Your publishing contract; it’s time to learn a foreign language
OK, fine. Leave off the part about Bruce Jenner and you have the real title.
As I’ve mentioned before, after 15 years as a syndicated columnist, this is my first venture into book publishing. I am now sitting here with a cup of coffee and the contract, which I haven’t signed yet, looking at words in all-caps, such as “AUTHOR,” “GUARANTEE” and “WARRANTS.”
In my experience, the word “warrant” has never led to anything good.
Regardless, even though it is a small publishing company based here in Florence, it has been around for 40 years as a book seller and publisher. It has kept up with the times, avoiding the temptation of becoming a “vanity” press by only publishing authors it actively seeks out. Its distribution channels reach well beyond Oregon to the global market, including Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, France, Australia, Alabama and many other foreign countries with a lot of consonants, all through a network of 25,000 retailers and 70,000 independent booksellers — not to mention all the major Internet sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
Uhh… but what does all that mean exactly?
And what about legal terms like “Subsidiary Rites,” “Future Book Options,” “Grant of Rights” and “Royalties?”
And why are they in ALL-CAPS!
As a journalist, I am trained to recognize subtle signs like these as meaning something really important.
So, between this week and next, we’ll go through it together, step by step, and try not to twist our ankles.
Before we delve into the contract I’m trying to avoid spilling my coffee on, I’d like to talk a little about my motivations, expectations and goal regarding the publication of this book.
First, I have no illusions of selling so many copies that I can leave my job and, with a little planning and a commitment to eat nothing but Costco corn dogs, live off royalties for the rest of my life.
Nor do I expect to reach the New York Times Best Seller list; if someone who reads the New York Times actually buys my book, that’s close enough.
In fact, my motivations, expectations and goals for this book can be summed up quite simply as “Step two.”
“Step One” was establishing myself as a columnist and building a readership foundation through newspaper circulation, speaking engagements and social media, such as my blog and other blogs I contribute to.
The truth is, I’m still establishing my presence on the social media stage, mostly because I am a technological dunce. Honestly, my evolution in this area has been a lot like being a teenaged boy placed in a pitch-black room with a Playboy centerfold: a lot of drive and premature excitement before running into a wall.
For this reason, the services offered by a publishing company in terms of social media presence is a critical component to achieving Step Two: expanding my readership base in preparation for my next book.
Which, by the way, has nothing to do with Bruce Jenner.
That said, let’s go through the first few sections of the contract’s TERMS of AGREEMENT, beginning with the Grant of Rights.
As a columnist, I have granted newspapers that carry my column “First-Time” rights, meaning that after my column is published, the rights to each revert back to me exclusively. That’s pretty standard in newspaper and magazine publication. However, in this case, the publisher is asking for Exclusive Rights in terms of the book’s future sales, reprint rights and subsidiary rights.
What that basically means is that, while the columns are mine, this book — including any electronic rights, motion picture rights (as if), foreign translation (that’s you, Alabama), serialization, re-print rights, etc., will forever belong to the publishing company.
In essence, anything that comes from this book now and in the future will have to go through the publisher.
I’m OK with that. If this were a different kind of book with movie or series potential, I may be less inclined to agree with the terms and ask for a revision.
The next section is “Author Guarantees and Warrants.”
Basically, this section is asking me to guarantee that the manuscript was written exclusively by me, and doesn’t include anything libelous or unlawful in its content.
… Well, assuming that neither Bruce Jenner and anyone from the Kardashian family will ever read my book…
Sure, we’re good there.
And as far as the content being written exclusively by me: Who else would willingly claim to have written this stuff?
Again, I think we’re good.
We’ll save “Royalties,” “Publication Costs,” “Schedules,” “Future Options” and “Permissions” for next week, by which time I’m sure I will have felt my way into another corner of that darkened room.
(You can write to Ned at [email protected], or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)