I suspect I’m not the only one for whom this list is useful! Thanks to Chris the Story Reading Ape for sharing it!
Category Archives: publishing contracts
There are a few folks I consider treasures for the #writingcommunity. If you’re not familiar with Jane Friedman, take the time to learn about her. (And make sure you subscribe to Chris the Story Reading Ape, a terrific curator of posts we all can use.)
Over the weekend, you might have seen a writing-and-money topic trending on Twitter, #PublishingPaidMe, where authors started publicly sharing their advances. Such transparency is long overdue and—in this particular case—is meant to reveal stark differences between what Black and non-Black authors get paid.
Amidst these tweets, I saw a repeated call to action for Black authors: Before you agree to a deal, ask your publisher about their marketing and promotion plans for your book. Ask how they plan to support you.
Ask, ask, ask. (Because their support falls short of where it needs to be, and publishers have to be pushed.)
To assist with that call to action, I’ve collected and expanded information from my past books and articles to help authors ask questions of their potential or existing publisher. I’ve tried to also include indicators that will help you notice and challenge unhelpful answers. If you have an…
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If you don’t follow @victoriastrauss and Writer Beware, you should. Here’s another example: For all of us who sometimes send our work off to writing contests or writing awards competitions, how to tell if we’re falling for a scam. Strauss identifies the components of “awards profiteering” in which the main purpose of the “award” is to make money for the people offering it. Here’s an example of scary language in the writing contest submission guidelines of one contest—what you must agree to if you enter—analyzed in depth, with responses from the contest sponsor.
Writer Beware, indeed.
Are you considering traditional book publishing? Do you have a contract in hand but haven’t signed yet? Did you work with an editor? Then beware.
Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware has another warning for you—and for those of you considering self-publishing your out-of-print books.
Check out the contract language from these publishers claiming that, once your book manuscript has been edited for publication, you can’t claim that version as yours anymore. Not even if you’ve gotten your rights back. Some of these seem to say you can’t republish.
Thanks for about the thousandth time to Victoria Strauss and Writer Beware for keeping abreast of these publishing-contract traps.
Share if you’ve had a publisher (or an editor) claim that once your manuscript has been edited, it’s no longer your book!
Need to know what to watch out for when you publish your book?
If you’re canvassing book publishers and publishing packages, you should always check out Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware. She’s onto every wrinkle and scam in the publishing business, whether you’re self-publishing or submitting to agents and editors. Here’s a super list of her best tips and warnings about the book-publishing business from her 2018 blog.
I personally found this piece from the New York Times chilling. It’s about publishers claiming the right to back out of your contract if, for any reason, you attract negative publicity. Here’s a particularly salient paragraph:
This past year, regular contributors to Condé Nast magazines started spotting a new paragraph in their yearly contracts. It’s a doozy. If, in the company’s “sole judgment,” the clause states, the writer “becomes the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,” Condé Nast can terminate the agreement. In other words, a writer need not have done anything wrong; she need only become scandalous. In the age of the Twitter mob, that could mean simply writing or saying something that offends some group of strident tweeters.
A source interviewed for the article claims that “the groups subjected to the most public vitriol for their published work” and “most viciously trolled” are “[w]omen and members of minorities.” That stands to reason.
So maybe those of you with publishing contracts should take a second look?
Yet again, on a Facebook page for writers of fiction, someone asked about a clear vanity press scam. Page members quickly jumped in with the appropriate answer for such a query: RUN!
But what amazes me is that I see so many of these kinds of questions. I’m not a particularly patient soul myself, so I had to throttle my immediate response: Don’t you have a computer? Don’t you know how to Google? Shouldn’t basic research be the first step for someone thinking about publishing? Doesn’t it occur to folks that in this day and age, How-To is there for the asking? All you have to do is look.
I consider the answer I composed reasonably tactful (for me):
These days, when we all clearly have access to the Internet, it surprises me that people don’t actively search for information on “how to publish a book.” Of course, a search like that will turn up lots of scams and vanity presses, but it will also turn up many useful sites that offer advice. Everyone who is thinking seriously about publishing should be compiling a personal list of the most helpful FREE sites that lay out the ins and outs of today’s publishing options. A search for “best websites for writers” would yield a ton of these. Yes, you will get some conflicting opinions–some people love Amazon, some hate it–but you’ll begin to get the lay of the land. After a while you begin to get a sense of which bloggers know their business and which don’t. In my earlier comment, I listed Jane Friedman and Victoria Strauss (Writer Beware): invaluable. I also recommend The Book Designer (Joel Friedlander). You can buy books by the carload that will walk you through every step; most are cheap enough as ebooks that you can buy more than one and get a wider set of options. Takes a little time, yes, but not nearly as much time as you have devoted to writing your book, and this basic research will save you many hours by helping you make the best choice for you. Chris the Story Reading Ape also offers regular links to excellent advice. I found these people by Googling, attending conferences, and searching Amazon. Don’t put less energy into this than you would in buying a car!
Okay, I get it that posting questions to Facebook groups is a step in this process. But Facebook friends can’t offer the kind of education we writers need. Learning about style and grammar and showing-not-telling are basic skills, but so are the fundamentals of the business you are thinking of entering. For example, one respondent said she couldn’t afford to self-publish! Facebook friends can’t possibly slap up a full explanation of why this comment is unfounded. They basically have to say, “Go look it up!”
So that’s what I’m saying: Want to be a writer? Go look it up.
Am I completely off base here?