On September 19, 2012, Bill and I reached an agreement in principle with the world's biggest publisher. Tina Constable, an executive at Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, gave her lieutenant, Mauro DiPreta, the green light to essentially make a preemptive offer after Mauro's negotiations with literary agent David Black. A deal memo spelled out the basic contractual terms. Nonetheless, after putting so much time and effort into the project, Bill and I wanted to make sure that the publisher was on the same wavelength as us beyond monetizing the intellectual property. Given Bill's idiosyncrasies, only an accommodative yet strong publisher could reach the goal of a quality manuscript that all sides agreed on. Conversely, a publisher that overlooked Bill's personality, regardless of contractual terms, would invite disaster.
So on October 1, Mauro DiPreta, the chief editor of Crown Archetype, an imprint of Crown, met me for a pivotal lunch near Random House's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Here was a first-time author: a black guy with an Italian last name -- as I would joke to Mauro -- dictating unofficial terms to a big-time publisher. But Mauro listened intently, taking notes as if he was sitting across from Stephen King. Mauro really wanted the book, yet possessed sort of a Teddy Roosevelt demeanor -- speaking softly while carrying a big stick. Within minutes, I knew that we had found the ideal publisher. Mauro viewed the project as being "bigger than Bill." He added, "This book is also about 50 years of football history." Little did Mauro know that I had made similar remarks to Bill several times throughout the years while detailing the vision of the book. And when I warned Mauro about Bill's quirks -- "You're inevitably going to occasionally curse his name" -- he didn't flinch, promising to adapt within reason.
Later that night, I reported to Bill that the meeting went swimmingly. We were lucky to have found the perfect editor for the project. Next, Crown's honchos wanted to meet Bill in Saratoga Springs before sealing the deal. So on October 15, Tina Constable, Mauro DiPreta and publicity chief Tammy Blake arrived upstate for a get-comfortable lunch with Bill. David Black, picked to sell the book after we had considered three reputable agents, joined the group at the Saratoga National Golf Club, where Bill is a member. That meeting went equally well as Bill offered some anecdotes from the material. At the end of the get-together, the Big Tuna stressed that he wanted to limit the use of curse words in the book. No problem, Mauro told him.
However, legal complexities, the holiday season and further negotiations over semantics like deadlines delayed things for more than four months. My publishing lawyer, Eric Rayman helped us overcome the legalese. And the contract didn't become official until February 5, after signatures from me, Bill, and finally, Tina, who we would nickname the Big Tina -- figuratively speaking, of course.