Sunday, February 20, 2011

What it's Like to be Offered a Contract

The moment I finished watching Robocop, I wanted to be a writer.

I understood the satire.  It was funny.  It was violent.  What else could you want in a movie?

I was 19.

Four years later I finished writing my first manuscript:  Pinkie System.  It took place in the future.  Pockets were a thing of the past.  Credit cards, money, keys, etc. was all stored in one’s pinkie.  Instead of key holes, there were pinkie holes.  Instead of swiping one’s credit card, one swiped a pinkie. The problem: a group of thugs went around chopping people’s pinkies off and stealing all that they owned.

I imagined Pinkie System being an international best seller.  There would be an audio book and a movie deal.  In the future, it’d be required reading in high schools since all my predictions about the future would come true. 

I was kind enough to share my brilliant manuscript with my roommate Ed and my mother.

Ed and I were having a party.  As I walked down the steps, I heard Ed talking to Christina Greenwood, a girl I had a crush on.  He started talking about Pinkie System, so I stopped and eavesdropped.  “Karl’s book Pinkie System is the worst book I’ve ever read.  Every page he says ‘pinkie’ this and ‘pinkie’ that.  I swear if I see the word ‘pinkie’ one more time I’m throwing Karl’s manuscript out the window.”

Was it really that bad?  I asked my mom what she thought of it.  “Well,” she said, pausing to look for the right word.  “I read it.”

That’s where my dreams of making a movie deal and selling tons of copies vanished.  I buried those crazy fantasies as stupidity of my youth.  But lately I’ve been forced to consider those possibilities again – no matter how farfetched – when Slush Pile Reader offered me a contract.

I figured the contract would be simple.  A page or two covering the most basic things.  Kind of like the EZ tax form.  It ended up being 19 pages.

I read through it.  There were a few words I didn’t know, but I thought I understood most of it.  I wasn’t too sure what would happen if it became a movie, an audio book, etc.  A friend of mine, Ben, is a lawyer.  I told him about it and he asked to see it.  I said it was so unlikely that any thing major would happen.

“Still, you should protect yourself,” he said.  Ben didn’t deal with book contracts, but another lawyer in his firm did.  That lawyer gave me an explanation of what was in the contract.  He offered his services to re-write the contract for a decent price, so I took him up on it.

There were a few minor points that Slush Pile Reader and I had, but in the end it all worked out.  It seems that different lawyers have there own way of phrasing things.  All and all I’m happy about it.  Signing a contract makes things seem official.  I no longer feel like I’ll never get published.  It’s right around the corner. 

And as I pondered the points of the contract with a lawyer, I had to entertain outlandish dreams just so I’d know what would happen.  For a moment, I felt like a teenager again, walking out of Robocop with a head full of dreams.


  1. Congrats on the contract!

  2. Well done you for overcoming the pitfalls!