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Monday, January 07, 2008

The Writer's Strike

I'm amazed that I don't see more discussion about the Writer's Strike
on my writer's lists. Maybe it's understood that we support the
writers' guild, but I'm not so sure about that. One major issue of this
strike is that currently media producers can offer clips of shows as
"promo" on the internet without paying writers for that content.
Okay, that sort of seems fair. Except that the length of a clip for
"advertising purposes" can be the entire show. Does it seem fair then?

Watch this before you answer

Why are short story and novel writers silent on this? Do they think this issue
doesn't affect us too? It does. We need to wake up and pay attention because
with the world of publishing changing, electronic publishing and media rights will affect us more than they have in the past. And since so few of us have agents to protect our rights, media companies are getting bolder about taking advantage.

Last year, I sold a story to a fairly big publisher for an anthology. The
call was for one time North American print rights only. For the amount
they were paying that was reasonable. However, when I got the contract,
the rights they asked me to sign over included the ability to reprint
my entire story for "advertising purposes." I told the publisher that
up to 50% of the story was enough for "promo." You know, a clip.
They said no, it had to be 100%. Not a big deal, you might say, except
that this publisher owns several websites and magazines. If I would
have signed that contract, they would have had the right to republish
my story as many times as they wanted to, any time they wanted to, in
any of the media outlets they owned without paying me another cent
or without getting my permission. That isn't one time North American
rights. That's my electronic publishing rights too, and it affects my
ability to sell that story to anyone else today and for the rest of my

So I pulled my story.

You'd think other writers would be supportive about someone standing up and saying, "This isn't right." No. Only Kate Dominic agreed that it was a terrible contract and that the call for submissions had been misleading.

Other writers warned me that by taking a stand, I branded myself a problem
writer and no publisher would ever touch my work again. They warned me that I shouldn't ever mention my issues with that contract, as if it was somehow shameful or wrong to question the wording. They argued that other writers signed that contract with no problem. Well, maybe the other writers didn't read their contracts carefully enough, or understand what they were signing away, or maybe they believed that the publisher had their best interests at heart. Right. Just because someone else was fine with signing away his/her rights for a fraction of what they're worth doesn't mean I should be too. So, was refusing to be a doormat career death? Hardly. I've sold about 10 stories and another novel since then.

Creative people should give away their work free for "Promo purposes?" Please. Who writes this stuff?


Blogger Amanda said...

oh. i know about this. when i stuck to my guns last year against ridiculous treatment by an e-publisher, quite a few of my fellow writers told me my conduct was unprofessional and i would never have other writing contracts if i didn't just suck it up. a) life is too short for me to go against my integrity and b) 40% royalties is not enough money for me to sell my soul. in the end, i've had contracts since then with no problem at all. good for you for doing what you thought was right. i agree with you.

3:33 PM


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