10 Sep Thing 1 and Thing 2
After agreeing over the phone to accept the Autumn House Prize, the next step was for AHP to send a contract for me to sign. It arrived a few days later in the mail and I opened it. I understood the first sentence.
“This is our agreement to publish your manuscript, currently titled “So Many Africas: Six Years in a Zambian Village.”
After that, well, let’s just say I’m not a lawyer. And I don’t know any lawyers. And there were a lot of words I did not understand. Google here I come.
Legal vocabulary is both daunting and intimidating: royalty-free copies, omnibus volumes, advance against future royalties, executors, intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, proceeding, infringes, negligence, responsibilities, restrict, rescind, privileges, terminate. “This agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the executors …” Okay already. I’m a writer. And now I have a new job: to learn legal-eze enough so that I am signing with some semblance of competence.
There are a zillion websites about writer contracts and I waded through 500 hundred of them in the next week. The majority contain information for writers working with agents and big publishing houses. Since I am being published by a small independent press there is a sense of camaraderie. Autumn House Press is in the book business because of its love of literature and good books. They are “a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to publish and promote poetry and other fine literature.” There is a sense of trust.
Over the next week, I negotiated a few minor details (with fear and trepidation) and then sat down, signed the contract with Thing 1 and Thing 2 – my Dr. Seuss computer mascots – watching over me. No matter how bad my writing day is, they are always there, smiling at me. Sometimes they whisper Dr. Seuss Quotes to me. “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
So: I’m under contract! Officially. Legally. I have a publisher.
We set up a phone call to talk shop.
When my daughter asked me the next day if I was going to be busy at 3:00 or could I help her out with a project I replied, “Sorry, kiddo. I’ll be talking with my publisher.”
Oh the back-patting self-congratulating beauty of those words. Don’t be too harsh on me. I’ve worked for fourteen years waiting to hear that sentence come out of my mouth. I think I might just have to repeat it a few times over the next few weeks … Sorry, World, you can just go on without me … I’ll be talking to my publisher.