Ask PZM: October 2013

Q. What are the advantages of being your own publisher if you buy back the rights to your book? Do you buy all your books back? How do you distribute the book without the help of the publisher?
While I am not an expert on these questions nor am I a lawyer, I do have experience having rights reverted to me from a traditional publisher.  So let’s explore these questions together.

There are many elements of the above questions:
If your books are not in ebook format and the publisher has no plans to put your books in ebook format, I would say definitely get back the rights to all your books and put these in ebook format.
If your ebooks are controlled by the publisher and you cannot add links for each new book inside your other ebooks or decide yourself on enrolling in Amazon’s KDP Select, etc., you might want to get back the rights.
(I got back the rights to a self-published ebook when I learned I had lost the ability to make changes in the ebook.  This was because my ebook was uploaded to the ebook converter’s KDP account instead of my own account.)
 If your paperback books are no longer available except as used books, I would say that you should get back the rights to all your books in this case also.  If the publisher still offers some of your books as new, then you might want to keep those books with the publisher until this is no longer true.
If your publisher is not doing a good job of marketing but you are marketing your own books, it may not be necessary to get back the rights.  You simply go on marketing your own books.
In terms of distribution – you can republish your paperback books basically for free via Amazon’s CreateSpace (I recommend this site because, besides using it myself, new books are listed on Amazon almost immediately) and choose the expanded distribution for a very minimal amount.  
I did this for my Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION (originally published in 1992 and co-authored with Rabbi Karen L. Fox) when the rights reverted to us.  This way we could make the book available on Amazon as new rather than having an Amazon listing that only used books were available. 
Obviously if your publisher has your books in major retail outlets (such as actual book stores) and your books are selling through these outlets, you may not want to get your rights back.  This is because on your own you are probably less likely to get retail outlets to carry your books.
  
On the other hand, if there is only one copy of your book in retail outlets and that copy does not sell because no one can find it on the shelves, then perhaps distribution through a traditional publisher does not have that much to offer you.
The problem is that there is no crystal ball – you cannot know for sure what is the right thing to do about getting your rights back.  And the publishing landscape changes so quickly that there are very few “for sure” landmarks. 
 
The one thing you can be sure of is that you are more passionate about your books than a publisher.  
If having the rights to your own books means you can have the books available as new on online book sites and have ebooks available, then seriously consider this option.
P.S.  And if you sign a contract with a traditional publisher, make sure that contract includes a specific time when the rights revert to you (and which rights revert).
 
Q:  Have there been changes on Wattpad for publishing works-in-progress?
Yes, there have been some important changes.  You can read my blog post about this at http://budurl.com/Wattpadchanges
Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books and the co-founder of the online marketing company www.MillerMosaicLLC.com  She blogs on author and book topics at www.PhyllisZimblerMiller.com   
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If you have a question for Ask PZM in November, contact Joylene at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot com and she’ll pass it along to Phyllis. 

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