Getting Out of Your Book Contract (Maybe)

Writer Beware often hears from authors who’ve signed up with bad or inexperienced or dishonest publishers, and are desperate to get free. They write to us wanting to know how they can break their contracts and regain their rights. Unfortunately, there’s usually no easy answer to this question, even where the publisher has clearly breached its contractual obligations. Too often, I have to tell people that they are probably stuck.

That said, here are some general suggestions, which may or may not be applicable to your situation, and may or may not work for you (obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so what follows should not be construed as legal advice).

1. First and most obvious, check your contract for a termination clause. If there is one, invoke it per the instructions. Beware, though, of termination fees, which some publishers use as a way to make a quick buck off the back end.

2. If there’s no termination clause, try approaching the publisher and simply asking to be released. A publisher may refuse or ignore such a request–but sometimes it will recognize that an unhappy author isn’t an asset, and may be willing to let him or her go.

If you take this approach, don’t dwell on the problems you’ve had with the publisher. Try to keep your explanations as neutral as possible–such as saying that you don’t feel you have the time or resources to help promote your book, or pointing to falling sales. If you feel you must mention problems, do so in a factual, businesslike manner, without recriminations or accusations. Especially, don’t mention any negative information you may have found online or heard from other authors. As large a part as this may play in your desire to be free, your request is about you and your book, not other authors and their books. Bringing others’ complaints into the picture is likely to alienate or anger the publisher, in which case it may be much less disposed to pay attention to your request. (In some cases, it may become twice as determined to hold on to you.)

Once again, watch out for demands for money. I’ve heard from some writers whose publishers attempted to blackmail them into paying a fee when they requested release, and from others whose publishers required a sizeable termination fee even though no fee was mentioned in the contract.

3. What about if your publisher is in clear breach–failing to pay royalties or to report sales in a timely manner, for instance? You can try informing the publisher that you are terminating the contract for cause. Be aware, though, that this may backfire.

First, even if you’re correct and the publisher has provably breached its obligations–and even if the contract includes a provision for termination due to the publisher’s breach, which not all contracts do–you, personally, have no way to enforce a termination. The publisher can simply deny your allegations, or stick its metaphorical fingers in its metaphorical ears and go right on producing and selling your book. There are many cases like this in Writer Beware’s files.

Second, you may consider the contract to be null and void after you send the termination notice, and your current publisher may not have the resources to sue you if it disagrees–but if it does disagree, and you want to re-publish, you’ll have problems. Another publisher won’t be interested in a book whose rights aren’t unambiguously free and clear. Even self-publishing services and platforms require you to warrant that you have the right to publish. You must be able to show some kind of formal rights reversion document–which you won’t be able to do unless your publisher actually consents to let you go.

4. If you’re a member of a writers’ group, they may be able to help. For instance, the Authors Guild offers legal advice to members. SFWA has Griefcom, which will directly intercede in an attempt to resolve the situation for you. Similar services are provided by the National Writers Union’s Grievance Assistance program. Novelists Inc. has a legal fund, which entitles members to up to two billable hours of legal consultation per year.

5. If there’s no termination clause and the publisher refuses to consider a release request, you can resign yourself to waiting things out, either to the end of the contract term, if the contract is time-limited, or until the publisher decides to remove your book from sale.

Obviously this is more feasible for contracts with relatively brief terms of one to three years, and less so for longer terms, or for life-of-copyright contracts–especially since so much publishing is digital, and with digital publishing there’s little incentive for publishers to ever take works “out of print”. Depending on your situation and your finances, however, it may still be preferable to the final option….

6. Consult legal counsel about your situation, and your options for taking legal action. This is where the issue of breach becomes relevant. A publisher may ignore an author’s personal claims of breach, but may pay more attention if an attorney is involved.

If you choose this option, not just any lawyer will do. You want someone who practices publishing law. Publishing is a complicated business, with practices and conventions that are not well-understood by people in other fields; and publishing contracts are unique documents with terms and conditions that aren’t found elsewhere. In order to provide effective representation, your lawyer needs the appropriate skill- and knowledge-set.

(This same caution, by the way, applies to hiring a lawyer to vet a publishing contract prior to signing it. I hear from any number of writers whose non-publishing-specialist lawyers gave the green light to a contract that would never have passed muster with a publishing law specialist, or a competent literary agent.)

There are a number of options for low-cost legal services, some of them specifically for people in the creative arts. For instance, many US states have Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations, which provide services geared to helping people who work in the arts. The Arts Law Centre of Australia provides free- or low-cost legal advice and referrals for Australian creators and arts organizations. Artists’ Legal Advice Service helps creators who are residents of Ontario, Canada. Artists’ Legal Outreach does the same for residents of British Columbia, and similar assistance is provided in Montreal by the Montreal Artists’ Legal Clinic. There are also general referral services, such as the American Bar Association Lawyer Referral Network.

You can find more information and links on the Legal Recourse page of Writer Beware.


How to Request Rights Reversion From Your Publisher

The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts

Wrong Ways to Try and Escape Your Deadbeat Publisher


  1. I signed a 7-year contract with an American Publishing company. (Loads of people have sued them) I got very little royalties even though I knew plenty of people who bought it and I got emails from various countries commenting on the book. The 7 years were up and I could see my bookselling for outrageous prices. I eventually got my contract back. (I had informed Amazon so the publisher could not sell it there), I would like to re-write it again and give it a new title and approach a reputable publishing company. Can I do this? I do not see the name on your list. They are still publishing and now charging people to get the book published and to get out of their contact.

  2. Signed an agreement with a publisher, I paid half of the up front fee. They never returned calls, and provided nothing. They are refusing to return my money. They did nothing. I am going to have my bank To back bill them

  3. Unknown, 3/14,

    Non-compete clauses should be limited to a year post-publication, but often they extend for the life of the agreement. That, however, ensures that they don't survive termination.

    I should think that a right of first refusal clause might survive termination, depending on the wording of the clause–but to be honest I'm not sure (I always caution about right of First Refusal clauses, because they so often don't give the author the option of refusing an offer if one is made.)

    The author's warranties and indemnities also survive termination, and non-disparagement clauses might as well (finding one of these in a contract is a signal for caution, because why would a publisher be worried about this unless there were already complaints?). Any existing third-party contracts or licenses (for instance, audiobooks) will also survive, until their expiration.

  4. Hi Victoria!

    What important clauses typically survive termination?

    Do No Competes survive? What about Right of First Refusal for Sequels/Derivatives?

    Thanks for all you do!

