Free at Last

No, this is not about Martin Luther King. It is about getting the rights back to my first three books. One of the dirty little secrets of the publishing business is how long the publisher has the rights to publish a manuscript. In my desire to get my first book printed, I didn’t insist on a termination date for the contract thinking that courts take a dim view of contracts in perpetuity which is what one without an end date is. Not insisting on an end date was a rookie mistake and five years later, it came back to bite me in the wallet.

I signed my first contract for Big Mother 40 with Fireship Press in February 2012 and the ones for Render Harmless and Cherubs 2 came in 2013 and 2014. Like everything else in life, circumstances and management teams change. The problems with the release of Cherubs 2 caused me to look elsewhere for a publisher for Forgotten and Inner Look.

So what does an author do? The process is called “reversion of rights” and in the end the author gets a letter from the publisher giving him/her the rights to his/her books back. The writer is then free to either contract with another publisher or self-publish.

One would think that this is an easy process. In my case, and in talking with the Author’s Guild, it is not. Publishers don’t want to give up their “properties” which are the rights to publish a manuscript. They look at each book as an asset and a source of income and don’t give a whit if the author is unhappy with their support, service or the quality of their work.

To get my rights back, I had to retain a lawyer and was faced with two ugly choices. Front the legal fees of a breach of contract lawsuit that could drag out for months or years or pay Fireship to get my rights back. From where I sit, it is legalized extortion. The deciding factor was even if I won in court, I might still have to pay a fee to Fireship to “compensate them for their investment.” Yikes!!!

There is a silver lining in all this. One, by the end of next week, all three books will be re-released by Penmore Press under contracts that reflect the lessons learned from the reversion of rights process.

Two, they have vibrant new covers so four of the five books in the Josh Haman series will have the same look and feel. Forgotten has a haunting cover that I love and am reluctant to change it.

Three, four of the five are with the same publisher (Penmore) and I’ll get some decent promotional support/advice. In the end, Moscow Airlift which comes out next March 2018 and I hope, The Simushir Island Incident will be published in late 2018 will come out under the Penmore imprint.

Now, all I have to do is change all the promotional material to incorporate the new covers. Its just one more thing on my to-do list now that I got the rights back!!!

Marc Liebman

December 2017

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