In my recent post on Motley Vision, I pointed out one of the pitfalls of author contracts — inadequate out-of-print clauses (see Caveat Auctor). In the follow up discussion, I realized that what we need is a comparison of the various boiler plate contracts used by Mormon publishers, especially given common complaints about some publishers.
Such a comparison would help publishers as much as authors. Knowing how their contracts differ from those of other publishers can either spur the publisher to change its contract or help it understand the selling points of its contract. From what I’ve heard and seen of these contracts, there may be as much ignorance on the part of publishers as their is on the part of authors.
So, I’m issuing a call for example contracts from each publisher in the LDS market — provided either by the publishers themselves, or by authors that contracted with each publisher. I believe that by compiling this information both authors and publishers will benefit.
I’m aware that others have tried, unsuccessfully, to gather this same information. I expect to collect this information over a longer timeframe and using more author and publisher contact. My hope is that in this way I can collect enough data for a meaningful analysis.
I’ve heard that some publishers consider the information private and won’t give up copies of their contracts and don’t want authors disclosing anything. If true, then this attitude is shortsighted. The only reason that I can see for a publisher to keep a contract confidential (at least the boilerplate portion I’m talking about) is so that authors don’t have a chance to gain insight by comparing a publishers contract to others. The terms themselves aren’t likely to be confidential — there simply isn’t anything in the terms that is worth keeping from others — except information that is specific to an author. This almost seems like some odd attempt to play off what is commonly an ignorance of contracts on the part of most authors.
In fact, not allowing authors to compare and understand a contract can only give an author regrets later. Its fine if you only expect to sign one contract with an author, or if you are relying on new, inexperienced authors. That hardly seems like it is in the publisher’s best interest.
This isn’t an attempt to beat up on publishers. I’m a publisher myself, but I don’t expect that this analysis will show that my contract is necessarily better than any other. Its likely that someone has a better contract — or at least thinks that they do.
Nor is this an attempt to elicit confidential information from publishers or authors. My only interest is in the “boilerplate” — the information that is the same for every author (or the initial information the publisher starts from). Both publishers and authors are welcome to black out any information they believe is confidential.
I will NOT publish or further distribute these contracts, they will merely be the source information for a comparison and analysis.
Besides posting an analysis here, I will make my analysis available to anyone that wants a copy. And I’ll provide to anyone submitting a contract a more detailed discussion of the differences between the contracts, should they find such input useful.
Please email me at kent (at) motleyvision (dot) org with either the contract or any questions you have about this call for contracts.