I’m sure there will be a follow-up post to this where I’ll explain the situation that led me to write it in more detail, but for several reasons, I can’t discuss all the facts just yet. I do, however, think I can share this one–and it’s something I’m a little ashamed to say I obviously didn’t do.
Specifically, authors, when you get that shiny offer from a publisher, when the contract comes, TAKE THE TIME TO REVIEW EVERY PARAGRAPH. (Yes, I’m shouting.) If you have an agent, get on the phone with him or her and discuss each paragraph/clause to ensure you understand exactly what you’re granting to the publisher and what you’re reserving for yourself. If you don’t have an agent and can’t afford to pay a contract attorney, read it thoroughly and carefully. If anything strikes you as odd or you’re not sure what it means, ask other authors in your circle of friends whether they know what it means and/or whether they’d agree to it.
Just because it’s the publisher’s “boilerplate” and they “never negotiate” does not mean that you should not take the time to make yourself fully aware of exactly what you are agreeing to. And if you find anything you really take issue with, at that point, you have to decide whether it’s serious enough to walk over. But at least you will KNOW what you have agreed to or rejected.
And please, for heaven’s sake, if your agent tells you that the contracts are iron-clad or non-negotiable rather than ensuring you understand thoroughly what you are signing, you need to run, not walk, in the other direction. But first, ask. Don’t just be so happy to have a contract that you sign first and get gobsmacked by something you never suspected later.
I didn’t ask. And I got gobsmacked. I’m not happy. Lesson learned.