Today was also the day set aside for me to drive in to Boston to sign the book contract, a coincidence that pleased Larry to no end. On the way out the door, Larry asked if I was taking a special pen. No. He asked if I was sure. After heaving a sigh, I went to my bedside table and pawed through it to find the Parker pen Larry gave me a couple of years ago. At the fancy pants magazine where he works until mid afternoon today, pens are a seriously big deal. Some of the pens they've written about have jewels in them. They are handcrafted by artisans who draw inspiration from nature and wood nymphs and all manner of nonsense. These pens don't get stored in a shirt pocket. Oh, no. Instead, they rest inside a little sleeping bag that sits on top of a pedestal inside a jewelry box. No joke. The one he gave me is grey with no jewels or anything. But it does have a little sleeping bag and a plastic box that feels like leather. I think of it as a low grade luxury.
So, the trusty co-authors sat down in a conference room to have the 20+ page document explained aloud paragraph by paragraph. These are the circumstances under which the publisher can terminate the agreement. These are the circumstances under which the publisher can hold you liable. These are the circumstances under which you can end up owing the publisher money. It's all very scary and depressing, and exciting and important, all at once.
And...we didn't sign it.
We found a clause that wasn't right. In fact, it was really, really wrong. And no one knew what to do. Clearly, it had to be renegotiated. But how? So, we got in our cars and drove home. Or, I did. The agent figured it out. Typo. Clarifying language had been deleted by mistake. She got hold of the publisher who okayed changes over the phone, then she got hold of my co-author who circled the block and went back to the office and signed it. By the time she got hold of me, I was home and on the phone with a custom designer of helicopter interiors and wrapping up a discussion of carbon fiber headliners. (Don't ask.)
The pen now sits on the kitchen counter, waiting for the contract to come to suburbia.