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PostPosted: April 1st, 2008, 2:55 pm 
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Willow wrote:
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.


I think that's a deal breaker right there. Slavery was made illegal before the Civil War, regardless of who signed what. Any decent lawyer can get you out of that contract. Talk to one.

To be honest, I would have told them to take their contract and shove it at the outset, with that clause in the thing. But I'm pretty sure that kind of open-ended clause is not enforceable. That thing means 30 years from now, whoever then owns that particular publisher has dibs on ANY books you might come up with.

I love that bit about bidding on them after turning them down, too.

In every case I've ever seen, the existing publisher wants first refusal rights. Once refused, they have no further rights. Sure, they can bid, if there's an auction. Who cares? Turn 'em down for contractual thuggery, which is basically what the clause is.

Hell, I complained to my professional writers' association about contracts I'd signed with a publisher. The then Sr. VP wrote me a long, semi-literate letter telling me how much they'd done for me, and, finally, ended with the note that I had signed the contracts. Lessee. What they had done for me was sell 59,600 copies of my books in a six month royalty period. They then sent me checks, if memory serves, totaling about $5,800.

I discovered to my dismay that the little bitty discount clause for book sales applied to about 90% of their sales. They got big numbers by additional discounting, which they financed by taking most of the discount out of the writers' hides. For every precentage point of extra discount, the writer lost about half a percentage point in royalties. When you already start at 7.5% on publisher's net, that ain't so hot.

Oh, yeah. He got really hot when I complained about getting a dime or less a book. "You got 75 cents on some!" Think about what that says about the overall dime a book. Take off the 3/4 of a buck books, and you''re getting more like 6 cents for each of the others.

Anyway, he stated flatly that the publisher would never take another of my books: It didn't seem to penetrate his skull that if I cared about that, I'd have kept my mouth (computer) shut. I seem to recall that as being in the early '90s, and I've done no more books for them, and they're sitting on the rights to a non-seller that has been out of production, though not out of print, for several years.

Talk about petty.

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 9:00 am 
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When I sold that book I had no idea of what I would be doing. I did not know this thing would grow so large and that the possibilities for other products would be so extensive.
Even beyond my income is that it has literally STOPPED the future work of This Institute because our goal is public education, we have to develop those educational materials. He is laying claim to everythng that comes out of my mouth. Plus it goes thru this really long 6-9 month process before he says no (and then he's given one more time after someone else is interested to say yes). This has halted our efforts to keep our information flowing and we should just close up shop if I can do is write articles weekly and not develop the kinds of materials for victms and therapits the way The Institute has grown.

That's the issue...there needs to be some basic restrictions on contracts that you aren't ALLOWED to ask for all products into perpetuity. That shouldn't even be in a contract. I guess others writers agreed about what should be or not be in a contract because we alreaady saw the tv writers strike.

It needs to be said that it's not ok to even WANT to screw a writer. We can say all day long 'don't sign a bad contract' but what we need is some guidelines that STARTS with a few basic writers rights. I happen to think that's not overly idealistic.

Nonetheless...if someone has a story they would like to submit, please email me. Other than that....I'll see where I get with this legally. Hopefully it might set a presecedent for other cases. Maybe not. But I'm not gonna just bi**tch, I'm going to try.

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 9:19 am 
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Willow wrote:
When I sold that book I had no idea of what I would be doing. I did not know this thing would grow so large and that the possibilities for other products would be so extensive.
Even beyond my income is that it has literally STOPPED the future work of This Institute because our goal is public education, we have to develop those educational materials. He is laying claim to everythng that comes out of my mouth. Plus it goes thru this really long 6-9 month process before he says no (and then he's given one more time after someone else is interested to say yes). This has halted our efforts to keep our information flowing and we should just close up shop if I can do is write articles weekly and not develop the kinds of materials for victms and therapits the way The Institute has grown.

That's the issue...there needs to be some basic restrictions on contracts that you aren't ALLOWED to ask for all products into perpetuity. That shouldn't even be in a contract. I guess others writers agreed about what should be or not be in a contract because we alreaady saw the tv writers strike.

