I did a New World of Publishing post a few posts back talking about how I could find the balance between short fiction indie publishing and short fiction traditional publishing. And then I did another post about how I could NOT find the balance between traditional novel publishing and indie publishing. And from some of the comments that came in, I think I didn’t talk clearly enough about the main point I was trying to make.
So let me try once again from a slightly different angle, and, I hope, a little more directly on my point.
First off, I need to clear up one thing. I still have two books under contract with traditional New York publishers and I plan on writing both to the best of my ability. So I haven’t jumped completely to indie publishing just yet. And unless a few things change, as I said in the last post, I find it hard to imagine ever doing another book for traditional publishers except for rare exceptions.
Unless things change.
That’s the key.
Unless things change. And the changes I am asking for are in the contracts and are fantastically simple.
Do I Want More Money?
Well, duh. Who doesn’t? But I am not asking for more money from traditional publishers. I know how the math works, I know how they calculate a profit and loss statement, I know what a range for an advance means in sales. If an offer is fair for the product on the money side, I would not turn down an offer. And I have written books over the last ten years from $5,000 advance and on up.
I have always felt that my advances were fair for what I have been writing. In fact, for about ten years, I felt as if I were the most overpaid writer working, because I did rescue jobs at times in which I was offered far more of an advance than the book could handle in sales. I took it. Because the publisher needed me to help them with a larger problem.
But if I wrote a nifty little midlist romance right now, I’d be happy at the advance for a midlist romance right now. And those advances range from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on a ton of factors. And more than likely I could make more money than that indie publishing the same book over a period of years. That’s a factor in a decision, but honestly not my main factor. When you can write a novel as fast as I can, (meaning I am willing to spend the hours at the computer in a short overall span of time) then I can often make choices that have nothing to do with money.
So in the decision of more money, if the offer is fair from a traditional publisher, it’s usually fine with me.
So Bluntly, Why Did I Say There Was No Balance?
Simply put, I want traditional publishers to respect me as a writer and supplier of their product. Nothing more.
And nothing less.
One more time. Here are the respect contract terms I would demand and are far more important to me than money in this new world.
So to TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS, here are the respectful terms I are asking for.
And I hope many other writers ask for as well until these terms start to happen.
(Notice, no extra money. Just asking for respect.)
The contract has a firm termination date.
If you (traditional publisher) are offering me a small midlist contract of say $5,000.00, the contract terminates completely in five years from the day of publication or six years from the day of signing on the contract. Period. If the publisher feels they can continue to make money on the book, they must come and negotiate a new contract with me.
If the contract advance amount is larger, I will go up to ten years max. Again, the term in negotiable, up to a point. No more “forever” contracts in publishing. They are disrespectful to the owner of the copyright. (Ummm, that’s me.)
Not one breath in the contract of trying to control my other work.
And if you (traditional publisher) try, then we add into the contract how you must give me rights to walk into your business and tell you what you can and cannot buy from other authors. It’s only fair. And respectful.
Keep your hands and control out of my business except for one book under the one contract. Nothing more, nothing less. Those kind of restrictions do not belong in a single book contract. No amount of money gives you the right to control my business beyond the contract. And no amount of money gives you (traditional publisher) the right to tell me what I can and cannot write.
You (traditional publisher) must allow contract terms that allow me to cancel the contract at any moment if you (traditional publisher) do not perform up to the contract terms.
It’s a form of consideration (if you want the legal term.) You (traditional publisher) demand that I turn in a book at a certain time and there are repercussions in the contract if I do not. I should be able to have cover approval and demand that you publish my book within a certain time frame as well. The repercussions of failure on both sides need to be the same: termination and complete reversion of the right and/or return of money.
Three simple things.
Of course, there are many other clauses that do not belong in a publishing contract, not the least of which is the agency clause. But I don’t much care about that because I haven’t had an agent in seven years now. (If you are still silly enough to give a perfect stranger all your money and the paperwork with your money and allow that agency clause to be in your contract with a publisher, you need some major business classes and should watch a bunch of fairly recent news programs about a guy called Bernie.)
For now, I would be happy with the three major changes I outlined above. They are very simple, they don’t cost the publisher extra money. Nothing. Not one dime.
And all short fiction publishers have no trouble with any of those three. They are standard in short fiction.
Yet traditional NOVEL publishers across the board are turning down those terms and demanding even more control over a writer’s work.
And sadly, some writers are signing. And their agents are too afraid to stand up for their clients to even ask for any of this. (Shame on you, agents. When did you lose your courage to fight for your clients?)
That’s how really, really screwed up traditional publishing on the novel side has become.
And that’s why I say there is no longer a balance for any smart writer between indie novel publishing and traditional novel publishing.
Indie publishing, where we writers (copyright holders) are in control of our own work, wins every time over giving away our copyrights, our control, and our art.
I am not asking for more money from traditional publishers.
I am simply asking for respect.
But traditional publishers think so little of writers, they are not willing to even give that in return.
And so many writers have so little respect in themselves, they are willing to let traditional publishers take all this from them.
Not me. After I finish these two novels that are under a very old contract, unless those three simple terms are in a contract, I’m not signing.
I respect myself just a little too much to do that.