Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Dear John Letter, or maybe a Declaration of Independence

There comes a time in a writer's life when she must break up with a publisher.

There are right ways and wrong ways to do this.
This is probably the wrong way.

My last book was mauled by the Book Bears of House Style.
Every species name that isn't human is italicized.
The planet names are italicized.

I wonder if it had been "Martian" instead of "Rabbitoid," if that would have to be italicized as well.

I am deeply irritated by this and apologize to my readers. I think you're smarter than that.

House style has been my bane with this press over the years. If it hasn't been demands for more sex and cruder language, it's been house style.

Deliberate removal of necessary commas. Refusal to use even necessary colons (I snuck one in) or semi colons.

Purposely misspelling words. "Use "wrack" for the remains of a shipwreck. Use "rack" for pain." If my character is racked with pain, instead of wracked, I expect a rack in the room.
At one point my editor misspelled "caffeine" in a note. I asked if we were now required by house style to misspell it.

Deliberate censoring of words. I was not allowed to use "queer" as an umbrella term for QUILTBAG people, even when two gay men are talking.

But this, assuming the readers are too stupid to make sense of a sentence such as "The Rabbitoid leaped on the Cythorian's back," without italicizing both beings makes me scream and shout and tear my hair.

The fact that EVERY other house puts out a paperback within weeks of the ebook release, if not simultaneously, makes the two year delay on paperbacks at this press look antiquated. It has passed annoying and gone straight into "losing sales."

But that's not the worst of it.
The contract has gotten steadily worse over the years
The first refusal clause, which demands that even unrelated works be submitted, has decreased in length of those works from 10,000 words to 7500 words. This is one of the few clauses still negotiable.

This, however, THIS is the dealbreaker:

1. Grant of Rights:  Author, on behalf of herself/himself and her/his heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns, exclusively grants to the Publisher during the full term of copyright and any renewals and continuations and extensions thereof, the right to publish, print, sell, distribute and license the Work throughout the world, and in any and all media and forms of expressions now known, and all subsidiary rights granted in the Subsidiary Rights clause hereunder. (emphasis mine)

Term of copyright is my lifetime plus SEVENTY YEARS.
(Assuming Disney doesn't manage to get it extended even farther)

That is pure chicanery of the highest order. Even with 100 copy escape clause, this is still bad stuff.  Ordinary publishers do not engage in this level of rights grab, nor do they demand the rights forever.

So, the time has come. The sales are not what they once were. My first story with them sold 147 copies in the five days that comprised its first moth of publication. My most recent piece sold 117 copies between October and April.

That brings us to another problem. Royalty checks used to come fairly consistently around the 10th of the month following. October's money would show up around mid November. Then it became the second month, with a 2 week delay after the fifth business day of the month. Which means May's check should have been here around the 23rd. Now, it's July 31 and May's check hasn't arrived.

I have fulfilled my last First Refusal clause for Ellora's Cave. They get nothing more. I will request reversion of the items I have that aren't selling to meet the 100 copy level.

1 comment:

Comingnellll said...

What's to become of art when greed blooms hideous? Nell