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PostPosted: March 29th, 2008, 8:25 pm 
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Collecting contract horror stories. If you have one..
email Willow who is forwarding them to a writer who
is willing to write the REAL story about publishing...

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PostPosted: March 29th, 2008, 8:44 pm 
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Willow... you sound like my mother. Every awful experience she's ever had is or will be everyone else's exact same experience. If sex is unsatisfying, we'll all tire of it soon enough, not because she made bad choices in lovers, but because there ARE no good choices in men. For any of us. Not.

What good will it do to convince every writer that every publishing company is awful by gathering a stable of sour pusses? Now, something useful would be to write a book that explains the mistakes YOU made, what part of the responsibility lies on your shoulders, and what you would do differently if you could do it over. Help us out here. Don't poison the whole industry because you have an ongoing bad experience with a small press in a niche market. You're pissed and it's understandable, but do you really insist we all be miserable along with you? That doesn't make any sense at all.

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PostPosted: March 29th, 2008, 9:39 pm 
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It's not a small press, it's not a niche market and I do hope everyone will share what they learned that will help everyone else. The contracts are so lopsided that it deserves to be exposed. If they are considering Anti-Trust suits against publishers for unfair practices, that's good enough exposure for me.

I am an expose kind of person so if publishing companies have nothing to hide then there's nothing to fear. I just think writers will see it differently and should at least KNOW what to look for. I wish I had known so the goal is to pass it forward---if someone knows what we need to know, then share it. If you have a great experience and a good contract, share what we should look for.

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PostPosted: March 30th, 2008, 9:44 am 
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You go Willow, fantastic! Just in case anyone here hasn't already seen this, here it is in all it's glory (a rejection letter from an economic journal publisher in China):


"We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity."

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PostPosted: March 30th, 2008, 11:03 am 
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NO! That can't be REAL! That's either the most sarcastic thing I ever heard so dripping in poo poo no one can stand the smell!

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PostPosted: March 30th, 2008, 1:18 pm 
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I think the best rejection I ever heard about went something like:

'Dear Mr. Catweazel,

We read your proposal with great interest, and think you have a really good idea. So good, in fact, that we ran a feature on it three months ago ....'

Seriously, it takes two to make a contract. If there's any bits in it you don't like, you srtike them out, and sign your deletions. If the 'party of the first part' doesn't like it, you either start haggling or walk away.

Nil illegitimo carborundum! :D

Keith

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PostPosted: March 30th, 2008, 2:36 pm 
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Willow wrote:
It's not a small press, it's not a niche market and I do hope everyone will share what they learned that will help everyone else. The contracts are so lopsided that it deserves to be exposed. If they are considering Anti-Trust suits against publishers for unfair practices, that's good enough exposure for me.

I am an expose kind of person so if publishing companies have nothing to hide then there's nothing to fear. I just think writers will see it differently and should at least KNOW what to look for. I wish I had known so the goal is to pass it forward---if someone knows what we need to know, then share it. If you have a great experience and a good contract, share what we should look for.


Sorry, I thought this was about your publisher after doing research on them:

http://www.princetonreview.com/cte/prof ... shipID=424

That's who's listed at amazon.com as the publisher of your titles, so please let us know if that's incorrect information.

I agree that a balanced view would be more useful to writers, and that for every horror story, a positive review of another publisher would make for a more interesting and useful overview.

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PostPosted: March 31st, 2008, 3:43 am 
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I think it is time that writers speak out. We are a lonely lot and accept our circumstances in silence. As the article that Willow posted suggests, there is more flexibility with small publishers. My first book was published by a big international and everything about the experience after the book launch was awful. I'm now with a small local publisher and it is great. I have all kinds of flexibility, I can negotiate terms and advances and conditions reagarding advances. They are very responsive to all of my needs. I will never go back to a big international publishers. They treat writers, unless you're a big-wig, as a cog in their machine and if I wanted that I would have stayed in the 9-5.

Also, I think new writers approaching a contract should know you can cross out what you don't like. I do it. Stick to you guns, you really will not like it later if you are bullied into accepting their terms and they are not what you want. (Willow is a case in point) You'd rather wait until you find the right publisher if they can't accomodate you.

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PostPosted: March 31st, 2008, 10:05 am 
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Yes, that's the publisher you had a link too. Although in other background info you read about them they are actually listed as a mid size house with about 25-30 books a year. Well, who knows now after the distribution crisis and the big loss of $$ for them. They may have cut back. They have been around for 30 years, their contract wasn't very different from others that offered them on the book. That's the problem...the 'standard' book contract is abusive. Many writers think that once they get in and the publisher sees how hard they work, they'll offer them better terms next time. I have 3 books with them and nothing has gotten better. By their own admission, I am one of their 'most marketing' writers--for whatever that gets you.

somewhere on a grander scale, the Anti Trust Law needs to deem the standard contract as am impedement to making a living or ever LEAVING a publisher. This is like an abusive relationship--there's no way to get out. As long as he has books in supply, I don't have an out clause so my pimp gets to keep me on the streets indefinately!

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PostPosted: March 31st, 2008, 2:06 pm 
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"Many writers think that once they get in and the publisher sees how hard they work, they'll offer them better terms next time."

Big mistake in reasoning here - it just ain't so and hasn't been for a long, long time. Most writers I've thrown this issue out to say a good agent will write out the negative clauses in the negotiation process. That doesn't mean having an agent ensures you necessarily have a good one, and that they'll do that, but it's a start. There are professional organizations that can pave the way for a writer. I still think the best way to get a book contract is to pitch at a writers conference (one that fits your book, of course), and while you're there, get feedback from other authors about their agents and publishers.

