Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

October 29, 2014

Kindle Scout: The Pros and Cons of Amazon's New Crowdsourced Publishing Program

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

This post has been updated.

Yesterday, Amazon's brand-new crowdsourced publishing program, Kindle Scout, opened for voting by the public.The concept is pretty simple:
Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.
Authors can submit their full manuscripts of 50,000 words or more (including cover art, various metadata items, and an author photo), about 5,000 words of which are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day "campaign". Readers can then browse books and nominate their favorites. If a manuscript they've voted for gets published, they receive a free ebook.

Things authors should note:
  • According to the guidelines, Amazon provides no editing, copy editing, proofreading, or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it. [See my update at the bottom of this post.]
  • Submissions are exclusive for 45 days from the date you submit your manuscript. No shopping your ms. elsewhere during that time.
  • Submitted manuscripts must meet content and eligiblity guidelines. Currently, only Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy are eligible.
  • Crowdsourcing? Not so much. Authors are encouraged to mobilize their networks for voting (which kind of undermines the notion that manuscripts will rise to the top on merit--a perennial problem of crowdsourced ventures, along with the potential for gaming the system). Mere vote numbers, however, don't determine what gets published. Per the FAQ, "Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication."
  • If you're attracted by the promise of "featured Amazon marketing", here's what it actually consists of: "Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions." Key word here: "eligible." In other words, no promises. 
  • If you're not selected for publication, you must request removal of your work from the Kindle Scout site. Otherwise, your campaign page will remain online.
  • By submitting, you agree in advance to the terms of the Kindle Press publishing agreement. These terms are not negotiable. So before you submit, be sure you're comfortable with them. (If Amazon chooses not to publish your ms., you're automatically released).

So, what about that publishing agreement?

Overall, it's decent. The grant of rights (for ebook and audio editions only--though see below) is exclusive and worldwide, and renews every five years--but you can request reversion at the end of any five-year term if you've earned less than $25,000 in royalties during the term, or at any time after your two-year publication anniversary if you've earned less than $500 in the previous 12 months. Royalties are 50% of net for ebooks, 25% of net for audiobooks, and 20% of net for translations, paid within 60 days of the end of the month. And of course, there's the $1,500 advance.

Things authors should note:
  • The grant of rights is a bit more sweeping than it appears:
    • The grant of rights includes translation rights. If these are exercised by Amazon, your royalty drops to 20% of net. (On the plus side, if Amazon has not exercised or licensed these rights within 90 days of your selection date, you can request that they be reverted.)
    • Amazon can license to third parties any of the rights you've granted. You get 75% of net proceeds for foreign-language books licensed to third parties, and 50% of net proceeds for any other format.
    • The grant of rights allows Amazon not just to publish and/or license ebooks and audiobooks, but to "create condensed, adapted, abridged, interactive and enhanced editions of your Work, and include your Work in anthology or omnibus editions."
  • For "subscription or other blended fee programs" (for instance, Kindle Unlimited), net revenue "will be determined in accordance with the standard revenue allocation methods for that program." So be sure you're aware of what those are.
  • Amazon "may" register copyright for you, but is not required to do so.
  • As always, Amazon maintains complete discretion and control, and can make decisions and changes without telling you. "You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you." (my emphasis) These are not sentences you'll find in a typical publishing contract.
  • The contract includes Amazon's standard arbitration clause, which bars class actions. When you sign a contract with an arbitration clause, you are giving up your right to go to court. More about that here.
So should authors rush to submit their unpublished novels?

On the plus side, there's the advance (money up front is nice), the possibility of subrights sales, the promotional boost that published books will receive from the selection process--at least while the program is new--and whatever promotions Amazon may (not necessarily will--see above) undertake for individual books. Amazon's on-site promotions (as distinct from its email promotions, which can be spammy; you haven't lived until you've gotten an Amazon email promotion for your own book) are incredibly powerful, and can have a huge impact on sales numbers--though that effect doesn't necessarily last past the promotion itself. It's possible, also, that gaining a toehold in Amazon's publishing ecosystem could eventually open the door to one of Amazon Publishing's traditional imprints--for some authors, at least.

