Social media was buzzing with more contract queries last week, after one magazine began issuing fiction writers with a new contract.
I haven’t seen the entire contract because I am not one of those writers on their preferred supplier list, but many of the queries were around a clause that appeared to request the transfer of all intellectual property rights.
Clearly, without seeing the whole contract, it would be inappropriate for me to give advice. And, anyway, I’m not a legal expert, so I’m not trained to give such advice. But I did think it would be useful to remind writers of potential basic steps they can consider when faced with a situation like this.
Nobody likes to think about dying, but have you considered what might happen to your writing business after you’re dead? Don’t forget, everything you write is protected by copyright for another 70 years after your demise. That’s 70 years when others could make use of your intellectual property rights.
But would they know that? Where would they go to look for information about your writing business? I keep all of my information in a database in my computer … which is password protected. Which is no use to anyone when I’m dead.
Last Saturday I was assisting with a workshop on self-publishing run by Wrekin Writers, as part of the Wellington Festival, and the topic of Hybrid Authors was briefly discussed. So I thought I’d take the opportunity of posting my recent Writing Magazine feature where I chatted to two writers about being a hybrid author.
Traditionally-published or self-published? Simon Whaley chats to two writers with a foot in both camps.
A few years ago, a writer’s life was binary: either you sought a traditional publishing contract for your book, or you self-published it. Traditionally-published authors liked someone else picking up the costs of editing, proofreading, jacket design and production (in return for a reduced royalty rate), while independent authors were proud that they were in complete control of the whole process, despite having to finance it, in return for a higher royalty rate.
However, the business of writing is changing. No longer is it necessary to be one or the other. Some writers are choosing the hybrid route: having a mixture of traditionally-published and self-published projects. Why be pigeon-holed into one, or the other, when you can have your cake and eat it?
Leah Mercer (https://www.leahmercer.com/books), whose latest novel The Man I Thought You Were, published by Amazon imprint Lake Union Publishing, believes being a hybrid author offers many benefits. ‘Hybrid authors really have the best of both worlds,’ she explains. ‘By self-publishing, they have the freedom to publish what they want at a price they choose, and they can plug the gaps that often occur when publishing with major houses.’
It’s that time of year when writers might see some ‘free’ money pop into their bank accounts, but not everyone will be lucky. The secondary rights organisations (ALCS and DACS) are making distributions, as follows:
I recently had to renegotiate a contract with a magazine I’ve done work for in the past. Looking back, I realised that the current contract which I was working with was over ten years old. And ten years is a long time in the magazine world.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t like the revised contract. But that didn’t matter, because these things are always just a starting point.
When you receive a contract, take yourself off somewhere quiet and read through it. If it helps, read aloud each clause. Do whatever it takes for you to understand it.
- Highlight in one colour clauses you don’t understand.
- Highlight in another colour the clauses you don’t like.
- Then put it to one side and do something else.
You may remember that at the start of the year I posted about the upcoming changes at DACS and ALCS regarding the way we can claim secondary rights for any images used in our work.
For those who don’t know, when our work is published it becomes available for photocopying. The Copyright Licensing Agency collects money from various sources (organisations such as schools, universities, public sector organisations, etc), and they redistribute that money to writers and illustrators, via a couple of distribution agencies. To receive a share of the cash you need to be a member of the relevant distribution agencies: ALCS and DACS. (I should point out that it’s not just photocopying money that is redistributed by these organisations, but it’s one of main sources of their income.)
It’s all change at DACS. There are two dates you need to put into your shiny new 2017 calendar:
- 16th January 2017
- 17th February 2017
The first date is when the DACS Payback Scheme opens for your 2016 claim, which is much earlier than usual (traditionally, it’s opened in August). The second deadline is the cut-off date for claims.
For those of you who don’t know, the DACS Payback scheme is the system photographers use for claiming money they’re entitled to for any secondary uses of their work (the most common example of which is photocopying: a magazine might pay you for using your photo in their publication, but if someone else then photocopies that magazine article you’r entitled to be paid for that use too). It’s similar to the ALCS system for words.
Sometimes, it’s not until you build up a body of work that you really appreciate what you have created. And that’s when the consequences of being a little slap dash with the rights you grant others in your work becomes apparent.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to be swayed into granting more rights in a piece of your work than you’d like. You know you really ought not give a publisher copyright in your article, but they are going to publish it (which is what you really want) and, let’s face it, who is going to turn Ten Alternative Uses Of A Nose-Hair Clipper into a movie?