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Writers Should Insist: The Power of a Contract

I realize that several other writers and editors have items on their websites and blogs about contracts. Freelance writers and editors are especially vulnerable in the variable, fickle world of clients. This post is based on recent, personal experience: I made the mistake of going against my wits as I went from always requiring a contract for my freelance work to trusting someone on their word, when writing/editing a book, and living to regret it.

The experience itself wasn’t a bad one until near the end…

I was writing and editing a book for someone with whom I had a relationship. I trusted that this person would keep their word and in the end, my biggest form of payment would be receiving credit as the co-author and main editor. It was to be a partnership of sorts. Now mind you, I offered to be a ghostwriter on the project at the beginning but the person insisted I get recognition, thus my name was to be in full view on the cover, spine, on marketing collateral, et al. (This was a non-fiction work.)

As the process went on (and on)…I also ended up dealing with the publisher from the initial search to the final manuscript to print. I also worked on marketing the book via the internet and through my personal connections. Then when we brought on another pair of eyes (another editor) that became a mess I had to fix, several times over. It was a lot of work…overall from conception to completion, nearly two years of my life was dedicated to this project.

The publisher personally told me he was impressed with my professionalism and ability; he loved the book from just reading the first few chapters. Yet, for some reason, despite doing my job and doing it well, I was having issues with the person I was writing for. They kept saying they trusted my abilities, expertise and professionalism, yet, things started going awry.

Things became tense…then communication broke down. Then, upon receiving the third printed proof, I was nothing short of stunned: my name had been taken off the spine of the book and the size of my name reduced drastically on the cover. I didn’t know what to do, so just did my job: worked to find errors and sent them to the publisher and the person I was working with. I mentioned the omission and found out, the owner of the story decided to take my name off the spine. Not only did I find it odd but it was literally wrong: You don’t omit the co-author’s name from the spine.

I had no choice but to let things go: At this point, I realized my mistake in not having a signed contract. I tried not to take it personally. I attempted to retrieve an explanation to gain nothing but silence. My hands were tied!

I saw the publisher after some time passed and we discussed it. He stated he attempted to talk this person out of the action but they were adamantly decided. He then confided that they had originally asked for an even bigger reduction of my name on the cover; that was when he put his foot down and said no. He told me his reasoning; he knew all I had done and said there was no way he was completely removing my name from sight. He also stated how baffled he was as no explanation was offered to him either.

I had designed a web-site for the book that the story owner decided to have redone. In doing so, my name was completely removed from the website and other marketing collateral.

I was never offered an explanation. I worked very hard NOT to be angry. I took it to God, asked for his grace and just let it go. It was a Christian project, so I decided to be what a Christian is supposed to embody in the end.

It sort of left me wavering on whether or not I wanted to do this type of work again. Today, I try not talk about the book I dedicated so much time and energy to; I no longer promote it openly. It’s on my resume and portfolio, mentioned on my online presence-but that is it.

I decided to distance myself from the experience: I took some time off from writing to allow myself some spiritual and heart healing. I got a job, took on some volunteer work but of course kept working on my own projects.

Just a few weeks ago, from seemingly nowhere, I was approached to work on another book. I asked a lot of questions; the first, of course, being, “You’ll agree to sign a contract, right?”

I am praying and confident this will all work out for the best. Please, if you take nothing from my blog, at least learn from my mistakes-ALWAYS cover your butt! 🙂



4 thoughts on “Writers Should Insist: The Power of a Contract”

  1. Your experience should at least help others steer clear of the same mistakes. Do you have a contract template that you use, or do you create a completely new contract for every project?

    1. Hi. Thanks for your comment and question. Historically, it really depends on the project but I used to just type up my own. Now to save time I have been seeking more concrete, ready-made templates (mainly to save precious time). I found one good one for editing but it’s not downloadable. I’ll post links in the coming days if that would be helpful.
      I appreciate your also following me on FB and Twitter… thanks! I’ll reciprocate on Twitter and I believe I “liked” your book page on FB.
      Happy writing! 🙂

  2. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I find this matter to be actually something which I believe I’d by no means understand. It seems too complex and very extensive for me. I am having a look ahead to your subsequent submit, I will attempt to get the dangle of it!


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