Last week I retrieved the last of my publishing licenses from Penguin Random House.
Yeah, I know. Most authors crawl over broken glass to get a contract with PRH or one of the other big houses. Me? I’ve been asking for my contracts back. I had over thirty of them, all for out-of-print books which, in some cases, I’d originally contracted over 20 years ago. It was the bulk of my intellectual property.
It’s a reality of publishing. When you contract a book, you’re giving the publisher the right to publish your intellectual property. You can’t license it to anybody else, and that survives the demise of the book. What this means is that most authors end up with back-list titles that aren’t likely to be reprinted – and which can’t be offered anywhere else.
There are sensible reasons why mainstream publishers don’t keep old titles in print. Often they met the market during the initial run. Sometimes the book is of its time, and won’t work a decade or so later. Or a book might have potential, but not enough to meet the cost-structures of mainstream publishers. Authors have to accept that.
My problem was that I had over 30 older titles stacked up doing nothing. Not all were worth reprinting. But some were – I kept getting enquiries. And some had made contributions to New Zealand’s historiography. I ended up being labelled ‘post-revisionist’ on the back of them, meaning I’d taken a new approach to studying our past and that this had been recognised in the field here. I really did want to keep those in print, ideally updated and re-jigged as second editions.
So a few years ago I said to Penguin, I’m happy to keep writing forward titles for you – but meanwhile, I’d like my old IP back please. It’s taken a while to organise all of them, but they’ve been very obliging.
The upshot is that I have a second edition of one of my main earlier history books coming out with another mainstream publisher next year – updated, re-written and renewed for a whole new market. And some of my other titles have been reissued largely as-is under another imprint for Kindle, with the possibility of print editions in 2017 or 2018.
For now, my classic book Kiwi Air Power is free this weekend on Kindle. This is a history of the RNZAF from its inception to the end of the Cold War. And why not check out some of my other Kindle titles while you’re there – click on any cover in the right hand column.
Go grab some now.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016