Latest Posts

Author-Agent “Handshake” Agreements: Be Wary

This is an updated version of a post I put online several years ago, in response to complaints about "handshake" offers from a particular agent at a large agency.

That agent is no longer making those offers (as far as I know). And handshake agreements are rare these days. But I've recently heard from several writers who received handshake or no-contract offers from other agents at other agencies--so it's not impossible that you may encounter such an offer in your agent search. If you do, there's reason to be cautious.

According to Wikipedia, a handshake agreement, or oral contract, is

The Copyright Claims Board: A New Option For Copyright Disputes

Logo of the Copyright Claims Board

Taking legal action if your copyright is infringed can be complicated and confusing--not to mention expensive. Suing an infringing party, which must be done in federal court, can rack up enormous legal fees, and take years to resolve. (For instance, the Authors Guild estimates that the average cost of a copyright suit is $400,000--often more than the value of the claim itself.) And there's no guarantee of success. It's a situation that, for many creators, renders their rights under copyright essentially unenforceable.

Traditionally in the USA, such suits have been creatives' only avenue of redress. Now, though, there's an alternative: the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), which opened for business yesterday.

Established by Congress in 2020 via the CASE Act, the CCB is a small claims court for copyright disputes, where creators can bring lower-dollar infringement claims (monetary damages are capped at $30,000) without having to hire an attorney or make a court appearance (proceedings are conducted entirely online). The CCB is housed within the US Copyright Office, and staffed by a three-person tribunal that oversees proceedings and is the final decision-maker on claims.

Publishing Contracts 101: Beware Internal Contradictions

It should probably go without saying that you don't want your publishing contract to include clauses that contradict one another.

Beyond any potential legal implications, internal contradictions suggest a publisher that either doesn't understand its own contract language well enough to spot the problem--or a publisher that simply doesn't care. Neither is a good sign for what lies ahead.

Contradictions can be tricky to spot, especially for first-time authors who aren't experienced in contract legalese. Here's an example that came across my desk recently: an anthology contract from Dark Lake Publishing that provides for rights reversion 12 months after publication:

Bad Contract Alert: Stary (aka Dreame)

This is another in my series of blog posts about serial reading/writing app contracts (you can see all of them here).

This time the subject is Stary (official name: Stary Pte Ltd, based in Singapore), one of the largest and most well-established of such companies. At least sixteen apps operate under the Stary umbrella, of which Dreame is probably the best-known. Most cater to English-language readers, but there are several for readers of other languages, including Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese, and one specifically for Filipino writers.

Procedurally, the Stary apps are much like the others I've written about. You must sign up for the app and publish at least three chapters, with a minimum of 3,000 words, before you can apply for a contract. (You could also be invited to apply--like other serial reading/writing apps, Stary aggressively solicits for content.)

The AALA (Formerly the AAR) Revises Its Canon Of Ethics

The Association of American Literary Agents (AALA) recently announced some major revisions to its Canon of Ethics, a series of guidelines for ethical practice to which member agents must adhere.

(Note: the AALA was formerly known as the Association of Authors' Representatives [AAR]. The name change was made in 2020. The legacy website, with the older version of the Canon, is still online.)

The two most significant changes are to Clause 5, with members now prohibited from participating in packaging fees on clients' TV and film deals, and from accepting producer fees without clients' written permission; and to Clause 8, which now permits members to provide paid editing services (formerly, members were prohibited from providing such services).

A Contract Clause to Beware: Claiming Copyright on “Publisher’s Content”

Hi, everyone. My name is Michael Capobianco, and although I’ve been an adjunct member of Writer Beware for some time now, this is my first official blog post.

I’m also the Chair of SFWA’s Contracts Committee, which means I see a lot of bad contracts, both for book-length and short fiction. I’ve gotten used to much of the unfortunate and often contradictory clauses in these contracts, but last week I ran into something that caught my attention: a virtually identical terrible clause in two separate small publishers’ book contracts, a clause that I had never seen before.

Both contracts were for original fiction, but aside from the fact that neither paid an advance, they looked fairly different from one another until they came to this clause. To save you any further suspense, here it is: