International Authors Forum members call for publishers worldwide to listen …

Yesterday, authors from a number of countries released open letters asking publishers to reconsider the contract terms they offer authors and outlining the parts of publishing contracts where, from the author’s perspective, reform is urgently needed.

The International Authors Forum (IAF) has also established 10 Principles for Fair Contracts. These Principles apply to the needs of authors in the 65 countries represented by IAF through its 49 member organisations, who have some 500,000 individual author members between them. Fair contracts are crucial to authors’ financial survival and ability to do their job at a time when their working conditions are tougher than ever.

Last year, it was widely reported that authors’ earnings are falling, underlined by reports from studies in the UK, the US and Canada. It is through the terms of publishing contracts that authors receive their primary income, generated by sales of their work. It is therefore vital that any publishing contract is only signed when both publisher and author fully understand and are satisfied with the terms.

Too often, contracts are imbalanced in the publisher’s favour to the detriment of the author, whose work has made the contract, and business venture, possible. The use of complex and technical language in contracts means authors can be unaware of what they are signing away.

Authors need to be clear about what they are signing up to and happy that they understand the consequences. Authors would like publishers to listen to their concerns and to work with publishers to share perspectives and achieve contractual practices which are acceptable to both parties.

So, for authors, what makes a fair contract? IAF’s Principles contain the essential ingredients any contract should follow if it is to achieve a standard an author can reasonably expect which will give them a fair chance of making a living as a professional creator. Many reputable publishers support and meet such a standard. Where this is not the case, however, it is hoped that with effort from both sides, all publishers can offer fair contract terms.

To find out more about what authors look for in a fair contract, visit the 10 Principles For Fair Contracts page on IAF’s website. You can also read the open letters from The Society of Authors in the UK, the US Authors Guild the Irish Writers’ Union and The Writers’ Union of Canada, and follow and support the campaign using the Twitter hashtag #betterbookcontracts.

The International Authors Forum (IAF) is a global network of authors’ organisations. Currently, it has 49 members: organisations representing some half a million writers and visual artists worldwide. IAF works to protect and uphold copyright and authors’ rights, which are vital to sustaining authors’ work, and the world’s cultural heritage and creative industries, on local and global levels.

Together, IAF’s members – who represent authors in their own countries – can share knowledge, support one another and take action to ensure all authors, no matter where they are, have the tools to meet the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.