I’ve been in publishing for lo, these many years (over 30), so you’d think the work would be pretty much second nature for me. No so! In fact, just this last week I did something completely new!
The amazing thing about this isn’t that the author and I got the book done so quickly, but that it was SO MUCH FUN! We parked on Skype for hours, so that if I had questions as I edited a chapter, I could just ask him, and if he had questions about the editing, he could just ask me. It was like being in the same room together, but without the expense or stress of travel. And I discovered that doing the edit this way gave me a fresher understanding of what the author wanted to say. It also enabled us to do a bit of arm wrestling when we disagreed on something, but to do so with humor and kindness. When you deal with issues over the phone or in email, you always run the risk of misunderstanding because folks can’t see your expressions or body language, or hear the tone of your voice. With Skype, those risks were gone, so we handled a couple of sensitive issues without frustration or misunderstanding.
And that, my friends, is a miracle!
One of our readers asked this via the green “Ask us a question” button.
What happens if you get a book contract before you have an agent? What if, by some miracle, an editor sees your work and wants to publish it? (1) would having a publisher interested in my work make an agent much more likely to represent me, and (2) would it be appropriate to try to find an agent at that point (when a publisher says it wants to publish you)? My fear is that querying an agent and receiving a response could take several months, but I’d need to accept a potential contract with a book publisher right away (I would think). Is it appropriate to ask the editor to speak with an agent on your behalf to speed the process?
This is a great topic but there are a few questions within the question. Let me try to break it down.
Many times have had authors approach us with contracts in hand and seeking representation (happened just last week). Of course this will get an agent’s attention immediately. But there are caveats:
a) Who is the publisher? There is a big difference between a major company and your local independent publisher. Not all publishers are created equal (see the Preditors & Editors warnings).
Before I became a literary agent I had no idea how much energy this profession spent being a “collections agent.” Recently someone asked us the following questions (use the green button to the right to ask your question!):
What do you do, as an agent, when a publisher does not pay advances on royalties on time as per their legal contract?
What if a publisher is consistently late (months) saying they have cash flow problems and will pay when they can? Shouldn’t authors be able to count on getting paid the amount and on the date stated in their contract?
Is this common and is there anything that can be done or said regarding what seems to be a breach of contract?
This is an excellent series of questions. The full non-answer is “It depends.” Generally publishers are very good about making the payments according to contracted schedules. The above situation is much more dire and is a good reason to have an agent who know who to talk to inside the publishing house. There are ways to approach the situation that gets results, just remember, “Don’t Burn a Bridge.”
However, there are a few possible reasons that authors should keep in mind before getting impatient with a tardy paycheck.
Recently, my assistant had a conversation with an author who did not send a complete proposal. The author was referred to our guidelines and gently reminded that we needed more material in order to make an evaluation. But instead of saying “thank you” for the guidance, the author declared they did not have to jump through any hoops, and took the opportunity to aggressively express their complaints about our review process.
What made this all the more frustrating to us is that it happens more often than you’d think.
Why All The Work?
Have you ever worked in an office where you could swear one of your coworkers could find something — anything — wrong with your work so they could get it off their desk and back onto you? Well, that’s not what we are doing when we ask for a proposal. We are not giving you busywork so we can get back to our soap operas and coffee.
Nearly every writer will tell you they have experienced the proverbial “red pen” treatment from their editor. The reactions to this experience can follow the well-known stages of grief popularized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
Skip Denial, I’m Angry!
There is no denying that the edits have arrived. And for the author who was not expecting a hard-nosed edit, they can transition from “shocked-angry” to “furious-angry” to “rage.”
And then they call their agent.
Some have a hard time appreciating the talent involved in writing genre fiction. By genre fiction, I mean novels that fall into a defined category such as contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, or cozy mystery. Many of these novels are published by mass market publishers (like Harlequin) and fit in lines they have formed for the sole purpose of selling the genre.
These are distinguished from Trade fiction where there isn’t necessarily a specific line that has been formed to sell a genre, although there are exceptions to that “rule” like the “Love Finds You” series from Summerside Press. In publisher’s lingo “trade” means a 5 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ trim size and is probably between 80,000 and 100,000 words in length. “Genre” or “category” fiction can mean the 4″ by 6″ trim size (also known as mass market) and between 50,000 words and 70,000 words.
New information has surfaced regarding the sale of Heartsong to Harlequin.
In my post on Friday I made the assumption that the sale included all the backlist and the currently contracted titles. This was reflected in point #5 in the post.
That is not the case. Harlequin did not buy the backlist or the currently contracted titles. Those will remain the property of Barbour Publishing. Thus future repackaging opportunities remain for those titles. That also includes the Heartsong e-books that Barbour is releasing under the “Truly Yours” banner (also mentioned in #5 in that previous post).
Harlequin bought the brand name and the club mailing list, not the books themselves.
The sale of Thomas Nelson to HarperCollins and last week’s sale of Heartsong to Harlequin brought to mind a critical piece of advice:
Never Burn a Bridge!
Ours is a small industry and both editors and authors move around with regularity. If you are in a business relationship and let your frustration boil into anger and ignite into rage…and let that go at someone in the publishing company, you may end up burning the bridge. And that person who you vented on might someday become the head of an entire publishing company.