Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do You Deal Lunch?

STATUS: Crunch time! I have three client manuscripts I must read by the end of this weekend and two submissions to get out before the holiday dead zone.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLD ME by Fleetwood Mac
(Is it oldies week or what? And yes, I need to download some new tunes but since the new network went up, my tech person is having trouble transferring the library. 1000 songs just keep disappearing.)

Some agents don’t post deals on Deal Lunch. But I do and here’s why.

Thousands and thousands of industry insiders read Deal Lunch every day. There is no better way to get the word out about a project, start the buzz, sell some foreign rights, or just give Hollywood a heads up then posting the news in Deal Lunch.

Mari Mancusi’s deal in Today’s Lunch is case in point.

Here’s the deal for those of you who don’t subscribe (and may I ask why you don’t? After all, you can get Deal Lunch Weekly—a summary of the week’s deals—for free. Sounds like an offer you shouldn’t refuse if you want to keep current on the market):

Mari Mancusi's YA novel THE CAMELOT CODE, in which Merlin sends a sophomore girl back in time to meet the teen once-and-future-pre-King Arthur and have him spend a week with her in the 21st century only to have him Google himself, discover his fate and refuse to return, to Sarah Shumway at Dutton, in a very nice two-book deal, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency

Not 30 minutes after the deal hit the web I was contacted by two production companies inquiring about the status of the film rights.

Sounds exciting, right? Sure. Film interest is always nice but you gotta remember my Hollywood mantra, they want to look at everything but rarely buy anything so I don’t get excited until they show me the money via a signed contract.

Still, generating interest can be an important first step to getting material optioned.

And yet a lot of agents don’t post their deals. Why not? Well, only they can answer that question but sometimes you don’t want to announce. Perhaps the client wants to keep it private. Sometimes you’d rather keep the sale under your hat so as to do an exclusive film or foreign rights submission. Maybe you don’t want the Scouts bribing people to get a hold of it (which is what happened with I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU. Within a day of the sale, every film producer and scout had a copy of that proposal—a proposal which only I and a select handful of editors had a copy of…)

For some established agencies it’s policy not to post—sometimes to the frustration of their younger and newer agents who want to build a list and name recognition in the publishing world. It’s one of the main reasons I posted on Deal Lunch from the very beginning. I mean, “who in the heck is Kristin Nelson” was quite a valid question in 2002. And maybe it still is!

One agent friend who handles foreign rights for her agency mentioned that it actually would be easier to sell those rights if her agency would post the deals so the foreign publishers will have heard of the title before London or Frankfurt. She still does just fine without the announcements but she thinks it might facilitate more sales and if it’s a tool they could use…

Some agents only post the bigger deals.

Some clients ask me if I could please post it since a lot of writers read Deal Lunch too. Most clients are pretty darn tickled to see the deal out there.

And for those of you who can’t wait to get a hold of this new Mari title but have to because it’s not going to be published for over a year, never fear.

Her next book in the Boys That Bite YA vampire series hits shelves next week.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Any Yahoo Can Do This Job

STATUS: Concluded a deal today that I’m pretty excited about. Look for the announcement tomorrow on Deal Lunch.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE by Queen

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a guy who wrote to me to say that he was pretty business savvy, liked to read, had good taste, so might want to become a literary agent since it might be a lucrative venture and could I tell him if his yearly income estimates were accurate.

Which he then listed in a little chart.

His email was actually rather thought out and savvy (unlike other inquiries I’ve received) so I did send a nice general this-is-like-starting-any-new-business reply but I’m sure you could hear my mental sigh out there in blog world. I don’t think, with zero background or experience, that I would email, let’s say a mortgage broker, about becoming one because hey, I’m good at numbers.

What is it about this job that there is a perception that hey, any Yahoo could do it? All you got to do is be a good reader, pick some winners, and boom you’re on easy street. The money just rolls in.

Folks, I’m here to tell you that agenting is not a good, get-rich-quick scheme. It’s years of careful business management, budgeting, planning, great contacts, having solid sales, excellent royalties on the back list to really make it viable. Not to mention there is such a thing called talent in this biz. Some agents have it (I’d like to consider myself in that group) and lots of people have good intentions but not the T (hence, marginal agents with tiny sales records over many, many years not to mention folks who turn to just outright scamming or charging fees to make money). There are also a whole slew of people who actually had the background, started or worked for an agency, and then backed out after less than five years because it was just too tough. They couldn’t go the distance.

