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Thread: [Agent] Mathew Ferguson

  1. #401
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Mathew, you have misunderstood me. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I have read every comment made on this thread as it's grown, I just didn't go back through it to find the specific comments you made as I'm trying to get some work done today, and don't have time. So please don't feel that I'm not reading your comments, I am, every single word. I feel like you're not reading my posts properly, to be honest--but perhaps I'm not being clear. Again.

    I don't doubt that you have the experience that you claim. I don't doubt that you've been involved in deals for licensed books, picture books, activity books and so on. What I doubt is that that prepares you to act as a literary agent to people who write the many sorts of fiction that you ask for on your website.

    And you might "fully expect" all your sales to be standard sales: but as most of your experience seems to be pretty non-standard, why is that?

    As for you not being a confrontational person: I disagree. I've read your comments here, I've read your comments on YouWriteOn, and I've read your comments on Authonomy. You're frequently confrontational when people dare to disagree with you. As you've quite nicely demonstrated here.
    Where did you get the idea that most of my experience seems to be non-standard?

    I love the "confrontational person" angle. It is very similar to writing "you've always got to have the last word, don't you?". If I answer then you are right. So I must be silent and each time I answer you, you become more right.

    Let me be very clear: you can disagree with me. People can. Hooray for disagreement. If you think I'm wrong about something I've said, come out and say so and tell me why. That's all I ask: the why. Not vague statements about "everyone knows that editors talk to each other". No often repeated myths like "agents really do work horrendous hours" without evidence.

    I'm open to being convinced.

  2. #402
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
    Dude, you are so not comme il faut.

    Certainly for both genre fiction and scholarly publication, editors and agents absolutely do know each other, they do gossip, they do pass on the horror stories, and yes, even titles and contacts.

    They meet at trade shows, and call or email when they're going to be in New York, San Francisco, or Chicago.

    Even if you've never been inside an editorial office in your life, you'd know that much just by following the posts of agents and editors here, on Twitter, and on their blogs.

    I've been picked up at the friggin' airport by editors I don't even know, and given a ride to my hotel and dinner, because I did rights acquisitions for a competing editor who thought her editor friend and I should meet.

    And yes, the editor who picked me up at the airport introduced me to people she knew--agents, and editors, and authors. It's all about the six degrees of separation. Agents, in particular, have to be well-connected, and known, and trusted, in order to have their calls taken.

    Half the job of an agent has to do with public presentation--of the agent, and their clients' books.

    And you know what? Everybody has war stories about the one that got away, the book they knew they didn't want, but that they knew another agent or editor would, the book they tried really hard to get at auction, but missed. Sure, it's competitive, but again, for agents particularly, you can't afford to alienate other agents--or editors.
    I've passed on books to rival publishing companies and editors because they were more suited for it too. I have friends in different publishing companies and yes on nights out the editor from X is making out with a designer from Y and everyone is getting drunk on Publisher Z's bar tab.

    It is somewhat true, I said. Not completely. Not totally. While there were friendships and emails and sometimes gossip there was also the knowledge that we were working for competing companies. Some stuff we couldn't talk about. And sometimes a person would vanish because they had been fired or quit and their replacement wouldn't talk to anyone.

    I've also been at the office when a person rings up and says "Are you the editor for the new cooking book?" They don't want to speak to them - they want to confirm we are making one! And the foolish girl didn't block her number so after I ask her who she is and she hangs up, I call back the next day after blocking my number and what a surprise, she is an editor from one of our rivals. And what a surprise, she's digging.

    The smaller the niche the tighter the connections but the churn isn't something I just made up.

  3. #403
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    Mat, I haven't forgotten your post. I've been somewhat busy with writing deadlines, a job search, and various other obligations. Sure I could dash something off, but I want to review posts and make sure I articulate my concerns clearly.

  4. #404
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    Quote Originally Posted by HapiSofi View Post
    Not permanently, they don't. And if they develop a solid working relationship -- there's that word again -- with a subagent, they'll have strong motives to follow that subagent when they strike out on their own.

    Note on the following: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not an agent. Most of my experience is in an immediately adjacent area of publishing. I believe I know what I'm talking about; but if an experienced agent turns up to tell me I've gotten something wrong, I'll gladly accept their correction.

    In general, I think our single biggest lack at AW is having experienced agents active in threads that aren't primarily about them. Andy Zack can only do so much.

    It would be easier to entice working agents to hang out here if they weren't so busy all the time.

    So:
    Wow, birth control for agents. Is that actually enforceable? Having a long-term subagent leave and take part of the client list with them is one of the normal ways agencies reproduce. This is sometimes accompanied by fierce little dust-ups and wrangling. If the law were as cut and dried as you describe it, those dust-ups wouldn't happen. The parent agency would take it to court, and they'd win.

