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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Publishers Go Bad: Taking Control as an Author



One of the reasons I was drawn to writing full-time was that it allowed me to decide when I would work, what types of work I would do, and what markets I would pursue. When I was a lawyer, though, partners routinely dumped clients they didn't want to deal with and cases of questionable value on me and my fellow associates. We could never say "no." And it sucked.

As a freelancer, though, I decide which clients I work for (assuming they hire me). No one can force me to take an assignment I don't want. That's part of freelancing I appreciate; I like being able to control who I agree to work for. I've posted before about what you can control, and what you can't as a self-employed writer, but the fact is that some things are completely outside your control.

Like getting paid on time. In 16+ years of full-time freelancing, I've had several dozen clients pay me late--and in a few instances, not at all, despite me following up, using pay-or-die letters. That frustrates me, but in almost every case, I've managed to sell the piece somewhere else. I figure I have to make the best of a bad situation.

Which brings us to today's post. I have a publisher that has refused to pay me my long-overdue royalties for many months. I've repeatedly requested that the publisher honor our contract and given it  multiple opportunities to do so. In short, I've waited. And you know what? The publisher has continued to breach the contract. I still don't have my money, and I'm done with waiting.

So, what did I do? The only thing I can do--namely, rescind the contract, demand all royalties due to me along with a complete accounting--and demand that the publisher immediately stop selling my book as the breach has rendered our contract null and void.

I'll probably have to hire a lawyer to get the money that's owed to me (stay tuned) but in the meantime, I'm taking control of what I can. I just released the book on Kindle. Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money, Second Edition, is a well-reviewed book that is a comprehensive guide who both new freelancers and and those who have some experience but want to take their careers to the next level. It includes more than 20 sample queries, hundreds of online resources, and advice from more than 50 established freelancers. And for a limited time, it will be priced at just $4.99, a discount of 50 percent! Pick it up, if you haven't done so already.

And readers, a question. Have you ever been screwed by a publisher? How did you handle it?