It needs to be said that it's not ok to even WANT to screw a writer. We can say all day long 'don't sign a bad contract' but what we need is some guidelines that STARTS with a few basic writers rights. I happen to think that's not overly idealistic.

Nonetheless...if someone has a story they would like to submit, please email me. Other than that....I'll see where I get with this legally. Hopefully it might set a presecedent for other cases. Maybe not. But I'm not gonna just bi**tch, I'm going to try.


You can read horror stories going back to Dickens about how publishers have treated writers. Probably before, but that far I know. Publishers' treatment of writers hasn't changed much since then. One thing is for sure, though, we're not about to get special contract priviliges giving us the right to not be screwed by the contract issuer. If that happened, it would have to be applied across every employment contract of every kind. Not a chance.

Add to that a simple concept: Others face this same obstacle, so why should writers have a claim on preferential treatment? It simply won't happen. What makes writers so special there should be limits on how people think about screwing them, contractually or otherwise? First, writers are not organized in any real manner (TV writers are a different breed, and do have some organizational strength that can be used about once a decade). Second, writers tend not to treat their businesses as businesses. That does NOT work well, as you're finding out. None of us knows where we'll be in 15-20 years (well, in my case, I'm reasonably certain, but that's a function of age, not writing or business), so ALL considerations need to be thought out before a contract is signed. Obviously, your publisher has a lot more experience than you do.

I know of no solution for you beyond a GOOD lawyer. And I can't place too much emphasis on the GOOD! He/she/it must handle intellectual property, and be familiar with the ways publishers climb the success ladder using writers' wallets. And it ain't gonna be cheap. No contingency fees, just an out. I am better than reasonably certain that the all-inclusive clause is not legally binding, but it is going to take a lawyer to advise you correctly, and to start the gears grinding. I hope this time the mills of the gods don't grind slowly for you.

I've got a couple of publishers who will eventually publish excerpts, or chapters, from my books on-line. When that happens, I pounce. I must admit, though, that was not foresight. Back in the late '70s, there were very, very few home computers (John D. McDonald was the first writer I heard of to use one, and his was back in punch card days, IIRC maybe even early '70s) and the Internet was a tiny thing, if it existed at all. Into the '80s, that continued to hold true. Thus, those early contracts don't mention electronic rights. If they don't ask for them, they don't have them. I have two publishers from that era that I'd particularly like to spit on, so I'm hoping....

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 11:38 am 
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Yes, of course it would preferential treatment to not be screwed. But we need contracts that lack limits. One of my other publishers had a right of refusal on my next 3 works. That's reasonable. There's a deadline. We do it, and it's done. But this thing that just has no end and suggests you can not 'expand' your product or concept is too limiting for someone who is trying to make a living at this.

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 12:02 pm 
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Willow wrote:
Yes, of course it would preferential treatment to not be screwed. But we need contracts that lack limits. One of my other publishers had a right of refusal on my next 3 works. That's reasonable. There's a deadline. We do it, and it's done. But this thing that just has no end and suggests you can not 'expand' your product or concept is too limiting for someone who is trying to make a living at this.


Yes. It is egregious, confiscatory and exceptionally limiting, which is why I think it may not be enforceable. It really does come close to a form of indentured servitude, in my opinion. But you need a lawyer's opinion, along with a lawyer's letter to the publisher, to firmly and legally establish a position there. Your publisher's competence in distributing your books can be added to the letter. His rationales are of no interest. If his distributor screws up, dump the distributor, but do it NOW, not next month.

You will find a number of clauses in standard contracts that are not in favor of writers, most of which publishers will drop if asked. Your above instance is the worst I've heard, and giving first refusal on three books is almost as bad, UNLESS you are one of those rarities who can sell a publisher four ideas at a pop for a million bucks each (AKA John Grisham and a few others). Another sneaky bit is the "hold harmless" agreement where the writer agrees to repay all fees incurred in any kind of lawsuit over the book. That is another Johnny Paycheck moment.

