March 12th, 2009

Publisher Problems

I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to blog about this. I know some of my editors have read my blog in the past…what if an editor at this publishing house reads my post? Then I thought, “what if they do???” I’m not going to name the publisher. And it’s not like my issue is with the editors…my editors are great. It’s the new contract guy I’m not sure what to make of.

This particular publisher publishes in hardcover to start with and then sometimes they’ll do a paperback edition a year or two later. They don’t address the paperback edition in their original contract. When they decide to do a paperback edition, they send a one-page amendment to the original contract. That amendment specifies advance, royalties and author copies.

About six months ago PUBLISHER told me they were going to release a paperback edition of BOOK C. But I still haven’t seen an amendment. I was beginning to wonder if they’d changed their minds. This publisher can be slow to send contracts, so I decided to check Amazon and see if the book was listed…and if it was, did they list a pub date yet?

Guess what I found out?

Not only was the book listed on Amazon…it’s already FOR SALE! The book is out! It was published without a publishing agreement. You can order a copy for yourself and have it tomorrow (if you pay extra for shipping).

So I e-mailed one of the editors I’ve worked with there, who passed my e-mail on to the contracts guy. It took a whole week, but eventually I got an e-mail from him. He was sorry about the “delay in sending the amendment” (though apparently not sorry for publishing the book without an amendment) and the amendment was attached to the e-mail. Apparently PUBLISHER started including the paperback edition in the original contracts back in 2007, but for some reason my contract (which came in June 2007) didn’t include that.

You may not be able to tell from this post, but I really am a pretty reasonable person. I can accept that a mistake was made without making a big deal about it. Except I took a look at this amendment and discovered that PUBLISHER wants to pay me a whole percentage point LESS on all royalties than they’ve paid on previous paperback sales! They also want to give me 10 author copies rather than the 25 they’ve given me in the past. On a book they went and published without an agreement!

What the heck???? Why would they not send me an amendment with the same terms they’ve given me before?

So I thought about it for an hour or so, then e-mailed back and politely asked for TWO percentage points higher than they were offering (one more than I’ve gotten in the past). I also asked for 25 author copies, since that’s what I’ve gotten before. (I left the advance alone since it was the same advance they’ve offered me in the past…but maybe I should have asked for more there, too, given the hardcover more than earned out in the first royalty period?)

This time Contract Guy got back to me the same day. He claimed the last paperback amendment I received was for BOOK A (which was wrong…my last paperback amendment was actually for BOOK B, but that’s not really important). He listed the royalty rates that I receive for BOOK A and asked “why are you suggesting more?”

Funny, he didn’t offer an explanation as to why HE suggested LESS!!! He didn’t even acknowledge the fact that he had.

But I could actually justify it without saying, “because you really ticked me off when you published this book without an agreement and then had the nerve to offer me LESS than you’ve ever given me before.” I mentioned the history I’ve had with this publisher…we’ve done 8 books together. (If you’re a profitable author, shouldn’t they be offering you MORE rather than LESS??? I'm not saying I'm a huge author...I'm certainly not. But I am profitable.) I pointed out that BOOK C has sold more than twice as many copies as BOOK A sold when they made the decision to bring out a paperback edition of that book. And then I asked him straight out why he offered me less for this book?

It’s been another full week...that book continues to sell copies on Amazon and who knows where else...and there’s been no response from Contract Guy.

I am not a happy camper.

While my agent has been kind enough to advise me, I can’t really get her involved because she didn’t handle the original contract. That was probably a mistake on my part.

All along I’ve thought I had this really positive relationship with this publisher. I love the people I work with…I’ve even met a lot of them in person (and now they probably think I’m this greedy, difficult author...they probably don’t even know that I was offered less than I’ve ever been offered before). It never occurred to me that anyone there would try and take advantage of me. So I haven’t seen any reason to bring my agent in on new contracts with them (she looked at one of my contracts with them a while back and told me she didn’t think she could do any better on it than I’d already done for myself…so the plan is for her to help me break into a larger house…once I actually give her something to take to a larger house).

But now I don’t know what to think. I don’t know if Contract Guy is simply lazy and/or careless or whether he plays dirty. I’m sure publishing without an amendment really was just a mistake… maybe they’re offering their new authors that lower royalty rate to see if they can get away with it? Maybe Contract Guy actually meant to send me the other amendment, but he simply didn’t pay attention to what he sent me? But if that’s the case, why let me stew about it for more than a week? Why not e-mail me back right away and say, “I screwed up…I’m sorry.” The more time that goes by, the more I wonder if this is how things are going to be at PUBLISHER now. Maybe this guy actually thinks that because they have already published this book they have me over a barrel and I’ll have to settle for this lower royalty rate. No way. This isn’t MY mistake.

I could have made this post Friends Only, but I’m really curious whether anyone else has experienced anything like this before. You can e-mail me privately if you don’t want to post your story for the whole world to see.

web metrics