Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dealing with Contracts

"Reynolds, we now own all rights to your image. You'll have to pony up $100 to the company every time you look in the mirror."

Tim Broderick writes about book contracts. He'll tell you what an advance is a what a typical print run is. There's a lot of good first-time advice like this:

"You do not pay for copy editing or any printing, storage or shipping. That's the point of finding a publisher, they're in business to take a risk with you. If someone wants you to sign a contract that stipulates you pay for services or fees, they're not a real publisher. Run away!"

One of the first contracts that I was offered mentioned that I would be charged for all phone calls and faxes by the company. I didn't sign that contract!

More and more, I see contracts that want ALL RIGHTS. Even for an online cartoon illustration contest (like the recent New Yorker's "draw Eustace Tilley" contest or the monthly DC Comics Zuda contest), the rule of thumb of the powers-that-be is to procure all rights up front. So, when you upload your comics to these contests, you're agreeing that they may stick their finger in your creation and use it any way they see fit. And you, the person who created the work, no longer has any say in it.

Factoid: the three-part contract with DC Comics Zuda Web site is 6,085 words. The U.S. Constitution has 4,400 words!

Hat tip to Journalista!


Brian Fies said...

Good advice from Tim Broderick. I might quibble with some of his numbers but find nothing fundamental to disagree with.

Once in a while someone asks my advice about book contracts and in my experience it boils down to this: you need an experienced attorney, especially if you don't have an agent. Attorneys are expensive but their advice will pay for itself.

Contract negotiation is the one time when you and your publisher aren't best buddies working toward a common goal. They want as many rights and as much money as they can get; so do you. Remember, they're your rights to sell or give away. Don't be afraid to negotiate, the publisher expects it. They won't get mad at you (at least the good ones won't). You might have to give up some things to get other things you want, so you need to know what's most important to you. As soon as it's signed, you can go right back to being buddies again.

Good topic, Mike!

Trade Loeffler said...

Great post, Mike, and good gag. The gag made me think of something a friend of mine had told me once about Colonel Sanders; that he had sold away the use of his image with the rights to Kentucky Fried Chicken. I'm not sure how true it is. I just looked on Wikipedia and it mentioned that he had sued the company in 1971 over misuse of his image but not sure how and why that worked out.