A Riff On The Harper Contract

This post, by Ursula K. LeGuin, originally appeared on the Book View Cafe Blog on 1/18/11. The fact that Harper has added a ‘morals clause’ to its contracts with authors is kind of shocking, and is perhaps yet another factor that will drive more authors toward the indie path. From the Book View Cafe Blog:


New language in the termination provision of the Harper’s boilerplate gives them the right to cancel a contract if “Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or if Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.” The consequences? Harper can terminate your book deal. Not only that, you’ll have to repay your advance. Harper may also avail itself of “other legal remedies” against you.

From a blog by Richard Curtis.

* * *

Dear Mr Rupert Murdoch,

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

Because I did not read my contract with your wonderful publishing house HarperCollins carefully, I did not realise my moral obligations.


There is nothing for it now but to confess everything. Before I wrote my book Emily Brontë and the Vampires of Lustbaden, which you published this fall and which has been on the Times Best Seller List for five straight months, I committed bad behavior and said bad words in public that brought me into serious contempt in my home town of Blitzen, Oregon. In fact the people there found me so seriously contemptible that I am now living in Maine under the name of Trespassers W.


Read the rest of the post on the Book View Cafe Blog, and please add your remarks on this surprising development in the comments area there.