So you can read my books

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


There are truisms scattered all through your psychology training as a counselor. One of them is :

"Sometimes you get what you ask for, but not what you wanted."

As in a husband yelling at his wife during a fight, "Would you just shut up!"

She shuts up all right. But the anger, the hurt is still there simmering in her eyes. What the husband wanted was the gleam of love he first saw in her eyes in that intense rapture of dating ... to feel that HE was loved like that once more.

He got what he asked for, but not what he wanted.

Another truism was painfully brought to my mind today during my lunch with my best friend, Sandra. Like me she has a Master's degree in Psychology. She's married to a psychologist. She has an IQ of 154. She's a sharp cookie. And her truism discussed during our lunch was :

"Sometimes what you ask for is not really what you want."

I was relating my concern about several veteran agents bringing up hourly rates last week and reading fees this week.

"Sandra, that would financially devastate most struggling writers. Why would veteran businessmen ask for something that would do that to potential clients? I mean why not ask for a hike in their commissions instead?"

Her face grew sad. She cocked her head at me, mumbling low and motioning me to lean forward. I did.

She thumped me on the forehead with her forefinger.

"OW! Why did you do that for?"

"Because you've been trained to know better."

"Better than to trust a friend?"

"No, writer boy. Better than to accept words at face value."


She rolled her eyes. "You and I both took the course "The Psychology of Negotiation."

"Yeah. So?"

She sighed as if confronted with a slow-witted child. "So you remember that example they gave us :

A labor union wants Policy X. But do they ask for it. No. They ask for Policy Y which would cripple the company. The company shrieks bloody murder."

She munched a bit of her salad. "The union insists, 'We need Policy Y. What else can we do?"

She smirked, "The company goes, 'Well, how about Policy X. We could afford that. And you would still get your money.' And the Union moans, 'Oh, I guess you talked us into it.'"

"You mean the agents really wanted a hike in commissions all along?"

Sandra sighed and whispered something too low for me to make out. I leaned forward to hear better. She thumped me on the forehead again.

"Ow! Would you stop doing that? That hurts."

"I was trying to jar that brain inside there a bit. C'mon, Roland, use it."

Rubbing my throbbing forehead, I muttered, "I have. The agents say they are underpaid for all they do."

Sandra snorted, "Everyone is underpaid for what they do. It's called life."

"Well, the agents say that reading fees will winnow out the not-serious and the not-ready writers."

"Oh, give me a break, Roland. You and I deal with dreamers all day. No amount of money is going to put off someone all fired up with a dream, and you know it."

"I know how I hate form rejections, Sandra. The agents say that if they charge a reading fee, they'll be able to afford writing personalized rejections."

She motioned with her finger for me to move closer, and instinctively, I did. You guessed it. She thumped me again. Harder.

"Ow!! Would you PLEASE stop doing that!"

"Idiot boy, you know what I always say : usually people are only as good as their options. Why should I try to hawk stories if I can make a comfortable living rejecting them and giving a line of bull why?"

"Not every agent's a crook," I grumbled, rubbing my sore forehead.

Her fingers writhed like she wanted to throttle me. "I don't think any of my customers are crooks either. But I still lock up my store every night. You and I lock up our cars and homes when we leave them, too."

"Why should agents work for free?"

She motioned with her thumb and forefinger. I edged back. I learn slow. But I learn.

"They're in sales, Roland. Jeez, you were in sales when you had a bookstore. I'm in sales with my dress shop. Real Estate agents. Car salesmen. They work for commission."

She rubbed her forehead as if she'd been thumping it instead of mine. "God, Roland, those of us in sales work our butts off. Sometimes you roll seven's. Sometimes you roll snake-eyes. It's the nature of the beast."

I sighed, "I guess I'm a little naive."

She snorted, and I continued, "But I thought they were being upfront about wanting hourly rates."

"These are agents, right? Who deal with lawyers all the time? Give me a break. And I'm sure they've dealt with plumbers and electricians."

