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The Authors Guild to Take on Boilerplate Publishing Contracts With Fair Contract Initiative

the authors guildThe Authors Guild frequently gets called a puppet of the major publishers, and now they have a chance to prove just how wrong that label is.

They’ve just announced a new educational initiative which will focus on dissecting the boilerplate terms common to standard book publishing contracts and (I hope) detail which terms are appropriate, exploitative, or negotiable.

To coincide with this year’s conference, we’re announcing the rollout of the Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative, a series of commentaries we will publish in the coming months to take a fresh look at the standard book publishing contract. Our guiding principle for this new initiative is to restore balance to the author-publisher relationship and help authors achieve a fair return for the efforts they contribute to the joint venture of book publication.

The commentaries will be published on The Authors Guild’s website, over the next few months. Until then, all we have is the launch statement (PDF) that The Authors Guild released in addition to the blog post announcing the new initiative.


I don’t know that I will be covering the commentaries myself, but I will be following a couple other blogs: The Passive Voice and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. One blog is run by an IP lawyer who negotiates this type of contract, while the other is the blog of an author who knows almost as much about contracts as Passive Guy.

These two have the requisite knowledge to critique the commentaries and tell us whether The Authors Guild is accurately pointing out the worst flaws in publishing contracts, and not just publishing shallow overviews.

This blogger thinks that The Authors Guild is more likely to publish the latter than the former, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

The Authors Guild via PW

image by NobMouse

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Bridget McKenna May 29, 2015 um 3:45 pm

The AG know they are powerless to change publishers' contracts, or even to bring sufficient pressure to bear to cause the publishers to do so. What they can do is make a show of doing something, then create a statement around it to make themselves look like the author advocacy group they most assuredly are not.

Mackay Bell May 30, 2015 um 3:13 pm

Once again, this shows that the effect self-publishing is having on the industry is exactly the opposite what critics have been trying to assert. Supposedly, critics said that many writers are self-publishing that everyone will have to work for "free."

Instead, so many writers are taking control of their own work and refusing bad contracts that the AG is under pressure to prove itself relevant. And don’t think they aren’t talking with the big publishers in back channels about all this. It’s quite possible the big publishers are aware standard contracts are not favorable enough to attract top talent and are looking for a fig leaf to moderate the contracts, without admitting they are trying to compete with the growing appeal of the indy market.

Nate Hoffelder May 31, 2015 um 11:06 am

the AG is under pressure to prove itself relevant

Honestly, that could be it. While I’m sure there could be reasons to join TAG, that group sure isn’t making everyone aware of all that it offers. Furthermore, this initiative would certainly be a lot more socially acceptable than criticizing Amazon or Author Solutions.

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