Greetings readers. Although I’d like everyone to read this, it’s mostly directed to anyone who is aspiring to be an author or who already is. And I must stress, it’s not meant to discourage you in any way but instead to give you advice as you start or further your career.
When I started writing professionally, I jumped into it head first. I submitted stories to online sites, to small companies doing anthologies, and then finally to a press to publish my first sole author story. I was rolling. Yep, getting acceptances and rejections but still feeling good about the direction my career was going into. I’d even started making a little money off the anthologies even though they weren’t really royalties but rather one time payments. My thought was, hey, I’m getting my name out there and that’s what counts.
It still does, but with every story comes a contract and sometimes in those documents there is language you might not fully understand. Signing them for three years, which by the way is standard, points about exclusivity to this publisher, fees for pulling out early…etc. All these are normal and when entering an agreement with a publishing company, you have to look over every point and understand fully what you’re signing.
If you decide this company is right for you, then you go on and sign the contract. And the fun begins, or rather the agony. Will it sell? If so, how much? How much promoting will I need to do? Every author has these questions. So is it fair when they also have to wonder about payments and/or statements? Not at all.
When the publisher and author enter into an agreement, it should be a level of trust. No question, the company is taking a chance on you when they offer it to you in the first place. By asking you to sign that piece of paper, they’re saying, we trust you will fulfill your contractual obligations such as promoting, sending back edits on time, and if it’s a series, getting all the books to the pub in time to be released. At the same time, in that contract, the publisher has said they will send you statements, say forty five to sixty days after the quarter ends and around that same time, you’ll get royalties. At times there is a certain amount you must make in order to receive payment through check or Paypal. This is all standard and when you sign that contract, it is understood you will receive something in the time stated in the contract. But what happens when you get nothing? What is an author to do?
First steps are contacting your publisher and finding out if there are problems. Occasionally there are and as an author, you understand that hiccups can happen along the way. But how about when it happens regularly? You get nothing in response when you email. You get excuses about what’s going on with the publisher personally or told it will roll over to the following month because you didn’t make enough money. Then you’re left thinking, why did I sign a contract with this company if they can’t fulfill their obligation. No question, we’re all human, things occur, I get it but the world doesn’t stop rotating because of our issues. That may be cruel but it’s true.
The point is, when you get nothing at all, or excuses more than say, twice, it’s time to wonder if this was the right situation for you as an author. Most authors do it for the love but just like everyone else we like to get paid and in an age when pirating is on the rise, publishers should be mindful of how important royalties are.
You may ask, why do I say all this? Well, as authors know, many publishing companies are closing left and right and if they aren’t, word is getting out about them not paying their authors. This past June, one of my publishers, No Boundaries Press, closed its doors, returning all rights to authors and saying final payments would be made by August 15th. For more, please see the post by Erica Pike on her blog. Unlike Erica, I didn’t stay on the owner Kharisma like I should’ve. I didn’t email regularly about royalties, I just knew I’d get paid in time and I trusted this person, thinking she’d come through on her promise. When the first payments were due on Under the Gun by Michael Mandrake, she said it hadn’t made the $30 in royalties. The 2nd one came, nothing, same with the third. Then we entered into an agreement for me to be part of the promo team. I sent out NBP books for reviews, I tried to get promo opportunities together for authors, but still no payment for my own book. Fast forward to this year, I heard nothing about royalties but I’d signed a contract for book 2 of Under the Gun and it was sent to an editor. The book was due to come out the same month NBP closed but as I stated earlier, her “assistant” sent us letters returning all rights and that book never saw the light of day.
What is the lesson here? As a new or seasoned author, do you homework. Ask around about publishing houses before signing with them. Check out websites like Preditors/Editors but the best advice comes from your peers. NBP was new but people were aware Kharsima Rhayne or one of her many aliases were crooks and now because we trusted that she would be pay up, many of the NBP authors, editors, nor the cover artist have received a dime nor a statement to prove what they made.
This is not meant to scare newbies away. The world of publishing is a wonderful thing and 9 times out of 10, the publisher you’re dealing with will pay and send statements on time but make sure before you sign anything, read your contracts and if you don’t understand, ask someone who will. Don’t have a lawyer? Ask another author who’s been at it longer than you. Do your homework on the people who run the pubs. If you’re getting iffy answers, chances are, they aren’t right for you to sign with. This experience with NBP has made me look at a lot of things more clearly. One, don’t be so naïve to think that people will abide by you one hundred percent of the time and when something isn’t right, ask about it immediately. If you follow that advice, your career as an author would be a lot more pleasant. You have enough worries to deal with when you decide to become an author being paid on time shouldn’t be one of them.
Thanks for listening.