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LStein
08-03-2011, 10:03 PM
I'm not sure if this is right forum for this.

My story got accepted to a small press anthology. In the contract is this language:

"The Publisher reserves the right t make alterations to the Work's text or title without the Author's approval, including, but not limited to, copy-editing changes..."

I'm about to send an email to the publisher asking if this clause can be taken out as it allows them to edit the story's content if they wish.

Is that okay?

Jamesaritchie
08-03-2011, 10:28 PM
You can ask, but they probably won't remove it. Editors edit, which is all this clause really means. Ideally, you should be shown a copy of the edited story for final approval, but many very good magazines do not give the writer this chance.

This is a pretty standard clause, and it generally means only that the editor might change your title, which is also very common, and will do whatever editing that needs done before it goes to press.

dgiharris
08-03-2011, 10:35 PM
More or less standard.

Editors edit.

Don't worry about them rewriting your story in a way you don't like, that would take way too much time and energy.

All that clause does is give them ability to edit your story. Also, going back and forth between writer and editor for minor works takes way too much time. If this is an anthology, could you imagine how much time it would take if every single change/edit they wanted to make required the approval of each of the writers?

You'd have better luck teaching cats how to line dance together.

don't worry about it and move on to the next story

Mel...

LStein
08-04-2011, 12:57 AM
Thanks, guys. You made me completely change what I was going to say. The editor seems reasonable. In the contract, it does say that they have to let me know about the changes.

I'm just paranoid.

areteus
08-04-2011, 01:54 AM
If they intend to make major changes, it is actually less time consuming and less hassle for them to e-mail you and say 'would you mind doing this...'. I think this clause is mainly there for the minor stuff like line edits.

AlishaS
08-04-2011, 03:21 AM
This clause was in my recent contract, no they wouldn't take it out but did give me the assurence, that I'd have never be surprised at changes they'd made, that I'd be apart of the editing process, and if I didn't like something, I could provide them with reasonings and a middle ground would be reached.

So, it's fairly normal. They won't take it out. But you can go ahead and ask for clairfication if you want. They should be able to give you peace of mind, that they only want to edit in the sense of grammar, punctuation, and what not, and that all other edits would be brought to you and need approval by you as well as them. They shouldn't change your voice, your story or really anything, except the editing as mentioned above, as editors that's there job, and your job is to provide them with YOUR story.

Stacia Kane
08-04-2011, 03:22 AM
Huh. Sorry, but I disagree. I wouldn't sign a contract that allows someone to change my story without my approval or even notifying me, and I've never been given a contract with that clause in it.

I've been in several anthologies; I was given my own edits to approve or disapprove for each one.

That would probably be a dealbreaker for me. They don't get to change my voice or story, not if my name is still going to be on it.

Stacia Kane
08-04-2011, 03:24 AM
This clause was in my recent contract, no they wouldn't take it out but did give me the assurence, that I'd have never be surprised at changes they'd made, that I'd be apart of the editing process, and if I didn't like something, I could provide them with reasonings and a middle ground would be reached.

So, it's fairly normal. They won't take it out. But you can go ahead and ask for clairfication if you want. They should be able to give you peace of mind, that they only want to edit in the sense of grammar, punctuation, and what not, and that all other edits would be brought to you and need approval by you as well as them.


But with all due respect, what they say doesn't matter. What's in the contract does. If they say verbally they won't make changes without checking with you, they should be willing to put that in the contract.

AlishaS
08-04-2011, 03:33 AM
Yes thats probably true. However, I'm just not that concerned about it. I give them permission to edit. They aren't going to change anything without my approval, and aren't going to force me to change anything.
They are paying me for my story, it really doesn't do them any good to take my story "make it their own and change the crap out of it" that's how they piss off authors, would loose me and pretty much every other author I talked to.
Maybe I'm being rather trusting, since this is my first contract, and my first deal, and I'm okay with that. I guess I'm prepared to learn the hard way :)

scope
08-04-2011, 03:49 AM
"The Publisher reserves the right t make alterations to the Work's text or title without the Author's approval, including, but not limited to, copy-editing changes..."


Alterations to the title without the author's approval is normal. Same for copy-editing changes. If you are concened that they will alter the text and you won't like what they do, and/or such alterations will distort your text, discuss it with them, but do so in a very polite, non-accusatory manner.

dgiharris
08-04-2011, 04:30 AM
*sigh*

For all intents and purposes, if we are talking about a limited anthology by a small press and your first publication then I would be extremely hesistant about being a demanding author who needs to have approval over every edit.

