Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Monday, June 29, 2015

Query: intent is an essential element of the crime

On the Absolute Write discussion board, I just read a post by a writer who wants to self-publish, but also wants to make sure the manuscript is as good as possible first. The writer said one way to do this was to "pursue a traditional publishing contract, but reject it & self-publish".

The writer added "If I do decide to do something like this, I will be offering the agent his/her stated commission irrespective of whether I trade publish or self-publish."

This  sounded both inconsiderate and unethical, and I felt sure agency contracts took this sort of trick into consideration, but I wanted to check with someone who could clarify whether or not they do. 

Actually, my author agency agreement doesn't cover this.
It never dawned on me that an author would behave this abominably.

It's one thing to reject a contract offer that is unsatisfactory. Sadly, I have experience doing that. It's never an easy choice, and when it happens, the clients and I spend quite some time discussing the matter before reaching a decision together.

To have a client reject a contract offer and say s/he is going to self-publish, but will "offer the stated commission" is quite a different matter.

For starters, contract offers that I bring to clients usually involve an advance, so that the author and I both get paid before the book is offered for sale.

Self-publishing is much more of a crapshoot on getting paid.

And let's all remember the dirty little secret that people forget to tell you when they tout the many benefits of self-publishing.  Most traditionally published books don't earn out. If you self-publish and sell to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who would buy the book from a publisher, you're probably not going to make as much money as you would with an advance.

Yes you might earn more money. Most people find they don't.

But the deeper problem is that this writer thinks that an agent's time and expertise are available to him at no cost.  If the book doesn't sell, he feels he has no obligation to pay the agent at all, even having turned down a contract that would have paid them both.

This is the kind of statement from people who tout self-publishing that makes everyone reach for their light sabers.

I will tell you that if this happened to me, I would fire the client, but only after I consulted my attorney about what civil recourse was available to me.

Even after answering this question, I don't think I'm going to change my author agency agreement. I prefer to approach potential clients with the belief they are people with honorable intentions, not nefarious scalawags out to fleece me.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ah ha, I'm baaaack.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Day off today, just letting you all know who the champ is and that out of all of you, I am the one most needing a REAL life. Okay, NOW I'll read the post.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

All I know is that if I were to choose to scalp, scalawag or screw any agent it sure as hell would not be this one. I'd rather latch onto her fin for a wild ride, rather than suffer her toothy grin.

french sojourn said...

Hire a professional editor- putz!

The person that penned that idea of sending it to an agent, then flat out rejecting it, sounds like one ugly individual. The "I'm going to use someone, then dump them and benefit from it." I do not want to see this kind of individual on Carkoon, during the annual B.B.Q. they would probably taste like $%*^

And it sounded to me initially like "Jack sells his cow, gets three magic beans, then on the way home throws away the three magic beans." And I would lay money down the Agent would never see a dime if he/she self pubbed it.

(Truth be told, I don't care for the word -irrespective-.)

Cheers, sort of...Hank

Sam Hawke said...

Wow. That is just... wow. Disgusting, actually. To dupe people into thinking you're bargaining in good faith while you're hiding your actual intentions - and worse, to abuse the time, faith and trust of someone who you have literally hired to be your advocate and your partner in this business... I don't even know what to say about that.

OK I do. That is F&*KED UP.

Amanda Capper said...

F&*ked up to the extreme of f&*king up. Good way to get a bad rep very quickly. This dumbass doesn't think agents talk to each other?

I hope someone at AW set him/her straight. Or maybe I hope not. Those who think this is a good idea are the type to say, "What? What's the problem?" No hope for them. Give them a shovel, let them bury themselves.

AJ Blythe said...

Geez Louise, that kinda thing is jussst desspicable (with my best Daffy Duck impression).

Am I really missing something here? Who in their right mind would go through the long agonising process of trying to get an agent, then get a publishing offer and then self-pub? Or did the AW poster assume they'd get an agent like that *snapping fingers*?

Mind boggles!

Tony Clavelli said...

I don't think there's ever been a book I wanted to read less without knowing anything about it. This book--by a writer with the bizarre blend of confidence to both be sure he can sell stacks but completely unsure if it's even of publishable quality--will probably puff out of existence by some act of karmic destruction. Either that or the Absolute Write thread will spread and no one will bother to represent the writer.

Tony Clavelli said...

AJ--Yeah! The whole "I'll just get an agent and then..." kind of stung. I think that's why everyone here is reacting so viscerally to this--that arrogance strikes a nerve when we've been working so hard.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

It sounds like said writer has a chip on their shoulder.

It reminds me of artists who despise galleries because they think they can do all the work galleries do. So this means anyone has an exhaustive lists of potential clients, anyone can afford the over head, anyone can sell.

If they think their agent is worth rebuking what do they think about their readers? They will buy their book, turn it into a blockbuster film, and translate it into 35 languages. People will be banging down this writer's door for an autograph, begging to turn the book into a video game with t-shirts and merchandise. It could happen. Anything can happen.

Susan Bonifant said...

This person can't possess any idea of how hard it is to secure a publishing contract or wouldn't regard it as some kind of endorsement: "And not only that, experts say it's actually publishable! See?"

Opie's Opie sounds arrogant, but really, I think s/he is just naive. The way a person is who decides to be a famous writer instead of a famous surgeon.

Horse first. Then cart.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

I'd say there are better ways of making sure the MS is as good as possible besides pursuing a traditional publishing contract and then rejecting it. Talk about walking backwards up a mountainside.

And it sounds like a naive newbie writing. A publishing contract is different from an agency contract, right? To obtain a traditional publishing contract with a book publication company, doesn't an author first have pursue a contract with an agent? I mean, we woodland writerly critters like to experience a zillion rejections. TWICE. First by going through the querying process to find an agent. Second (should we and an agent agree to partner together), we go through a second rejection process through the agent's submission of our MS to an editor. Lord help us.

Ly Kesse said...

All I can say is 'wow.' What monumental chutzpah.

And I thought my brother in law was bad. When looking for a house in California ten years ago, he would sign a purchase agreement for any house he was remotely interested in. Then he used the inspection clause as his escape hatch. Ugh.

