Dissection of a Contract

publishing.pngA friend of mine sent a contract my way. They had a bad feeling about it – and were right to do so. (Identities obfuscated for their protection.) I don’t think that it was done out of malice or bad intent – it was just poor wording.

Remember that you can negotiate any contract. This contract was for a payment of $0.015 a word.

The big problem was here (emphasis mine):

This material may be used in whole/or part in the Publisher’s book [TITLE REDACTED] and in/for any promotional use in print/electronic/online/other, including any future revisions, editions, and electronic versions thereof including exclusive world rights in all languages.

This is problematic for two reasons.  First, they’re claiming ownership to the idea of the story.  That is, if you rewrite the story, it’s still theirs.  Icky.  Further, exclusive world rights in perpetuity?  Um, no.  Not for the payment they offered. 

Also, that “other” means anything – including audio, derivative film rights, etc.  I would suggest the following replacement paragraph (edit if they do audiobooks):

This material may be used in whole or part in the Publisher’s book [TITLE REDACTED], and excerpts of the material may be used for promotion of said book.  The Publisher is granted exclusive first worldwide print and electronic rights for [one, two, three – your choice] years on acceptance and non-exclusive anthology rights thereafter in all languages.  All rights not expressly enumerated reside with the author.

Anthology rights means they can keep printing the anthology indefinitely with your story in it, but can’t bundle it into a different anthology.  The way it’s written now, they can.  Post-acceptance means you get your story back if they never publish.

Again, this is a “put up or shut up” kind of thing, so I thought I’d share my contract templates with you. These are not considered legal advice, et cetera. These are the contracts I would want as a writer … which is why it’s what I use as a publisher (Alliteration Ink). I’m sure they’re not perfect – so please put any suggestions, questions, and the like in the comments!

Alliteration Ink’s base contract for buying a story for an anthology.

My base contract for digital distribution.