Save the Author! Join the Fairer Contracts Campaign

Publishers around the world are being challenged to heed the call for fairer contracts for authors.

Fairer contracts for authors is set to be a refrain of 2016 after the launch of a vigorous, international multi-agency campaign by the The Authors’ Guild in the US, the International Authors Forum (IAF) and a host of other writers’ organisations worldwide, and taken up in the UK by the Society of Authors, with the support of ALCS.

The first shot cross the bows of publishers in the fight for fairer author contracts in the UK came last summer at the All Party Writers’ Group (APWG) Reception at the House of Commons. In the presence of writers, MPs and Lords, Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors (SoA) called for a review of the laws applicable to creator contracts and the introduction of legislation to address unfair contract terms. She said: “All we are asking for is the creation of an environment where authors can continue to flourish and receive a fair share of reward for their talents and hard work”. There were further contributions on the same theme from author Alexandra Heminsley, and Chair of the ALCS Board, Adam Singer; and later, author and Society of Authors President, Philip Pullman. In a statement he said: “The essential point is that the balance of fairness has tilted the wrong way and it’s often not only the work that’s being exploited – its creators are, too. It’s time for that to stop and for authors to be rewarded here as justly as they are elsewhere.”

The campaign was formalised earlier this month when the Society of Authors, supported by ALCS and other agencies issued a formal open letter to publishers as part of an international collective call to action on creator contracts. Sent to members of the Publishers’ Association and the Independent Publishers’ Guild, the letter asks publishers to follow the rule of C.R.E.A.T.O.R, seven key areas to make contracts fairer, including clarity, fair remuneration and reversion terms that allow authors to make the most of their works. The letter also addresses the imbalance in the treatment of authors with and without agents.

To coincide with the letter, the IAF released its 10 Principles for Fair Contracts. These Principles apply to the needs of authors in the 65 countries represented by IAF through its 49 member organisations (including ALCS, the SoA and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain), who have some 500,000 individual author members between them. “Fair contracts are crucial to authors’ financial survival and ability to do their job at a time when their working conditions are tougher than ever”, said the IAF of its Principles.

Open letters to publishers internationally were also issued by the US Authors Guild, The Irish Writers Union, The Writers’ Union of Canada, The Australian Society of Authors, The Canadian Authors Association and the Malawi Writers Union.

The campaign hit the national press in the UK, with The Daily Telegraph headline quoting from the Society of Authors letter which states that authors will become “an endangered species” without serious contract reform.

The IAF’s Ten Principles for Fair Contracts

  1. Contracts should not be forever: defined time limits (especially important for eBooks: no such thing as “out of print”)
  2. As the author, you should benefit from the success of your creation: advance and fair royalty rates including and especially for eBooks
  3. Keep your options open: detailed scope of use and the rights you are giving away
  4. Use it or lose it: the ability to get your rights back (rights reversion) when they aren’t used or works go “out of print”
  5. Ensure your work can reach its broadest possible audience: the publisher to commit to producing your work in accessible formats
  6. Ensure the publisher is accountable to you for communicating all uses of your work: detailed, transparent and regular royalty statements with an audit clause in the contract
  7. Safeguard your reputation: moral rights to be asserted
  8. Safeguard your future career: the freedom for authors to develop their careers
  9. Don’t leave any decisions to the publisher’s whim: define ‘reasonable’: clear delivery and acceptance terms
  10. If you’re going to split the profits, split the risk: indemnification only as far as is reasonable

The Ten Principles for Fair Contracts also gives a list of unfair terms. Read them in full.

The Publishers Association has a code of practice on author contracts which you can see here.

What ALCS Members Can Do


You can support the campaign by following the links below, and adding your own voice. On Twitter, the campaign hashtag is #betterbookcontracts.

See contributions to the campaign at:

US Authors Guild
The Irish Writers Union
The Writers’ Union of Canada
The Australian Society of Authors
The Canadian Authors Association
The Malawi Writers Union
The International Authors Forum