Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Year In Statistics

STATUS: Vacation time!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS WRAPPING by The Waitresses

Happy Holidays to all you blog readers. The agency officially closes today and won’t reopen until Wednesday, January 2, 2008.

I won’t be blogging again until the new year, but then I’ll be back and in rare ranting form!

Here are the stats for 2007:

books sold

foreign rights deals done (and that includes one pre-empt and one auction)

number of new clients

estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

full manuscripts requested (I miscounted the other day)

number of projects currently on submission

major motion picture deal


new deals for previously published clients

deals for new clients (4 of which were debut authors—as in not previously published)

200,000 +
number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

conferences attended

number of New York Times Bestsellers

number of holiday cards sent

number of Starbucks eggnog chai consumed in the last week

number of late nights reading on the couch with Chutney

number of great days loving my job

Have a safe and happy New Year. I’m out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Work Stop Sort Of

STATUS: One more day and counting…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BACK DOOR SANTA by B.B. King

The time is near but I bet you folks wonder if agents really do stop working over the holidays.

The answer is “sort of.” Here at Nelson Agency I won’t be reading queries, sample pages, or even any client material (because I completed all that) but I will be popping in occasionally because of several outstanding tasks.

I have several projects currently on submission so I’ll need to check email and voicemail messages to see if there is any movement on them.

I’m in the middle of negotiating a contract and the contracts person has gone on holiday until the 26th. This means we can’t complete until that last week of December and yes, I will work on that.

I’m awaiting several payments that may arrive this week or next. Those will need to be processed and mailed promptly (or if it’s really close to Jan. 1st, I’ll let the clients make that call if they would prefer to receive it in 2008 instead.)

Then there is the accounting system upgrade. We won’t go there right now!

Tomorrow I’ll share the year in stats and then I’m outta here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Title Saga Revisited!

STATUS: Two more days and counting…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS by Judy Garland

I can finally talk about this now. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we were title brainstorming for one of my clients? If not, here are the links to refresh your memory.

A Good Title Is Hard To Find
The Title Saga

So here’s the full story.

Late last year and on behalf of my author Carolyn Jewel, I sold a project called Magellan’s Witch to Grand Central Forever (formerly known as Warner Forever).

It’s a dark, sexy paranormal romance. Her publisher didn’t like our original title much. After all, there’s nothing all that exciting or sexy about the word “witch” so they were throwing around a couple of other ideas.

Unfortunately, the title they really liked was Burning With Desire. As I mentioned before, Carolyn wasn’t keen on this one. Time for a title change and it was up to us to find an alternative (with the help of 162 commentators who also offered suggestions on the blog!).

I was so moved by all your unselfish help, I offered to look at a project from the person who suggested the final title.

So, it’s with delight that I announce the final title but alas, I’m sad to report that nobody on the blog suggested it. However, I do want to add here that I think the many suggestions helped to inspire the winning title. And the joke is on us because there isn’t a verb in sight!

Drumroll please (and both Carolyn and I like this one), the final title will be

Thank you again for all your help and although this cover copy isn’t final, here’s a sneak peek:

A power that can’t be controlled…

Carson Philips is a witch on the run. For years, the notorious mage, Álvaro Magellan, has held her as his psychological prisoner, suppressing her magic to the point where she doesn’t even realize she is a witch.

But once Carson gets a glimpse of the true extent of his evil, she flees Magellan’s mansion—stealing a stone talisman of unimaginable power on the way.

A hunger that can’t be sated…

Nikodemus is a fiend with a mission: Kill Magellan and his green-eyed witch. But when he meets the desperate Carson, the attraction is immediate and relentless—something even beyond the forbidden body-and-blood lust between fiend and mage. He’s not sure he can trust this tantalizing witch—she is his enemy—and less sure he can keep his hands off her. With Magellan on the hunt for his witch, can Nikodemus stop him before his desire for Carson drives him over the edge?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Accidental Children’s Agent

STATUS: My hand is tired but the holiday cards are done!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN by Chris Isaak

Two years ago I didn’t even represent anything in the world of Children’s publishing. Now it’s what I’m starting to be known for.

I should have realized this. I love high school movies with a passion (as my husband can attest). I would say that half my DVD collection is high school movies so why it didn’t occur to me that repping young adult and middle grade would be a natural fit is a mystery. I’m just glad that Ally Carter and Jennifer O’Connell insisted on writing for that market and forced me to get savvy. Now I love it.

So genres for the 8 new clients (and funny enough, quite the leaning toward children’s!). If they’ve sold already, I used their name.

