Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Piracy—All Too Real

STATUS: Besides that fact that it’s snowing again in Denver, I’m good. The keyboard and the mouse dried out and are working fine. Yea! And don’t worry, I know that there are plenty of mighty and wonderful librarians who fight for free speech etc.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COOL CHANGE by Little River Band

This isn’t the first time it has happened and I’m certain it won’t be the last. Piracy. Illegal eBooks being offered for sale via a website. Last time one of my author’s series of books was offered for sale in the Philippines. A quick email to the publisher got their legal team on it and within 24 hours, the webhoster had pulled the site.

It was probably up again a week later under a different hoster but hey, you do what you can.

This week, it’s a file sharing culprit right here in the U.S. (or I think it’s the US, the origin isn’t clear) A website called eSnips. Funny enough, sharing books isn’t an obvious part of the “community.” You need to go here to see what is being offered. Deliberate? Hum…

First off, if you are an author, you might want to check the site to see if your book is featured there. If so, contact your agent and your editor. We need to speak up in the face of copyright violation.

After all, this is how writers make their living--by selling books and earning royalties. If the books are posted (in full) on a site that allows free downloads, then the author is not earning money they are owed for their work.

Even if the books are being made available by misguided fans who think they are simply boosting the fan base of their favorite authors, it’s just plain wrong. (Besides, nothing like dissing an author you like by not allowing them to earn a living.)

And even if the author is already super millionaire, they still have a right to earn that money from their work (and to dispose of those earnings how they choose--even to charities etc.). Being a bestseller doesn’t matter for this issue.

Just imagine if it were your work being made available so casually—especially if you’re eyeing your bills for next month and wondering just how creative you’ll need to be to pay them…

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What’s In A Word?

STATUS: Iffy. Today I managed to knock a whole glass of water on my keyboard. I ended up leaving the office early so as to work on my laptop and let it dry out. Guess who might be buying a new cordless keyboard tomorrow? We’ll see. Sometimes they dry out and work fine.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME by Jewel

Obviously a lot if you’ve been following the news lately regarding the controversy surrounding an anatomy vocabulary word in Susan Patron’s Newbery Medal winner THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY.

Never mind the bollocks! We have librarians!

Librarians who obviously think young minds cannot handle the term scrotum. Not a slang term or a crude reference, mind you, but the medically correct term for the pouch of skin that contains the testes.

Oops. Shouldn’t use a word like “testes” on this blog! That might sound too similar to testicle. Thank goodness I didn’t accidentally use the word nutsack instead.

Seriously, it’s this kind of ruckus that makes me shake my head in wonder.

(And don’t you love that word ruckus? I think I need to see more fun words like that in the sample pages I’m reading and use them in everyday situations. Today, despite Chutney’s loud protestations, I told her she couldn’t join the dog fracas at the park. Invariably she goes Napoleon on a big dog and it turns out silly. Fracas! What a lovely word.)

But I’m distracted. Tomorrow I plan to go out and support Susan in the best way possible. I’m going to buy her book. In fact, it sounds so good, I think I might buy several copies and send them to all the young people in my life because I have no problem with them knowing the vocabulary word of scrotum (and that it’s an unhappy moment if a snake bites a male puppy dog there.)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Feel Free To Leave This Out

STATUS: I spent my day working on three contracts and the last of the outstanding issues. My hope is that we can put them to bed tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY by Donna Summer
(My theme song!)

I never claim to speak for all agents so this might just be a personal dislike but since I can also name 10 agent friends who are turned off by this as well, it might be a little universal. No formal study implemented of course.

I just hate when writers highlight (as if this is the main selling point of the query letter) that their work of fiction is based upon their true life story.

Writers are often told “to write what they know.” I’m good with that. But one’s true life story may or may not translate well into fiction. And if it does, well and good but you really don’t need to include that info in your query--mostly because of how that statement is handled. For some reason, it just comes across as amateurish rather than professional.

