I first started hearing about Curiosity Quills Press in 2016, because of its unusual early termination fees. Not that early termination fees themselves are unusual (unfortunately): I see them fairly often in contracts I’m asked to evaluate (and they are always a red flag; here’s why).
What makes CQ’s fees unusual is that they’re part of an annual event. This is outlined on CQ’s website, and also in its contract:
On the surface this may seem like a publisher being flexible and author-friendly–a get-out-of-jail-if-not-exactly-free procedure that authors can follow in a guaranteed and orderly manner. In fact, such provisions often work to the detriment of both authors and publishers–publishers because escape clauses may incentivize early departure, including by authors they’d rather keep; and authors because the costs can be enormous (not to mention unverifiable, if the publisher charges a flat fee or provides no supporting invoices). Plus, publishers can and do abuse termination fees–for instance, by terminating the contracts of writers who’ve pissed them off and demanding the fee even though termination wasn’t the writer’s decision.
Read more here.