Legal Beagles . . . fair author contracts for a new age?

September 18, 2015 | By | Reply More

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, an organisation that I once belonged to until I realised they were a bad joke (they refused to list me and my web-site on their members’ page because I – gasp – used the Devil’s Dark Instrument . . . Javascript, on my site), have now, for once, actually done something half-useful.

They’ve released a new ‘sample contract’ which should be the ideal model for you aim for, if you’re ever (un)lucky enough to get signed by a big legacy publisher.

The Future is Dark

Tip #1: Never sign a contract with the forces of darkness

The SFWA spokesperson Michael Capobianco, said, “The Model Magazine Contract is our attempt to draw up a fair agreement that respects the concerns of both authors and publishers. It should not only be helpful to SFWA members and others in evaluating the terms of their short fiction agreements, but sets a standard for all short fiction licenses into the future, strongly supporting the idea that short story rights, even non-exclusive rights, are only licensed for a limited period of time after which they revert to their authors, who then become free to sell exclusive rights once again. Drawing this line has become crucial for digital publication, where it is rapidly becoming the standard that publishers retain non-exclusive rights of the length of the copyright with no additional payments due the author.”

Basically, this position takes a stand against most big legacy publishers’ contracts which demand you, effectively, sign over your copyright to said corporation for life plus some; which means that even if your publisher does the world’s worse job at promoting and selling your novels, you’re never going to claw your near-dead works out of their mitts to try again either via yourself as an indie, or via another legacy publisher.

Download their model contract as a PDF over at if you want to see what you should be aiming towards.


Category: Writer's Dojo

About the Author ()

I have been working as a full-time author publishing fantasy and science fiction novels for HarperCollins for the last seven years.

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