Monday, March 31, 2008

A Reflection On Horror

STATUS: Stuck in Glenwood Springs because of a 40-car pile-up on I70 that closed Vail pass. Reminder to self. No driving to conferences in the early Spring…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Denver Nuggets game on the telly.

The biggest question I received this weekend, and rightly so, is why was I attending World Horror when on my website I clearly state that the Nelson Agency doesn’t handle Horror.

Good question. It was my same question I asked when the conference organizers called to invite me.

Why don’t I rep horror? I’ve certainly read enough in my lifetime so what’s the scoop? It basically came down to the philosophy that I have enough things keeping me awake at night, reading a good horror submission would just scare the bejesus out of me and I need a decent night’s sleep.

But I’m very glad I attended. The definition of “horror” can be pretty broad and lots of things that could be categorized as such would not necessarily alienate me. Maybe I need to rethink our policy as I certainly don’t mind SF&F with horror elements. In other words, dark SF &F. We’ll see.

It also was rather refreshing to chat with some male writers. Whenever I attend conferences, and this certainly isn’t a bad thing, the majority of my pitch sessions are from women writers (obviously this would be true at romance venues) but I’m certainly not opposed to adding some testosterone to my list. So World Horror was a nice change as the pitches were so different than anything else I’ve read or listened to lately. Right now it’s too early to know if any will be a match but I think I’ll enjoy the process.

Friday, March 28, 2008

You Know You Have A Tired YA Fantasy Theme When…

STATUS: I had a great time listening to pitches that had a horror element to them and so different for anything I’ve looked at lately. It’s so rare to have 18 pitches and only three women in the mix. What a different mix-up so I’m enjoying World Horror.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TOMMY THE CAT by Primus

Tonight I had dinner with fellow blogger and YA fantasy editor Stacy Whitman from Wizards of the Coast.

When you get an editor and an agent together, talk turns to submissions as we are wont to do. And you have to remember, we like to talk shop and even though we might highlight some tired themes in our conversation, any fresh twist on it can change our mind in a heartbeat.

Dinner conversation kicked off with a moment of understanding that it’s really hard to carry off a YA novel where a monster eats a child in the first chapter.

On one hand, it’s immediate conflict. On the other, not sure where the story can go from there….

But here’s our dinner list. You know you might have a tired YA fantasy theme when:

1. Your main protagonist is the “chosen one” and only he or she can save the world.

2. You have a lost magical amulet and that search alone is driving the story.

3. When your main protagonist is waking up and getting ready for the day in the opening chapter.

4. If you have to go through the portal to actually begin the story.

5. If your Mom & Dad are dead (and on top of that, they are dead wizards or something similar) that the protagonist must live up to.

And I would have added, you know you have a tired YA fantasy theme when your characters are on a quest but Stacy says she’s still game for those stories (albeit a little tired of Vampires because she can't see how a writer might pull of an original story in that realm at the moment).

TGIF. I’m out!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Come Wind, Rain, Or Snow

STATUS: Tired. (and I see all my youtube tries finally showed up. Nothing like overkill. Sorry about that).

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing on at the moment…

Like the mail people, I’ll make it to the conference regardless of weather. Got to Salt Lake City late after spending more than an hour at a dead stop on Wyoming’s Interstate 80 heading west from Rawlings.

Serious white-out conditions (wind blowing the snow something like 40 m.p.h.) and semi-trucks in the ditches on both the left and right side of us. Finally made it down from the pass to hear that the highway was closing behind us (and it stayed closed the rest of the day according to NPR). But once down, we were greeted by clearing blue skies. It was sunny the rest of the way to Salt Lake. And I thought Colorado had strange weather.

But I’m here and haven’t got the brain power to blog. It really was white-knuckle driving for a solid 2+ hours.

Private Arrangements Book Trailer

STATUS: Just a heads up that tomorrow morning I head to Salt Lake City for the World Horror Conference so I can’t promise I’ll blog on Thursday and Friday. I’ll try though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAR 69 by R.E.M

Last year when the book THE MANNY hit shelves, there was a fun book trailer floating around blogs and easily spotted on youtube. If I could embed the link through the youtube site, I would but since I can’t figure that out, I’ll just add it here:

I have to say this trailer was uproariously funny. I watched it several times and laughed heartily with each viewing but ultimately, I didn’t buy the book.

There in lies the rub. Book trailers can be great, fun, and generate buzz but do they sell books? That’s the million dollar question. If we could accurately measure the books sales generated by a trailer then that would help quantify whether it has a positive impact or not.

