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Stupid Publisher Tricks
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"Book clubs"

The tricky part comes when the publisher licenses the rights to its own book club rather than to a legitimate book club owned by another company. There are three problems with this:

1. The publisher has no incentive to negotiate a high advance. (In fact, the opposite is true.)

2. The publisher can use its book club as an alternative method of distribution to reduce the author's royalty rate.

3. Worse yet, the publisher gets to keep a share of the book club's "advance" and any subsequent royalties.

This scam is most common in category paperback publishing. One of the leading romance publishers has earned notoriety for distributing a significant percentage of its novels through in-house "book clubs" to the detriment of authors. You may not be able to avoid such shenanigans, but you should be aware of the potential for abuse (and the publisher's reputation) before you sign a contract.

How to avoid problems

Negotiating your contracts is seldom wise, since most authors don't know what's negotiable and what isn't. Also, the publisher knows that you're unlikely to turn down a book offer just because you don't like a certain clause.

It's best to have a literary agent negotiate your book deal. If you don't have an agent, simply tell the editor (very politely) that you hate talking about money and would rather have an agent negotiate the contract.

Next, contact a reputable agent (see my agent resources article) and say that you have an offer from a publisher. Chances are, the agent will be more than happy to negotiate the contract details--and you'll have an agent to represent you when it's time to sell your next book.

- Durant Imboden

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