by Guest Blogger, Jim Kukral
There's no question that traditional publishing houses have been putting an unfair squeeze on authors for decades. So much so that others have compared it to holding onto slave labor. Unfair? You be the judge. The similarities are there.
The list of atrocities against writers is long and well documented. There is no arguing that they've throttled writers with unfair commissions and contracts and gatekeeping for far too long. But finally, it's all starting to be talked about, and when you talk about a problem, you finally have a chance at a solution.
Successful author and now self-publishing champion JA Konrath lets loose with yet another diatribe against the big publishers. This time examining their contracts. In his post, Unconscionability, he covers some really mind-numbing facts. The point being, that in the past, you had to sign these contracts to get your book out there, and now you don't. So since you have the choice not to now, why in the heck would you ever?
"Let's start with one of the most obvious, and despicable, clauses, the Grant of Rights.
Author grants and assigns to Publisher the sole and exclusive rights to the Material throughout the Territory during the entire term of the copyright and any renewals and extensions thereof.
In other words, this contract is for the life of the author, plus 70 years after her death, plus renewals and extensions.
Off the top of my head I can't think of any contract that extends beyond the life of the person who signed it. I would guess that my heirs would be bound to this contract, and potentially their heirs as well.
Does that seem a bit one-sided? Perhaps a smidgen unfair to the author?"
My answer: Ridiculous. Completely ridiculous to sign your lifetime rights away.
On the topic of exploiting artists...
"Admitting the problem is widespread doesn't mean it should be ignored. Big companies are exploiting artists. They're getting rich, and the creators are getting shafted.
And for those who want to chime in with "no one forced the artist to sign the deal", that's blaming the victim. "The artist wasn't forced" is a nonsequitur response to "the contract isn't fair." Indentured servants aren't forced either. Nor are field hands picking potatoes in inhumane conditions. Nor are children working in third world sweatshops. Would you argue the conditions of their employment are fair because they went into the agreement willingly?
And for those who want to chime in that these above examples are extreme and offensive and not comparable, let me respond that a kid in a coalmine or a factory worker on an unsafe assembly line or a guy who is paying off his boat ticket to America isn't being forced to work his entire life, plus seventy years."
My response: Exactly.
Any my personal favorite. Locking in the author forever so they can only write books for them.
"Competing Works: During the term hereof, Author shall not publish any book on the same or similar subject matter as any Book of the Work that would directly compete in the marketplace with sales of that Book of Work. Author shall not undertake to write another book for another Publisher until the Material for the last Book of the Work is delivered.
Again, I'm no lawyer, but to me this seems a lot like: Not only do we own your book, we own you.
What I do with my time is my business, isn't it? Shouldn't I be able to write other books, for myself or for other publishers?"
My response: You'd to be crazy to keep sign a contract with this wording in it.
This has to change. We need to have an author intervention for new and existing authors. The word needs to be spread. The contracts that exist today are unfair and should never be signed. Don't make the mistake that I did, and countless others have done as well.
About the author
Jim F. Kukral writes books that inspire and educate readers on how to live better lives and improve their businesses on the Internet. He is the CEO of a groundbreaking book marketing agency called Digital Book Launch (www.digitalbooklaunch.com). You can see all of Jim's books at JimKukralBooks.com