As I was looking for something to blog about this morning, I came across this post over at The Passive Voice. It seemed especially important in the wake of the events of this past weekend. The topic? Morality clauses in publishing contracts. More specifically, those clauses that allow publishers to cancel contracts based on past, present or future conduct that might damage their sales.These clauses have become common boilerplate in publishing contracts and they should bother anyone considering going with a traditional publisher. Read more
Posts tagged ‘contracts’
The other day, I was talking with a writer who was over the moon but trying to think like a businessman. Well, businesswoman. She’d finished a book six months or so ago and had been shopping it around. After deciding against going with an agent, she did her homework and found publishers in her genre who would accept “over the transom” submissions. After silence from some and rejections from others, she finally had a contract offer. It wasn’t a big name publisher or even a medium name publisher. But the publisher wasn’t exactly fly-by-night either. But, reading the contract, she had concerns and wanted to talk them out before spending the money to have an IP attorney look at the paperwork.
I’ll admit, my immediate reaction was to tell her to run long and far from the contract. But I was good and I said I’d be glad to meet for coffee and we’d discuss it. But she needed to bring the contract with her so I could see what they were offering and what they wanted from her. Read more
This is a guest post from the friendly and talented Joe Monson. I had asked a couple of people I know who had managed anthologies, and Joe got back to me with the following post. Hopefully it will be helpful if any of you are considering herding cat… er, putting together an anthology!
Taking Out a Contract
I’m fairly new to the writing and editing scene. At the time of writing this, I have only one published short story and one published anthology (as co-editor) to my name (though a couple are out for consideration by editors and publishers). So, I can’t say that I have years or decades of experience to my name. Read more
Last week a young writer who is also a lawyer was on blog tour, and I have asked her if she wouldn’t mind stopping by the comments today to answer some questions. The usual disclaimers apply: although she is a lawyer, she is not your lawyer, and nothing you read in the post or comments should be taken as legal advice. If you think you need a lawyer, get one, internet lawyering may well be worse than useless. That being said, it’s great to get some insight into the sometimes murky world of Intellectual Property law.
I’m pleased to introduce Amie Gibbons, whose energy in real life translates into her books. She writes lighthearted stories with sweet Southern sass, belles who pack heat, and a dollop of romance on top of things that go bump in the night. Her latest is Psychic Undercover (With the Undead) and it’s a fun romp of a book.
Okay, if you’re a writer, you’ve heard the term copyright. It’s very important in the arts. So what is a copyright?
It is literally what it sounds like, the right to copy. It means you own that type of mental work and you are the only one who can make reproductions of it.
On some things, it’s easy to say what’s copyrightable and what isn’t. A book is copyrightable, but what about a title? Or a made up word? Or a general plot? There it gets a little more tricky. It gets grey. Lawyers love grey, it gets us lots of money.
This post is just going to touch on the basics of copyright.
1. For something like a book, the first question is usually along the lines of, “Do I have to register it to have protection?” Basic answer is no. You created it, it’s yours and legally no one can take it from you. You have copyright as soon as the art is put on a medium, as in, words are put on the page.
So no, you don’t have to register it with the copyright office, and you really do not have to do the “poor man’s copyright” (that’s where people would mail themselves their manuscripts in the mail and keeping the dated paperwork to prove they had the work on that date).
The tricky part if you get caught in a legal battle is proving it was yours first. This is where a registered copyright helps because it helps prove it was yours on the date registered (it also does other stuff for you like you can sue in federal court and get greater damages in court).Read the rest here…
The post on copyright, fair use, and other common IP questions appeared at my blog, and then on James Young’s blog, Amie delved into the dank world of Contract Law.
Well, first up, most publishers have a form contract they expect you to sign and if you don’t want to, they’ll tell you it’s standard across the industry and you can take it or leave it. If you leave it, don’t worry, there are a hundred authors behind you who will have no problem with it.
That is one of the big things to look at in contract negotiations. Does one side have more bargaining power than the other? Usually the answer is yes. Unfortunately for writers who are set on going trad pub, the answer is extremely yes. The publisher has all the power because they don’t really need you. Unless you have already made it huge like that Fifty Shades woman and they want to get on board the train, you’re replaceable.
Does that mean you can’t try to negotiate? Of course not. Hire an IP lawyer who specializes in author contracts to look at the contract, to explain it to you if need be, and to go to the table to negotiate on your behalf.
First rule of negotiations, you never send the person with the power to say yes to the table.
Why? Because if you as the author are at the table, they can pressure you right there to agree to something. If your representative is there, there is nothing they can say to get the rep to say anything but, I’ll take it to my client, because the rep legally cannot say yes, no matter how good the deal sounds. Even if you tell them they can say yes if the deal has XYZ terms, they’ll still most likely say they’ll take it back to you because they know how to negotiate and that no legit deal requires you to say yes in the room.
