A Contract Clause to Beware: Claiming Copyright on “Publisher’s Content” – Written By Michael Capobiancho

Hi, everyone. My name is Michael Capobianco, and although I’ve been an adjunct member of Writer Beware for some time now, this is my first official blog post.

I’m also the Chair of SFWA’s Contracts Committee, which means I see a lot of bad contracts, both for book-length and short fiction. I’ve gotten used to much of the unfortunate and often contradictory clauses in these contracts, but last week I ran into something that caught my attention: a virtually identical terrible clause in two separate small publishers’ book contracts, a clause that I had never seen before.

Both contracts were for original fiction, but aside from the fact that neither paid an advance, they looked fairly different from one another until they came to this clause. To save you any further suspense, here it is:

The Publisher reserves all copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights in and to the titles (including series title, if any), logotypes, trademarks, trade dress, formats and other features of the Work as published and promoted by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Marks”), and any and all content that may be added to the Work by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Content”). The Publisher shall have the sole right to develop sequels or prequels, new or additional titles in a series, or related works using any and all such elements, and shall be free to commission or contract with any other person(s) for the preparation of such sequels, series, or related works.

Now, I’m used to encountering incomprehensible wording in bad contracts. It was only when I saw the same clause again in another contract so close together that it seemed like a good idea to issue a warning about it.

My first response with something like this is to try to figure out what the publisher was actually trying to say and if there was any legitimate justification for it. Needless to say, I couldn’t think of any. On the face of it, this seems like an egregious rights grab.

CONTINUE READING HERE

AN EDITING TALE: EDITOR AND AUTHOR COACH CHRISTINA KAYE OF WRITE YOUR BEST BOOK

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®I first heard about editor and author coach Christina Kaye (aka Christina Broaddus) last year, via a writer who later posted this public complaint on Facebook. The allegations: misrepresentation of services (editing by a trainee rather than Christina herself), inadequate performance (the complainant paid for content editing, and got something more like copy editing), and refusal by Christina to either re-do the edit or provide a refund. 


In addition to the allegations, the complainant provided supporting documentation…including Christina’s furious emails and lawsuit threats when the complainant refused to back off.

As far as I know, the lawsuit never materialized.


So who is Christina Kaye? Owner of two-year-old editing and coaching service Write Your Best Book, her resume includes a predecessor, Top Shelf Editing, which launched in September 2019 and whose URL is currently set to re-direct to WYBB, as well as stints with Limitless Publishing (publisher of several of her novels) and Dragon Street Press


Other entrepreneurial ventures include Bon Chance Press, which started up in early 2017 and contracted several books before closing that same year; a registered business called Book Boss Boutique, LLC; and an Etsy storefront that sells writing-related planners and gifts. Christina also has a substantial presence on various social media platforms, hosts her own podcast, and has amassed a large following on TikTok.


The WYBB website displays testimonials from satisfied clients (of which there are apparently 300, or maybe it’s 150?). And a single bad review, even one as convincingly documented as the Facebook complaint, doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem business. Anyone can fly off the handle and say unwise things in response to pressure. Maybe this was an isolated incident? Maybe there was something else that explained Christina’s over-the-top response?  


Over the past year, however, several writers who’ve used Christina’s services have contacted me to report similar experiences: editing that didn’t fulfill what they were led to expect or the terms of the contracts they signed (such as copy editing presented as content editing, or editing by a trainee); hostile, threatening, insulting, and generally unprofessional responses by Christina to concerns and complaints (not just in email or texts but on social media); and refusal of refund requests, including in one case where services weren’t just unsatisfactory, but mostly weren’t delivered. 

CONTINUE READING HERE

SCAM ALERT: TRANSMEDIA AGENCY – Written By Victoria Strauss

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®
A quick warning about a new impersonation scam. 
I’m getting reports from writers who’ve received email solicitations from what appear to be real film companies. Here are a couple of examples:

Note the identical language. 
Roth/Kirshenbaum and Bluegrass Films are real enterprises, with real track records. So if the writer–who may be a bit dubious because of the out-of-the-blue contact and the poorly-written text–does a websearch, they’ll learn that these companies actually do exist. There are some odd discrepancies: there’s no “&” in Roth/Kirshenbaum, and Scott Stuber left Bluegrass for Netflix in 2017. Still, the realness of the companies themselves makes it easier for hopeful writers to dismiss any niggling doubts.

