This morning I received a response from Left Hand Publishers to my analysis of concerns related to their publishing house. The response is presented below in its entirety, along with additional information provided by the publisher in regards to issues I raised about their contract.
Q: The initial books released by Left Hand Publishers appear to focus on the fantasy and horror genres, such as with your debut novel, The Demon's Angel, by Maya Shah. Is that your publisher's specialty or will you also consider other genres? Are there any types of SF/F or horror you specifically want to see?
We have featured those genres so far, as that is what the majority of submissions have been. We accept and would enjoy publishing a variety of different genres, including fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, adult fiction, western, etc. LHP has a sci-fi anthology as well as a thriller/supernatural anthology in the works, both anticipated to hit the press this summer.
Q: Left Hand Publishers offers both editing and marketing services to authors along with publishing books. I like how your website states that you keep your editing and publishing services separate from each other. However, what does it mean where your website states "We provide our publishing services as a percentage of revenue which we participate in, once the work sells." Does that mean you charge authors for editing and cover design work once a work is accepted?
No, we only make money from publishing from a percentage of the sales, a commission, if you will. The authors NEVER have to pay to be published. When a story goes into one of our anthologies, we copyedit it at no charge at all.
As for the Cover Design and Editing services in novels, personal short story collections, and novellas, those are separate and there IS an up-front fee if they choose to use our Optional Services (those are non-issues in an anthology). They can use someone else for those services if they like. We just want them to have a professionally edited manuscript and a well-designed cover. Our Optional Services are estimated and negotiated prior to any agreement, but there is never a charge for publishing. We offer those optional editorial and design services mostly as a convenience to our authors. Third-party cover design and editing will have to meet our standards before we will agree to publish it. That is to maintain a quality reputation for LHP and sales for the author. We are happy to work with authors’ third parties to make it as easy and as affordable as possible for the authors. We will not publish poorly or unedited books, or substandard book covers. No one should.
WHO IS LHP?
It's not a secret. As you mentioned, Karen T. Newman is the Editor-In-Chief, with over 30 years of editing experience and Metheney Consulting, acts as one of the cover designers, and Paul K. Metheney works part-time as a marketing consultant. Paul has nearly 30 years of design, advertising, and marketing experience. Paul is also one of the authors that is occasionally, but not always, published by Left Hand. This is well documented on Left Hand's website. His work goes through the same strenuous vetting as everyone else’s.
We are in no way currently affiliated with the Charlotte Writers Group, though last year, our Editor-in Chief, Karen Newman, and our marketing consultant, Paul K. Metheney, were members and edited/designed/contributed to the CWG anthology, It's About Time.
We started as a North Carolina LLC and are in the process of transitioning to Florida as that is where the Editor-in-Chief has recently moved. The process has already been initiated to domesticate our NC LLC to a FL LLC.
We don't discuss specific agreement details because we HAVE signed the agreement and we have relationships with our authors and the details of those relationships are held confidential. It is not so much about secrecy as to keep our authors’ business just that, their business. We will address some generalities below.
GENERAL AGREEMENT (Without breaching any major confidences)
We researched several publishers of anthologies before deciding on a compensation package and found our offer to be a standard token payment (typically $1.00 to $50.00) for aspiring authors ("non-professional" or non-"semi-professional"). Is it the .01-.05 cents per word that professionals get paid? No. But we are trying to help new authors get a start. This compensation is just a TOKEN so the writers can say they got paid for their work. Nothing more. Do we wish it were more? Of course. But if we paid .05 per word, an anthology would lose money until it sold over 2,000 copies. Not many companies are in business to lose money. For more about short story compensation, we refer you to: https://www.writegoodbooks.com/short-story-payment-rates/
FIRST RIGHT OF REFUSAL
The FROR paragraph you quoted means that for the next twelve (12) months, LHP has the right of first refusal. In other words, we get the first chance to make the author an offer on any stories, or literary work, that is similar to THIS story line or characters.