  5. Unknown 3/08:

    Your recourse depends on the wording of your contract. I'll be glad to look it over and offer you a non-legal (I'm not a lawyer) opinion. I'd also like to know who the publisher is; I may have gotten similar complaints or have info to share. My email is All info shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

    As to changing it a little and re-publishing…the concern isn't that the existing publisher might come after you (if they're as deadbeat as you describe, it's unlikely they'd notice or care), but that a new publisher would not be happy to find out that a book it was considering wasn't completely free and clear rightswise. Even self-pub platforms require you to warrant that you have the unencumbered right to publish–which, as long as there's an in-force contract, you don't, no matter how deadbeat the publisher is.

  6. A publishing company claiming to be a reputable publisher (in the UK as well as in the US) contacted me back in 2019, asking me to sign with them. I did so and my book was released by them later that year. The book has been consistently for sale in a wide variety of markets since then and I know has sold simply by the amount I have been asked to sign. However I have never received one cent of royalties from the publisher, nor have I received a single royalty statement or necessary tax forms. I have not, in fact, had any communication whatsoever from the publishers since my book was published in 2019. I have tried calling, mailing letters, sending emails – all my attempts at making contact go ignored. My question is this: our contract was that they would publish my book and I would receive 8% royalties on each book sold. It was been two years and, as I have received nothing and they refuse to acknowledge my communication attempts, have they not broken the contract? May I legally amend the book a bit and republish it on my own?

  7. Ookiewookie,

    I really can't give you firm input without seeing the exact wording of the contract (and remember that I'm not a lawyer, so whatever I'd tell you would not be legal advice).

    My guess, based solely on what you've said above: If the entire trilogy is defined earlier in the contract (probably in the grant of rights clause) as "the Work", and the reversion of rights clause uses that same language ("the Work"), I would think that it's referring to _the trilogy as a whole_ (not just Book 1). From which it would seem to logically follow that for the purposes of the reversion clause, sales of "the Work" (assuming that's the language used) means sales of all three books, and the 3-year period would begin to run only after Book 3 was published.

    Again, though, this is just a rough guess. I can't be sure without actually seeing the contract. Please feel free to email it to me: All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

  8. According to my contract with (A traditional publisher) "the work" consists of a three-book trilogy. Each book was expected to be published one year after another. (And it was. Starting with book 1 being released in 2016)

    Question: My reversion-of rights clause says if I haven't made $100 in any quarter after 3 years since "the work" was published, I can ask for reversion of rights.

    Am I right to assume that the three-year clock starts ticking after book ONE of the trilogy was published? And that the $100 includes ALL sales from ALL books over the 3-year period?

  9. I have 13 books out. 7 of them (will be 9 by the end of the year) are part of my Druid's Brooch series, and published through a lovely small press publisher. She's been a great help to me through the years, but I'm considering self-publishing them when the contract runs out on them. I still have two travel books and two standalone books I'd be happy to leave with the publisher. She and I have a good relationship.

    I've now self-published two more stand alone novels, and I like having more control over editions (print/audiobook – she only has them as ebooks but has the rights to all), and being able to see my sales/marketing effort results in real-time. I want to relaunch with new covers, and do a good sweep of edits on all of them.

    The contracts all have a five-year reversion clause. How do I gently let her know that I'd like to pull these back, one by one, as they come due for renewal? She does have a bit of a temper when she thinks the author has wronged her. I've seen it in the past, but she's always been good to me. Also, I know I'm one of her better-selling authors. Based on past sales, pulling this series out of her company would half the royalties she gets from my work.

  10. What should I do if I have a company that is threatening to proceed legal action because there are a self-publishing companies that portrayed to be traditional at 1st and in a contract want me to pay money to have my book published with them but I have not paid them anything yet because I choose to go with a different company because they're self-published or hybrid

  11. Hi, I have a subsidy contract and it says after 5 years it renews unless I terminate, then there’s also a termination section that says at any time I can exit the contract. I’m wondering though if I can self publish the second book in this series while keeping my contract with them for this first book. Or if I need to get out of this contract & then self publish the 1st one again?

  12. Anonymous 10/15,

    I'm really sorry to hear of the problems you've had with your publisher. If you're a reader of this blog, you'll know that what you've experienced is, unfortunately, very common in the small press world. Even small presses that have their authors' best interests at heart (and many don't) may not be experienced enough or well-capitalized enough to avoid mistakes, delays, and other problems.

    Your publisher wouldn't be the first to spend an inordinate amount of time on the conference circuit–so yes, that's a thing. As to treating agented authors better, that could also be a thing–though honestly, with what you say about the publisher, it's hard for me to imagine that reputable agents would place their authors there.

    Termination fees in publishing contracts are a red flag, because publishers can and do use them abusively (see my blog post for a more detailed discussion). You shouldn't have to pay to get out of a contract.

    Reputable agents market manuscripts, sell rights, and help guide their writers' careers. They don't do promotion. And I'm afraid it's unlikely that a reputable agent will be interested in representing a book after it has been published, unless the book is extremely successful and the author has retained most of their subsidiary rights. You can certainly seek an agent with a new manuscript, though.

    I'd be interested to know who the publisher is–I might have received other complaints. Please feel free to email me:

  13. Hello Ms. Strauss,
    Two years ago, I signed a three book contract with an independent publisher (without representation). I quickly started to notice things weren’t quite right. My covers look like adobe stock cut and paste, and whoever designed them obviously has no idea what the novels are about. For the two first books, I only got my galley proofs bare days before publication (this despite my asking for them repeatedly) – so of course no ARCs, and the publication had to be pushed back last minute because of formatting mistakes (which in turn ruined a small book launch I had managed to organize at an independent bookstore). The promised promotional materials have yet to appear, the few promotional activities barely registered on the radar, and there is no publicity whatsoever… Unsurprisingly, the books have not sold more than a handful of copies.
    I have confronted my publisher about these issues, and she has promised to do better for the third book, thus delaying its publication, but I’m not sure I trust it any more.
    Two more things to paint a better picture: I sometimes suspect my publisher is more interested in being a speaker at/organizing writers’ conferences than selling books – Is that a thing? Second, while the difference is not major, it does seem she is not as nonchalant with her other authors (this is a supposition only), could they be taken more seriously because they have agents?
    My contract does have a termination clause, problem is it requires me to reimburse costs incurred (which I’m not sure I want to do given to general shoddiness of her work). What’s more, what would I do then? I’m not interested in self-publishing.
    I’m wondering if trying to get an agent might not be the solution – could an agent be interested even if I already have a contract? Could an agent help me with the promotional aspect? Also I’m hesitant as to the timing, for as soon as I do start sending out queries, my publisher might hear of it. Should I start now or wait until the third book is out?
    Thank you.

