Sunday, 5 August 2018

Writers are a nuisance to publishers

The wise and famous author Fay Weldon once said 'writers are always a great nuisance to publishers'. 

I guess my name will enjoy a little more exposure this year as my book is released in September 2018 and sold via Amazon (I won't earn a penny). When I say 'my book' what I mean is 'my book' yet 'not my book'. It could have easily appeared with somebody else's name on the cover and if things had gone to the publisher's plan I would not have been consulted at all over the re-vamping of my original 1993 publication! Astonishing! 

As a Member of The Society of Authors here is my letter to the editor (to be published in the next issue of 'The Author':

'Dear editor

In the last issue of The Author, 'Fair shares - a call to publishers' prompted me to write on the subject of moral rights. I was astonished to learn almost by chance a book I wrote in 1993 was being re-vamped this year by an art director, without the publisher consulting me. The book – an  encyclopedia  of woodworking techniques – is highly technical; just one change of a decimal point or a word can change the meaning of a sentence. An example is that wood veneer was re-typed as 6mm thick when it is paper thin (0.6mm)!

The initial contract was so poor my only legal right was to withdraw my name from any future edition that might damage my reputation. I did not want do this – who would want another author's name to go on their book and is that morally right? Negotiating from a zero-strength position by offering to put in several months work voluntarily, I managed to achieve not just a say but the final say in how the content and technical imagery is to be up-dated but this is an unsatisfactory situation. Not receiving a royalty or compensation for my recent work is one thing but it should be a fundamental right for authors to own copyright of title and content. Moral rights, as the intellectual property specialists say, should be inalienable.

Jeremy Broun'

A lot of people will naturally assume that an award-winning book* published in five languages would pay off the author's mortgage but I was unable to negotiate any sort of ownership or receipt of royalties, just a modest lump sum on publication in 1993.   

With this re-vamped book the most I managed to negotiate was a £100 fee for several weeks work chasing up image contributors in the Themes section to write captions. That was my 'foot in the door' to see how the entire book was being re-vamped and slowly slowly over a period of months I was able to get  included the very best work being produced today and also to update essential changes that have occurred in woodworking since 1993.

I have to say the art editor, despite her obvious lack of technical knowledge made a superb job of the design and presentation. I managed through patient perserverence to achieve a fee of £500 representing several months work. 

I hope the book that was resurrected after 25 years will have another 25 years in  what is a hugely competitive marketplace.

The Themes (gallery) section is the tour de force - mouthwatering designs from leading practitioners (and my biggest challenge was to get the art editor to replace examples she had chosen with furniture pieces I knew to be the very finest). That includes work by designer makers such as Katie Walker, Jolyon Yates, Fred Baier, Joshua Gabriel.

Receiving three complimentary copies recently, it was a bittersweet experience, considering the past few months I was anxious that my name might not be on my book and that any of my changes would actually be accepted.   

*The original edition published in 1993 won the UK Booksellers 'Top 200 Titles' Award from 63,000 books published that year. 

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