On A Very Serious Note For Writers…

don’t worry, I will get back to the day-by-day on the convention.

So, the new anthology contract… it had some confusing language and some warning flags.
I tried to work out the meaning by talking to fellow authors, by using the intarwebs, by no small amount of skull sweat…
and in the end, I called a lawyer. (Actually I called Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts in Houston and an attorney called me back this afternoon.) Answering some questions they were willing to do for free, if it got too much more involved, I’d need to join ($50 a year).
Not a problem, worth it at twice the price.
Lawyer and I conferred, I elucidated my confusion, she agreed the contract as written was contradictory, and I sent a Very Polite letter to the publisher outlining the conflicting sections, and asking that the “work for hire” phrasing be removed, since that (let’s get real dramatic here) ASSIGNS AWAY MY COPYRIGHT FOREVER AND EVER.
That wasn’t what the publisher intended, the contract’s being reworked, and I even sent him a link to SFWA’s sample contracts, one of which is for anthologies.

Yeah folks, it’s a pain in the ass, and reading legalese is purposefully as difficult as possible, and a lot of us wouldn’t have bothered (and without my wife and a friend catching the ‘work for hire’ phrase, as well as my own vague memories of the havoc that wrought in the comic industry, I might not have caught it). A friend of mine said they would have signed it without batting an eye at that phrase.
This is our business, people. This is our work, our sweat, our product – we need to at least be conversant with the in’s and out’s of contracts. I want to be published, can’t think of many writers who don’t… and when we’re getting published, we damn well better have at least a passable grasp on the terms of that deal.
This is our business. We don’t just produce pretty stories, we have to be responsible for the management of our intellectual property. Maybe someday if we get an agent, and they’re actually competent and worth the percentage we’re going to be paying them, then we can sortakindamaybe slough off on this, but in the interim, like it or not (and I really don’t), this is our business, protecting ourselves and our rights.
Santa Claus ain’t gonna do it, and the Easter Bunny doesn’t make with the guiltless oral sex – this is part of our job.

I’ve also suggested to the Director of ConDFW that a panel on contracts, with a real live lawyer working in the field of artist law, might be a hell of an idea. I hope they implement such a panel, I’d love to attend it.

Listening to: Labor of Love – Michael Giacchino – Star Trek – Score
Mood: happy… but wondering how many people have signed similar contracts and not known what they were doing…

2 thoughts on “On A Very Serious Note For Writers…

  1. You and me both. I know I am much laxer than I should be, but I usually am working with publishers I know personally. When you are stretching beyond that circle, it becomes even more important to be careful.

  2. Would love to attend a panel like the one suggested. Too many creative types (writers, photographers, programmers even) tend to overlook the impact of signing away their work until it is too late.

    Good for you on catching it and calling it out.

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