Stressing about the M. Press contract

As I mentioned in my comment to jennifer_j_s the other day, I’m a little nervous about this M. Press contract, and I’m starting to think I should’ve been more aggressive in my agent search these past few months. (But I don’t want an agent “just to have an agent,” I want THE RIGHT AGENT FOR ME. Finding that person takes time. Figuring out just what IS right for me seems to be taking even more time.)

M. Press offered me a contract on another manuscript about 9 years ago. In fact, they offered me the contract less than a week after I sent the manuscript in! But when the contract came, it wasn’t such a great contract. There was no advance and there was a pretty strict Options clause that would’ve made it difficult for me to send manuscripts to any other publishers for the next two years. I don’t remember what else was in there, but there were other clauses I didn’t like, either. I’m not sure I was really experienced enough at that time to know what I could live with and what I couldn’t…I had two books from the library and information from the Author’s Guild, and I went through that contract point by point, making notes of all the changes I thought I needed (according to this stack of reading material I had laid out all over my desk). I had what I thought was an okay telephone conversation with the contracts person at M.Press…it was a LONG conversation, but at the time I thought it went okay. But a few weeks later, I got my manuscript back in the mail along with a note that said basically they thought I’d asked for too much, which didn’t bode well for a future relationship.

I was disappointed because 1) I’d read that that doesn’t happen…when you’re offered a contract, the publisher won’t pull it just because you ask for changes…they’ll work with you to come up with a contract that you both can live with; 2) It was my first contract with a publisher other than a regional press; and 3) M. Press specializes in mental health books for children…my background is in child psychology. At that time, I envisioned going on to write LOTS of books for M. Press.

So I spend the next eight years feeling like this was my one big failure as a writer. I failed to successfully negotiate my contract with M. Press. Then a friend of mine was offered a contract with them. She’s gone on to publish several books with them…all beautiful books, I might add (M. Press does a nice job!). She’s had a really positive working relationship with them and didn’t understand how things could’ve gone so awry for me. Well, last year she and I roomed together at ALA. And she took me over to the M. Press booth and introduced me to people. I had no interest in doing that…why would they want to talk to me??? But she dragged me over there anyway. And I ended up having a really nice conversation with the people there. Apparently the person I’d dealt with with that contract all those years ago isn’t even there anymore…and bottom line, they were still interested in hearing from me again!

They even remembered that manuscript from nine years ago. So when I got home from ALA, I sent that manuscript back to them (it still hasn’t sold anywhere else). They didn’t feel they could publish it successfully, but the response was encouraging enough that I sent them “When Grandpa Had a Stroke.” And now they want to publish it.

WHAT IF I SCREW UP THE CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS AGAIN??? I’m torn…I really want to see this book published, and I really want to negotiate this contract successfully, but I won’t sign a contract that’s unfair, either. Will I recognize fair/unfair this time around??? I don’t really regret not signing that other contract (I couldn’t have signed it as it was), but I regret that it turned into such a negative experience for both of us. I really, really want to avoid that this time. (And I really wish I had an agent to handle it for me…)

4 thoughts on “Stressing about the M. Press contract

  1. Re: agent

    I have actually tried that several times…that’s when I always decide to query agents…when I have a contract in hand. It NEVER works. And that’s fine…I really don’t want an agent who only wants me because I have a contract in hand. But just because it hasn’t worked in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work this time…it doesn’t hurt to send a brief, polite e-mail asking whether she’d handle just THIS contract…and then we can go from there to decide whether we want to continue the relationship (after she’s had a chance to actually READ some of my stuff!). I’ll think about it…

    And yes, I do read Nadia’s LJ now and then…

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