Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Contract question: speaking of indentured servitude, run of copyright contracts

I know there are authors out there who are dead set against traditional publishing, although that's where they got their start. They're anti-big publishing and anti-agent. I don't normally follow their blogs, but I followed a link to one today. A certain such author is making some pretty big claims about terms in traditional publishing house contracts.

The claim that is causing me pause is: the non-negotiable life-of-copyright clauses that have no or limited reversion clauses. They claim that publishers will own an author's work until copyright runs out, and that there is (or soon will be) no way to get that ownership back. They also claim that the author has no choice in the matter if they want to be published by a traditional publisher.

Are you seeing contracts like this? How do you deal with them? As I understand it, this is the sort of pitfall that agents can protect us from.

This is a case of the blowhard using one piece of information without context.

Yes, most publishing contracts run for the life of the copyright. Here's the Writer's Union on that point:

The customary practice in the United States is to allow the primary publisher to retain exclusive publishing rights for the duration of the work's copyright term (which is currently 70 years from the author's death), as long as the work is kept in print. Sometimes the rights continue even after the primary edition is out of print, if a subsidiary edition is still being sold. See Section IX on termination.

(Side note: subsidiary rights contracts do NOT run for the life of the copyright)

This grant of rights is listed very early in the contract. It's not the only part of the contract. There are pages and pages after that grant, and several of them cover how the contract can be terminated and rights reverted.

First and foremost is the out of print clause. The contract specifies how many books have to be sold, and in what time frame for a book to remain in print. If the book fails to meet that threshold, rights can be reverted upon request.

Second is failure to publish at all. If the publisher doesn't publish the book within a certain time frame, rights revert to the author.

Third is failure to pay or account for royalties. Failure to do so is breach of contract and rights revert to the author.

It's entirely possible to be offered a contract with none of these reversion avenues. Any agent worth his/her salt will negotiate ALL of them in to the contract.

If a client of mine had such a contract offer, and the publisher would not agree to include ALL these clauses, I would advise the client to think long and hard about signing.

About the underlying assumption of the blowhard:  I'm still confounded by advocates of self-publishing who feel the need to trash traditional publishing. This isn't an either/or situation with no do-overs.  Many authors now have traditional deals, and self-publish. There are advantages and disadvantages to both avenues. One is not holy, the other is not foul.

In addition, the idea of setting up a straw man to make a point about the "evils" of traditional publishing is just plain stupid. There are LOTS of things that traditional publishing doesn't do well. If you can't think of any, come to my office at Happy Hour. We have several agents here who will be glad to enlighten you about the frustrations they've experienced that very day.

I'm more than willing to listen to people who have well-reasoned and well-informed criticisms of traditional publishing. That other stuff? Not so much.


DLM said...


Anonymous said...

DLM, you win the award today! :)

Anonymous said...

DLM wins. Grr. Was gonna try for first myself!

In regards to the post: I'm pretty sure I saw the article OP is talking about, and I believe the contention was with this clause in regards to ebooks, not paperbacks. The idea being if an ebook is never truly 'out of print', those rights will never revert to you.

That was just my read, though.

(And having said that, the rest of the article seemed to be the usual boring Tradpub bashing that is too prevalent on some blogs).

french sojourn said...

Very interesting and a buffet for thought.

I get the impression that we are in the most fluid of times for publishing contracts. I've heard of self-pub authors that signed very liberal contracts recently. (Wool guy- Howey) and Trad. Published authors that now self pub. (Stephen King)

The common element that they all have is...write a great novel(s) and establish a following, then you have a better chance of your priorities being worked into a contract.

Write, write, write.

Oh, and the secret to winning in life is not to be a blowhard.

Unknown said...

I would love to come to your office during happy hour. I would love to be in the same city as your office and just walk past. One day.

Meanwhile, all this stuff is good to know. Actually, imperative to know. So, printed off and added to binder.

Janet Reid said...

W.R. Gingell--a good publishing contract has a threshold for ebook sales as well. That ebooks never go out of print (so to speak) was something we dealt with in contracts about ten years ago. Now there's standard terminology for measuring how many ebooks have to be sold to be considered "in print."