And there is so much more to this job then simply being a good reader who can spot a marketable project and sell it. In fact, that’s only 10% of what we actually do. What about author career planning? Negotiation? The deal as well as the contract. Cover issues. Tracking payments. Legal issues. And the list goes on.

You don’t want an “agent” who became one because gee, I’m a good reader. If there truly is an interest in this job, go and get some valuable experience by either working at an agency or at a publishing house to see if you do, indeed, have what it takes to handle all facets of this job because maybe you do. Lots of current, really terrific agents came to this career from different, interesting paths, and they have varied educational backgrounds as well as varied prior experience.

But ultimately, like any job, the talent aspect can’t be taught. You either have it or you don’t.

That’s my soapbox for the day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Weight Of An E-Credit?

STATUS: Today I got a first look at our new sample pages upload database. Totally cool but it won’t be live until January 2007. We still need to work out a few kinks. The idea of going completely paperless is pretty exciting!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL MY LOVE by Led Zeppelin

Speaking of paperless, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about e-publishing while doing internet interviews and chat loops lately. The biggest question seems to be whether an
e-publishing credit carries any weight with agents.

As always, this is going to vary depending on the agent. I tend to note them but the truth is they don’t impress very much. For some agents, not at all.

The only exception currently seems to be in the field of erotica where a lot of the erotic
e-publishers really paved the way for the genre to go more mainstream. A lot of e-authors are getting agents for the first time and deals with traditional publishers.

For erotica, it can carry some heft.

Does it hurt your chances? I don’t think so but as I like to remind writers, if you sell the e-rights to your project it can preclude a later print rights sale since most publishers often want to buy the print and electronic rights at the same time and if the electronic rights are tied up...

If you go the e-publishing route, be sure to get a reversion clause in your contract so the rights will revert back to you after a certain amount of time or volume of sales etc. You don’t want the e-rights held into forever. In a phrase, that would be bad.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Cautionary Tale

STATUS: It’s a Monday and the first day back after a holiday. Enough said.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND by Sting

Caution: titillating blog ahead?

This weekend a librarian got a little eye-brow raising shock.

She clicked on one of my authors old, outdated website urls and got, yes, you guessed, a gay porn site advertising “super big you-know-whats.”

Okay, maybe you didn’t guess that. Luckily the librarian had a lively sense of humor and wrote a lovely email to my author informing her of the new home for her old website url and how and where she had found the old link (just in case we wanted to address the issue).

Well, my author had a non-suggestive and completely non-porn former url so of course I had to give it a look-see. Why on earth would someone use that address for a gay porn site? Didn’t make sense so I thought the librarian might be having a bit of fun.

I got an eyeful that’s for sure.

But this is an issue that I imagine few authors have ever imagined. Having an old url data out and about in the world that you release and then is later legitimately bought and used for porn site probably doesn’t happen often.

But I’m here to tell you it does happen.

By the way, my author is super savvy did everything right. She launched her new site and notified any website linkers of the change so other sites could update their content. She even held the website url for two years after the switch with a nifty message redirecting visitors to her new site.

She never imagined what the next url owner would have in mind.

So if there is even a chance of readers clicking on that old url information and you’d like to control what they see, maybe hold that site (and spend the money) for a little tad longer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just Thankful

STATUS: I’m one of those crazy people who will be at the airport and traveling on the same day as half the populace. I booked these tickets back in April and now I’m wondering why my hubby, Chutney, and I didn’t leave yesterday. Yep, she’s coming with.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RIO by Duran Duran

This is my last blog for the week so Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to step back and take a moment to think about what you are thankful for.

On a personal level, I’m thankful for so many things but being me, I simply like to keep that private. But I don’t mind sharing what I’m thankful for on a professional level.

1. I’m thankful for my assistant Sara who has transformed my agency in so many ways. With her on board, we look at ten times more queries and partials—all so we can take on more new clients who might turn out to be you—one of my blog readers. Her talent and contribution has been amazing.

2. I’m thankful for the amount of success I’ve had with my agency this year. Excluding the numerous foreign rights sales, I’ve sold more than 20 books for this year alone. This is a new agency record.

3. I’m thankful to be in the middle of year five for my agency. In four short years, I have over 20 clients, have sold more than 50 books, done tons of foreign rights deals as well as Hollywood stuff, and I have several clients who are National bestsellers, RITA-award winners, and have consistently hit the Barnes & Noble bestseller lists for weeks on end. The other lists are just around the corner!

