Books Writing

Book publishers suck

I’ve been in negotiations for over four months with a publisher on a book. After the last book deal fell through with negative reprecussions for me, I’ve been more wary when it comes to contracts.

One issue with the new publisher has been about a clause in the contract that the publisher could bill me for royalities paid out if the books are returned.

With my previous books, the publisher holds a percentage of royalities aside for coverage of book returns; or hold royalities for 3-9 months for the same reason. They also keep most of the profits from the book. In exchange, the author isn’t suddenly presented with a bill when they’re expecting a royalty check.

I’ve earned out my royalities and advances on all the books I’ve authored or co-authored but Developing ASP Components, second edition (because Microsoft came out with a new architecture just as we went to print), and the recent Practical RDF (I have hopes I’ll earn out the advance on this one, but slowly). Both of these books have been with O’Reilly Publishing (who has an uncomplicated contract without a lot of ‘gotcha’ clauses about billing the author, may I add).

However, the publisher I’ve been dealing with not only wanted to hold payouts for several months, reserve 25% of the royalities for return, but they also wanted to bill me for any returns beyond that. Paired with very low royality–eight percent–I had to decline. Disappointing, and discouraging, but these things happen.

Now it gets good.

I didn’t hear anything more for about a month or so. Then, out of the blue this last week the publisher came back and said they would strike this clause, in addition to paying half the indexing fee (having me pay all the indexing fee was something else I wasn’t happy about). It wasn’t a great deal, but I’ve spent so much time on this, I said I would agree and asked to see the new contract.

Well today, I heard that the publishing company has decided to keep the clause in after all, but that they “never invoke it, so it doesn’t mean anything”. If a clause in a contract doesn’t mean anything, why keep it in the contract? Do they think me stupid?

Needless to say, that’s the end of my relationship with this publisher.

This is two bad experiences with publishers in a row trying to get a book out, and spending over a year in the process. Frankly, the news today was like getting sucker punched.

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