Pub Rants

Category: warnings

Piracy—All Too Real

STATUS: Besides that fact that it’s snowing again in Denver, I’m good. The keyboard and the mouse dried out and are working fine. Yea! And don’t worry, I know that there are plenty of mighty and wonderful librarians who fight for free speech etc.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COOL CHANGE by Little River Band

This isn’t the first time it has happened and I’m certain it won’t be the last. Piracy. Illegal eBooks being offered for sale via a website. Last time one of my author’s series of books was offered for sale in the Philippines. A quick email to the publisher got their legal team on it and within 24 hours, the webhoster had pulled the site.

It was probably up again a week later under a different hoster but hey, you do what you can.

This week, it’s a file sharing culprit right here in the U.S. (or I think it’s the US, the origin isn’t clear) A website called eSnips. Funny enough, sharing books isn’t an obvious part of the “community.” You need to go here to see what is being offered. Deliberate? Hum…

First off, if you are an author, you might want to check the site to see if your book is featured there. If so, contact your agent and your editor. We need to speak up in the face of copyright violation.

After all, this is how writers make their living–by selling books and earning royalties. If the books are posted (in full) on a site that allows free downloads, then the author is not earning money they are owed for their work.

Even if the books are being made available by misguided fans who think they are simply boosting the fan base of their favorite authors, it’s just plain wrong. (Besides, nothing like dissing an author you like by not allowing them to earn a living.)

And even if the author is already super millionaire, they still have a right to earn that money from their work (and to dispose of those earnings how they choose–even to charities etc.). Being a bestseller doesn’t matter for this issue.

Just imagine if it were your work being made available so casually—especially if you’re eyeing your bills for next month and wondering just how creative you’ll need to be to pay them…

Was That Requested Material?

STATUS: I made quite a few editors excited with the submission I sent out today. Love that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? AND WHEN I DIE by Blood, Sweat, & Tears

I have to say that most of the writers I talk to and interact with are wonderful. They are interesting, engaging, ask smart questions, follow guidelines, and don’t waste an agent’s time.

I just had to chuckle when my agency received a full manuscript out of the blue via the mail two days ago. First off, we never ever ask for a full manuscript to be snail mailed to us. Ever. Even from day one of my agency, I’ve always allowed a writer to send it to me by email. It’s the only time I allow a submission via that medium. Mainly because I don’t ask for that many fulls (54 total last year if you read my statistics entry) and I can do an intense virus scan before allowing that sucker to download.

And as y’all know, even snail mailed paper submissions are a thing of the past here at the Nelson Agency. I’m launching the new electronic submission database this week. The first request emails are probably going out tomorrow. Now if something comes via snail mail, we’ll KNOW that it wasn’t requested.

But I highlight this simply as a gentle reminder that it doesn’t help you or pay to circumvent the system. We really don’t want to read your work unless we’ve asked for it via the query process. Most agents simply discard unrequested material—no response sent.

I know that sounds harsh but I’ve said it here numerous times and I’ll say it again, the sheer volume of what we receive (even when we have actually requested it) is so large, we haven’t got time for the unrequested stuff. And now for us, the unsolicited stuff will be pretty darn obvious and I’m warning you now, we plan to discard it.

It’s also a small test. Do you understand publishing, agenting, and how the submission process works? Can you follow directions, instructions, or guidelines? Even these annoying steps (and I know they are annoying because every agent has his/her own unique, jump through the silly hoops, guidelines) acts as a filter for those who are truly serious about writing and publishing. Only the really serious would take the time to learn the biz and navigate the submission process.

Right there that’s an indicator to us that you have the fortitude and fortitude is an essential quality to becoming a future client.

Are You The Key Master?

STATUS: I’ve been working late all week because I’m so behind on client reading. Sorry folks. This means I haven’t even looked at queries and partials for well over a week. No extra time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LEAST COMPLICATED by Indigo Girls

Well, I have serious doubts that the Sobol Awards is. I think Miss Snark clearly sums up my own issues with the whole “contest.” No need for me to re-summarize it here.

What’s most interesting to me, when reading the comments for this thread, is the implacable view of agents as gatekeepers.

Like we, as agents, are all sitting around plotting how not to let talented writers inside the publishing bastion and then delight in our ability to keep the “undeserving” out.

Hum… I can’t say I’ve ever thought of myself in this way. Most of the time, I just read submissions and I ask myself, “Do I like it? Do I not? Can I, personally, sell this?”

If the answer is yes, I take the person on. If the answer is no, I don’t.

There’s certainly no deeper subtext going on.

I also don’t like everything I find in the bookstore and I’ve certainly read published, wildly popular works or lauded works and thought, “this is crap; I can’t even imagine how this got published.”

Admit it! You readers have often thought the same.

No Gatekeeping conspiracy present since obviously a wide array of books (of varying quality) gets published. Besides, in a lot of genres I rep (such as romance and sf & f), editors often search for new talent sans agent involvement and lots of writers hook up with deals all on their own.

Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

No, I don’t earn my 15% commission by gatekeeping. I earn my 15% by being a partner in my author clients’ careers.

And as I’ve said before, this job is so much more than just finding a project and selling it.

What the Sobol Contest implies is that there is nothing more to agenting than that. Some “winners” might be in for a rude awakening and let’s hope the “agent” at Sobol Literary will know better than to simply accept the Simon & Schuster contract boilerplate on the author’s behalf.


