From author Jordan McCollum:
If you’ve poked around my site or been a subscriber for a while, you might remember that in November 2011, I received an offer of publication from a regional publisher, with a 2013 anticipated release. . . . Like any publishing offer, it was a long time coming.
Three years and two weeks after I started the novel. Two years after I submitted it to the same publishing house the first time (obviously they rejected it, and with good reason). Eighteen months after an editor at the publishing company told me not to bother resubmitting the revised, newly-award-winning manuscript. Almost nine months after I went ahead and did it anyway.
I got the good news at a writers’ retreat and I was so excited to share with my friends there.
. . . .
While we waited on that contract, they assigned me an editor, who happened to be someone I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. They asked me for the “final” submitted version of my manuscript (although editing was at least a year away). They requested an author photo, then a release from my amazing photographer. They needed tax documents. I got it all turned in.
Finally, the contract came in the mail. I held my breath as I opened that big white envelope and read through those pages with my publisher’s name and mine. And I cried.
But they weren’t tears of joy.
With a friend’s recommendation, I consulted with a lawyer who specializes in contract disputes and intellectual property law. He spent looong billable hours reading the contract and writing me an extremely thorough analysis. And, yeah, it was as bad as I feared.
. . . .
Naturally, I was very worried about the possibility of a book never being declared “out of print” because the publisher had an ebook version on the “shelves.” I might never get the rights to my backlist back unless the publisher was feeling very generous.
. . . .
But my lawyer was more concerned with another issue, one that I was anticipating, but didn’t think it would be as bad as the reality. The contract demanded the right of first refusal on basically everything I might write for the next 21 years. If I submitted any work anywhere else, it would be deemed accepted by this publisher, and contractually obligated to them first. There was no timeline in the original contract, meaning they could spend three years sitting on my manuscript, before granting me one year to try to find someone else to take it (after which the time frame and rejection process would start over).
. . . .
I offered options, options I knew other authors had gotten added to their contracts with this company, and options I knew other publishers used. I gave some, and they gave a little.
Ultimately, however, they wouldn’t budge on the most important issue.
. . . .
I sent a final message to the publisher. I told them I didn’t want to burn any bridges, but I would need to see changes to these clauses of the contract.
They said no.
So I said no.
Link to the rest at Jordan McCollum
To answer a question that may be on the minds of some — Jordan is not one of PG’s clients.
However, the contract problems she describes are very familiar to PG.
Typical out-of-print clauses are virtually impossible for an author to enforce unless the publisher wants to revert the book. See one of PG’s first contract-related posts describing a minimum wage for authors for a better alternative to standard out-of-print clauses.
Rights of first refusal and non-compete clauses can substantially limit an author’s freedom to self-publish or choose to work with another publisher, even if the first publisher is doing a terrible job of selling books.