Dena Pawling said...

Back before-lawyer, I was a purchasing agent for local government. I worked with a LOT of commissioned sales people, most of whom were really nice folks who worked HARD to make a sale. Because of this, I have a problem with consumers who go to brick&mortar stores to check out a product but with the intent of buying it on the internet. Even now, if I'm shopping around, going to several places before making a decision, I ALWAYS get a business card from the sales people who helped me, and ask them to indicate on the card their work days for the next 1-2 weeks, so if I decide to buy the product from that store, I can show up while that person is working so s/he gets paid for the sale.

What this writer describes seems sort of backwards from every self-pub author I know from my local RWA meeting. Pretty much all of them hire a freelance editor to polish their work after their CPs and betas are finished with it. They hire a cover designer. They get blurbs. When they're sure it's their best work, they pub it. And they all agree that one of the benefits of self-pub is how quickly it goes live, even with all these steps.

I agree with Hank. Hire that professional editor. You'll presumably get the best of both worlds – quality polishing and quicker turn-around. All of the folks involved in the process will be paid for their time and expertise. And the author will develop a reputation in the industry as a professional.

Matt Adams said...

Opie forgets an important point -- landing an agent doesn't by definition make more book any better. Agents can be wonderful people, but they aren't editors by trade. The fact that someone is represented by a professional doesn't make the book any better. Getting offered a contract doesn't make the book better -- that doesn't happen until you've signed.

O[pie probably assumes that being offered the contract is the validation they need to self publish -- that if it's good enough for a publisher, it should be good enough for the world. I can understand that temptation, especially over at AW where the SP crowd is often vocal about their own merits.

If I remember my classes correctly, in real estate, if you reject an satisfactory offer, the agent can come after you for the commission on the offer. Maybe that would be the agent's recourse. In this -- as well as in real estate -- it would be hard to prove an offer is satisfactory, and probably more trouble than it's worth, but I can see it happening.

Colin Smith said...

Wow! My reaction is similar to others: Oh, you'll just "get an agent"--like that's the easy part?!?! From what I've learned (by experience and reading), there are no easy parts in this business. Writing a great novel is not easy, getting an agent is not easy, selling the novel to a publisher is not easy, getting people to buy your book is not easy--every step requires a lot of time, effort, and hair-pulling. Opie's Opie (thanks for that, Susan) sounds either clueless or arrogant beyond belief. In any case, just because this person attracts the attention of Agent Hoodwinked, that doesn't mean anyone else would be interested. Sure, you may con Agent Hoodwinked into pouring her energies into polishing your manuscript, but there's no guarantee that after you pull the rug out from under her feet, anyone else is going to buy your well-polished novel. This is art, and art is subjective. Even agents have personal tastes, and one person's Casablanca is another person's Plan 9 From Outer Space.

All that aside, it's just plain wrong. Unethical. Immoral. Completely lacking in transparency and integrity. I wonder if this person has considered a career in politics...? ;)

MB Owen said...

I think this falls under the purview of a blow hard. Of a person who brags about what he would or wouldn't do while still not even close to the prize. That said, it's good advice for anyone wanting to self-pub to write AS IF you did have an agent or editor looking over your shoulder so what you put out was your best. (Why wouldn't you do that anyway?) But to get an agent, a deal, and then announce your intentions? Wow. That's just wow. What a jerk. It's hard to believe a person (writer?) would really blow off what should be mutual respect between two hard working people all for the land of more uncertainty.

Elissa M said...

In my estimation, the writer on the AW board is absolutely clueless. I'm betting no agents (or editors) will fall prey to this dunderhead because he/she probably doesn't have the chops to write a publishable book in the first place. At least, I like to think that good writers have at least two brain cells to rub together.

If this writer is simply naive and not truly evil/stupid, I expect the "writing journey" will pound a few bits of sense through that thick skull. Either that, or impatience will push the self-pub button long before any contracts (agency or tradition publishing) are offered.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I've dealt with people like this before. I spent 18 months putting together a three-way ranch trade. One of the participants told me he wanted me to focus on the trade and stop working my residential real estate sales. He, being a school friend of my ex, and me having a solid contract on his ranch, I trusted things would work out. I finally got everyone satisfied. When it was said and done I would have a commission of around $700,000.

While all this was going on the oil field crashed which also took down the real estate market. I wanted to shut down the real estate company before we lost everything. My ex said, "Go ahead, you gutless wonder. You've never finished anything you ever started."

We sold our home to keep the real estate company afloat. Sold my antiques, our furniture, my horses, borrowed money from my father, maxed every credit card. The school buddy kept stalling until the listing contract ran out and then did the trade without a paying a commission. I still had to pay for the $4,500 survey I'd ordered and the lawyer since the contracts were ordered by me.

I could probably have sued him, but I didn't have a pot to pee in a window to throw it out of let alone the money to hire a lawyer to sue the husband's best buddy.

So, best buddy and his oil exec secretary wife retired to the lovely hill country ranch of their dreams and my kids dressed in the best Salvation Army had to offer for the next several years for back to school and Christmas while we dug ourselves out of the hole paying off debts.

When I hear people talk about crap like this I just want to jerk a knot in their tail.

Anyone who thinks this jackass will really pay the agent their commission is completely naive. Of course they're going to say that on the board, but when it comes right down to it, paying that commission is the last thing on the list of things that writer is going to pay. The agent will be lucky if he/she gets a moldy fruit basket with a hearty "thnx" scribbled on the free card that comes with it.

If someone tries that, I sincerely hope an agent sues them to hell and back.

Craig said...

Attention grabber. I think that they are just foolishly short-sighted and haven't yet learned how to keep their foot out of their mouth.

Though I doubt that it would ever get that far I doubt that if they were facing a six figure deal that they would turn it down. Perhaps they can already see that their manuscript hasn't got the chops to make it anywhere and felt the need to mouth off.

Whatever the intention I think they are now dead in the water. Agents use AbsoluteWrite also and they will have taken notice.

