Home » Agents, Contracts, Romance » Many authors are able to make a living with their writing with Harlequin

Many authors are able to make a living with their writing with Harlequin

14 May 2012

From romance agent Scott Eagan:

I recently read an article about an author who was extremely upset with Harlequin and their contracts. Her whole post was a complaint about how she just couldn’t make a living off of the books she was selling at Harlequin in their series line. Needless to say, she is off to run and “self-publish” her books and be able to now essentially retire with the amount of money she will make on her own. This post was also a guest blog on an individual’s site that seems to be 100% against all established publishers and 100% behind only self-publishing. Hmmmm? This got me thinking.

. . . .

I found it interesting that these authors were implying that they were forced into the decision to contract with a publisher. That they were stuck with these advances and royalty rates. Along the same lines, they were adding in the fact that agents were just part of the whole scheme of things making their authors go along with these deals. Now, I am not sure what their relationship with their agent is like, but I honestly do not know of any agent out there that holds a gun to the head of their author and “make them” sign anything. The author-agent relationship is a teamwork affair and we all discuss with our clients where we are sending books. If the author doesn’t want their book at a particular house, we honor that request.

Secondly, if an author doesn’t have an agent and they are doing this on their own, which again is perfectly fine, they choose where to send the manuscript and they negotiate those details in the contract. If you don’t like the terms, then don’t sign the contract.

. . . .

When an author is not making money, it is NOT always the fault of the publisher. Maybe their writing has gone flat. Maybe they aren’t promoting enough. Maybe it is simply a matter of bad timing for when the book comes out. The point is, be careful blaming others for your lack of success in the business.

I for one am a firm believer in Harlequin. The editors work AMAZINGLY hard with the authors out there dedicated to their craft. The promotion departments do an amazing amount of work to get those books out to their readers. I would also add that all of the editors work amazingly well with me personally when I want to negotiate contracts. They are in it for the long haul with their writers and they don’t want to lose a great thing when they see it.

I would also add that there are far too many authors out there who are able to make a living with their writing and being able to publish with Harlequin. Why? Because they are great writers. They probably have a great team working with them including editors, agents and P.R. people.

Link to the rest at Babbles from Scott Eagan and thanks to Barbra for the tip.

The most frequent problem Passive Guy finds with publishing contracts negotiated by agents is that agents fail to inform their clients about contract clauses that have major negative effects on authors.

PG has lost count of the number of times he has analyzed a publishing contract for an author, pointed out one or more really nasty provisions and heard the response, “My agent never told me about that.”

Scott is correct that no one is forcing an author to sign a publishing contract. However, agents universally describe themselves as experts in the publishing business and one of their principle value-add activities is negotiating publishing contracts on behalf of the author.

When an agent presents a contract to an author, unless the agent explicitly warns the author about one or more aspects of the contract, the agent is implicitly recommending that the author sign the contract.

PG submits that representing an author involves explaining what the contract means or expressly advising the author to hire an attorney to tell them what the contract means before signing the contract. When an author says, “My agent never told me about that,” PG believes the agent has failed in one of his/her major responsibilities.


Agents, Contracts, Romance

160 Comments to “Many authors are able to make a living with their writing with Harlequin”

  1. Uh huh. Yeah.

  2. The way this guy gushes about Harlequin, you’d think he represents them. And maybe he does. Who’s more important to him, one of his authors? Or Harlequin? His post, which is full of straw man after straw man about authors and suck-up after suck-up to Harlequin, makes the answer pretty clear.

  3. What I find most amusing is that he then goes on to say in the comments that he was referring to a different article and didn’t read the one everyone was talking about in the comments.

    Sure buddy. What other Harlequin author guest posted on the blog of an author who is vehemently opposed to traditional publishing?

  4. I think the guy is being dishonest and I posted a comment to that effect on his blog. He claims that he’s not referring to Ann Voss Peterson’s guest post on Konrath’s blog, but he hasn’t identified the article he is referring to. He wrote a post with no link to the original article. His description of the article sure sounds like he is referring to Peterson’s post:

    I recently read an article about an author who was extremely upset with Harlequin and their contracts. Her whole post was a complaint about how she just couldn’t make a living off of the books she was selling at Harlequin in their series line. Needless to say, she is off to run and “self-publish” her books and be able to now essentially retire with the amount of money she will make on her own. This post was also a guest blog on an individual’s site that seems to be 100% against all established publishers and 100% behind only self-publishing.

    Is there anyone on the internet more likely to be perceived as “100% against all established publishers and 100% behind only self-publishing” than Konrath? I know that’s not his position, but that is what many people think about him. Although he also mischaracterizes Peterson’s post in several important ways, there are enough points of similarity to make me suspect that her post is the one he is referring to. Also, I did a bit of “googling” and I can’t find any other recent article on the internet that could be a candidate for the mystery article that Egan is commenting on. Perhaps I’m jumping to conclusions here, but I think the guy isn’t just a weasel, he’s a dishonest weasel.

    • I, too, thought he was referring to Ann’s post. I can’t think of any other Harlequin writer who’s guest blogged for a pro-self-pub / anti-legacy writer in the past 2 weeks.

    • I think he’s a stupid weasel. Let’s see–he tells obvious and transparent lies to get out of trouble. Yeah, I wanna do business with this guy–where do I sign?

    • I guess I don’t understand why he would want to lie about which post he was referring? And then, why he would feel compelled to pull his post over it? Very strange.

      Maybe he got surprised by the reaction he got from the web? That post probably garnered more attention then he was used to getting and he panicked.

    • I would like to apologize to weasels everywhere, both real and metaphorical. This guy doesn’t even qualify as a weasel.

  5. I read his blog and I’m quite sure he is an agent who only deals with Harlequin. If you want him as an agent that is where your work will go.

  6. Come on, guys!

    “Many” = “more than one,” so you know, two writers. “Make a living” = one has a trust fund, and the other is married to an investment banker. I’m sure that’s true!

    I love how he has “a great personal relationship” with those amazing, AMAZING, AMAZING!!!!! people at Harlequin, but writers don’t work hard enough, aren’t dedicated to their craft, and are just unlucky. Everybody is doing great except for the writers, who are constantly screwing up, undoing all the great work of their AMAZING!!!!!!! team, and then blaming the poor team for it.

