My author friend has a book deal with [a particular LDS publisher]. She's published a few books with them. I was shocked when she told me that TPLDSP [this particular LDS publisher] has first and LAST right of refusal. Meaning that she has to publish ANYTHING she writes through TPLDSP , or not at all. And if they don't want it, she can't shop other publishers.
Is this even legal? Can they force her to use them for all of her publishing, indefinitely? If it isn't illegal, it's definitely immoral. She was a novice writer who probably didn't even understand what she was signing. Have you ever heard of anything like this?
Thanks for any insight.
Because I haven't seen her specific contract (and no, I don't want to see it because I do not give legal advice), I can't really say what exactly her contract says.
However, I've seen contracts from TPLDSP, and yes, they can be pretty bad in that area—at least, they were several years ago. Usually, the ROFLR clause means that if they reject the book she CAN shop it around to someone else, but if that someone else wants it, she will have to go back to TPLDSP and let them know she has another offer and then give TPLDSP the chance to reject it again. If they reject it this second time, she's free to sell rights to the new publisher.
But the next book she writes has to go through this same process as well.
Legal? Yes. If they create the contract and she agrees to it, then yes, it's legal.
Moral/Ethical? Not in my opinion. But I do understand why some small publishers try to get away with it. [This is based on the description of the ROFLR clause given above, NOT a simple ROFR for a series or another LDS book.]
Binding? No. They cannot force her to stay with them forever. I know quite a few authors who have started with TPLDSP and have later gotten out of their contract. [If you're one of those authors and would like to tell us how you did it, you may do so in the comments, anonymously if you like.]
If she is unhappy with her contract, have her speak with their editor/legal department. She may be able to resolve her situation with a courteous conversation. Most LDS publishers will let an author out of their contract if they're not happy. If not, as an absolute LAST RESORT, she should speak to a contract attorney, one who specializes in this area, if possible.