Author Arrogance Part II

Susie Short Story is now happily a novelist. She learned almost too late that cooperation and reading every word of a contract is very important when it comes to a relationship with a publisher.  In fact, she learned her lesson so well, she offered advice to a good friend, Johnny Jerkus, after he complained about the difficulties he faced as a self-published author.

Johnny is well aware of the troubles Susie had with her publisher. He’s rather disgusted she backed down so fast after they slammed her with the old “do what we tell you to do or we’re gonna dump you and spread the word that you’re a jerk.” routine. Granted, Susie is a bitch when she wants her own way, but nobody deserves that kind of grief. In his opinion, she’s nothing like she used to be when they used to hang at the coffee shop, working on their shorts and talking about the day when they’d be rich and famous.

He figures she’s well on her way to the famous part. Rich might take a bit longer, but turns out that stupid novel she wrote was pretty good after all. Once she toed the company line with her publisher, the editor-in-chief got the book published pretty quick. And old Susie sure didn’t have much time for talk during their coffee/writing sessions. She was pounding out a new book, working Twitter like no tomorrow, and planning a release promotion.

“Ungrateful broad.” Johnny leans back in his chair, dismayed both by Susie’s absence today and his lack of sales for his half dozen self-published novels. “This has got to stop.”

He begins hatching a scheme, one that will get him on the good side of Susie’s publisher and help him make a lot of money fast. Johnny has never been one for breaking a sweat working, and he’d always figured that he’d have it easy as a writer. His stories were great. In fact, he still had a pretty steady income from the shorts he’d always used as his bread and butter, but paying gigs from magazines were getting harder and harder to find.

His head tilts as he thinks about something Susie told him, his lips twisting in disdain at her excitement over a new way to market her work.

“Who would pay to buy a short story that’s not in a magazine?” The entire process of writing shorts is to maintain a relationship with a magazine. “That’s just plain stupid of Susie to give up on magazines because a publisher has her twisted around their finger.”

A quick check of his email has Johnny sweating. There are half a dozen late payment notices, his sales reports are in, but the summaries don’t look good, and his bank is being rather irritable about him leaning so heavily on his credit card.

“Time to check the old sales rankings.” Johnny opens his Amazon Author Page and starts to look at each of his books. Their rankings are ten times worse than they were a week ago, if that’s at all possible, and there are new reviews.

“Those will help.” He gulps and stares at the reviews. None is above two stars. “What the hell?”

The complaints are the same ones he dismissed from the stupid editor he hired. His work is brilliant. It doesn’t need editing from a ham fisted idiot. And those reviewers are a bunch of loser wannabe writers.

I could always give a publisher a chance. Susie’s sounds like they’ll work.

He’s not afraid of getting into the same mess that she did. His cover art won’t give the publisher any grief with the print book. There’s no need for an editor because he, the magma cum laude English Literature and Creative Writing graduate knows everything there is to know about writing. No need to use one of their hacks on his work. It’s perfect as it is. As for that stupid thing Susie mentioned about taking his books down from all sales venues before submitting. Not happening on anyone’s best day.

“I know their damned contract.” He begins the process of submitting his work to Publisher ABC. “I’m sure they’ll offer me six figures to start.”

His concentration never wavers as he submits all of his novels to the same EIC Susie has. Johnny mentions their relationship, even brags about being one of the many people who helped her with her novel over the years. Once he hits send the last time, Johnny signals the barista to bring him an extra-large double shot espresso, no milk, no sugar, none of those fruity flavorings, and several scones. It’s time for him to celebrate.

“Pick it up yourself,” Cheryl, the barista, yells at him. “I’m not your servant.”

Johnny sashays over to the counter, takes the drink and food, leaving only enough to pay the bill. Cheryl was once a great little writer, someone to look at as competition, until she decided having a nice apartment and her bills paid overrode any sense of literary excellence. Sure, she’s published, like most of his friends. To be honest, Susie was the last member of their writing circle to be published, but Johnny is the one everyone thinks is the big winner. His bragging about his royalties (which have yet to appear in the numbers he indicates they are) has all of the rest green with envy.

“Wow!” Cheryl’s sarcasm cuts deeply into him. “Could you spare the tip?”

Settling back in his chair, Johnny faces her and eats the scones slowly, sipping his espresso between bites. Without letting her see anything but disdain, he opens his email. A smile forms on his unshaven face. He scratches the beard he’s decided to grow and opens the first email.

“Yes.” Johnny’s ecstatic. “That dumb broad is about to discover that I’m not the pushover Susie was.”

Signing the contract isn’t anywhere in his thoughts as he composes an email in return to the EIC who gave Susie such grief. Johnny knows what he as a published author can expect, and he’s going to get it, no matter what this publisher-wannabe says.

His fingers fly over the keyboard of his laptop. He grins at the thought of a six figure advance, of the promotion work they’ll do for him, and of the royalties that will soon be rolling in. His demands are quite complex—they have to use his cover art, give him 500K as an advance, and have his book ready for publication within 72 hours. He will accept nothing else. And he wants a phone discussion with the CEO, to ensure he will be treated as the bestselling author that he is.

Once he sends the reply, Johnny orders another double shot espresso, certain he can afford the expense despite the sorry state of his finances. He’s not worried. He’ll soon be rolling in money.

A ding from his inbox has him opening the reply from the EIC, only the person replying is someone called the chief operating officer. Johnny’s mouth drops open at this person’s answer to his demands. They don’t negotiate their contract, ever. He can accept it as it stands or go elsewhere.

His reply is curt and simple. “Screw you.”

The response this time is faster, as if the person on the other end was waiting for him. “We withdraw our offer of all contracts.”

“Screw them. Screw all publishers.” Johnny deletes the emails from the loser company Susie recommended and begins work on his seventh book. He’ll soon have all the sales he needs. This will be his best work ever…

Six months later, he’s the barista in his favorite coffee shop. Susie, Cheryl, and the rest of his writing group have taken over a booth in the corner for their weekly meeting. They’re all talking about promotion, their royalties, and how happy they are with their publisher. His sales are still nothing. Johnny sneers at them. They know nothing. He’ll soon be richer than they can ever imagine.

But a little voice in the back of his head asks “When?”