Monday, September 20, 2010

Mike's got another story accepted, but he doesn't like the non-exclusive requirements

At 19 September, 2010 , Blogger Mike said...
I really appreciate the help in figuring out just what it was I agreed to. Without your prompting, I would not have realized that I still need to re-establish my rights to the story that I sent in. I think what I would like to do next is to look at the contracts of some potential publishers. A of "online" publishers have cropped up. Web sites that simple post stories they have accepted on the web. One of the sites starting to get some notice is Yesteryear. Here is what their "Legal Stuff" says. "Here’s the legal stuff: When your story gets accepted, you are giving Yesteryear first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. This means that we get to be the first to publish your story, and then, after it has been put up on the website, we can stick it in a printed book or on a flyer or something like that, as long as we give you credit. We don’t own your story, however– after it appears on the front page of Yesteryear, you are free to sell it for millions of dollars, cut a deal with a movie producer, expand it into a book, enter it into your own or someone else's anthology or anything else all without needing our approval– as long as you remember to tell any potential buyers that they are buying your story as a non-exclusive piece." While I give them credit for avoiding legalese, this does not seem like a very good deal. Particularly the part about them being able to re-print a submitted work in a book. They claim they don't own your work, but if they can print it in a book any time they write without providing anything more than credit, then they might as well.   September 20, 2010 This part is Welwyn responding.  You're welcome for my previous advice.  Given my own inexperience at the beginning and what it cost me, I feel I have to help writers through the vagaries of publishing, if they ask me.  They should ask me. Nobody knows better than someone who's made mistakes what not to do again.   My advice in this case would be: go with your instincts.  Your instincts tell you it's not a good deal.  Every traditional paper publisher wants to know that you have the exclusive rights to publish your books and sell them  throughout the world because that's what they want to buy from you if they like your work.  You can sell second publication rights to traditional paper publishers, as long as they're not competing with someone else publishing it in the paper world.  And more and more, the trad pubs want exclusive electronic rights too.  Brutal truth is that the tradpubs are no longer warm and fuzzy places.  They're running scared because of the economy and bookstores failing and no one to sell to. They don't take chances on anybody new, least of all if there's a potential legal problem.  My friends tell me they have five or six books on the back burner, waiting for the economy to change.  That's a scary thought.  These are previously published and even award-winning writers.  Trouble, definite trouble, in Bookland...   I'm starting my own next novel now.  I don't expect to finish it for about five years.  Even then, I don't expect it to be published.  I've had dozens of honors and awards in Canada and the USA and even internationally, but I don't think that gives me the right to expectations. So why write?  Because it's fun.  It's way more fun to write than to be published.  I know.  If your story doesn't sell, it isn't the end of the world.  You will have written two or three more by the time you realize your first story might not make it to the public.  So, start working on getting your next ones published traditionally while you keep on writing new stories.  Learn from your unpublished works.  Why were they unpublished? By the time your first story has made the rounds, you will be a year or two older, and you'll read it with new eyes. You might also be lucky enough to get a letter of rejection that has some advice.  You could try to fix the first story, or you could write another new one, always keeping your new understandings in mind.  Me, I would just carry on with new stuff. .   As for an agent, you will find, I fear, that without really good publication credits, it will be hard to get an agent who knows anything.  Way back in the early days, someone famous said it was harder to find a good agent than a good publisher.  So keep on sending in short stories to magazines on your own, even if the magazine says it accepts only from agents.  No agent ever made a living selling short stories, and so they mostly don't do it.  Collections, yes.  But usually collections come later, when you've published a dozen or more really good short stories in magazines with good reputations, or better yet, a novel.  So you build up the short story list of publications in decent litmags (or SF mags if you are writing SF or fantasy) to get a publisher to read your first novel.  Book publishers prefer novels to anthologies.    Good luck! Welwyn  
At 19 September, 2010 , Blogger Mike said...
Part 2 I think the reason writers are willing to go for deals like this is simple. We want to get noticed. Fair compensation is a secondary worry for writers that are just starting. Writing in absolute obscurity forever is the biggest fear. What sort of places should beginning writers be submitting to that can help them begin to build the sort of reputation they need to get a literary agent? Small literary presses.  Find out what small presses publish the kind of story you write. Most publishers are willing to send you a catalog of their recent publications if you pay enough postage on a SASE. Some will let you buy an issue from them, if they get on your own short list of desirable publications.  That also attracts their notice, because too few writers do this, and so the literary mags favorably remember the ones that do. Are you good enough to write outside of your own preferred genre?  It opens up a lot more potential markets. Finally, don't publish any short story except as first rights only.  That means, they can publish it once.  Period. If they ask for more, they're not being fair to you. "Writing in absolute obscurity forever..."  That is not my greatest fear.  It's not being able to write at all.  My happiest years were the five that I spent writing, just writing, every day.  I never thought about the marketing thing that would come afterward.  Now of course I know it's got to come.  But if I could choose between the years where I was winning awards and being feted and actually earning a living at my writing, and those five first years of obscurity, I know what I'd choose.  But new writers never want to hear "Write for the fun of it.  Anything else, like publishing, is just dessert after a great meal."  So I've almost given up saying it.  Still, it is the true reason to write.  You can become famous at almost anything, if you work hard enough at it and have some talent, but if you don't love doing what you do, fame ceases to hold any interest for you.  Truly. Take care. Welwyn-on-books

