AW Amazon Store

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 27

Thread: Publishing derivative works

  1. #1
    Rainwing
    Guest

    Smile Publishing derivative works

    Hello! This is my first post. Please treat me kindly.

    I have just finished a trilogy of books based off of the Wizardry games. Actually, I finished them about two years ago, but I've been in copyright wrangling hell since I first got into contact with the original copyright owner.

    Well, the copyright sale went through, and now the new company that now owns the rights is interested in publishing these books, but neither they nor I have ever optioned a book before.

    I've hit quite a few snags with agents in the past, from the no longer in business ones, to the scammers, to the ones who never reply, to the ones who are just plain rude.

    This post is about one of the latter ones. I spoke to a Mr. Paul S. Levine, who is basically half lawyer and half agent. I thought that sounded like a great idea for a copyright issue like this one, so I gave him a call!

    He initially quoted me a $1500 charge for hammering out a contract with the original Wizardry owner, but when neither of us could reach him, I fell out of contact with Mr. Levine. Flash forward a few months, when the new company called me, and I emailed and phoned Mr. Levine again.

    At first, he was really rude. About these books we discussed, he told me, "I don't know who you are or what you're talking about." After a few minutes of refreshment, however, he seemed to recognize who I was. Now he wants almost $1800 for a contract with the new company.

    My question is... for optioning rights from parent companies, do I need to pay a lawyer upfront to take care of copyright issues for me? Or is that part of an agent's work, which carries a fee that he or she eventually takes from what the book makes later?

    I read on this excellent board to beware of upfront fees, but this seems like a special case. I won't go with Mr. Levine for his condescending tone and general rudeness, but can I expect the same price tag from another agent?

    Thank you very much,
    Chris

  2. #2
    On location Hillgate's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Europe
    Posts
    1,322
    Hi rainwing and welcome to the cooler. I haven't been here that long either but it's a nice place to be, sheltering from the world outside...

    Your question intrigues me. Most lawyers are keen for new biz (especially if they think you can afford to pay them). I'd ask your agent to sort it out for you, and if they don't want to for whatever reason then you can argue that you'll pay the lawyer to get the deal done but deduct the fee from the agent's take.

    What do you mean by 'optioning' the book? Are they a publisher? Who will publish? Do you have an agent? If there's a legal agreement to be hammered out get a fully-fledged lawyer to do it, not a half-half. US$1800 sounds OK for getting the whole thing done, but maybe not, depending on how much money is involved.

    Good luck with it! Perhaps a lawyer or agent here at the cooler could be nice, respond here and give you better advice?
    Beer and skittles

  3. #3
    Board Visitor
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,811
    I'm a little confused.

    Company 'A' owned the rights, and sold it to company 'B'.

    So company 'B' now owns the rights, and is interested in publishing some books based on those characters.

    Since Company 'B' owns the rights to the charcters, it seems they can publish them without buying any more rights ... they just have to pay an author to write the stories for them.

    Thankfully, Company 'B' is in contact with you, and so has some pre-written books perfect for what they want.

    From what I see, you no longer need a lawyer to negotiate using the rights to their characters ... since the publisher clearly already has those rights.

    All you want is a lawyer (or agent) to negotiate a good deal for you.

    An agent will do this for no upfront fee (but take a % of your earnings on the project) or a lawyer will do it for an upfront fee.

    Mac
    (One complication to think about in the contract may be who owns the rights to additional characters/settings you create - the publishers may want to own them so they can be part of the 'World of Warcraft' universe - and can be used in future books of the franchise, written by other authors)

    (PS: I'm not a lawyer. Just an interested bystander.)

  4. #4
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    You may want to send a private letter to Victoria: Beware@sfwa.org

    You can name names there that you probably shouldn't on an open board.

  5. #5
    Feeling lucky, Query? jclarkdawe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    9,920
    Quote Originally Posted by Rainwing View Post
    Hello! This is my first post. Please treat me kindly.

    I have just finished a trilogy of books based off of the Wizardry games. Actually, I finished them about two years ago, but I've been in copyright wrangling hell since I first got into contact with the original copyright owner.

    Well, the copyright sale went through, and now the new company that now owns the rights is interested in publishing these books, but neither they nor I have ever optioned a book before.


