Hello, lovelies! This is going to get a bit inside-baseball-y, so if you do not consider yourself A Writer or Someone With A Vested Interest In Copyright Retention, feel free to skip merrily ahead to the next post.
Cast your mind back to roughly a year and a half ago (please picture Nicole and self with Flock of Seagulls haircuts), when we started The Toast. We knew we wanted to pay writers from Day One, and we came up with a standard contract that asked for publication rights (partly to establish corporate value, because we wanted to make money too, and partly always to be able to have something to protect ourselves and our writers in the case of external plagiarism).
We’ve always granted republication rights to any authors who asked — we’ve always given writers their rights back for pieces that have been turned into book or media deals (like with Matt and Jaya’s Dad Magazine book). In fact, the writers who have gotten book deals out of their pieces have not only gotten their money back; we’ve also given them free advertising for those books and helped their publishers with numbers and demographics so those books can be sold better.
That said! We’re no longer that eensy little scrapper that came to be in 2013; we’re growing and expanding and have since heard from a lot of writers who’ve criticized our contract setup as overly possessive. And we’ve heard from enough people that Roxane and Nicole and I wanted to listen really carefully, and review our policy together, and figure out if it’s time to change.
So, with that said, we’re changing our contracts to ask only for First North American Rights (so rights revert to the writer after 6 months), as well as online serial rights so that we can retain the work on our sites in perpetuity. We’re also writing into the contract the promise that we will revert rights in the case of a book deal, so that what we’ve always done in practice will be spelled out in writing. I feel pretty good about this!
One thing that feels important for me to stress is that this change is new for us, but it’s partly about codifying something we’ve always done in practice, and it’s also consistent with the respect we’ve always had for our writers. It makes sense that, now that we’re no longer a small company that mostly publishes people who know us personally, we have to update our written terms to enable other people to trust us with their words.
But I’m also really open to hearing more from writers who have published with us in the past, or who would consider writing with us in the future — anyone who has thoughts or suggestions is welcome to reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org anytime, with questions or suggestions; we are available to you guys.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.