Sunday, July 17, 2016


While reading a series of posts regarding contract rights byKathryn Kris Rusch, I noted just how grabby of author rights traditional publishing houses have gotten.  They include clauses to have rights well beyond what they’re producing(the book), such as rights to compensation for any future mediums of production, or film rights down the road should your work ever be optioned.  The contracts have gotten so grabby that authors will have to get permission to reprint any of their work in any altered medium(like, say, a foreign language translation).

What does all this lead to?  It should serve as a reminder that publishing houses are not your friends.  I don’t mean this as some put down, but rather as a statement of professional fact.  Should you choose to go the traditional publishing route, the house you sign with is a business partner, not a buddy.  Yes, you might have friendly relationships with individual editors and agents, but they come and go all the time.  What remains is the publishing house, and that house is looking to make as much money as possible.  That you get published is merely a side benefit to you.

In a perfect world, this would be an equitable partnership where both parties treat each other fairly.  But if the world was perfect, I’d be 6’10”, 240lbs, with perfect teeth and playing QB for my favorite football team.  So let’s stay in the real world, and in the real world, traditional publishing houses believe they have authors, especially unpublished ones, over a barrel.  They know you want access to the market, so they use their superior bargaining position to demand all kinds of stuff they don’t need.

You have to be willing to walk away.  That’s right, even if it costs you a contract.  Otherwise, you can end up being indentured to the company and lose control of not only the book you’re currently shopping, but future works as well.  Don’t let them bully you – they need new writers as much as you need to get published.  Most writers don’t like gritty business stuff(that’s why many want to go traditional), but you have to unless you enjoy getting taken advantage of.

Remember, it’s a business relationship, not a friendship.  Treat it that way.

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