Wednesday, July 11, 2007

this guy is for real

For anyone not familiar with the expression "to have balls."

Some details mangled for sake of anonymity.

A couple of months ago, I bought US rights to a history of the Soviet Union from [what we shall call] Flower Books, an imprint of [the imaginary conglomerate] Carper Holland. There is a long and convoluted back story to the eventual acquisition of rights and suffice it to say I would rather not overburden you with the gruesome and painful details.

But after months of heavy negotiating (at which point I didn't even want to do the book anymore, because it needed serious editorial work and the contract process had made the whole effort seem colossally not worth it) the deal finally came through. And the author, who had been excruciatingly unavailable for months and months, suddenly popped out of the woodwork and began emailing me every day with other books he wanted to work on right now (one particularly memorable proposal: A TRAVELER'S HISTORY OF YUGOSLAVIA. I'm disinclined to point out the obvious for my readership).

In addition, he has had the Carper Holland foreign rights manager send me every backlist title he's ever written that no one has bought US rights for (quite a few--he's very prolific and rather a bad writer who tends towards topics already covered). None of them have interested me at all except the one I initially bid on, which I did largely from Robert's recommendation (we were both interested in the topic, to be fair).

I've been deflecting the option proposals, since they're mostly hooey, but I've been doing so politely. When he pitched a new idea for a book that is essentially an outgrowth of the one we bought, I wrote him back saying I would bring it up in ed meeting if we did a thorough write-up of the idea and the content and how it differs significantly from the book we already bought. He sends me said write-up (and informs me there are some typos; he orders me to fix them by hand myself). To my eyes, they're exactly the same. I am 100% not interested in editing or publishing a sequel.

"Reply to me with your offer by July 2nd," the author says authoritatively in his email. "I'm going into Carper Holland that day to discuss my option possibilities and I'll need to be able to tell them this option isn't available to them before I go."

[...slimey, anyone? Left a bad taste in my mouth, at least.]

By the way--all this before the contract for the first book is at all signed (never mind before we have a sales track for the first book).

Robert gives me an easy out--he points out that this author still has an option with Carper Holland. In good faith we can say we will not even consider the proposal until Carper has been offered the chance and has refused it. Awesome.

I write the author this news. The next day, he replies, subject: HURRAY!!!, the following:

"Great news--there is nothing now stopping you from taking on the sequel. Yesterday I visited Carper, where my editor's assistant informed me that Flower Books is closing and thereby unable to acquire any new titles. At my request, she is writing a letter to say as much. I am sure my former editor will be delighted when I tell him I am now your author.

Please send the contract to my summer address. Make all advances and royalties payable to my wife."

Ballsy. Ordering me to send him a contract for a book I haven't even brought to editorial meeting, never mind haven't offered on.

I chose not to reply.

The day after that, another email issueth forth:

"Moonrat--this is to let you know that the promised letter from Carper Holland arrived thsi morning. It explains how Flower Books "will no longer be operating as an originating publisher" and therefore won't be able to consider my new book and encourages me to seek a new publisher.

I well send you a photocopy of the letter when I return the signed contract for my sequel. Perhaps you can tell me how soon the contract will arrive, as we are planning a tour of the Greek islands at the beginning of August."


I did respond to this one:

"You seem to have misunderstood. We have not in fact made an offer on your book. Carper is a longtime business partner of ours and we are unwilling to even consider the proposal until we have written confirmation from Carper that they have rejected your option proposal."

In retrospect, I fear I might have been too polite.

I hate that he thinks he can bully me into sending him a contract, and I suddenly have to sit here and think about how many other contracts I might have been bullied into.


angelle said...

whoa. that's crazy. i'm sort of impressed though, by the guy's guts. that's the sort of thing that *might* even work sometimes, or at least get him so far. that's the kind of thing i could never do. i lack balls. i don't even know if i have ovaries. he's pushing the envelope, hoping you won't stop him, or maybe make some sort of mistake that might be captured in print. don't let him bully you. but still, i'm impressed by the balls. that, or he's just entirely delusional and really believed that you loved his idea as much as he obviously does and that this was always just a question of executional details.

moonrat said...

nah. i get the distinct impression he's entirely with it and was trying to trick/bully.

Space Alien said...

That man is a money-grubbing, manipulative freak.

Ditch the sucker's first book if the contract for that isn't even signed yet. I wouldn't want to deal with this guy for a second.

If he keeps pressing you, keep all his emails, and your responses and good tabs on this guy. He seems like the type who might claim you "mislead" him, if you understand what I'm saying.

He reminds me of that guy who hit my car. :( You know?

Call me.