A member contacted Which? Money after fearing they’d been duped into paying £1,900 to a dodgy publishing firm. Here’s our advice on getting your money back.
In 2019, Sheila wrote and illustrated a story for her granddaughter. She was very pleased with it, and several friends suggested she try to get it published.
She contacted a publishing firm online, which said it would handle everything, including worldwide marketing through its several offices, so she paid the firm £1,900. However, as of August this year, she hadn’t even seen a first draft and now fears she may have been duped.
She contacted us for help asking if there was anything she could do. Fortunately there are routes to recovering the money. Traditional publishing contracts involve the publisher paying the writer a fee (the ‘advance’) and taking on the cost of all the editing, marketing and distribution.
Self-publishing involves the author paying a fee (the ‘contribution’) to a publisher or printer. In your case, the publisher’s contract says that it will complete the work within 269 working days, which it has failed to do.
She could take the publisher to the small claims court, as her claim was below £10,000 (the threshold is £5,000 in Scotland and £3,000 in Wales). But just filing her claim would cost over £100.
Section 75 claims
Fortunately, there could be a quicker solution that won’t cost her anything.
We often suggest making Section 75 claims for goods that were paid for and not received, as the Consumer Credit Act states the card provider is jointly liable. But Section 75 also applies to services not provided – and as she paid the publisher by credit card, and the contribution cost more than £100, it could apply to her.
She’s now raised the issue with her bank and is awaiting the outcome. Other readers can make Section 75 claims or chargeback claims (for debit and prepaid cards, or credit card payments for less than £100 or over £30,000) using Which?’s free online tool.
Industry website writersandartists.co.uk (part of publisher Bloomsbury) advises writers to be sceptical about publishers that ask for a contribution.
A reputable self-publishing firm should set out exactly how the writer’s contribution is being spent. You should have control over how the book will look; how many copies will get printed and how it will be promoted to bookshops.
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