Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Red Flags In Traditional Publishing

For most new writers, finishing their book, finding a publisher, and seeing their masterpiece upon a book store shelf (literal or digital) is the dream come true. But in the publishing world, things don't always happen the way an author dreams, or even the way things are contracted.

This blog post serves to inform authors of red flags in traditional publishing. When properly prepared, you'll know what to look out for, and hopefully not suffer a negative experience.

The Publisher: Not all publishing houses are created equal; therefore, always do your research. If there's a record of unhappy publishing history, stay away.

  • Has the publisher been in business long? 
  • Do they have a solid list of authors producing work and a decent list of distributors? 
  • Is their website up to date and professional?  
  • Are they active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.)? 
  • Do they have a good track record? It's always good to check out sites like Piers Anthony (with a list of publishers A-Z and their pub history), Predators & Editors, and Absolute Write for any related negative information.

The People: The most basic way to understand what it's like to publish with any publishing house is by talking to the people already involved. This means finding out who the editors and authors are, how long they've worked for the company, and how they feel about the publisher overall. In my experience, most authors are happy to share their experiences. You should absolutely be wary of any publisher who refuses to provide answers to your questions about their staff.

The Contract: Upon acceptance of your submission, a publisher will send you a contract. Most contracts are full of legalese, but should be understandable. If you have trouble understanding, ask a close friend (or better, another contracted author) to be your 2nd set of eyes. 

Key elements to look and watch out for:

  • Avoid singing with a "vanity house", as in, you should never have to pay for proofreading, editing, cover design, formatting, ISBN, or distribution. You should only ever be responsible for personal advertising costs and the $35 fee for copyright registration with the Library of Congress
  • Be careful with "Rights of First Refusal".  Will publishing one work with your chosen publisher obligate you to send them other work in the future? Will they own any part of your future work, characters, concepts, etc? Think hard on this should you find it part of a contract, as you may find yourself limited to working with only one publisher.
  • Make sure your contract specifies how and when you will be paid, and how sales will be reported to you
  • Make sure there is a clear written explanation of what happens if your publisher fails to publish in a set time period, pay royalties or provide statement in a timely manner, or files for bankruptcy/insolvency. 
  • If at any time your publisher fails to pay or provide statement, you should take action. Are you able to request the return of your rights without penalty?
  • Be certain to understand how long your work is contracted with the publisher. Will they own the right to publish your book for 1 year? 5 years? What happens after the contractual period ends?
  • What does your publisher intend to do with print, digital, and audio rights. These rights vary from publisher to publisher, and often pay different royalties, and may be under contract for different amounts of time.
  • Some publishers require their authors by contract to maintain their author platform on social media as part of their personal marketing strategy. Make sure you're able to comply and interact with your readers or take part in online events.
  • Any changes to a contract must be signed by both author and publisher. If this is not stated in a contract with a publisher you would like to publish with, ask to have a clause added. You don't want conditions of your contract to change without your knowledge. 
The Experience: Sometimes the only way to learn is by doing. The most important part of any type of publishing is being actively aware of the people you work with and your personal rights. Even with the best preparation, mistakes can be made, feelings can be hurt, and publishing houses can go under. But hopefully, with honest preparation, you'll avoid publishing heartache. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Note to Readers

Due to events out of my control, I have asked for the return of rights today from my current publisher. While I determine what to do with my current author portfolio, my titles may be temporarily unavailable. Whether I self publish or find a new publishing house, I will continue to write the stories that inspire imagination in myself and others. Here's hoping to a new adventure.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Piracy: An Author's Guide

I love pirates, so long as you have incredible wit  charm, solid heart, and good looks like this guy:

But the truth of the matter, on the internet, it's this immoral asshole manhandling your precious:

As an author and victim of cyber pirates, I've put together a list of things authors can do to protect themselves and their work.

1) Register your Copyright: You've written your book, you've self-published or published with your publisher, which gives you the author the copyright of your manuscript. However, registering with the Library of Congress gives you that special piece of paper and assurance that yes, you've proven that your words are your own, and no one can take them from you. This certification can be used to not only help you remove your illegally placed words, but also seek litigation. 

2) Search Regularly: You won't ever know if your work has been pirated unless you check or come across it by accident. Using multiple web browsers, search for your name, your book name, and key words like "free" and "free download". This should be done on a regular basis as pirates are asshats; they'll put up multiple pages and/or new pages with your work again as soon as they're reported.

3) Who's Your Pirate?: Before you can get your illegally infringed upon work off the internet, you have to know who to contact. Sometimes a pirate will use Google Sites or to put your books up for download. If this is the case, you click the "report this page" feature at the bottom of the page and fill out their form. They're very good about resolving the issue quickly. But sometimes you can't tell who to contact just by looking at a webpage. A simple WHOIS search will give you basic information on where to start.

To perform a whois search, plug the domain name into a whois search engine like or You'll get a score of information related to the domain in question. Many pirates hide behind privacy companies like Privacy Guardian, designed to protect user information. This is not helpful. You may have to contact a web hosting provider for the infringing URL in order to have action taken. You can discover who the hosting provider of a website is by doing a web hoster search at a website such as Go to the hoster's page, report abuse, and wait for a response. 

4) Send a DMCA takedown notice: A DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. You can read about it here on Wikipedia. Basically, this is the official letter you send to pirates/the web hoster/the domain provider/the individual/when you hit the "report this page" button. Make sure it has all the important pieces, which looks something like this:

Attn: Abuse/Legal Department;

This communication serves as a statement that:

1. I am the exclusive rights holder for titles [listed below] of copyrighted material being infringed upon;

    A) (your book title, name/pen name, copyright date, publisher)

2. These exclusive rights are being violated by material available upon your site at the following URL(s): [URLs of infringing material];

  A) (list URLs of books)
3. I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law;

4. Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am the exclusive rights holder for the material in question;

5. I may be contacted by the following methods:

(Your email--I would not give pirates or anyone your personal phone # or address)

(Your publisher's email, phone #, address if you're traditionally published)

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you.

Electronic Signature: (Your name)

Copyright Agent

5) Seek Legal Help: This is a last resort, but as an author, you have every right to sue. Of course, actually finding the physical pirate's name/address/etc. behind a site might take some upfront cash and time. Google, Amazon, domain providers, and web hosting companies are not going to hand out infringing user data without a court order. But in the long run, if you have a serious problem, and the other methods listed above do not help, you have this to look forward to:

According to Purdue University

Copyright infringement is the act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act. There are three elements that must be in place in order for the infringement to occur.

1) The copyright holder must have a valid copyright.
2) The person who is allegedly infringing must have access to the copyrighted work.
3) The duplication of the copyrighted work must be outside the exceptions.

The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:
1) Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
2) The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
3) Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
4) The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
5) The Court can impound the illegal works.
6) The infringer can go to jail.

Keep in mind that not only the pirate, but also each individual who downloaded your work illegally, is subject to being sued! Contact a Copyright/Trademark law firm, or search online for intellectual property lawyers in your area. This may take some research as most firms represent large businesses rather than individuals. 

6) Be Careful with Freebies: I've noticed a direct correlation between the books I find most commonly pirated online and those I've given out for free as part of a contest or promotion. It's easier for a pirate to abuse your work if they already have a nice pretty file they can upload that they've won for free. Once it's on the internet, others are going to download and exploit you as well. But don't lose hope; be diligent and stay strong.