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Open Letters from The Authors Guild and The Society of Authors

5 January 2016





Big Publishing, Contracts, Non-US

26 Comments to “Open Letters from The Authors Guild and The Society of Authors”

  1. Yapping lapdogs usually get quieted with a bucket of cold water.

  2. I know we are fond of bashing the AG around here, and rightly so, but I’m curious to see if anything will come of this.

    Will the publishing industry blink and make some concessions? Or will they chuckle and wave a dismissive hand?

    • The latter.
      They have no leverage.
      What are they going to do? Tell their members to selfpublish?
      They’re not a union and don’t negotiate for their members.

      Unless they are willing to claim contract collusion and sue over that there’s nothing they can do. You can’t shame the shameless.

      • Everything will depend on who gets behind it and is vocal about it. If Patterson or King or Child stood up and complained, something might get done. There are some good names there as signatories/committee members. Let’s see if anyone else steps up to hold the torch.

        • Pretty big “if” right there.

          Plus their contracts probably come with plenty of clauses of their own. Of the NDA variety.

          • Agreed. Like I said, I’m mostly just curious to see what plays out.

            • Me too Alan Tucker. I’ll wait and see. I watched AG beat HC to the ground over Rupert’s charge to his minions that HC should not only cancel over 200 books contracts [for various reasons, but that all authors would have to pay back their advances. AG was successful in a full k.o., and authors, unless having broken terms of actual contract, did not have to pay back anything, not even in the egregious ‘first proceeds’ clause, meant I believe, to starve and punish the authors.

              Good things can come from those some think bad. Very bad things can come from those some think good.
              We shall see in time I’m sure.

  3. AG does this every now and again, a little ‘our members would like’ fluff pieces that will have no actual affect on the publishers.

    An easy way to tell if this is actually something they do or don’t want is how they ‘publish’ it. Full page ads and FedEx-ed demands to the DoJ that ‘something needs to be done about’ — they think they mean business. A little blog-ing? Not so much …

    This is just to try to fool a writer or two into believing they’re ‘for the writers’ before launching their next (and much louder) whine about Amazon — or whoever their true masters are upset about …

  4. Blah, blah, blah.

    Junk mail.

  5. These contract terms exist because authors are competing with each other to win publishing slots.

    The terms will change when publishers are competing for authors to fill their slots.

    As long as authors are offering more books to publishers than the publishers need, publishers have no need to compete for authors.

    Just like widgets.

    • Yup.
      It’s all about leverage.
      In any negotiation between a giant multinational used to bully any and all comers the typical dreamer will get squeezed like an orange.
      Notice the whining when they come up against somebody with the leverage on their side.

    • Terrence, I think you nailed the entire issue squarely on the head.

  6. Why should the front list authors whine about contracts? Theirs are likely not full of rights grabs and egregious terms. Other authors’ contracts are of no interest to them, because they’re not personally affected. I predict silence.

    • I would estimate Deb that you are right, but the number who have cherry contracts is likely extremely few. Might be 50 authors total who gain preferential treatment in contracts. Again, contract only about as good as the agent/lawyer negotiating it. But more than that. There are inside negotiations that most do not ever hear about… board room /sales conf where authors and agents selected are invited and all kinds of deals proposed. Been there. It’s pretty amazing,

      Also, the upper 50 or 100 often have conscience for other writers who are being trod upon by pubs who are not only big, but also medium and small pubs. Whoever said it higher up the thread, is accurate. The minute well known, decades of success authors speak against their own publisher– and they do– the publisher often goes back to the drawing board. Authors’ rights are like any other set of rights hard won; they have to be fought for. They’ve never been given justly to all.

      I say, let’s do our part to fight the good fight in ways that most eery group has, since time out of mind. I often wonder since these issues seem eternal and infernal, what each author can do to help a better way that is more than condemnation only. It seems there has to be more for each of us to do.

      • The problem isn’t us trying to do better, it’s that there will ‘always’ be a writer somewhere that is so desperate to be ‘published’ that they will sign away their firstborn just to be able to claim they ‘made it’.

        We know it’s often a bad deal, but there are those that don’t. Proof of that is all the ones ASI and its many faces have fleeced.

        Educating new writers is the best we can do, but there will always be some poor fool that thinks it’s a good deal …

        • I think youre right Allen, that we have to educate new writers better. I have been giving thought to where to start saying that more –wherever there ARE truly new writers– for I notice that many forums may not be the place they most gather. And so would not be exposed to the facts.

          I’ve been thining of publishing instead some news articles, and giving them to other friendauthors to put in their FAQ on their own websites. I recommend all author websites have a section named something like “info for new authors’ or ‘questions Im often asked by new writers’– or something like that. I think that would help. And it doesnt have to be stentorian, just factual. And perhaps say even a bit about how longing can put one into the pie to be baked instead of sitting at the feast to eat the pie.

          I think it IS a good idea to place in the FAQ on one’s website, an evenhanded thought about these matters. Sort of like mapping the tigerbait underground traps in a jungle one has to cross.

  7. The only way for this to ever have any effect would be for EVERY author around the world to refuse to sign a contract with the terms offered by Big Publishing and demand better terms. Unless that happens, there will always be suckers signing bad contracts and BP couldn’t care less what happens to the rest. They could always build anther King or another Patterson.

  8. I don’t know how long these associations/guilds have been around, but it seems this type of letter should have been their first order of business WEEK ONE Of existing. About time.

    I hope they put muscle behind it–all those big authors refusing to hand in manuscripts until reform is done. They can afford it. They’re millionaires. They’d win.

  9. Interesting that the SFWA, the Western Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association are represented, but the RWA and the Mystery Writers of America Oops. Sorry about that. are not. (Not sure what Sisters in Crime is.) Is there some sort of split in genre fiction vis a vis Author’s Guild? Just seemed strange to see some genre fiction groups on that list on Page 2, but not other quite large ones.

  10. Begging is usually a poor way to get what you want.

    If all those groups really wanted to change contracts, they could encourage their members to use Amazon KDP rather than publishers. Make it easy for them to use Amazon. Publish tutorials, sponsor seminars, list cover artists and editors, highlight success stories, contracts using Amazon to using publishers.

    In simpler terms, help the publisher’s enemy.

    The supply of available books will continue to increase faster than the demand, and downward price pressure will still prevail, but it could put real pressure on publishers, and open doors for some authors who hesitate to use KDP.

    But moral suasion as a bargaining tactic? Won’t work unless it’s part of a strategy that also includes some hardball tactics.

  11. Good for the AG. It’s about time they actually did something.

    I created a petition to show solidarity.

    https://www.change.org/p/association-of-american-publishers-better-contract-terms-for-writers

  12. Lots of noise, nothing behind it. Shakespeare had something about that…

    • It’s so funny, Sheila, that you said that, because that is the exact quote that came into my mind when I was reading their letter.

      “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Macbeth

      • Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid. — Mark Twain

  13. Under the all! new! and improved! AG-proposed terms, at 50% e-royalties the income on a traditionally published e-book selling for [an arbitrarily assigned] $10 is $4.25, or 50 percent of $10 less 15% agent’s commission). The income on a self-published $10 e-book is $7.00.

    I suppose a dollar value could be assigned all the grunt work necessary to self-publishing, as in authors willing to forgo the additional income so all they have to do is write, but I’m still not feeling the love. I don’t see Amazon, iTunes etc. being priced out of the self-publishing business, either, or for that matter being given much competition.

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