When I first realized I wanted to be an author, I found that I was easily overwhelmed by the extreme learning curve I had before me. And it wasn’t just stuff you had to learn, but also execute every day after that. To keep from getting ulcers (jury is still out on that) I told myself that if I could just learn one new thing a day, I would be okay and I wouldn’t get so stressed out that I wanted to quit.
Well, that kind of worked. Ha! But I thought I would share some of the things I learned along the way on this blog.
Sh!t I Learned Today: Publishing Contracts and Clauses to Avoid
When I first realized I wanted to be a writer (oh, when I was around nine years-old), I assumed I’d go the traditional publisher route. Really at the time, I had no clue about self-publishing, so pursuing an agent and then a publisher felt like my only option. But then I read David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital in 2013, and my mind changed. Below is the link for David’s Power Pack of GREAT how-to books for only $0.99, which I would highly suggest for anyone who hasn’t read these books.
The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book
Self-publishing was my best option. Reading that book made me understand why I wanted to self-publish and why it was a good fit for me. But every now and then I get a little twinge for that agent/publisher/see-my-book-in-Barnes-&-Noble route. I even did a little Twitter pitch contest for New Leaf Agency.
Then I read The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing (great read! I highly, highly recommend you go buy a copy now if you haven’t read it), and I finally understood some of the reasons why a traditionally published contract might actually hurt my career. I’m not saying being a hybrid author with traditionally published books is bad. I just mean that some of the clauses in a standard traditionally published contract can be detrimental.
- Do Not Compete
This is the big one that stopped me in my tracks. I’d heard of it before, but I never really understood. A ‘do not compete’ clause in your contract means that for a period of time (three months up to a year after signing a publishing contract) you can’t publish anything that would compete with the book you just sold to a publisher. Basically this clause means that while your traditional book is getting all fancied up to be released, you can’t release anything else via self-publishing that could make more money than the book the publishing house bought. Sucks right?
- Joint Accounting
Joint accounting is another contract clause that really screws an author over. Joint accounting means that when you have a multiple book deal with a publishing house, you can’t earn out on book one until you’ve earned out on the other books in the series. This is apparently impossible to do unless you’re really a big-time author. Cough, Veronica Roth, Cough. ‘Earning out’ means that you’ve earned back the advance the publishing house gave you when you signed your contract. The advance is what they think your book is going to earn. You have to basically pay this advance back.
What you want is separate accounting, meaning that each book in your series can earn out on its own.
- This isn’t a clause but it’s an industry standard that I found interesting
Amazon gives you 70% profit cut for a $2.99 book. The only other person taking a cut off your book is Amazon. I can live with that.
With traditional publishing houses and agents, you have a lot of people working on your book that needs to be paid. Your agent gets 15% right away. Then the publisher gets the next huge chunk, which leaves you with 25% of net. This is industry standard. Some publishing houses will even reduce an author to 15% of net. So if you sold a $3.99 ebook, you’re only making a nickel versus $2.79.
If your book is so popular or if you’re becoming a big deal, you could probably negotiate these clauses away. But for someone who really wants a traditional published deal from the get-go, think about these clauses and whether or not you can live with them. If so, great! If not, welcome to the dark side.