Monday, January 23, 2006

Sometimes, Things Gotta Play Hard

There's a scene in the TV show The Wire. Detective Kima Greggs has been shot twice, she's still in recovery, the hunt for the men who shot her and killed a police informant is on.

They know who did it. Got enough evidence to start connecting the dots. But no witnesses. No guns.

It can be hard to make a case without a witness or the weapon.

So the detectives go to show Kima some spreads. She picks out one of the shooters.

Then the second page of spreads. And she says she can pick out Little Man, 'cos he's in the front, trying to grab the money off the dashboard. But the other one's in the dark. She can't see him.

They tell her they found their jackets. Got a DNA hit to another target of their investigation, Wee Bey. Found a soda can at the scene with a print from Little Man. They tell her about the talk on The Wire - Bey and Little Man are in the wind.

It's all pointing to them, and if she'd ID her shooters, it would play a whole lot better.

What does Kima say? If you'd been watching the show, you'd know she knows there's no doubt Bey was the other shooter. Detective Bunk tells her it'll play a whole lot easier if she gives the ID.

Kima says sometimes, things gotta play hard.

Indeed they do.

I'm not taking the publishing contract I was offered. I'm not going to get into the whole song and dance about it. Suffice it to say that, once all the paperwork was in front of me, there were some issues that started to come up. I sought legal consultation, talked to somebody who reviews contracts all the time and ranks them, and reached one inescapable conclusion. It would be a mistake.

I feel a bit like I let you all down, you were so happy for me. Believe me, a few weeks ago I was pretty damn happy too!

But also believe me when I say I'm certain this is the right decision and I don't regret it. I never will.

I can't get into all the sticking points. But I'll tell you one. They wanted me to sign over the first option for all future works I ever wrote in my lifetime at the current contract terms if they opted to publish the work.

Which, when you looked through the whole deal, meant being pretty much an indentured slave.

I know it can be tempting to want something so much that you're prepared to compromise on a deal in order to see your dream come true. But I have seen authors come out on the other side of horror stories, seeing the first book in a planned series virtually killed by a bad publisher that didn't do a good job on the editing or the promotion.

Making their series almost impossible to sell elsewhere.

So, I could have taken a bad deal. And my book would have been out in April.

But sometimes, things gotta play hard.

Right now, I'm working on some short stories, which I always find stressful. I'm working ahead to the next few issues of Spinetingler. I'm blabbering away on a new forum that's not yet public but will be soon. I'm waiting on some feedback that'll help me in the next phase of tweaking on the currently titled Terms of Redemption that I had the offer on (formerly Echoes and Dust). And I'm designing my website. Not sure why I need one, but hey, why not?

So things are pretty good in my little corner of the world. Sure, I haven't signed a contract. One might be right around the corner - 3 Canadian publishers, 2 US publishers and 1 UK publisher are still talking to me with varying levels of interest indicated - but maybe not. Regardless, I have to believe that no contract is better than a very bad contract, and that when the time is right, things will fall into place.

But I would like to say thanks for all the encouragement and support. You guys rock! XO


Boy Kim said...

Life just ain't fair #1: After reading the title, I was expecting/hoping for a completely different post.

Life just ain't fair #2: I guess I'll have to wait a little longer for my free book.

Life just ain't fair #3: How come you get the chance to be a slave AND get paid for it?

Hugs. Still lub ya.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Boy Kim!

And when you get that book, it'll be right!

Stuart MacBride said...

Quite right Sandra - fuck em. Fuck em in the ear with a stick. A big pointy stick with dog poo on the end of it.

A proper deal will come when it comes. There's bugger all point grabbing a crappy deal, just because it's a deal.

You go girl! etc.

Bernita said...

Smart girl!
You'll find a non-Nero one.

JamesO said...

Sounds like you made the right decision there Sandra, even though I know it hurts like hell.

I had an offer of publication for my first novel which turned out to be the contract from hell. Not only did this so-called 'publisher' want me to pay towards the cost (a tidy sum, too), but the contract basically signed all my rights regarding the work over to him, with me entitled to as little as 10% from any proceeds, e.g. from selling the film rights. And to cap it all, a close reading of the contract showed he was only obliged to produce a half-dozen 'books', which could have been comb-bound A4 off the printer.

I didn't need legal advice to tell them where to put the contract. But what was most annoying was that my so-called 'agent' at the time had recommended it to me.

And from what I've read so far, the book will find a publisher soon.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, and Boy Kim, naughty. As always.

Thanks Bernita and Stuart. And thanks James. Esp. for that last remark. I appreciate it.

Trace said...

Sandra, you're doing the right thing. Absolutely. I rejected a publisher not long ago as well. I wanted that contract so badly. But it just wasn't right. They wanted me to change the entire book. THe story. Forget it.

The right deal will come along. You wait and see.

M. G. Tarquini said...

We believe in you, Sandra.

And that publisher's a doo-doo head.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Trace and MG!

And MG, careful. Said publisher threatened to sue me - they might try to spank you for calling them names!

Boy Kim said...

No comment. For a change. But it's not easy.

Erik Ivan James said...

I have not yet had the pleasure of being in a position to be offered a conract with a publisher, leave alone reject one. In my past life, however, I did myself the misfortune (because of my desire for money/success "now") of accepting "bad" contracts that, although long since expired, still cost me dearly in one form or another.

Trust that you have made a correct decision for the longer good of your writing career. Your courage to reject this one tells me that you are a person who is certain about her objective. Therefore, you will get there.

R.J. Baker said...

Not sure if I can rise above the doo-doo head comment, but:

Sandra, as an attorney, I have one comment, this of course, is personal, unsolicited and disclaimed from any and all legal obligation, context, ramifications, and liabilty.

Did you make a counter offer? I.e., have an attorney mark-up the offending parts of the contract and send it back to the offeree publishing house.

It is a tactic of many attorneys and companies that I have dealt with to put everything in a first contract-stars & the moon so to speak. When the final contract is signed, there is very little, if any resemblence, to the original document.

The above comments should not reflect or impinge on my image as a drunken mystery writer. It is an observation based solely on experience and taking it up the....uh, you get the point.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks erik - that means a lot.

And RJ, good free advice. Yes, I countered many of the points, hence how long its taken me to post this final decision. The negotiations only brought with them more paperwork, with more clauses that there was no way in hell I was going to agree to. So the more we talked, the worse the deal got.

They tried to argue that nobody else had a problem with the contract, but anyone who didn't was an idiot. Since they did make some legal threats against me if I named them, I'm not saying who they are or what it was exactly that they said. At least, not on the blog. Not because they could actually make a case, but for evilkev & I's sanity.

And may all of you in waiting for a contract get a good one when the time comes, instead of wading through the crap first!

Gabriele C. said...

An option on every work you'll ever write? For the pithy advance a beginner gets? Yikes, that's asking a lot indeed. And there I thought Publish America's seven year clause was bad. ;-)

Good for you that you opted out of that. You'll find a better publisher. Or what about an agent who'll give such contracts to Killer Yapp. *grin*

Lisa S. said...

I agree the M.G., that publisher was a poopy-head. From what you said it sounded like the old Hollywood Studio system or baseball before free-agency.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yes, Lisa, that's exactly it. Not to mention taking ALL your subsidiary rights...

There will always be some scammers out there, trying to manipulate the uninformed, unfortunately. Thank goodness we have preditors and editors to turn to for information. Gasp! I meant to put their link on my blog...damn, I knew I was forgetting something earlier.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Threaten to sue you? For what? Slander? HA!

You're better off, Sandra. Looks like you've got others interested, so it's not like you had all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

You know, you should report them to that Writers Beware place.