There are a couple of movies that have extra resonance to me because of my job. One is definitely Vampire's Kiss, in which Nicolas Cage plays a literary agent who thinks he is becoming a vampire. It's one of Cage's classically manic performances, this one good Cage manic instead of the bad Cage manic from the very dawn of Cage's career. Hard to believe it's 21 years now since this opened. One of the classic scenes for a literary agent is when he's tasked to locate some old short story contract for one of the agency's most important clients, and the task -- well, shall we say it gets to him!
This is not an atypical problem. The longer a literary agency is in business, the more the contract files should grow, and the more the number of actual important active contracts should grow as well because you sure hope in this business that your backlist is getting deeper and more important as they years go by.
So once upon a time you have one contract for Brandon Sanderson, for his first two book deal with Tor. Then you start to sell some of the books in translation markets. Then you do a second deal with Tor. And you start selling more books in more places overseas. Then you do a deal for the Elantris jewelry and the Mistborn miniatures and slowly the contract file begins to get very big. Big contract files are bad, because it takes forever to find when you suddenly need very badly to find the agreement for the German edition of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. So you end up splitting it into 2 files, one with the Tor contracts and one with the translation contracts. Or 3 files, and put the merchandising deals into a different file, or 5 files for those 3, and then the European deals in a different file than the Asian ones and the audio deals in a different file than the jewelry ones. This is kind of better, except with all of those different files... does the Russian contract go in with Europe or Asia, or what if the Czech contract for Mistborn gets put in with the audio contracts by mistake. It's easier to find the right contract, but that assumes the right contract is in the right file and you still have what was once a little single contract that is slowly becoming 8" of contracts.
But I believe this is how it has always been done.
Recently I've gotten to thinking if there isn't a better way. We now have a wonderful database program in Filemaker with a wonderfully robust Deals Database. We have a serial # field set up, so every time we do a new deal the deal has a serial #, and that becomes a tool that helps a little bit to track the deal as the contracts go back and forth and the payments come in.
And I've had this crazy notion that we should file our contracts by Deal #.
Which is not how it has always been done, which scares me.
And because the deals we have from before Filemaker don't have serial #s, we would have to enter all these old contracts in at least a stub entry form into Filemaker.
And if we ever stopped using Filemaker that could be a problem.
But it just seems to me it would be so much quicker over the fullness of time to find the Deal # and then go right to that contract in the file than to do things the way it has always been done/
We'd want to have backups and redundancies. We already enter the serial # for new deals in the master deal word processing file for each author. We could set up layouts to generate sortable summary sheets by title and author that we could put into binders. We'd have at least 3 layers of redundancy with the printout, the database and the word processing file. I don't think -- I don't think -- that we'd be in a situation where we'd have 862 contracts in the file by Deal # and suddenly find we didn't know any of the deal #s any more.
Anyone who comments that we should scan all of our contracts and have them as searchable PDJPEGFTIFGIF files and send them to Yucca Mountain six times a month for back-up, that's a wonderful idea, I thank you for your suggestion, etc. I know I could lose all my hard copy in a fire or something, but the idea of having all of these contracts as electrons on a keychain drive petrifies me to death.
So it seems to me in the 21st century that doing things that I should break with the past and switch the contract files around and not keep doing the way it's always been done because that's the way it's always been done. I'm around 85-90% leaning toward making this big break. But I'm kind of thinking it's still a really really bad idea because we wouldn't keep doing things the old way if it wasn't the right way as well. Would we?