I've recently seen people complaining of two standard problems with traditional publishing contracts:
- Option clauses: where publishers require you to give them an option on your next book.
- Cross-collateralization: where publishers won't pay you royalties on your first book until you've paid back the advance on your second.
Create a separate LLC to hold the rights to each of your books.
Here's what I'm talking about:
- You write a book called "My First Book". Rather than publishing it under your own name, you assign the rights to an LLC called "My First Book LLC". When you submit the rights to "My First Book" for publication, it's the LLC that signs the deal.
- You decide to write another book called "Holy Crap, I'm Writing Another Book". You create a second LLC called "Holy Crap, I'm Writing Another Book LLC" and assign the rights to the second book to the second LLC.
This might not work well for a true sequel for various reasons relating to the law on derivative works. But if you're dealing with a completely new title then there's no reason the two books should be treated as though they are connected in any way. They are owned by two completely different "people": the two LLCs are completely different entities at law even though you own both of them. (After all, you can own shares in Apple and Google without those two companies being the same thing.)
This trick may not work for you for various reasons: your publisher may refuse to do a deal with an LLC, they may put a clause in there where you've agreed they can treat all your LLCs as one entity, it may be too complex to do this for accounting reasons, etc. If you're going to try it, it's absolutely imperative that you hire a lawyer to tell you whether it will work in your circumstances and with your contracts. (This is a good opportunity for me to point your attention to those weasel words in the sidebar.)
But when I was reading the complaints, I couldn't think of why people don't do this more often.