O RLY: A “Contract” for Book Reviews?

Posted January 27, 2012 by Insane Hussein in Miscellaneous / 66 Comments

What with all the WTFuckery happening in the World Wide Web, including the Goodreads thread debacle, the hairy business of one Julie Halpern (Ranty McRant with comments and the additional Ranty McRant Rants).

Then there was Stiefvater’s “reviews should be academic essays” Ranty McRant.

But I think the worst of 2012, so far, is this nifty thing I received in my inbox, from another reviewer. This reviewer was contacted by the author, requesting a review of her debut paranormal novel. The author asked the reviewer to email her back with an agreement and a review contract. Yes, I shit you not. A motherfucking contract, for a review, between the reviewer and the author/publisher. Additionally, the author requested that the reviewer EMAIL HER BACK IF SHE COULDN’T REVIEW IT. WHATTT!

This is the actual contract. I’ve omitted the names of the author and publisher but that’s only because I’ve never heard of either, nor do I want to, after this.

Unfortunately, I can’t wrap my mind around the WTFuckery that comes out of this. This author and/or publisher actually thinks that they would OWN the rights to the review? That they can distribute it anywhere, in any format? Have they lost their ever-loving minds?

Then they declare that the review must be unbiased? The author emailed that reviewer with this, without perhaps fully comprehending that a review is biased to their reviewers likes and dislikes?

This is beyond anything I have seen yet. And I’ve seen a lot.

So, here is my response to this ridiculousness:

BUSTED!
IMMA CHOKE A BITCH
JABBA KITTY
I CAN HAZ YOUR BLOOD
IT DOESN'T MATTER--YOU BROKE THE RULES

 

AND THEN I JACKED OFF TO JAMES DEEN

 

***UPDATE***

So I have decided to out the author and the publisher, because I can. Fuck it. And fuck this shit.

Author: Uzuri Wilkerson

Publisher: Aziza Publishing

Here is the original copy of the contract. Seriously. What the fuck?

Original Contract--names not omitted.

I assume that the publisher decided that the contract would be a good idea and the author went with it. But let me be clear: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO!!!

I can’t even imagine why the author agreed to the damn thing. Let me ask you, Ms. Wilkerson, why you would send a contract to reviewers mandating that they freely give you their copyrights to THEIR material? Yanno, the material THEY thought about, worked on, edited and published in a review? REALLY?

And, let me continue my own Ranty McRant (OMG I’m like one of those Ranty McRant authors above, but without that reviewers should have an unbiased opinion bullshit) and start in on the publisher. Publishers should NEVER EVER agree to that kind of a contract. Hello, we are reviewers, we are not the authors you sign to publish their works. We pay for our own webhosting, design templates, do our own promo, have our own followings. NOT YOU. Also, you seem to be a vanity/boutique publishing house, from what I could gather from your “about” page. Whatever, I don’t care and I’ll never request or accept a review request from you.

 

And now, moar James Deen!

MOAR James Deen!

The End. I need to finish eating dinner, shower and head to the Dungeon for some playtime. Have fun, boys and girls!

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Insane Hussein

J is a super-cool female superhero delivering her honest opinions of romance novels, douchenuggetry, sex toys, porn and whatever else she fancies. When not on the blog, she can be found on twitter chatting about whatever random thing occurs to her, might be curled up with a good book, eating chocolate, guzzling--she mean, sipping delicately--wine, watching TV, watching porn or on her back having orgasms. Or a combination thereof. Don't judge, appreciate!

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  • LMAO! I saw you mention this on twitter and prayed it was a joke. Don’t idiot authors and publishers like this know they give us all a bad name? I’d kinda like to know the publisher so I never submit to them. This kind of nonsense just makes the author look bad.

  • Beate73

    Are you shitting me? Has the world gone completely mad? This is giving authors, publishers and books a really bad name. And it’s embarrassing.

  • Del

    0.o From the annals of “people unclear on the concept”. Yeesh.

    Was it a self-pub?

  • Liza

    Makes me glad my review blog is so small I’ve never had something like this sent to me. I really was hoping this was a joke when I first saw it on FB and Twitter.

  • Oh for the love of… No way would I ever do that. My reply back would not have been nice.

  • I’m sorry…what? Just…what?

  • ….oh my goodness, just get a critique partner if you want to know how the book could be “improved.”

    I’m now going to kick my feet up, have a cup of chai and laugh at that. WTFery Friday!

  • Lou

    This is not the first time about a publisher sending something like this. Ages ago, I was sent a NDA to sign before I could accept any ARCs from them. I couldn’t believe what I was reading because it mentioned things like trade secrets and so on. I emailed them straight back and said, uh NO FREAKING WAY.

  • Ay dios mio.

  • Kimberly (@Metzgirl)

    I think my favorite part is the requirement of 400 words, not including their questions. Considering how broad the questions are, what else to they expect you cover?

