Friday, December 15, 2006

Last Blog Of The Year

STATUS: It’s TGIF for the next two weeks!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS (BABY PLEASE COME HOME) by U2

Nelson Literary Agency is officially closed until Jan. 2, 2007. But have no fear, there will be new blogs in the new year.

Until then, Happy Holidays! I’ll see you then.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Year in Statistics

STATUS: Sara and I are working like mad to finish everything up today. Tomorrow we close. By the way, I just saw fellow Backspace member Martha O’Connor comment about giving a donation to charity in the agent’s name. LOVE THAT. So add that to your agent gift-giving list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHITE CHRISTMAS by Bing Crosby

20,800
(Estimated number of queries read and responded to in 2006)

54
(Number of full manuscripts requested and read)

8
(Number of new clients taken on this year)

21
(Number of books sold this year—not counting subsidiary rights stuff)

6
(Number of projects currently under submission)

2
(Number of auctions held)

1
(Number of pre-empts accepted)

16
(Number of months for the longest submission that ended in a great sale)

65,000+
(Number of copies in print for my best-selling title this year)

7
(Number of conferences attended)

54
(Number of editor meetings held)

200
(Number of Holiday Cards sent)

4
(Number of Starbucks eggnog chai beverages consumed in the last week)

Lots
(Number of late nights reading partials etc. on the couch with Chutney)

All
(Number of great days loving my job)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Title Tales

STATUS: So far I’ve spent all day reading—a full manuscript I requested and then a client work. Only one more day until we officially close so I’ll probably be reading late into the evening.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS by Elvis Presley

Diana Peterfreund is talking about titles on her blog and being the lazy person I am this week, I thought I’d piggyback on her topic.

I want to reiterate here that authors should not get too attached to their titles. Sometimes they’re perfect and the author, the editor, and the whole sales department (and the buyer from Barnes & Noble) are giddy with excitement over it.

Then sometimes they're not. Or they might be perfectly okay titles but not quite the angle the publisher is looking for.

Any agent that’s been around awhile can regale you with tons of title tales and it seems a fitting end to the year. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to share a few.

Paula Reed’s first romance entitled INTO HIS ARMS was originally titled KEEPING FAITH (as in the main heroine’s name was Faith and the hero should keep her). Kensington, her publisher, thought it sounded too inspirational so changed it.

I don’t think anyone can mistake INTO HIS ARMS for a religious tome.

In contrast, the obvious title for Jenny O’Connell’s upcoming second YA is THE BOOK OF LUKE. Speaking of religious references, we thought there was no way MTV Books would let us keep it (although it totally fit because the protagonist takes it upon herself to reform the baddest, most popular boy in school—named Luke of course—and keeps a book about the effort.) We spent days coming up with some alternatives (if I remember correctly, Nice Is A Four-Letter Word was the runner up). It ended up being unnecessary as MTV kept the originally proposed title.

But here’s a great instance to show that a writer shouldn’t get too wed to a title.

For book 2 in Shanna’s ENCHANTED series, she had the perfect title. For years, she had wanted to write a book entitled Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. Finally, her chance had come in the form of the second book in her series. The manuscript was edited, delivered, and heading to press.

Then her agent opened up the then new spring catalog for Berkley (back in 2005) and lo and behold, you guessed it. Berkley had just released a book with that same title. As a book at Ballantine, we didn’t want to compete with a same-title release from another house.

Suddenly, we had no title. Enchanted Book 2 wasn’t really going to cut it. We spent weeks trying to come up with a new title only to be saved by the Ballantine marketing director. It was he who came up with ONCE UPON STILETTOS—in a moment that could only be described as sheer brilliance because what a great title.

For book 3, DAMSEL UNDER STRESS, the brainstorm brilliance was all Shanna and in this instance, Ballantine loved it immediately.

Title crisis averted—this time!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Hardest Person To Shop For?

STATUS: What’s there not to like? I’ve been munching on homemade cookies sent by my lovely client Shanna Swendson. It’s perfect nibbling as I try and wrap up queries, partials, and requests for fulls today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! by Harry Connick, Jr.

Today’s blog is a little smorgasbord of thoughts—not unlike the box of cookies sent my way (and if anyone makes a Forrest Gump reference I’ll scream).

Tis the season for a little inspiration so I wanted to share a tale courtesy of Therese Fowler (and with her permission).

Feel like chucking this whole writing/publication dream? Before you do, check out Therese’s story. A Fairy Tale ending, auction and all but “overnight” success only took five years, nine months, and three manuscripts.

Sometimes writers really need the morale bolster so indulge.

If you’re in the query stage, here’s a thought. Try to refrain from writing that “your work weighs in at…” Chances are good if you feel the need to use that language, your project exceeds the word-length expectation of the genre you’re writing in. In this case, it was for a women’s fiction work that was over 105,000 words. That’s long folks.