On the other hand, Kindle Scout seems to occupy an uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, embracing characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither. As with a traditional publisher, you must agree to an exclusive contract that takes control of certain of your rights--but you don't get the editing, proofing, artwork, or any of the other financial investments that a traditional publisher would provide. As with self-publishing, your book is published exactly as you submit it, with no developmental input or support--but you don't have control of pricing and you receive a smaller percentage of sales proceeds than you would with KDP.

For Amazon, Kindle Scout is super-low risk publishing with the potential for substantial yield--not just from books that prove popular but from the influx of new users to its website. For authors, it's the usual dilemma: does what you may gain outweigh what you don't get, and what you must give up?

As always, don't rush in. Read and understand the Kindle Scout publishing agreement, and be sure you're comfortable with the other conditions to which you're agreeing by submitting your manuscript. Be realistic in your expectations--not just of the possibility of publication, but of what might result if you're selected.

And please--don't spam your entire social network with requests for votes.

UPDATE, 10/30/14: Amazon's right to ebooks and audiobooks is exclusive, but I've been asked whether the Kindle Scout publishing agreement would allow authors to self-publish in print. The answer would appear to be "yes". Here's the relevant language (my emphasis): "All rights not expressly granted to us in this Agreement (including the right to publish print editions) are reserved for your sole use and disposition."

Also, here's author Benjamin Sobieck's first impressions of his Kindle Scout campaign. He makes some interesting observations.

UPDATE, 12/3/14: Just four weeks after Kindle Scout officially launched, the first books have been selected for publication. That seems incredibly fast. I wish Amazon were more transparent about stats, so we could know how many books were submitted to the program and how many readers participated.

UPDATE 1/20/15: It's been confirmed to me that at least some Kindle Scout winners do receive editorial suggestions and cover assistance.

UPDATE 7/16/15: Still more on editing: according to author Victoria Pinder, whose book was chosen for the program, "The Kindle Scout winners all talk to each other, and we’ve all received edits. Some people received some heavy developmental editing. Truthfully, I didn’t....The team still found quite a few things I needed to do to polish and clean in the manuscript so I still had editing. I can also say more than one set of eyes read my manuscript from the Kindle Scout team. The editor comments were done on different dates with different names."

UPDATE: The Kindle Scout contract now includes mention of editing:
7. Publication. You will have an opportunity to make reasonable revisions to your Work and submit your final manuscript for publication during the 30-day period following the Selection Date. If you do not provide us with a final manuscript during that 30-day period, we may move forward with publication of your Work using the manuscript you originally submitted. Other than changes or revisions we deem necessary for publication, we will not make any material change to the text of your Work without your approval.

October 23, 2014

How Not to Change Your Business Model: The Latest on Permuted Press

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware



This post has been updated

This is a very long post. If you're already familiar with the issues involved, scroll down to the third section and read from there.

Last week, social media lit up with news that Permuted Press, a well-regarded small publisher of horror fiction, was going digital-first, and also suspending new title releases until 2015.

In an email sent to authors, Permuted Press's President, Michael L. Wilson, touted PP's success in 2014, along with a huge increase in its release schedule: from 20-25 books per year to over 100 so far in 2014. However,
While we’re thrilled at the response to the “new” Permuted Press, our staff has been burning the candle at both ends pulling it all together. Everyone here is upbeat about the results, but to be totally honest - we’re exhausted.

In order for us to operate at our optimum and to be able to build upon the successes we’ve already seen, we need to make a few adjustments to our original plans. So, we’re writing to inform you of some important changes that are taking place right away.

1: We will be ceasing the production of print-on-demand books. Exceptions may be made for top sellers or for works we subjectively choose. Our data revealed that 41.65% of our production team’s time is spent making print on demand versions of our books, but those products account for only 7.41% of our income. This disproportionate figure revealed the need to make prompt changes to our previous policy.

2: We are pausing the release of most new titles until early 2015. This will grant us the time necessary to increase margin in our production schedule. This will have a positive effect on our promotional efforts and enable us to better serve our authors.
PP authors--and outside observers--reacted with shock and anger. News coverage was equally uncomplimentary. The Horror Writers Association, concerned that PP was suspending print publication without reverting print rights, and also about reports (by me, among others) that PP was demanding fees from authors who wanted to get out of their contracts, referred the matter to their Grievance Committee.