    Let's consider this. The parent agency can't plead that NCs are necessary to protect trade secrets -- agenting is a service, not a technology -- and their client lists aren't confidential. Absent other issues, NCs aren't supposed to simply keep people from doing the work they've been trained to do. Legitimate restraint of trade agreements have to give the non-competing party some valuable consideration, which in this case would be on-the-job training; but that doesn't stand if they permanently prohibit you from using that training for anyone's benefit but their own.

    It's useful to think of this in terms of who's providing the service. What NCs legitimately do is keep an ancillary employee from using their position to sweet-talk a bunch of major clients into switching over to a competing agency. However, if a subagent has for some time been doing all the work of agenting an author, with little or no assistance or input from the parent agency, and the author feels that his or her relationship is with the subagent, the agency's in a poor position to object if they decamp. A non-competition agreement is not a promise of unlimited personal servitude.

    That said, a year or two of work won't make you a full-fledged agent. But if you're doing valuable work, an agency can't keep paying you a pittance without risking losing you to the competition.

    One more thing. You mentioned agreements saying that you wouldn't represent anyone who had submitted work to the agency. The point of those is to keep agency employees from nominally rejecting an obvious fireball of a submission, then immediately switching agencies and snagging that same author and manuscript on behalf of the competition. If an author was turned down in the normal course of things, and later submitted work to someone who'd been working at the agency on that previous occasion, such agreements wouldn't apply.
    The contracts stopping sub-agents taking clients with them are generally accepted to be illegal restraint of trade. The original agency also knows it looks like them throwing a tanty.

    I'm not saying the law is cut-and-dried. There are plenty of sub-agents who strike out on their own and take their writers with them. The writers always (should) have a clause enabling them to terminate the agent agreement and they will absolutely follow a good agent. But there are plenty who have very strong contracts and lawyers who keep smiling and big clients who are worth a big chunk of money to fight for. And even if they can't keep the client they can sue the new agent into non-existence.

    The agency agreements I've read have shown both commissions that cut out entirely when the agents leaves and life-of-the-deal commissions that drop to some set percentage. They are always filled with all kinds of scary stuff that has never really been tested at court.

    I didn't say I wouldn't represent someone who had submitted work to the agency. Not sure where you got that from.

    I said that there were clauses that specifically prohibited agents who left their agency from approaching anyone the agency had rejected in the past year. This was for the reason you mentioned - rejecting an excellent manuscript so they can take it on themselves. One of the contracts I've seen was very particular on this point: no client who had submitted anything in the past year.

    But again, that only works sometimes. In the editor/publisher/sub-agent job you can tell when they are going to leave because they stop turning up with new cool things because they are keeping them for the next job.

  5. #405
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    Quote Originally Posted by priceless1 View Post
    That has absolutely not been my experience. I call up editor friends all the time to do exactly the things you say we don't do.
    Ah, you who forgets that I've been an editor too.

    You do keep some secrets to yourself though, right? When you've got that hot new thing in your hands and you start to get that feeling ... this is going to be a book ... when you know those editor friends at other companies would take it too -- don't you hold it close?

    I'm not talking about freelance editors or editor friends who used to work in-house but now don't. I'm talking about a direct counterpart at a rival publisher.

    The big boys don't play so nicely I'm afraid.

  6. #406
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathewferguson View Post
    I've negotiated many standard publishing contracts.
    Mat, does your knowledge of contracts come from your time at Funtastic?

  7. #407
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathewferguson View Post
    Where did you get the idea that most of my experience seems to be non-standard?
    From your own comments in this thread, in which you mention that you've written activity-books, negotiated deals for illustrators, and worked in licensing. None of that is standard book publishing in my neck of the woods.

  8. #408
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    As for agents not taking their clients with them when they move agency: if that's the case, how come so many writers moved to the new agency when many of the agents at the UK's PFD left and opened up shop as United Agents a year or so ago?

    I've seen contracts which place authors firmly as clients of the individual agent, rather than of the agency: the agent then has a separate contract with the agency regarding how the nitty-gritty of business works. If an agent negotiates a deal for a book then that contract might well remain with the original agency if the agent moves to a new home and takes her clients with her; and it almost certainly will if the writer finds herself a new agent. But it's very odd to suggest that agents don't take clients with them when they move house. It happens all the time.

  9. #409
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    [delurking]

    Part of me is kinda cringing at the escalation. But a bigger part of me is wishing this kind of conversation would've happened here with the "agent" I signed with in 2007. Then I would've run very fast in the opposite direction and saved myself a year and a half of heartache.

    Thanks for winnowing, everyone.

    [relurking]

  10. #410
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    I'm more than cringing, I'm very alarmed.

