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Snoopy

For the writer folks, are you reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog? She has a great deal of experience in the industry, and her posts are worth reading and thinking about, even if I occasionally disagree. Case in point: last week she wrote about auditing your agent, and shared her personal experience with Unnamed Agent who … well, let’s just say they weren’t terribly diligent about getting her all the money she deserved.

She makes a lot of good points. And while I haven’t seen anything to suggest similar problems with my own agent, it’s good to keep these things in mind, and preferably to be aware of them before rushing into a relationship that will affect your career.

A friend pinged me to let me know my name had come up in the comments, where someone was suggesting I should read the post, because it could help me. Another person referenced something I wrote last year about why I was keeping my agent, thanks.

From there, discussion moved to me working for “slave wages,” and how I was being “screwed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.” Another person said it was sad that I was “so against changing anything about his work relationships.”

Let me start by saying I genuinely appreciate people’s concern for my career and financial well-being.

With that said, there seems to be an assumption in some of the comments that I’m blindly sticking with a system that’s screwing me over, that I haven’t seriously considered or researched other publishing options, and so on. I would like to reassure people that this is not the case. I read my contracts, both U.S. and foreign. I review my royalty checks and statements, and I ask my agent about anything that looks odd. (Often he beats me too it, sending me royalty spreadsheets with a note that he thinks some numbers look off, and he’s following up with the publisher.)

I’ve spoken to a lot of self-published authors, both those who went indie from day one and those who started with commercial publishing and switched over to self-publishing. I’ve self-published three collections and one novel, partly for the additional income, and partly for the experience. As my books revert back to me, I fully intend to self-publish those as well to keep them available.

After looking at the different options and talking to people who have gone down those different paths, I’ve chosen to keep my agent and publisher. I choose to stay with DAW and JABberwocky because I’ve determined that this is what’s best for me and my career at this time. That doesn’t necessarily mean it would be best for you. Everyone’s career is different, and there’s no one right way to do this.

The person who mentioned the hundreds of thousands of dollars I should be making also said they saw my books in kids’ hands as often as Twilight and Hunger Games. Which is awesome anecdotal data, but I’ve seen my sales numbers on Bookscan. I’ve been pretty successful so far, but I’m nowhere near Meyer/Collins levels of success.

At least not yet :-)

My situation is my own. I choose to write part time, and to keep a full time day job. I have several chronic health conditions, a partially disabled wife, and a special needs child. And I live in a country that doesn’t have universal health coverage. I could find an insurance plan on my own, but it would be pricy. Health Care Reform will hopefully create more options, and I’ll revisit my situation as things change. But for now, I do choose to be a bit conservative when it comes to the health and care of myself and my family.

So thank you again for the concern, but I’m doing okay. My latest book hit the Locus Bestseller List, is in its fourth printing, and looks like it will have earned out a five-figure advance in three months. It’s been picked up in Germany and the UK so far, as well as by the Science Fiction Book Club (deals arranged by my agent and my publisher, respectively). My earlier work is still in print, and is being re-released in omnibus (Goblins) and audio (Goblins and Princesses) editions, as well as ongoing foreign deals (Stepsister Scheme just came out in Turkey).

I agree with Rusch that it’s important to go into a business relationship with your eyes open. I know I didn’t always do that when I was starting out, and in some ways, I got very, very lucky. I also agree that not everyone needs an agent, and that there are a lot of scams and pitfalls out there.

But I have done research, and I continue to pay attention to different options and opportunities. I talk to different authors, some more successful, some less. Some commercially published, some self-pubbed. Some with representation, some without. This is my career. I watch what’s happening in the industry, and I take it very seriously.

And I am indeed quite happy with where I’m at right now. Thanks!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Comments

( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
scarlettina
Nov. 19th, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC)
That's an extremely gracious response to some pretty presumptuous thinking, Jim. I have a great deal of admiration for you here. You've made the exactly right choices for yourself and your family.

With the advent of people's ability to publish themselves has come a remarkable amount of hubris about the matter, and I have seen a lot of self-published writers braying about how much smarter they are than traditionally published authors. This condescension just sort of astonishes me; I don't understand it. One person's choice is not necessarily the better or only choice, and yet self-publishers feel perfectly comfortable saying to writers whom they have admired in the past, "Suckers!" I don't think any writer makes any choice about being published lightly or without significant thought. What's right for one isn't necessarily right for another. Also? Such speculation and in-your-face condescension is just plain rude.

Edited at 2012-11-19 02:58 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
There is some tendency to get caught up in the excitement when someone offers to publish or represent your first book, and I have seen people jump in to bad deals without doing any research beforehand. (I believe this is pretty much PublishAmerica's business model.)

