Tag Archives: Contracts

Terrific posts by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and David Byrne

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a terrific post this week on the business changes happening at light speed right now, “Writing Like It’s 1999.” Publishing contracts are changing FAST and it’s important to be aware of what is going on if you want to make a living in this industry.

Also, I found out from a comment by LP King on her post, that David Byrne did a great article back in 2007 on changes in the music industry entitled “Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists–and Megastars”. Considering that the music industry technology shift happened about eight years before it started in publishing, this is a terrific article to help get a feel for what might happen or be possible for writers. I made a cup of tea during a work break and read it in one sitting. Great stuff to ponder.

It’s Not Indie VS. Traditional, It’s Indie AND Traditional

As fiction writers, we live in an exciting era right now due to the new distribution opportunities available through Kindle, PubIt, and Smashwords. But to hear some writers talk, it’s Indie vs. Traditional, and one has to choose sides.

Well, a lot of neo-pros and old (20+ years) pros I’ve been talking to are excited about being able to do both indie publishing and traditional publishing at the same time.  Having more revenue streams as a writer makes it easier to pay the bills each month. And as long as one is careful about reading and negotiating away any excessively broad non-compete clauses in a traditional publishing book contract, doing so should not be a big deal.

Short stories still need to go to traditional markets first if you want to sell them to a place like The New Yorker.  But if you write a novelette or novella that can’t find a traditional home, it is now possible to indie publish it instead of just letting it sit around unpublished. And once the exclusive time frame on a traditionally published story expires (and if you didn’t sign an all rights contract), you can republish it as an indie reprint to generate more income.

But one thing I want to emphasize is the importance of thinking twice before giving away a royalty cut to an e-packager for an indie story.  Dean Wesley Smith and J. A. Konrath and Barry Eisler debate the pros and cons at length in a post put up today.

We’re all in for a wild run over the next few years in publishing. Since I used to work in the software industry–which makes publishing look glacial by comparison–I confess I’ve welcomed the publishing technology breakthroughs that are bringing on a faster business pace.

The Borders Bankruptcy Number Crunching

C. E. Petit is crunching the numbers over at his website right now about the Borders bankruptcy and how it may impact publishers as creditors in the Chapter 11 proceedings.  Go read his posts from yesterday (Feb. 20) and today, great stuff.

This is a wise time to learn about the financial health of any publisher you have contracts for novels with that are still in print, or if you are planning to sign a contract in the near future with a publisher.

If the publisher is part of a publicly traded conglomerate on the stock exchange (and you know the name or ticker symbol) you can easily look at the SEC filings at 
http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm
The quarterly (10-Q) and annual filing with the SEC is where the good stuff can be found, like how much cash they have on hand (Cash and Cash Reserves), cash flow, and their debts. You’ll want to take your time and read back as far as the database will allow you to get a good feel for what is going on in a particular company.

As for private publishing companies, if your library has access to Hoover’s (http://www.hoovers.com/), you might be able to get some info on their finances from there.

Also, another resource to turn to for help in doing financial research on a publishing company is your nearest Reference Librarian. Librarians are a wonderful resource for this sort of research.

Scrivener’s Error: Blog on Publishing Law

I’ve discovered an amusing website for keeping up with publishing law news.  Lawyer C. E. Petit has a site called Scrivener’s Error where he blogs about many things related to publishing gossip, especially anything involving publishing law.  Well worth reading.

Also, be sure not to miss Petit’s rants about the terrible contract terms being offered to want-to-be-published newbie writers by James Frey’s book packager Full Fathom Five, especially his post on this from November 13th called “The Million-and-First Little Lie.”

The insanity of the “I just wanna write fiction AND get published” mindset

I have no problem with someone saying, “I just wanna write.”   Creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful thing to do.

What drives me nuts is when someone says “I just wanna write fiction AND get published.”  That’s just crazy.  Because publishing is a business, and if someone wants to play the publishing business game, they’d better learn the rules of the business.  Otherwise, just slap a “I’LL BE IN TROUBLE” label on their back and be done with it.  Because one of the following WILL happen (let’s alternate between genders):

1) The writer will fall prey financially to a scam agent, a scam editor, scam contests, or scam publisher because she couldn’t be bothered to learn the business.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars will disappear into the black hole of scams.

2) The writer will be gouged in pricing by a subsidy or vanity press because he couldn’t be bothered to research actual publishing costs and methods.  Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars will be lost.

3) The writer will run into legal problems because she couldn’t be bothered to learn about publishing contracts so she could understand what she was signing.   If she’s really unlucky, she could find herself stuck in court for years.

3) The writer will be taken by surprise when his publisher goes out of business, sticking his books with that publisher in bankruptcy limbo.  He couldn’t be bothered to keep track of the financial health of his publisher.

4) The writer will be in financial trouble when she discovers her agent or publisher has been cooking the books.  She couldn’t be bothered to learn how to read a royalty statement, add important clauses to her publishing contracts to protect her interests, or how to track her own money.

5) The writer will run into serious career trouble when his agent dies, gets sick, dumps him, or leaves agenting as a career.  He couldn’t be bothered to learn the business of how to sell manuscripts to editors.

6) The writer will be surprised when her publisher drops her, because she couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the print run numbers.

7) The writer will run into cash flow problems, because he couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to the out-of-print, e-book royalty rates, subsidiary rights, and reversion rights clauses in his contracts.

One thing I’ve noticed again and again at conferences is that the fiction writers I’ve met who’ve survived in the publishing business for 15+ years pay attention to the business side of publishing.  A writer can get away with ignoring the business side (if she or he is lucky) for maybe 7-12 years.  But statistically speaking, sooner or later a rough patch will happen, and the writers who survive to publish again are those who pay attention to the business side.