    Also, even without your “outing” these people, it wouldn’t take long for most people to catch on to every review looking the same, provided the reviewers followed the mentioned format.

  • Your book blogger friend is a better person than I am.

    Forget about not naming names. I’d forward that email to everyone in my contacts list.

  • LOLOLOL. No, really. LOLOLOLOLOL

  • Do people still use CD-ROM?

  • Has

    I have no words but other than to say – HELL NO! No author or publisher is going to dictate what I can write in a review and let alone on how it is distributed. If an author or a pub contacts a reviewer to review a book, they are offering that book for an honest opinion and to let their audience know what the book is about. You can’t control that aspect and seriously a contract UGH.

  • Anna

    That’s a first! In all the recent uproar concerning authors and reviewers that’s just precious…
    No further comment…

  • I too came here via Twitter because I couldn’t believe it. Having read the contract, I still don’t believe it. Consider me mindboggled.

  • This is so many shades of wrong that it’s a rainbow of oh-no-she-didn’t.

  • F to the uck no! Bloggers don’t work for the publishers or authors.

    Maybe bloggers need to send their own bulletpoint reviewing contract to these out of control publishers and or authors.

  • Nanny

    Holy cow! I’d totally just delete this and pretend it never happened. Then never reply to that author or publisher again.
    I did sign a thing saying that I wouldn’t pirate an authors book once. Although I figured it was silly because most people who pirate wouldn’t care what they signed.

  • This is just utterly ridiculous. And I can’t believe how many times I’ve had to say that this week. Has the world been passing around stupid pills and I somehow missed the memo?! *head desk*

  • This is some crazy shit! The author is paid for a license to his/her work, but feels justified in getting a free license to distribute and use yours? Why? I can’t help but wonder…does this author/publisher somehow believe a reviewer can’t review the book unless they sign this? He/she has NO leverage to get a signature. (other than providing a free copy of the book, which is still no leverage) I don’t get it. And they can always link to the review and even use snippets from it as “advertising”…why would they need/want to reproduce it in whole away from the reviewers site? This is the INTERNET…it’s all connected. And it’s not right to do that anyway, even if you could. I’m so glad you folks who are posting this have omitted the names. It may be a calculated attempt at publicity.

  • @Nanny – Comment

    And that’s ridiculous too! (that someone would ask you to sign something promising not to pirate their book). Pirating books is against the law, AND the law provides for damages to the author in the case of it happening! The author would not need a contractual promise from you to go after you for piracy! That’s like…you steal the author’s car so the author brings a signed document to court to say, “Look! She PROMISED not to steal my car and then she did!” It’s unnecessary, both to prosecute you and to sue for damages, because the law already protects the copyright holder. You are right in that your signing it didn’t give the author any protection (or you any obligation) that either of you didn’t already have.

  • Phew! Okay, now that I’m done ranting…

    Insane Hussein, want to review my book? I’ll send over the paperwork. Have your people call my people. 😀

  • insanehussein

    No, have your people call my people cuz my people are busy filing their nails. LOL

    ALL YOUR REVIEW ARE BELONG TO US. O_O

  • Ali

    I am nearly speechless. What the unholy Hell is THAT? First of all, those questions? They’re more like critique questions, not a review. Second of all, no…just no. That is insane.

  • @insanehussein – Comment So glad I found this site–your style is so much fun! Looks to me like that author is looking to get kicked in the taco. 😀

  • insanehussein

    It’s so incredibly sad how this has happened. Saddddd

  • Oh for crying out loud. I guess I’m just piling on. What everyone else said.

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  • I just can’t even form an opinion on it. I’m sitting here in shock, I think. If I got this in my email the author/publisher would be laughed at. A lot.

    The “full rights” to the review is comical enough, but the requirements that MUST go into the review…what in the world are we to talk about in 400 words after we answer the questions? *shakes head*

  • Pam

    wow. just wow. also 10 cool points to anyone who can dm or email me the author’s name quietly. I just haz to know.

  • Wow !! I am speechless, but you all are doing a fantastic job of speaking out when I am just…speechless !

  • Bwahahahahahaha! I thought this was a joke at first but apparently it isn’t. Wait – actually, it IS a joke.

    In one sentence or five words:

    The author mentioned in this contract will self-destruct in 10 seconds.

  • Nanny

    @Piper Trace – Comment

    Exactly!

  • Going just by the info in the post, I’m a little hesitant to start blaming the author for anything other than submitting to/contracting with a publisher who would do such a thing. It’s entirely possible the author is new (probably is, if they’ve signed with some amateurish newbie epublisher) and they may honestly believe this is normal.

    That doesn’t mean s/he doesn’t bear responsibility, just that I hate to blame a writer for their publisher’s ridiculous behavior.

