Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Evolution Of An Agency Contract

STATUS: Today was a travel day (remember when I mentioned last week that I was insane to attend yet another conference?) Now I’m in St. Louis for Archon. Chutney and I are also visiting family so there will be lots of fun stuff in the evenings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING BACK THE YEARS by Simply Red

Since we have agent signing on the mind, I realized that I had never really blogged about agency contracts—as in when you are offered representation from an agent and he/she sends out the agency agreement for signing.

Do you negotiate it? Do you have a lawyer look at it? Or do you just sign without asking questions (which of course I would never recommend).

So I think I’ve got me a good blog topic for the rest of the week.

So here’s the first thing I want to tackle. If you get an offer of representation and the agent has emailed you a copy of the agency boilerplate agreement for your review, do you get a lawyer to review it?

Sure. If you’d like but here’s the caveat. Don’t ask any Joe Schmoo lawyer to review it for you. Don’t ask your brother-in-law who is a patent lawyer. You need a publishing attorney who will actually understand the clauses included and what they are for. A corporate litigator is a savvy lawyer for corporate law but that doesn’t make him/her an expert in publishing law—a whole different ball game.

I know I speak for many agents when I say that there is nothing more frustrating than talking to a non-publishing attorney who requests changes that either a) don’t make sense, b) defeat the point of an agent have an agency agreement to begin with or, c) ask for the moon which an agent would never give.

However, if a request is reasonable, most agents are open to negotiating.

Have I made changes to my agency agreement? Certainly but I rarely do nowadays. Why? Because over the years, several authors have made requests for changes that made so much sense, I decided to include the rewritten clause as standard in my agency agreement. Currently I have an agreement that is fair and balanced for both parties and all the terms are clearly spelled out.

But if they aren’t, be sure to ask questions. Most agents don’t mind explaining what the clauses mean.

And if you aren’t sure whether a contract is fair or balanced, then why not ask a knowledgeable publishing attorney to ease your mind?

Just remember, not any old lawyer will do.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Agent Shopping

STATUS: So crazy today and it’s so late at night for blogging…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG LOG by Robert Plant

When you have a deal on the table, don’t get in the mindset of “one stop shopping.”

I think it’s terrific to have your dream agent on the top of your list and by all means, be sure to contact him or her. But don’t stop there. A deal on the table is no guarantee that an agent will sign a writer.

Now it certainly helps the process along but an agent might still pass and as a writer, you don’t want to get caught without a back-up plan.

Now why in the world would an agent pass up easy money with a deal already on the table? Simple. Client lists are either full or the agent is really particular about what he or she takes on.

For me, I can like a project and see the merit but still not offer representation. I have to LOVE a project to take on a new client—especially if the project being offered on is a debut.

I often pass on projects with an editor offer already on the table if the project simply isn’t right for me.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be right for other agents. So contact the dreams first but then have your secondary list fired up and ready to go.

It’s like applying for college. You pinpoint the dream schools but always have the “fail-safe entry” school as a fall back.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Crucial Component

STATUS: Just my luck that a huge thunderstorm rolls through Denver right as I’m finishing up for the day and the broadband goes out. I’m typing this from home. If it’s not up by tomorrow, I’m going to have to call Comcast so as not to lose Monday as a work day. Just what I need during this busy time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT by the Indigo Girls

I really do want to revisit the idea of analyzing bestsellers and really encourage readers to simply note what elements make them tick—what caught hold of the reader’s imagination. Even if you only use it as something that’s at the back of your mind.

I mention this because so many writers seem to write in a vacuum—that they simply write the story “of their heart” without necessarily thinking through the elements that could make the project universal or cross genre or age boundaries.

What happens then, as an agent, is that I end up reading stories where I think, “it’s just not big enough” or “there doesn’t seem to be a strong enough idea to carry the whole story” or “this is solid but it seems to be lacking that extra oomph.” It’s about the writing and this indefinable but crucial element that makes the difference between a pass and a yes.

And it’s also about timing. (You’ve heard that about relationships too, I know. It’s true for that as well.) And writers hate to hear it but timing is often the crucial component for a sale happening. I can’t count the number of sales where the project just happened to land on the editor’s desk at exactly the right time. Maybe an author on their list couldn’t make a deadline and a slot has opened up. The editor is scrambling to find that special manuscript and boom, it lands on his/her desk.

