Do Legacy Publishers Treat Authors Badly?

This post, by J.A. Konrath, originally appeared on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog on 2/19/12.

Some people have disagreed with my statement that legacy publishers treat authors like s**t.

So I’ve made this list. Decide for yourself if these actions constitute treating authors badly. FWIW, all the things I’m mentioning have either happened to me or to my peers.
Legacy publishers offer the author 17.5% royalties on ebooks, and keep 52.5% for themselves.

Legacy publishers have full control over the title of the book.
Legacy publishers have full control over the cover art.
Legacy publishers can demand editing changes or refuse to publish.
Legacy publishers promise marketing or advertising. In fact, they promise lots of things. Then they don’t follow through.
Legacy publishers fail to get paper books into certain important bookselling outlets, resulting in fewer sales.
Legacy publishers generate royalty statements that are incomprehensible.
Legacy publishers don’t try grow an author’s fanbase these days. If the books don’t show increased sales with each new title, the author gets dumped, even if the reason for decreasing sales is the publisher’s fault.
Legacy publishers hold onto rights even if the book is no longer selling. Getting rights back is a nightmare, and it takes forever.
Legacy publishers try to grab erights to books retroactively.
Legacy publishers take a ridiculously long time to publish a book. In some cases, more than 18 months.
Legacy publishers are a cartel. I suppose it could be a coincidence that the Big 6 all have exactly the same (low) royalty structure, and shockingly similar contract terms. But collusion seems easier to believe, and this collusion is aimed at limiting the income and power of authors. Legacy publishing contracts are painfully one-sided.
Legacy publishers have zero transparency when it comes to things like sales, returns, print runs, and inventory, and keep authors in the dark.
Legacy publishers fix prices. That’s what the agency model is. Even worse, these prices are too high and hurt authors’ sales.
Legacy publishers sometimes fail to edit.
Legacy publishers abandon books, releasing them into the market without any push at all.

Legacy publishers pay royalties twice a year. Are you freaking kidding me?!? It’s 2012! Why are their accounting and payroll departments stuck in 1943?


Read the rest of the post on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.