Saturday, September 26, 2009

Be Prepared

If becoming a published author is your goal, I have one piece of advise for you. Be prepared.

Recently, I shared a meal with a friend and told her about the first contract call I received in 2001. Although I knew certain things, I was unfamiliar with and not very good at contract negotiations. While the BET representative mapped out their offer, I listened intently, taking notes and then told the editor that I would call her back. I remember hearing from many reliable sources that you should not commit to anything until you've had time to consider the offer thoroughly.

A week later I accepted BET's offer and received my contract weeks later. For days I tried to make sense of the contract language. It didn't happen. The words on the thirty-odd pages ran together each time I tried to read the legal jargon. Reserves, audio and movie rights were phrases that meant nothing to me.

Frustrated, I went into my boss's office with the contract, waved the pages in his face, and demanded in a high-pitched whine, "Find me a lawyer!"

Being a priest and a nice man, Father Dave complied and found me a former student of his that was now practicing law. He went over the contract and explained to me what each section meant. He pointed out several areas where I had a little wiggle room for further negotiations. It was a learning experience that taught me to be prepared, learn as much as possible about the publishing business so that when I received the next call, I could discuss the contract and make intelligent decisions about my career.

What kind of experience did you have? Please share it with me. As usual, don't be a stranger.

1 comment:

Katrina Spencer said...

For my second novel, (coming out next year), my editor really wanted me to change it to romance. But I refused to change it and stood firm with her on the phone, even though I was terrified that I wouldn't have an offer at all. I sent her the first 100 pages and she agreed that the book should be categorized as women's fiction. It helps to be prepared with knowledge about what you are writing about and thankfullly for me, it paid off. I read Novel Spaces daily and have always liked your posts.