Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Romance of Signing Contracts

I love signing contracts (when I sign them).  Yesterday, when I returned from a pastor's conference, I signed four.  Four in one day.  Might be my new record.

I signed up with a New York publisher for a new book.  I signed two other contracts granting permission to have nearly a dozen of my essays published in two magazines.  And I signed another contract (electronic pen online . . . with that tiny little hand) granting permission for a journal to publish a poem.

I'd love to say that I love the smell of fresh ink in the morning, but there's very little ink used in contracts anymore.  Contracts now days are essentially long rambling documents, written in legal jargon (which I have finally learned to interpret), and the writer signs the whole shebang at the end in illegible script.

In my office at home I have a filing cabinet, one drawer nearly filled to the brim with writing contracts.  These things mound up as the years go by.  I rarely have need to pull them out . . . but sometimes questions arise around issues of second rights, or foreign rights, or even such mundane matters as the number of author copies to be shipped at the time of publication.  Sometimes I pull out an old contract to check royalty percentages or the scale of the percentage built around sales figures. 

Often, when writers talk about these matters, folks believe that we are discussing enormous sums of money. In actuality, most contracts I sign are for $0 net, and even with books the sums discussed are mere pennies.  Still, contracts look impressive . . . especially when they are piled high in a filing cabinet drawer and my wife sees them and the stack causes her to become romantic and she yells at me for not having dinner ready.  Fifteen page contracts can have this effect upon women, and I always make sure my wife is sitting next to me on the couch when I sign them.  It's my way of telling her that I have value, that I am worthy of her ten minutes of attention each week.

Of course, she always wants to know, "How much are you gettin' to write this?"

My answer is usually, "Nothing.  It's just the honor of being married to a guy who can write a decent love poem."

This is where she walks away and sticks her nose in the freezer, searching for a creme sickle. 

I just sign the lines.

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