PP did have its defenders, and some of the news coverage was criticized as biased and inaccurate. But for most commenters, PP was a scummy outfit that got greedy with acquisitions, wound up in over its head, and, by suspending print publishing but retaining print rights, wanted to have its cake and eat it too.

*********

I first became aware of Permuted Press in 2006, when I served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. They submitted several books for consideration, all of which were attractively-produced and well-edited. Unlike many small presses, they'd managed to gain real-world presence in physical bookstores, and had achieved significant sales success with some of their titles. In 2009, they inked a co-licensing deal with Simon & Schuster.

In 2013, PP was sold. Under new management, acquisition ramped up, with a ginormous increase in the company's release schedule. PP also launched Permuted Platinum, intended to increase its brick-and-mortar presence with distribution through Ingram Publisher Services, and established Permuted Pictures, a film development arm.

Probably due to the jump in acquisitions, I heard from a number of authors in 2013 and early 2014 who wanted me to comment on their contracts. I had serious concerns, which I discussed last spring at Absolute Write. Problems included:
  • A life-of-copyright grant term without adequate provision for reversion (books were said to be "in print" as long as they were "available from the publisher or licensee in any edition"). Reversion in a life-of-copyright contract should always be tied to specific sales minimums.
  • An overly sweeping Option clause ("any full-length work of fiction based substantially on subject matter, material, characters or incidents in the Work") that gave the publisher first refusal right on any sequels, prequels, successor works, or even, possibly, works in the same genre.
  • Royalty rates potentially substantially reduced by "special discount sales"--defined as any print books sold at a discount of more than 40% (most online retailers demand a much bigger discount), in which case royalties dropped to just 5% of net.
  • Substandard ebook royalties (20% of net, poor even for a big publisher, seriously bad for a small press) and subrights splits (30% of net).
  • An excessively long publication window (four years).
Unlike many small presses that have author-unfriendly contracts, PP wasn't some fly-by-night outfit run by delusional amateurs. Even so--and months before any other negative information surfaced--that contract was enough for me to counsel serious caution.

**********

When the shit hit the fan last week, I reached out to PP with a couple of questions.
I'm wondering if Permuted Press is planning to revert print rights to authors whose contracts include a grant of print rights but whose books are now going to be e-only; and if Permuted will be changing its future contracts to reflect this change in publishing policy (for instance, offering e-only contracts, or contracts that revert print rights after a period of time if the publisher doesn't use them).
I quickly heard back from PP President Michael Wilson.
Our recent decision to go to an "e-first" model was based on an analysis of sales for print on demand titles that we were issuing. We found the time and effort that went in to producing those printed versions was disproportionate to the amount they were earning in sales. So, our shift in policy went from a book getting an automatic print on demand version, to one where the books sales must first warrant us doing that print edition.

That scenario may partially answer your question. When a book performs well in ebook format, we will move that book to print. Therefore, we wouldn't want to give up the print rights. In fact, with the expansion of our print on demand distribution by moving to LightningSource from Createspace, the titles that do "graduate" in to print will now have more opportunity for retail placement than before.
I actually understand PP's business decision. For many small presses, as for many self-publishers, print is typically a low-selling format. PP would be far from the only small press to adopt a digital-first business model.

However, I think the switch has been poorly handled. For one thing, the messaging has been confusing. In the email sent to authors, "ceasing the production" and "exceptions may be made" does not really convey the "e-first" policy that Michael describes above (forcing Michael to subsequently send out a clarifying email). Also, authors at PP's September convention in Nashville were apparently told about the switch but asked not to discuss it publicly, resulting in even more anger from non-attending authors who felt they'd been unfairly kept in the dark.

Damage could also have been limited if the digital-first policy had been implemented only for new contracts going forward, rather than imposed on all pending releases. For already-contracted authors who'd been expecting their books to appear in print, PP's abrupt change in business model has been devastating (including for one author who had taken extensive print pre-orders). Alternatively, rather than unilaterally holding on to print rights, PP could have agreed to revert them after a reasonable period of time if they didn't plan on using them.

