I warn you, I’m feeling crabby this week. Christmas is in ten days and I’m woefully behind on my shopping and general preparedness. Sure, I’m not like Jane who’s finished buying everyone’s holiday present by July 4th weekend, but I like to give myself a little leeway and not have to deal with the last minute rush to buy, wrap, and decorate. This year, I’m so swamped, I can’t even run out during lunch to visit the shops in Union Square Park.
I know, I know, I should be grateful that business is booming at a typically dead time of year. And in theory I am. Unfortunately, I’ve been busy with a slew of difficult contract negotiations that have me yanking at my already unmanageable hair. In general, difficult contracts don’t make me all that crabby. The difference right now is that the negotiations are unnecessarily difficult—lots of lawyerly requests for language that does nothing but overgild the lily without adding anything of substance to the deal. Or, worse yet, a negotiation that has taken weeks of pointless back and forth for something we advised our client to walk away from in the first place.
To be clear, we don’t often advise our clients to walk away from any deal that has the potential to make money for them. That would go against their interests and ours. But we draw the line at allowing our clients to be treated unfairly or exposed to onerous terms and liabilities without a strong word of caution and a push in the direction of “run, don’t walk away from this deal.” It pains us when our advice is not heeded because, usually, we’re right. And even when the most dire consequences do not materialize, a process that starts out as contentious and unreasonable usually continues to be so up until the bitter end…of the book project that is.
So, while we like to keep our clients busy and happy and in funds for their own Christmas shopping, sometimes the only thing that makes sense to us is for them to walk away no matter how tempting it might be to take a bad deal.
Here’s my question to you guys: If your agent is suggesting that you walk away from an offer—whether it’s a publishing offer from a house that wants your first born in exchange for print publication of your work or a chance to collaborate with a celebrity housewife on her juicy tell-all, say— and you are not in desperate financial straits that leave you without choices, would you listen and take his/her advice?
P.S. Boy, you guys really don’t have any interest in headlines, do you? I’m gonna call it a tie between Tamara and Sarah. Send me your addresses at firstname.lastname@example.org for your prizes, ladies.