I was contacted recently by a writer trying to get out of their contract, a service person working with a writer but frustrated by the seemingly unreasonable demands of a ‘publisher’, and responded to a post by a writer who thought they were working with an agent who really wasn’t.
The rapid explosion of Indie writers has led to an equally rapid rise of scammers willing to part eager, desperate writers from their money – along with a number of folks who are truly convinced they can be just as good a publisher as anyone out there and get rich at the same time. Most of those last haven’t a clue. The former really don’t care.
An Ounce of Prevention is worth a pound of cure
As in the case of the ‘publisher’, that one was an out and out scam. By then, though, it was far too late for the writer to escape. The contract had been signed. It was also equally impossible for the service person to provide their skills, as that would undermine the ‘publisher’s’ in-house cover artists and decrease their chances of fleecing the writer of even more money.
So, how could all this have been prevented?
First? The internet is your friend. Before anything else, before taking the next step or signing the contract, go to Preditors and Editors http://pred-ed.com or Writers Write. They list all the ‘questionable’ agents, publishers, editors, etc. that have been reported to them, and the reason(s) why.
Second. Google is your friend. Seriously. Google them. Specifically, Google them with the word ‘complaints’. You want to know what people are saying about them. Be honest with yourself. Don’t dismiss those comments out of hand as disgruntled writers.
Third. Check out their websites, etc. In the case of the agent who wasn’t, the sparsity of information on the site was a huge red flag, as was the request to privately e-mail the ‘agent’ for more information. Honest agents don’t do that. They’ll list their associates, the books they’ve represented AND their percentage of the sale of your book.
Publishers will list all the books they represent. Look at those books critically. Do all the covers look professional? Does the link take you to Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble? Use the “look inside the book” feature. Is it properly edited and formatted? Professionals put out professional products. Are there only a few books visible? Look the publisher up on Amazon. Check the reviews for each book. Are they mostly by other authors the publisher represents?
What if it’s too late?
Don’t despair, it may not be.
First, if you have issues, try to have them addressed. If they push back or make threats, then it’s time to see what your alternatives are.
Some ‘publishers’, if they see you as too much trouble, may let you out of the contract just to shut you up. (Not legitimate publishers or professional scammers). Be polite. Don’t threaten. Be reasonable. You want out but they have the power of the contract, and your book. Make them angry, make them dig in their heels, and that book could be tied up for the length of the contract.
If they still won’t…
At this point, you should consider hiring, or at least talking to, an attorney who specializes in entertainment law. And how much money you want to spend to retrieve your dreams. Sometimes a letter from an attorney is enough to spring your book loose. If not, you have to decide if you have the funds to fight. Because if you can’t… you’re sh*t out of luck. I can’t tell you how many writers have had their dreams broken by companies and people like these, and that was before Indie writing.