what royalties are based. In a perfect world, all authors would be paid royalties based on list price. But unless you have a book in every bookstore in the country, that probably won’t happen.

Beware of a clause that waives royalties on a certain number of books. (See the Don'ts section.)

Take note of wording. If a contract says you'll be paid 50% of net profits, you're thinking that's really sweet, right? Think again. Most small presses pay royalties on net income or net profit, which are two different things. Net income is the money publishers receive after bookseller discounts have been subtracted, which is a sweeter deal than net profit, which is what the publisher makes after any number of expenses are deducted. Are taxes, editing, printing, shipping and handling, marketing, distributor fees and/or their dry cleaning deducted? If production costs aren't defined, they could feasibly count anything they do as a production cost.

Do they require you to buy books? Do they withhold royalties until a certain number of books are sold? Make sure production costs are clearly defined.

One more point on royalties: Watch for a clause stating the publisher will freeze royalty payments in the event of a legal dispute. If a publisher does something to cause an author to take legal action, or if they take legal action against the author, the publisher will still get paid, but the author will not.

•    Be cautious if there's no advance offered. An advance simply means the company has faith in the author. Rogue publishers might say they don’t pay advances so they can keep overhead low and be able to pay their authors more. Probably bologna. They might say no advance is standard for first-time authors. More bologna.

Note: there are many legitimate small presses that don’t pay advances, so no advance isn’t always a red flag. If your royalty percentage is higher than average, it may offset no advance. It's just something to consider.

•    Beware of mumbo jumbo. In addition to looking at how royalties are paid, take notice of verbose or overly complicated wording in a contract. Smoke and mirrors, people. 

Read the terminology carefully.

Look at this clause:
Work Expenses means all reasonable amounts actually incurred by [Publisher] in connection with the exercise of the Granted Rights that are identifiably attributable to the Work as a standalone work, to a maximum amount equal to 25% of Gross Work Revenues. By way of example only, Work Expenses include the costs of creating versions and copies of the Work (including, without limitation, manufacturing costs related to the Work and the costs of manufacturing ancillary products), shipping costs, advertising expenses related solely to the Work, and charitable contributions derived from sales of the Work, but do not include expenses related to the general overhead costs of Publisher."

Say what?

Or this one:
We calculate net property by taking the Sale Price minus retail discount minus production costs aggregated across the minimum print run: SP-RD-(PC/MPR)=NP.  This is split 50/50 with the author so the Author’s Royalties are 50% of net profits.

I wonder if the writer of that clause even understands what it says. Walk away from mumbo jumbo clauses.

•    Watch out for bait and switch. Verify that the promises the publisher has made on the website, in emails, or in person are also in the contract. Sadly, people break promises. They even break clauses in contracts. But the law is on your side if all expectations are in writing. For example, the publisher may talk about obtaining reviews for the author, but is it in the contract? They may say they’ll do the editing for free, but is it in the contract? Ask them to be specific.

•    Beware of smoke and mirror marketing claims. Enticers are proficient at wording things that can be interpreted differently by different people. 
An example might be:

“The Author hereby grants the Publisher the rights to publish the characters found within the Work and the setting established therein for the purposes of marketing and promotions.”

See what they did there? They mentioned marketing and promotions, so you think that’s something the publisher will do. Read it again. All that clause says is that you grant them the right to use the characters and setting in marketing—-there is no promise of a marketing effort. What is their marketing plan? Is it only through social media and book signings? If the publisher offers no marketing or nothing more than marketing that you can do yourself, or if the wording is ambiguous, or if they require you to pay for services, then run. Because you might as well be doing it yourself and reaping all the profits.

•    Beware of publishers preying on newbie authors. If a publisher contacts you or advertises for submissions...run. Legitimate publishing companies have so many submissions they don’t have to look for authors. Don’t buy the line that they want to help first-time authors, or your work is so fantastic they just have to publish it. It’s just that—-a line.

•    Verify their employees’ experience and that they even exist. Anyone can claim anything on a website. They have five editors with a combined twenty-five years experience? What exactly is their experience? Where did they get it? The school newspaper? They're writers themselves? What have they written? A grocery list? (And notice the word "writers" instead of "authors.") Who are these employees? Are they even real people? Verify. It's entirely possible their editor, Arlo Cooper, is the combined names of their dogs, Arlo and Cooper. Don’t take their word for it. Google. Research. Verify.