To date, much of the discussion and anger has been focused on the issues surrounding the elimination of print, along with the inept messaging. But what worries me as much, or possibly even more, is the apparent lack of planning and forethought that led PP, under its new ownership, to acquire such a glut of titles and release them so fast that they apparently couldn't manage the workload--resulting ultimately not just in a change in business model, but in the suspension of its publishing program. Whatever spin a publisher attempts to put on something like this, it is never a good sign.

And then there's the contract--which, as I've noted, is reason all on its own to think twice about signing up with PP.

The Horror Writers Association is concerned about all of this as well, and has been in dialog with Michael Wilson over the past few days. I've been given permission to share this announcement, which HWA President Rocky Wood plans to make shortly:
The Horror Writers Association has held detailed discussions with Permuted Press over the last week, regarding their decision to stop publishing POD editions of books by many of their contracted authors; claims that some authors were required to pay compensation to revert their rights where they objected to the halt on publishing POD editions; and clauses in their boilerplate contract that HWA finds unconscionable.

Permuted have advised that they have agreed the reversion of rights to all authors requesting reversion; and that the reversion has been agreed to with no compensation excepting repayment of advances.

On the issue of the boilerplate contract Permuted have made very significant concessions to the HWA over most disputed clauses. Permuted have asked for another two weeks to finalise a draft to be submitted to the HWA for further feedback or approval. Permuted's business model and contracts are in the final analysis their own, so it may be that HWA will advise its members only to sign a Permuted contract if certain boilerplate clauses are removed or amended. In the meantime HWA maintains its advice that our members should not sign the current boilerplate.
Proposed changes to the contract include limiting the option language; shortening the four-year publication window; a possible switch from life-of-copyright to a 10-year grant term (in my opinion, still considerably too long); and a new reversion clause tying reversion to minimum sales within four consecutive royalty periods. Also, in email to me, Michael has indicated that PP is willing to consider my suggestion that PP revert print rights on request if they haven't used them within, say, 12 months of publication.

I've independently confirmed what the HWA statement says about reversion fees. Although some authors were originally asked to reimburse editing and artwork, PP has reversed that decision.

I hope to have a chance to review the new contract when it's presented to HWA.

************

So what's the final word?

HWA's announcement indicates that some good has come out of all the uproar. By listening to critics and being open to change, PP has gone some way toward demonstrating that it's not the greedy, sleazy outfit some of its detractors have claimed. Having seen way too much of the bullheadedness and belligerence that infests the small press world, I think PP deserves major props for that.

However, even with an ideal contract, it's hard to predict anything about PP's future until it resumes publishing next year. And while I hope very much that PP will start publishing again, I remain concerned about the planning problems and the overambitious vision that precipitated this crisis.

Only time will tell. In the meantime, for authors seeking publication, I think wait-and-see is the best approach.

*************

EDITED 2/26/15 TO ADD: In an email to authors a few days ago, Permuted announced that it is moving to further trim its list:
Moving forward, Permuted Press is going to be focusing primarily on more established authors, and is becoming very selective about the projects that we publish from newcomers, or from existing authors who have not sold very well. Given this reexamination, we’re going to be returning the book rights to a number of upcoming titles to the authors.
Not surprising, in light of Permuted's huge overstock of titles, but a nasty shock to the authors who are being cut. One author who asked for clarification received a response that reads in part (my bolding):
There were a number of factors that we took in to account when making our decisions. Admittedly, I did not read the books in full. That is usually done by our editors when the editing process begins.
Sloppy acquisition policies...one more reason why Permuted has gotten itself into trouble.

As of this writing, I haven't seen a revised Permuted contract, or heard anything about whether they've changed their bad boilerplate.

October 10, 2014

How Not to Register Copyright

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

A few years ago, I wrote a post on the difference between copyright (literally, the right to copy or reproduce, ownership of which guarantees authors control over their intellectual property) and rights (the bundle of rights contained within copyright, which authors can grant or license to others or exploit on their own).

