This week’s regularly scheduled supernatural/occult post has been derailed by something I found out about last night. I normally don’t talk about the business side of writing, but this affects us all. I know some of my readers are writers as well. You need to know this. Prepare yourselves; this is going to be a rant.
So, back in fall 2012, Simon & Schuster joined up with the disreputable Author House aka Author Solutions aka ASI to form a new self-publishing project known as Archway Publishing. What is Author Solutions? Well it’s a vanity publisher and a scam. In fact you can read on Writer Beware about the New York law firm of Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart LLP opening an investigation of Author Solutions for deceptive practices against authors. So, why would one of the Big 5 (now?) want to team up with such a shady company? Well:
"Through Archway Publishing, Simon & Schuster is pleased to be part of the rapidly expanding self-publishing segment of our industry," said Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster. "Self-publishing has become a viable and popular route to publication for many authors, and increasingly a source of content for traditional publishers, including Simon & Schuster. We're excited that we'll be able to help more authors find their own path to publication and at the same time create a more direct connection to those self-published authors ready to make the leap to traditional publishing."
So pretty much they wanted to make money off of scamming authors who still dream about being traditionally published. Now, they are calling it a premium service. So, you have to pay up front. This can be anywhere from $1,999 to 24,999 for the standard package, depending on what book you write. Then, will take a 50% cut out of your net profits. That’s right. Not only do you have to pay them for the honor of being published but then they take even more money from you. If this wasn't bad enough, yesterday April L. Hamilton blogged about an email she received from Archway Publishing offering her a $100 “bounty” for every author she refers to them that signs. Really, we’re bounties now, like outlaws or something?
This is just the beginning. Next we have Random House has opened three new digital imprints: Hydra for SF/Fantasy, Alibi for mysteries and thrillers, and Flirt for New Adult audiences. Here’s what they say:
“Under this program, authors will have a complete and unique publishing package. Every book will be assigned to an accomplished Random House editor and a dedicated publicist. They will also have the invaluable support of Random House’s experienced marketing and digital sales teams, who know how to reach out to and expand each book’s dedicated readership. Not only will authors benefit from working with the finest cover designers to ensure irresistibly eye-catching books, but they will also be offered the unique advantage of social media tools and training that will allow them to connect directly with their readers. To reach the widest possible readership, every title will be available for purchase at major e-retailers and will be compatible with all reading devices.”
|Picture by lamont_cranston|
This sounds a lot like self-publishing services and the contract makes it even worse. Here is what Writer Beware and John Scalzi found. Scalzi actually got a contract for Alibi. You should really read these posts, but I’ll break down some basics.
No Advances: Now if I remember correctly, this is one of the reasons we want to be traditionally published. It’s money up front that we may or may never see from the book. Still, the Publishing Company believes in you and offers it. Right, so you’re saying they don’t even respect the authors they’re trying to lure that much. OK.
Rights: John Scalzi noted that on the Alibi contract, they have "exclusive right to print, publish, sell and license the contracted work, in every possible format, in whole or in part, in every language, in the entire world, for the full term of copyright."
So that means that you want to shop around for you book to be printed in German? Nope, better hope Alibi wants that. Want movie rights? Only if Random house decides to.
For the life of the copyright.
That’s the part that bugs me. Now, I've heard it mentioned that this is an industry standard, which scares me. Copyright for works published in the US after 2002 last “70 years after the death of author. If a work of corporate authorship, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.” So unless we have discovered eternal life, or became vampires…yeah, your entire life. This is a big reason why I went indie. Say, for instance, I want to continue my series but my publisher drops it. There’s a pretty good chance they own rights to those characters and well, good luck for me continuing their story.
Net-Billings: This is a fee to cover costs of sales, promotions, publicity, and marketing at a rate of 10%. Wait. Here was another major reason people went the traditional publishing route. Now it comes out of our royalties? Also coming out is title set up costs, including plant fees, conversion fees, and possible legal fees. Oh, and if they do decide to make a print version, there’s fees for that too. All, out of your money…not the 50% cut they are already going to take.
As I said, you can see deeper discussion of this on Scalzi’s blog, but this really irked me. This is all designed to get aspiring writers who have no idea. And the fact that it’s done by the big companies like Random House and Simon & Schuster makes it even more disgusting. Now, I don’t hate traditional publishing. I believe the decision is a personal one for every author, and there are some great houses out there. I know there are plenty of authors happy where they are. However, I do strongly suggest finding an agent to read over any contract you’re offer. Also, NEVER accept anything like this.
Writer, you are better than this. You make the product. Without you, these publishers would be searching the want adds for a new career. Yes, this business is depressingly hard to get into and succeed, but scams like this only make it worse. Research, study, understand what you’re getting into.