Congratulations to Edward Willet for winning the Aurora Award for the best long-form work of science fiction or fantasy by a Canadian writer in English in 2008. Mike Resnick is the newest Writers of the Future judge Celebrate Mary Shelley’s birthday in Boston! Hear SFWA members Jennifer Pelland and Elaine Isaak read.
Archive for the ‘SFWA Blog’ Category
Traditionally, in the magazine and newspaper industry, a kill fee is “a negotiated payment on a magazine or newspaper article that is given to the freelancer if their assigned article is ‘killed’ or cancelled.” (Read the full definition here.) The contracts for the magazine articles I and Ann Crispin wrote for Writer’s Digest included kill fees–but that was a few years back, and I suspect they are less common now.
In the world of small publishers, however, “kill fee” means something quite different: a fee–usually a few hundred dollars–paid by an author to her publisher for getting out of a contract early. I’ve seen a lot of small press contracts that include kill fees, and it’s my impression that such clauses are becoming more common.
For obvious reasons, kill fee clauses are onerous for authors, who in some circumstances might have good reason to want to end a contract early, and can’t do so without opening up their wallets. Plus, many publishers employ kill fee clauses abusively, holding them over the heads of unhappy authors, or attempting to use them as an income source by offering to jettison dissatisfied writers at the slightest provocation, or terminating the contracts of writers who’ve pissed them off and demanding the fee even though termination wasn’t the writer’s decision. EPIC, an association for epublished authors, identifies kill fees as a red flag contract clause–one that authors should absolutely avoid. I agree.
From an honest small publisher’s perspective, on the other hand–a publisher that isn’t planning on browbeating its authors with kill fees, or using the fees to try and make an extra buck–a kill fee may seem to make good business sense. “We don’t want to hold onto an unhappy author,” the publisher might reason. “But we invest a lot of work in editing, designing, marketing, etc. So if we can’t maximize our investment by selling the author’s book for the full contract term, it’s only fair that we should get some reimbursement if she decides to leave early.”
Problem is, if the unhappy author can’t afford the kill fee, the publisher will wind up stuck with her anyway–along with the extra resentment produced by the author’s knowledge that she could have gotten free if only she’d had the cash. (I recently heard from an author and publisher in exactly this situation.) Alternatively, if the author can afford the kill fee, she may see it as an easy exit, and jump ship without giving the publisher the chance to address whatever problems she thinks she’s having–thus losing the publisher a book it might have retained if it had had more time to work things out.
So kill fees are a definite writer beware–but they’re a publisher beware too, because while they may sound good in theory, in reality they can backfire. For publishers willing to let their unhappy authors go, it’s far simpler–and far more author-friendly–just to allow authors to terminate the contract at will, without the potential complications and and bad feelings of a kill fee. Or, if the publisher prefers to try to resolve the problems, not to include a termination provision at all, and make termination decisions on a case-by-case basis.
Research Tool: An online archive of vintage tools
Market Update: If you’ve submitted to Strange Horizons from a gmail address, they’ve been having problems with responses vanishing. Jed Hartman has an update.
Market Update: Asimov’s, Analog, Hitchcock’s, & Ellery Queen have moved to new offices.
The Washington Science Fiction Association is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2009 WSFA Small Press Award for Short Fiction. Our congratulations to all the nominees, but we are particularly proud to see SFWA members K.D Wentworth, John Joseph Adams, Edmund R. Schubert, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, and James Maxey on the ballot.
This could be Science Fiction, but it isn’t. For the last twenty years, the US patent office has been issuing patents on human gene sequences.
We need twenty SFWA members to help us make calls to ensure that every member has current contact information.
The Convention Finder searches a database of cons based on location, making it easy to find the convention nearest you.
Our sister site, Nebulaawards.com, has an interview with Charles Coleman Finlay who was nominated for his novella “The Political Prisoner.”
As you may have noticed, the site is intermittently slow or returning server errors such as 500 server errors, configuration errors, etc. We have contacted the hosting company and it appears that another site on the same server is experiencing a lot of traffic and it is affecting our site as well. The hosting company […]
Gene Van Troyer
Gene Van Troyer, a science fiction writer and poet who worked as an English teacher in Japan, died July 17, 2009 of cancer. He was 58.