Saturday, September 10, 2016

Contract Talks

"Do we have an accord? Drinks all around!" Captain Jack Sparrow.

The offer of a contract from a publisher to a writer...

The first was for A Parasol in a Hurricane. I had submitted the short story to Wild Child Publishing - our oldest daughter was our wild child and I thought "What the hell, perhaps that's a sign." It was. I received an email from the acquisition editor and, later, one from from Publisher (and now, friend) Marci Baun, that I would be assigned an editor and would receive a contract offer.

It was around 0415 - just past four in the morning - eating breakfast and getting ready for work. Heart pounding, huge grin, only one other person in the world needed to know, someone who had supported my writing "career" since my vast array of published works was a letter to the editor.

Yes, I woke up my non-morning person wife at zero-dark. 

Last weekend, Marci signaled that another contract would be forthcoming, for the manuscript A More Perfect Union. If all goes well, it will be my forth novel, fifth published work. But, there are no guarantees.

First, there is the contract to sign. For me, this is a formality. Marci sends me the document, I read it and sign it. Perhaps if I was Dan Brown (who sold millions of his novel Da Vinci Code) there would be something to talk about. There isn't. While I have a robust and growing readership, you'll know I've hit it big when I trade in my gun, badge and vest for a new job - porch watcher. I promised Pat I would guard the back porch while I write.

Each competent publisher has a guidebook containing their writing standards. WC is no different. The placement of commas, how many periods in a ..., whether body parts can move in a non-standard fashion (can one "cast an eye" without actually removing it?) It is amazing to ask Word to highlight every instance of just, to see how repetitively one writes even a polished, privately edited 99,000 word manuscript. After a main character has smiled 745 times, maybe we have her grin, smirk or turn her mouth up at the edges?

All of this before the editor goes to work. They are easy mistakes to make, and to fix. No one pays an editor to point those out.

The editor is there to wreak mayhem on your hours of blood and sweat. They lay waste to the very idea of the work, tear out your heart and, before your very eyes burn it to a cinder.

Okay, it's actually not like that at all. Learning how to be professional during the editing process generally separates those who write, and those who are authors. Accepting changes, even wholesale ones, is a skill that one masters in the spaces between "You have got to be fucking kidding me" and "I think I understand, (editor). Does this work better for you?" It's no fun to eliminate scenes, drop a character and/or rewrite dialogue that seemed inspired when written. 

It becomes a matter of trust. "Writers write so readers can read," said fictional novelist William Forrester. Editors edit so publishers will publish, and publishers have a keen sense of what readers will not just read, but what they will buy. "Don't fall in love with the words," I was once counseled. "Fall in love with release day." I have had the good fortune to be edited by people I trust.

Book covers matter. Finding just the right combination of strength, sincerity and allure in stock photos of police women has been challenging. Fortunately, friends to the rescue. On two occasions folks have dropped everything and agreed to an hour of photo shooting. Heather Leider at Leider Photography and Jen Rohling at Rohling Photography put together photo shoots that resulted in an impressive array of choices for the artist to massage. Allison Nishi, a University of Denver faculty member and director, and former LPD dispatcher Kim Authement were steadfast in getting the facial expressions just right. These were the results.

The final bit of typing to do is the acknowledgment page. Writing may be a solitary activity, but writing for publication takes a lot of help. More Perfect Union took a fairly large cast. I have the geopolitics down (don't let that scare you away - this is not a book about politics) but the characters, especially the main character, took a lot of time to develop. Thank goodness I knew who to turn to.

We made a toast to the next novel, sitting in the shade on my daughter's back porch. There were a few tears of joy shed - I won't lie, it's profoundly emotional even after the fifth work. There are long hours ahead, a lot of effort by a lot of people before release day.

But... Cici is one step closer to your Kindle or Nook. You'll love her.

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