These three out-of-print books were a trilogy, with the first two books acquired in one contract and the third acquired several years later in another. Despite the accounts I was hearing first-hand about outrageous problems encountered in the reversion process, I felt moderately confident that the two books on the first contract would revert to me, simply because, in the small handful of my deals where an agent represented me, this was the sole instance of a well-negotiated contract. The licensing clauses and the reversion clause specifically excluded digital rights, e-book format, and POD format. So I thought it very unlikely the house would re-publish these two old books in traditional print format to forestall reversion, since any other exploitation of rights was clearly prohibited.
The separate contract for the third book, however (“negotiated” by the same agent, whom I fired the following year), contained such egregious clauses that I suspected I’d need to offer up the relic bones of a virgin saint to get my rights back. After wading through the convoluted language of the contract, my attorney advised me that what I was actually required to do was reimburse the publisher for any overpaid royalties. I pulled out my old royalty statements and calculated that the sum in question was $72.23. I included a check for that amount with the formal notification of automatic reversion that (hallelujah, let the church say amen!) I sent six months after having sent my reversion request (for which I had retained the signed certified-mail return receipt).
To ensure there could be no credible subsequent claim of non-receipt of the reversion notification, I sent a copy of it via FedEx (signature required) as well as via certified mail. As of this writing, FedEx has confirmed delivery and signature, but I have not yet received the certified-mail return receipt, and the reimbursement check I sent had not yet been deposited. I will feel better when one or both of these confirmations occurs; but, meanwhile, my lawyer says this is a done deal and all rights for these three books are back in my hands now.
All things considered, I’m so happy about that, maybe I’ll send the publisher the relic bones of a virgin saint anyhow!
Polterheist, the fifth book in Laura Resnick’s resuscitated urban fantasy series, will be released November 6.