I have been watching with some resentment, not to say a gimlet eye, a book (one of three in a series) that I wrote in 2002 as “work for hire” (for a flat fee, no royalties) perform rather well on Amazon. The title is Garden Psalms and it has been out of print for some years. It is a full color beautifully illustrated “devotional” with a ribbon marker, and it did well in stores for Honor Books when it was published. But Honor has been bought and sold several times since then and I don’t know who has the publishing rights (or I’d try to buy them).
Currently it is selling on the used book market for as little as a penny to as much as $25 in some cases and has received rave reviews. This is an old “gifty” book, but very beautiful and comforting to read, which accounts for its continuing popularity.
Every penny the re-sellers make from the book goes straight to their pockets.
My distress and frustration over this is just another instance of a writer doing what she has to do to make ends meet early in her career. No, I wasn’t offered any royalties, but it was a nice chunk of change when I needed it and I took the work gratefully. What galls me today is that I was a nobody when I wrote it, but since then have built a writing career and small reputation, and so now the re-sellers are capitalizing on it, for what it’s worth, and using my name with the book. Ironically, the original publishers did not want to use my name with it at all!
If there is a moral to this story, a lesson to be learned, it’s to avoid “work for hire agreements” like the plague. Always try to wheedle some small royalty out of the publisher in any agreement and guard your publishing rights like gold. Books have very long lives and you never know when there will be a resurgence in value in any given book.
My only recourse today would be to purchase the rights from the current rights holder, but he/she has disappeared and the book is still out of print!
Perhaps I shouldn’t be resentful of this, but my name is in headlights over it as author, making hay of the fact that since I wrote that particular book, I went on to write and publish several more, some very well reviewed.
That’s life, I guess, though I still will keep an eye out for the current rights holder to my “psalms” books written so long ago 🙂 I’d love to reissue them in updated versions with new covers.