My name is Chris… and I’m not famous. A publisher recently contacted because they found my book online and want to offer me a contract… should I take it?
…my advice? Run away. Probably.
So my SF story Dekker’s Dozen: The Last Watchmen has over 65,000 reads on Wattpad and had been featured in the past. This morning, after a brief interaction with a publisher, I was offered a contract. Don’t congratulate me yet. Not all contracts are created equally.
It sounds too good to be true, right? You put something on Wattpad and then a publisher comes calling? But that’s what happened to guys like Taran Matharu who writes the Summoner series (and who I’ve had conversations with via the social writing platform.) But as I often caution folks, plan to be the rule rather than the exception.
On second glance at their initial message and subsequent ones I was asked to “kindly reply” or “kindly send XYZ.” That’s not how native English speakers speak and is usually a giveaway of an overseas scam. But this company might not actually be a scam. They are, however, not looking play by the same rules as regular publishers.
The company in question is Dreame… with an E. It didn’t take much looking around the internet to find that my experience with Dreame is not uncommon; they’ve made a habit of soliciting authors from Wattpad to try and gain rights to their stories and then publish them exclusively on Dreame.com. That’s a legitimate business model. They offered me sixty bucks, which is a bit of a slap in the face since I would be prohibited from sharing this story electronically (ebook) and possibly they would get the audible rights as well. They are cautious to mention in the contract that you retain paperback rights, but audiobooks are on the rise, and you might be agreeing to give them 20% of your sales in exchange for that tiny advance they give you… that’s right. It’s an advance, which means if they make money on the book (by whatever metric they determine) they still might not have to pay you unless they exceed that original amount.
Dreame, which looks like a Wattpad clone with a paywall for certain stories, is based out of Singapore. It is affiliated with Ficfun, which has a rating of two thumbs down from some writing services. There is a thread going about it over at Reddit which is worth checking out. Dreame runs under the business name of Stary PTE Ltd
They talk a bunch about quality of stories, etc… but just like Wattpad, it seems like mostly bad romance fiction or rip-offs and fanfics. Honestly, a guy can only stomach so much Mario on Luigi gay erotica on a landing page before he gives up on a platform altogether. (And let’s not forget about the infamous 50 Shades of Gandalf the Grey I referenced before… you can’t make this stuff up.) Interestingly enough, Wattpad is also toying with a “paid” option, although this service is currently in limited beta and not currently available in the US. Could Dreame be legit and scooping Wattpad on their upcoming service? I guess it is possible (they have been open to negotiation from me on finer points of the contract but have also repeatedly dodged the question of exactly how stories will generate funds to split with authors). I’ve been told that authors can earn 30%, 40%, or 50% depending on the amount an author takes in the form of an advance… percentages mean nothing, though if I don’t know how the thing is gonna earn out.
After multiple emails stating that I needed to know how it made money. I finally asked “Does it only earn money if someone signs up to read it, does it earn money or no money if a subscriber reads it? Does it only earn money if they click response device like a button for Like or Share at the end or does simply clicking the story link earn a commission? You’ve not given me those kinds of details which is what I want to know so I can judge how successful my story might be and make a decision.” As you can see by the below response, they completely dodge the question with their answer:
Stories with good performance will be put behind the pay wall. We will see from the data analysis. And Author will have a 30% share after the income gained by the Work exceeds the whole cost paid by us, including without limitation the royalty paid to Author, marketing fee and other costs charged by any third parties.Author will have access to the sales amount in the author center, but since now our author center is still in development, which might be available in several months. And at present, we are investing extra amount of money to promote our stories as well as our app. But we will share the records to our authors if the profits exceed our investment before the author center is set up.
So basically, they are saying that whenever they are ready to start paying you, then they will explain how they do their accounting and math so that their payment will add up. That’s a big red flag for me.
Anyways, their contract looks pretty bad, too. You can follow up with some details from kboards and other authors who got similarly bad contracts and where one writer notes:
It also reads like they are trying to act as an agent to sell the rights to other media. Again, not necessarily a problem so long as you have right of refusal to any deal they come up with. But there have been outfits like this that self refer (they “sell” the rights to the audiobook, for example, to their own sister company and your contract requires you to accept). So unless you get final right of refusal, this is a non-starter.
My biggest concern is that there is a lot of vague, “squishy” language used. And I don’t trust vague, squishy language.
Don’t take my language for it. Here is a sample contract they sent me to look at:
Copyright License Agreement
This Copyright License Agreement (hereinafter referred to as the “Agreement”) is entered into effect on [ ] [ ], [ ] (“Effective Date”) by and between STARY PTE. LTD., a Singapore corporation under the laws of Singapore with its registered office at [11 Woodlands Close, #08-20, Woodlands 11, Singapore (737853)], (hereinafter referred as “Dreame”) and [ ], penname [ ], an individual with a permanent address at [ ] (hereinafter referred as “Author”). Hereinafter Dreame and Author will be singularly or collectively referred to as “Party” or “Parties”.
