Legal News

From the Passive Voice blog: Authors Guild Supports FTC’s Proposed Ban on Non-Compete Clauses

That made me sit up straight. GOOD FOR AUTHORS GUILD. These non-compete clauses are stupid and awful.

What it is:

A non-compete clause prevents an author from having a different book come out from one publisher if one book is coming out from a different publisher at approximately the same time. “Approximately” can mean within a year or more. From the post at TPV, it looks like they can be even worse than that.

What these pernicious clauses do is PREVENT YOU FROM PUBLISHING STUFF. Everything else is details. You have books you cannot publish or cannot offer for publication because of the stupid non-compete clause. As though authors don’t have enough to contend with!

The Passive Guy, who is, as you may know, a lawyer, says:

When PG was still representing authors who were signing publishing contracts, he routinely banged heads with in-house counsel about their existence and their wording. For him, the idea of a publishing non-compete was ridiculous because, in a very real way, every book competes with every other book for a reader’s attention and money. Every Regency Romance competes with every other Regency Romance. Every science fiction novel competes with every other science fiction novel. The standard line given to authors by publishers (directly or via a literary agent) is, “You wouldn’t want to compete with yourself.” Why not? If you’re competing with yourself in a particular reader’s mind, they’re going to buy one of your books or another.


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2 thoughts on “Legal News”

  1. I have considered this post several times, and I still don’t buy the publishers’ claim about choosing one or the other. Two books are better than one for everyone: the big step is buying any book from an author. The conditional probability of buying a second book is way, way higher than the odds of buying any books at all.
    With two books, the odds are roughly P1*(2*1/2 +P2|P1)), which is clearly greater than P1. Where
    * P1 is the odds of a reader buying the first book, and…
    * Double the odds of choosing any book out of the universe of all books
    * Half the odds of choosing one book over the other.
    * Greater odds than zero of buying the second book after enjoying the first.

    I just don’t see a large group of readers who say, “well I only one book from this author every year, so I guess this book will never get read.” Especially if it’s the first book.

    Where the odds get bad is in looooong series. If a reader doesn’t like one book along the way, the odds of her buying any more go way, way down.

  2. I completely agree. This has always looked like lunacy to me. I hate hate hate noncompete clauses, and as far as I know every author does, AND this seems like (one more way of) publishers shooting themselves in the foot.

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