We all have different sources for inspiration. My inspiration for Above the Dotted Line came from three experiences I had with writers and those who work with writers.
First, several years ago, I noticed that many writers seeking legal advice about a problem with their writing or publishing contracts admitted that they had never read their contracts before they signed them. Interestingly, most had not done so for the same reason–they were so excited about having a writing contract with a well-known ghostwriter or a deal with a major publisher that they didn’t want to know anything that might prevent them from signing the contract! Meanwhile, those with agents were similarly naive. Whatever change the agent might suggest was all that the author considered necessary. (To find out more about how agents and attorneys work together, please see my interview at the Huffington Post!)
Second, I have known writers who claimed they couldn’t afford to have an attorney review their contract. Yes, a good publishing attorney might cost as much as two hundred dollars an hour and up. But these budget-conscious writers didn’t save a penny in the end. Often, the un-reviewed contract would result in problems within a year or two and the writers had to engage an attorney to review it, re-negotiate it, or help them terminate it. More often, the writers had no choice but to live with their disappointment. These writers had simply delayed, but not avoided, discovering the problems in the contract.
Third, I noticed that with the growth of the web and of web-classes for writers, many well-intended but uninformed writing mentors provided information to hundreds and thousands of people about the US Copyright Law that was misleading if not totally incorrect. Once, I heard a web-marketing guru tell a listener that the listener could copyright a story by mailing it to herself and not unsealing the envelope. The postmark would confirm the date on which the story was “copyrighted” by the author. In fact, this is a myth that has endured for decades.
These instances and others continued to haunt me. Could a website that provided access to publishing advice and legal services at a reasonable price make a difference?
I firmly believe it can.
For now, we’ll publish a new blog every month and whenever possible, we’ll answer the most common questions writers have about contracts. And don’t forget to sign up for our more detailed monthly reports on copyright, contracts, and publishing issues starting in April, 2013!