It happens. In fact, it has happened for me and one of my clients this year.

Maybe an editor is thinking “wow, I’d really love to see an XYZ project and the next day I just happen to call about a novel that’s going out on submission, and it’s suddenly like a gift has dropped into the editor’s lap. They read it overnight or whatever.

The crucial component.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Tipping Point?

STATUS: All good stuff happening but I don’t think it could get any crazier at the office if I tried. I’ll be able to talk more about why in a couple of weeks…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SOUL MAN by Sam & Dave

I’m going to try and have this all make sense by the end of this blog entry. I’ve been reading THE TIPPING POINT for my book club, and I’m just fascinated by the whole concept he explores about what makes things tip in terms of a trend catching on like wildfire or a book becoming a huge bestseller seemingly out of nowhere.

Powerful stuff.

So I’m reading this nonfiction book right after I finished reading TWILIGHT over the weekend (because I couldn’t put the darn thing down). This is a good agent friend of mine’s book so I’m just over the moon for her that the book is doing so well. And I have to say I wanted to read it because this book has sold over a million copies world-wide (so it has tipped) and why is that.

I’m not sure I have any answers to that last question but I can tell you what drew me to the story and why I couldn’t put it down.

First off, Stephenie Meyer is the master of atmosphere. I FELT tense while reading the novel (and tense in a good way in terms of not being able to turn the pages fast enough). Her story is set in the rainiest town in Washington and let me tell you, the relentless rain becomes almost a character in itself.

Then there is Edward.

If you’ve read the book, you know exactly what I mean. The story itself is told in first person from Bella’s perspective but Edward is the character who is unforgettable. Their love is impossible, forbidden, and absolutely inevitable.

Timeless. Is that what made it tip? The tortured Edward (who has fans in his own right)? Is that what made it tip? Is it Bella’s voice?

My guess is that it’s a combination of all these things along with masterful writing that got readers talking to each other about how they must read this book.

But I think it’s worth analyzing (even if there is no clear answer) because whatever IT is, you want to capture it in you work whether you write young adult or adult fiction.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Call Me Crazy

STATUS: Another phone day at the office. I have a submission that is causing some excitement but hey, that’s good.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T LET IT BRING YOU DOWN by Annie Lennox

How does this happen? I find myself going to yet another conference next week. I’ve done something like 5 or 6 already this year. I’m actually planning a conference hiatus for next year (except for Backspace, I still plan to be there).

This is all so spontaneous; I haven’t even had a chance to update the Nelson Agency website yet. So where am I off to? St. Louis. Yep, my hometown (and Laurel K. Hamilton’s as well). I couldn’t resist going and seeing the family.

Worldcon (the big science fiction convention) is going to be in Japan this year which means they also schedule a North American smaller version as well. This year it’s in Collinsville (just outside of St. Louis).

Besides, all of you know that I’m looking to build my list in SF&F.

Click here for the info on Archon. Click here for the program schedule. Yours truly is on three panels. Yikes. I need to prepare.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Feeling A Little Warm Fuzzy

STATUS: I almost cracked the cover last night but refrained. It’s going to be a long week. Good thing there are exciting things happening at the office to distract me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MACK THE KNIFE by Louis Armstrong

I think I’m allowed to pat myself on the back every once in a great while. Today I passed on to several agent friends a manuscript that I liked but wasn’t right for me. I thought they would be a better fit.

Then I got this email. I’m a former English professor and corporate trainer so I’ve always enjoyed teaching. Last April, I did a query workshop at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and Aaron was one of my victims—I mean volunteers. I really enjoyed his writing (and yes I looked at sample pages) but I knew the project wasn’t right for me. Armed with a great query letter, he obviously found the right person.

Yea Aaron! Yea Kristin for giving a query workshop where a participant actually learned something! (I always wonder if I’m being helpful…)


Hi Kristin,

I'm not sure if you remember me, but you gave me a tremendous amount of help drafting a query letter at this year's PPWC--I was lucky enough to be one of the "projects" in your stellar workshop on query writing. In addition, I read and reread all the blog entries I could find of yours about how to write a great query. I wanted to let you know that I just found representation for my novel and I couldn't be happier. My new agent is at Levine Greenberg in New York.

