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Home » Community, Self help for Indie writers, Two Midlist Indies

Don’t just sign, read the contract

Submitted by on January 28, 2012 – 7:36 pm 3 Comments

Everyone has been getting very excited about the new options available to Indie writers – KDP Select and iBooks. I’ve been a little surprised by how few people really understand what they’re getting into, really look at the contracts they’re effectively signing, despite all the fuss some people kicked up about KDP. Remember that – a few weeks ago? OMG, they are the devil, they’re requiring authors to be exclusive with them! (Only for 90 days.) They’re big corporation taking advantage of authors!

Then Apple came along and upped the ante with  iBooks – there’s a clause in their contract that implies you might be signing away the rights to your work for the ‘life of the book’. That’s a lot longer than 90 days. According to their reports they signed something like 90,000 authors within days. I wonder how many understand all the procedures necessary to get their book back, should they so decide? And that’s the price of not reading the contract.

Now I won’t say I understood all the clauses in the KDP contract when I joined but I did read it. I understand the basics of it and the iBooks contract. If you elect to go with either you’re obligated to be exclusive to them. That means that before you sign with them you must take your book down from any and all sites where you had it uploaded, not after.  And when they say all, they mean all – Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, anywhere. There’s also a clause that goes like this – “You must set your Digital Book’s List Price (and change it from time-to-time if necessary) so that it is no higher than the list price in any sales channel for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book.”  And another that states that they can change the price at any time. So if you had it listed elsewhere for $.99 cents but raise the price prior to uploading to Amazon, they can and probably will list it at the price you had listed elsewhere.

Another clause that’s common, certainly with Smashwords and KDP, is that the reader will get the version they purchased. If you uploaded a newer version in between purchase and download, or if they’re reading a downloaded version on-line from Smashwords or the Cloud then that’s the version they’ll get.

You can make changes, but according to the contract it may take as many as five days before the changes show up on the system. (I have to say in my case they did update my version within 12 hours but not the ‘Look Inside the Book’ feature, and I’m okay with that.) Unless you specifically write Amazon and ask them to send the change to those customers, they won’t. With hundreds of thousands of books it would be cost prohibitive for them to do so. Oh, and by the way, they can make changes, too. Yep, that’s in there.

So be smart, read the contract, understand your obligations. And then sign up.

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  • Victoria says:

    Great advice. I think authors need to be reminded of that. I see too many jump on board with this or that like lemmings over a cliff and then come back on forums and complain about problems and issues that come up – because they didn’t really read the contract. It’s ridiculous.

  • Kimberly says:

    Thanks for posting! Tweeting out!

  • I couldn’t agree more. I often heard of people jumping into an opportunity and signing up for it without having to read the “fine prints” and in the end, they are trapped. It’s sad because future opportunities that are sometimes better are eventually missed out. I think it is important to read first the contract, ask questions on matters that you are doubtful and see to it if you can negotiate.

    Great topic!

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