Saturday, November 8, 2008

Contract Limbo! Next Stop, the Lake of Fire

I got the phone call acceptance in March for a picture book and am still waiting for the contract and here it is November. Is there anything I can do about this?
Yes.
...Is it because I am unagented?
No. ...At least, mostly no.

It's because you're not doing what an agent would have done at least three months ago: call or email the editor to remind her of this outstanding contract. Agents can do only that much and the editor will read between the lines: "You know and I know that this is bullshit, so get your crap together, damn it, or I'll sell this book someplace else... unless you have a really good excuse or some quality grovelling for this lateness."

Editors won't read the same thing into a reminder from an unagented author, because most unagented authors don't have a sense of where things crossed into bullshit. An unagented author should be a wee bit more pointed (but still pleasant and professional--try to express polite concern rather than escalating frustration and panic. Frustration and panic are common qualities in authors (and yes, I know sometimes it's the editor's own fault), but they're unattractive qualities).

You should get in touch with the editor and remind her nicely of the contract (she may truly be surprised to hear that the contracts people haven't sent it to you, so reminders are good) and express worry that the project may be losing steam at that publishing house, and perhaps give her a soft deadline (like, "I'd hoped to have this contract finalized by the end of the year").

If you get no response for very much longer, you'll have to be more pointed, and make it clear that while you would love for this project to be published at this house, you're afraid there isn't enough enthusiasm for it there.

Still no response? Withdraw the project.

42 comments:

Sabina E. said...

yes and be sure NOT to send hate email to the editor!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good Lord. I'm not a publishing house but please accept my apologies.

ACKKKK!

Christine Tripp said...

Good Lord, that's horrible. These people are not God, they are just people working 9 to 5 (ok, maybe more:) and you are no better, no worse then they, we all work for a living. Email this editor right away to see if they are still interested and if not, off to the next.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add a caveat. Send off a nice query about the status of the manuscript, and pay attention to the response. If you hear back in a timely fashion, with either an explanation of the delay or a new status report, you'll probably be okay. If the editor swears up and down "It's going to the printer in a month" and doesn't respond to followups a month after that, pull it. Most importantly, if your editor can't be bothered to answer repeated queries but has plenty of time to pose for convention photos, run like hell.

In my case, I had one editor sit on two manuscripts for two years, telling me for the last year that "it's going to press on [this date]." I'd write back about details, and wouldn't receive a response for weeks, until the weasel would ask "Are you going to be at [this convention]?" If I answered in the negative, no further response, and the only way to get a response out of him after a while was with a public query that embarrassed him. Finally, I pulled both manuscripts because I was tired of the lies (he didn't have time to write back, but he had plenty of time to edit two print magazines along with his book line, preen for World Fantasy Convention photos, and work on a pictorial of attractive young editorial assistants that was derided as "Hot Editors I'd Like To Pork"), only to discover that he'd been pulling the same game with other writers for years. Hell, he had half of Australia buying into his routines, and I suspect the people he burned there want to corner him in an elevator and brutalize him with a bowling trophy as badly as I do.

Now, I'm not saying that I advocate violence against editors. I just advocate violence against the poseurs who pretend to be editors for the attention. After years in the publishing business, I'm starting to realize that the problem with a lot of the people involved in science fiction, fantasy, and horror is that they weren't bullied enough when they were younger.

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