[ASC-list] Freelance rates continued

Bianca Nogrady bianca at biancanogrady.com
Fri Feb 4 05:19:13 UTC 2011

I can definitely second Rob's comments on the importance of joining the
Copyright Agency Limited and signing up for Electronic Lending Rights and
Public Lending Rights. In fact, I have him to thank for putting me onto CAL
many years ago, and since then, I have had a couple of copyright windfalls,
including one where I earned nearly as much in copyright on one particular
article as I earned writing it.

On 4 February 2011 15:26, Rob Morrison <rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au> wrote:

> When I started writing science and natural history books and science books
> for schools (30 years ago or so), the usual deal was 10% of retail. For a
> $20 book the author got $2. That was fine unless the publisher decided to
> remainder them, and then you got zilch. This happened to me when that fine
> Australiana publisher of Field Guides, Rigby, was bought out by Hardie's,
> which regarded books as akin to asbestos and cement pipes, therby destroying
> a good publisher overnight.
> Publishers then moved to something like 17% of publisher's receipts, which
> we were told would be the same or better. It wasn't, and some unscrupulous
> publishers set up their own distribition arm as a separate entity. That
> meant they could "sell" the books to the distributor, with the "publisher"
> receiving hardly anything, from which we then got our miserable 17% of
> sod-all, while the "distributor" sold the books for full price, all of which
> they kept to swell the coffers of the parent business.
> More recently science books for reading programs have seen publishers offer
> a flat fee, specified wordage/age level/topic etc, take it or leave it, and
> they get the copyright. We are able to be identified as the books' authors,
> but the books show copyright is with the publisher. Because I have published
> nearly 30 books with one publisher, I have asked to keep my copyright and
> they have agreed, but I have lost copyright on other books with other
> publishers.
> This all has some pluses and minuses.
> On the plus side, and especially for new authors, the flat fee has
> something to commend it. Depending on the publisher it can be a reasonable
> amount if you take it as $ per word, and you don't have the uncertainties of
> remaindering, no sales etc.  It is also sometimes true that you will get an
> offer to do several of these books on a theme (energy, rocks etc) for
> different levels. You may miss out if the book then goes to America (Aust
> publishers have such a small audience here that they often need to work with
> USA publishers to get the audience there in order to make the print run
> pay). On the other hand, most of these books for reading programs are simply
> one of dozens in the the program, and no single one is likely to be a
> runaway best-seller (often schools buy the program as a job lot).
> I say new authors because there is also merit in getting at least some of
> these boooks on your CV in order to try for a better deal with other
> puiblishers, especially if you are making a pitch on an idea of your own for
> a book. It gives you some extra presence as a published book author. This
> way you get some books on your CV and some guaranteed payment for them.
> On the minus side, the loss of copyright means that you can't then claim on
> ELR# or PLR# or  copying fees# if bits are photocopied, reprinted etc, and
> those fees can be surprisingly good.
> # For those who are writing and don't know about stuff marked # above,
> these VERY IMPORTANT things to ponder.
> ***1*** Register yourself with the Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL). I find them
> terrific. If your work (ie with your copyright)  is photocopied or copied in
> any way, they will pass on to you the details and collect your entitlement
> from schools, universities etc, taking a very modest percentage for doing
> so. All you have to do is register, check the statements when they come in,
> sign them, and then receive the cheque. NOTE that you have to split it with
> co-authors or perhaps your publisher if it is a book.
> Do this now evben if you have published in the past. I have received CAL
> requests for the whereabouts of authors of poems, puzzles, fact sheets etc
> who have appeared in the same books as my pieces. Cheques (sometimes for
> hundreds of dollars) await them, but nobody knows how to contact them.
> ***2*** Register any and all books for PLR and ELR (Public and Educational
> Lending Rights) - online;  downloadable forms etc. This is a Fed government
> scheme to compensate authors for lost sales when their books end up in
>  libraries (people who borrow them don't buy them). If the survey estimates
> you have at least 50 copies in libraries across Australia, you get a cheque
> each year for each of those books.
> ***3*** In any book contract, check carefully any clauses relating to
> reprinting/reproduction. Try to ensure that copying fees (technically
> reproduction) go at least partly to you, not all to your publisher. May be
> hard to do if you sign away your copyright.
> I have published 43 books and, although most are now out of print (no
> further income from sales), there is a very welcome annual PLR/ELR cheque
> because many of these books are in public and school libraries. This is one
> of the sources of income denied you if you give up your copyright.
> Registrations for CAL and PLR/ELR are free.
> Rob
> Dr Rob Morrison
> rob.morrison at flinders.edu.au
> Phone: (08) 8339 3790
> Fax: (08)8339 6272
> ________________________________________
> From: asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au [asc-list-bounces at lists.asc.asn.au]
> On Behalf Of Ian Woolf [iwoolf at gmail.com]
> Sent: Friday, 4 February 2011 12:41 PM
> To: asc-list at lists.asc.asn.au
> Subject: Re: [ASC-list] Freelance rates continued
> I've heard that there are many publishers pushing new contracts onto
> freelance writers that ask for:
> 1) promises that you never write for a list of competing
> publications/publishers
> 2) that you indemnify the publisher if they get sued for the content of
> your story
> 3) that you are selling them all copyright in every medium forever for
> the same rate as they paid for first publication rights
> Can anyone tell me if this has happened to them as a science freelancer?
> How have you got around it to still make a living? Which publications
> allow you to keep your own copyright to re-sell in other markets or
> collect into your own books?
> cheers,
>                   Ian
> http://www.ianwoolf.com
> http://www.diffusionradio.com
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Freelance science journalist and broadcaster, and co-author of The Sixth
~ New Scientist ~ Scientific American ~ The Australian ~
~ Australian Doctor ~ G Magazine ~ Pathway ~ ABC Online ~
Blackheath, Australia
ph/fx: +612 4787 9158  m: 0411 420 913
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