Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blog post follow up!

Remember this post from March 2014 from a blog reader who had an offer from a small press?

Here's the rest of the story:

About a year ago, a small press was very interested in publishing my  first novel. I asked you if I still needed an agent.

You said, "Yes" but that I wouldn't find one if I was going with this small press and that what I needed was a good lawyer.

Fast forward a bit and I received the official offer and a pointer to their contract. I was hot to go. I'm over a certain age and wanted to be young enough to savor the joy of my first book in print.

Remembering your advice, I found a literary contracts lawyer (at a very reasonable price through California Lawyers for the Arts).

We went through the contract a couple of times, I made notes, wrote a letter (all vetted by him) and sent it off. Within minutes I received an  indignant letter saying the offer was withdrawn. How dare I tamper with  the contract, blah, blah, blah. Yikes.

It took about five minutes to move from remorse and mortification to relief. I had dodged a huge bullet. Even if I had violated some rule of protocol, it was clear that we were wildly incompatible.

This providential dope slap was a blessing.
- I was jolted into being patient. I needed to take the time to make sure I had the right fit, agented or not.
- Someone else (not immediate family) loved my novel enough to publish it. That validation gave me confidence.
- Big aha - I needed an agent. This publishing thing is tricky stuff.  Whether it's the Ts & Cs or following the right protocol, I didn't know and didn't particularly want to know how to navigate all that myself.

I reworked the query a bit, polished some pages, and made standardized packages of materials (query + nothing extra, query + first five pages, query + first chapter, query + synopsis + first chapter...) so that there was less emotional investment to sending out a query: identify a good agent prospect, tweak materials, send out, done.

And now I do have an agent. Of course, I have quickly learned that there is no slam dunk to landing a publisher just because I have an agent. That journey continues while I continue to write new material.

Even though consulting a lawyer cost me the contract, that was still excellent advice! There are worse things than ending up with the wrong publisher.


I am delighted to hear that you dodged this bullet and ended up with an agent I admire and respect (readers, I redacted the name for privacy)

Any publisher who takes umbrage at negotiating a contract is not a publisher you want to work with.

There are publishers that don't budge on boilerplates, and others that don't negotiate much at all--the problem here is that the publisher got mad when an author asked for changes...as though that was somehow an insult.  This is after all a business, not the Roland Park Ladies Tea. 

24 comments:

MB Owen said...

And really, kudos to the writer for taking the advice; not all would. In fact, I think (some) of the rise in self-publishing can be attributed to this sort of thing.

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

I love follow-ups! Thanks to this author who got back to you and letting us all know the next chapter. Much for all of us to take away from here.

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations, writer friend, both for dodging the bullet and for securing an agent! And I echo ProfeJMarie's thanks for following up with Janet (and us) to let us know how everything went.

What kind of tea do the Roland Park Ladies serve? I'm sure it's not good. I'm very particular about my tea, you know. Assam, or even good old PG Tips. But not Earl Grey. Please! I bet the Ladies are Earl Grey drinkers... ;)

Susan Bonifant said...

This author's story reminds me that will is more important than anything to staying in the game. I love the way she got back on the horse.

I really love that she cared enough to write about it.

Steve Forti said...

Cool update. As great as it is to read the advice in the first place, hearing the outcome of taking it is just as useful. Good luck to him/her moving forward!

As a potential debut, that must have taken a lot of courage to turn down an offer to publish, and I'm glad to hear you stuck to your goals.

Dena Pawling said...

I love a success story which includes an attorney!

Many years ago, a property owner asked for my advice regarding a building he owned – a commercial strip mall. Seems that in the previous year, one of his long-term tenants was experiencing a bit of a sales downturn, and asked for a rent concession so she wouldn't have to relocate her business. Of course [and proving the adage that no good deed shall go unpunished], the landlord agreed to a rent concession for six months. He thought he did the right thing by reducing the agreement to writing, which simply stated that for month through month, the rent would be $X.

