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View Full Version : Bad deal, or regular publisher power?



LOG
10-03-2012, 06:24 AM
(Wasn't sure if this should go here or in Publishing--didn't seem like there was a fitting subforum there.)

I stumbled across an author named L.J. Smith today.
She's apparently the writer for some fairly popular series.
Somehow though, Smith has been prevented from writing/publishing more of her own books in at least two of those series--The Secret Circle, and the Vampire Diaries--and the publisher has instead chosen a ghostwriter to take over from her.
Is this a sign of a bad publishing deal, or is it something most publishers can do?

Gotta say, if it's a regular thing, then it would definitely push me towards self-publishing. I'd rather have it be mine and imperfect and underselling, rather than capable of being taken away from me.

michael_b
10-03-2012, 06:26 AM
(Wasn't sure if this should go here or in Publishing--didn't seem like there was a fitting subforum there.)

I stumbled across an author named L.J. Smith today.
She's apparently the writer for some fairly popular series.
Somehow though, Smith has been prevented from writing/publishing more of her own books in at least two of those series--The Secret Circle, and the Vampire Diaries--and the publisher has instead chosen a ghostwriter to take over from her.
Is this a sign of a bad publishing deal, or is it something most publishers can do?

Gotta say, if it's a regular thing, then it would definitely push me towards self-publishing. I'd rather have it be mine and imperfect and underselling, rather than capable of being taken away from me.

I heard a bit about this and I would guess she signed a contract and didn't understand it and/or her agent dropped the ball big time. (If I recall correctly she was unagented.)

Anaquana
10-03-2012, 06:32 AM
From what I recall (and I could be wrong), LJ Smith was asked to write the books by a book packager who then sold the series to the publisher. The book packager actually owns the copyright, not Ms. Smith.

ETA: Here's a link with a letter from LJ Smith explaining things in more detail - http://www.fanpop.com/spots/stefan-and-elena/articles/94267/title/lj-smith-fired-from-writing-own-novels

amergina
10-03-2012, 06:33 AM
(Wasn't sure if this should go here or in Publishing--didn't seem like there was a fitting subforum there.)

I stumbled across an author named L.J. Smith today.
She's apparently the writer for some fairly popular series.
Somehow though, Smith has been prevented from writing/publishing more of her own books in at least two of those series--The Secret Circle, and the Vampire Diaries--and the publisher has instead chosen a ghostwriter to take over from her.
Is this a sign of a bad publishing deal, or is it something most publishers can do?

Gotta say, if it's a regular thing, then it would definitely push me towards self-publishing. I'd rather have it be mine and imperfect and underselling, rather than capable of being taken away from me.

I know we've discussed this before... but the short version is this:

She was writing work-for-hire books for a book packager. That is, the book packager owned the series and she was contracted to write for it--she didn't own the characters or the world or any of that.

So yes, the had every right to fire her and hire someone else.

However, it sounded like she didn't quite understand all of the ramifications of signing with a book packager when she did...

It is *not* the same as signing with a publisher.

jjdebenedictis
10-03-2012, 07:48 AM
Yeah, it's neither a bad deal nor a publisher bullying an author. It was a naive writer signing a contract she didn't understand. Essentially Ms. Smith was a ghostwriter, even though they used her name on the cover.

Cybernaught
10-03-2012, 08:14 AM
Well, hopefully she has a few original novel ideas kicking around that she can sell and start anew, now with a better understanding of the publishing industry.

LOG
10-03-2012, 08:34 AM
Hmmm, so the book packager hired someone to actually come up with the story independently from the person who would write it?

Richard White
10-03-2012, 08:47 AM
Log, it's a completely different world when you're doing work-for-hire. Sometimes you get hired to work on a licensed property, whether that's doing a novelization of a new movie OR creating stories that fill in the gap between the episodes of a TV show. (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.)

Sometimes you get hired to work on a property that the packager thought up but he knows he doesn't have the time/chops to write himself. (Sweet Valley High, The Babysitter's Club)

Sometimes you get paid well to develop a completely "unique to you" world and then you sign the rights over to the publisher (did I mention you should get paid well to do something like this?).

Sometimes you get paid to take over a series after an author has passed away or never existed to begin with. (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Doc Savage, Mack Bolan)

In all these situations, any new characters you create, any new situations you think up, any new cool gear you think up -- all of those belong to the packager or the company that holds the license. You agree to all this in your contract ahead of time. If you don't read it closely before you sign it, it's not their fault.

LOG
10-03-2012, 10:19 AM
Thanks for the clarification everyone. :)

Jamesaritchie
10-03-2012, 07:13 PM
I've done work for hire, and it's a pretty good way of making money when things are otherwise lean, but you have to go into work for hire with your eyes open. It is not the same thing as selling a book to a publisher on your own because you're writing someone else's books, not your own.

Neither is it a bad thing. It's simply an aspect of the business that's got a lot of writers through hard times, and that has made some pretty successful writers.

Old Hack
10-03-2012, 08:32 PM
Hmmm, so the book packager hired someone to actually come up with the story independently from the person who would write it?

That's pretty standard in book packaging. The packager comes up with ideas, and sells them to a publisher; then finds someone to write the books concerned, to very specific briefs, usually for a flat fee, no royalties, and with no further interest in the work.

It can be a lucrative way to work for a quick writer, but as has already been showing in this thread, the writer has to understand fully what they're getting into or upset is bound to occur.