Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who's On Your Side?

But one question--is a publisher LIKELY to pull something like that if it jeopardizes their relationship with an author? Or does it all depend on just who that author is?

Yes. No. Maybe.

This summer at the publishing institute I got to hear from a lot of editors. Most of my contact, aside from at the BEA, has been with agents. Sometimes they're on the same side of the field, sometimes they're not. Sometimes it seems like one's on your side and the other isn't, but you may be wrong. Or it may not matter. I'm being very helpful, am I?

Everyone involved in the publishing process obviously has a vested interest in having the author succeed. They also have a vested interest in making sure that they are compensated for their time and avoid any legal issues while doing so. So everyone is sort of working together but sort of not. I got a first-hand taste of this this summer, when I was offered a book contract by an editor and ran off to find an agent. It was a long and complex process that I don't want to get into because it involves specific people, but the point is, suddenly after many years of rejection, the spotlight was on me and my commercially viable manuscript. I didn't mention it at the time on the blog because I was having the argument with Jill about her book contract, and I was sure it would just confuse the issue, which was unrelated. But anyway, yes, G-d willing, I am going to be published sometime in late 2008.

Despite having worked for an agent and taken an publishing course, picking an agent was a maddening process. The editor didn't want me to get an agent. Some editors simply don't like working with agents; they feel they drive up the price. They don't like the middleman. (These editors accept unsolicited manuscripts) On the other hand the advance was very low even for genre fiction, and the agent wanted to threaten to walk away and take a chance with other publishers, while I wanted to take the offer on the table (with some re-negotiations and revisions that I needed an agent to do) because damnit, I wanted to be published, and I knew a lot about the publishing company and I knew they would do a good job and probably eventually pick up the whole series. I called around to former bosses and co-workers and they all gave me different advice, and really wondered what the hell I was doing, and then wondered, "Wait, I work in publishing. How do I not know what I'm doing?" A lot of guessing and going with gut feelings was involved.

Currently we're in contract revisions similar to the one in my previous post. A lot of people who knew me asked me why in the world was I looking for an agent who would just take a cut of my pay when I knew all about the job and already had a book deal. Couldn't I do it myself? I decided to let someone else do the nitty-gritty of the contract, which turned out to be a big deal, which is why I'm relieved and heavy on the "you need an agent" recommendation for most authors.

That doesn't mean that the publisher was trying to "screw me." The publisher presented a contract that would give me an advance and future royalties if I earn out my advance, and they would get a lot of rights. It wasn't bad; I just knew I could do better.

Take the example of the previous post to this one. The publisher has a valid reason for not wanting to have to contact the author prior to revisions. Revisions are expensive, so chances are they would be minor anyway, and what the publisher is trying to avoid is a situation in which the author disappears (dies, moves to another country, etc) and the publisher is unable to contact them to inform them of revisions, so they're not able to republish. The publisher could very well have had every intention of informing the author prior to publication with the old wording, but wanted to safeguard themselves against extreme cases that could become a legal mess. Or, maybe they just really didn't want to be hassled and were being sort of sneaky.

No one's really evil, but no one really wants to be hassled when they're trying to do their work. Agents don't want to be hassled by their clients when they're in a waiting period and can't do anything for them anyway, publishers don't want to be hassled by agents demanding every last word be changed in some way, and nobody wants to hassle the author too much if they're an earner because they might jump ship with the next book and/or fire their agent.

So, it's one of these. (waves hands up and down like a measuring scale)

49 comments:

jjdebenedictis said...

But anyway, yes, G-d willing, I am going to be published sometime in late 2008.

Squee!! Congratulations!

Marissa Doyle said...

Very illuminating answer--thank you, Ms. Rejecter.

And many congratulations on your offer!

Grendel's Dam said...

Congratulations! It must have been tough to keep under your hat.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the deal!

But all that goes through my mind when you say you were looking for an agent was 'that you're smart and professional. Because while you may know a lot more about the process than most of us, you're still comparatively new to the industry; and you certainly couldn't mediate between yourself and your editor.

green_knight

Anonymous said...

"...genre fiction...whole series."

I know this is a rude thing to say, but I already know I wouldn't want to read your book. Don't you have enough self-respect to do something more original? You can ignore this comment if it suits you, but by what I glean from your tone, your book sounds like an excuse for laziness. You care more about being published than writing something worth publishing, provided our standards are the same, and I'm sure they aren't. However, based on my track record of zero accomplishments, I can tell you as a warning example that my ambitions are slowing me down. Well, godspeed! I hope you write more filler for the dustbin.

