Home > For Writers > SFWA Committees > Grievance Committee > How to Handle a Grievance and Avoid Trouble

How to Handle a Grievance and Avoid Trouble

How to Handle a Grievance

It’s a truism that writers like to think of themselves as artists, not businesspeople. Like many truisms, it’s not true. Writers wear a lot of hats (especially, but not limited to, indie authors), and most of them aren’t our Writing Hats.

Never is this more true than when you are dealing with other industry professionals, be they agents, editors, publishers, cover artists, or voice artists. That’s when a level-headed, professional demeanor is not only called for but required.

The first thing you should do in any dispute is try to resolve it yourself. (If you don’t before contacting us, we’ll just recommend you do.) Once it is clear there is a Problem, all communications should be in writing. If you make a formal demand (typically for money), you may wish to make your demand by certified mail simply to establish that you did, in fact, give written notice. Include all relevant details and supporting documents in your demand. It doesn’t matter that the other party knows the facts as well as you, and may have written the supporting documentation, include it anyway.

If a written demand for satisfaction doesn’t succeed, then by all means contact us, but be sure to also review what we can and cannot do for you. We’ll want to see what you’ve done (that’s where all that documentation can be handy). If there are details of the dispute that you find distasteful or embarrassing, please don’t leave them out. We can’t help you if you don’t give us the full story.

How to Avoid Trouble

It’s not surprising that most writers want nothing to do with Griefcom. We don’t take it personally; in fact, we encourage it. The best way to solve a problem is to avoid it: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The two best ways to avoid a problem in our industry are to take the following steps before conducting your business:

(1) Whenever you find yourself dealing with a new agent or publisher, go to Writer Beware, see if there is a warning issued for them on the website, and if not, contact writerbeware@sfwa.org to be sure there is not a warning in development. Writer Beware is an invaluable source of advice on writing scams and unscrupulous operators, and that seemingly perfect contract or publishing deal you’re considering may be one of them.

(2) When you are given a contract, go directly to the Contracts Committee. They have lots of experience in what you should expect and what you should avoid in speculative fiction publishing contracts. They’ll be happy to answer your questions, and they have model contracts covering novels, magazine and anthology sales, voice work, and more. Do not sign an agreement without comparing it to one of these model contracts.

Neither of these steps guarantees you a hassle-free experience, of course, and we’re here at Griefcom for when things go wonky. But if you never need us, we won’t be offended.