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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Contract insights

   
Author Topic: Contract insights
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Here is another possibly useful post by Ilona Andrews, this time on the option clause in contracts. (Ilona Andrews is a best-selling collaborative team with more than one series of "urban fantasy" to "her" credit.)

The more you know and understand about contracts, the better, even if you have an agent (from my experiences with agents, ESPECIALLY if you have an agent).

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History
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1. I should be so blessed as to see a traditional novel contract.
2. When did 40K words equal "a novel"? Sounds like one of my "short" stories. [Wink]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
1. I should be so blessed as to see a traditional novel contract.
2. When did 40K words equal "a novel"? Sounds like one of my "short" stories. [Wink]

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

40 to 50 k could be a middle grade novel. Otherwise, it's a novella, afik.
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extrinsic
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While the possibility of contractual continuity might appeal to a writer, an option clause in essence serves a publisher's interests more than a writer's. I'd ask for quid pro quo—equal standing—say an addendum stipulating the option clause is null and void for all future work after a publisher's, or agent's, first refusal and that the copyright assignment for which the work and the contract is in force reverts to the writer by a date certain.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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There definitely should be some kind of sunset clause (deadline, more or less -- "by a certain date") on all option clauses (and on many other contract clauses).

Without sunset clauses, a publisher or editor can simply "sit" on a manuscript without having to decide on it at all, thereby keeping the author from being able to submit it elsewhere.

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extrinsic
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Clauses that favor a writer like sunset, audit, arbitration, and low reserve against returns (remaindered copies) percentage clauses publishers are prone to balking at negotiating. Reasonable compromises can be courteously negotiated.

An audit clause stipulates terms for a third-party audit of a publisher's sales' accounts for a product. Essentially, after a publishing season, if a writer feels like a royalty statement underreports sales, and if the writer has reasonable evidentiary standing to believe such is the case, an audit would kick in. The terms for an audit clause might stipulate the conditions, the terms for an automatic audit at the writer's discretion, or when and where and who bears the cost of the audit, say annually at the publisher's headquarter offices and split fifty/fifty, and who acceptable third-party auditors are, like a CPA.

Arbitration clauses stipluate the terms for a third party resolving a contract contention by either first or second party, instead of litigation. Arbitration clauses are usually not as contentious negotiating points as others.

Standard publishing contract language stipulates a thirty-five percent advance or royalty reserve against returns. If a projected royalty or advance amounts to one hundred percent of copies ordered by distributors and booksellers, roughly forty percent average will be remaindered. A publisher's reserve clause may withhold thirty-five percent of the royalty or advance amount. Remainders can run higher and lower. A writer or agent may negotiate a lower percentage or shorter season, say twenty-five percent reserve or quarterly or bi-annually instead of annually.

Remaindering is a publishing practice whereby a publisher ships a number of copies through a distributor to a bookseller. The bookseller sells the copies they can and remainders the remainder. Remaindering strips the cover off of a book block and disposes the cover and the book block in accordance with the bookseller's practices: recycling the paper content, throwing it out with the trash, burning, etc. The bookseller reports by sworn affidavit through its distribution channels the number of remaindered copies of all books in a given season and receives a credit for future orders. The practice is rife with corruption.

[ March 05, 2013, 11:22 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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LDWriter2
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This is the type of thing that Dean Wesley Smith discussed in his Essentials Online workshop. So as usual he isn't the only one to warn new writers of things.

He too agrees there should be a sunset clause on copyrights and do away with the clauses that say the publisher has control over the writers writing.

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extrinsic
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I'm not sure about whether a publisher's control over a writer's writing is an irreproachable authority. When a publisher's editor does harm, yes. A degree of editorial conversation is part of the process in order to enhance audience appeal, and deadlines and consequences for missed deadlines. Ultimately, a writer has a right to refuse publication up to before a galley proof phase or advance payment, which is another contract matter, terms for when a writer can escape.

That's not to say some publishers' discretion over a writer's writing isn't tyrranical. Check out the rights Highlights for Children, a digest publication publishing short works, requires from writers. Extreme, full, and complete discretion up to and including changing a writer's byline and anything and everything else. They buy total ownership and leave a writer as little more than a for-hire writer. They pay well, though, and after all, they are a repuatble children's digest with high moral and family value standards.

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Reziac
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So what's wrong with making good money doing work-for-hire writing?? Just so long as the writer knows that's the deal, I don't see a problem.

When they don't know that's the deal, tho....

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rcmann
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Same old parable. Starving wolf or fat dog? Wolf is free in the forest. Free to starve and freeze all winter. Dog is fat and warm by the fire, but has to wear a collar and get kicked. Pick one. Self-publish or traditional publish? Free-lance or work-for-hire? Pick one. There is always a price for everything, although not necessarily paid in money.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I'm not sure about whether a publisher's control over a writer's writing is an irreproachable authority. When a publisher's editor does harm, yes. A degree of editorial conversation is part of the process in order to enhance audience appeal, and deadlines and consequences for missed deadlines. Ultimately, a writer has a right to refuse publication up to before a galley proof phase or advance payment, which is another contract matter, terms for when a writer can escape.

That's not to say some publishers' discretion over a writer's writing isn't tyrranical. Check out the rights Highlights for Children, a digest publication publishing short works, requires from writers. Extreme, full, and complete discretion up to and including changing a writer's byline and anything and everything else. They buy total ownership and leave a writer as little more than a for-hire writer. They pay well, though, and after all, they are a repuatble children's digest with high moral and family value standards.

Some clauses say they have control over all writing by a writer, not just the books in the contract. That is when a writer writes, what type, and when it is published if ever.
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