Anonymous said...

That's terrific news! I've always thought that having an agent meant keeping the editorial process between editor and author clean, with no business issues interfering.
So good on you for going that route. The adage about lawyers being their own clients probably holds true for agents as well!

A. B. said...

Congratulations on the offer, and thank you for some very helpful information.

Richard said...

I would imagine that it is very much like real life, some people are all out for you, others are out to take advantage to you and the great middle are mostly interested in them selves, but not out to screw you.

Congratulations on landing a book deal! (will we ever know the title? Are you publishing under a pseudonym?)

moonrat said...

yeah, touchy subject... not sure how many times i've been asked to post about this. i always end up coming to the same conclusion you did (waving hands motion).

congratulations on the deal :)

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

Congratz, Reject-o-chick!

You're really going to have a 360° perspective on the publishing world now, aren't you!

Are you going to come out of the closet a little closer to pub date so we can boost your "platform" and pad your sales?

The Rejecter said...

Anon 7:55

Wow, that's some misdirected anger fueled by personal frustration.

What? Was I supposed to write some sprawling memoir about my life? Haven't I mentioned I hate MFA programs? Do you think this is my first manuscript, and not the 3rd I've tried to submit? And you don't even KNOW the genre.

My book will be called: "The Tale of Zytharustera: Book the First: The Prophecy, Part I: The Prophet Speaks."

I'm planning on the second one being called "The Tale of Zytharustera: Book the First: The Prophecy, Part I: The People Listen to the Prophet, Who Is Still Speaking."

The editor may have something to say about this, as it's not a fantasy series involving prophets with keyboardism names, but we'll see.

Cathy in AK said...

Congratulations!

And I'll start saving now to purchase The Tale of Zytharustera: Book the First: The Prophecy, Part 1: The Q&A After the Prophet Speaks

Austin said...

Eff da' haters. This is a reason to celebrate.

And if people want to write good genre fiction, and others are willing to publish it, and still many others are willing to pay for it and theoretically enjoy it - why should Anon 7:55 care?

This is illuminatiing and helpful to see your adventures on all sides of the publishing process. Here's to your success!

But on another note - now that we know what your book is called, and we're all waiting for it to come out, won't this ruin your secret identity?

Anonymous said...

I hate it when writers trash other writers (or rejectors) for enjoying or daring to publish genre fiction. Of any kind. You like what you like and that is what makes the world go around, after all.

Snotty writers look down on romance because... heaven forbid someone wants to simply be entertained and escape their mundane life for five minutes. They look down at children's writers because, hey, if it's for kids it must be easy (not). They look down on SFF because, magic, how trite, what are you trying to be JK Rowling?

It goes on and on. I don't read much genre fiction, honestly. I'm more of a comtemporary fiction girl myself. But I don't bemoan people that do. Getting any book published is a BIG DEAL!!

Write what you love. Life is too short.

Merrie Haskell said...

Wow, congratulations!

I suppose you aren't going to forgo your anonymity and tell us what the book is when it's time?

burgy61 said...

Congratulations on the book deal. Taking the time and effort to write a book in any genre is a great accomplishment in itself. And as long as you take pride in it, and make it the best you can you should be proud.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the rest of us.

The Rejecter said...

To those that have asked, no, I don't have plans to promote my book on this site. It's a specific genre, and I hope that readers of that genre will find it through the normal means that they do and enjoy it because they chose to read it, not because they're reading a totally unrelated industry blog and the author is the blogger.

Anonymous said...

"The Tale of Zytharustera: Book the First: The Prophecy, Part I: The Prophet Speaks."

Anger, snottiness, all are the vehicles for arriving at some area of objective beauty. My intentions are good, and you have the resilience not to be too affected by anything I say. So if I stomp all over your work, I am only testing the strength.

I have been pathetically attacked for thinking that beauty must be absolute, otherwise it's not beauty. Everything is NOT merely a matter of opinion. Our perceptions conform to a mutual reality, and most people are wrong because they don't have the discipline to see it. If beauty is not objective in any way, we have no consistent principles to rely on. Reality falls apart. Meaning doesn't exist. Given, it's not a static force, but it changes according to some structure. One ought to spend their entire life looking for it.

Beauty should make up for what life is missing. Art should be beautiful and original.

The title of your book sounds like a clone of Also Sprach Zarathustra. I seem to be right in my accusation that you lack self-respect, or else your book wouldn't be merely a cheap knock-off.

