Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Observations on signing a new contract

So, the final details of the contract with Simon and Schuster’s Saga imprint have been ironed out at last, and four copies of the contract are now printed, signed, and ready to go off to the publisher.

Do you realize what these contracts look like? I mean, this one is 25 pages long, single spaced. Can you imagine? Yes, I read the whole thing. It would be (mildly) interesting to get out my other contracts and compare them, not that I plan to do anything of the kind because life is short. They are all similar, of course, but I imagine the details are a bit different.

Anyway, the contract deals with all the stuff you would expect: rights and subsidiary rights (like audio, for example), obviously. Things like audio rights reverting to me if Saga doesn’t put out an audio edition within such and such an amount of time, stuff like that. There’s all this detailed stuff about what the royalty percentages are for every form of the book that could possibly exist, and details about when and how royalties are paid.

There’s stuff about Saga having an option for the next adult book SFF book I write — that’s always fine with me, I hope they love the next adult SFF book I write and are dying to acquire it.

There are clauses dealing with the timing of delivery of manuscripts. Like, a first draft of Book 1 is due May first and a final draft is due August first; a first draft of Book 2 is also due August first and the final draft is due next March. Of course I could have requested other due dates if I thought those were going to be a problem, but they should be just fine. The contract spells out how late I can be and how to ask for an extension if necessary. It also spells out how long the publisher has to accept or reject any particular manuscript and what happens if they reject one, and what happens if there is a delay in publication.

For once I like the length requirements, which are also listed: each book is supposed to be about 130,000 words. That is very close to my natural length, so this time there is no need for me to worry about having gone 50,000 words over the specified length. Although the second ms I have for them (THE WINTER DRAGON) is still going to overshoot. But I don’t think by *quite* so much.

There’s stuff in here about, oh, termination of the agreement under these circumstances and those circumstances, who is responsible for what in case of legal action under various circumstances. And I get to formally declare that I am indeed the author, and haven’t put any libelous stuff in the manuscript — obviously not a particular concern for secondary world fantasy, or I presume not, that sounds more like a clause that would matter if you were writing memoir. There’s stuff about my right to see page proofs and exactly how to deal with alterations to the text.

The most immediately important part is the noncompete clause, which specifically allows me to publish any sequels to BLACK DOG whenever I want. I can bring out the HOUSE OF SHADOWS sequel, too, though there are limitations about just when, ie, not within six months following publication of one of their titles. Getting permission to self-publish was important to me and my agent was instrumental in getting that in there. The contract specifically notes that I need to notify them about publication dates for BLACK DOG sequels, though, so it’s good I read that part, since I mean to bring PURE MAGIC out in May.

Anyway, here’s one thing you may find interesting: out of about eighty paragraphs total, my agent’s negotiations caused stuff to be added or deleted or altered in about 70. (These are rough counts, but something like that.) You can tell because additions are boldfaced and deletions are shown with strikethroughs. Lots of the changes are minor, but some are very important.

This is one of the big things your agent does. I just wanted to point that out, because it’s not like I didn’t know that when I was looking for an agent. But when you are looking for an agent, you are basically thinking about gatekeeping and about getting your foot in the door. And that is all true, but this contract negotiation stuff? And the persistence to keep at it for months? That is also very, very important.

But! It’s all settled now.

Right now: finishing the H of S sequel. It’s taking longer than I really expected (I’m sure you’re shocked to hear that), but I should be wrapping it up over the Easter weekend, I hope. I *think* I have just two more chapters to write.

Next up: revising MOUNTAIN one last time before sending it to my Saga editor by May 1st.

After that: writing the rest of the draft for my second Knopf YA title, due this September.

This is why I keep saying things like, “Too busy to read right now” and “Maybe a weeks’ break in April” and all like that.

Mind you, after I turn in my Knopf manuscript in September, I will ABSOLUTELY take a LONG break.

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6 Comments Observations on signing a new contract

  1. SarahZ

    So are you still planning on publishing the Black Dog short stories collection in April, or will things have to be pushed off due to the notification clause?

  2. Rachel

    Yes, I am. All Black Dog related stuff is okay to self-pub. I am gritting my teeth and preparing to tackle the process of actually putting the short story collection up some time this week — Or next week if I run into problems. For this initial foray into self-publishing, I will be using Direct To Digital and, of course, Kindle Direct. I hope it’s all truly so easy that any idiot can do it, because when it comes to Trying New Stuff With Technology, sometimes I think I am pretty much any idiot.

  3. Rachel D.

    I can’t wait for anything Black Dog related. It is one of the stories I can’t get out of my head!

  4. Rachel

    That’s great to hear! TOMORROW I SWEAR I will definitely start the conversion process for the Black Dog short story collection (called, without much creativity, Black Dog Short Stories). Hopefully it will be as easy as everyone says. I’ll definitely let everyone know when the collection has been loosed into the wild.

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