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07 March 2011 @ 03:34 pm
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.
Current Location: Downtown
Current Mood: crankycranky
Current Music: Church bells
Jon Gibbsjongibbs on March 7th, 2011 08:59 pm (UTC)
Crappy contract = crappy publisher. No matter what their public persona/reputation.

I'd say your well shot of them.
Ken: Roll eyesken_schneyer on March 8th, 2011 01:47 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jon. Good way to look at it.
Ann Leckieann_leckie on March 7th, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC)
What? Why would anyone use a contract like that? I mean, seriously? There's no point to some of that stuff. So why ask for any of it?

And there's a SFWA pro market that buys all rights? Seriously?

I wonder whether I can afford to turn down any offer of publication.

Offers like that? Yesirree Bob. You can definitely afford to turn those down. IMO, of course.

Ken: Crazy or Gleeful?ken_schneyer on March 8th, 2011 01:50 am (UTC)
Thanks, Ann.

In fact, Odyssey buys "all rights", or at least they did in 2009. (Interestingly, Eugie tells me that other Carus Publishing markets, notably Cricket, don't buy all rights. So go figure.) I tried to talk them out of it, but they're primarily a nonfiction mag and they do a lot of work with collections, repackaging, etc., so they don't feel they can do without it. To be fair, the pay-per-word was superb, and I got a lot of assurances that if I ever wanted to use the story, say, for an anthology, it wouldn't be hard to get permission.
Ann Leckieann_leckie on March 8th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
Ah, that's a better deal then, I'm glad to hear that.
girlspell: earsgirlspell on March 7th, 2011 09:29 pm (UTC)
I laughed over the part about rights to your signature. They want to write your checks! Read your mail. Be pretty good if they paid your bills...and your taxes. But we can't have everything.
Ken: Winkken_schneyer on March 8th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
Thanks, Rachel. We can only hope.
amamamaamamama on March 7th, 2011 09:46 pm (UTC)
WOT? That's some contract. Reminds me of the contract a certain kitchen equipment manufacturer presented to us when we wanted to become their agents in Norway. They wanted to be able to work directly with key accounts, without compensation. Basically, we should work like *bleep* to win those major distributors/shops, and not get paid. Not very likely. So we told them to change it, and never got a reply. 10 years later they're still not in the Norwegian market. *g* Not that we care. (But we never expected a German company to behave like that. Dutch, yes, German, no. Life is full of surprises)
Ken: Blowing Kissken_schneyer on March 8th, 2011 01:52 am (UTC)
Indeed. How are you doing?
mmerriam on March 8th, 2011 02:52 am (UTC)
You did the right thing by turning that down.
time_shark: glass eyetime_shark on March 8th, 2011 01:38 pm (UTC)
Can you say who these folks were?