Have email address, will abuse

December 29, 2011

Lots of people had new releases coming out in time for the Christmas season, and many writers went no further than their email address book to alert those unassuming victims.

Come! Buy! Attend my party! Blah, blah, blah.

Now before you accuse me of a mind meld with the beagle, hear me out. My business email address ends up on a lot of address books for various reasons – and it’s not just authors. The book announcement I received the other day came from a small POD publisher…how and why she had my email address remains a mystery.

Sure, I could just roll my eyes and delete the email…and I do. But since November on, the invitations to signings and launch parties have increased to ridiculous numbers. What’s worse is I don’t know A. Single Person.

Folks, this is NOT an effective use of your address book. We aren’t in there so you can abuse us at your whim. Instead, may I recommend some common sense and suggest that you only send email announcements/invitations to those you actually know? I realize common sense invariably goes out the window because authors are so wrapped up in their book that they don’t realize what a nuisance they can be.

Yes, it is exciting to see your book all prettied up in a cover and pages, and your friends and family will be just as thrilled for you. But I don’t know you, so my excitement levels will be in direct proportion to my “Who’s that?” comment. To you, it’s advertising. To me, it’s spamming.

No one likes spam. I mention spam to the beagle, and she snarls for days and makes lousy margaritas, so I keep it on the down low. And really, do you want to be known for being a spammer and abusing those in your address book? And this goes for parties and any other social gatherings. How many times have you been locked in a corner gripping your glass of Chardonnay as if it was your last vestige of sanity because some author had just published their book and HAD to tell you every last nuance to the plot?

Before you let your excitement overtake the rest of your firing synapses, stop and consider what the polite, classy thing would be. Then temper your thrills and chills by not hitting the “Include All” in the address line of your book announcements. Otherwise, I can’t be responsible for the beagle and her roving band of leather-wearing Dobermans.

Pity or pitiful?

September 28, 2011

I happened to read a post about an author whose publisher rescinded their contract when they found out she’d done a DIY after signing a contract with them. From what she says, her contract is being canceled and she has to pay back the advance.

She mentions being “coerced” to accept the terms of her contract and intimates that every author is being taken advantage of. However, since she was deeply in debt, she took the deal. And the advance.

I’m not going to debate the issues of who may or may not be right because none of us have the inside story from both sides. However, I would wager that something exists in her contract that spells out the legalities of what she can and can’t do independently from her publisher. Additionally, she made the conscious decision of earning her livelihood from writing – an insanely difficult thing to accomplish since most authors have other day jobs.

Given her reasoning, I’m nonplussed that she dissolved her relationship with her publisher and lost her $20,000 advance. For a debt-ridden author, this has to be a very tough choice, and it’s impossible for me to judge her for her decision. However, I do wonder whether it was a wise choice in the long run.

Sure, I’m a big believer in karma and that the decisions we make set into motion certain outcomes. But are they necessarily successful outcomes? And if I’m going to get into a philosophical debate with myself, then the beagle better add more tequila to the pitcher of margaritas.

More to the point, I read stories like this and think about all those lovely writers I meet at writer’s conferences whose sole purpose is to land a good book deal. Would they be so quick to walk away from that book deal if they were in the same position? Or would they make different choices in order to preserve the relationship in order to enhance their writing futures?

I could go on for days arguing the phycho-blabbery of those points, but we simply don’t have enough margarita mix to keep me going that long. Here’s what I do know: relationships take work and mutual respect.


Publishing goes both ways, and smart editors and authors share mutual gratitude to be working together toward a common goal. As such, each side works to maintain open channels of communication. But there are times when those channels break down, and gratitude on both sides melt like the ice in the beagle’s margaritas, leaving room for Attitude to move in.

The downhill slide usually begins with Assumption. One side may act in accordance with their assumptions instead of looking at the potential consequences of those actions.

The author assumed it wasn’t a big deal to DIY e-pub, and I’m sure she never thought it would put her book deal at risk. But for whatever reason, it did, and this is where her gratitude (remember, she was broke and grateful for that $20k advance) dissipated and attitude took over.

This was avoidable.

  • Why didn’t she consult her agent and editor before pubbing her DIY e-book? Case in point, one of my authors was asked to write an article for a magazine, and he asked if he could use a chapter from his upcoming book. Of course, I told him to go for it. Tra-la! It took him a fraction of a second to email me, and a fraction of a second to email him back. Had there been a problem, I would have cited the contract as to why this couldn’t be done.
  • When she saw how upset the editor was, did she weigh the financial and professional benefits of remaining with her Big 6 publisher against going it alone and all the uncertainty that goes with it? Hindsight can be a three-legged dog who’s rethinking the the intelligence of trying outrun a garbage truck. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of battle, but when the dust settles, are you like the dog, wishing you had your fourth leg back? Once you cross over the line, it’s mighty hard to go back.
  • Did she allow emotion to cloud her judgement? Obviously, I have no idea. However, her post is extremely emotional – which I can understand – and it makes me wonder if that emotion ultimately served her to her highest and best outcome. She has an agent, who is probably less emotional and, therefore, more reliable in negotiating with the editor. Decisions made during emotional overload can be followed by regret that will follow you forever.

