If you write on any platforms like Wattpad or Inkitt, then you’ve probably been emailed or left a comment about writing for other apps promising big payouts. Rule of thumb: Don’t buy it.
I’ve received emails from many mobile apps promising sign up bonuses and a tiered process about how much they’ll pay out depending on the number of readers you have. While these apps will pay out, it’s often not as much money as you’d think. Not only that, but many of these sites want you to sign a contract that’s either exclusive or non-exclusive.
You may be thinking, “Oh, well, how about the non-exclusive one?” Well, the only thing exclusive and non-exclusive mean, is that either they’re the only ones you can work with on your book, or they’re not. The contracts are essentially the same, just that you can now keep your published work on your original writing platform with the non-exclusive version. They give you a little more leeway but not by much. They also decrease your payout so you think the exclusive contract is more lucrative. Talk about manipulative.
These contracts seem all fine and dandy at face value, but if you read on they start entering dangerous waters where essentially the company retains all rights to YOUR work. This includes publishing, distribution, sells, and so on. Essentially, you’ve just handed your novel over to someone else for the initial $100 – $400 sign on bonus.
If that’s not bad enough, one of the contracts I read over even said that they had the right to secure any media deals with my book including the characters. That’s movie deals, graphic novels, TV shows, etc. But since they would now own the rights, they don’t have to pay me a dime! Hmmm…
Not only that, but many of these contracts lack an end date for the term of acquiring your novel. They have a “termination clause” usually around the end of the contract that states if you terminate for any reason that you’ll be liable for the amount they’ve paid to you, to pay it back and then some. Also, if the company chooses to terminate the contract for any reason, then you’re still the one dangling at the end of that financial rope. Sounds unfair, right?
Even if they do have an end date for the contract, I think the shortest one I’ve seen was 5 years with the longest one being indefinite.
Don’t even get me started on promotion and marketing! Some of these people I’ve entertained and asked questions of and none of them can promise that my book will be featured on their platform. If that’s the case, then it’s up to the author to promote their own work and if you’re new, that’s kind of tough. These platforms run like most, with an algorithm that selects popular or trending stories for their front page. That’s a lot of competition if you have the time to run your own campaigns on social media.
It also bothers me that many of these contracts want to silence you. They state that if you talk to anyone else about the contract, post it up, complain, whatever, that you’ll be terminated and taken to court…for what? Speaking the truth about how awful they are?
My best advice before you sign any contract with anyone is to have a lawyer read over it. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to know especially since these things are loaded with terminology the average person wouldn’t understand.
There are a bunch of sharks out there and it’s up to us to look out for each other. Happy writing everyone!
4 thoughts on “Writing Scams: Read the Fine Print”
So, this is my take as well. There’s no way *not* to make mistakes when self-publishing (the biggest being never trying to self-publish if you really want to). But reading your contracts is not a mistake. I agree re. getting a lawyer if you need one, though that’s usually further along in the publishing process, it’s not always! Rights grabs are shockingly common in contracts these days, and they can be coming from people who want to build a catalog of ideas and know how to separate the creator from the idea to monetize it for themselves.
Here’s something I wonder if you’ve run into. I’ve filed copyrights on my books and gotten a contract proposal from a publisher before the copyright comes back. I’m talking on a book no one knew was coming. This shocked the heck out of me. I don’t suppose you’ve see that before?
That IS really interesting. I haven’t seen that before, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. According to Reedsy, I read an article saying that in the US and the UK, your work is automatically copyrighted to you as soon as you put pen to paper with the idea. However, it’s not a bad idea to register your work under copyright for insurance purposes. The article was pretty interesting if you’d like to check it out. https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-copyright-a-book/
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