ot: buying short story rights - without a lawyer - crazy?

MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
edited December 1969 in The Commons

Currently. at the point I'm thinking to buy illustrated short stories for my website and to publish pod under my publisher name. I have my website started, my publisher name registered in Bowkers and a few ISBNs reserved.
.
but,
.
is it crazy to buy a story without a lawyer?
my biggest fear is someone will sell me a plagiarized story or something they don't legally own.
.
i've been yahooing and googling for a template on how to word a short story publishing agreement. Haven't found one yet.
.
With Vicki or Mike rendered illustrations, no model agreements to worry about. :lol:

Comments

  • DWGDWG Posts: 772
    edited August 2012

    It's not necessarily crazy to buy without a lawyer, but it is to do it without understanding the issue of publishing rights and what you and the author can and cannot do.

    Generally stories are not sold outright. They may be written for someone else - 'Work for hire', but normally a publisher will buy specific rights to a completed story in the case of short fiction or contract for completion of an outlined novel in longer works. For example a publisher might contract for 'First North American Serial Rights' which would give you the right to publish the story in North America in print. Meanwhie the author still holds the copyright in the piece (in fact his estate holds it until 70 years past his death) and can quite happily go off and sell British, or Australian or whatever. What you want for your website are electronic rights, but print-on-demand would then require a form of print rights, so you're going to be buying two sets of rights. Even an author approached just for electronic rights would have to consider what other rights selling those might compromise, as print publishers are often eager to have electronic rights as well and many will be unwilling to publish a work already exposed on the web.

    You need to understand all of this to some level in order to protect both yourself and the author and to understand both the concerns the author may have and the rights they will retain over the work. If you don't already have this knowledge, you need to acquire it before going further.

    Post edited by DWG on
  • cridgitcridgit Posts: 823
    edited December 1969

    Totally agree with DWG. You don't need a lawyer (assume that is to save on cost) but then you need to recognize you'll have to invest ahelluvalot of your own time/effort to the legal aspects, and I certainly suggest you seek legal advice/input. There are many free contract templates available online, and a number of free legal forums where you can ask questions. That's not as bulletproof as getting your own lawyer, but better than putting yourself at risk.

    The most important thing is that you understand the risk - which you clearly do. The next most important thing is that you manage that risk. In today's environment of rampant digital IP "borrowing" (I used that term to comly with the forum TOS but you know what I mean) you simply cannot put yourself in a situation where you are paying for/distributing digital IP without ensuring its authenticity, unless you personally know the people you're dealing with.

    If you do get a sample contract and would like me to take a quick look for you, please PM me.

  • McGyverMcGyver Posts: 946
    edited August 2012

    Lawyers are like leeches... sometimes you need them and sometimes you don't.


    I don't actually have a point, I just wanted to say that.

    Post edited by McGyver on
  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited December 1969

    lol, sometimes not having a point, is the point?

  • Kendall SearsKendall Sears Posts: 1,882
    edited December 1969

    Intellectual Property Law is one of the most dangerous areas to wade into without legal representation. Take a look at Apple v Samsung for a current situ. You are definitely going to need, at a minimum, either a IP Search Specialist or an indemnification agreement from the authors. In other words, unless you can finance the costs of a suit that may be spurious, you're going to need protection.


    Do yourself a favor and contact an IP Attorney and get some real legal advice.


    Kendall

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,103
    edited December 1969

    I've mainly looked at this from the other side, but here are a couple of resources you may find useful:

    Duotrope (http://www.duotrope.com), specifically this page: https://duotrope.com/notes_editors.aspx
    SFWA (http://www.sfwa.org), specifically this page: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/ - because you want to avoid creating a situation in which an author thinks you're trying to scam them.

    When you have some submission guidelines ready, I'll definitely be interested to take a look at them! :)

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited August 2012

    SFWA! - Thanks


    Found this site: http://www.publishlawyer.com
    I see a template for movie rights.
    .
    .
    I need to slow down and put more thought into this.
    .
    Should i do something like a write-for-hire? Choose a few authors with a style i think has potential, but - for example, ask them to write on a theme for the advance. Like sexi space pirates. Then, I could put 5 sexi space pirate stories in a themed anthology.
    The problem though, they could give me a story not worth printing and i'm out whatever i advanced them.
    .
    am i exposing myself to years of migraines and poverty

    Post edited by MistyMist on
  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited August 2012

    according to this:
    http://www.sfwa.org/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/#shortfiction
    .
    if i buy an author's story for $50, they still wouldn't qualify to join SFWA unless i'm on their qualifying publisher list.
    ..
    i wouldn't sell one of my stories to anyone for only 50 bucks. yeesh.