I made it to my agent thanks, almost entirely, to you. Not only did I use your advice to write (and edit and edit and edit...) my query letter, but I also used your list of agents that accept email queries as my sole source for submissions. After submitting to every agent on your list, I had three requests for partials, which quickly turned into two requests for fulls, which turned into two agents for me to choose between.

In addition to being my query guide, you have often inspired me and made me laugh with your blog. I really don't know how to thank you for how much you've helped me and, I'm sure, countless other writers eager to enter this business--so I'll just say: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredible generosity, wisdom and good humor. I hope the karma bank keeps paying you dividends for years and years to come.

All the best,
Aaron Brown

By the way, that list can be found online here. (Reminds me, I need to update that darn thing…)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Read Your Contract

STATUS: I’m trying really hard to be good. My copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS came on Saturday. I know that once I start reading, I’ll ignore everything else and I don’t think my clients would appreciate that with all that’s going on this week. So, I must wait until Friday night but then, look out.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CAN I CHANGE MY MIND? By Tyrone Davis

When it comes to contracts, I’m incredibly anal. I can easily spend hours on one contract making sure that all my boilerplate items are included and that nothing has changed in terms of a clause changing or something being included (or being deleted--Simon & Schuster comes to mind).

Even with this, I live in fear of simply being human and missing something, so that’s why both my contracts manager and I read all the contracts that come in.

Even so I would prefer that my clients also read their contracts (one more set of eyes can’t hurt). Whether they do or not, I couldn’t say since they have never pointed out an error.

I recently heard a rumor from a reliable (but will remain unnamed) source that some agencies got caught not reading the new S&S contracts carefully and missed the change in the out of print clause.

Clients received those contracts and might have even signed them. Now I also heard that the errors were corrected but yikes, that thought alone makes me want to admonish writers to read their contracts!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Randomness

STATUS: I actually spent most of last night reading sample pages. I might actually be caught up after this weekend. This idea shouldn’t excite me but it does. I’ve been feeling the guilt for making writers wait for a response. I may be guilt-free by Monday. That will last for about 2 weeks…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FRIDAY I'M IN LOVE by The Cure
(Okay, even I think the coincidence is a little strange.)

I’m just shaking my head. I’m now dubbing it The Thigh-high Stocking controversy. It has yet to end.

Smart Bitches now has close to 500 comments on the issue. If you’ve got some time, like a couple of hours (because you’ll need it), you can read all about it.

The news even made the GalleyCat blog today.

Personally, I’m hoping those two simply laugh all the way to the bank. Show your support for Liz and Mari and go buy their books. And if you don’t agree, well then, don’t buy their books. Simple enough.

I also want to point out a new blog I just discovered, and here’s the embarrassing part. I only discovered it because Joe had some awfully nice things to say about me although in general he thinks agents are evil incarnate.

Okay, I made that up...

Joe of Publishing 2020 is the Vice President and Executive Publisher of the Professional/Trade division of New York publisher John Wiley & Sons. So what I’m saying is that this guy is a bit of a gearhead and is in the know…

And I bet you blog readers didn’t realize that Sara, my amazing assistant, also blogs over there on our myspace page. She’s giving out a lot of good information for free so you might want to check it out.

TGIF folks!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What I Always Counsel

STATUS: Today was as exciting as a root canal. Accounting. Need I say more? Still, even if there is a bookkeeper involved, one must balance the books and ensure everything is in order.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MONEY by Pink Floyd
(Funny how this works sometimes. I swear; it’s really what is playing right now.)


When I was at the RWA conference last week, an author came up to me and disclosed that she wanted to leave her agent and would I give her some advice.

And I’ll tell you that when an author contacts me with this thought in the mind, I always ask this question first: “Have you spoken to your agent about your desire to leave?”

Why do I ask this? Because the answer has always been NO and I always counsel that an author thinking of jumping should have a heart-to-heart talk with the agent before doing so.

Now, this is working on the assumption that the agent has done his/her job. In other words, the author hasn’t just discovered that the agent is a scammer. This also rules out any agents who might have acted illegally or fraudulently. Obviously if this is the case, a heart-to-heart, to put it simply, is rather unnecessary. High tail it on out of there.

