Author Advice, Contract Renewal

As part of the 2015 reorganisation of my work I decided I wanted all my books back under my own creative control. I have my own covers, my own editing team, my own proofers. After a lot of thought I decided to pull everything from one of my publishers but when it came down to it, contractually I was stuffed.

Now, before I go any further, I signed the contracts.

This is my fault. 

At the end of the day, the law is the law, and even though I had been on the other end of a lot of crap, I had no way out. Yes, it was annoying, frustrating, and lots of other words ending with 'ing', but it's all a learning process.

I have been asked questions from various authors about auto-renew in contracts. Now, firstly, I believe that auto renew in any contract is an arsehole of a thing. I think, if you have a good relationship with your publisher, that the issue won't even become important. But, if you've got to the point in a publisher relationship where things feel wrong, then you may want to take back your books.

Also, please bear in mind I am NOT a lawyer, I am NOT an expert... this is just the kind of things that have happened to me, and after the meet up yesterday in the UK with some author friends, as well as three emails from various authors in the last week, this is how I would answer the questions given to me:

What is auto renew?

Basically, if you don't tell a publisher you want to cease having your book with them, then in a lot of cases the contract will renew for another period of time, usually the time specified in the original contract. This could be two years, three years, sometimes up to five, so be very careful.

Notice periods

Check your contract. If it says the company need 60 days then make sure you give 60 days. I missed a renewal date by 18 days (I could only give 42 days notice) and was refused the book back, so be careful. If the renewal is 17 January 2016 then give notice way before your 60 days (ie back in October!)

A contract which has "auto-renewed" now has a new *auto renew date* under the terms of the contract. 

Regret.. I have so much regret...
By this, I mean, if a contract was due to renew 17 January 2016, and you missed giving notice on a contract that was originally for two years, then your NEW termination date is two years later than the original termination date? ie, 17 January 2018

There does NOT have to be anything in writing from the publisher. The contract literaly *auto* renews while you are not looking... LOL

Should I have my solicitor write the letters for rights reversion?

In my experience I didn't need to get a solicitor/lawyer involved. I just emailed my contact at the publisher to tell them I was not renewing, asking them to acknowledge receipt. I didn't need to put it in writing and send by post, but check with your publisher.

If you had one book that was getting close to the 60/90/120 days notification period, but it was the last book in the series and you wouldn't be getting the first books for 2 years, would you still request the rights returned for the last book now?

Yes, this is exactly what I did for Ellery Mountain. I actually got rights back for Ellery 4 5 6 while the publisher still had 1, 2, 3, and 7. I wanted the books back and there was no way I was leaving them. On the other hand, as part of taking back creative control of all my work, I have spoken to eXtasy and told them they could keep everything until the last one was due to renew. It all depends on the relationship you have.

Can I still re-release that third book knowing they have the first two (with the whole character/world ownership argument).

Yes, this is what I did with Ellery, but check the contract. Just don't add another book to the series, you can't do that. (Sorry, Ellery fans, but plans for Ellery 8, 9 and 10, are on hold until 2017!)

It may not seem worth it to have a book from mid series or end series, but if you have a reason you want your books back, don't faff around doing it. (Faff = delay!). I did new covers, and got the whole lot re-edited. Seriously, re-edited... and they are mine *all mine*.

Does the publisher redoing the covers/re-editing mean the contract auto-renews?

New cover art generally means a new contract, physically signing something. So, my answer to this one is that I am not sure on this one, but I am looking into it for *friends*.

Regional Issues

When all of Silver went tits-up we found that the contracts were covered under South African law. In South Africa, companies are forbidden from auto-renewing. In the UK, auto-renew is still a thing, so contracts with UK publishers are allowed to have the auto-renew crappiness. Check the laws of the country of your publisher's contract.

Incidentally, the UK is working now to remove auto-renew, so this will be a moot point soon when it hits the EU.

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