  14. Peter,

    So if I'm understanding right, your publisher got a complaint (probably a legal threat) from a competing publisher, and agreed to a settlement that left the book in print but barred subsequent editions and required a notice (the sticker) acknowledging the competing title?

    I think you need to consult a lawyer if you want a definitive answer on this issue. But I would guess (and I'm not a lawyer, so this is not a legal opinion) that your situation is covered by the warranties and indemnity clauses in your contract, which may give the publisher broad authority to deal with legal claims made against it or the book, and to make settlements on its own without consulting you. Again, I'm guessing here, since I haven't seen your contract. But I think it's likely that even if you could make a case for lost royalties due to the loss of future editions (which I think would be difficult, since future book sales/income is such a highly speculative issue), the publisher would not be on the hook.

    I could well be wrong, though, so again, I think that if you want a definitive answer, you should consult an intellectual property attorney with experience in publishing.

  15. Hello Victoria,
    I have several successful print and ebooks with a large regional not-for-profit press with a strong reputation. I've been with them for 24 years. Things have been going well until recently.

    In 2011, I wrote a series book for them in a region where there was a somewhat conflicting series title. They went ahead with the book in spite of my having informed them of a possible conflict of interest. Sure enough, a month after they published the book the publisher of the other series made a complaint. My publisher folded and agreed not to publish the title again (in a second edition). Anticipating trouble, I insisted on a clause in my contract that states that the title of my book would remain the same.
    They also agreed to put permanently affixed stickers in the book that stated there was no relationship between the two publishers.

    I was never told about this change–I discovered it by accident six years later! Am I entitle to damages re: lost future royalties?

  16. Anonymous 9/24,

    If the publisher really terminated your friend's contract, the publisher no longer has any claim on her rights. You can't let someone out of their contract and then refuse to release rights; by definition, when you terminate a publishing contract, rights return to the author. Something is amiss here. Please ask your friend to contact me:

  17. I have a friend whose publisher let her out of her contract but won't release her rights to her book. Can she rewrite the book and switch the storyline and go indie or will she be sued for doing so?

  18. Hello,
    What is the best way to find out how many print was sold from the book? Any place/ online I can find documented? my relative signed a contract with a Texas based publisher and no royalty paid for him, nothing now years. They not even answering him. The problem is he is in Europe and they are in the US, they can do whatever they want with his book. When he called they claiming nothing been sold but this is not true at all. I purchased myself one of the print from barnes and noble and they can not see?! How can I find out only barnes and noble's sales report? Can be find online or I have to request in writing? I'm planning to force the publisher to pay for my poor relative. I hate this situation. Can you please advice on this? Regards: Veronika

  19. Does anyone know if there is a way to just have someone look at your contract and tell you if there is a way out?

  20. I signed and mailed back the contract with a vanity publisher without finding out about their lousy reputation until after it was mailed. They want me to pay an advance fee to them to "share costs" but have not contacted me about arranging terms yet. Can i contact them to request the contract be cancelled or can i just decline to send payment when they contact me? Any options?

  21. Anonymous 5/09,

    I do understand your frustration. But whenever an author writes about real, non-celebrity or non-historical people and events–even if they use different names and settings–it's a good idea to get legal advice before trying to publish; and any publisher that is considering signing such a book should get legal advice as well. Anyone can sue anyone in the USA, regardless of merit, regardless of whether there are legal grounds or whether it's likely they'll prevail in court. Where real people and events are portrayed in a book–even disguised–both author and publisher need to be prepared for at least the possibility of legal challenge.

    It sounds as if your publisher did not do its legal due diligence, and now is choosing to back away in response to legal threats that may or may not have any validity (people often threaten lawsuits as an intimidation tactic, even if they have no intent or ability to actually proceed). I don't have a lot of sympathy for the publisher–but I also think that you should have been better prepared for this, at least to the extent of consulting a lawyer beforehand.

    Anyway, whether pulling your book would put your publisher in breach depends on the wording of the contract. I'd be glad to take a look and give you a (non-legal; I'm not a lawyer) opinion. You can email me at beware [at]

  22. I have a question about a contract I have with my publisher. My book was publisher in 2016 and a print run of 2000 copies done. It was a true crime book and about my hometown. The family of the dead girl are causing trouble since publication. They have written to my publisher and threatened to sue even though there doesnt seem to be any grounds to do so. No real names etc so my publisher has decided not to do a reprint because of all this, agreeing in fact to withdraw the book from publication and get all unsold books returned to placate her. its only a few books, most have been sold, but I find this unacceptable. Arent they contracted to promote my book? Instead they have caved in fear of her unsubstantiate threats and pulled my book when they were considering a reprint. I understand its them that get sued but so far there doesnt seem to be any grounds for her to do so and she is not pinpointing any errors, just saying she is upset at it being out there. Im not sure what my options are. They are talking about giving me my rights back, but how do I resell it to another publisher with those threats hanging over it.

  23. Anonymous 4/04:

    A contract should have a section dealing with termination, but the details will vary, depending in part on whether it's a time-limited or life-of-copyright grant term. There should also be something requiring the publisher to publish within a stated amount of time (say, 12 months) or else return rights–this prevents the publisher from just sitting on your book, or, as you're experiencing, pushing back the pub date. It's hard to comment, though, without actually seeing the contract. I'll be glad to take a look, if you want to email it to me:

  24. Sorry for the anonymous comment but I don't want to bad-mouth my publisher, and if I post my name it wouldn't be hard to figure out who I was talking about.

    Is it normal to have a termination clause? My contract doesn't have one that I can find (seems pretty boilerplate overall). I'm with a reputable (if very small) press that seemed to be good, but they've put an embarrassing, amateurish cover on my book (which they insist is great and liked by the distributor) and their description of the book is awkward. Now they're pushing back the publication date more than half a year because I haven't done all the publicity they expected (they said the book can't go to galleys without any author and bookseller blurbs, which they want me to obtain somehow). EVERYONE tells me the cover is awful (it is, I have eyeballs) despite publisher's insistence of its excellence, and I'm too embarrassed by it to do the aggressive promoting that the publisher wants from me.

    I've come to realize were a bad fit and wish I could get out of it. The problem is, if I keep not obtaining blurbs, the publisher can keep pushing back the "acceptance" (we've gone though edits & copyedits but I still haven't received my advance, so I guess the book is "not yet accepted"), and the window doesn't even BEGIN as far as my next book option (first look and first refusal) until 30 days after that. So I can't do anything with any other books, either. I can't figure out if there's a way to get out of this thing without causing bad blood or costing me a lot of money. I never, ever thought I'd say this, but I really wish I had self-published!