But I operate in the world in the same way that I would want to be treated. Karma and all that. If one of my clients were thinking of leaving, I would certainly hope that they would give me the opportunity to hear what the problem is and allow me time to fix it, which is why I always counsel the author to talk with his/her agent first.

I’ve not landed new (and very desirable) clients by providing this type of counsel, but I sleep well at night. And who knows, ultimately the break between that author and agent might be unavoidable and they can certainly come knocking on my door again.

But they have to know that I’m going to ask them if they had that heart-to-heart first...

Now if the author has already formally made the break, that’s a different story. They aren’t asking for counsel. They’ve already made a decision.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

No Such Thing As Bad Publicity?

STATUS: I spent the day on the phone. Literally. Like four hours straight. I thought I would lose my voice at the end there.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TURNING JAPANESE by The Vapors

Authors that spark controversy get noticed. Just recently one of my YA authors asked me how she could have her novel banned. Banned books get noticed and she’d love to be on a banned books list.

I must have looked a little flummoxed by the question because I never thought of it that way before but she’s right. Banned books get attention.

I said she just needed to use the word “scrotum” in her work.

And no, I’m not going to explain the joke because I know many of my commenters can help you out with that. But here’s the truth. Authors don’t set out to write a book that’s going to be banned. They start by writing a book that embraces an honest or essential truth (which can then offend a segment of the population). As you can probably tell, I’m not one for banning books.

But I like the idea of authors garnering attention for their books. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity?”

For example, right now there’s a controversy unfolding regarding my author Marianne Mancusi and her promotional partner Liz Maverick and the costumes they chose to wear at their RWA signings. They basically dressed like the futuristic characters in their books forDorchester's new Shomi line (MOONGAZER and WIRED).

I personally think they could give Alicia Silverstone in the movie CLUELESS a run for her money. Cute is the word that comes to mind for me. Here’s a pic if you want to see for yourself.



But boy, aren’t they just the talk of the town. Check out the discussion going on at Smart Bitches. And if you are of the mind that being in the limelight keeps your books in the forefront of readers’ minds, then this isn’t a bad thing at all.

I guess the real question is whether publicity (controversial or not) translates into sales.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Case For A Cover Change

STATUS: Feeling jubilant. A cover issue crisis has been solved!

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

I can’t possibly compete with Jeff Kleinman’s superb magnum opus on Bella Stander’s blog about when you hate your cover (which I think should be mandatory reading for all writers) but I do want to add one last thing that you can add to the list.

Most authors focus, with emotion, on the aspect they hate most. Maybe the cover looks cheap, doesn’t accurately reflect the story, or what have you. These arguments don’t really carry much weight because sales/marketing/art department are looking at other aspects such as will the cover pop while on a shelf or riser stand.

The most effective argument for a cover change almost always revolves around whether the cover effectively targets the core audience for the book. If you can make a substantial case that it doesn’t, you have a good chance to win the argument (and if the B&N buyer hates the cover for the same reasons you do and tells the editor so, that helps a lot too.)

I’ve won every cover argument sans one. Thank goodness the author has forgiven me for that. I can’t even tell the publisher “I told you so” because the book did very well—even with that cover. Which is good but I hate when that happens.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rule Breaking Novels

STATUS: First day back in the office after being away for a week. Let’s just say there is a lot on my desk that needs handling. I did pretty well today but tomorrow will be the real determiner

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LITTLE RED CORVETTE by Prince

I did another panel last week called Bye-Bye Box: Writing And Selling The Rule-Breaking Book. We all had some interesting talking points so I thought I would share some of mine.

1. If you are breaking the rules, it’s all about the writing to make it work. The writing needs to be way above average and spectacular to really catch the eyes of the editors. (An example I gave was Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER but CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR would be another good example. Or better yet, FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC.)

2. The biggest question that editors will have if the novel bends or blends genres is where will it be shelved? This carries a lot of weight.

3. My job as an agent when selling a rule-breaking book is not to focus on the rules being broken but how the uniqueness can be a selling point. (By the way, that’s a mistake writers make in their query letters when pitching an out of the box idea. They highlight the strange, different, or “out there” aspect. That doesn’t work. Your pitch should focus on what makes the story so human despite let’s say an unusual world, or setting, or plot twist or whatever. You have to focus on uniquely capturing your character’s conflict in a way that feels universal despite the rules being broken.)

