Getting back to the contract terms for a moment. Historically, the contracts that have been the most egregious in this industry have been the ones that go after “low hanging fruit.” Authors that are (a) inexperienced (b) are willing to sign anything to see their dream of being published become a reality. I think many of the people who will sign with Wattpad Books will fall into this classification. Now, maybe Wattpad Books is breaking that trend. And if they are, great! But until they provide some transparency in their terms I’m going to remain skeptical. Let’s look at a similar situation.
Back in November of 2012 Penguin Random House announced three new digital imprints: Alibi (mysteries and thrillers) , Flirt (romance) , and Hydra (sci-fi and fantasy). Because they were “digital only” (with the possibility of a print book if sales were good), they obviously were not something that someone like me would rush to, and those that would sign with them fit the description of the “low hanging fruit.” Well, it didn’t take long before their contract terms started circulating, and as expected they were horrific (even by traditional publishing standards). So terrible in fact, and PRH got so much negative press, that they revamped their terms in Mar of 2013. Did they get better, yes. Were they good? No.
Another example was the Amazon Breakout Novel Award - which ran from 2008 - 2014. The winner of that contest (and some runners up) received publishing contracts (with advances) and at the time the contract WAS published online – because entering the contest meant you would accept terms of the contract as posted, no negotiation. Period. Given where I was in my career when the Award came into being, I looked at it quite seriously. But again the contract was terrible mainly because it did a lot of right-grabby (which in their defense is common in the “industry”) but it was still worst than most. Again, this contract was aimed at the low-hanging fruit.
I would love it if the Wattpad Books contract broke new ground and actually offered a “good contract” to people signing with this imprint. And if they did that, they would have no more vocal advocate them myself. But, business being business, and the ability to pray on the weak a very real possibility, I’m skeptical. Please, Wattpad, prove me wrong, and provide some transparency on some basic contract terms:
- Advance or no advance?
- Does the author have to pay for anything?
- Is the term a fixed length (if so how long), or is it for the life of copyright?
- What are the ebook royalty rates (and are they based on list or net)?
- What are the print royalty rates (and are they based on list or net)?
You don’t have to expose what the advance have been, but whether there are any would be a good thing to know. And for the record. I’m not saying a publisher that doesn’t offer advances is the scum of the earth. I’ve said many times I would much rather have a non-advance contract with higher royalty rates than a large adance contract with low ones. I’ve just never found a publisher that wil take me up on that offer ;-). Well, I take that back, I did have one, but other aspects of that contract made it such that we ultimately didn’t sign.