    I'm not surprised Mathew's finding a bump in submissions since this thread started. What concerns me more is what that's saying about other people's perception of AW.

    We have already seen one post by a relative newbie expressing amazement at the kind of behaviour we're exhibiting here, and I rather doubt they're alone. I have one tiny example of my own in a friend to whom I recommended this site, but who unfortunately found this thread when searching for my name. She now calls this place 'Absolute Hate' and laughs at me for recommending it.

    So why should we care if a couple of people don't like us so much? Well, here are some reasons.

    The Beware and Background checks forum performs an invaluable service for writers, and I should be sorry to see its reputation damaged. At its best, members ask questions, the agent/publisher gives answers, we may comment on whether or not we agree or what our own experience shows, and that's it - the information is out there for writers to make up their own minds. The system works. I would beg any new writers out there NOT to judge AW or the B and B board by this one thread, because it is far from typical. Personal abuse and ad-hominem attacks are not normally allowed, and a degree of courtesy is (or used to be) almost always preserved.

    If you're new and in doubt, the best recommendation I can make is to look for the posts of a previous Moderator here, Victoria Strauss. She is a staff member at Writer Beware, very knowledgeable on the international as well as the US scene, and does not stoop to diatribes. She has posted on this thread, and I suggest you look for her comments.

    In terms of Mathew specifically, the facts you might need to consider are already here. If you're not sure how to interpret them (eg is a brand new agent a good thing? is it essential to have one who's already worked in an agency? etc) then I recommend this article by Victoria Strauss.

    Near the bottom comes this piece:

    If you're thinking of querying a new agent, make sure s/he has either solid commercial publishing experience (as an editor, say), or has previously worked for another (reputable) agency. Make sure also that s/he really is new--in business a year or less--and not just using a "new to the business" claim to cover up several years of pitiful track records (a common tactic among incompetent agents). As a general rule of thumb, a new agent should begin making sales within six months to a year of starting up.
    This is (in my opinion) very good advice. It is also measured and fair. It warns against the possible pitfalls of a new agent, but cites publishing experience as a viable alternative to agenting experience, and mentions the 'new agent making sales within six months to a year' as a 'general rule of thumb', not as an absolute directive.

    For me personally, AW works best when it gives clear, fair guidance, rather than making whopping great personal judgments. Frequently that is exactly what the B and B board actually does - this thread is an aberration, and should not be used to judge the whole.

    The Bewares and Background board enjoys sufficient respect for agents and publishers to answer questions here, and I would be sorry to see this stop. There may be new agents out there who see what has been done to Mathew and decide against entering the bear-pit at all. I couldn't blame them, but I think it makes the board less effective.

    The Bewares and Background board not only gives information, it helps educate new writers on how to make judgments for themselves - and I'd be sorry if we gave them the wrong impression of how this is done. What we are doing here is crying 'Wolf!' For instance, Mathew has been accused of lying, but there is no evidence in the thread to indicate this at all. A new writer reading this might think the 'You're lying!' is a standard attack on AW and can safely be ignored. Well, it can't. What if the next thread they look at is this one? What if they look at Tate Publishing, see the various shills being attacked and think it's just another case of beating up the outsider? There are people lying on that thread, and we need writers to know it. This thread is not helping them make those distinctions.

    The Bewares and Background board needs to be more responsible than any other on AW. We are not arguing over adverbs or prologues here, we are talking about people's whole careers and livelihoods. Extra care simply has to be taken, and unless a statement can be clearly supported by fact, it needs to be qualified as opinion. I know it's fun, that whole 'You're WRONG!!!' thing, but what is said on this board can't be solved by a quick clean-up into TIO or even a 'yeah, I got a bit carried away there' (though that would help!!). Damage done here is damage done forever - both to an ill-informed writer and to a misrepresented agent. There is an issue of simple humanity. For those not bothered by that, there's also an issue of libel...

    I like Mathew, but I hold no personal brief for him and from what he says about submissions he's not so far been damaged here. But I love AW and am concerned that we have. I know perfectly well these remarks would come better from someone a lot more senior than I, and have waited a long time in the hope that they would. I apologize if this was not my place.

    Louise

  11. #411
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    You're alarmed? There are over 21,000 registered members here on AW. Only 51 members have voiced their opinions here on this subject --that's far less than 1%. The other 99+% don't seem to have any interest in this thread --at all.

    Of that 1% -- 13 have commented once: 8 have two comments: 3 have three comments: 5 have four comments: hell, I'd be silly to go on with this. My point is --if anyone looks at something as innocuous as this debate and thinks it's over the top, or comes to the conclusion AW is nothing but a reservoir of hate...they're foolish. Try some of the other writer's forums if you want to see asshattery at its finest.