S.D.King said...

Another enlightening post!

I do wonder about new agents. Often I will see an announcement about an intern becoming a full-fledged agent, and I wonder if one should jump on quickly since they have less of a slush pile or if one should be wary of them not knowing the pitfalls of contract negotiations.

Having said that, as an unagented writer, interest from Carkoon Literary would seem welcomed.

DLM said...

Well, dagnab. This'll be the only time THAT ever happens.

The single thing I got out of yesterday's discussion was Absolute Write's preference for the term trade publishing over "traditional", which actually appeals to me. The people involved are not hidebound reactionaries, but professionals with a depth of resources and understanding I do not have the time nor even the education to amass. If I get trade professional to support my work, I will be very happy, contracts and all. I love the idea of a team, of working with people for whom this is a trade - a career and a calling and a passion.

Honestly, self-pubbing impresses and intimidates the bejeeburs out of me. For those with the incredible strength it must take to do that (and I know some), I bow to their reserves and fortitude.

But why it has to be a white-hat/black-hat game of "MY PUBLISHING IS BETTER THAN YOUR PUBLISHING" bewilders me. "One is not holy, the other is not foul." True of so much in our lives ...

I'm spending a lot of time bewildered in our comments this week ...

Ly Kesse said...

I agree with DLM here.

"But why it has to be a white-hat/black-hat game of "MY PUBLISHING IS BETTER THAN YOUR PUBLISHING" bewilders me. "One is not holy, the other is not foul." True of so much in our lives ...

I'm spending a lot of time bewildered in our comments this week ..."

Seems to me more like two different paths for getting into print with pros and cons for each.

But the detailed knowledge offered here is great!

Anonymous said...

Janet: Well, me being behind the times is nothing new :D It makes sense that this would be something that was ironed out when the ebook first came on the scene. Not sure why someone out there on the interwebs would be proclaiming otherwise if the contrary is so easily verified. Eh. People.

DLM: I agree. I self-publish, but that's only what's right for me. Tradpub is what's right for a heck of a lot of other people. I don't get why there has to be bashing- from EITHER side.

DLM said...

Hastening to disclaim, though everybody knows this: "One is not holy, the other is not foul" is only quoting Janet from above (hee - metaphor that one if you like). My contribution was only the all-caps five-year-old whinge. :)

I guess I'm just bewildered generally by people who (a) feel So Very Sure any given decision they make in life equates to Righteousness, and (b) have to turn that into all other things being sins of the infidel. I'm one hell of a confident so-and-so, but the idea of imposing my convictions on others sounds more like a pernicious responsibility than any manner of affirmation of my superiority. Not only would I be bored out of my mind in a world where everyone thought as I do, but I'd never, ever learn a blessit thing.

How can that be so desirable for so many people ... ???

DLM said...

And a side note that probably doesn't need to be said - y'all can all call me Diane, if you like. But DLM is probably the quickest to type! Go with your preference, but don't feel obligated to my screen name. :)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Me too, I'll print and file this. Interesting to know that e-book sales ceilings were established a decade ago.

Perhaps the bashing stems from frustration by too many agent rejection letters.

DLM said...

Angie, I suspect you're right. That and the sense of entitlement that leads to expectations "that's for everyone else - not me."

Craig F said...

As far as contracts go there really is no such thing as iron clad. There is always a way out. Quite often it costs more to get out of one than to live with it though.

The fun thing about surfing the web is that nothing ever goes away. If you dug hard enough you might find where Al Gore cussed because he figured out that he hadn't really invented the internet. Arguments like this one float around forever and most aren't dated. You never know when such an argument was promulgated. I think nowadays publishing is starting to hit a level spot and the arguments for sainthood of any one faction are quieting down a little.

Scott Sloan said...

Drinks with the QOTKU…
First round's on me.
(I'm kinda clumsy…)

Cindy C said...

To me, the most baffling thing isn't that people jump to conclusions unsupported by the facts. What really gets me is their arrogance in assuming they've figured out something everyone else in the world is too stupid to see. And then all too often they feel obligated to taunt and/or attack all us poor fools who aren't as enlightened as they are.

