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Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 15:36
by Kellemora
Topic: Accidental Collaboration

All serious writers, including those interesting in learning to write, should be aware of the dangers and pitfalls associated with accepting help or suggestions from others, without an appropriate agreement in place first. This includes members of your own family, a most trusted very best friend and any outside services, including your publisher.

It is very easy to inadvertently let someone become a collaborator in your works!

There are many ways this can happen, both before and after your work has neared completion. This most commonly occurs when you submit your manuscript to a publisher and they suggest you do a rewrite following their guidelines. The publisher contributes suggestions, alterations and additions to your work in order to shape it more to their publishing standards and practices.

After working with you to polish your story to their liking, the publisher decides not to option or purchase your manuscript. You beat the pavement seeking another publisher to buy your manuscript and finally find one who considers it a done deal. The former publisher who dumped you, gets wind of the deal and demands compensation for their involvement in your manuscript. They can legally claim an ownership interest in your manuscript. By law, the collaborator has equal control of your work.

While working on your manuscript, you offer it in whole or in parts to your best friend to critique casually. They offer a few suggestions, offer a couple of notes, or even a minor alteration. Regardless of how they presented their suggestions, if you merge them into your work, this is collaboration.

Normally, since they are your best friend, this would cause no problems for you. However, your friends situation may have changed considerably during the time you were trying to sell your manuscript. They lost their job and their home is facing foreclosure, now in dire straits they just heard, though the grapevine of friends, that you were offered a sizable sum for your manuscript. Friend or not, they are on a sinking ship and need money now, and feel they have earned a share of your windfall. The publisher will demand a release from your friend who is now seeing dollar signs in front of his eyes. As often happens, the publisher is not going to wait around for you to get all the necessary paperwork done, and tosses you out on your ear.

Regardless of how it happened, when someone's intellectual property is incorporated into your manuscript, they gain an ownership interest in your work. If you do not own one-hundred percent of your work, you will have a very hard time finding a publisher willing to talk to you. Most publishers will not work with you, even with all the documents in place, if they must face more than one person. So even with agreements, make sure only one person has the authority to consummate the transaction.

Now that we have the necessity of having an agreement solidly in place, lets look at what it should include. The most important issue is copyright ownership. There is nothing wrong with having joint ownership and share equally in the royalties or even drawing up an agreement giving the primary author 70% and the co-author 30%, the amounts are whatever you agree on. Most of my work is done under Teaming Agreements, where I have zero interest in the copyright, but do share in small part of the profits. Teaming Agreements are also heavily used by clubs and groups where several authors get together to critique each others work. In many cases, it becomes a mutual wash, where no member of the team shares in a published work. Because they are all there for the same reason, to have their work critiqued and each member helps the other members, all to a mutual yet personally shared benefit.

One thing I would like to point out is that by using an agreement, you are not locked into the default rules of the Copyright Act and can make up your own rules, provided they are clearly outlined in your agreement. More often than not, collaboration agreements do not involve equal divisions, and always name the author and give the author full control over the management and sale of the manuscript. In my case, the agreement allows a flat fee for time worked, an extra bonus fee based on digital line count, and sometimes, a small percentage of the royalties if the book goes into second or later printings. An additional provision allows for me to receive a small percentage if the first publication if the run is one-third larger than their standard production.

In areas where I provide the complete storyline, in the capacity as a ghostwriter performing only the first rough draft, even if working from an outline, I often share a much higher percentage. It is quite complicated how these team efforts are determined, and fees and royalties distributed. We are paid a flat fee for the rough draft, if accepted; another flat fee for a rewrite; then earn points for each area where we work on the project. If the publisher offers the team 45% for a particular novel, that percentage is divided by the total number of points issued to team members, and we are paid by how many points we have accumulated.

There are no blanket agreements that can be used, due to the many different special issues that arise among an author and those who contribute to the success of his work. However, a generic agreement of non-collaboration often including an agreement of non-disclosure is used when you are hiring the services of a third party. You are paying them for their services and the agreement assures that they cannot make any claims once they are paid for those services. I use a Consulting Agreement for individuals with whom I work with on my own projects, such as a copy-editor who is only hired for correcting punctuation errors. If they offer a suggestion for a change, then we use a non-collaboration agreement and in special cases, a collaboration agreement.

Respectfully Submitted
Gary V. Deutschmann, Sr.

Copyright © 2012 by CHL, LC

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 16:05
by pilvikki

well, that was very interesting!

more so when you take into account that i took a course in something writing and the teacher did not once get into any of that while we merrily picked at each other's work! maybe it's different in canada?

personally i'd rather die than start expecting glenn to pay me for what i took on as something fun to do on a rainy afternoon.... i mean, seriously? :shock: besides, i don't consider myself a professional, so i'd be expecting payment for a half-assed job? i don't think so! :snoot:

i would expect an autographed copy though. with a personal note attached... :dance:

and i'd like it fairly soon, i'm not getting any younger here, you know. :whistle:

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 16:09
by pilvikki

so, would it make sense to have a tacit agreement that would automatically cover all writings submitted on this site? in other words, if you submit something and get help/comments etc, nobody could ask to be compensated for it any time, ever?

