Monday, July 2, 2007

Problems I'd like to have

I read a lot of agent blogs, because as an aspiring writer I follow their careers like normal people obsess over baseball players. I have seen a few different agents refer to a particularly brutal turn in the Simon & Schuster boilerplate contract where they apparently get to keep the writer's testicles in a jar (ovaries for a female author, of course) for the author's natural lifetime. The Rejecter gets Simon & Schuster's take, which is apparently that first of all the testicles are very well preserved, and second of all any serious writer is going to be far too busy to make any use of them.

And, being in the place that I am in my life, the only thing I can think about is how much I wish I was in a position where I had to decide whether to sign a contract like that. I can pretty much visualize the conversation:

SLEAZY PUBLISHING LAWYER: I think you'll find it's all a pretty standard industry contract. Just sign on that line.

Smoke drifts from behind the lawyer and his devil tail is briefly visible

MY AGENT (Preferably played by Ethan Ellenberg or Caitlin Blasdell): Wait a minute! It says in clause 437.16.32q that if you don't make back your advance they get to sacrifice you to Yog Sothoth by pounding a nail through your head at midnight on a full moon.

Author holds pen over contract uncertainly.

AUTHOR: Oh, um, yeah, I see that. So what kind of nail is it exactly?

Obviously it's for people like me that agents were invented.


Reid said...

I know what you mean, it seems sometimes like if someone would offer me a publiching deal, I'd allow them to rewrite all of my books in "LOLcats" dialogue.

Me: "Skeeter was always a man of few words, especially the kind you can say in front of children. Given the right opportunity, he could really turn into a simpleton."
After Pub: "him noyt speek to gud."

Love the blog, and thanks for the kind words!

Denni said...

I sympathise with the way you feel, but someone has to keep those sleazebags in check.

Anyway, that should be old news by now, I thought Simon & Schuster baked down? (SFWA was up in arms about it)

Jim Stewart said...

Yeah, the Rejecter said they renegotiated it with the Author's Guild. I think the new deal is if you don't at least make 1k a year in royalties you get the rights back.

Apparently 1k a year on a book is a more than most people get. Great.

So unless I have 55 books earning royalties at once, I guess I can forget about quitting my day job.

ORION said...

Well I can tell you that this clause was not in my Putnam contract and if it was, my agent would have balked. There are other more important issues though that many authors do not consider (world rights for one).
This (as others have pointed out) is a reason you need an agent.
Re: the day job. It is a fact of life that even with 6 figures the length of time between payments , the tax bite and the promotional costs mean that it is either feast or famine and a bit of stress to ensure book 1 is successful and book 2 can meet expectations.
When I look at authors who can sustain a readership I see authors who steadily built a career over time.
Let's just say that I am still enrolled in my PhD program and am focused on keeping my life the same -- AND write.