Monday, January 28, 2008

Your signature here?

I received my second contract from my publisher this weekend. At a preliminary glance, it looks fine. But I'll give it a much more thorough review before signing it and sending it back.

I have an agent, and she's great. She's already resolved one concern we had about the contract. My publisher wanted to expand its option - or first right of refusal - clause. My agent and I weren't comfortable with the addition and she got the publisher to remove it.

Although I have a great - and obviously very thorough - agent, it's still imperative I carefully read the contract myself. After all, it's my signature on the document. It's my career that will be affected by whatever I sign.

It's important every author read their contracts carefully themselves. Don't depend on other people to interprete it for you. Listen to the little voices that may be whispering warnings in your ear. Put your sensors on high alert for unclear wording. Question anything and everything you don't completely understand. Above all, remember there are no stupid questions when it comes to your career and your money.

I always find it somewhat dismaying when an author says she didn't understand a particular contract clause but signed the contract anyway. Or when an author says she signed a contract without reading it herself. It doesn't matter if it's your first contract or your 21st. We didn't work this hard to get this far in our writing careers only to sign it away.

Patricia

5 comments:

Angela Henry said...

Congrats on your new contract, Patricia!

patricia sargeant said...

Thanks, Angela! Very best wishes to you for continued great writing success!

eugenia oneal said...

Congrats on the new contract!

I want to agree with you about contracts too. If you're new and don't understand something, ask other authors about it, google around on the web, or ask a lawyer. Publishing is a business and you've got to protect your stake in it!

patricia sargeant said...

Eugenia, you're absolutely right. Publishing is a business. We *have* to treat it that way.

And thank you so very much for your cheers regarding my new contract.

Thank you for stopping by, and very best wishes to you!

Persia Walker said...

Many congrats on your new contract, and I agree about the need to read and UNDERSTAND what you're signing. But I'd like to take it one step further: it's really worth it to take the contract to an attorney or someone at the Author's Guild. There are so many peculiarities to the publishing business, and so much vague wording that laymen don't understand. IMHO, agents shouldn't even be negotiating contracts. Only lawyers should be. We're talking contract law and as any first year law student knows, contract law is a b*tch. Agents are salespeople. They aren't lawyers. There is a reason why publishing houses have a fully staffed legal department and are usually the ones to generate the contract -- they want to make sure that it's in their favor. There are issues today that writers didn't have to face 10, 20 years ago. Take the going out of print clause, for example. Technically speaking, a book is never out of print these days, as long as it resides on the publisher's electronic database. It really doesn't take much effort to make an appointment with an attorney who specializes in literary contracts and let him have a look at it. Just my opinion.

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