From Seth Godin:
Freelancers, writers, designers, photographers–there’s always an opportunity to work for free.
There are countless websites and causes and clients that will happily take your work in exchange for exposure.
And in some settings, this makes perfect sense. You might be making a contribution to a cause you care about.
. . . .
But just because you’re working for free doesn’t mean you should give away all your upsides.
Consider the major publishing platforms that are happy to host your work, but you need to sign away your copyright.
. . . .
Now, more than ever, you have the power to say “no” to that.
Because they can’t publish you better than you can publish yourself.
It doesn’t matter if these are their standard clauses. They might be standard for them, but they don’t have to be standard for you and for your career.
Link to the rest at Seth Godin
PG says “This is our standard contract” may be the oldest con known to humankind to persuade someone (including an author) to sign a terrible contract.
The “standard contract”, “standard clause” or “standard language” designation is designed to make the author think that everyone agrees to those terms. Who is an author, particularly a new author, to dare to ask for something different than all the established authors accept?
This is baloney. Publishing contracts are changed all the time.
Publishing contracts of a certain era were formatted so the changes in “standard” language were shown in a different font or otherwise highlighted. PG has seen such contracts that included dozens of changes for authors who were not best-sellers. Many agents have a set of standard changes they always make to the “standard contract” from a particular publisher.
Most publishers no longer use stone tablets for their contracts. Microsoft Word can change a “standard contract” to a fairer contract in an eyeblink.
PG says, “Ask and ye shall receive.” And if you don’t receive, you can walk away and get a better deal from someone else. The Amazon or Draft2Digital or Smashwords, etc., options are always open.
Another negotiating tip – Always have an alternative planned before you begin a business negotiation. Negotiation theorists call this a BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. Part of the psychology of the “standard contract” ploy is the assumption that the author is mentally and emotionally committed to having a book published by a particular publisher, working with a famous editor, seeing big stacks of books in Barnes & Noble, etc.
Prior to sending the contract to the author, many publishers encourage an author, particularly a first-time author, to think everything will be sunshine and lollipops. The author has told all of her relatives and friends that Big Time Publishing has accepted her book, imagined what it will be like to fly on a private jet to Paris for a book signing, what she will say during her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, etc., etc., etc.
These sorts of things put immense pressure on an author to not walk away from a bad deal. PG suggests that an author may want to defer any announcement until after a fair contract is negotiated and signed. However, he knows this can be a very difficult thing to do, so perhaps a cautionary element should be added to any pre-contract announcements, “But I’m going to make sure the contract and all the details are right before this is official.”