Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rights Grab

I got an interesting e-mail recently at work. I share it with you. It is something to keep in mind. There should always be some sort of consideration for amending a contract, and it can't be done unilaterally. Many publishers are giving expansive readings to their own contracts, to the detriment of authors. Writer (and artist) beware:

The information in this email is being sent on behalf of the National Writers Union. The AAUP is supportive of the work of the National Writers Union (NWU) and has partnered with the NWU on issues of common interest to our members. The AAUP is not providing any legal assessment or advice related to e-book contract amendments and is not responsible for the legal advice provided by NWU in this message.

Message from the National Writers Union About E-Book Contract Amendments

With e-books starting to surge, many publishers are asking textbook and trade book authors to amend their existing contracts to include e-book and other electronic rights. If you receive such an amendment from any publisher, please don’t sign it before you read the National Writers Union’s primer on e-book amendments.

It’s important to remember that you are under no obligation to sign an amendment to an existing contract. You should only sign an amendment if you get the terms you want. If you don't agree to a proposed amendment, the original contract remains in force. So, take your time and negotiate the best deal you can.

As negotiating an amendment or a contract can be an intimidating proposition, be sure to check out the
NWU’s Negotiating Contracts over the Phone primer beforehand. This document is filled with useful information that will help you negotiate from a position of strength.

The National Writers Union provides free book contract advice and grievance assistance to our members, many of whom are academics. To learn more about the NWU, check out our website at

If you have any questions or concerns about a book contract and/or an e-book amendment, please contact us at

E-books present tremendous opportunities for academic authors, but only if you are fairly compensated for your work.

Paul J. MacArthur
Assistant National Contract Advisor
Vice President of External Organizing
National Writers Union