Updated 7-30-19. Book Authors: Study the contract alerts the Authors Guild has spelled out in its Fair Contract Initiative (Eight Principles of Fair Contracts became more than that!). The main contract issues are spelled out briefly below, with links to the full Authors Guild argument on each issue.
Advances Should Remain Advances.
Authors, Keep Your Copyrights--You Earned Them. (You too, academic authors!)
Claiming the Royalties You Deserve.
Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled Nor Legal.
Delete the Non-Compete.
End the Discount Double-Cross.
Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books.
A Manuscript’s Acceptability Should Not Be a Matter of Whim.
Option Clauses Shouldn't Hold Authors Hostage.
A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever.
Stop Forcing Authors to Take Unlimited Financial Risks: Warranty and Indemnification Clauses.
• Advances Should Remain Advances (3-16-15)
• The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative: A Preview (AG, 6-17-15)
• Authors, Keep Your Copyrights--You Earned Them (AG 8-13-15) 'Most trade publishers do not ask for an outright assignment of all exclusive rights under copyright; their contracts usually call for copyright
to be in the author's name. It's another story in the world of university presses. Most scholarly publishers routinely present their authors with the single most draconian, unfair clause we routinely encounter, taking all the exclusive rights to an author's work as if the press itself authored the work....the copyright grab remains endemic among university presses...And yet every author we know of who requested to retain copyright was able to get the publisher to change the agreement. The problem is that most academic authors—particularly first-time authors feeling the flames of "publish or perish"—don't even ask.'
As AG member Bert Krages recently wrote: "Signing over your copyright is a bad proposition, even if the contract has a provision stating that the copyright will be returned to you once the book goes out of print. The reason is that if the press sells or otherwise transfers ownership to another party, that party will own the copyright free and clear of any obligation to return it to you or pay you royalties. On the other hand, if you retain the copyright and license it to the press, then even if another party assumes ownership of the contract, that party is still obligated to comply with the terms of the publishing agreement. Publishers don't have a compelling business need to acquire the author's copyright. A license gives the publisher every freedom it needs to profit from publishing the book."
• Claiming the Royalties You Deserve (AG, 2-26-18)
• Delete the Non-Compete (AG 8-27-15)
• End the Discount Double-Cross (AG, 11-15-16) Publishers routinely use contract provisions to slash authors’ royalties to mere pennies per copy sold. So-called “deep discount” clauses stipulate that a publisher’s sale at a discount of over 55%, for example (a number that appears to be the new standard), the author’s royalty suddenly drops from, say, 15% of list price to 15% of the far smaller amount the publisher actually receives. With a clause like this in effect, why would any rational publisher maintain a higher wholesale price when a lower one would deliver 25% more to its bottom line—entirely at the author’s expense?...The documented decline in authors’ incomes stems in part from these unconscionable reductions in royalty payments. Scroll down on Authors Guild page for what you (or your agent) should hold out for on a book contract.<
• Graffiti Artists Have Moral Rights (AG, 3-2-18)
• Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books (7-9-15) See Checking In on the Digital Royalty Debate (Rachel Deahl, PW, 12-6-13) "By finding ways to keep their top authors in-house without raising the e-book royalty rate above 25%, the big houses have, in effect, killed the debate. And this comes at a time when most publishers’ profits have improved because of e-books. Richard Curtis, a literary agent and founder of the e-book publisher E-Reads, repeated an oft-said refrain when he noted that “the 25% [e-book royalty] rate has been the chief cause of publishers’ return to prosperity.” Argue for 50%, not 25%, on ebook royalties.
• A Manuscript’s Acceptability Should Not Be a Matter of Whim, (2-24-16) Avoid fuzzy-wuzzy contract wording that allows easy rejection of a manuscript--certainly not if it means the author must return the advance. At the very least the author should have a chance to revise to editorial specifications. If the publisher isn't sure it will like a book once it's delivered, it should consider an option agreement.
• Option Clauses Shouldn't Hold Authors Hostage (AG, 9-23-15)
• Publishers’ Payment and Accounting Practices Need to Keep Up with the Times,
• A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever (7-8-15)
• Stop Forcing Authors to Take Unlimited Financial Risks: Warranty and Indemnification Clauses (AG, 12-18-15)
• Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled Nor Legal. (AG 1-8-19) (Authors Guild, 6-17-15)
• The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative: A Preview Read More