Let’s be honest. The average self-published author is fortunate to sell 250 copies. Could anything change that well recognized statistic? I believe that depends on an author’s willingness to perform and pay for the same professional services that traditional publishers provide their signed authors.
The two leading reasons for many authors to self-publish are because they have either failed to interest a publisher or they aren’t interested in making the effort. After all, it may take months or years to sign with one. Yet, those same authors are surprisingly and consistently unaware of what self-publication both entails and should achieve—a published work worthy of competing with the books traditional publishers represent.
So what is a self-publisher to do?
Contracts: The Self-Publisher’s Tool
Create a work as well written, inspiringly titled, and attractive to the reader as traditionally published works. Contrary to popular belief, posting your unedited and unpublicized book on Amazon is not enough. If you do not already have expertise you need, then expect to find it, define what you need from the expert, and pay for the service. But you will need one other thing as well—a contract.
Too many authors do not understand that creating a copyrightable work involves not only the author’s rights in the work but the rights of those who provide services to the same creation. Except in rare cases, the average invoice is not enough. You need a written agreement with your service providers before they begin services.
Some vendors will have agreements for you or your attorney to review while others will expect you to provide the writing. Bottom line, the contract should provide answers to a number of questions that arise in most publishing relationships.
Contracts Provide Answers to Key Questions
When do services begin and end? Are delays acceptable? If so, when and why? Will you own the product or service your vendor provides or license it? What type of editing do you want from your editor? Do you still own the revisions the editor makes to your manuscript? Whomever you engage, when do you pay—in stages or only once? Are refunds provided? Under what circumstances? If you’re not satisfied with what an independent contractor did for you, will they be willing to correct mistakes or improve their product with no additional compensation?
If you or the contractor aren’t getting along, how can either of you terminate? And if one of you does terminate, what happens to the work product they have produced before termination? What if you can’t agree on how to resolve a problem? Do you mediate and arbitrate or go to court? What state or nation’s laws will govern the dispute?
The Up’s and Down’s of Hybrid Publishing Contracts
There are ways to reduce the number of contracts you may need for writing and publishing. So-called hybrid publishers may provide you with one-stop-shop a la carte publishing or packaged services. Depending on the company, the hybrid publisher may offer to edit your work and provide formatting, cover art, printing, eBook conversion, a publisher’s name, copyright registration, printing, distribution, and even some minimal publicity.
In my experience, the downside of most hybrid contracts is their failure to provide any form of substantive editing or targeted publicity. If you pay more and those additional services are provided by competent professionals working for the hybrid, that can be worthwhile. But if you’re not confident about the quality of the hybrid servicers, you may still want to contract with independent editors or publicists for those tasks.
Although contracting with a number of individual contractors can be expensive, hybrids can be equally costly. Prices range from $2500 to as high as $60,000 or more depending on how many tasks you want the hybrid company to perform and over what period of time.
Whether you reject traditional publishers or they have rejected you, if you’re in the business of self-publishing your writing, you’re also in the business of contracts.