Brooke Taylor—young adult
Sarah Rees Brennan—young adult fantasy
Jamie Ford—literary fiction
Helen Stringer—middle grade fantasy
Client 5—young adult
Client 6—young adult fantasy
Client 7—young adult
Client 8—women’s fiction

And you guys know what I want more of, don’t you? Adult science fiction and fantasy. I’d love to take on more romance. I’d love to take on more literary fiction like Jamie.

I don’t suggest querying now (because we close on the 19th) but come Jan. 2nd, bring it on!

TGIF! I’m out.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Make That 8!

STATUS: It’s supposed to snow again tomorrow. This could hinder our holiday card wrap up!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY by Harry Belafonte

You won’t believe what I did today. In fact, I can hardly believe it myself. I signed a new client. And that makes 8! Truly an agency record for the year.

I finished reading the manuscript last night and called the author first thing this morning. And here’s the funny part. I had to leave a message on the voicemail. I always feel a little silly saying “sorry to miss you but I’d like to offer representation so give me a call back.”

Still, that’s what the voicemail is for. I don’t think I’ve ever signed a client so late in the year. And I still have three more fulls to read by next Wednesday. I’d better get cracking.

I’ve been talking to a lot of editors this week. Most will be in next week but Thursday or Friday will be their last day in the office until the new year—that is unless they didn’t take holiday for those 3 days in between. My guess is that most will be out or working from home.

Me? I hope to be sitting on my couch eating the yummy treats my clients have sent my way (thank you!) and drinking holiday cheer (nod to Linnea) for two weeks but something tells me I’ll be tackling the new accounting system with the bookkeeper instead. Still, 2007 started off slow but it’s ending with a bang so I can’t wait to see what 2008 will bring.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It’s Not Over Until…

STATUS: Okay, I can’t count. I took on 7 clients this year. Sorry about that because, yes, I can keep track of my clients…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ZAT YOU SANTA CLAUS by Louie Armstrong

Dec. 19th. You thought I was going to say “until the fat lady sings.” Nope. We are definitely winding down but last night I read through all the queries that were set aside for me. That means we’ll be asking for more sample pages. The goal is to read them before next Wednesday. I’ll have to wait and see if that happens.

I also read a bunch of sample pages last night and, gasp, we asked for a full manuscript. Right before the holidays no less.

Yes, I plan to tackle that before Wed. as well.

First and foremost are client payments. I’m waiting on three checks that should arrive before next week. Here’s the rub about December. On one hand, my clients would certainly like their money. On the other hand, if the checks didn’t come until January, they would get a whole other year to worry about estimated taxes.

Much better for all checks to arrive by the first week in December or not to bother until Jan. 1!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

57 Fulls & Counting

STATUS: You guys are going to laugh but I plumb forgot to blog yesterday. I’ll blame it on all the snow Denver is getting. I’m having a huge affair with Starbuck’s eggnog chai I must add.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SILENT NIGHT by Stevie Nicks

We keep track of all the full manuscripts we read, and we also keep a copy of the response letter. Since we do everything by email, you never know when a response might not have reached the writer. It’s even worse when the writer emails us six months later asking about the status. Oi. We feel terrible when that happens. The poor writer had to wait all those extra months to hear just because of an email snafu.

Out of idle curiosity, I looked in the file and so far we’ve read and responded to 52 full manuscripts this year.

Must be slacking! We looked at 57 last year.

Then I remembered that not all the reviewed manuscripts are included there. I had a record number of referrals from current clients, other agents, and even editors this year.

That added more than 10 other manuscript reviews to that total. All in all, I’d say we easily looked at about 70 full manuscripts (or proposals from already published authors).

We took on 6 new clients this year. That’s a new record for me. All of them sold except for the last client I took on and she’s only been with me for a week so there really hasn’t been time to do anything but formalize our agreement.

And probably the real statistics you’d want to know is how many authors I passed on that were picked up by other agents and sold. I have to say that I don’t really track that but I do keep a casual list if something sounds familiar or if I remember the project.

I have that I passed on at least five different authors. Personally, I’m glad they found the perfect agent to represent and sell them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Two-Day Process

STATUS: TGIF! Sara and I did a bunch of holiday cards today. Tis the season!

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

I don’t why it never ceases to amaze me how long it takes to put a project out on submission. It’s easily a two-day process.

1. First I always create the submission list. Yes, I have a database. Yes, I know lots of editors but I’m always super careful to tailor a submission list for each client/project. Sometimes I have to decide between one editor or another. In the children’s world (where they don’t like if you send to multiple imprints under the same publisher umbrella), I really have to choose who is the best fit.

That can take a bit of research or even my just ringing the editor to find out if this would be up his or her alley.

