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[eZine/blog] The Toast / The Butter

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

mirandashell

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I'm going to copy the relevant part of the contract for those who haven't clicked on the link. It's important, I think that everyone sees this:

The Contributor hereby acknowledges and agrees that the Work, including any drawings, images, sounds, video recordings, or other data embedded in the work and including adaptations or derivative works based on the Work is the sole and exclusive property of the Toast and the Toast has all rights under existing United States’ copyright law and all reproduction and republication rights. In the event that any portion of the Work is not copyrightable.
The Contributor hereby irrevocably assigns any and all ownership of the Work’s intellectual property rights, including but not limited to: patents, trademarks, design rights, database rights, trade secrets, moral rights, and other proprietary rights and ll rights of an equivalent nature anywhere in the world to the Toast.
The Contributor further acknowledges and agrees that the rights being granted to the Toast include the right to own and register all copyrights in the Work.
The Contributor hereby irrevocably assigns all the above described rights herein to the Toast and agrees to execute such additional documents as may be requested by the Toast to evidence the Toast’s ownership of said rights in the Work.
The Contributor further hereby waives any “moral rights” claims she may have with respect to the Work.

And the writer is giving all that up for $50.
 

ULTRAGOTHA

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They've evidently decided to alter their contract.

But it's a good thing to look out for in all other contracts.

Yeah, Victoria! Writer Beware is very effective!
 

mayqueen

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The Toast has posted a response.

So, with that said, we’re changing our contracts to ask only for First North American Rights (so rights revert to the writer after 6 months), as well as online serial rights so that we can retain the work on our sites in perpetuity. We’re also writing into the contract the promise that we will revert rights in the case of a book deal, so that what we’ve always done in practice will be spelled out in writing.
 

M.S. Wilson

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Yeah, I see they changed it; nice to know complaining actually works sometimes! :)
 

frimble3

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"What we’ve always done in practice will be spelled out in writing." How very nice. If this is what they've 'always' done, why didn't they just automatically include it in the contract? Especially as it would have made the contract simpler.
 

Filigree

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Hmm. The mere fact they had it in the contract in the first place would make me cautious about sending work to them.

This reminds me so much of Mental Floss, whose videos I loved until I found out the company was grabbing too many rights from submitters. Guess what isn't on my watch list anymore?
 
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Locke

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How frequently do markets respond this way, this quickly, to public criticism of their contract terms? I've been following Writer Beware for a while now, and I can't recall a precedent. If what I'm thinking is true, then it seems unfair to vilify them in the light of how they've responded.
 

aliceshortcake

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This reminds me so much of Mental Floss, whose videos I loved until I found out the company was grabbing too many rights from submitters. Guess what isn't on my watch list anymore?

That makes two of us!
 

Filigree

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Random House responded fairly fast to outside objections about the Hydra imprint contract. I've seen others.

In the case of The Toast and The Butter, my worry is 1) why did they have that contract in the first place? 2) Is the initial harsh response to criticism the press standard, or have editorial attitudes actually shifted now?

ETA: to be fair, Parish has apologized for his 'precious words' and 'dream journals' comments, as the result of being too tired for safe smartphone use. The contract has changed. I'm still not certain how a wholesale rights grab was excused as a way to 'protect' individual writers from plagiarism.

I'll see how they handle these issues in the future, before I consider sending work there. $50 is a token payment. Saying 'I've sold here' about a prestigious market, is the real payment. I have made more tangential sales of other work, to readers of my Cleis Press antho story, than I made on the initial sale. Then again, markets also lose their cachet; I'm not the only author who pulled a submission from Weird Tales after their 'blackface' fiasco a few years back.
 
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mayqueen

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I'm not sure what you mean by initial harsh response, Filigree. Pavich made an offensive remark on Twitter, but The Butter editor Roxane Gay responded just as quickly and with immediate concern.

The Toast/Butter has a track record of owning up to their mistakes in a responsible way, in my opinion. The rights grab was shitty. It does make me a little more concerned about The Toast/Butter's business practices. But overall, I'm pleased with how they handled this situation and I will continue to be an avid fan. I've never written for them, but I have friends who have.
 

victoriastrauss

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If the criticism had been limited to my post, I kind of doubt that anything would have come of it--I think Writer Beware is too far outside The Toast's constituency for anything I said to really register. It took John Scalzi and Nick Mamatas, who either are in that world or have followers who are in it, to boost the signal enough for them to get the message.

I agree they deserve kudos for responding quickly. I can't tell if it was a case of editorial staff not being aware enough of their own contract terms, or just overlooking bad terms because general practice was (allegedly, at least) to do something different. Saying that "in practice we always reverted rights on request," and justifying yourself by claiming that your sudden contract change is only codifying what you've always done informally, is all very well, but in that case, why have the rights grab in the first place?

The contract is the bottom line of any author-publisher relationship. It's a foolish writer who thinks that "in practice" will always trump actual contract language.

- Victoria
 

Captcha

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I'm a huge fan of the writing at The Toast, but my impression over the last year or so of being an avid reader is that they have been a little surprised by their own success and really stretching themselves to manage their growth.

Honestly, this seems like the best resolution of the situation. There was a problem, it was pointed out, addressed, and now there's a better contract going forward. They've also made it clear that they will make the changes retroactive to cover previously signed writers. I'm usually pretty cynical, but that seems like a convincing sign of good faith, to me.

So I'm going to continue being fan. Yay!
 

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