There are times when you just really do have to stand up for yourself against the tyranny of those who use and abuse their power over you. Whether you’ve allowed them that power in the past or not, nobody should abuse a power they have, even when you’ve given it to them.
If you’ve written a book with a co-author, and the other person publishes the book in their name, giving you some ‘sub-value’ credit, or leaving you off the list completely, you do have rights. You have options, and choices that you can protect.
First and foremost, you need a contract. I know, I’m probably the ultimate no contract queen, and to be honest, it’s bitten me in the butt more than once. So, I try to make sure my “contracts” (even the passive variety) are completed via memo, email, or billing process, so I’m covered. A contract is key to keeping it all straight and everyone happy.
1 – Ask for copies (screen shots) of sales reports.
Publishers break down reports based on title, so even if they’ve published other books on the same account, they can snap a screen shot of the title you should have access to, for sales reports. Whatever your agreed upon split, divide the overall sales and deduct the cost of production, there’s your percentage. Anyone can do this, it’s easy.
2 – Don’t change directions mid-stream.
The biggest conflicts arise from verbal contracts that are changed in the middle of the stream, for unknown, or unrecognized reasons. The cost of publication can be determined by the publishing party. Regardless of what needs to be done prior to publication, if a published book is edited there will be some charge, or book covers, or other issues may cost money that isn’t mentioned prior to publication, but when those costs arise, there should be discussion prior to taking them out of future profits, or subtracting them from “the other person’s profit” and there’s no balancing act, if only one person understands the process.
Discussion makes a difference. It really is called communication. Communicate with your fellow author, and make the process happen seamlessly. Don’t shift gears mid-stream and expect everything to be okay.
3 – Marketing your book requires more than you.
Two authors, should come to some agreement about marketing and distribution prior to publication. If that hasn’t happened, sit down and discuss it after the fact and make sure you find mutual ground. Fighting over publications is just really NOT acceptable. Don’t do it. Find a common ground and mutually market your book.
4 – Offer external marketing options.
With two authors (or more) I’ve found it particularly easy to promote external marketing options. If you market the book outside the online perimeters, allow each author access, or ability, to order books at cost, and sell at their marketing events for FULL Profit. This allows for book signings, mass marketing opportunities, speaking engagement, and other marketing opportunities to improve income from books sold, based on WHO sells them.
5 – Credit where credit is due.
Joint publications take an extreme amount of consideration of the other person, or a well written, well covered contract that speaks to every issue.
In general, the credit for effort should be given to the person who made the effort, but it’s really difficult to separate who wrote what pages on a jointly authored book. Opening up that can of worms to demand each author receive due credit is probably going to present a nightmare, so be smart about it. If you jointly author the book, just share the darned credit equally.
Now, to be honest, most editors can pick up the actual voice of the author, pretty rapidly – even if a book has been highly edited. So, don’t push your luck, someone will identify your voice and solve the problem by identifying the amount and quality of the writing for each author. The point is, you’ve agreed to jointly author a book, so DO THAT. Don’t take credit for work you didn’t do, and don’t push the other author away when their contribution was great enough to be considered a co-author.
6 – Copyright matters.
If you truly believe that you’ve been wronged in the publication of a book or of the processes that are made available to you to rectify the situation. Ask your co-author first. If you don’t believe they’re being straight with you, ask for proof. If the proof they give you indicates you’ve been wronged, or they’re holding something back… Ask for more.
There are many options you can ask for, and a good writing consultant can help you with these questions.
7 – Legal Grounds
If someone does infringe on your copyright, you do have legal recourse. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll want to use it.
In one case, the actual author of a book was unaware that an editor he’d paid to edit his book had used copyrighted material in the content as he edited. The editor hadn’t changed attributions on the copyrighted material, which was the first realization that work had been copied… But more importantly, there’d been no attribution on the cover, or in any of the acknowledgements that this author’s work had been used. When the author realized there had been a discrepancy, he contacted the author whose work had been used, and offered to make it right. A cash advance, attribution, and acknowledgement of where the contribution came from was all that was required to use the information already in the book. The original author was happy to release details and rights.
The point…. The original author was once again made whole without the rigors of legal action.
Always acknowledge the legal author of any work you publish. That is important above all.