Wednesday, November 10, 2010

C is for Contract

Thanks for contribuing some questions last week, guys!

Here's one I'll tackle today...

Reader asked: "I know contracts and deadlines seem to come up on here a lot, but I'm still kinda confused about the whole topics of contracts. Does a contract mean you're forced (depending on what you signed on for) to write a book every year or two years? Can you ever just decide that you want to write something and write it, or do you have to do a book proposal first?"

This is all varied but typically, a contract is per book or per book series - not per career.

For example, here's how it works for me at Steeple Hill. I think of a story idea, create a proposal (which includes the proposal elements such as hook, back cover copy, target audience, etc. and a 3-5 page synopsis and the first 3 chapters of the novel) and submit to my agent. She then submits (after her approval/suggestions/opinions, etc.) the proposal to my editor at Steeple Hill. My editor then will either say "no, this won't work for us, try something else" or she'll say "i like this idea but you need to tweak this and this before I can contract it" or she'll say "I love it, let's contract it now".

( FYI - side note. Since I'm multi-published with Steeple Hill, I don't have to write the full manuscript before they will decide to contract or not. I "contract on proposal" whereas new authors starting out with a House must typically write the full manuscript first.)

That contract is good for that story. If it was a series, it'd be good for that particular series. That's it. Does that make sense? My editor WANTS me to submit as often as I can and keep books cranking out but I'm not forced to. It's in everyone's best interest for me to do so, but again, the contract doesn't state I must. I don't believe any publishers contract in that way but correct me Chicks if I'm wrong.

As for the last question in the above italics...I'm not sure entirely sure I understand what you're asking so if I'm off in my response, please correct me in the comments and I'll try again! :) I think you're talking about writing on proposal versus having to turn in a full manuscript as a new author? In which case I already touched on that. OR...are you talking about wondering if a contract forces you to stick to a certain/specific idea? If so, then a contract is done after the proposal is written and submitted, so it would be based on the idea you already pieced together. Does that make sense?

OR...are you asking if you have to follow the current trends of marketing or can you write the book of your heart? Which I think we talked about earlier in the week as well. The answer to that is always write what you feel called to write, not what is currently a hot topic or fad.

Sorry for the confusion! Hope this helps. Any more questions? Fellow Chicks, chime in!! =)


  1. I've always wondered about that. Thanks for clearing it up!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! That cleared up a whole lot for me. And about that other question...I re-read it and I don't even know what I was talking about! ha!

  3. oh wait, not I remember what I meant: is it possible to write an entire book and THEN see if anyone wants it? or is it absolutely necessary to write a proposal and a few chapters BEFORE writing everything else? hope that makes more sense...

  4. How does this work when you are fly by the seat of your pants writer? Are you allowed wiggle room when your story takes a different path then the synopsis?

  5. Courtney, glad to help! And yes, I'd advise for new authors to write their entire book first, then go back and create the proposal. Tonya, this answers your question too - because seat of the pants authors switch things up and often surprise themselves with plot twists while writing, it's better not to try to do a synopsis until after the book is completed. Then you can go back through your full manuscript and make the synopsis through the main plot points of your completed story.

    If you're a published author who is contracting via proposal, you are held to a little bit more structure which is often a struggle for seat of the pants writers. But most editors are lenient enough to allow that wiggle room. That just varies on editors/houses. The best thing to do if you're in that position and realize its happening is to stop writing, email your editor and ask if the change is okay.