June Journals #9 ~ Unreasonable Terms & Unpaid Leave

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Knitted Jester

There’s this thing, when you’re an artist of any description, that people expect you to work for free, and sell it to you as ‘exposure’.

It’s an ongoing problem, a debate I won’t add much to that hasn’t already been said, except you wouldn’t call out a plumber and pay him in good reviews.

But I saw something today that made me a bit cross. On Bridget Whelan’s blog (and I don’t blame her at all for sharing this), I came across a competition being run by Gransnet (think Mumsnet for the over-50s).

Working with Independent Publishers Bobaloo Books, Gransnet are running a competition to find an unpublished author of a children’s book aimed at the 3 to 12 market.

My ears immediately prick up at ‘competition’ and ‘unpublished’ because usually self-published is okay.

And who wouldn’t jump at a chance to bypass the slush pile and go direct to a publishers?


Thankfully, I always read the small print (to make sure self-published is okay) and frankly I’m disgusted. From the terms and conditions I read this:

By entering this competition you hereby (a) unconditionally and irrevocably grant and assign to Bobaloo books throughout the world in all languages all copyright and rights in the nature of copyright and all other rights in your entry, together with full title guarantee and all rights of action to the same belonging or accrued and shall hold the same to Bobaloo Books for the full period of copyright and all extensions and renewals thereof and thereafter; (b) waive all moral rights as defined by sections 77-83 of the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act 1988 or any similar laws of any jurisdiction; (c) warrant you have the power to grant the rights herein stated, that your entry is original to you, does not infringe copyright, moral rights or the rights or licence of any other third person/entity, has never been published anywhere in the world, does not contain anything libellous, in breach of confidence, inaccurate or in any other way contrary to law and any recipes or formulas are not in any way injurious or harmful; and (d) indemnify and keep Bobaloo Books harmless against all loss, risk, cost, damages, claims, liabilities and expense occasioned to Bobaloo Books in consequence of any breach of these warranties or arising out of any claim alleging that your entry constitutes in any way a breach of these warranties.

I mean, WTF Bobaloo? I hadn’t heard of you before, but I sure have now. I’m no lawyer, and I’ve never been fortunate enough to have a contract with a publisher, but even I can see that not only does this give the author zero rights, it even puts the onus on them to make sure their work is in no way libellous or inaccurate. How on earth does an author do that? They’d have to take out liability insurance before entering, just to be safe.

Not cool.

Compare this to the Chicken House Times Fiction Competition Ts & Cs:

7. There will be one prize winner. […] the prize is the offer of a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House (which shall be subject to negotiation and completion between Chicken House and the winner. If the negotiations between the parties fail, then the winner will receive the alternative prize set out below). […]

8. Entrants retain all rights to their entries, except in the case of the winner to whom a publishing contract will be offered (as referred to in term 7 above). The winner will retain the copyright to the work and shall exclusively license worldwide publishing rights of the entry to Chicken House Publishing Limited on completion of the publishing contract. The publishing contract with the winner will be in line with industry standards for a debut children’s novel with a Royalty Advance of £10,000 from Chicken House and will include full volume rights including Film & TV. The winner will also receive an offer of representation from a leading literary agent.

Now isn’t that nice? An offer of Royalties and a negotiated contract on ‘license’ – not a handing over of all copyright. No one expects to be in a brilliant negotiating position with a first novel selected through a competition (rather than hotly contested by several interested agents) but at least it all sounds fair and reasonable.

I made a decision a long time ago that I’d rather retain copyright to my writing and remain anonymous and poor, than hand it over willy-nilly on a chance of fame and fortune.

Anyway, there went my chance of a productive day, so aside from an hour of study in the morning, I took the day off.

I didn’t intend to take the whole day, but I starting watching Les Misérables without realising it was three hours long! I did at least complete most of the knitting for my son’s jester. Now I just have to sew it all together.


And if I’m going to be an unpaid author, I’d rather it was unpaid leave, knitting and watching an awesome movie, than writing a book for someone else to claim!