Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We didn't have a contract

For months I had been telling my paper publisher for my second mystery, Whose Hand? A Skeeter Hughes Mystery, that we did not have a contract. He replied repeatedly that we would work under the same terms we had used for my first mystery, Where's Billie?,  that he had published. I pushed on.

After I had written, revised, revised and revised, I hired an editor to work on Whose Hand? I called my publisher and left messages that I was working on the book, but WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT. He did not return my calls.

Last January, after I was happy with Whose Hand? I put it on Kindle and Nook. Sales were pretty good, and boosted  interest in the first book as well.  My publisher decided to delay release of Whose Hand? from spring to fall 2011. Given that WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT, and it was doing ok in epub, I went along, even though that meant the second book would be released two years after the first, which is too long.

Whose Hand? is set to release in August. Last week I told my publisher that WE DIDN'T HAVE A CONTRACT. "That's not good," he said.

He invited me to his office, and mentioned nonchalantly as the contract printed out, that it had changed a bit. "I'm going to be doing the Kindle and Nook publishing now," he said.

"No," I said, fully prepared to walk out of his office without a contract for paper.

Our first contract specifically said that I retained electronic rights to the work. I wasn't about to let go of those rights for the second book.

"What percentage would you give me?" I asked, curious only to hear what he'd say. "I get 70 percent from Kindle and 70 percent from Nook."

He was dumbfounded. He had planned to send the file of my work to another vendor, who would put it up on Kindle and Nook, then pay him 50 cents for each copy sold. I get $2.10 per book now, I told him. Shock and awe.

"How do you get it in the Kindle?" he asked.

"I read the directions," I replied.

"Maybe I should have you put all my other books on Kindle," he said.

In the end, we signed a contract identical to my first with him, including a sentence that says I retain all electronic rights. 

My paper publisher's family is now in it's third generation in the business. He's a savvy man, in the print world. But like many publishers he's caught in a very steep learning curve of the rapidly changing world.

So what's the lesson in this tale? We're all learning. But we indie authors have to stay with every bend in the road, or we're going to get run over. And never, never, never sell your electronic rights for less than a bizzilion dollars.

Have you had an experience like this?


  1. It's stunning that he had no idea how to upload to Kindle or what sort of royalty he should be making from ebooks. Sorry to say this, but I can't imagine they'll be in business for much longer. Still, it's terrific that you fought for your ebook rights!

  2. Great post, Judith! I'm sending all my aspiring author clients to this post so they can get an eye-opener about the publishing options available to them. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow, Judy. I really feel sorry for people who have always tried to work ethically and fairly and now find themselves clueless. Often they'll present an unfair contract because they're being shafted as well. The shaft-pass? Anyway, I'm proud of you for sticking to you guns and showing him the light.

  4. Just so you know, if you just need a Kindle format and don't care about the precision of the output, Amazon is an excellent option, as is Smashwords. Both allow you to upload and even sell your work on their sites. However, there's little versatility and you don't get to keep the original project file (which can be handy for future updates and edits).

    There are plenty of folks (myself included) who will do eBook conversions and provide a Kindle, Nook and iPad version of your manuscript as well as the original project folder. The going rate should be between $200 and $400 per manuscript with aditional fees if you have more than just cover artwork. I DO NOT recomment that you work with an off-shore vendor, as their people are simply plugging and chugging, don't guarantee their work and don't review it cover-to-cover in most cases.

    If you'd like to know more, feel free to check out I'd be happy to talk to you about converting your manuscripts and earning all the profits.

  5. It's great that you knew enough to keep you electronic rights. Congratulations.

  6. Publishing can be a tough business and yes, we have to keep on top of contracts and our rights. Many authors are tired of being stepped on and have decided to publish their own works. I love the freedom.

    It seems publishers and many agents are in a panic over these changes taking place in the world of publishing.

    I'm not sure what Christopher here means by "you don't get to keep the original project file (which can be handy for future updates and edits)." ?? Of course you have your original file and can edit and upload again anytime you want at Kindle, Createspace, and at Smashwords. I do suggest ordering the proof copy at Createspace so one can make sure their POD-PDF format is correct. And all this can be done for nothing or $39, and a very few bucks for the proof and mailing. And I always have Judy Bullard at do my covers as she now has done for more than a decade.

    I believe many authors are finding the new opportunities exciting.

  7. Great points, Linda. These are exciting times for authors.

  8. Great post! Lets us know how out of the loop publishers are these days.


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