  25. Caz Fisher,

    A new publisher or self-publishing platform will want to know that you hold all your rights, free and clear, without encumbrance (there are warranties in most publishing contracts and in the Terms and Conditions of self-publishing platforms stating exactly this, which you agree to by signing the contract). So you do need some sort of official documentation of the contract's termination in order to be able to proceed with a new publisher. An email from Shieldcrest stating that the contract has been terminated is sufficient.

    It sounds to me, however, as if there is some dispute on whether the contract is terminated or not. Feel free to email me (beware [at] ); I'd like to see whatever emails you've gotten telling you the contract is terminated.

  26. Bsquare–

    Rowman and Littlefield is reputable, and Scarecrow Press seems to have survived at least in some form: , though this may only be for past books published via Scarecrow, which doesn't appear on Rowman's official imprint list. However, there are a lot of moving parts here, such as whether you are getting royalty statements/payments in a timely manner. If you find the contract, let me know–I'll be glad to take a look. If you want to dialog more about all this, email me.

  27. Can anyone help please? I have approached Writer Beware before about this publisher. My book published by Shieldcrest of Aylesbury only got as far as the proof copy. They made so many unauthorised changes and errors e.g. missing paragraphs, wrong reformatting which they admitted and then denied that when I queried this they stated that they would remove their logo, their name, publish it with all of the rrors so that it would not sit on the shelves with professionally published books. I had paid in advance for this book. They then said that as I had not paid for the errors to be amended that they would terminate the contract. However, I had offered the money but whilst Leigh Stephenson M.D. accepted it Steve Robson did not. He told me that the contract was terminated. He also said in emails, June 2016 that he would return my PDF and unused monies of £125. which they are now refusing to do despite my letters and emails. He also, said that I was welcome to try and get another publisher to finish my book. It was finished until Shieldcrest got hold of it. What I would like advice on is;
    As the publisher terminated the contract can I go to a different publisher?
    As Shieldcrest told me that I was welcome to try and get my book finished by another publisher can I do just that?
    Or do they still have a claim on my book?

  28. Thanks, Victoria, for your very helpful comment.

    I never received any notification from my original publisher (Scarecrow Press). Sometime in the past 10 years, Scarecrow was folded into the Rowman and Littlefield publishing group,but continued on as Scarecrow Press. Then, during the last two years, Scarecrow "vanished" and only recently was I made aware that my book was now exclusively with Rowman and Littlefield.

    Unfortunately, I no longer have access to my original contract (long story). I do have access to one for a book I co-authored (also published by Scarecrow at the same time); my co-author's life has been much more stable and free of drama, so I will check with him. I believe the two contracts are nearly identical.

    This site is a great resource! Thank you!!

  29. Bsquare,

    It would depend on the terms of the sale and also on the terms of your original contract (whether it covers the possibility of a sale or assignment, and if so, whether it guarantees that the new owner must abide by the original contract terms). Ideally, the old publisher should have sent out a notification to authors letting them know about the sale and what it meant for authors, and the new publisher should have done the same.

    I'll be glad to take a look at your contract and any emails you received and give you a (non-legal; I'm not a lawyer) opinion. Contact me at beware [at]

  30. What if your original publisher was bought and folded into a larger publishing group? Is the contract you signed with the original publisher still binding, and how do I find out if it is not?

  31. Anonymous 12/03,

    If you signed the contract, you've granted rights to the publisher and can't grant those rights to anyone else as long as the contract is in force. To be able to give the ms. to another publisher, you'd first have to persuade your current publisher to terminate the contract and revert rights to you.

  32. Hello Victoria, I want to thank you for being here for us (authors).

    I'm in a horrible situation with Tate Publishing regarding not receiving royalties. I have joined a class-action lawsuit with many, many, many other unpaid authors.
    We have contact the Oklahoma Attorneys Office.

    Tate Publishing has so many lawsuits against them, not just from others, but previous employees and businesses.

    I have left too many messages and emails to count with no response.

    I had my manuscript copyright on my own and in my contract with Tate is states they have no rights to my book.

    From authors who live in Oklahoma, I've been informed that Tate is closed.

    Either way, I don't care, I just want my book away from them and a way to have my book republished. It really is a great book.

    Do you have any personal advice for me?

    Thank you in advance

  33. What happens if one signs a contract with a publisher but changes his/her mind before delivering the manuscript by the agreed upon date and wants to give the manuscript to another publisher.

  34. Lory La Selva Paduano,

    You aren't alone in experiencing this kind of response from a publisher–I've heard from many, many writers who are in similar situations. To give you useful advice, however, I do need to know who the publisher is and what led up the current situation. I'll also be glad to take a look at your contract. Contact me at

  35. Is it possible to get out of a contract when the owner is highly irritated with answering questions, promotions are being done, the owner is rude, doesn't accept putting Ebooks on special and lies to you. Recently, the owner said I could "hit the highway" if I wasn't happy. ( proof of this is on a Facebook convo – inbox) I never asked to leave, and I certainly never said I was unhappy, disappointment is more like it. Also, they quickly approached me with a "termination fee" that is ridiculously priced. I agreed for a day, and that was after I was hit with my son's disease which needs costly therapy. I'm no longer able to pay the price stated, I asked that she lower the price, and take partial payments. They have refused the amount I negotiated. I'm desperate and don't know there to turn.

  36. David Orcutt,

    This definitely does not sound normal; in fact, it sounds exploitive (though everything depends on the wording of the contract). Please contact me at beware [at]; I'd like to know the name of the publisher and see a copy of your contract so I can (hopefully) give you some useful advice.

  37. Anonymous 9/07,

    Publishers should definitely be capable of providing royalty statements and payments on time but it's hard to advise you without knowing who the publisher is and seeing a copy of your contract. Please contact me at beware [at]

  38. I found this while doing a bit of research tonight. Like so many, I got into a bad contract with a publisher who promised the world and delivered nothing. I decided to simply wait out my 7 years. Now my 7 years has ended and said publisher keeps sending me emails that they are about to release my book to a 3rd party publisher unless I pay to have the rights reverted back to me – and once this transaction is done, I will not be able to have that option again. But I understood my rights automatically reverted back to me after 7 years….now all of a sudden they want me to pay them.

    Is this normal? In 7 years with this publisher, I haven't received 10 dollars total in royalty checks….I've made all my money selling it myself. Do they expect me to believe another publisher wants to take on a book that hasn't sold enough copies in 7 years to pay the author ten bucks? Is this just a threat tactic to get me to pay them?

    Thanks for any help!

  39. Hi

    My spouse is signed up with a publisher in the USA, we live elsewhere. The publisher has a number of books under contract. The first contract was signed in August 2014. To date both due dates for Royalty Statements have not been submitted to the Author.