•    Ask who will print the book. Some companies use CreateSpace. Don’t give away royalties for something you can do yourself.

•    Verify the publisher’s address is an actual address. It's a big red flag when a publisher lists their address as a post office box. If there’s an address listed, Google the address and see what comes up. Google map it and go to the street view. Is the address a reputable building or a mail store in a strip mall?

Look at this bogus address:
Rogue Publishing
123 Scumbucket Lane, Suite 666,
Scammers RS, 12345.

What’s wrong with that? Looks legit, right? Wrong. “Suite” can also mean “box.” Who knew? 
Do they list a phone number? Google it. Call it and see how it’s answered. If it’s not an actual business address or company phone line, then run like heck. Sure, some brand new publishers may start with a home office. But why didn't they list that address? They're probably trying to appear like more than they are, or they're hiding something.  

•    Make sure there are no hidden costs. Does the contract clearly state the editing and formatting of the book are services provided by the publisher free of charge? No legitimate publisher charges for editing and formatting.

•    Ask about the distribution plan. Will the publisher get your book in brick and mortar stores? Will it be available on the distribution lists that go out to all booksellers and librarians? Will it be available for order outside of Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com? It’s hard to sell books if your book isn’t distributed properly. Make sure the distribution plan is in writing.

•    Be certain who pays for review copies. Make sure the contract states who will be responsible for sending the book to reviewers—-you or the publisher? That should be part of the production cost. If they require you to foot the bill or offer no assistance, then you should probably run.

•    Make sure the contract states in what forms the book will be printed. If the clause says “May be” or “At the publisher’s discretion,” request the wording be unequivocal. They may promise an eBook or a hardback, but unless it’s in writing, they don’t have to honor their promises. Don't sign a contract in which the wording is vague, or two clauses contradict themselves.

•    Ask for a galley proof. Is there a clause in the contract stating the author will receive a galley proof at the publisher’s expense? Don't assume. As the author of the book, you have every right to see a galley, and it should be part of the production cost. (When you upload a book to Amazon, you have the option of getting a free .mobi copy so you can proofread. Note: free. Your publisher should forward that to you.) It's your book and your name on the front. A galley or .mobi should be offered--get it in writing.

•    Keep every email or letter you receive from your publisher or liaison. You never know what you may need in the future to prove a point of contention. Keep everything.

•    Negotiate the contract. You should see a huge red flag waving in your face if the publisher refuses to negotiate. If you’re uncomfortable about something, ask, and don’t buy the line, “it’s standard in publishing contracts.” Contracts are meant to be negotiated so they’re fair for both parties. If you ask questions and get mumbo jumbo answers, or are asked to sign the contract as-is, instead of signing, you should be running.

•    Hire a lawyer or agent to look at the contract before you sign. Yes, lawyers are expensive. But which would you rather do: spend money up front to make sure the contract is fair, or spend money later to get you out of the contract you didn’t fully understand? Be clear on what you're signing, because rogue publishers count on duping newbie authors with double talk and mumbo jumbo.


•    Do not, under any circumstances, sign a contract with a clause giving the publisher first rights of refusal on subsequent works. If this becomes a major sticking point, then a) run like a house afire, b) ask for a two-year opt out clause, where you can at least get free and clear after two years. Legitimate publishers will work to retain your loyalty. Dubious publishers will force you to publish with them or not at all. If the publisher does his job to your satisfaction, then by all means sign a new contract with them. But if their work was unsatisfactory, or your relationship turns sour, you need to be able to walk away. If you’ve granted a publisher first rights of refusal, it may be years before you can publish another book because you’re sure as heck not going to give some #@&*^ more of your work to screw up—-right? Run, don’t walk, away from first rights of refusal clauses.

•    Don’t give the publisher exclusive rights to publish works based upon characters and settings of the work for the duration of the contract. Never, never, never agree to that. If things go horribly wrong, you’ve lost control of your work. If you'd intended on writing a sequel or a series, someone who might be unscrupulous and vindictive could hold your work hostage because of one stinking clause. If you don't want them to publish subsequent works, your choice is to wait years until the contract expires and you can publish again, or spend thousands of dollars suing to regain your freedom. Run from the term "exclusive."