This week, that post received a (likely spammed) anonymous comment:
Copyright protects works of original authorship such as text, artwork, photographs, sound recordings, screenplays, music, lyrics, etc. You can register more than one work under one copyright registration. Such as a collection of books, songs, photographs, etc. If you need to protect your work you will want to register it for copyright. Visit http://copyrightregistry-online-form.com/ and fill out the form on the site. Your work will be registered same day! In addition, there are representatives available day and night as well as a live chat box right on the website.
There's more than a whiff of ripoff here, so I decided to accept the challenge. The link led me to Copyright Registry Online, which promises that
Your U.S. Copyright will be registered in a matter of minutes through our online form submission processing, 256 Bit Encrypted SSL Secure Server. You will receive your copyright documentation in an e-mail and by first class USPS government mail.
Well, gee, that sounds nifty (or it might if you didn't know you can easily accomplish the same thing through the US Copyright Office's eCO service). The catch? As if you couldn't guess: the fee. Copyright Registry Online wants you to pay $135 for something that you can do on your own for just $35. If you want to splurge, you can add $25 for "Priority Rush Processing" (completely meaningless, since registration isn't valid until received by the US Copyright Office, which offers no "rush" option) plus $30 for a "Membership Reward Program," which--wow!--grants you a 15% discount on "further copyright submissions."

Copyright Registry Online will also file an infringement claim (a.k.a. a DMCA takedown notice) for you. All you have to do is hand over $99.50. Never mind that you can send a DMCA notice all on your own, for free. Here's how.

I've written before about faux copyright registration services--the kind that "register" you with their own websites, and give you a seal or some other trumped-up certification that's essentially useless for any legal purpose. Unlike these fake services, with Copyright Registry Online and outfits like it you might actually wind up with a genuine copyright registration--but you'd be paying a ridiculous fee to a third party to do what you can easily accomplish yourself for a fraction of the cost.

As with any other writer-targeted scheme, these "services" rely on authors' ignorance and inexperience. Here, therefore, are some resources for learning more about copyright and related issues.

- Writer Beware's Copyright page includes info on copyright, links to resources, and debunking of common copyright myths.

- My blog post on Rights and Copyright untangles the difference between the two, and suggests how to protect yourself when seeking publication.

- The US Copyright Office's Copyright Basics circular provides a lot of information, including how to register your copyright. The USA is unusual in that it has an official registration process (most countries don't) and makes registration a pre-requisite for legal action. Once upon a time, when publishing was just print and grant territories meant something, there really was no need to register in the USA if you weren't publishing there. These days, however, publishing--and especially self-publishing--is global, so it's probably a good idea to register US copyright, even if you yourself are not US-based.

- eCO, the US Copyright Office's online registration service.

- Schedule of fees for registration with the US Copyright Office.

- Copyright registration is important for published work. However (and contrary to much popular belief), there's no need to register copyright for unpublished work. Despite writers' fears (and recent alarming plagiarism incidents), theft is highly unlikely at the submission stage. It's not until a work is exposed to a wide audience (i.e., published) that you need to worry.

- A helpful explanation of the DMCA takedown notice, and how to file one.

- Sample DMCA takedown notices, from the Plagiarism Today blog.

- From the Popehat blog, things to consider before sending a DMCA notice (often, contacting the infringer directly works just as well).

October 1, 2014

How to Request Rights Reversion From Your Publisher

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Partly in connection with the controversy surrounding troubled publisher Ellora's Cave, I've been getting questions about how to go about requesting rights reversion from one's publisher.

There's no official format for a rights reversion request, and if you do a websearch on "rights reversion request" you can find various pieces of advice from authors and others. Here's the procedure I'd suggest. (Note that I'm not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice.)

First of all, if you have a competent agent, ask your agent to handle it. Especially if you're with a larger publisher, your agent is more likely to know exactly whom to contact, and in a better position to push for a response.

If you don't have an agent, or if your agent is not very competent or not very responsive:

1. Look through your contract to find the rights reversion or termination language. Sometimes this is a separate clause; sometimes it's included in other clauses. See if there are stipulations for when and how you can request your rights back. For example, a book may become eligible for rights reversion once sales numbers or sales income fall below a stated minimum.

