Showing posts with label gotyas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gotyas. Show all posts

Thursday, June 16

Book Contracts

I have been enjoying reading about contracts lately. I know, I know, that claim may seem less than plausible, but I think that book contracts may be infinitely more fun to read about than to read.  At least, if you're not a lawyer.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Passive Guy (from The Passive Voice) -- a retired lawyer -- have been blogging about book contracts and, generally, helping to raise the awareness of new writers on the subject.

In that spirit, here are some links to posts about contracts that made my jaw drop.  I had no idea what rights certain agents were trying to retain for themselves.  On that note, if you are a writer who has signed a book contract lately, Passive Guy is collecting them, trying to get an idea for what's going on in the industry these days.  I'm eagerly awaiting that series of blog posts (or, hopefully, ebook!).

From the blog of Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
- The Business Rusch: Writing Like It's 1999
- The Business Rusch: Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my!

Kristine Rusch has many more excellent articles on the business of writing, but her website is well laid out so if you go there they should be easy to find.

From the Passive Voice Blog
- How to Read a Book Contract - Agency Clause
- How to Read a Book Contract - Agency Coupled with an Interest If you are a writer with an agent and, like me before I read this blog post, you have no idea what agency coupled with a interest means, this is a must-read post.

Here is what Kristine Rusch had to say about these two posts:
If you have an agent, please read these two posts even if you think you understand the agency clause. It is my experience that most writers do not understand what they’re signing in their book contracts, and some agents have been misleading writers as to what these clauses mean.
Also of great interest to me were:
- How to Read a Book Contract - Somebody's Gonna Die
- You Just Signed with a Big Agent? Oh, I'm So Sorry.

See also:
- Self-Publishing Basics: The Copyright Page

Thursday, June 2

Contracts: Avoiding the Gotchas

The writer of The Passive Voice blog, a lawyer who no longer practices, has written a must-read blog post about how to avoid getting stung by nasty little clauses that a publisher or agent may try to sneak into your contract. Passive Guy calls these clauses "gotyas". Here is an example of a gotya clause:

“For services rendered and about to be rendered, the Author does hereby irrevocably assign and transfer to said agent and said agent shall retain, a sum equal to 15% as an agency coupled with an interest….”

That example comes from Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog post: The Business Rusch: Agents. Here is Kristine's commentary:

Oh, my God. I wouldn’t have signed that as a twenty-one year old newly birthed nonfiction writer. It sounds scary because it is. It means that the writer has assigned his agent—irrevocably—15% of the book. “An interest” is a legal term and (lawyers, you can correct me), it means that the agent now has a piece of that property. 15% worth to be exact.

I am not a laywer and nothing that I say in this post is legal advice. Having made that clear, the way I read Passive Guy's post, he is saying that if you aren't sure that you or your IP lawyer have ferreted out every single last gotya clause in the contract you're thinking of signing, one way to smoke out these dastardly clauses is to add an avoidance of doubt clause (or two, or three, or ...) to your contract.

The Passive Guy gives a great explanation of what an avoidance of doubt clause is, so I'll just refer you to his blog post for that. As I understand it, though, the basic idea is this: Explicitly state what rights you seek to retain and if the publisher or agent who gave you the contract demands that one or more avoidance of doubt clauses be removed then you know that there are hidden gotya clauses in the contract and which ones to look for.

Here are Passive Guy's examples:

For the avoidance of doubt, no provision of this contract shall:

1. Give Publisher any rights to any present or future work of Author other than new books with the same characters as the Work.
2. Prevent Author from publishing any of Author’s present or future books with another publisher or self-publishing such books except for books with the same characters as described above.
3. Give Publisher any rights to electronic versions of the Work except for an ebook version of the Work with features substantially identical to those being sold at retail by Publisher on the date of this contract.
4. Give Publisher any rights to versions of the Work in electronic or other formats that are not being sold commercially at retail by one or more major book publishers on the date of this contract.
5. Give Publisher any rights to past, present or future creations of Author that are not books, including adaptations by Author or others of the Work into a form that is not a book or ebook.
6. Give Publisher any rights to modify the content of the Work as initially accepted for publication by Publisher without Author’s express written consent in a document separate from this contract.

I believe there is a lot of truth to the old saying, to be forwarned is to be forearmed. I highly recommend reading Kristine's three part series on The Business Rusche:

The Business Rusch: Surviving The Transition (Part One)
The Business Rusch: Publishers (Surviving the Transition Part 2)
The Business Rusch: Agents (Surviving the Transition Part 3)