4. I’m thankful for my terrific clients and especially for all the new folks who came aboard just this year. Truly, my clients are savvy and professional but warm and a lot of fun. They demand but never ask too much. I feel very very lucky.

5. I’m thankful for all the new technology being implemented this year and for my ability to embrace it with good humor. (Actually, I’m working on the latter but I figured if I wrote it down, then I created the possibility to make it true.)

6. I’m thankful for all the terrific new books I read this year—by aspiring writers and by already published authors whom I got the chance to read for the first time this year.

7. I’m thankful for the fact the every day, I love my job.

I’ll toast to that and more on Thanksgiving day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Reverse Harbinger Of Doom?

STATUS: I’m doing great. Still working on a deal in process but hey, no one is going to be in the office tomorrow so it will just have to wait. The new network seems to be doing okay. I’ve caught a few minor glitches but minor they are so nothing to stress over.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH by Meatloaf

I have to admit that when it came to the genre of paranormal romance, I’ve been a little bit of a harbinger of doom.

I’ve been stressing how tight this market has become. Paranormal has been popular now for several years. Basic trends in publishing will tell us that the market will eventually get glutted and reader demand will fall off, publisher interest will decline, and those authors who are strong in the field will only get stronger but the newcomer will have a hard time breaking in.

Then I held an auction for a paranormal romance last week. The deal is up on deal lunch if you get it.

If not, I’m happy to share. Here it is:

Author of A Darker Crimson Carolyn Jewel’s next paranormal romance MAGELLAN’S WITCH, set in a world where human magic users and demons are on the brink of disastrous conflict, moving to Melanie Murray at Warner Forever, in a two-book deal at auction, by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency (World).

Does it change my mind? Yes and no. Maybe I’m not quite the harbinger of doom I’ve been lately but I do think the market is still tight.

Why did this project sell and at auction to boot? Well, I’m not sure if there is an absolute answer to that but here are some thoughts.

1. Carolyn was previously published in historical romance and for one other paranormal romance. Her numbers were solid. Editors like that.

2. The story line was fresh, fresh, fresh. Of course demons have been done before but her approach had a lot of original elements.

3. World building, world building, world building. When Carolyn and I were preparing for this submission, I really drove this home. To the point where she was probably sick of me but I really emphasized the need to layer her world with small details that make a powerful whole. Small things count in a tight market.

4. Her heroine had such an interesting dynamic to her paranormal ability. In fact, in the opening pages, we aren’t quite sure what exactly is unfolding because the heroine doesn’t know either. She also suffers from crippling “migraines” which ends up being something else entirely. The emotion and the tension in the opening scenes put the reader immediately on the edge. It’s also a great hook. The heroine simply thinks she is suffering from a debilitating condition that has shaped her life. Now a whole new world opens up—literally.

5. Sometimes what causes editor excitement just is. It’s the voice, the world, an original approach, they fall in love.

So the good news is there still is room in the paranormal world—even for a newcomer—so don’t put away those elements quite yet.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Network For The 21st Century

STATUS: Oh yes, it is super late a night but since it’s going to be a short blog week with the holiday and all, I didn’t want to miss today as well.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SAN ANDREAS FAULT by Natalie Merchant

Today was the big conversion over to the brand spanking new network, dedicated server, Cisco systems mega firewall, and all that jazz. (I’m sure you techies out there understand VPN and a whole host of terms I’m slowly learning.) With the ability to be accessed from anywhere in the world by multiple users, it’s a network to rival anything at any large company.

I’m excited and exhausted all at the same time.

Conceivably, Sara or I can be anywhere on the planet and still be able to access the network, work, all so business can flow seamlessly. That’s the plan anyway.

Once a few little kinks are worked out… From what I’ve learned over the last 3 weeks, a new network isn’t like flipping a switch and voila, you have access. It entailed a lot of new equipment and hours of techie time.

But it’s in. Thank goodness. For almost three straight days, I had only sporadic access to my email and all my files. (Don’t worry, every thing was backed up to the hilt before the transfer but hey, things slip through the cracks.)

Speaking of, we should have transferred everything seamlessly for all the queries sent to on November 16, 2006 and after.

However, if you don’t hear a response from us in about 10 days (and you haven’t spam blocked us or done something silly like request we click on a link to have our email sent through), you’ll want to resend that query.

So toast our new network. It’s just one more way Nelson Literary Agency is using technology to advantage.

