In a perfect world there would be no need for legally binding, written contracts. Every person who freely enters into a verbal agreement would honor his or her commitment to uphold their end of the deal, as would the person(s) responsible for providing the desired service or product discussed and agreed upon. People would resolve their differences among themselves — with no need to involve legal professionals.
Alas, this is not a perfect world and as such, legally binding contracts are required (much to the relief of most lawyers, I suspect).
So let’s deal in reality, shall we?
Writestream Publishing provides a valuable service to clients who seek to independently publish books in both fiction and nonfiction. When Lisa and I created our publishing packages and add-on services, we spent a significant amount of time researching other independent publishing companies, analyzing our experiences as indie authors (e.g. what we did and didn’t like about the services we’ve used in the past), and brainstorming the ways in which we could offer the most at the best price possible. We also decided from the outset that all of our fees would be posted on our website. That’s how confident we were in our status as the most competitively priced independent publishing company out there.
As we have mentioned in previous blog posts like Independent Publishing and Managing Expectations, we understand and appreciate the fact that this is an investment — an investment in you, your story, and your legacy — with absolutely no guarantee that you will turn a profit from your product (yes, your book is your product) or even recoup the cost of whatever service you hire us to perform on your behalf. No, I am not dismissing the possibility of earning money from your book; I am simply stating that for most authors it takes consistent effort over the long haul (months or years) before they achieve the kind of book sales they’re after.
None of that however, negates the value of the services Lisa and I provide along with our independent contractors, including graphic designers and manuscript formatters. Like it or not readers do judge books by their covers, which is why we built the cost of customized cover design into our packages. An enticing cover compels a reader to open your book, which is where professional writing (in the case of a ghostwriter), editing (included in every package), and formatting (the proper alignment of text, appropriate font, headers, footers, pagination, table of contents, etc.) come into play. In short, if your product lacks professional polish, it doesn’t matter if you’ve written the greatest book the world has ever seen; people will dismiss it as amateurish and take a pass. With an endless array of choices available to them, there’s no reason for readers to buy something they perceive as having little worth simply because of shoddy packaging.
Providing these exceptional services on behalf of our clients takes time. It’s also how we earn our living. Before we enter into a contract with any individual we spend a great deal of time talking with them about their project, our combined experience, and our commitment to them should they choose to hire us. To help them reach a decision, we encourage them to call previous clients who have given us permission to do so. We post client testimonials on our website. By the time we send anyone a contract, we have done our best to put them at ease with us, the process, and the quality of work they can expect from two talented, hard-working women who give their all to every project.
The terms we’ve discussed are clearly laid out in our Publishing Agreement. There’s no hidden agenda. We take every contract we enter into seriously with the intention, will, and commitment to uphold our end of the deal.
Which brings me to the matter at hand.
Understanding the financial obligation involved for all of the reasons stated above, we initially offered payment plans to those who requested them. We wanted to be understanding. We wanted to help. We appreciated their desire to tell their story. And in some cases this has worked out well for us; we are currently working with clients who are honoring their commitment to the arrangement (as are we), and the projects are proceeding along nicely.
Unfortunately, a recent spate of events has confirmed that payment plans can no longer be an option with Writestream Publishing. Without being too specific, we’ve had problems with clients who have willingly entered into written contracts with us based on mutually agreed-upon terms — including price (non-negotiable) and payment plans. Now they want to essentially “see more work from us” before making the final payment — you know, the one with a clearly specified due date in the contract they freely signed.
Because we are a business; because we honor ourselves and the work that we do; because we know first-hand the time-consuming nature of high-quality independent publishing, effective immediately all services must be paid in advance. Not only do Lisa and I enjoy paying our bills, eating, and taking some time off to enjoy life, we also have an obligation to pay our independent contractors (who presumably feel the same way we do) for their expertise. When we built these ancillary services (cover design, formatting) into the cost of a publishing package, we set the price accordingly to set aside a percentage of what the client pays to fulfill our financial obligation to our contractors. When a client reneges on us, they also renege on our valued independent contractors and even when they fulfill their obligation, payment plans tend to make this process unnecessarily complicated (and I haven’t even mentioned taxes).
Let’s look at it this way: if you were to hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen, chances are he or she will take their full payment up front. After checking their references and making the decision to move forward, it is your obligation to honor your part of the bargain. If they renege, you have legal recourse via your written contract.
Even large independent publishing companies with full-time staff will not allow a client to break down their payments into smaller monthly chunks — even though they charge a heckuva lot more than we do. But don’t take my word for it; do your own research.
In the end, it all comes down to honoring ourselves and the services we provide. And we will not settle for less than what we earn through diligent work, talent, and expertise. When you enter into a legally binding contract with us, we take that seriously. Please don’t sign one with us unless you do too.
And if after reading this you still want to set up your free consultation, contact us here.