    The Publisher has been contacted in writing by Author and has requested the Statements due but has been given the run around as to why this can't / hasn't happened.

    Would now be the right time to invoke the Reversion and Termination Clause in the contract? It takes a period of 3 months. Perhaps sooner rather than later as they still have a number of Titles that have not been published as yet!

    I don't wish to say too much in a public forum as I know that they are monitored on occasion by the Publisher.

    I'm contactable on a.messenger.1984 (at)

    I really would appreciate assistance with this.

  40. Hi, Rachel,

    If there's no termination clause, you may be stuck (other than politely approaching the publisher and asking to be let go). But I'd need to see the contract to be sure. Please write to me: beware [at] Thanks.

  41. Hi,
    My contract has no termination claus. The problem is that my book sells well and has won awards – but that's all due to my own marketing …. my publisher has barely lifted a finger towards marketing my book.

    How would you approach this?

  42. A.T. King,

    It would depend on the wording of your contract–if it gave the publisher unlimited ability to assign its contracts to others, for instance. I'll be glad to take a look at the contract and give you a non-legal (I'm not a lawyer) opinion–email me at beware [at]

  43. Anonymous 6/26,

    You shouldn't be paying to get back your rights at all–and if you are, which for me would raise serious questions about the publisher, it should be an agreed-upon flat fee, not a per-page charge. Please contact me to tell me more, including the publisher's name: beware [at]

  44. If I signed a contract with a publishing company and it changes ownership is the contract still valid or is it null and void? The contract is signed by myself and the original owner who left the company.

  45. I am trying to find out what I should be paying per page to buy back my book rights. Should it be $2/page or $20/page. Have no idea what the cost should be. My book is a project book in the quilt market.

  46. Anonymous 6/04,

    Most publishers that do print want e-rights as well, so it's very tough to market print rights only. Some writers have succeeded in doing this, but only after proving a market by racking up huge ebook sales. And yes, if you did want to market print rights, you'd likely be marketing the text only, since your publisher probably would claim copyright on visual elements it provided, such as cover, layout, and photos.

    Beyond that, it's kind of a losing proposition, not only for another publisher but for you–since it sounds as if an offer from another publisher would only trigger an unrefusable offer from your present publisher.

  47. My publisher also has a right of first refusal clause; they publish digital books in a subscription-only database. So, the book is not available on Amazon, etc. and only as an eBook.The clause says if I get another offer for a print (or audio,etc.) format, they have first right to consider publishing it.
    My question is, how would I ever get an offer to publish a print copy if nobody but the subscribers (school systems) know about the book? Can I submit a query to other publishers for a print-only version? And if I did, would it be for the text only, since this publisher designed the cover and provided the photos and layout?


  48. Anonymous 5/28,

    With the caveat that I haven't seen the actual wording of your contract…."Right of first refusal" means that the publisher has the right to consider and reject–or accept–the manuscript before anyone else. So you shouldn't be sending proposals to other publishers until you've gotten an answer from your existing publisher.

    I don't like "right of first refusal" clauses because they typically don't give writers the option of saying "no" if an offer is made. It's OK if your publisher wants the first chance to make an offer (ideally, its right to do so should be limited to your next book in the same genre, not the next book of any kind that you write), but you should be able to negotiate on the offer (you should not be bound to the same terms and conditions as your existing contract) and, if you can't come to terms, you should be free to refuse the offer and submit your book to other publishers with no restrictions.

  49. I have looked all over the internet to try to find an answer to my question. I hope that you can help me. Six years ago I published a book. The contract that I signed gives the publisher right of first refusal. They must response with 30 days after I submit a new work to them.

    I have just completed a manuscript for a new book. I plan to send a copy of the manuscript to my old publisher. However, I also plan to send book proposals to other publishers but negotiate with my old publisher first. Would this violate my contract?

  50. Anonymous 4/25,

    I'm seeing more and more small press contracts where the publisher claims copyright on editing. This is not typical publishing practice, and it's iffy legally–see this blog post from RWA. Plus, it's just plain obnoxious, since it disadvantages the author and has no benefit for the publisher.

    Does the original contract you signed have any wording to indicate that the publisher claims copyright on editing? If so, they might be able to kick up a fuss if you re-published the original version (though how would they know about it, especially if you re-titled it?). If not, they don't have any standing to make such a demand and IMO you can simply ignore it.

    I'm going to be blogging about this very soon, since it seems to be so common.

  51. I recently asked for my rights to be released, it's the second time I've done this albeit with a different publisher. But, in a termination release statement they recently sent me, there is one clause that bothers me… "The author may no longer use edits or the cover art or any art associated with the title(s) provided by the Publisher"

    I get the cover art belongs to them, but the edits? When I wrote the words? The other publisher didn't stipulate this fact and they did a more in-depth edit than this one did.

    Anyway, the final words are "The author may, however, use the unedited version of their book(s) in the manner of his/her choice after the above end date." The end date being three months from now.

    Can anyone answer me if they're actually allowed to do this? The editing bit, I mean.

  52. Jackie,

    A publisher is a business, and a well-run business should be capable of meeting deadlines. Setting a release date and then missing it suggests that there may be problems at the publisher. Maybe it's having money problems. Maybe its staff aren't equal to the amount of work. Maybe the owner is having personal difficulties (especially problematic if it's a hobby publisher run in someone's spare time). Or, since your book is a type and market they've never done before, maybe they just don't know what they're doing. No matter what the reason, it's bad news–not just because it suggests the publisher is troubled, but because any marketing or promotion targeted to the release date is now wasted.

    If there are problems now, there probably will be problems later on. Plus, the fact that they offered to let you after they missed the first release date suggests a lack of enthusiasm and investment in your book.

  53. Why is this really bad? Do you think they are just small and unorganized or do you think they are waiting for the contract to expire? I have asked directly if they can accommodate the book and they say yes. This is the first cookbook they have done. Everything else is self help, fiction and non fiction.

  54. Jackie,

    Missing pub dates is really bad. It sounds to me as if your best move right now would be to get your rights back from this publisher. If they were willing to release them once, they may be willing to do so again if you ask. Best of luck.

  55. My publisher missed the release date. Then they said it would be 2 months later. Then emailed me and said I could opt out and get my rights back because they did not meet release date, delay in typesetting. I said I did not want to opt out. They said they would accomadate it and find a way to make it eork but the production schedule is booked. When I signed the contract last December, they were very responsive. They even changed the contract for me! Now I have to call and email all the time to get a new release date. They keep saying they ate checking, for 2 months now. No answer. I feel like they are waiting for contract to expire for not making the deadline. I don't think they are that busy either. Very few new books.

