I admit it. I woke up this morning without a clue what to blog about. So I went walking through the interwebs. Surely, I’d find something to inspire me. Right? Well, yes and no. I found one article that had me thinking, another that left me going “wut?” and a final one that reminded me why I made the decision to go indie. So, grab your coffee and let’s go.
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know how much I respect Kris Rusch. She, along with Dean Wesley Smith, have done more to crack open the mysteries–and myths–surrounding traditional publishing than just about anyone. Kris’ “Business Musings” are a must read for anyone considering making writing their profession, whether you’re looking at going the trad or indie routes.
Kris has been doing a series of “Year in Review” posts. The most recent discusses copyright law. There are several things in the post that really stuck with me and they reinforce why here at MGC we always recommend getting an IP attorney to look over any contract before you sign it.
With few exceptions, literary agents do not use the services of lawyers to help negotiate a contract. Some of the larger agencies do, especially if they’re affiliated with other branches of the entertainment industry, but most of the time a traditional book contract is being negotiated by a person without a law degree whose knowledge of contract law is more haphazard than mine is.
What this has done with traditional publishing contracts is make them exceptionally inequitable. The contracts favor the publishers and, in some cases, actively harm the writers.
Read that again and print it out. Post it next to your computer monitor. Tape it to your mirror. Do not forget it. Then, if you are looking for an agent or happen to have one, ask them who vets a contract before they send it to you with the recommendation that you sign it. If they say anyone who doesn’t have “JD” after their name and how isn’t specializing in IP law, you might want to think twice before not only signing it but agreeing to let them negotiate anything for you going forward. That agent who has a fiduciary duty to you is NOT looking out for your best interests if they are accepting the contract without having an attorney make sure it isn’t harming you and your interests.
Don’t believe me, look at this example Kris points out. My blood ran cold when I read it and then I got angry. How many writers have signed similar contracts because their agents told them to or because the publisher assured them it was just boiler plate and they’d ignore the clause if asked?
Even contracts that have a good termination clause negate that clause in a different section (usually in the warranties). And within the last two or three years, some traditional book publishers have gotten smart and added a clause like this:
This contract represents the entire Agreement between the Publisher and the Writer. If any part of this Agreement is deemed unlawful or unenforceable, the rest of the Agreement shall remain in effect.
The contract clause is an attempt by publishers to avoid a contract being declared null and void due to one or more illegal or unenforceable clauses in it. Say bye-bye to the termination clause until this is challenged in court and, let’s face it, most traditionally published authors are aren’t willing to take a publisher to court because they are afraid they will be black listed.
And clauses like this are why you need someone looking out for your rights in contract negotiations. If your agent isn’t going to do it, why are you giving them a cut of your money?
Let’s take a sharp left turn into point of view. Ask any group of writers what the best point of view to write in is and you’ll get a number of different answers. Ask readers and you’ll get even more. Now you have this: an attempt to explain what “Deep POV” is.
I’ll admit right off the bat, I don’t think about POV this way. I write what the story wants when it comes to POV. That’s why there are a couple of short stories in one series (Nocturnal Lives) written in first person when the series itself–and the sequel series–are written in third person limited.
I’ll even admit I found myself scratching my head at times as I read the article, especially when it came to writing in present tense. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read many books where present tense has been effectively used that I’ve liked it. In those books, the use of present tense was off-putting because I felt like I was being “told” what happened instead of being “shown”. There was no deep connection with the character. I’m sure there must be good examples of present tense being used effectively, but I’ve found very few of them.
Anyway, what are your thoughts on “Deep POV” and what it is?
Finally, I came across an article from Publishers Weekly about the writers to watch this year. The first thing I noted as I scanned the article was how much emphasis was placed on not just “who” the writers were but “what” they were. Then I started reading the synopses of the books listed. If that wasn’t enough to turn me off most of them, comments from agents and/or editors were. Almost without exception, these are writers to watch because of message (whether in the book or in who or what the author is) and not because of an engaging plot that readers will still be talking about years from now or that will encourage them to buy the author’s next book.
Here’s what author Morgan Talty’s agent had to say about his collection of stories:
“I can’t believe this is a debut writer.” Thinking through the comparisons to older white writers such as Johnson, Larry Brown, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro, she says the book stands on the shelf with her “all-time favorite collections,” but that “maybe the most important thing to say is that there aren’t really comp titles.”
She only compared him to “older white writers”? Does she do this to all her other clients, only look at how they compare to writers who share skin tone with them? WTF?!? How about asking if they wrote something that’s good, entertaining and that people will want to buy? Shouldn’t those be the first–and possibly only–questions an agent should ask?
But that’s not when I had to stop the impulse to wall my laptop. That came further up the article where another book is being discussed. I’ll not name the book, just give an excerpt of the description. You can find the title in the article. Here goes:
Lydia, the young woman at the center, is an artist and a vampire with a complicated relationship to food. She’d love to eat sushi, but all she can have is blood, which her Malaysian-English vampire mother prepares for her. When her mother moves in to a nursing home, Lydia begins exploring her late father’s Japanese heritage.
Now, I’ve read my fair share of books with vampires in them. Some vamps can’t eat or drink “normal” food because it will poison them. Others simply aren’t interested in anything other than blood. Then there are those who can eat and drink but it does nothing for them. They still need to drink blood. They eat because it is a way to hang onto one of the last vestiges of their humanity. I’ve even read books where a vamp, usually either newly turned or very old, pine for the chance to enjoy a good glass of wine or a special meal just one more time. So a vamp with a “complicated relationship to food” isn’t anything new.
What got me was the vampire mother moving into a nursing home. Wait! What?
That’s a new one and it makes no sense, especially without more explanation. Honestly, the short description makes it sound–to me at least–like the vampire aspect was added more to increase the potential reader base than as an essential plot point because otherwise it reads like so many other coming of age stories where the 20-something main character goes off to find herself and her heritage after the primary parent is no longer a constant in their life and they suddenly want to know everything about the absent parent.
There’s more fodder in there, but I’ll let you guys see for yourself.
As for me, 2022 is going to be busy. Books to write. Promotions to figure out and actually do. And, with that in mind, I need to get back to it. Until later!