But ultimately it can’t hurt book sales so if you are creative, or have the dinero to hire professionals to make one, I say go for it.

Especially when the trailer is clever or quite funny as that in and of itself might get the link spread around. With that in mind, I give a huge thumbs up to Sherry Thomas’s new book trailer for her debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which just hit shelves yesterday for all you historical romance readers that have been eagerly awaiting the release.

I laughed outright while watching. No stuffy trailer here. Enjoy and let me know if it encourages you to buy the book. If it doesn’t, well….

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Talking Book Trailers

STATUS: Just a heads up that tomorrow morning I head to Salt Lake City for the World Horror Conference so I can’t promise I’ll blog on Thursday and Friday. I’ll try though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAR 69 by R.E.M

I actually tried to post this directly from but for some reason, the post wouldn't show up. With my luck, after I post this entry, it will show up three different times for all three of my tries.

If so, sorry about that.

Last year when the book THE MANNY hit shelves, there was a fun book trailer floating around blogs and easily spotted on youtube.

I have to say this trailer was uproariously funny. I watched it several times and laughed heartily with each viewing but ultimately, I didn’t buy the book.

There in lies the rub. Book trailers can be great, fun, and generate buzz but do they sell books? That’s the million dollar question. If we could accurately measure the books sales generated by a trailer then that would help quantify whether it has a positive impact or not.

But ultimately it can’t hurt book sales so if you are creative, or have the dinero to hire professionals to make one, I say go for it.

Especially when the trailer is clever or quite funny as that in and of itself might get the link spread around. With that in mind, I give a huge thumbs up to Sherry Thomas’s new book trailer for her debut PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, which just hit shelves yesterday for all you historical romance readers that have been eagerly awaiting the release.

I laughed outright while watching. No stuffy trailer here. Enjoy and let me know if it encourages you to buy the book. If it doesn’t, well…

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 RITA Nominations

STATUS: Lots of smiling in the office today. Lots of smiling on the website as well as the new headshots are up if you want to check them out.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE from My Fair Lady

The phone literally rang of the hook this morning as the RITA-award nominees were being announced.

We have, count them, six RITA-award nominations for four of our clients. Huge news here at the agency and I couldn’t be prouder to share the announcement with all of you.

PRIME TIME--double nominee for Best Romantic Suspense and Best First Novel

GAMES OF COMMAND--Best Paranormal Romance

GRAFFITI GIRL--double nominee for Best First Novel and Best Young Adult

*LEAVING PARADISE --Best Young Adult

*please note that NLA didn't actually sell this book but Simone is now one of our authors so we are super excited all the same!

Congrats Hank, Linnea, Kelly, & Simone

Monday, March 24, 2008

Payment Schedules

STATUS: All six contracts are almost complete. I’ll so drink to that!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ELENORE by The Turtles

Over the weekend I realized my whole Friday entry was a bit cryptic if one didn’t know anything about payment schedules in publishing contracts. I’m pretty certain I’ve covered this in one of my prior entries (check out the Agenting 101 blogs) but what the heck, it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

When a publisher buys a book, they don’t pay out the advance all at once (and probably none of you suffer from that assumption that they did, but I’ll state the basics just in case). No, when a publisher buys a book, they will stipulate a certain amount for the advance and then the payments are attached to what I call triggers—as in something contractually happens and a portion of the advance is paid.

Typical triggers can be these:

1. on signing of the contract

2. on d&a (delivery and acceptance) of a detailed outline
Side note: this happens often when a publisher is buying new books from one of their already established authors and they are buying on spec—as in nothing has been put on paper yet.

3. on d&a of the final manuscript

4. on publication of the work

5. on publication of a paperback edition

My favorite payouts are, of course, ½ on signing and ½ on d&a. Personally, when the monies are small, I really don’t see the sense in doing it otherwise. Now, I can understand when the advance pops into the six figures etc. but I don’t have to like it and I will certainly use all leverage possible to eliminate it. That’s my job after all—to get the best payout structure possible amongst other things.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of emphasis from Publishers to have payment in thirds rather than halves.

Of course I don’t lean that way either but I’m okay with it for the most part—if I can avoid the upon publ pym.

I’m sure y’all are sensing a mantra here. I’m not always successful and I imagine as Publishers dig in on this topic, it will be harder and harder to get.

Now as to Friday’s entry, what I meant by weighting forward is this.

What if the advance is 30k for one book. Payouts can look any number of ways.

If it’s in halves, that’s easy:
15k on signing
15k on d&a

If in thirds:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of outline
10k on d&a of full manuscript

Now let’s say you have to have the pym on publication and I can’t budge the Publisher on it. My job is to weight the payments forward.