Again, will this help if the publisher says this is the form contract that is standard across the industry so you will take it or leave it? Probably not. But you never know. There might be a few things that are just egregious to the author that publishers have in there because they know they can get away with it, but really don’t mind dropping if you ask. Read the rest here…
Amie has some very practical things to say, with a good dollop of commonsense. I know this is a lot of reading when you follow the links, but it’s all worth digesting. Then come on back here and ask questions in the comments, both Amie and I will be around to answer them! I am not a lawyer, at all, but I can usually come up with a link to an answer.
Oh my. I’m not sure I dare even try to do a post today. How can I follow Dave’s post yesterday? I don’t know whether to smack his sad puppy nose with a rolled up newspaper or just give in to the laughter. Maybe both. VBEG. Add to that a laptop that has decided it really, really likes give off-the-wall error messages (usually at the most inopportune times) and I find myself wishing I followed my own advice and had a backup post ready to go. I don’t, so I will try to push through before the laptop goes wonky yet again.
Over the last week or so, I’ve had occasion to talk with several authors who are looking at dipping their toe in the indie market. Each of them had one common concern — promotion. They recognized that their publishers weren’t giving the sort of promotion they had hoped for but feared it was better than what they could do for themselves. Even when I pointed out that they are already doing most of their own promo now, it took a while for the lightbulb to go on. They weren’t tying their FB posts, their tweets, their blogs, etc., as promotion. One of them actually talked about it as their author platform because that was the terminology the publisher had used. When he finally realized it was promotion, it was almost a V-8 forehead smacking moment. The look on his face was priceless. I have a feeling if we hadn’t been sitting in a public place, he might have banged his head against the desk.
Even once he — and the others — realized they are already doing most of their own promo now, they worried about how they would be able to do more. Did I know a good PR firm to promote their book? Who could they hire to make sure word of their book got out? That is when I wanted to pound my head against the desk. Why? Because I have yet to talk to any author who has been successful hiring someone to do the PR for them. (By success, I mean something that results in more than a temporary bounce in sales.)
The first rule you have to remember when you go indie is that it is a business, your business. That means you have to make informed decisions about what you are considering doing and you have to look at what the potential return on investment happens to be. Whether you are talking about editorial services, cover creation or promotion, you have to ask yourself one very important question: will you be able to not only make back the money you spend but then make a profit? The next question you have to ask is equally important: how long will it take for you to make back that money?
So, when I saw this post over at The Passive Voice yesterday, I quickly emailed the link to the authors I had been talking with. It is the tale of an author who learned the lesson of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the hard way.
Let me start by saying that I almost passed out when I saw that the author in question spent $10,000 to launch a book. Of that, $3,500 was for cover design, interior design layout and proofreading. That, alone, was enough for me to bang my head against the table. I can’t speak about the interior design because I haven’t looked beyond the first couple of pages of the sample. However, the cover design is nothing innovative and nothing to stand out from all the other books like it. Then I noted — and did pound my head against the desk — that she paid for proofreading but not editing. What? If she has a publisher, and it sort of sounds like she does, then they should have done the editing AND proofing. If she doesn’t have one, then why pay for proofing and not editing?
The rest of the money, by far the bulk of it, was given over for promotion. Promotion that did not come through. You can read the post at TPV. Then follow the link to the original post. There were so many warning signs that the author ignored or let pass. I get wanting to avoid conflict. I get that she wanted to believe the promo folks would actually come through at the end. But there comes a point wher eyou have to remind yourself that this is YOUR business and you have to act in a businesslike manner. That means demanding accountings before the proverbial excrement hits the fan. That means doing the hard thing, even when you would prefer to keep your head down and avoid making the hard decisions.
I’m not saying that all those who promise to promote your book are con artists. I’m sure there are some out there who give a good value for your dollar. But, before you agree to go with one of them — and certainly before you give them any money — read every word of the contract. If you don’t understand it, have an attorney look at it. Ask for references and google the names of not only the company but any employee you might be working with. If you start working with someone and that person quits answering your emails or calls, escalate the matter to their supervisor asap. Don’t wait until it is almost time for your book to come out. Most of all, make sure there is an out clause in the contract, something that will allow you to vacate the contract for cause — and without accruing a penalty. There is one other bit of advice I’d give. Make sure they are willing to give regular accountings of not only what they have done but the time spent doing it, monies spent, etc. You are their client. That means they work for you and should answer to you and not the other way around.
Finally, remember that for all the money you spend before a book is published, you have to make that money back before you can say you have made any sort of a profit. So do the math and try to figure out how many books you would have to sell in order to become profitable. This brings up one last “don’t do this” warning. Don’t sign away a percentage of your roylaties. That leaves you with the onus of having to keep the books in such a way that you are giving regular accountings to someone else. It means you might be paying someone years after they last did anything for you. It also means you leave yourself open to a call for an accounting and that will put the burden on you to prove you only sold so many books. You pay for a service at the time the service is rendered, not in perpetuity.
