Publishing: Contracts, Respect & Reversion

I’ve criticized Dean Wesley Smith in the past.  But I found this particular recent post by him to be very enlightening and useful.

Quite a long time ago (by the age of my blog) I posted a speculative piece about what the future of publishing might look like.  As part of that speculation, I talked about how today’s mid-lister (and tomorrow’s Big Name) authors might grow increasingly disillusioned with overly-aggressive contracts from Big Publishing, and would defect to strike out on their own (though I was mostly wrong about the means of that defection, I appear to have been right about the motives).

And that’s basically what Dean is talking about.

In his post, Dean discusses some simple changes to contracts that Publishers could make that would attract him back to traditional publishing.  But what’s important is that what Dean’s looking for isn’t more money, it’s contractual control over his own work.  He’s asking for a firm rights reversion date, artistic control of his own writing, and equitable consideration for contract cancellation in the case of a publisher’s failure to live up to its own terms.  And Dean equates this control with his own dignity and respect.

I don’t hide the fact that, for myself, I prefer the traditional publication path to the digital self-publishing path (though I’m yet in no position to make a decision about which path I will ultimately pursue).  But I agree with Dean that these are some pretty basic requirements for writers to expect in their contracts.  And of these, the most important clause that Dean mentions is the one about rights reversion.  Continue reading