Friday, August 12, 2005

You Have the Rights to Remain in Print

Rights are often talked about, but what exactly are they?

When you write something, you don't sell the writing itself. You're actually licensing people to print, adapt, translate, or perform the work. These rights may be for a fixed amount of time, such as two years, one-time-only, first printing, first US rights, first English speaking rights, etc. They may also be until the work goes out of print, which is how most publishers operate.

Hyperion bought world rights to the first six books in the Jack Dnaiels series. This is how it is worded in my contract:

"Author grants and assigns to Publisher the sole and exclusive rights to the Material throughout the world during the entire term of the copyright and any renewlas and extensions thereof: to print, publish and istribute the Material inbook form, including hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback, in all languages."

What does this mean? A copyright lasts for an author's entire life, plus 70 years. Quick note for newbies; don't worry about getting a copyright. You DO NOT need to register for a copyright at the US copyright office. Save your stamps and money. Your publisher will do this for you. Being paranoid about idea-theft is the earmark of an amateur.

So does my contract state that I can never leave my publisher until I've been dead for 70 years?

No. Because there is also this clause:

"If a Book of the Work is out-of-print (definition of "out-of-print" omitted for length), all rights granted to the Publisher shall automatically revert to the author."

Which says that if my publisher stops printing my book, the rights are mine again, to do with as I please.

Hyperion has world translatation rights, but several other subsidiary rights were kept by me. Though Hyperion can sell the book to Thailand, they cannot sell the book to Hollywood, or make an audiobook from it.

The contract discusses various other rights (periodical, book club, mulitmedia, etc.) and the percentage split between author/publisher.

For example, if the publisher sells first serial rights (printing a portion of the book in a periodical before it is published), I get 90% of the money, they get 10%. Second serial rights is a 50/50 split.

My 90% of the money for first serial rights is subtracted from my advance if I haven't earned out, or is added to my royalty check if I have earned out my advance.

Though Hyperion has world rights, they only have 25% of them (20% for British). That means if they sell Whiskey Sour to England for ten grand, Hyperion earns two grand, and I earn eight grand, which goes toward my advance.

I write about advances and royalties in the TIPS section of my website, if some of you are confused about what I'm talking about.

It's int he author's best interest to keep as many rights as possible, to sell them, and its int he publisher's best interest to keep as many rights as possible, to earn back what they've paid the author.

My agent has sold the audiobook sub rights to Brilliance audio. This contract is seperate from Hyperion, and my print publisher doesn't earn anything from it.

My agent hasn't sold movie rights yet, but if they do, Hyperion doesn't get a cut. Hyperion will benefit though, from increased sales and a new edition of the book.

Of course, we all know that the most lucrative sub rights ever sold were Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October.

Get it? Sub rights?

Moving right along...

What else is in a publishing contract? Here's the breakdown:

1. Clause on when the manuscrip(s) will be delivered.

2. Grant of rights.

3. Editorial changes and proofs. (these staet that the editor has the right to request changes, but won't change anything iwthout author approval)

4. Advance. How the money will be paid out (in my case, I get chunks when turning in outlines and finished manuscripts).

5. Royalties. What I earn per book sold (about $3.00 per hardcover, 60 cents per paperback.)

6. Sub rights.

7. Transactions with affiliates. My publisher's parent company can exercise the sub rights.

8. Royalty statements. This defines the terms of joint accounting (when an advance isn't earned out until all books in the contract earn out), reserve against returns (keeping money from the author in case bookstores return books), and when royalty statements are issued.

9. Examination of Publisher's Books and Records. The author has the right to look at the numbers.

10. Termination. All the things that can break the contract, including failure for an author to deliver an acceptable manuscript.

11. Publication. The time frame in which a publisher goes to press after accepting a book, and how many free copies an author and agent receive.

12. Warranties and Indemnities. The author swears he wrote the book, and is responsible for the content.

13. Competing works. The author won't publish anything similar with anyone else/

14. Copyright. The publisher will pay for it.

15. Third party infringement. Both the publisher and author can sue copyright infringers.

16. Option. The publisher gets firts look at the author's next manuscript.

17. Out of print termination. Rights revert back to author when book is out of print.

18. Retention of manuscript copy. It's the author's responsibilty to keep a copy of the book.

19. Use of author's name and likeness. The publisher can use the author for promo stuff.

20. Advertisements. Any sub rights licensed cannot have any advertising in them unless the author agrees.

21. Taxes.

22. Force majeure. Acts of god can change the contract.

23. Bankruptcy. If the publisher files for bancruptcyt, the contract is null.

24. Governing law. The contract is subject to the laws of NY.

25. Assignment of this agreement. Niether author nor publisher can assign this contract to anyone else unless both agree.

26. Headings. The headings inthis agreement are for convenience only and are without substantive effect.

27. Notices. First class mail is used for correspondence between author and publisher, but registered mail is used in certain cases.

28. Agency. The author allows the agent to represent him in this deal.

29. Sodomy. Ha! Just seeing if you were still paying attention!

29. Entire understanding. This contract supersedes all prior negotiations.

So that's a book contract. Not very exciting, huh?

As always, I'm happy to answer any questions, as long as you sign this simple agreement...


Rob Gregory Browne said...

You're an endless source of information, Joe. Thanks. Although the first Item #29 is a bit disconcerting -- depending, of course, on who's doing what.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

That's a lot of stuff to deal with.

Maybe I'll just write fanfiction instead....

porchwise said...

Just read your Writer's Digest article, 'After the Book Comes out'. I'm sixty-seven and almost got excited but am saving that heart attack for my own coming out party.