May 17th, 2007


Simon & Schuster rights grab

This just in from The Authors Guild:

Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database - even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of rights.

We urge you to consider your options carefully:

1. Remember that if you sign a contract with Simon & Schuster that includes this clause, they’ll say you’re wed to them. Your book will live and die with this particular conglomerate.

2. Ask your agent to explore other options. Other publishers are not seeking an irrevocable grant of rights.

3. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, consider asking your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms.

4. Let us know if other major publishers follow suit. Any coordination among publishers on this matter has serious legal implications.

Feel free to forward and post this message in its entirety. The Authors Guild ( is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of published book authors.
computer - ENIAC

giving away your writing: what does the future hold?

There's lots of discussion of late among SFWAns about giving writing away for free online, with various arguments against it. One is that it hurts those trying to make a living at writing.

My own experience shows that posting parts of works online helps develop interest among readers and create potential new readers. For example, I've given away most of my previously published poetry, because, well, it's not as if I'm getting rich from poetry. Because I did this, a singer-songwriter decided to turn one of the poems into a song, thereby allowing the poem to earn more than it ever could have in print.

I worked for Microsoft as a writer years ago, before electronic publishing was a big deal. My team, the Server Resource Kit, wanted to give away our documentation for free to the Server customers because, well, they're big-dollar customers and supporting them is expensive. The main argument was that we should give them the info they need in advance to save Help-Desk calls later, plus it builds customer satisfaction (you might see this as "reader loyalty" from the fiction-writer's perspective). Microsoft Press, our paper publisher, fought tooth-and-nail against the idea because they made something like $50 million/year from the Resource Kit. Because Server made several $billions/year, Press lost that argument. A memorable exchange: [Server V.P.]: "Fifty million?" He reaches into his pocket and pulls out some coins. "We earn Xbillion a year. Fifty million is pocket change."

And you know what? We sold more printed books after giving them away than before.

Just a couple of anecdotes.

Sure, I fear the coming of electronic publication, because look what's happened to the music industry when music went digital and people started sharing songs with their friends (read: "ripping and giving away free copies"). But a lot of new musicians are now getting recognized because of people stealing and sharing music.

How will things turn out for individual artists when all information finds a way to be free? Will artists be able to make a living doing their work in the near future?

What are your thoughts?


Back to the Dark Ages

This is astounding. What is the "Moral Majority"? Apparently a pack of backward-looking, end-of-the-world-hoping, blind-obedience-preaching, nincompoops. By comparison, this makes the anti-evolutionists seem tame.

My favorite is number one on their list of proscribed behavior: "Don't get into science-fiction values discussions or trust a teacher who dwells on science fiction in his/her 'teaching.'" Check out this bit of historical evidence:Collapse )

I'm so pleased to be one of those who threaten these ignoramuses. Hooray! I'm a threat to ignorance and stifled creativity! I cause young'uns to consider unexpected possibilites!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

Corrupt the youth and save the world!