Saturday, January 27, 2018

So, why is this such a bad thing?

So, I saw this tweet today and I read all the replies, and I still don't know why this is such a bad idea. It's money for writing, right? It's a pub cred right? So what if they're shotgunning emails to people, it's not like they're asking me for money, right?

Well, sure, they're not asking you for cash up front, but they ARE asking you for something of value and proposing they not pay for it.

Let's unpack this offer: you send them a pitch for a book. IF they like it and want you to write it, they'll pay you $1350 for all rights. No royalties. No indication of any kind of further participation at all.

If this book sells 1 copy you get $1350.
If this book sells 100,000 copies, you still get $1350.

If the book gets any kind of interest from foreign or audio publishers, you see none of that money.
If the book is optioned for tv or film, you see none of the money.

Their business plan is that you do not share in any success your work might have.

A publisher who wants to develop projects for a new series knows the better way to do it: contact all the agents they work with to see if anyone has a writer interested in this sort of thing. When an agent is involved, we know to ask for things like royalties, and duration of license, and how to protect the intellectual property of writers, EVEN IN WORK FOR HIRE contracts.

By contacting writers from a list (and not contacting agents), they're hoping to find the writers who don't know this is exploitative, and who don't know that not getting royalties is a terrible deal for a writer, and who don't know how to protect themselves.

In other words, they are hoping to make money from your lack of knowledge. I've said it before, I'll say it again: this is morally bankrupt way to conduct business and this company should be ashamed of itself.

Bottom line: Work with people who respect what you create.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Bottom line: Work with people who respect what you create."

This includes you, the writer.
Respect that what you write is, may be, and in the future might possibly be worth something more than you expect. That "more" is yours and you deserve it.

CynthiaMc said...

The same thing happens with acting.

If you don't respect yourself and your talent, no one else will.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Be careful of writing contests too, and always read every syllable of the terms & conditions of entry. I once sent away for a submission form and rules to a story competition advertised in one of the daily newspapers (remember those?) which carried a prize of £1000.

Most of it was the usual stuff: judges' decision final, fee for submitting, closing date, blah blah blah. And then - literally in small print, at the very bottom - it informed you that by entering this contest, i.e. by the sending of this form, you were agreeing that the publishers also had the rights to every subsequent work you produced.

By ENTERING the contest. Not by winning.
By. Entering.

Never knew a wadded-up ball of paper could travel so far so fast when thrown.

There was later some fuss in the Society of Authors' journal about this, but by that time, how many innocent writers had been duped? Always read the fine print. Right down to the white space after the last full stop. If in any doubt at all, ask someone you trust. The good guys are out there too. Fortunately.

Mister Furkles said...

Another thing these unscrupulous sorts bury in their contracts is their ownership of the characters.

Suppose you knock out a novel in three weeks for 1300 bucks. Sounds like easy money. Mickey Spillane wrote his first Mike Hammer novel in under three weeks.

Never give away your character.

nightsmusic said...

This smells a bit like the intellectual property clauses many people sign when they take a job. I have a friend who yes, actually came up with the 'recipe' for Lipitor. It's made the company billions, but because he designed it at work, they also own it. While he still gets a paycheck because he works there, he reaps no immediate benefits from the discovery.

What you have here is a bit like that without the weekly paycheck that would accompany working for this questionable publisher. One time deal, they own it forever, but you are kicked to the curb afterward because you do not work there. Why sign away your intellectual property if you don't have to? You're better off self publishing. At least you'd still own the rights for future works whether you make money or not and by the time you've paid taxes on that $1300, you might as well give them the story for free. :/

Joseph Snoe said...

I'm glad i don't see tweets like that.

A publisher in a telephone call once asked me to update an obscure book on Property law. They offered me $1000, but no name credit on the cover and no further royalties. (I doubt the royalties would have reached $1000). They said it wouldn't take much time (they must not have understood how thorough I am). I turned down the offer.

Elissa M said...

I'm with nightsmusic. Self publishing is a better deal.

Since I don't want to do the tremendous amount of work it takes to self-pub successfully and well, I'm going to keep honing my skills and writing until I have something an agent wants to sell. I figure if my work can't attract at least one legit agent, how do I expect readers to be interested?