Case in point, I had an author many years ago who was verbally abusive to me. I put up with it for awhile until I had enough. I warned him that he’d crossed over the line, but that just encouraged him until he really went off the deep end. I cancelled his book contract within the hour.

When gratitude turns to attitude, you can’t help but reach a stalemate, an impasse. And when push comes to shove, are you in a position of strength, or have you relinquished everything in the heat of the moment? It’s hard to unburn a bridge because trust is the first thing that goes up in flames. The other side knows you have the potential to take things further than they need to go, so they’ll be wary of you.

It’s possible the editor was an idiot and entirely unreasonable, but it’s rare that editors are arbitrary to the point of cancelling a project. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s far from the norm. More importantly, this author comes off like she has a chip on her shoulder – that she was “coerced” into her contract.

Until someone sends me an updated memo, I have to go on the assumption this is still a somewhat free country, and we’re not forced to sign any book contract that we don’t believe in. She got $20k for her book, and were I in the financial straights she was/is, I’d find a way to make it work. As of now, she’s working without a net, so is she to be pitied or merely pitiful?

What would you do?

“You shouldn’t have. No, really.”

July 2, 2009

This is the common thing we say when presented with a gift we weren’t expecting, right? In my case, I really mean it. Ok, let me take that back; I love gifties. I had an author send me a gift certificate after her book’s release, which was beyond sweet and totally unexpected. But there is another kind of gift that makes me test my threshold.

Here’s how it usually starts. I’ve offered advice to an author [not one of mine], and they’re grateful. I’m always touched right down to my toesies when someone thanks me. And, really, that’s gift enough. But what usually happens is the author emails me to tell me they’ve sent me a copy of their book. Their self published book.

The gift is usually a response to suggestions I made about their writing, and this is their way of saying, “read my book and you’ll see that it really is good.”  Thing is, I won’t read it. I  have so many hours in a day and days in a week. Reading an unsolicted self published book is the lowest of the low on my priority list. And frankly, I think it’s a wee bit presumptuous to assume otherwise.

May I suggest that authors take into consideration that we read for a living and know you wrote a book or three. But please don’t assume I want to read it. I’m always happy to offer help where I can and where it’s appropriate for me to do so. And if I really want to read your book, I’ll express specific interest in it. Or I’ll buy it so you can get royalties.

My bookshelves are weighted down with unsolicited books that I’ll never read, and here’s why; most of these Lulu/iUniverse/AuthorHouse books simply aren’t ready or prime time and never will be. There are too many fatal flaws that would put me to sleep within a few pages. I knew that when I worked with the authors. These are like the ugly fuschia and Halloween-orange sweater Auntie Bertha knitted for you last Christmas. When I say “aw, you shouldn’t have,” chances are I mean it. Literally.

Hope Springs Eternal
Another thing that makes me say, “You shouldn’t  have. No, really,” is when authors read our submissions guidelines and realize there is an important component their stories lack, but they decide to try anyway. Let’s take word count as an example. Guidelines say below 5o,000 words is a deal-killer, right? Well, for most this would be an indication that they need 50,000 or higher.

The author who hits me up with a 33,000 word count manuscript is not only wasting my time, but making me say, “Really. You shouldn’t have,” along with other less printable things. I realize hope springs eternal and authors hope they can change my mind, or whomever they query, with their winning plot. But really, my eyes glaze when I see the word count. I’ve had authors reply that they can bump up the word count to fit our needs, but quite honestly, I’m over it because I figure if this were a 70,000 story, the author would have written it as a 70,000 story. One does not blithely add 40,000 words bada bing bada boom. It requires a complete overhaul, complete with hazmat suit and Draino. Besides, any writer worth their salt knows what entails a viable novel-lenght manuscript, and 33,000 words ain’t it. The fact that they don’t realize this tells me they aren’t a savvy author, and I don’t work with unsavvy authors. So no, dear author, you shouldn’t have. Really.

The point of all this is to act smart and be smart. Hopefully this post has offered some insight to what it’s like to sit on my side of the insane asylum. Empathy begets understanding. I’m a writer, so I already empathize with you on a daily basis. I just hope to return the favor so the next time you hear, “You shouldn’t have,” it’s said from a kind, gentle, sweet perspective instead of, “oh Lord, shoot me now.”

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