Tuesday, March 10, 2009

He Understood What the Goal Was...

I've just read the very sad news that my friend Dennis Dalrymple has died. Dennis was a contracts expert and the former Contracts Director for Warner Books. I first met him as an editorial assistant and remember when I was buying my first book for Warner. The author didn't have an agent and he wanted a lot of changes to the standard boilerplate. And Dennis patiently walked him through it and came to me and asked me whether or not this point or that mattered to me. This was a guy who was negotiating multi-million-dollar contracts for the CEO of the firm. Yet he put in a ton of time with this piddling little contract for a young editorial assistant's acquisition. And I think that says a lot about him, all good.

After he left Warner, Dennis became a free-lance contracts guy. You could outsource all of your contracts to him or just go to him on a case-by-case basis, and he was always happy to help...and not just because he was getting paid. I think the guy genuinely enjoyed his job and working with agents and publishers.

More importantly, I always had the impression that Dennis understood that the goal was to close the deal. Not close the deal but screw the author or screw the publisher, but close the deal so that both sides felt they'd negotiated a fair agreement. In my experience, too many contracts people get hung up on "winning," on insisting that things must be done their way, or at least the way the house wants it. Many contracts people simply don't respect the authors and agents and what they bring to the table. Dennis was not one of those and the publishing world has lost a real asset and the world has lost a real mensch.

Z

1 comment:

slcard said...

Dear Mr. Zack:

I am saddened to again be commenting on the loss of one of your friends; yet again your words have captured a gifted, unique individual we might all regret the passing of. Please accept my condolences.

Sincerely,

Sara L. Card
Sydney, NS, Canada

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