Notes from Arline...
First, a note on health...
I do want to apologize for being away from my desk so much, lately. Usually, I try to post at this blog at least five times per week, but I have been a bit under the weather in August and expect this to continue during September and possibly October.
As most of you know, I'm no spring chicken and have a lot of boring, chronic illnesses -- all irritating, but none really life-threatening. Usually, work takes my mind off them, so the publishing gig is a blessing. Most of you are patient and cooperative and make my days much more enjoyable than sitting idle...
Many of you knew of my son's illness, and death, earlier this year (thanks so much for all the kind wishes and support) and all of you have been gracious about delays, but I must mention another small problem. My chronic ulcer is acting up again, and has resulted in a low blood count, causing symptoms of weakness, loss of concentration, and dizzyness. I will get better, but it may take some time. Thanks for being patient.
Second, a note on the Present Copyright Issue...
Several of you have noted the Author's Guild's publicity campaign, and other media articles, about Copyright Changes and have written to ask what the problem is, how it affects authors, and how it affects Our Authors in particular.
I was a writer long before I became a publisher. I am a member of the Author's Guild and I see it every time they post Yet Another Warning about Unfair Publishers. The issue, has to do with Contracts and Rights.
The following is not Legal Advice, but a simple explanation!
Some Book Publishers contract for "All Rights." And Some Book Publishers, send out "standard contracts" that insist on surrender of all "subsidiary rights" for the duration of the contract. That means The Publisher can then refuse to return the copyrights to you after the book goes out of print. He can keep them, or sell them to another business...
Worse if the publisher goes out of business and you have signed away your rights, you may Not be Able to Get Them Back. A lot of small publishers went out of business in the last ten years, especially e-book publishers. Authors who signed with them, can find themselves in a "gray area" as most contracts say that after your book goes out of print, you can "ask the publisher to give your rights back," but that's hard to do when the publisher no longer exists. If the publisher can't even send a letter telling you the rights are returned, you can't claim a clear title to them.
Worse, a reprint publisher may refuse to take your book because you don't have a clear title to the rights.
When you sign off on "all rights" with a Publisher, they can THEN SELL your movie rights, your paperback rights, your serial rights, and so on, and only if they spell it out in the contract, do they HAVE TO PAY YOU ANYTHING! The contract may say you can "ask" but it doesn't bind them to any return policy. Again, If it doesn't State a Percentage that you get paid, then you don't Have to Be Paid.
You can see, that kind of situation leaves itself open to all kinds of abuse.
If you die, Your Copyright holds until 75 years after your death. This is why you should always specify a literary executor, to handle your copyrights should you become too ill to do it yourself.
In America your book is copyrighted upon completion, whether it is registered to the US Copyright Registration Office or NOT. Your copyright should be Registered by YOU, not the Publisher, then the rights will be Yours for life, plus 75 years. If the publisher registers, then the contract should state clearly, when it expires.
Copyrights can be renewed by your estate for another 75. That means a bad contract has a potential to tie up your earnings potential for 150 years.
Therefore, YOU SHOULD:
Read all contracts carefully! Beware of language that discusses "subsidiary rights" and "all rights" and be careful about the language surrounding the "return of rights." Ask for explanations, if you don't understand. Keep all correspondence.
Look for an "escape clause" that allows You to cancel the contract, as well as the publisher. If at all possible both parties should be able to cancel after a reasonable period of time.
If you CAN make sure to insert language that your rights will be returned to you automatically, if the publisher goes "out of business," OR the book "goes out of print."
What about Write Words, Inc. Authors?
Our contract licenses your rights, it does not buy them. We do not register your copyright. It is YOURS. We only license the right to use your work for a single print and a single e-book edition, and asks that you keep subsidiary series books with us. Your copyrights are yours, and yours only, and it says so on the copyright page of your book.
If Write Words, Inc. goes out of business, all contracted publications are automatically cancelled. No further books may be produced, and ALL PUBLISHING RIGHTS, automatically, go back to the authors!
Our contract is for Three Years from the date of publication, and is self-renewing yearly after that.
All subsidiary rights remain with the author. If a movie producer comes along, it's YOUR Business to negotiate! Get an arts attorney, or an agent, and work out the best deal you can. When they send the contract, Read it Carefully before you sign anything!