If the story is amazing, it will stand on its own despite the “true story” declaration. Let the story sell itself. Once taken on by the agent and then sold to a publisher, the true story aspect can then make a good human interest angle for promotion.

And before someone has a coronary, I still read those query letters and try and view it with an unbiased eye but I have to be truthful. I work a little harder at it since I’m already leaning toward NO.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I Think I Missed Again?

STATUS: It’s so early in the day, I can’t really tell yet. So far so good. No major fire—yet.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PETER GUNN by Henry Mancini

I’m positive that I’ve mentioned these two issues before but it probably bears repeating.

Two Query Snafus.

1. Don’t query for a work you haven’t completed if you write fiction. (Obviously, if you write nonfiction, all you need is a proposal and sample chapters—not the complete manuscript.)

Why? Because if an editor or an agent requests a full, you need to be able to send it.

And I know many writers are tempted by the “it’s almost complete and the query process can take so long.” I get that. But when we ask for full manuscripts, we want to see it now—not in six months when the writer may have completed it. Not to mention, the writer is now under pressure to complete and that might not take into consideration the needed revising time.

2. If you’re querying, you should be ready to submit sample pages. Period. There’s shouldn’t be any requests such as “can you discard what I previously sent you because I just had an epiphany and I’m rewriting.”

It’s either ready or it’s not.

Sara and I just had someone ask for the SECOND time whether we would discard what was sent and let the writer submit a new version one last time (or so the writer promises).

Sara now regrets allowing the first discard but hey, everyone is human (and to err is human and all that). We try to be considerate and to relate but I just have to point out that the writer’s request is unprofessional.

Submit once. That’s it. If you choose to revise later, great. You’ll need to target some new agents. So make sure your queried version is as final as you can make it before starting the process. In general, you’ll not be getting a second chance.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fresh & Original Vs. Too Risky And Strange

STATUS: Got a call from an editor expressing interest in a project I currently have on submission. Always a good first sign.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE DISTANCE by Cake

I’ve been having some interesting dialogues recently about what is too risky and strange (and thus misses the market) and what’s fresh, original, and daring.

What’s the difference and is that difference solely in the eye of the beholder? Darn hard to say.

On one hand I believe any concept can be pulled off and do-able given the right character development. As long as the reader feels emotionally involved with the characters (even the hard-to-like non-touchy feely characters), anything is possible.

After all you can have a story about young tweens with personal demons that shapeshift (and are the external representations of the person’s conscience) and then become static once the tween reaches maturity and that dominant personality traits are fixed. (Philip Pullman’s THE GOLDEN COMPASS)

And it totally works. The concept is strange and original but fascinating.

The difference might be in how one responds to the original concept. Is the initial gut reaction “wow, that’s cool?” or is it “huh?”

And gut reaction can certainly be subjective.

But for me, I know the instant I read a query (mainly because I’ve read so many and have seen thousands and thousands of ideas) which way a concept tips. I either react with “very cool” or a “wow, that’s too strange” or worse yet, “I don’t get it.”

And I can always be wrong. After all, I would have shaken my head over a concept of a novel set in the Ice Age where a Neanderthal clan rescues and adopts an early Cro-Magnon child (known as one of the Others) and that changes the clan’s destiny.

Sign me up for that one. Not.

Except that would be CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by Jean M. Auel and a big mistake to have missed out on that one. I’m still trying to imagine how her agent pitched that novel to the editors.

“So I have this great story set 35,000 years in the past…” That probably wasn’t the approach.

Ultimately, it can all be in the writing but for me, some concepts are so out there and strange, I don’t want to read that story regardless of how good the writing might be. So even if you might be flirting with too risky, you need to make sure your query nails the emotional punch and allows the risky element to sound perfectly natural.

