Thursday, November 16, 2006

Remember, Editors Work For The Man

STATUS: I’m a little frazzled. But things are good. I did have lunch today with Kate Schafer, a YA agent at Janklow & Nesbit. She’s in town. Ends up we both have copies of Opal Mehta (of the big plagiarism scandal) because we had lunches with editors involved right before that story broke. Isn’t that weird? A little synchronicity in the world.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

One of the great reasons, as an author, to have an agent is the fact that your agent gets to handle any of the nasty stuff and you, as the author, get to maintain a terrific, stress-free relationship with your editor. In fact, some authors end up being good friends with their editors and will often attend parties, weddings, and other events with or for their editor friend.

A great relationship with your editor is a powerful thing. I’m all for it but I always want to remind authors that editors work for the man. In other words, they work for the publishing house and even though they might adore you personally, it is their job to protect their employer’s best interest. Not yours.

That’s why you have an agent.

So when I hear that authors either knowingly or unwittingly circumvent their agent and jeopardize the author/agent partnership, I feel the need to rant. I guess this has been a big discussion on some of the chat forums lately—authors who have agents but go directly to their editor with a new, uncontracted proposal or work without consulting with the agent first.

Oh boy. Regardless of how good your relationship is with your editor, this is business; not personal and a submission (in whatever format) is truly the first step in a negotiation and is serious business. Not to mention your agent’s job. I have heard so many horror stories of authors misstepping at this stage because they knowingly or unwittingly circumvented the agent and chaos ensued.

Or even better, I love the stories where authors have submitted a project themselves and contracted it without the agent’s knowledge and then landed themselves in a whole heap of trouble in terms of not honoring option clauses or current contract conditions etc.

Guess what the agent does when he or she finds out? You bet. Drops you. In this instant, the author has purposely negated the agent/author relationship and as far as the agent is concerned, you are not her problem anymore.

Any gray areas here? For example, are you allowed to share ideas with your editor? Sure… (but it’s better to share with me first) and as soon as the idea morphs into pen on paper, a real project that can be sold, I’d better be in the loop.