    So all he does for writers is fail to hold a gun to their head. It’s a wonder he doesn’t just shoot them all and unleash the POWER of the AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! League of Harlequin!

  7. The hard numbers on the relative pittance Harlequin authors receive on their sales speaks much, much louder than this guy’s gushing about their great teamwork. Probably why he’s now claiming that wasn’t the article he was referring to.

  8. Another commenter on Egan’s blog described him thus: “He’s the most unprofessional agent I’ve ever met.” And that, apparently, is among his GOOD points.

    Whatever, it’s abundantly clear that his Harlequin jones blinds him to their contractual shenanigans and (IMO) makes him unfit to represent authors. At least he’s got a lot of company in New York.

    • Eagan is local to me, and ‘teaches’, or used to teach, how to get published classes at a local community college. Back when I didn’t know any better, I went to one. I was highly unimpressed even back then.

  9. He’s removed the post!

    • brendan stallard

      “He’s removed the post!”


      LOL, see the power you have?

      Scaring shysters outta biz:)


    • He’s removed the post? Really? LOL! Isn’t this the SECOND post he’s removed in as many weeks? It seems to be that just a couple of weeks ago, PG linked to another ill-advised, poorly-informed post by this agent which, when I clicked on the link, I discovered, instead of the original post, a one-line note from the agent saying he had removed the post.

      Maybe blogging isn’t really a good medium for him…

  10. I suggest that anyone who “doesn’t HAVE to sign a contract” write a 60k romance novel and then go hunting for other markets than HQ to peddle it. HQ itself warns authors that they cannot make a living, and not to quit their day jobs. Apparently that means, ever.

  11. Link’s dead. Looks like he may have taken it down. Too bad, as I was about to post over there how gutless he is.

  12. Holy shit, he deleted the post! I got a screen shot of the post itself, but I couldn’t go back to the comments page. If anyone happens to have the comments page still open, take a screen shot. A literary agent just got caught *lying* and and rather than honestly dealing with it he’s now trying to destroy the evidence. This is outrageous.

    • It’s not the first post he’s removed, either. He took down his Rejection Letter to the 50 Shades of Grey novel as well a few weeks back. Granted, I’ll admit I was glad to see him take that one down. It felt appropriate.

  13. Unfortunately the tone of the article he quoted did come across as whiny. I have to say, hindsight is not the most effective way to look at any contract. The message I got out of her post was that she’s not willing to sign the same contract now. The contact was (or at least seemed good at the time). But times have changed and Harlequin doesn’t want to make a better deal for future books. Seems fair that she said, ‘no thanks’.

    By the way, the book she was touting, Pushed Too Far, was a great read.

  14. I just left this comment on his “Learn to take criticism” post.” Seemed appropriate.

    “There seems to be a post missing. Blogger must be acting up again, because there’s no way that you would have taken down a particularly obnoxious piece about an author’s difficulty with Harlequin that was posted ‘on an individual’s site that seems to be 100% against all established publishers and 100% behind only self-publishing.’

    Hmmm? This got me thinking.”

    • His reply is your comment is interesting:


      Unfortunately, the post was taken down to the other individual posts that were offensive. It had nothing to do with the argument being made or the legitimate discussion that was taking place in the forum.

      This was one of those cases where a few ruined it for those who wanted to have an intellectual discussion.

      I signed up to get email updates for comments on the post he took down, so I happen to have the last three comments that were made on that post, mine, Konrath’s, and an anonymous comment. The anonymous comment was a little obnoxious (called the dude a jackass, that sort of thing, pretty mild compared to the typical political blog comments), but Konrath’s comment was actually pretty restrained, I thought. When Konrath decides to unload, people know it…

  15. Hilariously, his current post is titled:

    Learn To Take Criticism – A MUST In Publishing

  16. Cache of referenced post here.

  17. My dad used to be a switchboard operator at a hospital – it was his second job after working all day in a factory.

    He lost his job when the phone company (and the entire telecommunication industry) improved their technology.

    Agents should do what he did. He didn’t look for another switchboard operator job; he didn’t squawk about how unfair it was … or even more absurdly, about how much better switchboards were than the new tech.

    He concentrated on working in a position that wasn’t going to become obsolete, and that offered real value.

    What happened to my dad? He ended up buying the manufacturing company he worked for, five years later.

    Moral: Agents, like switchboard operators should move on. c”,)

    p.s. I don’t sign a contract to employ my accountant, just a letter of engagement that outlines HIS duties, for a FEE.

    My heroes: PG, Dean W. Smith, Joe K., Barry-E, and all of my brutha & sista indie publishers!

  18. For authors, maybe–not for blogging agents (snicker)!

  19. The best part about Scott Eagan deleting his post after being exposed as a liar is his latest post: “Learn To Take Criticism – A MUST In Publishing.” Seriously.

    • Desperate words from a man writing from a window ledge.

      p.s. I’m now writing a post, “The Friggin’ Party’s Over: I Have to Get a Real Job – One Agent’s Story”


  20. Sorry, missed those earlier references to Scott’s hilarious new post.

    Here’s his equally hilarious explanation:

    “Unfortunately, the post was taken down to the other individual posts that were offensive. It had nothing to do with the argument being made or the legitimate discussion that was taking place in the forum.

    “This was one of those cases where a few ruined it for those who wanted to have an intellectual discussion.”


  21. Dang, guys! You fried him already and I didn’t get to read his post. Guess that’s what I get for sleeping in this morning.

  22. Just posted this as a comment to Scott’s extraordinarily ironic “Learn To Take Criticism – A MUST In Publishing” post:

    BooksAndPals, of course Scott knows he could have deleted only the “offensive” comment. And Scott, everyone knows the real reason you deleted the entire post, along with all the comments: you got caught in a lie and rather than owning up to it, you tried to destroy the evidence.

    You wrote a weak, straw-man-riddled, publisher-reverent post, and you got called on it. That happens. All you had to do was say, “Hey, those are some good points, people. Thanks.” But instead, you tried to squirm away by saying you weren’t responding to the post everyone knew you were responding to. You lied, Scott. And when you got called the lie on top of the weak post itself, you made the worst decision you’ve made yet: to delete the whole thing.

