Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad Sign Of The Times

STATUS: Hooray. Only 199 emails in the inbox.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EXILE by Enya

Several years ago, I had a project out on submission for one my clients. An editor had called me on Wednesday to discuss the format, the title, how to publish the book and to let me know that in Friday, she would call with the offer.

On Friday, she did call—but she didn’t make an offer. Her publisher had changed her mind in the two days in between and the editor could offer for the novel.

I was stunned. When an editor had called to warn me that an offer was pending, the offer had always come. But at least there really hadn’t been an offer. Just a notice that one was forthcoming. Sucks to be us (and unfortunately, I was never able to sell that particular novel).

A couple of weeks ago I heard a more horrific story. A fellow agent had received an offer that was in the beginnings of being negotiated and then the editor’s publisher called to say that were rescinding the offer.

Now I’m not just stunned but speechless.

It’s not like an editor can just pop on the phone and make an offer. These things go to committees. It’s discussed. The editor has to do a full P&L (Profit & Loss) statement. This has to be reviewed by the higher powers and approved before an offer made.

If the house had hesitations, come on, that should have been discussed before the agent was called.

Uh, guess not.

Now response times for submissions are slow. I’ve also heard of current contracts being cancelled (abominable but I know it has happened). I’ve also heard that editors are being extremely cautious about what they buy. I don’t have hard data on this but I also know that advances are skewing down rather than up when offers are made.

But this. This is a first and not a good sign of the times.