Beware the “Term of License” Contract

In this month's Authors Guild Bulletin, Mark L. Levine warns writers to be very wary of publishers offering a so-called "term of license" contract (signing you for seven to ten years with an option to renew) unless you are already a best-selling author or are negotiating paperback or reprint rights to an existing work.

If they're offering it to you as a novice writer, then it's a big warning sign that "the publisher in not a bona fide trade or academic publisher or even a bona fide print-on-demand one but a vanity publisher masquerading as a bona fide POD publisher."  He offers some more good advice:

Recently, a handful of POD publishers have been soliciting and "accepting" manuscripts at an astonishing rate and not requiring money up front to publish a book. They even offer what on its face apperas to be a relatively standard publishing agreement and sometimes agree to pay a nominal advance (eg one dollar). This has led writers — particularly novices– to think they are being published by bona fide trade publishers.

[…]They typically will not publish any copies other than those ordered at the authors discount. Apparently, the total number of books purchases for friends and relativesat the "special" author's price by the presumably large number of people taken in by this scheme makes it a profitable venture for the ethically challenge.

[…]If you are still interested in proceeding in the hope that your publisher is bona fide, be sure to insert, in addition to the requirement that the book be published within a specified time period at the publisher's sole expense, language stating tha the number of print-on-demand copies of the book initially published at the publisher's expense "will not be less than ______ copies" (eg 500 or 1000). Language like this, as well as a good out-of-print clause, should flush out the intentions of the publisher and save you from a bad surprise.

The Mail I Get

I debated whether to post this email or not with the actual producer's name in it. I decided that I probably shouldn't but I will give you this hint…I have sparred with him here before, which is why I got this email:

 XYZ  just called me and said he wanted to read
my script. He emailed a contract and then stated that I need to pay him $600 up
front against his 15% commission. I know this isn’t normal but he is a
real producer. My question is, am I getting scammed here?

Yes, you are getting scammed. No legitimate producer or agent would ask
you for a fee. A producer also doesn't ask for, or get, a commission on sales. He may have been a "real" producer once…but if he is asking you for $600, he's not any more.

My Dark Past, the Sequel

357 Vigilante 2
Not so long ago, I was surprised when a blogger reviewed my second book .357  VIGILANTE #2: MAKE THEM PAY. Now another blogger has reviewed it, too:

…if you're
familiar with Goldberg's TV work as a writer of middle-of-the-road
crime dramas like SPENSER: FOR HIRE, HUNTER and DIAGNOSIS: MURDER, you
may notice that the .357 Vigilante books are written in the same
glossy, straight-ahead style, albeit with slightly ramped-up sex and
violence that would probably not be too outrageous for today's
prime-time audience. I don't use "middle-of-the-road" in a disparaging
way above; matter of fact, I think television could use more shows like
HUNTER in a time when solving mysteries has become a grim pursuit,
rather than something fun (yes, I realize the concept that chasing
murderers should be "fun" sounds kinda weird, but that's what murder
mysteries are all about).

Townsfolk Remember Crumley

The Missoula Independent solicited memories and anecdotes about author James Crumley from the folks who knew him best… bartenders, drinking buddies, and fellow authors:

Crumley wrote 11 books, most notably The Last Good Kiss, which was
published in 1978, and is often credited with inspiring a generation of
hardboiled crime fiction writers. But Crumley the author meant little
in Missoula compared to Crumley the man. His phone number was always in
the book, he usually sat on the same barstool, his anecdotes never
failed to impress. Everyone, it seemed, called him a friend. He was, in
the words of longtime cohort William Kittredge, our storyteller.

The newspaper was swamped with contributions and couldn't publish them all. But you can find each one, in their entirety, here. (Thanks to Richard Wheeler for the link).

I Don’t Usually Get Political Here, but…

…I am an Obama supporter and I think he's getting decimated by McCain in the debate. It is painful and disappointing to watch. McCain is making his points with more clarity, directness and passion than Obama, who I agree with but who can't seem to clearly articulate his point of view tonight. And I've lost track of how many times Obama has told McCain that he is "absolutely right." It has practically become an endorsement of McCain.

UPDATE (9/28/08) : This USA Today/Gallup poll makes me feel a lot better.  It indicates that viewers of the debate gave Barack Obama the edge
over John McCain by a 46% to 34% margin.

(Thanks to Joel Goldman for the heads-up)

Holy Bat Interview!

I love TV. Always have, always will. Which is why I am so excited to be interviewing legendary writer Lorenzo Semple Jr. today for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Archive of American television. In the past, I have done video interviews with producer Norman Felton, producer/writer Roy Huggins, and Dick Van Dyke for Archive and hope to do many more. I’ll let you know when the interview is up for you to see. In the meantime, here’s some information about the Archive…

Remakes and Sequels A-Go-Go

Variety reports on a slew of remakes and sequels today. Disney has signed Johnny Depp for a fourth PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie and he will play Tonto in a new LONE RANGER flick (honest, he will!).  Warner Brothers is bringing back Will Smith in a prequel to I AM LEGEND. And Sony TV and Geffen Records are developing a remake of THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY, which will be written by Jeff Rake of CASHMERE MAFIA.