I shook my head. "I've been writing in comments in several blogs that we should increase the commission the agents are getting."

She rubbed her temples. "How come I have the headache when I've been thumping you? You're sure you have the same IQ as mine?"

"Einstein couldn't get the same color sock on both feet."

"Listening to you, Roland, and I can believe that. Want my last tomatoe wedge?"


I leaned forward to get it. And you guessed it. Thumped again.

As I rubbed my forehead and ground my teeth, she smirked, "Next time remember your psychology classes."
So what do you think, everyone? Not about how gullible I am with Sandra. What do you think about the agents raising the subjects of hourly rates and reading fees? Do you think they really want a hike in their commission rates? Despite Sandra, I like to think they are being upfront.

But I'm part Lakota, and you know us. We signed all those treaties with the Great White Father. You know the ones : "As long as the grass grows and the waters flow ...."
And it is the beginning of the end :


  1. they suck and I'm publishing via Amazon e-books now - screw the lot of them ARRGGHH!

  2. I'd say that it might be a mix of the two; some agents might actually be honest about the fees, and others might be trying to get a bigger comission. Or not. Or perhaps. Maybe we should all follow Nicole's route and go Amazon.

  3. Guess they will have to take that up with the agent's association (name of which slips my mind) which states that they cannot charge a fee.

  4. ...I don't speak of it much, but I was once agented, and now I am not. Never will the day arrive where you'll hear of me blasting the professionalism of an agent. What they do is a necessary evil, one that can and often does generate prosperity with the proper manuscript. In my case however, the investment outweighed the results. And as the great Forest Gump once said, "That's all I have to say about that."

  5. Nicole, Diane,Golden Eagle, and Elliot : Thanks for writing me. Agents may be forcing us into the ebook route. Victoria Strauss wrote that back when reading fees were common, they averaged $150 to $250. Now, it would be at least $250.

    If you just approached 20 agents in the course of a year {that's less than 2 a month), you would have to spend $5,000. I cannot believe agents honestly think that a valid request. But you can see what kind of money the agents would pull in without having to make any sales.

    And sadly, all this talk may just be the agents' way of preparing struggling writers for the change ready to be voted in by their association, allowing reading fees and hourly rates.

  6. I like Sandra. She is darned smart. I have a couple thoughts. (as always)

    agents ARE doing more work, but so are AUTHORS. Stealing from the impoverished to pay the lower middle class is NOT the answer.


    SOME book deals make EVERYBODY really fat. Why not create an incentive THERE... You get me a six figure book deal and you can have 20%. Five figures, 15%. Four figures, make it ten. That way, if the agent works their butt off and finds you a better deal, you both win...

    Another suggestion I've seen, and I think it has merit, is reducing advances, because the ones that DON'T PAY OUT cost the whole industry--especially those giant ones. (then again this is contrary to my first option)

    I ALSO think SOME authors go in with a REALLY DONE, ready book, and SOME authors go in with a book that needs a fair amount of cleaning. I don't really mind an agent saying: I can edit this for you, but it would mean 20% instead of 15%, or you can go hire an independent editor and come back, and THEN it is the 15%--so the agent puts in more time and energy in making it good, they get more out of it... but the author is ALSO FREE to go find it at a cheaper rate, or at least a flat fee.

    I DON'T like options where an agent gets paid whether it sells or not. it's a disincentive to do what they do. But I don't mind tying the rate of the commission to their success at doing their job, because then by definition, they only win if they also make darned sure I really win.

  7. Ha! I have several passages in my book that have my characters behaving the same way. Well...punches to the arm rather than thumps to the head, but other than that, the same. Nice to know it reflects the real world. :)

    As for fees/commissions rising, agents aren't the only over-worked, under-paid people in the country. There are many others, writers included, yet agents are the only ones who would benefit from these things. I think not.

  8. I like Sandra. But I don't think the thumps actually worked, Roland. Here's one more.


    P.S. Thanks for the trailer! Who's that doing I'm On Fire?