    For anyone who wants to read what Scott found so “offensive,” here’s a link to a discussion at The Passive Voice, a blog with integrity.


    Scott, it’s not usually the crime that does you in. It’s the cover-up. Have some integrity. Restore what you’ve deleted. Own up to your mistake, before the results get even worse.

    Or you can delete this post and all its comments, too. What more can we expect from a literary agent who titled the very post to which we’re now leaving comments “Learn to Take Criticism — A MUST In Publishing”?


  23. William, if you like, why not post those deleted comments here? Where presumably they’ll be much less offensive to Scott’s delicate sensibilities. Just a thought.

    • Agreed, William. I would particularly like to see what Joe said.

      • I get the feeling that, one way or another, we’ll find out what Joe said. 🙂

      • My comment was this:

        On the internet, it is customary to post a link to an article you respond to. That allows your readers to assess for themselves the validity of the original and your response. I find this post very strange. It seems to describe a recent guest post by Ann Voss Peterson on Joe Konrath’s blog, but now you claim that isn’t the case. But you haven’t provided any information about the post you are commenting on.

        I believe you are being dishonest. I think you were commenting on Ann Voss Peterson’s post and are denying it now because you pretty clear mischaracterized the post. I could be wrong. The easy way to prove me wrong is to provide a link to or identify in some way the article you are referring to.

        Joe Konrath’s comment:

        I’ll play.

        In some cases, the book an author writes (poetry for example) may only be suitable for the self-publishing market due to the limited marketablity of the book.

        I’ve sold over half a million copies of novels rejected by major publishers. That doesn’t sound like limited marketability.

        I found it interesting that these authors were implying that they were forced into the decision to contract with a publisher.

        Authors have a choice. They can take a bad deal, or no deal at all.

        This is a classic case of blaming the victim. Those factory workers getting killed during the industrial revolution while getting paid a pittance also had a choice. They could have quit. But they didn’t. They fought unfairness.

        These are often individuals who have not had success with their writing, for any number of reasons.

        I agree. All bad books fail. Only good books hit the NYT List. Anyone not on the NYT List isn’t a good writer.

        I for one am a firm believer in Harlequin.

        I can tell. Just like Benedict Arnold was a firm believer in the Crown. But certainly you see the conflict of interest.

        If things go wrong, don’t go blaming other people.

        Are you really an agent? It’s a serious question. Because if you are you have surely seen the constant mistakes, screw-ups, and intentional mistreatment of authors by publishers. You must have horror stories about how your clients have been jerked around. And yet you want to defend Harlequin?

        And the anonymous (and slightly rude) comment:

        Joe, you asked if Scott is really an agent? He’s the most unprofessional agent I’ve ever met. I paid big bucks to go to a conference to meet him. He was rude from the get go. We shook hands and I offered my business card to him. He waved it off and said, “Don’t even try it.” Huh? Try what? Exchanging information with another professional? He was a jackass and this was before the indie revolution or right at the beginning about five years ago. He told me genre blending is bad and I need to pick a genre. He left a terrible taste in my mouth with regards to agents and I know a few authors who have fired him because he can’t do a thing with their careers. He claims to have connections but has none. He makes all the stops at all the conventions and even talks at many of them but writers who frequent romance writing conventions in particular won’t touch him with a ten foot pole. Total jackass. And thanks, Scott. Now I’m a bestselling indie author. Thanks for turning me off of all talentless agents who suck off the good success of hard working authors so you can earn a living. He’s a bottomfeeder. If you’re lucky enough to read this before Scott deletes it, steer clear of this so called agent.

        Anon did seem to anticipate the deletion…

  24. I guess that going by the post I am unusual in agreeing with the bulk of what this agent is saying. If you sign a contract you had better know what you are signing, or get advice for a lawyer. An agent is not qualified to have an opinion; their view is irrelevant.

    Assuming the other party to the contract doesn’t break it, such as by fraud, you just have to live with it.

    I sympathise with the view that authors had no choice, but that hasn’t been the case for a number of years now.

    • Thomas, if all this is so, what are agents for? What do they do? What value do they add such that authors should pay them 15% of earnings?

      • They should be trying to get the best price for the work.

        • That’s NOT what I pay 15% for. I expect the agent to be my business advocate and she is. She has a literary attorney who reviews all contracts and always requests changes to bad language. So is she wrong for doing so? I doubt it.

      • “Thomas, if all this is so, what are agents for? What do they do?”

        I don’t have an agent. I don’t expect to ever look for an agent unless at some point I try to become a script writer.

        Hiring passive guy or any other qualified lawyer is much better value for money in my opinion.

        Other people have different opinions, of course.

        • Until those greedy lawyers realize they can get 15%. Contingency fee publishing contracts? Oh my!

          What if the lawyer’s review and comments of the contract costs, say 2 hours of attorney time? (at $350 per hour) Is it still worth it?

          • I noticed you saying “You’re dodging the question” earlier. But the truth of it is that I can only give my opinion. Different writers want different things from an agent… some want emotional support, editorial support, marketing, legal advice… or all kinds of other things. For some authors an agent may be the perfect thing. All authors are different.

            It doesn’t make sense for me to say these other writers who want different things to me are making a mistake. It is their career, just as those writers who signed contracts with harlequin were making the best choice they could at the time.

            As for whether spending $700 on a lawyer is worth it that is similarly the choice of the author.

            Having said that, you can get legal advice far cheaper than that in the real world. And if the lawyer screws up they are insured and regulated.

            And I am very surprised at the failure of American authors associations to offer a contract vetting service. I get that in the UK via the society of authors for a tiny fee.

            • “And I am very surprised at the failure of American authors associations to offer a contract vetting service.”

              Actually, the Author’s Guild offers one for the price of membership ($90). I know they kind of have a bad rap these days because of Turow’s thoughts on Amazon, but the contract service is actually quite good. Very thorough, and good recommendations (as far as I can judge, as an avid reader of PG and Kristine Rusch’s blog). Even if you have someone negotiating your contract for you (agent/lawyer), I’d still recommend sending to them for a reasonably priced second opinion.