Friday, November 17, 2006

These Are A Few of My Favorite (And Not So Favorite) Things

STATUS: TGIF. One deal finally concluded. Another deal heating up. Makes me cheerful for Thanksgiving.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? KISS THE GIRL from the Little Mermaid Soundtrack

My Favorite Things

1. When an editor listens when we say the cover is awful and becomes a huge advocate on our behalf and the new cover rocks!

2. When an offer exceeds expectation and the author and agent are both excited and pleased.

3. When an editor calls to say how much she loves the book and then cites all the same scenes that made me fall in love with it as an agent.

4. When an editor calls to say that your author’s book has hit the list: NYT, USA Today, B&N. I like all the lists.

5. When an editor calls to say the first print run has sold out and the house is going back to reprint.

And Not So Favorite

1. When I hold a best bids auction and the publishers involved don’t come with their best bids and I have to admonish them and refuse to present the offer to the client (translation: and your mother smells of elderberries now go away and give me a real best bid before I taunt you a second time).

2. Publishers that demand an upon publication payment as part of the advance (what’s the definition of advance again?)

3. Cover art that begs the question why.

4. When you ask for a standard reversion clause for rights granted and the editor makes it sound like she is doing you a huge favor.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Remember, Editors Work For The Man

STATUS: I’m a little frazzled. But things are good. I did have lunch today with Kate Schafer, a YA agent at Janklow & Nesbit. She’s in town. Ends up we both have copies of Opal Mehta (of the big plagiarism scandal) because we had lunches with editors involved right before that story broke. Isn’t that weird? A little synchronicity in the world.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THIS IS IT by Kenny Loggins

One of the great reasons, as an author, to have an agent is the fact that your agent gets to handle any of the nasty stuff and you, as the author, get to maintain a terrific, stress-free relationship with your editor. In fact, some authors end up being good friends with their editors and will often attend parties, weddings, and other events with or for their editor friend.

A great relationship with your editor is a powerful thing. I’m all for it but I always want to remind authors that editors work for the man. In other words, they work for the publishing house and even though they might adore you personally, it is their job to protect their employer’s best interest. Not yours.

That’s why you have an agent.

So when I hear that authors either knowingly or unwittingly circumvent their agent and jeopardize the author/agent partnership, I feel the need to rant. I guess this has been a big discussion on some of the chat forums lately—authors who have agents but go directly to their editor with a new, uncontracted proposal or work without consulting with the agent first.

Oh boy. Regardless of how good your relationship is with your editor, this is business; not personal and a submission (in whatever format) is truly the first step in a negotiation and is serious business. Not to mention your agent’s job. I have heard so many horror stories of authors misstepping at this stage because they knowingly or unwittingly circumvented the agent and chaos ensued.

Or even better, I love the stories where authors have submitted a project themselves and contracted it without the agent’s knowledge and then landed themselves in a whole heap of trouble in terms of not honoring option clauses or current contract conditions etc.

Guess what the agent does when he or she finds out? You bet. Drops you. In this instant, the author has purposely negated the agent/author relationship and as far as the agent is concerned, you are not her problem anymore.

Any gray areas here? For example, are you allowed to share ideas with your editor? Sure… (but it’s better to share with me first) and as soon as the idea morphs into pen on paper, a real project that can be sold, I’d better be in the loop.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It’s After 10 p.m.?

STATUS: Holy cow did this day ever get away from me. It’s late and I’m still working. Of course I’m thinking do I have any brain cells left to blog today? Not many so I’m going to skimp. I should be hail and hearty tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’D REALLY LOVE TO SEE YOU TONIGHT by England Dan and John Ford Coley

My good friend Jason is tired of the incessant whining over books that didn’t match or bother to exceed expectation. Instead, let’s celebrate the little engines that could.

Jane Dystel thinks you are nutso [my interpretation because Jane is very elegant would never say something like “nutso”] if you think all an agent does is sell books. Agenting is so much more…

My good bud agent Jennifer Jackson discusses how bad books get published and good books don’t (and all variations in between).

Jessica over at Bookends tackles when an agent gives up.

And of course, one of my favorites, Bookseller (Can-I-convince-you-to-handsell-all-my-clients’-books?) Chick talks about the most kick-a** topic of all, books as a gateway drug. Does it get any better than that?

Enjoy. Off to sleep. Back tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nobody’s Saint in Three Languages!

STATUS: My auction is still unfolding. Given the time of day, looks like it won’t wrap up until tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE WEAKNESS IN ME by Joan Armatrading

I just had to share. Just this week, I finally got the foreign editions for my romance author Paula Reed’s latest historical romance entitled NOBODY’S SAINT.

