Thursday, May 10, 2012

Behind Your Back

While you've been toiling away on your next novel, your agent has been busy, but not in the usual sense. Your agent has been colluding with the Big 6 publishers in their struggle with the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) over ebook pricing. Your agent has been working to shore up the Big 6 publishers' case while stabbing you in the back. Your agent. Your voice in the marketplace. The person who is supposed to be looking out for your interests. Think I'm kidding? Check it out.

Joe says it better than I can.

He also allowed Ann Voss Peterson to have her say about publishing with Harlequin, something I have known about for years, which is why I never went after a Harlequin contract. I don't believe in slavery or serfdom.

Are you done yet? You should be.

Decades ago, when I first began writing seriously for publication, I met my first real live published author. I was thrilled that she deigned to sit down and talk to me. Having lunch was icing on the cake, but the cake had a bitter taste.

The author was a best selling novelist under the Harlequin imprint. I had read several of her books back in the days when I was doing research to become the next Harlequin publishing find. She still had her day job, not because she loved it (although she did enjoy the job) but because she couldn't live on what she made with Harlequin. Huh? She couldn't live on her earnings from the publisher, not even with 60 books in print? How is that possible? She explained, forgiving my shocked outburst and my rude questions.

After 60 novels, she still never got more than an $8000 advance, all of which she earned out, and she made pennies where I thought she was making tens of thousands. She made more money with her day job and she had three children to support, three children she hoped would go to college.

"Sixteen tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt."

She owed her soul to the company store. E-books had not been heard of and millions of homes didn't have computers. She (and I) were still typing out manuscripts on typewriters. Electric typewriters, but typewriters not computers.

My dreams of having dozens of books published by Harlequin were shattered and my hopes that I could quit my day job died that day. I still wrote but focused my sights on something achievable. I became a stringer for local newspapers and concentrated on writing articles for magazines and writing speeches and PR work. I still worked on my novels and stories and kept my eye on the trades for an opportunity to break in, one that didn't come for another decade, and several computers later.

I made my break with my first solo novel with a traditional publisher, one that sends me annual earnings statements and under reports ebook sales, paying quarterly royalties every 12-18 months. I've been published in several anthologies but decided to self-publish my second solo novel and I get paid every month on books I sell. The vendors don't cheat me on points and they don't under report my ebook sales. I get every penny. I'm still not ready to quit my day job but it's coming within the foreseeable future.

I don't have an agent and I'm glad now I don't. When agents collude with publishers to cheat their clients out of earnings just to line their pockets and keep the publishers rich, I know I chose right when I chose not to have an agent. Check out Joe's article and read the signatories on the letter the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) sent to the DOJ. If your agent is one of the 13 out of the 462 who supposedly represent you, it's time to make a tough decision. It shouldn't be too difficult since the only question you need to ask is: Whose interests does my agent represent. If the answer is the Big 6 publishers, it's time to make a change, or hire a lawyer and do without an agent. There are other options. Work for yourself or be a cog in the wheel not getting any grease.

What is your agent doing behind your back when s/he is supposed to be representing you?



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