Carpetbaggers: Reading the Fine Print by C. Morgan Kennedy
We’ve all heard about how the publishing industry is in a state of change. From self to indie to traditional to e-only, authors have more options for getting their products <books> to market than we’ve had before. I know that change breeds opportunity, but it also creates an environment for shady opportunists.
Given that my latest work is a Civil War era Steampunk novel, the word ‘carpetbagger’ immediately sprang to my mind. A carpetbagger was a northerner who moved south during the post-Civil War, Reconstruction era (1865-1877). Most carpetbaggers arrived with nefarious intentions. Their goal was to swindle as many southerners out of their land, money, etc. as possible. While I am by no means a southern sympathizer, I do have a problem with con artists taking advantage of a situation.
Which leads me to my biggest fear: Unintentionally signing away some component of my royalty rights via language hidden in the fine print of a contract.
We are the creators of the content <stories>. If our books become bestsellers, the worlds we create have the potential to generate revenue across a variety of mediums and merchandise. I’ve heard rumors that some contracts floating around our industry include verbiage that gives all e-pub rights (today and in the future) to the publisher. Not cool. Navigating international rights can also be a chore.
Contracts aren’t a new thing for me. I deal with them regularly in my day job where I work on projects with Fortune 500 companies. To overcome this fear, I will read and re-read any contracts I receive. I will even consult with a writer friend recommended lawyer, prior to signing. There is, of course, the option of self-publishing…but even this route isn’t contract or ‘agreement’ free. Making sure that I read the fine print until I understand all of the terms and conditions will help me avoid any lurking, industry, carpetbaggers…I hope.