I am now ready to talk about how I switched trade publishers, so that now I have a two-book contract with Simon & Schuster, after being with Harper for some thirteen years. As I mentioned in a previous note, I had a particularly close and productive relationship with my editor at Harper, Roger. A couple of years ago, when I was just starting to work on the book that just came out (Jesus Before the Gospels), Roger called me and left a message that he had some bad news and needed to talk with me. I thought that it was either a serious health issue or a career change. Luckily it was the latter. But I didn’t feel lucky! He had been my editor!!
He had decided to leave Harper, stop editing books, and become a literary agent. Big bummer for me.
I had never used a literary agent before, and was not really interested in doing so now (at the time he didn’t ask me to). My reasons were pretty straightforward. Agents typically charge 15% of an author’s book royalties. And I had talked to a couple of agents before about the kinds of contracts I was negotiating on my own, and they both told me that I was doing just fine and didn’t need an agent. So I wasn’t inclined to give someone else 15% of what I made when there was really no reason to do so.
Nearly everyone else I knew who published big trade books did have agents. And most of them thought that, for them, it was…
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