You've all likely heard about Simon & Schuster's contract rewording that will allow them to retain book rights for the length of the copyright, or in writer terms, basically forever. So it seems that my definition of out of print in the Devil's Publishing Dictionary was a little more accurate than I thought.
Hey, what can I say. Maybe I am psychic.
Everyone is busy sending out alerts to their memberships and writing strongly-worded protests against the proposed change, which amuses me to no end. This practice is not anything new; it's done on the writer-for-hire side of the industry every day. Would you be shocked to know that copyrights to ten of my published novels belong to the respective publishers, not me?
It's true. They will forever be my books, but the rights don't belong to me, nor will they ever revert back to me. I have no problem with that, either, as I clearly understood that condition when I signed the contracts.
That's the key here, folks. If you don't like what a contract says, don't sign it. If enough authors refuse to sign, the publisher will have no choice but to reword their contract.
Should it become a standard industry practice for publishers to retain book rights for the length of the copyright? I think it would be foolish in the long term. Aside from becoming yet another choke-collar authors have to wear (don't we have enough strangling us already?) I think it would eventually lead to publishers exiling 99% of authors to Print-on-Demand Land, which would in turn hurt the booksellers and further sabotage the industry's future.
What's your opinion on the kerfluffle? Should authors hand it over yet again without so much as a whimper? Should we stage sit-ins and chant "Hell, no, we won't sign!" Or is there a possible compromise that could be worked out?