  56. Anonymous 8/15–

    It's hard to comment without knowing more about your situation and the terms of whatever contract you and others signed. Speaking very generally, I think it's unlikely that a publisher would be willing to buy a co-author out–more likely, if you wanted to bow out, it would demand back whatever advance it might have given you.

    Again, though, I don't have the facts so I may be off base. If you'd like a more detailed opinion, please contact me at beware [at]

  57. Anonymous 8/04–

    Re: Royal Fireworks Press: I've seen a number of contracts from this publisher, which claim the author's copyright. It's also a very small press, with limited ability to distribute and market its books.

  58. Has anyone ever heard of an author selling back his/her position to a publisher? I'm working with a team of writers on a long lived, well regarded book. My sense is that the publisher is looking to cut out its authors, thereby making more money. After many revisions we are now being asked to do more, in a new challenging way in radically less time. Not delivering on time makes us liable for breach of contract. So why not turn to them and say, buy me out, find someone who will do it for less and call it a day?

  59. Has anyone worked with Royal Fireworks Press? I am wondering if you have worked with this small publishing house. Some of the issues people are bringing up lead me to think that you may have experience with this press.

  60. Anonymous–

    Please contact me via email (beware [at] I really can't give you any useful advice without seeing your contract and the termination notice you received. (BTW, a termination notice doesn't have to be signed by both parties–just by the publisher–but it does need to include correct information about the book.)

  61. What if a book contract states that "any change by publisher will not delay the publish date any more than one month without notification to the author" and the publisher violates that? This publisher left me hanging for months, ignoring the tentative publication date that was on the contract and never notifying me why the book wasn't being published. I was waiting for a second proof and that never happened. Publisher finally agreed to terminate and sent a signed termination contract which did not include the correct book title or author name as it appeared in the original book contract. He also back dated it. When I asked that he correct those two things before I sign, he became furious and said he had no intentions of publishing the book and that he didn't need a signed copy of the termination from me. He also agreed to take the book cover, description and my name which is listed as one of his authors off of his website, but he has not done so. In my last correspondence to him, I told him that the corrected and signed termination contract was necessary. If he chooses to do nothing, what are my rights and will I be able to submit my manuscript to another publisher without any ties to this one if I do not have a termination contract signed by both parties. I did apply for and receive book copyright before I ever signed with this publisher but the contract gives him exclusive rights to publish and sell it in print and e-book formats. As added info, this is a small, independent, royalty paying publisher.

  62. Anonymous,

    If I'm understanding you right, your friend allowed this publisher to publish three of her books without signing a contract? Did she give them permission to publish with no contract, or did they just go ahead and do it without asking? Even if she did give permission, and the publisher holds copyright for the books that were under contract, I'm not sure how it can claim it holds copyright for books where no contract was signed. At any rate, if someone besides your friend holds copyright, those rights are lost to her and she can't re-publish, unless she somehow gets those rights back. Also, if the books–under contract or not–are still being actively sold by this publisher, no new publisher is going to want them. Publishers only want books whose rights are completely free and clear.

    I think I must be missing something here; if not, this is a very strange story and something is very wrong. Please get in touch with me, or have your friend contact me: beware [at] .

  63. Hello all, I apologize if this question has been answered, though, I didn't see this exact scenario.

    I have a friend that had a book contract. She was obligated to writing two books only. She went on to write three additional books with this publisher; however, none of them were under contract.

    It appears that the publisher is pocketing more of the sales proceeds than they are supposed to, and continue to give her bogus reporting info (user created excel or word documents versus the Amazon report).

    There are other issues, such as being difficult to contact, not providing paperbacks as promised, and an overall lack of professionalism.

    My friend has another publisher that would love to sign her. Here's the catch…though she is no longer under any type of contract, the ISBN and copyright info is under the previous publishers name. She doesn't want to sign and promote a new book, for fear that her old book sales could increase. She doesn't want her old publisher to receive another dime. What are her options? Your advice is greatly appreciated.

  64. Cecile,

    Titles aren't protected by copyright, so you can use your same title.

    As to your other issues, they're complicated–I'd need to know the name of the publisher and also to see your contract and the email they sent you about only being able to use the text. Contact me at beware [at]

  65. Hi. I had two books published by the same publisher. I signed and submitted my contracts before my husband and I found a scandalous articles about the publisher. Since it was too late to cancel the contracts as the books were on process to final stage of publication. When it was released in the market, the publisher won't tell me the exact number of copies sold. The publisher sends me a royal fee statement ($0.00 or 50cents)each year. My entire family were puzzled because they purchased copies of my books. But publisher told me either can't tell me or a zero sale. My only way out was to wait 7 years (contract expiration period). It was stated in both contracts that they're not publishing, re-printing, distributing, etc the said book(s) without my permission. However, despite what they stated in the contract, the publisher continued to re-printing and distribute copies of my books. I designed and layout everything in my book from cover-front and picture, contents and words. All the publisher did is to just to print out but still made a mistake which they edited. When my contract expired, they told me I can only get the right back of the text mode of my manuscript.My question is, do I have the right to have my book republish using the same title?

  66. Jolee, yours is a tough situation with a lot of different factors, too complicated to address in a blog post comment. Please email me at beware [at] and I'll try to respond in more detail–also, I may already have info on your publisher, if you'll let me know its name.

  67. I am having issues with my publisher as well and I'm not sure what to do. My book has been in print and in e-book form for a little over two years, and I have yet to get any royalties. My publisher will not answer my emails, so when I call, I get the same story, 'Sure, we will send your royalty check ASAP.' To top it off, I have misplaced my copy of the contract, and my publisher has said the same thing concerning getting me a copy, 'Sure, we will send you a copy ASAP.' I want my rights back, and I'd like to go to another publisher, with a literary agent involved to help make sure I get a legit publisher this time, one who doesn't put me off and treat me as though I'm stupid. I've already written another book that is ready for submission, and have started a third, but I remember my contract states that I can't submit to another publisher unless my current publisher rejects it. In this case, should I get a lawyer involved? I'm tired of getting the run around.

  68. listenandbeheard, please contact me with more details, and I'll try to give you some advice. My email is beware [at]

  69. My problem is that my publisher is no more. My book was published in 1998 and I haven't been able to figure out who to contact about rights reversion. It's still available at B&N and other online outlets, so someone must be keeping the books…

  70. I'm a small publisher. I terminated an author's contract two days ago. She's now posting in several places and using the term "dishonest publisher" and claiming she was "fired" for "asking a question."

    The contracts were terminated because of a discussion in our private group about the amount invested in books. She claimed I was unprofessional, did nothing with her books, and spent too much money on the wrong things. She wanted to know how much I spent on everything and why. It wasn't just the questions, which were inappropriate anyway, but her constant negative attitude and false claims and serious lack of any marketing.