Of course I love ALL my author covers but I have to say there’s a little special place in my heart for this very sexy US version. When looking at it, it just makes me want to pop on a little Julio I. and maybe indulge in some vigorous fanning or a nice mild swoon.

My hubby just laughs.

But truly, I think Paula’s publisher Kensington just nailed this cover (except Paula would say they didn’t have stripped sheets back in the late 1700s). I know. It should bother me but I don’t mind a little historical leeway as long as it isn’t blatant like zippers on blue jeans for a historical Western. Now that would drive me crazy.

So I’m pretty enthralled with the US version but then I got a load of the Dutch edition.

That guy surely doesn’t look like anybody’s saint. You betcha. I think this cover could work in the US without blinking an eye.
So it was doubly interesting to me to see the semi-clinch cover from her Brazilian publisher (and it’s the first of my clients to sell in South America). And I find the “Don-Juan” in the title very fascinating.

Brazilian edition

But what is clear? It’s a fun, sexy read that you should get your hands on if you haven’t already. What other romance in the world has a Spanish Gent, an Irish lass, and Mary and Mary Magdalene as interfering saints? In some respects, I still can’t believe that Kensington let us get away with this book and for that reason alone, it’s worth picking up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Myth Buster #4—Anybody Say Launch Party?

STATUS: Tomorrow I have an auction happening and late on last Friday, I got a first offer for a different submission I currently have out. Deals are in the fall, crisp air!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHURCH OF THE POISON MIND by Culture Club

What about all those publishing parties, say you? Surely that’s yet another advantage to being an agent located in New York. There are all those extra networking opportunities at launch parties, book store events, and whatnot, to make business happen.


Do you know what agents, editors, and other industry folks do at launch parties and other publishing events? They have fun. They drink. They eat and generally talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with publishing.

And there are all kinds of other secrets I could share about what goes down at those parties and who might have partied too much but alas, to paraphrase a line from ALMOST FAMOUS again, there are some things that’s good for a few people to know rather than millions. This would be one of them.

(And I know I don’t have a million-person readership. I just wanted to use the line!)

Friday, November 10, 2006


STATUS: It was a little bit nippy here in Denver. Actually, I think it’s just normal weather but after the sultry days in PR… The first day back in the office is always a wash. I have grand ideas of how much I’ll tackle and the reality is that I’ll end up checking off one thing from my list of 25 items.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DRIVE MY CAR by The Beatles

On Monday, my good agent friend Deidre Knight tagged me from her blog to reveal 5 interesting things about myself.

I swear, it took me all week just to come up with five that would be worth sharing. To quote a line from ALMOST FAMOUS, “I’m uncool.”

But here goes.

1. When I was in the 7th grade, I was caller 600 on a phone-in radio station contest and I won two free tickets to go see Olivia Newton John in concert (yep, the Let’s Get Physical tour). I thought I was so hip and cool.

And you can see how Junior High could go down hill from there.

2. I have two tattoos and I have had them going on close to 20 years.

3. I broke my right arm when I was 24. A girlfriend of mine worked in the music industry and we were backstage a lot that month while I had my full-arm plaster cast. I still have it and it was signed by Michael Hutchins and the boys from INXS, Crowded House, Lenny Kravitz (What a gentleman! We even had tea with him, and I’m not kidding. Tea.) and Material Issue.

Also that summer, I had a whole conversation with Harrison Ford while sitting on the steps of the administration building of Paramount studios and I didn’t initiate it. He did.

4. I’m the youngest of three children in my family. Not once has anyone guessed that. They always think I’m the oldest. It must be my bossy ways.

5. On average, once a month, a stranger will come up to me on the street or in a store or at the airport convinced that they know me. They will ask if I grew up in XYZ or went to this high school or was at this job. Some folks have even called me by some other name and given me a hug, convinced that they knew me.

My hubby used to laugh and tell me I was exaggerating until he got to experience it first hand. It literally happened last night when we flew from Miami to Denver. The guy sitting next to me said, “I just have to ask. Is your name Kim and did you grow up in Mississippi?”

I couldn’t make this up folks. Makes me think I might have had a brilliant career in crime since it would be hard to pick me out specifically in a line up. I look like every other women in the United States!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Myth Buster #3—Out To Lunch

STATUS: Feeling a little despondent. It’s my last day in the tropics. I hear it’s going to snow in Denver on the day we return. How’s that for climate shock?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod. Why I didn't travel with it is a mystery to me.

