End bad practice in ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishing – sign the open letter

Illustration © Olga Kalinichenko (Okalinichenko) / Adobe Stock

Join 235 other signatories – read, sign and share our open letter calling ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishing companies to commit to 15 key publishing principles, for transparency, fairness and professional conduct.

To the ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishing sector…

An investigation by the Society of Authors (SoA) and Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) into ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishing services has exposed widespread bad practice among companies that charge writers for publication.

Is it a steal? details aggressive marketing tactics, manipulative sales approaches, unclear contracts and publishing processes and services that fall far short of expectations and value. The report also includes the findings of a survey which found that 94% of writers who had paid to have their book published, lost money typically in the thousands, paying an average of £2,000 with median royalties coming in at a mere £68.

We, the undersigned, join the SoA and WGGB’s call for ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishers to commit to the 15 key publishing principles below, to ensure they work with writers in a way which is clear, fair and represents best practice in our industry. 

As writers, our work can entertain, teach and bring a sense of escapism to our readers. Our work is valuable, with the UK publishing industry turning over a reported £6 billion a year. Of course, there are many different routes to publishing a book, but whatever approach is used to take our work to readers it should be based on contractual clarity and fairness. If we are paying for publication, it should be based on value for money. Any legitimate publisher or service provider will be keen to commit to these principles and end bad practice.

Any legitimate publisher or service provider will be keen to commit to these principles and end bad practice.

If you represent an organisation that is ready to commit to or discuss the 15 key publishing principles below, please email publicaffairs@societyofauthors.org.

1. Business model

Be clear about your business model from the outset. Provide detailed information on your website and other marketing materials about how you make your money. Vague references to ‘hybrid’ or ‘partnership’ models are not enough for writers to make an informed decision about whether to work with you. If you adopt a traditional approach when publishing some writers but charge others for publication, be up front about what proportion of the books you publish are paid for by writers. Declare what proportion of your revenue is derived from book sales and exploitation of rights, and what proportion is from writers’ payments.

2. Consumer rights

Notify writers of their rights and allow them to withdraw by sending Consumer Rights Act notices.

3. Transparent costing and predicted return on investment

If you charge authors for any services provide typical cost and sales figures to writers before they sign, setting out the itemised cost of every service, including itemised listings of optional extras and the predicted result or return to enable them to make informed decisions on value for money and likely return on investment. Any estimated costings you provide should be binding and should not change unless extra services are mutually agreed in writing. For each element of the service you provide, provide a detailed, plain English explanation in writing of what you will provide in return for their payment.

4. Production

Ensure you have substantial editing, design, production, sales, and distribution expertise and capacity, and explain how you will meet the needs of each book.

5. Marketing

Produce a clear marketing plan and budget for each book, including how you will work with third parties including printers, distributers or sub-agents for example. If you do not provide marketing for the book you publish, or if it is an optional extra, make this clear from the outset.

6. Physical copies

Be clear in your publishing commitments about how many books will be produced initially in each format. State whether books will be produced as print-on-demand (POD). It is not enough to state that you will print ‘up to’ a certain quantity of books. Of the copies that you manufacture, be clear who owns them – you or the writer.

7. Contracts

Ensure your publishing contracts are as clear as possible, setting out in writing the exact scope of the rights granted (see the C.R.E.A.T.O.R. campaign for fair contract terms, in which we ask for appropriate Clarity, Remuneration, Exploitation, Accounting, Terms, Ownership and Reasonableness of contract terms). This should include a plain English overview of the terms and implications of the contract. All contract terms should be reasonable and time limited. They should include regular reviews to consider new forms of exploitation. Include a clear reversion clause in every contract (see 15). Be clear that you are happy for writers to discuss your proposed contract and their concerns with the SoA’s or WGGB’s teams of specialist advisors. Allow time for this to happen.

8. Financial clarity

If royalties are offered, be clear on how the royalty is calculated across all formats and platforms and offer royalties that fairly reflect the level of writer investment. Contracts should include rising royalty scales or ‘bestseller clauses’ so that if a work does far better than expected, the creator shares in its success.

9. Publishing and production best practice

Publish books under their own ISBNs and publish to best practice standards, including editorial support, copy editing, attention to proofs, production and design. Get approval from the writer on all matters of production.

