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October 2012

Reporter: Lisa Carter

Lisa CarterLisa Carter is a writer, teacher, and speaker whose articles have appeared in FamilyFun, Thriving Family, MomSense, and Christian Parenting Today. Aloha Rose, her debut novel, releases in November 2013 as part of Abingdon’s Quilts of Love series. Lisa and her husband have two daughters and call North Carolina home. Visit her online.

Presenter: Steve Laube

Steve LaubeLaube, a literary agent and president of The Steve Laube Agency, has been in the book industry more than 31 years. He then spent over a decade with Bethany House Publishers and was named the Editor of the Year in 2002. He later became an agent and has represented more than 700 new books and was named Agent of the Year by ACFW.

Workshop 21: Landmines In Your Book Contract

“We live in a litigious society,” agent Steve Laube told participants in his ACFW conference workshop, Landmines In Your Book Contract. That fact prompts many publishers to place protective clauses in their contracts. Those clauses can be fraught with landmines for authors.

Can you decipher these potential trouble spots?

Contract landmine quiz

  1. The Option Clause: “Author grants to Publisher the option to accept for publication the next full book length work written by Author on the terms herein contained.”
    • On terms contained herein binds the author to the same contract terms on subsequent works and hinders the ability to negotiate.
  2. “The Publisher shall not be required to publish or continue to publish the Work, if in its sole judgment, such publication or continued publication might expose the Publisher to a risk of litigation.”
    • Publisher isn’t required to publish or continue to publish the Work if in its sole judgment publication might expose Publisher to litigation. The parameters of this clause are too broad, and based on the publisher’s opinion.
  3. Grant of Rights clause: “The Author grants and assigns to the Publisher . . . the exclusive in a work, including but not limited to the sole and exclusive right to print, publish, reproduce, license, and/or otherwise sell the Work in all media in all languages and all editions thereof throughout the universe.”
    • Throughout the universe? For when your book hits the bestseller list on Mars? Seriously? Not an important landmine, but a silly one.
  4. Out of Print clause: “Out of print shall be defined as fifty copies or less in stock except: if it is on sale in any edition in the United States, . . . if the Publisher has made the Work available in a print-on-demand or e-book format, and the Work has sold more than fifty POD or e-book copies in the most recent fiscal year . . .”
    • The basic landmine is the threshold for being declared out of print. fifty copies or less With the e-book and POD caveats, your work may never be deemed out of print. An e-book, technically speaking, has never been in print in the first place. A higher sales threshold of 500 copies in a fiscal year needs to be negotiated.
  5. Moral Turpitude: “In the event that Author is publicly accused of an act of moral turpitude, the violation of any law or any other conduct which subjects or could be reasonably anticipated to subject Author or Publisher to public ridicule, contempt, scorn, hatred or censure or could, in the sole discretion of Publisher, materially diminish potential sales of the Work, Publisher shall have the right to terminate this Agreement upon written notice to Author.”
    • Publically accused is a broad definition. It can mean that someone could stand on a street corner and shout accusations. That is a public accusation. Better that this clause has modification to include “evidence, court decision, or Author’s own admission.”

“Don’t be embarrassed to ask your agent to explain a contract clause you don’t understand,” Laube said.

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