UK writers’ unions the Society of Authors (SoA) and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), backed by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), have joined forces to research the allegedly exploitative practices of some publishers that charge authors to publish their work. This follows a sharp rise in complaints from authors about these companies received by both unions.
The publishers may describe themselves as ‘hybrid’, ‘contributory’, ‘subsidy’ or ‘partnership’ publishers, but they have much in common with what used to be called ‘vanity’ publishers.
The issues reported range from aggressive marketing tactics and emotionally manipulative sales approaches to opaque contracts and processes, and services that fall short of expectations. The fees charged are typically four or five figures, often with the authors surrendering a wide range of rights and control over their work.
The joint survey is designed to form a picture of the experiences – both positive and negative – of authors who have been approached by or worked with these publishers.
Take the survey here.
The survey will run until 25 April, after which the information gathered will be analysed to develop a true sense of how writers are being affected by these companies. The aim is that this will form the basis of a report and further resources for writers on how to spot and avoid falling foul of predatory practices, and continued campaigning to ensure greater transparency and fairness in every type of publishing approach, with funding provided by ALCS.
In the meantime, the unions ask authors to do three things:
· Complete the survey and help the SoA and WGGB gather as much evidence as possible of writers’ experiences – whether positive or negative – with publishers that charge. You can find out more about the survey and how we will use the results at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/soa-wggb-contributory-publishing-survey.
· Do your research: if you plan to pay for any service that will help you publish or promote your book, check the Services & Ratings section at selfpublishingadvice.org run by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) to see if the companies you are talking to have been rated there.
· Get every contract vetted before you sign: if you are a member of the SoA or WGGB contract vetting is a core part of your membership. Having a contract reviewed by experts can be the best way to avoid future issues before you agree or part with your cash.