Has anyone been involved with publishing a book?
Yes. Rhythm & Beauty
, published almost twenty years ago. I learned much about publishing & contracts on the project.
The first publisher was approached by the author directly and agreed to publish the book. The author then contacted me, I agreed, and the publisher drew up contracts for us to sign. The contracts were a mere two pages and were not good. There was no contingency actions (e.g, payments or penalties) if one member of the contract group (publisher, author, photographer) failed on his part of the agreement. Normal publishing contracts have strict timelines & specifics that authors & publishers must abide by, and this did not have any of that. In addition, the author agreed to share copyrights (of the text) with the publisher (a huge mistake). I signed the contract only after the publisher agreed that I owned 100% of the copyrights & licensing rights to all the images.
The entire body of work was produced in about one year, and it was loads of fun. I met musicians from all over the world, and was introduced to instruments I never knew existed.
We wanted a sponsor for the project and approached a company involved in percussion. This company had a great, world-renown reputation. Once approached, they agreed to sponsor the book, but the publisher ceased communications with that company. It didn't sit well with me. Then, while the book was actually on press, the publisher ceased the project. The printing company then locked up all the assets (i.e., the photographs, in 6x7, 4x5 & 8x10 film formats, printing plates and Quark files).
I called a lawyer, who proceeded to verbally spank me for signing such a bad contract. It was a $900 spanking. He showed me how there was absolutely no legal way to get my films back unless I payed the printer the amount owed by the publisher (approx. $160,000).
Meanwhile the author had gone into a drunken stupor, as he had trusted this publisher from the start, and was now badly burned. The publisher had also fired the graphic artist on the project, laying the blame of cost overruns on her. There were no cost overruns, though; No changes to the copy, layout or photographs were ever done.
The author, graphic artist & I proceeded to look for a publisher who would buy the rights to the work, and publish the book. It seemed like a long shot, but we were willing to try anything at this point (the liquor cabinet was empty).
It took two years to find another publisher, Watson-Guptill, and it coincided with the first publisher declaring bankruptcy. It was only through bankruptcy proceedings that I was able to reclaim all my films.
The Watson-Guptill contract was 48 pages, and was filled with contract contingencies, such as:
- I was responsible for all film & processing costs, all location costs & releases, and all model costs & releases.
- The publisher was responsible for any films while in their possession, and each image had a cost applied to it depending on if it was a main image, cover image, 2-page spread, inset image, etc.
The book was successfully printed, in Hong Kong, and was published with an audio CD containing original music by the author, and a couple cover tunes, performed by the author and others.
One tune on the CD was a Beatles tune, Hello Goodbye
, and the publisher balked at paying the $700 "mechanicals" (the royalties based on the number of books published). I offered to pay the fee, which covered only the first print run. This prompted the senior editor to listen to all the music on the CD, upon which they agreed to pay all mechanicals.
The experience of publishing with an established, known publisher was eye-opening. They answered all my questions about the contract and royalty payments, and about future editions of the book. There were no unknowns for the author & I.
After four years in hardbound, they released a paperback version (without the CD, sadly). The author & I received royalty payments for about ten years after initial publication. In about 2007, the book was "remaindered". All copies in the publisher's possession were sold at a 90% discount. This amounted to about 700 softbound copies, which the author & I bought. He sold them at his performances, I used a few as gifts.
After all that, the underlying element is: The original publisher would never have agreed to the project had we presented a valid contract to him, and the book may have never been published.