2. Then I format the manuscript. Basically this doesn’t take too long but I have a standard format and I include my agency info in the header on every page.

3. Up next is the submission letter that will go to the editors. I spend a lot of time on mine (as I hope you can tell). I write them mostly on my own. Sometimes I’ll grab the original paragraph from the writer’s query letter and use that as a place to start. Sometimes I ask the authors to create their own version of the pitch just to see what they focus on. For the most part though, I tinker, play, and rework the letter many times before it’s ready. I sometimes pop it over to agent friends for feedback if I want to get it just right. We’ll often read each other’s pitches.

4. Then it’s time to talk with all the editors. If I know them really well, then I’ll just pop out an email. If the editor is new to me or I haven’t spoken to him or her in a while, then it’s phone call time.

5. Submission goes by email. Every once in a great while an editor will request a hard copy. If that’s so, then I email the manuscript to my printer and he gets it to me by the next day. I send out via UPS ground. Thank goodness this doesn’t happen too often. Invariably I find that the editor needs to read more quickly and I send it by email anyway so I don’t want to spend a lot snail mailing it. I don’t charge my clients for this cost either. I just eat it.

6. Sometimes there is follow up in the next day or so. An editor was out when I called or took a couple days to get back to me. That happens.

So any one submission is easily a 2-day process without my being able to do much of anything else (except a very large fire). I should stop being surprised by that!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Editor Letter for HOUSE OF MISTS

STATUS: I have two more things that absolutely positively must be accomplished today and if I succeed, that will make my day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RUDOLPH THE RED NOSED REINDEER by Smithereens

Helen actually came my why via a referral from an agent friend who doesn’t handle middle grade projects so alas, I have no query letter to share with you.

However, I can share my letter to Jean Feiwel who bought the project. In an interesting tidbit because it seems to be the way of things for me lately, I didn’t know Jean before I submitted this book to her. I had to ring her up to introduce myself.

I’m making a habit of this in the children’s realm! My last three children’s sales were literally to editors I was meeting for the very first time. Makes me wonder what I’m going to do when I finally know every children’s editor out there.

Hello Jean,

This is what I love about this novel. First, I think it’s really hard to capture the thoughts and talk of 12-years olds so that it sounds authentic (without adult intrusion). My author Helen Stringer is a master of getting that element just right. I also love this novel because Helen manages to poke fun at many stereotypical middle grade fantasy archetypes while telling a really good story where those ingenious pokes work perfectly (when you hit the scene with the Oracle, you’ll know exactly what I mean). And lastly, I can’t believe I’m representing a children’s fantasy story with a portal (something I swore I would never do) but alas, here I am with the HOUSE OF MISTS with a perfectly clever portal.

So what is this fantasy all about? Belladonna Johnson is a survivor of a Tragic Event. Since the accident, the outside world believes her to live with her grandmother but in truth, Belladonna lives with the ghosts of her parents in their house on Lychgate Lane in the north of England, just like they have for all twelve years of her life. According to her mother, all the folks from the Nightshade side of the family can see ghosts. It’s just something Belladonna has inherited—the way that some people have red hair. If given a choice, Belladonna would have preferred the red hair but mostly, she’s just happy to have her parents at all—even in their slightly translucent form.

Life goes on much as it always has for Belladonna until one night, while watching the night-time soap opera Staunchly Springs, the ghosts of her parents mysteriously disappear leaving Belladonna alone on Lychgate Lane with only a warning that “all the doors are closing.” But it’s not just her parents but all ghosts who are disappearing. It’s up to Belladonna and the slightly rumpled, always-in-trouble classmate Steve Evans, along with the ghostly Elsie, victim of a freak tennis accident in 1912, to find out why. If they can’t, Belladonna might just lose her parents again—only this time, it will be forever.

The author, Helen Stringer, grew up in Liverpool, England and currently lives in Los Angeles where she works for an entertainment law firm. Here in the U.S. she studied film, winning several student film awards, including a student Emmy and the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers award for Best Entertainment Program for a Western version of A Christmas Carol, called A Fistful of Holly (subsequently bought by CBS), and was a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. She also worked as Director of Development for a Los Angeles television production company. Outside of film, she has written for the food section of the Los Angeles Times and Victoria magazine and founded and edited the eclectic web magazine The Mediadrome.

I’m very excited to share my very first middle grade project with you. Enjoy!

All Best,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

MISTS Auction: The Lowdown

STATUS: I’m feeling good because I’m actually tackling the big items on my TO DO list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE CHRISTMAS SONG by The Carpenters

I can finally talk about my big day from last week or should I say my big days since the auction lasted for two days.

