It’s Tough out there…

Remember I said Writing is a job and you have to work on writing?  Then I mentioned that it was also a business [shudder…] and not an Artsy-Fartsy experience?

On my Twitter feed today, the Author’s guild tweeted this article: ‘Authors Are More Vulnerable To Exploitation Than Ever’ If you are an aspiring writer, it would pay you to pay attention the to politics going on surrounding the profession. It ain’t all “The Pirates done did it”.

Getting a publisher is not the end all be all of being a writer. It is undeniably a grand sense of validation and accomplishment that someone who deals with writers thinks your writing is good and they are willing to put their money with their mouth is. After that? It goes to shit.

They point out in an article that the average pay of a writer is £11,000 in the UK market for 2013. That’s $17312.90 on today’s market. [Not tomorrow’s market but June 30th exchange rate]. Bit of cold water there, eh? You would qualify for food stamps if that was your only income.

Equally bleak was the news from Canada, where writers’ incomes have decreased 27% since 1998, according to John Degen, a novelist and poet who serves as the Executive Director of the Writers’ Union of Canada. Degen attributed part of that decrease to a 2012 law that significantly broadened educational exceptions to copyright and yielded an immediate 27% drop in K–12 book sales.

From the guild survey:
Full-time and part-time authors, taken together, are reporting that their median income from their writing is only $8,000 per year — a 24-percent drop in five years.

For full-time authors, the median is now at $17,500, down 30 percent in those same five years.

Writers who have been in the field for between 25 and 40 years are seeing the biggest drop: from $28,750 to only $9,500.

It’s no bloody wonder authors are going to self publishing even while we try to get that vaunted approval.

Getting that contract isn’t the end all and be all. It is simply something else you have to deal with if you want to get your worth out of publishers and is why you need an agent or a lawyer to look at that first contract.

Standard” contracts—the boilerplate offered to un-agented (or under-agented) authors—are even worse than those that most authors with agents or lawyers sign. That’s because agented agreements traditionally start off with the many changes that the agent or lawyer has previously negotiated with a particular publisher. One agented contract we’ve seen includes at least 96 changes from the original “standard” language, plus seven additional clauses and two additional riders. Every one of those changes is a point that the agent has negotiated in the author’s favor.

You remember agents, right? The people who are even harder to get than a publisher.

This is part of why we preach to protect your rights and your copyright.  It’s the only value you have and if you sign that away, you are screwed.

The reason I bring this up is I’ve had writer’s tell me that they didn’t care about their copyrights as long as they got published.  They were in effect throwing away the only value they have as writers.   You know those series you hope your favorite author  re-releases?  And she or he does but books 11, 12 and 13 are missing from the series?  The problem is her/his rights and her/his copyright with that publisher.  S/he made a bad deal.  S/he has to wait for them to revert.  And the owner of those rights are being a dog in a manger and not releasing those books again but not letting the author have them back.   The same with “Why can’t I get your book in Japan?”  Many a time it’s because the author signed over those rights and the publisher won’t release there.

Or worse yet, the silly git signed a boilerplate that gives away all their regional rights as well as their movie rights and allows licensing of their characters.  You can watch a movie being made about your characters but since you signed away your rights, you won’t profit.  It might pick up book sales but who is going to read your books if Hollywood got creative and what you see on the screen isn’t what you write?  Or they do a spin-off series by another author with your characters?

Why do publishers insist on offering their newest partners more than a hundred conditions so dubious that they’ll quickly back down on them if asked? It largely boils down to unequal bargaining power and historic lethargy. Anxious to get their works published, authors may wrongly believe that the contract their editors assure them is “standard” is the only deal available, take it or leave it

If you click on the link above the article goes on to list what they consider fair and just for writers.  I can’t argue with any of it and don’t want to even try.  It’s for our benefit after all.

Writing is a business.  You can never afford to say I’m not worried about my rights, I just want to get published.   The end result is horrible.  Just ask those writers who are trying to buy back their rights from Ellora’s Cave We aren’t discussing the lawsuit here.  Any comments on that will be deleted.   I’m pointing out a rights nightmare if for any reason you feel it is needful to get those rights back.  Another author who signed one of those godawful 80 book contracts had a major falling out with her publisher and ended up violating the contract and not getting her rights to her series back.  The fall out is a person who violated her contract that every other publisher is going to think is a space case and not touch with a ten foot pole unlike other situations where paid/not paid is being argued out.  If you signed it,  YOU live up to it unless you can find a legal means to break it but just deciding you don’t want to do it is not a valid means.  That’s why they are called contracts.  It’s business.

I’ll give you a big hint here, any writer who is serious is never going to sign a contract for more than a book or two or three at a time and will always retain their series rights so they can shop around.  That’s why the 3 book holes in some series.  It’s a sure sign you are an artsty-fartsy nitwit if you dive head first into an 80 book contract and no, other writers are not looking at you with envy, they are saying “What a moron.”and rolling their eyes.

It’s a real pisser that writing is a business but it is.  You must understand that.  You must read your contracts.  You need a lawyer.  You need an agent if you plan on dealing with the big 5 and sometimes the small multitude or you need to be damn savvy if you don’t have one for the small multitude.  If you sell one book, get thee to an agent fast before signing for any more than the one and be prepared to lose your shirt on that one if you didn’t have a good lawyer look over it.  You need to worry about taxes and deductions [God help us… on $17,000 dollars…]  You are a business.

And it is part of writing.   Sitting there after signing an 80 book deal whining about pirates or fussing on and on about getting your rights back from a murky contract when you may or may not have been paid is NOT how you want to spend your writing career.   Go into it as a business person and you’ll stay afloat better.  And frankly you can’t escape it.

The RWA chapters even offer classes about the business side of it.  The larger organizations like this offer a view into the business and other authors you can talk to about it in your genre.

Personally after sitting there pounding out a draft then having to tear my hair out over  edits, the last thing I want to do is deal with the business end of it.  But I have to do so .  We all have to do so.  We can’t just twitter away saying “I don’t care about my rights, I just want to be published”.  To do that is a long hard road and you’ll do a lot of screaming about pirates when you did it to yourself.  No one else had a hand in it.

Now if you are sure you can handle this and still want to be a writer?  Learn about the business end.  Ain’t that a bitch?

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8 thoughts on “It’s Tough out there…

    1. Considering some of the recent events in the area of writing, a bad contract stops you dead and leaves you to pick up the pieces, if you can.

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