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Earn a £2,000 monthly salary to write your novel

#1
I came across this startling initiative, which offers a salary to writers taken on by a new publisher called De Montfort Literature:

De Montfort Literature: a new publishing model

De Montfort Literature – Start your novel career

Founder of the venture is Jonathan De Montfort, a hedge fund manager, who intends to hire five to ten writers, who will be mentored while writing a potential bestseller. He took four and a half years to write his own novel, which will be published by his own company.

My initial reaction to this development in publishing, is that it's a very attractive deal for struggling writers. I'm as poor as a church mouse, so the thought of being paid £2,000 a month for doing what I love sounds like heaven. It's impossible to disagree with what De Montfort says about his own reaction to the current state of publishing, when he'd written his story and was wondering how to sell it:

That’s when I started looking into the market place, and the process of sending stuff to agents, which is so hit-and-miss. It’s a literary lottery, and my thought process was that it was an insane way to do business.’

I have a few misgivings about what he proposes. For a start, candidates for the programme will be chosen partly by psychometric testing, which is a highly dubious way of deciding whether someone is suitable for a job. Try googling 'Psychometric tests how to fool them.'

What no one tells you about psychometric testing

Secondly, whatever you may think about Jonathan De Montfort's literary aspirations, his publishing venture is a money making experiment that he doesn't intend will fail. Hired writers will be expected to produce stories that are, more than anything, commercial—likely to appeal to the maximum number of readers. This could mean close monitoring of the language a writer uses, with the plot steered towards what De Montfort's mentors think will be trendy—as decided by some mysterious algorithm. Forget artistic freedom, you'll be expected to jump through whatever flaming hoop they hold up. Your finely crafted story could be steered in strange directions, with irksome add-ons to the plot—"Put in some gunships in this scene."

Thirdly, although the website looks transparent and honest, there's a vagueness about what percentage of sales an author will make:

'Authors will receive fifty per cent after all costs are taken into account i.e. salary, production costs and marketing.'

At first glance, this looks fair enough, but I've heard some real horror stories from the world of ePublishing, where an author's percentage was eroded by extortionate spending on marketing—leaving them with very little—though the publisher raised its profile using its client's money.

Lastly, and I'm being a bit bitchy here, looking at the book cover of Jonathan De Montfort's first novel Turner I'm unimpressed. Also, there's no need to add the qualifier 'mildly' to 'superstitious' in the description of the plot, as it detracts from the potency.

All the same, it's impossible to ignore that the £24,000 salary is more than most writers earn from their books, so despite my doubts I'm going to apply. What have I got to lose? Grinding poverty, that's what!

So, why do I keep thinking: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.'

What do you think of De Montfort Literature?

Can you see any drawbacks?

What does @AgentPete make of this venture? Literary agents are left out of the deal.

 
#2
I met him last month. Like you, I was intrigued. He speaks and in my opinion of course, naively about the way books will sell. Just didn't sit well with me. He gave me his business card - twice (different ones of course! Not like I dropped it and he handed the same one to me hehe...anyway)

I too am not impressed with his work. It just...hmm..yes. The best thing to this is a book packager. Go to established ones like Working Partners. I mentioned this to him and he said he's different...he packages authors. Well ok. But no. I've kept his card. It sits at my 'thanks but no thanks' pile.
 
#4
If you leave them you will have the option to buy out the rights to your idea. What might that cost one wonders?

Copyright is shared between DML and the author. However, DML retains the management rights. This means that writers have a right to be paid at the contracted rate if their book is published. They also have the option to buy DML out from their ideas, if they decide to leave the company.

DML retains the right to have a ghost writer take ideas to novel format in an author’s absentia, for example, if they decide they want an extended holiday or to leave the firm and not buy out their ideas (they will still be paid at the contracted rate in either case).

If there is a very particular idea, you may lose the right to it in future writing is my take on it, and that might be pause for thought.
 
#5
I'm rather concerned by the number of non-disclosure agreements they make applicants sign and the fact that if you sign an employment contract and then get fired or leave, you are prohibited from publishing anything anywhere for the next two years!! Does that mean no Amazon self-publishing? No blogging? No Facebook? That is sort of like publishing something.
 

Carol Rose

Guardian
Staff member
Ambassador
#6
I'm rather concerned by the number of non-disclosure agreements they make applicants sign and the fact that if you sign an employment contract and then get fired or leave, you are prohibited from publishing anything anywhere for the next two years!! Does that mean no Amazon self-publishing? No blogging? No Facebook? That is sort of like publishing something.
I agree. Too many restrictions on what you can and can't do outside this particular arrangement.
 
#7
It works in the same way as any employment. For example, if you are a software programmer working for a business, any coding you create will belong to the employer (according to most standard employment contracts) copyright etc. But I don't see why you shouldn't work for another publisher in the case of a writer. Sure, I can understand your novel idea owned by them because they're taking the risk out of your hands and into theirs. Even if that does appeal to some they should have the right to work wherever they want. I can't see how that would be problematic...why not say writing in a different genre if they're worried about a competing novel?
 