    My question is... for optioning rights from parent companies, do I need to pay a lawyer upfront to take care of copyright issues for me? Or is that part of an agent's work, which carries a fee that he or she eventually takes from what the book makes later?

    I read on this excellent board to beware of upfront fees, but this seems like a special case. I won't go with Mr. Levine for his condescending tone and general rudeness, but can I expect the same price tag from another agent?

    Thank you very much,
    Chris
    I was an attorney in a former life, but I never dealt with this area of law. However, let me see if I can help you find the best approach.

    It seems like the situation is this:

    Company A has a copyright or trademark on Wizardy games.

    You used material covered by that copyright or trademark in three books.

    You may or may not have a written agreement covering the use of that material. If you have a written agreement, that will define what rights you presently have.

    Company B is interested in your books.

    Company B cannot figure out what rights you have (if any) and how to obtain those rights that are missing.

    Removing excess verbiage, is this accurate?

    Company B has the biggest problem here. They have to obtains the rights from both you and Company A. Company B needs to either (1) resolve this itselves or (2) insist that you obtain all of the rights before they will do anything.

    If Company B goes route 1, it's a lot easier for you. Personally, if I was Company B (or its attorney), I'd want to make sure that all of the rights were correctly done and I would not trust you to do it right. If Company B goes this route, then you should be presented with a contract (probably a part of your total contract with Company B) which resolves this.

    If Company B wants you to obtain the rights, then you will need an attorney. If you can find one who does this for under $2,000, you're probably doing good. If you're in a major city, double this figure, at least. It sounds like you have a mess, and messes are expenses to resolve. Attorneys love messes, because that's where you earn a lot of money.

    By the way, there are major differences between copyrights and trademarks. My guess you are actually talking trademarks, rather than copyrights.

    I am concerned that Company B doesn't know how to deal with this. Any publisher should be able to deal with copyrights and trademarks. This is what they do as a business, it would be like a pizza shop owner not knowing the health code for restuarants.

    I hope this helps you.

    Jim Clark-Dawe

  6. #6
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    I'm concerned by the word "option." That isn't a common term you hear in book publishing.

  7. #7
    Feeling lucky, Query? jclarkdawe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    9,920
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    I'm concerned by the word "option." That isn't a common term you hear in book publishing.
    I agree. I'm assuming it is a mistake, but I don't know. An option is obtaining the right to acquire a piece of property in the future. An example would be that I acquire an option on a piece of real estate so that I can buy it for a specific period of time in the future.

    In this case, it would be that someone could acquire the rights of this at some point down the road. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Jim Clark-Dawe

  8. #8
    Rainwing
    Guest
    According to what Mr. Levine said, "optioning" is something like buying temporary rights to someone else's trademark/copyright, and it would take him 5 hours to hammer out a contract for the book at $350 an hour. I didn't catch all of it, because my jaw was on the floor after he said, "You have the wrong number. I don't know you," then followed it up with "You'll owe me $1800. Call me when you have it."

    Sorry about the poor explanation. I'll use the terms you guys have used to describe the situation:

    - Company A owned the Wiz rights.
    - Company A sold them to Company B.
    - This just went through after two years of me waiting, so I was just barely able to speak to someone from either Company A or Company B about my books, because of those lovely Non-Disclosure Agreements.
    - Company B is interested in the books, but as it has never done a deal like this before, it is as confused as I am about what to do.
    - Mr. Levine offered to write a contract for us for $1800, money which I don't have at the moment.
    -I came here to get advice, and found a wealth of information (thanks!).

    I don't currently have an agent; I was hoping Mr. Levine would be it, but he wants a lot of money I don't have, so I came to check things out here before I talked to more people. I was thinking of forgetting the whole agent deal and just talking to the publishing companies as another option.

    Also, I don't want to report Mr. Levine as a scammer, because I'm not entirely convinced he is one. I do, however, think he is quite rude, but that shouldn't disqualify him from his work.

    Thanks for all the help,
    Chris

  9. #9
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess what was going on from the OP's post.

    Wizardry was a series of computer role-playing games from Sirtech. These date back to Apple II days. Their last game, Wizardry 8, came out for the PC in 2001. (Their website http://www.sir-tech.com/ hasn't been updated in some years.)

    The OP apparently wrote a trilogy using characters and situations from this game series (essentially, fan fiction), then contacted the copyright holder in an attempt to sell it to them. Discussion with Sirtech, however, did not prove fruitful.

