How is conttract formed?
February 15, 2018 8:35 AM   Subscribe

A freelance writing opportunity (my first) has just kind of fallen into my lap, which is great. To my surprise, I am expected to provide a freelance writing contract to the publisher.

I only learned of the concept two days ago. I understand what contracts are, and have seen on-line examples of FWCs, but don't really understand how to adapt them to my specific situation, or even what a lot of the wording in the examples actually means, so I have no idea whether it applies to my situation. Some of the terms (like what I'm to deliver and what I'll get paid for it) are already set; I don't have any idea what the expectation is about things like ownership of the article and rights to republish and etc., because none of that's been discussed. Hiring an actual lawyer to work on a contract on my behalf would likely be expensive enough to cancel out the payment from writing the article.

So. I'm looking for something on-line that I can use as a guide to writing the contract which will also tell me what the contract says in language I can understand. Assurance that this is not the enormous and impossible task it currently appears to be would also be nice. And if someone with experience in this sort of thing wanted to offer assistance by MeMail, I . . . wouldn't say no.
posted by Spathe Cadet to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this from the Freelance Writers Union...
posted by johngoren at 8:58 AM on February 15, 2018

Publishers should handle the contracts and you should sign them. This is either the sign of a tiny/inexperienced publisher or a staff member who doesn't know their job. Go back to them and confirm they want YOU to provide the contract.

Now, if this is for like a $25 job, I wouldn't worry too much and just use something from the web. But if it's significant money, or leading to a long term relationship, either insist they provide it or hire a lawyer to write it up.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:25 AM on February 15, 2018 [4 favorites]

An ounce of prevention is worth an pound of cure. Pay a lawyer to do this. Ask a lot of questions. Then, you’ll have a template for the future.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2018

Yes, the publisher should provide a contract for you if they've done this before. Or is it for a company that hasn't hired writers before? I think you might need to give us more clarification here.
posted by vickyverky at 9:57 AM on February 15, 2018

The publication is one you'd likely recognize the name of -- think "Ancient Agriculturalists Annual" -- the e-mails have been with one of their editors, or at least someone claiming to be. It would be significant money (>$300 U.S.).

There have been occasional moments during our communication where things have seemed a little off ("gosh, that's some pretty nonstandard punctuation for an editor;" "I wonder if they noticed that the three posts on my blog they claim to have read were all the same post, linked three different times under different names;" "always two question marks, never one -- is this something editors are doing now? Is it for emphasis?"), and given the collective MeFi reaction to this question, I'm wondering now if maybe I shouldn't find a way to confirm that I'm talking to her and not some rando pretending to be her before attacking the contract question. Though I'm not actually sure how to do that, so.

The claim in the e-mail was not vague. I'm to send a contract, because that's how they work: on contract.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 12:56 PM on February 15, 2018

That all sounds completely hinky on all fronts, from the style of communication to the demand that you supply the contract.

Yes, you need to confirm the person is legitimate and they work where they say and do what they say they do. Tomorrow morning, pick up the telephone, look up the phone number for "Ancient Agriculturalists Annual." Call the number. Ask to speak to your contact. If you don't get the person, leave a message with details about your situation and request a call back. If you don't get one, don't go forward with this.

In addition to the link provided above, you can look at the sample contract here. It is written with Canadians in mind, but many of the basics are there (with the exception, I think, about what rights are assigned).

You need to learn about about the rights involved in publishing. This can range from moral rights to first publication rights to right to publish and include in databases in perpetuity. You also need to understand what payment is associated with each type of publication (first printing, database, reprint for advertising, etc.).

But first you really need to start with verifying this offer is legitimate.
posted by sardonyx at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

They provide the contract after all, which is great, because I hadn't found any area lawyers who were willing to claim any kind of expertise with publishing contracts, even after trying for a week. (I continue to maintain that the wording of the e-mail would lead any reasonable person to understand that the writer provides the contract, if they didn't already have freelance writing experience. Which is another thing to add to the list of things that seem not quite right about the communication style.)

Basically positive that the offer is legit, though I didn't go so far as to try calling the editor. Haven't decided whether I'm doing it or not because, frankly, I'm fucking exhausted. I'll probably make the decision in the next couple days, though.

Thanks to all who responded and favorited.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:35 PM on February 21, 2018

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