Lawyers Gone Crazy

I was checking Twitter on my way to Heathrow today when I stumbled upon the latest piece of excitement to hit my author friends. Apparently some large publishers are now demanding “non-compete” clauses in book contracts. Yes, that’s right, if you want to sign with them you have to agree not to write for anyone else in the meantime, not even under another name.

As far as I know, this doesn’t apply to individual short stories (the figure of under 35k was quoted), or to backlists, but I can imagine it applying to a collection of short fiction. So, for example, if Juliet or Lyda were to sell a new novel to a major publisher, they’d be told that they couldn’t put out a collection of short fiction with me. Even if it was in another universe. Even if the major publisher didn’t want to publish it.

The phrase “anti-competitive” may have flitted through my mind.

I’m sure this is nothing to do with the editors at the big publishing houses. They are sensible people who are doubtless just as outraged about this as their authors are. It is the corporate lawyers at the multi-national media companies who won those publishers trying it on. And if they get away with this they will doubtless want to claim ownership of all of the creative content next.

Oh well, it gives SFWA something constructive to do. As a publisher, I’m officially the enemy, but in this case I think they’ll be fighting on my side.

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