The Clause for Immortality

Some writers pick up the pen to fulfill one hope above all: the wish for immortality.

That’s a distraction, even for a daydream, even if for the grandkids. Consider it a flamingo. And, as a rule, it won’t work either.

While a writer may think, in that heady moment of signing a contract, that a publisher is supposed to keep his or her work alive forever, there are a few implied conditions. Key among them is the need for the arrangement to make financial sense to the publisher, or your work is suddenly fish wrap.

I’ve seen some contracts, and signed some as well. As a lawyer, I read every speck of the fine print. Money, fame, glory, film rights, merchandise, e-rights, reprints, translations, royalties, cover approval, size of print, and more—are negotiable, especially if your agent says so.

But there is nothing romantic about this document. And there is no clause for immortality. To the contrary, all you will really find here in the endless, enumerated paragraphs of legalese is a demand for truly excellent work.

If you can produce it, get yourself a good deal. Then go on and write your 

next one. The opportunity to do so, to engage in creative work of any kind, is what is valuable to the independent thinker. What matters is the process. Never mind how long your last one will endure.