How many times can I title a post “long time no blog?” As many times as it makes sense, I guess.
So guess what? One of my editors DOES read my blog. (Never say something online that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face…didn’t I write a book about that once???) Actually, I think her reading that post was a good thing. I was glad she got to hear what was going on from my perspective. She e-mailed me very soon after that post went up…and the issue was dealt with two days later. I got that extra percent! Just like that.
So that’s over…
But in the meantime, something else has happened…I’ve got a new contract pending with this same publisher. My agent and I had an agreement right from the start that I would continue to deal with this publisher on my own. (I’d never really had a problem with them before, so I didn’t see any reason to bring her in.) I was the one who initiated that agreement, so it never occurred to me that if I changed my mind and wanted her to deal with one of these contracts in the future that she would say no. But that’s exactly what she did. She said no. If I’d just had one or two contracts with this publisher, that would be one thing, but because I’ve been working with this publisher on my own for so long, she didn’t think it was a good idea for her to get involved now. No matter how badly I wanted her to!
This sent me into a bit of a panic…why would she say no??? She’s my agent…isn’t that her job??? (More important, WHO is going to deal with this contract person for me if my agent won’t???) I knew she was unhappy that I’d given this series to this publisher rather than given her a chance to sell it elsewhere, but I thought we’d worked that out. (She didn’t realize that I’d been talking through this series with editors there right from the start as I developed it…it wouldn’t have been right to take what we talked about and give it to my agent to sell somewhere else.) Was she DUMPING ME now???
But the agent and I had a good talk. She understood why I wanted someone else to handle this contract…and I came to understand why she didn’t want to be that someone. She said that if I really felt I couldn’t handle it on my own that I should use the Author’s Guild or a literary attorney…so I hired a literary attorney I used a few years ago. SHE actually told me something interesting…she said I had a “sensible” agent. She said that having an agent come in like gangbusters (the way some do) could jeopardize my future relationship with this publisher in ways I couldn’t even imagine. So…I’m feeling much better now. I’m happy…my agent is happy…this attorney is happy…and I think even the publisher is happy. That’s what it’s all about, right? Finding a solution where everybody wins?
I’ve learned quite a bit about agents in the last few months. First of all, I really see the value in having an agent now…the idea that I can just write and maintain a positive relationship with my editors while someone else worries about those nasty contract issues is worth quite a bit!
Second, this agent took me on because she thought I wanted to break into a larger house (and she thought she could help me do that). NOT because I already have relationships with four smaller publishers. While she has handled contracts with two of these publishers for me, this isn’t what she signed on for. She wants to help me break into a larger house. And part of me wants to break in to a larger house; but another part of me wonders whether that’s really what I want/need? I’d have to write a complete manuscript in order to break in to a larger house. (Are the larger houses really so wonderful?) These publishers I’ve been working with will make a commitment on the basis of a proposal. Why should I write a full manuscript on spec when someone I already have a relationship with is willing to commit to a proposal? The advance maybe isn’t as high as it would be at a larger house, but the royalties are just as good. To go with a larger house or stick with the smaller ones…this isn’t something my agent can decide for me; it’s something I have to decide on my own. (And of course, every time I accept a contract on the basis of a proposal (and DON’T finish this other manuscript) IS a decision…)
SO now I know why I had such a hard time finding an agent a few years ago. I thought the fact that I had these relationships with four different publishers would make an agent want to snap me up…the reality is an agent is more likely to snap you up if you send in a fabulous manuscript AND you don’t already have relationships with several houses. Not that I regret having these relationships…I certainly don’t. There are a lot of different ways to build a career as a children’s book author…lots of different paths to the same goal…and lots of different goals, too. Every aspiring children’s book author has to find his/her own path…