The Contest That Just Wouldn’t Die

STATUS: I feel like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne! Did I do some huge deal today or something? Nope. I finished negotiating a contract that was four months in the making. Normally contracts don’t take nearly that amount of time. This contract had some special circumstances but it’s done. I’m so really to celebrate that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Al Green

Yep. It’s all over the blogosphere. As much as we’ve tried, we just can’t kill the fee chargers that is the Sobol Award. There are at least a 1000 poor souls who paid up but obviously that wasn’t enough so the organizers in their beneficence (read: they didn’t get enough money first time around) extended the deadline from December of this year to March of 2007. Plenty of time to lighten the wallets of more unsuspecting writers.

I think POD-DY Mouth has the best take on it.

All I can say is that the contest creator Mr. Shomron must be some talker and Simon & Schuster deserves 50 lashes with a wet noodle for even getting involved.

Can’t Touch This!

STATUS: I’m a little annoyed so I would like to say here, despite an anonymous poster on Thursday Nov. 30, 2006 suggesting that I am liar, I have never lied or exaggerated a posting on deal lunch. I think it’s important to set that record straight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WINDSWEPT by Bryan Ferry

The Mahvelous ladies at Writer Beware have done it again. Victoria and Ann have taken down another scammer after years of unpaid, often times unthanked perseverance.

And the story rivals anything you’d see on CSI or Law And Order. Check out the play-by-play on their blog (here and here) and do me a favor, send them an e-card thanking them for all their hard work.

They make the world of publishing a better place and so often get little recognition for it. Let’s flood their email box with great electronic cards telling them how much we appreciate their efforts to keep the writing world safe.

Remember, Editors Work For The Man

STATUS: I’m a little frazzled. But things are good. I did have lunch today with Kate Schafer, a YA agent at Janklow & Nesbit. She’s in town. Ends up we both have copies of Opal Mehta (of the big plagiarism scandal) because we had lunches with editors involved right before that story broke. Isn’t that weird? A little synchronicity in the world.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

One of the great reasons, as an author, to have an agent is the fact that your agent gets to handle any of the nasty stuff and you, as the author, get to maintain a terrific, stress-free relationship with your editor. In fact, some authors end up being good friends with their editors and will often attend parties, weddings, and other events with or for their editor friend.

A great relationship with your editor is a powerful thing. I’m all for it but I always want to remind authors that editors work for the man. In other words, they work for the publishing house and even though they might adore you personally, it is their job to protect their employer’s best interest. Not yours.

That’s why you have an agent.

So when I hear that authors either knowingly or unwittingly circumvent their agent and jeopardize the author/agent partnership, I feel the need to rant. I guess this has been a big discussion on some of the chat forums lately—authors who have agents but go directly to their editor with a new, uncontracted proposal or work without consulting with the agent first.

Oh boy. Regardless of how good your relationship is with your editor, this is business; not personal and a submission (in whatever format) is truly the first step in a negotiation and is serious business. Not to mention your agent’s job. I have heard so many horror stories of authors misstepping at this stage because they knowingly or unwittingly circumvented the agent and chaos ensued.

Or even better, I love the stories where authors have submitted a project themselves and contracted it without the agent’s knowledge and then landed themselves in a whole heap of trouble in terms of not honoring option clauses or current contract conditions etc.

Guess what the agent does when he or she finds out? You bet. Drops you. In this instant, the author has purposely negated the agent/author relationship and as far as the agent is concerned, you are not her problem anymore.

Any gray areas here? For example, are you allowed to share ideas with your editor? Sure… (but it’s better to share with me first) and as soon as the idea morphs into pen on paper, a real project that can be sold, I’d better be in the loop.

Scammers That Scam Together…

STATUS: TGIF! The week ended way better than it started. I have one project that’s garnering lots of editor attention. Love that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FASCINATION STREET by The Cure

Of course I had to go and research David Kuzminski’s cryptic comment in yesterday’s comment thread to click here if I wanted a good laugh.

But nothing prepared me for the sheer hilarity of scammers and fee-charging agents banding together to pretend they’re legitimate.

I even love their new organizational title: The International Independent Literary Association and yet not one of the agencies listed there is international. Perhaps they are just being optimistic for new members?

But my favorite part? The link that says Retainer Fee—To Pay or Not to Pay.

There they clearly spell out that it is a common misconception that reputable agents do not charge fees.

Eyebrow raise.

But it gets even better, they admit that reading and evaluation fees are still a big NO but retainer fees are the new black. After all, you’d expect to pay one when hiring an attorney, so why not for hiring an agent? In fact, according to them, this is now the case for literary agents.

News to me!

They even outright say that it’s okay as long as the retainer fee is for a reasonable amount.

Right. I’d like to know what constitutes a reasonable amount.

Folks. Repeat after me. Legitimate agents sell books to make money. To publishers who pay advances and royalties for the privilege.

They don’t charge money upfront (call it retainer, reading, submission, evaluation or whatever).

Why? Because if you actually sell books, you make money. There’s no need to charge fees.

And I also want you to go to the Association of Authors’s Representatives web page right now (of which I am a member). Give it a good look.

Now click on the Canon of Ethics. A set of ethical guidelines agents must adhere to in order to be a member.

See item 8? It clearly states that charging clients is subject to serious abuse that reflects adversely on our profession. Now, the problem is that the AAR only highlights fees for reading and evaluating literary works.

Scammers and pseudo-agents are manipulating language by now calling it a retainer. See it’s not really a reading or evaluation fee (even though we don’t seem to have a sales record), honest.

Folks. A fee is a fee is a fee is a fee.