Unknown said...

Hi Everyone! I have nothing to add to today's topic. I'm on vacation and just got around to reading Sunday's Week In Review. I'm thrilled to have been mentioned! Always makes my day. But I'm also mortified to realize I wrote Piggly Wiggly's using the possessive when I meant to write Piggly Wigglys using the plural. I know you are all kind and forgiving but I feel as if I need to be exiled to Remedial English for Aspiring Writers Summer Camp on the lovely island of Carkoon. Anyone like to join me? Perhaps we could have a lively discussion on effect vs affect which I never can keep straight so I just never use either.

Have a great day!

Adele said...

"As far as contracts go there really is no such thing as iron clad. There is always a way out."

Ummm. There was a certain fashion designer who managed to sign away his own rights to use his own name. A major lawsuit ensued: he lost. The contract was indeed iron-clad. And that is why woodland creatures need agents.

Theresa said...

Jenny C, I was happy to see someone mention that Piggly Wiggly lives on in Wisconsin. When I first moved there, the town I lived in had one but it shut down after a few years. Now, the town I decamp to in summer has one. Shop the pig.

Between yesterday's question and today, I see so much coming through about writers' individual personalities and preferences. Once the issue of contracts arises, that's when it's good to know about the many knowledgeable agents out there who know these details and can get the best for their clients.

Steve Stubbs said...

If the book does not sell or otherwise h as essentially no commercial value, who cares who owns the copyright? We might as well get intense about who owns the copyright on last year’s newspaper.

LynnRodz said...

Janet, what time does Happy Hour start at your office? Scott's getting the first round so I'll have a frozen margarita. (You can't get a decent one here in Paris unless you make it yourself and I need one.*)

Adele, sounds similar to what happened to Inès de La Fressange. She couldn't use her name, not even her first name, or her image. She fought long and hard to have that overturned in court, which it eventually was.

Jenny, Carkoon sounds pretty good at the moment. Breezy and cool, and unlike the heat wave we're having in France.* It's over 38°C (100°F) and will stay this way all week and maybe next week. Ugh!

DeadSpiderEye said...

Publishing isn't really any different to any other form of mass marketing in respect to the concept of risk distribution. Which is essentially the only reason you engage a publisher and sign your rights away. You could market your book or any other goods you've developed, you'd have to hock your house or similar and wouldn't spend the cash as efficiently but -- you would reap all the benefits. you'd also take on the whole risk.

If you don't have a handle on risk distribution, you're gonna be handicapped when negotiating any partnership because it's all too easy overlook an inequitable distribution of risk. To illustrate, what would happen if those, out of print and minimum sales requisites where not present in an agreement? I'll tell you what could happen, a publisher could sign thousands of authors, with no risk, no need to promote or even print them, just lie back and wait for one of 'em to make a name for themselves, then come out with: I M Gormless's First Novel in a blaze of publicity. If everyone did that, the market would fall apart, so it's in the collective interest to ensure it doesn't happen, but that doesn't mean you can't get caught.

Donnaeve said...

In reading OP's setup to the question of the day... I have two words to describe what I thought when I read about this anti-big publishing, anti-agent author they reference, sour grapes.

I don't believe the half of what I read "out there" about publishing unless I do some background digging for myself. The only time I DO believe what I read without questioning the source - is right HERE.

The whole sanctimonious attitude between opinions on self-publishing and traditional publishing is starting to make me cranky. Like Diane said, it doesn't have to be black/white.

Whatever floats your boat - pursue it and be happy.

Adele said...

LynnRodz: Oddly enough, I wasn't thinking of Inès de La Fressange. It was yet another fashion designer - Joseph Abboud. The story is in his autobiography. Just last month I saw that he is advertising again, the first time I've seen him advertise since it happened. Maybe the company that owned his name is no more, or maybe he managed to buy himself back; I don't know. Fascinating story, though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Janet.

I'm the OP this time. The article was a post on Dean Wesley Smith's blog.

I don't like Dean Wesley Smith. But I do follow the Passive Voice blog, which is written by David Vandagriff, a lawyer with experience in publishing contracts. I take his blog postings much more seriously than Smith's (although with a grain of salt, because he, too, is often anti-traditional publishing). He linked to that post by Smith.

