There has been a lot of talk amongst writers about the new contracts that DC Thomson are rolling out. Some felt it was a ‘rights grab’ and to begin with that was entirely uncertain. Now it seems that it’s not so much a rights grab as DCT asking for more rights than they did before.
Others have covered this subject better and in more depth than me. Womagwriter has several posts on her blog worth reading.
DC Thomson Contracts in which Womag does her best to sort through the fog of the contracts.
This was followed by a Response from DCT editor, Shirley Blair. It’s important you read through the comments too as Shirley answers several questions there.
Most recently, Simon Whaley sought legal advice from The Society of Authors and also spoke to Angela Gilchrist at DCT. You can read his post HERE. (you’ll need to be sitting comfortably as it’s a long post).
So what do the contracts mean for short story/article writers? Basically, DCT buy First Rights to your story, but then they can use it again without paying you (though as I say in the comments on Simon’s blog, I do hope they’d have the courtesy to let you know so that you can at least log the re-use with ALCS). But once your work has appeared in a DCT publication once, you are free to send that work elsewhere. Angela has assured Simon that DCT will not hang on to stories or articles indefinitely.
What do the new contracts mean for pocket novelists? In the past we have been able to sell on to Large Print publishers by sending in the printed copy of the work. DCT have known we’re doing this, but have apparently turned a blind eye to it. Now they will stop us sending in the printed version on the basis they own half the copyright due to the editorial input. So from now on we will only be able to send our original manuscripts to large print publishers. As the LP publishers don’t normally accept original mss, this could cause problems. I emailed Sarah Quirke at Ulverscroft/Thorpe the other week and she is looking into this, but assures me that U/T are as eager to receive our romances as we are to sell them, so she is discussing this with others in the company in an attempt to find a way through it. Another pocketeer pal has contacted a different LP publisher and they too are looking into it.
One thing DCT cannot do is re-use our pocket novels without further payment. Shirley Blair assured us on Womag’s blog that if they wanted to re-use them, there would have to be further negotiations. Neither can they sell them onto a third party publisher (i.e. cutting out the middle man and going to large print) without our permission because just as they own half the copyright, so do we.
Much for the pocket novelists depends now on what the large print publishers say. If they are not willing to take original manuscripts, for whatever reason, it means that we will only be earning £300 (at present) for a 50,000 word novel. We can put them on ebook, as long as we use our own manuscript, but those of who do that don’t earn a huge amount from it. Certainly not as much as from large print, which also brings us Public Lending Rights.
I’m a bit torn about this as when I first wrote a pocket novel for My Weekly, it was £200 for 30,000 words and I didn’t even know, until the lovely Cara Cooper told me, that I could sell to large print. I did it for the challenge and because it was fun. But now I do know, it does colour my judgement somewhat. I can’t un-know it or ignore the benefits of re-selling. Artistic achievement is wonderful, but money is pretty good to have too, especially in Tesco on food shopping day. On the other hand, I feel a certain amount of loyalty to Maggie Seed at DCT, who has been a fantastic editor and mentor to me, and I’d feel sad to think I could never work with her again. There’s also the thing that if I don’t sell pocket novels to DCT, there aren’t many other markets out there. Yes, there’s Mills and Boon, but I’ve yet to write something that pleases them. So would I be cutting off my nose to spite my face if I decided never to write another pocket novel for DCT again just because I couldn’t sell on to large print?
So at the moment I don’t know what I’m going to do if/when I receive the new contract. Much will depend on what the large print publishers say about receiving original mss. For the record, whatever decision I make in the end will be based on my life and my personal circumstances and not on what other people think I should do.
I hope that all writers affected by this support each other, regardless of what personal choices we all make in regard to the new contract. If people don’t want to sign, that’s up to them. If people do want to sign, that’s up to them too.