Editors aren't going to re-write your story. They just aren't. If there needs to be any major changes, they will ask you to do it.

How about we reverse this and come at it from a different angle.

Are there any AWers who have had a problem with an overzealous editor rewriting their story in a way the AWer didn't like???

Sure, i've heard of editors suggesting changes the author disagrees with, but i've never heard of an editor rewriting major segments of a story himself...

James D. Macdonald
08-04-2011, 04:30 AM
Small press anthology?

They probably aren't paying enough to buy the rights to change my title without permission. Copyediting changes, I can see ... but other changes beyond that? I don't think so. Not without a really big advance.

Unimportant
08-04-2011, 05:21 AM
*sigh*

For all intents and purposes, if we are talking about a limited anthology by a small press and your first publication then I would be extremely hesistant about being a demanding author who needs to have approval over every edit.

Editors aren't going to re-write your story. They just aren't. If there needs to be any major changes, they will ask you to do it.

How about we reverse this and come at it from a different angle.

Are there any AWers who have had a problem with an overzealous editor rewriting their story in a way the AWer didn't like???

Sure, i've heard of editors suggesting changes the author disagrees with, but i've never heard of an editor rewriting major segments of a story himself...

But, by the same token, if there is no intention for the editor to rewrite the story or make changes without author approval, why does the contract give them permission to do so? Why not write the contract to reflect both their intentions and their practice?

IMO, if the contract says the publisher can do something, it's there for a reason.

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2011, 06:22 AM
But, by the same token, if there is no intention for the editor to rewrite the story or make changes without author approval, why does the contract give them permission to do so? Why not write the contract to reflect both their intentions and their practice?

IMO, if the contract says the publisher can do something, it's there for a reason.

I've had that same clause in dozens of contracts, and never had an editor make any change beyond ordinary, and very, very minor, editing. You simply can't spell out minutia in a contract.

This really is a standard clause.

Jamesaritchie
08-04-2011, 06:24 AM
Small press anthology?

They probably aren't paying enough to buy the rights to change my title without permission. Copyediting changes, I can see ... but other changes beyond that? I don't think so. Not without a really big advance.

I've never had an editor ask for permission to change a title, or ever say anything about buying such rights, even at glossy size magazines. I know the title was changed when I receive my advance copies of the magazine containing the story.

It hasn't happened very often, but it's not all that uncommon, either, at least with magazines I write for.

dgiharris
08-04-2011, 06:40 AM
Far be it for me to disagree with Uncle Jim...

All i'm saying really is that in this case, I think we are just being a touch paranoid.

Yes, in Uncle Jim's case, its no big deal for him to say "Hey any changes need my approval".

But for the rest of us mere mortals, I think that it hurts us to fight standard boiler plate contract language.

Lastly, I will repeat my question.

How many AWers have had a problem with editors rewriting a major portion of their story???

It is my argument that editors just don't do it. If any major or significant changes need to be made, the editor will ask the author to do it.

So again, any AWers have any examples of an editor taking it upon themselves to rewrite or signicantly change your story???

Lastly, FWIW, my publications are limited to newspapers and magazines and the occasional contest so I will admit to not being as knowledgeable as those of you who've had book publications.

Unimportant
08-04-2011, 06:56 AM
I've never signed a contract that allowed the editor to make changes without my approval other than for spelling, grammar, or house-style reasons.

I've only heard of one publisher who uses a contract that allows the editor to make changes without author approval, not limited to spelling etc. And I've been told that the editor did make substantial changes to at least one author's book without approval (i.e. inserted/cut entire scenes). Which, yes, I realise is only hearsay, not proof; moreover, the plural of anecdote is not data.

But I can't see any reason why a contract would not limit unapproved changes to basic proofreading stuff, unless the publisher intended to avail themselves of the ability to make largescale changes without author approval.

Unimportant
08-04-2011, 06:58 AM
You simply can't spell out minutia in a contract.

Sure you can. You change

The Publisher reserves the right to make alterations to the Work's text or title without the Author's approval, including, but not limited to, copy-editing changes..."

to

The Publisher reserves the right to make alterations to the Work's text or title without the Author's approval, including, but not limited to, copy-editing changes..."

Gillhoughly
08-04-2011, 07:53 AM
If the story was so flawed that it has to have a lot of rewriting, they'd never have accepted it in the first place.

