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 Post subject: Stonesong
PostPosted: February 19th, 2004, 1:41 pm 
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Joined: February 19th, 2004, 1:16 pm
Posts: 6
Stonesong is a book developer, and while they've worked with plenty of reputable (although not major) publishers and licensors, I would simply advise everyone to be CAREFUL. I was contacted by them last year and requested to do a few pages on spec for a book idea they had. I agreed ONLY because I thought the idea had tremendous potential. They liked my pages and were willing to enter into a contract. They sent me a copy of their standard contract as a base from which to start. Now, I had been told it would be work-for-hire but that royalties were possible. Still, I had done work-for-hire in the past for a publisher and had never seen such an insulting "standard" contract! Not only did they strip the writer of all rights "whatsoever forever," but they had a clause in it that would require the writer to maintain all LIABILITY. 0% rights, 100% liability. (Since my book would be self-help and primarily advice - NO WAY!) There was no clause in it for even the CHANCE of royalties with the publisher, and the writer would have to comply with the publisher's contract outright without even having seen it. Of course, I protested, and they actually agreed to relent on all issues except for rights. Under the circumstances, I was simply unwilling to relinquish my rights to my writing, even though they agreed to my other terms, and the deal fell apart. I already have 5 non-fiction books, so there was no way I was going to relinquish rights to my work after finding out how they customarily do business. They took offense to my telling them that after having seen their standard contract, I wanted nothing more to do with them because if they entered into that sort of contract with any writer, it was exploitation pure and simple. They were concerned I would blacklist the company, and the editor I worked with told me the man who had founded the company was one of the finest people she's ever met. That may be true, but this contract was abominable. I told her I'm not in the habit of bad-mouthing, but I DO feel it only fair to warn my fellow writers. I'm not saying not to do business with Stonesong, but I AM saying to speak to them about contractual issues prior to doing any work for them.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: February 19th, 2004, 4:30 pm 
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 3:10 pm
Posts: 14
I think you were absolutely right to call them on the carpet for their atrocious, exploitive
practices. If someone has to tell you how good, wonderful, noble, and beloved they are, than there's a problem. Usually that means they're the exact opposite.
Their contract is probably the worst example I've heard about. Smart of you not to go along with it. Sadly, I'm sure they'll find writers willing to be victims.

Robynn


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 Post subject: Thanks
PostPosted: February 19th, 2004, 4:34 pm 
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Joined: February 19th, 2004, 1:16 pm
Posts: 6
Yeah, I'm getting more and more incensed by the exploitation of writers these days. I read more and more about it and find that as I bid for copywriting jobs (web copy or what have you), I get outbid by less experienced writers who are willing to take almost no money. I'm sure these people who hire them get what they pay for, but I think writers should stop selling themselves short and demand the kind of wages they deserve. Otherwise, it sort of sets up an inner self-esteem problem, if you know what I mean. And, of course, it sets a low precedent for future fees for all of us.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: February 19th, 2004, 4:45 pm 
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Joined: January 23rd, 2004, 3:10 pm
Posts: 14
Writers have to value themselves as much as lawyers, doctors, accountants, and other professionals do. In business, that means putting a fair dollar value on
your services. From my experience, I've found that using other sources besides the Internet (that includes job boards, places like elance, etc.) can be beneficial.
I think Angela's service is great, but there are many writers competing for those posted jobs. I like to go out and approach prospects directly via letter or phone in order to drum up business. I'd recommend looking at Robert Bly's book, "Secrets of a Freelance Writer." Digging for your own business means less competition and higher paying gigs in most cases. Admittedly, I've only started freelancing as a supplementary business, because I've found that book publishing can be an erratic career. I've had several books published, but money comes in fits and starts.
:D We writers have to look out for ourselves! Robynn


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 Post subject: work made for hire
PostPosted: February 29th, 2004, 12:28 am 
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Joined: June 4th, 2003, 12:59 pm
Posts: 21
Location: Fremont California
Wait a minute. You said that you knew that the book was work made for hire. Doesn't that traditionally mean that you relinquish your rights to the company? The bit about liability is absurd, but I don't understand why you are so upset about giving up rights when you went into this knowing it was a work for hire contract. it may be a stupid thing for a writer to do, but I don't see how the company is being unethical, just cheap and insulting.


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 Post subject: Re: work made for hire
PostPosted: February 29th, 2004, 3:22 pm 
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Joined: January 25th, 2004, 12:38 am
Posts: 124
Location: California, USA
Tish Davidson wrote:
Wait a minute. You said that you knew that the book was work made for hire. Doesn't that traditionally mean that you relinquish your rights to the company? The bit about liability is absurd, but I don't understand why you are so upset about giving up rights when you went into this knowing it was a work for hire contract. it may be a stupid thing for a writer to do, but I don't see how the company is being unethical, just cheap and insulting.



