This year has been an interesting year full of joyful offers of contracts and depths of despair readings of contracts. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand the bizarre hope we cherish of selling our baby, our book, to the perfect publisher. Against all odds! We will prevail! And finally we do prevail…
That’s when things get complicated.
I don’t have an agent yet, but I’m hopeful that I’m getting close. What I know more than anything is that I want an agent, because I’m tired of trying to figure out these contract clauses and the chess game of my career by myself. It should be simple–I write a book, I sell a book, I write another book. But who do I want to sell to? What will help my career? What will stop it cold?
If your friend steps off the top of an iceburg, do you do the same?
What do I mean by that? What in the world does that have to do with contracts? Well, if your fellow author signs with one company despite a nasty clause in the contract, should you do the same? Do they know something you don’t? Or is it more likely that you’re looking at the whole picture…your career…while they’re not? I don’t know, and how do you tell?
You get advice from more experienced authors, maybe even a lawyer or an agent, but then it comes down to you.
I hate that part! Just tell me what’s right. Don’t make me decide. Don’t make me pull out my crystal ball and say, “If I choose A, show me the future. If I choose B, show me the future.” Because my crystal ball can’t see very far down the path, can’t anticipate future sales, future offers of representation. Maybe they’ll be NONE. Maybe the bird in the hand in better.
Just tell me!
But it’s up to me, isn’t it? I have to choose the path of my career by carefully reading the terms of each contract, attempting to negotiate, and ultimately walking away if I think those terms are either not fair to me or may screw up future opportunities.
Will I ever find out if I made the right decision? 20/20 hindsight right, so at some point in my career I suppose I’ll be able to look back and say, “Here’s where I made the right choice, and here’s where I went off track.” But if I went off track, hindsight is not very helpful, is it? Will it be too late to fix the mistakes I’ve made?
So what’s my point? Anticipate the path of your career as you envision it and judge contracts based on that path. If those contracts with their funky clauses mean you might lose a future opportunity, then you probably need to negotiate or walk away. But making that decision is AGONY! I want to announce to the world that I made that sale to that company with that book, and walking away means a delay, a bridge burned. It’s painful, after all the waiting, to have to wait some more for that unknown future, that possibility, that hopeful wish.
But then I believe in HAPPY ENDINGS. That’s why I write romance, so I guess in the end it’s worth the risk to believe in myself, take that leap of faith instead of jumping off an iceburg after someone else. I need to follow the path that makes sense to me, even if I can’t explain it to someone else. Live through the pain, feel the fear and do it anyway. Grr. Just let me write my books, dammit!