Tuesday, June 5, 2012
A contract that reads like a novel?
Who ever created legal-ease should be shot.
In my world--if I were ever to create one--publishing contracts would read like a novel. The first paragraph would hook you, taunting you to read on. Immediately, you would become interested in what the publisher had to offer, or perhaps not and then you'd put it down. More than anything else, the publisher would want to hold your interest, because he values those who pick up and read their contracts. Everything printed on the pages would have relevance and move the publisher's offer forward. If something was verbose, confusing, or didactic, it would have been struck by a red line in the draft stage, accompanied by a gentle note in the margins that such writing only serves to distance the reader. In the end authors would come away with a good feeling, understanding perfectly what the publisher was trying to convey. The publisher wins because its authors would be happy and they'd want to read another one of their contracts. Not to mention the time and money the publisher (and authors) would save in attorney fees. Also loads of paper and ink--a twenty page contract condenses easily down to two.
I just received my contract from Covenant. As I read through it, I kept thinking I may as well be reading Greek, for all the understanding that came from my efforts. At least if it were in Greek, and not legal ease, I could use an internet language translation app and discover each line's meaning a whole heck of a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney to translate for me.
The big question I have is WHY MUST PUBLISHER MAKE THESE CONTRACTS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND? Why can't they just say what they mean in plain English? If the manuscripts that authors gave to them were a fraction as hard to read as their contracts, they'd toss them in the trash faster than you can count to ten in Greek.