Pitfalls of Ebook Licensing Agreements

Signing a contract and finding the right deal could be difficult if you are a newcomer in the publishing industry. Retailers and aggregators aim to be as profitable as they can, this often resulting in publishers receiving disadvantageous financial or legal terms. And once you signed the agreement on a bad deal, there is no way back correct it.

Many say that there is no way to negotiate an ebook licensing agreement, but this is not true. If you have quality content, you can always negotiate, or even choose a better partner. You are the copyright holder, the creative mind in the process; without you, there is no content to be read and sold. Do not underestimate the power of content creation.

So far, we negotiated more than 200 B2B contracts in various countries worldwide: with retailers, ebook conversion services, marketing agencies and publishers. Several times, we were faced with unrealistic or dominating terms, but we decided to always represent the publishers’ interest; even if we had to refuse to sign the deal!

In this article, we are sharing with you some of the ebook licensing agreement pitfalls you can easily avoid by reading between the lines, so you can fight for better deals for you or your company in the future. To make the “business talk” easier to digest, we incorporated some simple dos and don’ts you can follow. There are five main parts of a contract that you have to read very carefully and several times:

  1. Royalties structure

  2. Payment terms

  3. Grant of rights

  4. Sales reporting and invoicing

  5. Termination

In the following, we are going to guide you through these five parts, show you the common mistakes some people may make and offer some advice.

  1. ROYALTIES STRUCTURE

Do not only look at nominal value.

It is not uncommon to only scan for numbers when reading a contract: you check nominal values, they look nice, so it is good to go. However, the wording can change everything: if you do not read the agreement thoroughly, you might not receive what you expected.

Typical wording differences:

  1. PAYMENT TERMS

Look out for “when we receive the fund”.

There is a fine line between “it sounds too good to be true” and being untrue. Always check in the contract how payment is going to be made.

  1. GRANT OF RIGHTS

Keep the rights of your intellectual property (IP).

Non-exclusive contracts what you have to search for when choosing a partner to sell your ebooks. Non-exclusivity means that you can sell your books in other stores/platforms legally. On the contrary, exclusivity means you cannot sell your books anywhere else. Don’t tie yourself to any of the partners early on – most of the partners you can trust on the long term will give you the non-exclusive term anyway, so if you want you are able to sell the same book on other stores too.

Give only the necessary rights for the partnership and do everything you can to protect your IP.

You have to make sure that no one but you can change your IP.

You can grant rights to

But never give rights to anyone to

Just think about Amazon Kindle links in a book uploaded to iBooks! Take control of your own content and metadata and be conscious about them on the long term.

  1. SALES REPORTING and INVOICING

Define the periodical sales reporting period.

In case of any business transaction, money cannot be transferred without some invoice or written document, so look at who is sending the invoice and when. Is your invoicing monthly or quarterly? Choose a partner with a self-billing service if possible to avoid any administrative burdens but still receive your money in time.

Also look for discrepancies between reporting and invoicing. If you get quarterly reports, look at when you will receive those reports and how invoicing is connected to it. You might see the following: quarterly payments are reported until the end of the next calendar month, and the invoice is sent four weeks after the end of the invoicing period. This means that Q1 earnings will be reported until the end of April and will be invoiced until end of May. And we have not even talked about the payment term!

  1. TERMINATION

Make sure you get your content back.

Termination is a divorce in the business world: a painful process. Before you take any action, look at what happens with your IP afterwards and how long will it take to say goodbye.

Your content should be deleted from the servers of your partner and their third parties’ platforms. Your content should be withdrawn immediately (within a reasonable timeframe for making the technical changes) and it should not be longer than the termination deadline.

Unfortunately, we saw so many bad stories from publishers not being paid or simply tied to another service with bad terms and no long term thinking. Everyone starts a business relationship trusting the other player and believing that mutual cooperation will result in a mutually beneficial way – however, that might not be the case all the time. You have to find the right partner who treats you and your business as equals to have the chance to make intelligent long term decisions. You can probably save yourself from a lot of headache if you let us search for the right terms with the right players and let go of anything else not needed.

Please follow and like us:
0