Here’s an entry in a useful series from The Passive Voice, in this case that “out-of-print” clause that can prevent authors from ever recovering their rights to their own work. The discussion is complicated, but worth storing somewhere when the day arrives that you have this problem. I was able to get my rights back easily, but then, my books had been out of print for a fairly long time. Search this blog for “reversion of rights,” and you’ll find links to several related discussions of the kind of language any contract should contain.
Category Archives: publishing contracts
I suspect I’m not the only one for whom this list is useful! Thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape for sharing it!
There are a few folks I consider treasures for the #writingcommunity. If you’re not familiar with Jane Friedman, take the time to learn about her. (And make sure you subscribe to Chris the Story Reading Ape, a terrific curator of posts we all can use.)
Over the weekend, you might have seen a writing-and-money topic trending on Twitter, #PublishingPaidMe, where authors started publicly sharing their advances. Such transparency is long overdue and—in this particular case—is meant to reveal stark differences between what Black and non-Black authors get paid.
Amidst these tweets, I saw a repeated call to action for Black authors: Before you agree to a deal, ask your publisher about their marketing and promotion plans for your book. Ask how they plan to support you.
Ask, ask, ask. (Because their support falls short of where it needs to be, and publishers have to be pushed.)
To assist with that call to action, I’ve collected and expanded information from my past books and articles to help authors ask questions of their potential or existing publisher. I’ve tried to also include indicators that will help you notice and challenge unhelpful answers. If you have an…
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If you don’t follow @victoriastrauss and Writer Beware, you should. Here’s another example: For all of us who sometimes send our work off to writing contests or writing awards competitions, how to tell if we’re falling for a scam. Strauss identifies the components of “awards profiteering” in which the main purpose of the “award” is to make money for the people offering it. Here’s an example of scary language in the writing contest submission guidelines of one contest—what you must agree to if you enter—analyzed in depth, with responses from the contest sponsor.
Writer Beware, indeed.
Are you considering traditional book publishing? Do you have a contract in hand but haven’t signed yet? Did you work with an editor? Then beware.
Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware has another warning for you—and for those of you considering self-publishing your out-of-print books.
Check out the contract language from these publishers claiming that, once your book manuscript has been edited for publication, you can’t claim that version as yours anymore. Not even if you’ve gotten your rights back. Some of these seem to say you can’t republish.
Thanks for about the thousandth time to Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware for keeping abreast of these publishing-contract traps.
Share if you’ve had a publisher (or an editor) claim that once your manuscript has been edited, it’s no longer your book!
Need to know what to watch out for when you publish your book?
If you’re canvassing book publishers and publishing packages, you should always check out Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware. She’s onto every wrinkle and scam in the publishing business, whether you’re self-publishing or submitting to agents and editors. Here’s a super list of her best tips and warnings about the book-publishing business from her 2018 blog.
I personally found this piece from the New York Times chilling. It’s about publishers claiming the right to back out of your contract if, for any reason, you attract negative publicity. Here’s a particularly salient paragraph:
This past year, regular contributors to Condé Nast magazines started spotting a new paragraph in their yearly contracts. It’s a doozy. If, in the company’s “sole judgment,” the clause states, the writer “becomes the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,” Condé Nast can terminate the agreement. In other words, a writer need not have done anything wrong; she need only become scandalous. In the age of the Twitter mob, that could mean simply writing or saying something that offends some group of strident tweeters.
A source interviewed for the article claims that “the groups subjected to the most public vitriol for their published work” and “most viciously trolled” are “[w]omen and members of minorities.” That stands to reason.
So maybe those of you with publishing contracts should take a second look?