    Post edited by MistyMist on
  • Kendall SearsKendall Sears Posts: 1,882
    edited December 1969

    SFWA! - Thanks


    Found this site: http://www.publishlawyer.com
    I see a template for movie rights.
    .
    .
    I need to slow down and put more thought into this.
    .
    Should i do something like a write-for-hire? Choose a few authors with a style i think has potential, but - for example, ask them to write on a theme for the advance. Like sexi space pirates. Then, I could put 5 sexi space pirate stories in a themed anthology.
    The problem though, they could give me a story not worth printing and i'm out whatever i advanced them.
    .
    am i exposing myself to years of migraines and poverty


    What you're contemplating can be very rewarding, IF you perform "due diligence". Your main headache is going to be plagiarism challenges. These will happen as a matter of course, some may have merit, most will not. You will get those leeches that are out to try to "cash in" on the extremely gray area that is IP law, and will target smaller publishing houses simply because smaller houses usually have the least protection. You REALLY NEED to consult with an attorney well versed in IP law, and especially publishing. You also need to contact an insurance agent about a policy to protect against the situation where you lose and the author cannot, or will not, indemnify you.


    Kendall

  • blondie9999blondie9999 Posts: 733
    edited December 1969

    Given the ferocious competition in the e-'publishing business-- and given the penalties for copyright infringement-- are you really sure you even want to get into this?


    http://www.lib.purdue.edu/uco/CopyrightBasics/penalties.html

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited August 2012

    Quaking in my boots actually.

    Post edited by MistyMist on
  • blondie9999blondie9999 Posts: 733
    edited December 1969

    Publishing isn't really a business for amateurs. Yeah, it sounds as though just "anybody" can set up an e-publishing business and make money, but that's not true.

  • bytescapesbytescapes Posts: 489
    edited December 1969

    You could look at Docracy to see if there are any contracts that you could modify.


    However, I think the people who are advising you to get proper legal advice may be correct.


    If you do consult a lawyer, remember that lawyers charge by the hour. The better prepared you are when you go, the quicker and cheaper everything will be. So instead of going along and saying "Well, uh, I sort of want something like this.", work out a detailed summary of what you want or even draft your own specimen contract. Write everything as clearly and simply as you can, in plain English. If you can find an example in Docracy that's close to what you want, use that as a model and change it to fit your needs. Then go to the lawyer and ask him or her to review and refine it. This ought to be cheaper than having them draw up a new contract from scratch (but ask them first, and get them to give you an estimate of how much they'd charge for this type of work).

  • Kendall SearsKendall Sears Posts: 1,882
    edited December 1969

    angusm said:
    You could look at Docracy to see if there are any contracts that you could modify.


    However, I think the people who are advising you to get proper legal advice may be correct.


    If you do consult a lawyer, remember that lawyers charge by the hour. The better prepared you are when you go, the quicker and cheaper everything will be. So instead of going along and saying "Well, uh, I sort of want something like this.", work out a detailed summary of what you want or even draft your own specimen contract. Write everything as clearly and simply as you can, in plain English. If you can find an example in Docracy that's close to what you want, use that as a model and change it to fit your needs. Then go to the lawyer and ask him or her to review and refine it. This ought to be cheaper than having them draw up a new contract from scratch (but ask them first, and get them to give you an estimate of how much they'd charge for this type of work).


    Some good advice. Remember also that it is a mutual interview. The Attorney is looking to be your provider as much as you are looking to get their services. IT IS NOT A ONE WAY STREET. If any attorney treats you as a "customer" or isn't interviewing to be your attorney, then leave -- they are not going to be serious. Don't go into a lawyer's office with the intent to "get their help". If you do, you've already lost. Your first visit should not be about your contract, business, or anything like that. Your first visit should be non-charged. You need to interview THEM. Make sure that the Attorney assigned (if a multi-attorney office) is competent, and make sure that you get along. YOU MUST BE ON GOOD TERMS WITH YOUR ATTORNEY. Also, make sure that the Attorney is interested in your endeavor.


    Kendall

  • TheWheelManTheWheelMan Posts: 983
    edited December 1969

    I assume you are getting these authors to sign a contract, correct? It should be in the contract that the author certifies, by signing the contract, that they own all rights to the work, have not plagiarized the work, etc., etc., and that they accept all responsibility should such an issue arise.

