Normally, deal announcements are made, and everyone says conga-rats, and we draw a blackout curtain over the fiddly, sweaty bits of What Happens, and Why. However, since the process may be of academic-or-otherwise interest to some of you, I hereby lay bare my portion of it... (Agent Jenn and Editor Jen may share their takes, as they see fit/are comfortable with)
This project was born, quite literally, during an e-mail exchange between myself and Madame Agent about a food and wine expo I was trying to coax her into attending. I said "Me, I'm thinking of a way to make it into a tax-deductible work expense. I wonder if there's room in the genre for a cooking or wine-based fantasy?"
Madame Agent responded: "Cooking or wine-based fantasy... I am *so* there. Write that for me."
I laughed. I had Some Thoughts. It sort of, um, grew from there.
Fast-forward a few months (or click on the posts tagged "TPEMB").
In February 2008, Madame Agent sent the initial submission out to four editors, each of them on my "first choice" list. There were other houses where this would have done well and I would have been quite pleased with landing there, but each of these four had something particular that I wanted for my book -- enthusiasm for a sub-genre that's not currently hot-hot-hot, enough knowledge [and humor] to appreciate the premise, and the ability to kick my ass into making this project FABulous.
One of those editors backed out relatively early, saying that they liked the idea but not enough to offer on it. Time passed (about a month, I think). Then Editor 2 came back with an offer that, while not enough to take me off the table, showed enough enthusiasm to make me happy. But there were still two editors who hadn't responded.
Editor 2 said she didn’t want to get into an auction situation, but was willing to give us the time needed to hear back from the others, without pressure. Fair enough.
Everyone was at London Book Fair, so it took a few days. Editor 3 came back with a no. Editor 4 came back with an offer that was in some ways comparable to Editor 2's offer, in some ways better, and in some ways worse.
At that point, the flailing began. On my part -- Agent Jenn does not flail. Evah. (at least, not in public)
And here we draw back the blackout curtain, and talk about WHY one offer is chosen over another -- at least, this offer, in this instance.
Note: I was already under contract for another series. This gave me a flexibility other writers may not always have -- I could choose the best offer, not just the one that offered the most money up-front. Because, hard though it is to remember in the heady moments of “offer! I can has offer!” – money isn’t always everything. I (you) needed to be thinking about my (your) career.
So I drew up a list, on a piece of scrap paper, to compare the offers.
Both sides had enthusiasm for the project. Both sides had comparable money and royalties, overall. One had offered for all the proposed books, one had offered for fewer but more $$ per-book. Neither was committing to format (and I was fine with that – it’s a decision that will be made according to the market, not to pander to my ego).
So what was the difference? Expectations.
Editor 2 would do a very good job publishing this project. The imprint is strong, they know the packaging needed, and have a sales force that can get out there and get the books on shelves… within the genre.
Editor 4 was offering a less established platform, but a more ambitious outlook, with the potential upside of reaching beyond genre shelving – and readers.
Editor 2 offered very little risk – I could practically chart exactly what the books would do, within a certain range. Editor 4? More risk, and, with the fewer books, less commitment (if the first book took a while to take off, a second book would suffer. If there were three or more books, the publisher would have more reason to push book two and allow time for sales to build). But the offer from Editor 4 also had that possible payoff that was much to be desired, in terms of expanding my readership.
I was uncertain, and thought out loud to both Madame Agent and a few trusted advisors about back-end monies, long-term committments, and publisher expectations, and thus decided on what I needed to be satisfied.
That's when Agent Jenn did her Thing (and is why you NEED a good agent), bringing my needs and Editor 4's offer into agreement.
I gave up stuff to achieve this, yes. But we met halfway, and that's what a good negotiation does, gives everyone enough of what they want, at a price they can accept.
Do I regret saying no to Editor 2? Absolutely. Editor 2 came to the table first, and had great enthusiasm, and it would have been a good fit. But there will be other projects, and Editor 2 understood my decision, and knows that she will remain on my 'first choice' list for new projects, too.
Meanwhile, I am amused as hell to be working again with Jen Heddle (hereinafter known as “Heddle” or “JH” because it’s too damn confusing otherwise), who not so many years ago was my assistant -- if I become annoyed at her editorial direction, I have only myself to blame (and yes, that is breaking my brain just a bit. But in a good way). I know for a fact that she takes no prisoners, and I'm looking forward to that. An editor who will kick your ass is an editor to be treasured.
So. Now I have to balance my brain between an urban, contemporary, romantic fantasy, and a much more sprawling, second-world, decidedly UNromantic fantasy. Both of which require completely different voices, world-building, and research.
Bigger boat. Yes.
Also, more caffeine.
- on writing: thinking about more than money