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Packing Heat 122: Fight for your Rights

Packing Heat is a podcast I've been putting out since 2007. My goal is to help other writers stay motivated, and to encourage them to take their writing to the next level. You don't need special gadgets to listen; Packing Heat plays in your browser, like YouTube. Or you can subscribe (and leave me glowing feedback) at iTunes!

These are the show notes from this week's episode:

I was getting set to tell you all about my idea generation process for a short story I was entering in a contest...and then my two weeks of work came to a screeching halt when I discovered that the terms I would be signing over by entering the contest were different than I had been told. No nefarious bait-and-switch, just an honest mistake, but it still prevented me from entering the contest because I wouldn't sign over those rights, and they wouldn't alter their terms.

There are some agents who are beginning to take on epublished clients, but it's a very new field. Most epublished authors end up negotiating their own contracts. Here are a few things to consider when you're looking at that piece of (electronic) paper:

Think Ahead

The ebook business is changing incredibly rapidly. In 2008 when I started publishing my own Kindle books, very few authors were doing it. Now lots of authors are doing their own Kindle books, and some are making a nice paycheck doing so. There's no way to know what will happen in two years, but before you go signing some right away that your gut is telling you to keep, try to imagine yourself at the next level of writing success, two years in the future, looking back and telling past-self, "Don't do it!"


Rights - Which rights are the publisher asking for? Electronic, print, or both? Are they asking for print rights when they don't have a specific plan to put your work out in print? Ask to negotiate for those separately. Are they grabbing audio rights? Translation rights? Movie rights? Wouldn't you kick yourself if a flashy Mexican indie writer-director approached you and wanted to do a Spanish-version film of your ebook...but you couldn't because you'd signed those rights away to someone who would never even try to sell them for you?

Duration - How long do they want it? Get the shortest term you can, because the ebook business is changing so rapidly, you don't want to get locked into something that looks advantageous now, but is a ridiculously poor deal for you two years from now. I prefer to sign for three years, though most contracts now are skewing longer, and most epublishers will not negotiate this. Do not sign anything for the "life of the copyright" unless you know what that means.

First refusal - When you sign over first refusal rights, it means that when you write a followup story, you must submit it to the same publisher. You can't take it elsewhere, and you can't self-publish it, not unless they look at it first and turn it down. This locks you into publishing with this publisher whether you want to or not. Some publishers demand first refusal rights on subsequent books in the series, some try to snag it for ALL your subsequent writings. I never agree to this.

Set In Stone

Is the publisher unwilling to alter their contract even one tiny bit for you? I see that as a giant red flag. There are lots of other publishers, as well as the self-publishing route to consider. Don't sign anything you disagree with.

Your Assignment

Read through the list of epublishing contract red flags at epicauthor.com/redflags.html - I haven't seen each and every one of these situations up close and personal, but I have seen quite a few of them! Even if you're still starting out and you don't have a contract on your plate, it can't hurt to start getting familiar with some of these things so you can make an informed decision when the time comes.

Listen at Packing Heat, 29 minutes


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 29th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
this reminds me: when will the rights for that story you wrote for changeling press revert back to you?
Sep. 29th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
Which story do you mean, that freebie in Firestorm? I'm not even sure. Probably a couple of years.
Sep. 30th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
I think so... it was a short in an anthology. I just remember it looked really neat, but I wasn't interested in the other stories (and the price of the anthology was a bit $$ for the one short I'd be interested in reading.)
Sep. 30th, 2010 02:35 pm (UTC)
Y'know, I just dug out the contract and the rights revert next July. Not too bad. I'm going to put an alert on my calendar so I get these things ready to publish when the time comes.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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