Pub Rants

Do You Do Big Money To Big Publishers?

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STATUS: Responses are still trickling in so I’ll probably wait a day or two before tabulating the very unscientific results! Thanks to all who participated in the survey!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DANCING IN THE DARK by Bruce Springsteen

In our June newsletter (which will probably go out this week), Sara talks about a query we received that began with this sentence: “Do you sell books to really big publishers for a lot of money? That’s all I am interested in and if you are small potatoes, please don’t bother responding…”

Insert picture here of Kristin snorting with laughter. The answer is yes, I certainly do sell books to big publishers for big money but I’m pretty certain I don’t want you as a client.
This opening is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin this rant. I’ll just list some thoughts.

1. Why are you emailing me this query if you don’t know my sales history and what I’ve sold lately and in general, for how much? That info is certainly out there if one does the research.

2. How do you define “big” publisher? I know a lot of smaller, independent houses I’d love to do a book with. Algonquin and MacAdam/Cage come to mind. Aren’t they big enough?

3. How do you define “big” money?

4. It’s not always about the money. Now, it’s always foremost in my consideration but sometimes it’s about the right editor, the right house, the right vision and that doesn’t always equal the most money.

5. No agent can guarantee that a project will sell for X amount of money and if they tell you they can, they’re lying. Now sometimes my gut will tell me that a project will go at auction and for good money and sometimes I’ll cautiously share my optimism with the client but it’s always tempered with the caveat that I can’t promise a specific dollar amount.

6. Lastly, if you are in the publishing game for the money, you’ve got a rude awakening in front of you. Do I need to trot out the statistics on how many queries we get versus how many authors we take on and actually sell? Do I need to dig up the stats on how many authors actually make a full-time living solely from their writing? (And the stats are even smaller when we are talking about writers making their living from writing fiction!) Do I need to list the stats on how many author advances are under the 25k range? Or reverse and list some stats on how many authors make six figure advances?

So yep, we do occasionally sell to big publishers for big money but we’ll be saying NO to this query without a second thought. We just don’t need any clients with misguided attitudes. If that’s the case, our client list is full up.

25 Responses

  1. kymbrunner said:

    You go, girl!

    I bet that writer complains up a storm about how overlooked her work is and how agents are stupid not to snap her up.

    Somehow I doubt her big potato will ever come.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Sounds like somebody was just pulling your leg. Or do we actually have a few folks like this walking among us?

    In either case, I loved your response!

  3. doortoriver said:

    *Gapes* You know… a friend of mine just said this to me, not five minutes ago: “This is the era of self-entitlement.” I think your experience evidences that rather nicely.

    Also… dang, that’s funny.

  4. JES said:

    I just want to say: it never ceases to amaze me how tone-deaf would-be professional writers can be to the effect of their own words. Simply cannot imagine what it must be like in YOUR shoes, seeing this sort of thing numerous times a week.

    Just out of curiosity, do you ever send non-form responses to queries which are really bad, I mean just plain godawful? (If not, betcha it’s tempting. 🙂

  5. leesmiley said:

    I don’t wish any ill-fortune on anyone . . . generally . . . but some people just deserve it. You almost hope this arrogant SOB gets scammed by some disreputable “agent” looking to take advantage of such an easy mark.

    Comments like that are simply bold disrespect for what you agents do.

  6. Julie Weathers said:

    ” Now sometimes my gut will tell me that a project will go at auction and for good money and sometimes I’ll cautiously share my optimism with the client but it’s always tempered with the caveat that I can’t promise a specific dollar amount.”

    I’m hesitant to even admit this, but I do think my work will have the right agent. I also think it will sell. I’m not sure I would even want someone hinting they think it will go into auction. Just let me live in my safe little world. If things go well, then I can do the happy Snoopy dance later.

    I’ll be very happy with an agent who is excited about my work and career.

    As for this dipstick, yeah, you go, guy.

  7. Joseph L. Selby said:

    My sarcastic nature demands that when I send you a query letter that I begin by asking whether you sell to big publishers for big money. If you’re small potatoes, I’m not interested. 😀

  8. JDuncan said:

    Ha! You have to wonder sometimes if people query these kinds of things as a joke just to see what kind of response they’ll get. Sadly, some folks really are that clueless about things.

