Are You at Risk? When Publishers Go Out of Business By Angela Hoy

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So, your book is finally being published! Congratulations! If you’re like the rest of us, you envision yourself walking into your local bookstore and seeing your book on the shelves. You start to plan book signings and appearances. And you dream about how big your first royalty check will be! But, if your traditional publisher is a small one…or even a new, unestablished POD publisher, how long will it last, and how much money and time could you lose?

It happened again last Monday. I was contacted by yet another author whose publisher had gone out of business. He was lucky. He not only got all his rights back without hassle, but he also obtained the electronic files to the interior and cover files of his books. The unlucky authors are the ones who learn their publisher has closed up shop and who then can’t find the previous owners. Some business owners get in too deep, close their doors (and their website), and just walk away, leaving authors wondering who owns the rights to their books, who has the remaining printed copies, and if/when their unpaid royalties will ever come.

“MY PUBLISHER WENT OUT OF BUSINESS”

How common is this problem? Well, I googled the term “my publisher went out of business” and this is what I found:

This author’s traditional publisher went belly up. She didn’t hold out much hope for finding a new one.

This author’s publisher went out of business, too. He said they were a victim of the collapse of the video game industry.

This successful author wrote, “My publisher went out of business. For a while, every publisher I went to went out of business!”

This author said, “I wrote a book, and it was published last year. Since then my publisher went out of business. It’s a nightmare.”

G. Kornegay’s publisher also cratered.

This author’s publisher went out of business. She purchased the remaining stock of her book and became her own distributor.

Thomas, on this page, is another victim.

And here’s another.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Small presses and small POD publishers die each year. They just don’t have the financial backing needed in this industry and, when things get tight, they often don’t survive.

Mary Wolf’s site features a list of 32 traditional, electronic and POD publishers who have gone out of business or who have been folded into other entities or sold.

BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL PUBLISHING COMPANY TAKES MONEY – LOTS OF IT – AND MORE…

There are new, so-called “POD Publishers” emerging on the market every day. It may look like an easy business to get into, but these individuals often have no idea what they’re doing…and their future authors will end up paying the price. Building a successful publishing company takes money – lots of it, expertise of the industry, a high-tech, professional website with fraud protection, instant downloads for customers, live author accounts, professional book and cover design, and much, much more. Lots of individuals have tried, and failed, to dive into the POD Publishing game. Others have set up sites simply to take an author’s money and run.

Don’t let your book be the victim of one of these fly-by-night outfits. Only publish your book with an established, respected POD publisher who has an account with Ingram (the largest book distributor) and who doesn’t offer unrealistic expectations. Those “get rich quick” POD publishing sites MUST be avoided because they’re selling pipe dreams, not books, and or way too much money!

And, just because a traditional publisher is not charging to publish your book doesn’t mean they’re going to sell a ton of books and be in business forever. In fact, the smaller and newer they are, the better their chances are of going out of business.

PROTECT YOURSELF!

So, what’s a wary, hopeful author to do? First, think twice before trying to be the “nice guy” by risking your money, your book, your time, and even your reputation (their quality may be very poor), while trying to give a brand new company “a chance.” The risks are just too great.

Before you sign a contract with any publisher, whether they’re paying you or you’re paying them, you should check them out online. Get on some of the writing forums and ask some questions. Find some of their authors. How? Look at the publisher’s website, find some of the authors’ names, and google them. Most professional authors, even those who are self-published, have their own websites. Contact them and ask if they’re happy with their publisher.

Contact the Better Business Bureau to see how many complaints they’ve received about that particular publisher. If they have unresolved complaints from both authors and book buying customers, that should serve as a huge red flag. If they’re a POD publisher, what does Mark Levine say about them in his book, The Fine Print?

THE AFTERMATH

Traditionally published authors who are victims of dead publishers are sometimes thrown into a legal nightmare. Some publishers insist they get to keep the rights to authors’ books, intending to sell those rights to another company “someday.” They also insist they own the rights to the cover design. While some willingly give authors their rights back, they often don’t or can’t give the authors their files, meaning the final, edited copy of the book is not what the author has in their computer. The writer must then either scan or retype their entire manuscript before republishing. The entire bad dream turns into an endless financial and administrative nightmare.

Self-published authors who have paid to have their book published find themselves right back where they started. They’ve lost all the money they paid to their POD publisher. Their ISBN can’t be re-used, all the web pages at all the stores online that feature their book are now invalid (meaning customers will be told weeks after their order attempt that the book can’t be obtained from the store’s distributor), and all the author’s advertising that mentioned their book’s ISBN, publisher, and more is now considered a waste of time because the publisher, and the book, are dead. The author must find a new POD publisher, pay new setup fees of hundreds or thousands, pray they have a copy of the last version of their book text, have a new cover designed (if they didn’t own the rights to their first cover – lots of POD publisher claim all rights to covers and interior files authors pay them to design!), etc., etc.

A book takes weeks, months, or even years to write. Don’t take unnecessary and costly risks.

Avoid ending up like one of the unfortunate authors above by only signing a contract with an established, reputable traditional or POD publisher.

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing emag for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is one of the top-rated POD publishers (rated “excellent”) in the industry.

This article may be reprinted/redistibuted freely, as long as the entire article and bio are included.