Forwarded with permission.
Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt
to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of
print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers,
has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to
the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.
The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales
requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is
apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in
perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.
The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print,
and under its exclusive control, so long as it's available in any form,
including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are
available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.
Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of
We urge you to consider your options carefully:
1. Remember that if you sign a contract with Simon & Schuster that includes
this clause, they'll say you're wed to them. Your book will live and die
with this particular conglomerate.
2. Ask your agent to explore other options. Other publishers are not
seeking an irrevocable grant of rights.
3. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, consider asking your
agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the
auction to use industry standard terms.
4. Let us know if other major publishers follow suit. Any coordination
among publishers on this matter has serious legal implications.
Feel free to forward and post this message in its entirety.
What does this mean?
It means that authors who sign contracts with this clause in it will probably never get their rights back on their books. They will never be able to resell them to another house to make more money once the first publisher has stopped printing them. I have personally never resold a previously published book, but I know plenty of authors who have. It is done a lot in NY.
Note: I have heard mixed reports on whether this clause is negotiable. One source (quoting S&S) said it will be negotiable on a book-by-book basis; another said it will not.
For reasons like this, every author who has received an offer from a NY publisher needs to have the contract reviewed by a competent
agent or literary attorney.
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