Smith claimed that things had recently changed and that reversion clauses in publishing contracts were practically useless. But everything I'd heard was different. I thought that - since Smith said this was a new thing - maybe what I'd heard was no longer true.

So I went to the most trustworthy source I know - Ms Shark.

Thanks, Janet. It's a big relief to be reassured that this hasn't changed everything, and that nothing has really changed, for that matter. I know that you have your clients' best interests at heart, and I'm happy to see that agents are still able to protect their clients against 'big bad traditional publishers'.

I, too, don't understand the us vs them of self-publishing vs 'traditional' publishing. I know authors who do both (the cute new term for this is 'hybrid authors') - they're published traditionally, but have also self-published other genres or categories, or shorter works than a traditional house will normally publish in book form. I'm all for that. I have thoughts of ways I could do that - though I'd like to have some industry advice (aka an agent) before I do it.

SD: Regarding interns-becoming-agents: If they've interned at a very good agency, and are still working for a very good agency (the same or another), then you can be sure that they'll have the backing of the agency they work with.

Diane: Regarding the term 'traditional publishing': It was originally used by vanity presses to convey that their way was new and different and definitely the way to go. Yup, vanity presses. The boil on the bottom of publishing's butt. But when self-publishing became a common thing to do, it took on a new meaning (being, 'not self-publishing, but having someone else publish you').

Adele: You're right. There are many instances where something like that has happened. There are authors out there who are not allowed to reprint novels they wrote ten years earlier, because their contract with a former publisher was written that way. There are singers who are no longer allowed to sing songs from the beginning of their career because the rights to those songs belong to a previous label.

As you say, that is precisely why writers need agents. I think it's also a good idea for writers to learn about some of the contract areas that will be negotiated for them, so they know their own rights and responsibilities.

Steve: 'No commercial value' is relative. It's relative to time (something about vampires that didn't sell ten years before Twilight might have sold very well just after Twilight was published and everyone was jumping on the vampire bandwagon); it's relative to geographic area (maybe a novel based in England didn't do well in the US, but it might do better in the UK); and it's relative to audience, niche, and pretty much anything else. It's also relative to the time and effort put into it - that is, it's probably more valuable to the author than to the publisher, simply because it represents years of hard work by that author. So who cares? Most likely that author cares.

Christina Seine said...

Honestly, as there are only so many hours in one day, and I want to spend as many of those writing as possible, I intend (hope) simply to find an agent that I trust and leave the details to them. When I go to a restaurant I don't specify what spices I want in my food; if I don't trust the chef I don't go there. When I get on an airplane I trust the pilot to get me there safely without me questioning the altitude or flight path.

I see the business end of publishing the same way. Sure I suppose I could become a pilot or master chef in my "spare time," and I suppose I could spend a couple of years learning to navigate the Dangerous Land of Publishing. But why would I, when others do it brilliantly? I want to spend every possible minute writing. THAT's what I want to spend my time learning about.

I'm not at all saying that posts like this are irrelevant; they are both interesting and informative. It's just that, like DLM and others have said, I'm scratching my head a bit over this week's topics.

french sojourn said...

Christina; It's probably wise to have a heads up though. Were you to have peanut allergies, then you would want to know what the Chef was including in the recipe. Sure, the secret in a profession is to hire the best consultants, but one has to know enough to hint at any red flags that crop up.

Unknown said...

I agree with french sojourn.

(Longtime lurker, very-occasional commenter, BTW.)

The difference is that the master chef's cooking and the pilot's flying are not directly related to the writer's job/income/livelihood. A writer's contracts are very much directly related to the writer's job/income/livelihood. I think it's wise to read through the contracts and ask one's agent questions about clauses.

Unknown said...

I haven't read Smith's blog post, nor I am published. But I have seen this come up before with a specific group of authors: those who signed traditional book contracts 11 years ago, 13 years ago -- contracts that are old enough that what constitutes "out of print" for ebooks was NOT ironed out when they signed it, thier agent at the time didn't think anything of it because ebooks were so new, and now the author (who would love to self-publish their backlist) is still bound by those outdated terms 15 years later.