•    Don’t accept free books in exchange for royalties. You're in red flag city if a clause in the contract states you will not be paid on the first 100, 200, or any mumbo jumbo number of retail copies sold of any edition.

An author deserves to be paid for every book sold. If a publisher wants to give you free books in exchange for royalties on a certain amount of books, just say no. Publishers should give authors free books for promotional purposes—-period. Publishers pay authors, not the other way around. Run like crazy away from a clause that cheats you out of hard-earned royalties.

Note: If a contract has the double whammy of no royalties on the first X-number of books, and they pay on net profit, from which they deduct production costs, run to the law, because you're about to be robbed.

•    Don’t agree to a book purchase requirement, even at a discount.
Just don't. There's no reason you should be required to purchase a certain number of books. None. That's a huge red flag.

•    Don’t sign multiple contracts until you have one book under your belt. Even if the publisher produces a quality product, what if your relationship goes south? Protect yourself.

Note: Publishers do take a risk on first-time authors, and the more books the author writes, the better the first book will sell, so ideally it’s only fair to reward a publisher’s faith in you by publishing multiple books with them. If you’ve done your homework, and the publisher is solid with no other red flags, signing a two-book contract is a show of good faith in each other. Just don’t sign away an entire series. Stuff happens. And it wouldn't hurt to have an opt-out clause just in case.

After you sign on the dotted line...

Verify, verify, verify:

•    Verify promises. If the contract states the publisher will have the work copyrighted within a certain amount of time, verify that he has done so. Just because the contract says he will, doesn't mean it will happen. Protect yourself.

•    Verify formatting quality. Formatting should be included in any service a publisher offers. But just offering it isn't enough. Readers notice sloppy formatting. If the eBook formatting isn’t done properly, insist it be fixed and don’t take anyone’s word for it. Verify. If it’s not fixed after a reasonable amount of time, Amazon might pull it for review, and you will lose sales. A badly formatted eBook will affect your reviews, ratings, and reputation.

•    Verify sales. Would you believe there are some rogue publishers who try to falsify sales reports? Shocking, but true. Since Amazon doesn't allow authors to see Kindle sales (can someone please explain to me that decision?), the author must trust the publisher's reports. But watch your online sales closely. If you feel you've been given an incorrect report, verify.

•    Verify facts. Take screen shots if you believe your publisher has violated the contract and there is online evidence. You may need it at some point in the future. Be a boy scout. Be prepared.

"It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.” ~ Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Final thoughts

I'm certainly not disparaging all small presses or pointing fingers at any specific publishing companies. I believe there are a number of great Indie publishers out there doing really fine work. But I've heard so many stories about publishing nightmares, I think it's worth writing about to hopefully keep other authors from falling victim to a rogue publisher. Have you had a nightmarish publishing experience? Leave an anonymous comment so others can learn from it.

If you're comfortable with some of the red flags above, that's your decision. It's up to each individual author to decide what he/she can live with in a contract. But I believe the more informed you are, the better able you are to make educated decisions.

It’s sad that sometimes lessons are learned the hard way. The above points are not melodramatic or overly cautious; and what's worse is, I'm sure it's not comprehensive. Bad things happen, even to nice people and good writers. Don’t disregard red flags or fall for false promises. Be aware. Protect yourself. Investigate. Verify. If you see the warning signs, prepare to run, because chances are, if you don’t run away, you’ll be running into a stonewall.


  1. It's shameful how many publishing companies set up shop with no experience, no clout in the industry, and no solid business plan. They mislead and sometimes lie to their authors. For some small press owners, they might have bitten off more than they could chew and quickly became overwhelmed, but others set out to deliberately defraud authors. Want to know how you can tell the difference between a bad publisher with good intentions and an out-and-out shyster? The bad publisher with good intentions wants to make things right--they won't want to hold on to an unhappy author against their will. The shyster will fight any attempt by the author to escape.

    For many new authors, your article will come too little, too late. I hope many more will learn from this. Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Thanks, Tricia. I hope it helps someone. I also hope it doesn't scare people away from legitimate small publishers. They are out there!

