Saturday, September 4, 2021

Contract Negotiation - A Red Flag


            I’ve written a few times about contract negotiating power. However, I have not written about one of the biggest red flags I see when negotiating publisher agreements in the comic book industry—a publisher who refuses to negotiate the deal terms.

            I consider the refusal to negotiate a major warning. Your relationship with your publisher will never be better than when they are trying to get you to sign a deal. If they value you and your work, they should be willing to negotiate and address any major concerns you might have. If they are unable or unwilling to do so, then it reflects the value they place upon you. It is also a prelude to how they will act if anything problematic comes up later. If they didn’t want to work out problems with you at the beginning of the agreement, are they going to want to address problems you might have after the deal is signed?

            Now, not everything is an absolute. I have seen some publishers with relatively unproblematic contracts[1] who are not that flexible. They will try to address some concerns, but aren’t willing to budge on some key issues in the negotiating provisions. Again, this is less of a problem when the terms are relatively unproblematic to begin with. There are other publishers, however, who have incredibly problematic contract terms that essentially strip a creator of all rights to their project. If you try to negotiate the deal to make it fairer, they will tell the creator to “take it, or leave it.” In these instances, where a publisher will not even try to negotiate a fairer deal with you to address major concerns, you will almost always be better off leaving it.

            If you encounter a publisher that presents you with a contract that has terms you disagree with and the publisher refuses to negotiate or address your concerns, you need to give serious consideration to walking away. In most of my experiences, this is a major red flag and the relationship with the publisher will not improve.

[1]     Most comic book publishing contracts are not that great for creators, particularly where payment of money is concerned. Nevertheless, there are some that are much more problematic than others when it comes to reversion rights and media deals.

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