Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Published Authors - Know your contract and stay on top of things...

It is a sad fact but the business world is simply not the world we once knew. The days of people having oral contracts are gone. In no way am I saying that the business world is out to get the little man. And certainly, with the publishing world, I am not saying that the publishers are out to "screw the writers". I'm just saying to pay attention and stay on top of things.

Publishers have a lot of people to take care of and people to work with. Contracts are coming in and going out, some are being renewed, some are being edited. We have agents, editors, writers, publicity specialists, book buyers and a ton of other people all trying to stay connected. And yes, sometimes those connections do get missed.

I am one to believe the best in a lot of people. With that said, just trusting alone is not enough any more. Instead, I like to take the same approach (structurally) that the US Government has with its three branches. Technically, we have a check and balance system in which everyone has a chance to keep tabs on another branch. It is that approach that I encourage all writers to make sure to do, especially the published authors. Don't just assume it is being taken care of.

I know, at some level, this sounds like a lack of trust in the people that you work with, but I don't want to approach it that way. I want to say that it is just that same check and balance system.

And yes, these ideas do apply to the unpublished authors out there. This is why we recommend using delivery tracking on your submissions, just to make sure it got to the agent or editor. This is why we recommend checking back if you haven't heard from the person you sent the submission to in the time they stated they would get back to you.

And, as an agent, this is why I do respond to queries, why I use a data base to log when submissions go in and out, and why I do not use form letters. It is just one more level of accountablity.

Why do I bring this up? Just today I heard of another publisher running into problems of not paying authors. This came to a shock to many authors but for many, they were just "trusting" the publisher instead of keeping track. Of course, from what I heard, the publisher wasn't answering either (for what ever reason) so we had that issue as well.

Simply put - pay attention and keep track.



  1. Amen, Brother!

    It's a constant source of frustration for me that authors don't know their contracts, and they display their business stupidity as a point of pride in being "artistic."

    Recently, one of my publishers introduced an online royalty statement form and asked everyone to check on their statement for accuracy.

    Because of a family emergency, I didn't check mine for three days, and I was the first, out of over three hundred authors, to notice and report that my royalty rates were considerably lower than was stated on my contract.

    When I announced the problem on the author forum and told people to compare their contract with the royalties, suddenly, everyone discovered the error.

    That's just sad.

  2. Marilynn,

    You make a great point. Again, you never know the reason behind things happening, but it is good to check. Remember, the people making the decisions aren't necessarily the people inputing the data into the spreadsheets or writing the documents. Humans are humans and mistakes do happen.

    I am hoping that your case, this was not an intentional move.

  3. I hope I am lucky enough to work with an agent like you, Scott. Your advice is great and this blog has become one of my daily reads. Thanks for being honest, keeping it real, and sharing advice.