Monday, October 6, 2008

Clueless? Ask and You Shall Receive

I don't know how sub rights work and I'm too embarrassed to ask my agent or editor! I signed a two-book contract last month and yesterday my agent emailed to say that many foreign publishers are interested in the manuscript. She wanted to know when I’d have the revision done, but I have not yet received my editorial comments from the editor. My question is, does the editor who has NA rights and who does all the initial work to get the ms in shape get any % of sub rights money? Is there any reason he should speed up the editing process just because foreign publishers are asking for it?
Take a deep breath. This is no emergency, nor cause for embarrassment.
Does the editor who has NA rights and who does all the initial work to get the ms in shape get any % of sub rights money?
Nope. If the North American publisher only contracted for North American rights, then that's all they get. All the foreign rights money is split between you and your agent. Of course, it's also up to your agent to sell those rights; the NA publisher won't.
Is there any reason the editor should speed up the editing process just because foreign publishers are asking for it?
Nope. But the answer would be no whether your North American publisher had world rights or not. Foreign rights interest may or may not develop into actual foreign rights deals, and the most important thing to your editor is the publication schedule for his publishing house.

If your agent wants to send the revision to the foreign publishers for review, she'll just have to wait.
I don't know how sub rights work and I'm too embarrassed to ask my agent or editor!
Here's the problem. Mother of god, this is what your agent is for. March yourself into the bathroom right now, look yourself in the eye, and say to yourself, "My agent is my guide and counselor and representative in the crazy world of publishing. She has the information I need to avoid making mistakes and to give me peace of mind. I will not be embarrassed. It is part of her job to educate me, reassure me, and never tell anyone what a newbie I was when I started."

Listen, if your agent is unwilling to help you in the ways that you need help (and for most writers that includes several how-does-publishing-work questions), then you need a better agent.

Ideally, you're also working with an editor who would be happy to answer random questions and show you the ropes, but people with agents should go to that person first.

Everyone is ignorant about the process until they start asking questions. Ask!

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

God bless you, EA. However, just because an agent sells a book it doesn't neccessarily mean they are great at answering questions from their clients. Or that they return client emails.

Not at all saying that's the case for this poster, but it ain't all rainbows and butterflies out there.

Mostly, UNagented writers are aghast when they hear your agent struggles. Unagented writers spout things like, "I'd never put up with that!" "You need a new agent!" "It took her HOW many months to read your last novel?" Etc, etc...

I had an agent who didn't bother telling me what an Editorial Letter was. Nor did the editor mention it when I talked to her on the phone. She welcomed me aboard, and said, "I'll send you some comments."

I'd assumed "comments" meant she'd send tell me what she liked about the novel and maybe have me correct a few mispelled words.

Imagine my surprise when a six page, single-spaced Editorial Letter arrived in the mail. Slaughtering chapters, saying WTF? about certain characters.

The agent didn't bother anwering my frantic emails or bother apologizing for not better informing me of the process. Of course I was busy having a nervous breakdown, so I suppose an apology at that point wouldn't have mattered.

Miriam S.Forster said...

"My agent is my guide and counselor and representative in the crazy world of publishing. She has the information I need to avoid making mistakes and to give me peace of mind. I will not be embarrassed. It is part of her job to educate me, reassure me, and never tell anyone what a newbie I was when I started."

Lord I hope that's true. I'm about to embark on the search for an agent, and they intimidate the crap out of me. (grin)

literaticat said...

Miriam: We are mostly nice, and we very rarely bite.

Anonymous said...

I had an agent I was afraid to ask anything. I now have the most wonderful agent anyone could hope to have because I realized that first relationship wasn't really working out for me. If anyone tells you that "any agent is better than no agent" then they are wrong. However, you also have to decide whether your agent is approachable but you're chicken, or whether your agent scares the crap out of you for a reason. Sometimes there's a fine line between a good agent that you're a little afraid of and a bad agent, and only you really know for sure.

Here's a clue about subrights though...sub rights are explained ALL OVER THE INTERNET! Do the research first and then go to your agent with the tricky bits. Dystel and Goderich has some good info on subrights on their blog, but just start looking around and you can find the info. That's how I got it. And then my agent clarified the bits I didn't understand.

working illustrator said...

EA said: March yourself into the bathroom right now, look yourself in the eye, and say to yourself, "My agent is my guide and counselor and representative in the crazy world of publishing.

More like: "My agent is working for me. S/he is taking a share of my income. I am the boss and my subordinates are not doing me a favor when supplying information. It is their job."

b luis grey said...

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Damnsamn said...

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Tony Lee said...

Excellent advice for newcomers!
As with everything in life, it's always important to remember that there are no stupid questions... only stupid answers.