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January 17, 2013

Writers: Publish your work on bookofjoe and keep ALL your rights

Christine Haughney's January 13 New York Times article about how Condé Nast is now really putting the squeeze on writers for its publications gave me an idea: offer bookofjoe as a place where writers can publish their work while keeping any and all possible future possibilities open.

You want to keep the exclusive movie and TV rights to your work, forever and ever?

No problem.

Publish here, sell anywhere else you like.

Perhaps there's great work you can't get published in a more conventional arena, for whatever reason: no problema — if I like it, you're in.

Think about it.

Would you rather have something world-shaking sitting in a drawer or right here in front of the world, ready for The Huffington Post or the New York Times to take it and run with it?

Costs you nothing to try.

Below, excerpts from the Times piece.

It's a dream tucked in the backs of many journalists’ minds: the article they write becomes a blockbuster movie and they reap a healthy share of the profits, a walk on the red carpet and — who knows? — maybe even an Oscar.

At Condé Nast magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, that wish has become reality for a small but steady number of writers. Condé Nast articles led to the movie "Argo," which so far has generated $166 million in worldwide box-office sales, "Eat Pray Love," which made $204 million in global sales, and "Brokeback Mountain," which brought in $178 million.

But now, Condé Nast, whose magazines are battling a punishing business environment, wants to capture more of the film and television profits, which previously went to writers who owned the rights to these works. The new contracts have angered writers and their agents who argue that it's another cut at their already rapidly shrinking compensation.

"It doesn't give authors the option or the alternative to go elsewhere for their movie and television rights, and therefore there's no competition," said Jan Constantine, general counsel for the Authors Guild who recently advised an agent negotiating one of these contracts.

According to copies of the various contracts provided and described to The New York Times, those exclusive rights ranged from 30 days to one year. The contracts also show that if Condé Nast decides to option the article, writers receive $2,500 to $5,000 for a 12-month option. If an article is developed into a major feature film, writers receive no more than 1 percent or $150,000 toward the purchase price.

Television programs and made-for-television movies are capped at even lower amounts, especially for less experienced writers. These arrangements are agreed to before an article has even been published.

"This is bottom-of-the-barrel pricing," said one agent who refused to allow writers to sign the new contracts, but declined to be identified for fear of retribution toward the agent's clients. "There's no reason my clients who are the premier writers in the country should be shackled by this agreement that forces them to accept very low prices and also take their project off the market."

Many writers for Condé Nast magazines like The New Yorker work under one-year contracts that lack basic employee benefits like a 401(k) retirement plan or health insurance, but they are allowed to keep the rights to their work. (By contrast, newspapers typically own the full rights to articles published by their employees.)

Some agents have warned writers not to sign the contracts because they chip away further at their income. But other writers have signed the agreements because they don’t want to lose the chance to have their byline appear in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair.

Writers interviewed for this article who have contracts with Condé Nast emphasized that in this economy they can't simply go out and get a contract with another magazine.

Some writers predict that these contracts will create an even wider divide between Condé Nast's most celebrated writers and its stable of lesser known but productive contributors.

"The people who really get the big options are not going to sign, and the people who don’t get the big options are going to be railroaded," said one Condé Nast writer who asked not to be identified because of fears of retribution from the company. "What you are really taking is people's self-respect."

The plans to secure more of these rights started in late 2011, when Condé Nast formed an entertainment group to help it secure some of the profits its writers received when their articles were developed into film and television programs.

In the past, Condé Nast struggled to profit from many of the programs made about its publications. For example, it did not receive any of the $6.4 million made at the global box office for "The September Issue," a documentary about Vogue.

In late 2011, the company hired Dawn Ostroff, previously president of the CW television network, to run the entertainment group. While a Condé Nast spokesman declined to talk about the specific contract negotiations, the spokesman said the company hopes to offer its writers more development options through the new entertainment group.

January 17, 2013 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

So, publishing with BOJ is a non-exclusive, permanent license from the author to you?

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 17, 2013 8:18:46 PM

When I sold some short stories to Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen magazines, I had to hand over the rights to any action figures they might develop. I somehow - correctly - guessed that a woman killing her husband with a spade and burying him in the lavender garden would not glean much interest from Hollywood or Mattel. But I did giggle at the idea of the prone philanderer at the feet of a dowdy woman whose arm snapped down a tiny spade on his head. I would have bought one, but I daresay the market didn't extend much beyond there.

Posted by: Becs | Jan 17, 2013 4:59:18 PM

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