Instead of equal thirds like this:
10k on signing
10k on d&a of full manuscript
10k on pub

I’ll try to weight monies forward:
12.5k on signing
12.5k on d&a full manuscript
5k on publication

And this can have a myriad of variations. I just did what was easy math.

Clear as mud?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Payments on Pub

STATUS: TGIF! I’m going to be so happy when all these contracts complete. That’s my new definition of happiness. That way I can get back to reading—which is the more fun part of the job.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU LEARN by Alanis Morissette

I wish this issue would go the way of the dinosaur. I was talking with a few agent friends today and this topic came up—as it often does. Unfortunately, I’m convinced this one is stuck here for good so what to do about it.

Certain publishers are demanding payments on pub no matter what the advance is. (Cough—a publisher that begins with a “P” comes to mind). Other houses are more relaxed until the money gets into the six figures, then the upon pub payment rears its head.

Unless there is an auction going on. Then the agent can get the publisher off it because they want the book enough to be in an auction so will often be flexible where payout is concerned so as not to lose the auction.

If an author is big enough or established enough, well, anything is possible right? Not just no payments on pub.

But if you can’t get rid of it, what do you do? Well, we weight the money forward so as little money as possible will be paid on pub.

One agent did point out another factor I hadn’t really considered which is that an on pub payment allocates money in a different year as other monies in the contract (as publication more often than not happens in a year other than the contract). This can be better for authors in terms of paying taxes. This is true but it seems to me that taxes can be managed properly and most people would prefer the monies earlier.

I’m out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Implications Beyond The Obvious

STATUS: Hey, I’m not blogging after 10 o’clock at night. This means it’s a good day!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TIN MAN by America

I read this article with dread. Despite how one might personally feel about buying from chain bookstores versus supporting independents (and that’s a whole separate debate I don’t plan to get into with this entry), Borders possibly going out of business is not good news.

Why? Because the general public doesn't know that the decision about buying books for the chains, which ones, and in what quantities, is in the hands of a very few people who wield significant amounts of power. B&N has A non-genre fiction buyer. Yes, you read that correctly. A decision to carry a book (or not) by that one person can make or break a book.

If Borders is taken out of the mix (or bought by B&N), the decision-making powers about what books will be featured or given shelf space in the store at all will have just consolidated yet again.
This is not good news.

There have been many instances of Borders supporting a book that B&N hasn’t and that making all the difference (vice versa is also true as I’ve seen B&N support a book that Borders took forever to get on board with –Carter’s I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU comes to mind). A Borders closing is particular hurtful news for genre fiction as things like romance and SF&F are often more supported at the Borders store and bought in greater numbers by readers through that outlet.

If Borders goes, so do their buyers. And with the ringing death knells of so many independent stores in the news lately, the future isn’t looking bright—as the independents, as a collective force, could create a balance to this.

So lots of implications beyond the obvious.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not Always At Once But Sometimes At Last

STATUS: I’ve got contracts on my mind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ME AND MRS. JONES by Billy Paul

As y’all know, I’ve been working on contracts and quite a few foreign rights sales as of late. I’m particular fond of some of the recent deals because they were several years in the making.

See, we submitted the project back when we did the US sale but alas, didn’t have any takers. The US sale had been a strong one so we were quite flummoxed. We received quite a few rejections that the project felt “too American” for the foreign audience.

In a sense, I get that.

But now the deals are happening, so what has changed? Several things actually. The global market climate for that genre. The strength of the US sales can be a tipping point factor. General excitement created by readers with the US copy (or of an English-language copy that was imported into a particular country). There can be a number of reasons.

The door is never closed. It’s a good reminder that even if a foreign sale doesn’t happen at once, it can certainly happen at last (and the money, and the love, can be better the second time around). This happens in Hollywood as well.

Just last year I sold a project to Hollywood that I had been shopping for three years. I hadn’t given up hope but things did look a bit unpromising. Then a surprise summer hit made this type of project suddenly hot again and voila, interest, and then a sale.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No Reply At All

STATUS: Finally getting around to blogging today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CALLING ALL ANGELS by Train

It’s the end of the era, and I have to say it makes me a little sad. Today Sara and I decided to no longer respond to query letters sent to us by snail mail. As much as it pains me to be one of “those” agencies that doesn’t respond to writers, it just doesn’t make sense to spend the time, the resources, and sacrifice the poor trees to kindly mail people a letter that informs them that we only accept inquires electronically.

