I was working under a deadline yesterday and missed posting my tip. Here goes. And it’s a doozy.

Tip of the Week: If you’re going to talk badly about someone behind their back, you’d better make sure they aren’t a member of the list you are posting on.

I love when my tips are relevant in all sorts of facets of life. Flaming people online (posting hateful things) isn’t anything new, but when you do it about people in your professional life you’re just asking for trouble.

Here’s the situation. An author with a story accepted in an upcoming anthology showed some concerns over a portion of his/her contract, specifically the handling of subrights. Author asked if his/her attorney could call Boss to discuss the contract. Boss said yes and waited for the call. Since the attorney was apparently out of town, Boss figured it would be a few days before this issue arose again. She was wrong. Author had taken the liberty on a writing group board of posting part of the contract with various negative comments and then solicited opinions of the (I think it was 2 sentences) quoted out of context. Now, I dare anyone to take any two sentences in any legal document and have them still sound flattering. I tried this with a CBAY contract. It couldn’t be done. Even simple sentences like “The work shall be tentatively titled _____” sounds awful when put in legalese. Needless to say, the excerpt elicited negative comments some of which called into question the publisher’s integrity.

Boss, who is a member of this list, got to read every single one of these posts. She got to see exactly what Author thought, in a way I’m sure Author never intended boss to know. Boss also got to see a very interesting side of Author. So did I.

There are so many problems with what Author did. He/She

  1. Posted parts of a confidential contract in a public forum. Never publish part of your contract online.
  2. Acted unprofessional. Having your lawyer talk to the publisher’s representative is professional. Venting you spleen to close friends is professional. Venting your spleen to relative strangers in a public forum is not.
  3. Acted prematurely. The contract was still up for negotiation. Boss had already offered to make some concessions. However, posting that kind of thing during the negotiation phase will only sour the whole process.
  4. Was just plain stupid. I mean, really. Not even bothering to check the public member list to see who’s going to be getting this? Even if Boss hadn’t been a member, I could have been, or any of our staff, or any of our authors. How exactly did Author think this was going to be kept a secret?

So I beg all of you to keep this in mind when you get upset. We all do, and some times we do rash things. However, always try to keep things professional.

And if someone does tell Author about it, or if it Author stumbles upon it, good. I will happily discuss this with him/her over the privacy of email. I won’t discuss the contract itself because that is best left to lawyers. I will happily discuss “the incident.”

Oh, and for those of you who were in Mistletoe Madness or Summer Shorts, yes it was the exact same contract.

© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.
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