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Always Read The Contract 1 February 2011

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Advice For Writers.

I just read a great blog post by Robert Swartwood. Go read it.

This is exactly why, when I talk to high school writing students, I always emphasize how important it is to read every contract, every time, even for respected and trusted publications. Especially when the publisher or the competition judge or the prize is extremely tempting and/or seems like a door you’d really like to have open for you, it’s easy to get so excited that you don’t do your due diligence stuff. But is any competition or publication so wonderful that you’d give away all your rights to a story forever?

Read the contract. Every time. And if you don’t understand the legalese, ask someone about it before you agree.


1. fishlovesca - 1 February 2011

Interesting. Of course Oprah can get away with it because being published by O means reaching an immense audience. Paraphrasing something a writer posted recently, Turning down infinite fame and glory would take infinite wisdom.

I had a similar experience in terms of entering a contest. There was a site known as EditorUnleashed, which due to numerous hacking attacks suddenly closed up and has not reopened. While it was still operating, it held a contest, in conjunction with one of the larger digital publishing companies on the Internet, Smashwords.

The essay contest, “Why I Write,” promised to publish the top fifty winners in an anthology, think the top prize winner would get a substantial money prize as well. As I recall over three hundred people entered their essays, and after a rather bizarre selection process, the top fifty winners were announced. It happens that I was one of them ones who made the cut.

The Editors Unleashed site crashed, and the anthology was not ever published. Seriously. I contacted Mark Coker, the Smashwords impresario, and he promised to get back to me, but never did.

What did we lose? Well, maybe not fame and glory, but certainly exposure through the anthology, perhaps money (though it wasn’t clear that the “book” would be sold, and at what price.) Smashwords has partnerships with all the big book distributors, Amazon, etc., so at a minimum, we lost an audience Smashwords had the capacity to help us reach.

What did the contract say? It vanished with the website. What recourse did we have? That’s a question I would love to have answered.


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