A contract is a contract. Right. Don't bet on it.
edited: Sunday, January 08, 2006
By Dana Reed
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, January 08, 2006
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This is not meant to be a generalization of all publishers.
Years ago my first agent told me to not worry about contracts. Most publishers' contracts were basically the same. All contained similar information written in a different style. And I listened to him. Sheesh.
It took me about five years of letting him handle my novels to find out he was wrong. True, all contain information about publisher rights vs. author rights: how each can pull out of the contract if the other doesn't meet certain criteria. For instance: if the author plagiarized his work and is sued, he's on his own. The publisher will not back him. Then, for the publisher: he/she has so many months to publish the novel or all rights revert back to the author.
There are other section containing info about percentages: who gets what cut of the proceeds. There's more information about the length of the contract and so on. While saying they all contain the same info--that is true , but there it all falls apart. Each publisher has his own perception of percentages that apply to the split between themselves and the author. They also have their own perceptions of the length of the contract.
Next comes the pork belly sections. I've named them this in honor of the pork belly provisions in bills stuck in by politicians whereby parts of the sections have nothing to do with the basic bill. For instance: a bill is being discussed concerning the allocation of funds to beef up law enforcement in a certain state. Somewhere in that bill is another provision injected in such a way that the injector hopes it won't be noticed. This provision allows for road improvements by contractors well known to the injector. Of course, this is a silly example, but it's the same in publishing.
As not all bills that are passed contain the same wording, all contracts do not contain the same wording. Some of them claim that movie and digital media rights, foreign rights or what not all belong to the author. However, on closer inspection of the pork belly provision, the author must first run any of these deals past the publisher who has the right to say "Nay or Yay" to any deal. Sure, sell your movie rights to a production company, but if the publisher doesn't like the company or doesn't agree with the terms of your movie contract--of which he/she get a cut--it all goes down the tubes.
Funny, no one ever pays attention to this part of the contract. All most people see, myself included, is that all rights to the big money are yours: movie rights, for instance. Well, hell's bells, look again. Somehow you missed the pork belly part of the contract. The publisher suddenly gets 50% of the proceeds from the rights that are yours, and he/she has full control over the details of your movie contract, digital media contract and so on.
So before you get foolish, as I did a few times, and think you're reading smart, I suggest you contact an attorney, preferably a media attorney to look over that 'wonderful' contract before you sign it.