If this is true (and I don't really know--it's entirely possible I'm missing a few pieces of the puzzle), I do feel for these authors caught with bad timing.

Also, to Steve -- one of the advantages of self-publishing is that, if you are the author and are in control of your rights, can you try a lot of different things with your book before declaring it a "failure" -- whereas I imagine even the best, most committed traditonal publishers can't put an unlimited amount of effort into every book they sign. (Which does NOT make them mean or evil--just business people.)

Maybe that means changing your marketing, your cover, rewriting it completely, pulling it for a few years or simply letting it gather a trickle of readers as a backlist ebook while you work on new material--but there are options you can explore, as long as you have the rights.

Christina Seine said...

Well of course a writer has to know - and understand - what's in their contract. I didn't mean to imply they shouldn't. I'm not sure how the allergy metaphor would correlate to writing though ... an aversion to a certain publishing house maybe? =) I don't know. I'm sure there are certain specific instances when a writer would need to involve themself in the nitty gritty of publishing law, but my point is that you can only do so many things in a day. Based on others who have gone before us, agents and publishers have honed and refined contracts into basic boilerplates that work for *almost* everybody (or at least that's what I've gathered from reading this and other blogs; maybe I'm wrong). If/when one signs a contract, one either has to trust their agent to work in their best interest, or if self-publishing at least have a certain amount of trust in their publisher that they will act honorably. What astounds me are the posts that seem to imply that if you're not careful, if you don't watch your back, your agent/publisher will just screw you over.

So, to be clear, I'm not saying these topics shouldn't be discussed or that writers should blithely enter into the publishing world with rose-colored glasses. It's the get-them-before-they-get-you mindset, which I seem to be seeing more and more, and kind of confounds me. Maybe it's just the day and age we live in. As for me, I am going to put all my energy into writing the best book I can, and then into finding an agent who loves it as much as I do, and then someday hopefully if I do get my book published to promoting the ever-living daylights out of it. Sorry if my earlier post wasn't clear on that. I probably shouldn't comment before caffeinating.

Anonymous said...

As I understand contracts and negotiating, a publisher will have a boilerplate contract, which the agent (or agentless author) would need to negotiate for that author. Once a contract has been negotiated, further contracts between that author and publisher (for further books not included in that original contract) can be based off the previously negotiated contract. So, basically:

Publisher's contract says A, B, and C.

Negotiated contract says A, strike B, change C to D.

Next contract between that author and that publisher starts with A and D, so there's no negotiations needed regarding B and C again. However, if the author and/or agent wishes to negotiate E, that can be done at this point. If E isn't being considered, then that contract is pretty quickly agreed on (since it's already been negotiated once before.)

At least, that's how I understand it...

french sojourn said...

My metaphor was more along the lines of a poison pill in the contract : Peanut to fatal allergies. And your point is well taken Christina, and I whole heartedly agree, living your life in a constant flanking maneuver to evade perceived persecution, is a life half lived. The get them before they get you is probably the side effect of our litigious society.
Your solution is the best by the way, and probably echoed by the rest of this family as it were.

Great Writing is the best revenge.

Cheers Hank.

Anonymous said...

I get to read all the posts for and against traditional publishing. Now, apparently, you're not supposed to call it traditional publishing, it's trade publishing because the phrase "traditional" offends some people. Well, I'm about fed up to the gills with people looking for reasons to be offended so traditional publishing remains in my vocabulary.

It's odd how many of the ones who rail against traditional publishing, our friend Newauth yesterday being a prime example. I don't want editors telling me what to do, I want to set my own prices, I want to market it the way I want to, I want complete control. Don't tell me my 800,000 word romance is too long! I'll show you! I'll self publish!

Three books later and sales aren't that great. "I think I'm going to enter this contest and see if I can get an agent for my series."

When the great god Pukuawana requires a virgin to stop the volcano, three sort of virgins won't work

Lucy Lotsamour has to write a new vampire bodice sipper.

