Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The October "Scorecard" and What I Do All Day

Well, here it is November 2, so my sample chapter offer with regard to fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has ended. If you did not have it in the mail by today, I’m sorry you missed out. But I may make this offer again in the future, so keep on reading the posts here!

I’m pleased to report that this offer really saved my bacon when it came to fundraising for this event. With a minimum of $3,150.00 to raise, I’m amazed to report that $1,510 came from this offer! As of today, I have raised nearly $4,000.00 to help find a cure for blood-related cancers and to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Thank you!

And for those of you interested in how training is going, we’ll be headed on our last big pre-event ride this weekend: eighty miles to Rockland Lake State Park and back. Sunday should be a great day for a ride. Temps at seventy degrees. Tucson, on the other hand, could be a bit warm when we get there. Temps are in the eighties there still. Perhaps it will cool off a bit in the next couple of weeks...I hope!

Now, since it’s November, it must be time for the October “Scorecard.” In October, I received 134 query letters and rejected ninety-two. I received twenty-five requested sample chapters or chapters through my LLS offer. I rejected thirty-five. I requested twelve more, as well as two proposals. I received two requested full manuscripts and requested four more. I offered representation to one client.

I currently have 116 submissions on hand. That includes sample chapters, proposals, and full manuscripts. I want to remind everyone that, provided you include an SASE, I respond to all query letters one way or another, and all submissions. So, if you queried me and never heard back, it is likely your query never reached me or my response never reached you. Query me again.

A lot of folks ask me what I do all day as an agent. They think I read, which certainly isn’t the case. So I’d like to give a sample of some correspondence with a publisher I recently had regarding a new deal for a first novel. This is from a very senior person at one publishing house:

I'm completely tied up with work at the moment. Had you not attempted to rewrite our entire contract, we could have had this whole thing done long since. Looking at all of your changes and demands, things that are not part of any contract we have with any agent or author, I find myself wondering whether we can come to any contract agreement at all.

We are not rewriting our entire contract for you or anyone. If you want to choose five points that are really important to you we can discuss those, and see if we can reach an accommodation. If not, then I'm sorry to say that we won't have a deal. And much as I would like to work with XXXXX and publish XXXXXX, I will, with regrets, have to pass not only on this book but on any other projects in the future.

Now, in my own defense, I did not rewrite the contract. Rather, I reviewed it and forwarded my requests for changes so that the contract would include such “radical” items as:

  1. Author’s approval over the copyedited manuscript.

  2. Language that required the Publisher to defend the Author in a lawsuit, rather than the other way around.

  3. Consultation by the Author on the cover design.

  4. Approval over any abridged or condensed versions of the Author’s book.

  5. Approval over publication of the Work by another publisher under a license.

  6. A reservation of any rights not specifically included to the Author.

  7. The right by the Author to make changes in proofs or galleys, provided the Author is willing to pay for changes beyond ten percent of the cost of typesetting.

  8. A requirement that the Publisher register the copyright in the Author’s name within ninety days of publication.

  9. A clause outlining what happens if someone infringes the Author’s copyright.

  10. A requirement that the Publisher read the delivered manuscript within thirty days of receipt and, if the delivered manuscript is not acceptable, that the Author shall have thirty days to revise, based upon written notes to be provided by the Publisher.

  11. A First Proceeds clause.

  12. Language outlining the definition of “Manufacturing Cost.”

  13. Language ensuring that the Author does not receive reduced royalties on sales to accounts that are within normal wholesale or retail channels, regardless of discount. Any author should get their full royalty on a sale to B&N, I feel, regardless of the discount granted.

  14. Language defining what shall be included on a royalty statement or provided upon written request.

  15. Language limiting the reserve for returns.

  16. A default clause, outlining what happens if the Publisher defaults in sending royalty statements on time.

  17. A limitation on the out-of-print clause.

  18. Defining the option terms.

  19. Various other language changes designed to make the contract more fair, rather than sided toward the Publisher.
My response to their response:

Thank you for your email. I know the feeling. Running an agency on my own, I have even less support than you do when it comes to contracts and the workload in general. So you have my sympathies with that regard.

With regard to the contract for XXXXXX, as I mentioned to XXXXX, I am hoping that this is but the first of many deals I will do with XXXXXXXX over the years. After all, XXXXXX called me several months ago to tell me how much she loved another project of mine that I'm hoping you'll eventually offer on. And I still hope we can do business on XXXXXX, since I think he would fit in particularly well with your list. And in light of these hopes, I would like to negotiate a boilerplate that will work not only on this deal, but on future deals as well. I'd like to make the investment in the effort now, so that we don't have to negotiate the boilerplate five points at a time over the next five deals. This is the approach I take with all publishers: Let's hammer out a working, general boilerplate now, rather than argue book-by-book. And it has worked well for me and for the houses with which I have done business.

I think if you carefully review the changes I've requested, you will find that they are straightforward and in keeping with industry standards. In fact, much of the language I've inserted comes directly from the Authors' Guild Model Book Contract or the boilerplates used by the other major ... publishers. I therefore respectfully request that you review my requested changes and respond, letting me know which ones are acceptable, which you have a compromise position for, and which you find deal-breakers. I will then run all that by my client and see where that takes us.

I guess we’ll see what this person says when I hear back. It’s been two days now. Though, I should probably not hold my breath, since this particularly person had the manuscript for more than one year before making an offer.

So, if you ever wonder what an agent might do all day, perhaps this will help you to understand better.



Shadow said...

Ah, I see. So you deal with idiots all day. Same as I do. And I, too, have learned to say "fuck you" so politely they don't even know it's been said to them. Bravo for a well-constructed answer to a boorish missive.

Demented M said...

Great post--thanks for sharing.


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