The Authors Guild has outlined some of the "egregious terms" of current contract boilerplates it plans to address in its Fair Contract Initiative, first announced May 28 during BookExpo America.
In the most recent statement, the Guild said the goal of the project is to "shine a bright light on the one-sided contract terms that publishers typically offer authors and to spur publishers to offer more equitable deals." The first contract term tackled was royalty rates—the Guild argues that royalties on e-books should be 50% of net proceeds, as opposed to 25%, the standard rate of many publishers.
The Guild also argued that contracts should not last the life of the copyright, and that it should be easier for authors to reacquire rights to a work. “Out-of-print clauses may be easily manipulated in this day of e-books and print-on-demand technology," the Guild wrote, while "at the same time, it’s more important than ever for authors to reacquire their rights so they can make e-book and print-on-demand titles available from their backlist."
Next, the Guild said that the acceptance of a manuscript should not be a "matter of whim," and that a "publishing agreement based on a proposal is not an option, it is a contract to publish and pay, assuming the author delivers."
The group also took on payment structure, and argued that advances "must remain advances," urging publishers to move away from payment schedules divided into three or four parts. The Guild said they "defeat the whole purpose of advances: to enable authors to devote themselves to completing their books without having to take on other work to make ends meet."
The preview also held that publishers should share legal risk, that non-compete clauses are no longer "reasonable in the era of instant publishing," and that offer options on future works should be made quickly, with a separate payment.
Lastly, the Initiative will pursue terms that allow authors to have final say on the text in a book, to receive royalties at least every three months, and that eliminates the cost to the author when the book takes on a "special" price, such as those sold in bulk to big-box stores.
For the full statement, click here.