Author Topic: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?  (Read 775 times)

Offline PoolBoy

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PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« on: May 14, 2021, 10:55:31 AM »
I just had a close call with an outfit called Yellow Bird Press in Summerville, SC, and can't decide if what happened was predatory or just plain stupid.

The owner, Lorna Hollifield, sent a boilerplate  contract apparently taken from another publisher now defunct. It was made out to another author and included stipulations that AuthorsAlliance and others warn against. There was even the requirement that the author agree not to slander the publisher. When I suggested we either delete it or revise to “the Parties agree hot to slander one another” she said this and all other stipulations were non-negotiable.

In fact, she said “when a book offer is made, that is the offer” and that “it should be respected.” She went on to say that my refusal to sign showed a lack of team work and bad attitude—making us not a good fit. She went on to try legitimizing her non-negotiable claims by saying, “I know this business. I have been published (novels, magazine articles, anthologies); I have had high-powered NYC-based agents; I was President of The South Carolina Writer's Association.  I have toured with writing conferences critiquing authors and guiding them. I have spoken on the subject throughout The Southeast.”

She also implied her non-negotiable contract was justified because she was, in her words, “fully funding an author’s dream.”

If she indeed had a high powered agent and was a speaker at writing conferences throughout the Southeast, you’d think she’d know that publishing contracts are commonly tweaked so that both parties will be comfortable working together. Getting along on the contract is the first step to successful author-publisher collaboration. If she knew negotiation was the industry norm yet still insisted on a lopsided agreement, that seems fishy to me.

There were other red flags too. For instance, asking that I change the title and the name of a main character yet giving no explanation why, no creative direction toward a viable solution. The contract she sent as a sample was in another author's name—it would have taken seconds to change that to mine. And although I mentioned contract negotiation several times she seemed to put off for several weeks telling me her terms could not be changed.

Have any of you had run in with this publisher before? Have you run across non-negotiable publishing contracts before? I don’t know if I should report this someplace or just write it off as having met up with a nitwit. Your thoughts?

Offline vivaviolet

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2021, 12:09:51 PM »
I have not had any experience with this "publisher." One glance at the website would have been all the warning I needed.

Offline jcwrites

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2021, 01:00:48 PM »
According to its website, Yellow Bird Press has been in business only a couple of years; it has two titles listed, both written by the publisher herself. (It has a nice gift shop, though; ex. "Library of Flowers Perfume" for forty-two bucks.) I'd say your instincts are correct: write it off and move on.

Offline raktinope

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2021, 06:13:25 PM »
*Burns Lorna Holliffield and Yellow Bird Press into memory*

Thanks for the warning

Offline FlyingViking

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2021, 02:01:35 AM »
As someone who drafts and negotiates contracts for a living, this gave me a good laugh.  Indeed, the point of a contract is to clarify and protect the legal rights and obligations of the parties, but each contract should also be structured in a way that make both parties walk away from the table feeling good about the deal they just made.  That's why you negotiate and make revisions, to make both parties feel comfortable closing the transaction.  Indeed, few business relationships will prosper when one party signing the contract feels like they got screwed before they even got started.

To argue that her contract is non-negotiable would put her in the same realm as the car dealership when you buy a new car, or the cell phone provider when you sign up for a new subscription.  They have the power to hand you a form of boilerplate legal language and tell you to take it or leave it.  A lady with two titles to (and by) her name ... not so much.
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Offline Munley

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2021, 05:44:59 AM »
As someone who drafts and negotiates contracts for a living, this gave me a good laugh.  Indeed, the point of a contract is to clarify and protect the legal rights and obligations of the parties, but each contract should also be structured in a way that make both parties walk away from the table feeling good about the deal they just made.  That's why you negotiate and make revisions, to make both parties feel comfortable closing the transaction.  Indeed, few business relationships will prosper when one party signing the contract feels like they got screwed before they even got started.

This is along the lines I was thinking. Why would writers bother to get agents or lawyers specializing in intellectual property rights to review a contract if there's nothing about a publishing contract that can be negotiated?


In fact, she said “when a book offer is made, that is the offer” and that “it should be respected.” She went on to say that my refusal to sign showed a lack of team work and bad attitude—making us not a good fit.  . . .

Turning a legitimate concern/complaint of hesitant person into a character slur or personality defect of that person is a typical trick used by someone proffering a sleazy offer.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2021, 05:49:52 AM by Munley »

Offline Tabris

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Re: PREDATOR OR NITWIT?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2021, 08:43:55 AM »
She's correct that you're not a good fit. You want to protect your career and your intellectual property, and based on your description, she sounds exploitative.

I usually ask for clauses to be unilateral. eg, when you ask me to indemnify you against X, Y, and Z resulting from my behavior, I ask for you to indemnify me for those exact same things resulting from your behavior. I have never been refused. Why? Because that's a fair business practice. A publisher refusing to agree not to slander one's own authors is...problematic to say the least.