it’s not your fault, but I just don’t want you anymore

I am having a rotten day. Yesterday I got some bad news and left a message for the client to whom I had to deliver said news. We just discussed it this morning. I had to tell this client that their publishing company was canceling their current contract. They will not be publishing the books. I’m not sure if it’s a better or worse thing that it isn’t the clients fault. It’s not my fault either. But it’s still a kick in the gut, and one that couldn’t be forseen. The company has simply decided to change their overall direction and publishing scheme and these books no longer fit the bill. It’s not the end of the story. We’re going to pick ourselves up and take this out to other publishers. And it’s a great story by a strong writer so chances are very good that we’ll find someone else that falls in love with it. It’s still a huge pothole (more like a crevasse) in the publishing road. I suspect we’re both going to get a strong binge of sturm and drang out of it before we’re ready to move on. I’m glad we talked and put together our plan. That will make this part a little less difficult.

A couple weeks ago, Agent Kristin apparently also got some unexpected bad news and has finally gotten to the point where she was ready to post about it to her blog. One of her clients decided they no longer wanted to be represented by her. In the comments, I found a URL to an article about this issue from the writer’s side – ouch. I’m sure there are agents who are merciless, cold, and cut-throat about it. I agonize about such things for weeks or months if it comes to that. I really hope it never comes to that. Or that I don’t get told to refocus my list, as happened to the editor in the first pararaph who probably was just as horrified to deliver the news as I and the author were to receive it.

There are authors who have the same agent for their entire career. I always think of Nora Roberts and her agent. They began together and they grew together until one of them is one of the most popular and most prolific writers out there and the other is a sought-after powerhouse agent. Amazing. But it’s not hard to find stories about agents and authors who have gone splitsville. I think the hardest thing is when one party has absolutely no idea that it’s going down, even if sometimes the signs are already there. And it’s such a traumatic thing on both sides that no one seems to handle it as well as they should. It would be nice if they could talk about it and try to fix it first. But a break down in communication is probably one of the biggest causes so it’s not surprising that at least one party is left with, at best, a sour taste in their mouth. Yeah, breaking up is hard to do.

16 responses to “it’s not your fault, but I just don’t want you anymore

  1. oi.
    I could still offer to feed you dinner tonight. It’s not too late.

  2. Divorce is always painful. Even the amicable ones have a price to pay and adjustments to be made.
    Just because it’s a business ‘divorce’ doesn’t make it any less difficult.

  3. I know I sound horribly optimistic…
    I can’t help thinking that maybe you’re better off. I’m not saying the place that you sold the books is bad at all, but here’s my rejected writer survival instinct kicking in. It happened for a reason, and more than just the publisher is going in a new direction. Perhaps a better deal is out there waiting for you. When the first agent who looked at my mss called it stodgy it really pushed me to rework it. I’d been thinking about it before had, but the comments really pushed me to move forward with the project instead of settling. I also think it’s better for you to get cut off now than, let’s say, be in the last round published, only to have no support from the publisher because they are focusing on their new direction.
    I hope you and your author don’t feel bad for long. This of course means you can focus on moving forward. If you sold the books once chances are high you can sell them again.
    Hope you have a better weekend,
    Michele Lee

  4. I just thought I’d send you a hug. I think I know whereof you speak re. the publisher “in review,” and it’s happening to other agents and authors, too. The trick is to see it not as a Disaster but as an Opportunity.

  5. ouch
    I’ve heard horrific stories about author-agent splits. Not sure what would be worse, having to tell an author their contract’s been binned, or letting an author go…

  6. Having a contract cancelled isn’t pleasant. Bantam pulled my last book as we were just about to start the editing round and it’s like a punch to the gut. But it’s not the end of the world. During that two week (Christmas) period in which the contract was pulled, my relationship ended, my aunt died, my cousin was operated on for breast cancer, and my father had a stroke…it all rather put a cancelled book into perspective.
    And I still think I’m fairly fortunate. One could be living on the Lebanese border.
    I’m very sorry for your client, however. I know perspective is of rather limited use, all the same.

  7. Look on the bright side. If they’d honoured the contract and ‘privished’ it, to use Michael Larson’s terminology (yes, it gets printed, but it’s not really put before the public) the book would, in the long run, fare worse. If there’s nothing wrong with the book, then it just falls under the heading of ‘life happens’ – which isn’t nice, but you shouldn’t feel back about it.

  8. How do you determine which publisher to approach first?
    I would begin by trying to remember who’s been known to call the rejecting publishers a bunch of idiots. But I have no idea if that would actually be useful.
    Hope things work out at least okay for the client and you.

  9. Publishing Contract Cancellation
    As devastating as it must be for the author who had her or his publishing contract canceled, there is a bright side, a silver lining, as it were. That author has a literary agent and they, together, produced work that was sufficiently credible to have attracted a real contract from a legitimate publishing house.
    These are accomplishments few authors can boast. It wasn’t about the author’s work; it was about the publisher’s prerogatives. I hope that author has repeat success and sees his or her work “up in lights.” There can be no greater thrill.
    Nick Borelli

  10. Related Comments
    I normally wouldn’t comment on this, except that I honestly read your blog, Ms. Jackson, moments after an (albeit tangentally) related e-mail correspondence. I wonder if you would be open to questions or comments via e-mail?

  11. In looking for an agent, I happened across your name and mention of your blog, and I thought to add you to my friends list–I hope that’s okay?
    Thank you,

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