Since we’re talking promotion, I guess I ought to do a bit myself.
War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.
Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.
Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.
As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important.
I’m not going to rehash what Kris had to say. However, I do want to build on it — at least in a way. To me, beyond being a warning about what to look for, the post comes down to a simple premise: treat your writing like a business. If you designed widgets and you spent time negotiating a contract with someone to manufacture and then distribute your widgets you would — I hope — get an attorney to look over the contract before you signed on the dotted line. As writers, we should do the same for any contracts we sign, be they with an agent or a publisher. We should keep in mind that we want our rights back and we certainly don’t want them tied up not only for the length of our lives but potentially our children’s lives as well. We want the best terms for us, not for the publisher or agent.
There’s another aspect to treating it like a business as well. If you have a “real” job — you know, one of those things jobs where you will be fired if you don’t show up or if you don’t produce — you have to go to work whether you feel like it or not. Sure, you have paid time off (hopefully) but those days are limited. After using it up, you are SOL. If you don’t perform up to standard, you are let go. That means, as most of us know, when those days come along when you would prefer to stay in bed — or go to the zoo or play video games or whatever — you can’t. You have to drag yourself out, mumbling and grumbling and go to work. No work, no pay.
Writing is a lot like that as well. It is that 9 to 5 job with more distractions and a greater need for self-discipline. It is very easy as you sit at your desk, staring at the computer screen and not having words come, to find cleaning the bathroom suddenly very attractive. If you are like the majority of writers, you have that 9 to 5 job, so you have to grab writing time where you can. I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to sit down at the end of day, once everyone else has gone to bed, to get in an hour or two of writing. As someone who is not a morning person, having to etch those hours out before the household gets up is even harder to do. But writers for years have done just that. They have done it because they know they have to treat writing just like they do their “real” job. They have to put but in chair and and just do it.
That also means you have to set yourself a schedule. I don’t mean you have to have specific hours — or a set number of words — you have to write each day/week/month. I guess what I’m trying to say is you have train yourself — and your family and friends who might not view writing as a “real” job — that when you go to your writing space, you are at work and nothing short of compound fractures, spurting blood or Girl Scout Cookies are cause for interruption. Yes, you have to tell yourself that you are going to write regularly and you have to follow through. If you allow distractions to take you away from writing, it soon becomes much easier to find excuses for doing anything but write.
It also means you keep track of your expenses, just as you would with any “real” business. How much have you spent on paper and printer ink/cartridges? Did you buy reference books this year for something you are working on? How about trips? Did you take any and use them, at least in part, for research? Do you belong to any professional writing organization that you pay dues to? Do you pay for web hosting and have a website/blog/whatever that is used to promote your work as a writer? Did you go to any cons or workshops that you paid for (or paid for travel)? Were you invited to speak at any cons or workshops and were your paid or have your travel paid for? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do you know what — if any — of them can be used as tax deductions? What about income? Would any of it have to be declared as income and, if so, what sort of IRS form would you need to use?
In other words, along with a good IP attorney to vet any contract you might get from a publisher or agent, you need a good accountant to help you navigate the oddities of the Tax Code where writers are concerned.
To bring it all back to a simple point, writing is a business. You have to show up, just like you do to that job at the office or on the line. You might “work” three days a week or five or even seven. But you have to do it. If you don’t, you will be fired. This time it will be by your readers (or by your publisher if you are traditionally published). Even if you show up, if you aren’t producing, you will be “fired”.
You have to treat it like a business in that you have to pay your taxes — so you have to know what you must declare and what you can use as deductions. You have to make sure your contracts are at least as favorable to you as they are to your publisher or distributor or agent. You must have the proper people (IP attorney, accountant or tax expert) in place to help you navigate all these distractions so you can focus on writing.
So go put your butt in your chair and fire up your computer — or pull out pen and paper — and start work. If you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.
And, on that happy note, I’m off to work. There are books to write, others to edit and money to be made.
* * *
Part of treating it like a business is also doing promotion. So here are three books for your consideration.
The first is Changeling’s Island (Baen) by Dave Freer.
Teenager Tim Ryan comes into his own as he faces danger on a remote Australia island where magic lurks in land and sea.
Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way. For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.
As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.
But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug-runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.
Officially out today, although I know it started shipping before now.
Next up is Sword And Blood (Vampire Musketeers Book 1) by Sarah A. Hoyt.
The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.
Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.
Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.
But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.
Things are about to get… complicated.
Today is the “official” release date.
Finally, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) by yours truly, written under the pen name Sam Schall, is available for pre-order.
War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.
Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.
Release date for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is April 18th.