When Publishers Spam Publishers

So, got this little gem in my email today from someone at inkitt:

Customer contact: General Information

First Name: : Lauren
Last Name: : Burns
Email: : DELETED@inkitt.com
Comments: : \”Hey Bards and Sages Publishing,

‘When Village with Village Comes to Parle’ caught my eye. My name is Lauren and I am a Marketing Manager at a publishing company. We’re looking for authors to promote in our current writing contests, and we’re still accepting submissions until the end of May.

I would love to tell you more about our publication process. How does that sound to you?

You can check it out here: DELETED (If you really want to visit their site, Google the name. Not looking to give them traffic)

P.S. If you win we’ll spend a minimum of $6000 on your book marketing to get ‘When Village with Village Comes to Parle’ into the top 50 on Amazon.

Best,
Lauren\”

Now let me share what is so funny about this, in case it isn’t obvious.

So “Lauren” discovered When Village with Village Comes to Parle and it “caught her eye” enough to reach out. If I was stupid, I would be flattered, I suppose. But “Lauren” is promoting a contest for self-publishing authors…to a publisher. See, I am the publisher of the book. I have a contract with the author, Lynn Veach Sadler. This communication reads like she thinks the author’s name is “Bards and Sages Publishing.” As far as company names go, I thought it was pretty catchy when I came up with it. But as an author name that would just be weird.

But, seriously, Lynn’s name is right on the cover. Can’t miss it.

This would sort of make sense if the service was just a marketing service. It would still be spam, but it would at least make some sense. But this is not a B2B solicitation to provide marketing services. They are looking for people to enter their contest for a PUBLISHING CONTRACT. They are asking a PUBLISHER to enter their SELF-PUBLISHING contest to win a PUBLISHING CONTRACT with them.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I went to the site. Julie is not amused.

Let’s look at the publishing contract if you “win”.

The Author hereby grants and assigns to the Publisher, its successors, representatives, and assigns, the sole and exclusive right to publish (whether online as e-books etc., and/or hard copies, etc.) and sell the Work in any language in all forms worldwide, during the full Work’s term of copyright and any renewals and extensions thereof. The foregoing grants Publisher exclusive right to commercialize the Work by any means and/or media, including but not limited to produce and publish the Work and sell and license or sub-license the rights of the Work for/in e-book formats (such as html, PDF, mobi, EPUB, including any e-book formats invented while this Agreement is in effect etc.), print formats (hardcover, paperback etc.), audio book formats, movie and television formats, merchandising articles, as well as the additional rights set forth under Section II 2 below. Author hereby assigns to Publisher any “moral rights” in or to the Work, and waives any such “moral rights” otherwise held by Author. To the extent moral rights in the Work cannot be assigned, Author agrees not to assert any such rights at any time. Author hereby covenants and agrees that he/she will execute any and all documents and papers reasonably requested by Publisher to evidence the transfer of the Work´s rights to Publisher, including, but not limited to, documents and papers relating to the assignment of copyrights. Publisher may sell, assign, license, and otherwise commercialize the Work and/or the rights granted to Publisher herein, including but not limited directly by selling the Work to readers or by licensing or selling to any publisher.

This rights grab ties up all rights to the author’s work for the entire lift of copyright (author life PLUS 70 YEARS) and includes all translation rights, merchandising rights, and movie and TV rights. It also requires the author to surrender all moral rights. For those unfamiliar with the term, moral rights refer to the integrity of the work. It prevents a publisher from making major changes, alterations, or otherwise mutilating a work. It also covers the author’s right to publish anonymously or under a pen name. Essentially, if you originally self-published your steamy romance under a pen name, the publisher could legally decide to publish under your real name…whether you agreed or not. It means if the publisher sells the movie rights to your story and decides that your African American heroine would be more “sellable” as a white woman, they can just change her race without your permission.

In addition, they want right of first refusal on subsequent works, and the right to act as your agent to try and sell the book to larger publishers.

THAT is a whole lot of rights grabs. And honestly, this entire section contradicts other sections of the agreement. For example, section 15 says that the contract term is 15 years. Which is not the same thing as the works term of copyright. And there are some clauses about working with the author first before making changes, but it isn’t clear if the author can veto changes that he or she finds offensive or contrary to his or her desires.

So what does the author get.

They say they will assign a $6,000 budget to market the book. That sounds like a lot of money. But as they don’t actually clarify what that marketing entails, there is no way to know how useful this is. How much of that budget is self-referential (covering the cost of their own marketing team) and how much of it is actually used to market (like placing ads and running promotions)?

The author gets 25% royalties on the NET.

This is a joke. Would you like to know how much of a joke this is?

I run a tiny little micro-press from a spare room of my house and even I pay 40% net. (Oh, and our contracts are generally only three to five years in length and we don’t claim any moral rights).

But wait! It gets worse!

1.2
Partner Sales: Publisher can also pitch the Work to A List Publishers (as defined below) and other publishing companies whose primary business is the sale of books (collectively, “Publishing Companies”). If Publisher is successful in executing a publishing deal pursuant to a duly signed written agreement with any Publishing Company with respect to the Work (“Partner Sales”), then Publisher will pay Author a royalty of eighty five percent (85%) of the Publisher’s Net Revenues (as defined below), for revenues received under the applicable Partner Sales;

What this means is that, if by some miracle the company actually convinces a major publisher to publish your book, they are going to take 15% of whatever the final negotiated royalty is.

And I can’t find anything about what the author gets for movie or TV rights or “merchandising.”

This is just an ugly, ugly deal. If you are a self-publisher who is already even remotely successful, you’re sacrificing 75% of your royalties for 15 years to a company that is, essentially, doing the same things you are already doing. If you are struggling as a self-publisher, this is a bad deal to get from a trade publisher just in general. There big selling point, $6,000 marketing budget, doesn’t mean anything because we don’t know what that money is actually spent on. I’m not gonna lie and pretend I have ever spent that much money on a book launch, but I also don’t include a lot of marketing stuff that I do myself (like sending out press releasing, social media posts, convention appearances where I plug books, sending out digital copies for promotions, etc.) I suspect that if I wanted to engage in some Hollywood accounting, I could come close to claiming I was spending $6,000 on marketing.

In addition, I refer you back to the entire point of this post. A person in their marketing department sent this solicitation to a PUBLISHER. This is just sloppy marketing. How, exactly, is that $6,000 getting spent?

The moral of the story is this: if you are a self-publisher, don’t “sell” your rights on promises and dreams of Amazon bestseller status. You should only sell your rights for actual money in hand.

Speaking of marketing, a shameless (and entirely appropriate) plug for the book that triggered this:

With When Village with Village Comes to Parle, Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler presents over five dozen unique essays, articles, and vignettes covering an eclectic range of topics. Travel the world with Dr. Sadler and her husband as she details some of their adventures abroad. Experience a thought-provoking conversation with Robert Frost. Read a heartfelt letter to J.D. Salinger. Discover some of the hidden history of the author’s native North Carolina.

An accomplished poet, storyteller, and playwright, Dr. Sadler is recognized in the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her extraordinary body of work. As a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet 2013-2015, she mentored student and adult poets. She was Visiting Distinguished Scholar in the “Educational Leadership for a Competitive America” seminar of the US Office of Personnel Management. This collection is a showcase of her exceptional wit, skill, and creativity.

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