Pub Rants

Category: Writing As A Career

What You Should Never Do

STATUS: I signed a new client today. That’s always fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I MELT WITH YOU by Modern English

I want to begin this blog by saying that I do understand the incredible obstacles writers face in terms of finding an agent and selling a book. I understand that if you, as a writer, get rejection after rejection, it’s frustrating not to mention disheartening.

I get that.

And I imagine that every writer at one time has THOUGHT about writing an industry professional to express frustration. That’s valid. Think about it; just don’t ever do it. This is what journals are for or venting with your best writer friend.

I received an email over the weekend that just makes me want to shake my head in pity.

Clearly stating a name and title of the project, this writer emailed to tell me that he/she had decided to destroy his/her book thanks to my agency. That I, as well as many other agents who had rejected it, had destroyed his/her dream and I should put that on my resume.

Sigh. This is a mistake for so many reasons. I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just list them.

1. The only person responsible for your dream is you. It’s obvious that this writer is into blame and once begun, there is no end to who else’s fault it can be. It couldn’t possibly be because the writing isn’t strong enough, or the concept is unoriginal, or even that it’s not right for the current market. Nope. It must be those evil agents who haven’t recognized the brilliance; those evil agents who are keeping down deserving writers.

Real writers take personal responsibility for their work and even if it truly is the publishing world that has missed the boat (and it happens) a real writer perseveres in the face of challenge and writes another book. (John Grisham comes to mind. After all, the first book he wrote was a TIME TO KILL but that was not the first novel he sold.)

2. Sending such an email is just unprofessional. Think of any other business endeavor (such as applying for job etc.) and it would never occur to a person to send such a communication. Would you email all the people who interviewed you for a job but didn’t hire you about what a mistake they made? They would potentially think you unhinged. Not to mention question your age and maturity level.

3. Some agents have blacklists folks. This person did not send the letter anonymously. Guess where the name just went?

Uh, yikes? Why would you deliberately hamper a potential career that has not yet begun?

So think about it all you want. Vent to your writing friends and release the negative energy. Write numerous angry letters in your journal.

Just don’t send it.

Title Tales

STATUS: So far I’ve spent all day reading—a full manuscript I requested and then a client work. Only one more day until we officially close so I’ll probably be reading late into the evening.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS by Elvis Presley

Diana Peterfreund is talking about titles on her blog and being the lazy person I am this week, I thought I’d piggyback on her topic.

I want to reiterate here that authors should not get too attached to their titles. Sometimes they’re perfect and the author, the editor, and the whole sales department (and the buyer from Barnes & Noble) are giddy with excitement over it.

Then sometimes they’re not. Or they might be perfectly okay titles but not quite the angle the publisher is looking for.

Any agent that’s been around awhile can regale you with tons of title tales and it seems a fitting end to the year. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to share a few.

Paula Reed’s first romance entitled INTO HIS ARMS was originally titled KEEPING FAITH (as in the main heroine’s name was Faith and the hero should keep her). Kensington, her publisher, thought it sounded too inspirational so changed it.

I don’t think anyone can mistake INTO HIS ARMS for a religious tome.

In contrast, the obvious title for Jenny O’Connell’s upcoming second YA is THE BOOK OF LUKE. Speaking of religious references, we thought there was no way MTV Books would let us keep it (although it totally fit because the protagonist takes it upon herself to reform the baddest, most popular boy in school—named Luke of course—and keeps a book about the effort.) We spent days coming up with some alternatives (if I remember correctly, Nice Is A Four-Letter Word was the runner up). It ended up being unnecessary as MTV kept the originally proposed title.

But here’s a great instance to show that a writer shouldn’t get too wed to a title.

For book 2 in Shanna’s ENCHANTED series, she had the perfect title. For years, she had wanted to write a book entitled Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. Finally, her chance had come in the form of the second book in her series. The manuscript was edited, delivered, and heading to press.

Then her agent opened up the then new spring catalog for Berkley (back in 2005) and lo and behold, you guessed it. Berkley had just released a book with that same title. As a book at Ballantine, we didn’t want to compete with a same-title release from another house.

Suddenly, we had no title. Enchanted Book 2 wasn’t really going to cut it. We spent weeks trying to come up with a new title only to be saved by the Ballantine marketing director. It was he who came up with ONCE UPON STILETTOS—in a moment that could only be described as sheer brilliance because what a great title.

For book 3, DAMSEL UNDER STRESS, the brainstorm brilliance was all Shanna and in this instance, Ballantine loved it immediately.

Title crisis averted—this time!

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.