When the scams get desperate…

October 6, 2011

…they go bonkers. I’m talking about the latest kerfluffle to hit Cyberland. The Write Agenda sounds sweet and benevolent, right? It sounds like they want nothing more than to help authors hurdle the mass confusion that has become The Publishing Industry.

And you wouldn’t be more wrong.

In a word, they have come together as a unified front to attack anyone who has been involved in ferreting out the scams of the publishing industry. So, of course, they have anointed Victoria Strauss as the main bull’s eye on their target. Here is the link to the whole mess. Not only is this campaign a pack of lies, but it’s the scammers’ desperate last gasp to hold on to their waning control over under-educated authors who invariably wander into their web.

Who are “they”? I have no idea. And that’s the boggle of it. Based on the vitriol they spew at Vic and their “hit list,” I would say it’s a conglomeration of illicit folks who have banded together under the mantra, “Scammers Unite!”

So why the potent push back? Jim Macdonald put it very succinctly here. His suggestion is that scammers have taken a financial dirt nap with the advent of CreateSpace and the ease of self-publishing one’s e-b00k, and they’re angry, darn it. Just like Dire Straits’ song, “I Want My MTV,” scammers are screaming, “I want my victims back.” They believe their salvation will come from driving a stake through the hearts of those who work long hours protecting authors.

Good luck with that.

Yes, there will always be victims…sadly. I’ve had many conversations with authors who are blinded by the fact that “someone loves me” and insist on signing with publishers whose mantras run along the lines of “giving authors the chance they deserve.” No matter how much proof you put in front of them, they still go down the dark path. Then one day they contact you to say that you were right. The confirmation feels horrible because you know that one more author lost a book, their faith in publishing, and faith in their writing.

And this is what scams do. They’re morally bankrupt, and take their victims down with them.

I’ve been excited about the advent of authors going DIY because it allows for so many wonderful options that exclude these soggy bits of pond scum. But should you come across a Write Agenda type, give them wide berth. It takes a lot of energy to sustain that kind of bilge, and the first thing one think is, “My, they protesteth too much.”

Poaching – got a permit for that?

April 29, 2010

There’s an interesting blog post over at Writer Beware where Victoria – apparently now Queen Victoria [I shall bow to you every morning, Vic] discusses agent/author poaching.

The point is whether agents competing over an author who is already represented is a good thing or just plain smarmy. As always, Vic presents both sides of this coin succinctly. If an author is already represented, then why would she jump ship? Well, perhaps BigShot Agent came along and whispered sweet nothings in her ear. “Darling, I can get you that Hachette contract AND a million dollar advance.” The author’s head could be turned.

Smarmy factor

On the face of it, one could say that trying to poach an already-repped author is smarmy. With all the authors roaming the literary tundra, why do they feel the need to poach? The only thing that comes to mind is that the author is one hell of a writer, or very famous.

Let’s take the case of Jane Author, who is repped by Agent Wow, who sold her to HooHa Publishers in a three-book deal for a cool mill. Suddenly Jane gone from unknown to being an industry sweet spot. And just like the non-profits who circle the latest lottery winner in hopes of relieving them of some of their winnings, a BigStuff agent circles around the new literary darling with the intent of relieving Jane of her agent. After all, where there’s one big sale, surely there are more to follow.

Face it, everyone wants to rep a winner, and if BigStuff Agent feels he can do better for Jane than her current agent, then why not give it a try?


Thing is, is poaching right? Eh, it happens. Not often, but it does happen. I’m a fan of competition. Not long ago I told an author that if she chose not to sign with the publisher who had offered her a contract, that I would love to sign her. All’s fair in love and publishing. There were no signed contracts, so she was still fair game as far as I was concerned. And Pricey won that day. Yes, I’ve been on the losing end as well. It. Happens.

My feeling is you either you gots what it takes, or you go home. But I can say that because I’m an editor, and we’re bound by these pesky contracts that are very hard to break. Agents don’t have that luxury. So if I were Jane’s current agent and feeling the pinch of competing agent, I’d be beyond pissed. After all, I spent months working this three book deal and getting her a million dollar advance, and this is the thanks I get? Tossed out to the gutter by a bigger named agent? Ungrateful wench!

But in the long run, what am I going to do? Jane can break her contract with me at any time. Sure, I’ll still get the percentages off her three book deal, but I lose her future books. If she truly believes BigStuff Agent is the answer to her dreams, then I have to consider what that says about her. I got her a great deal, and she jumps ship? Hmm.

Fraught with danger

And this is where I think Victoria brought up a very good point; if Jane Author can jump ship once, she can do it again. How reliable is she? Vic used the cheating spouse example, and I agree. If she’s cheated on one agent, what makes the poaching agent think he won’t be her next victim?

