Monday, November 21, 2005

Contracts, Contracts

I'm blogging early tonight. I need to get back to my manuscript. I've been away from it for nearly two days and am getting anxious.

I was the speaker at my Sisters-in-Crime meeting today. We talked about copyright issues, the "unbundling" of books by (see my blog for 11/4 "Big Day in Publishing News") and future trends. I raised the question, which I think is a legitimate one: "If all books go digital and web marketing is done by a retailer like or even e-Bay, what will be the role of the publisher in this brave new world?"

Of course, someone will still need to digitize the book, but that's not rocket science. I can see the need for a publicist, but distribution will be largely the venue of the online retailer, no?

Talking about publishers, check out Holly Lisle's blog ( for November 11 and 12 and the two entries on the 16th. Recently, Holly was both surprised and enraged to find that her books were a part of Google's Book Search since she had not given permission for them to be used. She wrote Google which immediately wrote back to say that they had received permission from her publisher. Holly checked with her publisher (Tor) and found that they hadn't given permission. She emailed Google back. That's when she found out that Holtzbrinck, the media conglomerate that owns Tor had sent the digitized copies to Google. Holly demanded that the books be removed from the program and Google agreed to do so.

Now this raises a very interesting question. I presume Holly signed a contract with Tor. Unless Tor's relationship with Holtzbrinck was spelled out in that contract and, unless Holly signed something agreeing that Holtzbrinck could act on Tor's behalf, I doubt that they can do that. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm having trouble believing that Holtzbrinck can unilaterally act on Holly's behalf without her consent. The fact that Google acted so quickly to remove her books makes me think they thought the same thing.

Read those contracts, folks. Better yet, have an agent or a lawyer familiar with literary contracts read them for you. I have a friend who just described a nightmare contract to me: the publisher would publish her first book if she guaranteed them right-of-first-refusal on subsequent books AND agreed they did not have to pay her any royalties until a year after the publishing date. Eeeekkkkk!

It takes a while to write a book. Don't just give away the fruits of your hard-earned labor because you're so eager to be published.

1 comment:

Sherrill Quinn said...

Why can't it just be simple? A. Write book. B. Get book published. C. Collect royalty checks.

I say that with tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course. But, day-um. Who knew you had to know so much about contracts and other legal crap? I knew I should have gotten that J.D. degree...