Monday, September 27, 2010
The Things We Talk About on Writer's Night Out.
My weekly Writers' Night out at Denny's with Cherri Galbiati ended up going on until three o'clock in the morning. We were simply so full of wit and wisdom (or ourselves) that we just couldn't stop talking. Much about our profession was discussed, as we tried to chart courses through the new and fast changing field of writing. I know it sounds like we talk about it a lot, and we do, but it's important because the things that were right for a writer to do just a year ago, no longer are.
And the same thing holds true for publishers. The field has changed and they need to adapt to the new forces at play...not just for survival but so they and their authors can continue to work together. For instance, lets take short stories as an example.
This is an area I'm more familiar with since I write a lot of them. A model that made perfect sense for a publisher and writer a couple of years ago was for the writer to grant a publisher exclusive rights to a short story for a five year period when they submitted it for publication in an anthology. Both sides entered into the contract in good faith, and nobody felt put at a disadvantage due to the arrangement. Now with the new market, it makes absolutely no sense for a writer to enter such an arrangement. It's not that the publisher just became a bad guy, they didn't, it's just that putting a short story into a multi-author anthology for five years and forfeiting all rights to it is pretty much the same as throwing it down a well. Unless you are a new author trying to get a few credits to your resume, it makes no sense.
Now there are already some signs of adaptation going on out there. I have seen some publishers start with the model of having exclusive rights to the story for only a year, while keeping the right to use it in their anthology longer. This is more of a win-win situation for both. Some publishers now merely ask that the writer doesn't market the story elsewhere until the anthology is out, and to be sure and include a blurb where the story was originally published. Even this has it's advantages as the story can now be out there acting as an advertisement for the anthology. I always include a note about the original anthology a story appeared in, whether required to or not. I think that's just good manners.
Publishers aren't the bad guys....at least not the ones I've dealt with...they just have their environment changing on them just like us writer's do. And they're trying to figure it out the best they can. Since they are human, they are responding in the various ways human's do. Some try to make the old models work because they are comfortable and they know their way around them, others decide to dip their toes into the new waters, and others go take a flying leap into the waves and try to miss the rocks.