Ken (ken_schneyer) wrote,
Ken
ken_schneyer

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Hm, contracts, hm...

I wonder sometimes if I'm too much of a lawyer.

I had a story accepted about a year ago.  The publisher sent me the contract, which I expected to sign, but, having spent all that money on law school, I thought I'd actually read the thing.

I hated it.

It wasn't as outrageous as some contracts I've seen, but there were terms that seemed unfair, unnecessary or just crazy.  Indemnification clauses that mentioned everybody from the shareholders to the employees and contained a six-paragraph process for claims, termination rights for the market but not for the writer, the right to use a fascimile of my signature (WTF), etc.  I asked the publisher to revise some of the terms, and even pointed out some other model contracts that might be substituted.  She showed the contract to her lawyer (not, I expect, a specialist in literary matters) and I heard nothing for months.

In the interim, I contacted a writer friend who'd had a story published by the same market, just to see whether I was being over-zealous about the contract terms.

She said, "Oh, that contract sucks."  So, okay, I'm not crazy.

Last week checked back with them, and the editor (who thought she'd contacted me already) said that she didn't feel able to change the contract, and so would pass on the story.  I resubmitted it elsewhere today.

I feel funny about it, because it's a little story, sold for miniscule pay, and chances are that most of the distasteful terms would never arise in real life anyway.  But dang it, nobody else in the business writes contracts like that, and I know icky terms when I see them.  (Previously I agreed -- just once -- to sell "all rights" to a different story, because the buyer was a SFWA "pro market" and I wanted the credit.  But now that I'm a SFWA member, I'm not submitting anything to that market anymore.)

So, nuts, I suppose it would have been nice to have the story published there, and I'm early enough in my so-called "career" that I wonder whether I can afford to turn down any offer of publication.  But there it is.
Tags: contracts, fiction, lawyers, professionalism, sfwa
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