    Matt has made over 100 posts trying to defend his position. That's his right, of course, but it still reminds me of a television sitcom where the MC found a website dedicated to his radio show, couldn't contain himself from posting and ended up looking the fool when his fans bit his ass. Some people don't know when to quit when they're ahead. Most professional agents/editors/publishers are smart enough to realize that.

    Check the archives: there are far worse threads in B&BC than this one.

  12. #412
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    I was just wandering what happened to you this am. I wrote Miranda and had to go through two departments and Pa to ask for rights back, still not heard anything. Probably will not. Meanwhile, I am wishing you were my agent.

  13. #413
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    Wanda, perhaps you haven't been paying attention to the details of this thread. Mat lives in Australia. That means that when you are drinking your morning coffee and making posts on the forum, Mat is in bed. He's about eight time zones away from you. It would hardly be polite to expect him to get up in the middle of the night to reply to posts here at AW.

    He has also mentioned that he expects to represent his clients' works to Australian publishers, and he does not represent romance or erotica. So I'm not sure why you would wish him to be your agent.

  14. #414
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    dang I figured he was in bed now. maybe not. dang that's quite a time zone. no was just hoping that he would try something new out.

  15. #415
    but appreciated anyway... Unimportant's Avatar
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    Melbourne is 13 hours ahead of Georgia. So if it is 8:30 pm on Tuesday for you, it is 11:30 am on Wednesday for Mat.

    If you ever find yourself wondering in future why someone hasn't replied to your posts, it's easy to check their webpage and see where they live, and then look up the time zones on Google. And of course it's always good practice for a writer to do her own research :-)

  16. #416
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathewferguson View Post
    Wow, just when I think I've seen all I could of people who don't read, people who respond to summaries of posts rather than the actual post, people who can't seem to understand nuance ...
    Oh, the horror, the agony of it all, never before has mortal been made to suffer as you have -- nor so unjustly! Eheu, eheu.

    After hours in the office one evening, a colleague of mine got to doing that same routine, though unlike you she meant it to be funny. Her boss's boss walked up unnoticed behind her, patted her on the shoulder, and said "Better to suffer unjustly."

    You've got to get over this belief of yours that anyone who doesn't agree with you must not have read or understood what you wrote, since it necessarily assumes you know everything and are never wrong. I know you've been wondering why people keep crediting you with those assumptions. You need look no further.
    I clearly don't agree with the assumptions of what is required to be an agent.
    Yes. That's because you're wrong.
    There isn't clear agreement on it here either. One page says a footprint in publishing and work possibly as an editor or publisher. Another says the only way is to intern or work under an established agent.
    That's not disagreement. They're both right. Some commenters here have explicitly told you so.
    I contend it is a package of skills that one can acquire in many ways.
    Yes, I know you do. That's because you want it to be true. It isn't.
    Vast stretches of basic publishing information I don't know? Yeah ... no. Do you want some agent knowledge quiz? Perhaps you'd care to ask me some questions that an agent should know and see if I'm right? Of course, I admit that wouldn't be any indicator because a quick google would find most of the answers.
    If there were such a quiz, you'd have flunked it when you said "a quick google would find most of the answers."
    So I'll ask: please tell me a piece of basic publishing information that I don't know and tell me how you came to that conclusion.
    Certainly, since you're asking. It's a bit further down.
    Otherwise ... get lost.
    Please don't be deliberately rude. You're not nearly as good at it as you imagine, and it's tiresome and embarrassing to watch you try. Besides, it upsets CaoPaux.

    All the way through this thread, I've been automatically tracking indications of your actual publishing experience. It's not just a matter of the stuff you get wrong. It's how you get it wrong, what stuff you don't know exists, and how you fill in the gaps. I wasn't kidding when I said that learning how publishing works is an immersive experience. It marks your language. Andy Zack knew my job title after one exchange of impersonal comments on an unrelated subject. If I'd never run into Old Hack before reading this thread, I'd still have known that s/he/it has an extensive industry background.

    As for you? I went from notes like

    • doesn't know a query letter from a cover letter
    • hasn't seen much slush
    • has a shaky notion of what book editors do, and a shakier notion of what agents do

    to

    • hasn't worked in the editorial department of a general-interest trade book publisher
    • hasn't worked in sales and distribution
    • has no in-depth acquisition experience in adult trade nonfiction
    • in adult trade publishing, period
    • hasn't done marketing or promotion for a mainstream publisher
    • is emphatically not a professional proofreader or copy editor.

    For a while there I was reduced to thinking you had worked in the Contracts & Licensing department at a fairly large house, which would explain having enough contact with agents to be irritated by them, but no notion of what they're actually good for. This theory took a dive when you referred to having overseen a book from start to finish, and having been the "project editor" on a book. Definitely not the Contracts Dept.