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 1:33 pm 
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Life is not fair and having more laws to make it more fair for a few people isn't a good response. I always kiddingly said that if the same laws requiring plumbing in homes went a step further for artists, and the public was required to have art in their homes.... well, it would be a better society and a lot more artists could make a decent living. Being both an artist and a writer, making art for a living is a lot harder and you get a lot less respect. And you rarely get a contract because it would be a fast way to lose a sale. I use proposals and invoices and it really cuts down on the paperwork. Of course, I know where my money is coming from, too. It's this experience that makes me believe there is a strong future in self-publishing and marketing one's own book... and not even putting up with the traditional paradigm at all. After this last fiasco with amazon.com, I just want to say, "go burn in Hades" to anyone who is part of the problem, whether that be an agent, a pubishing house, or a distributor. This mass market concept to earn a few pennies on each book is stupid. Sell fewer books and keep more of the cash for each edition. Think small and sustainable instead of huge. Of course, that goes entirely against the American mindset, doesn't it?

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 2:02 pm 
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Ele wrote:
Life is not fair and having more laws to make it more fair for a few people isn't a good response. I always kiddingly said that if the same laws requiring plumbing in homes went a step further for artists, and the public was required to have art in their homes.... well, it would be a better society and a lot more artists could make a decent living. Being both an artist and a writer, making art for a living is a lot harder and you get a lot less respect. And you rarely get a contract because it would be a fast way to lose a sale. I use proposals and invoices and it really cuts down on the paperwork. Of course, I know where my money is coming from, too. It's this experience that makes me believe there is a strong future in self-publishing and marketing one's own book... and not even putting up with the traditional paradigm at all. After this last fiasco with amazon.com, I just want to say, "go burn in Hades" to anyone who is part of the problem, whether that be an agent, a pubishing house, or a distributor. This mass market concept to earn a few pennies on each book is stupid. Sell fewer books and keep more of the cash for each edition. Think small and sustainable instead of huge. Of course, that goes entirely against the American mindset, doesn't it?


I think you're right, and by year's end (preferably at least six weeks before Christmas--I hope to have three downloadable books on my web site, all 36 to 64 pages, under $6.95. One is proving more work than I like, so may sell for $7.95.

The mindset, though, is not exclusively American. Expansion is a human trait, I think, spanning most (not all, by any means) cultures. Britain in the 1800s after France in the 1700s, and Spain the 1700s and 1600s, along with the Dutch. From there, we find the new arrivals on American shores looking westward and seeing...what? A couple of month journey to the other side of the country, something on the order of a trip to Mars today.

Room for expansion. Now, the world's primary problem is over-population as a major result of expansion in centuries past.

It will change. We may not wish it or like it, but it will change.

As a fast note on those downloadable books, I did a fast projection of profits on 500 sales each. It runs about $2,500 total, per book. I am hoping for that many sales per year, especially in those areas where I've been building a reputation for a couple, three decades. If that level is reached and holds for three years per book, they will more than repay the effort. I don't think it's stretching it to say that one or two out of half dozen or so might do ten times that in sales, but that's a castle resting firmly on a cloud base at the moment.

Times will be interesting for centuries to come after mid-21st century passes.

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PostPosted: April 2nd, 2008, 3:04 pm 
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Because of my piss poor royalty checks after a big book tour, that's why I took a year off and learned internet marketing for my ebooks and other products. Left to my own devises, I do well for me and by me with my product development. I agree...as more and more people learn how to do internet marketing, digital publishing, etc., hopefully it will take a BITE out of the screwed up world of traditional publishing. I taught internet marketing and digital publishing this year at a womens writing conf for that reason.

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PostPosted: April 4th, 2008, 12:16 am 
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Here's some interesting information from a publisher:

http://del.icio.us/bkeditorial

The contract is definitely worth checking out.

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PostPosted: May 26th, 2008, 5:45 am 
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Hi Willow (and everyone else)
What I would like to see you do rather than publisher bashing. (I am not saying they don't deserve it) Is write a piece about the contracts themselves tell what is good and what to look out for. What parts are red flags and what are boiler plates. I suppose there are already books about this and there may be places in this very site that do this, I am new here.

The problem I see with “tell alls” is that every publisher has someone with, what they perceive as, bad experiences. So it is likely that some good publishers are going to be given a black eye even if they are honest and forthright.

