The board of the American Quilter’s Society made a decision last week to close the company’s book publishing division. In a letter to authors from AQS co-founder and president Meredith Schroeder stated, “It is with a great deal of regret that I am notifying you that the American Quilter’s Society will no longer be publishing new books…I am sorry to see it come to this, but I know you are aware of all the changes in technology in the publishing industry.” AQS executive show director, Bonnie Browning, went further in a Facebook post, “Today there is so much free instruction available online that it is very hard for a book business to compete with free. AQS will continue being a membership organization with 6 issues of American Quilter magazine, discounts on merchandise and shows, and we will be doing 6 shows in 2017.”
Fall books that were previously scheduled for publication will come out on schedule, but there will be no new books for spring.
AQS was a major player in quilt book publishing world. Their author roster includes industry leaders including Nancy Crow and Gwen Marston, among many others. The news was met with disappointment and trepidation by authors who had worked with the company. “As an author of two books published by AQS, I am extremely disappointed,” one said.
AQS is now in the process of liquidating their book stock. In a letter authors were told they have the option to buy their books at a 75% off the retail price plus shipping and handling now through September 1. At that time AQS will “liquidate these books by whatever means possible, which includes, but not limited to, giving them away as a premium, selling them to a remainder house, or selling them at a greatly reduced price.” Authors will get a 5% royalty on the net selling price.
Authors own the copyright for their work, but AQS owns the publishing rights, meaning the design and layout of the books. If authors would like to purchase the publishing rights they can do so at cost of $20 per page ($1,920 for a 96 page book, for example). AQS will send a DVD of the book file which authors are free to use elsewhere including uploading the file to a print-on-demand company such as Amazon’s CreateSpace.
This deal struck some as upsetting. “The options they are offering are downright depressing,” one author said.
Book agent Kate McKean explains that what AQS is doing is in line with the standard for the book publishing industry. “It’s called remaindering…It’s not fun of course, because when it comes to this point the book isn’t selling for anyone. Publishers are taxed on the stock that sits in their warehouses,” she explains. “A publisher liquidating books is not necessarily ‘taking advantage’ of its authors. They’re making a business decision…publishing is a business. I’m sure they feel that if the publisher did more marketing there would be more sales, but that’s not always true, either, and that costs money that these books aren’t making. It’s a vicious cycle. So it goes.”
Still, some authors feel left out in the cold. “”Feeling like all my hard work and creativity is all for naught,” one said. “Where do I go from here?”
As an author of two AQS books I agree with the feelings of other authors. I also understand the demands of business. I can not afford, nor warehouse large amounts books. I do not have the marketing reach an established well know company has. That is why I signed the publishing agreement. Never imagining it would come to this.
I am unclear what copywrite vs publishing means. I know what the definitions are but what do they really mean. If I don’t want to reproduce the book can I sell my creative work as a pattern? I don’t have AQS files but I do have my files, can I use my files to create a pattern?
Hi Becky, As far as I understand (and I’m not a lawyer and not your lawyer!) you do retain the copyright for the patterns and instructions. Once the contract with AQS ends you can reformat them and sell them as patterns. What they’re offering you to buy back is the designed pages that their graphic designer created. If you don’t need those then no need to pay for them.
As a newly published AQS author I’m caught in this firestorm and not happy to be here. My book just came out in April. If I buy some of my books and then they sell off the rest for even less the chances of me selling any I might buy get even slimmer. It was a whole lot of work and I will likely see very little for my effort and it just proves that any contract is worth just about as much money as the paper it is printed on. In my opinion iQuilt is what put them over the edge. The videos are not selling and they spent a TON of money doing them. Personally I think this goes deeper than just publishing for AQS but time will tell. I’m supposed to do the author showcase at the Grand Rapids show in a couple of weeks but I’m wondering if it’s even worth the gas to get there. So disappointed.
I’m not a lawyer but, I don’t think they can keep you from publishing your own work. You just cannot publish it as they have laid it out. What they are selling you is the right to publish exactly as they have laid it out. If you want to rewrite and create your work in your own words and pictures in a different lay out so that it is not a copy of the current book, I think you can then publish without buying rights from AQS. I would however consult an attorney to be sure so as not to have any conflict over your work.
I don’t think AQS is trying to hold your work hostage they are just being a business and offering to sell the publishing rights to you. If you read your contract, you will notice that they own the publishing rights even if they don’t plan to publish anymore. You do own the copyright but, you don’t own the publishing rights on the book they created for you. They have given you the option to either rewrite and create your own using your own words and pictures, or purchase the publishing right to keep publishing it yourself as it is currently written. You’re not buying your book back, your buying purchasing rights for the item they currently own.
I know the price seems high, especially since they don’t plan to publish it anymore anyway but, if you think the book will continue to sell it could be worth it to not have to do rewrites and lay outs. You can simply use the DVD they send you and have it printed or published online for download.
Publishing companies don’t want to spend money on advertising books. My mother has written 2 books (non quilting related) and has self published. She sells her books at local bookstores, tourist spots, camp ground stores. But she gets out there and hustles. Is it easy? No, but at 86 1/2, she likes what she does and has done lots of research to make sure her books are accurate. I like to buy books so I can go back years later and maybe make the pattern. But then I have lots of books that caught my eye and I never made anything out of the book. So I donate it to my guild so they can library it or resell it. And it’s not just quilt books. Earlene Fowler’s contract did not get renewed after she wrote 15 books that were all well received. Again the publisher would not put the money up for a tour so she could do readings. Very sad.
As an AQS author whose book was published less than a year ago, I too am very disappointed, to say the least. I do have a question: My contract with AQS states that they have right of first refusal for my next future book If ever I should want to write another. (I know, I was too naive to get that changed; lesson learned.) Does their exit from publishing books void that clause in the contract so that I could submit a new book proposal to a different publisher?
I am not a lawyer, and I’m not your lawyer, so definitely don’t take this as legal advice. I believe that once your contract is made null and void by the company shutting this division down you are then free to go.