    At that point, I radically revised my model and made two predictions:

    First, the name of the company you worked for would not be one readers normally identify as a book publisher.

    Second, a lot of its catalogue would consist of repackaged content.

    I'll pause on that mild cliffhanger and return to this remark of yours:
    So I'll ask: please tell me a piece of basic publishing information that I don't know and tell me how you came to that conclusion.
    Okay, we're limiting it to one piece of basic publishing information you don't know, and an explanation of how I came to that conclusion. My choice isn't the most important example, but it's clear and fairly easy to explain. Let's look at your screed on would of:
    Would of is wrong wrong wrong. But many people use it so it is right right right.

    Would have is right and so is would of. Would of is correct by common usage.

    So many editors and writers forget that language is a living thing. Whatever way people use language is ultimately correct. If we all started saying “me hungry” rather than “I’m hungry” then me hungry would be correct.

    I remember many arguments … err … passionate discussions with other editors regarding commas. I’m in the commas are upturned chairs on the path to comprehension group and so I edit accordingly.

    For example,
    I found, to my surprise, that he had turned blue.

    Edit:
    I found to my surprise that he had turned blue.

    Oh no! Suddenly people can’t understand it! Pfft.

    Another edit:
    I found to my surprise he’d turned blue.

    And another:
    To my surprise he’d turned blue.

    Anyways, the point is that grammar is very useful and we should follow some rules but not at the expense of the living language.
    As an essay, it has problems. You've failed to notice that what would of is being substituted for is not would have, but the homophone would've. Your title is "Would have versus Would of," and your introductory paragraph is about would have vs. would of, but all the intervening material short of the conclusion is about comma usage, which fails to support your argument about vernacular usage. And you should have italicized or otherwise set off the words and phrases you used as examples; but in this context, that may be a counsel of perfection.

    You made another error when you were discussing your essay on AW:
    I'm absolutely not doing crap editing such as substituting "would of" for "would have". What it seems people have missed from my blog post on the subject is that common usage beats everything. "Would of" isn't common usage. I wrote IF it were common usage then it is correct.
    They didn't miss a thing. Your only "if" in the piece was:
    If we all started saying “me hungry” rather than “I’m hungry” then me hungry would be correct.
    Here's what you said about would of:
    Would of is wrong wrong wrong. But many people use it so it is right right right.

    Would have is right and so is would of. Would of is correct by common usage.
    Fibber.

    That was one of the moments when I realized you weren't making noises like an editor when you talked. Same goes for the point where you said the conversation had gotten so long and complicated that no one could go back and check what had actually been said. Editors know that you can't contradict yourself and trust that your readers won't remember. They also know that some readers will go back and check, so you had better get used to doing the same.

    Apologies. I'm digressing. I've been talking about problems in your writing, and diffuse but (to me) telling bits of your self-revelation. The deal was for one piece of basic publishing information you don't know, and how I came to that conclusion.

    Here's the hole: you think would of has to either be right or wrong. It doesn't. As all good copy editors and trade fiction editors know, vernacular language like would of is acceptable in dialogue, first-person narrative, strongly voiced third-person narrative, quotations, excerpts, letters, poetry, and other varieties of privileged speech. Otherwise, you use would have or would've.

    That division between privileged and non-privileged language (it goes by other names as well, though the principle remains) is basic to professional text wrangling. You were unaware of its existence. This didn't lead me to believe that you'd never done editing or copy editing. Rather, it suggested to me that while you've been paid to do jobs called editing and copy editing, you weren't trained to do them by anyone who's worked professionally with text in conventional trade publishing.

    Does this come up in author/publisher/agent relations? It can. There's at least one much-published author on this board who threatened to walk out on his publisher and contracts because his book was badly mishandled by an incompetent copy editor who didn't understand that point.

    My impression that you hadn't worked with people who'd worked in conventional publishing was strengthened by some of your other remarks:
    There are no editorial guidelines around many forms of writing because language strides ahead of the books people write about language. I haven't seen a book on the grammatical rules around things. Like. This. This is a structure that is in use in the world but the books haven't caught up yet.
    Yes, new language is always being used before it appears in stylebooks. It would be odd and rather sinister if it didn't. However, no one takes that as a reason to ignore existing rules and guidelines. They habitually keep track of new forms -- f.i., the way that so without an accompanying comparison has been popping up in place of really and very, or the peculiar grammar of LOLspeak -- just like they keep track of product names that aren't in the dictionary (f.i., Haagen Dazs).

    As for your things. Like. This., they're sentence fragments used for emphasis, found only in strongly voiced text and therefore privileged, and they originated in the fanfic universe.

