In publishing news, I didn't sign the contract, so I remain unpublished. There were a couple of big things in the contract that really made me uncomfortable.
- They wanted me to assign all of my rights to them in perpetuity. It's recommended to license your rights, not assign them. Assigning rights is generally unrevertible - the rights now belong to the publisher and don't revert back to you. Rights are revertible in a licensing agreement, they revert back to you when the term of the agreement ends. And there are many kinds of rights, not just for printing. They wanted the rights for, "any and all media and forms of expression now known or hereafter devised."
- They wanted the rights of first and last refusal for, "the Author's next published work in this series or subject matter and the Author's next published work." This means that any similar story and my next published work would be theirs unless they didn't want it. And even if they didn't want it, if I found someone else who did, I would have to take it back to them for a second look to see if they wanted it now that someone else was interested in it.
This is a very small, niche publisher with limited reach. This contract would lock me into them without hope of escape.
Why would anyone sign with them? They are a Mormon publisher, and if you are writing specifically for a Mormon audience, this contract wouldn't be all that bad. Your work would be published and would be distributed to Mormon bookstores (there are Mormon bookstores, just like there are Christian bookstores), and you would have a guaranteed publisher for any future works, as long as they wanted to publish them.
I, however, am not writing specifically for a Mormon audience. How and why did I even come to submit something to them? My brother-in-law is Mormon. He is something of a Mormon apologist - a defender of the faith (you know, like C.S. Lewis). Over the past few years he has published a couple of books on the subject that have been very well received in the Mormon community. This is his publisher, and when they sent out an email to their authors looking for a short Christmas story, he forwarded it to me, knowing that I had one.
It would have been a nice way to break into the publishing world, except for that darned contract. The funny thing is, I actually do have an idea for a book that would target a Mormon audience. The title would be, In Search of the Stray Elder and other Adventures in Jelly Making. You see, an Elder is what a male Mormon missionary is called. The elder in my title refers to elderberry bushes - so the title is a play on words. It would be a recounting of the adventures I've had in finding and collecting fruit for jelly making over the years. So they could have had two books out of me if they had been willing to negotiate.
Oh well. On to bigger and better things, I say : )