You can simply ask the editor if you could see whatever changes might be required. If she has the time and can remember to do it, she'll probably send an "e-proof".

This may be a huge thing to you now, but in a few years it's just one story at a small house and chances are good few people will see it.

Which--if they totally wreck your story (unlikely) can be a good thing.

The thing to look at in your contract is if they plan to keep the resale rights or is there a rights reversion after a certain period of time?

I chose to have a clause struck from the boilerplate of a contract from a prestigious magazine that gave them the right to hang onto the story indefinitely. Sorry, dudes, but I have other plans!

The rights revert 6 months after publication, at with point I'll resell the story on Kindle.

If some editor sees the story in the magazine and wants it in his collection he knows where to find me for a resale deal! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/icons/icon10.gif

areteus
08-04-2011, 03:59 PM
As I said, it's a question of time and effort. It is easier to reject a story that requires massive changes to make it publishable than it is to make the changes yourself. It is also easier to mail the author and say 'we think these changes need to be made in order to make this publishable, please make these changes' because then it is the author's time and effort being spent not an editor's, who generally have better and more productive things to do than rewrite or write whole scenes.

Small press, this is very common. Larger press, with more well known authors, I suspect it is less common and yes, if you get to a certain point where you have enough pull, you could probably either turn down a contract which said this or ask them to remove it/change it and they might actually do it for you.

I know for a fact that there is going to be one change in my work when it is printed. I know it is going to happen and I am hoping that they do it quietly without telling me. It's one thing I can't seem to manage to do myself because I am so indoctrinated by years of teachers... it has to happen, though, because it is an American publisher. Yes, all the 'U's are going to disappear from words like colour and armour :) I've even apologised for this in advance in my acknowledgements...

AlishaS
08-04-2011, 09:02 PM
I know for a fact that there is going to be one change in my work when it is printed. I know it is going to happen and I am hoping that they do it quietly without telling me. It's one thing I can't seem to manage to do myself because I am so indoctrinated by years of teachers... it has to happen, though, because it is an American publisher. Yes, all the 'U's are going to disappear from words like colour and armour :) I've even apologised for this in advance in my acknowledgements...


Hehe, I like that. I didn't say anything to my editor about my U's, and I'll be curious to know if they keep them or take them out. Obviously I write how I was taught, and I don't forsee every changing, however if they want to take it out, honestly I'm okay with it.

Stacia Kane
08-05-2011, 02:25 AM
Far be it for me to disagree with Uncle Jim...


But it's okay to give me a disrespectful *Sigh*, because I'm just a silly unreasonable girl?

I don't appreciate that at all.




But for the rest of us mere mortals, I think that it hurts us to fight standard boiler plate contract language.


And again, I've never been give a contract with this language in it, and I don't think it's at all unreasonable to ask that changes be done with approval. The clause I've always seen is basically "With Author's approval not to be reasonably withheld," or similar. If it's okay to have the discussion and have the publisher make assurances that the changes will be small etc., I don't see why it's such a big deal to say, "Can I just add this line to my contract, then, before I send it back: &c?"




Lastly, I will repeat my question.

How many AWers have had a problem with editors rewriting a major portion of their story???


Who said it had to be major rewrites?

I've dealt with small press editors before who so completely lacked imagination that they attempted to remove every wordplay, every bit of style, every bit of imagery and individuality from my work. I've had small press editors refuse to let me start sentences with "And," "but," or "because," or to end them with prepositions. I've had small-press editors who insisted my characters say "May I" instead of "Can I," so they walked around sounding like English professors. Or who added exclamation points to half the dialogue. I know of small-press editors who refused to allow contractions in exposition, or who apparently subscribed to the "said is dead" philosophy and tried to add numerous "creative" dialogue tags. I know of small-press editors who do in fact rewrite sections of books; I had some of my dialogue rewritten once, in fact, and it still grates on me.

It doesn't have to be a major rewrite to make the story feel like it's no longer yours. Nor does it have to be a major rewrite to make you feel like you'd rather not have your name on that clunky, voiceless volume of bore anymore. Never underestimate the power of a nitpicky, overly literally-minded copyeditor to completely destroy your work.




It is my argument that editors just don't do it. If any major or significant changes need to be made, the editor will ask the author to do it.

Except the contract says they don't have to, so why would they bother? Sure, they probably will. But maybe they won't, and if they're so insistent on having the right to make whatever changes they want I wonder why they're so insistent. (And again, it doesn't have to be whole scenes rewritten to ruin the story.)




