If you are a writer — with or without an agent — and if you need help in negotiating a contract, then you should consider the benefits of becoming a member of the National Writers Union. The NWU won’t act as your agent, but they will read your contract and offer you advice and counsel on what should be changed in the boilerplate. Book publishers always want authors to sign a standard contract. That puts all the advantages on the side of the publisher. With the NWU at your side and in your ear, you stand a better chance of getting a fairer contract negotiated to suit your rights and needs as a writer.
The National Writers Union UAW Local 1981 is the only labor union that represents freelance writers.
Now, more than ever, with the consolidation of power into the hands of ever-larger corporate entities and with the advent of technologies that facilitate the exploitation of a writer’s work, writers need an organization with the clout and know-how to protect our interests. One that will forge new rules for a new era.
Combining the strength of more than 1,200 members with the support of the United Automobile Workers, the NWU works to advance the economic and working conditions of all writers. Our members also directly benefit from the many valuable services the Union offers—including grievance assistance, contract advice, and much more—while actively contributing to a growing movement of professional freelancers who have banded together to assert their collective power.
Agents tend not to like the NWU because the NWU is pro-author — and agents, by definition — are pro-book, and that means they serve many authors and only a few publishing house masters. It is in the agent’s best bottom line purview to please the publishing houses first and their authors second, because agents deal with the same publishers day in and day out on lots of different books. Authors come and go. Publishers are forever. If you were an agent, you would pledge your long-term loyalty to the publishers who repeatedly feed you.
Fear not. The NWU are entirely on your side and they care only about making you aware of how to try to get the best possible contract terms.
If you’re a new author, the NWU can help you — but don’t expect a publishing house to bend to all the contract changes you request. It is their job to make money, and they make a lot of money off young and raw talent that doesn’t know any better, and if you put up too much of a fuss, they can just cut you off and wipe you away. The more prudent negotiation tact to take with a publisher is one of a calm and secreting knowledge that you’re not asking for anything special or unfair. You’re just looking for a standard contract that strikes a fair balance between author and publisher. No publishing house can argue with you on that point of basic fairness. Many writers use the NWU instead of an agent because they want to take home a larger percentage of the paid rights fees.
If you’re a lonesome writer who needs some contract help — I urge you not to remain lonely and head on over to the National Writers Union — and get the help you need and deserve.