Fair Contracts

What's the situation?

The world of publishing is changing. The advent of internet retailers and ebooks has seen new pricing and production models, and an infinite extension in the life and availability of books published today. Yet despite, or perhaps because of new technologies, authors' creative incomes have dropped by nearly 50% in the past 17 years according to a 2015 Macquarie University report, from an average of $22,000 in the early 2000s to just $12,900 in 2015.

There are many reasons for the decline in authors’ income, but unfair terms in publishing agreements are still a contributing factor. Shares in ebook income for authors have reduced (25% or less), authors continue to find their hands tied by reversion clauses that are impossible to exercise and non-compete and option clauses that make it even more difficult for them to write and publish new books. Royalty statements issued by some publishers are difficult to understand and lacking in detail.

What should change?

Significant contract reform is necessary to ensure that full-time professional writers can earn a fair recompense for their work.

The ASA has joined the International Authors Forum (IAF) in asking publishers to observe the Ten Principles of Fair Contracts which, among other things, calls for publishing contracts to be issued with defined time limits, for reversion of rights to the author if the publisher has been unable to exercise them, and for royalty statements to be transparent and comprehensive.

What's the ASA doing?

In January 2016, the ASA's Chair, David Day, wrote an Open Letter to the Members of the Australian Publishers Association (APA) calling for book contract reform. Since then, the ASA and APA have been working together on a publishers' code of conduct, based on many of the principles of Fair Contacts. We expect to be making an announcement regarding this by the middle of 2017.

What can you do?

If you've been issued with a publishing contract, check it against the Ten Principles of Fair Contracts and consider taking up the ASA's contract assessment service. An ASA adviser will read your contract and provide you with a written report that identifies areas that fall outside ASA recommendations and the Ten Principles.

Get a contract assessment

And, if you haven't already, consider joining the ASA. The ASA's lobbying efforts with publishers and the APA would not be possible without our members' support. The more authors we can show we represent, the clearer our voice will be heard by the industry.

Join today

Alternatively, if you're already a member or prefer to contribute without joining the ASA, you can donate to our Endowment Fund. Donations to the Endowment Fund go directly towards supporting the ASA to lobby and campaign for the rights and professional interests of authors and illustrators.

Donate now

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© 2017 Australian Society of Authors (ASA)