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Thread: Writers' Rights

  1. #1
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    Writers' Rights

    It occurred to me that it might be useful to promote a list of writers' rights so that writers will know what to look for when considering a publisher, agent, editing service, or promoter among other possible publishing businesses. So, what would you suggest be in the list? Feel free to suggest the obvious such as guidelines, sample contracts, and such or what some of those should contain.

  2. #2
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Blueridge's Avatar
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    Wow--thanks, Dave. That's a great idea. Personally, I have been putting so much energy into seeking agent representation, I've barely thought about what the professional response ought to be if <gasp> it should actually happen.

    I don't have any specific requests, other than what you said. I look forward to reading what others suggest.

  3. #3
    There's a book that someone here once suggested called something along the lines of How to Be Your Own Literary Agent. Excellent reading for what to expect in a contract. He goes over the basic negotiating points found in contracts which I think would be an excellent starting off point in Writer's Rights along with some other very basic stuff that protects against some of the scam artists (A writer has a right to keep the copyright of his work...etc)

  4. #4
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    I don't believe that writers (or anyone else for that matter) have rights in any intrinsic sense, independent of the law and any contractual arrangements. The law provides for certain rights, such as copyright (and also for recourse); and once a contract has been signed, writers have rights as defined by the contract. But that's different from the idea of rights that inhere in the writer him or herself--that arise in some abstract sense from the condition of being a writer.

    We can formulate what we feel are good contract terms; we can recommend what writers should look for in a contract. But while these things are good and proper, and in an ideal world would be manifested by every publisher, agent, etc., they aren't an entitlement, IMO.

    Plus, there's so much variation in this business that just about anything you could come up with would probably be contradicted by something else. Take copyright for instance. If you posit that keeping copyright is a writer's right, where does that leave work-for-hire, a very lucrative and legitimate field in which large numbers of writers are employed?

    - Victoria

  5. #5
    That door could be a time portal... Deb Kinnard's Avatar
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    For me, definitions would be helpful. What, for example, do they mean by non-exclusive worldwide rights? non-electronic rights? A list of terms related to copyright would be good, also terms such as pre-empt, auction, etc.

  6. #6
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deb Kinnard View Post
    For me, definitions would be helpful. What, for example, do they mean by non-exclusive worldwide rights? non-electronic rights? A list of terms related to copyright would be good, also terms such as pre-empt, auction, etc.
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  7. #7
    ... Sakamonda's Avatar
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    A caveat on work-for-hire---

    It may indeed be lucrative and employ thousands of writers, but it has a dark side. I am personally acquainted with authors who had successful careers writing original, copyrighted work at a certain point in their careers. Then, when sales of a certain genre tanked (e.g., horror in the late 80s, sword-and-sorcery in the early 90s, et cetera), those authors' agents encouraged them to do work-for-hire in order to make ends meet until their markets bounced back.

    All of those authors are now stigmatized in the industry for writing work-for-hire, and now can't get book deals of any sort to save their lives. Work-for-hire can end up a career-killer, esp. if your main intention is to write fiction.

    Just FYI.
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  8. #8
    haz a shiny new book cover Christine N.'s Avatar
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    Which is why the Gods created pen names. I can't see why an agent, if he had a terrific book on his desk, would turn it down just because the author may have done work for hire. So you give yourself a pen name and get the books published. Agents don't turn down work they see as profitable.
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  9. #9
    ... Sakamonda's Avatar
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    Well, these authors have tried pseudonyms, have tried getting new agents (after their old agents dropped them), have tried getting deals on their own---all in vain. The work-for-hire stigma definitely does exist.
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    [Jamaica Layne] has built a multifaceted writing career, in genres ranging from theater to erotic fiction"---Chicago Tribune

    "Layne sucks you in and doesn't let go until the last page."--Love Romance Passion.com

    "Once you read Jamaica Layne, she will be on your auto-buy list."----Dirty Girl Reviews, on MARKET FOR LOVE

    4 Stars!----Romantic Times Magazine

  10. #10
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    At least in the SF/fantasy field, there are many writers who mix tie-in writing with careers writing original fiction, and don't seem to suffer from any sort of tie-in stigma.

    - Victoria

  11. #11
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    You're right, Victoria: my friend, Daniel Blythe, has written several novels and non-fic books, as well as a handful of Dr Who tie-ins (he's writing a new one now). I've written for hire, and I've ghost-written, and the subject has never come up when it comes to my own work.

  12. #12
    ... Sakamonda's Avatar
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    these authors were more in the horror and/or sword-and-sorcery vein, (as well as general fiction) and it did hurt their careers quite badly. But there may be differences in other genres, sure.
    www.jamaicalayne.com, http://jamaicalayne.blogspot.com
    www.ravenousromance.com

    MARKET FOR LOVE now available; Buy it here.

    [Jamaica Layne] has built a multifaceted writing career, in genres ranging from theater to erotic fiction"---Chicago Tribune

    "Layne sucks you in and doesn't let go until the last page."--Love Romance Passion.com

    "Once you read Jamaica Layne, she will be on your auto-buy list."----Dirty Girl Reviews, on MARKET FOR LOVE

    4 Stars!----Romantic Times Magazine

  13. #13
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    What markets were the authors dinked for? The only cases I've heard of weren't because it was WFH, but because they were trying to claim stuff like content sites and non-edited anthologies as pub credits.
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  14. #14
    ... Sakamonda's Avatar
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    These authors were writing under single-pseudonym branded series----i.e., Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Red Sonja series, et cetera. In some cases, like in some of the Red Sonja books, they wrote under their own names, but didn't own the rights to the work because the Red Sonja concept is a licensed trademark owned by the original author's estate. Word got around the market that these authors were reduced to writing for these markets and it really hurt their credibility in the markets they had written original work for. Then, when the for-hire work dired up, they were out of the market entirely for years, with their original works long out of print. Agents would take a look at their resumes and avoid them like the plague; publishers did the same. It's really unfortunate, since these are very good writers in their respective genres.
    www.jamaicalayne.com, http://jamaicalayne.blogspot.com
    www.ravenousromance.com

    MARKET FOR LOVE now available; Buy it here.