            • Unfortunately, the eligibility requirements to join the Author’s Guild are too strict for new writers.

        • Thomas, I don’t think “they should be trying to get the best price for the work” really addresses my question, which was “if so, what are literary agents for?” It’s not just price (presumably meaning the advance) that matters in a contract. It’s value overall, which includes royalty amounts and structure, rights reversion, future rights lock-ups, and dozens of other contractual provisions that will greatly matter to any author beyond the simple notion of “price.”

          This is from the AAR’s website:

          “What can an agent do for a writer?…

          “Advise about trends, market conditions, practices, and contractual terms.
          Establish contacts with firms and persons acquiring rights to appropriate types of literary or dramatic material.
          Market the work and rights therein, including negotiation and review of licensing agreements…”

          Granted, the passage says “can do,” not “should do” or “must do.” But still, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a literary agent who claims she has no responsibility for reviewing and advising on contractual terms. Whether the agent adds value in this regard, whether the price is worth it, is a separate question. But I think the notion that “the agent is not qualified to have an opinion [about contracts]; their view is irrelevant” is a novel one. I don’t know of any novelists who would hire an agent that adopted the view you articulated here.

          • Barry,

            I didn’t give that answer, Josh gave that answer.

            I can see a lot of things in that list that do not involve giving legal advice. I find it hard to believe that someone who is not a lawyer is qualified to give legal advice, and I would never trust someone who is not a lawyer to advise me on what a contract means.

            Of course, your mileage may vary, but why would you expect an agent to be any better at giving legal advice than I would be at fixing your car?

            • No, it is not my position. Agents can give you a lot of benefits that lawyers can’t in contract negotiation, they may have a long history of dealing with a company and may know what their bottom line items are, and where they are more flexible.

              It’s like when you sell your house, you would normally have an estate agent (I think they are called realtor’s in the USA) but the legal issues of putting a contract into legal terms should be left to a lawyer.

              It is the lawyers job to make sure you are signing what you think you are signing.

            • Wow, well that post didn’t go where I wanted it to go.It should have gone under Barry’s next post.

          • That was my response, Barry, not Tom’s. Sorry for the confusion.

            • Shite, apologies to you both for my mistake — thanks.

              Thomas, agreed that in theory no one is better qualified to review a contract than a lawyer. But that’s a long way from arguing as you did that “An agent is not qualified to have an opinion; their view is irrelevant.”

              Whether you could fix my car would primarily be a function of your talent and experience in such matters, no? So maybe the better analogy would be doctors and paramedics.

              Regardless, you’re still arguing that agents offer no value when it comes to reviewing contracts. That hasn’t been my experience (and I’m a lawyer), and again I don’t think represents what agents offer and what authors expect. If agents offer no value WRT contracts, they offer next to nothing. I’ve heard this argument expressed elsewhere, and though I don’t agree with it myself, may I ask if this is your position, too?

            • [not sure this reply is attached to the right comment, but…]

              You can certainly use a lawyer to review and negotiate a contract – that’s what I did with my first novel, on the advice of the friend who had shown it to the editor who wanted to buy it.

              The problem is not really with the language – there are all kinds of ways to find out what you should or shouldn’t agree to.

              The problem is, the lawyer’s responsibility stops when the contract is signed. It’s not his/her job to ride shotgun. So, fine, you can have clauses in your contract guaranteeing the last word on questions of usage, when foreign rights payments flow through, consultation on cover, reasonable notice if the book is about to be remaindered. Those are sentences on a piece of paper in a drawer. The author can, of course, remind people of the provisions on the piece of paper in the drawer, but the author has no social status in the system. (You could bring in your lawyer again if you wanted to go to court, but as my lawyer cheerfully said, “You’re not going to sue your publisher.”)

              In order for the language in the contract to translate into action on the part of the publisher, someone has to get on the phone who has social status in the system. In most cases, an agent. If the publisher makes a bad impression on the agent, it may miss out on pie in the sky. The agent has many other clients; one day, one of those clients may have a book everyone wants. What if the agent doesn’t even give the publisher a shot at the book? The horror. (This does presuppose, of course, that the agent is willing to go into battle. Not something that can be taken for granted.)

              In the case of Peterson, the thing that surprises me is that her contract with Harlequin wasn’t renegotiated. Authors often do get a bad deal when they’re breaking into the business. If a book is extremely successful, as hers seems to have been, an agent can lean on the publisher to get better terms. Harlequin would presumably be only too thrilled to have the next Nora Roberts; an agent whose client had Peterson’s sales would seem to be in a good position to make that case for her.

              Not knocking the decision to self-publish, which strikes me as very attractive, but my understanding is that this is the kind of thing an agent (as opposed to a lawyer) does for a client.

    • I’ve been meaning to reply to this, but kept getting distracted. (Squirrel!) Anyway, from what I recall of Ann’s post on Konrath’s blog, it wasn’t so much that she was calling the contract unfair–although it obviously is–it was the accounting shenanigans that reduced an already paltry 6% royalty down to something like 2%. It’s one thing to sign a bad contract. Live and learn and all that stuff, but it’s another to then be cheated out of the pittance that bad contract said was owed you.

  25. I just discovered Scott has some great advice for authors who want to self-publish – http://goo.gl/MsjpT

    I don’t know how any of you have been making it as indie authors without his priceless counsel.

    • PG, I was reading the article with the belief that it’s a couple of years old. Imagine my surprise when I looked at the date and found out it was published 6 days ago.

      Wow, looking further into his post, to follow his advice you have to already be rich. Hire a PR consultant? Attend book fairs in London, Barcelona, etc? Whhhhhaaaaaa?

      • What he’s really saying: ‘Self-publishing is impossible. Look at all these things real publishers have to do. Then stop trying and sign with a Reputable Agent Like Myself.’

        • Exactly … self publishing is WAY too hard for you little romance authors. Sit back and let your agents handle everything~

          And those rumors about self-publishing authors making more money in a year than their traditional advances? Lies! (cough cough – actually, why yes, I did!)

    • That is hysterical!

    • I try to refrain from name-calling, but this guy really seems like a twit!