  • anikadanikad Posts: 1,777
    edited December 1969

    You need to take a step back and then write a 1, 3, 5 and 10 year business plan. Writing step by step where you want to get how you want to get there. You need to research what you're doing, refine your business plan before you open up shop. And yes you need an IP lawyer. If you don't have the money to set up a publishing operation properly you shouldn't be getting into that field with other people's work.

    I'm sorry if I sound harsh but I've seen so many people set up shop with the best of intentions only to disappear leaving the dreams of authors crushed in their wake, if they're lucky. You seem like a nice person but frankly you're the last person I would sell my short story to. You don't seem to have the experience that I would be looking for in a publisher.

  • TheWheelManTheWheelMan Posts: 983
    edited December 1969

    Are you publishing to ebooks? Printed books? What experience do you have publishing to either format? Are you doing the cover illustrations yourself? Your artwork is great for 3D art, but most of it just isn't professional book cover ready. I illustrate using 3D software too, but the goal is to have the final artwork not look like 3D art, otherwise it looks cheap to most potential buyers. What is the benefit of selling work to you? What are you going to do for an author that an author couldn't do for himself/herself? Are you trying to be of service to authors or are you trying to make money off of them?


    I have a small press that I just started expanding, and it's rapidly growing with a lot of content on the way. I can answer every one of the questions above and I have a plan, and my goal is to help my authors and to produce professional grade books for them and to help them to promote their books. And I don't pay them up front or charge them any fees, but they get the majority of the profits.


    What are you going to do for the authors you intend to publish?

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited August 2012

    No advance?

    my original idea was to offer a small royalty advance and then split the book sale royalties between myself and the short story authors. And if movie rights were sold a small percentage would be my share, like 15%.
    .
    Trying to guess what kind of an advance an author like Robert Asprin would expect. I luv those
    myth,inc books.
    .
    The Realms of Fantasy magazine went under. Sad.

    Post edited by MistyMist on
  • TheWheelManTheWheelMan Posts: 983
    edited December 1969

    I still don't understand how you're going to monetize the stories? You didn't say you were buying books, you said stories. And what kind of advance are you planning to give authors? I mean as a writer myself, if you approached me, you haven't told me anything that would convince me to sell you my story. Just saying that you don't seem to have your business plan in place yet.

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,211
    edited December 1969

    Ellora's Cave is actively looking for submissions.
    here's their page if anyone is interested
    http://www.jasminejade.com/t-writerscircle.aspx


    Baen's page http://www.baen.com/FAQS.asp#Manuscript Submission Guidelines


    looks like Daw was absorbed by the Penguin
    http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/daw/submissions.html


    Ace and Roc
    http://us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/specialinterests/scifi/submission.html


    next, to see if Vicki is on any of their covers :)

  • Kendall SearsKendall Sears Posts: 1,882
    edited December 1969

    I still don't understand how you're going to monetize the stories? You didn't say you were buying books, you said stories. And what kind of advance are you planning to give authors? I mean as a writer myself, if you approached me, you haven't told me anything that would convince me to sell you my story. Just saying that you don't seem to have your business plan in place yet.


    It would be unwise for the OP to talk about such things in a public forum, especially an area where there are likely competitors. I could see where there would be reticence to divulge those types of details.


    Truly, the best option at this point (based on the information given so far) is to get all the information together and contact a business consultant and from there any lawyers that are required. If in the US, there should be a branch of the US Small Business Administration nearby. They will have lots of information on business assistance available in the area, possibly even pro bono services.


    Kendall

  • TheWheelManTheWheelMan Posts: 983
    edited December 1969

    I didn't mean to suggest any private info be divulged. What I meant was the sales pitch, the public approach that would be presented to authors up front. What I've heard so far just doesn't sound like it's backed by a firm plan, which you have to have to be successful at this stuff.

  • Kendall SearsKendall Sears Posts: 1,882
    edited December 1969

    I didn't mean to suggest any private info be divulged. What I meant was the sales pitch, the public approach that would be presented to authors up front. What I've heard so far just doesn't sound like it's backed by a firm plan, which you have to have to be successful at this stuff.


    Absolutely. It sounds to me like it is time for a bit of detail oriented consulting... which can't be obtained here, or on the internet at all. From what I've read, there's lots of ideas, some details, and little detailed research... about where one should seek professional assistance before making a mistake that can take years to recover from.


    Kendall

  • DWGDWG Posts: 772
    edited August 2012

    according to this:
    http://www.sfwa.org/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/#shortfiction
    .
    if i buy an author's story for $50, they still wouldn't qualify to join SFWA unless i'm on their qualifying publisher list.
    ..
    i wouldn't sell one of my stories to anyone for only 50 bucks. yeesh.


