A Contracts Manager Tells All

By Carmen Comment

A while back, at a publishing industry luncheon, I met a contracts assistant and proceeded to pick her brain for the next thirty minutes. Without people like her drafting agreements and setting up boilerplates for agents to tweak and modify, there would be no money paid to authors. So today’s homepage article by Jean Marie Pierson, a contracts manager at Hyperion and soon-to-be-published novelist, is a welcome look at this part of the business with tips for writers about why you need an agent, why you shouldn’t treat your book as your baby and why a bigger advance has its share of problems:

Working in contracts means you see advances in all shapes and sizes, and bigger isn’t necessarily better. Here’s an example to illustrate: Say you throw a party: You invite someone who shows up and brings $40.00 worth of beer. They are fun to hang out with and everyone who talks to that person has a good time. You will invite them back. Another guest comes empty-handed, is bossy and eats at least $200.00 worth of guacamole. Unless they’ve going to have George Clooney in tow, chances are you won’t seek them out for the next one.

In much the same way, if you wind up with a large advance for a book and your book earn it back, when you’re angling to write a second title, your publisher’s interest may have left the building. However, if you start off more modestly and do your part as an author who cooperates and helps stimulate sales, a publisher is likelier to give you a shot at writing that next book. While few of us would turn down a big advance if we were lucky enough to get one, but if you’re aiming to be a writer with a lengthy publishing career, starting out small isn’t such a bad thing.