Copyrighting my Elvis Sighting
I'm reading over my new book contract (For Fire in the Heart, my firefighting memoir) and it strikes me that this is a big, big deal. Not that the first contract wasn't, but I was so giddy with getting a book published that it just was a bonus to sign something. However, there is something solemn and frightening about a book contract, and it makes sense to really read it. This one has clauses about not doing immoral things, which luckily I don't need to worry about, or disparaging the publisher on social media. Which again, I have no intention of doing--I love my publisher!--but it got me thinking. I have a personal blog, and while I don't do this, I have read other blogs where people rant on about their bosses and the like. You can't really do this and expect it to remain private. Back in the day, all we had were letters to friends. Now, we are immortal, whether we like it or not.
My publisher doesn't register copyright, which is somewhat unusual. So I am researching this, since I have to do it. It doesn't look like a big deal, but it is something to keep in mind if you are ever faced with this. The FAQ's from the copyright office are fairly straightforward, with some humor involved ("Can I copyright my Elvis sighting"? Of course, if it is an FAQ you know that a decent number of people have actually asked this question. Which is somewhat terrifying).
I'm getting a small advance with this book, and to be honest I have mixed feelings. I've heard stories of authors who actually had to pay back their advance for various reasons. I have an agent this time, who takes a percent of my royalties, and I am super glad to have her, because she negotiated a much better contract than I would have been able to (and was able to sell the book, which I am not sure I could have done on my own. Agents have contacts we don't). The bottom line is, though, she does get a percent, and we all know, or should know, that very few people make a living writing books (I haven't received any money from Geography, for example. This may happen eventually, but you typically get these once a year, and the first year was too close to publication). I plan to just bank the advance and not spend it.
Advice? if you don't have an agent, get a lawyer who specializes in literary contracts to read over yours. For my first one, I signed away all film and international rights. I'm not disparaging my publisher to say I wish I hadn't done this. I just didn't know any better. It's always good to hang on to some of the rights if you can. On the other hand, you have to know what hill you want to die on. What is more important--publishing a book, or fighting over a right that may never be asked for (although, Meryl Streep, I'm looking at you. Geography would make a great movie)?
That's all from the soapbox today. I am off to register a copyright. Come to think of it, I did see Elvis in 2000 driving a convertible on Steens Mountain. Hmm....