Monday, August 01, 2005

the ghost of empire

hi mr. gaiman!

i just wanted to say that even if it might not seem like it, even if the Philippines has close ties with the US and even if Uncle Sam has a marked influence on Filipinos' way of life, the Philippines is actually a sovereign country.

It's technically an "ally" of the US, as opposed to being a "territory."

Still, I can see where the confusion could be coming from, considering that (1) the US occupied the Philippines after the Spaniards left, (2) there are so many Filipinos in the US, and (3) even if we are Asian, out way of life is more like that of the US than that of our neighbors.

Hard to believe, but small and weak as we are, we are actually represented as a country in the UN. :)

--jennee (manila)

Hi Jenee,

yes, I know that.

But for bookselling purposes, I'm afraid you're still a US territory. For bookselling purposes Australia is normally a UK territory (unless the UK edition doesn't come out within 30 days of the US edition, in which case it becomes an Open Territory), Canada is always a battleground claimed by one side or the other (Good Omens had Canada as UK territory, but all my novels since have had it as US territory)and sometimes it even gets to be Canadian Territory, Singapore regards itself as an open territory and is listed in US contracts as being open territory, but tends to turn up in UK contracts as UK territory (as does most of the Commonwealth and former Commonwealth).Ireland is a UK territory too.

When an author signs a contract for English Language rights, he or she has to agree to a list of what territories are up for sale, which often gets attached in a great big long list at the back of the contract detailing who has the right to sell your book in the English Language in dozens of countries. These are the publisher's territories. If anyone can sell their edition of the book in that country, it's an open territory.

Outside of English Language rights, things normally sort themselves out fairly easily: no-one's going to argue about where you can sell the Finnish edition, because it's sort of assumed that they're mostly going to be sold in Finland. (The only big exception seems to be Spanish, and there are a few times I've signed addenda to contracts allowing, say the Spanish edition from Spain to be sold in Mexico or Argentina).

I did a quick Google to try and find an explanation, and the best comment I came up with was from Teresa Nielsen Hayden (who really does know everything about publishing) where she says, in an exchange about agents

At the same time, I should have also put in that category the new writer's family lawyer, who's not a publishing specialist doesn't see why a publishing contract shouldn't be like any other kind of contract. We truly dread hearing from those. They have all the suspiciousness about being told that something is "standard industry practice" that baby writers ought to have; but alas, where baby writers believe such claims about horrid vanity-press contracts, the lawyers don't believe them about standard industry practices.

My all-time favorite response to a contract (for certain values of "favorite") was a long letter about the assignment of territorial rights clauses, in which a long list of countries are identified as being part of the British Commonwealth. The author explained in painstaking detail that, that, and the other country no longer belonged to the Commonwealth, or had altered their relationship to it, or had changed their name, etc. etc. etc. He was right on every count, but it didn't matter, because for purposes of selling books, all those countries are still part of the British Commonwealth. The ghost of the Empire lives on in bookselling territories.

And Happy Birthday to Winter McCloud. (Who can be seen in all her glory, or some of it, on her sister Sky's livejournal, over at -- and it's an excellent livejournal, and very Sky.)