I used to enter the twitter pitch contests, and still do occasionally. I invariably get lots of requests from small and indie publishers. One editor was pretty insistent and kept reminding me he was interested even after I had politely declined a few times.

Finally, I said, "Thank you, but I'd rather go through an agent and publish traditionally."

"Oh, you're one of those people who insists on holding a book in your hands regardless of what is best for your career."

"No, I'm one of those people who insists on having an agent so I don't have to deal with people like you."

I'm happy for people who do well with self publishing, but stop bashing those who don't want to. Stop bashing the evil empire. Frankly when self-pubbed people go on their rants about agents and publishing, it just turns me off and just makes me not want to buy their books, just as it irritates me when someone goes on about all people from Texas are _____ fill in the disparaging remark. This publishing world you're bashing is a world I very much want to be a part of. It's rude. Stop it.

Bonnie Shaljean said...

> Stop bashing the evil empire. Frankly when self-pubbed people go on their rants about agents and publishing, it just turns me off and just makes me not want to buy their books.

Beautifully put, Julie. Hmmmm… the Evil Empire… I like it. Think it'll catch on in Carkoon? Do they have evil empires there?

Janet, you're soooo right not to listen to That Other Stuff. Especially when it's nasty. Sticks & Stones :-p

Colin Smith said...

"No, I'm one of those people who insists on having an agent so I don't have to deal with people like you."

And everything else Julie said. Keep this up, my friend, and you'll be handing out signed comments for your adoring fans. (Me first!!)

I've not commented much today partly because work is keeping me busy (a good thing considering it's work, and keeping one busy is kind of the definition of "work"), and I really don't have much to add to what's been said.

I will say this: Carkoon really is that bad. You think being stuck with a bad agent is bad, or getting your legs tangled in the worst contract loophole is bad... Carkoon is worse. You don't want to come to Carkoon. It's an exile planet. Trust me. Behave yourselves! :)

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and to say: HELLO JULIE H!!! Welcome back!!!!!! *big hugs* :)

Amy Schaefer said...

Thanks for clarifying the e-book/out-of-print issue. I'd never thought about that before. It is always nice to hear that smart people have already solved a problem I never knew existed.

As for the I'm Right You're Wrong publishing wars, I would venture that some people only feel safe in their position when they are safely ensconced in a large group of other people who believe the very same thing. And that means trying to expand the group. The "to each his own" attitude so refreshingly present in these comments indicates a level of self-confidence and maturity that, sadly, many adults seem not to have attained. I wish them well on the hard road to growing up.

Also, Happy Canada Day! I know I am few hours early from your perspective, but it is July 1st here already. The kids and I plan to make some cupcakes with red frosting, then I'll turn them out of the house to have a water fight with their friends. Good old school holidays.

Unknown said...

Hey, thanks Amy! A lovely Canada Day to you too : )

John Frain said...

I have a special place in my heart (suddenly) for a person who takes things out of context.

This was a 610-word post, yet all I got out of it was 7 words:

"come to my office at Happy Hour."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Amy! I plan on staying ensconced in my house all day today (like I did yesterday and most of today), thanks to smoke coming in from the forest fires in the north.

But I bought extra chocolate for tomorrow.

(I tell myself it's for a celebration, as opposed to my normal chocolate habit, and I feel better about it.)

It sounds like you're having a better Canada day than some of us in Canada! :)

And the next time I'm in NYC, I'm going to see if I can take Ms Shark up on her invitation to Happy Hour. I'll even buy her a drink or three.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I think there is a very large missing-peice of the puzzle in this argument. No one is self-publishing. They are publishing digitally via a big ass business called Amazon or Blogger or whatever. Recently I read that Amazon decided to pay author royalties by the number of pages read. Here is an entreprise that states they can change whatever they choose anytime. Take it or leave it. There is no room for negotiation.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

To be clear, I'm talking about the pros and cons of digital publishing versus trade publishing. Not only BJ's question in particular about reversion clauses.

Anonymous said...

Angie, while I'm not a huge fan of Amazon, those royalties are for ebooks that are part of their Kindle Unlimited and their Lending Library programs. Authors whose books are part of these programs get percentages of royalties directly from Amazon (out of some arbitrary fund they set up) in exchange, because their books aren't actually being separately bought. And yes, Amazon has arbitrarily decided to change the royalties structure based on how much of a book is read. (The fact that they KNOW how much of a book is read is scary enough.)