The ideal reversion language is precise ("Fewer than 100 copies sold in the previous 12 consecutive months") and makes reversion automatic on request, once stipulations are fulfilled. Unfortunately, reversion language is often far from ideal. Your contract may impose a blackout period (you can't request reversion until X amount of time after your pub date), a waiting period after the reversion request (the publisher has X number of months to comply, during which time your book remains on sale), or provide the publisher with an escape mechanism (it doesn't have to revert if it publishes or licenses a new edition within 6 months of your request).

Worse, your contract may not include any objective standards for termination and reversion, leaving the decision entirely to the publisher's discretion; or it may include antiquated standards ("The book shall not be considered out of print as long as it is available for sale through the regular channels of the book trade"--meaningful in the days when books were physical objects only and print runs could be exhausted, but useless for today's digital reality).

It's also possible that your contract may not include any reversion language at all. This is often the case with limited-term contracts, so if your contract is one of those, you may just have to wait things out. Unfortunately, I've also seen life-of-copyright contracts with no reversion language. This is a big red flag: a life-of copyright contract should always be balanced with precise reversion language.

2. Begin your reversion request by stating your name, the title(s) of your book(s), your pub date(s), and your contract signing date(s). I don't think there's any need to create separate requests if you're requesting reversion on more than one book; but there are those who disagree.

3. If you do meet your contract's reversion stipulations, indicate how you do ("Between August 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, Title X sold 98 copies") and state that per the provisions of your contract, you're requesting that your rights be reverted to you. If the contract provides a specific procedure for making the reversion request, follow this exactly.

4. If you don't meet your contract's reversion stipulations, if reversion is at the publisher's discretion, or if your contract has no reversion language, simply request that the publisher terminate the contract and return your rights to you. If there's an objective reason you can cite--low sales, for instance, or your own inability to promote the book--do so, even if those reasons are not mentioned in the contract as a condition of reversion.

5. DO: be polite, businesslike, and succinct.

6. DON'T: mention the problems the publisher may be having, the problems you've had with the publisher, problems other authors have had, online chatter, news coverage, lawsuits, or anything else negative. As much as you may be tempted to vent your anger, resentment, or fear, rubbing the publisher's nose in its own mistakes amd failures will alienate it, and might cause it to decide to punish you by refusing your request or just refusing to respond. Again: keep it professional and businesslike.

7. Request that the publisher provide you with a reversion letter. Certain contract provisions (such as the author's warranties) and any outstanding third-party licenses will survive contract termination. Also, publishers typically claim copyright on cover art and on a book's interior format (i.e., you couldn't just re-publish a scanned version of the book), and the right to sell off any printed copies that exist at the time of reversion (with royalties going to you as usual). Some publishers are starting to claim copyright on metadata (which they define not just as ISBNs and catalog data, but back cover copy and advertising copy).

I've also seen publishers claim copyright on editing (which means they'd revert rights only to the originally-submitted manuscript). This is ridiculous and unprofessional. For one thing, it provides no benefit to the publisher--what difference does it make if an author re-publishes the final version of a book from which the publisher has already received the first-rights benefit? For another, if edits are eligible for copyright at all, copyright would belong to the editor, not the publisher. If you find a copyright claim on editing in a publishing contract, consider it a red flag. If the publisher makes this claim without a contractual basis--as some publishers do--feel free to ignore it.

To give you an idea of what an official reversion letter looks like, here's a screenshot of one of mine.



8. If the publisher registered your copyright, ask for the original certificate of copyright. Smaller publishers often don't register authors' copyrights--again, check your contract, and double-check by searching on your book at the US Copyright Office's Copyright Catalog.

9. Send the request by email and, if you have the publisher's physical address, by snail mail, return receipt requested.

Hopefully your publisher will comply with your reversion request. But there are many ways in which a publisher can stall or dodge, from claiming that your records are wrong to simply not responding. If that happens, there's not much you can do, apart from being persistent, or deciding to take legal action--though that's an expensive option.

One last thing: a publisher should not put a price on rights reversion. Charging a fee for reversion or contract termination is a nasty way for a publisher to make a quick buck as a writer goes out the door. A termination fee in a publishing contract is a red flag (for more on why, see my blog post). And attempting to levy a fee that's not included in the contract is truly disgraceful.
 
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