Nope. No pie-in-the-sky shortcuts for me.

Colin Smith said...

If I might plug the Treasure Chest again, last week literary agent Mandy Hubbard posted a thread on Twitter talking about book deal negotiations. She talked about royalties, territories, and all those other ways your book can generate revenue if you know what you're doing (which most good agents do). With her permission, I compiled the thread into a document and put it in the Chest for you all to enjoy.

Panda in Chief said...

Colin, I saw that thread by Mandy Hubbard. Thank you for putting it in the treasure chest. It was really good information.

I'm so glad I held out for an agent, rather than trying to negotiate myself with publishers. Ever since starting my cartoon series, I have become fiercely protective of my characters. Because they cross over from my weekly online postings into my graphic novel and self-pubbed comics collections, I wanted to make sure I retain the right to my characters. Also they are my imaginary friends, so there is that too. My graphic novel (series potential) is being subbed by my agent, who knows how I feel about my characters. I feel confident that he will find the best home for us all.

Kathy Joyce said...

Colin, I also thought the Hubbard article was very informative. Thx for putting it in the treasure chest.

Regarding linking from Janet's blog to the treasure chest, I think Janet is giving you a gift by *not* doing that. You have her permission to use stuff from this blog (along with other agents' permission for their stuff). To my knowledge, Janet has never said you cannot mention the treasure chest elsewhere. Because, guess what? You made it, you're keeping it up, you're doing the research to add new data, you're getting permission to use other agents' articles.

So, you are compiling a true treasure chest of information and writing examples for authors. Any authors, not just Reiders. It's work toward building your platform.

Mention it on your blog, on twitter. Keep beefing it up, make it the go-to place for writers who want easy access to important questions. Use more resources besides Janet. You've worked hard to develop a great resource. Share it with the world. Reiders are grateful. Others will be too!

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: It has never for one moment crossed my mind to use the Treasure Chest to boost my own platform. And, right or wrong, here's why:

1) This is not my resource. If it boosts anyone's platform, it's Janet's this blog's. And I'm more than okay with that. It's not about me. It's about y'all. For me to take Janet's wisdom, and y'all's suggestions, and use them for my own gain would be, to me, a crime worthy of perma-banishment to Carkoon's deepest death vault (which, by the way, is administered by a kindly old lady called Val. Val Margoolies). That's why, at least in my mind, if it is linked anywhere, it's linked here.

2) There is a context to the Treasure Chest, and it's this blog. The Writing Contest spreadsheet means nothing to someone who has never visited Janet's blog. Anne's wonderful map of Carkoon makes no sense to people who've never visited with us. (Okay, it probably doesn't make sense to a number of regulars... but you get my point?) Janet and I are okay with people linking to the Treasure Chest on their own blogs (yes, we've discussed it), but we both agree that you need to bear in mind that not everything in the Chest is of general interest, even to all writers.

So that's why, while I might be the administrator of the Chest, it's OUR thing. Not mine. :)

Kathy Joyce said...

Fair enough Colin. Then, I'll simply say THANK YOU!

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: You (and everyone else) are most welcome! On re-reading, my comment seems a bit defensive, and for that I apologize. I know you weren't picking a fight, and merely offering a suggestion that might help boost my platform. I really do appreciate that, and while I don't agree with you, it warms my heart that you have my best interests in mind. :)

Theresa said...

Sorry for this being OT, but does anyone have a link to Donna's good news?

Steve Stubbs said...

Craig F said...
Steve: is that offer open to others, or just Kathy at this time?
1/26/18, 12:08 PM

Hi Craig,

Surely, send it on.


One Of Us Has To Go said...

I want to say thank you to everyone here and Janet: thank you!

I am feeling as if I was (or were..?) wandering in a field of mines right now, not knowing that they exist and could go off anytime.

Hell, I didn't know that there is so much to watch out for and how one can be ripped off.
So far I had only been worried about how much a publisher will change my manuscript once I sign.

What is this Treasure Chest, please (I understand the words but haven't read anything of it)? I'll google it but if I won't find it, can Colin tell me? Thanks so much!

Colin Smith said...

