A Look Behind the Curtain

What happens when a publisher wants all author rights?

In February 2022, I submitted an essay for a Cozy anthology with a neat premise. The editor asked cozy authors to discuss their approach to the genre. As a guy who writes tough-guy cozies, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to share how I created Beau Smith, the protagonist for my Cozy Up series.

I worked hard on the essay and developed a theme I believed would connect with readers. Anyone who lived through the 70s and 80s knows the impact Chuck Norris had on boys. My dad used to take my brother and me to Chuck’s movies whenever they came out. I created a link from those memories to my cozy series. I finished “Chuck Norris and the Art of Writing Brozies,” and sent it in.

The editor accepted the piece, which filled me with excitement. Some family issues the editor dealt with delayed publication. Having recently dealt with my father’s passing, I totally understood how family takes precedent. Everyone else did, too.

In January of this year, we received word the anthology was back on. I’d sat on the piece for two years and was excited to share it with the world.

Unfortunately, this is where business and legal matters entered the picture. The publisher sent the contract to all the contributing authors. That’s standard practice, so I wasn’t worried about it.

However, the one-page document was the worst contract I’d ever seen. I’ve seen a few publishing contracts and none of them were a single page.

In this document, the author:

  1. Gave away their rights to their work,
  2. Received no payment for their work (not even a contributor’s copy),
  3. Could request the publisher’s permission to use their work in another publication after two years.

I was dumbstruck.

First, I would never give away my rights to any work.

I’m okay with the lack of financial renumeration, but it’s typical a contract would include a contributor’s copy.

Last, the fact we had to request permission to use our work after two years was ridiculous. I would allow a publisher to print my work for a time, but after the period ended, the rights would automatically revert to me.

It seemed many other contributing authors were upset as well. We brought our concerns to the editor, who took them to the publisher.

I’ve been involved in a lot of negotiations since I also work in the commercial real estate field. There’s an industry maxim—everything is negotiable. I thought that applied to this anthology. I was wrong.

The publisher’s response to our concerns was basically, “Take it or leave it.”

I was irate at the response. However, I seemed to be the only one. The other authors agreed to the publisher’s demands and submitted their stories. This left me disappointed.

A wealthy real estate client once told me, “Whoever wants it less, wins.”

I remembered that when I withheld my story from the anthology.

I don’t have sour grapes over the incident. It’s the publisher’s right to make those demands. It’s also in my right not to cave in to them.

Which leads us to this question: what should I do with my essay?

As I see it, I have several options.

  1. I can include it at the back of the upcoming Cozy Up to Mystery (later this year). It’d be a bonus for those who read that series.
  2. I can share it as a blog post.
  3. I can file it in a drawer and look for another opportunity to place it.

What do you think I should do with “Chuck Norris and the Art of Writing Brozies?”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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1 comment

Share it as a blog post. Not to add to your problems, but I am disappointed that the next Cozy Up book is not available yet. I really enjoy this series. Looking forward to the next book. Please advise when it will be available. Thank you.

Cecilia Nunez

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