The Problem of Silence
This has been on my mind a lot lately:
Writers of every kind have a culture of silence about contract clauses and advances. Sometimes this is exacerbated by NDAs, but a lot of it is social and corporate pressure to keep quiet, and not to complain for fear of adversely effecting relationships with publishers and PR departments, or setting precedent for the next contract. It’s one of the reasons it’s also very difficult to address misbehavior and actual malfeasance by publishers, agencies, or their employees, since most writers fear retribution or ostracism. This also holds for self-pub and indie-pub writers working directely with small presses, distributors, and vendors. We need to work on breaking down that silence, and then the rest falls into place.
I understand the purpose of NDAs in relation to patents, R&D, and some other product aspects of commercial competition, but they should not be general gags on writers discussing publisher/press/distributor/vendor boilerplate, advances, ebook clauses, royalty schedules, non-compete clauses, rights reversion, or so-called “morals” clauses, among others. If we are free to discuss such aspects of contracts without fearing we will lose our often tenuous financial security, we help aspiring writers as well as established ones, and writing will become a less-abused, and less anxious, profession.
There is a line between discussion and whining that can be hard to negotiate, but this self-censorship serves dishonesty and potential abuse in both small and large companies more than it serves the writing community.