DLM said...

This is bewildering to me; where is the imagined advantage here, seriously?

This is right up there with the old sharks-with-laser-beams-on-their-heads plan for tortured ineffectuality. Though if our shark picks up a light-saber, I have to think she'd know how to use it QUITE effectually. One of the most interesting aspects of this whole post is that she clearly has too much dignity to go affixing one to her head.

AND this person is airing this plan publicly.

Tony C's first sentence, all the way. Hear, hear!

Just. Wow.

Marian Perera said...

Link to the AW thread in question : Is traditional publishing right for me?

The writer had some misconceptions about editing (that publishers would demand significant changes) but after much discussion, decided to try a trade publishing deal as long as the publisher allowed him full control over pricing. He said he would pay a percentage of the advance for this privilege.

Failing that, he's willing to accept 10,000 discounted or free copies that he could sell to retailers at a price point of his choosing.

Or finally, "I could purchase the book at full cost from retailers & sell it back to them at a price point of my choosing. I highly doubt the publisher could do anything about that."

The only reasonable thing about all this is that he said he would be completely upfront with the agent about his plans before signing an agency contract. At least that will give the agent plenty of warning that there's a lawsuit in the making here.

LynnRodz said...

It astounds me that people have no qualms about screwing other people over. And unless you're living on a planet far away, or your astrological sign is the Ostrich, it shouldn't - I know.

I honestly think OP's Opie doesn't have a clue and if by any chance s/he does have a good enough story, this person needs to self-publish because I don't think anyone would want to work with someone like that anytime soon.

LynnRodz said...

Merian, this guy is delusional. His hot air balloon will eventually burst. Like I said above, no one's going to want to work with this guy unless he's got one helluva story and even then.

french sojourn said...

Doesn't the fact that his screen name is "NEWAUTH" tell you a little something? (I went to the link supplied, out of slow motion car crash curiosity. (Thanks for the link Marian.))

Maybe it's me, but I have a hard enough time calling myself a writer. Wouldn't one need to have sold a M/S first? If and when that day arrives I'll call myself an Author.

Colin please don't mention my various contributions to your monthly magazine...Repenthouse. Thanks man!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Well boys and girls, surprisingly, only one more word out of me. It's a word with sharp teeth, noxious breath and spits poison. It's an ass-biter that always, eventually,settles all.


Colin Smith said...

Hank: Hey, that's not my publication! That's handled by the slug down the road--and no, that's not a personal slur; he's literally a slug. In any case, I won't mention the kale-lima bean romance (or was is S/M?--I forget) series you wrote for them. Though Marhalla Sshshshlemmm seemed to think it gave you serious Author credibility. Personally, I think your two Janet Reid contest wins alone give you that. :)

dellcartoons said...

1. How does the would-be writer know what the commission will be before the agent even talks to an editor? Isn't part of an agent's job to negotiate the highest advance possible? And doesn't that mean a high commission? Higher than the total sales are likely to be?

2. Doesn't the agent's investment include future sales, both of this book and future books? Movie sales, foreign translations, etc. How will the agent get compensated for this?

3. Even if the agent is compensated, what about the editor, putting in time and energy to edit and advocate for the book?

4. What about the writer who doesn't get the agent or the publisher, because they chose this book instead?

french sojourn said...

Colin: I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

And I know that slug, although over here we call her Bridgette Escargot.

I seem to remember McKales Navy meets the Lima-Beans of Egypt Maine series, at least it had a happy my recollection.

Marhalla Sshshshlemmm recently married a nice Mollusk? No?

Cheers to the betrothed.

W.R. Gingell said...

Urk! Sound like this guy needs a punch in the face. (Along with Julie's 'best buddy' type creep)

Colin Smith said...

Hank: Ooookay... if you say so. Many may have thought Etoile-DeChien Noir was the author's real name, but some of us aren't THAT bad at mathematics (or French)... ;)

And yes, I actually received an invitation to Ms. Sshshshlemmm's nuptuals. But if you think the heat here is unbearable, imagine how a couple of mollusks stay moist. Not exactly a human-friendly environment. Besides, I've heard those weddings last forever. Three hours just to walk the aisle...

french sojourn said...

I resemble that remark.

brianrschwarz said...

I was pretty appaled by this as well, but then I started thinking about it...

Chances are, the reason her toothiness hasn't run into this egotistical maniac is because she in fact HAS run into this egotistical maniac -- but the current filters in place are already set up to stuff him...

First off - the fact that he washes over the whole difficulty of getting an agent in the first place tells me he's inexperienced. And he probably won't last past the first 10 rejections without flipping out in a reply email.

Second off - The fact that he's considering self publishing right away seems to indicate he's done little research on the matter, which likely indicates he's done little research on ANY matter... ala how to query, when to query, who to query, how long it takes. I'm guessing he did do a google search at some point on how easy it is to self publish and make millions... or he read an NYT article about E.L. James and decided he was next in line.

Third off - I'm betting, based on the above considerations, his query letter would look like this -

"Dear Agent/Editor/Person,

Enclosed you'll find a NYT Bestseller. I was born to write fiction novels. I know you asked for a synopsis and sample pages, but an idea like mine comes along once every thousand years, so you'll understand if I don't follow the rules. I have instead inclosed a link to my website where you'll find the whole novel is available for your appreciation. It's a little tough to read with the gold lettering I chose, so you may have to up the contrast on your monitor, but it's well worth the effect as my writing is worth MORE than gold.

Also, please do not search my name on google or you might find a strange comment on AbsoluteWrite from when my account was hacked. Hehe. I mean... yeah.

Below you'll find a selfie I took after getting out of the shower this morning. As you can see, I was made to write books.


P.S. I'd like to use a penname and not reveal my true identity to anyone ever... So call me Mr. Perfect."

-end Query-

The truth is, people can try to hide their intentions all they want, and a real slimeball might do a pretty good job at covering it up... but there's always that gut feeling... that single response to a question that lingers on the tongue and makes you wonder if they meant one thing or another... and in any area of business you should trust your gut. I'm guessing QOTKU has often trusted her gut and saved herself immeasurable irritation for it.

