Wednesday, December 26, 2007



I believe that it is any author’s dream to be represented by an agent who will elevate their writings to fame and wealth. It’s mine. But at what cost? That was the question that faced me recently.

I had an agent. I self-published a non-fiction book and was approached by a national publisher who wanted to purchase the rights. The publisher preferred to deal with an agent who knew all the pros and cons of the writing industry and suggested I find an agent. I approached an agency that was just starting and whose principal had a background that was impeccable. He agreed to represent me. He in turn, turned me over to a person who would represent the firm.

As it turned out that individual was a national disaster. I signed what I was to learn one of the worst contracts possible. I gave away everything. Three years passed and too many letters later trying to get the publisher to live up to their own contract, and the agent to do his job, I finally went to the Writers Union for help. After months of representing me, they threw in the towel and recommended I hire a lawyer.

I did. A big lawyer.

Two weeks after being contacted by my lawyer, the publisher offered to return my rights if I gave up any claims against the firm. I agreed. I earned $1,400 in three years in royalties and spent $1,500 in legal fees. If you do the math, I gave up three years of my life for minus $100. At the time I was 64 years old. Time is not a commodity that I can afford to squander. The agent received their full commission and shrugged their shoulders at my problem.

Flash forward to today. I have been approached by an agent interested in representing me. I have now written seven books – all self-published and grossed more than $150,000 of which I donated $20,000 to charity. Do I want an agent to disturb the status quo?


I turned this agent down. This is a business. I just didn’t like his contract. I felt I gave up too much. That could be my problem. I’m too much of a free-wheeler. Maybe the reality for me is that I should be satisfied with what I have accomplished. That, too, is difficult to accept. I’m only 71. My next novel will be released in a few months. I’m told I’m at an age when most are thinking of retirement. I tried that. It sucks!

The dream is still there. I have become a local phenomenon. I still dream the dream of any author. I know I can never attain the full extent of that dream alone. But I also can’t attain that goal with just any agent. It has to be someone who believes in my writing and not what they can gain out of me. That’s the harsh reality of what I see. I’m reminded by something my mother once said to me before I wrote my first book. “You are never too old to dream.” So I still dream.

1 comment:

Cheryl Tardif said...

Thanks, Alvin. I needed to hear all this as I'm in the process of hunting for an agent now. It seems a natural progression in my career.

And you're right. You're never too old to dream...and age aside, no one has time to squander.

Here's to huge success and all our dreams coming true in 2008. :)