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Can I decide not to publish my book despite having signed a contract with the publisher?

In the contract, it states:

"1. The Assignor represents, warrants, and agrees: That the Assignor is the sole owner and proprietor of said work and has full power to make this agreement and grant the printing rights: that the work in no way infringes upon the copyrights or proprietary rights of others; that it is original and not in the public domain; that it contains no libellous or other unlawful matter and does not invade the right of privacy of anyone. The manuscript submitted must not be plagiarised."

What does that "...has full power to make this agreement and grant the printing rights" mean?

Does it mean that I have the right and power to decide whether the book can be published or not?

I finished writing my book recently and handed all the chapters to the publisher. However, the publisher is rushing for sales and has gone to the layout/ design stage without any proofreading. The design team has messed up my book contents massively.

I asked them whether it had been proofread by a native English speaker and they said yes. But I know they lied because the book contains grammar errors. I have pointed out the grammar errors as I just spotted them but the publisher defending themselves, arguing that they want to keep the author's way of writing. That sounds ridiculous to me.

They only care about making sales and money within the next 12 - 24 months. I have requested them to correct many mistakes they have made in the book, apart from the grammar errors.

Since they tend to lie, I have a hunch that they will lie about the sales and royalties when the book has been published and on sale. So I will end up earning nothing but they will have profited from me!

They don't care about the quality and readability of the book. They just want to make sales fast and ASAP. That's why they are rushing to publish without proofreading. So the unfortunate readers will buy the book once and that is unreadable but it is too late for them. It seems like a "scam" to me. I don't want my book to end up "scamming" people. This can jeopardize my reputation too.

Any ideas on how can I stop that from happening?

I am thinking about going to another publisher. But I am sure they will not agree and give the permission.

What can I do to rescue the book and myself?

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    This first paragraph of the contract is establishing you, the author/assignor as the sole owner of the work - this section is merely stating that you haven't already sold the printing rights to someone else (or that the work isn't legally publishable for other reasons). I would assume that elsewhere in the contract, it establishes that you are selling that right to the publisher. It wouldn't make sense for the publisher to attempt to print your book if you had not granted them the printing rights. Jan 11 at 20:19
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    Have you paid them to publish your book, or are they paying you?
    – EDL
    Jan 12 at 1:15
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    Does your contract have a termination clause?
    – Lambie
    Jan 12 at 20:20
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    @Run There's nothing dumb about self-publishing. It has its risks and disadvantages, but giving control out of your hands and to the publisher has its risks and disadvantages too. I'd expect someone who asks a question like this very one to have noticed that much.
    – Divizna
    Jan 13 at 1:50
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    @Run Honestly I doubt that talking about termination in e-mails will help you. You can't show a final agreement about the matter - only non-binding discussion of options. But IANAL, take the contract and those e-mails and ask someone who is.
    – Divizna
    Jan 13 at 2:05

2 Answers 2

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The quoted part says nothing about the conditions of canceling the contract, it says that the contract can be made and valid in the first place; the sentence you're asking about is simply a declaration that you are qualified to sign such a contract about the work as its author and copyright owner.

Look in the rest of the contract for a paragraph that deals with the possibility of canceling (both from your side and the publisher's). The conditions for that should be spelled out somewhere.

It should be possible to cancel, but very likely under a financial penalty (because the publisher has invested work in this, and they want compensation for that if you get second thoughts).

If the contract is so badly written that it isn't in there anywhere, then I have no advice I could give you other than, "Consult a lawyer."

And for heaven's sake, do not ever again sign any contracts you don't understand!

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When you ask a legal question, always state your jurisdiction. The law isn't the same everywhere on the world.

Generally, if a contract contains a clause about under which circumstances one of the parties may withdraw from the contract and what happens if they do, that is what your rights and the consequences are. If a contract doesn't contain such a clause, there is usually a law in your country about when you may withdraw from a contract and what happens then. Commonly, one can withdraw from a contract without consequences if the other party broke the contract.

For example, as an author, you can withdraw from a publishing contract, if the publisher failed to meet what you both have agreed upon. So if your contract states that the publisher will copyedit your text prior to publication and they didn't do it or not well, you can withdraw from the contract. On the other hand, if you haven't explicitly agreed upon this, you may possibly still expect it from the publisher because conventionally that is what publishers do and a court of law might rule that from this convention you could have expected it even if it is not explicitly stated in the contract. But if your contract says that your publisher does not do copyediting and that it is the author's duty to provide a text that is ready-to-publish, you are out of luck.

You can still withdraw from the contract, but the publisher may hold you liable for the income they have lost.

It will all depend on your contract and the laws in your jurisdiction. And you may be better off asking your question in a law forum.


Edit after your comment:

  1. If your publisher promised that proofreading would be part of their services, and they did so in writing (email), a court of law might consider that part of your agreement even if it isn't spelled out in your contract again.

  2. Once you withdraw from the contract, the contract is void and the publisher no longer has the right to publish your work. They might sue you for lost income, but they certainly no longer have any right to your work.

  3. If you haven't signed away your right to be mentioned as the author of your work, they would break the law if they published it under another name. But (see no. 2) if you withdraw they no longer have the right to publish your work, under your name or another, so that doesn't matter anyway.

All assuming the laws in your jurisdiction are similar to that of most Western countries.

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  • Thanks @Ben for the answer. I requested proofreading in the email before signing the contract, and they said they also will cover that. The contract does not mention the proofreading though. But my book contents are all with them so it is too late to pull out. They would change the author's name on the book if I asked them not to publish it.
    – Run
    Jan 11 at 19:27
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    @Run I replied in an edit to my answer.
    – Ben
    Jan 11 at 20:08
  • thanks for the edit! I think the jurisdiction is set in India! But I am not an Indian citizen. I signed the contract when I was in Malaysia. I move around a lot.
    – Run
    Jan 12 at 21:21

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