Sandpaper and Snakes

I make no apologies for the crudeness of this metaphor, but I think my writing is rather like my penis, well-rounded, disappointingly short, and with an overuse of colons.


My writing is something that is sensitive, of which I am proud and, in the correct circumstances, can make me feel fucking amazing. One such example being the tremendous fun to be had performing at the Smut events (tickets still available for 7th of March in Luton :-D).

Another good example of the correct circumstances is in my experience of self-publishing. I treat things carefully, get them edited, and try to make a point of never reading the reviews (although “I’m not reading that you fucking weirdo!” is totally going to be a cover quote at some point). Coming back to the penis analogy, it’s a bit like having a wank. Safe, fun, reassuringly familiar. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s not doing anyone any harm.

So, if self-publishing is like masturbation, then being published by a real publishing house should be like sex then, yes?

I submitted a short story to an anthology, and was accepted (yaay!). All was good, until I got the contract through to examine. The contract specified a single payment for the story (that worked out at considerably less than $0.01 per word) and seemingly made no provision for the payment of royalties. I requested clarification and, in return, got very non-specific mention of a potential print edition and royalties “Depending on sales.”

This bothered me, so much in fact that I have had to withdraw my submission as I am unable to sign the contract. You see I simply cannot see any good reason why specifics for ‘depending on sales’ cannot be written into a contract. Even under the most punitive terms (say, 0.001% of net profits on all units beyond the first million), this can be set out in a way that is clear and, most importantly, legally enforceable. The following forms part of my dialogue regarding this matter:

Without specifics on royalties and the potential of a print edition (I’m really unsure why this cannot be put into words) I am forced to consider the likely option that these will not be forthcoming.

In which case I can only look at the single payment described in the letter of agreement. This is for the sum of $[XXX] that equates to [Less than $0.01] per word. Put simply I cannot, in good conscience, accept these terms.

I hope that you will understand this isn’t a matter of my personal finances (I have a paid day job and, in all likelihood, would be prepared to let a good piece go unpaid potentially for the publicity it may receive). However, this is always with there being an outside chance of something becoming a runaway success and effectively paying for itself. In this instance there is no such possibility. Were I to accept the money offered it would work out at about a [short period of time] at minimum US wage (a little less at UK minimum wage). As I’m sure you will agree the work presented represents a considerably larger investment of time and effort than this.

As stated above this is not a decision based solely upon my own personal circumstances but upon the wellbeing of other writers. Put simply I feel I have a duty to value my work as I would those of other writers at least at the level of fair recompense for the time and effort invested. If I were to accept this offer it would, I fear, unfairly prejudice other writers who may not be in as fortunate a position as myself.

To return to the penis metaphor, this isn’t really like the warm, soft embrace of a bodily orifice, but more like a toilet roll tube full of sandpaper and snakes.