    • Eagan’s self publishing blog was very educational, PG, thanks for posting. I was unaware of those steps to success. Still, without completing any of those intense suggestions, I somehow made NYT.

  26. And now he has deleted the “Learn To Take Criticism – A MUST In Publishing” post…

  27. Anyone notice Egan’s replacement blog has now been removed????

  28. I love you Joe Konrath, whoever you are.

    Man enough to admit it.

  29. I added a comment to “A To Do List For Self-Publishing Writers,” at http://scotteagan.blogspot.com/2012/05/to-do-list-for-self-publishing-writers.html.

    I wonder: if he gets a few negative comments to that one, will he just give up blogging altogether?

    • One can only hope.

    • I came in right behind you. Man, I’m fired up right now.

    • I just read his to do list for self publishers and I have to laugh at the whole attending Frankfurt and other bookfairs for foreign rights. Mostly because I had a small Turkish publisher approach me about foreign rights for my self published book. And after doing A LOT of googling and emailing pretty much everyone I knew to find out if the offer was for real or not, and asking the agent representing the publisher a million and one questions, I received a contract in the mail this past weekend with the publisher signature. I did not attend Frankfurt either so I think it’s safe to say that some foreign publisher and rights agents are looking at the self publishers.

  30. So is he so clueless he doesn’t know how to turn off commenting at his blog?

  31. I almost feel like a bully. But not quite.

    At any rate, it’s clear that the worst thing that could have ever happened to this particular agent was coming to the attention of PG and his readers by saying something stupid.

    • And now to the attention of QueryTracker.net…

      • I posted a few comments about self-publishing on QueryTracker the other day. I hadn’t been there in a long time so I’m not really sure why I popped in. Someone tried saying that Konrath is giving out bad advice–that instead we should be learning everything we can about the publishing biz so we would know how it all works. I can agree with that–which is why I’m on this site. 🙂 However, she then gave me a name of a book (free) that tells all the ins and outs. I looked it up, and the book is 5 years old and says we need to have hundreds or thousands of our books printed and stored somewhere and a way to distribute them, etc. Basically, very outdated info and I told him/her that. No reply as of this morning.

  32. I commented on Scott’s blog that people should read Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, and Lindsay Buroker for advice on self-publishing. Hopefully that will broaden some readers’ horizons…

  33. Wow. I wonder if this was the guy all my romance writer friends complain about right before going to Romantic Times every year…

    This is apparently someone who is not conversant with how comments and blogs work. I’m fairly internet clueless and even I can figure out how to moderate comments on my blogs.

    Wish I had time to read his advice post, but lunch is almost over. I imagine by the time I get home, the advice post will be deleted too.

  34. This was the most invigorating post and comment stream I think I’ve ever read!
    You guys all rock!

    I want to be on your team!
    Stephanie Queen

  35. I left a remark on his “tips” for self-publishers. (A list of “don’ts” disguised as “do’s,” mostly–Barcelona book fair?!) I’ve earned out on both my novels; I’ve made more than the average $5,000 I would have gotten had I signed with a publisher, not counting what I would have had to pay the agent. No Barcelona book fair, or even PR person. sheesh.

  36. Karma smackdowns this intense should have some type of MPAA rating attached. Thanks to all for reposting the deleted blog post and the comments.

    It’ll be interesting to see if there are any more “cautionary tales” on self-publishing in next month’s Romance Writer Reader, courtesy of RWA… 😉

  37. Oh man, I wish I’d read this earlier. Eagan also deleted his blog post “An Open Rejection Letter…” after I posted my open rejection letter to HIM. What a maroon.

    To get back on topic, it is actually possible for a writer to earn a decent living writing for Harlequin. IF she is highly consistent (as in Barbara Cartland’s type of consistent), highly prolific (again, at the Dame’s level) AND develops a readership who enjoys essentially the same story over and over again. It’s cookie-cutter type of writing, but a very special type of cookie-cutter unique to the writer. Many have tried to emulate Cartland or Roberts or Jordan, but many have failed. A severe case of hypergraphia probably helps, too.

    As for successful, who’s to say? I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies of several individual titles. Overall, I’ve sold well over a million books. With those numbers, I’d have been a star at any other publisher–or as a self-publisher. At HQ I was barely a blip on the radar. At around .11 cents a book (which is how it averages out) it sure didn’t make me rich.

    As for great books, HQ’s restrictive guidelines make greatness nearly impossible to achieve. I have read a few great books out of HQ, but they are rare. Not because the writers can’t do better, but because of the nature of the stories and editorial programs. Many of today’s best and most popular writers had their start at HQ. They jumped ship as soon as possible.

    As for wonderful advice from agents? I’ve never met an agent (and I’ve met many) who said anything other than HQ’s contract is industry standard and they don’t negotiate anyway, so why gripe about it. That’s not good advice. What’s truly irksome is that agents whose clients write for HQ don’t have to do anything! They can’t nudge editors, they can’t negotiate the contracts, can’t get their clients any input into covers or schedules or promotion. The only thing the agent does is add to the length of time it takes a writer to get her money.

    You want to write for HQ? Go for it. As long as you consider it work-for-hire and forget about it as soon as you turn in the manuscript, maybe it won’t drive you nuts.

    • “As for wonderful advice from agents? I’ve never met an agent (and I’ve met many) who said anything other than HQ’s contract is industry standard and they don’t negotiate anyway, so why gripe about it.”

      Indeed. Back when I was writing for Harlequin’s Silhouette division, writers who had agents kept telling me, oh, it really DID make a difference to have an agent there, you really DID get better terms with an agent negotiating… Until I started asking them about specific clauses. And, um, no. It turned out that they were NOT getting better contractual terms than I was. Evidently their agents were just TELLING them that. (In fact, I not-infrequently discovered that I was getting better terms in a couple of clauses some of the agented writers.)