    I should note, we are NOT a vanity press, our authors pay zero dollars to be published. It's not HER money at all.

    So it's not always a publisher's fault when a contract is terminated.

    In the meantime, I need to decide what, if anything, I can do to repair the damage and whether or not to post a rebuttal.

  71. Anonymous,

    As I see it, you have two issues–getting the rights back, and ensuring that you own the copyright.

    You'll need to resolve the copyright issue first, since you'll need to document that you're the owner in order to deal with the publisher. If your mother left you her estate, it probably included her copyright–but I'm not a lawyer so I'm really not certain of how this works. It probably would be a good idea to seek legal advice on this.

    Once you've established your ownership, you'll need to contact the publisher. When a publisher declares a book out of print, that doesn't necessarily mean that rights automatically return to the copyright owner; the owner may have to go through ane additional process of formally requesting the return of rights.

    If you can find your mother's publishing contract, check it to see what the rights reversion procedure is (for instance, sending the publisher a letter requesting that rights be reverted, after which the publisher has a period of time to either re-issue the book or return rights). Follow it precisely. Be sure to explain your ownership of copyright in your letter, so the publisher knows it can legally deal with you on rights issues.

    If you can't find the contract, you'll need to get in touch with the publisher to find out what the proper procedure is.

    If you have other questions, please email me: beware [at]

  72. My Mom had a book published in 1996. She never got one royalty. She died in 2006, the book is out of print now. I would really love to have the copyrights. What do I do?

  73. Anonymous–

    When a contract allows for author termination, there's usually language in the contract saying exactly how to go about it. However, if you like, I'll be glad to take a look at the contract and give you a more detailed opinion. Email me at beware [at] All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

  74. So I published a book in 2012 with of course, a money-sucking publisher who claimed they were a "traditional" publisher, and I was too young and naive to realize differently. Now, I want to completely rewrite that book that was published and go through a different publisher, but can't do that without terminating the contract first. The question is, is how do I do that? There is a termination clause in my contract, that states that the publisher or the author can terminate the contract at any time. Do I have to email a certain somebody or what? This may seem like a stupid question, but yeah I'm lost. Thanks in advance!

  75. This question pertains to the topic, but is slightly different and may be difficult to answer. My book was published with a traditional small and inexperienced publisher. After the end of the contract, it was mutually agreed that the contract would be terminated and not renewed. I hadn't received royalty statements or payments for well over a year, though I had repeatedly requested the same. Regardless, my former publisher just redesigned their website – and right there, on the front page is my book, with an asterisk under it. The asterisk refers the visitor to a Previously Published reference. Does a publisher have the right to use a book that is no longer under their copyright or contract for promotional purposes? Currently, their books are very few (less than 3), so by including former publications in their books, they are making themselves look more established. I wonder if this is ethical or legal … it is misleading. But it is also my book, and the rights have reverted back to me.

  76. Anonymous,

    I wonder if the publisher's refusal means that it's in the process of digitizing (or planning to digitize) its backlist. This is a very attractive proposition for publishers, because once the book has been converted it costs nothing to keep it available, and a publisher with a deep backlist can profit from the long tail even if each book sells only a handful of copies.

    For older contracts that pre-date the digital revolution, though, it's by no means clear that publishers have digital rights. There's legal precedent on both sides of the issue of whether "to publish in book form" (standard language in older contracts) includes ebooks.

    I'd advise you to check and see if an electronic edition of the book has been issued–and if not, to keep checking in case one shows up.

  77. Slightly different problem here. Author died in 1976 just before book was published. Book was a success and went into two editions before going out of print in 1990. Royalties were paid to her heir (no relative a former student). In 2002, as an author working in same field, I approached heir to update it. He said he gathered it had gone out of print as the royalties had ceased coming to him but he had no contact from the publisher (big "reputable" international concern either then or later. However he had all original author's material still filed in his studio, so with his approval I contacted publishers about producing an updated edition. Was told they were not interested. I pointed out it was out of print and had been for some time and that I knew the copyright rested with the original author. Publisher responded that it did, but they held publication rights and they were not prepared to relinquish them. Heir asked to see original contract and was told only available to author and not to him without a court order. He is an artist and not interested in legal wrangles. So he backed out at that point and I had to give up and the book remains out of print, not updated and unable to be got back from the publishers. Gather this sort of thing is not uncommon.

  78. Anonymous,

    I can't give you an answer without seeing the contract. The important clauses here are the grant of rights clause and the termination clause, and I need to see both in their entirety (as well as the rest of the contract–different clauses affect one another) in order to give you an opinion.

    Email me at beware [at] All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.

  79. Can you terminate a book contract if no sales (as in zero) have occurred, but there is no clause in the actual contract about expectation of sales being linked to the contract?

    And if the contract stipulates that the publisher will have the rights indefinitely?


    Author grants Publishers:

    a. An irrevocable exclusive right to reproduce, republish, transmit, sell, distribute, and otherwise use the Work in electronic and print editions and in derivative works throughout the world, in all languages, and in all media now known or later developed for an indefinite period of time

    b. An irrevocable exclusive right to create and store electronic archival copies of the Work, including the right to deposit the Work in open access digital repositories where deemed appropriate by Publishers for an indefinite period of time.

  80. Anonymous 9/26/13–

    Unfortunately, a transaction did take place when you signed their contract and engaged their services. They're a private business, so they can set whatever refund policy they like.

    If you paid by credit card or Paypal, you can dispute the charge–say you were deceived by the way the publisher presented itself (and if it's the company I think it is, you may find information here and elsewhere online to support that). Such disputes are taken seriously, and Paypal or your credit card company will investigate. You may be able to get your money back that way.

  81. I realize I'm a little late to the discussion, but I am now going through this situation and need some advice.

    I entered into a contract with a subsidy publisher. As a newbie, I didn't know that they were a subsidy publisher because they call themselves a traditional publisher. Regardless, I have paid a portion of their up-front "publicity" fee but have since decided that I do not want to pursue this subsidy route after all.

    How can I get out of the contract? There is a termination clause in the contract but it focuses on production and post-production, distribution, promotion, etc. I'm in none of those stages, as I have not yet submitted my manuscript to the publisher to begin the production process.

    I sent them an email and they were sorry to hear my decision to terminate–I didn't go into specifics, but they said they don't issue refunds. Can they keep my money even thought a "transaction" has not taken place?

    Thanks for your help.

