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?



Sunday, May 06, 2012

Feeling Sluttish

I'll bet you think I meant wanton, depraved, and sexually promiscuous. Not a jot of it.

Sluttish refers to be lazy and untidy.  Even Chaucer used the word in reference to a slovenly man.

What I mean is that I don't feel like cleaning up or even getting out of bed, except I have to clean up and get out of bed if I want a shower, and I do so want a shower right now. It's not that I'm dirty or unkempt (well, maybe a bit unkempt), but a shower would feel wonderful when I feel so blah.

I woke up before 6 a.m. this morning, got up to answer Nature's call, and promptly went back to bed without brushing my teeth. I did get a cup of yogurt with fruit (pomegranate and cherry) and had that while reading a few chapters of Pyramids, but then slipped idly back into the deep well of sleep and didn't get up again until after noon. In my defense, I was up until after 2 a.m. and just couldn't sleep, but I caught up and then some. I have so few days when I can actually sleep more than 4 of 5 hours at a time and I need more sleep. Catch me on a day when I've not had much sleep and you might come away like a male praying mantis that has been rutted. To death. Without a head. Except for the rutting part. I am definitely not feeling at all in the mood for sex or anything related to sex. I want sleep.

I also want someone else to do the cooking and cleaning and hauling away the trash so I don't have to do it, but I need the exercise and it's better than having to purchase a Stairmaster when I could just get up and move about doing all the things that need done.

That is the trick, though, doing the things that need done. In today's world the list grows greater every day. Having all these electronic conveniences has not lessened the list of chores, but it certainly has lessened the amount of available free time, and they suck up lots of money. Then again, I wonder what life would be like without all those conveniences, minding of course that I don't want to get rid of affordable and available water, sewers, or electricity, just get rid of the extraneous stuff like clothes dryers, computers, mixers (except for a brand new KitchenAid), waffle irons, electric grills, televisions, radios, etc. All the conveniences of life that make life so inconvenient.

So, electricity, safe water and sewage, a refrigerator, maybe a stereo or radio, a clothes washer, an electric typewriter (I don't think I have the time to mess with a manual typewriter), a car for going to town, and maybe a good chest freezer and a gas stove and furnace (that work). The bare necessities.

The result would be clothes hung up outside on lines or in the basement when it's too cold or wet to hang out the clothes. Food would be cooked manually. Think of the benefits to the triceps and biceps by whipping cream to a frenzy or mixing thick batters, and all that walking and standing and stretching hanging out the clothes and taking them down. An iron would be necessary to get out the wrinkles in dress clothing. No one needs ironed sheets or underthings. At least I don't.

A big fireplace would provide plenty of heat on cold days and sleeping in the living room in front of the fire on a comfy couch would not go amiss. The wood would need to be chopped and hauled and the ashes shoveled out and disposed of, but that would all go on the compost heap with the rest of the kitchen detritus rotting and providing work for bugs and enrichment for the soil come planting time because a kitchen garden is absolutely essential for fresh vegetables. I have wonderful memories of summers spent planting and harvesting vegetables to be frozen and canned for later use. Opening those cans was like a breath of summer air in the midst of winter and baking pies bubbling with summer berries and fruit brought back scorching days picking blackberries in the shade of trees and scrambling among the brambles. My skin itches just to think about it.

All that physical work would have extra benefits, like keeping me healthy and much slimmer and I'd have a blush of tan where the wide straw hat didn't quite shade my exposed skin, but that's not too bad since vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin.

As lazy as I feel today, most of that sounds wonderful. Being pleasantly tired from a day of chores would help me sleep at night and the quiet, punctuated only by the sound of typewriter keys clacking away while I listen to Mozart or Mahler  would be heaven. I could think without the constant hum of electricity through dozens of gadgets I don't really need but thought I did when I bought them. The computer has become a source of entertainment and wasted hours as much as it has been a boon to writing and publishing my work. With the good inevitably comes the bad -- or at least the downside of the benefit package that is modern life.

And I'm back to feeling sluttish again. One day I might make a go of the simple life and get rid of most of my conveniences, but not today. Today, I have pages to write and books to read for review and the computer will make both easier since I have to get the reviews to my boss by Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.

It's not easy going back to the basics. I need more money and more time to get there.

In the meantime, I'm going to indulge those sluttish fantasies and go to bed with a book (good or bad remains to be read) and a box of Cheez-its. Or maybe another yogurt with pomegranate and cherry and a big jug of water. Nature's call is all that will get me out of my comfortable position -- at least for the next several hours.