Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Awful Desperation of the Fiction Writer in Today's World

I've read disturbing facts on Facebook having to do with publishers. Asking for forever copyright to a book, plus all foreign rights and movie rights, for instance. What!? Just go get a gun and shoot yourself instead, that would be a faster way to destruction. Or what about a publisher changing terms in the midst of accepting stories. What? You don't go changing terms willynilly. Not if you want to keep contributors worth their salt.  I’ll address that later.

Because really, trying to take away a writer's copyright? Insanity.

The number of years you grant is one thing and it's what you feel you can live with, but giving away your entire copyright forever? You'd have to be brain dead. Yet I've heard of a small press asking for those forever rights and maybe even one of the Big Five or Six is trying to go that drastic (for the writer) route too.

If a writer doesn't understand the strength and power of his copyright, he should get out of the writing business immediately. Do it, do it now, and don’t look back. You’re making the rest of us look stupid.

Yeah, I blame sneaky publishers for proposing such an unheard of thing, but let's blame "writers" who even listen to such rubbish without going ballistic.

Sometimes I think I've fallen down Alice's rabbit hole. If this is the way so-called publishing is going, it deserves to die. A big, rattling, snorkeling death.

Nothing gets me hotter than people taking advantage of writers or writers allowing it to happen.

Stealing copyright is like someone coming into your paid off home and saying, "I live here now, I'm taking over. I'm going to keep this house until 70 years after your death. What do you get in return? Bumkus, that's what you get."

Bottom line...there are NO circumstances under which you lose or give away your copyright forever. None. Not offers of money or the hope of heaven. None.

I've felt desperation as a writer before. Years trying to get published did that. But even then if the largest publisher in NY had offered a deal asking for all rights forever I would have embraced my desperation and said go away Junk Heap brain, I can't talk to you. You simply can’t be so desperate you would do that, can you? Again, Jesus, go cook a casserole or something instead of trying to be a writer.  You can’t possibly think giving away your copyright is an okay deal, under any conditions.

As for anthologists who change terms during the acceptance phase of compiling an anthology, well, cripes and soda crackers, what’s going on there? You want the fiction for a whole year, then you say okay I’ll settle for six months, then after stories come in you go back to a year’s rights. What? You offer a certain amount of payment then you change it, THEN you come back and change it back again! It’s like dealing with a swinging door in a stiff breeze. You say there will be just minor edits, then you go hogwallers all over the pages of stories, or so they say, and that swinging door is flying in a hurricane.

This, my dears, is not professional. Professional people do not do these things. There’s a statement of rights, a statement of payment, a true statement of editorial interference, and that’s it. It does not change on a whim and out of the blue.

I’ve been disturbed for some time when I’ve seen so many new writers giving away their stories or novels for “exposure.” Is your work not worth payment? Then don’t fucking write it in the first place! This is a profession, get it? It’s not a Look At Me I Got into an Anthology game.

Oh don’t be such a hardass, you might say.  Have a little sympathy. Sorry, I have no sympathy for morons and people indulging in stupid practices. Don’t devalue stories and novels. Don’t devalue yourself. Have a little pride, at least a little pride, for chrissakes. If you don’t think fiction is worth paying for, worth protecting the rights of, worth keeping out of pseudo-publisher hands who is stealing it and doing a terrible job with it, then hell, go along your merry ignorant way because you do not belong in the writing profession. And I’m not the only one who thinks that way.  I may be one of the few who will tell you the unvarnished truth, (because frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.) I am not the only one who thinks writers are being used and abused and, evidently, liking it just fine.

 Bah. Move over Alice, I’m trying to climb out of this hole. It’s got too many dancing cards in it and the rabbit's wearing a hat.


  1. I seek out publishers who have author-friendly contracts. They usually offer small advances, but higher royalties. Since my agent died, I have more flexibility in placing my work. Unfortunately, it also take more of my writing time. I'm always willing to share information about contracts via e-mail or FB chat. I'd be interested to know the name of the publisher that got your ire. But privately, please.

  2. Billie Sue Mosiman! You nailed it again. We know publishers can be predators, but there is no excuse for a writer to Eat Stupid for Breakfast, just to get that tiny tidbit of affirmation that says: "Hey! I have publisher. I got a contract. I'm somebody." Those authors don't even see the sign that says DEAD END. I love that after 35 years in publishing you are still cutting out those forked tongues by the roots. Luv You.