Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Think About This

"Young Girl Writing at Her Desk with Birds" from

I'm coming out of writing to make an observation about The New York Observer's article about publishers canceling contracts on late manuscripts. I've only missed one deadline in my life and that was due to my own foolishness in thinking that I could finish a book while my newborn slept. (Its okay if you laugh at me because I just did, too.)

Now that's not the only reason why my publisher didn't option my mariachi book. My other books weren't selling as well and my editor wasn't crazy about mariachi, which seems to be a recurring theme but that's another story.

However after reading the article in question, I'm just wondering if publishers are now canceling contracts does that mean we authors can pull the plug if they don't pay us within 30 days?

Here's how it works, kids. When you verbally accept your editor's offer to publish your book, you then receive your revision letter usually within a week or two. But your contract takes about two to three months. Meanwhile, you're so damn excited to have sold your book that you'd have your editor's baby. You work day and night and in your car during your lunch hour on those revisions so that you can impress your editor with your timeliness. But she gets the book before you see much less sign the contract. Its like this: the customer gets to drive the car off the lot before she pays the dealer.

Wait ... it gets better!

So then you get your contract. It takes much longer if your agency vets it with their lit attorney, which is valuable but not exactly expedient. When you open that package, you're on your knees with emotion. (At least, I was.) You sign it with reverence, show it to your family and then send it back in an armored truck. Then you wait two to three more months to receive your check during which you're either doing more revisions, or writing a new book to further impress your editor.

I realize I may come of as an ingrate or a bitterly dejected has-been. But let's look at it from the author's point of view, who by the way, has probably worked on her book for years before selling it. How many editors wait up to six months to receive their paychecks? Do the folks in the contracts department wait this long? The agent's lit attorney?

Am I wrong in asking this question? Why do I feel like I'm about to be struck down with lightning?!?

Dean Koontz once spoke at Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. He was quite frank about the disappointments and unfairness towards authors and all this from a guy who is worth hundreds of millions. At the time, I thought he was a bit spoiled but now having experienced the publishing business, by George, he was right! This business can make you demonic if you let it.

Nonetheless its important for authors to see things as they are. Would I go back and snatch Hot Tamara away from my editor? Hell no. And here's the crazy thing: I'm willing to do it all over again with my mariachi book. There is nothing like holding that contract in your hand, the fruit of all those hours you spent in front of a computer writing book after book after book while other people were out there, living! There is nothing like tearing open that package and seeing the ARC of your soon-to-be-released book. There is nothing like walking into the bookstore down the street and watching the clerk take your book out of the box and asking you to sign it.

That is the stuff what all of us authors, enlightened or not, dream about. But you don't get it for free. There is no light without darkness, no joy without sorrow, no heads without tails. Just see it for what it is and do what I'm about to do: dive down into the writing because that is where your truth resides.


Gwen said...


(That's my face of grim agreement.)

Anonymous said...

We do it for its own sake. There is absolutely no other rhyme or reason, and no one, absolutely no one believes that until they wake up on the other shore, where the "ever after" was supposed to be!

Margo Candela said...

Amen, Mary. Writing the book turns out to be the easiest part of the whole thing and doing that is damn near impossible.

Thing is, people still want to write and, of course get, published. What they don't want to hear is how not fun the whole process can be.

I suppose this is because lots of people are romantics or have watched too many movies where the story ends in a book deal. I end my next book with a job offer.