Keller Media Blog

OR “How Some People Block Their Own Success”

by Wendy Keller, literary agent

Father Knows BestA friend who is a motivational speaker asked me to negotiate a deeper “buyback” for him. I was not his agent when his book was sold many years ago to a mid-sized business publisher, but I decided to do him a favor. (A “buyback” is the discounted price at which an author can purchase copies of their own book for resale purposes, as long as it isn’t via bookstores.)

I negotiated 10% more than he was already getting, the best discount that publisher offers to anyone.  But when the time came to take possession of the books, he suddenly changed his mind. Egg on my face with the publisher, a little mistrustful of my friend, I dropped it.

A few months later, the speaker told me, “You didn’t do a very good job negotiating that after all. Some guy I know said he could have gotten a discount of 25%  more than you got me.” (I know that to be impossible, but I took it on the chin.) The guy mentioned has never worked in the publishing industry and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

I forgot all about their little drama. I was doing a favor. I wasn’t being paid.

Yesterday, the speaker asked me if I wanted “the chance” to “try” to do a better job this time and get him the rate his guy told him he should get. I declined this opportunity.

So today, the speaker called the publisher himself.  They said, “Why didn’t you take the deal Wendy got you? It was the best we offer, and we cannot offer it to you again at that rate.”

My patience is wearing thin on this topic. He called me and said, “I told them I won’t buy any books at all if they don’t give me the rate that guy said I could get.  Guess what! They refused!”

I pointed out that he hasn’t sold any books anyway – with or without the discount – despite the age of his book. I suggested that the publisher figures that if you are suddenly motivated to start selling books after all this time, they assume you will buy books at almost any price because you’ve got something up your sleeve. I said, “You have to think about this from the publisher’s point of view.  They have no reason to negotiate with you.”

He said, “They are the ones who aren’t being logical. Think of how much money I could bring them!

I took a deep breath and said, “Why don’t you call your friend who said he could get you an additional 25% on top of their best offer and have him do this for you?”

I’ve had friends who are attorneys tell me the clients advise them on how to do their job. A close friend who is a doctor said people come in with their own diagnosis and expect him to just write a prescription.

This whole saga reminds me of the people who self-publish because they recognize the greatness of their own (often lousy) book far more than the “idiots” who work in the publishing industry…and flop.

Because the speaker is being illogical, and because I’m annoyed that I wasted so much time trying to help someone who wants to drown, I’ve written this blog. And now, I’m going to invite you to get yourself a copy of my own 23rd book (I write as a hobby), the content of which was drawn from a lifetime as an agent. It’s called “The Secrets of Successful Negotiation.” It’s a topic I know a little something about.

…And if you bump into the speaker, slap him for me, will you?

    • Ha ha! Glad it made you laugh, Ruth! It was cathartic for me to write.

      I will check in with team about your book. Good wishes!


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