Question on Contract Terms

Discussion in 'Writing' started by theWallflower, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. theWallflower

    theWallflower Start judging

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    Looking over a contract for a short story I sold, I'm not 100% sure what it means -- legalese is my second worst language (the first being English).

    Does this mean I can't sell the story as a reprint anywhere for five years?
     
  2. PeteMC

    PeteMC @PeteMC666

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    I'm pretty sure it does, yes, but if in doubt ask them. It's fairly standard boilerplate wording but five years sounds like a long time to me - I would have thought one year was more reasonable for a short story.
     
  3. theWallflower

    theWallflower Start judging

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    It appeared in an anthology. Would that make a difference?
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2012
  4. Jennifer P

    Jennifer P Registered User

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    Five years is *extremely* long and I personally would not have agreed to it.

    Six months or one year is standard for short stories.

    This is also horribly worded and confusing. Do they mean they want five years exclusivity or they want to make sure they can keep printing the anthology for five years? I'm assuming the former...

    It's not the worse I've seen. I ran rather than walking away from a publisher that wanted FIFTEEN YEARS exclusivity on a short story.
     
  5. sullivan_riyria

    sullivan_riyria Creator of Worlds

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    This is horribly worded and five years is a long time for a story in an anthology. Yes what they are asking you to sign on for is to have them be the only place that story appears for five years. I would ask them to revise the language as follows:

    This gives them 1 year where they are the only one that has the story (which seems fair) then they can continue to use the story for the full 5 years but you would also be able to self-publish it or sell to someone else (assuming there is no non-compete clause elsewhere).
     
  6. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Technically the language does not mean that they have the story exclusively for five years. "One time exclusive right" means that they have the right for one time to exclusively publish the story, that is, its first appearance in the initial publication shall be its first and only appearance in the marketplace at that time. And then the Publisher has the right to continue to print the story in subsequent publications for the next five years.

    But as has been noted, it's badly worded. The second part of the sentence should be "non-exclusive rights of printing for five years" and the boundaries of "one time exclusive" should have been more clearly stated as first serial (first publication) rights. As such, it's possible that the Publisher does in fact want exclusive rights for five years, which is unusual for anthologies. Usually anthologies want exclusive first serial rights if the story is not a reprint and non-exclusive second serial for the length of time the anthology is in print (which can be considerably longer than five years.) So you do need to ask them what their intent is with that term and if those terms don't work for you, ask for a revised term for your contract. If they refuse, you'll have to decide whether you want to publish the story in the anthology. Make sure the language regarding electronic publication in the contract is clear too.
     
  7. theWallflower

    theWallflower Start judging

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    Unfortunately, this is for a contract that I've already signed and the story's now been published. Alas, I now have-a da seller's remorse. I was looking up the contract's terms to see what my reprint rights were. Do you think it's worth it to e-mail the editor and ask for clarification?
     
  8. KatG

    KatG Effulgent Staff Member

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    Well on the bright side, the story has been published, so the anthology publisher is not paranoid about you circumventing his one-time exclusive to the story. On the darker side, yeah, you need to ask whether they thought the term is a five year exclusive since it was badly worded. You can say that you understood it to be non-exclusive past the first publication and see if they're willing to amend the contract if they disagree. Or they might say that it's not a five year exclusive in their view either. Worse case scenario if clarification or compromise is not reachable, you'll have to honor the five year thing for that particular story and you'll be careful about wording if you ever do business with that publisher again.

    It is important to always read contracts even if it's for a small sale. And when you don't understand a term in the contract or it seems vague in meaning, ask for a clarification and if needed revised language adjustment before you sign.