That said, I look at my career and how well things are going right now, and then I look at comments that seem to feel sorry for me because of my "poor" choices, and I'm a little baffled...
deborahblakehps
Nov. 19th, 2012 07:54 pm (UTC)
Maybe they're talking about the "other" Jim. C. Hines... (No, I've never seen another one, but that makes as much sense as those comments.)
swan_tower
Nov. 19th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
"Extremely gracious" is pretty much what I was thinking, too. I don't know that I could have brought myself to be that polite if people who haven't seen my royalty statements and tax returns were opining in such a critical fashion about my complete lack of business sense.
dionysus1999
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
This dovetails with some things I've been thinking about, as my wife is a freelance editor/writer. While you can get tons of advice, there comes a point you need to trust the expert(s) you've recruited to assist you. We've talked about at what point we might need the services of an accountant, for instance.

As one computer at home has been compromised by malware, we're also looking for an expert in IT security. I've been the IT support in the past, but the sophistication of today's malware is flummoxing both her and I.
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:32 pm (UTC)
And I think Rusch has a good point about vetting the expert. There are good and bad accountants. Some can help you if you're not able to do your own books. Others will screw you over, either deliberately or through ignorance.
mtlawson
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:15 pm (UTC)
Okay, here's something to make you smile: I was at our local independent and I saw on the top shelf (where they keep the noteworthy books to check out, front cover facing) The Legend of Jig Dragonslayer and Libriomancer. They were sitting next to each other, looking pretty darned good.
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
Sweet! :-)
pickledginger
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
Health insurance and steady income are both worth *a lot*.
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
Yep. I wish I didn't have to worry about the insurance, but given our situation, we not only need the coverage, we need *good* coverage.
sueo2
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
The pendulum swings
I remember the days back on the Rumor Mill when anyone who suggested a route of "self-publishing" and "fore-going agents" was considered misguided at best and scammer at worst.

I think we are in an era of "learning curve and paradigm shift." While mid-list authors might slip over to the self-publishing side of things with some ease and not lose the integrity of their work, a lot of newby authors are seeing this as the golden egg they were barred from receiving in the past.

And while previously unpublished writers who understand craft and editing and beta readers and so on might have an easier time of getting their work out there, the truth is still the same. Lots of people write books. Lots of those books are crap. Yes, some good works have slipped through the fingers of the "establishment" but more often crap was kept in the crap pile while, maybe, now it is being chucked in our face.

Edited at 2012-11-19 03:24 pm (UTC)
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:41 pm (UTC)
Re: The pendulum swings
Ah, the good old days. I've definitely had to revise my thinking a bit since then, especially when it comes to e-books and self-publishing.

And publishing is certainly evolving. But you still have to learn how to write good stories, and you still have to do the research and pay attention if you want to succeed.
akiko
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC)
Here are the reasons I want to have an agent (someday): I don't want to spend large parts of my day dealing with business stuff, getting published in other countries or translated into other languages, wrangling contracts and iBooks and Kindle and Smashwords. I don't want to be the sole person responsible for marketing my book. (Regardless of whatever minimal role the publisher plays (and I hear conflicting reports of how much publishers actually do), if I self-publish, it's 100% on me, or whomever I hire to do it for me. And I know I'm not a salesperson at ALL.)

I want to have someone in my corner, who knows how to get my book published in Germany or Japan. I don't want to go it alone.

Obviously, the advice to make sure you're not signing a bad contract is good, but there's a strong vibe of "traditional publishing is the devil" among a particular set of self-pubbed writers.
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
Those are valid reasons, and similar to some of my own reasons for sticking with DAW and JABberwocky. For Libriomancer, DAW paid for good placement in the bookstores, sent out a whole bunch of ARCs, included the book in their sales catalog (which was being pushed by their sales reps), and more. I can reach a decent number of people online, but I'd have a hard time matching what they do for me, and there are only so many hours in the day.

For someone who has the time, knowledge, and drive to do everything themselves, great! But I am not one of those people, ya know?
akiko
Nov. 19th, 2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
Exactly. If there are writers out there who want to do everything themselves and have the know-how and resources, that's grand. More power to them. I just wish they would stop telling people who don't have that drive or the know-how or the resources that they're doin it rong and are deluded fools. It doesn't help anyone.
kellymccullough
Nov. 19th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
Yep. At this point in time, traditional publishing is a good place for me to be. I've got a good relationship with my publisher and agent, and the current system is doing a good job of helping me build audience.

