Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Take that, lousy contract. There, I feel better now. Sort of.

I don't spend a lot of time here complaining about the writing life. Hey, I chose it. I'm here, most of the time, to connect with others who have also chosen to write. So I try to confine my complaining. Then, there's this…..

The other day, I get an emailed contract from a new website, and in between reading it on the screen, I'm also scanning email, and oh look -- an announcement that the site is now live! Funny I thought that was happening in two weeks.

I click over, check things out, look around the site and see…my essay. The very same essay to which the contract pertains. I wonder, am I old or just old fashioned in expecting contracts to arrive BEFORE publication?

A few hours later, I get another email. So sorry, it ways, but the dollar amount in the contract is, ahem, wrong. It's actually, you know, less money. About half as much. Not a problem, is it? And, oh yes, by the way, there is a new payment schedule – 60 to 90 days after publication, not 30.

Did I mention the contract's lousy terms, how the publisher wants to own – well, everything? Publisher, you know what, I have an idea, let's save us both some time: How about if you also take…oh I don't know, how about rights to my entire inventory of past, current and future pieces, all my current and future ideas, and all my notes too – hey, you never know, you might want to one day publish, resell, reassign, republish in any media, now existing or ever invented, without further compensation.

For the first time in my professional life, I pick up the phone and tell a publication where to stick their contract. I say take down the essay and they do. I don't feel much better. But I think I will.


U. said...

Good for you! They had no right to publish without your go-ahead and probably didn't expect one of their contributors to stand up for themselves.

Lela said...

Curious: How did they get the essay from you? Was it because they asked for a "writing sample"?

Lisa Romeo said...

Good question.
I submitted the essay, they accepted it, offered a fee and said a contract was forthcoming. The piece was scheduled to appear in 3-4 weeks, plenty of time for a web venue to send the contract and get it back. To publish the piece before getting the contract signed is poor practice. Then, to slice the fee and offer such rights-grabbing terms is even worse.