I don't agree with that, either. It's a terrible precedence and a slippery slope. But it seems some of their authors are happy about it (I still say that those are authors who assume everyone is reading their books all the way through.)

But there are many ways to self-publish, and they don't all include using Amazon or other big business formats. Self-publishing can include print books as well as e-books. Anyone considering self-publishing needs to do a lot of careful research into what they can and can't do, and how to go about doing what they want.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

42 comments in and I'm sure I have nothing to add.
Well maybe I do.
When I signed with a publisher, eons ago, (Mary mother of Jesus was lactating), the book was never published, (long sad story I won't go into now because some of you have already heard it and if I pour my heart out again about how stupid I was, I not only would be embarrassed but I'd cry myself to sleep tonight), so, after nine months, the publishing rights reverted back to me.
That's it, that's all I got.
Congrats DLM for being first. Five more in a row and you'll take the record.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

"Seventy years from the author's death" .. . That cracked me up. I could have heatstroke.

@ S.D. King - From my inexperienced perspective,I tend to agree with going with a newbie agent - less of a slush pile, but maybe they don't have the knowledge an established agent would have. In my naivete, I'd assume the established agent would be kind and help out the newbie agent every step of the way. Koombay-yah (sp- I don't know, but looks good enough!)

Happy Hour - Yes, please. Just enough energy left for that! Turtle power! Hmm, I feel like a strawberry margarita, two tequila shots on the side, please. Gracias.

Ooh, I should mention that I'm coming to your lovely country for July 4 Independence Day! Gonna be a blast!

Anonymous said...


Many people are self publishing. There are a LOT of indie publishers besides Amazon. Some do a decent job. I have a friend who works very hard to put out a quality product for her clients. Others are snake oil salesmen vanity presses preying on the dreams of people who are willing to spend thousands to see their name on a book.

I'm not saying I would never self publish, but I would certainly be researching these companies very closely and it wouldn't be with Amazon.

I just get this "Can you skin griz?" feeling about publishing with them and I'm not sure I'm hoss enough.

DLM said...

Julie, "traditional" doesn't offend me, I just thought the word choice of trade seems a more precise description. If I took time to get offended by this sort of thing, I'd be the *fodder* for the questions we're getting lately, rather than reading here with a critical eye and trying to learn (rather than just assuming I am always right about all things).

Anonymous said...


If you read the AW thread, people are admonished not to use traditional publishing because the mods don't like it. People are told to use trade publishing. That's what I was referring to.


Anonymous said...

This is off topic (nothing to add on that front) and more in response to some of the comments:

I have no complaints about my experience self-publishing with Amazon. It's pretty much exactly what they say it will be in their fine print. But they aren't a publisher. They're a distributor. Big difference. Now, they DO have several imprints (47 North is the only one I can think of, off the top of my head) and if you sign a publishing contract with one of those imprints, then Amazon IS your publisher. I've heard good things from writers who've gone that route and who seem especially pleased with Amazon's marketing efforts. So, yes, self-publishing is the correct term for what the majority of writers do over there.

From what I've read (skimmed, really), the recent change to how writers are paid under the lending program was in response to writers who published "ebooks" that were only 10 pages long, or who had a book with maybe 25 chapters and they published each chapter separately. The old formula (I think) said that if someone read 10 percent of an ebook they borrowed, the author got paid $XX. Hence, writers were being paid the same amount if a borrower read 1/10 pages or 30/300 pages. Since this money came out of a set pool contributed by Amazon, many writers were a wee bit irritated that some people were gaming the system by publishing such ridiculously short "books." So now Amazon is counting pages instead. This only applies to books that are borrowed under a program in which participation is completely voluntary for writers. It has nothing to do with books that are purchased.

Hope that clarifies things for some who were (perhaps) unclear. While I do very much appreciate having another option, I don't have any particularly warm and fuzzy feelings for Amazon, nor do I expect to have any for traditional publishers I might deal with. It's a business. They're all in it to make money. You need to expect them ALL to be a bit ruthless in pursuing that goal, and be cautious when their goals sometimes, inevitably, don't align with yours.

