by Thomas Gondolfi – Since our origins there have been those who have pointed at TANSTAAFL Press and called us a vanity press or an outright cheat. As founder I’ve bristled at these comments but have kept my own angst under my hat, thinking that those people just didn’t understand. I waited, but watched.
I recently lost a potential author (and maybe a potential friend) because of our original contract. I was really unable to get that person to engage with me after I shared it with her. I was perplexed. On the heels of that crushing blow, I was told by a convention official, who I’ve never met, that I couldn’t move my seminars into the writer’s track because “we steer people away from vanity presses like you.” Wow. I could have been knocked over with a feather. I’m hoping to “repair” both of these broken relationships but for now they are just broken.
Our original contract we formed by taking the BEST of the pieces of author-positive contracts. Heck I’m an author and want everyone to have a contract I personally would be willing to sign on the other side. Only one piece wasn’t pulled or paraphrased from other contracts and that seemed to be the sticking point. The entire issue was around one section of the contract that I’d put in because I thought people would WANT the option I made available.
In short, the contract offered (but didn’t require) an Author to invest to cover some percentage of the initial costs (all receipts provided) in order to get a larger royalty percentage. Seems reasonable, right? In my mind it is / was a business decision that can be simply determined. I guess this was a /fail.
I took and rewrote a much more normal contract with a percentage of the net (with a smaller percentage than was called out in the original contract for zero investment) and offered both the key portions of this an author organization I was in and asked bluntly which, if either, contract they’d rather sign. I also dropped this on several authors I know. Overwhelmingly (as in all but one) said the second percentage of the net contract or, in complete honesty, a couple of cases neither.
When I probed it turned out to be a visceral response to “asking for money.” Most authors these days are taught that money should only EVER flow one direction and that anyone else was a charlatan. When I created the contract I considered it an honest business decision that the author had complete control over. Why would their be an issue? Well obviously I was wrong!
One other thing came out – Why would TANSTAAFL Press fight hard to sell a book when they are only making a small percentage (with investment) when we could fight just as hard and sell a book for a much higher percentage (without investment). I see the built in conflict of interest. The only thing that would change that would be to watch me pitch my other author’s books vs my own book. It won’t take more than once or twice before you notice that I don’t give a flying care which one gets sold. I want the customer happy! I want receipts flowing in. BUT, at least this one made sense.
TANSTAAFL Press has NEVER been a vanity press. We have NEVER been a cheat or a scam. We never will be either of these things. We are new and will make mistakes (and own up to them). This appears to be one of those time. So in conclusion we’ve all but ditched our old contract. We will only offer the new percentage based contract. I’m hoping with this post, an apology, and a claim of impetuous youth (at least in the publishing game) that I may be able to repair the couple of bridges that were broken.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.