Authors should be wary of issues surrounding Left Hand Publishers
Note: This article is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon. Also, you can read a response to this article from Left Hand Publishers here.

Left Hand Publishers is a new small press which specializes in fantasy and horror books. The press appears to have been founded in 2017 and has released a number of genre anthologies in recent months along with a young adult novel about an angel raised by the demon sent to kill her as a baby.

There is no listing of the staff or people behind Left Hand Publishers on their website, which is concerning. However, on Amazon the bylines Karen T. Newman and Paul K. Metheney are listed respectively as the editor and cover designer for some of the publisher's anthologies and for the press's first novel

The press appears to be based in Charlotte, NC, and likewise appears to be connected with members of the Charlotte Writers Group. This is based on a post on Paul Metheney's website where he talked about being published in the Charlotte Writers Group anthology It’s About Time, which was edited by Karen Newman and released in May 2017. In addition,  Metheney's business Metheney Consulting is a subcontractor for Left Hand Publishers doing cover design and branding.

You'll notice the word "appears" is frequently used in this report. That's because hard information on the press is difficult to come by. Several days ago I emailed the address listed on Left Hand's website asking for an interview along with sending my initial interview questions. I received no response. I likewise called the number on the site, only to discover it is a Google Voice number. 

Update: On 3/6/2018, Left Hand Publishers responded. Here is their response.

The publisher's website states "Left Hand Publishers is NOT a vanity press." Which is good. But that same page also states:

"We provide our publishing services as a percentage of revenue which we participate in, once the work sells. Optional Services are available to writers who need assistance in getting their manuscripts and/or their marketing tools honed for a successful and profitable publishing experience. For various consulting services, outside of publishing, we will provide an estimate in advance at no charge."

In my email to Left Hand Publishers I asked if this language meant the publisher charged authors for editing and cover design work once a work was accepted. But again, I received no response to my questions.

Contract Concerns

There are also concerns about the contract Left Hand Publishers uses. Their website states they offer authors a "customized contract." However, the good news is I don't have to guess what  "customized contract" means since Left Hand has recently been sending out contracts for anthologies such as A World Unimagined

An author who asked to remain anonymous had a story accepted in one of these anthologies and sent me the contract they received. This author said they were concerned about the contract. Also, the email from Left Hand didn't include the name of the editor or publisher behind the press, which the author likewise thought was unusual.

As for specific issues with the Left Hand Publighing contract, consider the following. 

First, this section of the contract lists the address for Left Hand:

1b. Publishing. Left Hand Publishers, a North Carolina LLC, located at 1417 Sadler Road #245, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034, is publishing a short story (or a number of short stories) by the Author in an anthology. The Author agrees to fully disclose any and all materials and information necessary to complete the project successfully.

According to Google Maps, that address is a UPS store in Florida. I will not state an opinion on why a North Carolina publisher would use such an address.

This section appears to let the press control what they do with sequels and derivatives of the story:

1d. Language. In consideration of the terms set herein, the Author hereby assigns to the Publisher the right to publish the Work in the English language throughout the world, for Work listed above as Story Title in print and e-book format and all supplements and revisions of it (‘the Rights’), including without limitation the right to adapt, exploit, and issue derivative works based on it and other versions of the text in the English language and any format now known, or as developed in the future. 

The following section appears to say authors can't write more stories using their characters and worlds:

3a. EXCLUSIVITY OF CONTENT. The Author agrees not to publish another story in the same or competing market under the same or similar title, or containing the Work’s concept or story premise, including characters, places, and plots, as long as this contract is in force without written permission from the Publisher for twelve (12) months after publication. 

This section appears to say authors can't use the edited version of their story:

6c. Ownership of Finished Work. Copyright to the finished, rendered, assembled work (the anthology) produced by the Publisher is owned by Left Hand Publishers. Upon completion or termination of this Agreement, the Author is assigned complete ownership rights of the original manuscript, but not the formatted or edited project

The following two sections are what I would consider pure rights grabs:

9a. FIRST RIGHT OF REFUSAL. The Author agrees for the term of the agreement to allow the Publisher first right of refusal on any and all subsequent or additional published works in this series, including, but not limited to: stories and books considered to be a sequel, serial, or work of fiction involving the characters or story premise introduced, utilized, and/or discussed in the book.
10a. MERCHANDISING & ENTERTAINMENT ROYALTIES. The Author agrees that the Publisher will be entitled to a 5% royalty on all additional entertainment and novelty media in conjunction with this Work, its characters and/or story premise for the first twenty-four (24) months after publication. The Publisher will be entitled to a 2.5% royalty on all additional entertainment and novelty media in conjunction with this Work, its characters and/or story premise for the next twelve (12) months after the initial 24 months and then 1% in perpetuity after that. This clause supersedes the life of this contract and will remain in effect for the duration of the characters’ and story arc’s lifespan. This does not include literary projects.

And finally, consider this section which tries to keep authors from talking about the contract itself:

23a. CONFIDENTIALITY. Both the Author (and their assigns) and the Publisher (and their assigns) agree to hold the terms of this contract in strict confidence and shall not release said terms to any outside individual or organization. Both Author and Publisher agree not to disclose, discuss, or in any way mention the details of terms of this agreement. This includes Social Media, private writing groups, and scheduled appearances. (It’s okay to discuss your involvement and publication, just not the terms of the deal, i.e., money, compensation, etc.) 

However, funny thing about contracts — they're only valid if signed. I didn't sign this contract, so I'm free to discuss the contract all I want.

There are also other issues with the contract, which I have sent to SFWA to look at. But this is not a contract I would ever sign as an author.

And did I mention that the payment to sign this contract is $25 for a short story?

It's quite possible the people behind Left Hand Publisher are unfamiliar with standard contracts in the publishing industry, and don't realize how many of the terms described in their contract are non-starters for professional authors. If this is the case organizations like SFWA would be happy to provide them with model contracts and feedback so their contract benefits both the publishing company and authors. If they contact me I'll help them connect with SFWA.

I also hope the people behind Left Hand Publisher will take this analysis in a positive manner. They are publishing a number of new authors who are likely happy about having stories in these books. By being more transparent in who is actually behind the press, and by changing their contract terms, Left Hand Publishers would likely find itself embraced by the larger genre community.

But until they make these changes, I can not recommend authors sign this contract with their press.

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