Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Is this the way to start a New Year?

It isn't often that I turn down a writing gig, unless it's one of those offers that gives me exposure for the privilege of helping someone else build an online business with the promise of future below minimum payments for more help--provided the business succeeds.

No, it isn't often that I turn down meaningful work.

Within three days of my final first draft edit of my latest book I received an email offer to write another book. This offer came from one of my previous publishers, so in my mind it already had promise. It isn't every day that a publisher asks for me by name; one that was dumb enough to have once published one of my books should know better!

I was flattered as well as happy that recognition may have segued into opportunity. So, why was I compelled to turn down the book deal?

Aside from the fact that the offer bordered on ludicrous--one of the shortest turn-around windows for a book deadline that I have ever encountered--it was a for-hire deal that paid rather little.

For those unschooled in these matters, a for-hire deal means that you write the book for a flat fee. You get no author credit on the book and you do not own the copyright. Oh, you get no royalties on book sales either. I have nothing against for-hire deals, provided as the author I feel as if I offer the book some value, and the only way for the author to feel that is for the publisher to show it in the way of a decent fee. In that regard, a peanut offer is insulting.

Money offer aside, the book's premise was wrong (is wrong; I understand the publisher found someone else willing to take the bad deal; I also understand, to my dismay, that I was the second choice; the first writer smartly quit).

Believing that every offer is negotiable, and one day I'm going to certify that belief with a successful negotiation, I made a counter offer.  My offer was of course not accepted.

In that counter offer I upped the dollars but I also asked for the schedule to open up and for the freedom to write the book the way I thought it needed to be written.

For a book supposedly aimed at the young wine novice, I do not think the publisher is on the right track. The premise is to cover the same tired wine regions and the same tired format that must have been written for novices at least a hundred times.

Where the publisher wants to cover Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, et al., I wanted to cover Northwestern France, Southeastern France, Northwestern Italy, Northeastern Italy, and so on, juxtaposing the New Guard with the Old Guard.

Where the publisher wanted to show pictures of famous Chateaux and labels, I wanted to show pictures of the relative unseen small giants of winemaking and of labels that may not be all that familiar--today.

While the publisher wanted to track vintages, I wanted to track ideas.

While the publisher wanted to tell the novice the things that perpetuate what has kept the subject of wine out of the reach of the modern masses all too long, I wanted to talk to the guys and gals with $15 to spare.

Yep, I turned this gig down. It reminds me of the day I smartened up and realized that I was not fit for corporate employment.  It was New Year's Eve about a thousand years ago.  I went out at lunchtime, bought what was still back then a wine worth drinking, Dom Perignon, and two beautiful crystal Baccarat flutes, went back to the office, quit my job, went home, opened the Champagne at 11:55, poured, awaited the big moment and when the ball dropped I announced to my wife that I had quit my job that afternoon.

I had no prospects except the idea that I could make it in this world on my own, certainly without the help of corporate rules and annual minuscule percentage raises in pay. It was the same feeling that I had when I awakened one day while attending the University of Maryland to realize that I had ahead of me a few more years of mounting education debts. That simply was not something for me to look forward to, and so I quit that and moved into the wonderful world of commerce--it was a move that led me to extensive travel abroad and even two years in residence in Iran, where the bug to explore ancient wine bit me as powerfully as the bug that gave me amoebic dysentery while living in Tehran, not to mention the fabulous Riesling that northern Iranians produced.

Not knowing me during my college days, and of course not knowing me into the future, that New Year's Eve when I told my wife that I had quit my job all she could say was something to the effect, "Good for you. Now what?"

When I told her the other day about having given up the latest book deal my wife said, "Good for you. You don't need that kind of abuse."

It's nice to know that one of us in this marriage has matured. I promise my wife that in 2013, I will mature, too.


  1. What a crappy deal, I'm glad you turned it down.
    Happy New Year!

  2. Don't give promises that you can't keep! :)

  3. Henrik:

    Why not? Everyone else does...