Thursday, October 27, 2011

They changed everything -- writing tip

Question from the e-mail: I sold a short story to a magazine and it finally came out this month. I am very disappointed. I wrote it about my daughter's experience and they changed her name, her school, the name of our town, all sorts of things. WHY would they do that? They didn't even ask me!

Answer: Did you sign a contract with them? An "all rights" contract? I suspect you did. If so they can change anything they want and don't have to ask you. You have sold the story's content to them and they can do ANYthing they want to it. It belongs to them now.

I know that "overjoyed" feeling you get when you get that first acceptance in the mail. I know what contracts look like, too. Confusing as hell, all those legal terms.

With the excitement of that first acceptance, most of us would sign just about anything, and I know I certainly did. But from then on, anything that comes from it belongs to them, not to you.

So be glad that people will be reading about your characters, regardless of the names, and be certain to read the contract and think hard about it, before you sign the next one.


  1. In my opinion it is always better to use fictional names in books. Privacy must be preserved. I once wrote a story about a mother who took her child to parochial school in her ratty pink bathrobe. She had a flat and the priest had to fix it. I said the woman had brown hair. I have blond and a friend of mine was so mad that I wrote about her that she didn't speak to me for about two years. And it was about me.