As a side note, I may send him an email offering representation just to see where it goes. ;) I'll tell him he can't find my agent page on the internet because I get all my clients by word of mouth. And then it's time to propose edits such as

-more aliens
-more dinosaurs
-more time travel
-more aliens
-remove all proper nouns from the book. All the NYT Bestsellers are skipping proper nouns these days.
-did I mention more aliens?

Donnaeve said...

I am never surprised at the ignorance of some folks. The likelihood of this even happening is about as real as eliminating cockroaches from the planet.

Which is a shame. Considering.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Remember that conversation we had about southern dialogue? Someone on B&W had a story returned with edit notes, "use more southern phrases like 'golly' and 'shucks far'. We're trying to figure out where the editor came up with "shucks far" and the only thing I can think is he heard someone say, "Well, shoot fire", which is a polite way of saying, "Well, sh!t fire, and save matches."


Anyway, back to Newauth. He says he's hired professional editors three times to go over his manuscript, but wants a traditional publisher editor to go over it too to make sure it's the best it can be.

He's going to get 10,000 free or discounted books from the publisher. hahahaha

Oh, yes. Remember when we said authors need a plan? It needs to also be a sane plan.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"....McKales Navy meets the Lima-Beans of Egypt Maine series", hahahahahahahahaha, you made my day.

Dena Pawling said...

I have a vague memory (it being a Monday morning and all) that quite a few freelance editors advertise that they were previously employed as editors at traditional publishers. So this writer can "have it all". An editor from traditional publishing AND a self-pubbed book AND a relatively quick timeline AND not be unprofessional.

If I was self-publishing, I'd definitely go for that route instead of risking my reputation along with my timeline.

Jenz said...

How to compensate the agent is a non-issue, because no legitimate agent would ever sign someone who expects accommodations like control over book prices.

The marketing expertise claims remind me of some graphic designers I've seen fret about wanting control of cover designs. Book cover design is a specialty, and even with 20+ years of design experience, I'd hire a specialist instead of trying to do it myself. Rather than sounding like an expert, they sound just knowledgeable enough to be really dangerous.

At some point, you gotta stop trying to control all aspects of everything and let someone else pack your parachute for you.

french sojourn said...

Thnx 2Ns

cheers hank

Theresa said...

Wow, wow, wow. Not even Carkoon has a spot for this person.

I also wonder, why not hire a first-rate editor? Why not sign up for a great writing workshop? Why risk alienating wonderful professionals?

John Frain said...


You keep telling stories like that ranch deal and some people are gonna want you to saunter off and pen a memoir.

Oh, am I late again? Well, goll darnit.

I got nothin' to add to the current debate, except I'm casting my vote for the Naïve party over Arrogance.

Christina Seine said...

Just wow.

Well, karma is a bummer - especially for writers. It is a small world (after all) and I think people (readers included)(maybe especially readers) would eventually run from this kind of author like fire.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Out of curiosity I read the entire thread. He claims he has marketing experience and doubts the Big 5's capabilities. He signs the agent, not the otherway around. Maybe we should ask Amy where those salty tooth aligators swim.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Supposedly the person has hired three editors. The thought is taking it that final step to get an agent and publisher to give editorial advice, but they don't want to give up control of edit, pricing, marketing. So, they'll get the contract with the publisher, get the book all spiffed up and then say, "Thanks for the memories" and self publish. Or if they decide to traditionally publish, the publisher will give them or deeply discount 10,000 copies of their book. The agent and publisher will not have any final say on edit or cover or market and certainly not on price. As the author, that should certainly be the author's prerogative to self determine.

I can't imagine why an agent and publisher wouldn't jump on this golden opportunity. It's akin to the woman with the 30-year-old 300,000-word contemporary romance novel who wanted Diana Gabaldon to jump genres and co-author the book with her, add some subplots and characters and type it up for her since it's in notebooks now. She realizes Diana's fans will be upset, but it's not about fans.

If I weren't busier than a one-armed paper hanger, I'd follow that thread. It just looks like a train wreck.

stacy said...

"I could purchase the book at full cost from retailers & sell it back to them at a price point of my choosing. I highly doubt the publisher could do anything about that."

Wow. So retailers couldn't refuse to buy them back at a loss, I guess.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Here at least, the author would be committing fraud, unless they fully recompensed all parties, so any payment wouldn't be ex gratia. The only motive for doing something like that be, I think I can get away with it, who'se going to want to do business with anyone who thinks like that?

Julie.M.Weathers said...

The only thing I can think they hope to accomplish by buying books from the retailer full price and selling them back at a discount is generating sales. I guess the marketing expert thinks they can create a best seller if they buy enough of their own books. They said they don't care if they make money. I wonder how much money they have to invest in this venture. said...

Wow. I'm trying to convince myself this is just a stunning degree of naiveté coupled with towering arrogance, but I'm having a hard time believing that. The proposed "plan" is so far beneath contempt we almost need a new word for it.

Not only is it disrespectful of agents and publishers, it's insulting to writers who self-publish and hire professional help to do so. Way to cover all your bases.

This person has a lot to learn, not just about publishing but about conducting business with integrity. There's an abundance of hard lessons behind that old saying: "Karma's a bitch."

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

So I wonder if by now OP is either drained of tears, and racked by embarrassment, or so incensed by these posts, that their path is now firm, straight and lined by granite so as to not lose their way.

I know I said my last word was KARMA but I find today's comments so in tune by a common thread that I can't help but feel a kind of sympathy for someone so blatantly underhanded and stupid.

I promise these are my last words on this subject...well maybe.

Laura Brennan said...

I don't have anything except one more dropped jaw -- and one more voice to the chorus of "Julie, please write your memoirs!"

Oh, and if anyone has not yet read Gavin De Becker's "The Gift of Fear," truly it is a must read. He teaches you how to recognize sociopaths -- and one of the ways is that they blurt out reassurances (like, "I will pay the agent a commission") without being asked. Bad guys can't *unknow* what they know, which is that they plan to screw you over. So they blurt out reassurances where none are needed.

I once had a client assure me out of the blue that he would never throw me under the bus. Ha!

Kate Larkindale said...

I can't even…. Does this person not read what other people are talking about on AW?

bjmuntain said...

Thanks for the clarification, Marian. But still...

Before I read Marian's post, I was going to wonder how the questioner could have thought their book was the best quality it could be *before* being taken through the publisher's editing process.

Even now, I'm really not sure the author is making much sense. Unless the author already has a ton of money, so they can buy all the books up at the retailers, whether he's planning on selling the book at a higher or lower price.

My brain is trying to make some sense of this, and it's come up with this scenario:
I. Thinkum BigWriter has written a very important treatise on our times/society/science/religion/something very close to his heart. Mr BigWriter figures that a publisher will price this out of his intended audience's budget, so he wants to make sure that the book is available to his intended audience. So even if the publisher wants to price his book at $50 each, he'll buy them all off the shelves, then sell them back to the stores for $10, so the stores can then sell them for $15.

I can't think of any other reason for being so stubborn about the price of the books.

But why would the booksellers buy the books back from him? Even if it is a lower price? The books are then, technically, second-hand. Most will not buy books directly from the author, anyway.

He could always try to sell them through Amazon, I suppose. But... really. Why go to the trouble of publishing traditionally then?

And 10K copies... he really is a bit deluded, isn't he?

With a smaller publisher, he might have a bit more control (or at least more say in) various things, but he's not going to get 10K in a single run. He'd be lucky with 500 hundred.

If he does get published by a Big5 publisher, he'll have to do a lot of his own marketing, anyway. But no, he would have no say in pricing, and very little (if any) say in covers.

If he wants that much control, then self-publishing seems the only option for him. I would heartily encourage him to follow that route. I would even send him all sorts of online research as to how to go about it. If only to keep him from bothering the publishing folks I'd like to work with some day.

Dena: regarding commissioned sales. I know someone who used to work for commission at a department store. He was a damned good salesman. At that time, the department store had a policy: they'd accept any returns any time for any reason. It was a real incentive for buyers.

But there were people who would go in there, buy a whole suite of furniture, then return it all six months later when their six month work contract ran out and they moved back to the little dark cave from which they came. At least, after six months, the return wouldn't affect commission.

This salesman worked in the television/home entertainment area. People would come in before 'the big game', buy a huge screen TV for their big game party, then return it the day after the game. Those ones really hurt.

Theresa said...

Julie M.,

I know how golden that editorial letter is (!), but it still seems like a big contortion to go through only to tick off a lot of people. And if the main point is to make the most money, as Janet pointed out that might not even work.

Aside from the ethics here--or in addition--I marvel at anyone who regards the money as more important than the book itself. And I like money as much as the next person, but I've long reconciled myself to the fact that any royalties I earn may get me a nice pair of shoes or even my wood floors refinished. I consider that a real accomplishment!

I'm already wondering how tomorrow's question could possibly top this.

John Frain said...

Okay, allow me to play devil's advocate and look at it from the original poster's side.

Maybe he was ... shoot, I got nothing.

I planned a spontaneous Perry Mason moment where my assistant rushes in with a torn page of notebook paper that sheds light on all the wrong assumptions we've been making.

Except I don't have an assistant.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

I'm glad to see some of the commenters are getting a bit irked also. Newauth says the query letter writing process has made them a better writer even if they don't query an agent. One of the commenters remarks that forum is not a writing exercise, it's for people who are genuinely trying to get agents and takes away time from people who are trying to help and get help.

Newauth doesn't seem to mind that people have been inconvenienced by spending untold hours on him or her. So what if he says no to the agent's contract? They're used to rejection because they get rejected 50% of the time.

Good grief this peon is self centered.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Newauth says they don't care if they go in the red as long as they achieve their goal of delivering the perfect book. They've hired three freelance editors, including one with a publisher, but still want another pass from an agent and publisher BUT they want to be able to say, "you're not the boss of me" and ignore the edit if they want to.

Newauth says they will be upfront with agents about what they want, but I'm betting they won't. As arrogant as they seem, surely they have to realize no agent would be stupid enough to spend time on someone who is going to self publish.

People amaze me. Not only at the arrogance and conceit, but the utter rude behavior.

"Hate rude behavior in a man. Won't tolerate it."

Matt Adams said...

Yeah, that was me. The thread was kind of pissing me off -- I'm amazed at how kind the thread has been to him -- people are trying to talk their way through this thing like there's a reasonable point to be made. it's astounding.

I think there are two possibilities to this guy. The first is that he's just trolling. The second is BJs, that he has SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT to say, and wants to make sure it is heard loud and clear.

I think he's being very polite, just doesn't know what he's talking about, and doesn't have a lot of respect for anyone else in the process.

Scott Sloan said...

I completely agree with almost everything that everyone else has said here.
(Some of the French went over my head – why does an S-car have to GO, for this guy to be a slime bag?!?)
But all that being said, I find all the surprise exhibited to be somewhat… well, surprising.
Maybe I can offer a rejoinder; a clarifier, if you will, in the way of looking at this situation.

… he typed sheepishly, as he packed his swimmies for his inevitable banishment to the tropical paradise that is Carkoon…

This writer does indeed sound incredibly naive, and full of the type of self-confidence which often leads to those four fatal words being carved on entirely too many tombstones:
"Hey, y'all… watch this…"

But there's also a somewhat well-respected blog out their dedicated to protecting all of us gullible guppies, called 'Writer Beware'. There appears to be more than enough naiveté to go around. And the stories of despicable publishers/agents/insert your own horror story here _____ are legion.

It might be that this guy has moved into sole possession of the lead, in the race for "Slug of the Year".
Sponsored by Morton's – 'When it pains, you roar.'™
(And Dreamworks aside; a slug… in a race… HAH!!!)
But surely, the field is just ridiculously crowded this time around.
As it is every year.

What this person needs (or needed) is a coupla' two, tree smacks upside their backside, long ago and far away…
You don't treat people this way.
I fear it may be too late for them.

