Dorrance Publishing

NOTE: Below is the entire review of Dorrance Publishing from the 2011 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.  It is provided ONLY for informational purposes, as the service offerings and publishing packages LIKELY have changed since 2011.

The contract terms, printing costs, and royalty amounts often don’t change significantly, HOWEVER, you should check Dorrance’s website for the most current offerings and pricing.  Also, none of the links below are live as many have changed.

Updated information on this publisher’s printing markups and royalties can be found in the  2014 edition of The Fine Print of Self-Publishing.



FORMAT OF BOOKS: Paperback, hardcover, and ebook


PUBLISHING FEES: Dorrance has been around since the 1920s and offers both traditional subsidy and self-publishing packages. The difference, according to the publisher, is that traditional subsidy means the publisher will keep your book in stock and provide marketing, distribution, and fulfillment. Self-publishing means that the company will produce and print your book, and you will be responsible for storage and sales. Package details are not available on the website, which also looks like it has been around since the 1920s.

Publishing package fees—or any details at all—will not be discussed until a book is submitted for review and accepted. After my editor submitted a manuscript for a 202-page, perfect bound, paperback book, we were accepted to the Subsidy Package, which costs $11,500 and includes the following:

  • Basic mechanical editing for grammar, spelling, and punctuation
  • Typesetting (font determined by the designers), proofreading, and interior layout design
  • Custom cover, which can incorporate artwork provided by the author if she chooses
  • U.S. Copyright Office registration
  • LCCN (“If your book qualifies.”)
  • Book warehousing, fulfillment, and distribution for two years
  • Twenty-five author copies
  • Specified amount of fees, determined on a case-by-case basis, put toward a promotion budget, the highlights of which include:
  • Listing in Dorrance’s online bookstore, DorranceBookstore .comPreparation of a “digital interactive press kit” featuring book synopsis, author bio, publicity release, high-res copy of cover, and links to your listing in Dorrance’s online bookstore, sent to three hundred media outletsPublicity release distributed to online news media: Google News, Yahoo! News, blogs, radio programs, and newspapersGoogle AdWords search engine marketing campaign, linking to your listing on Dorrance’s online bookstoreInclusion in Google Book Search and R.R. Bowker’s Books In Print; listingsAnnouncements about your work sent to wholesalers and distributers

    Telephone calls to up to twelve booksellers to introduce your work and offer to set up an author signing

    Direct mail marketing postcards, sent to your personal mailing list

Dorrance also offers an assurance program, which allows authors who lose their income within a year of paying/signing to cancel their payment plan and walk away from their additional payment obligations. A 100 percent credit is applied if and when the author resumes services.

While the marketing sounds extensive, the contract explicitly states that Dorrance only agrees to provide $1,000 of total marketing in employee time and actual out-of-pocket expense.

RETURN OF DIGITAL COVER AND INTERIOR FILES: When we queried Dorrance about their policy regarding ownership of the working cover and typeset files, we received this answer via email: “Regarding the production files, we will hang on to those while we continue to print copies of the book. Should you decide to terminate the contract for some reason, we can give you the files—no charge.” That’s great, but the contract does not address this issue.

RETAIL PRICE OF AUTHOR’S BOOK: According to the contract, “Dorrance shall determine the retail price of the Work based on the final page count of the desired Work.” Details are not specified in the contract.

PRICE AUTHOR PAYS FOR BOOKS: The author receives twenty-five books as part of the package’s purchase price. If the author exhausts that supply, he or she may purchase additional copies at 45 percent off the retail price.

Based on Dorrance’s online bookstore, here are some retail prices of recent books:

  • What’s Left? What’s Right? A Political Journey via North Korea and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (180 pages/paperback/$18.00)
  • 8442 Eastwick Avenue; The Soul of Ellenwood Lives in the House Where Life’s Long-LastingMemories Blossomed (122 pages/paperback/$14.00)
  • Adventures of Timmy and Sherry, Book I: Losing Their Marbles (342 pages/paperback/$28.00)

So, if the author of the $18.00 (180-page) book wanted to buy copies, he would pay:

$18.00 Retail price

–$8.10 Author discount (45%)

$7.90 Per book (based on $0.015 per page plus $0.90 for the cover)

The cost to print this book is $3.60, so the printing markup is 119 percent.

If the author of the 342-page book wanted to purchase copies, he would pay:

$28.00 Retail price

–$12.60 Author discount (45%)

$15.40 Author cost per book

Since the cost to print this book is $6.03, the printing markup is 155 percent.

ROYALTIES PAID TO AUTHOR: The author royalty is 40 percent of the retail price for books sold through the Dorrance online bookstore, and 20 percent of the wholesale price for books sold through third-party retailers and wholesalers. For ebooks, the author earns 80 percent of the retail price for sales through the Dorrance online store, and 40 percent of the amount paid to Dorrance by a third-party reseller.

For the 180-page book that sells for $18.00, the author would make the following amount from a sale on

$18.00 Retail price

–$ 9.90 discount (55%)

$8.10 Wholesale price

x 0.20 Royalty percentage

$1.62 Author royalty

On this same sale, Dorrance makes:

$18.00 Retail price

—$9.90 discount (55%)

—$3.60 Actual print cost

–$1.62 Author royalty

$2.88 Dorrance profit

For the sale of the same 180-page book from the Dorrance online bookstore, the author would make the following:

$18.00 Retail price

x 0.40 Royalty percentage

$7.20 Author royalty

On this same sale, Dorrance makes:

$18.00 Retail price

—$7.20 Author royalty

–$3.60 Actual print cost

$7.20 Dorrance royalty

NOTABLE PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLISHING AGREEMENT: Dorrance does not provide copies of its contract on its website and will not even answer any questions about it for prospective authors—until the author submits a manuscript. We had to literally go undercover in order to obtain the following information.

