The Authors Guild of America has launched a Fair Contract Initiative to “address the major inequities in many boilerplate contract terms today” and educate authors on what terms they can negotiate on.
The initiative, announced on Friday (28th May) at BEA, aims 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 guild said preliminary findings of its 2015 member survey, its first major one since 2009, suggested US authors have experience a “significant” decrease in writing income over the last five years. Although the reasons for the decline are many, said the guild, “unfair terms in publishing agreements don’t help”.
In its launch statement, the guild said that while “times have changed in the world of publishing…the “standard” book contract has not kept up”.
“It’s filled with terms, conditions, and language that would be recognisable to authors of a century ago, remnant of a bygone era when e-books, print-on-demand, deep pricing discounts and online booksellers weren’t even a gleam in the eye,” said the guild. “At the same time, new overreaching clauses have been added to insulate the publishers from any potential loss, placing all risk on the author.”
The Fair Contract Initiative will consist of a series of posts on the Authors Guild website, which will look at problems with contract, and then “move on to educate authors on the standard contract terms that publishers often will change if pressed, but which too many authors don’t know how to negotiate”.