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Contract Clause 16

Because you've all been patient while I slip sideways into the world of <ahem> literary criticism:

This one causes people stress. Therefore it's worth looking at.

Option for Next Work

16. The Author (including each author individually) agrees to submit to the Publisher the Author's next book-length work *of science fiction or fantasy* before submitting the same to any other publisher. The Publisher shall be entitled to a period of six weeks after the submission of the completed manuscript, which period shall not commence to run until 90 days after the publicationacceptance of the Work covered by this agreement, within which to notify the Author of its decision. If within that time the Publisher shall notify the Author of its desire to publish the manuscript, it shall thereupon negotiate with the Author with respect to the terms of such publication. If within sixty (60) days thereafter the parties are unable in good faith to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement for such publication, the Author shall be free to submit such manuscript elsewhere provided, however, that the Author shall not enter into a contract for the publication of such manuscript with any other publisher except upon terms more favorable to the Author than those offered by the Publisher. The Publisher's option hereunder shall also apply to the next book-length manuscript by each party to this agreement included in the term "Author", whether such manuscript is written alone or together or with another co-author.

This is the future.

I've seen many changes to boilerplate option clauses. I've seen option clauses in which the option specifies work "written as Michelle West" or something that pertains to a pseudonym. The changes made are either the strikes, which were struck, or the italics, which were added.

First: changing "publication" to "acceptance" is carving a year (sometimes more and sometimes less, so let's average here) off the time in which the Publisher is contractually allowed to sit on your submission. Obviously, since this is a first book contract, this can be done by a FTN, and I consider it useful for two reasons.

1. Why let your book sit on a desk for longer than you have to? You've no doubt spent many cumulative months/years on editorial desks, and therefore shouldn't feel a pressing need to add to them <wry g>.

2. If the publisher is sitting on your second book well after the publication of your first book, it hurts momentum, and it almost necessitates a 2 year gap between books 1 and 2. And I did the post on ideal publication intervals, and I'll just remind you that 2 years? Not it.

3. If the editor is insisting on this clause remaining as is, I'd question the commitment, overall, or the strategy, that the editor has in mind for your career. As in, I'd use that questioning as part of the negotiation to remove that clause.

Re: "completed manuscript": In most cases, I would try to get the option clause changed (it obviously wasn't in this case; completed manuscript is the boilerplate) so that "completed manuscript" read "partial manuscript" or "proposal" (if you're good at those; they give me ulcers, hives, migraines -- and they make everyone around me miserable too…). This, you should be able to do.

In the case of this contract, I'd already finished the second book, and they had it in their hands as a full manuscript, so it made no difference to me. If this is the case with you, you too can feel free to ignore an attempt to change the language here <g>. I usually only try to fight battles that are relevant.

However, were it relevant, I would make clear that I wanted this because I wanted to be able to sell the next work to the Publisher of the current one as soon as possible, rather than because I wanted to make sure that I could leave the publisher as soon as possible, the difference being obvious.

You aren't required to accept any offer they make. If the entire experience has been misery for some reason, and you want to leave, you can.

However, the struck portion of the clause which places any burden on any other deal you might get from a different house? That's important. Get rid of it. Get rid of any variant of it; especially make certain that the Publisher doesn't have the option of topping the offer of a rival house. It encumbers negotiations with another house, for one, and it ties your hands in those negotiations, for two, and it ticks off agents (which you might want later) for three.

You can change this in a first book contract, and I advise that you do; you may have many reasons for leaving the current publisher, some of which will have nothing to do with the money.

Otoh, unless you're dealing with a really whacko editor, or a disreputable "publisher", if you want to leave because you hate it, chances are they won't want to keep you, because they probably aren't having any fun either.