Spokesbear: For reals, yo.
Peter: Okay, really?
Spokesbear: Are you objecting to the topic or the patter?
Peter: Both, but mostly the latter.
Spokesbear: Stop trying to hold me down, dog.
Peter: Seriously, what the fuck’s with that?
Spokesbear: Just trying it out for size.
Peter: Stop it. Really.
Spokesbear: Like you never fantasize about walking into a room and saying ‘what up, bitches?’
Peter: I do not.
Peter: Okay, I do to, but that’s not the point. I never actually break it out in conversation ’cause I know it’s a bad idea.
Spokesbear: Okay, I’ll stop, but you have to talk about the Undead Press thing.
Peter: So, the Undead Press thing?
Peter: Really hard for me to talk about without engaging in victim-blaming.
Spokesbear: Sure, ’cause you’re an asshole.
Peter: Yes, but not just ’cause of that. Everyone’s in a hurry to help out this poor woman who had her work massacred by Undead Press, to commiserate as to how badly she’s been screwed by the evil publisher who rewrote her work without permission, but they don’t really address the core problem – a newish writer, eager to get published, doesn’t know what to look for in her contracts and agrees to a pretty shitty deal from an unprofessional press because it’d result in her getting published.
Spokesbear: Neil Gaiman did the “money flows towards the writer” post about it.
Peter: Sure, and that’s great, but I get cranky about this sort of shit. Writing isn’t hard. Learning about writing isn’t hard. If you haven’t yet worked out that a contract which doesn’t even offer you a contributors copy of the anthology is a bad place to get published, then it makes me wonder exactly how much research you did before submitting. Not everything in writing has to be a harsh life lesson, you know?
Spokesbear: Like you’ve never signed a shitty contract.
Peter: Sure, I have. But never one that shitty.
Spokesbear: So, what, you’re a special snowflake?
Peter: No, but I believe that if you’re going to be in business, be in fucking business. Being published and read isn’t some magical thing that will change your life forever, no matter how big a hurry you’re in to get to this seemingly exalted state where you have a published story. Even at seventeen I was smart enough to think this place that takes my work and publishes it and gives me nothing in return is probably a bad fucking idea. Things like the Undead Press story just make me want to go out and beat new writers with a clue-by-four until the words “GET FUCKING PAID FOR YOUR WORK” are bludgeoned into their brain. ‘Cause I guarantee you – I guaran-damn-tee you – that the same internet that’s all “aw, how horrible and shit” about Undead Press are the same people who fucking lost their shit when John Scalzi took Black Matrix publishing to task for offering a fifth-of-a-cent-a-word back in 2009.
Spokesbear: And you remain so calm about it.
Peter: Shut up, bear. You started this.
Spokesbear: I’m just surprised. You’re…actually pissed off.
Peter: If you’re going to be in business. BE IN FUCKING BUSINESS.
Spokesbear: And people who just want to write for a hobby?
Peter: Post shit on your blog. The moment you’re signing contracts, start trying to figure out what the contracts mean. The sole useful thing I saw out of hundreds of people posting their support for Mandy DeGeit is the guy from Post Mortem Press who showed her the kind of clause you should make sure is in your contract, the one that goes:
5. EDITING AND PROOFREADING
The Publisher shall make no changes in, additions to, or eliminations from the original Work without the consent of the Author. Typographical and spelling errors are exempt.
Peter: I’m sure the various shows of support make the writer feel better, but actually pointing out the things to look for in a contract? Informing people how to spot the shoddy ass of a publisher before you submit (and here’s a hint: 90% of people publishing small press Zombie anthologies without paying for work are going to be dodgy as fuck. The ones that pay for work aren’t necessarily better) – those are the responses I can get behind. There’s an awful lot about this situation that could have been resolved with a little common sense and googling basic short story submission advice on the internet.
Spokesbear: But that would require not being excited about the forthcoming publication.
Peter: Nah, it doesn’t. One can be excited about something and still be sensible about it. Mistakes will happen, even then, but it should cut down on the Undead Press type situations at the very least. We just don’t do that because the internet likes to see someone whose wrong, and the inevitable dog-pile occurs the moment there’s a clear-cut moral decision to be made.
Spokesbear: You realise there’s nothing in this that doesn’t make you sound like an arsehole.
Peter: I’m okay with that.
Spokesbear: If you’re sure.
Peter: You’re the one who made me talk about it.
Spokesbear: For reals, yo.
Peter: Fucking stop it.
Peter: Damn right.
Post-Script: I did a far less rant-driven version of this post for the blog at my Writers Centre dayjob. If you do nothing else, I recommend the writer beware follow-up about clauses you should look for regarding editing of stories.