Thursday, September 02, 2010

You Need A Literary Agent To Take The Blame

A deadline is set and the author is supposed to deliver the manuscript by that date. With so many personal organizer programs available for every computer, it shouldn't be so hard to set a series of reminders.

Even so, sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski missed his deadline to deliver a biography of the late Jim Valvano. That was three years ago.

Penguin Group had saved a slot in their catalog, and they were somewhat perturbed that the book would not be laid down as promised. Sales reps who might have been touting the new work would have had to go back to their contacts and explain, and that's never a good thing for the marketing department.

Can we have it now, Penguin asked. Ready yet? Next month, if it's not too much trouble?

To get Mr. Wojnarowski's attention, the publisher sliced $75,000 off the deal, but still, no book. Finally, they'd had enough and the contract was declared null and void.

Oh, yes, and the author had to return his $140,000 advance. No book, no pay-out.

Deadline? There was a deadline? asked the sports writer. My agent would have told me if there was a deadline. My agent never told me.

While Mr. Wojnarowski cuts a check to Penguin to reimburse their expenses, he might want to let his literary agent know what he's up to. The agent might have been counting on his or her share of the royalties of the $400,000 book deal, and that money is never going to materialize.

Of course, it's quite likely that the literary agent cut the writer loose long ago, when it was apparent that no manuscript would be forthcoming. The lack of communication between agent and author could have been due to a letter of cancellation, declaring their contract null and void. Unbeknownst to Mr. Wojnarowski, he might not have a literary agent at the present time, and it isn't a lack of communication that saw the deadline slip away until Penguin filed a lawsuit.

And there you are, desperate to land a literary agent and get your novel published. You'd settle for the tiniest advance, just to get your foot in the door, while a book about a dead coach gets a six-figure deal and a six-figure advance that's tossed aside like it's nothing.

Just remember, publishing is a business and it's not at all about the art.

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