Authors Should Think Twice Before Signing A Book Contract

Think Twice Before Signing A Contract

Signing up with a book publisher is every author’s dream. But think twice and beware of book contract nightmares.

Never sign a book contract with a publisher without doing your homework first.

There are so many small publishers nowadays offering publishing agreements.

While some are good, there are many that are not so good or even worse.

When things go wrong with a publisher

Even among some well-known small publishers, things can go wrong.

The problems usually start with overdue payments or no payment of royalties to authors.

Publishing is not an easy business, and small publishers running into financial problems are not unusual.

Some years ago, publisher Ellora’s Cave experienced financial difficulty.

It became ugly when it took legal action against the RWA (Romance Writers of America), who asked Ellora’s Cave to pay overdue royalties.

Throughout Ellora’s Cave’s ongoing financial problems, the RWA has been pressuring the publisher to pay authors overdue royalties or release the authors from their contracts.

The RWA has banned Ellora’s Cave from conferences and forbidden the publisher from contacting RWA chapters to recruit new authors.

Many writer blogs highlighted the problems at Ellora’s Cave.

However, it is not an isolated story.

If you are considering using a publisher, always check and do your research.


Other publishers

Many problems with smaller publishers often go unreported.

From some of the messages I get from authors, I know that quite a few have not been paid.

In some cases, the publishers went broke yet retained the book rights.

Being offered a contract by a publisher, no matter how big or small, is always an exciting opportunity for new authors, especially, but beware.

Always take your time when negotiating a book contract.

Signing away your book rights is for (almost) ever.

If things go wrong, especially if the publisher fails, you will probably lose your book.

An author friend of mine lost one of his best works to a publisher who made a lot of promises but failed to deliver.

If you have the opportunity to go with a publisher or literary agent, don’t rush to sign a book contract without doing your homework first.


Ask questions before signing a book contract

Do your research on the Internet or check with other authors.

But always ask questions of your potential publisher.

Here are a few very relevant questions you should ask.

How long has the publishing business been operating?

What is the offer for net royalty rates?

Are author royalties always paid on time?

How many titles has it published?

What do option clauses mean?

Do your book rights revert to you if the publisher ceases trading?

What happens to your book royalty payments if you die?

As with any commercial contract, you should take legal advice before signing a book deal.

Spending a little money to check with your lawyer or contract review services before signing is always good advice.



Publishing nowadays is not an easy business, and there are more and more publishing scammers around.

Some of them prey on an author’s dream of publishing a book.

For all new authors, think twice and beware of rushing in and signing a book publishing contract.


Related reading: Is This Publisher Legit? How You Can Make Your Decision

7 thoughts on “Authors Should Think Twice Before Signing A Book Contract”

  1. Thank you for this post. I am possibly looking for another publisher from the one I am currently with. I have a self-published book that I can send, but my others are currently tied up with 3 months release. I will be looking at your website for your submission details.

  2. I HATE contracts. I feel like when I sign any contract, I am giving away a little piece of my soul. Personally, I wish we could go back to a handshake being enough, but that world is long gone.

    As an author, I prefer to be in charge of where my content goes and how it’s formed. I couldn’t imagine allowing someone else to have so much control over my content. I think when we take money out of the picture and realize our content is far more important than just getting some royalties, we’d think twice as authors with signing a contract.

    Some of the best authors were not rich and had very little cash for most of their lives. Just like the starving artist, there is also the starting author, but so much of our content could be helping people hundreds of years from now. However, if you sign a contract, lose that content or have it altered, it may not be helping anybody.

  3. There is no such thing as a free lunch and that is true of publishing in particular. Publishers are in it to make money and all contracts are stacked in their favour. The only truly FREE way to publish a book is to write it yourself, edit it yourself, design your own cover and then upload it to an eBook platform such as Kindle. Both my wife and I have published our own books and now are being asked to publish books by other authors who have had their fingers burned by some of the greedier publishers. They have discovered that all that glitters is not gold.

    The formula we have adopted is one of totally transparency and basically working in partnership with our authors who tend to mainly be chefs or cookery book writers. We provide our expertise for nothing and merely pass on the costs we incur with no added surprises. As a reasonably successful albeit small publisher we can get our authors into Waterstones and Gardners and alot of the independent bookshops and sellers. We then split the profits with the authors. It works well.

    The author of the article is correct. We have come across some absolute horror stories out there! We don’t advertise because we don’t need to. All our publications are top class and labours of love. We are always happy to advise and point you in the right direction so feel free to enquire at This is not a sales pitch. Good luck to all :-)

  4. Avatar for William Gensburger
    William Gensburger

    As a publisher and an author, I totally agree with the need for caution. I would go a step further and tell authors to thoroughly search the website and the terms and the contract for anything hidden. There are many companies that look great but upon reading the contract you find that you have to pay for your own editing, proofing, cover etc, which, as you know can be very costly. Others charge a fee and require a set number of books purchased. These companies are not making money from your sales, but from you! My company, has NO COSTS, NO RISK for authors. We are full service and that. Includes ongoing marketing. We want your book to sell otherwise we make no money at all. As a working writer I know the pitfalls and the problems authors face and so I wanted my company to be able to publish quality writing without the financial impact on the authors, and yet still be able to earn through royalty sales which means we have a huge interest in getting your book out there and sold. Please feel free to check us out, ask questions, and submit your work. Right now we also have a writing contest that ends Feb 10, cash prizes, publication and no entry fees. Thanks for this post. It is important writers understand the wolves out there.

  5. Can you furnish a sample or reference to a contract? If not, what site/blog can you recommend?
    Thank you,

  6. Yes, aware from WestbowPress! They made me to sign a contract and to pay 1700$, but when I changed my mind, they kept the money and said they will never return it to me!

    1. Unfortunately Thelma, yours is not an unfamiliar story. I would warn authors again to be very careful when considering to pay for the services of a publisher. Self-publishing is not difficult, and mostly free of cost and obligation. There are many publishers who charge handsomely, but are in fact, only offering what most authors can do themselves for free.

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