Friday, February 8, 2013

The Problem With Contracts

This week I had cause to dig into my filing cabinet to locate a book contract.  What I discovered was a jumbled assortment, essentially an entire drawer filled with contracts of every description:  for books, articles, series, columns, even poems.  But, since a contract is something they say a writer should never throw away, I've kept all of these . . . and they are mounting.

A few discoveries made along the way, however.

I did take note of three books that I wrote back in the environs of 1995.  I had contracted to write one of the books--essentially ghosting, with my name not appearing anywhere on the cover or inside the masthead--when the editor called me back a few weeks later and said that two other writers had pulled out at the last minute and . . . get this . . . I could write the other two books if I was up to it.  I was up to it.  I signed all three contracts, whipped out the entire trilogy in less than six months, and received three "lump sum" checks for my labors.

I have never counted these three books among my tally, however, as I arrived at a rule many years ago: If my name ain't on the cover (even if I wrote every word) it ain't my book.  I decided that my work could only be my work if I was listed as the author--same for articles and essay contributions to anthologies.  I don't count 'em if I'm incognito.  (But I'll still take the money!  I'm not above prostituting myself for cash.) 

Another fun contract I located was with Bride's magazine (actually two of 'em). Bride's is one of the staples of Conde Nast Corporation--New York publishers of eclectic and upper-crust tastes (think The Devil Wears Prada).  I'm not sure how I managed to write for Bride's, since I ain't upper-crust . . . I'm barely crust . . . but I wrote an article on pre-marital stress.  (My wife asked me:  what do you know about pre-marital stress?  I told her:  nothing!  I only know about post-marital stress.  But I figure, for a woman, it's the same thing.)

Well, as you can see, my contract history is quite expansive and elusive.  I don't read 'em . . . I just sign 'em.  The way I figure it:  the sooner I can get my signature on a line, the sooner I can get to the writing itself.  And a $10 check never hurt anyone.  In fact, if I keep working this hard at the craft, some day I'll be making upwards of .5 cents a word! 

Some day, I'm gonna buy myself a pencil. 

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