I’ve always been amused by the various radio and television personalities who do an “angry so and so” segment. Usually it’s a tongue in cheek rant about a semi-serious subject. Today I’m going to write one myself. I call it my “angry author” segment.
I’m a member of several writing communities. From the less organized social media groups, to actual professional organizations. And in all of these groups there is a slew of well-meaning (sarcasm) arm-chair quarterbacks who want to share their knowledge of how the publishing industry works. No, not your mentors and writers who have dealt with publishers and agents, contracts and promotion. Or the writers in the trenches, still submitting, digging their way out of the slush piles, and soldiering on. Not those who really offer good advice (if you have yet to figure out who they are, you will soon, they are those who buy you a glass of wine to celebrate and write you killer reviews out of sheer love for you, not the damn kids you write about).
No, I am referring to the elephant in the room. The writers who, for whatever reason, would rather see someone fail because they themselves have not yet succeeded. As a mostly new to the industry writer, I continuously find myself wanting to hide on an internet rooftop and snipe away their comments before they reach the impressionable ears and unfortified egos of the writers even newer at this than I am. From this position I bring you today’s Angry Author Segment in the form of this little public service announcement:
A.) You do not have to have an agent to read (and translate/decipher) your contract for you. You really don’t. I know for a fact you can do it yourself. I did. I read multiple contracts. On my first submission and tried not to pee my pants.
B.) You do not have to have an agent to negotiate a contract for you. I am not saying you can’t, just that it is not a necessity.
C.) You do not have to have an agent to get published. Nope. You don’t. I know. See me as exhibit A. (well, see me in a few months with The Finish Line is released.)
Exception to C: Unless you want to submit to a publisher that only takes agented submissions. Yeah, might need an agent for that.
D.) Right to first refusal on a series does not apply to all your work (in a contract). Just work on that series and it should be worded very obviously that this is so. If you worry about the wording, have someone trusted and knowledgeable look over the contract for you. And if this stops you from signing a contract, check yourself and your ego. Of course the publisher wants the ability to publish you next work in the world and characters they believe in.
E.) Do not SIGN a right to first refusal on all your work. That is ridiculous. Also, from what I can tell, a reputable publisher is not going to ask you to do so.
Exception to E … unless they offer you a stupid amount of money. I mean, seriously stupid amounts of money. (This could be terrible advice, btw, so I would exercise your right not to take it)
F.) If you have never negotiated a contract, read a contract, or even been offered a contract … don’t talk about contracts to new authors or attempt to offer advice to someone who has been offered a contract. Just, don’t. I don’t care whose workshop you took or what books you’ve read. If you don’t have first hand experience, hush.
The sheer level of a fear mongering and misinformation being fed to new authors can be cruel. I get so frustrated seeing people add to the pile. I’m lucky to be a part of several organizations (and a publishing company) that support and uplift authors. That doesn’t mean I don’t see tons of badly given advice on the daily basis. I’m going to try to remember to always make sure that anything I say to another writer comes from a place of experience and comes with a desire to lift someone up a at least one rung of the ladder of success.
So, this is your angry author, who has been the recipient of bad advice (V, thank you for always straightening me out) signing off for this particular segment. I’ll be back, I’m sure, the next time I’m squinting one-eyed at the computer and wondering where in the world someone got their information.