Tag Archives: Contracts

Laura Resnick’s REJECTION, ROMANCE & ROYALTIES

I think what I value most about Laura Resnick’s essays in REJECTION, ROMANCE, & ROYALTIES: THE WACKY WORLD OF A WORKING WRITER is her brutal honesty.   This is not an essay collection for the faint of heart.

Let me provide an example from her essay “Passion” in the book:

Editors have told me that my advance is more than I’m worth; my work isn’t that good; I should write more like so-and-so; my work is “shit;” I don’t know how to write; my work is an “insult” to them; and I don’t “appreciate” them enough.   Agents have told me that I’m “not worth” their time; my query is an insult to them; I’m “self-destructive” (based on my choosing to fire that agent); they “hate” my work; and I’m lazy (I wrote a mere 1,400 pages that year).

Resnick covers a variety of topics in her essays, such as writer’s block, editors & agents, contracts, readers, horror stories about publishing, horror stories about book tours, nerves, cash flow, rejections, etc..

Because this is a collection of essays, certain thoughts get repeated over and over.   This becomes a mild irritant if one sits down to read the book in one sitting.  I found it better to stop for the day after reading four to five essays.

Resnick makes her living as a fiction writer, and she does not spare the reader details about the ugly side of the business.  However, she also has a wicked sense of humor.  Here’s a sample from “It Can Happen Here–And Often Does:”

Trish Jensen, writing under the pseudonym Trish Graves, sold them a novel called Just This Once in which the hero, among other things, mentors a teenage boy, steering him away from street gangs and toward organized sports.  So you can imagine the author’s shock when, upon reading her galleys, she discovered that the editor had changed the boy into a raccoon.

(I think I speak for everyone here when I say, “What?”)

You’ll have to read the essay to find out if the novel was published with the raccoon character change.

Learning About Publishing Contracts

I’ve met writers who refuse to learn the basics of a publishing contract, or who skip reading the entire thing before signing.   This always drives me crazy, because they’ve just signed a legally binding document that could result in all kinds of heartbreak because they wouldn’t accept that publishing is a business, like any other business.  You can get sued.  You can go bankrupt.  You can discover that you can’t exploit certain rights to your work because you signed away all the rights when you shouldn’t have.

A publishing contract is a business contract.   If you sell your writing to a publisher, congratulations, you’re now a small business of one.   And if you sign a bad contract, you can be dealing with the repercussions for decades.  Or out of business entirely.   Doing the writing is art, selling the writing is a business.

So, where to start learning the business law basics a freelance writer needs to know?   I started with the THE WRITER’S LEGAL GUIDE:  AN AUTHOR’S GUILD DESK REFERENCE, THIRD EDITION by Tad Crawford & Kay Murray.  Get the most recent edition to read since publishing law and technology change quickly.  This book provides a great summary of the business law a freelance writer needs to know, from copyright to publishing contracts to agent-author agreements to IRS tax law.  By the time I finished this book, I felt I had a good understanding of the legal basics.

There’s another book to consider reading next, even though it’s from 1999–KIRSCH’S GUIDE TO THE BOOK CONTRACT by Jonathan Kirsch.  Kirsch is a practicing attorney in publishing law, and he had lots of valuable anecdotes and examples to provide as he went through an entire sample publishing contract.

For both books, I found it best to read 10 pages or so, and then stop for a few hours.  The legal matters can be mentally tiring to wade through quickly.  Also, there were times it was helpful to mull over a newly learned fact or law before moving onwards.

Some writer organizations have sample contracts you can look at or lectures about contracts at their national conference.  Definitely check to see if any organization you are a member of provides such services.

Avoiding Scams in Publishing-Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors

Just in case someone stumbles onto this blog who isn’t already aware of the rip-off artists out there, I’m going to blog about scams.

If you keep these four key points in mind, it’ll help protect you from most of the scammers you’ll run into who prey on new writers:

1)  Money flows from a typical publisher to you, not from you to it.  Little to no money should flow from you to an agent.  I strongly advise reading the essay on agent fees at Writer Beware to get a sense of what a legitimate fee is and what it is not.

2)  Do a background check of any agent, editor, writer’s contest program, or publisher you’re thinking of signing a contract with.   What’s their track record like?  How long have they been around?  Thanks to Google, and websites like Preditors & Editors and Writer Beware this is easy to do.

3) If you decide to self-publish, you are now a small publishing company of one.  There are good e-book services, print-on-demand services, and traditional printers out there, but there are also sleazy companies that grossly overcharge newbie writers and/or  have unreasonable contracts.  You need to put on your CEO hat, and research your industry to find out what the reasonable costs of production are.  You need to learn about contracts, copyright, distribution, and marketing.  You need to find and hire a good freelance editor to go over your work.

4) If it sounds too good or too easy to be true, it probably is.

Any writer can benefit from taking the time to read the various articles at Writer Beware about the common practices, pitfalls, and controversies of the publishing industry.