Section 1 gives Dorrance, for the full two-year term of the contract, the exclusive right to publish the book and “all other right to and in the work,” which refers to subsidiary rights covered later in the contract. This is something you never see in self-publishing contracts. Under the contract we received, we pay them $11,600 and we’re stuck for two years.

Section 3 covers what and how the author will pay Dorrance for its services, which in this case is in three separate installments. It also says that Dorrance “makes no contribution to the cost of the initial publication.”

Section 4 states that Dorrance has 160 working days (nine months) after the contract is signed to complete the book, unless prevented by the author, acts of God, or other circumstances beyond its control. The author agrees to review any edits or production proofs within six days of receiving them.

Section 5 provides the technical specs for the author’s book and states that, while Dorrance will consult with the author, the “content, style, design, and format of the cover/jacket will be entirely at the discretion of Dorrance.” It also says that the author will pay for any changes made to the book after the author has approved the proofs. In this section, Dorrance also states the level of editing provided.

Section 6 says that if the author would like any of her materials returned (i.e., any cover art she has provided) she must make a written request for it within thirty days of signing the contract. Otherwise, the original manuscript and all other materials submitted will not be returned. This is not the same as getting the original production files returned. There is nothing in the contract that provides for that, despite the information we received from the representative.

Section 7 details the author’s royalty and the retail price of the book. Royalties are paid biannually, on January 31 and July 31. Dorrance has the right to increase the retail price of the author’s book; in such a case, royalties would be adjusted accordingly.

Section 8 states that the author’s package includes twenty-five copies of the work at no extra charge. This section also provides the author’s cost to purchase books at a 45 percent discount plus the cost of shipping.

Section 9 outlines the publisher’s promotion plan, with a caveat that the publisher will spend no more than $1,000 (or the equivalent in labor) on promotion. The details are listed in the package description of this review. However, I don’t know how they can actually provide all of that promotional work for $1,000.

A paragraph in Section 9 also states that the author must tell Dorrance when she is undertaking promotional efforts on her own so that Dorrance may approve the wording and information.

Section 10 permits Dorrance to sell any subsidiary rights (which include book club, paperback, hardcover, reprint, serial, dramatic, motion picture, television, radio, translation, and other such rights) during the term of the agreement. Should Dorrance sell any subsidiary rights, the author earns 80 percent while Dorrance keeps the other 20 percent. Again, this is something you shouldn’t have to give away when you are paying to publish.

Section 11 says that Dorrance will secure a copyright for the book in the author’s name.

In Section 12, the author agrees that she has the right to publish the book, that it is her work, and that it is not libelous or fraudulent. It also says that Dorrance will not be held legally or financially liable if litigation arises due to copyright or other issues.

Section 13 extends the contract terms to the electronic form of the book, stating that they will “strive to make the work available” as an ebook thirty days from the publication date of the physical book. Dorrance will determine the retail price, and the author will receive 80 percent of that price for ebooks sold.

Section 14 details the term of the contract. It says that after two years, either party can terminate the contract with a thirty-day written notice. It also specifies that if the author fails to pay any of the fees outlined in the contract, the contract will be terminated and any fees that have been paid will not be returned.

If the author terminates the contract during the production process and Dorrance is not in breach of contract, then all fees will be forfeited.

If after publishing the book, Dorrance determines that the book is libelous, obscene, or otherwise injurious or unlawful, it can terminate the contract and the author must forfeit all fees.

Section 16 says that the contract is complete and that any additions must be made in writing and signed by both parties.

Section 18 says that the contract is subject to the laws of the County of Alleghany and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Any disputes will need to be settled there, and under no circumstance will litigation resolve with either party paying the other more than the payments made in the course of the contract. However, the non-prevailing party must pay all lawyers’ fees. One other goody from this section: neither party can reveal the results of any arbitration without the consent of the other. So, if Dorrance does you wrong and you win, you can’t warn others.

If the author thinks the publisher has not performed its duties according to the contract, she must present her case in a certified or registered letter to the publisher and give the publisher an unspecified “reasonable” amount of time to correct its mistakes; otherwise, the author cannot claim a breach of contract.

Section 19 says that the contract applies to the heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns of the author and the successors and assigns of Dorrance. That basically means that if you die, or Dorrance sells its business to PublishAmerica, the contract is still binding.

AUTHOR-FRIENDLY RATING: The $11,600 is not the worst deal I’ve seen for the services provided, but the marketing services that are included at that price are pretty lame. The printing markups are through the roof. The retail price of the books seem to be higher than market (at least the three books I looked at). The royalties are okay, but after paying $11,600, should the publisher get to make more than you do on every sale? I’d say no. You can’t get back your production files. On top of that, add a contract with a two-year term, the assignment of your subsidiary rights, and an arbitration clause that prevents you from speaking about the results, and I can’t think of any reason to use this publisher.

And, in the cover letter Dorrance sent to us, they stated, “To the best of our knowledge, we are the only full-service subsidy publisher to offer our authors the opportunity for simultaneous publication in bookstore quality traditional format, and also in an online electronic ebook format.” Either they have been using the same cover letter for years, or they don’t know what’s happening in the industry today.