Tag s | Contracts

Deadlines Are Friends, Not Nemeses

When is your next deadline? What? You don’t have one? Why not? Aren’t you a writer?

I know some writers create fine prose or poetry without deadlines—I just don’t know how they do it.

“But,” you may protest, “I don’t have a contract yet. How can I have a deadline?”

I suggest you always have a deadline, whether a publisher imposes it or not. No one is preventing you from making—and meeting—your own deadlines.

Many years ago, after years of high-intensity pastoral ministry (is there any other kind?), I found myself in a desk job as a magazine editor. Having been a pastor, I was accustomed to juggling multiple deadlines, so that was nothing new, but this was also the first time in my adult life when my job wasn’t 24/7, so to speak. So, I thought this would be a fine time to try to fulfill my dream of writing a book.

It wouldn’t have been kosher to work on my book project during office hours, so I decided to work on it for a couple hours each workday evening after my two school-age children were in bed. I planned for the book to be fourteen chapters long, so I broke the work into fourteen weekly deadlines. I promised myself (and told my wife) that if each week’s chapter wasn’t written by bedtime Saturday evening, I would not go to bed until it was done. I don’t think I pulled any “all-nighters,” but I did work well into the night several times to meet that week’s deadline (and, since I wasn’t a pastor at the time, I calculated that I could catch up on sleep a little during the sermon the next morning—hey, don’t pretend you’ve never done it!).  But after fourteen weeks of typing each chapter on a manual typewriter (those were the days) and then scanning the pages into a prehistoric word processing program each Monday morning at the office, I had a completed first draft.

I realize that not everyone is as obsessive-compulsive as I am. But I still think deadlines are your friends, not your nemeses. A deadline can help you to focus and sort out what is most important to you. A self-made deadline can help you to practice for the day when you must fulfill a contractual. A deadline can keep your eyes on the prize, measure your progress, and impart a sense of accomplishment when you reach your finish line. A deadline can shape your future and breathe life into your dreams.

So, don’t wait to be assigned an article or offered a book contract to start working toward a deadline. Setting your own deadlines may actually help to bring such things to pass.

 

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Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few short proposals.

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Defusing Contract Landmines

by Steve Laube

During the last six months we have run into some landmines buried within some small press contracts. In each case it was the author’s relationship with the publisher that helped land the offer, and so we proceeded to review the paperwork in order to protect the author’s interests.

In one case the small publisher was very grateful for our negotiations and contract changes. They plan to change their contract for all authors in the future. We were glad to help our client form that new partnership.

In two cases the publisher said they could not afford to hire a lawyer to review our requested changes to the contract and thus were unwilling to negotiate. We recommended the author walk away both times.

In yet another case the publisher wouldn’t negotiate and said, in essence, “take it or leave it.” We walked away. Our client terminated their relationship with us and signed the deal on their own.

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I is for Indemnification

by Steve Laube

Publishing is not without risks. Plagiarism, fraud, and libel by an author are real possibilities. Thus within a book contract is a legal clause called indemnification inserted to protect the publisher from your antics.

The indemnification clause, in essence, says that if someone sues your publisher because of your book, claiming something like libel (defamation) or plagiarism etc., your publisher can make you pay the fees to compensate for their losses. This is to “indemnify” which is defined as “to compensate (someone) for harm or loss.” Bottom line: The publisher has the right to hire its own attorneys (at the author’s expense) to defend against these claims.

Doesn’t sound like a happy clause does it? But you can understand why it is there. This clause and the Warranty clause are notoriously difficult to negotiate. (The Warranty clause is where the things the author guarantees or warrants are listed; i.e. the book is original, it is not libelous in content, etc. This clause will be more fully covered by me at another time) The language has been written by the publisher’s attorneys and are usually set in stone.

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D is for Dispute Resolution

by Steve Laube

Pray that it never happens to you. But if there is a situation where you find yourself in a legal battle with your publisher regarding your book contract there are terms that will dictate how that disagreement is handled.

