15 December 2007

L. Frank Baum Writes His Own Contract

Yesterday I discussed L. Frank Baum's many pseudonymous books published with Reilly & Britton in 1906. Those all came under one contract, in which he basically promised to write only for that firm, and it promised to publish no other juvenile authors. Though there were some bumps along the way when Baum thought his sales were too low, he and the firm continued to work together until the end of his life.

The contract itself, published in The Baum Bugle in 1969, reflects Baum's sense of humor. It certainly wasn't written by a lawyer! To show what I mean, we pick up that document already in progress:

Second:- Baum shall deliver to The Reilly & Britton Company on or before November 15, 1905 six complete children's stories of about 4500 words each, written by him under the pen name of "Laura Bancroft," or some female appellation of equally dignified comprehensiveness.

Third:- Baum shall deliver to The Reilly & Britton Co. on or before January 1, 1906 the manuscript of a Novel for Young Folks, the title to be later determined on, but the authorship to be ascribed to Maud Gage Baum, or to "Helen Leslie" or to some other female she, as may be mutually agreed upon.

Fourth:- Baum shall deliver to The Reilly & Britton Co. on or before March 1, 1906 the manuscript of a book for young girls on the style of the Louisa M. Alcott stories, but not so good, the authorship to be ascribed to "Ida May McFarland," or to "Ethel Lynne," or some other mythological female

Fifth:- Baum shall deliver to The Reilly & Britton Co. on or before April 15, 1906 the complete manuscript of a story of adventure for boys, the authorship to be ascribed the [sic] Capt. Arthur Fitzgerald, or some other mythical male hero. . . .

Tenth:- The Reilly & Britton Co. agrees to promote the sale of each and all of these books to the full extent of whatever ability God has given them, backed by their worldly experience and mature judgement, and not to shy at any idea of further increasing such sales that may at any time enlighten their minds.

Eleventh:- The Reilly & Britton Co. further agrees that in case said Baum shall at any time become hard up to provide for him upon demand any sum or sums of money that he may wish to squander that will not total more than two thousand dollars, although they hope it will be less, and to deduct such sums from said Baum's accrued royalties on the next day of payment following, as above provided for. . . .

In witness whereof the undersigned parties to this agreement, being sane in their own estimation, well fed and not under the influence of any intoxicating beverages, do subscribe their names in the presence of witnesses.
I've seen hundreds of publishing contracts, and none is as readable as this one. However, a prohibition on signing agreements "under the influence of any intoxicating beverages" would have brought the mid-20th-century publishing industry to a standstill.


Jay said...

Wonderful! Baum was hilarious!

Charlotte said...

Now I'm wondering if my own name has "equally dignified comprehensiveness" or if I'm just anthoer "female she."