Monday, February 16, 2009

Switzerland—a great place to be a writer

Switzerland tends to be a decade or two behind many trends that happen in the United States. And sometimes this is a great thing.

Take rights for writers. Until the mid-80s, most magazine publishers in the U.S. asked for only “first North American serial rights (FNASR)” to a piece they wanted to publish. This meant they had the one-time right to publish the article first in the North American market and the writer retained all other rights.

While writers for Swiss publishers still enjoy this “one-time right to publish” as the norm (not to mention get paid much better despite it), things are terrible for writers in the United States. Even very reputable publications try to grab all or almost all rights from writers through all-rights contracts, work-for-hire contracts, or through the back door via “non-exclusive rights” contracts, which sound much better, but really just mean the publisher can do whatever the heck they want with a writer’s work and never pay the writer another cent even though the writer still retains the copyright. And the worst part is, North American publishers still pay like they were only buying one-time rights.

It’s time to fight, writers. We have to ban together and not accept such terrible terms. If you are offered all-rights, work-for-hire contracts, or non-exclusive contracts, offer FNASR contract terms instead. If they say no, negotiate additional payment for additional uses and put a time limit on rights. Or demand higher payment. I’m doing my best to not be taken advantage of and I ask you to join me. It’s not easy, but every little piece of your rights that you can retain is a victory for all of us.

If you’re a writer and want more information about contracts relevant to publishers in North America, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is a great source. I refer to this page often when I receive a contract.

For writers in Switzerland, you can find information about publishing in Switzerland here (in German). And for any of you in Switzerland tired of writing for U.S. markets and looking for better terms, Swiss News is currently looking for journalists.

6 comments:

Michemily said...

If I already had some standing in the world of writing, I would banD together with you, but I don't. Sorry. Thanks for making the future better for those who would like to someday be there!

Swiss Miss said...

Sure. It's interesting to me how different the U.S. and Switzerland can be on so many issues.

Young Traveler said...

Thank you for the heads up!

cadiz12 said...

you are NOT kidding when you say the writers' climate is rocky over here.

someone told me about a "copyeditor bootcamp," which was just a publication's fancy way of saying "it's okay if you aren't trained, we'll give you a crash course and pay you minimum wage."

thanks for the link!

Swiss Miss said...

Wow, that's terrible. Copyeditors are paid bad enough anyway without resorting to minimum wage. I hope things improve soon.

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