Here is one version from an old contract:

Any claim or dispute arising from or related to this Agreement shall be settled by mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of a mutually agreed upon alternative dispute resolution service. Judgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in any court otherwise having jurisdiction. The parties agree that these methods shall be the sole remedy for any controversy or claim arising out of this Agreement and expressly waive their right to file a lawsuit in any civil court against one another for such disputes, except to enforce an arbitration decision.

Regardless of the place of its physical execution, this contract shall be interpreted under the laws of the State of XXXXXXXXXX and of the United States of America.

If you read this carefully you’ll see it lays out the rules that keeps a dispute out of the court system and forces the two parties to use binding arbitration instead.

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Review Any and Every Contract You Sign

by Steve Laube

Today’s headline sounds like a blinding flash of the obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers are not careful about the agreements they sign. Those with a literary agent have that business partner who will review their book contracts, that is a given. But what about their magazine article or online article contracts?

Earlier this month the Condé Nast organization, which includes Wired, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker, surprised their freelance writers with a new agreement that has Condé Nast controlling the film and television rights on articles published by their magazines, with a cap on the revenue paid to the writer. Why? Because past articles turned into big box office hits like “Argo,” “Eat Pray Love,” and “Brokeback Mountain.”

This contractual assertion has put writers in a bind because they do not want to lose the chance to writer for these prestigious magazines.

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News You Can Use – Oct. 2, 2012

Why is the new J.K.Rowling e-book priced at $17.99? – This brief article presents some succinct economic details to help you further understand how this industry works.

Penguin Sues Authors for Advances Paid – There are at least two sides to every story, but this appears to be a number of cases where a writer signed a contract, accepted a sizeable cash advance, and never delivered the manuscript. There must have been previous attempts to get the money back for Penguin to resort to the court system to collect.

Get Paid More for your Freelance Work! – This article has 37 negotiating tips to improve your freelance editing income.

Congratulations to our clients Aaron McCarver, Diane Ashley, and Susan May Warren for winning the Carol Award for their fiction category. Click here for a complete list of winners and their book jackets. Well done!

The Accidental History of the @ Symbol – The origin of things like these is always fascinating to me. This article is from the Smithsonian Magazine.

The Importance of a Good Contract – “I Love Lucy” is worth $20 million annually…sixty years after the show aired.

My father, Roger G. Laube, passed away on September 15th and we recently held the burial and memorial services with family gathered from six states. He was a remarkable man who had an unwavering faith in God and a vigorous life in business, church, music, and family. He served as an incredible model for all who were touched by him. We love you Dad. You will be missed. An online memorial can be found at this link (http://bit.ly/QCg6tc). Included there is a full obituary and a “more photos” section. (Memorial gifts should be sent to Gideons International.). Picture to the left is from his 90th birthday, last year.

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Goodbye to Traditional Publishing?

by Steve Laube

Recently Ann Voss Peterson wrote of her decision to never sign another contract with Harlequin. One major statistic from the article is that she sold 170,000 copies of a book but earned only $20,000.

Multiple clients sent me Peterson’s “Harlequin Fail” article and wanted my opinion. My first thought is that this was typical “the publisher is ripping me off” fodder. But that would be a simplistic and knee-jerk reaction and unfair to both Peterson and Harlequin.

Yes, Harlequin pays a modest royalty that is less than some publishers. Since when is that news? That has always been their business model because it is the only way to create and maintain an aggressive Direct-to-Consumer and Trade publishing program. Their publishing machine is huge and they are a “for profit” company. For Profit. If they are unprofitable, they go away.

If an author is uncomfortable with the terms, then don’t sign the contract (which is Peterson’s decision going forward). I urge each of you to be careful not to sign a contract and then complain about it later. Unless you were completely hoodwinked you agreed to those terms and should abide by them.

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What if You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent?

One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.

What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?

This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.

Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:

a)      Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).

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