So yesterday between word sprints I was having a chat with the lovely Serena Lawless, fellow L.J. Smith fangirl, that worked its way around to her telling me that L.J. Smith has lost the rights to The Vampire Diaries. This is apparently old news from back in February, but we all know I usually live in a cave, so I missed it, but it led me to a great bit WTF?
The Vampire Diaries was the first series I picked up by Smith (thank you camp cabinmate Rachel for introducing me 20 years ago) and is the reason I am writing today. To any of you younger folks who think that she is somehow ripping off Twilight, she was around LOOOOOONG before Stephanie Meyer and at least she writes about men who are not all about treating their women as possessions to be controlled… But that’s neither here nor there.
Back to the WTFery.
After some judicious googling, it came out that apparently Smith never owned the rights to the series. Alloy Entertainment did. She wrote it “for hire” for them back in the 90s. Now, TVD and all her other series had a great run in the 90s before going out of print for a while. Then there was a huge resurgence with the Twilight craze. And apparently this is all because Alloy are fans of a Stefan-Elena pairing rather than Damon-Elena, which is evidently where the series has been going with the newer trilogy (which I’ve not read). So they’re firing her from writing them, hiring a ghost-writer to take over the series, and STILL USING HER NAME.
Dude this is not like Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew series. The Vampire Diaires is Smith’s baby.
My initial reaction is that her agent should be shot for not advising her against signing whatever contract she signed back then. I cannot FATHOM signing away rights to my SERIES. Sure I have enough ideas to keep me busy writing for the next century, but I would never want someone ELSE to be writing my series. Particularly not under MY NAME. Of course, this is all assuming she HAD an agent back then. She might not have.
The whole situation is just horrifying to me as a writer.
And it’s got me thinking about how, maybe, if self publishing existed then as it does now, that maybe this would never have happened. This is all speculation. I have no way of knowing how it all went down for real, but I can imagine someone desperate to break into publishing, to get past that glass ceiling of rejection to do what she loved. And doing anything she had to to get there because there wasn’t really another choice. Maybe if there had been self-publishing then, she wouldn’t have been desperate enough to sign a contract with such deplorable terms. Because then she’d have had OPTIONS as a writer.
Did you know her original conception of TVD was as an adult series? She told me in a brief series of correspondence (which led me to TOTAL fangirl SQUEE because, holy CRAP, L.J. SMITH was EMAILING WITH ME!) toned it down considerably for Harper Collins. I really would have loved to see that version of the stories. If self-publishing had existed back then as it does now, she could have released them exactly as she wanted. Darker, grittier, sexier.
I guess my roundabout point here is that writers have OPTIONS these days. I know way more writers who still want to pursue traditional publishing, rejection letters, warts and all. And that’s fine. But I want to encourage those writers to keep indie publishing in the back of their mind so that if they find themselves in the position of a contract that has unfavorable terms or working with an editor who wants changes that will not be true to the spirit and intended vision of the book, they don’t just TAKE IT because they have to. Editors, agents, and the other denizens of the New York Publishing World are not the Gods of Olympus. They are human. And sometimes they are flat wrong. Remember that YOU are the AUTHOR. In this brave new world of publishing YOU have the POWER if only you will SEIZE IT. Take control of your destiny and career as a writer and stay true to YOUR dream.
That is all.