Monday, 16 March 2015

Agony aunts & uncles: the lit advice column

Some first-world writerly problems (each of which is true, in the sense that they are actual questions that I’ve been asked):

‘I’ve sent work to a publisher/agent I like – how long should I wait before either contacting them again or giving up on them? (Six months? A year? Longer?)’
‘I’ve got an agent who is asking for changes, and if it gets as far as an editor, which of course is what I’m aiming for, then they’re likely to ask for changes too, maybe even back to what I’ve changed it from, so how do I negotiate this?’
‘I have a publisher but it really didn’t work out on the last book and I’d like to test the market but I don’t want to totally piss off my present publisher …’
‘I’ve now got enough rejection slips to decorate the spare bedroom – is there a special glue for this, or is ordinary wallpaper glue OK?’
‘A book I published a decade ago is now available as an ebook – but the publisher didn’t tell me he was doing this, nor has he offered any money …’
‘My publisher has broken the terms of the contract we both signed: they’ve postponed publication beyond the agreed time limit/ sold off stock to remainder shops without offering them to me first – what can I do?’
‘I really hate the cover they’ve given my book. I know the contract says that they have the final say-so, but it’s my book, and they’ve trusted me enough to take it on and I’ve been in this business for decades and every decision by a marketing dept has flopped …’
‘Does a pink cover mean gay? No problem with that. I’m not gay, as it happens. But I don’t want to be type-cast.’
‘When I go to the publisher’s summer party, should I or shouldn’t I get drunk? What are the pros and cons?’
'Some work I published a while back is now being put on the web, on people's blogs - is this wrong and should I be doing something about it (what?), or is this how the world now runs?'
‘I’ve been invited to read at a lit festival 200 miles way, and for me this is a big thing but they’re not offering even travel expenses. Yes or no?’
‘I’m mid-list, and have made a living out of my books, but now they are ejecting me. The reputable smaller publishers wouldn’t be interested: they want young, they want work that “challenges” (ha-ha). Should I self-publish? Isn’t this a form of defeatism?’

I don’t know. I don’t know enough to know, I don’t even know what ‘enough’ might mean. So I’m thinking about a forum where these questions might be answered by a panel of so-called experts, who may well contradict one another but at least it’s a place to discuss. Say, a legal/copyright person; an agent; a mainstream editor and and a small-press editor. An agony-aunt/uncle column. Along the lines of, for example, the sex advice column in the Metro, one of whose experts is James McConnachie, on the basis presumably of his having written The Rough Guide to Sex but he is also the editor of The Author, the journal of the Society of Authors and he knows the business and I think he'd be good on this too. And many of the questions are transferable.

1 comment:

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Charles

I know that Jane Holland had problems placing her last book with a publisher. If someone as good as Jane is having trouble then what hope is there for the rest of us?

Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish