Being Smart

Part of the cliffside at Bandelier, the cliff dwellings I talked about yesterday.

It occurs to me that a place that’s great for carving out caves also boast it’s fair share of cracks and holes.

A few years back, I was offered the opportunity to sign with a literary agency. Kinda sorta. The agent emailed me, enthused about my manuscript and set up a time to talk on the phone. She missed that appointment and set up second time. We talked then, but things were crazy for her and she couldn’t talk long. She liked the book, but wanted me to revise. The pacing needed work, she said, and a few other things. She’d send me detailed notes on it. If I fixed those things, she had the perfect editor in mind.

I never heard from her again.

Now, I would have been pleased to revise, given something more than the vague ideas she flung out on the phone. But, the agency was very new, she was even newer, seemed kind of flakey and I could see that the agency had only ever sold to one editor at one publishing house and that particular editor had already rejected the manuscript. Now, it’s possible that could have been overcome with revision, but I never even got to have that conversation with this gal. I had a bad feeling about it all, so when she didn’t send me the promised notes, I never pursued it. Not long after that, she left the agency.

At that time I was pretty new to the fiction-publishing world. But I have been out in the business world long enough to have a pretty good idea of professional behavior. I don’t know about all of you, but my day job company makes sure we understand our business model. We have to know the requirements of our contracts and the ins and outs like conflict of interest and quality assurance. I know that if somebody tells me a deal is predicated on me making some changes based on notes they’ll send that they never do, then it was never a good deal to begin with.

This is common sense.

When we sign with our agents, we place a tremendous level of trust in that relationship. We trust that they will act in our best interests. However, much as in marriage, hopefully you place that trust based on good information in the first place and then you remember that trust doesn’t mean having your brains sucked out of your ears.

The thing to remember is that, while an agency should be acting in their authors’ best interests, they have their own interests at heart, too. Hopefully those two things coincide. Sometimes, though, a brilliant plan for short-term gain is not the best strategy for an author’s long-term career. Guess which part each player here might care about most?

Even if you have an agent, authors, there  is still no one who will care about your career more than you do.

Be smart.

8 Replies to “Being Smart”

  1. “…remember that trust doesn’t mean having your brains sucked out of your ears.”

    ~snort~ What an awesome way to put that. Glad your common sense helped you dodge a bad-agent bullet.

  2. And for the love of all that’s holy, try to remember that YOU are a professional. Act like one. If you sign something, read it. Preferably before you sign it. Read it after you sign it, too, because those words now define your performance standards as an author. If you let that blindside you, there’s no one to blame, but you.

    1. It’s noteworthy that the contracts are between the author and the publisher. No matter what an agent may advise, it’s the author’s name on the contract and whose butt is in the legal swing.

  3. A world of wisdom in the parting words – no one will care about your career more than you do! Excellent post, sometimes the business fundamentals escape people but publishing IS a business. And I love it I(but I do read the contract LOL)

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