I thought I would post an update on the legal situation with True Story Magazine. I’m still in the beginning phases of this whole ordeal, so I thought it might be a good idea to keep track of everything that happens, not only for my own benefit but for the benefit of anyone who gets to experience the same thing some day.
I submitted a short story I had written called “Chris Maher’s Left Hand” to True Story Magazine in fall 2011. On September 14, 2011, I received an email from someone at Dorchester Media who wanted to accept the story for publication. They offered to pay me if I’d turn over all rights. I’ve been writing for years, but this was the first time I’d submitted a story and had it accepted.
I was slightly concerned about it because I couldn’t find any evidence of the magazine online. But I did some Googling and found enough history about the magazine (and the person I was in contact with), that I decided to go through with it. After all, the story (while it was cute) wasn’t the absolute best thing I’ve ever written, and I didn’t mind giving up the rights for it if I were going to get paid.
I signed the contract and send it back to them, agreeing to sell them the rights to the story for payment. The contract indicated that the story would be published in December 2011 and I could expect to receive payment the month afterward.
December came, and I received two copies of the magazine in the mail with my story in them. The title had been changed (“Caught Left Handed”), and the story was altered only slightly (probably for word count). But it was the story I had written. I was super excited.
Then January came and went.
Then February came, and I still hadn’t received payment.
I figured that they were probably busy, but I went ahead and wrote just for a status check. I didn’t hear anything back.
Then March came. Finally, I decided to start Googling again, and I discovered that True Story Magazine apparently stopped publishing a year ago and only offered an online version. I also discovered that they had pretty much gone under, filed for bankruptcy, and canceled all the subscriptions for all their customers. And from what I gather, there are a number of legal suits against them because they have not refunded the subscription money to many of their customers.
So, I wrote to my contact again. But this time I received an email back saying that her account was no longer functional.
I have a friend who is an editor so I wrote her and asked her opinion, and she recommended that I wait six months and then write them to reclaim my rights to the story. She also gave me a link to the Author’s Guild, which looks like a legal site for writers. I think the six months is a good idea because I’m sure they’re all buried in legal problems, and I agree with my friend that they’re probably not going to squabble over the rights to one goofy little short story.
At this point, I really don’t care if I get paid or not. I just would like to have the rights back so I can submit it somewhere else. If it doesn’t work out, that’s all right. I can always write something else, but it’s difficult not to be discouraged when my first official success turns out to not be so official.