When push comes to shove

There are some things I just don’t understand. Well, ok, there are many things I don’t understand. For starters, why does the beagle have to drink only the really expensive tequila? It’s going into a blender with ice, limeade, grand marnier, and a half a can of beer [the piece de resistance], so who’s going to notice if it’s the cheaper brand?

Another thing I don’t understand is my willingness to let the beagle sloth around all day, sleeping on my desk and chugging down designer doggy chewies while I answer phones and file. After all, that’s why I hired her. I weep at the thought that I’m a sucker for a cute doggy face.

Killing the golden goose

Another thing I don’t understand is a publisher who kills the golden goose. The golden goose I’m thinking of is Carrie Vaughn, author of the Kitty Norville Series. Galleycat has an interesting article that links to Carrie’s blog, where she discusses this heartbreaking issue. Carrie states that when she relates her tale of woe, seasoned pros react with a, “What?  Are they crazy?”

I couldn’t agree more. The breakup was so unnecessary. Her publisher has a non-competition clause which ties Carrie’s hands with her new books that she wants to publish elsewhere because her publisher rejected them.  The sticking point is that they want her to use a nom de plume, and she wants to use her real name in order to expand her exposure. An impasse. The publisher wouldn’t budge, so she left.

Wow.

‘Scuse me, are you on drugs?

This is just all sorts of stupid on the publisher’s part. I mean, there are things that are non-negotiable – the beagle’s walk time, 3 p.m. Happy Hour, intense editing, and promotion. But an argument over allowing an author to use her own name on other books? That they already rejected? Good grief.

I’ll admit that publishing can often be a game of chicken, especially during contract negotiations – which this was. Each side is wondering how far to push before the damn breaks. It comes down to who has more power. Turns out, Carrie did. Brava, I say.

There is nothing that ruins a relationship faster than an overbearing counterpoint who refuses to negotiate. They played a game of chicken and lost.

Vision

Carrie talks about the differing vision that she and her publisher had for her career. Oboy, it’s that and a bag ‘o chips. It is soooo important to discuss these issues with each other at contract time. There have been a few times when the author’s and my vision for their book were vastly different. In those cases, it’s better to let them find another publisher – no matter how much it hurts. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole, and each comes through the experience battered and bloody. Life’s too short.

There is also the aspect of the writer’s career to think about. If I have an author who is working to establish herself with her nonfiction book, it’s going to be hard for both of us because her audience has been built on nonfiction. She is essentially starting over from scratch because she’s not fully established in the reading world, so she has no readership for her new fiction. Because of that, I’ll more than likely back away from the project.

In Carrie’s case, she is already established, which gives her a small amount of comfort about walking away. Now her books are in the very capable hands of Tor. Yay. I’m certain that her agent ensured that Tor shares her vision and that their relationship will live long and prosper…feeling rather Spock-like, aren’t I?

But what if you have no “power”?

Ah, the sixty-four million dollar question. Should authors allow the publisher to push and shove an important point even if it feels all kinds of wrong and adversely affects their career? Many authors are so hungry for that contract that they’ll agree to just about anything, no matter how oppressive it is.

So what would you do when push comes to shove? It’s a tough question. But more to the point is why a publisher would create that kind of scenario in the first place. Killing the golden goose is as stupid as when the beagle insists she’s overworked.

5 Responses to When push comes to shove

  1. Frank says:

    Just as an interesting aside, I noticed that the beagle gets a “her.” Which means she would also get a “who.” Authors working animals into their stories need be aware of their audience, plus their own intentions. In various cases, the animal is better kept gender-free. (Although none of mine are, and they would be lousy editors as it makes no difference to them if they’re called he, she, or it. I could call them Janitor in a Drum and they wouldn’t give a hoot!

  2. The beagle would spit tacks if I dared make her gender neutral. She takes huge pride on her female-ness. And her abject laziness.

  3. Scott says:

    Interesting post as always. As for the poor beleagured beagle . . . Ha! Our animals always have a better life than we do. I mean, my boys (Jesse and James) have their own room, a couch, a chair, an endtable, a lamp, an electric fireplace and a flat screen tv . . . and me to pretty much wait on them hand and foot. Dang, now I’m depressed. Can the beagle spin up an extra strong margarita . . . with the good stuff? : )

    S

  4. Scott, the beagle never shares her good stuff with anyone. I have to steal it on the side…

  5. Scott says:

    The beagle hasn’t learned to share? Well, my boyz . . . haven’t learned to share either. They’re just lucky they’re cute. : )

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