Tuesday, October 17, 2006

none of my business

I was reading Dooce the other day and I was intrigued, oh hell I was nosy about the "settlement" stuff. So, I went looking for the story. For all the drama it seems a simple enough story really. Incredibly lucky blogger gets a fabulous book deal..hell a deal for two books. Publisher appears to be a bit of a dick and fails to do the polite and well, normal thing of letting brand new writer know that the person who they set the deal up with got canned, or moved on as the human resources lawyers like to say. Even worse publisher doesn't make much effort to contact new writer much at all for months.
Anyway, new writers lawyers and agents and stylists and hell "people" manage to work out the final contract apparently to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Except new writer still doesn't know that their contact person has left. Right before signing time the publisher mentions it and Dooce looses her everloving mind. She refuses to sign the contract and tries to walk away...right into the arms of a different publisher or so the sketchy publisher says.
I can see both sides here. I get that not telling Heather about the lost agent is seriously weird and doesn't inspire confidence but really what does it matter?
Heather has to write the books and I am sure they could have found an editor she would have been happy with.
Walking away was a weird power play when Heather had no power. She is a complete unknown as a writer. Being a blogger of some fame doesn't quantify you as a successful writer. Dooce is free reading. The test is how many people will pay a decent chunk of money to read a book by Heather Armstrong. The publisher was taking a chance on an unknown.
Sure Heather had a right to feel a little suspicious but she should have sucked it up and got onto the job of writing.
Finding a publisher willing to take a chance is like hitting the lottery. Walking away from that winning ticket because you got a little "nerve wracked" and disappointed? Smells a little like conceit.
What I do not understand is what the hell were her lawyers telling her? Surely they knew she would be sued for breach of contract.
Some of this feels very much like self sabotage. A new writers reputation is all they have and unfortunately Dooce has splashed into the world of publishing by refusing to honour a contract her representatives worked out.
I hope the settlement is Heather escapes this mistake with only minor penalties and learns a damn valuable lesson.
Talk to your representatives when they are in negotiations for you. Better yet be present for all negotiations so you know what is going on all the time. Just because a lawyer says they have it all under control doesn't mean it's true. Obviously Heathers reps made some real mistakes here and so did sketchy publisher but that is the world of business.
These people are sharks trying to make money, the lowly writer/client is a commodity both are fighting for. Expecting that these groups care about relationships and "your feelings" may be too much to ask for when you are an unknown with no power.

I cannot commend Dooce for her actions though. She made an oral agreement, a commitment and her reasons for dishonoring that just aren't compelling. She had a right to an explanation and an apology and then she should have moved on and done the work she agreed to do. Her reaction was just a tad too diva for me.
Ofcourse it could be some jealousy on my part. I would have been so busy recovering from the shock, elation and madness of being offered a book deal I wouldn't have noticed if they had switched my editor to a Blogger spell check. I would have been more than happy to wait a few months while my, holy shit,lawyer negotiated my book deal!!!!!!!
Where I come from the only time the word lawyer shows up is when someone has been arrested.
I know I have only one side of the story and maybe the publisher did something truly awful and if that is the case..hell. who cares? You have a two book deal..real books that you get to write and someone pays you. It's not like the publisher will be sitting in your living room 24/7 pinching your ass...
Sometimes you have to suffer for your art and putting up with an asshole?...hell, I do that every day for free.


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