Of Contract Negotiations, Cyril Connolly, and Vivekananda…

What caught my attention in a recent article on author Janet Evanovich, more specifically her asking price for the rights to publish her next 4 novels–$50 million from St. Martin’s Press–were the complaints and criticism concerning the quality of Evanovich’s recent novels launched by many who described themselves as loyal fans.

In toto, most stated that recent installments of her Stephanie Plum Series , the latest installment being, Sizzling Sixteen, had grown flat with the protagonist, Stephanie Plum, growing stagnant and not evolving.

Some even stated that it was clear to them she had been writing with her focus on fulfilling her contract obligation rather than providing fans with an engaging and entertaining story.

This all brings me to the point of where does one, more specifically the writer/author, draw the line between meeting the demands of their contract and providing readers with what they have come to expect and you, as well as they know you can achieve?

Better yet, where does the line exist between vowing to provide your best and entering financial agreements that make it humanly impossible to do your best work?

One perspective is that of author, Cyril Connolly: “…Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

How then, does one write from the heart, remain true to our standards and keenly conduct the business that provides money to sustain a livelihood in which we can write and do it to the best of our abilities?

Connolly, who later became a literary critic, never achieved the notoriety, and I would assume this included the financial rewards, to which he aspired as a young author.

One critic, also a fan of Evanovich’s work, defended her actions of leaving St. Martins by offering the possibility that she wanted to extricate herself of the contract. 

But in that first right of refusal may have played a role in the negotiations, she resorted to asking from St. Martins what she knew they would refuse.

His conclusion erred in the direction that perhaps Evanovich knows her recent titles have lacked the quality of engagement and entertainment earlier work possessed.

Hence what she sought in asking for $50 million dollars was the money, rather freedom to renegotiate the terms on which she would write and hand over the rights to her creations. 

And that would explain why no one has revealed the amount Ballantine Bantam Dell owned by Random House (the world’s largest publishing house of books in English) has agreed to pay.

Whatever the truth of matter, this raises the point of what it means to offer our personal best, what we hope to achieve beyond receiving payment for our creations that is surely work, and ultimately what will keep us not only writing, but enjoying and loving what we do.

It remains no secret hat most writers and authors come to our craft out of a love and passion for stories and creating them.

It is also the ingredient that stirs the magic that rises from our words on the page connecting us with readers whom we seek to transform into fans.

When the quality of our work sags, so do we. Our hearts suffer, and our souls ache.

Money can assuage some of the pain, but after reaching a certain figure, 6, 7, or 8 digits to the left of the decimal, what does it really matter?

On this Swami Vivekananda‘s words offer interesting fodder for even deeper pondering regarding what our writing means beyond the dollar amounts we receive and the purpose of making our creations available for public consumption.

Do not lower your goals to the level of your abilities. Instead, raise your abilities to the height of your goals.”

What are you goals– concerning both your writing and that which you need to sustain both your living and the joy of writing?

Have you a plan for achieving them?

Can you envision them?

Who do you need to become to receive them?

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