Ashes said...

I am so glad this question was answered. The blog post being referenced popped up in my critique group today and here I had the rebuttal link all ready to go.

Reading both posts only solidified my desire to pursue traditional publishing. I decided to pursue a career in publishing because I enjoy writing. Navigating complicated legal labyrinths falls solidly into the category of "thing I do not enjoy".

DLM said...

Julie, thank you. I can't really bear AW for long; it's such a contentious forum. For what it has to offer, it's not worth the agita: so I'm judging just on my own feelings. I'm not married to it, but I can see the utility of the choice, so I'll probably use it. At least, when I remember!

Anonymous said...

Diane- I'm with you on AW. I use it occasionally, but I don't like to stay there too long. Lots of nastiness and useless crabbiness. It can occasionally be very very funny, though :D

Colin Smith said...

Speaking of traditional publishing, a position just opened up for an engraver at one of the presses here on Carkoon. Apparently, their previous engraver misspelled the author's name on his last book. Most Carkoonian authors wouldn't be too upset (heck, most of them can't spell their own names), but this one breathes fire and has just come off of a rather messy divorce.

Anyway, if you're good with a chisel and have a thick skin, let me know and I'll see if we can get a visa for you. Or you can just annoy Janet enough to be exiled... :)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

KD, thank you for explaining this. I'm not surprised Amazon tracks pages read. What bothers me is the decision to arbitrarily change the terms and conditions.

Does this apply to works loaded onto their system after the change takes place, July 1st? Or does it apply to all works in the program, even the ones which were uploaded prior.

This is may be the last comment because it's morning here and most of you just went to bed.

Can someone define what is considered self-publishing? The vanity press, ok , Amazon, ok. Why are indies part of it?


I'm the fool who asks the stupid question others may want answered but are afraid to ask.

I agree with you Diane about AW. I signed up and tried to post enough to be able to start a thread. It's a bit toxic.

K said...

Perhaps this has already been addressed, but I think it bears noting that there is a difference between owning the work and owning the right to publish said work.

The question says: "They claim that publishers will own an author's work until the copyright runs out."

But as the Great Sharkess points out in the text from the Writer's Union: "
The customary practice in the United States is to allow the primary publisher to retain exclusive publishing rights for the duration of the work's copyright term."

The author continues to own the actual right to their work. They may not be allowed to license it to someone else, but they still own it. I realize that from a practical standpoint, this may seem like the same thing since the author's hands are in a sense tied. But it is an important distinction.

Liz Penney said...

I turned down a contract because there was no number (copies or sales) for the out of print e-book version. Something to watch out for. If they sell one per year or just have it available, you can't get it back. But many authors are now making good money from their backlist. Something to be aware of.

Anonymous said...


The term 'Indies' can mean two things. In the past, 'independent publisher' or 'indie publisher' has meant a small publisher, or a publisher not part of a larger publisher. However, self-publishers have started calling themselves 'independent publishers' or 'indie publishers', too. 'Tis a bit confuddling.

Self-publishing is when a person creates their own book - either e-book or print - outside of an actual publisher. They can go through electronic publishing platforms like Amazon or others, or they can go through other large or small businesses who provide these services. They can pay to have their books printed at a printer. They can create only e-books, if they prefer, and use Amazon's e-book self-publishing service or Lulu or any other such service. Some services (I think Lulu does) offer e-book formatting, but also print-on-demand (that is, getting books printed when someone wants them).

That's why I say self-publishers need to really research all these services, so they know what they're doing, what they can do, what they have to do, what things cost, and make all that work with what they *want* to do.

Thanks, K. A very good distinction to be made.

Liz: A smart move. In the past (more than ten years ago), contracts didn't include electronic books. I understand there are authors who signed those rights away without knowing they would someday exist. I also understand some publishers decided they owned those rights, even though they weren't mentioned in the contract. Lots of legal ambiguity going on there. It's good to remember that e-books have a different 'shelf life' than print books.