I can attest to thisfact. While I have no rights to my last two books because they were work-for-hire situations, I did get royalties. In work-for-hire situations, you don't get rights. That's the whole point of being w-f-h (or at least a major point).

My concern, and why I would have turned down that arrangement, was the liability. For what I write, people do get sued (which, if you look at my books below, you wouldn't think so, and yet they do).



Tom Nixon

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Small Press Blog: Your guide to independent publishing
Degree Press


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 Post subject: Yes!
PostPosted: February 29th, 2004, 4:11 pm 
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Joined: February 19th, 2004, 1:16 pm
Posts: 6
Yes, as I said in my original post, I was aware that it was work-for-hire, and having already had such contracts, I knew it would mean relinquishing rights. But, the contracts I've had with publishers in the past were NOT anywhere near as insulting as the one I got from Stonesong. After having seen that, I was no longer willing to relinquish rights. Also, I didn't use the word "unethical," so please don't put words in my mouth. I believe it was an unfair and insulting contract, but I also stated that they were willing to comply with most of my requests after having offered that contract as a starting off point. I was simply no longer willing to consider working with a company that would even entertain such a contract. So, I was not suggesting no writers should ever work with them. As clearly stated in my original post, I urged other writers to simply be CAREFUL and CLEAR with them from the get-go.


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 Post subject: Re: Thanks
PostPosted: March 4th, 2004, 1:23 pm 
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Joined: February 5th, 2004, 2:43 pm
Posts: 20
melvot wrote:
Yeah, I'm getting more and more incensed by the exploitation of writers these days. I read more and more about it and find that as I bid for copywriting jobs (web copy or what have you), I get outbid by less experienced writers who are willing to take almost no money.


Same here. On Elance.com, I often find that jobs go to the lowest bidder...and when you have 10+ people bidding on a job, it's not worth your time to write a proposal if all that matters is the price.

It's also rather frustrating to see typos, run-on sentences, and incorrect grammar in the proposals of people who seem to win clients. Sure, mistakes happen to everyone, but when they happen again and again, you have to wonder who's paying them for their work.


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 Post subject: Stonesong
PostPosted: March 9th, 2004, 5:17 pm 
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Joined: March 9th, 2004, 5:01 pm
Posts: 1
I've worked with Stonesong on a variety of projects--including books for the American Film Institute and the New York Public Library--over the years and have never felt cheated or insulted in any way. I think it makes perfectly good sense that they want writers to take responsibility for the material they are providing. Why should Stonesong take the rap if one of their work-for-hire authors plagarizes? To the best of my knowledge, when you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you give up your rights to the material, but you're still responsible for its validity. I’ve freelanced for other companies with the same policy. Stonesong has been around for a long time and has consistently worked on projects with highly reputable companies (DK, Facts on File, Wiley, Hyperion). Personally, I think that "exploitation" is a very strong term to use in this instance. It seems pretty standard to me.


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 Post subject: What?
PostPosted: March 9th, 2004, 8:48 pm 
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Joined: March 9th, 2004, 1:42 pm
Posts: 1
Location: New York
I'm confused. You are warning us about a contract that to me sounds pretty standard. The original post says that Stonesong was willing to make changes to the contract in every regard that you asked except for the rights issue which wouldn't be changed anyway because you were a work for hire. Is there another definition of the term "work for hire" that the rest of us are unaware of? If this company offered you their standard contract and then was willing to not only negotiate but meet all of your reasonable demands and discuss royalties then how is that insulting or as some have called it "exploitive"? There's a lot of companies out there who aren't even discussing royalites! Sounds like they really wanted to work with you and you blew it! I've heard of tough contracts but never insulting ones. Can you be specific about the insulting language? Were you insulted that they wanted to protect themselves from a plagarist? If you're working for companies that don't care if you use other people's work let me know, I could use an easy paycheck. I've worked in TV, the web, magazines and publishing as a writer and in every case they want to make sure that what you turned in is something you actually wrote. Plus, every contract I've ever signed with a publisher had a liability clause. Could you please be more clear about what I'm supposed to be careful about? To me it sounds like you have a beef with this company but so far you aren't being very clear about why - it sounds as if they were willing to negotiate. I think people need to get a little bit more business savy and some tougher skin - negotiating a contract is part of your job, too.


