From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
Here’s the best and worst thing about writers:
We have fantastic imaginations. Those imaginations serve us well when we write books and stories. Those imaginations often fail us when we enter the business world.
What do I mean?
It’s rare to find a writer with a Pollyanna view of the world. Most writers are better at gloom and doom than they are at unremitting optimism.
Writers also have an inflated sense of self—we couldn’t do our jobs otherwise—and a weirdly introverted need to be the center of attention. If we screw up, we feel like the entire world knows—and the entire world will react.
For reasons I don’t understand, writers also want rules. They want to know how to write, what to write, and what to do when they’re finished writing. They cobble bits and pieces of information from blog posts to Mrs. Hanson’s Fourth Grade English class, and come up with some convoluted set of rules that they believe every writer could and would follow.
And, more so than in almost any other profession I’ve encountered, most writers are ethical to the point of self-harm. For example, in the United States, we have an annual homework assignment—our federal and state tax returns. Convoluted laws and all kinds of regulation allow for deductibles and legal ways to move income from the taxable side of the equation to the not-taxable side of the equation.
Writers often won’t use those deductibles and regulations that favor them, preferring to pay the full tax burden. Why? They believe that everyone should pay their fair share.
. . . .
But the writerly weirdness causes conflict with our careers and our businesses, in part because we are (as a group) imaginative, rule-bound, pessimistic, ethical, and the center of our own small universes.
We bring all of those things into the realm of contracts.
Be honest with yourself: What do you imagine will happen to you if you don’t follow your book contract to the letter?
Many of you imagine the Worst Case Scenario. What is that? You don’t know, because it’s never happened to you or your friends or your friends’ friends. Writers tend not to discuss what happens when they don’t follow their contracts to the letter.
But most writers imagine they know. They imagine those thugs from the old Warner Brothers cartoons showing up at their doorstep, doing bad Jimmy Cagney impressions, and threatening them with everything from bodily harm to loss of their home to—I don’t know.
. . . .
I’ve spent too much time with lawyers, businesspeople, and sales executives. To them, the entire world is negotiable.
In the past month, I found myself explaining writers to lawyers. Lawyers know that contracts are not written in stone. They’re rarely written in blood. All contracts can be changed, modified, muted, and defanged with enough effort. Sometimes that effort requires a judge and a courtroom.
Often that effort is as simple as a letter of notification, saying quite clearly that one party to the contract no longer wants to follow one particular clause in the contract. If the other party may simply accept that notification, or the other party might protest. Either way, a dialogue has been opened and the contract might end up being renegotiated.
However, lawyers—all lawyers I’ve met anyway—say something when discussing contracts that confounds most writers. Lawyers use the word “ignore” a lot.
Here’s how the conversation goes:
Kris: [flailing about, describing in great and horrid detail how upset she is about a contract clause that is ridiculous, probably unenforceable, and most likely will not stand up in court.]
Lawyer Friend: I don’t think that clause is legal.
Kris: But writers will follow it anyway.
Lawyer Friend: Tell them to ignore the clause and see what happens.
Kris: Writers would never do that.
Lawyer Friend: Why not? People ignore unenforceable clauses in contracts all the time.
Kris: Writers just won’t. They follow rules.
Lawyer Friend: What’s the worst that could happen?
Kris: I don’t know. You tell me.
Lawyer Friend: [shrugs] They’ll end up in court. Might be good for everyone involved, so that there’s clarity on that clause.
Lawyers aren’t afraid of thugs and goons and cartoon characters that go bump in the night. They’re not afraid of someone who plays the Big Dog and says, You’ll never work in this town again. Lawyers generally say, Well, let’s see.
Lawyers know there’s usually a solution—and it’s often as simple as standing up and saying to the person on the other side of the contract, I’m not playing your silly game. No. I’m not doing it. Now, what are you going to do?
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.
PG says that litigation also costs publishers money, whether they file suit or the author does.
From his own experience, he suggests that if a publisher is owned by a large European conglomerate, the big bosses in Germany, France, etc., believe the American legal system is insane and way, way too costly.
For the American subsidiary to pay money to US lawyers instead of sending it back to headquarters seems like a waste of good dollars and the US CEO who does so better generate a good return on those legal fees or he/she will be an ex-CEO.
This doesn’t mean that litigation is something to be taken lightly or that publishers will always cave, but it’s a factor to keep in mind.