View Full Version : Contract Longivity

gau dog
07-15-2008, 10:11 PM
How long do book contracts last with agents or publishers? If a book were to remain in print theoretically for past an author's lifetime, does the author's beneficiaries still receive royalties? Does the agency still take their percentage off of these earnings? Or is there an expiration?

07-16-2008, 01:11 AM
the book royalties are part of the author's estate. When my book was published I had to include something about who will make the decisions and who will be the beneficiary when I die.
All of these issues are spelled out in your contract. I have a separate contract with my agent and agency and another for each publisher.After 7 years the rights revert back to me...My agent gets a percentage for the life of the contract that she negotiated for that particular project.
Google Andrew Wylie aka 'the jackel' for an interesting take on writer's estates and back lists and royalty issues.

07-16-2008, 01:21 AM
A book contract is with a publisher, not an agent. While some books do remain in print longer than an author's lifetime (in which case the royalties go to the author's beneficiaries, as Orion described), most go out of print within a few years of publication. However, copyright in the USA lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years--so even if a book is out of print at the time of the author's death, his or her heirs may be able to re-sell it. This is why it's important for authors to appoint a literary executor in their wills.

An agent's contract can be time-limited (say, a year) or it can be open-ended (until either the agent or client decides it's time to say goodbye). Either way, there should be a termination clause allowing you to terminate the contract at will with adequate notice (30-60 days).

An agent is entitled to collect commissions on book contracts the agent brokered for as long as the book is in print (even if the agent and the author part ways before the book goes out of print), but his/her claim to commissions should end once the book contract ends. Some agents insert language in their contracts giving them commission rights for the life of copyright of any book they sell, even if the original contract terminates and the book is re-sold by a different agent. Writers need to be on guard against language like this.

- Victoria