    So not impressed.

    Back to that mild cliffhanger. As the reader will no doubt recall, I'd predicted that the name of the company MF had worked for would not be one readers normally identify as a book publisher, and that a lot of its catalogue would consist of repackaged content.

    I kept reading, did some googling I should have done the first time the name turned up, and lo, there it was: Funtastic.

    (One warning before I go any further: Australian business sites are really bad about updating their information. It's interesting when you're reconstructing timelines, but it can be misleading.)

    Anyway, Funtastic has been doing business since 1994, and is the largest toy distributor in Australia. It handles a lot of licensed merchandise. In the early years of this millennium, Funtastic decided to branch out into producing as well as distributing licensed product. Some of that licensed product included books and DVDs. Things didn't work out. They've been selling off "non-core" businesses like footwear, children's apparel, and licensed juvenile linens. Their publishing operation got sold last year to Parragon, a large Australian publisher, which immediately fired more than half of the in-house staff.

    There are a number of websites where you can get a sense of what Funtastic's publishing program was like before it got sold off. For example, there's this old page from Business Week, which has a company profile that has to have been written by Funtastic itself. The part about their publishing operation says:
    Funtastic Publishing Established in November 2001, Funtastic produces licensed character books and distributes book ranges from around the world. Its dedication to innovation is demonstrated by its acquisition of Colour ‘N Sound. Colour ‘N Sound uses patented T-Ink technology that allows the ink to transmit current.
    Funtastic's own web page for their publishing operation is still online (see what I mean about not doing updates?) and still has a working link to their submission guidelines (pdf). Core sentence:
    The ideal title will have characters and stories that would translate into toys, movies, and other products.
    These are books as licensed merchandise, not books for their own sake. If you wondered why MF was ranting early on about publishers that don't have the imagination to include a toy with a book, the answer is that where he learned about publishing, the book was an adjunct to the toy.

    For books as repackaged content, try this entry about Funtastic from the Transformers Wiki.

    If you're following these links and you see old stories about the size of Funtastic's publishing program, bear in mind that a lot of that was DVDs, which again appear to have been repackaged content. Here's a 2006 news story about Funtastic's acquisition of Madman, Australia's largest anime distributor:
    "Funtastic has rationalised the deal as a way for them to obtain DVD rights for properties they already hold the toy rights for. Stating that in the past, DVD rights have been passed onto other companies due to their lack of experience in the field, with the other companies frequently benefiting from their Funtastics marketing initiatives. ... Also by combining Madman's DVD knowledge with Funtastic's toy marketing skills, they believe that Madman will be able to further explore merchandising opportunities within the anime market."
    I've got nothing against licensed merchandise. I'm sure Funtastic's good at selling toys. But this is seriously unlike what most of you think of when you hear the word "publisher."

    Another key site for getting a sense of Funtastic's output is the Wheelers Books website in New Zealand, which lists 427 Funtastic titles. Some are straight repackaged content. Most of the others are work-for-hire licensed tie-ins, written to order for established franchises, with no author name on the cover. A thing the rest of you may not find disturbing, but I do, is that almost all of them lack editorial copy. That's a basic bookselling tool. When I look elsewhere, I find that only a few of them ever made it onto Amazon, a site which has been known to list old fanzines produced in 100-copy editions.

    Why does this matter? Because what we're seeing here is a publishing program that's missing a huge range of publishing problems and transactions. The authors are largely powerless and almost wholly anonymous. That excludes all the issues having to do with long-term career strategies, and most things having to do with balance of power between the author and publisher. Figuring out how to position and sell the books is pointless, because the angle is built in: it's Hannah Montana/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Barbie/High School Musical/Harry Potter/et cetera. Subrights negotiations? Forget it, there aren't any. This is all work for hire.

    I could go on like this for a long time, pointing out major editorial and contractual issues that simply don't come up in a publishing program like Funtastic's. Being an editor at a normal publishing house doesn't qualify you to be an agent. I'd question whether being an editor at Funtastic qualifies you to be an editor at a normal publishing house.

    I think it's about time to go back to replying to Mathew Ferguson's comments to me:
    Someone says they are an editor and it is this certain way. Well, I'm an editor too and have worked in publishing for years and it isn't that way. I have evidence, what do they have?
    Me personally? I have decades of experience in newspapers, magazines, and reference and trade book publishing. That's as opposed to working for a toy distributor that took a fling at printing books.

    Hey, you asked.
    As for not putting in the hours to learn the trade ... you have no idea what you are talking about. This becomes clear with your next point: "You have no idea what's in a standard publishing contract and why it's there, ditto is and isn't negotiable, desirable or hazardous in publishing deals.". Don't just disagree you say? Okay, sure. So I'll counter with saying that I've negotiated and worked on many a standard publishing deal.
    I've seen your books. You couldn't prove by me that you've ever worked on a standard publishing deal.
    I've written contact clauses. I've been the contract shark for my publishing company and also in a freelance capacity. I dare say I could write a standard publishing contract from memory.

