From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
Here’s the one sentence response that I expected to last week’s post and didn’t receive:
I know some writers have had troubles, but my agent [editor/publisher] would never do something like that.
Am I optimistic enough to believe that writers—traditional and indie—are finally getting the message that they’re business people? And, as business people, they should operate under the trust-but-verify model?
Or have I simply trained the people who respond to my blog not to put that sentence on here? (And if that’s the answer, then how come I didn’t see that sentence in the comment threads on other sites?)
In the past, I’d put up a post challenging the numbers coming out of traditional publishing and half a dozen writers would defend traditional publishing, their agents, or their editors.
But so far, no one has—at least in the venues I’ve seen.
Does that finally mean that events of the last few years have proven to writers that traditional publishing does not hold a writer’s best interest at heart?
. . . .
It doesn’t matter how much you trust your editor or your agent, they’re not the ones handling every aspect of your career. You are. You are responsible for your career. And as such, you need to trust but verify.
In other words, you need to run your business as a business.
When I negotiate contracts, I always imagine that I’m negotiating with someone worse than the person I’m actually negotiating with. The easiest way to do this is to imagine that the person handling the other side’s negotiation gets fired or dies or moves to a better job, and gets replaced by a savvy spawn of Satan. That spawn of Satan will take every innocently drafted clause of the contract and twist it to his advantage.
My job, if I do it correctly, is to make certain that the clauses can only be interpreted as written.
. . . .
But there’s more to trusting and verifying than audit clauses or even a fiduciary responsibility.
There’s an attitude.
When I started in the publishing business, long-time professional writers told me that my relationship with my agent would be like a marriage. I was startled, because at that point, I had just come out of a divorce, and frankly, I didn’t want another. What I didn’t realize was that about six years hence, I would fire my then-agent and the experience would be lots worse than the divorce.
. . . .
Your editor might be nice, but the publishing company she works for is a corporation attached to a large international conglomerate. Whose attitudes do you think will triumph inside the corporation when it comes to dealing with your business relationship? Your nice, salaried editor’s or the corporate legal department’s? Your editor may be on the communication end of the contract negotiation, but you can bet cash money that she’s checking with legal before responding to your requests. She has to, or she’ll lose her job.
So, if something goes awry, your editor will not be able to help you. A lot of editors go dark when things go badly, and forward emails and paper communications directly to legal. Some editors try to maintain the relationship with their authors, only to lose their jobs in the process.
When it comes down to it, the business decision for the editor is pretty simple: Do I defend my author or do I keep the job that pays for my home and feeds my children?
. . . .
Imagining that these powerful people are protecting us is quite parental, isn’t it? And it’s flattering to think that our talent is so great that important people will do things for us so that we can concentrate on “what we’re good at.”
Only…they’re not doing these jobs for us. They’re doing the job for money. Agents get more than 15% for the work they do. Agents are only as powerful as their clients, so if they have powerful clients, the business grows. And many agents work hand in glove with publishers.
Agents run their own businesses, and again, that trumps anything they do for you. Given a choice between the good of the agency and the good of a single writer, they’ll choose the agency every time. (And so would you, if you were an agent.)
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Bruce for the tip.
Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books