Oh! Oh! Oh!

If you didn't know, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog got hacked (don't try to go there, it tries to give you viruses). So, she's put her latest post up here. (ETA: And now that site isn't working. The post is available here and here, and if the problems keep on happening, it's going to be available a hell of a lot of other places as well. EATA: Including here.)

And it's a doozy! She's talking about royalty statements, because she's one of the folks who realized last year that her e-book royalty reporting must be hugely off (of course I can't link back to her old posts right now, but since she's selling self-published stuff as well, she's got an idea of how much she should sell, and they're saying she's only selling a fraction of that). So everybody got upset.

And guess what one agency did? (I'm going to quote at length, in case she gets hacked again):

The agents disappointed me the most. Dean personally called an agent friend of ours whose agency handles two of the biggest stars in the writing firmament. That agent (having previously read my blog) promised the agency was aware of the problem and  was “handling it.”

Two weeks later, I got an e-mail from a writer with that agency asking me if I knew about the new e-book addendum to all of her contracts that the agency had sent out. The agency had sent the addendum with a “sign immediately” letter. I hadn’t heard any of this. I asked to see the letter and the addendum.

This writer was disturbed that the addendum was generic. It had arrived on her desk—get this—without her name or the name of the book typed in. She was supposed to fill out the contract number, the book’s title, her name, and all that pertinent information.

I had her send me her original contracts, which she did. The addendum destroyed her excellent e-book rights in that contract, substituting better terms for the publisher.  Said publisher handled both of that agency’s bright writing stars.

So I contacted other friends with that agency. They had all received the addendum. Most had just signed the addendum without comparing it to the original contract, trusting their agent who was (after all) supposed to protect them.

Wrong-o. The agency, it turned out, had made a deal with the publisher. The publisher would correct the royalties for the big names if agency sent out the addendum to every contract it had negotiated with that contract. The publisher and the agency both knew that not all writers would sign the addendum, but the publisher (and probably the agency) also knew that a good percentage of the writers would sign without reading it.

In other words, the publisher took the money it was originally paying to small fish and paid it to the big fish—with the small fish’s permission.

Yes, I’m furious about this, but not at the publisher. I’m mad at the authors who signed, but mostly, I’m mad at the agency that made this deal. This agency had a chance to make a good decision for all of its clients. Instead, it opted to make a good deal for only its big names.

Just infuriating!

It's a pretty well-established fact in economics circles that agents and the people they work for don't actually have financial interests that are in perfect alignment. In publishing, that gap is more like a yawning chasm--an agency needs to protect its relationships with publishers and its bestselling authors. Everyone else (as you see!) can go take a hike--and that especially includes new and unknown writers.