Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of exploitative contracts and my thoughts on them

I'm not an experienced writer yet, but the one thing that I do know is that I will never sign an indemnification clause. A very well-respected publication (regular readers of this blog will be aware of the nitty-gritties) chose two of my stories for publication. After promising a paltry sum of Rs 500 for each story, (and this is a huge publishing house, mind you), the publishers decided that it was in their best interests to make their contributors sign an indemnification clause.

And guess what, most people did. They went ahead and signed the contract.Here's why I think that this was possible:

1. Most people were first time writers and absolutely dying to see their name in print.
2. Most were unable to comprehend the deftly worded legal jargon.
3. Some people signed the contract without reading it- The contract wanted all rights and wanted the contributors to sign the indemnification clause

Here's why I didn't sign

1. For almost a year, the editors held on to my story without any word on it. When several writers wrote to them asking for an explanation, they were rude and treated the writers like they were doing the writers a favour by publishing them.

2. The Publication wanted all rights and wanted to translate my story into several Indian languages (unfortunately I know only two and would have no way of verifying if plagiarism occured during translation)

3. The high-handed I'm big you're small, I'm right you're wrong attitude. I'm not their slave. As a writer, I am a service provider- as a publisher they are my clients. I am selling them a product. If they can't treat me like an equal, I can't be bothered to work with them either. ( I think this kind of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable and writers are exploited because they allow themselves to be exploited.)

4. I respect my own work and will never give up all rights on it. (unless I can buy a villa in South Sicily with all the money they give me.)

5. I hate contracts that are non-negotiable (Just because I'm not Madonna, don't expect me to put up with your dumb and absolutely lame reasons.)

6. They asked me to rewrite my story from beginning to end. I might consider doing so if my editor is constructive, not to mention intelligent and helps me make my story more nuanced. But I will absolutely not rewrite just because an editor thinks that having an eight word vocabulary is cool. Oh and I don't like editors who write Pls chnge, I thght ths is gd idea in an email. If you expect me to be professional, please be professional yourself.

I wrote this post not because I wanted to rant, but because I wanted to warn everyone about indemnification clauses. Read up on it before signing that contract.





3 comments:

darklady said...

Good one, warrior princess! :D

Elendil said...

The sms language is really the last straw! Shocking. Big publishing house, did you say?

Reeti said...

@ Rudrani :P

@Prayag: Yea, one of the biggest. Heights of shadiness.