Contracts OR What We Are All About
Yes, we can show you the ropes vis a vis book publishing. We have been doing this for 25+ years and now we are thrilled to have national / international distribution.
The distributor takes a big chunk of the income, but distribution creates an opportunity for our writers who now can expose their work to a vastly wider public and can develop their reputations as writers. In the past some authors have stair-stepped, promoted their Cune Press book very hard, won awards, won contracts with major presses . . . and ultimately garnered jobs as writing teachers and newspaper columnists. The possibilities of this type of career enhancement are now greatly increased.
Even with Amazon, bookstores are still the best way to get authors and readers to do a handshake . . . which is one definition of a book. So, we need distribution. It is a good thing, even though it leaves a press somewhat starved for cash until . . . libraries or a collection of admiring bookstores or ??? is in place.
On the subject of our contract with our authors, some context:
Our contract is pretty much word for word a standard university press contract, based on the one I signed with University Press of Kentucky in 1987.
I have added some language about getting promo copies to authors who want to vigorously promote their work. Kentucky asked me to buy the books I was giving away as promo copies at full retail. I had a construction business, so I bought it from their consortium bookstore at a 40% discount. Still, I came away with the idea that if an author is going to vigorously promote her book, the publisher should make promo copies available gratis.
Book publishing is a business, but just barely. It is a collection of people who love books and who have fun with the game of creating and selling books . . . because they believe that human beings need to think in order to stave off disaster and to live with dignity in our universe.
If authors want to have a lawyer examine the contract, let's hope your lawyer does not get too hard core and "kill the vibe." This is not a highly commercial situation involving a clash of corporate titans. It is a friendly collaboration that normally does not have significant cash money at stake.
Outside of a very few presidents, sports stars, movie stars, etc. no one in the book business makes much money. That's why I have a construction company. Other publishers also have side gigs. Some run a consultancy to promote books for major commercial publishers or for individual authors. Others have developed a niche that is “evergreen” such as a “very practical” book that will not win literary awards but is useful to people with the means to cover the cost (business manuals typically) and pays the bills.
If a book happens to click with the public and "breaks out" . . . then, yes, the author and publisher can make some money. Yet 99% of books sell in smallish numbers.
The value of books is clearly not as tools for generating income. Books are a way of injecting knowledge and instructive entertainment into the public sphere, of enhancing one’s professional career and building one’s resume, of achieving a personal goal to conceive and express ideas in long form. Books also provide a pretext for media work . . . which reaches a far wider audience and can be important in getting your message to the public and, ultimately, in creating change.
We are doing a virtuous activity to challenge ourselves and to create something fresh and new and useful to those around us. We are doing what we can to “save the world” with reason and soul.
If the object is making money, I am looking for construction workers right now. Let me know.
Scott C. Davis,
Founder of Cune Press