And always, always be willing to walk away from an offer if it doesn't suit you, no matter how much you want your book in print. The long and short of it, know what you're signing. Even if it means spending $500 on a intellectual property rights attorney. It's money well-spent.

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PostPosted: March 31st, 2008, 2:10 pm 
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LoloK wrote:
I will never go back to a big international publishers. They treat writers, unless you're a big-wig, as a cog in their machine and if I wanted that I would have stayed in the 9-5.



The big publishers also treat their employees like cogs in a wheel... they are hopelessly pressured and overworked which is why they are so unresponsive to the writers' reqeusts and needs. They don't get paid squat and they are expected to do way too much. They are getting squeezed as hard as the writer for sake of the bottom line.

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PostPosted: March 31st, 2008, 5:25 pm 
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That assumes that you can get an agent. With 6 books out, I am just NOW being approached by agents but when I had a few books out and approached them, I couldn't get an agent.

So the issue remains that there needs to be better contracts for writers. Just like the writers strike for TV, someone needs to start screaming about the standard book contract. In many cases, they are unequitable. Saying don't sign it, means the next writer who does sign it gets the same bad deal. That's NOT the solution. The solution is to offer writers a decent contract that is not so restrictive and unfair. To say 'go work somewhere else' and the contracts are relatively the same doesn't solve the problem. The problem is THEE normally used contract continues to get more restrictive as the years go by because publishing faces perils of distribution and electronic digital books that are eating into their profits. Writers need a fairer approach to THEIR copyrights.

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PostPosted: April 1st, 2008, 11:39 am 
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Willow wrote:
Yes, that's the publisher you had a link too. Although in other background info you read about them they are actually listed as a mid size house with about 25-30 books a year. Well, who knows now after the distribution crisis and the big loss of $$ for them. They may have cut back. They have been around for 30 years, their contract wasn't very different from others that offered them on the book. That's the problem...the 'standard' book contract is abusive. Many writers think that once they get in and the publisher sees how hard they work, they'll offer them better terms next time. I have 3 books with them and nothing has gotten better. By their own admission, I am one of their 'most marketing' writers--for whatever that gets you.

somewhere on a grander scale, the Anti Trust Law needs to deem the standard contract as am impedement to making a living or ever LEAVING a publisher. This is like an abusive relationship--there's no way to get out. As long as he has books in supply, I don't have an out clause so my pimp gets to keep me on the streets indefinately!


But that standard contract is modifiable. Basically, any writer needs to consider this a business, not a sideline, and follow the same business practices other businesses use. That means that you do NOT sign contracts that contact too much weasel wording, nor do you sign contracts with too many unfavorable terms.

If the writer is unable to determine what is or is not favorable--and I got bitten a couple of times early on--then, do NOT sign. Hire a lawyer to look it over. At the cost of a couple hundred bucks, you are saved from handing them a handbasket containing your gonads.

Again, though, antitrust legislation against any kind of standard contract is not going to fly simply because most publishers, maybe all, will modify that contract on request or demand. If they don't, there are a dozen other options these days for getting your book out. I doubt any kind of antitrust filing against any publisher will work today.

As I may have noted before, if you signed something that gave the publisher dibs on your next work, simply prpose two or three works as your next areas of intererst, and make them so off the wall as to be unacceptable. Once that turndown comes, you're free. No, you cannot get your current books off the publisher's list...I got nailed last year when I tried to sell reprint rights to an old book. The publisher refused to release the rights claiming that last November he'd be bringing out a enw edition, co-authored by someone else, but using my basic premise and material. Old contract ('84) and not a thing I can do about it, except that he has missed that date.

When I get time, I'm running this by my former editor again. But right now, I have a book due out in about 30 days, with a modified contract that might actually pay me more than 5 bucks an hour.

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PostPosted: April 1st, 2008, 1:16 pm 
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Amen to everything you said Charlie. You can throw a gazillion hissy fits and scream the industry isn't fair, but the control and reality of fairness is in each writer's life. It's like crying that the "let the buyer beware" clause in a mortgage contract isn't wholesome. Well, yeah... but screaming about it after one signs the contract won't change the mortgage industry either. I love Charlie's idea to submit junk until you're free of them. What fun that could be. Although one's reputation might be at stake. Hard to say how that would play out, but it's nice to fantasize.

How about this idea? Make your next book a novel around the same theme. Pitch it to them. I don't see any fiction in their booklist, so if you decide to go the fiction route, they might reject it straight out. You can just tell them you want to write fiction for a while now. Too bad, so sad for them. I think every writer should try fiction at least once anyway, because it's harder to write than non-fiction. Paradoxically, it improves the non-fiction writing. One can also make some powerful impact with fiction if it deals with a potent issue like abuse. It's something to think about. Put a positive spin on this. You can't revel too much in the negative dramas or the universe is going to send back a ten-fold load of the same cr*p. Again.

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PostPosted: April 1st, 2008, 2:27 pm 
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The contract does not set a limit on how many future works...it's ALL future works. So i throw 3 craps ideas at him but that doesn't end my contract with him. Then when someone else is interested in it, he still gets to bid on it. I'd have to look at the clause but it's horrid. You know, a lot of this doesn't even make sense until you are operating after the book comes out. Thats when you understand what this stuff really means in the here and now. Regardless, I hired an atty to either renegotiate my contract now or ask for arbiration.

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