Why do people want literary agents?
Because a good one makes life so much easier. I’m currently negotiating my 2nd and 3rd book contracts, and I’m going in alone for the most part. I have a lawyer who works almost exclusively with this sort of copyright law, but he’s not doing the negotiating for me. That means I’m currently having a fun ping-pong like chat with my publisher.
While a compromise is inevitable, I’m less focused on overall improvement to wording or percentages. This time around, I’m concerned with augmenting one particular area. Once things are settled – I’ll give you a general download of what and why, but for now, I’ll give you a brief idea of my current predicament.
I like my publisher. She’s cheery, outgoing, intelligent, and everything that comes with small press charm. However, she’s business savvy, so I can’t let our friendliness take front stage in my mind because she definitely won’t. While some might be good at separating the two, I’m pretty terrible at it though I’m working to improve. Any decent literary agent would be able to go into a negotiation with a publisher, despite maybe even being excellent friends with said publisher, and treat it as the business venture it was.
Or, at least, my lovely ideal dream of an agent could. That thought it what keeps me querying despite my new success in contracts. I’ve found my niche, but that doesn’t mean get comfortable. I’m in the beginning of my career, and everything I do now will have consequences (good and bad) down the line.
So, if this is my weakest point, what do I do?
I knew even before the 2nd contract appeared in my inbox what I would want out of it. This book will be the sequel to my debut, and I needed to do what it took to augment the success there. My publisher, Clean Reads, read through the proposal and had a contract to me faster than their optioned suggested or even their regular number of weeks to read a full manuscript, so I haven’t even seen my first quarter’s earnings.
Don’t do that! I should have waited to submit until I had that information in had. It would be so useful right now, but I didn’t because I estimated it would take a week longer than it did. Lesson learned. If at all possible, make sure you have some data in hand for a sequel negotiation. I ought to have known better, but getting back to grad school, I let things get away from me. We’ll see how badly that will cost me when I do an overview once everything is signed.
My 3rd contract is for a completely different series. For those who follow me on Twitter, you know I don’t write romances. I did, however, write a piece of really strange, quasi-romance speculative fiction which I had joked about with a few other Clean Reads authors. My publisher noted my postings and expressed interest. I submitted the manuscript believing there was no way she’d want to publish it. The length was weird (stuck between novella and novel), and I was certain the play on Narcissus and Greek mythology would be a bit too strange, but the contract tells me I was wrong.
Not a bad thing to be wrong about, so my goal for the 3rd contract is just to put it on par with my 1st. That should be fine, so I should just be concerned with the 2nd really. However, through this whole process – despite having gone through it before and done well for myself – I keep wishing I had managed to sign with an agent first. Maybe I’ll change my mind when negotiations are over. Maybe I’ll sign with an agent and then massively regret it and change my mind then. Who knows. Both with or without, negotiations are difficult and a hard-won contract isn’t over until it’s signed.