Wednesday, June 22, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #18 - The Passive Voice

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

The Passive Voice

The book publishing world is in turmoil. Okay, some folks won't like the word "turmoil," but the truth hurts sometimes. Mostly because of the current economy and changes in technology, ie. digital publishing, book publishers are getting hit hard in the pocketbook. More and more readers are switching to e-books, and even those who haven't seem to be getting fed up with the growing costs of books. It doesn't help that book stores are closing in big numbers, the most noticeable being the recent death of many Borders stores.

So, if the book publishing world is having problems, those problems steamroll down to the fiction authors. It's tough to get a publishing contract, especially for a first-time novelist and sometimes even for those who have a track record at being an author. And even if you do get a contract, you have to read it with a fine-tooth comb because publishing companies are seeking more and more rights from authors, in some cases almost total rights.

In a way, this makes sense from the point of view of the publishers. Their business model is hurting, so they're trying to grasp at whatever they can.

But that doesn't mean you have to play the sucker and sign away a bunch of rights (and dollars!) to that novel you've been busting your hump on. Facing down a publishing company might be a little scary, especially if you are a beginner with a dream of having your book published, but that doesn't mean you have to be a fool.

What should you do then if you happen to land a book contract? My suggestion would be to hire an intellectual properties attorney to look over the contract. This will cost you a chunk of change, but it is likely worth it. Even if you have a literary agent, I still suggest having an IP attorney look at your contract.

But don't just take it from me.

Read about it at The Passive Voice website.

The site is an anonymous blog, but don't let that scare you. The blogger, known as Passive Guy, makes claims of being an attorney and an entrepreneur, and they seem to know what they're talking about. Again, don't just take my word for it. Professional authors such as Dean Wesley Smith are also suggesting writers check out The Passive Voice site. When professionals vouch for someone, plus that someone seems to know what they're talking about, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

However, as is stated in multiple places on The Passive Voice site, do not consider what you read on that site to be legal advice. For that matter, don't read anything I'm writing here as legal advice. You need to hire an attorney if you want legal advice.

But what kind of information can a writer find at The Passive Voice?

There is some information about the craft of writing, but the majority of information on the site leans towards the legalities of book publishing, especially concerning contracts. In fact, Passive Guy collects contracts, though there are certain things he does not want in the contracts, such as the author's name, publisher's name, etc. What good is such a collection? Well, there's likely some personal interest for the Passive Guy, but he does use the information he garners to inform his blog readers.

The Passive Voice also has news concerning the book publishing business, as well as some posts about what is going on at various literary agencies, publishers, authors, etc. Again, most of the news is related somehow to book publishing contracts.

To make it a little more clear, I'll borrow a short quote directly from Passive Guy explaining his approach to The Passive Voice: "PG views his job (actually, more of an obsessive hobby) as helping authors understand what's going on during a time of massive upheaval in the publishing industry."

Writers can't ask for much more than that.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Turmoil is the perfect word it seems to me. I was happy to see last night though that the used book store I used to visit in Metairie was still open!