Hint Fiction Inspires Contract Discussion

Here's a tidbit about the changing face of fiction that I intended to pass on back in August, but I was dealing with my daughter's health issues full time then. Perhaps you've already heard about this, but I find it really interesting.

In the fall of 2010, W.W. Norton plans to publish an anthology of Hint Fiction.
Hint Fiction?

That's a story of 25 words or less that suggests a more complex, and, therefore, a more in depth, story. Their premise is that a 25 word or less story can have as much impact as a much longer story.


The anthology is supposed to have between 100 and 150 stories. (Let's see 150 X 25 words = 3,750 words, or the equivalent of about 15 double spaced manuscript pages. Hmmm. Wonder if the price will be representative of an average short story, if such a piece of writing were, by some miracle, to find its way into print in book form in today's world.


Norton held a contest for submissions back in August. They said: "We want your best work." They even offered to pay $25 per story for World and Audio rights. Now, if this were freelance writing, $1.00 per word would be a lovely fee for a project. However, this is for a book project that will probably garner quite a bit of interest simply because of its premise.

Inspired Discussion

What a perfect opportunity to point out contract differences and what they mean to writers. All the facts below are imaginary, but they illustrate the point.

Doing The Math

So that $1.00 per word doesn't sound so good for a book that will probably sell for at least 10.00, depending on its format, Worldwide. Flat rate contracts with all rights granted to the publisher means the writers get no royalties or residuals if you're used to the entertainment business speak. That smarts when a book may sell at least 20,000 copies.

Even a meager royalty contract usually grants at least 4% royalty to the author. $10.00 X 20,000 copies X 4% = $8,000.00. Divided among 150 authors means each author would get about $53.00. Gee, double isn't much more. Is it worth the bother?

It is because royalty contracts cover the future. Writers once planned on royalties for long term income and retirement.

The better contract is not because the author may make another 25 bucks. The better contract means that the author stands to keep earning. There's no telling how many books might sell nor how many more may sell in the coming years if the publisher keeps the book in print. I know writers who are making royalties on books published years ago.

True, these publisher-created projects rarely result in royalties for the authors, but this is an example for you to see the importance of royalty contracts. One can dream, can't one?

Takeaway Truth

Professional writers know the business of writing as well as how to craft plot points. Learn the business so you'll know what's a good deal for you.

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