UPDATE, OCTOBER 18, 2015: Today, I checked the websites for IUniverse and AuthorHouse to see whether they had made any changes to their form of publishing agreement. Yes, they have. While their old form gave them the right to continue to sell your book on a non-exclusive basis for one year, the new form has changed that to a 90 day period.
But I will keep this post live as a lesson to writers to READ THE FINE PRINT BEFORE YOU HIT ACCEPT ON ANY PUBLISHING OR PUBLISHING SERVICE CONTRACT.
Last week, I spoke at a conference where Keith Ogorek, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Author Solutions, gave a keynote address. I was curious to hear how he pitched the various Author Solutions self-publishing service companies. After all, their prices are high and their reputations dismal, yet they still pull in tens of thousands of new self-publishing writers each year. How did the marketing man himself sell his companies? Did he trash CreateSpace, Smashwords, Outskirts Press and other competitors?
No, he explained. There is room in the market for all these companies. After all some people like to camp, and others prefer to stay at a hotel. CreateSpace and Smashwords are for campers. AuthorHouse, Xlibris, Trafford, West Bow and the various other Author Solutions companies are for those who prefer a more professional and catered experience.
I almost choked on my latte. What an absolutely perfect analogy.
I love hotels, particular ones with soft sheets and fluffy robes. The more chocolate and chardonnay in the mini-bar, the better. But not the Hotel California! Save me and other writers from the Hotel California.
Anyone of a certain vintage will remember the Eagles’ song, Welcome to the Hotel California, about a nightmarish hotel where you can never leave.
Welcome to the Hotel Author Solutions. You can sign up anytime you like, but leaving, well, that’s another story.
Buried in the Self-Publishing Services Agreement for Xlibris, Trafford and AuthorHouse is a never-ending license. (This may be in the agreements of the other Author Solutions companies, but I could not find them on line.)
7.3 License Continuation Post-Termination. For a period of one (1) year, beginning at the conclusion of the Term, regardless of the reason for Termination, We [Author Solutions] are granted, by You, the non-exclusive, worldwide license to manufacture, store, use, display, execute, copy, reproduce (in whole or in part), warehouse, host, store, use, transmit, modify (including to create derivative works), import, make, have made, offer to sell, print, publish, market, distribute, and sell (individually or as part of compilations of collective works), and license for use via any subscription model, through all distribution channels (now or hereafter known, including online and electronic distribution channels), and otherwise exploit in any language, in print form, digital format, audio book format, or via any other medium, now known or hereafter devised, the Work [your manuscript].
Translation: Even if you fire the Author Solutions company for poor service, they have the non-exclusive, worldwide right to continue to print, publish and sell your book for a year in print, digital, audio or any other medium.
It gets worse than that. Hidden in the remedies section of the contract is another got-ya. As I read it, if the Author Solutions company continues to sell your book beyond that one year, your only remedy is to collect royalties on their sales. That’s it. You waive the right to stop them.
This is like breaking up with Mr., Slick, meeting Mr. Right, but still being obligated to go out with Mr. Slick every Friday night for a year, or even longer as long as he pays for dinner.
Image you self-publish your book through AuthorHouse and it sells well. A traditional publisher approaches you and wants to re-publish it with lots of support . They promise book tours and full-page ads. You go to terminate your agreement with AuthorHouse and discover this provision. Now, you have to tell the traditional publisher that you cannot grant them exclusive rights, that AuthorHouse has the right to continue to sell your book alongside the traditional publisher. This could kill your deal and opportunity.
To get out of the AuthorHouse contract will you have to pay something to AuthorHouse? Do you have to buy back your own book? I would not be surprised. If you or anyone you know has been through this, please contact me. I would love to get the story.
Sadly, I had to leave to catch a plane before the end of Ogorek’s speech. I wanted to ask him the business justification for this never-ending provision. He deserves to be put on the spot. In a crowded room, of course.
I DO NOT KNOW OF ANY OTHER SELF-PUBLISHING SERVICE COMPANY THAT HAS SUCH A PROVISION IN ITS CONTRACT. I’ve looked at CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Mill City Press, Outskirts Press, BookBaby, Smashwords. In their agreements, you may terminate any time you like, and they stop selling your book within 30 days, typically less.
Bottom line, you can choose to stay at a hotel, fancy, cheap or pure business, but choose a hotel you may leave any time you like. Even better, try camping and manage the self-publishing process yourself. It’s not that hard. You’ll sleep better in your own tent anyway.
Writers, you work long and hard on your manuscripts. You pour your hopes, dreams and soul into them. Take the time to look at these contracts before you sign them, particularly the provisions on the grant of rights and termination. If you need more guidance on how to read these contracts, consult with an attorney. At least pick up my book, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook. The Addendum walks you through these key provisions so you know what to look for.
If you can write a book, mastering character, plot and structure, then you CAN understand these contract provisions. You have to.
Otherwise you could be stuck with Mr. Slick.