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To Write or Not to Write? Own or Not to Own? To Get Paid or Not to Get Paid? These Are the Questions

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I have written and published
about two dozen parenting books in the last 30 years. Recently, I was asked by
Samantha Ettus—“creator and editor” of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Experts’ Guides
published by
Clarkson Potter/Random House—to contribute a 600-word piece on a topic of
her choosing for her third book in this series, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Experts’ Guide to the Baby Years
.
The first edition has been out for about a year now and, according to Ettus,
has sold more than 100,000 copies in 11 printings. She is described in the bio
as “a leading voice on personality-driven brands” who “has developed a secret
recipe—a combination of talent, experience, passion and charisma—for
identifying the world’s leading experts. She holds a BA in Social Anthropology
and a MBA both from Harvard University.”

 

Ettus told me that I was the
“ideal expert” to write a section on “How to baby proof a hotel or guest room.”
Yes, I have a book out on baby proofing, but it has lower sales than most of my
other titles, and it is certainly not one that I am known for.

 

I wrote back and suggested writing
about baby food (as in Feed
Me I’m Yours
—3 million copies sold) or <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Toilet Training

(several hundred thousand copies sold) or <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Divorce
(sales of approximately 200,000
copies). Ettus said that these topics were already assigned or would not be
included, but that I was welcome to suggest others. I asked if she would send
me a list of the topics that are taken so I wouldn’t repeat what she has.
Funny, I’ve not heard from her. Hummmm, wonder why?

 

I also asked about an honorarium
and who would own the copyright on my 600 words. Apparently ownership and
payment are not in the cards, although a few sentences at the beginning of my
piece would describe my expertise—but not include a Web site, email
address, or the like.

 

Now, this is not the same as the
pattern for the Chicken
Soup
series, with folks being asked if they’d like to submit
material in hopes of being chosen. I know these folks don’t own their stories
or get paid for them. But I think that’s different than contributing as an
expert.

 

And it is not the same as the
system for an anthology, with payment to contributors and acknowledgment for
the use of their material.

 

And it’s certainly not the same as
a work for hire, since there seems to be no hire.

 

To be perfectly fair, with my
publisher hat on, I think it’s a brilliant idea.

 

But as an author, I don’t think
so.

 

So I won’t.

 

This piece by Vicki
Lansky—whose Web sites are www.bookpeddlers.com and
www.practicalparenting.com—is less than 600 words. She offered to write
it for PMA Independent,
and she understands that she will not get paid for her efforts or her
indignation.

 

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