And let’s not forget that Jane is used to working with her former agent. They probably got on quite well. Suddenly what seemed like a good idea in the blush of excitement of being fought over now seems tarnished in the glare of the morning sun. Sure as there are margarita-mixing beagles, Jane is going to start making mental comparisons between her old and new agent. “Gee, Agent Wow never did things that way.”

The other side of the coin – can Agent BigStuff deliver?

So let’s say Jane leaves Agent Wow and goes with Agent BigStuff. Right out of the gate Jane has a much higher expectation of BigStuff’s ability to grab that golden ring. After all, she left a good agent who got her a very sweet deal. This puts added pressure on both Jane and BigStuff, which can either bring about a higher level of marketability for Jane or a quick erosion of their relationship.

How much time is Jane going to give BigStuff to make a whopping deal? Is Jane going to expect BigStuff to be at her beck and call because, hey, she’s royalty, dammit!

Of course, it could easily work out that this is a new match made in heaven and Jane’s star could reach epic heights. But it’s a gamble, just like everything else in publishing. Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. And sometimes it’s dirt clods.

Authors should tread carefully, which was Victoria’s point.

Is it ok if I brag a bit?

November 4, 2009

adsobcoverrgb_loresFor those of you who may have missed Adam Eisenberg’s fabulous author event on CSPAN2 Book TV for his wonderful book A Different Shade of Blue, you can watch it on your ‘puter here. God, I love the internet! As an editor, my little black heart burst with pride as Adam deftly handled a panel and his own event like a seasoned pro.

This is a great book because it’s all about how women have changed the face of police work. And yes, I do believe that women add a powerful and poignant banquet of pluses to police work because they are far less likely to resort to violence. They have to be more clever – and Adam’s book highlights some of the wonderful ways in which women’s ingenuity saved lives and, well, made me laugh my head off.

This isn’t a “women’s lib” book, but a celebration of those who had the guts and desire to break through a mold for the sheer love of making their small corner of the world a better place.

toolboxcoversmAnd speaking of changing the face of things, my quest for world domination took a closer step to reality with a lovely review of my book, The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box, which is a “Hot Read” in OC Metro Magazine.

I am particularly proud of this book because it’s a culmination of everything I’ve learned and discovered in my publishing journey – which I love more than Twinkies. Writers are the coolest people around, and this book is about discussing issues with them that no one else does.

If you want to learn about all aspects of publishing in the US, this is your one-stop shopping guide because I scratched every possible itch. From interviews with agents, book reviewers, the lovely Victoria Strauss, distributors, cover designers, to ending up with a manuscript autopsy and an entire section on The Writer’s Survival Style Guide, which covers the main reasons why manuscripts never make it past first base.

OC Metro sent me two magazines – one for me, one for Mom, which was lovely, but I think I need more…WoOt!

muma-tinyAnd then there’s Richard Gilbert, talented author of his wonderful memoir Marching Up Madison Avenue. Richard is the real live embodiment of the TV show Mad Men, so his perspective is particularly interesting when it comes to how often Hollywood gets it wrong. Apparantly Advertising Age Magazine agreed – who gave Richard an amazing review, btw – and printed this article that focuses on Richard’s take on Hollyweird.

I love Richard’s book because he was there, making advertising history back when it was possible for the little guy to make a huge difference in the way we see a product – whether it’s London Fog or After Six tuxedos – where they dressed up a dour Soviet Premier Alexey Kosygin in a tux with the caption, “Mr. Kosygin, we’d like you to have a free tux.”

I’m a one who believes that if you want to know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been. Richard Gilbert was right there on Madison Avenue, adding a huge measure of class and intelligence to the ads he produced. How I wish our current rash of pathetically dismal advertising conglomerates would take a page from Richard’s book. And besides, who doesn’t love a David and Goliath story?

The beagle wanted to brag about the new bar she found, but I told her to get her own damn blog.

Doing da research

October 2, 2009

All good authors should research publishers. Most turn to Google, and let their megabytes do the walking. Eeek! Who are the good guys, and how are the skanks?

Read Victoria Strauss’ blog post from Writer Beware. That is all.

Victoria Strauss rocks

January 19, 2009

I must echo what Jane Smith says on her blog about Victoria Strauss. Victoria is a class act and one hard working woman. Both author and publishing watchdog, Vic is a walking encyclopedia, and her talents are not only visible on her Writer Beware website, but she’s a frequent flyer at the Absolute Write Water Cooler. I feel so fortunate to have interviewed her for our upcoming Writer’s Essential Tackle Box. You go, Vic!

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