love letter from a publisher
the following is the concluding paragraph from a letter i'm supposed to sign and send back:
Your execution of this agreement will constitute an exclusive grant to the publisher of a complete release of all publishing and proprietary rights in and to your contribution in book form and in electronic and other nonbook formats and in all languages throughout the world, and for the original and all subsequent editions and printings of the book.sounds like quite a deal, eh? and did i mention that for the countless hours - ok, we can count them, let's say somewhere around 60 hours - of work i put into the piece that they're so kind as to offer me, well, allow me to put it in their terms:
In full and final compensation for your contribution and your services as a contributor, the publisher will send you one (1) free copy of the work, when it is published, for your own use and not for resale, regardless of the number of contributions you make for use in this work.wow. "one (1) free copy of the work"! won't that look nice on the shelf. and, sure, it'll look nice on the CV, too. but is it really worth it for me to give away the rights to the fruits of my labor like this? shouldn't i be able to reserve the right, at least, to republish it myself? couldn't their "publishing and proprietary rights" be less than exclusive and, if not, less than permanent?
fortunately for us all (unless you're a bigwig publisher), i think the times they are a-changin' with regard to this stuff. as stuart shieber notes:
The attitude of the faculty has already changed. More and more, faculty members realize that the current system for dissemination of scholarly information is unsustainable. Commercial publishers act in the best interests of their shareholders rather than the scholarly community. The big issue is the fairness and rationality in the system as a whole . . . Scholars and academics develop their results . . . They write their articles. They serve on the editorial boards of these journals at no charge and with no compensation. They do all the reviewing unpaid. Eventually these articles are published in one of these journals that gets sold back to the libraries for the use of these same scholars - at exorbitant prices. The solution is not to compensate the authors, editors, and reviewers, but to eliminate the middlemen. That's the principle of open-access publication.still, there are a lot of people in a position like mine, eager to stack up some publications on the
update!: i'm happy to say that, with regard to the letter i quote above, i have heard back from my editor (within a few hours at that) - having made my reservations known to him - and he tells me that the editorial dept. at the "publishing group" in question has agreed to send me a non-exclusive contract! just goes to show: sometimes all it takes is a little standing up to make the system shift.
fyi, here's what i wrote to my editor:
I would much prefer a non-exclusive grant or an exclusive grant for some limited term, and I would much prefer to reserve the right to publish and "own" my contribution in electronic form. I don't think this is much to ask, really, though I realize it seems almost presumptuous in our present publishing climate. Call me an idealist, call me a radical - I see little reason to give away the fruits of my labor so easily, so permanently.
Do you think [Publishing Group X] would be amenable to a revision of this final paragraph? I have many friends in the law who could assist with a rewrite.
my friends are your friends, my friends.