In the world of authorship, the success of a book is dependent on many factors and perhaps the most important of all is the publisher.

A book publisher is responsible for publishing your work as an author that is, providing you an advance, hiring editors, taking care of the marketing and doing everything to help your book sell.

I saw quite an interesting question online about whether or not publishers cheat authors.

In this post I’m going to answer this question and provide some comments text for any newbie writer out there.

With that said, do publishers cheat authors?

Book publishing is a very competitive business where reputation is of vital importance. It’s therefore very rare for publishers to cheat authors because they can be audited and put under scrutiny.

Publishers need authors to thrive and make money so stealing or cheating authors is not in the best interest of the business and would generally cost more than anything.

Why publishers avoid cheating

Let’s get into some of the reasons publishers rarely cheat authors so you get better understanding into this topic.


Audits are part of almost every business.

In the writing business, authors can hire accountants/auditors to help them understand the numbers as well as understand the distribution of funds as well as how much money was actually made.

Having an auditor… for an author, acts as a fail-safe to protect both the money and the relationship with the publisher.

When the publisher knows that every dollar is accounted for, they’ll do everything to ensure transparency to avoid any misunderstandings.

This is why it’s not very common for publishers to cheat.


In the writing world of books, reputation above all else is the back bone of the business.

Publishers need authors to have a business to operate. Authors provide the work that the publisher can, through their various channels package, promote and deliver to buyers.

Therefore publishers work to have a squeaky clean reputation because any slight dirt on that record and no author will be comfortable working with them.

It’s of vital importance to realise the gravity of this situation because it acts as a way in which authors are protected.

They don’t need to

A well rounded book publishing company would have done enough research to know the business well. In such a case, making money wouldn’t pose any form of difficulty that could not be over come.

So while it is possible that a publisher can cheat an author, most publishers don’t need to because they can make a lot more honest money via publishing royalties and other streams of income.

Publishing companies usually offer authors an advance to help them settle down, get an apartment etc. in order to have a good working relationship that can be nurtured as time goes on.

In the end, the publisher needs the author and the author needs the publishers to effectively deliver their work in the best possible manner.

Any publisher that has been around for a long time knows that the author-publisher relationship is one that is win-win. While it’s human nature to cheat, publishers usually know not to because they can make more money over the long term by being honest.

Can a Publisher steal my idea?

Generally the idea of a book is not really the hard part about writing a book. What is generally harder to do is actually execute, follow a plan and sell the book.

Besides, the moment you write the words down, you own the copyright to them. The ideas would of course require you to patent them but all in all a publisher with integrity won’t steal your idea for a book.

Can an editor steal your idea?

Editors generally risk a whole lot if they steal a book idea.

Most of them aren’t willing to take on such risk.

You can therefore not expect the editor to take your ideas from you and run with them.

They’ll generally just do their job and help you in whatever way they can.

What to look for in a publisher

Let’s look into some of the things you can consider when looking for a publisher to help you sell your book.


Experience determines a lot and should be one of the key things you look for in a publisher.

Remember that you’re not only looking for overall experience, but you’re looking for their experience with your particular kind of book and genre.

The more niche the publisher is, the better because you’ll know that they have first hand experience publishing your kind of material.

Different book genres require different handling when it comes to promotion, marketing and overall publishing. So it’s important to have a publisher with experience help you out so you avoid executing your work wrong because like I earlier mentioned;

In the writing business what probably matters more than the writing is the execution of that work.

Publishers that have experience and have worked with many authors will not likely cheat you because their reputation is more valuable than any money they can rip off from you.


You need to have a shared vision with the publisher if you intend to publish a book together.

If they don’t believe in the success of the book, it becomes very difficult for them to effectively help you deliver the book to your intended audience.

And it’s common knowledge that publishers that genuinely like your work will have it in them to promote your work better.

Contract terms

The terms to which you agree are very important and will set the tone for the entirety of your working relationship.

It’s very important and helpful that you hire a lawyer to help you look though all the terms, fine print and everything that pertains to payments etc.

The publisher that is fair will not go out of their way to make your life difficult with a contract, they’ll try to make your life as easy as possible whilst also profiting from their investment in your work.

If your lawyer advises you on a bad book deal then you should not sign with that publisher because they’re more than likely trying to take advantage of you.


Generally publishers will offer an advance to the writer that is meant to help them while the publishers work to sell their books.

The advance and royalty payments after the publisher recoup the advance should give you a good indication of whether or not you have a bad book deal or not.

Categories: Writing