4. Remember, world building becomes very crucial if you are rule-breaking. It has to be clearly defined and believable—even if you are setting the story in 2007.

5. For the rule-breaking book, are you leading the trend or are you behind it? Makes a big difference.

6. For “taboo” subjects, what’s the purpose for it? Is it simply to shock the reader or is the taboo subject an integral part of the story and the key to its unfolding? Big difference. I see a lot of queries that focus on the shock value and not on what will make the story appealing to readers to read.

7. Rule breaking comes with either great risk or huge reward. There isn’t much in between. Lots of rule-breaking books flop big time. We tend to only remember the huge successes.

But ultimately, it’s only writers who can do it extraordinarily well that end up being able pull it off.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Most Valuable Asset

STATUS: I had to get up early this morning for an 8:30 a.m. panel. Thank goodness for Chai lattes! And yes, I don't normally blog on a Saturday but I making up for Wednesday's missed blog. Have a great weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAND BACK by Stevie Nicks

Last night I was at the Bantam/Ballantine cocktail party at The Mansion on Turtle Creek where I ended up chatting with a B&N book buyer. She said that the most important tool an author could have is a website.

And I agree. The buyers do actually look at author websites and potentially use them for their internet marketing.

But what is clear to me (and what I actually chatted about incoherently on today’s early morning panel) is that it can’t be any old website. It has to be dynamic.

Websites by nature are static. If very little changes, it won’t draw readers back to the site (and the purpose of the site ceases to be all that valuable). So here are the tips I shared with the attendees this morning. How does one make a dynamic site?

1. Have it professionally done. Amateur sites can hinder more than help. If you aren’t a plumber, then you wouldn’t try to tackle sweating pipes. Leave it to the professionals. It’s worth paying for expertise.

2. It’s all about the content—of course! You need to provide it. If it’s just about your books or you as the author, it won’t draw repeated visits. Make it valuable.

Ideas

Provide resources
Add deleted scenes that you love but didn’t quite make it into the final book
Get creative. Interview your characters.
Write a series of letters to your fans and post them there (and share them with Borders, B&N etc.)
Have ever-changing content or decide to blog (hint: If you can’t do this on regular basis, then don’t do it. It has to be regular to keep readers coming back).
How can you be interactive on the site? Chat sessions? Start a round robin story where fans can participate in the writing. Teach an online workshop.

Yes, this might mean you need to get more technologically savvy but remember, that could actually turn out to be fun. The internet is growing in importance for author marketing and since it’s not going away… embrace it!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Big Picture

STATUS: Squeezing this blog in before the day gets too crazy. It will be a miracle if I’m back to my hotel room before midnight tonight.

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

Tip of the Day: In the course of your publishing career, know that one or all of these things might happen to you at some time.

1. A Bad cover
2. A low advance
3. A book that doesn’t quite reach its projected sales potential
4. Writer’s block while on a deadline
5. Another author being jealous or spiteful of or to you
6. An editor leaving
7. A contract cancelled

And when the bad happens, let it roll off you because in the course of your publishing career, know that one or all of these things might happen to you one day.

1. A gorgeous cover
2. Hitting a bestseller list
3. Having your whole backlist bought for a reprint
4. An advance from your dreams
5. A book that does reach the projects sales potential and then goes beyond
6. Being a lead title
7. Another author supports and helps you with a blurb or cross-promotion etc.

That ultimately it’s the journey that you must savor not just the end result of what you might define as “success.”

Now here are a few shots of several authors who are at the start of this journey.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Path to Career Suicide

STATUS: Yes, I know. I didn’t blog yesterday. I got back to the hotel too late to form a coherent sentence. I’ll try and make up for it tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WICKED GAME by Chris Isaak

Here’s a bonus tip garnered from an informal agents’ roundtable I attended (otherwise known as the bar). We were chatting about things that might not constitute author career suicide but might come close and that is when an author disses his/her editor in a public forum (be it blog, chat loop, on website, etc.)

