Run Away Screaming from Hilliard & Harris

I got this email today:

I am thinking about submitting my mystery/romance/thriller to Hilliard & Harris. What can you tell me about them?

In my opinion, Hilliard & Harris are essentially a Print-On-Demand vanity press that gets you to pay on the backend rather than upfront (if you don’t include what you pay to buy copies of your own books). Here’s how they do it:  they load their contract with an enormous number of egregious charges against royalties so that in the highly unlikely event that your book does make money, you won’t see much of it.

For example, they deduct from your sales the cost of returns, cost of printing, cost of shipping, sales transaction costs, cost of insurance, commissions, discounts, cost of promotion, collection costs, taxes, as well as "other reasonable costs,"  just in case they left anything out, like maybe their electric bill and the pizzas they had for lunch.

None of their listed costs, with the exception of returns, are "reasonable" charges against royalties. But since they are primarily a POD publisher, the cost of returns is a moot point anyway. No reputable, legitimate publisher charges authors for printing, shipping, insurance, collections, promotion, commissions, taxes and "sales transaction costs" (whatever the hell those are)…but vanity presses do.

That’s only one example of the many objectionable terms in their loathsome contract, which an author would have to be insane to sign. Run away screaming.

7 thoughts on “Run Away Screaming from Hilliard & Harris”

  1. I turned down a contract from H&H almost ten years ago for a variety of reasons, all spelled out in the “contract”. Another writer friend also warned me after his unfavorable experience. They sign you for three books, and they have the usual first refusal option, but when you sign the contract (if I recall correctly, because that’s how I understood the deal) you can’t go to somebody else with books they turn down. You have to keep submitting material until they do your three. They essentially want to lock you in with them. Plus they pay no advance. I ran and never looked back.

  2. I know you’ve previously commented on the iUniverse system and the mega-cents you’ve made so far (okay, kilo-cents) … just wondering if the MWA still had its deal with them for out-of-print books … and whether it’s worth the hassle to be _in_ print via iUniverse rather than out?

  3. I don’t think the MWA still has a relationship with iUniverse but the Authors Guild may still be running their “Back in Print” program with them.
    I make about a few hundred dollars a year in royalties on the iUniverse reprint editions of UNSOLD TV PILOTS and MY GUN HAS BULLETS, so I suppose it’s better than not having the books in print at all.
    To all of you thinking about going the iUniverse route it should be noted that I didn’t have to pay a penny to have the books reprinted. iUniverse had a special program in which they would reprint previously published, out-of-print titles from mainstream publishers for free through cooperative arrangements with the MWA and the Authors Guild. NEVER PAY TO BE PUBLISHED.

  4. From the Author’s Guild:
    Recently, a handful of POD publishers have been soliciting and “accepting” manuscripts at an astonishing rate and not requiring money up front to publish a book. They even offer what on its face apperas to be a relatively standard publishing agreement and sometimes agree to pay a nominal advance (eg one dollar). This has led writers — particularly novices– to think they are being published by bona fide trade publishers.
    […]They typically will not publish any copies other than those ordered at the authors discount. Apparently, the total number of books purchases for friends and relativesat the “special” author’s price by the presumably large number of people taken in by this scheme makes it a profitable venture for the ethically challenge.
    […]If you are still interested in proceeding in the hope that your publisher is bona fide, be sure to insert, in addition to the requirement that the book be published within a specified time period at the publisher’s sole expense, language stating tha the number of print-on-demand copies of the book initially published at the publisher’s expense “will not be less than ______ copies” (eg 500 or 1000). Language like this, as well as a good out-of-print clause, should flush out the intentions of the publisher and save you from a bad surprise.

  5. Beware the “Term of License” Contract

    In this month’s Authors Guild Bulletin, Mark L. Levine warns writers to be very wary of publishers offering a so-called “term of license” contract (signing you for seven to ten years with an option to renew) unless you are already…

  6. Hilliard & Harris offered me a contract, but the horribly unfavorable terms made me think again. I requested Stephanie Reilly to change some of them. Needless to say, a publisher who earns money only by making authors buy their own books cannot be expected to adopt normal and traditional practices of a decent publisher. I am thankful to writers who have shared here their experiences in dealing with Hilliard & Harris. New writers should be absolutely careful of this company.


Leave a Comment