Undead Press and The Editing Clause in Your Contract
Last week certain parts of the internet came alive when aspiring writer Mandy DeGeit blogged about her horrific experience with Undead Press, who accepted her story for an anthology and proceded to rewrite it without the authors consent. The post went viral among the horror and speculative fiction community, who confirmed that Undead Press and it's owner were part of an ongoing pattern of unprofessional behaviour and Mandy had, indeed, been treated in an unprofessional manner.
The lesson most people took away from Mandy's experience was simple: don't do business with Undead Press. Which is good advice, certainly, but doesn't really address the core problem - how do you identify an unprofessional publisher of Undead Press's ilk before the take your work and mess with it.
Fortunately there have been a few posts that actually address this issue.
The best of them is this post about editing clauses in contracts over at Writer Beware, which examines the broad spectrum of clauses you'll find in contracts and identifies both the types that are truly bad ideas to sign off on:
Publisher shall have the right to edit and revise the Work for any and all uses contemplated under this Agreement.
which offers no obligation on the publisher's part to consult with the writer or get their approval before making changes. It also highlights some of the better options to look for:
The Publisher will make no major alterations to the Work's text or title without the Author's written approval. The Publisher reserves the right to make minor copy-editing changes.
And many of the options that exist between the two. In short, this is one of those blog posts I wish every aspiring writer bookmarked and double-checked before signing anything related to their work, and it can save an enormous amount of heartbreak.
Best-selling fantasy author Neil Gaiman also posted some useful advice, albeit one that may sound familiar of you've been around writers for any length of time: Money Flows Towards the Writer.
I have to admit that I actually shuddered when I read Many DeGeit's original post and saw that she'd agreed to let her work be published without payment or recompense, including being given a copy of the anthology where her work was being printed. Writers should get paid something for their work, even if it's just in the form of complimentary copies.
Finally, there's some pretty sobering advice over at The Passive Voice blog: don't do deals with crooks or jerks. Which is pretty sound advice, all things considered, and the two posts linked to above serve as a pretty good baseline for identifying both in the early stages.