Book Contracts 101, Part 3 (Sub Rights Clause)
January 13, 2011
Yesterday, in Part 2, I introduced the first clause, which gave the publisher the right to distribute and publish the book in English around the world. The clause has numerous subclauses. As mentioned in Part 1, each contract is different, but these subclauses will give you an idea of some of the issues that crop up in a contract.
1a. Sub Rights Clause: Author grants to the Publisher the exclusive right to license, sell or otherwise dispose of the following rights in the Work: publication or sale of the Work by publication of a reprint edition of the Work by another Publisher; condensations; serializations in magazines or newspapers (whether in one or more installments and whether before or after book publication); book clubs; audio; merchandizing; publication of the Work and selections there from in anthologies, compilations and digests; picture book versions, microprint and microfilm versions.
Okay, that seems reasonably straightforward. I'm envisioning a picture book version of a novel called BOOGER KNIGHTS and can almost imagine it shelved there alongside the Captain Underpants books. I'm also envisioning one of my Derek Stillwater novels as a picture book, or even better yet, a pop-up book complete with pop-up corpses. It'd kind of work in reverse. You move the book and the bad guys all fall down dead. Anyway, I digress.
Given today's market and the number of top novelists who get graphic novel versions made of their books, you can see why this might come up. I don't think we see a lot of serializations any more, except perhaps online, but there are definitely book clubs, audio and merchandizing (think JK Rowling). The publisher, in this case, is saying, "We get the right to do that. We also get the right to sell that right to someone else, if they're interested. What isn't written here (it comes up in clause c, actually), is how that will break down financially. If you have a clause like this in the contract and you can't find another clause that tells how much you get paid (usually in a percentage), then you're in trouble, because you're potentially giving the publisher all the monies that might come in from all these condensations (think Reader's Digest); serializations; book clubs, etc. Or Harry Potter Lego kits, puzzles, dolls, video games, films, jelly beans, theme parks, etc.
I will address subclauses b, c, and d tomorrow, because they support and limit subclause a.