    [Jamaica Layne] has built a multifaceted writing career, in genres ranging from theater to erotic fiction"---Chicago Tribune

    "Layne sucks you in and doesn't let go until the last page."--Love Romance Passion.com

    "Once you read Jamaica Layne, she will be on your auto-buy list."----Dirty Girl Reviews, on MARKET FOR LOVE

    4 Stars!----Romantic Times Magazine

  15. #15
    Commonsensical Maverick scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sakamonda View Post
    These authors were writing under single-pseudonym branded series----i.e., Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Red Sonja series, et cetera. In some cases, like in some of the Red Sonja books, they wrote under their own names, but didn't own the rights to the work because the Red Sonja concept is a licensed trademark owned by the original author's estate. Word got around the market that these authors were reduced to writing for these markets and it really hurt their credibility in the markets they had written original work for. Then, when the for-hire work dired up, they were out of the market entirely for years, with their original works long out of print. Agents would take a look at their resumes and avoid them like the plague; publishers did the same. It's really unfortunate, since these are very good writers in their respective genres.
    How did you reach this conclusion? Do you have any facts to back up such a sweeping statement? I contend that it's incorrect.


    If you are right, the logical conclusion is that agents don't know all that much about the publishing business and even less about advancing the careers of the authors they represent, and they could care less. I beg to differ.

    Many well know and enormously successful authors have done, and are known to have done, work-for-hire. There's nothing negative about it, as long as the final product is good. And there's no reason to "hide the fact."

    For many years I have authored, co-authored, and done work-for-hire books. All types of subjects for children and adults. In addition to the title of author, my printed credits include co-author, "with", editor, project director, editor-in-chief. Some work came before I was agented and some after, through my agent. I have no scars to show for any of the foregoing, only positives.

  16. #16
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Saka, I have to say I find that really strange. It doesn't accord at all with the experience of the tie-in writers I know, none of whom seem to be stigmatized in any way by their tie-in work. In fact, one would think that having done tie-in work would be a recommendation when pitching original work, because to make it as a tie-in writer you have to write tight, fast, and to deadline, and those are all big pluses with publishers.

    Take a look at some of the well-known names on the front page of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers--many of them better-known for their original fiction than for their tie-in fiction. And this article addresses the common (mis)perception that all tie-in writers are hacks--which I would guess is an attitude more common among other writers, who tend to look down on those who are writing "non-original" fiction, than among publishers and agents.

    I wonder if the problem wasn't the tie-in work, but lackluster performance of the original books? As writers, we can change our names to fool the readers, but we can't fool the publishers, who know who we really are and can always get access to our numbers. So we're always dragging our histories around with us.

    - Victoria

  17. #17
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister Medievalist's Avatar
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    It's always about sales.

    Really, it is.

    If the book sells--even if you and the publishers know that it's not, well, pulizter material, it add positive points.

    And frankly, a heck of a lot of tie ins are strikingly well written because they've been written by talented authors despite a totally lame plot summary / key points outline/show bible.

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  18. #18
    ... Sakamonda's Avatar
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    I only know what I've heard from the authors in question, both of whom sold well in their heyday. I even tried to hook up one of them with my own agent, who rejected him on the basis that a) he'd been out of the market for fifteen years and b) the last stuff he wrote was low-rent for-hire; and c) the type of stuff he wrote in his heydey just isn't sold any more.

    I know media tie-in work can be quite lucrative, but this guy wasn't doing tie-ins. He was writing for packaged series, which doesn't sell nearly as well as some of the tie-ins can (e.g., like Star Wars and Star Trek, et cetera).
    www.jamaicalayne.com, http://jamaicalayne.blogspot.com
    www.ravenousromance.com

    MARKET FOR LOVE now available; Buy it here.

    [Jamaica Layne] has built a multifaceted writing career, in genres ranging from theater to erotic fiction"---Chicago Tribune

    "Layne sucks you in and doesn't let go until the last page."--Love Romance Passion.com

    "Once you read Jamaica Layne, she will be on your auto-buy list."----Dirty Girl Reviews, on MARKET FOR LOVE

    4 Stars!----Romantic Times Magazine

  19. #19
    Commonsensical Maverick scope's Avatar
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    [quote=Sakamonda;3012794]I even tried to hook up one of them with my own agent, who rejected him on the basis that a) he'd been out of the market for fifteen years and b) the last stuff he wrote was low-rent for-hire; and c) the type of stuff he wrote in his heydey just isn't sold any more.

    Just my opinion, but this does not make a whole lot of sense to me. I believe the 3 reasons you give for your agent's rejection of your friend would have been emphatically trumped if he presented a wonderful query letter detailing a definitive, needy audience for the idea behind the work proposed, and his sample chapters-or partial-or full displayed a unique writing ability. It sounds to me that one or the other was lacking and that was the reason behind the rejection.

  20. #20
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    I know plenty of people who have had very successful tie-in careers and used that to launch even more successful author careers. Meg Cabot and Ann Brashears are just two examples.

    Since this is all anecdata, I'm not sure how it's a resolvable issue. It's going to come down to some people saying "Well, I heard this" and other people saying "Well, I heard the other thing."

    I've done tie-in and nobody has ever suggested to me that it was a problem. At all.

  21. #21
    I grow my own catnip JulieB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    I've done tie-in and nobody has ever suggested to me that it was a problem. At all.
    Same here. *shrug*

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