OneOfUs: Here's the Treasure Chest:"

It's a collection of articles, links, and other documents mostly culled from this blog and put into a convenient location for reference purposes. It includes the Writing Contest spreadsheet, where you can read all the winning entries from Janet's writing contests, as well as help on what to ask an agent offering representation, query help--the kinds of stuff you see on the blog every day. I'm always open to suggestions for things to add (use my email address to contact me with ideas).

I called it the Treasure Chest since it went along with the Shark/Reef motif. And because it's full of priceless gems for writers. :)

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Thank you very much, Colin. I'll definitely check this out.
Aww, it's so nice to have met you and all the other friendly people here.

I'll think about suggestions. I have not had any agent experience/publisher experience but with someone who calls himself author coach and former literary agent.

I paid him $US 300 for a one-hour phone call (plus sent him some material but I doubt he read it properly) and then he offered me a coaching deal for $US 4000.

I didn't sign because I was sceptical, did NOT have so much money, and, despite him saying he lives in Beverly Hills in California, he may just sit anywhere in a rickety backyard shed...

MA Hudson said...

Bonnie - that is horrifying! Surely it wouldn't hold up in court, but I guess you'd have to bankrupt yourself to prove it. Agh. Thanks for the warning. From what I've learned here, contests don't really seem worth the effort.

MA Hudson said...

Oh and COLIN - thanks for putting that Mandy Hubbard thread in the Treasure Chest. I saw it on twitter and was intending to copy and paste, and copy and paste, and copy and paste, but of course I never did.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

Hi, One Of Us (and you are) - nice to meet you.

One other go-to blog that you might like to bookmark and consult for advice/warnings is “Writer Beware” by Victoria Strauss. Link is: (URL belonged to the late Ann C Crispin, who co-founded the Writer Beware site with Victoria.)

Bonnie Shaljean said...

P.S. There’s also the discussion forum at Absolute Write:

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to send everyone into a frenzy about Donna's (non-writing) great news. She had been pretty open about mentioning the topic here a while back, but maybe she doesn't want to (or more likely, doesn't have the time/energy to) continue updating us on Janet's blog. IDK. Anyway, here is the latest entry on the blog she set up to write about that journey (deliberately not live-linked; just copy/paste it):

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Bonnie Shaljean, thank you for telling me, so very kind :-) !

I knew about Writers Beware (they have a list about agents/agency who try to scam you.. changing their names and running businesses again etc.) but I didn't really know that blog, nor the forum.

Thank you for warning me about the BAD sharks out there in the ocean - I mean those that will REALLY eat you.
Sheesh, it's dangerous water this writing/publishing world.

Timothy Lowe said...

Kdjames, I just thought you meant the recent release of her second by Kensington, accompanied by some pretty impressive acclaim. I have yet to get to it (a colleague thrust a copy of Ready Player One at me, demanding I read it immediately) but it's on my TBR pile.

Timothy Lowe said...

...but gosh, now I see that she has more important reasons to be thankful.

Theresa said...

kdjames, thanks for the link. I also thought it was book news about Donna. But--good news!

Colin Smith said...

Thanks for the Donna update, kd! That is really good news. :)

Craig F said...

Some days I consider becoming a Tweety bird. Not today though.

I am might do something like tell them that their deal sucks. If they would consider talking about it I would send them my pitch, other than that, they can forget it.

Steve: That is a generous and gracious offer. What would you like to see? Just a few pages or a query, 5 pages and a synopsis.

You could e-mail me at cfenner13 at the gmail thing if you wish to keep it off of this blog.

I will make the same offer if any of you wish to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Yes, well . . . it wasn't my news to tell, in either case. And I made a hash of it, besides. Mea culpa. I was just so happy and excited/relieved for both Timothy and Donna, albeit for different reasons, I got a bit carried away with enthusiasm and the need to share good news, especially when it seems so rare these days. Lesson learned. Sit down and be quiet and let people tell their own news, in their own way, when they're ready.

And now I've posted two off-topic comments and haven't even touched on the subject of the post. Geez.

Listen to Janet. Beware of every offer. Do your due diligence and ASK OTHER WRITERS FOR ADVICE if you don't have an agent handy. There is nothing better in this career than having good writer friends who have been there and done that and will happily hold you down and sit on you until you come to your senses if it keeps you from making a big mistake. Good for you for asking, OP.