Donnaeve said...

I think a key point...and one Ms. Janet pointed out, most traditionally published books don't earn out the advance. Further to her point, self published books don't earn much at all.

"If you self-publish and sell to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who would buy the book from a publisher, (meaning trad pub) you're probably not going to make as much money as you would with an advance. Yes you might earn more money. Most people find they don't."

So. This person is really wasting everyone's time with this hair-brained scheme.


Adele said...

I've read the thread on AW, and I would encourage this person to continue with their highly ingenious plan, and to keep us all up to date with the results. I like being entertained.

Amy Schaefer said...

For once, I'm glad to be so far down the comment trail. I am delighted to see a solid block of people having that horrified: "What? WHAT??" reaction.

While I subscribe to the idea that if you give a person enough rope they will eventually hang themselves, I sincerely hope the person in question never gets the chance to screw an agent this way. Or anyone else in their life. Boo. And yuck.

Amanda Capper said...

Theresa, I made enough royalties from my book to pay my car insurance and most of my contents insurance! But, enough bragging, I have a real estate course to finish...

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Scott, what is surprising is that someone has the balls to air this worldwide and to claim their saavy knowhow. To admit they plan to inform the agent they would decline an offer. They claim marketing knowhow. Butter my butt and call me a biscuit, (thanks Julie).

One person suggested to them to put it in the query line so an agent would not waste a second. And to state it in every thread thereafter on AW, so the other contributers don't waste their time.

I was surprised by the amount of reason they gave him/her.

Julia said...

Hey, y'all,
Wanted to drop in and say that I know a couple/few of you are from the Pac/NW. I really, really hope you guys and your loved ones and pets are safe, and - that having been said - that your houses and pictures and lesser stuff are also safe.

Thoughts & Prayers going out to y'all.


kregger said...

I've met this guy, or gal as the case may be.

This person has plagued my office for years.

They are the ones that ask to pay over time without either credit or collateral.

They have no qualms about using a small business' time and production for their own needs or wants with no intention of payment. I've had customers paid for my services and stiffed me in return. (Doesn't that sound like a Julie Weathers' story?)

Fine Print Literary Management is considered a small business, probably like 99% of all agencies. Some of the strange-not-so-fair-rules that consumers come up against are from that 1% of people that try to get over on the system. Like in Bjmuntain's example of customers returning a wide-screen TV a day after the big game: that's why there are 30% restocking fees on some returned merchandise.

The problem is--these people don't walk in with a sign hanging around their necks proclaiming their intent to steal.

This OP has decided to be an early adopter and advertise it on the internets.

Carkoon seems nicer everyday...

Julie.M.Weathers said...


"One person suggested to them to put it in the query line so an agent would not waste a second. And to state it in every thread thereafter on AW, so the other contributers don't waste their time."

No surprise, they refuse to do that as it would be dangerous out of context. Why yes it would. The agent would slap pass so fast it would give you whiplash.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Criminy, agents are used to rejection because 50% of the people they offer representation to decline to go with another agent.

Who knew? Apparently I'm doing this all wrong.

bjmuntain said...

Hi JulieH! *waves wildly* So nice to see you!

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Hey Julie, welcome back, how are you feeling?

Marian Perera said...

First the reason for not divulging the must-control-pricing requirement in the query letter was because query letters had to be kept short.

I suggested agents would prefer a query letter one sentence longer if that sentence gave them useful information about the author's expectations. So the reason for not being upfront changed to "including such a short sentence, without proper context or discussion, would be dangerous--for both parties".

I'm not sure how it's dangerous for agents to know that the writer querying them wants control over pricing. Maybe this means "dangerous because agents might send a rejection and miss out on a most rewarding opportunity."

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

hoo boy, that AW thread was weirrrrrrd. The kind of thing I read for the drama, not the enlightenment.

(yeah, I do that. I confess. It's also why I clicked on the #AskELJames on Twitter earlier today....)

I seem to remember a post/question around the reef within the last year about how an agent and author might work together if they decide self publishing is the way with a project, but I think that was after it had been shopped to editors and not picked up, as opposed to a contract being rejected so one could sell it for five bucks with a pack of foil butterfly stickers thrown in.

But, that thread on AW is another reason I like AW as a community....all those published members are trying to explain, fairly patiently, that trade publishing does not seem to work they way AWOpie thinks it does, and perhaps they can enlighten him/her.

I mean, I tend to hate book covers. But I'm not going to hold my breath on a "pull the plug if they want to put the wrong dog breed on the cover" clause...or am I? as a reader, that actually kind of drives me batty and as a writer, the potential makes me more than a little unhappy. And it happens more often than you'd think. "Oh look at the golden retriever on the cover! Wow, the dog in the book is a rescue greyhound!" Okay. Maybe I'd be up front about how I'd want to be a reasonable thinking adult about it, not hold my breath 'til I pass out if they want a puggle instead of a Mastiff in the cover art. Cart, meet horse.

Julia said...

Hi ho.
Playing "Stay Out of the Hospital," which is a variant of "It Isn't Renal Failure And I Should Know, They're My Kidneys - Not Yours!"

To Wit.

Two hospitalizations, three visits with docs who insist on communicating with each other - which is good medicine but annoying - and three ER visits later, I still have pancreatitis and angry kidneys because it hurts to take anything by mouth and so I don't.

The reaction is predictable.

BUT, I've had some excellent conversations about Reacher, the trends in paper vs. electronic publishing, the value of Johnnies as a fashion statement, and whether children can be trusted as medical historians (they can't, and don't bring them with you to the ER). I'm pretty sure there were some other cool conversations in there as well, but some of it was kind of foggy and some of it went by kind of fast in a blur of "Yeah, yeah, put the IV on the highest setting, rehydrate me and get me out of here."

Oh, oh, THIS was awesome.... (NEXT)...

Julia said...

(@Jennifer, you want WEIRD... here comes, baybeee....)

On the second admission, the (?did I already tell you this? Maybe I did. I hope I'm not boring you to tears.) admitting attending sat down in my room - he was the one who chatted me up about Reacher and the intimacy scenes which made me giggle - Reacher, intimacy, and certain IV thingies are an amusing combination - ANYWAY, I digress... so the attending plunked himself down and said:

Attending: "So. You've done this before."
Me: "Yup. Not my first rodeo."
Attending: "So. Plot the trajectory of this admission for me."
Me: Ah. What?! Really? Do I get to do this? Faaaabulous. (Because Brian had to go on a conference on Monday and it was a Friday afternoon. I needed to be out by Sunday.) So I said, "Put me on Normal Saline at 200 mL/hr for the next 24 hours with concomitant pain meds and NPO (nothing by mouth), strict I/O (intake/output) monitoring, and then drop it to 150 tomorrow. We'll try to advance to clears Sat night and discharge me Sunday."
Attending: "Sounds good."

And that is precisely how the orders were written, and that is precisely what happened. Which made me very happy, because I got to avoid irritating said husband who had to leave for conference at 5 am Monday morning.

The downside was that the rehydration petered out somewhere around mid-Tuesday, and he came back Thursday night... so I was back in the ER on Friday.

The big downside is that although I'm still meeting deadlines, I'm worried that I'm going to start writing articles like this (intended to be FUNNY, not ALARMING in the "Good Lord, someone admit this woman" sense):

At the How To Write Twitter Posts For Twinkie Conference last week on Io, I was privileged to join the League of Vermont Whistlers as we heard Joey Jimbo Jehosovitzoschlomobossenvitz give a talk on bunny slippers. Boy, oh boy, was it a fantastic something-or-other!

Everyone should eat more fiber and be certain to get more milk into their diets to be certain to prevent mononucleosis and catch the next train which is leaving Antarctica in March in 80 Days.

Thank you so much for the awesome Narwhal slippers you sent for my birthday, they were so warm and I will wear them whenever I brush my teeth, which I was talking about when I visited the dentist next week. When are you coming to visit? The soccer game was incredible, Santa and his elves!

Warm socks and rockets/possibly Pocahontas eating lavender? Not sure.

Dear mom, hope you stopped smoking the turkey the oven's still on.

All my tissues,
Did I meet my deadline?


And so, you see, although I might be meeting my deadlines, I'm not entirely confident in the material I'm sending. But at least I'm pretty sure I'm sending out comedic articles. Either that or calls for help. Or requests for another admission to the hospital - perhaps to a different ward this time, although I've been perfectly happy on the one I've been inhabiting lately.

Hope you all are well.

See you when all of my organs are back up and working again. In the meantime, I'm tossing random thousands of words into a manuscript that gets more and more obese as time passes.

Please, please be safe, ALL of you - those out where the fires are - AND everyone else as the 4th approaches... I'd love to have the same number Sharkbites on the other side of the 4th as I have now. And of course, Megalodon herself had better keep safe, or I'll simply roll over with my MS and moan in horrified sadness.


PS, Captcha must have forgotten me, it immediately admitted me.

DLM said...

Julia, the secret came out recently - you can skip ReCAPTCHA outright and just post without bothering with it!

I'm glad your admission went according to your plan. Nice.

Keep an eye on that oven - and good to see you here.

James Ticknor said...

Was I the only one to cringe when the asker said "...wants to make sure the manuscript is as good as possible"? Maybe I'm just being cynical, but that particular verbiage just made my inner editor shriek like the girl in Psycho.

James Ticknor said...

It should be noted too that this is a huge waste of the agent's time and resources. Agents have to eat too! I really can't imagine someone having so much faith in my work and passion for it, and then turning around and pi$$ing on that person for no reason. Villains need to stay in books where there's no possibility of me being tempted to do something that would warrant jail time!

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Preposterous poppycock!

Julia said...

And - on the opie's question - I suppose I passive-aggressively avoided it simply because the whole concept left a vile taste in my mouth. Do people truly act this way? Really? Like... adults?

Here's my reaction. It's something I said on another author's thread recently, or as close as I can get without digging through weeks of comments.

Maybe I'm overly naive, but I'm okay with that - but truly, can't we all just get along? At least at a kindergarten level? I mean, seriously. Look up "Everything I Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten." Top things are share everything, PLAY FAIR, Don't hit people, Put things back where you found them, Clean up your own mess, Don't take things that aren't yours, Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, Wash your hands before you eat, Flush, and Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. But the whole point comes down to treating people (including yourself) fairly and kindly and with consideration, and remembering hygiene.

Now, if that isn't enough, then didn't we learn it in middle school? Didn't we all get picked on, teased to death, or bullied at some point? Okay, maybe not. Maybe we hid successfully. Or maybe we were bullies. But one way or the other, we understood the rules of the road. Wonder where the opie lies. You don't treat people this way! You just don't!

And if even that isn't enough, what about basic water cooler rules / justice / kindness? Sure, people gossip - but still, there are MANNERS, people!

Honestly, I'm just so disgusted by the whole idea that my initial impulse was simply to refrain entirely. But as it's my first time back in a while, I couldn't just leave it. Manners and basic kindness are near and dear to my heart. This is a waste of everyone's time - the Agent's, the potential publisher's, should it go that far, and the opie's, though they either don't see that or don't care.


This sort of thing is finite.

One cannot behave this way forever.

Sooner or later, the people involved figure it out. The kids in the playground won't play anymore. The Tonka trucks go to the other kids, or, if you are a bully and bop the other kids with the trucks so you can have them, then the other kids disappear. If you tease and lie and mock and jeer at those you deem "inferior" during middle school, pretty soon, your clique will turn on you or fear you - or grow up. And you'll find yourself alone. And if you cross the invisible line in your professional career, it will bite your rear. You'll lose colleagues - you may end up losing your job.

And if you do this in writing, my guess is that you won't get represented, and while today this doesn't matter to you - tomorrow, it might. And either way, you do need a publisher, and the community isn't closed.

Be careful which enemies you foster. And be wise. And now is a good time to grow.


Pedantic Speaker's Corner Podium slipped back by chainlink fence.


W.R. Gingell said...

