Friday, May 10, 2013

What I learned in school today

At some point in our writing lives we will all - hopefully - be signing a contract with a publisher. Some of us will be fortunate enough to have agents to help us through the process. But for those who don't, it's probably a good idea to learn as much as possible about contracts, rights, and the publishing business.

Today I'm going to tell you about your rights as an author, which ones you typically sign away, which ones are negotiable, and which ones the author should always keep. This is a brief overview and not meant to advise but rather inform, ie, I'm no expert and there's a lot more info out there on this subject.

The following are rights the publisher always keeps: reprint rights, book club rights, and serial rights. The profits derived from these are split between the author and publisher. Reprint rights generally refers to paperback editions of the book, but, according to Donald Maass, "...in some cases--a small-press deal, for instance--we withhold these rights." Book Club rights are what they sound like and serial rights are excerpts of the book - in magazine, or in other books. First serial rights, which are sometimes negotiable, are excerpts of the book BEFORE publication; second serial rights are excerpts AFTER publication.

Negotiable rights include foreign language rights, foreign English language rights, audio rights, and electronic rights. These are the rights the author needs to negotiate with the publish over. For example, an agent might sell the foreign rights if she can keep the electronic rights, or, maybe the publisher will increase the advance if it can acquire the audio rights. It goes without saying that electronic rights are a lot more valuable now than they were say, ten years ago.

Lastly there the rights the author keeps - always. These are Performance rights, as in television, film, plays, video game, etc., and merchandising rights, like calenders, action figures, stickers, dolls...anything based on the characters of your book.


If you are an author and would care to share anything you've learned about this subject, I'd love to hear it...and have a wicked good weekend :)

42 comments:

  1. Have a great weekend too!!! Take care
    x

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  2. Now I actually feel like I learned something today! Thank you...good to know if ever I pursue anything!! Have a fantastic weekend!

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  3. I don't believe action figures were listed in my contract...

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    1. They shouldn't be since that's one of the rights you should keep and (hopefully) sell later when you get the big movie deal :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing. I'm an attorney, but need to learn more about publishing contracts.

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    1. There are some great examples out there of contracts and what's good, bad, normal, and outrageous.

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  5. LOL, action figures actually WERE listed in my MG contract, along with video games. I SO wanna see my characters as action figures! :D

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    1. I'm surprised - but then you have an agent and I'm pretty sure she's negotiated a few contracts in her day :)

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  6. Good post. Since I'm an Indie, I have nothing to say in this manner. Shared!

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  7. These are great tips, Marcy! I think the hardest right to give up is the cover. Pubbers always want the last say on that, and since covers are so important, that's scary! It's also good to make sure that if the pubber goes out of business, all left over stock and book rights go back to the author immediately.

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    1. Authors seldom get to choose their cover. It isn't even part of their rights. Of course, if you self-pub, then all the rights remain with you along with what the cover looks like, editing, marketing, etc.

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  8. Interesting. I hope I get to use this information someday.

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  9. I've no rights whatsover upon my translation after I give them to my publisher. They own the translation for five years and only after that if they want to publish a book again they have to pay me again.... but that never really happens....

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    1. well, at least the rights revert back to you after a short while - authors often sign away their rights for the length of the copyright, which is the life of the author plus 70 years (!!!) if I remember correctly.

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  10. I was wondering about this just yesterday, about how lost I'd be if I had to negotiate a contract without an agent.

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    1. Anyone can do it, LG, you just have to study and research what's proper and common. Once you know that you can negotiate - unless the contract is in complete legal-speak. Then you might need a translator :)

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  11. Hey, Marcy,

    Such important info.... One DEFINITELY must do their homework...even if you have an agent. I'd still like to know what the DEAL really is. LOL.

    You have a WICKED weekend too!

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    1. There's a lot to learn if you're going it on your own but if you don't take the time you have no one to blame for the deal you made but you!

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  12. Good info! Thanks.

    Another thing that frustrates some writers is the potential loss of right to name their own book. I mean, we get kinda attached to those titles, but if the publisher has a "better idea" of what YOUR work should be called, it's generally his call.

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    1. Yeah, unfortunately titles are in the publisher's domain.

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  13. Never knew most of this, quite fascinating!

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    1. Publishing is an endlessly fascinating business :)

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  14. It all sounds so complicated. :( Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. It can be - depends on the pub and the contract they offer. I figure it's best to at least have a clue!

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  15. Action figures would be awesome! You have to keep an eye out for when the rights revert back to you [the writer], and at what point they quit playing you and let you out of the contract [some of my friends' books ended up tied up for years this way]

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    1. Yes, publishers will try to get what they can but then, so do agents on behalf of their clients. It is, after all, a business even if it doesn't always feel like one to us writers.

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  16. Shoot. Nothing is every easy, is it?

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  17. I learned when one of my publishers went bankrupt that those contracts mean little to the courts.

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    1. Yeah, it's important that if you choose to go with a small pub you pick one that has a track record or appears to be entirely above board.

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  18. I figure I'm going to have to look everything up each time something comes along. There are so many things to consider, so many different terms for it all. But this sums up the basics nicely. Thanks!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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  19. If there was a figurine modeled after me it would be called a SLOTH FIGURE! :)

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  20. Good stuff, Marcy. I ran into something new (for me) when I signed my contract with Musa: they get first dibs on anything else I write starring the same protagonist or taking place in the same world. If they don't like the sequel, then I can send it elsewhere.

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    1. That seems to be pretty common I found, even among the big publishers.

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  21. Thanks for the tips, Marcy. May we all get to the point where we get to face these kinds of decisions. :)
    I hope you're having a "Wicked Good Weekend", too.

    -Jimmy

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  22. Hope you're having a wicked good weekend, as well. I'm pooped from working the Mother's Day shifts. But a good pooped.

    Cheers and boogie boogie.

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  23. Everything is so darn complicated these days! Thanks for information...

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  24. Great run down of our rights as authors. Maybe on day this will apply to me too. (:

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  25. This is a great article! I am bookmarking it for future reference in case I ever actually do write a book!

    I am visiting from the A to Z road trip. :)
    tm

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