We had a rather dramatic ending to our work week--we fired a client. Hate that.
Here's what happened:
In the "old days," agents made several hard copies of their clients' manuscripts which they would then mail to eager publishers. Some editors, publishers and agents still work that way. But the convenience of emailing manuscripts is catching on. Now, most of our editors prefer that we email manuscripts to them--usually in RTF (Rich Text Format). So, when we take on new clients, we ask for both hard copy and in an electronic RTF version.
Sometimes editors give us the option of sending either way. We prefer the email version for so many reasons--the salvation of trees, the elimination of many extra steps, plus saving ourselves the cost (constantly escalating) of making copies. So, whenever possible, we email manuscripts to publishers.
I explained this a few weeks ago to a client and asked her to please email her manuscript in RTF. She told me she was "technically challenged" and would have to get help. For the past two weeks we've been emailing back and forth as she and her helpers have been trying to send the manuscript via email. I learned on Friday, after she sent a PDF version, that it was not the technical aspects that bothered the author. It was the fear that editors would steal her work if they had it in an electronic format. I explained that this is standard practice now in publishing. We are working with professional editors and publishers whose ethics forbid such plagiarism. She consulted two "experts" and decided that her work would be in jeopardy if it was emailed to publishers. (Her "experts" are people who are technically savvy, not publishing pros.)
After several weeks of haggling, I told her I was releasing her from our agency contract. I love her book, but it's just not worth the fighting. I fear this kind of stubbornness would replay itself in many other ways during our relationship and life is just too short. We are in the trenches every day with editors and we resent being told how to do our business.
Compare this attitude with our other clients who simply convert their Word document into RTF and send it on to us. The author/agent contract is a collaborative dance. We respect the author's right to question our techniques, and we try to be as flexible as possible. But, the business is changing under our feet. And we pride ourselves on our work to keep up with these changes. It just makes us nuts to be second-guessed on standard publishing policy.
Am I crazy? How do you feel about sending electronic versions of your work to publishers before you have a contract?
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