I met with a writer/filmmaker recently whom I haven’t seen in several years. While visiting, our conversation stumbled onto book publishing scams.
Before I tell you his story, I want to stress to you that most book publishers are honest and hardworking. They aren’t going to steal your work, but they will write you a contract in their favor—if you let them. At that point, you need to read and understand your contract and even consult a lawyer.
Knowing this, you can rest easy at night. Most of the time.
Steve’s Book Publishing Scam
Back to Steve and his book publishing scam. He is probably one of the most creative people I know. He has that special talent of being able to see “The Story” in anything. He writes in all types of genre, and he films glorious frames of story-lines. Furthermore, he is a good and honest man who would never suspect anyone of being deceitful.
Primarily, Steve earns his living from film production. He can do anything from simple 10 second ads to full length movies. Everything he does illustrates that he has the artist’s eye, so nothing is simply conventional. He has been a joy to work with on many occasions. As you can see, this is not an ordinary man. He knows his industry.
Years ago, I read one of his novels while it was in manuscript form and found it to be imaginative and clever. I knew that it would appeal to the young adult audience for which he intended it.
Steve told me today that he had it published. After questioning him further, I found that Steve had paid for all of the production (except editing which was not done), created the cover, and was to be paid royalties by his “publisher.”
Need I say more? Steve has been taken by one of the charlatans in our industry. He has experienced a book publishing scam.
Steve thought his book was being traditionally published. If that was the case, the publisher would have paid for all of the production expenses and even editing–if needed. The publisher also markets the book. When Steve had to pay for everything, that should have been a huge red flag to him.
To make matters even worse, Steve has only received 1 royalty report in 3 years, and no monies. Depending upon the publisher, he should be receiving at least 1 royalty report per year, and some publishers even send out reports quarterly.
At this point, Steve has no idea how many books have been sold or the monies owed to him. I don’t have a clue as to how he can leave this publisher and start over. If he wants to do this, I suspect Steve needs a lawyer.
Steve has basically self-published with a book producer who led him to think he was being traditionally published.
- Traditional publishing: publisher takes the risk, pays for all production and marketing and in return for the right to publish your book, pays you a royalty.
- Self-publishing: you take all of the risk, pay all of the costs, and do all of the marketing, but all monies received are yours.
There is one caveat, however. If someone is warehousing your books and/or fulfilling them (shipping the orders), you must pay them for this service or any other services they perform for you. BUT, you are still the publisher.
Everything is negotiable, and perhaps Steve could have negotiated his contract better to protect himself, but he didn’t even know the questions to ask.
This is how book publishing scams occur. You have to have some ideas as to how the industry operates, and know the people to go to for answers.
Avoid Book Publishing Scams
If you plan to publish a book, read any contracts in great detail, and I recommend you consult a contract lawyer at this point (preferably one who knows publishing contracts).
Learn what your financial obligations and financial expectations are, and finally know what rights you retain and what rights you are granting.
It is a whole lot easier to clarify everything at the beginning of a publishing relationship than it is to straighten out the mess years down the road.
Nothing will totally protect you, but you do need to go into the publishing realm with your eyes open so that you avoid the book publishing scams that can occur.