10. Exploitation of rights

Only take rights in a work that you need and have the skill and expertise to exploit yourself. Only acquire rights to sub-license any of the author’s rights where you can guarantee active, adequate and profitable exploitation of the writer’s rights by that third-party. Be active in selling and exploiting any rights you take.

11. Credit

Credit all creators involved, such as editors, illustrators and translators, for their contributions in the work, including in all metadata. Moral rights must not be waived.

12. Responsible sales tactics

Never target writers in emotionally manipulative ways or seek to upsell unnecessary services to increase payment required by the writer.

13. Clear communication

Maintain strong lines of communication with the writer. It is particularly important for a writer to have a named contact with whom they can communicate about editorial, publicity and accounting matters.

14. Accounting clarity

Account to writers no less than twice a year and abide by best practice accounting standards. Royalty statements should be easy to understand and detailed. They should cover royalty payments and other sources of remuneration. Be ready to provide information about how the book is selling on request, even if it is between statement dates. Share the good news of any significant sales deals with the writer whenever they occur. Always pay on time and without having to be prompted. Within limits, authors should have the right to examine the publisher’s books and distributor statements or request an audit if they feel there is an error in statements or payments.

15. Rights and reversion

Take rights for a limited term – typically two years – and revert rights on request. If it isn’t working, financially or professionally, then be honest and let the writer go with professionalism and fairness.


