Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Legal Forms Book Protects Rights of Authors

When you’re an author, especially a self-published one, you find that you need to do a lot of things, including the responsibility of executing contracts that protect your rights and interests.  A valuable resource was recently released by Allworth Press, an imprint of Skyhorse Publishing.  Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self-Publishers, Fourth Edition, features 32 forms for customized usage.  The forms are also available as digital files for ease of use.

Such a book is only as good as its authors and these three are quite knowledgeable and experienced.  Ted Crawford, who also co-authored The Writers Legal Guide, has served as general counsel for the Graphic Artists Guild and Legislative Counsel for creators’ groups fighting for greater rights.  Steve Fitzgerald and Michael Gross are staff attorney and senior staff attorney with the Authors Guild and have extensive experience with contracts and intellectual property.

Some of the more useful documents contained in its 160 pages include these:

·         Author’s Lecture Contract
·         Book Publishing Contract
·         Privacy Release
·         Permission Form
·         Contract with a Book Designer
·         Agreement with a Printer
·         Book Distributor Contract
·         Copyright Applications
·         Translation  Contract
·         License of Rights Agreement
·         Independent Contractor Contract
·         License for Electronic Rights Deal

Each form is introduced with an explanation of its usage and negotiation tips are provided as well. The book begins with a general sharing of advice and facts about contracts and the law.  It is written for the layman and comes across in a matter-of-fact tone.

Here are some excerpts from the book:

“Understanding the business concepts behind the forms is as important as using them.  By knowing why a certain provision has been include and what it accomplishes, the author is able to negotiate when faced with someone else’s business form.  The author knows what is and is not desirable.”

“Contracts require negotiation.  The forms in this book are favorable to the author, so changes may be requested.  This book’s explanation of the use of each form should help the author evaluate changes either party may want to make in any of the forms.  The negotiation checklists should also clarify what changes would be desirable in forms presented to the author.”

Perhaps the document with the longest negotiation checklist was that of the book publishing contract.  There were well over 150 negotiation pointers, including these:

·         “Specify with respect to medium whether the grant of rights covers hardcover, quality paperback, electronic rights, audio rights, mass market paperback, etc.”

·         “Reserve to the author all rights not specifically granted to the publisher, including electronic rights.”

·         “Specify whether the author shall be responsible for delivering illustrations, photographs, maps, tables, charts, or an index, and give details as to the number and nature of any such additional items.”

·         “Require the publisher to publish the book within a certain time period, such as twelve or eighteen months after delivery or acceptance.”

·         “For an adult trade book in hardcover, a basic royalty of 10 percent of suggested retail price on the first 5,000 copies sold, 12 ½ percent on the next 5,000 copies, and 15 percent on all copies sold in excess of 10,000.”

·         “Sales at a higher than normal discount to wholesalers or retailers.  A normal discount might be 40 percent, and some publishers reduce royalties when the discount reaches 48 percent or more.  This reduction may be gradual, such as 1 percent of royalty for each percent in excess of 48 percent discount, but the impact can be great.  Moving the starting point for reductions from a 48 percent discount to perhaps a 51 percent discount many minimize the loss to a large degree, depending on the sales structure of the particular publisher.  If such discounts are due to purchasing large quantities of books, the author should also consider requiring that different titles not be calculated together for these purposes.”

·         “Determine as to each subsidiary right which party controls that right and what the division of proceeds will be.  Subsidiary rights cover many possible sources of income which the publisher will exploit through marketing to other companies.  Licensing of subsidiary rights may include abridgements, book clubs, reprints by another publisher, first and second serializations (which are magazine or newspaper rights before and after book publication), foreign or translation rights, syndication, advertising, commercial uses, films, plays, radio shows, television, audio tapes, and multimedia electronic versions (CD-ROM, online, etc.).”

·         “Insist that the print publisher doing an electronic version not change the work in any way without the author’s permission (such as addition of a sound track, abridgement, or combination with other works).”

·         “Do not allow the publisher to place a time limit, such as one or two years after the mailing of the statement of account, on the author’s right to inspect eh books and have errors corrected.”

·         “Seek to have the publisher cover the author under the publisher’s liability insurance policy for copyright infringements, libel, and related violations of rights.  This will safeguard the author against many of the dangers in the warranty and indemnity provisions of publishers’ contracts.”

·         “Give the author the right to terminate the contract if the book remains out-of-print after a request by the author that it be put back in print.”

·         “Define out-of-print to include the situation where if the only copies of an Author’s work are available via print-on-demand or ebook formats, if the work at issue would be considered “out-of-print” if the total royalty income did not equal or exceed a specified dollar mount (such as $250-$500 over the course of any two accounting periods).”

·         “The publisher may also seek an option for the author’s next book.  Ideally this will be stricken from the contract.  If it is not stricken, it should be an option for one work only on terms to be agreed to (not terms identical to the existing contract).  The publisher must accept or reject the work within a limited time period, such as thirty or sixty days, based on an outline (not a complete manuscript).”

·         “State that a noncompetitive clause or an option clause will be valid only if the publisher is not in breach of the contract and the contract has not been terminated.”

As you can see there are a lot of forms one needs to publish successfully today.  Each form contains language and clauses that can determine your fate. Perhaps the best advice in the book is in fact to seek a lawyer when doing certain things, but as a practical guide to inform and empower authors, Business and Legal forms for Authors and Self-Publishers is a solid contribution to the writing world.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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