Bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote about “Short- and Long-term Thinking”, a phrase that describes what every author (or other artist) should do – well before signing any contract. In her piece she insists that no one should EVER sign a non-compete clause. Look up your own publishing contract(s) if you can find the word compete and read on:
Kristine explains: “for the past several years, traditional publishers are trying to control everything about a writer, from the rights she / he sells to the amount of money she makes. They also want what they are calling “a non-compete” clause, which means: it’s a “do-not-do-business-without-our-permission” clause.”
Sounds to me Like SLAVERY.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch advices: “If you sign any version of a non-compete clause, you will never be a full-time professional writer. Writing will not be your career. Something else will, and you will write on the side for the rest of your life.”
And further: “Contracts are one long document that works as a whole, not a series of linked paragraphs. Deleting the non-compete clause is not enough. You must also get rid of all the language about competition in the warranty section of the contract. That’s the part your agent tells you is boilerplate so you don’t have to read it. And don’t listen to an agent who tells you that: “You don’t have to read your warranty clause. Yes, you have to read your entire contract, not just the parts that someone warned you about.”
She explains that publishers these days requiring non-compete clauses in almost all of their contracts, and are making those clauses a deal breaker from the publisher’s side. It means that either you let the publisher control your entire career just because you sold that publisher one book for $5000 or else. Don’t walk out of their office, RUN…
The Ugly Truth…
You would agree that during the term of the publishing contract you will not, without the written permission of the Publisher, publish or authorize to be published any work under this name or any other (e.g. a pen name), including blog posts, short stories, nonfiction articles, novels, or the like. Books generally aren’t going “out of print” any more, (thanks to e-books). Contracts with traditional publishers are becoming contracts for the life of the copyright. It will prevent you from making a living with your craft. According to that clause, your publisher is in charge of everything you write, whether the publisher pays you for it or not.”
Kristine Rusch writes from her own experience: “I demanded the clause’s removal and got it with no fuss at all. Recently, however, writers have signed contracts with that clause because they were told the clause was a deal breaker. I know of at least two mystery writers who need their publisher’s permission to put up a blog post. Do you really want that to happen to you? Because it could if you sign this clause.
Consider that the contract, like your mortgage, it might get sold to another company you are entirely unfamiliar with at the moment. This happened to Avalon authors who had no idea when they signed their contracts that eventually Amazon would have the rights to publish those works. Your current publisher might not enforce that clause; but the publisher / business your current publisher sells out to, might enforce the clause.”
Don’t Forget: You can Always Self-Publish.
The best way to handle a non-compete clause is to refuse to sign one. Or you can try to find a publisher who is not insisting on a non-compete clause. And you need to find an agent that not only understands IP law, but is actually working ‘for’ you and not just doing whatever they can to get you to sign any contract so they can get their cut. Or you need to hire an IP lawyer to make sure the agent isn’t taking you for a ride … If you still sign these unfavourable clauses, you will have no one to blame but yourself for your tanking writing career.
There are now very good authors – even authors who have deals with major publishers – getting into the self-publishing game. Why? They are unhappy about certain rights or royalty rates and the refusal of publishers to negotiate those rights or rates.
Authors have to do their own marketing anyway, no matter if self-publishing or going with a publisher. While many authors assume that getting a trade publisher means that this publisher will take care of the marketing chores, the truth is that a traditional publisher will only put real marketing muscle behind the one or two books per year that it truly believes to become a bestseller or the one from a celebrity. But how can you promote your book, if you are at the mercy of a publisher? Only the publisher who uploaded books to online retailers gets the password and authors have to fight for each little improvement or change on the retail platforms.
Publishers Need Authors. But Authors Don’t Need Publishers!
Amazon, Apple, CreateSpace, Ingram Lightning Source, and Kobo will happily take any author’s book and make it available in eBook or print format for much higher revenues that trade publishers would ever pay. Sure, getting it into traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores may be harder, but it’s by no means impossible.