The Rejecter said...

....what?

That's not the REAL title.

Anonymous said...

"Taking the time and effort to write a book in any genre is a great accomplishment in itself. And as long as you take pride in it, and make it the best you can you should be proud."

Shudder. Gag.

The Rejecter said...

Either someone's making vague, incoherent anonymous posts or I have crazy all over my computer screen.

Lee said...

Congratulations on the book deal! That said, I now feel the need to come to your defense against Anon. 7:55.

It is ignorance such as this that leads some people to a lifetime of rejection slips. You (Anon.) are either a closed-minded literary snob or an unimaginative windbag, and neither of these descriptions will get you very far in the publishing industry.

I have read widely, but rarely have I found stories that moved me more than certain genre works. You have roughly the same number of novels in genre fiction as you find in literary fiction that are not worth the paper they are printed on (filler for the dustbin, as you call it) and with your narrow tastes, I'm sure your dustbin is much fuller than mine. I appreciate a good story, told well, by a competent author. Whether it is about elves or mental illness, wizards or dysfunctional families, makes no difference to me. It is the story and the telling that matter.

I wish you luck in your pursuit of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a half dozen or so Pulitzers. However, I believe you will likely spend your days cursing the literary establishment for not seeing the "true genius" in your work, assuming you muster the imagination to finish your magnum opus.

Ms. Rejecter, I applaud you on your handling of such criticism, knowing that more lies ahead after publication. Perhaps when you hit the bestseller list, you can purchase a new, larger dustbin for Anon. 7:55 to hold all of your published work.

Stephen Parrish said...

Anger, snottiness, all are the vehicles for arriving at some area of objective beauty.

I used to have nonsensical thoughts like this too. Before rehab.

Kate said...

Congrats on the deal!!

LJCohen said...

To the anonymous genre-fiction loathing commenter: Thank you for the biggest laugh I've had since I broke my ankle last friday. I've been *really* grumpy, and you have me sitting here in fits of giggles. That you fell for the Rejecter's faux title is just the icing on the cake.

Yup, I'll be looking for "The Tale of Zytharustera: Book the First: The Prophecy, Part XXVI: The Prophet Runs Out of Rollover Minutes on His Cell Phone"

That ought to be a best seller. With cross over appeal to biblical scholars and teen aged mall rats.

ROFL.

Congrats, Rejecter. All the best for your novel.

Termagant 2 said...

Ms. R, my congratulations on your contract. I don't read SF or fantasy that much (will make exceptions for Lois McMaster Bujold), but I wish you the very best possible experience, and many $ales.

As far as "So if I stomp all over your work, I am only testing the strength."

Anon, you are testing nothing. You have read nothing of Ms. R's work, therefore you know nothing of it. Also you are stomping nothing--merely producing words on a blog. Go volunteer at the local animal shelter, why not, and do something worthwhile?

End of rant.

Anonymous said...

I suppose you can keep digging if it makes you feel better, Unpleasant Anonymous poster, but generally graves only have to be about six feet deep.

~Nancy said...

Congrats, Rejecter! :-) I read tons of fantasy, so here's hoping I pick up yours sometime next year.

And kudos for you to not use this blog to push your book: Obviously, you want to make it on your (and your book's) own merits.

And to the snobby Anonymous: Oh, the heck with it. He/she/it wouldn't listen anyway.

~jerseygirl

Amy said...

Congratulations! And I'm going to add my voice to the rest of the commenters- don't worry about fiction snobs.

LindaBudz said...

Wow, I'm away from your blog for a few days and look what I miss!

Huge congratulations!

To the anon writer with "zero accomplishments," ever think that maybe your tendency to talk down to people might tend to come through in your writing? If that tone carries into your ms's in any way, I'll bet editors can't fill up their dustbins quickly enough with your submissions.

Maria said...

Rejecter:

WOOOOOHOOOO!!!!! BIG FAT CONGRATULATIONS!!!

And post it to this blog. And every other blog you can find.

:>)

The Rejecter said...

Thanks for your support guys. And for the record, the book is not high fantasy. I have written high fantasy in the past, when I was very young. I've dabbled in most genres (except category romance).

Dave Kuzminski said...

Hmmm, if you dabbled in everything else, it must be a category romance (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). ;)

Congrats and have fun!

Unpleasant Anonymous Poster said...