      Moreover, when various Hq writers had specific problems with editors or production or the publishers which I’d also had and resolved, their agents would all-too-often advise them that, “Nothing can be done,” and leave it at that. When I’d say, actually, yes, something -can- be done, here’s what I did, and it worked… The writers would go back to their agents with this, and the agents in question would typically refuse to try that (or any other) solution, and so nothing would get done and the problem wouldn’t be solved. On one memorable occasion, the writer pushed and pushed and PUSHED the agent, who was VERY resistant to attempting to solve the problem; and although the agent then–finally, reluctantly, with dragging heels–made the attempt, all that happened was the problem became even WORSE. (I never knew if the agent deliberately made a mess of trying to solve it or was just that incompetent. It was an agent prone to such bad judgment, I thought either thing was entirely possible.)

      • Oh, and then -I- hired an agent. Specifically because I wanted to break into other markets. But one of the difficulties I had while writing for Hq was that the majority of agents I queried weren’t willing to accept my proposal that they stay out of my Hq business, where I had an established, earning career, and JUST focus on getting me into other markets. Almost every agent wanted 15% of my Harlequin business or they weren’t willing to represent me.

        FOOLISHLY believeing the wholly erroneous conventional “wisdom” that a writer “had to” have an agent, I hired one anyhow. (sigh) She took a 15% commission on my next option sale at Hq, to my regular editor, where I’d been selling books all along. She didn’t change a single WORD of the contract and didn’t negotiate a penny more for me… And I let her take 15% for that. (So, as a direct result of being agented, my income actually went DOWN.)

        Never got me into any other markets, either. I fired her after about a year (specifically due to her unfortunate tendency to launch into abusive screaming fits at the drop of a hat). That was my second agent. I finally got into other markets ON MY own a year or two later. (And then (sigh) hired agent #3. Because I am a slow learner.)

        • I was told by a reputable agent in my niche market that being represented would result in faster turnaround times on submissions to HQ’s Love Inspired line.

          Fact: non-agented sub, with personal “revise and resub” phone call from acquisitions editor: 11 months.

          Fact: agented sub, three book series: no response whatsoever, 7 months.

          Q.E.D. It doesn’t matter one iota to HQ whether you have an agent subbing for you or not.

  38. I kind of hate to add to an internet pile-on, but (at the risk of inflicting deja vu on anyone who remembers the discussion here of this agent’s previously-removed post), I’m familiar with this agent’s reputation–in large part due to knowing clients who’ve fired him.

    My first awareness of this agent occurred a few years ago, when a friend of mine–a multi-published professional novelist–had recently hired him. She kept telling me what he was advising and doing (or refusing to do) for her, and I kept saying, “Oh, my god–REALLY?? You’ve got to fire this agent. He doesn’t know the business and is giving you terrible advice. He’ll kill your career if you remain his client.” EVERY time this writer told me was this agent was advising or doing (and not doing), I came to the same conclusion and reiterated my advice to her to fire him.

    Time passed, we fell out of touch, and a couple of years passed. The next time I saw the writer… she had finally realized this agent didn’t know what he was doing and she had fired him… but only after she’d gone YEARS without a sale: the precise years during which she had been his client.

    By then, I’d already met several other ex-clients of this agent with similar anecdotes.

  39. Eagan represents his wife who writes as both Bronwyn Scott and Nikki Poppen. I believe his first sales were hers. He also leaves reviews for her books at Amazon. He has never impressed me as being right about much or particularly ethical. OTOH, I’ve always seen him as a cautionary tale.

  40. I’m worried that with all this negative attention, Eagan is going to delete his entire blog.

    That would be a shame, because http://scotteagan.blogspot.com is easily one of the funniest blogs on the Internet. I laugh like hell when I read it, and any fan of parody will feel the same way.

    By pretending to be a clueless agent, Scott brings attention to the follies and mistakes that really bad agents represent. His “what not to do” posts remind me of that terrific comedian, Super Dave Osborne, a “deadly serious” stuntman who always wound up hurting himself in hilarious fashion.

    You mean-spirited folks picking on him don’t understand he’s just a swell guy trying to help you via example. There is much to be learned about the industry on Scott’s blog, and many laughs to be had. Don’t disparage what you don’t understand.

  41. For more comedy, here’s his take on KDP after it was announced in 2009:


    Some of the comments are gold.

    • The man is a veritable prophet!

    • “For more comedy, here’s his take on KDP after it was announced in 2009:”

      In this he says:

      “The true test is to check back in 6 months and see how many people are still reading. I am thinking here of that post holiday let down. We see the same thing with kids. Play with a toy and by Jan. 1st, they are already bored with it.”

      I wonder, now that the 6 months is up, what his thoughts are. 🙂

    • Comments are gone there, but this is his opinion on indie writers:
      “I have to say, this new move to bring in the self-publishing people, although it sounds very generous, just has a funny smell to it, at least from my perspective.”

      Elitist much?

  42. Actually, yes, you can making a living writing for Harlequin. This is precisely why so many writers write for them–it’s steady and pays (or, at least, used to pay) reasonably for the work involved.

    I don’t mean to say that the contractual terms and royalty rates have ever been good–or even fair. But one reason so many writers have written so many books for Hq is that the books often earned better for the writers, particularly in ratio to how long they took to write, than many other midlist books they wrote.

    I wrote for Hq in my twenties, as a young writer learning my craft and in need of a lot of editing at the time. For me, it was an opportunity to be paid to learn my job, and so I was very happy to be there–and consider myself lucky to have found that niche as a young writer those 5 years and dozen books. My books were 50K-75K words, I was a completely unknown when I started, and I made $13K-$24K on each of my titles (advance plus royalties). That was not a bad living for a new writer in late 1980s and early 1990s, and I learned a LOT by writing a dozen books under contract in my twenties.

    At the time, Hq writers who’d been around longer told me that earnings had gone down, that Hqs titles usually earned them $25K apiece 5-8-10 years earlier. After I left, my friends writing for Hq often reported LOWER earnings than I had exprienced (and my pet-title earnings were probably at the low end when I was there, since my work wasn’t particularly popular with readers–which is why I got dropped after a dozen books: flat sales over time).

    In the past decade or so, I know good, talented, very professional writers who previously left Hq who’ve gone back after a career problem elsewhere, because the money is steady and still decent income for the work involved.

