A very interesting announcement by the great Kate Wilhelm. Here’s the opening, with a link to the rest on her website:
“Open letter to word watchers:
“I’ve been a writer since 1956 when I sold my first short story. My first novel came in 1962. In all that time I’ve never seen a book contract that was entirely acceptable with the exception of the model contract Damon Knight wrote, or the model contract provided by the Authors Guild. Unfortunately, book publishers never used those contracts in my case, or for any other writers I have known. As a beginning writer I had no bargaining strength, and changes in contracts were rare, and rarely significant. Incrementally, contracts got better in some instances with some clauses, only to have new unacceptable clauses show up on later pages. Incrementally means in this case that the contract finally signed was still heavily weighted toward the publisher, which is understandable. They had the legal staff to write contracts, I was a lone writer trying to shift the balance somewhat. As telling as that fact is, it isn’t the most important one in the never-ending struggle for a fairer contract with a publisher.
“The most important factor is simple: if fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, then writers gotta write. We write for publication in order to have readers, and the publishers were the only place to turn after we exhausted our family and friends. I was as gleeful and grateful as any new writer to have my work accepted. I signed contracts that made me wince, but I got published and read. I played their game because it was the only game in town, and I had to play. I’ve had marvelous editors over the years and I have no quarrel with any of them, but rather affection and appreciation. However, the editors do not set company policy and they do not write contracts.
“In the fall of 2011 I was offered a contract that was so egregious that the publishing house that sent it should have been ashamed, and if I had signed it I would have been shamed. I proposed additional changes to those my agent had already managed to have incorporated and each suggested change was refused. I rejected the contract and withdrew the novel…”