Dear Miss Snark,
My situation is this: My first book is due out next year, and my publisher is now considering my second one. Contractually, the publisher had the right to hang onto the novel exclusively for four months - I've now been waiting more than twice that long for a decision, and I've already done two sets of revisions on the ms. My editor has now come back to me and told me that they want a third re-write.
At this point, my agent and I discussed asking for a development fee, which is what I got at about this stage on the first novel (and without an agent, I might add). However, before we could do anything about it, my agent disappeared off the radar because she's due to have her first baby. She's a lone operator (like yourself) and won't be back at work for at least another four months.
Is it okay for me to muscle in there and negotiate for the development fee myself? I did so on my first novel, before I had any representation. And if I do manage to get the fee, does my agent still get her 15% cut, since she won't have had anything to do with obtaining the money? Finally, if it's okay for me to get the fee myself and keep it all, is it also okay for me to ask the publisher to send the cheque directly to me, to save a four month wait before I recieve it?
ok, so have you actually talked to your agent about any of this?
It seems to me that she's not oblivious to the fact that she's pregnant (although one never knows...Agnes of God may in fact live on Central Park West these days).
She's not dead. And her brain isn't total mush. And this isn't exactly swinging hay bales in the barn. You can be in a lot of weird places negotiating book deals. Maternity wards don't even raise an eyebrow on the weirdness factor scale.
As a professional woman it is HER responsibility (not yours) to make arrangements for her absence. This is not an unplanned health crisis or the unexpected death of her pet rat Templeton. No no.
This is a business and while we all make allowances for death and dismemberment, you've got more than five minutes to plan for maternity leave.
If she's leaving you high and dry so to speak, you need a new agent. And fast. At the very least you send her a letter that says "yanno honey, leaving me here in the dust isn't exactly my idea of representation so take a hike and I'm keeping the dough."
Now, what the fuck is a development fee?
That's not publishing talk; that's movie talk.
If a publisher wants to buy the rights to your next book, they offer you a contract with a certain amount of money upon signing and upon delivery and upon acceptance.
If you agree to their terms you sign the contract.
If this is the negotiation for a second book, you don't rewrite nuttin' till you have an agreement in hand. Almost all contracts that have second book options only require an outline, or a detailed synopsis or some other abbreviated format. They have a certain period of time (30-60 days) to say yes/no and then you are free to show it around and collect better offers if you don't like what they threw down.
Right now though, you need to ask your agent what the fuck she expects you to do while she's off work.
You can't just boldly go ahead and do stuff or she IS legally entitled to money no matter what. And besides you don't want to come to blows with the new mum; you just want your book sold.
The Snarkling responds:
the reason I can't talk to my agent about this is that she's *literally* disappeared off the radar. She was due to go into hospital at the end of this month, but she just went silent in the middle of an email discussion, and since there's no response to emails or phonecalls at her address now I think she may have had to go in early, probably with no warning. I don't know what her original plans were for this period - she just said she would still be available on email as much as she could. So now I'm kind of stuck...All Hail the Snark!Clueless Author
ok, just on the off chance that she's dead (sadly this happens) or truly and completely incapacitated (this also happens) you need to wait for a little while before firing her.
Yes it sounds heartless to fire someone when they have an illness or a new baby or something along those lines, but this is a business. Your job is not to provide her with income. Your job is to write. Hers is to sell.
If she's made no arrangements for someone to call and let you know what is happening, you wait a decent amount of time (a month) and ring again. Send a letter AND an email. You don't threaten her. You just inquire how she's doing and who's handling the biz in her absence.
This is a business. As a woman in business I expect to be treated with respect. Part of that is that I will not treat my business like a personal fiefdom, with people on hold till I can get back to work. If a man did this when he had a heart attack, you'd expect someone would let you know he was ill, and what to expect next.
Yes shit happens. REALLY BAD STUFF. That doesn't mean you don't deal with it. And if you don't, it's not unreasonable to expect your clients will make arrangements to go elsewhere.