  2. A very good article indeed. I have seen a small publisher saying that he should have some profit from an author's subsequent career since he gave them a start. I suspect that current contracts with that company could easily contain that clause. You are right. Run if that is ever suggested.

    1. And read carefully! Things are often worded so convolutedly, some authors may skim right over it. Ask questions, and seek advice. Thanks for commenting.

  3. This is an excellent summary, thank you! I think the idea of being published by a "real" publisher could definitely cloud some writers' judgement. If you're not getting any more from these guys than you could do for yourself (ie you're paying production costs, doing your own promotion, and they have no influence on the industry), WHY would you sign away a portion of your profits to them, just to get a name on the cover that doesn't mean anything to anyone?

    I'd have to be very impressed with what an indie publisher puts out in terms of editing, story quality, cover art and book quality before I'd decide to sign, and now I know what red flags to look for. I'll have to share this.

  4. You're exactly right. Authors are sometimes led to believe the publisher will do more for them than actually comes to pass, only to discover all too late that they could have self-published a better quality book and reaped all the profit. Self-publishing is easier than some people think, which is exactly why so many "small presses" are popping up. Unfortunately, self-publishers are thought by many to produce an inferior product, and authors think signing with a publisher will validate their work. Make sure the contract you sign details services you can't do on your own. It's not worth it otherwise. Thank you for your comments.

  5. This is such helpful advice, thanks to tricia i found this!

  6. Tricia pointed me here too. Very comprehensive list of the pitfalls. As a writer with an indie publisher, I completely agree that it is a hazardous business finding a good one.

  7. I think both publishers and authors take a risk on each other. The difference is, if things go wrong, the author doesn't ruin the publisher's business or hold it hostage. They have all the power.

  8. An astonishing piece, thank you! Yes, you are SO right. Anyone can set up a publishing company without the slightest bit of actual book publishing experience. Wildly exaggerated claims and broken promises tend to follow. Beware of any publisher's 'bigging themselves up', if they're good at what they do, they don't need to make false claims. I think for many of them, it's simply an exercise in ego-massaging, in trying to prove they are somehow better than everyone else - delusions of grandeur gone mad. These kind of operators are SO dangerous to new and inexperienced authors who end up believing the hype without actually checking the facts.

    I loved your section on bogus addresses for instance, saying you have offices in London and Germany or New York etc sounds good, but if those offices are actually just an address which 23,000 other companies also use and has no phone number, chances are that that 'office' is simply a post office box, not what any normal honest person would call an office. And don't forget, you could call your living room an 'office' if you wanted! Simply doesn't prove a thing. All new authors really DO need to do their homework. Checking out Absolute Write is essential. If they're on there and it's negative...RUN RUN RUN!! Thank you, Amy, a wonderful post! :D

  9. Thank you, Sophie. Good point about claiming to have offices in multiple countries. A little investigative work is essential! And I agree Absolute Write is a great sites for authors. Predators & Editors and Writer Beware are other good ones. Thanks for stopping by, Sophie.

  10. Very timely and well-written piece. Luckily I got out of a bad publishing experience relatively unscathed and am very happy with my new Indie publisher. I'm proud to be part of an organization that has a reputable 60+ years of experience under their belts and sales of 20,000 print books and 98,000 e-books this past year.

  11. Debbie--that's great. It's always nice to hear success stories instead of nightmares. May you have a long, healthy, and profitable relationship with your publisher!

  12. Such a great article, Amy!! And I so wish I had been reading and paying attention a year ago!

  13. Thank you, Lucy. One of my favorite sayings is, "Live and learn. Die and know it all." Thanks for looking in.

  14. I imagine it heartbreaking to be duped by a publishing company. As I rest comfortably on the "devour authors' [your] stories" side, lol, I hope expectations (contracts) are met honorably and professionally. I really enjoyed this piece, Amy! You are providing a great service to newbie and existing writers.

  15. Carmen--great to hear from you! Thanks for your comments and support. It means a lot.

  16. I've had experience with a less-than-honest publisher and started a Yahoo group to try to put her out of business. If you DO get ripped off by a dishonest publisher, report them to the IRS.

