This posting is a bit of a warning, as much as it is a blog of my views on a particular topic.
When I was an author prior to dabbling in publishing, I often speculated what motivated publishers in their contracts and general relationships with their authors. I often assumed a lot of negativity. From a naive point of view I considered many of the contractual elements as being rather complex and extreme.
Now, I know there are unscrupulous publishers out there, and some of them do hover among the establishment, but as a publisher I also can see the other side of the ‘argument’. I will focus on this.
I can’t, for legal reasons, go into details, but I can say that despite only being in business for just over a year, and publishing 11 titles by end of this year, we have had contractual disputes or disputes that ran counter to what we consider to be the spirit of contract. Since then, mind you, we have tightened our wording. In most of these cases, it was authors who changed views on what they wanted, and sought every means to make it happen (or planned to). I pondered on more than one occasion why these things happened.
Firstly, it might not have been totally cynical, but rather, an act of ignorance. I can sort of live with that reason, and in one case an author made corrective action and we are grateful for that. The other reason is selfishness. If an author thinks they made a mistake going with us, or that there is a way to reinterpret the contract so that the publishing regime is realigned with the author’s new agenda, this is cynical. This is selfish. This is disloyal.
Disloyal. One use of the term is associated with a superior-inferior relationship, where the inferior doesn’t obey. I don’t mean this. I am talking about a small company that tries its hardest to support authors – to give them a leg up in the long ladder of a writing career, and expecting the authors to return this loyalty by sticking with us by contract and what it entails. If an author wants us to publish a title, we ask to have full rights to publish it – print, electronic, smoke signal, and worldwide. This is what our contract basically says. We expect no other copy of anything resembling the manuscript to exist on any publicly accessible source. etc etc. It is amazing, in the short life of our company, that we encountered something in this space on three occasions. Disloyalty.
Cynicism aside, we have an absolutely fantastic family in IFWG Publishing. And I mean family. A bunch of writers who are like a small, virtual community and where many of us participate in writing workshops and joke and kid around. it is a by-product of mutual respect and loyalty. Yes, I am affected enough by the negative side to write this blog, but I can also say that the good far outweighs the bad.
So I return to my original thoughts. Yes, as a publisher, working with a myriad of people, some of whom can be disloyal and even downright wacky, it is critical to protect my business. Yes, a contract has to be wordy and long. Yes, I have to be tough on first publishing rights. Yes, I do have to be literal at times. But I also believe I have to be loyal to you, the writer, as well, and prove I am no hypocrite.