Showing posts with label contracts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label contracts. Show all posts

29 June 2021

Bad Contracts

During the forty-plus years I’ve been writing professionally, I’ve heard no end of complaints about the bad contracts writers have signed.

I’ve also signed bad contracts, but I’m not about to complain. The difference between most complainers and me: I signed bad contracts knowing full well they were bad. I knew what I was getting into, and, when I balanced short-term benefits against long-term benefits, short-term benefits won.

Mostly during the early years, but continuing up until the mid-2010s, I sold all rights to more than 400 short stories because the promise of immediate payment meant food on the table and a roof over my family’s head. The possibility of potential additional income from the licensing of reprints and other subsidiary rights at some indefinable point in the future was insufficient to counter-balance immediate income.

(“Immediate” is a relative term: even with “pay on acceptance” publications, there’s often a several-week gap between returning a signed contract and receiving payment, and one publisher I worked with slowly stretched weeks into months before finally ceasing all payments.)

The stories for which I sold all rights were often published under pseudonyms or without any byline at all, and they were written in genres for which there was no perceived life after initial publication. So, unless I told you the titles of those stories and where they were published, you might never know they were mine, nor were you likely to see the stories in any form other than original publication.

Until now.

Print-on-demand and electronic books have changed publishing, making it easier and less expensive to release collections of reprints. At least two publishers that own defunct magazines that published my work are doing just that, gathering stories from their archives and assembling them into POD anthologies and eBooks available from various online bookstores.

During the past few years, I’ve been keeping an eye on these publishers’ releases, using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and my wife’s Prime account to search for reprints of my stories. Often the story titles remain unchanged, so my work is reasonably easy to identify. Even so, I occasionally find stories by other writers with titles identical to mine, which is why I use my wife’s Prime account to dig deeper than just examining story titles.

Recently, I discovered eight of my stories reprinted by two different publishers in three different anthologies: Falling in Love...Again (BroadLit) contains one story, Stroke of Midnight (True Renditions, LLC) contains one story, and Cupid’s Day (True Renditions, LLC) contains six stories. And this isn’t the first time I’ve found stories reprinted without my knowledge. So far, I’ve identified at least twenty.

I don’t expect to be notified when one of these stories is reprinted. The original publishers presented me with all-rights contracts that I willingly signed, and the current owners of those rights can do with the stories what they wish.

Even so, I likely will never sign another all-rights contract (which, for those who don’t know, is not the same as a work-for-hire contract), but, who knows, there may be another bad contract in my future. And if I sign it, I’ll have no one to blame but myself.

In other reprint news: “Mr. Sugarman Visits the Bookmobile,” 
originally published in Shhh...Murder! (Darkhouse Books, 2018) was released in May 2021 as one of Wildside Press’s Barb Goffman Presents titles, and “Feel the Pain,” originally published in Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin (Mysterious Press, 2003) was reprinted in Modern Mayhem, June 7, 2021.

03 June 2015

There's a contract out on me

by Robert Lopresti

I did something unusual this week.  I signed a publisher's contract.

Well, technically I have signed a lot of such agreements over the years.  Mostly for short stories, a few times for books.  But this one feels different.

First of all, it's for nonfiction, a book related to my day job, not to the world of mysteries.  But that's not the important difference.

You see, every contract I have signed in the past has been an agreement that a publisher would put out something I had written.  This time I am agreeing to write something.  In other words, I am committing myself to have a book that meets certain specification finished by a certain date.

That's right.  I have a deadline.

I wrote a rather cranky piece many years ago about fellow authors who complain about the tyranny of deadlines.  My point was that some of us would be thrilled if an editor was waiting for us
to write THE END.  When you are having a bad day at what Rex Stout called the alphabet piano it is depressing to realize that no one but you gives a damn whether you keep pounding away or go outside and fly a kite.

Be careful what you wish for, because there is now a big publishing house at the other end of the country where, I like to imagine, an editor is standing with his arms folded, one foot tapping, watching the calendar pages slowly turn, and waiting for my masterpiece to arrive.

So, excuse me if I keep today's missive short.  I have fifteen months to crank out 110,000 words.  Wish me luck.