Could I make more money going indy? Possibly, but that's not at all clear. Traditional publishing recently helped me land my first German deal, and looks like it's about to some other things that are very good for me.

That said, I'm constantly tracking where my career is and where it's going, reading contracts closely, and keeping an eye on the indy side of things. If my traditional career crashes and burns—always a possibility—or if sales slip far enough to put me in the position of having to change my name to keep going traditional, or if the calculus simply changes, I could easily see moving indy.

So far, traditional publishing has been extremely good to me and continues to advance my career and increase my audience in ways that I don't think indy publishing can yet do for me. I like where I am currently in terms of agents, editors, and houses, and where it looks like I'm going, but I'm not walking the path blind, and I am keeping an eye on every fork in the road.
controuble
Nov. 19th, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
Isn't it amazing how some people just "know" what's best for everyone else's lives? I know you are a knowledgeable person and assume that you can make your own decisions since you know your situation better than any outsider could. I might point out something and ask if you have read it, but I don't think anyone should try to tell you how to run your life.

In better news, I totally SQUEEEED when I found out you will be our Author GOH at Windycon next year!
jimhines
Nov. 19th, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Has that been publicly announced yet? I've been sitting on that news for several weeks now!
controuble
Nov. 19th, 2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
It was announced at closing ceremonies - I didn't find out until the next day because - HELLO, working on packing up the art show!
oneminutemonkey
Nov. 19th, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
Incidentally, I saw where the Goblin books are coming out as audios through Graphic Audio and I am freaking THRILLED. I love Graphic Audio's stuff, and those will be instant buys when they come out. :)

(And if the Princess books are also coming out through GA, those will also be instant buys...)
jimhines
Nov. 20th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
Sweet!

The Princess books are through Audible.com. We decided to try one series with each company to see how it went, since the offers were roughly equivalent.
deborahjross
Nov. 19th, 2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
I'm with you (minus the Locus Bestseller) - I don't blindly leave everything to agent/editor/publisher, and I do have reasons for remaining with each. My agent just renegotiated the ebook royalty rates for books contracted back in 2004, a gain of four times the previous rate. Worth every penny of his commission, he is.
barbhendee2
Nov. 19th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
Jim, I feel exactly the same way. I really like Dean and Kris.

But I recently posted on Dean's blog expressing that I thought for most writers, it was probably best to "mix" doing indie publishing with traditional publishing. I explained my reasons behind this. JC and I just got into self-publishing this year, and we just started making money in May. For the year's tax statement, we will have earned about $2,400 from our self-publishing endeavors. However, we will have earned just over $60,000 (after agent's fees but before taxes) from our traditionally published novels.

But the people posting there seem so adamant that it's impossible to get a contract from a traditional publisher that does not totally screw the writer and therefore, indie publishing is the only option.

It just makes me scratch my head. JC and I have very fair contracts, and I go over our royalty statements with a magnifying glass. Our publisher gets our books in bookstores, in Barnes & Noble, in front of buyers. I'm not ready to give that up. Our traditionally published books are making our house payments.
barbhendee2
Nov. 19th, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
Oh, and one more thing . . . I don't understand why the way we decide to conduct our writing careers is anybody else's business.
thesfreader
Nov. 19th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
From a reader's point of view, as long as the writers we love stay in the business and are happy writing for us, that's not our business. But try and stop writing, and you'll have us despair...
jimhines
Nov. 20th, 2012 01:18 pm (UTC)
As if most of us *could* stop writing, even if we wanted to :-)
thesfreader
Nov. 20th, 2012 03:21 pm (UTC)
Yes, but unless you self-publish, what's our chance to get the result ? ;-)
Yes, but unless you self-publish, what's our chance to get the result ? ;-)
slhuang
Nov. 19th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
*applause* No one should dictate to you how to run your own career. And I want to comment in particular on the health insurance thing, because I'm self-employed, and have a serious health concern, and trying to get insurance has been . . . I would call it a nightmare, but that doesn't cover it. It's . . . I have no words. I would never, ever judge someone for having health insurance be a primary concern in keeping a day job. (I almost got a day job just to get insurance.) Keep on doing whatever's best for you and your family (which, you know, you don't need my permission for, but *support*!).

And congrats on your success!
j_cheney
Nov. 19th, 2012 07:32 pm (UTC)
I may just steal your last two paragraphs verbatim to answer people who ask why I'm going traditional pub....
matociquala
Nov. 19th, 2012 08:16 pm (UTC)
Isn't it fabulous how everybody on the planet could run our careers better than us?

