Monday, November 07, 2005

Unexpected High Interest

During the recent Glorieta Christian Writers conference, I taught an hour-long workshop, Understanding and Negotiating Contracts. I’m not a lawyer and don’t give legal advice in this session—and I make that point clear. I teach on this topic because I believe would-be authors should be as informed as possible about what they are signing. It always surprises me when authors sign a contract without reading (and often even trying to understand) the legalese.  Because of my involvement in contracts as an editor and as an author, I make a point to pause when I receive a contract (of any type) and thoroughly read it and attempt to understand it before I sign it. Many authors forget that it’s not their literary agent or anyone else’s name who is at the bottom of these agreements. It’s the author who is ultimately responsible.

I’ve taught this topic at other conferences but not at the Glorieta conference. My workshop covers magazine contracts as well as book contracts and provided a number of resources for each one.  This session was scheduled during the second day of the conference and I didn’t have high expectations in terms of attendance.  Normally you have to be at a certain place in your writing life before you express much interest in this topic.  To my surprise the session was well attended and the audience pelted me with lots of questions.

Part of my workshop involves handing out a simplified book contract then going through the various legal clauses and explaining where the author can negotiate and what types of suggestions can be made. Because of the intense interest in the topic, I was beginning through the details of this book contract when the time for the workshop ran out.  I tried to rush through the remainder of the contract and conclude the workshop—except the audience didn’t allow it.  Instead of using the time between workshops, this group continued to push me through the rest of the contract handout. Instead of an hour, I continued the class right until the moment the technician from the taping company entered the room to remove the tape. I was impressed with the high interest in this topic.

If you weren’t at the session, you can get the tape. While the tape isn’t currently listed, Manna Tapes recorded each session and have it available on tape or CD. Another resource is to carefully read this article from Tim Perrin (who is a lawyer) and gives great advice. The key from my perspective is to get educated as a writer and know what you are signing. It could be an important learning experience for your writing future.

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