  9. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Here’s another Kristin snorting with laughter!

    It’s a competitive business. I love how some people think they can just hire an agent when really, it’s more the other way around.

  10. Natalie Hatch said:

    I’ll take a six figure advance thanks Alex….
    Well at least you could say the writer was trying to get their facts straight I mean why bother if you’re not going to be JK Rowling? ah well, you live and learn.
    I’d chalk this one up on my notice board.. I guess this goes under the “Things not to say to an Agent” list?

  11. Anonymous said:

    I’ll gladly take a good editor that innately understands my work and wants to do more than one book with me, over a big advance and having no career after the fact.

    It’s odd where people get this kind of gumption, to know so little about the business but think they have a best-seller.

    I’ll bet you ten bucks the previous post concerning the person that left you brownies was a well-meaning, but misguided woman, hoping for a foot in the door, and this person who wants to know if you sell top big publishers for lots of money, is a man?

    I’m just sayin’

  12. Ric said:

    There is an old Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy receives a rejection and responds by writing, “You were supposed to send me a check for a million dollars – didn’t you realize that?”

    We all hope for the stars to align and the “Major Deal” phone call. While it doesn’t happen very often, that’s what keeps the fingers typing. Would I be considered a problem client if some of that “hope” seeped into the query letter?

    Just asking.

  13. Inspire said:

    Hi Kristin,

    Wow. Someone seeking representation actually wrote that to you in a query? I’m shaking my head.

    Recently, a writer acquaintance of mine forwarded to me an email she sent to an agent she had queried a few weeks before. She asked me if I thought what she sent was okay. She demanded the agent give her an explanation as to why she had not responded to her query. It was so abrupt I was taken back. I gently told her not to ever do that again, and exercise both patience and professionalism.

  14. Yoda47 said:

    Wow. Just wow.

    Sounds like that person is writing for all the wrong reasons.

    I’m writing because I enjoy it, and I have a story to share. I’d love to get a little extra money from it; but if no one picks it up, I’ll probably post it on the web for free just because I want to share the story.

  15. Chris said:

    I would like to see those statistics you mentioned. I read some awhile back in a “How to” book but I’d certainly be interested in seeing an insider’s perspective. I bet a lot of other writers would like to see the numbers too, even if they are grim.



  16. Redzilla said:

    Well, at least this kind of query letter is reassuring to people like me. No matter what goofs I might make in a query letter, at least I’m not going to get rejected for being a jerk.

  17. Deb said:

    I wonder (just the usual salmon swimming upstream) if this writer got this idea because of all the celebrity nimnuls out there who are selling their stories (often ghostwritten) for major dollars? This might make them feel certain they can swim in that pond, because they at least wrote the thing themselves!

    Sometimes I wonder if this industry isn’t its own worst enemy. Or at least, ranked pretty high up there.

  18. Margaret Yang said:

    @leesmiley. I agree. This is the kinde of person that scam “agents” like.

    “Sure thing, buddy. I’ll sell it for big bucks. But first, I have to charge you an editing fee, and a reading fee, and a…”

    And this person is so clueless he’ll probably fall for it.

    It’s just sad.

  19. Anonymous said:

    Well, I for one, am happy to know that I’m not wasting my time reading a blog of someone who doesn’t sell books to really big publishers for a lot of money, and those small potatoes, I too, don’t much like them but the small peas well if that’s all that’s available I’ll take them but not very happily.

  20. Rock and Roll Mama said:

    Whoa. I sincerely admire your restraint, and hope that that’s not representative of most of what you deal with. OR, maybe that would be good, cause my query will look AWESOME!
    No, really. There are so many good books to help us avoid these kinds of errors. Such as Emily Post…

  21. Anonymous said:

    I wouldn’t call that a client with misguided attitudes. That is a money wolf who doesn’t know how to write a business letter.

  22. Bob said:

    Gosh, I’d actually love to see those stats. I know it’s extremely unlikely I’ll ever get to be a full-time writer, but I’d still like to know just how unlikely. Cold doses of reality are good therapy.

    I’m just glad I have a really good “boring” job so that I can write for the enjoyment of it and not worry about trying to make a living off of it. Not that I’d mind a few extra bucks here and there.