Please welcome guest Susan Spann, a publishing attorney and author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. Her debut novel, Claws Of The Cat (Minotaur, 2013), was Library Journal’s Mystery Debut of the Month and a Silver Falchion finalist for Best First Novel. Her third Shinobi Mystery, Flask Of The Drunken Master, released in July 2015, and the fourth is scheduled for publication in August 2016. Susan is the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2015 Writer of the Year, and the founder and curator of the Twitter #PubLaw hashtag, where she provides publishing legal and business information for writers. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.
As an author and transactional attorney with almost twenty years’ experience representing authors, publishers, and artists, I understand how critical it is for authors to understand their legal rights—and how few good sources of legal information exist for authors seeking to learn how to do it. I founded the #PubLaw hashtag, and wanted to blog for WU on legal issues, to help empower authors by providing information about writers’ legal rights and how to protect them.
Obtaining Reversions of Publishing Rights: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
In my work as a publishing lawyer, I frequently hear from authors hoping to terminate publishing contracts and obtain a reversion of rights to their published works. Rights reversion can be tricky, especially when the contract doesn’t give the author a unilateral (meaning “one-sided”) right to terminate. However, authors do have several options when it comes to terminating old or dysfunctional contracts and obtaining reversions of publishing rights.
Today, we’ll walk through the steps an author should follow to try and obtain reversion of publishing rights from a traditional publishing house.
Step 1: Review the Contract. In almost all cases, publishing contracts contain provisions stating when and how the contract can be terminated, and by whom. If the contract allows you to terminate under your current circumstances, follow the procedures in the contract to request reversion of your rights. Normally, these procedures include a written notice to the publisher (often sent via certified mail) stating the reasons for termination. Comply with the contract procedures exactly. If you have questions, or don’t understand the contract terms, consult a publishing lawyer.
Step 2: Ask the Publisher to Revert Your Rights. If the contract doesn’t grant the author the unilateral right to terminate, or if your situation doesn’t meet the requirements for unilateral termination, consider asking the publisher to agree to termination of the contract and a reversion of rights. By law, the parties to a contract can always modify or terminate the agreement by mutual consent, even if the contract doesn’t say so. [Read more…]