Well, I’m back from the 2016 edition of the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference which was held in Colorado Springs around the middle of April. Always a good meeting. Plenty of good workshops to attend, speakers to hear, and people to talk to. I usually have something to say in this venue about one or more of the workshops I attended, but this year I’m not going to single out any one or a few of them, except to say that the most intriguing one was a discussion on contracts. Assuming you get a publisher to agree to take on your book, you have to sign a contract with the publisher that spells out what is required on the part of the publisher and what you get in return. Contracts can be tricky, though large parts of them are negotiable. The tricky part is knowing what is and what’s not. I can’t go into details here because I’m far from expert in this matter. All I know is that contracts can have clauses in them that, if you’re not careful, can get you into areas you probably don’t want to go. Like, for example, binding you to one publisher for the rest of your career as a writer. Or not paying you what you really deserve. I’m more likely to go to an agent to interpret the contract and advise me about what to negotiate and what to leave alone, though it should be said that an agent isn’t always necessary. You takes your chances.
That being said, the most significant thing that happened to me at the conference was the meeting I had with an editor from a major publishing house. I go to the Pike’s Peak conference largely for the chance to pitch my science-fiction novel to an agent or editor. This year I selected an editor to pitch to rather than an agent, because I felt she might be most receptive to my particular style of sci-fi writing. She was, to a limited extent, and asked me to send her the first fifty pages of the novel. I did that immediately after I got back. But what was most interesting about this editor was that she seemed more impressed with my credentials than anyone else I’ve met in the publishing business. I’d heard many times that writing and publishing scientific papers was largely unimportant in the mass fiction market. It doesn’t make any difference, they said. It’s not relevant to publishing fiction. But having a PhD degree, and some experience in meeting deadlines, familiarity with proofs, and a brand that can be drawn on when it comes time to market and publicize the book, seemed to carry more weight with her than with anyone else I’ve met. The real question is, how will my book (or at least the first 50 pages) do? Is it good enough? We’ll see.