I concede. As far as it is possible to discern talent by prejudice alone, your book has every possibility of success. Although, I have a few more questions, just to show I'm not affected by the fact that everybody has turned against me. (They always do that, so I'm used to it. I actually think it makes a man stronger to have lots of enemies and no friends.) Why would you accept such a small advance, even for genre fiction? Back to the subject of self-respect: If it's that good, then it deserves more money. At least the same amount as the average book of its category. And in response to all my enemies, I apologize for expecting more from you, The Rejecter. Are you just hoping it will earn out the advance? And if it sells only a few thousand copies, will you be disappointed? Are you taking commercial success into consideration? If you're so good, you should want to make all kinds of money, so you can write another one, where you won't be distracted by any preoccupation. This is a practical concern. If you don't make enough money, you can't afford to spend all your time focused on developing your talent, getting better, which is all any serious artist cares about. Genius is eternal patience. You need unlimited free time to have eternal patience.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:55 = Sour Grapes

We can see through you, bud.

Chumplet said...

Anon, not all of us are going for the big advance. Sure, it's nice to dream, but we can't all be bestsellers. Only a small percentage of writers actually finish a novel. A tiny percentage of those are accepted by an agent or an editor. We're not all literary writers, but someday some of us might be.

Rejector chooses to negotiate her own contract,and I'm sure she won't do herself a disservice. She'll take care of her own contract to the best of her ability, and in the process will learn how to negotiate ours (if she hasn't already).

Congrats, Rejector. Good luck with your novel.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd simply feel like a total failure if I had only the talent to be a measly genre writer like Elmore Leonard, Georges Simenon, Ursula LeGuin, or Gene Wolfe.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 7:55:

>Reality falls apart. Meaning doesn't exist. . . . >One ought to spend their entire life looking >for it.

But one might first wish to grasp the concept of subject-verb agreement.

Has anyone ever told you you have a personality disorder?

Yours truly,

Someone Who Got a Relatively Large Advance on the Book He Wrote That's Coming Out Next June.

R Matthew Ware said...

Anon 7:55,
This is why I hate people. No one appointed you to be a judge. You can't very well criticize what you haven't read. Don't be a loser.

Signed,
Someone who has better things to do than cut down everyone around me.

PS: Have you had anything published? Come out of the closet.

Rob said...

Rejector, correct me if I'm wrong, but can't you negotiate a slightly higher commission when you accept a lower advance? That shows the publisher you are confident in your book and your ability to help sell it.

unpleasant anon,
Always being attacked and having no friends does NOT make you stronger.

thl said...

Congratulations, Rejector!! ;-D

The fact that you found time to write while doing a job that claims soooo many personal hours out of the day from you is impressive, to say the least.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that your very sensible actions and realistic literary dealings will lead to bigger and better things for you in the future!

Elrena said...

Oh, congratulations Rejecter!! This is awesome news and I hope you are reveling in it...don't let the shoe-piddlers get you down. :)

(If we e-mail you, will you tell us the real title of the book in case we don't want to accidentally miss it?)

Sesheta said...

Congratulations Rejector! It's good to hear that even when you're as familiar as you are with the industry, the search for an agent can still be daunting.

Whatever genre your book falls into here's hoping you have every success.

Anonymous said...

UAP, are your initials TM?

Miri said...

A bit late for the party, but a huge CONGRATS!, Rejector, and hey, I happen to read almost nothing but genre fiction, so I'll definitely be on the lookout for anything that looks like it could be yours.

(Oops! Did I just admit that I read genre fiction? Guess I should just throw myself off a bridge, because that obviously makes me a worthless person.)

On the subject of UAP, I sincerely think that you're being punked, Rejector. I honestly don't believe that people can be that unpleasant.

MelodyO said...

Rejector, it makes me feel so much better to know that even someone in the industry can be nervous and uncertain while selling her first book. Thanks for telling us about your adventures, even when subjected to various rants thereafter.

PS I'm just sorry we can't support you by buying your book. Maybe you could drop hints in puzzle form in your posts for us to solve, like the book Masquerade. OMG YOU HID YOUR COZY MYSTERY UNDER A ROCK IN SOUTH AFRICA. Hee.

BuffySquirrel said...

Congrats on the sale!

I love those fake titles :).

Objective beauty...reality falls apart...bah. People across cultures can't even agree on how many colours there are.

Issendai said...

Congratulations! May it be the first of many.

ORION said...

Congratulations rejecter.
The perseverance it takes to take a manuscript all the way to getting published is the same type of perseverance it takes to ignore those who would diminish your accomplishments.
I'll toss a virtual lei your way.
Aloha,
Patricia Wood