Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sorting Through More Submission Calls

Dear Editor,

If you want submissions from any writer who isn't a newbie him- or herself, you have to demonstrate that you know what you're doing, that you know how the business works, and that you know the customary nomenclature. Specifically, something like this:

By submitting the story to the [We'reAllNewbies] Publishing, the writer transfers all print and electronic publication rights to the [We'reAllNewbies] Publishing editorial team. If the work is not chosen for publication, at the time the author is informed of this, all rights revert to the author. If the work is chosen, the author may not republish the story in print or electronic format until one year after the date of publication of the full anthology.

you've guaranteed that I and likely many other writers will never submit anything to you, ever.

Look, the last line shows that your heart is (probably) in the right place, sort of. I'm pretty sure I know what you mean -- that if you choose Joe's story, you expect him to sign a contract granting you exclusive rights for a year, so he doesn't, say, post the story for free on his web site, making your anthology worth that little bit less to readers. I'm even willing to assume that you only mean to take English language rights, even though that's not what you're saying.

Because what you're saying is that as soon as Joe sends you his story, you own (not have an option on, but own) ALL print and electronic rights -- serial, anthology, e-book, webzine, arguably audio, everything -- immediately, in ALL languages, EVERYWHERE. Do your homework; the big kids don't play this way. Assuming this would even hold up in court, this is an outrageous rights grab that only a clueless newbie writer would submit to. And it's an outrageous rights grab that only a publisher who's a blatant predator or a clueless newbie would attempt.

I'm willing to be generous and bet you're just clueless. Making yourself look this clueless, though, when you're trying to get experienced writers to submit their work to you is a bad idea. Don't do it. Learn how things are done and what the customary practices are in this business, then ask people to trust you with their fiction and their money.

Unless of course you actually are a blatant predator and are hoping clueless newbies will fall for your trick.

[Just FYI, your antho theme looked interesting. I'm not touching it, though, nor am I linking to it.]



Suzan Harden said...

Angie, I hate to tell you this, but even some of the big boys and girls are making this type of blatent rights grabs. It's a scary world for writers these days.

Angie said...

I've never heard of a major publisher trying this "We own all your rights from the minute you submit until we tell you we've released them" trick. I've heard of other minor anthologies trying it, and contests, but no one I'd call a major player. Where've you seen it?

If you mean actual contracts where they try to get you to sign away all your rights to every possible form of your story in any technology now known or to be invented, I've seen those [eyeroll] but that's a different issue. A rights grab at the point of submission has, IMO, about the same validity and the same level of are-you-an-idiot sliminess as software companies trying to convince you that you give up a bunch of rights by opening the shrinkwrap on their packaging, which contains the contract you're supposedly "agreeing to" without being able to read it first. That's been overturned in court, IIRC, and I'd expect this kind of on-submission grab to also be overturned, if anyone wanted to spend the money to contest it. Which of course no one does. :/

Bogus and classless. And as I said, I've never seen a major player try this particular trick. I guess I wouldn't be shocked to find I've just overlooked it, though. [sigh]


Karalynn said...

The best I can come up with is that this is some really bizarre attempt to legally enforce no simultaneous submissions. The worst I can come up with...well.

Angie said...

Kara -- I thought of that too, but if so, talk about killing flies with a hand grenade! :/

"Hmm, I don't want to be annoyed or inconvenienced by a tiny percentage of submittors, so I'll make myself look like either a rights-grabbing jerk or a clueless newb! Sure, that'll work!"



Nancy Beck said...


When I used to go on the Absolute Write forums on a regular basis, it always seemed to me that bogus stuff like this popped up almost on a daily basis. Thank goodness there were enough in-the-know people on that board to point out the deceptions, intentional or not.

And I don't blame you for not including the name of the anthology; the less people who know, the less people who will get ripped off.

Angie said...

Nancy -- yes, I definitely remember seeing rights grabs on submission like this over on Absolute Write and Writer Beware, when they were talking about bogus contests and such. You'd think anyone serious about being in this business would hang out in at least one of those places to keep an ear to the ground for scams and such. Doubly important for new publishers and editors and such, to make sure they understand what scammers look like.


Travis Erwin said...

Amen. I am arguing about bad language in a contract right now. I know the editor and know her heart is the right place but business is business and I'm not signing a bad contract.

Angie said...

Travis -- business is business

Exactly. This is business and everyone has to protect their own interests. I've heard from quite a few writers that their editor or publisher assures them that the language in their horrible contract is "standard" or that no one would ever exercise this or that clause in the way the writer is afraid they might. They're nice people and would never screw over the writer that way.

Sure. Okay, let's agree for now that Ms. Editor or Mr. Publisher is a saint and would never do that awful thing. What happens if they get a better offer with another company and leave, or just get hit by a bus? Will their replacement be that nice? Will the next person in that position care that the original editor or publisher swore they'd never do this awful thing that the contract says they're allowed to do? Will their heirs, if the person who died owned the business, be that nice and that cool? Or will they exploit the contract in every legal way they can, to benefit themself or their new employer?

I'm not betting my work and my money that it won't be the latter. :/