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Low Bullshit Tolerance.

Okay. The deal is done.

Deep sigh of relief.

I was too poor for too many years (the 70's . . . 80's . . early 90's) to be sanguine about the notion of running out of money. I hate not having money. I know, I know, it's superficial, it's boring, but there it is: I fear poverty. I don't fear death, or damnation but I fear poverty. I am invulnerable on many fronts, but I have an Achilles wallet.

As a bonus, I love my new editor. I have a low tolerance for bullshit and the lovely "EH" negotiated openly and honestly and never tried to hide her enthusiasm for the books. This means a lot to me. Maybe more than it should. But I deliberately sidestepped other offers to take hers because she was straight with me. I kept telling my rep: I want it to be EH. Make it be EH. Don't piss off EH.

It is exceedingly rare in the publishing world that someone will say, "I love this book, I want it, it's in great shape," as opposed to, "I think I might just be able to make something out of your half-baked effort." Either way I'm going to try and get a nice paycheck out of the deal (see opening paragraphs above) but I will stretch a point to do business with the first type of person.

Quick publishing story. Back at a point when K and I were sitting atop bestseller lists with the "A" series, we conceived of a series I'll call, "E." We knew "E" was not as good an idea as "A." We knew it wasn't worth as much, but we knew it'd do okay. So we presented it to our publisher, "S." They came back with an offer that was a jaw-dropping insult and added some sneers and condescension for effect.

Now, all we had wanted was a reasonable deal, because that's about what the concept was worth. But because "S" deliberately treated us with disrespect, we we went to publisher "G" and used them to push up the price. "S" eventually had to give us twice what we wanted per book, and four times what the overall deal was worth. All because they couldn't be straight and treat us with respect.

Now, because she wasn't insulting or arrogant or condescending, and because she was straightforward with me, I will sweat blood to make sure EH never regrets this deal. Sign books in Equatorial Guinea in August? Absolutely, EH. Give a talk at the Young Cannibals Society? No prob, EH. Tattoo the series name on my giant bald head? You got it, hon.

There's almost nothing I won't do for a person who will just not bullshit me. It doesn't seem like that much to ask but man, that simple request is very rarely honored.

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“Low Bullshit Tolerance.”

  1. Blogger Howlin' Hobbit Says:

    I hear ya, brother. Seems sometimes like I spend my whole life wading through about 5 feet of BS.

    And since I'm only 5'4", it makes it hard to breathe.


  2. Blogger Annie Says:

    Achilles wallet. Gonna remember that one.

  3. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:


    I always take it as a diss, as a suggestion that they must take me for a moron since they expect me to buy their weak line of bullshit. The spirit of the bazaar is still alive in the publishing world: that's a very poor rug, and I don't want it, but maybe I could give you a dollar . . .

  4. Blogger Annie Says:

    And they almost always want to put their thumbprints (or dog-on-hydrant signature) all over it by telling you how to totally rewrite the thing. You've really lucked out.

  5. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:


    Did I tell you what "K's" agent told me? Cut it by half and age the characters up to 17. If I had listened to her I would have screwed this deal.

    Of course EH is handing me off to "MS" who will play "bad cop" to her "good cop," but I doubt he'll say I should cut in half and turn the characters into adults.

    How does someone not understand that 13 year olds cut off from the world is scary and 17 year olds cut off is a kegger?


  6. Blogger Richard Lawrence Cohen Says:

    Congratulations on the deal! And thanks for some very valuable professional advice.

  7. Blogger M. Takhallus. Says:

    Thanks, Richard, much appreciated. I was getting worried there for a while after failing to sell my previous book.

  8. Blogger Annie Says:

    Do you think, um, K needs a new agent? Or does she "get" K?

    13 is an extremely impressionable, imaginative age. There was a teacher in NJ and another in Oregon who just knew to teach J's book about escaping from Russia to 7th-8th graders. He was 15-16 when he escaped, but those kids were totally riveted by it in a way that older kids were not (the latter too distracted by sex and impressing their peers, if I remember being that age accurately).

  9. Anonymous GN Says:

    Glad to hear that you got the deal, and a decent human being to deal with. Two days to celebrate and then get your butt back to work on the documentary!

  10. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    Congrats, Tak.

    Having worked on the dark side of publishing, I know first-hand that too many editors have become as bad as the guys in marketing, more concerned with profit margins than actually selling the damn thing. Sounds like you got yourself a good editor. May all this bring you much success.

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