Last week I signed the official contracts for the first American edition of Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate. The title will be shorter in the UK limited edition, since for them it’s a single book, but to Prime it’s the second book in a series. Assuming the stars align and nothing blows up, I should see the contracts for the third book—Yamada Monogatari: The War God’s Son sometime next month. I say “should” advisedly, because nothing IS signed yet and the stars might not align and something may very well blow up. I will point out here that I am not being pessimistic at all, merely realistic. Books may be imagination and dreams given corporeal form (and is that a neat trick or what?) but publishing is a business, and when it comes to business, being realistic is the order of the day.
I could be wrong, and often am—but I think it was Mike Resnick who first said “Writing is art until the piece is finished. Then it’s a business.” Selling a piece—short story, poem, novel, whatever—is just the first step in that business. It’s a tricky first step for a lot of people, which in part explains why so many go to self-publishing from the start. That works for some people, and there’s no denying it. Good for them. For most, however, it just means that it’s not the editors who are rejecting them now, but rather the readers who get to do it later. I can’t imagine that delayed anguish feels any better than the more immediate sort. And it lasts longer. Regardless, for the traditional route, it’s the initial acceptance that brings the stardust and trumpets. Contract time, on the other paw, is proper and necessary but one thing it isn’t is exciting. It almost feels like homework, or doing taxes. Read each clause, be sure you understand it. You do that whether or not you have an agent, because no one—no one—is looking out for you the same way you yourself are, or darn well better be. It’s your career, if you want to have one.
Important, yes, even crucial, but anti-climactic too. I always feel just a little bit depressed after I sign a contract. Maybe it’s the feeling that “It all comes down to this?” That feeling starts to pass by the time the check arrives. But when I see my book in my hands? That’s the excitement part again, and then the book is off to the readers for final judgment. And what it’s really all about.