    Many people hesitate because they don't have proof since third-party distributors like Amazon refuse to report earnings directly to authors when they have contracts with the publishers. Let the IRS dig up the proof. They can subpoena those records if they receive enough complaints from authors about any given publisher. They brought down Al Capone when the FBI failed. Report them to their local State's Attorney as well. Again, they'll tell one author it's a matter for small claims court. But if enough people keep reporting the same person, they can make a case for fraud on a large scale.

  17. The FTC also will look into it. But if there's a small number of authors complaining, I wonder if they'll investigate. The state Attorney General is another good source. It's absolutely shameful that there are so many unscrupulous people out there that these agencies have more than enough to do. Thanks for commenting, Rochelle, and for your excellent advice.

  18. Another danger sign would be a PO box but the business is out of a home, or you call the listed business number and it's someone's private cell. Or you call and they answer with the name of another company...

  19. Yes. I strongly suspect the publisherof my first book has not reported correctly as the few sales that I personally know have sold to people I know have not appeared at all let alone any others. I do not believe the sales have really picked up over the last 6months either. I have so far not even reached the total necessary to receive my first royalty payment. And because my royalties only amount to $1 per book. ..I have been reluctant to fight on the phone over a mere handful of dollars. At the moment I feel in limbo about this book and this publisher. My second book just released through Createspace has so far been a much happier experience and far, far less expensive!

    1. Susi, I'm just now seeing this. I apologize! I hope the issues with your first book are resolved and your second book is doing well. I, too, have found CreateSpace to be a much happier experience. Thanks for commenting.

  20. ShieldCrets publishers UK, wrongly reformatted my book, causing errors and then retracted it.Sent me nasty threats in red emails, tried to charge me for their errors and a bespoke cover that I designed.They said that they would 'publish my book with all of its errors and it wouldn't sit on the shelf with professionally published books.' When all that I did was query the mistakes. They have omitted, deleted,changed text, moved chapters without consultation and continuously sent me nasty threats in emails. So I placed a review. They refused to continue with my book until I took down the review=not a legal reason for continuing with my book-Breach of Contract. They have termed me vindictive and now turn the errors to my original text, so still my fault, stating that they did not change it, but it was 84 characters to a line and is now 64. The font size and style have changed to fit the book.The cover has white blobs which they say they left in to 'break up the monotonous blue' and then it 'was a bad picture.' The white blobs are still there. I have acted under legal advice all the way along the line. The next step will be court. Any help or advice about how to sort out this unprofessional rip-off publisher would be welcome. I have now noticed other bad reviews about them on the net- wish I'd seen them earlier.

    1. I'm so sorry you're going through this. There is a box at the bottom of all Amazon.com book pages that says "Feedback." Under it you can click to report:
      Would you like to report poor quality or formatting in this book?
      Would you like to report this content as inappropriate?
      Do you believe that this item violates a copyright?
      I found Amazon to be very reactive when those problems are reported.

      I can't give legal advice, but I will say for my own part, I went through legal channels for far too long. I was met with stall tactics, lies, and threat of a lawsuit. My publisher violated the contract several times over. I finally realized that was enough to sever our relationship. He was in breach of contract—end of contract! I contacted the sellers of the book (Amazon and B&N) and told them this publisher did not have the rights to publish my book. They took the book down. I self-published and have never been happier. I wish you good luck in getting free from your nightmare.

    2. Thank you for your promp reply and advice. This is a self publish book and an email from them two hours ago states that as threatened they will publish my book with all of the errors in it when I have not completed my amendments. No one wiill buy this! The sellers of the book such as Waterstones , Smiths and Blackwells state that they do not take self published books and the twelve copies that I have paid for to go to 'legal depositories'such as the Bodleian in Oxford have told me that there are only five depositories. Can I publish this book with someone else but with the same (correctly amended)text?

    3. If your book is self-published, I would think you could publish it with whomever you please. I'm not sure what your contract states, but if you're not happy with their work, it seems to me that you could take it elsewhere.
      I'd also report them to the Preditors & Editors site (http://pred-ed.com/). You might also look at the forums there and see if anyone has any advice.
      Can you possibly let them publish the book and then report to the third parties that they've published it against your will? I know Amazon.com listens closely when a book is reported to be badly edited or formatted. Just a thought.
      Feel free to vent anytime! I know firsthand what a frustrating experience it is. If you'd like to contact me directly, my email address is authoramymetz@yahoo.com. I'm a good listener!