Signatories
235 Julian Hughes Aug 25, 2022
234 Owen Knight Jul 26, 2022
233 Dawn Hornby Jul 15, 2022
232 Jacky Hyams Jul 14, 2022
231 Ruth Taylor Jul 13, 2022
230 Xanda Monteiro Jun 17, 2022
229 Veronica Lawson Jun 13, 2022
228 Jacqueline Smith-Autard Jun 13, 2022
227 Lez Cooke Jun 06, 2022
226 julian bishop May 31, 2022
225 Veronica Zundel May 30, 2022
224 Maggie Ling May 30, 2022
223 Marina Sanchez May 30, 2022
222 Lynne Pardoe May 30, 2022
221 Lisa White May 30, 2022
220 Alison Fell May 29, 2022
219 Richard Walsh May 28, 2022
218 Colin Price May 28, 2022
217 William Roberts May 27, 2022
216 Sarah Quick May 27, 2022
215 Jonathan Smith May 27, 2022
214 Elizabeth Smith May 27, 2022
213 Clare Chase May 26, 2022
212 Bruce Cowan May 26, 2022
211 Juliet Heslewood May 26, 2022
210 James Withey May 26, 2022
209 Madeleine McDonald May 26, 2022
208 Duncan Harris May 26, 2022
207 Roger Webber May 26, 2022
206 Geraldine Bridgewater May 26, 2022
205 Lucy Caxton Brown May 26, 2022
204 Jackie Marchant May 26, 2022
203 Vanessa Morgan May 26, 2022
202 Willie Orr May 26, 2022
201 Marcus Nannini May 26, 2022
200 Prudence Jones May 26, 2022
199 Graham Masterton May 26, 2022
198 Robert Penfold May 26, 2022
197 Michael Simpson May 26, 2022
196 Robin Waite May 26, 2022
195 Gerald Green May 26, 2022
194 John Rodger May 26, 2022
193 James McConnachie May 26, 2022
192 Carla Buckley May 26, 2022
191 Stephen Gallagher May 26, 2022
190 Kate Sotejeff-Wilson May 26, 2022
189 Sharon D'All May 26, 2022
188 Alan Rafferty May 26, 2022
187 Dr Wendy E Maples May 25, 2022
186 Antonia Reed May 23, 2022
185 Susan Talbot (Revd. Dr.) May 23, 2022
184 Michael Allaby May 23, 2022
183 Ben Jeapes May 22, 2022
182 Sarah Waters May 22, 2022
181 Richard Doherty May 22, 2022
180 Matthew Bullen May 21, 2022
179 Christopher Norris May 21, 2022
178 Janet Hardacre May 21, 2022
177 Sue Johnson May 21, 2022
176 Despina Katsirea May 21, 2022
175 vesna main May 21, 2022
174 P. Bladon May 21, 2022
173 Jonathan Burt May 21, 2022
172 Alexandra Smith May 21, 2022
171 Jacinta Farragher May 20, 2022
170 Vivien Price May 20, 2022
169 Fay Sampson May 20, 2022
168 Maureen Wingham May 20, 2022
167 Betty Rose May 20, 2022
166 Rosie Hamilton-McGinty May 20, 2022
165 Jennifer Upton May 20, 2022
164 Barbara Henderson May 20, 2022
163 Pamela Mann May 20, 2022
162 Alison Riley May 20, 2022
161 Simon David Eden May 20, 2022
160 Mark Butterworth May 20, 2022
159 Elinor Shaffer May 20, 2022
158 Dermot Murphy May 20, 2022
157 Lindsey Davis May 20, 2022
156 Jacqueline Smith May 20, 2022
155 Catherine McLoughlin May 20, 2022
154 Valerie Hughes May 20, 2022
153 Todd Kingsley-Jones May 20, 2022
152 James Christie May 20, 2022
151 Rebecca Horsfall May 20, 2022
150 Roland Glasser May 20, 2022
149 Deborah Tomkins May 20, 2022
148 Jack Scoltock May 20, 2022
147 Shirley Fox May 20, 2022
146 Caitlín Matthews May 20, 2022
145 Julia Cresswell May 20, 2022
144 Margaret Pelling May 20, 2022
143 Gillian Ogilvie May 20, 2022
142 Sue Moorcroft May 20, 2022
141 Adriana Diaz Enciso May 20, 2022
140 Katherine Mezzacappa May 20, 2022
139 Sonya Moor May 20, 2022
138 Diane M Dickson May 20, 2022
137 Philip Caveney May 20, 2022
136 John Rice May 20, 2022
135 Anam Zafar May 20, 2022
134 Terry Marsh May 20, 2022
133 Marie-Louise Eyres May 20, 2022
132 Nicola Morgan May 20, 2022
131 Jane Steen May 20, 2022
130 Cristina Loggia May 20, 2022
129 PAUL SAYER May 20, 2022
128 Robert Ashton May 20, 2022
127 Tarquin de Fleurriet de la Force May 20, 2022
126 Paul Fischer May 20, 2022
125 Clare Mulley May 20, 2022
124 Frances Dickens May 20, 2022
123 Cynthia Rodríguez Juárez May 20, 2022
122 Georgina Kamsika May 20, 2022
121 Anastasia Miari May 20, 2022
120 Nick Yapp May 20, 2022
119 Martine McDonagh May 18, 2022
118 Simon Harley May 18, 2022
117 Romy Sommer May 18, 2022
116 Sue Mannin May 17, 2022
115 Elizabeth Collins May 15, 2022
114 Nicole Strickland May 14, 2022
113 Meg Hellyer May 14, 2022
112 LR Price Publications Ltd May 13, 2022
111 Carol Mills May 13, 2022
110 Tamsin Stanford May 12, 2022
109 Kevin Crowe May 11, 2022
108 Paolo Russo May 11, 2022
107 Sally Asnicar May 11, 2022
106 Lynne Kelly AM May 11, 2022
105 Isolde Martyn May 11, 2022
104 Olivia Lanchester (CEO of Australian Society of Authors) May 11, 2022
