From the Archives: Putting Authors in the Driver’s Seat

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: September 12, 2008 ]

As we discussed previously, property rights in book publishing is one important consideration in finding the path that best meets your goals.

In all forms of art—painting, woodwork, sculpture, writing—ownership exists. At many levels.  A painter paints a picture. Owns the picture.  Sells the picture.  A sculptor molds a bust.  Owns the bust.  Sells the bust.

Ownership changes but the picture does not.  The bust does not.

In the Traditional sense, authors sell their work to publishing houses for an advance on royalties. Those publishers then, owning the material, can do whatever they want with your writing—cut paragraphs, chapters, change the title even.

Imagine crafting a beautiful landscape only to have someone paint over it.

The good news is many custom self publishing options currently offer non-exclusive contracts now.  The non-exclusive part keeps authors the driver’s seat and preserves the essence and origination of the writing.  It’s your work, thoughts, ideas, and stories, after all.

Have fun and keep writing!

– by Karl Schroeder


So what is a non-exclusive contract, anyway? And what are the pros and cons?

A lot of my friends are great authors who really pour their hearts and souls into their work and I am truly lucky. Why? Because having worked in the industry for so long on both ends of the self-publishing process–author and publisher–and focused both on strict marketing and sales to careful copyright consideration, I have learned a great deal and get to help these, my friends, out.

In short, non-exclusivity means you are not locked into an exclusive contract; you are free to cancel or publish your book elsewhere at the same time.

Here’s an example: say you have been publishing your book with any given self-publishing company for a while, and you have an opportunity to get thousands of copies of your book printed cheaply by a different publisher or printer, either a traditional publishing house or another self-publishing company with better rates. You still want to keep selling your book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble using your existing book distribution system–one ought not to waste an effective system, or already printed books–but you just don’t want to pass up the opportunity to sell thousands more for a better price. Luckily, you can do both–that’s the point of non-exclusive contracts!

Now, if a traditional publishing house discovers your book after you’ve already self-published, what happens next? Very likely, your new publishers will want you to sell your book to them in return for exclusive rights. They would want to make sure that no other publisher or printer would be able to sell or print your book. You won’t violate their contract if you already have a non-exclusive contract, but you won’t be able to sign yourself onto a new one once you’ve committed to the traditional publisher.

Generally speaking, though, you won’t have to worry about the timing. Most self-published books are not picked up by traditional publishers … but nothing is impossible, and you ought to be prepared for anything!

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

Self-publishing – Let’s Clarify

Tuesday’s post concerning publishing contract details prompted me to consider a few pieces of information self-publishing authors may benefit from on the front end, deciding which route to take their books. It’s true there can be a lot of confusion about self publishing and print-on-demand. Let’s clarify some misconceptions many have seen floating around.

1. MYTH: Whoever owns the ISBN owns the book.

FACT: This use to be true. Nowadays, not as much so. Most POD publishers assign an ISBN they own, and they do this for the authors’ convenience; in any case authors should ALWAYS keep all the rights to their book.

2. MYTH: Independent self-publishing is different from publishing with a POD publisher because the publisher owns the ISBN.

FACT: It is true that the ISBN identifies the publisher of record. Look for a publisher that allows authors to supply their own ISBN at some level.

3.MYTH: New York publishers promote and market all their books.

FACT: New York publishers usually devote the lion’s share of their marketing budget to the top 1% (Harry Potter, for example) of the books they publish. The other books published during that season are victims of the sliced marketing budget. Most authors don’t get any support from their traditional publisher at all.

4.MYTH: Printing a book with an offset printer is the same as publishing it.

FACT: Printing a book is one facet of publication. Before a book can be printed, it needs to be designed. Then it needs to be printed. Then it needs wholesale distribution through Ingram and availability online with retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Then it needs fulfillment of orders and invoicing.

Printing a book with an off-set printer accomplishes one of those steps. Publishing a book with a turn-key, custom self-publisher accomplishes all of them. Some authors choose to do both; an on-demand edition complements an off-set print-run very nicely.

Karl Schroeder

Self-publishing and Book Rights

I was recently consulting with an author in a transition from one self-publisher to another in order to take advantage of greater distribution and better book pricing. In doing so I wanted to review the initial publisher’s contract.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter the competing publisher sent to him:

“While Section Six (6) of your Publishing Agreements states, ‘If I cancel, will have the non-exclusive right to produce, market, and sell my Title for one year following receipt of my cancellation notice,” has chosen not to exercise this right.”

What’s the catch? They maintain the right to sell your book without paying you, but then they tell you it’s not good enough to do that.

It’s clear that this publisher had no intention of generating revenue from any book’s sales, regardless of market potential. No wonder there book prices were sky high – they make their money selling services and then books back to their authors.

The good news is that there are strong, full service self-publishers out there that keep 100% books rights where they belong – with authors.

Keep the pens rolling and the fingers punching.

– Karl Schroeder