The really amusing thing here is that newauth so blithely assumes that he can simply pluck an agent from any passing tree- that they'll be begging to represent his book.

Yeah, that ain't gonna happen.

And if it did, it would make newauth's planned scam all the more deplorable. Agents aren't in it for their health (or so I've been told). They work hard on the projects they love, and that they think they can make a profit on. An author doesn't get to come in and use all that know-how and expertise, only to drop the agent after they've got what they want out of the relationship.

But mostly I keep thinking that newauth isn't even gonna make it past query stage. As others (I think it was KD) said, he/she's the sort that's likely to get a refusal on query, and snap back with a nasty email.

All I can say is that the people on that AW thread are a LOT more patient than I am.

Theresa said...

Ah, Amanda, I know what you mean. Whatever those royalties pay for seems like such a luxury. And thank goodness for the day job.

This whole thing has been on my mind all day today-maybe because of the cold medicine I was taking. Much of it veered toward what Julia said above about people acting like adults, all respectful and getting along.

I can really understand wanting the manuscript to be as flawless as possible, but to plan on getting that level of professional feedback under false pretenses, yikes. And after doing research on the big publishing companies, how does someone come away with the impression that they do so little marketing? I don't know a whole lot about business practices, but that just doesn't make sense.

Okay. Time to let it go.

Ardenwolfe said...

This is one of those times I realize that other authors, especially hopefuls, tend to forget that literary agents are people too. Doing anything like this is beyond the pale. Yes, publishing is tough. Overwhelmed. But to go this route is just wrong.

Sleazy doesn't even cover it.

bjmuntain said...

Welcome back, JulieH! So lovely to see you!

DLM: You can only skip the ReCaptcha if you sign in with your Google/Blogger account. I can't skip it when I sign in with my WordPress account.

Yes, it's 4:40 a.m. my time. Yes, I have insomnia - probably because of the smoke outside. We're not near any fires, but we have enough smoke in our air that people are being warned not to spend too much time outside. I haven't gone outside since the smoke came, nor have I opened any windows (despite the heat), but I still woke up at 3 a.m. with burning eyes, sore throat, and stuffed up nose.

Tamlyn said...

I had the really belated thought - so the writer thinks to turn down the contract, but is considering getting said contract because they feel trade publishing's editors are better than other editors. So they expect the editing to occur before a contract is offered? Or they were going to break the terms of contract?

Okay: reading back through comments other people have already said yes, that's what the writer seems to want. No wonder I'm bewildered.

Mind you, given the way the writer has spoken about not negotiating on editing, it's no wonder they've already gone through three paid editors. I imagine the writer has ignored all their suggestions in his adamant determination to not change anything he doesn't want to change.

Rakie said...

really, it was quite nice of that guy/gal to share their masterplan with the wider world and allow us all the opportunity to go, "Of course! Why didn't I think of doing things this way??" A more selfish person might've kept such a grand scheme to themselves. :)

W.R. Gingell said...

Ha! Ahaha! Yes. It was a service to the world at large and an unselfish act to boot!

Patricia Harvey said...

My daughter spent many long years in training as a ballet dancer. She danced professionally for a few years and now teaches in New York. She learned early on that the ballet world is very small indeed. Reputation is built on talent, hard work and - while this may be difficult to believe - personal integrity. And word gets around. Just as it must in the world of publishing. While cutthroats can definitely be successful, the truth is, no one - with the possible exception of other cutthroats - wants to deal with them.

Patricia Harvey said...

A agent once told me that she isn't only interested in a single book, but in a writer's entire career. So I think it would be quite shortsighted to risk screwing her over for what could amount to peanuts. Why not trust the world for it's greater good? And basically, try not to be a jerk.

Julie.M.Weathers said...

Patricia, I think that's what Newauth doesn't seem to understand. He sees one book. He seems to think an agent only cares if they get some money any money. His remark they will be happy because half of the offers they make to authors get rejected anyway because the authors go with other agents shows how disconnected he is. He seems to think agents are begging for authors to accept them.

Wouldn't that be a lovely world?

Irene Troy said...

Alas I have seen this type thing before and, sadly, am sure I'll see it again. There are writers who view agents as the enemy. As such, all interactions with agents are seen through the filter of: "agents will screw over writers at every possible turn." This same type writer probably views traditional publishing as an adversarial process. The author vs the agent, editor and publisher. If this is how you view the publishing process, then you would probably justify screwing over the agent before s/he screws you.

This type of thinking makes me crazy. I understand and share the frustration most writers experience in the long journey from idea to publication. You spend years creating the best book you are capable of producing. You then spend months trying to craft a decent query letter. Then the letter is sent to dozens, if not hundreds, of agents, all of whom may reject your work with no explanation. As a writer, I sometimes do feel a moment of intense frustration when my latest query meets with either no response (the worst) or a form rejection. But, thankfully, these moments are short and quickly pushed past. I think some writers react to frustration by assuming the worst and lodging attacks against the people they think stand in the way of their wonderful writing seeing the light of day.

What this person contemplates is outrageous and wrong on many different levels. For argument let's pretend the author does follow through on this tactic and then manages to self-publish the book. What are the chances the book will be well received? Not great. But even if the book proves the exception, what are the chances the author will be able to sell future titles traditionally? ZERO. What people like this ignore is the publishing world is very small, word gets around quickly and her name will be dirt forever. Unless her current books sells in the millions (almost impossible) no agent will ever accept her as a client after such a disrespectful and dishonest approach. As ugly as this would be for the agent involved, the net result would be worse for the author. Talk about derailing your writing career before it ever gets going! said...

Not only is this a seriously effed up thing to do to your agent, it's just plain stupid. Why would anyone want to turn down a traditional publishing contract with money *in hand* and the potential to reach a much wider audience to self publish? This person is an idiot and a scalawag and doesn't deserve an agent.

roadkills-r-us said...

While this is apparently legal, it's reprehensible, appalling, and ethical. It's not, alas, surprising (Dena covered the example I was going to discuss).
At its core, it's theft, plain and simple.
But ultimately, this person is delusional and or deceived.