In short, the answer is not to accept every deal that comes down the pike. For the moment I’m simply going to paste in here a copy of the e-mail I just sent to a fairly new micropress that offered a contract to reprint my short story collection Darkscapes. I’ve taken out the publisher name, but if the company won’t negotiate the troubling items I’ll name the publisher so ya’ll can have the info.
I’m glad you enjoyed Darkscapes. Thanks for the offer to publish. I’ve looked over the contract and have to say I’m not thrilled with it. Let me lay out my concerns and then perhaps we can negotiate the items.
Advance – I may have misunderstood [FRIEND WHO RECOMMENDED THIS PUBLISHER], but I was under the impression [PUBLISHING COMPANY] paid small advances. The contract refers to advanced money in a couple of places, but never does it specify an advance amount. Payment of an advance is often an indicator the publisher plans to actively market the book.
Author Copies – The discount for author copies seems pretty small. If I understand correctly, I would have to buy at least 25 copies to get a 25 percent discount. That would require me to put out a pretty tidy sum of money and, if I understand correctly, I would earn no royalties on copies I buy. Other publishers I’ve worked with give a 40 percent author discount with no required number of copies purchased and pay no royalties on copies purchased by the author at that discount. I would be more comfortable with that sort of deal.
Royalties – I’m confused by some of the terminology in this paragraph. Do I only earn royalties on copies sold by [PUBLISHING COMPANY] for the retail price? Does that mean I would not earn royalties on copies sold at a wholesale discount to Amazon.com or other retailers? If Amazon marks the book at less than the cover price, would I not earn royalties? Since the publisher never sells the book to a retailer at the cover price, I’m interpreting this as saying that I basically would only earn royalties on books sold directly to the consumer by the publisher. I realize I may be misinterpreting this and the paragraph could simply be referring to “stripped” books, but I want to be clear on it before signing anything.
Some other questions I have are:
How are your books distributed? Do you go through Ingram and/or Baker & Taylor?
Are your books returnable?
What do you estimate the cover price to be for Darkscapes?
Also, in the page headers of the contract the author name is “David Wedel.”
Sorry if I seem to be interrogating you, but I’ve had a couple of really bad publisher/author relationships and I’d rather ask the tough questions now than find myself in a jam later. To be honest, the lack of advance and the requirement that the author buy at least 25 copies to earn a relatively small 25 percent discount reminds me too much of [THAT COMPANY I AGREED NOT TO DISPARAGE PUBLICY]’s strategy of making the company’s money back by selling to the author.
If these are items you’re willing to negotiate, please let me know. If not, then I thank you for your time, withdraw my submission, and ask that you destroy the hardcopy of my manuscript since I didn’t include return postage.
There we have it. If there’s no negotiation, or not enough, I’ll withdraw the book and keep looking.
Oh, if only I hadn’t gone with that other publisher, I may have been able to place this collection with a respectable small horror press willing to take a chance that the Blackridge Entertainment film with “Reunion” in it would inspire some book sales. I know of one such press that won’t look at anything from anybody who ever published with that other company. It doesn’t really seem fair to hold someone’s past mistake against him forever, but whatever. Other publishers simply don’t want to do a reprint of one of that company’s titles, even with the content changes I’ve made here (taking out three weak stories and replacing them with three longer, stronger stories).
So … we’ll see what happens next.