Shortly thereafter, it was time to renew the five-year lease. Landlord applied the consumer price index [the factor negotiated in the lease by which new rent amounts were calculated] to the previous rent amount and presented the new total to the tenant. Tenant balked and insisted the CPI be applied to the amount she had actually been paying per the rent concession.

Landlord approached me for advice. Buried in the 28 page commercial lease was a provision that the renewal rate would be calculated based on the “rate in effect for the final six months of this lease period.” Which of course, was the six months of the rent concession.

All he had to do in that written addendum [which is what it was] is add “this is a temporary rate change and does not affect the rent amount used for the calculation applicable to the renewal period,” but he didn't add those magic words.

So Landlord was stuck at the lower base rate for the next five years.

[My E&O carrier requires me to add this disclaimer: The only legal advice included in this story is to consult an attorney and/or other knowledgeable professional prior to making business decisions.]

Congrats to this writer for acting like a good businessperson! May you reach publishing success with your new agent.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

QOTKU does WIRs and now FUs.

That's "week in review' and "follow-ups" to the woefully uninformed.

I love a happy ending.

Miri Baker said...

That seems like a worst-case scenario come true. .__. Well-done on dodging it.

Am I wrong in thinking that a publisher who bristles at their contract being messed with knows that something in their contract should probably be changed? That strikes me as all levels of sketchy.

Andrea van der Wilt said...

This reminds me of something I once read somewhere else:

Never be desperate. (or: respect yourself)

(I have adopted it as my personal publishing rule #1)

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh boy, that's a bullet dodged. And congrats to the writer on signing with an agent!

donnaeverhart.com said...

Earl Grey tastes terrible. Think dirty rag and questionable water. My opinion, of course. I think the only reason anyone would like it is the name. Anything with "Grey" nowadays, you know. Fifty Shades of Earl Grey might be a good new tea name, but the fifty shades part backs up my taste comment. Blech.

On FU thingy, 2Ns - mind being where it usually is, KNEW you were talking follow-up, but my brain wanted to think ...

(ellipsis! noodle lashing.)

Andrea - QOTKU preaches about respect in this marvelous post, which namely points out, "You are not a goddamn beggar at the banquet of publishing." Yeah, she said that, and she also drops an f bomb or two in the post. It's bit long, but worth EVERY minute.

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/01/rant-hiring-editor.html

Colin Smith said...

@Donna: With all due respect to those who enjoy a cup of Earl Grey, to me it tastes like a mouthful of Chanel No. 5. Since I am not given to quaffing perfume, I prefer other brews. :)

And here's that link for the lazy:
http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/01/rant-hiring-editor.html

It's a classic post. Definitely one for THE BOOK. You know, the one Janet and Barbara Poelle are going to write. :)

swedishfish said...

something very similar happened to me. I desperately wanted my book to be published but NOT under the ridiculous terms they offered (Right of first refusal...for 21 years. I'm not joking. Plus copyright of everything I wrote for those 21 years.) I ended up self-publishing that book, earning no money from it, but learning so much about publishing and writing in general. I'm now agented for my 2nd. Patience can feel awful sometimes, but it's worth it in the end.

AJ Blythe said...

Thank you to the author for letting the QOTKU know what happened. And thanks to QOTKU for letting us know! I love a follow-up, especially when it has a happy ending. Congratulations!

It's a good lesson for those of us still climbing the never-ending staircase to publication. Especially for those like me who missed the memo that patience is a virtue *grin*.

It also shows why we all meet in this corner of the cyberworld. Brilliant advice again.

donnaeverhart.com said...

Thx for sharing a clickable link Colin. Must check on different sign in options.

Chanel, dirty rags and water. Hm. Shall we vote which is worse? At least with Chanel, the breath would be protected from Rancho Doritos and the like.

Last, followups ARE awesome. Thank you, Ms. Janet.

