Monday, 18 January 2016

C.R.E.A.T.O.R. the campaign for fair contracts - Linda Strachan

It is so exciting, having a book published, and a book launch, and being able to sign books for people you know, and those you don't. It feels great that folk want to buy your book and, hopefully, go home and enjoy reading it.

But long before you get to that stage, after your have done all the hard work of writing the book and finding a publisher who is interested in publishing it, there is the point when they offer you a contract.

Writers write, and at the start of their career many writers don't know anyone else who is a writer, especially a published writer, to ask for advice.  

And even if they do, they feel they have not got a lot of power when it comes to negotiating a contract. 

Often writers are so delighted to get someone to say YES and agree to publish their work, that they will agree to anything, because they are worried if they make a fuss or are too 'difficult' then the publisher might change their mind and take the offer of a contract away again.

But it  is not just that writers find it difficult to negotiate terms with publishers,  the problem comes from the kinds of terms that exist in publishers contracts, and not just for newbie writers. 

In an open letter to members of the Publishers' Association and the Independent Publishers Guild Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of The Society of Authors asks publishers to take responsibility and review contract terms and their treatment of authors. 

She explains:   Without serious contract reform the professional author will become an endangered species and publishers – as well as society at large – will be left with less and less quality content. Unless publishers treat their authors more equitably the decline in the number of full-time writers could have serious implications for the breadth and quality of content that drives the economic success and cultural reputation of our creative industries in the UK.

Here's what David Vandagriff, an experienced US media lawyer, has to say about publishing contracts

after having reviewed many, many agreements and proposed agreements between traditional publishers and authors, I am prepared to say these contracts, as a group, stand apart from the general run of business agreements as conscience-shocking monstrosities. They're simply designed to screw authors and to give publishers control over their work that is far beyond what is regarded as reasonable….[1]

Philip Pullman, SoA Preside
nt said : The essential point is that the balance of fairness has tilted the wrong way, and it's often not only the work that's being exploited - its creators are too.

The Society of Authors, and Chief Executive Nicola Solomon, are leading the way with the C.R.E.A.T.O.R. campaign for fair contracts  that looks to address 7 main areas  in a review of laws applicable to creator contracts and introduction of legislation to address unfair contract terms.

The seven key requirements are C.R.E.A.T.O.R.:

C - Clearer contracts, including written contracts which set out the exact scope of the rights granted.

R - fair Remuneration. Equitable and unwaivable remuneration for all forms of exploitation, to include bestseller clauses so if a work does far better than expected the creator shares in its success even if copyright was assigned.

E - an obligation of Exploitation for each mode of exploitation. Also known as the ‘use it or lose it’ Clause. This is the French model.

A - fair, understandable and proper Accounting clauses.

T - Term. Reasonable and limited contract terms and regular reviews to take into account new forms of exploitation.

O - Ownership. Authors, including illustrators and translators, should be appropriately credited for all uses of their work and moral rights should be unwaivable.

R - All other clauses be subject to a general test of Reasonableness including a list of defined clauses which are automatically deemed to be void and a general safeguarding provision that

Fnd out more about this campaign on  The Society of Authors website


Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook - Writing For Children.

Linda is currently Chair of the SOAiS - Society of Authors in Scotland 

Her latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby.

blog:  Bookwords 


Joan Lennon said...

Important stuff - thanks for posting about it, Linda!

Penny Dolan said...

Yes, thank you for explaining, Linda. It's easy for these sorts of initiatives to slip past the attention, despite the noticeable acronym.

Susan Price said...

Great post, Linda - will be spreading word of it as far as I can.

catdownunder said...

As an "unpublished but want-to-be published" writer I can understand the attraction of agreeing to any contract offered - even one with unreasonable terms and conditions. And when people do accept such contracts that just makes it a little harder for everyone.
Good luck with the campaign!