PG realizes he went on a rant titled, “Don’t Do Business with Crooks” yesterday.
He’s going to post another rant today, but promises not to become a Serial Ranter.
For one thing, the internet already has more Serial Ranters than any one person, even if she/he were very, very, very angry or the hugest giganticast Ranter Fan ever, could read in a hundred lifetimes.
(Incidentally, rant.com is for sale.)
PG has had several people ask him to review an unsolicited publishing contract the have received from a “Hong Kong publisher” with a name that doesn’t seem to appear anywhere online.
At least some of the Hong Kong contracts PG has scanned are pretty close to identical in their wording and others are a bit different.
However, all of these contracts share some similar features, including:
- The author hadn’t pitched a book to any publisher in Hong Kong.
- From front to back, each contract was terrible.
- There were no audit rights (PG isn’t certain, but there might have been one contract that included an audit clause, but the audit had to take place in Hong Kong and only what appeared to be Hong Kong’s version of a Certified Public Accountant could conduct such an audit.
- When PG did a short bit of online searching, he couldn’t find a website for the Hong Kong publisher.
- Ditto for a publisher search on Amazon (US).
- The contract granted the publisher rights to the book for the full term of the copyright (sometimes in Hong Kong and sometimes everywhere) and for all languages.
- If the author got mad and hired a (Hong Kong) lawyer, the dispute would be heard in Hong Kong pursuant to the laws of Hong Kong in front of a Hong Kong judge.
How could anything go wrong?
The reason the indie authors (they were all indie) gave was that they didn’t have anything going in Hong Kong and probably wouldn’t, so, what the heck?
Yes, some people will just pirate your book outright. You send notices to Amazon (does anyone bother to send notices to Nook?) and Amazon pulls the book down.
Such actions may not stop a dedicated thief, but they may deter a thief with an IQ above room temperature.
The thief wants to stay below Amazon’s radar. If the thief is posting copies of dozens of books online, it’s safer for the thief to put up books that don’t generate an objection than to face Amazon freezing the thief’s account (which may have some royalties on sales of other counterfeit books that haven’t been paid yet the thief may forfeit) so the thief has to open another account and start again.
(PG has heard unconfirmed rumors that if a book is pirated on more than a few occasions, Amazon may require a more complex process for anyone who wants to post the same or similar book again. If Amazon wanted to do so, since it owns owns the largest cloud computing platform in the world, PG speculates that the company could set up a system that would do a quick textual analysis of every book uploaded and compare the analysis against those already uploaded (PG suspects a unique digital fingerprint for each book might be involved if Amazon were to do something like this) to help identify book thieves.)
PG apologizes for his digression, but his bottom line is, if an indie author receives an unsolicited proposal or publishing contract from Hong Kong, that author should:
- Don’t feel flattered that someone noticed your book.
- If you want to waste the scammer’s time, ask for an advance payment from the “publisher” to demonstrate that the publisher is operating in good faith and is really interested in your book. PG might call such a payment an Advanced Advance.
Same advice for a publishing contract from Moscow.