Monday, October 02, 2006
Q & A 87 What have I done?!!
I just realized that I subbed a beginning to you which I actually plan to use in a book and yet I've signed a contract giving you rights to use it. To top that off, I can't find the danged contract.
So, uh, am I going to be able to use this portion in my book or what?
Sorry to be such a nitwit. It just didn't even cross my mind when I subbed that beginning that I might want to finish the book.
Actually, it never crossed my mind that any of the New Beginnings authors weren't planning to use their piece in a book. The whole point is to send the beginning of your novel, in order to get input from others on whether it works or not.
As you seem to have lost your contract, allow me to reproduce the key provision, which you may have missed, as it was in the fine print:
The Author signs over all rights to the Work, including the right to use it in any form in any media, including media that haven't even been invented yet, and media that never will be invented. Moreover, the Author may not use any of the words from the work in future works, nor any synonyms of any of the words. Permission to use antonyms and homonyms of the words in the Work will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but don't count on it. The letters that appear in the words of the Work, with the exception of "r," may be used by the Author in future works.
Of course you're aware that virtually all collections of short stories or essays that get published have had many of their items published previously in magazines or newspapers? That magazines often publish excerpts from soon-to-be-released novels? That the entire first chapter of many published or soon-to-be-published novels is available on the Internet at the author's or publisher's website? That, if anything, having an excerpt of your book chosen for publication is like free publicity? That no one's gonna read this book anyway?
We're talking about 150 words. Book reviewers include excerpts that long in reviews, calling it "fair use." There's as much chance that an agent or editor will see your opening in EE's book and say, "Wow, that sounds fantastic, I gotta get in touch with that author," as there is that anyone will reject your 70,000-word novel because the first two paragraphs appeared in this book. Exactly as much chance, I'd say.
Several authors have declined to be in the book, citing the low quality of their opening, the possibility that it will ruin their career, and the fact that "there's no upside for me me me me me." This is no problem; I expect the book to contain about 90 pieces, and there've been over 130, so no one need feel bad about declining (and thereby ruining the continuation author's chance of getting published), even if you signed a contract. Just let me know.