The Author's Guild Has Your Back

Are you a member of the Author's Guild? If you are a published writer of fiction, nonfiction or a journalist, you might want to consider joining our country's oldest writer's guild. 

If not for their services, the publication of my debut novel could have been a complete disaster. I had signed an agreement with a small press, only to discover that the tiny Texas-based entity had no intention of copywriting, marketing or even competitively pricing my novel. The Author's Guild's legal team helped me regain the rights to a novel I'd devoted three years of my life to and almost lost forever. You really can't put a price on that, but if I had to, it would be $125 dues paid annually. 

It wasn't long after that cluster-you-know-what that their tech team helped me get an affordable website up and running. This was truly a blessing given all the commotion surrounding my novel's rights and launch. I needed an affordable and time-saving solution and that's exactly what the guild's tech team provided. You share a vision and some info and they produce a website. It's that simple. 

There's lots of other great services that the Author's Guild provides. They use their social media platforms to spread the word when members release new books or win awards. They keep a list of upcoming contests and retreats. These services are all great, but the service they offer that benefits writers everywhere is that they fight for us. Their legal team devotes a significant amount of resources toward efforts to make writing a profession that pays fairly and allows authors to retain rights and royalties that mega-companies and the Big 5 keep trying to claw away from them. 

If you've been keeping up on industry news, you probably already know that there are several issues plaguing writers these days. For years, Google has been sidestepping author copyrights to scan tens of thousands of books without paying their creators a dime. Digital thieves are posting free copies of ebooks in all the dark corners of the internet, which forces writers to take time away from their work to hunt down pirates and demand that they cease and desist. Meanwhile, some internet service providers appear to be looking the other way.

This is a particularly infuriating problem for me. It's gotten to the point that I rarely Google my novel's title because when I do, the search results are often peppered with free digital copies. I'm not alone in this, I've found several pirated copies of my writing partner's titles as well. By now you are probably fearfully typing in the title your own book. If you are, be sure to include keywords like "free" or "free ebook." Don't forget to come back here and finish reading this article when you're done fighting digital pirates. There's more good info in the paragraphs below.

When I do find pirated copies of my work, I groan because I know I will end up spending the next few days sending out DMCA takedown notices and arguing with people in the digital sphere who want me to jump through hoops to get a stolen product removed from their site. Here again, the Author's Guild provided me with resources that have made the process less miserable and saved me time. For this, I'm truly grateful.

Beyond this issue lay others that are equally troublesome for authors. Amazon has undercut book prices to create an artificial price ceiling and Harlequin has been treating its authors like they work for Fiverr instead of one of the most widely recognized romance publishers in America. 

All of these issues are followed closely by the Author's Guild and, in some cases, actively lobbied. I used to spend hours every week scouring the internet to keep tabs on these issues, but now I can just check in with the guild and I'm all caught up. 

Although I've never written a word for them, Harlequin's ebook royalty payment debacle always hit a nerve with me. I've been following the issue for years and felt relief when the Author's Guild shared an article by one the writers that provided a positive update.

A number of Harlequin authors have openly showed disdain for the puny royalty rates they receive from the publisher. The settlement that was just awarded was in response to a class action suit brought on by Harlequin writers who stated that the publisher was not fairly paying royalties on ebook sales.

According to an article written by Patricia McLinn, the suit was brought on by authors who had signed contracts with Harlequin prior to ebook royalties being negotiated separately from the catch-all "all other rights" section of a contract. At first glance, this appeared to be a good thing for Harlequin authors, because they received 50 percent of the royalties for their ebooks, which is far higher than most publishing contracts offer. However, Harlequin paid their authors a measly 3 percent of their ebook royalties and claimed that it was 50 percent because their book contracts were signed with Harlequin Switzerland and published by Harlequin Toronto. Since the rights were sold to Harlequin Toronto for 6 percent of the cover prices, authors were only due 3 percent. I wish I could say this is the only horror story I've heard about writing for this particular romance publisher, but then I'd be lying to you.

Though the Author's Guild wasn't directly involved with the Harlequin suit, and consequent settlement, the guild provides legal resources and guidelines that help authors to approach contracts with ample knowledge to make decisions that they will not regret in the long run. They also advocate for writers by openly asserting that they should earn a livable wage, retain more of their rights and a larger share of their royalties, especially from ebook sales. The guild is also a great resource for information about self-publishing, doing one's taxes and other things that writers often have questions about. In short, the Author's Guild is in your corner and ready to fight if need be.

Have questions about the Author's Guild? Feel free to comment below and if I know the answer, I'll share it. You can also visit their website to learn more. Interested in becoming a member? If you've published three journalistic articles, a book or have a book contract in hand, you can join today. 

Happy writing,