IF YOU EVER LAND A CONTRACT
Recently I was chatting to a fellow writer who told me that years ago she’d had a book accepted and published by one of the big-name publishers. It was a textbook in her field of expertise and intended for teachers. She’d been thrilled; it sold well and she’d been paid her share of the profits. All good.
That was many years ago and her book has been long out of print but, now retired she continues to write; is deep into a novel and a leader in her writer’s group. When she mentioned the name of the publisher I was particularly interested as I too had once been offered a contract on a book for teachers that I was in the throes of writing. This was many years ago but, unlike her, I refused to sign the contract I was offered.
“Why on earth not?” You might well ask.
Ever since I learned to read I’ve been bewitched by print; always had my nose in a book; accused of “even reads Weetbix packets” … So I read that contract carefully and got my knickers in a knot over two of the items hidden away in all the legal verbiage: copyright ownership and payment if there happened to be the need for a second edition.
As far as the first of those two went; the big-name publisher would own the copyright if I signed that contract. No way! All those words, the book I’d been labouring over was my precious baby. Nobody else was going to own it; have control; do what they wanted with it.
Regarding the payment issue: the contract stated I was to receive 10% of the sales price. Fine. I knew that was more or less the going rate, standard procedure. But then it went on to say I’d only get seven and a half percent if there happened to be a second edition. This made no sense to me. Surely a second edition would be easier, simpler and cheaper to produce as all the set-up stuff would be in place so it would be nothing more than a reprint.
At the time I was inexperienced and totally unaware that most contracts are negotiable. So I simply clenched my jaw; dug my heels in; squashed my feelings (thrilled, validated…) and wrote a polite note of refusal – no reason given. Which was stupid, I know now. But back 8then I had no-one to help or advise me.
Ever since I’ve checked to see who owns the copyright of any book that comes my way! As a by-the-by; the copyright of virtually every book produced by that big name publisher is owned by them. Which means the author has probably been duped due to a combination of excitement and trust (i.e. ‘trust’ being lack of knowledge re the importance of checking).
We are always told “Buyer Beware”. And the same applies to contracts – if you are ever lucky enough to be offered one.
© Mary McDee 2023
Feature Photo: The Sign © S.O. Gross circa 1950