The fine print: great moments in book contracts (ii) territories

Blasphemy goes, but the territories clause stays. A territories clause is the thing that lets you sell the book somewhere else as well. But it’s worth thinking about the territories you’re signing away. Some of them are excellent. Most authors give some thought to the bigger places, but there’s buried treasure if you’re prepared to dig a bit.

With The Fix, Random House Australia bought Australia and New Zealand, but not just Australia and New Zealand. So, what else was on the territories schedule?

The Coral Sea Islands Territory for a start. One of the more hotly contested book markets? Maybe not. Anyone care to guess the population? Three. Or four, depending on how many meteorologists are on Willis Island at the time. Presumably one of them is there to run the bookshop, and is about to sell The Fix to the other two (or three – I’m hoping it’s three obviously, since that could mean a 50% boost in sales across the Territory).

Or maybe Random House was thinking of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, a constitutional monarchy under Emperor Dale I, which seceded from Australia in 2004 in response to the federal parliament’s decision not to legalise gay marriage. It’s possible my book contract constitutes Random’s recognition of the GLK, which might be socially progressive but, unfortunately, in people terms, it would still cover only the same three or four meteorologists on Willis Island and essentially no economic activity, though the GLK did release a nice line in rainbow postage stamps in 2006.

At least my prospects at the Willis weather station are slightly greater than they are on Heard and MacDonald Islands, which were also part of the package. They seem to be rather aggressive Antarctic volcanoes (population zero, understandably). Maybe my publisher’s thinking long term. Recent volcanic activity on MacDonald Island almost doubled its size, though the possibility of this facilitating some kind of human presence is rather negated by the related obliteration of almost all vegetation and high likelihood of future awesome eruptions.

Not sure the book chains will be rushing to set up there. Maybe it’ll take the courage of an indie. Still, in 2011, all terrestrial booksellers are brave by definition and, once they hear there’s no internet access there, the place could start to look a lot more like paradise (until they remember to factor in the lava and absolute lack of potential customers).

But never let it be said that I back away from a challenge. I have explained to Random House that, as they’ve bought the territory, I can only assume it’s with commercial intent, so I am up for touring, and indeed for an attempt on the summit of Mawson Peak, if I can be reasonably reassured that eruption is not imminent.

Anyone care to join me? Any bookseller interested in coming along with a boxful or two of The Fix and a cash tin (backlist also welcome)?

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