This might seem rather obvious as something that might not be wise to do but it’s obviously not for some folks because I heard a number of stories where an author had done just that. So let’s highlight a few things.

1. Know that the editor will always find out. (Just take my word on this. The Grapevine is powerful.)

2. This makes an editor rather disinclined to help that author (or to want to continue with that author).

These types of public proclamations do not forward a writer’s career. Enough said.

On to much more fun topics such as the first RWA Spa Day hosted by yours truly. Yep, it was good to be a Nelson Agency client on Wednesday.

My authors (and their editors who could attend plus some few key guests) had a day of pampering at the Spa at the Crescent.

From left:
Top row: Nancy Berland, Linnea Sinclair, Me, Lucienne Diver, Simone Elkeles
Bottom row: Sherry Thomas, Brooke Taylor, Leah Hultenschmidt, Marianne Mancusi
Several authors/guests not pictured because they were off having amazing massages and didn't pop into the lunch area until later (or they weren't willing to be pictured in a bathrobe!) There were 17 of us total.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

STATUS: This time I arrived in Dallas on time. I’ll take it. Several years ago for the Dallas RWA, my plane was supposed to arrive by 4 in the afternoon. I reached the hotel at 1 in the morning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DOWNTOWN TRAIN by Rod Stewart (and yes I know that Tom Waits is the original songwriter)

Tomorrow the conference really gets started with the literacy signing. If you are in the neighborhood, be sure to seek out a few of my wonderful writers. The Autograph session begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regence, downtown Dallas.

RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU
By Jana DeLeon


'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY

by Leslie Langtry



MOONGAZER
Marianne Mancusi





PRIME TIME
By Hank Phillippi Ryan



GAMES OF COMMAND
Linnea Sinclair



DAMSEL UNDER STRESS
By Shanna Swendson


Monday, July 09, 2007

Public Service Message Take Two

STATUS: I’m off to RWA in Dallas tomorrow so it’s hard to say when I’ll be able to blog. I’ll do my best.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? U CAN’T TOUCH THIS by M.C. Hammer

This is for all soon-to-be published or already published authors.

When you receive the brand-spanking new cover art and you hate it, don’t go with your first impulse of wanting to pick up the phone to call your editor. Trust me, an author’s worst moment is seeing cover art they hate and this is not the time to have a conversation with your editor when emotions are running high. Don’t do it. Call your agent instead. We are trained to handle it.

Okay, maybe not trained to handle an emotional distraught client but it’s better for us to hear the emotional outpouring first.

For an author, a bad cover feels personal—like it’s a reflection (and not a good one) on all their hard work. It’s not uncommon for a client to burst into tears at the thought of the general populace associating such a horrible cover with his/her project.

For an agent, cover art is business. It’s just another issue that needs to be handled dispassionately and professionally. We know how to couch the feedback in terms that won’t get the editor defensive and will allow him/her to approach the art director in a reasonable way that might generate results—such as getting the cover changed.

And ultimately, that’s the bottom line objective.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Etiquette: Talking About Your Former Agent

STATUS: My hubby has been out of town all week but is finally back tonight. That puts me in a great mood.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE’S LIKE THE WIND by Patrick Swayze

These blog postings might have several facets. We’ll see.

A recent letter I received got me thinking about this topic. In the letter, the writer was looking to switch agents because her project hadn’t sold. That in itself isn’t a problem. I can understand the frustration. The problem rested in how the issue was presented in the letter. The writer had incautiously written that the agent had only submitted the work to a few junior editors and then had promptly lost interest.

This may be true but it’s not in a writer’s best interest to present it that way. Maybe these are some up-and-coming young editors. Maybe X number of houses for the submission was appropriate. Maybe the Agent did his/her job. Ultimately, the inquiry letter ended up sounding more like sour grapes from disappointed hopes rather than a professional statement of the circumstances.

In other words, the writer sounded like a potential problem client, and I’m sure that wasn’t the writer’s intent.

Now I can totally sympathize with the disappointed hopes part and feeling abandoned by the agent. What I’m recommending here is that if this is the case, you feel it privately, but that’s not what you share in your new cover letter to prospective agents.

Keep it professional. Simply state, “I am currently looking for a new agent. I do have a project that was previously submitted to XYZ editors. I have revised it significantly and would like to go back on submission to some new venues for the work.”

