Kage Baker’s standard response to any query regarding payments, royalties, e-books, audio books and contracts was always the same.
“I’m an idiot, and I have no idea,” she would say, grinning. “That’s why I have an agent.”
Her back up plan was to hand me her contracts before she signed them, and ask me to see if there was anything odd in them. That’s if she signed them at all; she was liable, when time was tight, to simply direct her agent to sign them in her stead. Because that’s why she had an agent.
And a good agent she is, too. I inherited her, and she has been as good to me as she was to Kage. Linn is an enormous part of how Nell Gwynne II got completed at all - she never gave up on me, defended me from non-supportive publishers, and has encouraged me to keep at the writing ever since.
However, Linn doesn’t live in some blissful fairyland where nothing ever goes wrong. She’s a real-live person with, you know, real-life stuff happening to her. Bad eyesight, and cranky office help, and a little dog – not that Wiley is a problem, but he does require time and attention. Anyway … things happen. Shit, especially, happens. And since publishing is not so much an industry as a commensal life-form of differentiated but symbiotic organisms, what goes around doesn’t even have time to come around. It hits everyone involved right in the face at once.
It appears that when the TOC and contracts for the last collection – In The Company of Thieves, out of Tachyon (publisher #1) – was received, reviewed and processed through my agent’s office, it included a piece that was still under contract to another publisher (publisher #2): the reprint and e-book rights were still owned by publisher #2. Who just recently noticed what has occurred with a book that has been available (and selling) in hard cover and Kindle editions since November 2013.
I imagine many of you, Dear Readers, have copies of this book. Don’t fret, if you do (and don’t tell me if you don’t, please). Just enjoy them. At the moment it looks as if you may have an edition that will never exist in just that form again …
I’m still unclear on exactly everything that is going to happen – because I seem to be the closest to a calm person involved in this, which is not a terrific situation – but apparently what is left unsold will be recalled. If the book is then re-issued, it will have a different story in place of the currently offending one.
Kage always liked the stories about gypsy horse traders. You know, you buy a horse from the nice colourful Rom salesman; but in a night or two, the horse escapes and vanishes. He hasn’t been stolen – he’s gotten out on his own and trotted off to make his fortune. Which happens to be with his original owner … he’s a homing horse, as it were. Kage compared selling all the different possible rights to a story to this business, in that you can happily – and legally – sell the same story over and over and over …
But you can’t sell the same rights. Not to two different people. Unless, of course, you do so by mistake; but then the person who gets holding the empty stall is not the unlucky second owner: it’s you. In this case … Publisher #2 needs recompense. Publisher #1 needs a story he can print. I really, really want to have this title still available to be sold …
Hence the recall/replace/reprint plan; although I suspect I am the main proponent of this idea, Linn is supportive of it as well. Thus I have spent this afternoon combing through Kage’s back list, to see if there is anything that could match an anticipated hole of approximately 25,000 words. If I am lucky, there will be another edition of In the Company of Thieves ( a title that now makes me wince), but slightly different. Book Mark 1.5. Edition B 1/6. The alternate history version.
In the meantime, Dear Readers, hang on to your original copies. They may be slightly enhanced in collectibility. At the very least, they can serve as a bad example. Because errors will be made, and shit can happen to anyone.
And it could be worse. I don’t have to face it alone.
That’s why I have an agent.