If that makes any sense. It’s a tough balance to strike but absolutely necessary.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Third Time (Or Fourth) Might Be The Charm

STATUS: Tech day at the Agency. I finally bought a new Tablet PC and my tech person had to get it up to speed. I can’t wait to use it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JACK & DIANE by John Mellencamp

I was reading the Romance Writers Report last week (for those of you who don’t know, this is the official magazine of Romance Writers of America). In the mag, they have a first sales column where writers get to announce their first sale.

Okay, sounds like Deal Lunch but for romance. But what I love about this column is that oftentimes, the writers will share how many manuscripts they wrote before finally selling that debut novel.

And let me tell you, it is never novel number one.

How many manuscripts, on average, do you think writers tend to write before selling?

If I do the math (and this isn’t scientific in anyway because I’m only using one column and not gathering statistics from let’s say all last year’s issues), the average comes out to about four.

Yep, most authors, on average, wrote four novels before selling.

And this probably holds true for more than just romance. Just chat with published authors and most will tell you they have a manuscript or two under the bed gathering dust.

So I guess what I’m saying is that you shouldn’t give up or lose faith if novel number one doesn’t go anywhere.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Coveted PW Reviews

STATUS: Having a happy week with some good client news.

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

I love sharing news like this. It can be difficult to land a much coveted Publishers Weekly review. They get every galley for soon-to-be-released books and they only choose 30 or so fiction/nonfiction titles a week to review. And the review window is small so once closed, no PW review.

Well, I have 2 authors reviewed in 2 almost back-to-back issues and yes, I’m thrilled.

First off, Cheryl Sawyer’s THE WINTER PRINCE. It’s her first appearance in PW and this appeared in the Feb. 5, 2007 issue.

Here’s an excerpt:
Hardcore history buffs will appreciate the fly-on-the-turret view of the dramas besieging the British royal court in 1642, when, though the country is rocked by a civil war, there is still time for illicit romance. Sawyer (The Code of Love ;The Chase ) imagines the private moments of historical figures, focusing on 20-year-old beauty Mary Villiers, the adoptive daughter of King Charles I, and Prince Rupert, the king's beloved and loyal warrior nephew. Though married to James Stuart, duke of Richmond, Mary cannot resist the charms of Rupert le diable once the charismatic, swashbuckling playboy sets his sights on her. Their romance, however, couldn't come at a worse time: the king is intent on shaking up Parliament, and the outcome could be dire for Rupert and Mary. Fans of the stolen-glance-and-lingering-touch variety of romance will savor the slow-cooking affair.

This week, for the Feb. 26, 2007 issue that’s not out yet, it’s Jennifer O’Connell’s turn for EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME

Not only that, but PW is featuring the fabulous cover and they only choose one cover per section per issue. Score!

Monday, February 19, 2007

You—As Agent Journalist

STATUS: Doing lots of editing for client material this week (and trying to read sample pages/fulls at night). Also putting the finishing touches on the February eNewsletter. It’s going out this week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BACK WATER BLUES by Dinah Washington

I promised I would talk about Qs to ask an agent if you get THE CALL. I think you can pick and choose what’s most important to you but here are some questions I received recently when I offered representation.

First off, I think you should always ask for a copy of the agency agreement. Most of your questions will probably be answered in that document. If an agent operates without one, you’ll want to ask about termination, whether the agency holds rights into perpetuity, how they handle expenses etc. Otherwise, your conversation is more than likely going to encompass how the relationship will operate.

And Blog readers, if you want to add suggestions in the comments, go for it. And I’m not going to state obvious Qs like how long have you been in the biz, recent sales, and if you are an AAR member. That’s all stuff you SHOULD know before querying the agent.

1. If it’s a big agency, ask who will be handling your work. Assistants are great but they should be assisting, not doing all the work.