I assume they're all fucking around the internet all day offering unsolicited advice because they're independently wealthy.
rosencrantz23
Nov. 19th, 2012 08:42 pm (UTC)
There was an article related to this on Techdirt last week, actually. The function of agent -- or at least it's PERCEIVED function -- is changing: no longer the gatekeeper to becoming a Published Author; the agent is now a business broker, connecting authors to the best publishers or publishing markets for their work, negotiating optimal contracts with them, etc. I think the agents who act as gatekeepers, and the general perception of agents as gatekeepers will be fading in the next several years.
swan_tower
Nov. 19th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
no longer the gatekeeper to becoming a Published Author; the agent is now a business broker, connecting authors to the best publishers or publishing markets for their work, negotiating optimal contracts with them, etc.

Huh? That's been the function of an agent for yonks. In fact, if you filter self-publishing out of the equation, their role as gatekeepers is the part that seems to be on the rise: with so few publishers taking unsolicited submissions, you have to get past the agents before you can even get to an editor. But they've been business brokers for decades, if not longer (I don't know when literary agents became a widespread part of the industry). It's hardly a new development.
temporus
Nov. 19th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
First, I admire your career. I keep your success in mind when I think about how I might be able to accomplish my own goals in writing. I don't think I'm likely to be able to write as my sole career and source of income, and so watching you succeed over the years has given me some encouragement and hope that my own path might be able, if I am fortunate, to follow a similar course. You've always struck me as one of the more level headed, and thoughtful authors out there. I'm practically gob-smacked that someone would think you aren't looking at all the angles.

It also strikes me odd that anyone that has followed your blogging about your career for any length of time doesn't appreciate the fact that you've mentioned several times how your agent has helped you get good deals on foreign language sales. It's one area that, at the moment, doesn't really fit in to this whole "do it yourself" attitude that many seem to want to urge everyone else to follow. Even if you'd be willing to contract out the translation work yourself, how can anyone vet good translators easily? I think that's one of the real tangible benefits of working with a professional organization like publishers and agents.

As to selling like Twilight or Hunger Games....um, no one knows how that works. Not one person I've met in publishing has ever claimed they know how to make books sell like that. So what good would publishing the stuff on your own do you? And really, does anyone think DAW *doesn't* want to have a run-away hit like those? What possible reason could anyone imagine that DAW wouldn't want that? What impediment do they believe DAW puts in your way, as a large commercial publisher, that magically the large commercial publishers of Twilight or Hunger Games did not put in the way of those particular authors? If they're going to compare popularity in a discussion where they think the publisher or agent might be the thing holding back an author's success, shouldn't they be holding up a book/example that's not also part of "big publishing"? I don't know.
sylvia_rachel
Nov. 20th, 2012 12:37 am (UTC)
I agree -- very gracious response to frankly obnoxious stimuli.

And I'm glad to hear you're still happy with your agency, since I now have the same one ;)
cloudscudding
Nov. 20th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
I am curious as to how you think an agent would react to being asked to have split checks and audit rights in the contract.
barbhendee2
Nov. 20th, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
A number of writers I know have gone to "split" payments (including us), and most agents are fine with it. It's actually less work for them. The main difference is that your MISC form then comes from your publisher and not your agent, so you need to be comfortable enough with the royalties department at your publisher to contact someone if there is an issue. I don't know anyone who's asked about the audit rights.
cloudscudding
Nov. 20th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
I guess if it's split payments, then there's no need for the audit--not a financial audit, at least.
jakobdrud
Nov. 20th, 2012 10:41 am (UTC)
Rusch's essays are definitely worth reading (esp. for those of us new to the business), but like every other advice they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Rusch also sells self-management courses for writers--mayhabs that makes her more inclined to be skeptical towards traditional publishing?. Your story provides exactly such a well-reasoned grain of salt, so thanks for commenting.

Hey, and if you ever need someone to manage your career, you can find me in the comments section of the internet.
sktait
Nov. 20th, 2012 01:15 pm (UTC)
Much of the well meaning advice is possibly due to the belief that if you write as well/better than Meyer/Collins/Rowling, you should be making the same money as they. But you don't appear to be.

"At least not yet "
snapes_angel
Nov. 30th, 2012 09:55 am (UTC)
I'm actually surprised someone decided to hold you up as a prime example of someone not doing their homework, as you always have, as regards your occupations (both the writing, and the day job). With the health issues all around, your decision in favor of keeping the insurance associated with the day job, as well as the day job, is a wise one. If you had to spend time looking up health insurance on your own (at least, at this stage), it would leave you little (if any!) energy to write. Personally, I'd rather have you writing. ;)
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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Jim C. Hines
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