    Some time later, Sirtech sold the rights to Wizardry to another company. This second company is interested in publishing the novels (even though they may never have published anything in their lives). One possible point of difficulty might be that while this second company bought the rights to the Wizardry games themselves, it's unclear if they bought the right to make derivative works (which a series of novels would be).

    It strikes me that that's a problem for the second company and their lawyers to hash out with Sirtech and their lawyers, and of little concern to the author. If they get the right to make derivative works, well and good. If not, no sale, everyone moves on to other projects.

    Other points of contention might revolve around characters and situations. The characters and situations that come directly from the game are clearly the property of the copyright holder. The original characters and situations that the OP created, however ... the author would want to keep the rights to them, while the game company would want to acquire those rights (this would simplify their lives in case they ever wanted to make more games in the series and might want to use those characters and situations (or ones similar enough to arguably be them). It would also simplify their lives if someone wanted to make a movie out of the games, and use the books as a source.

    I can see where a lawyer might get involved in all this (though an agent working on commission rather than a lawyer might be a better choice for the author).

    I could be entirely out to lunch on all this -- it's pure speculation based on the clues in the OP's message.

    Now some personal notes. I've done a bunch of tie-in work. The usual thing is for the copyright holder to approach the author with the idea for the novel, and negotiate from that point. The work is usually work-for-hire (though if you have a decent agent you can get profit participation in the book sales). The contract will spell out in nauseating detail exactly what rights are in play (and if you can get away without the copyright holder getting all rights, you're doing very well indeed).

    Another personal note: Going with a game company as a publisher is a path strewn with landmines. Going with a first-time publisher is a path entangled with barbed wire. Going with a first-time publisher that's also a game company is a path that's mined, entangled with barbed wire, and under sporadic artillery fire. It's way easy to get hurt.

    I really don't know enough about the OP's present situation to give any useful advice. A bit of clarification would be very handy. (Particularly what's meant by "option" in this case.)
    Last edited by James D. Macdonald; 02-09-2007 at 09:45 AM.

  10. #10
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    I'd say, find an agent.

    If the agent can get a $12,000 advance (which isn't out of the ballpark for three books), it'll still cost the same $1,800, but it'll be painless (and after the sale).

    All the money that comes in from the book goes from the publisher to the agent, the agent subtracts 15% (or whatever the agreed-upon commission is) and passes on the rest.

    There's a list of Science Fiction/Fantasy agents here:
    http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/...ad.php?t=42019

    There's another list here:
    http://www.sfwriter.com/agent.htm

    As always, research, research, research any agent on any list you find.

    If you already have an agreement in principle with the owners of the Wizardry copyrights that they will buy these books, you shouldn't have any trouble interesting an agent in representing you.

  11. #11
    Feeling lucky, Query? jclarkdawe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    9,920
    Dear Rainwing:

    I'm not trying to pick on you, but James MacDonald's explaination makes more sense than yours. I'm assuming that you're in the U.S., but if you're not, then you need to let people know. Words that have one meaning in the U.S. have entirely different meanings in other countries.

    I'm also going to go out a little further than MacDonald did. My guess is that you wrote some stories, using trademarked characters, and maybe some copyrighted stories. You then found out you needed to obtain permission before you could publish, so you approached the owner of the trademarks and copyrights. (By the way, if you look at all those Superbowl shirts and other junk, you'll notice that they are all trademarks licensed by the NFL. Someone is paying a fee to the NFL on each one.) The owner was less than thrilled.

    Then the original owner sells to Company B. Exactly what was sold as far as rights you either do not know or they won't tell you. Company B are either idiots (if they don't know what they bought, they're idiots) or they're not terribly excited about acquiring your books and don't want to tell you. If your books are handed to Company B on a platter, then Company B is more than happy to earn a couple of bucks. If Company B has to do any work, then it would prefer do something else with its time.

    Therefore, Company B is dumping this entire problem on you.

    Legally, you're behind the eight ball (you took someone elses property without permission). Lawyers like that situation, as it tends to pay much higher. That being said, if you have a WRITTEN agreement with Company B to publish your books upon obtaining the appropriate permission, with you receiving an advance, then obtaining an agent should be no problem. The agent is then probably going to charge you for clearing your legal title, but you don't have any choice, you need to pay it.

