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Principles of Fair Trade Publishing

The Principles of Fair Trade Publishing are designed to restore the author to his or her rightful place at the center of the process through which books are created, marketed and sold.

  • Those who are responsible for the creation of written works should be the primary beneficiary of financial compensation for those works.

  • The relationship between a publisher and an author should be a cooperative venture between equals.  The ideal relationship will also be an expression of creative synergy between the author’s creative talent and the publisher’s business saavy.  Each function should be considered equal in the partnership and compensated according – i.e. a 50-50 split of net profits after publisher’s and author’s expenses are deducted.


  • Retail outlets should wherever possible order directly from a publisher or author, and/or a Fair Trade Wholesaler – i.e. one who orders in quantity, pays on time, and accepts a no-return policy on books ordered.


  • Publishers, authors and retail outlets – particularly independent book stores – have a shared interest in attracting customers to a store where the author’s books are sold.  Independent book store owners should cooperate with authors to create events and generate publicity for the events, then compensate authors with a 50-50 split of all books sold as a result of the event. 


  • If the publisher is willing to make the necessary logistical arrangements and handle publicity for these events, then the publisher and author should split what is left of the author’s share, after publisher and author expenses are deducted.


  • Wholesalers should expect a wholesale discount only for volume orders.  Online consignment retailers should not expect wholesale discounts, nor expect publishers and authors to cover the cost of shipping for small orders.


  • Online retailers should not encourage third party vendors to bid down the cover price of the books they also purchase and sell themselves.  Instead, they should require that all third-party vendors purchase their stock from the author, publisher and/or a Fair Trade Wholesaler.


  • No author or publisher should have to wait more than 90 days for payment of retail and wholesale invoices.  All invoices should be paid promptly, without additional effort on the part of the author or publisher.  Retailers and wholesalers should expect to pay a late fee for any payments that are late.


  • Retailers and wholesalers should assume the business risk associated with any management of inventory.  Returns of books unsold are not compatible with Fair Trade Principles.

  • Libraries, publishers and authors have a mutual interest in introducing the reading public to new material, and making timeless material available for research.  If such material is to made available digitally, however, a contractual arrangement assuring adequate compensation to authors and/or publishers should be made between the library and the author and/or publisher, and not with third party vendors.  Such arrangements should involve a 50-50 split for any fees charged for access to digitally reproduced material; a 90 (author/publisher) - 10 (library) split for digital materials made available in downloadable e-book form or regular hard copy.


  • Reviewers should treat authors with respect by informing them of the receipt of any review copies sent; of the intent to review; and the expected publication date of a review – without the author or publisher having to ask for such information.  Books not reviewed should be returned in good condition at the reviewer’s expense.  Upon the review of a book, both author and publisher should receive notification, including a digital tear sheet for print or digital reviews, and/or link to any review published online – again, without the author or publisher having to ask.

  • Everyone in the book chain – wholesalers, retailers, online booksellers, libraries, reviewers, publishers and authors themselves – should encourage wherever and however possible, communication between authors and their readers.  All references to a book in print should automatically include whatever contact information, website and blog URLs, social networking links, etc, that a given author is willing to provide.  Such references should be made available without charge by anyone profiting in any way from the sale of an author’s work.

It is the intent of Fair Trade Publishing to create an environment in which the visionary passion of those who are called to write books can be rewarded sufficiently to encourage their best work.  While the bottom-line would be only one factor driving a book trade based on Fair Trade Publishing Principles, we believe the adoption of these principleswill allow a greater focus on quality, integrity, and the inspirational potency of the written word.  With such a foundation, we can together foster a culture in which cutting-edge ideas meet an audience of active, participatory readers capable of making the world a better, more humane, more egalitarian, more ecologically sustainable, more enlightened place.

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