FAQ Soundbite #1: Contracts
Q: I recently sold my book to COOL PUBLISHING HOUSE! I have accepted their offer based on a deal memo, but haven’t seen a contract yet. The book is practically ready for copy editing….Still, no contract. It’s been months, and I’m getting nervous.
A: Congratulations! Keep revising. Your contract is coming.
Q: But it’s been months. How much longer should I expect to wait for my contract?
A: It varies. Sometimes you wait a long time. Several months, at a minimum. This is normal. The contract has to be drawn up, then your agent reviews it and negotiates with the publisher’s contracts department to get you the best possible terms. There is a lot of back-and-forth and discussions and checking with higher-ups for approval. And the contracts department staff deals with a lot of contracts at once, not only yours. So does your agent.
The fastest I ever received a contract after a deal memo was about two months. My longest wait: over a year! (That was a slightly unusual situation.) And yes, slow contracts means you won’t get paid your “advance on signing” until several weeks (or months) after signing–you will have to review the contract, sign it, return it, and then the publishing house will have to cut you a check and mail it. It often takes 4-6 weeks or more to turn around an advance payment after signing.
Q: So…they haven’t changed their mind about publishing me? They haven’t decided they hate my novel? I didn’t do anything wrong?
A: Nope. It’s a process thing. You can relax. Check in with your agent now and again to be sure progress is happening. It’s frustrating to wait, and a little bit stressful at times, but this is a slow-moving business in a lot of ways. You’ll get your contracts and your money.
Keep in mind that until you sign, your book remains 100% yours. It’s actually in the publisher’s interest to have you sign a legal document as soon as possible, because it defines the scope of their rights. It is in your interest to make sure you (through your agent) have secured the best possible terms for the contract before you sign. The lengthy negotiation process, in this case, generally serves to protect you.