    That said, I aqree with Ann Voss Peterson’s blog on Konrath’s site (and I also find that Scot Eagan mischaracterized its content and tone)–the royalty rates are unacceptable, the company’s practices in terms of e-royalties are particularly unacceptable, and I find the reported sales that many writers are citing (including in privte discussions) very questionable. The numbers Ann presented make it clear that, nope, she can’t afford to keep writing for Hq–it would COST her money to write for them. And we do this for a living, after all.

    • So, do you feel more like Harlequin used to be a place where you could write for a living? It just seems that if their terms on e-books are really crappy, and e-books are a growing share of the market, that doesn’t bode well for authors.

      • Mary, saying “used to be” a place where you could earn a living in the specific sense of “but not anymore,” I don’t know, since I don’t know what earn-outs are currently like for Hq writers, though it certainly sounds from all accounts I’m hearing, in public and in private, as if the ebook earnings are appallingly low (not just the rates, but I also thinks reported-sales sounds suspiciously low, to put it as tactfully as possible in this public forum where I am speaking of a major corporation with many lawyers).

        But I’d say that, as always, the answer is FAR more likely to be valid only on a specific author-by-author, situation-by-situation basis, and NOT a blanket “one size fits all” answer. I know self-supporting writers who’ve gone back to writing for Hq, or who continue writing for Hq despite also writing elsewhere, too, precisely because of the money. Not because they’re stupid, but because the terms they’ve negotiated, or the advance levels they’re at, or the circumstances they’re in makes this a good financial choice for them. And there is still a lot to be said for getting good advances–you know how much money you’re getting, you get it all within a reasonable timeframe (as long as you’ve negotiated your contract competently).

      • The Torstar stockholder’s report just showed where the book division (HQ) lost over $9m this quarter. According to them ebooks are NOT making up for lost print sales.

        HQ does NOT do a good job selling ebooks. To understand why, you have to understand the history. After they swallowed Silhouette in the late 80s, they went after Dell, Signet, Avon, Zebra, Bantam and a few subscription only romance lines. Through distribution and hogging retail space, they ate the competition. At one time they were issuing over 100 original titles every month (don’t know what they are doing now). They had a total lock on the market. Their direct sales were massive.

        Enter ebooks. Who is HQ’s competition? Everybody. No more lock on distribution, no more hogging retail racks. To their credit, they do have a well run, active website, but its reach is dependent on authors. As more and more authors realize how much work it is to promote, and how little return they are getting for their efforts…

        Selling ebooks through HQ is a bad deal for ANY writer. The HQ name means very little in the world of ebooks. The writer will have to do the same amount of promo whether she publishes with HQ, goes with a small press, or self-publishes. Might as well go where the pay off is greatest.

        For a long while HQ used to be the ONLY place for a writer of short contemporary fiction to find a home. Now it’s just one more place and not a very good one.

        • Absolutely no argument from me in terms of ebooks. All you have to do is talk to any writer who’s self-publishing the Har/Sil backlist books she was able to get reverted and who also has Har/Sil books where the e-rights are under the publisher’s control. The difference in the income on these very-similar books is MIND-BOGGLING.

          What’s even more mind-boggling than the income, though, is the difference in reported sales.

          Yes, you expect to see a huge earnings difference between a book where you’re getting 70% and one where you are, at MOST, getting 3% (and, more like, less than 1%, after they’ve jiggered the “net” every which way).

          But when you see that the ebook reissue for a Harlequin ebook of your 1999 book is 0.02% units sold compared to the units you’re selling of your backlist under the same name which were initially published by the exact same Hq imprint… Something smells very odd.

  43. Anyone signing any contract should know better than to blindly sign only because someone else recommended it. Who is that dumb? If you don’t read the entire contract, don’t have any legalese explained in plain English, accept “don’t worry about it” as a reasonable explanation – then you what do you expect? I wouldn’t sign a cable contract under those circumstances. Know what you’re signing first, even if it means going to someone else for explanations (ie, someone who doesn’t have a stake in it, if you’re paranoid).

    If you don’t like the terms of the contract, re-negotiate or go elsewhere.

  44. I think he nuked all comments on his entire blog. ALL comments. This must be him taking criticism well.

    • I guess this means someone showed him how to delete and turn off comments without deleting the entire post. Now if someone would show him how to sell foreign rights without visiting Frankfurt. 🙂

  45. I have been vastly entertained by this today. Thank you all. 🙂

  46. BTW, it should be noted that for an unambitous agent, Harlequin is a GREAT place to have clients, and the loyalty of someone agents to the house is wholly unsurprising. At least back in the day (again, I don’t know the house’s culture these days), Hq was seeking writers it could publish for 20-30-50-80 books over a period of many years. Despite packaging books and writers as interchangeable, like bottles of dishwashing soap, Hq was looking for long-distance runners it could rely on and work with for years.

    So for an agent, this was a tremendous scenario, since throughout the business, most publishing relationships tend to be book-to-book or contract to contract, and the advances and contractual terms are highly variable. So there’s more, you know, WORK involved in managing careers elsewhere than at Hq.

    So if you’ve got a client who stays at Hq for 15-30-50 books… that is a great situation for a certain kind of agent, who’s going to get 15% for years of advances that increased at steady/fixed increments and contracts which the publisher presents as 98% “non-negotiable,” at a house which ALSO acquires all subrights. Even a really incompetent agent can make a decent living if s/he’s got a gaggle Hq writers on his/her client list.

  47. Clare K. R. Miller

    This guy is hilarious. I love it, and all the comments here!

    I’m somewhat surprised no one else commented on this gem of a tortured sentence: “there are far too many authors out there who are able to make a living with their writing and being able to publish with Harlequin.” That’s right, he said TOO MANY authors are able to make a living. I guess authors are easier to bully into signing crappy contracts if they’re already starving.

  48. PG – When an agent is making recommendations (implicit or explicit) about the terms of a contract, without warning the client that they should seek legal advice to properly understand those terms, is the agent practicing law without a license? Maybe the author should know that the agent isn’t an attorney, but still, the agent has a fiduciary duty to the client. Never really thought about this until I read your post …

    • If the agent is telling the client what the terms of the contract mean, I think that’s definitely practicing law. You mix an agent’s fiduciary duty towards a principal with that and I think there’s the potential for a serious lawsuit.

