NIWA Spring Blog Tour #5–The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing, by Thomas Gondolfi

This is the fifth in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers Association. You can catch up with them at

The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing – The Golden Rule

by Thomas Gondolfi

Let’s be honest with ourselves – many large publishing houses take advantage of basically everyone in their ecosystem. They use the slush pile to get intellectual property (IP) cheaply. They use their size and segment share to pressure vendors, distributors, and sellers to do as they want. It’s a nasty fact of life. Almost all authors know it but with little other choice are forced to run the gauntlet in hopes of grabbing the brass ring. Smaller publishers don’t have that level of power. They can still be predatory or just dirty using contracts to steal IP, lawyers to threaten litigation, or even take money from unsuspecting authors. I didn’t choose the name of my publishing concern by rolling random numbers. TANSTAAFL Press*, by the very nature of its name, wants to give a fair deal to the authors, vendors, and the customers.

We have all heard of the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As a hybrid publisher, I feel that I need to not only follow this rule but be held up as an exemplar in all facets of the business.

Let’s start with the authors, shall we? I try to give new authors, not established ones, a voice by publishing their exceptional works. It takes a bit of extra effort to find those whose work I love, but it is worth it. Along the way, I can assist other authors who aren’t quite there yet, all in a way that I’d like to see, such as personalized rejection letters that encourage more submissions.

Contracts or publishing deals are made as fair as I possibly with none of this “take it or leave it” BS that many big publishers do. In generating our standard contract, I pulled in as much of the SFWA contract as possible. Then I leavened it with what I would want to see if I were to sign a contract. You can see it at On a simple reading, many things will stand out in my contracts vs. those of other companies. I am proud of several of these. Royalties go up rapidly for sales over a set amount. There is a termination date or sales numbers where the author gets his / her rights to the book back. Most importantly, the contract is only a starting point that I encourage the author to input toward customization. The idea in my mind is a fair deal for everyone.

Education: If someone feels like they want to go down the publishing path themselves, I’m more than happy to provide my experiences and advice – for the most part, gratis. I write books, give seminars, working on a community college course, and just sit down to chew the fat with folks about writing and publishing. My reward for most of that is indirect, kind of like the reward for being a parent. Seeing the recipient of your knowledge avoiding your mistakes is golden.

I try to apply the Golden Rule of fairness to vendors I work with. If I think they are asking too little, I make them accept more (has happened more than once). If they do something exceptional (like help me get something done faster when I’m in a schedule crunch), I’ll throw them a bonus. I always offer the names of my vendors when asked and often publish them in my works. Conversely, when something doesn’t feel fair to me, I move on to a vendor that does. BUT, don’t assume a significant dollar figure means something isn’t reasonable. Factor in how many hours it would take them. What specialized equipment or training did they need to pay for? Then figure out how much per hour it cost. With that knowledge, could you make a living on that much money per hour?

Customers get our works at the same or lower prices than those of a traditional publisher, even if the cost to produce is higher. I can do this primarily because I take a higher risk and my payroll is significantly lower. I often throw in discounts for those who buy multiple books or an entire series. Wins for everyone.

By putting yourself in the shoes of the other party, it becomes easier to decide if any deal is fair. Don’t sell your work short, nor the risks you are taking investing money. At the same time, don’t assume you are someone that deserves a champagne fountain at every luncheon because you can get a book into print. Turn the deal around. What you will get in return for this mental exercise is a group of faithful, long term relationships AND more that would be eager to do business with you.


* – TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Thomas Gondolfi founded TANSTAAFL Press in 2012. He is a book parent of the Toy Wars series, the CorpGov Chronicles, and Wayward School, along with numerous other writing and editing credits, which can be found on He is a father of three (real children), consummate gamer, and loving husband. Tom also claims to be a Renaissance man and a certified flirt.

Raised as a military brat, he spent twenty years of his life moving to a new place every few years, giving him a unique perspective on life and people.

Working as an engineer in high tech for over thirty years, Tom has also worked as a cook, motel manager, most phases of home construction, volunteer firefighter, and the personal caregiver to a quadriplegic.

Comments Off on NIWA Spring Blog Tour #5–The TANSTAAFL Press Philosophy of Publishing, by Thomas Gondolfi

Filed under 2020 NIWA Blog Tour

Comments are closed.