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Old Jul 12 2009, 02:54 PM   #30
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: So--who does original fic?

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Uh...publishers aren't going to rewrite their contract unless you're Stephen King. MAYBE. At the very least, someone who's consistently demonstrated their ability to earn out their advance and actually start making them some serious money. Which is almost no one. (However if you're J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer you could probably ask from some truely batshit insane clauses and get it because when you make THAT kind of money, you can do what you want!) YOU don't get to write the contract. They do. If you have an agent or a lawyer, they can advise you whether or not to sign, but unless you're someone who matters in the grand sceme of things, if you say "I don't like this part" they'll say "we have ten other nobodies lined up who won't ask questions."
If the publishing house really has ten other nobodies lined up who won't ask questions, I would run very, very, very far away. Either because they've just proven they don't have standards and they were trying to sucker me in some way, or because I need to go back and re-write my book (or start a new one) and hone my craft as it obviously isn't as good as I thought it was if people aren't biting. There's also the option of putting the book out there again to see if a more amiable publisher is interested in it. Publishers trying to sucker authors should be punished, preferably by that author becoming successful through another publishing house.

And yes, I did just take your paragraph very literally there. But to be honest, I'm the sort of person that thinks very, very carefully before trying to do something. I usually have reasons that I think are solid. In this case, I would want equally solid counter-arguments, either through my Agent telling me why a Publishing house wouldn't like it, or from an editor. (I'm not against changing my mind; I just want a counter-argument that teaches me something I didn't know, or that is as solid as my argument.) Thus far, with you and others arguing from the perceived Publisher's sides of things, I'm not convinced.

An author trying to ask for impossible things with bad reasoning and no sense of what is in the Publishing House's favor is going to be That Author, and will certainly need a hell of a lot more leverage to get what they want. There are certainly things that are stupid to ask for--I am NOT denying that.

And also, on a short-story basis, I wouldn't try to haggle. It's like the $3.00 gallon of milk...not worth your time. The sums of money involved aren't big enough. You'll be shown the door.

But...In business, you negotiate. You haggle. It doesn't matter if you're big or small. Publishers have boilerplates because it makes things easier for them than writing a fresh one anew--you get experience for what is broadly required in a new contract with an author. Authors have agents so that they don't get suckered by the standard boilerplates (which are biased in the publishing house's favor, or so I've read on Agent blogs). Agents have their own boilerplates (which are different from a publishing house's) to cut down on the time it takes to create a new one, and because they negotiate on their own with publishing houses on behalf of their stable of authors. To compare...going to the grocery store to buy a gallon of milk is set in stone...it's worth nobody's time in this country to screw around with a $3 gallon of milk. But...going to the car dealership you haggle...no matter if it's a cheapy $15k car, or a pricy $100k one. You're dealing with amounts of money that people are slow to part with; you negotiate so that each party feels secure in parting with their goods, be it money or car.

Certainly your book contract is going to allow you to haggle as much as a car dealership? Aren't the sums of money involved comparible? From a few thousand up to many thousands? You'd haggle about different things, yes, and from the other side of the bargain (you're selling rather than buying). That's how business works once you get away from buying cartons of milk.

I have come into contact with some pretty wealthy people (compared to me; financially I'm squarely lower class; they were upper middle class of the sort that drive BMWs and Corvettes and have mansions...I saw an in-car GPS back in 2001. They're only becoming common these past few years.). The one thing I've noticed is that these people negotiate. I saw one negotiate with a bookstore manager to get a discount off of a book that had a slightly mangled cover. (The manager agreed and gave a discount.) I had a boss that negotiated all sorts of contracts, I got to overhear a lot of those negotiations which was very eye-opening, and I had a landlady that handled million-to-billion dollar government contracts. They all had in common a willingness to haggle, to look at the other person's needs and wants, and at their own, and to make a compromise that was serviceable to both parties. They were all people in management or sales positions. It's very different from the "You pay $3.00 for that gallon of milk or go away" mentality of going to the grocery store. But it pretty much permeates business if you're in any sort of management, marketing, or sales position. Which, editors are...they are in the position to bring new products into the company. Which means they are given the power to haggle.

Is a new author going to get all the concessions Steven King and J. K. Rowling get? No. Hell no, even. There's some things the publishing houses won't want to negotiate on, due to their own past experiences. (Most authors know squat about business and their desires are flawed in a business sense.) You only get that sort of extreme (and "stupid" even) flexibility in your contracts as an author when the Publishing House knows beyond a doubt that you'll be very, very big and that train isn't going to be derailed by a few misplaced pebbles like a small author's book would. But negotiating out a clause covering pre-Publishing-House posting of a partial or full manuscript on the authors' own website (or similar venue) shouldn't make a publishing house break out in hives. If it does (and, granted, this is just my opinion), either your Agent is made of Fail, your Editor is trying to screw you (or is inflexible), or the Publishing house has issues that are putting pressure on the Editor contrary to their own thoughts about things. It behooves both publishing house and author to cover this contingency because as I said earlier...as 12 year old fanfic authors grow up and make original fic, it's gonna become fairly common to have authors that stuck their manuscripts online at some point in time. Covering your ears and going lalalalala to ignore it won't actually make it go away. It would make better business sense to allow contingencies for it.

So, in summary...are all contracts set in stone? No. Otherwise you wouldn't need an agent. Will Publishing Houses veto stupid clauses? Yes. Don't screw around with clauses unless you have a very solid reason (I happen to think a clause formalizing a manuscript's former status as being online in some way is a solid reason, given how the times have changed.) Do stupidly successful authors get the flexibility in their contracts that newbies do not? Yes. Someone needs to football-tackle Laurell K. Hamilton with a few good editors. Even J. K. Rowling could have used some bloat-excising on her last HP books. Will the Publishing industry eventually have to move with the times? Yes, and here's a blog post by John Scalzi addressing an issue with the Big 3 SFF Magazines' submission policies. Antiquated processes need to be updated in the SFF industry.

So, I stand by my earlier statements.

And, to reiterate...I do see where you're coming from. Being conservative as a new author won't hurt. If you do all sorts of dumb things that break the "rules" such as using asinine fonts or finding out where all the editors live in New York and sending their kids gifts, AND you put your story online, then yes you're digging your own grave. Use common sense, and do your research. But I don't agree that sticking a novel online at some point in time will destroy your chance of a sale...as per my reasoning in all my long-ass posts. It may hurt it, for certain publishers. But I suspect that will end up affecting Publishing Houses the same way the Big 3 are being affected, per Scalzi's blog post. Mainly, other more agile publishers will snap up talent that was passed over for stupid and short-sighted reasons.

But anyway. This has been argued to death, and I think everyone interested has already taken sides, haha. So. ::wanders to another thread::
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Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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