    If you do not have a WRITTEN agreement with Company B, I'd think about moving on with my life and using this as a learning curve. I think the cost of clearing up this situation would be higher than I'd want to gamble without a guarantee that I'd get the money back. I'd be concerned that Company B would then decide to not publish.

    If you have a WRITTEN agreement with Company B that does not include an advance, then Company B figures that it might sell a couple of books, but it sure isn't going to bet any of its money on this project. If Company B isn't willing to bet its money, why should you?

    Shouting WRITTEN is intentional. Nothing in writing means you have nothing.

    Jim Clark-Dawe

  12. #12
    Rainwing
    Guest
    Thanks to everyone for their help!

    Mr. McDonald, you make a lot of sense. I know I went all about this bass-ackwards. I never really intended to publish the stories when I first started writing them, but when I thought they would do well and started my quest to do so, then of course all this stuff popped up.

    I'm currently undertaking the shotgun blast approach to agent hunting and checking out about two dozen people, but I have a definite eye on a Mr. Donald Maass from the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Apparently, he was the agent for the lady who got me into fantasy and writing in the first place, Diane Duane. What a trip it would be if he signed me up, too!

    Mr. Clark-Dawe, no offense taken (though my ears are burning a little bit). I also think it's weird that Company B didn't just take over and say, "We got it handled!" They told me over the phone that not only is this a situation that they have never experienced before, but they wanted to speak to an American agent to see how well the books would do here.

    I probably should have mentioned that I'm in the U.S. and Company B is in Japan, which would have cleared up a lot of confusion. Please forgive me... I've been waiting for the Wizardry rights sales to go through for the past two years, and I've explained the situation to friends and family so many times that I sometimes get confused and assume that complete strangers know already. I guess accepted knowledge sometimes includes completely random stuff with me.

    To make matters worse, I'm moving to Taiwan in a month. Ah!

    If all else fails, it's ok! Plan B is starting my own website and releasing all stories, art, music and stuff I make for free, which would probably be much more fun than copyright wrangling, agent fishing and the like. Things will work out either way, I'm sure...

    ...but you guys are helping me make an informed decision, which I can't express how much I truly appreciate.

    Chris

  13. #13
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    The way I see it, the big problem is that there's exactly one company on the face of the earth that can legally publish this trilogy.

    (That's one of the reasons why writing fan fiction is a bad idea.)

    The first company wasn't interested.

    Now the second company potentially is.

    Let's say that the second company has the right to make derivative works.

    Let's say that they are interested in publishing these books. Let's say that they've never published anything, aren't clear on how to go about it, and have never seen a publishing contract.

    One of the things that they can do is call up a regular publisher on the phone and say, "Hi, this is Game Company X. We want to publish some books based on our games! How about you edit, print, and distribute them?" The publisher will say "Sure!" and their lawyers will work something out. (To my direct knowledge, Roc, Warner, and Tor have all published books on exactly this basis for various game companies. I'm sure they have boilerplate contracts on file to cover the situation.)

    Now the usual thing is for the publisher to come up with the contract, offer it, and the author either accept or not accept that contract. (Having the author coming up with the contract is ... bizarre. I think that derives from this being a first-time author dealing with a first-time publisher.)

    Generally the first contract that the publisher offers has some clauses in it that aren't too favorable to the author, so the agent works things out. Generally, the agent's major weapon ("Well, if we can't come to an agreement, I can take this manuscript elsewhere") has vanished, since there is only one company that can possibly publish the book, and the company is well aware of that fact.

    Three options right now:

    a) Get an agent who will work on commission to hammer out the deal with the company that now owns the rights.

    b) File off the serial numbers and attempt to sell the re-written work to another publisher.

    c) Forget this trilogy. Move on and write another novel.

    No matter what else you do, you'll want to move on and write another novel in any case ... so start doing that while searching for an agent.

    (Or: Look, I can write you a contract for free. Here goes:

    [Author] grants all rights in [Name of Work] to [Name of Company] for the full term of copyright in return for $20,000 paid on signing. [Company] agrees that [Author] will be identified as the author of [Work] on the cover, title page, and in any promotional materials when/if the Work is published.

