This is the third part of my wrap-up of the Life, The Universe, and Everything 2018 writer’s conference held in Provo, Utah between February 15-17.
Kinship Systems from Around the World
Daniel Jeffery said threat of injury is a deterrent to predators. They don’t want to attack unless they’re sure of success. In poetry, you can only break the rules if you know you’re breaking the rules.
Megan Hutchins explained that in matrilineal systems, your sister’s son is your heir while your own sons are somewhere else, which can make for an interesting dynamic in fiction. Leonardo da Vinci was a bastard child and didn’t fit into a kinship system, which led to him becoming an apprentice. Often the most interesting stories are those of people who don’t neatly fit into their society.
Dr. Nikhil Pillarisetti Rao spoke of a culture that practiced polyandry due to being land poor. One woman marries multiple brothers, but only one of the brothers fathers children. The reason chimpanzees and bonobos behave differently has more to do with resources than genetics. Bonobos fight less because they have a better food source.
Ann Chamberlin said that in Bedouin culture, there’s a different name for your mother’s brother and father’s brother. This is because the son of your father’s brother is your preferred marriage partner. You don’t have to pay to get a bride. She briefly mentioned other cultures such as the Shakers who didn’t have sex, but obtained children by raising orphans, the Oneida free love movement, and Mormon polygamy. There are lots of different ways for a fictional culture to be structured.
“I Was Hoping for the Standard Brandon Sanderson Contract?”
Eric James Stone said it’s important to define what “out of print” means in a contract since we live in an era of Print on Demand and eBooks. Need agent or IP lawyer to negotiate a reversion clause with Hollywood so rights revert back to you if the movie doesn’t get made within a certain amount of time. The industry’s definition of terms can be different than the common sense definition. Generally, you want to keep the copyright and the publisher just licenses it. Contracts can sometimes take over a year to negotiate. For short fiction contracts, check out SFWA‘s sample contract.
Jennifer Jenkins explained different parts of a contract. There can be options for TV, film, audio book, and foreign rights. There’s also a rights of termination/sunset clause that explains how to get out of the contract. Right of first refusal clause should include specific dates since people will have different definitions of what “a reasonable amount of time” is. A non-compete clause can mean you can’t publish a similar book with a different publisher. Don’t sign a non-compete clause if it’s too broad. Agents generally get 15%. When film or foreign rights are involved, it usually involves two different agents and can go up to 20%.
Jennifer Jenkins also said writers generally don’t take themselves seriously enough. The writer usually owns the copyright, but the publisher owns the copyright for the cover, so if it goes out of print and you want to self-publish it, you’ll need a new cover. Make sure audio rights revert after a certain time. Delivery clause specifies when payment is made and when the book get published. Make sure this is a reasonable amount of time.
I wasn’t able to note much of what Jason King said. Matthew Kirby pointed out that when you write for someone else’s property, such as Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft owns the copyright. What rights you get is the real difference between a good and bad deal, not how much you get paid. The delivery date is not always a hard and fast rule, they usually put that in in case you take too long writing the book. If you don’t have an agent, definitely hire an attorney to look over your contract.
Writers of the Future: Utah’s 20th Winner
Darci Stone, wife to Eric James Stone, was Utah’s 20th winner of the Writers of the Future contest. The panelists spoke of the benefits of entering and winning the contest. Julie Frost said she got over 20 rejections before winning. Getting rejected doesn’t mean your work isn’t good since many rejected authors go on to be professionally published elsewhere. Eric James Stone said he gave up writing for 10 years after getting his first rejection.
David Farland is one of the judges of the contest. He looks for realistic dialogue, powerful metaphors, an original idea, and a well-plotted story that usually involves the hero failing twice before succeeding with a heart-racing conclusion. On a stylistic level, sometimes overly ornate works. Sometimes it’s good to be different from past winners. He warned that joining writing groups can sometimes be a bad idea because they often become social groups and end up distracting you from your writing.