As part of its ongoing effort to raise writers’ income, the Authors Guild is sending an open letter to members of the Association of American Publishers. The guild will begin mailing the letters this week, with the first going to the largest publishing houses; in subsequent weeks the guild expects to hit the remaining relevant AAP members, said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the guild, who added it will not target nonpublisher AAP members such as printers.
The letter recaps the highlights of the guild’s Fair Contract Initiative, which the association began at last year’s BookExpo America, and which sets forth the guild’s contention that if authors are to be adequately compensated for their work, the standard publishing contract needs to be reworked.
In addition to showcasing the different arguments presented in the contract initiative, the letter notes that the guild will be “asking for individual meetings in the coming months with publishers both large and small to discuss the substance of [the Fair Contract Initiative] articles and what publishers can do to ensure this business is fair and profitable for those who create the works that sustain it.” Rasenberger said the guild would like to meet with as many publishers as possible. While noting that meeting with all AAP publishing members is impractical, the Guild is hoping to extend meetings beyond New York City. To that end, the Guild will be at AWP in Los Angeles and BEA in Chicago, where it hopes to reach out to companies.
Of all the changes the guild wants to see, one of the most important is contracts that would give authors at least 50% of net e-book income, as opposed to the 25% that is typical in current contracts. The letter also argues that authors should get their rights back after a publisher stops supporting a book, and that authors “should not have their hands tied with non-compete and option clauses that can make it impossible for them to write new books without delay.”
To buttress its argument about the need to raise authors’ earnings, the letter cites the guild’s 2015 survey of authors’ income, which found that writing-relating income for full-time authors dropped 30% between 2009 and 2014, to an average of $17,500. “Without serious contract reform, the professional author will become an endangered species,” the letter states. “Publishers need to treat their authors equitably so they can keep writing the kinds of books that have enabled the publishing industry to achieve the financial and cultural status it enjoys today.”
Rasenberger noted that in its attempt to revise the standard contract, it has received “tremendous support” from domestic writers groups, international author associations, and agents. Twenty-six associations signed the letter going to publishers.
Among the signatories are the Australian Society of Authors, the Canadian Authors Association, the Horror Writers Association, the Irish Writers Union, the Mystery Writers Association, the National Writers Union, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the Society of Authors (based in the U.K.).Click here to read the open letter from the Authors Guild.