Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Once in a while we will lose a client due to false promises or false praise offered by another agent or industry professional. It’s easy to fall for these and other false promises:
- You shouldn’t be wasting your time writing books for a small publisher. I can take you to the bestseller lists.
- No one should put up with an agent who doesn’t sell foreign rights. They are leaving money on the table.
- Forget a publishing “home.” This is a business. I will take you to multiple houses and get big money for you.
- You are too good to be hidden away in the CBA. I will take you to the ABA.
- If your agent is not regularly getting film options for your books, you have the wrong agent.
The list goes on and on.
When we agents lose someone to false promises, we can’t help but follow their career. ( I know, it’s like a train wreck you can’t stop watching.) Over the years this has been instructive. The clients we built slowly and carefully are among some of the steadiest earners and solid sellers at their respective houses. Some are regular bestsellers. The clients who left us for promises of quick success and a wider reach are still struggling. One client left to write for ABA because he was told he was wasted on CBA, even though he walked away from a contract on the table. Guess what? He hasn’t been able to land a contract since he moved despite all the promises.
How about foreign rights? This is another empty promise in the CBA market. Our CBA publishers have more of a world view than ABA publishers and they generally do a superb job of presenting books and selling foreign rights. The publishers they work with, however, are usually small and often ministries so the money is equally small. Yes, there may be money left on the table but it is pennies, not dollars and your agent is not going to be able to get those extra pennies for you unless they are actively selling rights at BEA and Frankfort– places where your publisher is already at work.
What about writing for multiple houses? This is a complicated subject that could fill a number of posts but generally writers who jump from house to house always seeking the better deal miss out on the slow and steady rise that happens when a house gets behind an author. It’s true we often have to move an author for a number of reasons but it is not just “about business.” This is a very personal industry where loyalty is rewarded. sometimes, in wanting to make more income, a writer may decide to write for more than one house– perhaps different genres for each house. This is often a terrible mistake causing the brand to be weakened and interfering with building a steady career trajectory.
What about going to ABA instead of the smaller Christian market? Sounds good but consider why nearly every big ABA publisher worked so hard to acquire Christian imprints. Christians read books. Voraciously. The ABA is not more vigorous than the CBA– apples to oranges. There are mega authors in ABA, yes, but trying to break into ABA is even harder than CBA. And making it to the top? One in a million. It’s no panacea.
Okay, but what about film options? That is nothing more than a “have some candy” and “pet the puppy” tactic. The film industry is very complicated and built on more hot air than the balloon business. We all sell options– which just means an exclusive interest in a property while the producer tries to put together some money and talent to make a film. Unless you have a blockbuster book or are a NY Times bestselling author it rarely means much in the way of money. Serious producers want to know what kind of book sales you have just like publishers do.
Anyway, it is instructive to compare the careers of those writers who have built thoughtfully and carefully against those who drank the Kool Aid of false promises. It’s just another pitfall you need to avoid.
Your turn. Want to discuss any of these further? Bet you didn’t know we take it hard when we lose an author to false promises. Building a career sounds so much more tedious than being an overnight success, doesn’t it?
Don’t be wooed by false publishing promises. Click to Tweet
It’s easy to second guess your writing career path but is the grass really greener over there? Click to Tweet