Friday, January 6, 2012

Publishing red flags

Every so often, I like to remind that there are people out there who either set out to scam writers or don't know what they're doing and have contract terms that are highly unfavorable.

The latest couple of notes:

1. Any publisher who's web site commiserates with you on how hard it is to get published is either a thinly veiled vanity publisher or a frustrated writer trying their hand at publishing.

2. There is absolutely no need for any publisher to demand an exclusivity period on a short story of more than one year. Six months is the standard, but one year is fine if it's, say, an annual anthology and they're trying for 'until the next book comes out'. I recently saw a publisher asking for a fifteen year exclusivity period (with no royalties involved, even). If it's over a year, don't sign. These days, there are so many things you can do with your back list. Also, never sign over full rights unless it's a ghost writing deal or the like and you are being paid very well. Never sign over any rights on permanent exclusivity. Do not sign over ALL of your subsidiary rights - I have signed over audio rights to an e-zine, but usually only if there is extra payment involved. But an ezine does not need your movie rights. (And yes, I have seen this). Some of it, I think, is people on all sides not properly researching how copyright works. But some of it is people out to exploit writers.

3. There is a scam circulating right now that is aimed at erotica writers. These people are advertising on Craigslist and writer's boards offering $20 a story. They then turn around and put these stories on Kindle Direct under their byline. Apparently, they're making enough to get the $20 and then some. This is generally less than 1 cent a word for the writer - and you might make more money just putting them on Kindle Direct yourself. I've seen this cropping up in multiple places. I don't recommend taking less than 1 cent a word unless it's a very difficult-to-place story and you can get some good editing out of the deal.