And last thought of the day, did you agonize over whether to get your agent a holiday gift or not?

Don’t worry. You weren’t alone. So what’s the answer? (This might open a can of worms because I can just imagine my clients reading this blog and then rushing out to get me something.)

Stop! This is not a guilt-trip inducement because I work for you and honestly, I don’t expect or need anything. A card (if that) is just fine.

But what if you truly want to send something? What to get? Oh please, like I can answer that for every agent living. But I can give some suggestions. For me, if it’s practical or edible, it’s unlikely to go astray. This could work well if you don’t know your agent well.

Who doesn’t like home-baked cookies? (Your diabetic or diet-obssessed agent for one.)

Flowers or a wreath? (Fine unless the agent is traveling for the holidays)

Perfume or scented lotions and soaps? (bummer if your agent is allergic)

Jewelry? (Tastes really vary)

Easy, isn’t it?

I’d go with a gift certificate to a favorite eatery or coffee establishment. It’s hard for that to miss since that will involve choice and the agent can always share with the assistants etc.

Some of my favorite gifts in the past (and they weren’t necessarily holiday-oriented):

Ally Carter gave me a rare orchid when I sold her YA. Thing was huge though and my hubby has it at his office because our Downtown condo is square foot challenged. It still blooms every year and it’s amazing.

One year Jennifer O’Connell sent me a variety of breads and exquisite cheeses. That was yum.

Flowers truly are lovely if I’m going to be around so they won’t die while away. Cheryl Sawyer has sent bouquets and she lives in Australia (power of the internet!)

Becky Motew gave me a wonderful necklace—a chick lit blue handbag with a little diamond (or similar rhinestone).

Hank Ryan gave me a designer pen that I didn’t recognize but when I whipped it out during an editor meeting in New York, there was much fawning over it. I suspect that it was from Tiffany’s…

And there have been many more (so sorry if I didn’t mention yours). Maybe I should keep a list…

Monday, December 11, 2006

Writer’s Cramp

STATUS: Had to have holiday music on for our tasks today!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OH HOLY NIGHT by Celine Dion

Our goal today was to finish the Nelson Agency holiday cards. Get them signed, sealed delivered.

We sent out a good 200 holiday cards to editors and other industry folks. My hand is cramping.
Here at the Nelson Agency, we do send special gifts of appreciation to the editors with whom we have projects. Our way of acknowledging their role in our success. Not all agencies do this but it has been a tradition at NLA.

I can also already tell that the slow-down in New York has begun. My email inbox was really quiet today and that’s not the norm.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Heads Up For The Holidays

STATUS: TGIF! I might actually take the evening off (as opposed to all my other nights this week where I’ve worked until 10 p.m.). Unfortunately, I’ll need to work through the weekend. All for a good cause though. Time off for good behavior starting on Dec. 15.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE WEEK by Barenaked Ladies

Yep, you read that correctly. Nelson Literary Agency is shutting down on Dec. 15th and won’t reopen until Jan. 2, 2007. Just wanted to give you folks a week’s heads up.

I did this last year and I have to say it was a real sanity booster to just take the time off. No queries, not sample pages, no blogging, no nothing.

Just time to read for pleasure. I can hardly wait. (Actually that’s not completely true because I may still have to deal with a couple of client-related issues the following week but for the outside world, we won’t be around.)

Rest assured, I do plan to read the three full manuscripts I’ve requested. I have every intention of following up with all queries letters sent to me up to Dec. 14. I also plan to respond to all sample pages mailed to us before we leave for the holidays and when we reopen on Jan. 2, it’s all electronic, baby.

Aren’t I afraid of missing out on the next big thing by not accepting or reading queries during the holidays?

Nope.

If I missed something good, oh well. Another great project that's right for me will be just around the corner in 2007.

Happy Eggnog chugging!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Are You The Key Master?

STATUS: I’ve been working late all week because I’m so behind on client reading. Sorry folks. This means I haven’t even looked at queries and partials for well over a week. No extra time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LEAST COMPLICATED by Indigo Girls

Well, I have serious doubts that the Sobol Awards is. I think Miss Snark clearly sums up my own issues with the whole “contest.” No need for me to re-summarize it here.

What’s most interesting to me, when reading the comments for this thread, is the implacable view of agents as gatekeepers.

Like we, as agents, are all sitting around plotting how not to let talented writers inside the publishing bastion and then delight in our ability to keep the “undeserving” out.

Hum… I can’t say I’ve ever thought of myself in this way. Most of the time, I just read submissions and I ask myself, “Do I like it? Do I not? Can I, personally, sell this?”

If the answer is yes, I take the person on. If the answer is no, I don’t.

There’s certainly no deeper subtext going on.

I also don’t like everything I find in the bookstore and I’ve certainly read published, wildly popular works or lauded works and thought, “this is crap; I can’t even imagine how this got published.”

