Boring Legal Stuff

by | August 21, 2022 | The writing profession | 2 comments

Image by Susan Sewert from Pixabay

Almost every author I know writes first and foremost for personal satisfaction. There’s something addictive about capturing your visions and passions in a story. At its best, when you’re in the flow, the process of writing itself can be intoxicating. Sentences and paragraphs spill onto the page, almost like magic. You’re lost in a world of your own creation, focused on the transformation from idea to expression. Everything else slips away.

After you’ve written your story, you get the ache to share the products of your imagination. With the advent of self-publishing, it’s delightfully easy to make your opus publicly available to anyone wants to read it. And every royalty payment or positive review rekindles the spark of excitement. Someone likes my writing enough to pay for it! What a heady concept!

Of course, there are plenty of writers for whom the money is a major motivator. I have a few author friends who make a significant fraction of their income from sales. Still, I doubt they’d continue in this arduous endeavor if they did not enjoy the act of creation. After all, there are many more lucrative professions. When you do the math, you find that even highly successful authors earn a pretty pathetic hourly wage.

Once you start publishing and receiving payment, however, writing becomes more than just fun. You now have to concern yourself with the business and professional aspects of publishing: contracts, accounting, taxes and all that – all the boring legal stuff. I think it’s safe to say that nobody likes this aspect of being a writer. Certainly I’d rather completely ignore these issues, and just write thrilling smut.

Alas, if we want to publish, we can’t.

I got a wake-up call this past month that hammered this truth home. I’ve been spending what scarce writing time I have on my WIP, the third book in my steam punk erotica series The Toymakers Guild. During the first part of 2022, I reclaimed the rights to a number of my romance titles and re-released them, but the remainder won’t become due for reversion until next year. So I haven’t published anything in months.

Painfully aware of Amazon’s thirty day cliff, I decided to release an old erotic short called Goldberg Variations as a single title. It’s 8500 words, which I figured might be long enough to tempt some readers. I duly spent a day reformatting the text and making a cover, then uploaded to both Smashwords and Amazon as I normally do.

A few days later, I received an email from Amazon, asking for evidence that I owned the rights to this story. I’m not sure if they found the story in the anthology where it originally appeared (The Mammoth Book of Threesomes and Moresomes, 2010, edited by Linda Alvarez, Running Press) or if they have my story confused with some other tale with the same title (alas, there are many). Either way, they wanted me to prove it was mine.

I discovered that I couldn’t.

I have a file which I believe contains every paper writing contract I’ve ever signed, and a folder on my hard disk with all the digital contracts. I did not find a contract for this anthology in either location.

Is it possible there never was a contract? Sure. Those of you who’ve been around since the early part of the century may recall that Maxim Jakubowski, who edited the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica series, not only neglected to provide contracts but occasionally reprinted stories without the author’s permission! Maybe this Mammoth Book followed the same sloppy practices.

On the other hand, it’s also conceivable that I’ve lost the contract. Not likely, but I can’t rule this out.

Anyway, I tried to locate the editor (no luck). Then I tried to contact the publisher to ask for a letter certifying that I owned the rights. It turns out that Running Press was acquired by Perseus Books, which was later acquired by Hachette, a huge juggernaut of a publishing company.

Their website says that people with questions about rights should use the web contact form. I followed their instructions. Needless to say, I have not received any response. Why should they bother to answer an individual author inquiring about a publication twelve years ago, in a book that’s currently out of print?

So, ultimately, Amazon refused to publish Goldberg Variations. There’s nothing I can do. Well, I suppose I could try telephoning Hachette long distance from Asia… or sending them a registered letter. But honestly, I don’t have the time (or the energy) for that sort of thing. It’s just an 8K short story, and I’d rather devote my scarce resources as Lisabet to creating new material.

Still, it’s a lesson. I should have been more conscientious. I should have insisted on a contract, if one was not offered. I should have made sure I got a copy with signatures by both parties, then stored it in the correct file.

I should have paid more attention to the boring legal stuff.

It’s hard to force oneself to do that because… well, it’s boring. But unfortunately, important.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. Rose

    It’s always that one piece of paper that you probably thought you’d never need anyway. How frustrating for you, Lisabet.

    Aside from having pretty much lost my mojo seven years ago, anytime anyone started writing (usually in Writers) about self-publishing, marketing, self-promotion, and all the legal stuff, plus whatever other rigamarole was required to “be a writer” (beside simply writing the stories) my eyes would glaze over, much like they would whenever the organization, for which I was working, would have a “strategic planning meeting.” (I’m certain that the phrase “kill me now” originated somewhere in a strategic planning meeting.)

    All that legal stuff isn’t just boring…it is seriously, truly, absolutely, unequivocally boring and guaranteed to make me think about the upside of a hemlock cocktail. I hate that stuff (the boring stuff, not the hemlock…I’ve never tried the hemlock). When it came to legalese in any circumstance, I used to say to my late, great husband, “You read it and tell me all about it.”

    To be totally frank, I really loved writing, but never enough to go through all the other sh– stuff that goes along with it. It was all just too daunting whenever I thought about having to do it during what little spare time I had when I was working full time. I suppose one of the reasons might have been because my job (secretarial/administrative assistant — 50+ years of it) was often deadly boring, too, and a person can only take so much boring in their life. In my job, I was paid to do all kinds of boring stuff — I sure as heck wasn’t going to do the same kind of stuff for free in my spare time.

    I honestly do admire anyone who works full time, writes as a second job, *and* does all the other stuff that goes along with that second job. I never had what it took to do all that other stuff.

    On the other hand, if I’d had a secretary… 🙂

    Rose (exceptionally happily retired since July 1, 2022)

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Oh, I hear you, Rose! It *is* boring, but you have to force yourself to deal with it if you’re going to publish.

      Congratulations on your retirement, btw! I was actually wondering when that was going to happen. I recall a message on Writers when you were counting the days. ;^)

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


Babysitting the Baumgartners - The Movie
From Adam & Eve - Based on the Book by New York Times Bestselling Authors Selena Kitt



Pin It on Pinterest