Odd Monday for Writing

No Comments » Written on September 19th, 2011 by
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Less than two weeks ago, I received an email that an anthology editor was trying to reach me but without success. He’d been emailing to a little used email address and I’d been preoccupied with things like my wife’s surgery and wasn’t checking my older, more obscure accounts. Ooops all around.

Turned out he’d been pulled in as the new editor on a project that I’d sent a story into some years ago, only to have the funding for that project wither and die. Then there’d been some talk about the story appearing in a magazine that the original editor was involved with, but never quite gelled.

I quickly got in touch with the new editor, sent off the requested bio and such, and asked to take another pass at the original story (now years old), because I felt certain that I’d want to clean up some of the language and style, my writing having improved over the intervening time. I was told a contract would be coming out in a week, but the rough terms were mentioned.

Yesterday, that week having passed and no sign of a contract, I queried, mentioned some concerns I had about the contract as described, and again asked for a copy of the current version of the story they were working from, so I could add some polish.

This morning I received a contract. It lacked some of the basics of contracts that I’m used to (both as a writer and a publisher), and asked for things that I don’t normally sign away. I was informed that all of this was “industry standard” and that if I wasn’t willing to sign then my story would be dropped from the anthology. Also, that I’d have a chance to make “minor changes” of the proof of my story, which I would receive in another week or so.

I replied that I’ve been in the industry a little bit now, and that while such things might be standard on boiler plate contracts, only the unwary or the unwise signed such things, that every contract was negotiable, and that I couldn’t and wouldn’t sign such a thing, and I still wanted to be able to review the story and perhaps make changes, and clearly that wasn’t an option.

So I bowed out.

I don’t like doing that. I don’t like pulling out of an anthology that’s expecting to have my work because it feels like I’m leaving them in the lurch (even if it’s a lurch of their own making).

I don’t like killing a sale and having another piece of my work out there for people to read, but on the other hand, I want it to be work that I’m proud of and that reflects where I am as an author. A story that I’d originally written five years ago doesn’t do that.

Most of all though, and this was the big trump, I don’t like contracts that are presented as written in stone with no room for changes, even if those changes actually protect the publisher (and I’ve added such things to contracts in the past).

I don’t know what, if anything, will become of this story now, but I think I did the right thing. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best one I could make given the choices.

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