Admit it! You readers have often thought the same.

No Gatekeeping conspiracy present since obviously a wide array of books (of varying quality) gets published. Besides, in a lot of genres I rep (such as romance and sf & f), editors often search for new talent sans agent involvement and lots of writers hook up with deals all on their own.

Doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

No, I don’t earn my 15% commission by gatekeeping. I earn my 15% by being a partner in my author clients’ careers.

And as I’ve said before, this job is so much more than just finding a project and selling it.

What the Sobol Contest implies is that there is nothing more to agenting than that. Some “winners” might be in for a rude awakening and let’s hope the “agent” at Sobol Literary will know better than to simply accept the Simon & Schuster contract boilerplate on the author’s behalf.

Egads.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Contest That Just Wouldn’t Die

STATUS: I feel like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne! Did I do some huge deal today or something? Nope. I finished negotiating a contract that was four months in the making. Normally contracts don’t take nearly that amount of time. This contract had some special circumstances but it’s done. I’m so really to celebrate that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Al Green

Yep. It’s all over the blogosphere. As much as we’ve tried, we just can’t kill the fee chargers that is the Sobol Award. There are at least a 1000 poor souls who paid up but obviously that wasn’t enough so the organizers in their beneficence (read: they didn’t get enough money first time around) extended the deadline from December of this year to March of 2007. Plenty of time to lighten the wallets of more unsuspecting writers.

I think POD-DY Mouth has the best take on it.

All I can say is that the contest creator Mr. Shomron must be some talker and Simon & Schuster deserves 50 lashes with a wet noodle for even getting involved.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Don’t Box Me In

STATUS: I’m playing huge catch up this evening. My tech person was in to tweak the network earlier today. Now that is all good and done. Yea! It put be a little behind for my goals of the day though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? POEMS, PRAYERS, AND PROMISES by John Denver

One look at my website and it will be pretty obvious to any casual observer that I’ve been pretty darn successful at books for women.

Romance. Women’s Fiction, YA that appeals to young gals. Even my SF & F has a decidedly female readership bent. Heck, the majority of my clients are women too!

I want you all to know that this wasn’t planned. It just happened that way.

But I read a lot and a good portion of my favorite books off all time are not necessarily written by women or even remotely in the field of women’s fiction. (In fact, last night I picked up ENDER’S GAME by Card because I saw it in the YA section of a bookstore. I hadn’t read it in years and I wanted to give it that YA look—as in, wow, they didn’t originally market this as YA so let’s see how that would work. In one page, I just about swooned. What a writer. What a story! I’d sign that one up in a heartbeat and there’s nary a women main character in sight!)

So I just wanted to remind y’all to not box me in. I know it LOOKS like women’s stuff is all I’m interested in but honestly, it’s not. I’m so open that I’m actually more likely to take a risk on something that’s not in that realm because I’m actively looking to diversify my list.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to start looking at men-men techno thrillers. It just means don’t be afraid to query me for books in the genres I do rep just because the website is currently estrogen stacked.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Can’t Touch This!

STATUS: I’m a little annoyed so I would like to say here, despite an anonymous poster on Thursday Nov. 30, 2006 suggesting that I am liar, I have never lied or exaggerated a posting on deal lunch. I think it’s important to set that record straight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WINDSWEPT by Bryan Ferry

The Mahvelous ladies at Writer Beware have done it again. Victoria and Ann have taken down another scammer after years of unpaid, often times unthanked perseverance.

And the story rivals anything you’d see on CSI or Law And Order. Check out the play-by-play on their blog (here and here) and do me a favor, send them an e-card thanking them for all their hard work.

They make the world of publishing a better place and so often get little recognition for it. Let’s flood their email box with great electronic cards telling them how much we appreciate their efforts to keep the writing world safe.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Dead Zone

STATUS: TGIF! Tonight I’m volunteering for the Denver Parade of Lights. My hubby and I did this last year and it was a blast. We held and manipulated the enormous Rudolph the Reindeer balloon. This year we have the Parade Mascot—a Penguin. Happy feet!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LUSH LIFE by Natalie Cole

We are heading into the holiday dead zone of publishing. Sounds like it should be some cheesy horror film, doesn’t it?

I and almost every agent friend I have are completely slammed right now. Why? Because most of us won’t submit projects after the first week in December so it’s next week or bust (we wait until 2007).

Man, it’s weird writing that. I can’t believe it’s 2007 already.

But here’s the reason why we don’t submit much after the first week in December. A lot of editors take extra holiday time around this time of year because publishing slows down. So a lot of key decision makers tend to leave the office early and if you have a project generating excitement… editors have to confer with those key people.

It’s just too frustrating so we wait until the calendar turns to the new year.

Unless you get it out my next week that is… hence the mad scramble.