They also have the right to REFUSE that offer if they think they can do better. And honestly, if they get a better offer, we recommend they take it. We want them to get the most for their stories they can. We just want the first opportunity to make them an offer, if it is something we like. Because they don’t have to accept our offer, we don’t see any major issues with this clause. This FROR does NOT apply to any stories with OTHER plot lines or characters. We are not forcing them into anything. If we like it, we are providing them with an easy second offer to get published, without the hassle of sending out dozens of queries. They can always refuse the offer.
MERCHANDISING & MEDIA
This clause applies to merchandising and media rights (not literary). If LHP spends time and money putting a story into a book and makes it famous enough to get picked up for licensing in some other venue, it is only fair LHP share in that profit (however fractionally), since we were the ones that took the chance and spent time and money on it in the first place. Example: If a comic book character gets made into a movie and Marvel published it, even though it was created by a writer and an artist, Marvel should get some of the profits of that movie because the character would never have been famous without being published by Marvel. Same principle. (Actually, in THAT example, the publisher takes the lion’s share and the creator gets a tiny fraction.) This all boils down to: a need for any publisher to insure the POSSIBILITY they can recoup their costs someday.
The percentage of stories that get licensed versus the number of stories written is unbelievably microscopic. Publishers tend to lose money on most books. It is only on the ones that go on to become hits or get licensed do they recoup the money they lost on all the others. Ask most publishers if the majority of their books make money. Now ask them if their anthologies with first-time writers make money.
This clause in our agreement pertains to the author not using the characters or storyline in the next twelve (12) months other than with us, as that would eliminate any exclusivity of content we have. (i.e., if they do a very similar story with the same characters or plot line, it devalues the uniqueness and sales value of our books. It is only for twelve (12) months and has nothing to do with any works they may do with OTHER characters or plot lines.
After twelve (12) months, the unedited, original manuscript submitted belongs to the author without any qualifications. The final edited, formatted text does not. We don’t want the rights to their story, but we are also not “giving away” the time and effort Left Hand has spent on editing and formatting so that it can be sold to someone else in twelve (12) months, saving the new publisher time and money. The final edits and formatting are the property of LHP. The original manuscript reverts back to the author. We spend a great deal of time on each story. If someone wants to publish their work in the future, the new publishers will also spend time and money on it.
After the author has signed the agreement, we send them back our notes with suggestions for edits to make it a better fit and/or a better story. The author approves or makes changes to the manuscript and then sends it back to us. Our editors will proofread it one more time, make any minor edits necessary for typos, sentence structure, etc., and then we format it to go into the anthology.
Smart authors realize: Once we originally send the author back our notes (they have already signed the agreement), those suggestions are theirs to do with as they like. It’s a minor perk to being in the anthology. We have exclusive rights to the story for a year, but a year later, if they make those edits and sell it to someone else, no problem. Any changes THEY make to the manuscript are theirs to do with as they please after the exclusivity wears off. For example, if they read their story in the printed book and MANUALLY make changes to their manuscript to match that, those are their changes to do with as they please.
We are not members of SFWA, as we are not specifically Science Fiction publishers, but we would be happy to speak with them about our agreements. We have modeled our agreement based on a variety of publishing agreements from around the world but are always happy to listen to constructive ideas.
We are a small publishing house that tries to give aspiring new writers an opportunity to see their work in print. If any of the writers we send agreements to wish to discuss the terms of the agreement, we are always happy to talk with them. If they are still not satisfied with the terms and decide not to publish with us, we wish them the best of luck and no hard feelings. No one is forced to sign any agreement or be dissatisfied with terms they don't like.
We look at all these points from the aspiring author’s point of view as well as that of a publishing company whose responsibility is to publish quality work AND make a profit. Scores and scores of authors sign our agreements without the need to alter the terms, but we want them to be 100 percent happy with their situation and completely comfortable in any deal they make with a publisher. All of the writers we have published are very happy with how they have been treated and continue to submit their work in hopes for further publication.