Ask The Expert – “If our publisher doesn’t abide by our contract, can’t we just have our books published elsewhere?”

Ask The Expert – “If our publisher doesn’t abide by our contract, can’t we just have our books published elsewhere?”


A publisher that I and many other authors used to publish our books sold out to another company last year. They rarely respond to emails and I haven’t received a royalty check in ages. They either offer lame excuses for non-existent payments, or they don’t answer us at all.

Can we all move our books to another publisher?


I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. I’m just someone who’s been working in the publishing industry for 18 years, and who has fielded thousands of complaints about a variety of industry bad-actors in that time. Please consult with your attorney if you have legal questions, or need advice on this subject.

I looked up the name of the publisher you sent. It appears they take all rights from their authors and there are lots of complaints about them online. I believe they have stopped their regular day-to-day operations but, since they use print on demand technology, the books are printed elsewhere, and shipped directly to retailers and customers. The books are still selling and they’re still getting paid for those sales. They’re just not sending the authors their portion. This is all too common among new publishers who either don’t know what they’re doing, who get in over their heads, or who set out to scam authors from the get-go.

It’s much easier to move a book elsewhere if a publisher has a non-exclusive contract. Unfortunately, yours does not.

Only the termination clause in your contract can dictate how and when you can legally terminate. The only other option is to demand they terminate your contract under the threat that you plan to hire an attorney because they breached the terms of your contract. If it was me, I would definitely threaten them with legal action. If they don’t respond, you might consider contacting an attorney because your book could be in limbo for years. And, all the while, THEY will be collecting royalties for any copies that sell (and not sending your portion to you, of course).

Worse, if you go ahead and publish with another firm, the original naughty publisher could then sue YOU, and try to get a portion of the proceeds from your new edition. You can see how things could get very messy very fast. Your contract with them also has a non-compete clause so re-publishing the same book, or publishing a similar book, or one that could in any way whatsoever compete with the first, could land YOU in legal hot water.

You can try contacting their printer but, since the printer’s contract is with the publisher, and not with you, that will probably be a dead end as well. The printer is under no obligation to stop printing your book and any distributors or retailers who are profiting from the book are also not under any obligation to you since all their contracts are with your publisher, not with you.

If there are enough victims, an attorney might agree to represent all of you on a contingency basis. But, if the publisher is truly having financial problems, it might not be worth the attorney’s time and expense to pursue them because it’s unlikely any financial settlement will occur. Even if you sue and win, it’s unlikely you’ll ever collect on the judgment.

I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. I know it really sucks. Unfortunately, it’s all too common these days. Anybody with a computer can now call themselves a publisher. I advise authors to only sign with a firm that’s been in business for a decade or more, and one that has an excellent reputation. has published more than 9,000 titles in the past 18 years. And, we’re still going strong! 🙂


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