It feels odd to talk about how a contract ends when you’re entering a brand new relationship with a publisher. Both of you feel like this is a Great Thing, and it’s all shiny and celebratory and marvelous. And maybe your relationship will be that way.
But the law is all about planning for the worst-case scenario, not the best case. It’s all about protecting someone, so that someone, in my opinion, should be the writer, not the publisher.
Since 2009 or so, publishers have gotten quite nasty about contracts. In short, they’re refusing to let any contract terminate.
This is causing all kinds of problems for writers.
Writer Teri Kanefield emailed me after reading the non-compete blog and mentioned that non-compete clauses are mostly illegal under California law, with rare exceptions. She also suspected that they were illegal and thus unenforceable under New York law.
She had reasons for that. I asked her to send me a few citations, so that I could essentially try to recreate her argument, although I admit, as a non-lawyer, I felt uncomfortable doing that. Then she suggested doing a guest blog for me on this topic, and I jumped on it. She’s written it in the form of a letter. It’s fantastic.
I want all of you—indie, hybrid, traditional, with non-competes and without— to read this letter, which follows. I will give you each some non-legal advice on what to do after you’ve read her letter at the end of this blog post.
I was going to write a blog on why you never hire people for a percentage of your sales for the life of the project. I was going to look at some of the contract terms that writers should be wary of, from companies like Booktrope, companies that still exist.
And then I choked on a big gigantic paragraph in the Booktrope sample author agreement. This big gigantic paragraph is the one thing that allowed Booktrope to raise millions of dollars. Had Booktrope succeeded, that success would have come at the expense of its authors.
The scary thing is that other companies are behaving the exact same way.
As many of you know, I’m revising the book Dealbreakers, which I published in 2013. This piece is the second revision of this topic that I’ve done. Please remember as you read this that I am not an attorney, and nothing in this post should be considered legal advice. I probably should have called this […]
For all the dreams of having work last forever, writers are their own worst enemies in making those dreams come true. And the mistakes happen in the little decisions.
Let’s take the option clause…
Control. It is at the heart of any negotiation. All business owners want to control as much about their businesses as possible. We all know that you can’t control everything in life. That rule also applies to contracts….
I have come to the point where I can’t ignore the contractual changes in the industry any longer. The topic has become so large that I will probably end up with two books out of it: The revised Dealbreakers, and a book on contracts. When I start discussing contracts, most indie writers tune out. But they shouldn’t. Indie writers sign contracts all the time. Some are for foreign editions. Some are for short fiction. Some are with their cover designer. Some disguise themselves as terms of service.
Not everything I write here will apply to the indie writer, but much of it will.
Remember: the more you understand about this business, the better off you will be. And the harder it will be to take you off-guard….
As I wrote earlier this year, the changes in the publishing industry continue to smack me in the head. I learned the old publishing industry very well—the one that existed from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s. I survived the early 2000s, and then indie publishing came along. I started this blog—in a different form […]