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 Post subject: Re: Stonesong
PostPosted: March 10th, 2004, 11:59 am 
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Joined: March 10th, 2004, 11:12 am
Posts: 1
Location: Brooklyn, NY
The "work-for-hire" contract described by the original poster is one of the standard ones offered by book developers-producers-packagers. There are also various royalty deals. What they offer depends on who originated the original idea, what kind of work you will have to do and what they will contribute, how much will your ideas contribute to the final product, etc. Everything is negotiable and you can always simply say "no." Your experience shows that they are open to changes in the contract. "Work-for-hire" means that you do not retain rights, so their inflexibility on that point makes sense. You didn't like it, so you declined. There's nothing insulting on either side.

You refer to "the man who founded the company." He is Paul Fargis, one of the most respected people in publishing, and for good reason. I have known and worked with him and Stonesong for 22 years, writing book proposals, contributing to books and writing entire books under various kinds of agreements. He and Stonesong have a reputation in the industry for ethical business practices and quality work. The poster wrote that Stonesong worked with "reputable (although not major) publishers." Well, they did The New York Public Library Desk Reference (to which I contributed) with Simon and Schuster. I believe it is the Quality Paperback Book Club's all-time bestseller. They also did Lifetrends: The Future of Baby Boomers and Other Aging Americans, published by Macmillan, which I wrote. I call them "major" publishers.

Book developers and produces are naturally in business to make a profit, so they may not offer a contract that has everything you want. But they also offer the opportunity to beginning writers to get published and make a name for themselves; for experienced writers they are a source of various kinds of work throughout their career. They helped me get started in the business. My agent began as an administrative assistant at Stonesong 20 years ago.

One final point. Stonesong was subject to quite a going over in the original post. Businesses depend on their reputation, and I am perplexed at why Writers Weekly did not contact Stonesong to offer them a chance to reply.


melvot wrote:
Stonesong is a book developer, and while they've worked with plenty of reputable (although not major) publishers and licensors, I would simply advise everyone to be CAREFUL. I was contacted by them last year and requested to do a few pages on spec for a book idea they had. I agreed ONLY because I thought the idea had tremendous potential. They liked my pages and were willing to enter into a contract. They sent me a copy of their standard contract as a base from which to start. Now, I had been told it would be work-for-hire but that royalties were possible. Still, I had done work-for-hire in the past for a publisher and had never seen such an insulting "standard" contract! Not only did they strip the writer of all rights "whatsoever forever," but they had a clause in it that would require the writer to maintain all LIABILITY. 0% rights, 100% liability. (Since my book would be self-help and primarily advice - NO WAY!) There was no clause in it for even the CHANCE of royalties with the publisher, and the writer would have to comply with the publisher's contract outright without even having seen it. Of course, I protested, and they actually agreed to relent on all issues except for rights. Under the circumstances, I was simply unwilling to relinquish my rights to my writing, even though they agreed to my other terms, and the deal fell apart. I already have 5 non-fiction books, so there was no way I was going to relinquish rights to my work after finding out how they customarily do business. They took offense to my telling them that after having seen their standard contract, I wanted nothing more to do with them because if they entered into that sort of contract with any writer, it was exploitation pure and simple. They were concerned I would blacklist the company, and the editor I worked with told me the man who had founded the company was one of the finest people she's ever met. That may be true, but this contract was abominable. I told her I'm not in the habit of bad-mouthing, but I DO feel it only fair to warn my fellow writers. I'm not saying not to do business with Stonesong, but I AM saying to speak to them about contractual issues prior to doing any work for them.


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 Post subject: stonesong press
PostPosted: March 14th, 2004, 8:18 pm 
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Joined: March 14th, 2004, 8:06 pm
Posts: 1
Location: new york
There are enough villains around, so let's not pick on the good guys. I've had a number of projects with Stonesong Press and found the company to be more than generous and more than fair. With both the hardcover and paperback versions of The Baseball Timeline , Paul Fargis and Stonesong paid promptly and I earned more money than I could have envisioned. They were responsive to my wishes, totally supportive and always fought for my interests with the publishers. My experience was similarly positive with the articles I provided for American Film Institute Desk Reference. Although I am generally regarded as cynical and tough-minded, I trust the people at Stonesong and would work with them enthusiastically again, given the opportunity. My warning is--don't pass up an opportunity to work with these people.


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 Post subject: Caution
PostPosted: December 13th, 2004, 9:22 pm 
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Joined: February 19th, 2004, 1:16 pm
Posts: 6
All I was implying by my original post was that writers should use caution. However, bear in mind that despite other writers working with this firm and having good experiences, the Authors Guild legal dept. and other attorneys all advised me against this contract. The book in question would have required a lot of personal work and wisdom on my part - it was an advice book - and under the circumstances, the terms proved to be unacceptable.


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