    How the hell did you come to the dumb-ass idea that I don't know anything about publishing contracts? I guess you didn't read my about page and I'm guessing you haven't read much of anything else I've written.
    Boyo, you just wish I hadn't read it.

    What I know is that you have no in-depth experience with book acquisition. The biggest reason I know that about you is that you've repeatedly demonstrated that you don't know there's an entire battery of arcane techniques for doing advance estimates of the demand for a particular title. You think there's no way to sell a nonfiction book about fitness unless it already has an "established audience," and your idea of how to get one is for the author to start a web page. (That was also where I flagged "Hasn't done marketing or promotion for a mainstream publisher.")

    Worse, you think that online sales of e-books are not affected by the writer already being a published author. That's so staggeringly ignorant of how fiction publishing works that I can't begin to tell where to start explaining. Well, maybe here: the single commonest reason a reader buys a book is that the've read and enjoyed another book by the same author. A vast amount of the appurtenance of publishing -- the quotes, the reviews, the attractive cover -- are mating signals calculated to give the reader the idea that this reading experience is going to be like (yet enticingly unlike) other reading experiences they've enjoyed. These are good signals to send, but in many ways they're just recreating the reaction you have to finding a book by an author whose books you've liked.

    Since you don't know any of that, you can't have gone through the process of assessing and acquiring real free-range books by real authors. And if you didn't acquire them, you didn't negotiate their contracts, either.

    I think it likely that you've done many book acquisitions where the books were licensed merchandising product, the authors were powerless and perforce anonymous, and the basis of the contract was flat-rate work-for-hire; but that's something else entirely.

    Another thing I know, judging from your language, is that you have a low tolerance for frustration. That being the case, I earnestly hope you won't go into agenting, because it'll make you miserable.
    I know that the position of "editor" can confuse some people.
    Don't look at me. I knew the word before I started kindergarten.
    Was I just checking grammar and that is all?
    Given your views on language, I certainly hope that's not where you were spending your time.
    As I've mentioned, my position as editor and writer was very broad.
    Yeah, I've had jobs like that too. It can be a pain to work for amateurs.
    I acquired book series for my publisher. I did deals. I was expected to find new stuff and bring it in, and not just from within Australia but all around the world.
    And your point is?
    Back to why I chose not to work at an established agency first. Clearly, you don't know me and it can be hard to convey the depth of knowledge a person has in back-and-forth forum posts or an about summary
    Mathew, at the heart of editing is reading, and I've been a professional at it for a long time now. If you work at it, you may someday get a sense of how clearly I can see you in your writing.
    but you have no bloody idea what you are talking about.
    Tsk. You ignored me when I said the same to you, word for word; and I really do know what I'm talking about.

    I"m starting to think you should stick to illustration.
    There is a package of skills required to be an agent. There is more than one way to gain those skills and the only way isn't working as an intern for another agent.
    You keep saying that. It was wrong the first time, and it's still wrong now. You're repeating yourself because you've run out of arguments.
    You are 100% dead wrong, misguided and clearly have no idea.
    How would you know? You got all your experience at Funtastic.
    Are you perhaps slaving away yourself somewhere? Desperately justifying a job that isn't heading anywhere because the knowledge you thought you would gain just isn't coming?
    Words can't convey it. Neither can emoticons, or links to appropriate LOLcats, or long strings of internet abbreviations. Nothing so narrowband can possibly encompass the depth, breadth, range, and polyphonic complexity of my snickering at that remark.

    God, you are clueless. Bad-mannered, too. I won't say I've never met anyone who's less cut out to be an agent than you are, but your name turns up on the second or third search page.

    But enough about you. Let's go back to things you don't know, and things you know that aren't so. Our poor readers have been very patient with us, and deserve more return on their investment.

    • When you first showed up here, you didn't know the difference between a query letter and a cover letter.
    • You don't know what agents are good for, and yet you want to be one.
    • You think editors have so much trouble getting enough slush to read that they have to haunt online sites and go incognito to meetings of writers' groups.
    • You think industry contacts aren't important when you're an agent.
    • You think Sex in the City, Cory Doctorow, Emily the Strange, and Bridget Jones's Diary are good examples of "working on building an online presence to increase the likelihood of publishing deals."
    • You think SEO is an important thing for agents to know. It isn't. But then, you have a pattern of thinking things you know are important, and ignoring things you don't know.
    • You hyphenate "proofreader."
    • You think privishing is an important word. It isn't. It's a term used by people who learned about publishing from Wikipedia.

