Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The New Dragon Magazine Rolls A Critical Fumble; "Writing for Dragon = Dumb" says author John Scalzi

So, now that Hasbro has directed Wizards of the Coast to re-launch its Dragon Magazine in an all-digital format, writers interested in penning something for the newest incarnation of this venerable institution have been waiting for the submission guidelines, wondering if these new terms were worth the wait.

The verdict: not a chance.

Says sci-fi author John Scalzi:

The pay is on the low side of adequate for the genre (three to six cents a word), but the kicker is that for that royal sum, you are expected to give up all rights to your work. Says so right there on the submissions page — in fact, it says it twice, in rapid succession: “In the event we buy your manuscript, you must assign your rights to us. That means that once your contract is signed, we’ll own all rights in your submission.”

These aren’t submission guidelines, they’re a stupidity test, as in, “are you actually stupid enough to give up all the rights to your work for three to six cents a word?” And if you are, what other stupid things are you willing to do for a mere pittance? I ask only because I have this gallon of latex paint here, and seventy-eight cents in my pocket. And I’m willing to pay every penny of that seventy-eight cents to see someone drink that paint. Because, man, that would be a hoot. That’s 9.75 cents a pint! What a rate!


Three to six cents a word is not even close to a fair rate to give up all rights to your work. Hell, three to six cents a word is hardly a fair rate for publishing anything, if you want to get right down to it, and most genre editors know it, or should. Those rates are barely adequate for first North American serial rights (i.e., the right to publish the story once). A 3 to 6 cents rate is on the lowish end of what pro genre publications pay, so Dragon is not only offering no premium to authors for their work for hire, it’s actually paying less than some magazines who buy fewer rights.

"So, what?", you may ask. "What if you really, really want to get published? Or see your characters or world-building idea in Dragon?" Well, by giving up all rights to Hasbro/WotC, you have also given them the means to take your work and base a game on the world and characters you created... all without paying you a single cent more than the low end of industry standard rates. If Hasbro/WotC decides that they want to create any sort of derivative work based on your intellectual property they can— they can make modules or campaign worlds or reprint them online or anything else you can dream up-- because under that agreement, you've signed away all rights!

For a company the size of Hasbro, this is pure, grasping greed. Says commenter Jeff Hentosz, "The point is that the second biggest toy company in the world — which owns things like Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Easy Bake Oven and GI Joe — wants to pay practically nothing for everything you got."

"Well IronheadShawn, what if someone wants to get a published credit under their belt? Y'know to join a professional organization?". According to writer John C. Bunnell (who's written for Dragon Magazine in the past and sci-fi anthology Amazing Stories), "...the online Dragon will probably NOT qualify as a pro credential for SFWA membership, because the payment for longer material drops below the minimum word rate, and last I looked, the rule was that all of a market’s fiction purchases had to receive the minimum pro rate in order for the market to qualify as a pro venue for membership purposes."

I'll kick it back to John Scalzi, who wraps up the situation with a great big ribbon:

To sum up: Submitting your work to Dragon = dumb. Giving up all rights to your work for pennies a word = dumb. Supporting a magazine happy to bend you over a desk, violate your rights and then slap down a couple of grimy bills for your time = dumb. Not remembering writing is a business = dumb.

If after all this you still kinda want to send something in to Dragon, well, you go right ahead. But when you’re done, be sure to drop by my place. This gallon of paint ain’t gonna drink itself.

Amen, brutha.


Anonymous said...

There's also no guarantee the original author's name would remain attached. If an in-house editor seriously edits the crap out of your piece they could easily just assign their name to the article leaving the author out entirely with no legal grounds to prove original authorship.

Jerry said...

Or worse, an in-house editor could seriously edit the crap out of your piece and leave your name on it!

8xid_x said...

What a load of total crap... I can't believe that they would have the gal to try and pull off something like that. I used to really like Dragon MG. But screw it, it's not worth the price of someones hardwork.

On my site the author still retains full rights to thier work to publish and profit anywhere they please.

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