5 Comments:

At 20 September, 2010 , Blogger M Pax said...

Thanks for bringing up the intricacies of sales / contracts. I once did contracts for writes for a network [television]. Contracts are negotiable. I would make sure there is a time limit on use and exclusivity reverts back to me at a certain date. If not, I guess I would refuse the deal for a short story.

I think they count on us being desperate. Seems the key is to always respect ourselves and our work.

 
At 20 September, 2010 , Blogger Mike said...

Actually, I didn't end up submitting a story to Yesteryear because I didn't like the deal they offer. I read the legal stuff in advance, so I must be learning! :)

 
At 20 September, 2010 , Blogger Welwyn-on-books said...

Hi, Mike, I moved this to here to make my response stand out. I don't know if it will help or not.

September 20, 2010 This part is Welwyn responding. You're welcome for my previous advice. Given my own inexperience at the beginning and what it cost me, I feel I have to help writers through the vagaries of publishing, if they ask me. They should ask me. Nobody knows better than someone who's made mistakes what not to do again. My advice in this case would be: go with your instincts. Your instincts tell you it's not a good deal. Every traditional paper publisher wants to know that you have the exclusive rights to publish your books and sell them throughout the world because that's what they want to buy from you if they like your work. You can sell second publication rights to traditional paper publishers, as long as they're not competing with someone else publishing it in the paper world. And more and more, the trad pubs want exclusive electronic rights too. Brutal truth is that the tradpubs are no longer warm and fuzzy places. They're running scared because of the economy and bookstores failing and no one to sell to. They don't take chances on anybody new, least of all if there's a potential legal problem. My friends tell me they have five or six books on the back burner, waiting for the economy to change. That's a scary thought. These are previously published and even award-winning writers. Trouble, definite trouble, in Bookland... I'm starting my own next novel now. I don't expect to finish it for about five years. Even then, I don't expect it to be published. I've had dozens of honors and awards in Canada and the USA and even internationally, but I don't think that gives me the right to expectations. So why write? Because it's fun. It's way more fun to write than to be published. I know. If your story doesn't sell, it isn't the end of the world. You will have written two or three more by the time you realize your first story might not make it to the public. So, start working on getting your next ones published traditionally while you keep on writing new stories. Learn from your unpublished works. Why were they unpublished? By the time your first story has made the rounds, you will be a year or two older, and you'll read it with new eyes. You might also be lucky enough to get a letter of rejection that has some advice. You could try to fix the first story, or you could write another new one, always keeping your new understandings in mind. Me, I would just carry on with new stuff. . As for an agent, you will find, I fear, that without really good publication credits, it will be hard to get an agent who knows anything. Way back in the early days, someone famous said it was harder to find a good agent than a good publisher. So keep on sending in short stories to magazines on your own, even if the magazine says it accepts only from agents. No agent ever made a living selling short stories, and so they mostly don't do it. Collections, yes. But usually collections come later, when you've published a dozen or more really good short stories in magazines with good reputations, or better yet, a novel. So you build up the short story list of publications in decent litmags (or SF mags if you are writing SF or fantasy) to get a publisher to read your first novel. Book publishers prefer novels to anthologies. Good luck! Welwyn

 
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