Wednesday, November 07, 2012

When I am Queen of the Known Universe

I have a list of things that will change by royal fiat the day I become Queen of the Known Universe.

One of them is literary zines, and short story anthology contracts will be standardized and actually make sense.

I review every contract my authors sign even if it's for work I haven't sold. For some authors that's a dozen a year or more.  And these guys, prolific as they are, sell to some very VERY weird places.

I know this cause the publication contracts are weird as hell.

It's come down to me making sure that the author isn't surrendering a kid or a kidney (or film rights!) (or copyright!) to a small publisher who simply doesn't know what the terms in the contract mean (license) and invent a few to cover situations that don't exist (award rights anyone?)

As more and more people get in to the publication biz, it would be great if there was a central data base of template contracts, and strict instructions not to fuck around with them without asking someone who might know a thing or two about it.

Failing that happy achievement, if you're signing a contract for any kind of publication, you might want to double check these points:

1. There's a time limit on the period of the license

2. The publisher doesn't get all rights. The scope of the license should be spelled out. That means format and geography (electronic rights in English throughout the world; print rights in French in North America; electronic and print rights in English and in translation throughout the world) and duration: exclusive use for a year, non-exclusive for three years etc.

3. The publisher doesn't  own copyright.

4. The publisher doesn't get film rights. This is CRUCIAL if you're selling a short story with a series character. Film companies option characters not just books.

5. If The publisher doesn't publish the story in a certain specified time, the rights (all rights!) return to you.

6. The publisher has to pay you. Even if it's comp copies of the anthology, you get something. And it should be money.

Any other questions?


liz young said...

Golly! I have just hopped over from Patricia Stotley's blog and seen your list of don'ts. I will definitely return to it when/if I get an offer on my novel!

BW said...

No questions.

Besides being a Query Shark, it's nice to see that you are a Contract Shark!

Jan Mader said...

Good to know!

Unknown said...

I'm so glad I found you. Not sure how I found you, since all things that swim creep me out. But, glad all the same.

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

Wow. I read this, and my insides go all funny because to me about forty percent of it sounds like the mystical mutterings of a deeply empowerfulled shaman with insight into the hidden cryptic workings of the arcane knowings, and I think: this entoothed Great White Chomper stands between me and the abyss, and I am humbled. Queen of the Universe, indeed; where do I send my oblations and tribute, and will you take a goat, in case the check bounces? (Will you take a check, in case the goat bounces?) (How about two Rhode Island Red hens and a skunky dog?)

Janet Reid said...

Leave the dog, take the goat.

KayC said...

Roll on the day when you become the Queen of the Known Universe and the world can make sense.

Unknown said...


Thank you SO very much for reminding me why I want/need an agent.

Christina Auret said...

I don't see why there can't be a standard contract form with fill in the blank spots for details and a guide that explains exactly what the impact is of whatever you fill into the blanks.

They have it for engineering projects already. If I can use the same contract to buy very large valves or coat large pieces of equipment or construct a power station (well 2 out of 3 in my case) I don't see why the publishing industry can't do the same thing.