Sunday, March 26, 2006

The First Rule of Acquisition

I'm trying something different this week. I generally feel I do my best scribbling first thing in the morning, but since Feedblitz seems to generate the subscription feed at around midnight EST, I'm going to try blogging late at night in hopes of getting the feed in sync with the blog. So much for the idea that technology should adapt to people, huh?

In the meantime, Gir writes -- oh, the details of the pitch don't matter, what matters is the final question:
Does this seem like a good deal?

At the risk of seeming hasty and judgmental: no, it does not.

Look, folks, let's all say this together this time, so we all remember it: The money always flows to the writer. Yes, it's okay to sell work for chump change in hopes of breaking into a market (although it usually doesn't pay off). Yes, it's even okay to give work away for free to get attention. Yes, in a trade where success is a direct result of mindshare, a good agent can really make your career.

But anyone who wants money from you in advance is not an agent; he or she is a parasite feeding on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers. A legitimate agent:

1. Makes his or her living by earning a commission on the sales he or she helps you make to publishers.

2. Does not get paid until after you close the sale.

3. Takes his or her payment as a percentage of the money you receive from the publisher, when you receive it from the publisher.

Anyone who wants to get money from you and before you make a sale -- and especially anyone who will only promise in return to "expose your work" to "leading industry decision makers" -- well, let's just say that you should examine the offer very, very, very carefully. And yes, I know there are such things as professional publicists, and they can do wonderful things for some people. But unless you're already famous in another field, or at least Jenna Bush's ex-lover and have the pornographic home videos to prove it, you have to ask yourself: are you really the sort of person who would attract the unsolicited attention of such an agent/publicist?

And would they really be likely to contact you by email? And for that matter, would they be likely to contact you by what appears to be a spam email, addressed to "undisclosed recipients?"