Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Agent's Bad Day

I didn't post last week because I had a terrible day last Thursday, that reverberated throughout Friday and part of this week.

I was expecting a phone call from one of my favorite editors some time on Thursday to tell me that he had gotten one of my authors some extra money I had asked for. He had told me that he was having a company-wide meeting that day, but thought it would be something minor about a recent consolidation.

The phone rang at 9:40, which is really early for an editor, but I had an early lunch on Wall Street, so I was glad to have this part of the day starting off.

I was shocked when he told me they were closing his company, and two others, and that he was being terminated.

We had 7 books together. I love his taste. I immediately made some calls to see if I could set up some interviews for him to get a job at another company.

And then I thought about what these 7 cancelled or orphaned books meant to my clients.

Some of these books had taken me more than 2 years to sell. This editor was someone who really got my eclectic list. Publishing the books at his company without him to champion them would mean they would die on the vine.

I also had another book that an editor had nurtured through the editorial process turned down that day (he really expected his bosses to give him the go ahead - he was a very senior editor - but they turned him down).

So now I had 8 more books to sell in addition to the 23 already on my plate.

And just in case you don't know this, it's almost impossible to get an offer in July and August because anyone who makes decisions about money is on vacation.

It does look like I've been able to successfully publish two of the books. Another looks very promising.

We're also hoping that the editor who bought these books will land on his feet soon, so he can take these titles with him.

I've had worse days on a financial level. I've had big six figure books blow up in my face, but this was a really bad day because these deals were instances where the right author had found the right editor.

I believe in the books and I believe in my ability to sell them again and again, but it would be nice to live in a publishing universe where books stay sold.

I'm not sharing this story with you to scare you. Publishing is a fairly stable business and closing companies is rare, although it obviously does happen.

But let's hope that when one door closes, another opens.

12 comments:

Michele Lee said...

>>But let's hope that when one door closes, another opens.

It usually does. Good luck to you and this great editor.

Demon Hunter said...

Lori,
Hopefully you'll place all of the books and that editor will be there to purchase them again. Best wishes! :*)

Tawna Fenske said...

As a member of the "it happened to me" club, I feel your authors' pain. I also hope they know how incredibly lucky they are to have you as their advocate.

Good luck to that editor, good luck to your authors, and good luck (especially) to you, Lori, in your quest to help all of them land on their feet.

Tawna

WandererInGray said...

Wow that's rough. *blinks* And has got to be stressful for both you and the editor (not to mention everyone else involved.

Best of luck. I hope something comes up in short order.

BernardL said...

I can sure understand how this setback must have affected the rest of your week. Was there a particular type of literature represented by this editor, either fiction or non-fiction? If fiction, can you tell us what type?

December Quinn said...

That is a terrible shame. Best of luck to everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

I got caught last year in a big down-sizing event at a collapsing imprint. Had books #2 and #3 of a 3-book contract cancelled. Even worse, this was a -series-, these weren't stand-alone novels.

So I was left trying to market the second book of a series wherein the first book had been published elsewhere (and had also not sold well). My then-agent was extremely unenthused about this--and also, it suddenly turned out, about me in general. So I left.

Then I was turned down by five more agents, with a query that included this project as well as a brand-new one, and an explanation of what I've currently got under contract.

However, the day after the fifth agent rejection came in, I started sending out book #2 in my cancelled series on my own. Three weeks later, I had three houses interested. The following week, I made a deal for $75,000. (I hired a much-recommended literary lawyer to do the clause-by-clause negotiation after I'd settled on the broad strokes with the publisher.) The new deal is for more money and better terms than I was making before, and I also believe this house is better suited to packaging and marketing the work than the previous house this series was at.

This is definitely not a business for people with frail nerves. But sometimes a disappointing and gloomy situation, against all expectations, turns out well in the end. If you work hard for it.

AstonWest said...

Yikes...not something writer wannabes (such as myself) like to hear. Go through the minefield of finding an agent and a publisher, only to have the deal end up on the chopping block.

Ryan Field said...

Weird stuff happens every now and then. Last year a publisher I've worked with for a long time was bought out by a large multi-media company. And I never got paid. It's as though they lost me somewhere in the sale. After a great deal of questioning, I finally got some results and did get paid. But you can't take anything for granted.

Travis Erwin said...

As a writer fighting the uphill battle to get published sometimes it is easy to forget that you guys have a mountain of difficulties to climb as well. As always it is interesting to hear about things from your perspective.

Debra Moore said...

I truly believe at least 1/2 (and maybe more) of success is just showing up. Over and over... :-) Hang in there! (Mostly I'm talking to those distraught writers this happened to. This agent obviously knows how to hang in there!)

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