Elissa M said...

I do hope we get another follow up when the book sells--and maybe specifics so those inclined can purchase said book. Good luck patient author!

Karen McCoy said...

My husband will be happy to hear that people agree with him about the taste of Earl Grey. However, he also thinks coffee tastes like skunk, and I think the jury is still out on that one.

Another great post--it shows that patience definitely pays.

Ardenwolfe said...

Thank you for this follow-up. Definitely worth reading and noting since the advice was spot-on as usual.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I remember reading this post and being glad that Her Sharkliness validated my decision to hire an attorney for my small press contract.

You see, I got an agent AFTER my offer from the small press, but it was ultimately his handling of that offer that made me part ways with him a few months later (failing to communicate with the offering editor, and leaving her hanging, was not an appropriate way to handle it, imo).

After I let the editor know I'd terminated my agent agreement, the editor was kind enough to extend an offer once again since the original one had expired in the meantime. When I saw the actual contract, though, I had second thoughts about tackling negotiations on my own.

I asked around through my SCBWI contacts and was given the name of an entertainment attorney who will do a contract review, for a fee by the hour. She was extremely helpful, and when I went back in for negotiations I felt I was well-armed with an understanding of terms and prepared to defend my requests for changes.

Turned out, the publisher was easy to work with, and I got nearly everything I asked for (or a reasonable explanation of why it wasn't possible) so I may not have needed to take such extensive steps to prepare. But I'd so much rather have spent a couple of hundred dollars on the attorney, than find out later I've signed away future potential income.

The happy ending? My debut novel comes out in about three months.

LynnRodz said...

Congratulations, Angelica, on your upcoming book! And thank you for giving us an update about what really took place. It only goes to show that getting an agent is just a step toward reaching our goal. It's tough navigating through these shark infested waters and dumb to do it alone. Those of us here are lucky, we have a friendly Shark on our side helping to guide us along the way.

Okay, I'll admit I like a cup of Earl Grey from time to time. That said, as far as teas are concerned I prefer his better half, Lady Grey. She's more robust and a great start to the morning, but lately it's been strictly green tea for me. (I love how this comment section runs the gamut.)

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I love the follow-ups and hope to see more of them.

And way to go for the writer. Back in the day, I took a standard boiler-plate contract with a small press for a work I'd entered in one of their contests. My project was almost immediately shelved in an editor upheaval and so it sat for the 2 year term of the contract.

Lawyers have been known to use their powers for good. I got a guy custody of his son that wasn't his biologically (he'd been in prison when the deed occurred,) but that he accepted and raised as his own. When she started making noises about the whole thing, saying he wasn't the dad, I told him to give her a copy of the divorce and say, "Bitch, I've got a receipt."

Also, I want to second what the writer said about making "query packages." It really stream-lined the process.

I hope the next follow-up on this story is an announcement of a publishing deal.

Terri

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Thanks, Lynn!

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

I love happy sub-endings! And wish the author a fruitful continuance. This is such a great place to come to - neverending, most-valuable lessons learned.

nicoleroder.com said...

I'm so happy to hear that this writer dodged that bullet too!

I had a similar situation a while back. I was offered a publishing contract with a small press and also consulted a lawyer.

At first, the publisher was totally supportive of my lawyer's involvement. He made some suggestions for revisions in the contract, all of which he assured me were simply for clarity's sake and didn't change the contract terms much at all.

I read them over, and they all made sense to me, so I sent them off to the publisher.

The publisher insisted that these changes were far outside of what they would normally agree to (which surprised the heck out of my attorney), and then suddenly stopped communicating with me.

I was thoroughly confused and heart-broken. But after a few days of sulking, I realized just how lucky I was. What if I'd signed with them? What if I'd never contacted that attorney? Even though I'm still unpublished, that's a much better place to be than stuck with a terrible publisher.

Good luck to you, writer! I hope you find that perfect contract!