So just what exactly to editors and agents do when out to lunch?

We eat of course—and the good stuff. After all, editors don’t get paid a ton of money (until they’ve been in the biz awhile, have a couple of big sellers on their rosters, and have worked up to being senior editors or higher). One of the editor perks is that they have expense accounts to take the agents out to lunch.

Yep. You heard that right. Publisher pays for lunch.

Nothing crazy exorbitant (unless you are the agent of one of the big sellers on the editor’s roster) but definitely nice. And editors have their favorite joints—usually within walking distance of the publishing house because as I mentioned yesterday, lunching is time-consuming and both parties pretty much want to jump right back into work. No wasting time in a cab or on the subway to hightail it back to the office.

What do we do?

We talk. I’d say, on average, 10 to 15 minutes of the lunch might actually be about business. It depends on whether the editor has a client of mine or not. If there is big business to discuss (like an issue, or a publicity/marketing campaign outline, or something along those lines, then that meeting is always done at the publishing house so all the key players can be involved—lunch or dinner then comes afterwards). Sometimes all the key players will come and other times, just the editor.

Publishing folks are busy. It took two months of scheduling to set up a meeting with me, my client, her editor, the editorial director, the head of publicity, and the head of marketing. The publisher just popped her head in to say hello. To get all these people together for lunch might take more than 2 months of scheduling. Big smile here. It happens though.

So lunches are usually just with the editor. What writers need to understand is that the business of publishing is all about who you know and your connection to the editors. If the editor is new to me, lunch isn’t about pushing business (how rude would that be) but about getting to know the editor, his or her tastes, what writers he or she has on the list. Can you send me copies of your list favorites? When the copies come, I read those books and take notes in my database regarding that editor so I’ll know what she likes and what submissions of mine might work for her.

Agenting is about relationships and that’s what is solidified over lunch. The agent is a person the editor wants to do business with and vice-versa.

If I have something in the submission hopper, I talk about it. I’ve certainly sent a project to an editor who wouldn’t have originally been on the submission list because of a lunch conversation. (But to be honest, the majority of sales don’t happen this way. I have better sales history when my submission list is carefully targeted but you never know. Sometimes an editor has a secret passion that is only revealed over lunch and boom, I’ve got a new submission where that passion is the main subplot or propels the story. Suddenly that editor is the perfect person to look at it. It happens.)

Often, I’ll give a copy of my client list to the editor so they can have it as a reference. Editors often request copies of my clients’ books. Maybe they have been hearing buzz and want to read what everybody is talking about. I’ll send Sara a quick note to get a copy out to the editor.

And yes, sometimes editors want to take you to lunch so they can casually chat about a client of mine published by another house. It’s their job to find out if that client is perfectly happy because if they are not…

But for the most part, we talk about life. What we are doing. Our hubbies, boyfriends, or girlfriends. A new baby. A recent trip. A fun movie we saw. Something crazy that happened on the subway literally on my way to this lunch (and for some reason, this happens a lot to me…). We create a powerful connection.

This is what lunch is actually all about.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Myth Buster #2—Lunching Is No Daily Event

STATUS: I’m heading to the beach in 5 minutes. What mood do you think I’m in?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod.

Writers have a romantic view of agents dreamily heading out to lunch with editors on a daily basis. We dine and do business over yummy sushi or whatever.

Actually there are two myths involved here.

Myth #1—Daily lunches

Myth #2—Conducting deal business over lunch.

So let’s tackle Myth 1 to start.

If editors and agents actually lunched every day, they would never get enough work done. Lunches take a huge chunk out of the day—on average about 2 hours. We don’t lunch lightly. It has to be worth the time investment considering that both of us will have to stay late in order to finish what didn’t happen while we were out to lunch. We literally haven’t got time for daily lunches.

Since I’m out in Denver (but travel to New York often—as do all other non-NYC based agents), I decided to poll some of my New York-based agent friends to see how often they went to lunch with editors. After all, they are just right there. They should be lunching often. Once a week. Twice a week? What do you think?

Now obviously this will really vary per agent. Some might lunch more than others.

On average, my NYC-based agent friends went to lunch with editors about twice a month. That adds up to about 24 to 30 lunches in a year.

Guess how many lunches with editors I do in a year? You guessed it. About 24-30 lunches.

And here’s another aspect of this (and this is true for NYC-based agents as well as Non-NYC agents). A lot of these lunches are not done in New York City.