So again, any AWers have any examples of an editor taking it upon themselves to rewrite or signicantly change your story???

See above.





Lastly, FWIW, my publications are limited to newspapers and magazines and the occasional contest so I will admit to not being as knowledgeable as those of you who've had book publications.


It wouldn't surprise me to find the bit about edits w/o author approval is standard for articles etc. For fiction? It's not. Not in my experience, and obviously not in Uncle Jim's experience either. As I said in my initial post, I have never seen a contract with that in it and wouldn't sign it.

It's all well and good to say "You don't want to pass up the chance to be published." But again, I can speak from experience in saying that one day you might really wish you had passed up that chance, because there's a clunky, badly edited story out there with your name on it.

James D. Macdonald
08-05-2011, 02:43 AM
So again, any AWers have any examples of an editor taking it upon themselves to rewrite or signicantly change your story???No, because I don't sign contracts like that.



It's all well and good to say "You don't want to pass up the chance to be published." But again, I can speak from experience in saying that one day you might really wish you had passed up that chance, because there's a clunky, badly edited story out there with your name on it.

Stacia is right.

And a story that's good enough to be published by one is good enough to be published by many. You don't have to take the first offer you get.

dgiharris
08-05-2011, 03:43 AM
But it's okay to give me a disrespectful *Sigh*, because I'm just a silly unreasonable girl?

I don't appreciate that at all.
.

My apologies Stacia

Polenth
08-05-2011, 04:28 AM
I think it's bad advice to tell unknown authors they ought to accept any contract and be grateful. When I've had queries about contracts, I've asked. If I'm not happy with a situation, I don't sign.

You ought to be polite and professional when you discuss it with the publisher, but that doesn't mean you have to be a doormat. You're the one who needs to be happy with the contract, not a random selection of people from AW. And it's clear you're not happy, because you're asking about it.

(Though I have to say, final approval over edits has been standard in most of the contracts I've signed).

LStein
08-05-2011, 07:41 AM
Well, crap, I already signed and sent in the contract. I should have had more patience and waited to read more responses.

I'm a little nervous now but the editor does seem reasonable. Here's the rest of the clause:
"The Publisher agrees to make reasonable efforts to notify the Author in advance of any editorial changes."

I sent him an email about this a few days ago and he replied:
"Yes, the second part technically means without consent. However, we will contact you with any changes and try our best to accommodate any stylistic suggestions you have. Ultimately, our say will be final, but we aren't sticklers."

So, hopefully, all will be well. Thanks for the responses, everyone. I'll probably be a little less hasty with the next one.

Stacia Kane
08-07-2011, 12:22 AM
How many AWers have had a problem with editors rewriting a major portion of their story???

It is my argument that editors just don't do it. If any major or significant changes need to be made, the editor will ask the author to do it.

So again, any AWers have any examples of an editor taking it upon themselves to rewrite or signicantly change your story???




Since this post just came up in B&BC...

Here's a link to a small-press author's blog, in which she discusses complaints about editing (http://mercyceleste.blogspot.com/2011/08/book-news-and-ranting-tangent.html?zx=5a623367a1990fa9) (the relevant portion starts in the fourth paragraph). Specifically, she says (bolding mine):


And the editing process for that book made me angry. Seven books edited now and only one pissed me off. I will not go into detail. Let's just say small errors were not found that should have been found of which I will take the blame. But the editor did things no other editor would dare do and that's being nice. Yes I complained. Cobblestone Press no longer answers my email. ... I asked questions that were either ignored or I was told do it or else. I would not allow the editor to rewrite my book (Cold) in her words, voice. I did not play nice with her. Ask me to fix it. Do not do it yourself and expect me to say yeah whatevs because that won't fly. My story my voice mine. My mistakes my fixes mine.

Again. This isn't common at small presses (who often don't know how the editing process is actually supposed to work), but it's certainly far from uncommon, in my experience. It does happen.

This is why authors need contractual protection.



LStein, you'll probably be fine; I wouldn't worry about it. At least the contract says they'll "make reasonable attempts" to contact you. And what's done is done.

But in future, keep in mind that no one else should be rewriting your work. If there's an issue the editor is supposed to tell you what it is and let you fix it however you choose. Your name goes on the book; it's your reputation on the line, and therefore you should have the right to say yes or no to edits.