View Full Version : [Contracts] Contracts and Terminology

AW Admin
05-13-2012, 12:54 AM
Rather than copy her carefully researched collection of links, I'm going to link to Victoria Strauss's blog post regarding Publishing Industry Terms and Contracts: Some Resources, and Some Advice (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2012/03/publishing-industry-terms-and-contracts.html).

Her caveat is worth repeating:

Like many other things to do with publishing, there's no one definitive source for this kind of information--you have to pull it together from multiple locations. Below are some resources that I've picked up in my travels around the Internet.

(Always, always vet the source for information like this. Make sure that the individual or group compiling it is qualified to do so. One of the things that's never in short supply on the Internet is bad or outdated or incomplete information put together by people who know even less than you do.)

See SFWA's Model Contracts (http://www.sfwa.org/member-links/committees/contracts-committee/)

AW Admin
05-17-2012, 06:57 AM
On Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/02/editing-clauses-in-publishing-contracts.html) by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/)

Editing clauses are one of those contract areas where there needs to be a balance between the publisher's interests and the writer's. A publisher needs a certain amount of latitude to edit a manuscript to prepare it for publication (assuming it's professional enough to do editing at all--you might be surprised how many small press contracts I see that don't include editing clauses). It also needs to have the right to final approval--it doesn't want to be forced to publish a manuscript that the author can't or won't revise to the publisher's satisfaction.

A writer, on the other hand, needs assurance that they will be a partner in the editing process, and that their work won't be changed in major ways without their permission.
You can read the entire post here (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2015/02/editing-clauses-in-publishing-contracts.html). See also the comment from Teresa Nielsen Hayden (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2012/05/editing-clauses-in-publishing-contracts.html?showComment=1337190693042#c44109420 30581506124).

AW Admin
07-02-2013, 10:28 PM
On Contract Red Flag: Net Profit Royalty Clauses (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2011/05/contract-red-flag-net-profit-royalties.html) from Writer Beware.

The ideal royalty is paid on list or cover price--the actual retail price of the book. So if your list price is $20, and your royalty is 10%, you'll get $2 for every book sold. For big trade publishers, including larger independents, royalties paid on list price is standard for domestic sales.

But also:
Royalties paid on net income aren't as desirable as royalties paid on list price--obviously--but they are common in the small press world, and don't necessarily ring warning bells. However, you do need to carefully parse the contract language, and understand what you're signing.

Read the whole post (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2011/05/contract-red-flag-net-profit-royalties.html).

AW Admin
09-30-2015, 11:59 PM
9/2015 SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) on Indemnity clauses (http://www.sfwa.org/2015/09/contract-safeguards-under-seige/) and a model magazine contract with explanations you can download and use for comparison (https://www.sfwa.org/2015/09/sfwa-releases-a-new-model-magazine-contract/).

There is a recent tendency of some publishers to change their contracts in manners that are decidedly unfavorable to authors. We have had and are having particular issues with indemnity clauses. See: Contract Safeguards Under Seige (http://www.sfwa.org/2015/09/contract-safeguards-under-seige/)

AW Admin
02-15-2016, 09:33 PM
Termination clauses are contract sections that stipulate under what conditions and when the contract between an author and a publisher may be terminated, or ended.

There's usually a time period, the term, stipulated in contracts not only for severing the relationship (a contract with a publisher should not be for life).

Some contracts attempt to charge a fee to allow an author to end the term "early," before the contractually specified date.

This is a red flag: see Victoria Strauss of SFWA's Writer Beware on Termination Fees in Publishing Contracts: Why They're Not Just Bad For Authors (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2016/02/termination-fees-in-publishing.html).

AW Admin
03-24-2017, 11:48 PM
Sometime big-five editor at Tor (and elsewhere) and current writer Madeleine Robins has some smart things about copyright and contract (http://www.deepgenre.com/wordpress/business-of-writing/contracts-101-copyright/)s.

Note especially this:

yes, copyright protects you from somone who might steal your work and say it is hers. But in the final analysis it’s copyright that protects your right to make money from your work (and the publisher’s right to make money from your work

AW Admin
10-07-2018, 05:33 AM
Failure to Finalize Contracts (https://www.sfwa.org/2018/09/contracts-committee-alert-failure-to-finalize-contracts/)

Failure to return counter-signed contracts is a failure to finalize the contract and is not an acceptable business practice. A deal should not be considered final until the author has received the final, mutually agreed-to, counter-signed contract.

See the post for more.

AW Admin
10-07-2018, 05:34 AM
“All Derivative Rights” Clauses (https://www.sfwa.org/2018/05/contracts-committee-alert-all-derivative-rights-clauses-2/)

SFWA’s Contracts Committee has recently been seeing a proliferation of contracts from small magazines, and a very few established markets, that license all derivative rights in perpetuity. This is a red flag for a number of reasons, even if these rights are licensed non-exclusively. A derivative work is defined by copyright law as “a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.” This sort of rights grab is by no means normal; magazines generally only take very limited first publication and archival rights for a limited time. Licensing the right to create derivative works can and mostly likely will interfere with the author’s right to exploit their right to create or license derivative works to others.

The risks of signing such contracts can be serious.

See the post for more.

AW Admin
10-07-2018, 05:35 AM
Non-compete and Option Clauses (https://www.sfwa.org/2016/04/sfwa-contracts-committee-alert/)

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways. Writers may choose to bring out a range of books from different publishers — science fiction from one publisher and fantasy from another publisher, for example — and may have to do so in order to earn anything like a living wage. The problem becomes even worse for hybrid authors who self-publish works in parallel with their traditional publications. Several contracts that we have seen include overlapping restrictions that could keep the author from publishing another book for more than a year.

Authors also retain audio, foreign language, and other rights with the intention of licensing them elsewhere. Language we have seen in these clauses attempts to make authors responsible for how these other rights are used, something that clearly places an unreasonable burden on them.

Authors should think carefully about signing any contract with these restrictive clauses and should negotiate any limitations in the clauses that would interfere with their writing agendas. There are, in fact, times when it would be best to walk away from contracts with these bad clauses.

See the post for recommendations.