These lunches can occur at Book Expo (which is not always held in the Big Apple), at RWA, World Fantasy, World Con, BoucherCon, ThrillerFest, Children’s Book Fair, and gosh yes, even at the popular writers conferences.

Not in NYC.

And here’s another myth buster for you. It can happen but it happens rarely that an actual deal will be negotiated over lunch. That’s not the kind of business we do when eating (Deal making and digestion—two things that shouldn’t go together). So tomorrow, I’ll give you a little peek inside what actually does occur at the editor/agent lunch.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Break the Code!

STATUS: Don’t worry. I’ll probably get back to myth busting tomorrow. I was a little more interested in hitting the beach today than blog writing. What can I say? In fun news though, my software guru is creating a new Nelson Agency web database where writers can upload their sample pages to a safe and secure site starting in January 2007. No more snail mailing sample pages for us to review. Serious. We are going fully electronic baby. It’s coming so be on the look out for the blog announcement but our goal is to launch this new submission format starting on Jan. 3, 2007.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod.

Okay, for those of you who are huge Ally Carter fans and have been dying for any sneak peek at the next book, here’s your chance.

The title for the sequel I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU has been top secret until now. If you can crack the code, you’ll have the skinny that no one in the world has besides Ally, her publisher, and me—not to mention there are some cool prizes.

So, visit Ally’s blog for contest rules/instructions/prizes and for more details but here’s the code.

Happy breaking all you spies.

From Ally:


By far one of the most frequent questions I've gotten lately is "what's the title of the next Gallagher Girls book going to be?"

Well, here it is for the first time anywhere!

What? You can't read it?

That's probably because the good folks at the Gallagher Academy have encrypted it.

Yep. It's a real code!

Actual spies have used this actual technique to convey actual secrets for years.

So if you've ever wanted to be a spy, or if you're just a puzzle junkie... Or maybe if you are simply dying to know the title, here's your chance to have some fun and challenge yourself and think like a Gallagher Girl (or guy) for a while.

And I'm throwing a contest (with some pretty cool prizes) for those of you who feel up to the challenge.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Myth Buster #1—Walk This Way

STATUS: Okay, I have a secret to divulge. I didn’t go to World Fantasy because I opted to be in the Caribbean with my hubby for his business trip. For me, it’s mostly vaca with a light smattering of reading work for current clients. Hence, it will probably be blog light all week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod.

I just had to chuckle at one of the posted comments from Friday’s entry about agents walking the manuscript over to the editor. Because no agent, even if they live in the Big Apple, would ever walk a manuscript over to a publishing house therefore saving the messenger fee.

Why? Well, first, who wants to lug loads of paper around the subway? But here’s the real reason. Agents don’t mail manuscripts these days. I kid you not. We email it. There are some exceptions (and agents know the editors who will insist on a hard copy etc.).

It’s very rare that I’ll actually snail mail a manuscript. For the good majority of my projects, there’s not enough time. I’ll have an offer in within days and if an editor asked for a hard copy, he or she probably hasn’t even received it before the excitement gets going. I end up emailing it anyway.

And I want to be very clear that I’m not poking fun at this comment poster. In fact, I think the he or she is brilliant for bringing it up because this puts me in mind for a whole series of rants I could do this week about publishing misconceptions and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of being based in New Yor (or not) and how we actually work.

The “manuscript mailing costs” just being one of them.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Non-New York State Of Mind

STATUS: Is it really this early on a Friday? I’m going to be on a plane for most of today (and not off to World Fantasy) so I’m getting an early start on my day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I'M GOIN' DOWN by Bruce Springsteen

To be honest, whether an agent is located in New York or not seems to be a big matter of importance only for writers.

For editors, they simply don’t care where an agent is located as long as his or her reputation is solid and the projects they see from those agents are good, good, good.

I bring this up because I hang out at a few online writers chat places (because I love keeping in touch with what writers are thinking and feeling) and almost once a month, this topic rises again and someone always posts that “most of the top agents” are in New York and writers should really have a New York agent.

Of course this bothers me for obvious reasons—being located in Denver and all.

Well, I started to really think about that. I could literally name 30 agents (just off the top of my head) with really stellar client lists that include huge NYT bestsellers who live and operate outside of New York.

Here’s a quick sampling just to get the ole brain cells firing this morning:

Deidre Knight, Knight Agency (Madison, Georgia)
Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management (Washington, D.C.)
Jim Hornfischer, Hornfischer Literary Management (Austin, Texas)
Amy Rennert, The Amy Rennert Literary Agency, (Tiburon, CA.)
Sandy Dijkstra, Dijkstra Literary Agency (Camino Del Mar, CA)
Robert Shepard, Shepard Literary Agency (Berkeley, CA)

And when you start boiling down the really stellar agents in New York, yes, I can name more than 30—but in reality not too many more (depending on criteria and what one considers “top” etc.)

