For calls like this, he needed his second office. That was his SUV, which for now he hadn’t started to save gas. The prices had started getting crazy high again so Will could bear the cold for a while. It wasn’t zero degrees outside, so he could live. He just didn’t want anybody overhearing his conversation with his literary agent, nor did he want to be the annoying guy in the restaurant blabbing on and begging those around him to listen.
Victoria Beaumont had been his agent for the last ten years. She had helped him get a good deal that allowed him to write full-time, but soon enough that deal tended to overshadow everything else. As so many mid-list authors like himself suffered from the changes in publishing, Will and Victoria tried to figure out what to do. Navigating the publishing waters as they called it. Co-writing and ghostwriting were the natural solution, one that Will had been doing well at. Had been doing well. Had as in past tense. As in yesterday or yesteryear.
I just want to hear the truth and figure out what to do.
Even though Victoria lived and worked and came from New York, she still was pleasant and didn’t have that unapproachable, no-nonsense attitude that lots of other agents and publishers in the Big Apple seemed to have. Will had always said he liked Victoria because she was a lot like him. Professional yet patient. Cooperative and courteous. She didn’t mind him thinking outside the box like he often did, and he didn’t mind her reining him in when necessary.
Five years ago he’d handed in a manuscript to Victoria. A terrible manuscript, one that went nowhere that should have stopped at chapter two. He gave her all one hundred thousand words, ninety of which were dreadful. Instead of her emailing or calling him and saying that he’d lost his marbles writing this crap, Victoria had simply and politely told him that it might be a bit of a struggle to sell this story and to see whether they could fix it. Will still often thought of that diplomatic response whenever he thought of his agent.
She picked up right away and they made small talk like always for a few moments. Will didn’t want to show his desperation every time he spoke with her, but many times he just couldn’t help it. Today was one of those days. Talk about the weather and the kids and the disaster in Columbia and then Will had to get to business and ask.
“So I bet you have some news,” he said. “And I’m betting it’s not so good.”
“So yes,” Victoria said with her east coast accent that wasn’t too over-the-top but still noticeable. “I did talk with Susan.”
That was his editor from Simon & Schuster. The editor he usually talked to when working on the edits for a book or possible new projects. Victoria and Susan talking had something to do with the contract. Or money.
“They decided to cancel the memoir.”
The needle in the balloon went POP.
Will didn’t say anything right away.
“Susan feels awful and tried everything she could to prevent it from happening. They just decided there was too much money already out there and to cancel it without risking the sales.”
This was a book he’d worked on for the past four months. Six, if he really wanted to be honest. A memoir about famed Red Sox pitcher Reed MacCarron. It was one of those tell-all sort of tales that the public was going to love. The bad boy who redeems himself at the end and goes out on top. Yes, Reed was still a headcase and working with him had been quite the ordeal, but it was going to be worth it.
“Publishing houses are canceling many releases. The industry has been put on hold with everything happening. This isn’t about you.”
Will didn’t need an explanation from Victoria. He understood. He had even known this was coming.
“I’m so sorry, Will. I know we were hoping not to hear this. I honestly thought there was a chance—it’s baseball. Everybody loves baseball. The world needs baseball, especially now.”
“Yeah,” Will said.
“She’s going to work on the cancellation agreement and send it to us. There won’t be any of the first advance that needs to be paid back of course.”
They had struggled to pay for bills in November. The following month which featured Rudolph and Frosty and Santa turned out to be quite the financial adventure (nightmare). And now this.
Will rubbed his hand over his jaw, feeling the few day’s worth of stubble.
Six or let’s just say five months of income washed down the drain. Slip slurp gone.
“At least we know, right?” he told Victoria.
“I just hate this.”
His agent wasn’t an overly emotional person but he knew they were in this together.
“I told you my family’s money problems are not yours,” Will said. “Look—I’ll figure something out.”
“You always do.”
She wasn’t being patronizing, and Will appreciated it. Even before the west coast got bombarded and all the other things in the world started happening, publishing was a tough business. They always talked about what he could do and how he could survive. But nowadays, the word “survival” took on a whole new meaning. Survival meant walking away from the biggest wave of the century with only the clothes you were wearing. Nobody was going to shed a tear for some writer getting a book canceled.
“I keep telling myself that there are families that have lost loved ones, you know?” Will said. “I have to keep that in mind.”
“Of course. Yes, you’re right. But that doesn’t change the fact that you have a family you have to provide for. And you worked hard on this book.”
If only you knew.
His inner voice had the patience of his twins. A four-year-old whining and complaining. Sometimes he wished he could put himself in a big, fat timeout.
Will tried to temper his sigh so it wasn’t too loud over the phone. They spoke for a few more minutes about the details of the cancelation agreement. Normally in the past there would be several projects that they might be thinking about and targeting or waiting to hear news on. But this had been it. The baseball memoir had been the last writing project he’d heard about.
“I’ll certainly be in touch,” Victoria said trying to sound hopeful.
“Sounds good. Thanks.”
But really, it didn’t sound good.
Nothing about this day had been good. And the daylight hadn’t even faded yet.