  49. brendan stallard

    “an agent’s fiduciary duty towards a principal”


    I really only know what I’ve read here about agents and their behaviour towards writers, presumably their main source of income.

    If that’s fiduciary duty, I’m the Avon Lady.


  50. When an author is not making money, it is NOT always the fault of the publisher. Maybe their writing has gone flat. Maybe they aren’t promoting enough. Maybe it is simply a matter of bad timing for when the book comes out. The point is, be careful blaming others for your lack of success in the business.

    It seems that an author selling over 160,000 copies of one novel hasn’t gone flat, is promoting, and the timing must have been impeccable. When the author doesn’t make money on sales like that, it’s not the author at fault. Could it be the agent? But it definitely is the publisher who isn’t paying the author generating that kind of numbers.

  51. brendan stallard

    “360,000 copies sold. Royalties earned, $25,030.84. You do the math.”


    I am crap at Math, worse than I am at dangerous DIY, but even I can tell those numbers look wrong.

    My heart bleeds for you, that stinks.

    Pub is going to pay a heck of a price for it’s deeds.


  52. The comments here have been hilarious. I clicked over to the blog to read the comments to find that all the comments on the blog have been turned off. After reading a little bit, I agree with Konrath. This is pure entertainment. A place to go over for a lovely laugh with a morning cup of tea. 😛

  53. Oh, thank you so much for this laugh today! I’ve been chortling ever since I read Joe Konrath’s weekend posts earlier this morning, which led me here, and provided additional, heightened chortling. After all that, I need a nap. 😉

    Seriously (as serious as I can be after Scott Eagan’s unintentional comedy act), as a self-published author-to-be, I am grateful for these highly educational, and entertaining, posts, and the fodder that is the undeleted comment section. Many, many thanks.

  54. Ellen, I am also late to the party. Probably too late, but there is something I want to add.

    Barry said, “Regardless, you’re still arguing that agents offer no value when it comes to reviewing contracts. That hasn’t been my experience (and I’m a lawyer), and again I don’t think represents what agents offer and what authors expect.”

    Barry, the experience you and Konrath have with your agents is NOT the experience most newish writers have with their agents.

    Agents always treat the writers at the top of their list differently.

    I am a small fry. My last contract with a small publisher a New York publisher was an average sort of advance for a children’s book. My agent (1) lied to me about the terms of the offer, and I did not find out the truth for 2 months, because that’s how long he sat on my contract (2) “negotiated” for me by nicely asking my agent editor for what I wanted, then reported back to me that “he said no,” (3) lied about a submission.

    Agents negotiate for their top authors at the EXPENSE of the small fries on their lists.

    The problem has gotten worse in the past 5 – 7 years for the reasons Smith explained in a post a few months back.

    One year ago, I fired my last agent and vowed never to work with another when I figured out that my agent’s interests were more closely aligned with the publishers than me. All of this recent uproar with Lipskar’s letter, the AAA letter, and the absurdity of these responses to Ann’s post are proof that I was right for firing my agent on principle: an agent cannot negotiate a contract if his interests are more aligned with the publishers than the writer.

    Moreover, an agent benefits from the contract he is negotiating. (That agency clause, for one thing. But the agent benefits in many other ways as well, including bragging rights,”I sold a novel to XX,” which causes beginners to line up with their manuscripts.)

    An agent negotiating a contract from which he benefits is like a lawyer writing a will for which he is also a beneficiary.

    I’ve been waiting for you and Joe, the arch defenders of writers everywhere, to catch on to how most writers who are small fries and not big fries are treated by their agents, who are more invested in pleasing the editor than the writer, who is, after all, fungible. There are hundreds of writers lining up with publishable manuscripts, but only a few top editors at the major houses.

  55. Correction to my last post. Passive Guy, can you correct it?

    If not, my last contract was not with a small publisher. I wrote quickly.

    It was a New York Publisher. I wrote quickly. Sorry.

    The sentence should read, “My last contract with a New York publisher . . .”

    • I’ve corrected it. You should see an edit button on your comments that allow you to make changes yourself. Let me know if it’s not showing up.

  56. I totally get why some writers still want to go the traditional route. If this is your choice, and you need an agent to do so, be smart about it.

    There are some decent agents out there, but you have to seek them out. Ask their clients how they work. Ask in particular if an agent twists their arm to accept a bad contract, or if he’s willing to walk away from the sale and the commission. Read their agency agreements in advance. Note their sales on Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly. Note who’s making legitimate sales to publishers who pay advances, and those who are selling to epubs or the electronic versions of traditional pubs (by writer’s choice, but usually no advances). These sales help pump up the agent’s production stats.

    Note the agents who live on the conference circuit. A lot of these conferences pay stipends, and agents subsidize their incomes in this fashion. A few conferences a year are fine. One every week or so is an indication of where money may be made.

    Some agents compete with the writers they represent by writing in the same areas they represent. (So do a lot of editors.) If this feels like a conflict to you, don’t go with that agent.

    There are a number of agent/editor marriages in publishing, as well as editor/writer and writer/agent. Makes sense since they all travel in this world. If you vet the agent well enough, you may be able to find out, and judge based on sales if they have a bias/ethical conflict.

    I have worked with a couple of good agents and a couple of bad agents. But bad is a relative term in publishing, and you must decide if the trade-offs are worth it to you.

    Some writers still feel the need to be legitimized by publishing in this manner, for the credential or as has been mentioned, for the training. If you choose to do so, at least make smart choices. Know where you are compromising and why, so you don’t end up crying later.

  57. I love a passionate discussion.
    Perhaps an alliance of Indie Romance writers under a “Hardlykind” new label/ Corporate name would need to differ to avoid trade infringement? (no legal advice provided herein).
    @Jay maroon: firework not the color or macaroon as in coconuts like coo-coo bird?
    @J A Konrath On Egan’s blog –he ought to add a closed door page that charges an admission fee. See: Cyber bully post. I would have paid 99cents for that alone. P.S. poets make a living indie publishing, superior to traditional and university circuit without throwing away 15%
    @Barry once you have a following you can purchase legal, editorial, cover art, marketing… equal to or superior to traditional. The road may not be for every writer. No comments here defending wooing an agent.
    Have you met one with the fire in the soul that most of us possess?

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