So since it’s my blog, I’ll rant if I want too! Wink.

Now the problem that gives us non-New Yorkers a tougher road for this myth-busting is the fact that the good majority of scammers operate outside of New York (because it would be too expensive to operate in the Big Apple).

That’s easily fixed. Have Writer Beware and its 20-Worst Agents list on your radar.

And spread the word.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Generic YA First POV

STATUS: Today was a non-day for work. My tech person came to boot up the new network so I pretty much had no access to the computer for most of the day. In good news, I did stand in line for an hour to early vote (and good news for the voting part—not the standing in line part). Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JEALOUSY by Gin Blossoms

I’ve been noticing something in the Teen Chick Lit submissions I’ve been receiving so I’m finally going to talk about it. It’s tough though because taste can be so subjective and what one agent dislikes, another agent loves.

Same with editors for that matter.

But I think there have been enough examples of late to merit a blog entry and this pretty much applies to what I call Teen Chick Lit, which, as many of you know, is mainly done in a young girl’s first person point-of-view.

Now don’t worry. I don’t think there is anything wrong with first pov; I like it just fine. What’s bothering me is what I’m calling a rash of generic first person narratives (despite good hooks or an original story line). The main narrator ends up sounding just like the main narrators of the 30 plus Teen Chick Lits I’ve read in the last 3 months. There’s no differentiating.

Now the tricky part. What’s generic for me? A couple of things.

1. A Valley-girlish type narrative voice

This is for lack of a better description. I don’t mean strict Valley Girl like, oh my gosh, from the 80s. I know YA writers are trying to capture that teen speak, slang, and quick dialogue so true to life. But what I’m seeing is this narrative voice and the absence of crucial things like character development. A narrator’s voice should be instrumental to showing character depth and complexity. Lately, it seems to be missing. Not to mention, not all teens speak that way. Surely we can have some variety. I have two teenage nieces and they don’t talk in this same rhythm that I seem to be seeing over and over in sample pages I’ve been reading.

2. A dialogue-heavy scenes

This in itself is not necessarily bad. Most YA novels tend to be pretty dialogue-oriented. It picks up the pace etc. I have a problem with it when scenes are dialogue-heavy to the exclusion of everything else, like setting the scene. I’m seeing this often.

3. Misconception that a good hook can carry average writing

Yes, a good hook in Teen chick lit goes a long way but I have to say that I’m an even harder judge when reading YA. I really want the writing to be top-notch, literary commercial, can hold up even on an adult level but has the right pace for YA.

It’s one of the reasons why I had not taken on a YA-only writer until just last week. I’m looking for something that can really hold its own in the market. It’s not generic in any way.

Whatever that means, right?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Author Comparison—Don’t Let It Backfire

STATUS: I’m feeling a little bummed. Everyone I know is going to be at World Fantasy in Austin this weekend and did I decide to go this year? Nope. Sigh. I went last year and loved it but the November timing just didn’t work for me. Next year…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY? by Van Morrison

I have to say that, in general, I really like when writers include in their queries what I call author comparables—which means a listing of a maybe two or three already published authors and their comparable books (as in same type of tone, same genre, same audience etc.)

It let’s me know that the writer has contemplated the market and where his or her book is going to sit on the shelves. Readers of these authors will also like what this new writer has to offer. It can be very savvy. It’s an instant context for the agent and hey, that never hurts.

But recently I got a query letter where the writer compared the work being pitched to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Now it’s fine to say it’s similar in theme or in the same vein but this writer took it a step further wanted to show how the two differ.

Now this in itself isn’t a bad idea but the writer is now moving into risky territory. Why? Because sometimes it’s hard to talk about what is unique about your book without implying that it might be lacking in Neil’s. (And to even imply that your book might be “better” than Neil’s is pretty ballsy.) Not to mention, the agent might be thinking, “Yep, I know how these two will differ in a big way because how many people in the world can write as well as Mr. Gaiman. Don’t even go there.”

It can backfire.

I actually don’t think that was the query writer’s intent so I didn’t “read” it that way but it takes really careful phrasing in the comparison paragraph to not have it come off that way.

Just heads up that if you are using this approach in your query, proceed with a little caution.