This is a long post by @John Ward over at the FB group, but I wanted to share it here because he brings up a lot of good points. ----------- Recently, I allowed a post in the community where an individual was announcing a newly formed imprint for a traditional publishing company. The imprint focuses on LitRPG/GameLit. I didn't endorse the company or encourage people to submit there. I congratulated the person (with whom I'm acquainted through Paul Bellow's retro LitRPG Forum) who made the post because they'd landed a new job as acquisitions editor. Shortly after the post went live, this company was attacked in various communities and in comments on the post itself. Some people described them as predators. Others said they were questionable because their website wasn't fully developed. I didn't follow all of the conversations, but the ones I did read raised some questions that I'd like to share with you folks. Before I begin, I want to say that I'm not criticizing those who expressed concern or who voiced criticisms. They did so in an attempt to protect new writers from what could be anything from a rights grab to a bad business decision. Conversely, it could be a great opportunity and a wonderful career-making moment. I'm not saying it is, but we do have to acknowledge that such an outcome is, at the very least, possible. MY QUESTION FOR THE COMMUNITY IS THIS: Must anything new be attacked as suspect unless it was created by an 'approved' community member? Do the LitRPG/GameLit genres now have gatekeepers? Is there some approval process where only individuals and ventures that have received sanction and validation are allowed to try something new? As best I can tell, this company was attacked as being shady based entirely on supposition. To my knowledge, the publisher hasn’t offered contracts to anyone in the FB communities. No one knows the size of an advance the publisher would offer or even if they’d offer an advance. What rights might the publisher want to purchase for said advance? I don’t have a problem with urging caution, but disparaging individuals or companies based off of guesswork doesn’t sit right with me. Again, I'm not encouraging anyone to jump into a business deal with that company. I’m saying that it doesn’t seem that we have enough information to determine what the value of their offerings might be. Our default position seems to be that anything new is automatically bad and that bothers me. It makes me concerned about the longterm health of the LitRPG/GameLit ecosystem. If we continue to be insular and unwilling to welcome new people, new ventures, new concepts, I’m not sure how much we will grow. During the Pulp era and all the way up through the 60's and 70's there was a vibrant and thriving ecosystem for science fiction fans. You had the big magazines. You also had a bunch of smaller magazines actively trying to compete with the big boys. Below that, you had fanzines. Stuff that was written and illustrated by three or four friends, copied by hand, and mailed out to anyone who subscribed. Some fanzines created print runs in the tens. Others did runs that numbered in the hundreds and a few went higher still. I could be wrong, but I’m not familiar with campaigns designed to take out the little guys before they got a footing or managed to build an audience. For the most part, the leaders and contributors of these magazines got along… and there were definite schisms and splits within the genre back then. You had the guys who wanted hard SF, the Futurians with their more political slant, you had authors who wanted to use SF to address social wrongs. Sometimes a member of one of these groups would become the editor for a magazine that had previously been associated with a different take on SF and the entire focus of the magazine would change. Yet, I’m not familiar with Weird Tales publishing editorials cautioning people against submitting stories to Astounding Stories because their pay rates suck. It does need to be said that there are predators out there. Read that again. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU. There are individuals and companies who will be very happy to trade you a paltry sum in exchange for the Great American GameLit Novel. I am not a lawyer, but I do have some advice that might be worth considering before entering a business deal with anyone. 1. Read the contract. The whole contract. 2. Understand the contract. The whole contract. If you don’t understand part of the contract, find someone who does and have them explain it to you. Yes, you might have to hire a lawyer to do this. 3. Evaluate what the company is offering against the rights they are purchasing. If a company is only offering a pittance, you shouldn’t be giving up exclusive world-wide, print, electronic, and all of the other subsidiary rights associated with your story. 4. How long is the company or individual purchasing these rights? Is there an end date? If the end-date is associated with a certain event happening (or not happening), make sure you understand exactly what that means. For example, a company might say they own the rights to your story for as long as the book is in print. Well, offering an e-book version is considered to be ‘in-print’. If you agree to that, then you’ve given them rights forever. 5. Evaluate the potential reach of your would-be publisher. Is their distribution network limited to India? The Middle East? Turkey? Europe? The US? Are they worldwide? Are you happy with the idea that your books might only be distributed within the boundaries of that network? What exactly can this publisher do for you? 6. Don’t sign No Compete Clauses. Some publishers include language saying that you will only publish stories within a certain genre through their company. Anyone who has that type of language in their contract is probably not someone you want to be in business with and if they are unwilling to remove that language, they are someone you should avoid. 7. Ask other writers about the company. Find out if they have a reputation. Is it good or bad? If they are new and haven’t established a reputation, really evaluate their contracts and capabilities before signing with them. 8. Do your research. Bad companies get a reputation quickly. 9. Determine if this contract helps you to reach your specific goals as a writer. Your goals may not be the same as someone else’s goals. Does the deal work for YOU? 10. Really spend some time questioning whether you need a traditional publishing deal at all. I’m firmly in the self-publishing camp. I don’t believe that any publishing deal is really going to offer an author a good deal unless you happen to be the one-off exception like Hugh Howey and you’re able to negotiate a print-only deal while retaining full control of your e-book rights. If you get that deal, you’re happy with the money they are throwing at you, and your lawyers sign off on it, then take the money and run. Otherwise, you’re probably better off just publishing everything on your own and retaining full control. Bonus: Stop listening to online advice given by strangers (including me) who don’t know you, your situation, or the offer you haven’t yet received for a submission that you haven’t sent in. If you’ve received an offer, hire an actual attorney to protect your rights.