Saturday

Weekend Dialogue: What would you pick if offered the choice between a publishing contract or a potential agent?

I don’t understand authors. I really don’t understand first time, unagented authors who turn down contracts. Blooming Tree had a manuscript it was interested in acquiring. This wasn’t one of the ones I had read, or for that matter had much interest in reading. So, I don’t consider this a real great loss. However, my boss did like it and wanted it. She called and offered for it. She explained the general terms of the contract and the revisions we would want. The author was all excited and said okay. Then, she called and said that an agent was interested in it. She wanted to wait for the contract to see if the agent would take her. My boss was not pleased but said that if the agent took her, in the future she would need to talk to the agent. Then, the author called asking to see the contract to “just browse.” My boss lost her patience and told the author that she would not send the contract unless the author agreed in good faith to attempt to sign it. The author said no. The agent was willing to consider her manuscript again after she rewrote it with the general suggestions she had received from us. This author turned down a guaranteed contract for an agent who might or might not take her. I’m much too risk adverse to turn down a sure thing for a maybe. Personally, I would have taken the contract and sent my next manuscript to the agent with a new publishing credit on my cover letter.

So what do you think? What would you have done? Use the comments link below to start a dialogue with me and other users on this issue.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would definitely pick the sure thing. It's a no-brainer. My rule of thumb is this: when opportunity knocks, you should answer.

The Buried Editor said...

Obviously, that was my conclusion too. But I've been trying to think of why you would take the risk. Maybe if you thought the agent would be able to sell it for a much larger sum? That can be the only justification I can think of.

sally apokedak said...

interesting question. I recently sent my manuscript to a small press. The reason is not that I've been through all the big publishers, but there aren't many house who will take an unsolicited manuscript. So I have to either a) get an agent, or b) sell to a publisher who will still look at unsolicited subs.

If the small publisher offered me a contract would I take it even if an agent was showing interest? Probably--I have a soft spot for small publishers, in fact. But there are a couple of reasons I've not tried a small publisher before now. Unfortunately small publishers don't have the money big publishers do. This means some of them put out books with poor covers (and font and layout, sometimes)and some of them go the pod route. If they go POD then they are putting out expensive books that don't look good and probably won't sell well.

With a small publisher you may get a great editor and a great cover design and a great price. You may win awards and get decent distribution. And with a big CBA publisher you may get lousy marketing. And bad editing. But you will probably get a decent cover and decent font and layout and a better than pod price.

So I think an author has to be careful. Some small publishers are great and some big publishers are not great. I think a writer should research the companies before they submit so they are ready to sign if a contract is offered. That way they won't waste the ack ed's time.

The Buried Editor said...

That's exactly true. Always do your homework. There's a lot of research that should be done before submitting a manuscript. Besides the quality of the actual press (and like Sally said, they can WIDELY vary), you should also be looking for editors interested in your type of work. There's no point sending a PB to a YA editor.

The best way to tell the quality of a press's books is to order one. The only exception would be if the books are not price comparable to your average large press. Then, you know they already have a problem. Either it's POD or the press is OOIM (out of its mind).

Anonymous said...

I think the only reason to hold out for the agent is if you think your manuscript has potential for the larger market. But, if you sent to a smaller house in the first place, then you must have decided that it's potential was there too. So I still go back to the first to bite, get's the rights.

The Buried Editor said...

Sometimes those of us at small presses feel like we're being used by authors. Although, it's never happened to us, there are urban e-tales of authors that used small presses for leverage. They get a small press to offer simply so they can go to an agent or larger press proving that the work has generated interest. They then drop the small press despite the work (and possible editing) the small press has done with the author.

Has it ever really happened or is this just the Small Press Complex rearing its ugly head?

Anonymous said...

I think it would be highly unprofessional (not to mention rude) to take (and use) editing advice from a small press and then turn around and drop the press for either a larger press or an agent. If an author is willing to be unprofessional here, this unprofessionalism will most certainly show is other facets of the author's career.

Gaijin Mama said...

I would have definitely signed the book contract. If I was that writer and I wasn't interested in having Blooming Tree Press publish my story, I wouldn't have sent it in the first place. If I was interested, I would have signed the contract and sent the agent something else. Or done without the agent!