One Leg at a Time
Early 2000s, a Big Five publisher bought an indie publisher.
I had a contract with the indie publisher. It was a large contract and I was less than a year into launching my business. I needed the work.
Unlike the indie publishing house, the Big Five publishing house had its own PR/Marketing team. It didn’t need me.
The contract was something I’d cobbled together when I launched my biz. (An opportunity popped up, I pivoted, and launched a company with little planning. A story for another day. . . .) It was void of language addressing the “what if’s.”
For example: What if my client cancelled the books in the contract?
Would I have the right to retain any of the fees, to cover the time I’d reserved to do the work?
Would I have to return any already paid fees?
I had to go to New York City to find out.
As was his way, Bob Danzig, my mentor of 20+ years (read “Thank You Bob Danzig“), opened his home and experiences to me the night before the meeting and then drove me to the train station the next morning.
I kept saying I was nervous.
Bob laughed. Actually, it was more of a chuckle. He did that a lot. I think it was something about the trajectory of his own life, of growing up in foster homes, experiencing hardships and seeing the true nature of people at an early age, and then becoming an office boy at The Albany Times-Union, then publisher of The Albany Times-Union two decades later, then CEO of the Hearst Newspaper Group and VP of the Hearst Corporation. He had met so many people along the way and had so many hardships at such a young age, that labels meant little to him. He didn’t equate greatness with a job title or location. He saw people for exactly what they were.
He smiled, and said, “Callie, they’re just like you. Pants go on one leg at a time.”
Of course I knew that. My father had been telling me that my entire life. They’re just people. They aren’t any better than you. They just happen to work in New York City.
Easier said than done.
I got wrapped up in the packaging.
Was I dressed okay? Did I look like a serious PR person, whatever that is? Or did I look country bumpkin? Was my hair okay? I don’t wear makeup, but maybe I should have?
And then I went into the meeting and it was fine.
The VP was a nice guy and honored the contract.
What was more important was that I knew my stuff.
Soon after, I hired a lawyer and had a contract developed.
One of the key clauses included?
Signing fees and cancellations.
There’s a non-returnable fee due on signing. This reserves time to do the upfront legwork. If the client cancels the project after signing, I don’t lose out on time spent.
If a client does cancel, there’s a clause related to prorated fees due up until the point of cancellation. This is similar to the doctor charging cancellation fees. If you cancel at a late date, I’m covered. I’m not left scrambling, trying to find work at the last minute to cover the loss of income.
I’m not offering legal advice here, but the cancellation clause is something I’ve mentioned to friends who work in other arenas. It’s saved me a number of times, when a last minute cancellation would have deep sixed my monthly inflow.
The other piece I’ve mentioned to friends is “one leg at a time.” New York City is a location, not a seal of approval. The staff at the Big Five publishers are the same. They’re just people.
What matters most is the work being done.