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 18:31
by Ice.Maiden
I gave my author friend a poem which I wrote a good while back. She liked it, and graciously said that she wished she'd written it herself. I told her it was hers, to do with as she wanted, so using the basic idea, she changed it slightly, but included it in her latest book which's almost ready for publication.
I don't want any of the proceeds from this book. The poem was altered to her liking, and therefore not mine, but sweet as she is, I was shocked to receive a copy of what'll be printed, and to find that she's made a reference to me, thanking me for the poem and using my pen-name. There was no need for her to do this, as I'm more than happy for her to take full credit for whatever she writes.

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 19:53
by Kellemora
I'm not a lawyer, however, when you post something on a public forum, that is considered PUBLISHED and the Copyright Laws apply instantly. In other words, your work is now covered.

That being said; if you post a work and someone offers a suggestion, which they in turn post that suggestion to a public forum, the same Copyright Laws apply to them equally as well, what they posted is covered under Copyright Instantly.

Now, if you use their Intellectual Work (which is now Copyrighted via Publication) in your Work, are you not now in violation of the Copyright Laws, unless you have written permission to do so from the author?

Now, if you do this work via private forum, chat, or e-mail, the transmittal of work from one to another does not secure copyright protection. Suggestions exchanged are personal and private. However, the person making the suggestion is still the legal author of the work and if they claim collaboration, the law jumps right back in and backs them up as an equal partner and joint copyright holders.

Now most friends would not do their other friends dirty. In writing groups where several meet together to critique each others work, more often than not, there are no agreements established, the members take it as an understood. Unfortunately, the Law does not view verbal agreements or intent of a group, when a single person or single member of a group decides they wish to enforce their legal rights to a work.

I use friends to critique without any agreements or paperwork, because I trust them. However, I tell them up front, Do Not give me any Suggestions, Changes or Alterations. I may have already thought of them and didn't use them and that would ruin my ability to do so, unless you want to sign a non-collaboration agreement first. Most friends will be glad to sign one, especially if you include that they get a little something themselves. How much is up to you! I often offer 1/2 of 1% of net profits if their involvement warrants same. But more often than not, I use a point system, because I have several folks helping me with certain areas of my work. But make sure spell out what those points generate and how. For example: 10% of net profits paid to the author, shall be divided by the number of points issued, to determine the value of each point. It is a little more detailed than that, also stating that 1099 forms will be issued to recipients, etc. so they know it's not money under the table.

It's very nice that she gave you credit! And I might add, very wise of her to do so! Obviously it was used with permission and credit given to the author. This removes 90% of the chance of a liability.

On a one to one basis, or even in a small group, I feel that most of us are open and honest.
But I work for publishers, often in rather large teams with several in-house, freelance and ghost writers. And believe me, the publisher trusts no one!
Stephanie Meyer pulled an entire series because one of the ghost writers let something minor slip out. To her it was not minor and she canned the project. We work under numerous agreements, often signing new ones for any change in what we are requested to do, plus separate agreements with each of the authors. What I do is quite a bit different than what a solo writer does. I'm like one link on the assembly line today, and another link on that same assembly line tomorrow.

When I ask someone to do work for me, no matter how menial it seems, even if by a friend, they still get a point or two in my accounting records. If I paid them for their time, I often still give them a few points. Most don't know about it, until they receive a check a year or so down the road when I was paid. But like your friend publishing your pen name, thus giving you credit for your work; my sharing a little of the proceeds, once they accept it, pretty much ends my possible future liability.


Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2012, 21:39
by threenorns
soooooo.... going by your article..... i have part-shares in most of the known universe... (you know, seeing as i'm rather prolific with my suggestions....!)

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 01:43
by pilvikki

too bad that you can't remember who/what they are... :lol:

it all sounds extremely tedious and well, sad.

Re: Accidental Collaboration

PostPosted: 13 Jul 2012, 20:32
by Kellemora
Hi threenorns

You'll notice when you get to the chainsaw job I did on your article, that I only ask questions and make comments!
I didn't offer suggestions, amendments or additions. I only stated where I had a problem reading and why.
In other words, there is zero collaboration liability to worry about.
But hopefully, my comments, for what they are worth, will let you see, what you know in your head and are thinking, that didn't make it as far as being on the paper.

Like when I'm writing, I know the entire backstory, so often fail to mention something, I take for granted that the reader will know something that was never disclosed, so how could they know it.

Never assume that the reader knows Goober owns the gas station, Floyd is the barber, or Barney carries his single bullet in his shirt pocket, unless it was previously revealed in the story.

Most Readers suffer greatly from the ID Numeric-Ten T error syndrome!
Compound that with I'm old and senile now, hi hi.....