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About Writing Right: The Blog

CAN A PUBLISHER CANCEL A CONTRACT?

I came across a writer online the other day who asked in a forum if a publisher can cancel a contract or book deal. Luckily (?), I've had a bit of first-hand experience in this area, so here's my response.

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It's nice finally to see the Queen of Wrong get something right for a change—a little—although her definitive answer is anything but.

 

Yes, a contract can be "canceled" by the author submitting a sub-par quality book to escape from a long-term contract. But that happens rarely, since everyone knows the author's capabilities going into the deal, and getting a contract pulled under those conditions would mark the author as something he'd rather not share with his mom. Also, few publishers would be quick to jump at a chance to cancel an author whose ongoing series (i.e., long-term investment) is still making money. Publishers have editors, too. And they have access to other freelance writers. And they have the legal right to rewrite any or all of a book and deduct the costs of doing so from the author's future earnings if the author refuses or fails to do so himself.

 

Yes, a change of editors could prompt the cancellation of a contract in its early stages, but it's certainly not likely once the publisher has paid advance money and invested in development costs. In fact, it's highly unlikely. Read More 

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ENCOURAGING A YOUNG WRITER

A mother recently asked on line what to do to encourage her daughter, a fine writer, to get published and paid for her work. I had a few thoughts on the matter, considering that I was in her daughter's shoes half a century earlier. Here's my response:

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First, since getting my first book published in the mid-seventies, I went on to publish nearly a hundred books conventionally in nearly all genres. I also wrote the second most widely syndicated newspaper column in America for more than a decade (after "Dear Abby"—hey, she was tough!) and published tens of thousands of articles, short stories, and other works in magazines, newspapers, and on Websites. I learned enough along the way to develop Creative Writing Workshop, which I taught at several Chicago-area colleges for years.

 

And, of course, I worked as a magazine, newspaper, and book editor just to fill in the "down" time.

 

So, I feel qualified in saying that, in one respect, your daughter is far better off than I was when I started out. She's good; I sucked.

 

With that said, please ignore, disregard, and banish from your mind forever the "advice" given to you by the Grand Vizier of Wrong. It's worse than her normal fare. In fact, it's the polar opposite of the truth. Here's why: Read More 

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WRITING IN ALL LOWER CASE

I ran into a question online the other day from someone who wanted to know if he could write his entire book in lower case. The misleading responses he received goaded me into replying. (It doesn't take much):

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Absolutely. I say, if you want to write your book in all lower case, go for it. And, while you're at it, why bother using English grammar or syntax at all? I just started revising a book I started writing several years ago, utilizing a technique along those very lines, and I can't wait for the world to see it once it's finished. Here's the "old" opening, in case you're interested:

  • To be, at first glance and considering all else, among John's most favored—notwithstanding anything unknown to humankind, as the cosmos is the ultimate being rivaling all else in, among other things, civility et al; that is, in being civil, learning civilness, and practicing civility—is certainly desirable. But, on the other hand, if one at second glance appears, even if unwillingly or otherwise, but not withstanding the desire to adopt a willful misuse of the privilege to react accordingly (albeit without cause) or, on occasion, rarely: Even with it one should not, except under relatively rare circumstances, of which there are so many—to be accorded such a lofty, favored position, according to all traditional mores, values, and historical precedents, that would be really swell. I guess.

Now, are you ready? Here's my brand new, enlightened, all-lower-case nonconventional version of the very same piece of illuminating literature (far stronger than the old one, if I do say so myself) for your reading enjoyment and edification:

  • to be at first glance and considering all else among Johns most favored notwithstanding anything unknown to humankind as the cosmos is the ultimate being rivaling all else in among other things civility et al that is in being civil learning civilness and practicing civility is certainly desirable but on the other hand if one at second glance appears even if unwillingly or otherwise but not withstanding the desire to adopt a willful misuse of the privilege to react accordingly albeit without cause or on occasion rarely even with it one should not except under relatively rare circumstances of which there are so many to be accorded such a lofty favored position according to all traditional mores values and historical precedents that would be really swell i guess

Man, just sharing that new, enlightened approach to my book with the world is like shagging a monkey off my back! I can't tell you how many years of my literary life I have wasted in my insane devotion to being readable, understandable, marketable, and publishable. I mean, I just can't tell you.

 

So, yes, by all means, see your new approach to writing through to the bitter end. And good luck!

 

Oh, and for the respondent who advised you to do "Whatever you can do to stand out from the crowd," I agree. As long as you don't expect anyone in that crowd to do anything other than dump your junk in the nearest trash can. Which is exactly where it would belong.

 

Just my thoughts on the matter. But then again, I'm a pragmatist, so why listen to me?

 

Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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