If you’re a professional writer (or ever plan to be one) and don’t have a day job as an intellectual property lawyer, you really need to read Kristine Rusch’s Closing the Deal on Your Terms. I guarantee that you will learn at least one detail about publishers, contracts, agents, or copyright law that will a) scare you and b) make you smarter about how you approach the publishing business.

Rusch has some positions that are a little extreme–she basically thinks that nobody should ever hire an agent or sign a traditional publishing contract–and sometimes her condescension can be grating. But her arguments are compelling. If at one end of the spectrum you have the starry-eyed writer who’s certain that they’re going to make it in the publishing business as long as they have a good book and a good agent, then at the other end you have Rusch, waving her hands and shouting about all the things that can go wrong if you make bad business decisions.

She goes through a pretty comprehensive list of things you should be aware of before signing a contract, from options clauses and rights licensing to termination and reversion. A lot of it is stuff that, if you’re lucky, you’ll never need to worry about; most people probably won’t have publishers trying to extend the lifetime of a contract in perpetuity or enforce dumb non-compete clauses. But the smart money is still on making sure you don’t end up in those situations by negotiating contracts that aren’t tilted against you.

Sometimes Rusch’s stories about the horrors of traditional publishing make her seem a little like the neighbor with a bomb shelter who thinks you’re an idiot because you don’t have a month’s worth of food and water handy in case of a worldwide flu epidemic. You’ll need to make your own decisions about how you publish your  book and what sort of contracts you sign. But whether or not you follow her advice to the letter, you’ll make smarter decisions if you hear her arguments and consider her points before you sign on the mythical dotted line.

from the how-many-rights-did-you-just-sign-away dept