Saturday, March 8, 2014

CONtract conTRACT or ??? Get It In Writing

You would think I'd just be so happy to have contract as the word for the week might even think I'd picked it (but no.) You would justifiably jump to those conclusions because I have a long career in the world of government contracts and subcontracts and the Federal Acquisition Regulation and other teeny tiny fine print...none of which I can discuss with you unless you have a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and probably not even then. So.

A few words regarding contracts in general though. NEGOTIATE. Don't be intimidated by the fact it's written down and in microscopic print. If you don't like the terms or you don't understand the terms, get clarification in writing, propose modifications of things you don't like, and know at what point you're willing to walk away. What is your deal breaker? Is there a deal sweetener you want? Believe me, the other side knows where they stand. The best contract is actually a win/win for both parties because if one side gives too much it's going to be an unhappy relationship for the life of the agreement.

Read the entire document and any documents referred to or appended. Verbal explanations or assurances aren't worth anything, except perhaps as a starting point for the negotiation. If you care about some aspect of the deal, get the clause added to the contract before you sign it.

Even if you have an agent or your Mom or someone doing the actual negotiation for you, ultimately you're going to have to live with the outcome, so focus on the most important issues to you but don't let any big "gotchas" sneak past you. Every industry has their own lingo and pitfalls so if you're not an expert, best to have someone on your team who is, who can tell you that the innocent sentence in apparently plain English actually means you'll be paid 100 years after your death or the Sun goes nova, whichever comes second. No offense to the movie studios but I think that industry is fairly well known for having interesting clauses waiting to ensnare the novice. I may have done government contracts but I wouldn't dream of trying to negotiate a movie contract without an expert at my elbow.

And I don't want to think about contracts any more on my day off. Moving can also view these eight letters as "conTRACT", as in shrinking or decreasing....or as in coming down with Ebola, the flu, or the much dreaded zombie apocalypse virus. As an author of science fiction and paranormal romances, I kinda gravitate to this final definition as my favorite. But only for the purposes of having an exciting plot and perhaps being invited someday to negotiate that movie contract for my best selling Ebola-flu-zombie-virus-apocalyptic romance featuring Navy SEALs, with a Happily Ever After ending LOL!


  1. I neglected to get a kill fee one time as it was a favor for a friend that ended up being a costly (but valuable) lesson.

    There's an old saying that I can't remember who said it first, "no publication ever goes out of business in this town unless they owe me money."