    And man, is it ridiculous. And man, am I sick of this whole “Reviews should be constructive so authors can learn from them” shit. No. Just no. I’m tired of seeing it from authors who should know better. I love reviewers and think they’re awesome, but If you need to learn how to write by reading reviews of your already-published books, you weren’t ready to be published in the first place.

  • I have no words. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lily

    Yet I just read about a self-published author who said she paid to get a Kirkus review, to boost her situation with Amazon. I didn’t think that was possible, but I don’t believe I am remembering this wrong. It was one of those “Gosh, she’s making a fortune without being published by a New York house!” stories. In PW? WSJ? Can’t remember, but it did raise my eyebrow.

    If you have to pay someone to review your book, by definition it is a loser and so are you. At least, that was supposedly true in the “good old days.”

    Publishing is changing but the ethical standards remain the same. You can no longer send out the secretarial pool to buy up all the copies of the Jackie Susann book to make it a bestseller, but you can get your peeps to vote for your book on various review sites or put up glowing reviews on Amazon and so on. Buy a review? Why not? Buy a positive review? Even better.

  • insanehussein

    It is a new author. But after a quick glance at the publisher’s site, it seems like a vanity house. Their “about” page reads like they are a last ditch effort to get published.

    I don’t think the author knew going in, but the publisher should have modeled their review policy around other publishing house models. Certainly a quick google search would garner some decent results as a bare bones for theirs.

  • insanehussein

    That’s horrendous. But this isn’t the same case. They want to own the review, totally, and for free. No, just no.

  • Oh my, someone has control issues.

  • This is WRONG on so many levels, I’m not sure where to start. Let’s just narrow it down to this – New or not – the author should know better. Someone who is trying to make a living selling their words/ideas/thoughts/stories should know better than to DEMAND someone else’s for free. *Shaking head in disgust*

  • Oh, I don’t at all mean that the author doesn’t bear responsibility in this and shouldn’t be expected to know better, I just mean I’ve seen A LOT of brand-new authors being fed A LOT of misinformation by amateurish or predatory publishers, and it’s scary what lines some of them will buy; I can easily see them being told that all publishers require such nonsense and believing it just like they believe “It’s impossible to get published if you don’t already have publishing credits” or “All new authors are expected to contribute financially to the production of their book(s).”

    Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have done their research, it just means I’m reluctant to start calling names (not that anyone here has done so).

    As for gaming Amazon reviews or telling your friends to click “Like” or whatever else…that’s just sleazy, and any author who does such a thing is an unethical scumbag, IMO.

    (Interestingly, a link on Twitter earlier pointed to an article in–I think–the New York Daily News about Amazon Marketplace vendors giving away free products in return for positive reviews. The article pointed out that FTC regulations require a reviewer to disclose if there is some sort of personal or commercial relationship between themselves and the person/product being reviewed. Which means that not only is it unethical and gross to goad your friends to leave positive Amazon reviews, it is–if I understood correctly, which I may not have (IANAL)–potentially illegal. I’d love to see a lawsuit brought over that one.)

  • Aside from being misinformed as Stacia pointed out, it is disconcerting to see an author — who should know about the value of copyright — demand full rights to another writer’s (blogger) intellectual property.

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  • Insane Hussein

    @Lou – Haha they think they’re motherfucking Apple.

  • Insane Hussein

    @Stacia Kane – Oh Stacia, I love you.

  • Suzan / Book-Addicts

    Wow.

    As a book reviewer, I’m appalled. As a writer and editor, I’m embarrassed. I sincerely hope this is a new author that will learn from the mistakes they make and understand that if they won’t give up their rights to their intellectual property for free, then neither should reviewers.

  • Elise

    Wow. Aside from the general WTFery of a “contract” for a review, the five required questions caught my eye. I used to do secretarial work for a reasonably successful YA author (for values of “reasonably successful” equal to “made enough from her writing to pay someone else to help triage the daily mail and do similar things so she could work”) and those five questions look really familiar to me. Middle-school teachers with a lack of imagination often hand out templates to their students for letters to authors. The kids are required to write a letter to their favorite author; the teacher apparently grades them on how close they come to this template. Those five questions are darned close to the ones in the form letters. Just swap the fifth one for “Tell the author something about yourself,” and you’d have it.

  • Ah, I so love it when somebody does something stupid, and that someone is not me.

    That said—I wouldn’t blame the author. They were just following their publisher’s guidelines. In my opinion, new authors are entitled to make mistakes. I say this having been a newbie all of a year ago—it takes a while to figure out the ins-and-outs of this business. If I had a dollar for all the bad advice I’ve gotten and/or followed since I started writing…

    Anywho—the publisher was stupid. But I’m really glad this stuff is being brought to light, because this same publisher has no doubt sent this contract to other, less established, book reviewers who may have been convinced that this was “normal”. Misinformation…it’s not just a river in Egypt. 0.o

  • Ingrid

    This sounds very similar to a scheme in which a vanity press promises an author a “Hollywood Coverage” of a book, thence to be shown to “Hollywood Producers” as a way to market their book as a potential movie. I’m guessing the author is the only person who ever sees this coverage, which he/she has to pay for, of course. If you look at a review as part of your own marketing strategy, then it makes sense to control the content. Pretty sad and icky, all around.