2. How do you communicate with your clients?

3. How will I be kept informed of the status of my work?

4. How long does it take you to edit a project and how involved are you in the editing process?

5. Do you have co-agents for foreign rights and Hollywood?

6. Do you consult with clients on any and all offers?

7. How do you prefer to handle future projects? Should I run ideas by you first or can I simply write?

8. What if you don’t want to handle a project? What happens then?

9. What kind of career guidance do you offer?

And then you might want to track other indicators. For example, does the agent suggest that you talk with his/her current clients? What’s your gut feeling during the call? Do you feel you connected with the agent--and in whatever way you define “connection.” For some people, it’s a business so does this person feel like he/she will take care of business? For other writers who want more hand-holding, do you feel that needed emotional connectivity that makes you comfortable?

That about covers it—until I remember a prime question I should have included!

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Agent Call—Take 2

STATUS: I had a great week and I’m ending early. It’s only right around 5 p.m. Yahoo.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ACCIDENTALLY IN LOVE by Counting Crows

The most delightful thing has happened. An agent has called to offer representation. Now what?

First off, unless the agent is absolutely your first choice and you have no reservations, you won’t accept the offer during that phone call. You’ve got some work to do. One, you want to have your list of agent questions ready and you want to ask those questions. If you don’t have them ready, you might want to schedule a phone conference with the offering agent for when you do (but just have them ready).

It’s not presumptuous. You’re setting up a business partnership. You want to know what you are getting into. Ask about the agent’s agency agreement (if they have one), so you can read it (and ask questions) before making a decision.

Hiring your agent should be an informed decision. Maybe on Monday I’ll tackle what you ask during “the call.”

But for now, you have one offer on the table. Now what?

1. While on the phone, you tell the agent that you have several other agents interested (if you do—don’t lie if you don’t obviously) and that you will need to contact them before making a decision. All the agents I know fully respect this. And if you don’t have any other interest, you can ask for a short period to contemplate the offer before accepting. That’s reasonable too.

2. Then you contact all the agents who have your full manuscript and inform them. I’d start with email and then if you don’t receive a reply from some of the agents, I would follow up with a phone call to make sure they know.

3. Give those still reading agents a deadline. You need to make a decision by XYZ date so please get back to me by such-n-such a date if interested.

You now might end up with more than one “the call.” How exciting is that?

If other calls come, ask questions, review the agency agreement beforehand (all the stuff I mention above), and now you might also want to chat with current clients.

And it’s okay to have more than one conversation with the offering agents if you are undecided and you like more than one. You’re now in the driver’s seat because agents want to land you as a client. It’s our time to woo you.

In the end though, you can only choose one.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

When It’s Okay To Call An Agent

STATUS: The morning was devoted to following up on contracts in process but I did, oddly enough, get to do some editing on client work this afternoon. That’s pretty rare for me to accomplish that while at the office.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ASK THE LONELY by Journey

As most of you know, agents don’t take phone queries. We simply don’t have enough time in the day to take 5 minutes and listen to a pitch for every writer who wanted to call.

Just thinking about that makes me shiver.

So when is it okay to call an agent? Well, the list is pretty short so I’ll be able to sum it up quickly.

1. You are a previously published author with a great track record that’s looking for new representation. Agents will be happy to take your call.

2. You have an offer on the table from a respectable publisher with real money involved (a least a couple thousand dollars) and you are looking for an agent to negotiate the deal. Agents are happy to discuss this possibility via phone.

3. You have been personally referred by a current client and would like to request permission to send sample pages. (Actually I’d still prefer an email first but it would be okay if you called.)

4. You have a full manuscript request from me and it’s been more than 2 months and you are simply following up on the status. (Once again, I prefer you email but I think it’s professional and reasonable to call and follow up.)

I love technology but it can go astray. I’ve only had this happen once (knock on wood) but I was mortified when I realized what had occurred. I read a full manuscript, sent a lovely letter by email mentioning that I was passing with regret, and the writer never received it. (I can’t remember if it got spam blocked or if the writer had changed email addresses or what). This person ended up emailing the agency months later with a request for the status. I keep all letters sent so it was easy to email it again but I felt terrible that the writer had waited all that time to hear the news. And then to get bad news…

That’s pretty much it.

