Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Read the Fine Print Before Signing That Contract

by LuAnn Schindler

A myriad of anthology titles exist: the Chicken Soup series, the Cup of Comfort series, Best of... series. You name it; there's probably a single anthology or an anthology series on the market or being pitched to a publisher that you may be able to write a story for.

I've had three stories picked up by different anthologies. One promised a royalty on sales divided by the number of authors in the book after initial printing costs were met. Yup, this contract came early in my career and I didn't see any problem waiting. And after 18 months, I had a check in my mailbox. Sure, it only totaled $25, but at that point, I was happy that I was published and actually saw money hit my hands.

The second and third anthologies practiced similar payment methods. One paid $100 upfront for the story. The other paid $150 after publication. Not bad for writing two two page stories. And let's face it, these stories were fairly specialized. One covered cooking disasters; the other, a favorite teacher. Would I be able to recycle the story anywhere else?

I read a call for an anthology recently, and I decided to submit a story. Yes, it was accepted. But when the contract came, you can imagine my surprise when it said I had to agree to purchase a certain number of books. There wasn't any stipulation that mentioned how much I would be paid for inclusion in the book. But that $3000 proposed investment in 'X' amount of books caught me off guard! Was I supposed to quadruple the asking price for the anthology in hopes of making a buck or even breaking even? Was I supposed to turn over all rights for a story that exhibited my trademark sense of humor and my brutal honesty of the situation? Was I supposed to believe this was for real?

The contract met the paper shredder, and instantly, the friendship between paper and machine was ripped into multiple pieces. I also approached the editor and withdrew my story. He mentioned how much the story would 'make a difference' and 'others would learn' from my experiences. With some gentle persuasion, he finally agreed and saw things my way. Ah, the power of persuasion!

True, others would learn from the essay I wrote. But they'll also learn a valuable lesson from this article. Not all anthologies are created equally. And neither are all contracts. Before signing on the dotted line in front of a notary, thoroughly read the contract. And if you have questions, ask the editor. Better yet, if you can afford a quick consultation with a lawyer, pay the fee and find out the real costs as well as the hidden costs of publishing.

Taking time to peruse the terms of a contract will make a difference. And, you will learn how to navigate in the murky waters that can sometimes surround the sale of a story.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


Collection Tips

by LuAnn Schindler

A freelance writer assumes multiple roles. Not only do you determine editorial content (you ARE the writer and editor), but you also are responsible for researching topics, finding a home for your work, marketing your stories AND yourself, and devising an accounting system that works.

Within that last role, not only are you responsible for sending invoices and paying the bills, but at some point, you will have to be the collections enforcer. Establish a system for accounts receivable and share it with potential clients before you find yourself chasing the money trail of slow paying clients.

Here are some tips that will make collecting payment an easy endeavor:
  • Get it in writing. A contract needs to spell out the terms of payment, including if you need to send an invoice, when the invoice should be sent, and how much you will earn. Also ask if the invoice should be sent via mail, email, or fax. If you write for a foreign market, ask the publisher to include how the payment will be sent (company check, international money order, PayPal). You might also want to include language about the exchange rate so there aren't any surprises when you receive your payment.
  • Ask for payment in advance. This is especially applicable for copywriters. Explain you require a retainer before you begin work on a project. Some magazines might balk at paying for an article sight unseen, especially if you are new to the magazine. But, if you have established yourself with the publication, they may consider the advance.
  • Submit contracted articles on time. You are a professional, and you need to meet the deadline agreed upon.
  • Invoice on time. Submit invoices per the contract language. This should assure that the check will be in the mail. If you invoice past the deadline, payments will naturally be delayed; writers should not expect a company to adjust its accounting system because the writer did not meet this deadline.
  • Follow up on a late payment. Most publications work on a Net 30 system. If payment is not received within the specified time, call the publisher and work out a time frame when you can expect to receive payment. Be polite! It is possible the missed payment is a simple oversight. If you do not receive a response (or check) within an agreed period of time, work through the accounting chain of command to receive payment.

The writer-as-collection-agent isn't always a fun aspect of your creative mindset, but it is a necessary role that needs to be filled, especially if you want to receive payment.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


Freelance Writers' Contract

The current issue of ASJA Monthly (the publication of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Inc.) contains the official new Freelance Writers' Contract for its members. It turns out, obviously, that it's a pretend contract ASJA President Russell Wild crafted as a discussion piece. Take a look:

1. The description of the article is as follows:

Name of article: ______________ Length ____________ Due date _________

2. Author will retain full ownership of copyright in the Article. In consideration of the sum of [minimum of $3.00/word], Author grants to [insert name of publication], first North American Serial Rights only. Any other usage in any other medium now known or developed in the future, will be subject to substantial additional payment, to be negotiated.

3. All edits or revisions of the article must be approved by the Author.

4. It is agreed that Publication’s rights shall be exclusive for only 30 days after first publication.

5. Author shall be paid in full within one week of submission of article. Late payments will incur interest charges of 5 percent per week.

6. If article is not published within 60 days of submission, all rights accruing to Publication under this contract shall be null and void, and all rights shall immediately revert to Author.

7. Publication agrees to name Author as an additional insured under all insurance policies carried by Publication, and further, Publication agrees to fully defend and indemnify Author for any and all claims that may be brought against the Author or Publication by any wackjob for any reason whatsoever. All legal fees shall be borne by Publication and no claim for contribution by Author shall be made by Publication.

8. Any dispute over this contract shall be adjudicated in the hometown of the Author, or may possibly be subject to arbitration by a panel of freelance writers handpicked by the Author.

Wild calls his contract version "a pipedream," although he advocates serious negotiation with publishers to get the best terms possible.

"Remember that everything within a contract is fair grounds for negotiation," author Jenna Glatzer says in a past Writer's Digest article. "Your goal should be to sell the fewest rights for the highest fee, payable quickly after submission. You can also strike better deals for the inclusion of a bio-note or advertisement for your business, extra payment for extra services (like photos and sidebars), and a high kill fee if such terms are necessary."

There is often room for bargaining with the editor, so give it a shot. It can't hurt to ask and you may get more of what you deserve.

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