103 Alan Spence May 10, 2022
102 Sarah Fretwell-Jex May 09, 2022
101 Richard Peet May 08, 2022
100 Tracy Halfacre May 08, 2022
99 Nina Kristofferson (WGGB London & South East Chair) May 07, 2022
98 Bethany White May 06, 2022
97 Louise Close May 05, 2022
96 Jeannie Waudby May 05, 2022
95 Angeline Adams May 05, 2022
94 Reeva Singh May 05, 2022
93 Alessio Whittaker-Campigotto May 05, 2022
92 Michelle Hayward May 05, 2022
91 Wendy Percival May 04, 2022
90 Raj Gor May 04, 2022
89 Victoria Gartner May 04, 2022
88 Paula Alvarez Vaccaro May 04, 2022
87 Sophie Woolley May 04, 2022
86 Deola Folarin May 04, 2022
85 Helena Halme May 04, 2022
84 Christian Ellingsen May 03, 2022
83 Helena Medina May 03, 2022
82 Tobsha Learner May 03, 2022
81 Matthew Murphy May 03, 2022
80 David Jones May 03, 2022
79 Tania Diggory May 03, 2022
78 Michael Baker May 03, 2022
77 Tobias Steed May 03, 2022
76 JAY Joshi May 03, 2022
75 Martin Evans May 03, 2022
74 Joanne Dunphy May 03, 2022
73 Stephen Wyatt May 03, 2022
72 Nicholas Wright May 03, 2022
71 Susan Mac Nicol May 03, 2022
70 Michael Ironside May 03, 2022
69 Coinneach Shanks May 03, 2022
68 Zara Janjua May 03, 2022
67 Kal Bonner May 03, 2022
66 Shirley Day May 03, 2022
65 Greg Dinner May 03, 2022
64 Natasha Sutton Williams May 03, 2022
63 David Llewellyn May 02, 2022
62 Karen Inglis May 02, 2022
61 Helena Fairfax May 01, 2022
60 Catherine Kullmann May 01, 2022
59 Debbie Young May 01, 2022
58 Sally Calder May 01, 2022
57 Julie Day May 01, 2022
56 Liz Harris May 01, 2022
55 Clare Flynn May 01, 2022
54 Amarjyoti ACHARYA Apr 29, 2022
53 Carol Campbell Apr 29, 2022
52 Leo Bonomo Apr 29, 2022
51 Gillian Richmond Apr 29, 2022
50 Carol Farrelly Apr 29, 2022
49 James Giddings Apr 29, 2022
48 Anne Rooney (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
47 Brian Finucane Apr 29, 2022
46 Nancy Boulicault Apr 29, 2022
45 Ewart Hutton Apr 29, 2022
44 Steve Ince Apr 29, 2022
43 Simon Guerrier Apr 29, 2022
42 Ambre Morvan Apr 29, 2022
41 Catherine Pocock Apr 29, 2022
40 Johanna Clarke Apr 29, 2022
39 Teddy MacDonald Apr 29, 2022
38 Ruby Chopra Apr 29, 2022
37 Katharine King Apr 29, 2022
36 Georgia Wilson Apr 29, 2022
35 Heather Party Apr 29, 2022
34 Christin Adler Apr 29, 2022
33 Sophia Jackson Apr 29, 2022
32 Anna Ganley Apr 29, 2022
31 Martin Reed Apr 29, 2022
30 David Allison (WGGB Yorkshire rep) Apr 29, 2022
29 Manon Eames (WGGB Wales Rep) Apr 29, 2022
28 Richard Pinner (WGGB Theatre Chair) Apr 29, 2022
27 Tom Williams (WGGB Film Chair) Apr 29, 2022
26 Emma Reeves (WGGB TV Chair) Apr 29, 2022
25 Gail Renard (WGGB Treasurer) Apr 29, 2022
24 Tim Stimpson (WGGB Deputy Chair) Apr 29, 2022
23 Nick Yapp (WGGB Books Co-Chair) Apr 29, 2022
22 Corinne Sweet (WGGB Books Co-Chair) Apr 29, 2022
21 Hugh Roberts (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
20 Ross Montgomery (SoA Children's Writers and Illustrators Group) Apr 29, 2022
19 Hannah Berry (SoA Comics Creators Network) Apr 29, 2022
18 Sarah Tooze (SoA Comics Creators Network) Apr 29, 2022
17 Victoria Strauss (Co-Founder of Writer Beware) Apr 29, 2022
16 William Manley (SoA in Scotland Committee) Apr 29, 2022
15 Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
14 Robin Mukherjee (SoA Scriptwriters Group) Apr 29, 2022
13 Charles Harris (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
12 Claire Watts (SoA in Scotland Committee) Apr 29, 2022
11 Mac Logan (Chair of SoA in Scotland) Apr 29, 2022
10 Margaret Skea (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
9 Donald Murray (SoA in Scotland Committee) Apr 29, 2022
8 Jane MacKenzie (SoA in Scotland Committee) Apr 29, 2022
7 Abie Longstaff (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
6 Dawn Finch (Chair of SoA's Children's Writers and Illustrators Group) Apr 29, 2022
5 Katrina Naomi (Chair of SoA's Poetry and Spoken Word Group) Apr 29, 2022
4 Ignaty Dyakov-Richmond (Chair of SoA's Educational Writers Group) Apr 29, 2022
3 Tim Tate (SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022
2 Nicola Solomon (SoA Chief Executive) Apr 29, 2022
1 Joanne Harris (Chair of SoA Management Committee) Apr 29, 2022

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End bad practice in ‘hybrid’ / paid-for publishing - sign the open letter

235 signatures