Happy Hump day to all those that work a M-F, 9-5’er. This is a bit of a delayed reaction, but I did want to think on this one before I put a pen to paper. I was reading L.J. Smith’s blog recently and was dismayed to read that her publisher had essentially fired her from her own Vampire Diaries series. Now, before you go all apocalyptic on me, I understand that there are contractual issues involved and that at some point, Ms. Smith had to have signed away the creative rights to her series in order for them to be doing this. It doesn’t stop me from believing that this is just wrong. We are talking about a woman who has been writing her many different series since I was at least 11 and I’m currently 30- HOW can a publisher justify stealing an idea from a writer?
I do have the sour taste in my mouth when thinking about this that I can only attribute to theft. Where does it end? There has been a lot of news about intellectual property rights and the Chinese government in reference to technology, but is that just the biggest example? I remember when I lived in NJ and the whole Ice Ice Baby controversy hit. There was endless argument about what sort of sampling constituted stealing and what was acceptable, but from the day in 1st grade when I knew that I would be a writer when I grew up I had known (in the back of my head) that there is no simple property rights in literature. It is entirely possible for two people to simultaneously develop highly similar story ideas with similar characters without having stolen them from anyone else. In the same respect, it is also very possible to prove that a concept of story is yours, but not to seek retribution if stolen it seems.
In the case of the Vampire Diaries, there is no question about who created it which is why it baffles me that the publisher would hand it off to a ghost writer. The questions I have about why this would happen all go to the sinister, I’m afraid. I imagine that the publisher is wanting to capitalize on the success of the television series and the interest that it is bringing in to the franchise. If that is the case, then there could be a situation where a deadline is not feasible for Ms. Smith and the ghost writer (who had been an editor for some of the current 7 books apparently) may have been able to cobble something together faster or perhaps the publisher is trying to take more of a creative hand with more popular story lines that don’t mesh with the current desires of L.J.- I just don’t know and my imagination is running wild.
I admit that this has hit a nerve with me simply for personal and selfish reasons. I fully intend to publish and I know that self publication does not usually lead to great success so I would be wanting to deal with a publishing house. That being said- will I have to sign some sort of crappy contract that gives them control of my creation in order to accomplish this? I knew that I wouldn’t see much money initially, but that based upon the success of the first book then there may be a future for me as a writer, but I can say that I would be uncomfortable selling my soul to do this. The signing over to anyone of the rights to my creations would, for me, be just like selling my soul. For me, as I would like to believe is the case for most writers, the characters that we create are a part of us, the worlds are our worlds and a lot of them are based upon our own lives. To have someone else tell us that we can no longer create our own worlds is just insulting and like taking a child away from its mother.
With the understanding that Alloy/Harper Teen is probably not doing anything illegal to Ms. Smith, just a totally dick move by the way, I ask is it right to even create contracts where a young or inexperienced writer would sign away the rights to their concepts? Is this just a genius move by the publishing house to capitalize on any possible success? Is it unethical theft of intellectual property? I don’t know, but I would LOVE to have someone familiar with this process chime in with some sort of explanation.
Just in case you’re interested, a petition has been started for submission to Alloy on L.J.’s behalf (not sure how effective it will be) but I do get the impression that it would be a good show of support for her. Click Here