  21. Cheers, I am trying to publish it elsewhere and have told them that I withdraw copyright from them so that they will not publish it with all of the errors. Will this work? They said that I could go throught their secretary P.A. to discuss things but they don't have one. Then they would only communicate through their Legal adviser but would not give me the details. Then it would be the last time that they communicate with me, except that it never is. Can I stop them publishing the book with all of the errors in it? I have paid a lot of money in advance to them but all that I get are rude and nasty emails. I want my money back. It's so good to be able to communicate with a real person. Thank you. I will contact you at your email address about my book problems. That would be helpful,if you confirm that you are still agreeable,

    1. I am not an expert on this subject, nor can I offer legal advice, but I would think that if you own the copyright to your work, then you can decide where it is sold. You are welcome to message me. I think you will find more help on the Preditors & Editors site.

  22. What can an author do if he/she believes their publisher is not reporting their true sales?

  23. Sadly, the only thing I found was to file a lawsuit. Amazon will not give out sales reports to anyone but the publisher. (I think that's totally unfair and ignorant idea, but nobody asked me.) You can ask to audit your publisher's books, but there's no guarantee they will let you or that they will give you the pertinent information. I tried asking for an audit. My appointment was canceled (not by me) less than 24 hours before the scheduled date and time. My lawyer finally got him to send me sales reports, but what he provided was useless. Something needs to be done to provide checks and balances for authors, but that's an uphill fight. Good luck to you. I feel for what you're going through.

  24. I published with a so-so company. Not scammers. But not great. They use CreateSpace, poor formatting. The good thing is that the contracts are short-term and mine will be up soon. I'm working on a new book in a new genre and plan to go the agent route for as long as it takes. Debating whether to stay with them and renew the contract (several colleagues say, "at least its published,") or take the books out of print, since the new project is so different? Or self-publish?

    1. I won't discourage you from seeking representation, all I can do is tell you my experience with self-publishing has been great. It sounds like your current publisher doesn't offer anything you couldn't do yourself? I wish you good luck, whichever way you decide to go.

  25. I wish I had found your article sooner! I recently had a terrible experience with a small traditional press. The contract they sent me was pretty bad (with a lot of red flags) but I was prepared to sign with them and sacrifice certain items simply because I thought it was a great start for a first time author. Thankfully they didn't end up signing from their end because 'I had signed the date wrong on the contract'. I kid you not. This actually happened. The worst thing is, I didn't actually sign the date wrong. I'm an Australian and they were American, and Aussies do dates back to front as day-month-year. Anyway, I was so grateful to have discovered how unprofessional they were before I signed away my first book :( Their behaviour was absolutely disgusting. Just a question, am I able to write an honest review of this small press on my blog and name them? I've recommened them to others before (who follow my blog), and I'm mortified to think some of those followers may have submitted work to them.

    1. It sounds like you lucked out! I'm really not sure about legalities, but I THINK as long as what you say is true, you can't be sued for libel. I'd still be very careful. Can you talk about them in general terms and not name them outright? That might be the safe way to go. You can, and should, review them on Preditors & Editors (http://pred-ed.com/), though. Warn other writers about them! Good luck!

  26. A couple things on your list I learned the hard way. I hope your readers will read this list and listen to you. I've had 5 publishers, 2 have turned out to be so bad I'm never going with a publisher again. I'll only self publish as I'm never allowing anyone to have that kind of power over me again.

    There needs to be a way for authors to be able to fight these people. Most of us are powerless as we don't have the money to hire legal representation.

    1. I agree, Cynthia. And even if you were to sue and win, they would probably never pay up. It's frustrating. I also think there should be a better checks and balances when it comes to sales figures. My publisher never told me the truth about my sales, and Amazon wouldn't help at all. Now that I've self-published I see how easy it is to keep track of sales, and I see what kind of reports I should have been getting all along. Live and learn, die and know it all...