    The whole concept of privishing is stupid. Do you imagine that publishing houses openly discuss, and have a special word for, distasteful situations where a book has to be deprecated for inadmissible reasons?

    If a book needs to be deprecated for admissible reasons, we kill it, or take it off the schedule, or withdraw support, or revert it to the author with a guarantee of proceeds from any future sale, or ... long list.

    If a book's being deprecated for murky inadmissible possibly illegal reasons, it's not discussed openly around the water cooler.

    "Privishing" is meaningless. It doesn't identify the methods used, or the reasons behind them. We already have a much larger and more precise vocabulary that covers that ground.

    It's late. I'm tired. You're rude. Find a different line of work.
    Last edited by HapiSofi; 05-03-2013 at 08:01 PM.
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  17. #417
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Rolling Thunder, if we had a fist-bumping icon, I'd post one at you.
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  18. #418
    Cultus Gopherus MacAllister Medievalist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HapiSofi View Post
    Rolling Thunder, if we had a fist-bumping icon, I'd post one at you.
    I'm on it.

    Gimme a few.

    Here ya go

    Last edited by Medievalist; 10-21-2009 at 10:02 AM.

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  19. #419
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    That's gratification beyond my deserts, but I'll take it.
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  20. #420
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    Quote Originally Posted by HapiSofi View Post
    That's gratification beyond my deserts, but I'll take it.
    I'd hold on the gratification personally.

    To respond to the myriad ways in which you are wrong would take an age so I'll quickly go to a very obvious point and see what you have to say.

    You said:
    As for you? I went from notes like

    • doesn't know a query letter from a cover letter
    • hasn't seen much slush
    • has a shaky notion of what book editors do, and a shakier notion of what agents do


    So the second point on not seeing much slush. I wrote this earlier:

    I have read the submission pile (even calling it slush makes me uncomfortable) many times previously. I was always prepared for how I feel rejecting people but it hasn't gotten any easier. I'm very well aware that there is a real live warm human getting my response and the writer part of me hurts in sympathy.

    So you would be ... wrong.

    Agreed?

  21. #421
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Mathew, if you don't know something, you're not going to be able to tell how I know that you don't know it.
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  22. #422
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    Quote Originally Posted by HapiSofi View Post
    Mathew, if you don't know something, you're not going to be able to tell how I know that you don't know it.
    A flippant response to a very direct and clear question. Here it is again and please try to answer:

    You said:
    As for you? I went from notes like

    • doesn't know a query letter from a cover letter
    • hasn't seen much slush
    • has a shaky notion of what book editors do, and a shakier notion of what agents do


    So the second point on not seeing much slush. I wrote this earlier:

    I have read the submission pile (even calling it slush makes me uncomfortable) many times previously. I was always prepared for how I feel rejecting people but it hasn't gotten any easier. I'm very well aware that there is a real live warm human getting my response and the writer part of me hurts in sympathy.

    So you would be ... wrong.

    Agreed?
    *
    You interpret "many times previously" as "hasn't seen much slush"? Please clarify.

  23. #423
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    So you would be ... wrong.

    Agreed?
    No. I don't agree.

    Mat, fine a fellow as I think you are, you haven't seen much slush. You're still at the point where the writer part of you hurts in sympathy.

  24. #424
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Hoo boy.

    Actually, Mathew - your last post would have convinced me all by itself that you're not only clueless, you're either a baldfaced liar or the depth of your utter incompetence is so mind-boggling that you actually just cannot even comprehend your own gross lack of knowledge or experience.
    Last edited by MacAllister; 10-21-2009 at 11:11 AM.

  25. #425
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    No. I don't agree.

    Mat, fine a fellow as I think you are, you haven't seen much slush. You're still at the point where the writer part of you hurts in sympathy.
    So because I feel for the writers that implies I haven't seen much slush?

    I've seen TONNES of it! Just Funtastic alone was five to ten per day for nearly two years. It was never-ending. And I've done the freelance work as a submissions reader for more than one publisher. And then there are all the submissions I've received personally. The pile is immense.

    The point is that HapiSofi has made some very bad assumptions and then said some very wrong things on the basis of those assumptions. She said that I've never acquired a trade non-fiction title (I have, more than once) and haven't worked for a mainstream trade publisher (I have). Her bad assumption there was that my about page contains every single publisher I've ever worked for. Or perhaps that because I mention Funtastic, that is the only one I've got.

    This thread has gone far past checking up on a new agent and descended into pure vitriolic statements that are completely wrong.

    I challenged her on the slush-pile point because I wish to show she is making very bad assumptions and then factual errors. I know she is someone of importance on AW but this doesn't mean it is fine to behave this way.

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