Monday, December 15, 2008

Two things happened today: I finished the first draft of a history book I was hired to write; and I received the contract from Tor/Forge. It's about 15 pages long, full of legalese but not too much. Since it was coming from a major US publisher, I thought it would be longer and denser, but it's really no different than the contract from that small Canadian literary press that published my first novel. And when you compare it with another contract I got offered for my first novel (one that I turned down) it's actually pretty decent. The one that I turned down so many years ago, was a horrible contract and I truly wondered why anyone would have signed it. When another writer heard that I had refused that contract and was also negotiating with the press that would publish my first novel, they were shocked. "You're a first time novelist, you're not supposed to negotiate," they said. "You should just be happy they're going to publish their novel." And that's true, I was happy they were going to publish my novel but I wasn't going to be a sucker about it and sign away all my subsidiary rights just because I was a first time novelist. I wasn't being unreasonable, I was just being smart. I'm shocked that many writers think that way and have no idea how to read or understand a contract (Musicians too especially since the contracts between musicians and their labels are disgusting). To me, it's a part of the business of being a writer and it behooves (hey I used the word behoove!) writers to read and understand their contracts. Sure, I have an agent this time and she did all the negotiating and working out the little bits, but I didn't just sign the contract as soon as I got it; I read it many times so at the very least I got the basics about schedules, due dates and subsidiary rights.  So before you sign any contract for your writing, read it. If there is something you don't like, ask them to change it. Simple, smart but it's amazing how many writers fail to take that step.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Today I wrote 4,00o words for a history book project I'm writing for a private group. Even big time writers have bills to pay. Still writing for a living is great, even if it's not fiction; better than a "real" job.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The other day I saw the world premiere production of the Forbidden Phoenix. It's a combination of Chinese opera and western theatre, written by my buddy Marty Chan. It took him six years from the inception of the project to finally get it produced and he admitted to having a "now what?" sensation. All that work and waiting and now it's done, what happens next? Now that I've got my big time two book deal, I understand what he was feeling. It took me three years to write my second novel and I spent four years waiting for someone to make an offer. Forge itself took almost two years to make a decision on whether to make the offer. and during all that time, I had countless fantasy scenarios on what would happen when the call would come. And almost every day I would run through at least three or four of these fantasies. I checked my e-mail way too much and every time the phone rang, I would think it was my agent. Now that the offer is in and I had my moment of joy and excitement, I now have nothing to fantasize about (I mean career related). When the phone rings, it's just the phone and although I still check my e-mail way too much, I know there's nothing huge coming through. Sure there'll be the contract and the first advance cheque but it's not the same. 

What do you do when one of your lifelong dreams come true? I mean after the celebration and the dancing in the streets! Guess I better get back to work to help make some of those other dreams come true.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A few years ago I had a blog and stopped it, promising never to blog again. That all changed when I got a two book deal with Forge Books, an mainstream/literary/mystery/thriller/western/non-fiction imprint of Tor books, which is itself an Sci-fi/Fantasy imprint of MacMillan US, a huge publishing conglomo that owns St. Martin's Press, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Henry Holt and Company, Faber and Faber, among others. And that's only the US. Furthermore, MacMillan is owned by an even larger German company,  the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Company, one of the world's largest media companies. So I've sold out completely to a major corporate titan and am very pleased with myself, despite my punk rock roots. 

Anyway, I decided to write a blog about my adventures in this strange, big world and hopefully pass on information, advice and entertainment to writers, wanna-be writers, publishers, agents and anyone who's interested in this kind of crap. At the same time, it might add some promo for my upcoming books, although the publication date hasn't been determined yet Don't expect a daily update because despite this major label deal, I have to work as a freelance writer and have many, many deadlines. I'll try to get to this hopefully on a weekly basis.

First off, I must say that I am ecstatic to have this deal - it's been in the works for almost 2 years - but I'm not rich because of it. That's the first thing you should know. Just because you sign a deal with a major publisher, it doesn't mean you can quit your day job. IN fact, it's been almost a month since news came and I haven't seen a cent yet. There are contract details to work out and many steps to go through before any of that advance money comes in. And it will be only a percentage of the advance; you don't get it all at once you know.