When folks do call, Sara handles it. For the occasional times I’ve answered the phone, I’m very nice but I simply direct the caller to our website and the submission guidelines listed there.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Do Agents Make Clients Revise?

STATUS: Snowing again in Denver. I think I’m tired of snow (and I thought I would never say that). By the way folks, I said SOME agents keep blacklists. I didn’t say I keep one. And if you’d rather I not be honest with you… then I certainly don’t have to share what is the truth in this biz. But personally, I’d rather let you know the inside scoop—even if it’s not shiny.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL STAR by Smashmouth

Do agents ask their new clients to revise?

In short, yes.

Here’s how it works for me (and I certainly don’t speak for all agents). I don’t sign a client on unless I feel comfortable with sending out the manuscript as is. Why? Because if the client decides not to revise, and that’s his/her choice, I have to be game to submit it regardless.

Now lucky for me, every single one of my clients has been delighted to get feedback. And when I send my critique electronically in track changes, I say, “take what works and ignore what doesn’t.”

Ultimately it’s their story so a revision has to feel right.

This is why I often pass, with regret, on manuscripts that I like a lot but just need too much work before I could be comfortable sending it out. Now often I’ll write a detailed letter to those writers if I’ve read the full in an attempt to give helpful feedback. Often I’ll give them the option to resubmit if they do choose to revise. The manuscript has to be pretty close or in my mind, easily fixed via a large revision.

When I send my revision suggestions to my authors, my comments aren’t always 100% right but what they discover is that I usually put my thumb on what is problematic—even if my proposed solution isn’t quite right. It just gets the author thinking and analyzing and often he/she will come up with a new solution that makes sense to them and the manuscript.

They revise based on that. Now they always feel obligated to explain their reasoning for not making my suggested change, which mostly amuses me because they don’t have to. It’s their novel; their word goes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Conferences On My Mind

STATUS: I’m good but I can’t figure out why. I managed to just cross one thing of my list. It should have been a more productive day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT by Nirvana

I have conferences on the mind. I’m doing two in March out on the East Coast around a New York trip and then, of course, you have to prepare for RWA months in advance. Even though the conference isn’t until July, everything has to be done now for the registration/hotel and the workshops.

I’m so proud of myself though. I even updated my handouts and got those sent in. Mark that off my list.

But this put me in mind of my announcement yesterday that I signed a new client because I met her at a conference.

It’s the second client I’ve signed via that medium. And yes I realize that’s not an impressive sign-a-client-from-a-conference record but I do think that number will rise in the future.

I’m already impressed with the number of queries I receive where the writer mentions he/she met me a conference.

I also pay closer attention to those queries. Honest truth and even if the project isn’t a perfect fit for me, I’ll often give that writer a chance and ask for sample pages.

Call it a benefit of taking the time, effort, and spending the money to attend a conference. Not to mention, having the guts to come up and meet me… As long as I don’t have any horrible memory of that meeting (and trust me that has happened and I do take notes), then I’m usually game to be a little more flexible and open to seeing pages.

So if you have conferences on your mind and plan to attend one, take the time to go and meet the agents. If you can swing a social situation, all the better.

The client I signed yesterday came out with a group of authors and agents for an apr├Ęs conference aperitif (translation: a drink).

She was fun, normal, social, and didn’t push her work. She remembered me and I remembered her and boom, she is now a client.

Either way, you might learn more about the biz, about agents as people, and just how to be more comfortable in a publishing but social environment,

So go for it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What You Should Never Do

STATUS: I signed a new client today. That’s always fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I MELT WITH YOU by Modern English

I want to begin this blog by saying that I do understand the incredible obstacles writers face in terms of finding an agent and selling a book. I understand that if you, as a writer, get rejection after rejection, it’s frustrating not to mention disheartening.

I get that.

And I imagine that every writer at one time has THOUGHT about writing an industry professional to express frustration. That’s valid. Think about it; just don’t ever do it. This is what journals are for or venting with your best writer friend.

I received an email over the weekend that just makes me want to shake my head in pity.

Clearly stating a name and title of the project, this writer emailed to tell me that he/she had decided to destroy his/her book thanks to my agency. That I, as well as many other agents who had rejected it, had destroyed his/her dream and I should put that on my resume.

Sigh. This is a mistake for so many reasons. I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just list them.

1. The only person responsible for your dream is you. It’s obvious that this writer is into blame and once begun, there is no end to who else’s fault it can be. It couldn’t possibly be because the writing isn’t strong enough, or the concept is unoriginal, or even that it’s not right for the current market. Nope. It must be those evil agents who haven’t recognized the brilliance; those evil agents who are keeping down deserving writers.

Real writers take personal responsibility for their work and even if it truly is the publishing world that has missed the boat (and it happens) a real writer perseveres in the face of challenge and writes another book. (John Grisham comes to mind. After all, the first book he wrote was a TIME TO KILL but that was not the first novel he sold.)

2. Sending such an email is just unprofessional. Think of any other business endeavor (such as applying for job etc.) and it would never occur to a person to send such a communication. Would you email all the people who interviewed you for a job but didn’t hire you about what a mistake they made? They would potentially think you unhinged. Not to mention question your age and maturity level.

3. Some agents have blacklists folks. This person did not send the letter anonymously. Guess where the name just went?

Uh, yikes? Why would you deliberately hamper a potential career that has not yet begun?

So think about it all you want. Vent to your writing friends and release the negative energy. Write numerous angry letters in your journal.

Just don’t send it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Reading That’s Not So Much Fun

STATUS: Just finished the contract. That’s a way to end a Friday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC by The Police

And since I have contracts on the mind…

I pretty much have to say that a contract is agent reading that’s not so much fun. It’s slow and detailed work--even if you already have a boilerplate with the publishing house. You would think that an already-negotiated-boilerplate contract, even for a new client, would be a snap. Plug in the new items and away we go.

Nope. You still have to ascertain whether all your boilerplate items are included. Take today’s contract for example. I caught over 10 items that are normally included in my boilerplate for this house but were just missing in this contract draft.

And before you leap to any conclusions, I don’t think it’s the pub house being deliberately nefarious or anything. Chances are good that they used an older version boilerplate to create this draft instead of my most recent contract at the house which would include all of the most up-to-date clauses.

So even with boilerplates, every contract has to be viewed and negotiated like it’s the first time.

And I bring this up because some unagented authors do their own contract negotiations and if it’s time for a new contract to be generated for your next book, don’t just assume it will be exactly the same as your first. Don’t skim it. Read it just as carefully as your first. You might be surprised at what is missing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Reading For Fun

STATUS: Working on a contract.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEEN CAUGHT STEALING by Jane’s Addiction

I’m not sure why but writers are sometimes surprised that agents read for fun. Granted, we don’t have a whole lot of extra time to read for pleasure but all of us still do it.

So of course we read for fun. After all, it’s this passion that got us into the biz to begin with. Not to mention, in a slightly off-beat way, it’s also part of our job to stay current on recent releases. We track what’s hot and why. We read what hits the bestseller lists or what is getting a lot of buzz.

This becomes super important when reading partials. Why? Well, there are leaders in each genre and try as they might, some writers can’t help but be a little derivative of the leaders in their field. It might be unconscious—the mimicking of a premise or a world building construct or what have you.

As agents, we need to spot this. We need a work to be wholly original and not just a really well done copy of something that’s currently out there.

How else can we know this unless we read?

So what’s currently on my nightstand? Scott Westerfeld’s UGLIES. My sister-in-law, a Middle School Principal, has been raving about how much she loves these books and how my nieces really enjoyed them as well.

With these endorsements, it behooves me to pick it up and see what the fuss is all about.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Two Pages Tops

STATUS: Boy do I need to catch up reading after the move. I have to admit that Sara and I are a little behind on reading queries and partials right now. Perhaps I can catch up this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LUCKY STAR by Madonna

Sometimes I wonder if I’m revealing a deep dark agent secret and whether it pays to be brutally honest on this blog.

There will always be some anonymous commenter who will see it as the sign of the publishing apocalypse. Big smile here.

When reading sample pages, I have literally stopped reading after the first opening paragraph. (Sometimes the writing is just that bad.)

That’s pretty rare. However, I’d say, on average, that I can tell a NO within the first two to five pages of a submission. .

I know this is probably appalling for writers. How can ANYONE make a determination in such a short span of pages?

Trust me. Spend one week at an agency reading the submissions and after you’ve read thousands and thousands of partials, you know.

Like a good melon…

Sometimes it’s the quality of the writing (or the lack there of). Sometimes the writing is solid and the story just isn’t right for me. Sometimes the writing is really good and I just haven’t clue what I would do with the work.

Sometimes I just like it but don’t LOVE it and that’s enough to be the deciding factor.

But on the whole, it’s rare that I read the entire 30 pages I request before making a determination. That’s probably not super encouraging but at least you know the truth about those all important first 10 pages.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ah, Typos

STATUS: Another beautiful day in Denver. Makes me smile

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ANTICIPATION by Carly Simon

I’ve certainly had my share of electronic snafus lately but I had to chuckle when a person called today because his/her query wasn’t going through.

Sara, being the nice person that she is (sometimes too nice in my opinion) decided to try and help this person.

Basically we discovered that the writer was simply typing the word “query” incorrectly and consequently, the email didn’t go through. Hey, I can sympathize with the number of typos I make.

When dealing with computer issues, my first order of business is to always check all the cords to make sure the equipment is plugged in. Simple, basic, and you pretty much feel like a ninny at being frustrated if something is unplugged.

Still, it’s a good place to start and then go from there.

Same thing with query snafus. Maybe check the spelling first before making what can only be deemed a silly call when it’s just a typing error that’s the culprit.

Don’t worry. We didn’t ask the caller’s name. Anonymity is probably good in this case.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Agenting 101 Revisited—Author Warranties

STATUS: On Friday it was colder in Denver than most cities in Alaska. Today it’s 60 degrees and gorgeous. But never fear, it’s supposed to snow again on Friday—therefore not breaking our snow streak.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT’S MY LIFE by Talk Talk

All publishing contracts have a clause that basically asks the author if the work is original and whether the author has the right to enter in this agreement.

That’s reasonable.

The clause will read something like this:

“The Author warrants, represents and covenants: that the Author owns all rights and licenses herein conveyed and has the full and sole right and authority to convey all such rights and perform its obligations hereunder; that the work is original with the Author in all respects, except for any portion which has been previously published and is identified as such; that, with respect to works of nonfiction, all statements contained in the Work as published are true or based on reasonable research for accuracy: that the Work is not in the public domain and is or may be validly copyrighted or registered for copyright in the United States and…”

And the clause will go on to make sure the Author hasn’t defamed anyone or invaded privacy. That there is no litigation pending or a claim outstanding. That the work won’t cause harm etc.

You can see where Mr. Frey ran into some difficulties with lines 5 and 6. Ahem.

To me, these are all valid considerations and the Publisher has the right to ask an author to attest to the above and sign his or her name to it in agreement.

What I don’t like, as you well know, is when the Publishers sneaks a little phrase in that reads something like this, “that the Work will be the Author’s next book-length work (whether under the Author’s own name or otherwise)”

This usually comes in line 3 after “rights and perform its obligations hereunder.”

Basically the Publisher is asking that the author warrant that this Work will be his or her next published work.

You know my take. That’s none of the Publisher’s business. The real issue is that the Publisher doesn’t want the work they're buying to have to compete with a myriad of other titles by this author upon publication.

That’s not a true warranty. That’s a no-compete clause and it irks me to have this little sentence buried in with all the other elements of the Warranty clause that are actually relevant and justifiable by the Publisher.

Not to mention, embedding this phrasing is a recent occurrence (at least for the contracts I’ve been seeing).

So my advice is, if you are going it alone, to read carefully. There are some changes we as agents ask for when negotiating and dealing with the warranty and indemnity clauses but as you can guess, these are the two clauses that publishers show most reluctance to negotiate since the point of them is to protect the publisher. Yet, if you don’t deal with this pesky little sentence, you may find your career a little constrained.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Agenting 101 Revisited—No Compete

STATUS: It’s colder in Denver today than in most of the cities in Alaska. That’s just wrong.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SWEET LOVE by Anita Baker

Get out your notebooks. I was a little too cryptic earlier this week. So let’s talk about the no-compete clause and the Author’s Warranties in publishing contracts.

A little background. Publishers like to include a little clause that is usually called something like “Conflicting Publication” or “Competitive Works” in their book contracts.

To sum up, this clause will usually say something like this:

“During the term of this Agreement, the Author shall not, without written permission of the Publisher, publish or permit to be published any material based upon or incorporating material from the Work or which would compete with its sale or impair the rights granted hereunder.”

Fair enough.

But then the publisher likes to continue. The real crux of this clause is in the next section that will state something along these lines:

“Subject to the terms above, the Author agrees that in no event will the Author publish or authorize publication of any other book-length work of which the Author is credited under his/her own name as an author, contributor or collaborator until six months after the publication of the book under this agreement.”

Therein lies the problem if the author wants to have a prolific career. This clause would severely limit the variety of books the author could publish at any given time (if they have to wait 6 months after the publication of the book in this agreement or their other agreements). Just imagining the scheduling conflict alone is enough to give me a headache and if the author writes nonfiction as well as fiction or young adult as well as adult novels… you can see why this clause would inhibit a writer’s career.

So, agents limit the clause. “Any other book-length work” is too open-ended. We dig in and start defining that book-length work. Now how we define this can vary depending on what the author writes, what they have going at the time, and what they plan to write in the future. If the author already writes in let’s say an adult genre but now we are doing a contract for YA books, we force the publisher to acknowledge their upcoming adult books in this clause as well so it’s clear that even though those books are out on the shelves at the same time, they aren’t “in competition” with the book in this contract.

Why do publishers bother? They want to protect their investment and not have a diluted market when releasing their book. That’s the argument I’ve heard anyway.

Of course what’s not taken into consideration is the synergy and buzz that can be created when an author has multi-books out on the shelves at the same time.

You can probably also see that the bigger the author is (i.e. Nora Roberts or Dan Brown) the less of an issue multi-books become because there is room for all with his or her avid fan base. The no-compete clause becomes a moot point of the publisher wants that author on the house list.

We’ll tackle warranties on Monday. This is a too brain-taxing way to end a Friday. Happy weekend folks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


STATUS: Amazed. It’s snowing in Denver. AGAIN. This is the 8th snowstorm in a 7-week timeframe. 3-5 inches predicated and it’s snowing like crazy at the moment. I should have a Snow Patrol song on the iPod for today instead!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COUNTING BLUE CARS by Dishwalla

Michael Bourret at D&G has a terrific little essay on Judith Regan and about what publishing is missing without her—for good or for bad.

For full disclosure, I only interacted with Judith once. She was attentive and courteous. She didn’t end up buying my book (I sold it elsewhere) but I had no complaints. From her reputation, I must have caught her on a good day. Big smile here.

Gawker takes a nice poke at deals posted on Deal Lunch via Publishers Marketplace. A little sly commentary on what sells.

The Man in Black is hosting one wacky contest by making entrants create a contest so wacky as to win an ARC of his debut thriller THE MARK.

And I just discovered another agent who has joined our blogging ranks. Lori Perkins is the Agent In The Middle. She’s been expounding on marketing so if you’re interested, you might want to check it out.