Monday, December 15, 2008
Two things happened today: I finished the first draft of a history book I was hired to write; and I received the contract from Tor/Forge. It's about 15 pages long, full of legalese but not too much. Since it was coming from a major US publisher, I thought it would be longer and denser, but it's really no different than the contract from that small Canadian literary press that published my first novel. And when you compare it with another contract I got offered for my first novel (one that I turned down) it's actually pretty decent. The one that I turned down so many years ago, was a horrible contract and I truly wondered why anyone would have signed it. When another writer heard that I had refused that contract and was also negotiating with the press that would publish my first novel, they were shocked. "You're a first time novelist, you're not supposed to negotiate," they said. "You should just be happy they're going to publish their novel." And that's true, I was happy they were going to publish my novel but I wasn't going to be a sucker about it and sign away all my subsidiary rights just because I was a first time novelist. I wasn't being unreasonable, I was just being smart. I'm shocked that many writers think that way and have no idea how to read or understand a contract (Musicians too especially since the contracts between musicians and their labels are disgusting). To me, it's a part of the business of being a writer and it behooves (hey I used the word behoove!) writers to read and understand their contracts. Sure, I have an agent this time and she did all the negotiating and working out the little bits, but I didn't just sign the contract as soon as I got it; I read it many times so at the very least I got the basics about schedules, due dates and subsidiary rights. So before you sign any contract for your writing, read it. If there is something you don't like, ask them to change it. Simple, smart but it's amazing how many writers fail to take that step.