    There are Hugo Award winning authors out there struggling to make ends meet and some of the most acclaimed writers in genre fiction have day jobs. Check out any of the pro-SF/F magazines and their rates per word won't make anyone rich fast, for instance Analog: 6-8 cents per word for short stories up to 7,500 words, $450-600 for stories between 7,500 and 10,000 words, and 5-6 cents per word for longer material.

    Now consider that these are companies that have been in the business for a long time and know exactly what they are doing, these are the rates they can buy at and still cover their overheads. Your sales will be smaller, so the amount you need to take out in overheads per sale/per story will be larger, yet you still need to set your pricing high enough to make it worth a writer's effort.

    The history of genre publishing is paved with the graves of magazines and small presses, some of them very promising, that started, published a handful of issues and then folded because they couldn't make the economics work.

    Post edited by DWG on
  • DWGDWG Posts: 772
    edited December 1969

    my original idea was to offer a small royalty advance and then split the book sale royalties between myself and the short story authors. And if movie rights were sold a small percentage would be my share, like 15%.

    Why would they want to give you anything from the movie rights? They haven't sold you anything movie related. And 15% is actually a huge percentage. You're trying to usurp agent territory, without offering anything that an agent does in the way of actively shopping a story and other support functions..

    Asprin

    I've no idea what he pulls in for an advance, but you need to understand that authors fall into different groups. There are the name authors, the ones the publishers actively support, then there are the mid-list, the ones they'll publish without putting much effort into it, as long as the books keep selling, and then there are few unknowns they're taking a chance on. Asprin was a name author 20 years ago, I'm not certain he is any more. A name author might draw a large advance (I met one who was considering buying a sports car based on his new advance, but he was already successful, clearly a rising star, and it was the advance on a very large trilogy), by contrast most mid-range advances won't be enough to live on - there's a reason mid-range authors have to put out multiple books per year!

  • Scott LivingstonScott Livingston Posts: 4,103
    edited December 1969

    DWG said:
    according to this:
    http://www.sfwa.org/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/#shortfiction
    .
    if i buy an author's story for $50, they still wouldn't qualify to join SFWA unless i'm on their qualifying publisher list.
    ..
    i wouldn't sell one of my stories to anyone for only 50 bucks. yeesh.


    There are Hugo Award winning authors out there struggling to make ends meet and some of the most acclaimed writers in genre fiction have day jobs. Check out any of the pro-SF/F magazines and their rates per word won't make anyone rich fast, for instance Analog: 6-8 cents per word for short stories up to 7,500 words, $450-600 for stories between 7,500 and 10,000 words, and 5-6 cents per word for longer material.

    Now consider that these are companies that have been in the business for a long time and know exactly what they are doing, these are the rates they can buy at and still cover their overheads. Your sales will be smaller, so the amount you need to take out in overheads per sale/per story will be larger, yet you still need to set your pricing high enough to make it worth a writer's effort.

    The history of genre publishing is paved with the graves of magazines and small presses, some of them very promising, that started, published a handful of issues and then folded because they couldn't make the economics work.

    For a story of 5000 words, $50 would be one cent per word, which is a common rate among small presses. You even see a lot of markets (including some fairly respectable ones, I think) that don't pay anything, and they still get enough submissions that they can turn a bunch of them down. Duotrope (linked earlier) has stats on this stuff. Of course, if you can afford to pay higher rates, you'll probably get more and better submissions.

    Are you doing this just for fun, or do you hope to make money on it? If you hope to make money, do you hope to make enough to earn a living, or just a little extra cash?

  • TheWheelManTheWheelMan Posts: 983
    edited December 1969

    For a story of 5000 words, $50 would be one cent per word, which is a common rate among small presses. You even see a lot of markets (including some fairly respectable ones, I think) that don't pay anything, and they still get enough submissions that they can turn a bunch of them down. Duotrope (linked earlier) has stats on this stuff. Of course, if you can afford to pay higher rates, you'll probably get more and better submissions.

    Are you doing this just for fun, or do you hope to make money on it? If you hope to make money, do you hope to make enough to earn a living, or just a little extra cash?

    And none of those magazines are trying to lay claim to any of the stories they publish, and most certainly would not get any movie rights. Publishing short stories is NOT the same thing as publishing novels, and only a fool would give you such invasive rights to their short story as a percentage of movie rights. That's absolute nonsense, I'm afraid.

  • DWGDWG Posts: 772
    edited December 1969

    Ralan's site http://ralan.com/index.htm gives a pretty comprehensive sf/f market listing. I'd advise the OP to study up on what the competition are able to offer to gain an understanding of the market.

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