When I was in the manufacturing business 98% of my customers loved me and 2% hated me. It is that way no matter what field you are in.

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PostPosted: May 28th, 2008, 8:00 am 
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I guess if there werent so many problems there wouldnt be pages on here like Whispers & Warnings or other sites Editors & Preditors. There is a PROBLEM in the industry on many levels (look at what Angela has been covering about the Amazon deal). The industry has ISSUES. It's like dealing with the mafia or as I put it Pimps not Publishers.

The more people expose this like Angela and others are doing, the more the industry must respond and hopefully change. And the more the public becomes aware of the problem. If my attorney quietly handles my problem with my contract, that in no way helps you does it? You are just as likely to step in a pile of H*unT*er House c*rap and have it on your shoe next.

If I'm in pain over this, I think it should also help prevent pain for someone else. That's just how I am. No need that everyone else have a similar experience with a similar contract.

We have responded to the publisher on hsi itemized list of 'gimmie gimmie' and we'll see what happens. My attorney said the clause that bothered me most was a violation of public policy. So....I'll keep you posted as the saga uncovers.

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PostPosted: May 28th, 2008, 4:52 pm 
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Well, I would have to crunch some numbers.... like how many publishers are there including independents and eBook publishers, and then stack those numbers up against the number of complaints at Whispers and Warnings. Well, and we would have to add magazines and newspapers, too. My guess is plenty of other industries could compete... like real estate, for example. How about today's expose of Dell Computer and their bait & switch tactics ... the judge just ruled against them. It's not just publishing. It may seem so, because the industry is in such flux, and of course there have always been crooks, but it's not as bad as some other arenas. And, of course, worse than others as well. Yes, I think it's good to keep it all in the open when bad things happen. The grapevine is great to have as a tool. I wouldn't wallow in it too long though. Scream bloody murder for the world to hear, and then let go of it and move on. Hopefully, without the shackles to a rotten contract. We'd all be glad for you if that happened.

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PostPosted: May 30th, 2008, 7:40 am 
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There are pimps and pushers in every industry. There are certainly a lot in the automotive aftermarket where I come from. But there are also some of the best people in the world. Of course the lambs going to slaughter are the retail customers who don’t know the players. It is also the fault of the retail customers who would rather buy the cheapest part than the best made. They, for some reason, believe that they can get both and don’t see why paying another $10 on a $100 dollar tem is in their own best interest.
But Reading the grantees and warrantees will usually point in the right directions.

So I would like to see someone list the contract clauses to watch for and the ones to watch out for. If writers are getting screwed is it because they aren’t doing their homework?

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PostPosted: May 30th, 2008, 9:01 am 
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Borsia wrote:
There are pimps and pushers in every industry. There are certainly a lot in the automotive aftermarket where I come from. But there are also some of the best people in the world. Of course the lambs going to slaughter are the retail customers who don’t know the players. It is also the fault of the retail customers who would rather buy the cheapest part than the best made. They, for some reason, believe that they can get both and don’t see why paying another $10 on a $100 dollar tem is in their own best interest.
But Reading the grantees and warrantees will usually point in the right directions.

So I would like to see someone list the contract clauses to watch for and the ones to watch out for. If writers are getting screwed is it because they aren’t doing their homework?


I know ALWAYS cross out dibs on your next work. No No NO!
Also, try and get royalties on gross not net sales, though at least in my neck of the woods, that is never going to happen. Watch out for them taking control of electronic and other rights like film etc. Cross it out.

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PostPosted: June 1st, 2008, 10:00 am 
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?? I thought this was a forum about publishing which is why I discussed the problems of THIS industry ...not every other business. My attorney found case law for supporting an undefined amount of future options on an authors work as a violation of public policy. Also arguing what is an 'expansion of the work' when an author speaks about the topic or writes about the topic of the book. In my case, I had 20 years experience in the field before the book came out and am in 'expert' in some areas surrounding my topic. He has tried to claim all my knowledge on the topic which my attorneys have managed to address as not part of 'expansion of the work.' We aren't done yet so who knows how this will turn out.

Also, writers should be ware of what constitutes "out of print" status considering the recent distributors crisis and what it did to writers.

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