  82. The shoe is at the moment onthe other foot here. I'm part of a small press run by writers and a new writer has asked for a termination clause. 3 years of 5000 books whichever comes first. In my estimation the book might sell 2-3000 over a couple-three years and i don't want to lock an author in unnecessarily but I haven't had this request before and I wonder how common it is.

  83. Wow, Anonymous, that is indeed a bad clause–it's totally weighted on the side of the publisher. I really don't see that the author has any recourse here.

    Please contact me directly: beware [at] I'd like to know who the publisher is, and take a look at the entire contract.

  84. This is a nightmare, and one that has no ending.

    I have such a contract with a publisher who continues to profess on the Internet they are an outstanding publisher to work with.

    The publisher (name withheld) has been notoriously late in paying royalties. Certified letters have been sent citing their tardiness and breach of contract — and said letters are ignored.

    The clause below is in in the contract. As you can see, the author has no right to terminate said contract after three years. The three years have expired and I have sent a certified letter stating I wish to end the contract due to breach in royalty payments. I have never been paid royalties on one book they released 2 years ago.

    The publisher does not respond and continues to sell my books.

    Yes, yes, I know, I should not have signed such a contract, but must one read every line with a magnifying glass in hand when they laud their site and themselves as legitimate, honorable publishers?

    Here's the clause:

    (a) The term of this Agreement shall continue for three years after the Effective Date (“Initial Term”), and thereafter shall automatically renew for consecutive one year terms (each a “Renewal Term” and together with the Initial Term, the “Term”), unless terminated by Publisher on written notice to Author given by Publisher at least 60 days prior to the end of the Initial Term or any Renewal Term.

    Do you see any part of this clause that allows the author to terminate after three years? No, so therefore, this publisher can continue to publish into eternity.

    Any suggestions? Anyone?

    How can I get them to release my book?

    Anonymous, but legitimate.

  85. J.A. Pak,

    Some book contracts do have termination clauses that allow the author or the publisher to terminate the clause with adequate notice in writing (say, 30 or 60 days). (If there is such a clause, there shouldn't be a fee attached.)

    Such clauses aren't really in a publisher's economic interest, since (theoretically at least) the publisher wants to make book sales, and it needs time to do that. It doesn't want an author to blow it off after just a few months. So you don't find such clauses very often in the contracts of publishers that are serious about marketing books to the public.

    More common are provisions for termination due to breach (either the publisher's or the author's or both), bankruptcy (though courts generally don't honor such clauses), and lack of sales. These aren't at-will provisions; specific circumstances must occur in order to invoke them.

  86. On pitching a previously-published book to a new publisher…

    It's tough to re-sell already-published books. If they were published by a commercial publisher, they're perceived as having already reached their audience, and if by a questionable or vanity publisher, as books that couldn't make the grade (sorry, I know that's harsh, but it's the reality).

    You can't conceal from a potential new publisher that your book was previously published, so don't try. The oft-repeated advice of changing 10% of the text (or 20%, or 30%–it varies depending on who's disseminating this bit of faux advice) and then marketing it as a new work isn't kosher either, because whether you change 10% or 50% of the text, it will still be basically the same book, and your new publisher will be furious if it discovers this.

    You've got two options, in my view. You can completely overhaul and re-write the book–make it, in effect, a new work. You'll still have to let a new publisher know about the previous version, so this is still a risky thing to do. Or you can try and downplay the previous publication by saying you were with an unprofessional small press that wasn't able to do much in the way of marketikng or distributing the book, and as a result only a tiny number of books were sold (this is one of the very few circumstances in which bad sales figures can actually work in your favor). In effect, you're telling the new publisher that your book was never really published at all, in any meaningful sense.

    Ultimately, the only option for a badly published book to which you regain rights may be to self-publish. But that's still better than leaving your book with an incompetent or dishonest publisher.

  87. Thank you so much for your feedback. I have read so many differing opinions on what to say, what not to disclose but have never found any answers to my dilemma. I guess honesty is the best policy in my situation. I don't have an agent – that's something that I want to do this time to avoid all the pitfalls I have experienced thus far.

    Thanks again.

  88. You can pitch it in a query letter by talking about how the book was published previously and how many copies were sold. You can also discuss what audience you want to target the book towards today. Perhaps there's a new group of readers who the book can be marketed to. Books that go out-of print can find new life if the author is savvy enough to find the right way to repackage them. Sometimes they can be more succesful than the original print run.

    If you have an agent, they can try to sell it to another print publisher or an e-book publisher. it's truly up to you what you want to do with your title when you get the rights back.

  89. thanks for the advice – but I am still at a lost as to how to pitch my book to another publisher – not sure I want to go the "indie" way right now. Do I tell the agent or publisher in my query letter??

  90. Once you get out of a bad Book Contract, Thank God. It does an author no good for a book's rights to be tied up for years with a publisher that's doing nothing with them. The title isn't generating the author any revenue nor is it generating the publisher any revenue.

    What's crazy is how publishers want to hold on to rights that they're doing nothing with in the hopes that they'll turn into a million dolllar property. The chances of this are slim to none if no books are being printed and distributed at retail. Book catalogs aren't music catalogs, no one is eager to spend money on rights to use a book. If the title isn't being printed, then yeah, they should revert back to the author ASAP, so the publisher can invest time and resources on other authors.

    eBooks are a pipe dream many publishers THINK will be a gold mine; unfortunately they only move at rock bottom prices.

    What can an author do when they get their rights back? Plenty. They can shop for anothr publisher (Hopefully one that will give the book better promotion and support) or the author can self-publish the title. Or the author can go down the currently lucrative eBook market via amazon's Kindle direct publishing, Barnes & Noble's Pubit! or Smashwords. All these options are much better than letting an author's book rights languish in limbo. At least they generate revenue for a writer.

  91. What do you do once you are let out of the contract? How do you pitch your book to another traditional publisher? I am in this position – 2 months and 1,000 poorly set up printed copies later. The book is on, chapters indigo, barnes and noble and is in some bookstores. I have and isbn and library of congress number. Not sure what to do. This is heartbreaking for me. I have had news releases and been interviewed by the newspaper. Your advice would be appreciated.

  92. It may be cheaper to simply try to buy your rights back than to hire an attorney to pry them away, though with the newly recognized long tail of ebook sales, dead properties may suddenly seem to have value. The Catch-22 is that by simply asking for your rights back, the publisher may go "Whoa, maybe these are worth something" where they may have ignored you previously and let contracts expire.

    This is especially tricky if they have in-print provisions that count ebook availability as "in print." If your book is not out in ebook, and the vibe is you're going to self-publish as an ebook, they may decide to do it themselves first.

    If you're already self-publishing, you have a good idea of what the books are worth. Otherwise, you might have to guess the value based on the performance of similarly positioned authors.


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