I Turned Down a Book Deal Last Week

by Larry Brody

My Truly Wonderful Friend & Agent’s not going to like me talking about this, but, c’mon, public nos don’t just trump private ones they whip the total bejezus out of ’em.

What happened was that about a month ago the TRF&W told me about a series of non-fiction books being done by an editor friend of hers, and the general substance of them was right up my alley. In fact, the editor had already come up with a topic that I know more about than just about anyone on this planet. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.) Was I interested?

Was I interested in getting paid to expound about one of my favorite subjects? Absolutely. My TRF&W told the editor the encouraging news and put us together to discuss everything in more detail.

It was a very good conversation. I was, as we used to say in the ’90s, jazzed.

Then my TRF&W dropped the bomb.

By telling me how much the editor would pay.

Again, I’m not going to tell you what it was. But I will say this: I’ve been paid more for 3000 word magazine articles than this publishing company is paying for 125,000 word books.

“Tell her I want more than that,” I told the TRF&W. “A lot more.”

“She’ll never go for it,” the TRF&W said. “I tried with a couple of other clients. No deal.”

“Tell her,” I said.

A couple of days later the TRF&W got back to me. “The editor is standing firm at the price.”

“Even though she knows that price sucks?”

“She says it’s a labor of love. You’ll have the chance to write about something you love more than anything else, something you’ve always wanted to share with the world.”

“If I’m going to write about something I love more than anything else in the world, I’ll write about myself. Does she want to pay me that amount for My Book About Me, By Myself? Because then I might consider it.”

“I’ll ask.”

I haven’t gotten a response yet, but I’m certainly not holding my breath. Exchanges like this always make me furious/insane. The belief that writers – that any creative beings – should work for nothing, or the equivalent of nothing, because it’s just so much gosh-darned fun for us to do our thing is another way of saying, “The whore had an orgasm. Why the hell should she get paid?”

Artists aren’t whores, but sometimes we forget that, and we fall into the “hey, it’s only pussy” trap and let ourselves give it away. Being asked to behave that way is insulting. Demeaning. If your income depends on our work, then pay us for the work, dammit, because so does ours.

Pay us appropriately.

Don’t fall for this crap, boys and girls. Believe in yourselves and your own worth.

To paraphrase the Rolling Stones:

They can’t always get what they want.

Especially when it keeps you from getting what you need.


Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

4 thoughts on “I Turned Down a Book Deal Last Week”

  1. Nobody said “jazzed” in the 90’s.

    That said, good for you not wasting your time on that one. Was it ignorance or pathetic budgeting on their part?

  2. In 1991 I began what ended up as a few years off from H’wood to teach at The College of Santa Fe. The students in my first screenwriting class there told me they were “jazzed” to be in it. That makes it a ’90s term to me.

    Definitely not ignorance. Just the same argument TV animation companies use for not giving talent residuals: “We can’t make any money if we pay you what we should.”

    1. During some animationprod-co research I saw some Canadian companies that blatantly stated “we’re not unionized, so we can make your stuff cheaper” (translation- we’re exploiting our Canadian talent for all they’re worth”).

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