CONTINUE READING HERE

ALERT: SCAMMERS IMPERSONATING MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STUDIOS – Written By Victoria Strauss

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

I’ve written a number of posts about scammers impersonating literary agents and publishers. Writers should be aware that they’re also impersonating major motion picture studios.

Here’s one example, from a scam that does business under at least three names: Orions Media Agency, Fox Media Studios Agency (note the way these scam names reference real companies), and PageTurner Press and Media. Despite their apparent US addresses and phone numbers, all are based in the Philippines (you can read more about the huge proliferation of overseas scammers here).

This is the initial pitch–which arrives, as always with this type of scam, out of the blue:

This is not the way things work: literary agents aren’t “assigned” to represent you without your knowledge, and major film studios don’t randomly stumble on books and reach out to agencies you never heard of, which then cold-call you. In fact, real agents only very rarely reach out to writers directly. For scammers, on the other hand, it’s their main recruitment method.

Any out-of-the-blue solicitation or offer should be treated with suspicion.

CONTINUE READING HERE

Three Red Flags – Warnings From ‘Writer Beware’ Blog – Written By Victoria Strauss

The last three notifications from the ‘Writer Beware’ blog, by Victoria Strauss, left me shaken, like so many others she provided us with. I normally try to spread word about scam, fraud, and other warnings as good as I can, but I refuse to drown ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ readers in negativity.

However, I think, it’s important that, in particular new Indie Authors know what dangers they might face when putting their books and their work ‘out there’. I therefore decided to publish one post with links to all three of Victoria Strauss’ warnings. Thank you for your great work, Victoria!


SCAMMERS TAKING BIG 5 PUBLISHERS’ NAMES IN VAIN: A GROWING TREND

I’ve been doing the Writer Beware thing for quite some time, and I Have Seen Some Shit. 
But this solicitation from a Philippines-based publishing and marketing scammer calling itself Right Choice Multimedia (among other names) is one of the most disgusting things that has come across my desk in a while…and that’s saying something. 


Here it is in its entirety. Read it and boggle. You can also scroll down directly to my (far more grammatical) debunking. Be sure to read all the way to the end, because I have some things to say about why Big 5 publishers should care that their trademarks and reputations are being co-opted in this way.

Continue Reading Here


CONTRACT RED FLAG: WHEN A PUBLISHER CLAIMS COPYRIGHT ON EDITS

This is an updated version of a post I published a couple of years ago.

It’s not all that common, but I do see it from time to time in small press publishing contracts that I review: a publisher claiming ownership of the editing and copy editing it provides, or making the claim implicitly by reverting rights only to the original manuscript submitted by the author.

Are there legal grounds for such a claim? One would think that by printing a copyright notice inside a published book, and encouraging the author to register copyright or registering on the author’s behalf, publishers are acknowledging that there is not. It’s hard to know, though, because the issue doesn’t seem to have been tested in the courts. There’s not even much discussion. 

Continue Reading Here


SCAM ALERT: PAPER BYTES MARKETING SOLUTIONS, BLUEPRINT PRESS, AND THEIR STABLE OF IMAGINARY LITERARY AGENTS

Once upon a time, there was a publishing and marketing scammer called Chapters Media and Advertising, owned by one Mark Joseph Rosario. Chapters pretended to be a US company–it even had dual business registrations in Wyoming and Florida, as well as a purported address in Nevada–but in reality, it operated out of the Philippines (much like its many brethren).


Chapters was an unusually devious little scammer. In addition to offering the usual substandard publishing services and junk marketing ripoffs, it had a sideline in impersonating literary professionals, including agent Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Agency and literary scout Clare Richardson of Maria B. Campbell Associates. I’ve written about both of these impersonation scams (as well as the issue more generally; Chapters was not the only one doing this).

Continue Reading Here