Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Writer As Chattel

Oh, my. This one is making the rounds of the blogs today, and I can't resist throwing it onto ours as well. I saw it on Boing Boing. It would seem that, according to Sian Pattenden's blog in The Guardian, Random House has decided to insert the following clause into its boilerplate contract for children's authors:

If you act or behave in a way which damages your reputation as a person suitable to work with or be associated with children, and consequently the market for or value of the work is seriously diminished, and we may (at our option) take any of the following actions: Delay publication / Renegotiate advance / Terminate the agreement.

Pattenden doesn't seem to think this particular offense will take hold: "Random House," she writes, "will suddenly realise that it's not very good PR and cease this rot immediately."

But you know how this kind of thing works--somebody floats it, it gets shot down, and then at some point in the future it gets floated again, by somebody else, in a slightly diluted form, and it seems kind of familiar, and not such a big deal anymore. And in a few years we're all eating it for breakfast.

Personally, I see this is more evidence that the major publishers have gone the way of the record giants, falling over themselves to be the first to become completely irrelevant; and before long all the decent books will be published by smarter, weirder, smaller, and more interesting presses who regard actual talent as their strongest asset. But what do I know--I'm just a guy on the internet.

1 comment:

rmellis said...

Eh. They can pretty much break contracts all they want, anyway.