Yesterday's post on the free Writer's Digest ebooks raised some interesting questions. It seems that at least in the case of author Les Edgerton (who wrote Hooked) the publisher did not even let the authors know they planned to offer their work for free.
You might want to hear what Edgerton thought of his treatment. Make sure to read the comments to grasp more of the discussion. While the freebie has raised his book's stats on Amazon, there are some disturbing implications for authors at the mercy of a contract's fine print. Likely, it's only after things like this happen that authors realize the possibilities spawned by difficult-to-understand contract language.
When publishers treat authors with little regard (and word gets out about it in our socially-connected world) it drives more and more writers towards self-publishing. Writers spend huge amounts of time on their books, and it can take years for them to see any profit from their work. It's frustrating for them to have their work given away, especially if they're not part of the decision process.
I faithfully read agent Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants. Many of her posts are connected to the deciphering of contract language, and how even little things can end up being painful elements in an author's life. This post, titled Scarier than Halloween, is a great example of details I would never have thought of. I can't imagine how an author without representation would end up with a fair deal.
I'm not saying that publishers are bad. They're in this business to make money. But so are authors. I believe that authors need a well-informed agent on their side to wade through contract language. And authors need to research all their options--both for traditional publishing and self-publishing--before they make a decision.
Which way are you leaning right now?