Nothing is ever official until it is in writing.
Merry Christmas to me, because after email discussions and an acceptance of a future manuscript, December 12, my publisher sent me the contract. Once it left their possession, I knew I could begin the work.
Sometimes a publisher will accept a book proposal and spend hours discussing it with you on the telephone. I’ve experienced this twice. But when it came time to send out the actual publishing contract, after days of no communication, you then learn they changed their mind for whatever reason. The same has happened when working with an agent. Ironically, my contracts with this current publisher were through direct pitches by me and not through an agent. Neither of my two agents were successful in getting a contract, but that’s not to say they didn’t try.
Welcome to publishing.
With contract in hand, I read every word with a fine-tooth comb. The advantage is that I already have a relationship with this publisher, so there were no surprises. There is no advance (and there rarely is with many publishing houses), so as long as it didn’t make my spidey sense tingle, I agreed to the terms. That said, if there were some things bothering me or that I wanted to change, within reason, I had every right to make written adjustments to the contract. It is all right for an author and publisher to negotiate a publishing contract.
Before I mailed the signed and witnessed contract back to the publisher (who, upon receipt, would also sign and then send me a permanent copy to keep), I took the front page and the signature page and made a snapshot to email, to prove that the agreement was official. That way the Christmas mail backlog wouldn’t matter. We could both start putting things in action.
As part of the publishing contract, there is a list of deadlines the author is asked to adhere to. Because this publisher wants to have the book on the shelves this spring, I have about three months to produce a 60,000-word manuscript. The first deadline is to see a Table of Contents — which the publisher will approve or disapprove, based on what they think the book will ultimately be about. The second deadline is to submit two chapters for review. The final deadline is to produce the full and completed manuscript.
Given that this book has been a work in progress for two years, I didn’t see that as an issue.
So with the Table of Contents approved, I’m now weeks away from producing the first two chapters. I think I’ll make it. :)