Vanity Publishing

Watch Out for these Legal Contract Terms


Copyright Lawyer Helen Sedwick, author of the Self-Publishers Legal Handbook wrote in an article at Bookworks

“What is the worst mistake an indie author can make?
A bad book cover? A poorly edited manuscript? A hokey website?  No.  It’s LOSING CONTROL over your work.”

DO READ the Fine Print!
She explains that an author’s manuscript is a valuable asset, “just like your car or home. You wouldn’t hand over your car keys to a stranger you met on the internet. You wouldn’t let someone with a slick website move into your guest room.”

And it is worrying that every day, writers accept contracts with Vanity / Self-publishing companies that take too much control over the author’s work.  Just as Helen Sedwick warns authors, I did it in many articles during the last years here on this blog (see the list below).  Sure, it is no fun to read the fine print, especially if it is written in “legalese” but these contract clauses may influence your writing career to an extent you cannot even imagine.

Helen Sedwick Explains some of the Vocabulary:
“LICENSE:  When writers sign book contracts, they often say they “sold” their books.  That’s not entirely correct.  Authors grant publishers “licenses” to use their work, in other words, permission. Writers continue to own the underlying copyright.
Similarly, licenses may be exclusive or non-exclusive, world-wide or geographically-restricted, short-term or perpetual, royalty-free or royalty-paying, limited to a particular language or format, such as audio, print, or eBooks.  The permutations are endless.
“EXCLUSIVE:  If you grant an exclusive license, then the licensee has the right to stop everyone else from using the licensed work, even you. Authors should retain the right to sell print books via CreateSpace, Ingram, bookstores, and their own sites, all at the same time. Ebooks should be distributable via KDP, eBookPartnership, Digital2Digital, and other sites.  If you are publishing through a traditional publisher, then you should expect to grant an exclusive license in return for the publisher’s investment in your work.  Limit the scope of the license to the language, format, region, or other category in which the publisher has the ability to market your work successfully.  For example, you would not want to grant an exclusive license to your work in all languages and formats to a small publisher that markets only English print or ebooks.”
“ROYALTIES.  Your royalties are the portion of sale proceeds that will be paid to you.  Self-publishing companies have various ways of calculating royalties.  But it’s critical that you know what your royalties will be on a per copy basis before you sign on.  You should be able to calculate royalties assuming different trim sizes and page counts online.  If the company or its website says that royalties cannot be determined until your manuscript is reviewed or formatted (and typically after you have given them your credit card number and paid a non-refundable deposit), don’t work with that company.  Find one that provides more transparency and control.”

These are just some examples of what could go wrong.  The best advice for authors is to never sign with a “self-publishing” / vanity company.  Finding out about all the legal implications of a contract is extremely important before you are signing any publishing agreement with a trade publisher.

Get the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, a step-by-step guide to the legal issues of self-publishing.  Attorney and self-published author Helen Sedwick uses 30 years of legal experience to show writers how to stay out of trouble and money-losing.

More Warnings here:



%d bloggers like this: