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[publishing] Out of contract blues

Now I’m going to complain about something that will probably irk some of the aspiring writers who read this blog. It’s one of those established writer problems that can look ridiculous from the outside, but is perfectly real and serious from the inside.

I’m out of a trade publishing contract for the first time since 2006. And it feels very weird to me.

Mainspring was originally contracted by Tor in 2006 for a 2007 release, along with a second book to be named later, which was eventually Escapement. Near the end of that contract cycle, Green and Pinion were contracted. Near the end of that contract cycle, Endurance and Kalimpura were contracted.

Well, now it’s 2011 and I’ve delivered Kalimpura for 2012 publication and, well, here we are. It’s not that Tor and I have parted ways. It’s not that we haven’t parted ways. We simply haven’t had the discussions, nor have I entered into discussions with any other trade publishers.

Some of this is my own doing, as I decided to write the Sunspin series as spec books rather than proposing them to Tor. Some of this is the cancer, which has stolen half my writing time in past two years, slowing down my ability to deliver a spec book in time to propose it to Tor, or anyone else, within my usual contract cycle. Longtime readers may recall that had I not experienced another metastasis this year, I had planned to write all three volumes of Sunspin by this fall. The book package would have been ready to go to market last summer, except for cancer.

And now, thanks to the travails of chemo and my resulting inability to execute on important revisions recommended by la agente, Sunspin‘s first volume won’t be ready to go to market before next February or March at the earliest. So I’m going to stay out of contract for quite some time to come, unless we take the rather unusual step of trying to sell on proposal plus unrevised draft.

All of which makes me feel very weird and insecure about my career. I’m in danger of missing the 2013 publishing cycle. I’m going to take a financial hit, to boot, simply because of delayed contract and payment timelines. But mostly, I worry about simply disappearing from view.

So I’ve got the out of contract blues, magnified by my cancer woes. And it doesn’t make me very happy. Another penalty of cancer, another thing being taken from me by this disease.

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