By signing this Agreement, Author has agreed to grant the Digital Copyright of their Work to Dreame exclusively in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement. THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual covenants and agreements hereinafter set forth, the Parties hereby agree as follows:
1.1 Work means all or part of the [ ] or its derivatives originally created or written by Author, who owns complete copyrights of such Work under any applicable law or regulation.
1.2 Digital copyright means the right to use, publish, distribute, sell, sublicense, post, advertise, promote or market such Work on Platform in accordance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement.
1.3 Platform means all the online platforms owned, operated or controlled directly or indirectly by Dreame, including but not limited to its websites and applications.
2.1 Basic payment: Dreame agrees to pay Author a one-time payment X (X) United States Dollars for the complete Work.
2.2 Dreame has the right to put the Work in the pay-to-read program according to its standards. In this case, Author will receive a 30% share of the profits gained by the Work, when the extra revenue generated by the work exceeds the whole cost paid by Dreame, including and without limitation, the basic payment paid to Author, marketing fee, and any other costs charged by third parties. Except the foregoing compensation or unless otherwise stipulated, Dreame has no obligation to pay any other proceeds, benefits, interest and the like to Author.
2.3 Dreame will only make the basic payment to Author after the full manuscript of the Work is submitted to Dreame by Author. Payment will be made no later than the 30th of the following month via PayPal or international wire transfer. Author will bear the risk of failed payment if the PayPal or bank information Author offered to Dreame is incorrect.
2.4 All taxes or charges due in connection with the compensation for the Work shall be borne by Author.
- Dreame’s Obligations
3.1 Dreame acknowledges that Author is the owner of the Work, and shall do nothing inconsistent with such ownership.
3.2 Dreame shall use the Work and pay the remuneration to Author according to the terms and conditions of this Agreement.
3.3 Dreame is obligated to keep all the personal information or other materials Author doesn’t want to make public as confidential.
- Author’s Obligations
4.1 Author shall submit the complete manuscript in DOC file 10 days before the pay day. Author acknowledges and agrees that the Work shall contain no less than [ ] words and is obligated to start uploading the Work to Platform within a month after this Agreement takes effect and upload at least [ ] chapter(s) per week. If Author fails to meet the foregoing requirements, Dreame is entitled to upload the Work to its Platform without prior notice to Author.
4.2 Author guarantees that they shall not plagiarize or infringe another person’s legal rights and that the Work is completely original.
4.3 Author shall uphold the reputation of Dreame and will not engage in activities that harm Dreame nor its interests.
4.4 Author agrees to provide necessary assistance or support for Dreame’s marketing and promotion for the Work, including without limitation necessary information or other promotional materials.
4.5 Author can self-publish the Work in paperback form only and all earnings will be Author’s own. However, Author shall not publish or sell the Work on any other third parties’ online platforms. If Author wishes to publish or sell the Work on a third party’s platform, Author must get Dreame’s express written permission by giving prior written notice to Dreame. Any future earnings made in this way shall be charged a further 30% commission by Dreame.
4.6 The Work must adhere to the standards set by Dreame. If the Work contains excessive spelling or grammatical errors, Author will be required to make revisions in accordance with Dreame’s requests. In such a case that Author refuses to make the revisions or such Work does not meet Dreame’s requirement after the revision, Dreame shall be entitled to not use or release such Work, and to terminate this Agreement without legal liability.
- Terms and Termination
5.1 This Agreement shall commence from the Effective Date and shall continue in full force and effect during the period of creation of the Work and for five (5) more years after the Work is completed on Dreame, i.e., the plot must be completed and confirmed by Dreame. This Agreement shall be automatically renewed for additional five (5) years, unless either Party provides written notice of non-renewal to the other Party, no less than ninety (90) days prior to the expiration of Agreement.
5.2 If Author breaches this Agreement and fails in fulfilling their obligations, Dreame has the right to suspend payments and require Author to refund all the compensation. In such case Author will also bear all legal consequences and losses incurred.
6.1 This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with any applicable laws and the laws of Singapore. Any dispute or disagreement arising out of or in connection with this Agreement shall be firstly solved through amicable negotiation; if negotiation fails, the forgoing disputes or disagreements shall be exclusively submitted to Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC) for arbitration.
6.2 Both Parties agree that the scanned copy of the signed Agreement has the same legal effect with original copy. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties have caused this Agreement to be executed and effective as of the Effective Date by their duly authorized representatives on the dates shown below.