The antics of some publishers never cease to amaze me. What makes me gasp even harder is that most authors – even experienced ones – are oblivious to what they’re unwittingly signing away.
In the euphoria of finally getting a book deal, many authors overlook the fact that they are getting rather a raw deal in their publishing contract. This acim prevents them from getting deals that are better for them and better for their books.
I was reading a publishing contract for one of my clients this week. He’s a prominent celebrity, at the top of his field, and regularly featured on TV.
Here are some of the things that I flagged up, before he signed on the dotted line:
* World Rights & Film Rights *
In one fell swoop, the author was signing away his UK rights, world rights, TV rights, digital rights, film rights, to name but a few. All for the grand sum of – wait for it – 5,000.
A decent literary agent will sell your UK rights, your German rights, your US rights, your Australian rights, etc separately. They’ll also sell your film options separately. If any publisher suggests you hand over all rights, make damn well sure you are paid a decent sum for it.
And here’s the thing, once they have these rights who says they are actually going to do anything once they have these rights? Ideally, there must be a clause committing the publisher to some sort of definite action regarding these rights – otherwise they could easily end up gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.
* Break Clause *
Now here’s something else that’s vitally important. What if there is a strong demand for your book, but your publisher decides not to reprint it? Or what if it is remaindered, but you can’t persuade them that your genre is suddenly fashionable again? Or supposing, many years after your death, one of your forebears would like to publish your out-of-print work?
A break clause allows the rights to revert to the author after a certain period – usually 3 years after a book has been remaindered or goes out-of-print. It ensures that a publisher does not retain the rights indefinitely.
* Competition Cause *
As most successful authors know, the big money is in the upsell. In other words, higher priced products – such as home study courses, CD sets, DVD sets – which are spin-off products from your book.
If you are planning to re-purpose or rewrite your content and sell other similar products, beware ‘competition’ clauses that tie your hands. This is particularly relevant when it comes to non-fiction books.
* Options On Subsequent Books *
Many times, publishers request the option to consider the author’s next book before it is shown to any other publisher. The author is so thrilled and flattered by this that they overlook that this isn’t necessarily best for them or best for their book.
Sure, if a publisher pays for this option, that’s great. But if it’s just a clause in your book contract that commits you to offering them your book, without any commitment on their part to accepting it, this just ties your hands. It’s a rather one-way deal!