    Signed: [Author]
    Signed: [Company]
    [Date]

    There, that wasn't so tough, was it? They'll come back with "$20,000! Are you smoking something?" and offer $10,000. You'll say, "Do you wish my children to be beggars? $15,000!" They agree to it, you both sign. It's a lousy contract from the author's point of view, but it does bring closure to the whole affair. And you do get a professional publishing credit.)

    Seriously, get an agent. And write a new, different, better book while you're looking.

  14. #14
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    Wow. Crossposted again.

    Please be aware that if you don't come to an agreement with Company B, that publishing the works on your website is still publishing, and is a copyright and/or trademark violation. If Company B wants to be complete dicks about it, they can shut you and your website down and make your life exceedingly unpleasant. Since they know about you and this work ... the odds of their finding out about web self-publication are pretty good. That may require them to Do Something about it.

    Since you know Ms. Duane, why not take her out, buy her a beer, and ask her what she advises at this juncture?

  15. #15
    Feeling lucky, Query? jclarkdawe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    9,920
    The little details are always interesting. So, Company B is from Japan. We now have some real interesting complications. There are two basic scenarios here.

    Scenario 1 is that Company B only acquired Japanese rights. For most companies, they are only interested in acquiring the rights for the country in which they do business. Going back to the National Football League, it trademarks itself in a limited number of countries. If you print and sell a NFL jersey in China, I doubt that the NFL has a trademark there and you can do it legally (I'm simplifying incredibly here, by the way, there's all sorts of international laws and agreements that apply). Disney, on the other hand, has a trademark on Mickey Mouse in every country in the world.

    If Company B is only planning on marketing in Japan, there is no reason for it to acquire rights in any other country. If that's the case, then Company B can't give you any rights to publish in the U.S. Due to its lack of understanding on how to deal with this situation, I'd guess that Company B only have rights in Japan and Company A still retains its U.S. rights.

    I would guess that Company A had a Japanese trademark. This is more typical of American companies than Japanese companies.

    Scenario 2 is that Company A did sell international or U.S. rights, in which case Company B doesn't know what its doing.

    Another possibility is that what rights were being transferred were not specified in the sale, in which case neither company knows what its doing and that leaves you in the middle of a royal mess.

    As MacDonald said, the use of copywrited or trademarked property, without permission, whether for profit or not, is illegal. You can be subject to a cease and desist order, damages, fines, and potentially (although not likely) jail.

    I'd think about moving on.

    Jim Clark-Dawe

  16. #16
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    Reading more about Sir-Tech (the original company that created Wizardry) -- they're apparently bankrupt. Which means that their various rights (including the right to make derivative works) are assets controlled by a bankruptcy court until they can be sold to pay off the company's debts, adding yet another layer of mess to an already messy situation. Resolving something like that can take years even with all the good-will in the world. (Horrible things have happened to authors whose books were bought by publishers who've gone bankrupt.)

    This discussion has rambled a long way from Paul S. Levine's lousy phone manners. Perhaps it should be moved to the Ask The Agent forum?

  17. #17
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    25,555
    Oh -- one more thing. One of the reasons I caution about publishing books with a game company is that "doesn't know what it's doing" is pretty much Standard Operating Procedure.

    Bottom line: no matter what happens, The Author Writes a Check is not an option. If you reach that point, you're at a dead end. Back up and try another path.

  18. #18
    Rainwing
    Guest
    Thanks again for all the advice, gentlemen. If worse comes to worse, I'll do what any self-respecting neophyte writer does: cannibalize all the best stuff from the no-go book, write a new one with that material (original story this time, heh heh), then come out swinging for round 2!

    Chris

  19. #19
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Coastal Desert
    Posts
    13,098
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    Reading more about Sir-Tech (the original company that created Wizardry) -- they're apparently bankrupt. Which means that their various rights (including the right to make derivative works) are assets controlled by a bankruptcy court until they can be sold to pay off the company's debts, adding yet another layer of mess to an already messy situation.
    Which makes this a path that's mined, entangled with barbed wire, under sporadic artillery fire, and within perimeter of imminent air strike. I hope things work out, Chris.