#9
Well, patronage has mostly been the way that artists have scraped by... and maybe will return to being the dominant source of writers' income. In which case, agents need to get with the plan. But "psychometric testing "... really? That sounds major alarm bells for me...
My kids told me about Patreon.com ( Best way for artists and creators to get sustainable income and connect with fans | Patreon ) which does just that... matches people with money to struggling artists. I've been thinking about it, given that our joint annual income is 17K, so really I can't afford to write. So, as far as I understand it, patrons pledge whatever they like to you as a regular amount, say from £5 pcm up to whatever they want. Then, like in crowd funding, you then offer them some sort of reward from time to time.
 
#10
The Socirty of Authors reviews contracts. Might be worth consulting with them
They do mention their concerns here in the Bookseller
-------------begin extract-------------

Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, has welcomed the opportunity that the venture represented for first-time authors in particular. However, she urged prospective authors "think carefully" before signing up to the current model.

She expressed concern over certain terms and conditions such as the request for joint copyright, copyright in authors' “ideas” (not just their work), and a clause (outlined in the FAQ section of the website) stipulating authors can’t write for another publisher for two years if they choose to leave DML.

"We are always happy to see new publishing models that give choice to authors and a salary of £24,000 a year for writing novels would probably be attractive to any new writer and is more than the advances that many would receive in traditional publishing," said Solomon.

"However, we always advise all writers to look a gift horse in the mouth and, on closer inspection, this one has some rotten teeth ... There are some good features and the intention seems to be good so we would be very happy to work with DML and its founders to come up with fairer terms."

--------------end----------
 

Amber

Benefactor
#11
What's 2000 pounds in American dollars?

I'm amused and intrigued but haven't yet formed an opinion. I shall consult my oracles and get back to you. They have infinitely more common sense than I.
 

Amber

Benefactor
#12
My kids told me about Patreon.com ( Best way for artists and creators to get sustainable income and connect with fans | Patreon ) which does just that... matches people with money to struggling artists. I've been thinking about it, given that our joint annual income is 17K, so really I can't afford to write. So, as far as I understand it, patrons pledge whatever they like to you as a regular amount, say from £5 pcm up to whatever they want. Then, like in crowd funding, you then offer them some sort of reward from time to time.
I've heard of Patreon before. I don't know any writers who use it. The people I saw using it are posting YouTube videos.
 
#13
I've heard of Patreon before. I don't know any writers who use it. The people I saw using it are posting YouTube videos.
My kids were thinking about a) my daughter's painting, b) my son's photography and c) (typically last on the agenda), our glassblowing business. But I don't see why writers couldn't give it a try. If you don't ask, you don't receive. Having said that, I haven't put a proposal together myself for anything yet.
 
#15
And like with all patrons, I would think that your number one goal while working with Jonathan De Montford will be to keep Jonathan De Montfort happy. Or, in other words, he's not going to pay a salary so you can do what you want, you'll have to do what Jonathan De Montfort wants.

Like an employment, exactly.

The non-publication clause is extremely strict and in my opinion does not compare well to things like programming. Because, even if a contract prevents you from working on similar software, it won't stop you from working at all. Which is what this contract is doing for writers.

I just took one look at the photos from his "novel photoshoot" and decided to stay well away. This is a vanity project, short and simple.
 
#16
Jonathan de Montfort sounds like a stage name. He's doing a personal hard sell with all the sultry looks and designer stubble. I quite like the chess game analogy, though I don't see what his photo shoot is supposed to signify, unless he's looking for photogenic authors.

Additionally, his uninspiring 'synopsis' isn't a synopsis, it's a hanging sales blurb. How can someone who makes that basic mistake feel that he can make a splash in the publishing world? Does he know what comprises a best seller, I wonder? Has he bought the rights to the best seller code so that he can put potential novels through the computer analysis? How can he say there is a dearth of good new novelists? New novelists are being found all the time. The fact that I haven't been discovered yet, I'm sure will soon be rectified. ;)

I personally find his 'no writing for two years' a bit of joke. A writer could not and would not do that. We would simply be writing away and try to sell it after his end of ridiculous clause date. If anyone manages to get paid to write for a couple of years, good luck. And if he makes it work, great. It's intriguing, but I suspect it's a big fat South Sea Bubble waiting to burst. I would be dubious about signing away my rights to a novel, and think it unethical for a company to take virtual ownership of a writer's intellectual property. At least they should offer to hand the intellectual property rights back if they go bust. It's kind of a one-sided benefit. But then, as so succinctly put by Inga, that encompasses most employment.

The bit about 50% after publishing costs leaves a lot to be desired, though, unless there is an external body auditing the process.

I looked on Amazon to check out his actual ability to write, but his book isn't there as far as I can see, though there is another book already called Turner. I think I would have picked a unique title for a 'breakout novel'. The title, actually, does not conform to the 'Best Seller Code' analysis. And if the title doesn't, where does his extreme confidence to steer best seller writing come from?

Maybe his novel was rejected by agents for a reason....
 
#18
I think if he has done this as a stunt to get his book noticed - he's succeeded.

From what @ChrisLewando has said, which I agree with, the single book showcase that happens to be written by JDM, comes across as amateurish to me too. But I'm not a publisher. And so far no publisher has snapped it up - have they? So his example is redundant until he shows that he can sell a book to mainstream markets. The more I think about it the more I agree that the intention of this company is a publicity stunt for one book alone.

Hedge Fund Manager just makes me cringe. I don't know about anyone else's thoughts on that, but I've worked as an Actuary (albeit for just 3 years training) many years ago and that sort of nonsense doesn't impress me a jot. I think he thinks it does.
 
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