And that’s if you really need to disclose this information at all in the first round of contact to agents. I always recommend just sending out a general query letter first so as to get agent interest. Then if sample pages or a full is requested, then ‘fess up to the prior representation and submission—sticking only to the facts (as in it was sent to “XYZ editors at XYZ houses).

Keep all other opinions to yourself. Once established with the new agent and you feel comfortable sharing the more personal perspective, then go for it. But in the query letter, just the facts ma’am.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Two-Tiered System?

STATUS: It’s going to be quiet all week. Lots of editors aren’t in the office. I’m working on two submissions that are going out in the next 2 weeks. I am so excited about both that I can’t keep from bouncing in my seat while I write up the submit lists and the cover letters. Can’t wait to share with editors.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MISUNDERSTANDING by Genesis

Earlier this week I received an email from AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives) that our contracts board is going to meet with S&S in the near future in order to discuss how recent developments in print on demand technology is affecting publisher out of print [OOP] clauses, etc.

I’m very glad that both sides are undergoing a dialogue.

For my impacted contracts, we are moving forward. I basically argued that these contracts were negotiated before the change and thus the previous boilerplate OOP language should be honored. And it was.

But I honestly can’t tell you what it will be like for future contracts and I’m worried about a two-tiered system. If a project is hot and the agent has leverage or there is an auction going down, I see there is flexibility with the OOP language. But if an author is mid-list and it’s option material time… it might be a whole difference experience. Too hard to say yet but it has me very concerned.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How To Snag A Copy Early

STATUS: New York is quiet this week. Even though the holiday is tomorrow, lots of people take vacation time for the long weekend. Speaking of holidays, I won’t be blogging tomorrow. See you on Thursday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GLAMOUR PROFESSION by Steely Dan

I cannot tell you the amount of emails or comments posted I’ve received from readers dying to get their hands on SCHEMES OF LOVE by Sherry Thomas since that sale to Bantam last year.

These avid fans don’t want to wait until spring 2008 to read beyond the first chapter sample Sherry has posted on her website.

If you are one of them, I’ve got some good news. If you are going to be at RWA in Dallas next week, your wait is over. Bantam Dell is giving away 100 free ARCs of the novel and Sherry will be on hand to sign it.

So, if this is what you’ve been waiting for, you’ll want to take down this info.

First, Bantam renamed the book. They thought “SCHEMES” sounded too cynical. Now Sherry and I actually really like the new title PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. However, we don’t want folks to be confused. The projects are one and the same.

Two. Look at this gorgeous cover. Bantam is even springing for the step-back (almost unheard of for a debut author).


Three. Check out who has read this novel already and loves it.
“A love story of remarkable depth…Entrancing from start to finish.”
—Mary Balogh, New York Times bestselling author

“Exquisite, enchanting…An extraordinary, unputdownable love story.”
—Jane Feather, New York Times bestselling author

Four. Be sure to attend the Bantam signing at the Hyatt Regency Dallas on Saturday, July 14, 2007

2:30-4:00 pm
Marsalis Ballroom, Section B(2)
Hyatt Regency Dallas

Monday, July 02, 2007

Watch That Over-Telling

STATUS: For it be close to 100 degrees here in Denver is just downright unnatural. Don’t even get me started about global warming. If you haven’t seen AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, you should.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COOL CHANGE by Little River Band (appropriate, isn’t it?)

I’m finally getting back to reading my sample pages inbox. I know. I’m way behind. But I’ve been noticing an interesting writing trend that I thought I would share with my blog populace.

Some writers have an annoying habit of restating (via a thought their main character has) what has already been made apparent by the scene or the dialogue.

For example, let’s say that two characters are having an angry exchange in a spot of dialogue. Then the writer will write something right after that reads, “Jane could tell that John was angry.”

I’m making this up as you can tell but the premise is sound. The “not nice” part of me wants to say, “Well, duh. You just showed me that through the dialogue that’s on the page. You shouldn’t have to tell me that the character has figured out that the other person is angry.”

So, I’m just asking you be on the look out for this in your own writing and delete any extraneous telling that might hinder your story.

Just this bit of tightening can make a HUGE difference.