    This discussion has rambled a long way from Paul S. Levine's lousy phone manners. Perhaps it should be moved to the Ask The Agent forum?
    If it stays, I'll file it under Rights & Permissions. Lots of good info here, IMO.
    ICAO
    ---------

    Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion. -- Henry Steele Commager
    Achievers strive for excellence. Perfectionists drive themselves to extinction. -- A Grapple A Day
    I've never known any trouble that an hour's reading didn't assuage. -- Charles DeSecondat

    II 2016: 2017:

  20. #20
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Central Maryland
    Posts
    2,267
    Having done two novels for a packager about a video-game (Gauntlet Dark Legacy), I can say working with licensed characters is a very time-consuming project.

    After pitching my story idea (just the idea) to the packager, they had to approve it. THEN it went to licensing who had to approve the pitch. Then I had to do a detailed outline (8-10 pages) for the packager who had to approve it BEFORE it went to the licensor who also had to approve it.

    Only then did I start writing the book and I had to clear any major deviations from the outline with both the editor and the licensor.

    Finally, I turned in the final product, it was edited, changes were made and then it went to the licensor AGAIN for approval before the book came out (the second book was finished and approved, but the publisher went bankrupt due to the death of the owner/publisher).

    At ANY point in this process, the book could have been altered, cancelled or simply "postponed" by the licensor. It's because it's their property.

    Oh, and it didn't matter if I wrote in new characters/scenes/magic/whatever. Anything in the book belonged to Midway Games, per the contract. Now that I'm working on Star Trek, anything I create belongs to Viacom/CBS, my Doctor Who story belongs to either Big Finish or the BBC. My Incredible Hulk story belongs to Marvel Entertainment.

    The joys of work for hire. Luckily, the checks don't bounce and the royalties are nice when they show up.

    But never believe for a second you own the characters.

  21. #21
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,093
    Rainwing, is there some reason you want to have Company B publish your book? They're a game company. Trade fiction publishing is a whole different ballpark. If they don't know what they're doing and they're not enthusiastic about your work, you'll go nowhere with it.

    Here's the deal: I think that what we've all been discussing here is a subrights sale. The right to write a work of fiction based on this gaming universe is a subright. You can offer to license that subright from the owner, Company B; and if they take your offer, you work out a contract with them (it's nothing exotic), pay whatever you've agreed on, and you're good to go. After that you can try to sell your books to a normal publishing company, or if that doesn't work you can self-publish them, though I don't particularly recommend that option.

    If you want, you can check to see what rights Company B bought from Company A. I doubt there'll be a problem. There aren't many reasons for a bankrupt game company to try to hold on to rights which game companies seldom exercise anyway. If the contract under which Company B purchased the game didn't explicitly reserve those rights to Company A or some other party, then Company B owns them, and can sell them to you.

    Don't pay too much. It'll take some luck for you to get your trilogy published; and even if you do, it'll be a while before you'll see any money off the sale. The basic rule of gambling applies: don't bet what you can't afford to lose.

    At the same time, try to get the broadest grant of rights and term of contract you can. If there are specific and well-known images associated with the game, see if you can't get permission to use them -- with suitable credit to the company, of course, plus information on how your readers can buy the game. Be cool about the whole thing. If you act like it's a big deal, or like there are major legal issues and pots of money attached to the project, you'll make them nervous, and they'll pay more attention and agree to less. Sometimes the best way to get a broad grant of rights is to make it all seem so laid-back and boring that they'll absentmindedly sign off on your requested language just to get the thing off their desks.

    As for Paul S. Levine, I don't know what he thought he was doing, but he doesn't sound like he's any use to you in this negotiation.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

  22. #22
    Rainwing
    Guest
    While wearing a backpack full of C4 and an active taser inside, right guys?

    So Mr. White, what you're saying is that if I write a story based off of somebody else's material, but make up completely new characters that were never even alluded to in the story, that those characters now belong to the copyright holder, even if it's not published? That stinks like mummy meat.

    If these books can't make it, I'll just take those characters out, tweak them to remove the Wizardry smell, then set them off on a different adventure, but with the same character moments. If worse comes to worse and I get sued for it later, it'll make for some interesting Court TV with that whole interpretation of copyright holdings jazz. Maybe they'll make a TV movie about me.

    And HapiSofi, it seems Company B wants to be sure of the books' viability before they grant initial rights to have them published, so they want to talk to an agent who represents me. I fired out about two dozen queries to agents by email and mail, and already, about a third have written back in the negative. They were all exceedingly polite, though, and some even commented that my writing was good.

