Davis Creative Publishing

ASK CATHY: Should I sign a contract with a publisher?

Good things come to those who wait (a bit).


When you ask an almost 4-year-old what kind of birthday cake they would like for their birthday dinner, it’s almost certain they will respond with their favorite. So, when I asked Mr. N this question, he responded right away with, “LEMON!” To be immediately followed by a pointer-finger shaking in my direction, “AND NO HAND SANITIZER!”

I figured there must be more to this story.

Come to find out, he learned the hard way, that if you are in a hurry to eat your cake, and your Mom/Dad rushes over with the hand sanitizer before your eager hands can partake . . . one MUST WAIT patiently for the hand sanitizer to dry before grabbing the cake with your hands. Otherwise, it tastes YUCKY!

Exactly (pretty much) what I tell most of the authors who are referred to us after they have heard the phrase, “We’d like to publish your book!” from a self-proclaimed “publisher.”

OK . . . so, what I ACTUALLY tell them is, “Take a deep breath, and don’t sign that contract until we have had a conversation! (Since we are talking via phone, they can’t see me shaking my pointer finger in their direction.)

Don’t be in such a hurry to sign those contracts, people. One must wait patiently and review the pros-and-cons. Otherwise, the results could be very YUCKY!”

Now, I’m not a publishing attorney (but I know a few, AND know when to refer you in the right direction). Having been around the publishing industry for almost 15 years, I’ve have had many an author referred to us AFTER they have signed a contract (which, of course is when I refer them to the attorney). I can help you BEFORE you sign the contract in three main areas:

  • I can help you interpret the big picture and turn industry jargon into words more easily understood
  • I can help you come up with a list of questions to ask to clarify anything that does not make sense
  • I can inform you of industry-specific best-practices and help you avoid signing a contract which does not serve your best interest

But, they said . . . “We’d like to publish your book!”

These are the words most authors yearn to hear the most. Unfortunately, not all “publishers” are credible. It seems that just about anyone these days can call themselves a publisher, and many do . . . no matter their qualifications.

How can you protect yourself and not get pulled into a less-than-professional contract? Be ready with these questions:

  1. Do I pay for standard editing, design, marketing, and promotion?
  2. How do you charge for your services?
  3. What kinds of services do you offer?
  4. Do I retain the copyright to my words?
  5. Am I required to buy copies of my book as part of the contract?
  6. Who is your distributor?
  7. Do you offer marketing and promotion support?
  8. If so, where/how does my book get promoted? Does it cost extra?
  9. Will I be involved with the cover design?
  10. How many books do you publish per year?
  11. How long have you been involved with publishing?
  12. Can you give me contact info for recommendations from authors they have worked with?
  13. Will you be getting an advance?
  14. What kind of royalties will I get?
  15. Can I read the contract before signing?
  16. Do I supply the ISBN for my book?
  17. Will my book be available on Amazon.com?
  18. Will my book be available in bookstores?
  19. Will my book be available for purchase outside of the USA?
  20. What happens if I decide to terminate my contract with you?

These are just a few of the many possible questions you could ask. So, if you are in a quandary over a publishing contract, or simply trying to determine your next-best-step, give me a call. I’ll make sure you get answers to all your questions . . . and help you make the decision process easier for you.

No sense rushing into a YUCKY situation.

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