Saturday, September 7, 2013

Story rights

Next week's going to be a very busy week! So I wanted to address an issue that's come front and center for me, and should always be for any author.

Story rights.

This year, rights to four stories were returned to me by two publishers. I opted not to renew them for very different reasons, but also for one reason - I wanted to revise all those stories because in four years, I've learned a thing or two. And though I probably won't have it tattooed on my arm - or anywhere else - I am still learning, and intend to keep studying.

One publisher for various reasons didn't click for me. I had nothing but negative experiences with them. Emails went unanswered. Royalty checks - nada. Not even a statement. For years. So, adios. Other authors work with them without complaint, so they must have better experiences than mine. But after finding a publisher like Decadent that is in constant contact, always coming up with new promo ideas and their enthusiasm is nonstop, I'm in a much better place now. In the beginning, I settled. No more.

The other publisher helped give me my start and I'm very grateful to them. Two years ago, they invited me to sub for a new line, and I did. But they'd changed their contract. Now in addition to ebook, print and audio, they wanted movie rights.

Okay, so maybe there's a better chance of winning the Powerball jackpot, but still. I'm the one who took a kernel of a story idea and developed it into a story. Yes, the editors helped smooth out some flaws. But if some movie producer happened to read my story and think it worth a TV episode, a movie or even a commercial, I believe those rights should be mine.

I was lucky this publisher alerted its authors to the change. Some publishers may not be so forthcoming.

It's up to each author to decide what works for them. And to thoroughly read every contract you sign - no matter how long you've been with a publisher.


Arlene said...

Excellent advise, Cate, about editors and even better thoughts about constantly learning. You're my inspiration. Keep writing!

Cate Masters said...

Aw thanks Arlene - and back at you!

Maria Zannini said...

Has it been your experience that publishers will tell you when your rights are up for return?

Other people I know have to jump through a lot of hoops to get the publisher to pony up the rights.

It's something I'll be facing in a couple of years. I'm anxious to get those rights back, but something tells me my publishers will need some coaxing.

Cate Masters said...

I keep track on a spreadsheet, Maria, and follow the contract specifications of giving notice however far in advance they require. And then I follow up every 30 days with a gentle reminder. So far, no problems at all.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry you had a bad experience. Especially no royalty checks - that's not good!
I know what you mean about growing into a better writer. I could do so much better on my first book now.

Cate Masters said...

I could endlessly revise, Alex, it's an addiction I think!