Fired from Writing?

This has been all over the writer-centric portions of the blogosphere, but I’m sharing to those who aren’t already knee deep in it.  The author of the wildly popular Vampire Diaries series of books has been fired from writing her own books.

This is one of those object lessons in being careful what you sign, because when she started the series back in the 1990’s, she wasn’t technically doing it as a freelance author.  Instead, she was writing it for a “book packager” (whatever that is) who then sold it to the publishers.  Alas, her contract stipulated that whatever she wrote for this book packager was considered “work for hire”, and that means the book packager owns the copyright, not the author.

So now this packager is tired of dealing with the author (L. J. Smith) and has fired her, intent on replacing her with a ghostwriter.  As crappy and unethical as this sounds, the packager is within his rights, since Ms. Smith signed those rights away when she was too young and new to understand what “work for hire” meant in the pages upon pages of her contract.

So, ummm, yeah… remember how I said that one of the reasons I didn’t want to pursue a New York publisher right now was because I didn’t feel I could trust their contracts?  Well, I doubt they’d go as far as slipping in a “work for hire” clause, but to be honest, I wouldn’t bet my career on it.

Count this as one more reason I’m going to stick with the indie path until the dust settles.