    I'll keep your advice in mind for when I finally get a positive response, so thanks a lot! Until then, it's limbo time.

  23. #23
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Central Maryland
    Posts
    2,267
    Quote Originally Posted by Rainwing View Post
    So Mr. White, what you're saying is that if I write a story based off of somebody else's material, but make up completely new characters that were never even alluded to in the story, that those characters now belong to the copyright holder, even if it's not published? That stinks like mummy meat.
    Again, it depends on what your specific contract says.

    However, in general, yes. See, most books set in someone else's world are commissioned first. Even if you're using completely new characters, if you're using someone else's lands, items, monsters, etc. that are unique to that specific game/book/comic/movie/etc., then you're playing by their rules, not yours.

    So, if you can change what you've accomplished into something that's totally your own, I'd highly recommend it. Why spend all this time trying to put something together that might never fly (especially since it's been done contrary to the standard way to do tie-in work)?

    Besides, if you sell your own story, then maybe you can get the game company to put out a game based on *your* stuff.

  24. #24
    I *am* Catwoman...and Gini Koch WPR Dominatrix JeanneTGC's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    A Little South of Sanity
    Posts
    7,667
    Quote Originally Posted by Rainwing View Post
    If these books can't make it, I'll just take those characters out, tweak them to remove the Wizardry smell, then set them off on a different adventure, but with the same character moments. If worse comes to worse and I get sued for it later, it'll make for some interesting Court TV with that whole interpretation of copyright holdings jazz. Maybe they'll make a TV movie about me.
    Chiming in here on this particular point, because it is one I happen to know personally.

    You will never do any harder writing in your life than pulling something out of what is truly fanfiction. It's NOT just tweaking characters, though you think it is at this stage. It's not just one whole rewrite. It's several. It can, and probably will, take you YEARS to do. At least, if you want the books to be as good as they were and publishable.

    If you love the characters YOU CREATED, then it's worth it to save them (and only them) and get them into their own story. But if all you're trying to pull out are characters that the game created and you enhanced, then it truly will not be worth it.

    If they sue you -- and never for a moment assume that they will not -- then it won't be interesting Court TV, at least, not for you. Unless you have a vast fortune you're hiding away you'll be in big trouble -- no good lawyer is going to take this kind of case pro bono, and you will need a good lawyer to win or even break even. It's theft and you have the clearest trail of any fanfic writer out there, particularly since both Company A and Company B know you have these books.

    I go back to something Uncle Jim said -- write a NEW book. One that is ALL your own. You got great experience with this trilogy, that is not time wasted. But write something else, something that is all your own. You'll have an easier time selling it (easier than THIS, I can promise you) and it will be YOURS. No one will be able to come back and say, "But this wizard, it sounds like OUR wizard, and we KNOW you wrote a trilogy based on OUR GAME and, lo, here it is, the books you wrote with thinly veiled characters that are OUR characters. Oh? It sold and you made money? Not any more."

    Best of luck, no matter what path you choose.
    Jeanne

    Action, Adventure, Romance & Humor
    Coming December 2017, Aliens Abroad -- Preorder NOW!

    --Click the covers to go to my website for details & more!


  25. #25
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    2,093
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard White View Post
    Again, it depends on what your specific contract says.

    However, in general, yes. See, most books set in someone else's world are commissioned first. Even if you're using completely new characters, if you're using someone else's lands, items, monsters, etc. that are unique to that specific game/book/comic/movie/etc., then you're playing by their rules, not yours.
    I don't believe that's true. I mean, it's true if you have a work for hire contract that specifies that everything in the work shall belong to the license holder; but that's all.

    Rainwing has written fanfic. If he isn't granted the right to produce a derivative work, his books are legally unpublishable, because the material in them that derives from the game belongs to the game's owner. However, that doesn't give the game company ownership of material that's his original creation. They can't cry dibs on his fanfic and publish it as though it belonged to them, and they don't own his original characters, settings, McGuffins, or other identifiable bits.

    I've always been a little startled by the way fanfic writers habitually cede ownership of their work. Sure, the substrate canon belongs to Paramount Studios or George Lucas or Joss Whedon or J. K. Rowling (or whoever); but their own writing has to belong to them. They just can't do anything with it.
    Winner of the Best Drycleaner on the Block Award.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search