Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Sunday, 19 May 2013

To Sign or not to sign?

You have probably heard about the new contracts being offered by DCT the publishers of magazines such as The Weekly News, People's Friend and My Weekly. I have been published by the Weekly News but not the other two. I have yet to see such a contract but they are there and will be sent to writers whose stories are bought by DCT. Womag writer on her blog goes through the contract in detail and gives us her understanding of what it means in real terms so pop over to her blog http://womagwriter.blogspot.com to get a better understanding.

This has caused huge discussions in various forums across social media. But to me, the main questions as a writer and potential submitter to DCT that I'm asking are:

1. What happens if you don't sign the contract?
2. Is it open to negotiation?
3. Will you be able to submit to DCT if you don't accept their contract?
4. Would you want to submit to DCT under their new contract?
5. Will other magazines follow suit? This could have wide reaching consequences for non-fiction/article writers too.

I suspect that these questions will remain unanswered while the new contracts are bedded in.

There has also been calls for a 'peaceful' and 'silent' protest. From now until July some quarters are inviting writers not to submit to DCT publications until July. Although this is admiral and in the right spirit I do worry that by not submitting to DCT writers are shooting themselves in the foot somewhat. If they aren't submitting there will be plenty of other writers who will be. The protest by a few writers might not even dent the number of subs DCT receive and some writers might see it as an opportunity to sub while some of the 'competition' isn't! So one has to wonder what purpose the protest has and what effect it will have on DCT. At best it might make them reconsider some of the more unpopular terms in the contract. At worst some writers will lose sales opportunities to be taken up by possibly less experienced writers who will sign the contract without batting an eyelid.

Writing is a business - DCT know that. Writers know that. And the publishing world is changing. Magazines are folding, losing their fiction slots or using their own in-house writers to fill their fiction sections. There has never been that much money to be made by writing short stories for the womags - and because of diminishing sales in some publications contracts are going to change and it's up to individual writers to decide whether they are prepared to sign them, question them or not sign them. All I am asking is to what cost? If it is to be the case of sign the contract or don't sub us the short stories in the first place - then this seems a little short sighted on the part of the publishers. But publishers know there will always be a steady stream of writers waiting in the wings behind those not willing to sign who will sign and supply the magazine with the short stories they want for the price, terms and conditions they the publisher want. It is, unfortunately, a buyers' market.

It would be interesting to know which writers who have posted that protest message on Facebook actually will not be subbing to DCT over that period. It would seem a little hypocritical of them to post it and then not do it. I wonder, also, how many of them have contacted DCT personally and registered their complaint against the new contracts. I will look forward to seeing if DCT will be issuing a statement in defence of their new contracts and whether they will tweak the contracts in response to writers' displeasure.

What do you think about it all?

Julie xx


womagwriter said...

I doubt any boycotting or complaints by writers will have any effect at all. DCT have to look to the future and do what is best to protect and future-proof their business - and that means securing extra rights to re-use stories electronically or in other countries. They're only asking for non-exclusive second rights which means we can still sub abroad etc.

We may not like it but as you say, publishing is changing and DCT along with its writers must change too or go under.

Anonymous said...

You've hit the nail on the head.
There will always be writers willing to work for next to nothing and give away any rights that are asked for because they are so keen to be in print. Companies like DCT know this and use it to their advantage.

That doesn't make it right.

As for what people should do, everyone will have to decide for themselves if they are willing to take what is offered rather than be excluded from that publication.

I won't be signing, but I have nothing against those who choose to do so. It's a free world.

(Interestingly, the captcha word is prisoners. Hmm.)

Julie P said...

I think DCT are in the thick of it just as much as writers are, Womag. And every profession has to bend and flex with new demands - writing and publishing isn't immune from this. I worry that if writers protest too much they won't get published. But it's a bit of a catch 22 really - do you protest and make your feelings known or do you shut up and put up? As you say, that's up to the individual writer to decide. I suspect it isn't any easier for DCT having to make these contracts.
Julie xx

Julie P said...

No, it doesn't make it right, but it doesn't mean it's wrong either,Anon - it's business and businesses all over the world will always try to get something cheaper or for nothing - it doesn't just happen in writing. As I said, it's a buyer's market out there in short story land.

Yes, people absolutely do have the right to decide what they do and shouldn't come under fire for their decisions. It's up to disgruntled writers to take it up with DCT and not turn on other writers who are doing what they feel they have to do to survive in the short story market. We will see what happens with the new contracts but I suspect there will be more of the same to come and it could get a lot worse. Julie xx

Patsy said...

The first 3 questions have been answered.

1. If we don't sign our work won't be accepted.
2. Contracts are not negotiable.
3. There's no point submitting if we don't sign as stories won't be accepted.

Although they claim these contracts aren't a rights grab they do allow the company to reuse our stories anywhere and in any way without offering further payment.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Patsy - I suspected than that might be the case.

Julie xx