Monday, 11 March 2013


NOTE: Since writing this post, Autharium has amended its terms. See my post here.
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Each day there seems to be a new shark circling eager newbie writers, hoping to make a killing. Autharium is the latest. Go to their site, and it all sounds most enticing - it's free, easy to join and load your work; publish with them and you will have 'global distribution' and keep 85% of your earnings!

Too good to be true? Yup.

Go to the Author Publishing Terms and Conditions and you will find:

By submitting your Work to Autharium and accepting these Terms & Conditions, you grant to Autharium the exclusive right and licence to produce, publish, promote, market and sell your Work in any Digital Form (as defined in paragraph 1.4 below) in all languages throughout the world for the entire legal term of copyright (and any and all extensions, renewals and revivals of the term of copyright).

What is the legal term of copyright? The author's lifetime, plus seventy years. So by publishing a novel on Autharium, you hand over the worldwide digital rights, including film, games, apps [see edit below], and means of transmission yet to be invented,  until seventy years after you die.

The site tries to fudge this by assuring you that The copyright in your work shall remain your property. Quite what good this will do you when you have ceded all rights to them they do not say. They do say:

Please note that your removal of your Work from sale in accordance with paragraph 13.1 above will not terminate this Agreement nor cause the exclusive digital publishing rights that you have granted to Autharium pursuant to paragraph 1 above to revert to you


If you wish to sell your Work in any Digital Form through any other publisher, distributor or means then you will need to contact Autharium at to agree transfer of the digital publishing rights to your Work.

So if you decide you will do better selling via Amazon's KDP, or are offered a six-figure deal from a publisher, or someone is interested in buying the film rights, you will have to persuade Autharium to release you from its contract. For a large sum of money, no doubt. Or you could decide the contract is so one-sided it may be unenforceable; in which case you face years of stressful and expensive litigation.

I think Autharium is playing a numbers game. Recruit enough writers to sign that contract, and the odds of one of them turning out to be the next E.L. James and making the site owners a fortune are really not bad at all.

Autharium? Avoid, and tell your friends.

N.B. For more information, see The Passive Voice, where I read this story.

EDIT: I've just had a long phone conversation with Simon Maylott, one of the founders of Autharium. He tells me that their contract does not cover film, games or app rights. He also defended the contract as being in line with traditional publishing contracts. The problem is, traditional publishing contracts are not generally fair to the author - read a lawyer's opinion here. I don't believe Autharium is consciously attempting to dupe the vulnerable, or that its owners are villains. But the legal term of copyright is a very long time, and who will be dealing with those contracts in thirty or forty years? Supposing Autharium is successful, and is bought out by someone less scrupulous? If the deal they offer is good, and their authors happy with it, their terms do not need to be so stringent. 

EDIT 2: Having now looked at some books epublished by Autharium, I can say their proofreading, formatting and cover design do not strike me as being of a professional standard.


  1. It's always the way isn't it? The big print is all sparkly shiny and gorgeous but read the small print down the bottom to the right pass the basement doors towards the cesspit and et voila - not as shiny or sparkly as first thought...!


    Take care

  2. I Googled it, and alarmingly, there's a thread on Authonomy where the consensus is pretty much, Ooh, that looks interesting. No one seems to have taken in the small print, or understood the implications.

  3. Thanks, Lexi.

    If anyone is looking for a name for a villain and something to pin on him, you'll know a good place to look.

  4. While not straying into the area of libel and defamation, one hopes...

  5. This is deeply unpleasant. You're right, of course, that the only possible reason for this horrible contract is the publisher's hope that a diamond might lie sparkling among the dross. You're also right that, the numbers being as they are, it's a fair bet that one will indeed shine through sooner or later.

    Fortunately, the better writers are the ones least likely to be taken in. Let's hope it doesn't happen.

    Just a few years ago, digital publishing gave everyone at least a chance. But the numbers are different now, and I don't think it's right to offer the unconnected any encouragement. The odds against success have become enormous, regardless of the quality of the work.

    When any commercial concern encourages the nobodies to write novels, look for the hook concealed in the bait. Caveat lector. And caveat scriptor.

  6. Jake Brown, who appears to be on the Autharium team, says they are not an evil big publisher and want their contract to be fair. See his comments here:

    So we can stop worrying our pretty little heads about all that legal stuff, because Autharium's heart is in the right place.

  7. I've read it. Grrr.

    Let's look at this through the widest-angle lens we can. The vast majority of self-published and vanity-published books, digital or print, make pennies at most. And whatever Jake Brown might say -- "we are a small, but growing independent publisher, not a self-publisher or an evil big publisher" -- anyone who knows anything can tell from Autharium's website that they won't be that fussy about what they accept. (As for not being "an evil big publisher", that's just a way of trying to get on to the same wave length as the truly deluded, who are their most likely victims... sorry, customers.)

    So if they're not going to make money by charging authors, how are they going to survive? Perhaps they hope to get so many victims -- customers, dammit, customers -- that even fifteen percent of royalties will finally add up to something. But that interesting contract strongly suggests that their real hope is that the next J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown will take their bait -- and that the work of such prodigies will then actually get noticed.

    Because so much ill-considered encouragement is available for those who think they might make it as novelists, beginners are easily taken in by the blandishments of the likes of Autharium. It ain't right, it just ain't right.


    P.S. This from Authariums FAQs: "Books published through are curated and those which are intelligible, contain blatant advertising of services and/or websites cannot be published through Autharium."

  8. That is shocking. Thank you for the warning.

    The downside of a traditional publisher without the benefits.

  9. I've just followed the links to Hugh Howey's story at TPV and his own site.

    The number of people of principle, undiminshed by the love of money, is declining like tusks on elephants.

    My thanks to Lexi, Hugh and all who can match their integrity.

  10. Listen, everybody. When Lexi says "do not strike me as being", she means "are not". Kindness can go too far.

  11. Iain, I lack your killer instinct. Go on, blog about it on the No-Hoper :o)