Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Warning About Contracts

There's been lots of talk lately through social media, and literary circles about James Frey hiring young writers with very sketchy contracts. This article, found online at New York Magazine, and written by Suzanne Moses (who was contemplating signing with Frey) is a must read. We hope it makes it very clear why signing this type of contract would be a mistake, but if it doesn't let us know in the comments and we'll see what we can do to clarify. Here's an excerpt from the article.

"I later spoke to Conrad Rippy, a veteran publishing attorney, who explained that the contract given to me wasn’t a book-packaging contract; it was “a collaboration agreement without there being any collaboration.” He said he had never seen a contract like this in his sixteen years of negotiation. “It’s an agreement that says, ‘You’re going to write for me. I’m going to own it. I may or may not give you credit. If there is more than one book in the series, you are on the hook to write those too, for the exact same terms, but I don’t have to use you. In exchange for this, I’m going to pay you 40 percent of some amount you can’t verify—there’s no audit provision—and after the deduction of a whole bunch of expenses.” He described it as a Hollywood-style work-for-hire contract grafted onto the publishing industry—“although Hollywood writers in a work-for-hire contract are usually paid more than $250.”

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