Friday, March 30, 2012

Putting Reversion Before the Horse

darrellcurts asked: I know I am getting way, way, WAY ahead of myself considering I do not have an agent or publisher but, how long should an agent and/or publisher contract run? What should be the thresholds for rights reverting?

I can’t speak for all agency agreements, but ours is open-ended - in other words, it lasts until either the agent or the author terminates it. Other agencies may do a year-by-year agreement, or book-by-book. And even after termination, the agent who sold your book is generally the agent of record for that book as long as it is in print.

Publisher contracts vary. Most domestic book contract terms are “for the life of the book” — the book considered out of print if sales fall below a certain number of units sold. Let’s say, totally arbitrary example, “if sales of less than 250 units, in any format, in two consecutive accounting periods, and publisher has notified author they do not intend to reprint.” kind of thing (those numbers btw, totally made up, every publisher is different.)

Some other types of contracts - say, subsidiary rights such as foreign language, apps, audio — or permissions (like a test company wants to use an excerpt of the book on the SATs) may be for a set period of time - such period varies, perhaps 5 or 10 years, depending, and they have to get permission again if they want to keep producing it past that window of time.

What SHOULD be the thresholds for rights reverting? When the publisher is not printing new copies of the book, the book is no longer selling, and nobody is making money off it. In MY opinion, at that point, rights should be reverted easily. Sadly, some publishers are real pains on this subject and want to cling to the rights even after the clearly defined threshold has been crossed, and make you wait six months or more, then say ‘no no we are going to make an ebook you can’t have the rights back’ etc etc… NOT THAT I AM BITTER OR ANYTHING. *cough*