  • Adina

    @Lily – Comment

    Kirkus has a pay-for-review section, you can see it at http://www.kirkusreviews.com/indie/about/ . It’s not the same as getting a review in their regular magazine.

  • My favorite part is the “what did you like best about this book?”. Sometimes, the answer is: “when it ended”, or “that I could easily delete it from my e-device” or “the sound it made hitting my wall.”

    I hope you *will* identify the publisher and author. I don’t see why it would be wrong to do so (they can’t have an expectation that a boilerplate contract between themselves and bloggers be private), and it might have the positive effect of making them (and others) rethink this incredibly stupid move.

  • Ah, well. It’s a vanity press, so that explains a lot. They probably sucker their authors with some kind of promise to do their very best to get reviews that will be quotable or something. *sigh* People who don’t understand writers or readers or publishing really shouldn’t even THINK about going into that particular business.

  • Tom Whitmore

    I’m astonished that nobody seems to have noticed that the contract gives the publisher and author exclusive rights to the review. Now, some of us have been known to sell a review from time to time: this would preclude that. This is not just a grab of right-to-publish: it’s a grab of all rights. Turning your review into a work-for-hire at a rate of $0.00 per review. More f*cked up than you were even thinking! I can understand them wanting a non-exclusive right, just barely.

  • insanehussein

    No, we know that the contract implies exclusive rights of the review, for no pay. We’re talking about it on twitter, too.

  • @insanehussein *blush* Thank you!

    Yeah, I didn’t comment on the “exclusive rights” thing because the very idea of it is so outrageous I don’t even know what to say.

    Aside, though, from the fact that it’s totally counterproductive; if the only place a review can appear is in your own promotional materials, why ask someone else to write it? The point of a review from another source is that the review is posted on the reviewer’s blog/site/whatever, thus spreading the word about the book.

    What sort of idiot goes out of their way to guarantee that no reviewer will be able to discuss the book, anywhere?

  • Insane Hussein

    @Stacia Kane – Yes, exactly. Authors and publishers should never even dare to think of asking for those rights. Go buy a positive review, not like this.

    And CD ROMs. Hah!

  • As a former IP lawyer, I find this contract abominable. I really hope that a lawyer did not draft this thing. What were they thinking?

    The article that Stacia Kane referred to is here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/technology/for-2-a-star-a-retailer-gets-5-star-reviews.html?_r=1

  • Chris

    As a “contract”, this collection of words seems to be missing an essential element: consideration. It imposes a number of conditions on the reviewer that collectively give something of value to the author/publisher, but as far as I can see, it offers nothing of value to the reviewer. Under most legal systems, it would not be legally binding.

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  • We received an email from this “publishing company” over at http://www.thefoundingfields.com and laughed, got pissed, deleted it and basically blackballed the dumbasses.

  • Howdy folks. Yeah, definitely not a one-off. Commissar Ploss here. Owner of TheFoundingFields.com Book Review and Fiction News website. It turns out i was contacted by Aziza (or however the fuck they spell their ridiculous name) about three weeks ago, concerning a different author (cant recall who it was specifically) and doing a review for a book they were publishing. I get routinely approached by publishers and authors alike who request reviews so that’s nothing new. However, i’ve never seen a “contract” before. That threw up a red flag right away. I saw a “first contact” email in my inbox with an attachment on it, and i was hesitant to open it. There are a lot of spoof houses and fake spam authors/publishers out there, so watch out. Well i ended up checking out the email anyways, and found this contract! I laughed for about 10 minutes straight, and promptly deleted the email. There’s no reason a publisher should be sending you a contract, that’s fucking ridiculous. It’s like a dating site asking for your social security number!! I had initially thought it was indeed spam, but it turns out, it’s not. So, just wanted to share my experience with them. They can go fuck themselves. I’ve officially told all my reviewers that we’re blackballing them. I’m not having them anywhere near my site, or even near my thoughts.

    cheerio!

    CP

  • I’m sort of seconding Stacia Kane’s observation, above. I think this is a case of a newbie author who was literally sold a bill of goods regarding reviews and promotion. No doubt, this ludicrous contract was part of Aziza’s marketing packages, one of the “services” that is constantly flogged with the annoying popup ad, present on every page on their site.

    I’m not excusing the author….just noting that this is what happens when desperate writers sign up with predatory vanity houses that promise the moon, stars and sun.

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