Here’s the announcement from Deal Lunch:
Helen Stringer’s debut HOUSE OF MISTS, about a girl who lives with the ghosts of her parents in the north of England and when they disappear, along with all the ghosts in the world, it’s up to her, an always-in-trouble classmate named Steve, and the one remaining ghost (from 1912) to find out why, to Jean Feiwel at Feiwel & Friends, in a significant deal for two books, at auction, by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency (NA).

This is the very first middle-grade project I’ve ever taken on so I was rather heartened that it caused quite a stir and lots of interest. As an agent I probably shouldn’t admit this but because it was my first middle-grade ever, I was kind of nervous when I submitted it. I obviously feel quite confident about my YA abilities but middle-grade is a whole other ball of wax so to speak. Now I can rest easy. At least in this case, I got what it takes!

So here’s how the auction went down.

1. Project was sent out on Wednesday. The first offer came a week and a day later.

2. All editors were notified of the offer on the table.

3. Several editors expressed serious interest, which signals that an auction might be imminent.

4. Another house makes an offer (but not a pre-empt), so now there are two offers on the table. Auction date is scheduled and that information is sent to all editors interested in participating.

5. A house with an offer already on the table attempts to pre-empt with a new offer. The Interest at this point is too high, the pre-empt is declined.

6. Agent sets auction rules and asks all interested parties to declare if they plan to attend or not. The rules are emailed to all auction participants.

7. Auction day comes and it’s a round robin one (which means participants can bid in subsequent rounds). Four participants are bidding. Auction continues until there is a winner but in this case, it came down two main bidders. As the auction continued on Friday, the publishers were asked if they wanted the option to put their best offer forward instead of doing subsequent round robin bidding that might last several more hours. Participants preferred that. Final offers were presented to the author and ultimately a final choice was made.

There can only be one publisher after all. Although I have to say, when all parties are excellent, it’s tough to call the “losing” publisher and potentially break that editor’s heart when he/she obviously has tons of enthusiasm for the project.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Joy Of The IRS

STATUS: I’m being sarcastic in that subject heading.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONG HOT SUMMER by The Style Council

One of the drawbacks of having foreign clients is the accounting. (Don’t worry Sarah Rees Brennan—I still love you!). Today was all about figuring out the tax issue for Sarah because she is Irish and currently lives in Ireland but we sold her book to a U.S. publisher.

Here’s what we had to do (we being all involved, me, my tax person, and Sarah’s Irish tax person). First, we looked up the tax treaty between the U.S. and Ireland (and it differs depending on the country). Luckily for me, per the tax treaty, my agency does not have to withhold any income tax and Sarah will be taxed in Ireland on the income received.

So great. I don’t have to withhold or send monies to the IRS but no, my job is not done yet. I still have to have Sarah fill out the W8-BEN form for my files. Then I have to file form 1042, 1042-S, and 1042T (transmittal form) just to show that she is exempt and I didn’t withhold monies per the tax treaty.

Which means I’m filling out numerous forms so I can simply put the number zero on all the appropriate lines.

To verify, I called the IRS just to make sure that we had all the necessary forms in hand and nothing was missing. This took 2 hours and a transfer to no less than four departments at the IRS.

Needless to say, I’m not completely confident that even the IRS knows exactly what has to be done but I’m sure they’ll tell me if I neglected a form!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Evil Dry Spell

STATUS: It was one of those busy Mondays that when the day concluded, I had to sit there for a moment and think about what exactly did I do all day. I feel this way when I haven’t been able to tick off my big To Do item for the day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DOS GARDENIAS by Buena Vista Social Club

An agent friend just emailed me to say she’s in the “zone.” The evil dry spell. I’m actually happy that the year is winding down because I can already sense the approach of one for me as well.

What that means in agent lingo is that everything we have cookin’ is already out on submission and there’s nothing new in the hopper (and that includes no new current client stuff). They are all off writing like the good authors they are.

For unrepresented writers, this is actually a good thing because that means we are looking furiously for something new to take on because in the dry spell, we start reading our queries faster. We ask for more sample pages then we might ordinarily. We’ll take a chance on reading full manuscript of a work that maybe didn’t win us over entirely initially in the sample pages but because it’s so dry, we’re more lenient and will request a full.

Now I do have to admit that when a dry spell hits, it doesn’t necessarily translate into taking on more clients (at least for me). But I do read a lot more when I’m “in the spell” so to speak.

Unless something amazing hits my desk in the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably be in that zone come Jan. 2, 2008.

And after the holidays, I’ll be gung-ho to tackle it.