We have done everything in our power to make the information of how to submit to us as widely available and easy to access as possible—both on the web and via print mediums.

Most things sent to us over the snail mail transom don’t remotely fit with what we clearly state we are looking for and it’s time to stop wasting paper, ink, and manpower on responding. From the ones we have received in the past, it’s obvious that the writers who haven’t contacted us via our submission guidelines are not researching and targeting us specifically.

From this day forward, anything received via snail mail goes into the recycling bin that is picked up every other month by our shredding service.

But if you send that query by email, we do read each and everyone that comes in and we do respond (although we can’t guarantee that a reply will reach you as we are often foiled by spam filters etc.)

So save that tree. Go electronic.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Aggressive Competitive Works Clauses

STATUS: Fun picture of the week. My cousin was in Washington D.C. with her family and they visited the International Spy Museum and guess what they found in the gift store there? It just tickled us pink.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATCH YOUR STEP by Anita Baker

As y’all know, I’ve been working on a lot of contracts lately. One contract was with a new publisher (Macmillan) that I had never sold a book to before so there’s just a lot of extra negotiation necessary to hammer out the boilerplate.

When I started reading the contract for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised at how normal it was. There were lots of elements already included that normally we would have to request and fight for. But it wasn’t so…until page 16 when I reached the Competitive Works clause.

I think my jaw dropped open and stayed that way for a good 15 minutes. I even rang up my contracts manager because I couldn’t believe how aggressive it was. Until this moment, I had never seen a publisher contract where the Competitive Works clause was more than one short paragraph.

CW, by the way, is where the publisher tries to limit what other books an author is allowed to write while working with this publisher. Needless to say, as an agent, I’m pretty aggressive in removing a lot of elements to this clause or adjusting them appropriately because if you don’t, it can really interfere in how an author can write for a living.

This clause had four sub-paragraphs in it, each one worded slightly differently but amounting to the same thing.

My fav is this one, “the Author will complete the Work and submit it to the Publisher prior to beginning work on any other book for INSERT GENRE (excluding only other books that may already be under separate contract to the Publisher).”

My goodness. And then there were three more paragraphs…

Uh, that will need to be changed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Dreaded Headshot

STATUS: Uh, it’s Friday, right? I think I’m going to be working this weekend…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MRS. ROBINSON by Lemonheads

Trust me, I can sympathize. Every time I sell a client book, I immediately tell the author that it’s time to write the official author bio and to go get the professional headshot done.

This is usually met with a groan (and occasionally with author excitement).

And I know the feeling. Guess what Sara and I did today? Yep, we had our professional headshots taken. I try and do a new photo once a year (but it ends up more like a year and a half and sometimes two between shots). I wait until I change my hair style or have some other reason to endure the process yet again. In this case, it’s grown out so I don’t have super short hair anymore. I’m overdue for a new photo.

Off to the studio we went. It can be the equivalent of going to the dentist. Today I learned the importance of a really great photographer who can make you relax. That ended up being immensely helpful in the quality of the shots Sara and I did.

The first 20 shots could pretty much be thrown out. Then I decided to find out if “moving around” a bit could help the process. Boy did it. I got quite a few decent, more relaxed, normal-looking shots. When I have them to share, I will. (I haven’t done the official choosing yet as I plan to forward the link to all my clients so they can vote on which one they prefer. I figure it’s only fair when THEIR shots have been subjected to my vote and opinion. Turnaround is fair play and all.)

Here are some good tips the photographer shared with us before our shoot. You may find them helpful when that time comes for you!

1. A successful picture will direct attention to your face and not to your clothing so wear sold colors and avoid patterns.

2. Long sleeves are better than short since bare arms compete for attention.

3. Medium to dark tones are best against a dark background (who knew?)

4. Avoid bright colors (as they compete) and stick with neutrals. Also, splashes of bright can draw the eye away from the face.

5. Red is a good color for outside shots.

6. Avoid white or super light colored shirts. (Are you sensing a theme here yet? I think black or brown is going to be your best bet—unless of course both colors don’t work for you.)

7. Avoid shirts and sweaters that completely cover the neck (interesting!). V-necks are fine as long as they aren’t super wide or exaggerated (and I might add, too plunging as they would also compete with your face).

8. Throw out all these suggestions and wear what makes you comfortable. Big smile here.

In general, if you are going to a professional photographer with controlled lighting, make up probably doesn’t need to be too heavy (and I’m sure the guys just breathed a huge sigh of relief there). Lip gloss also tends to be too shiny.

And once there, see what you can do to relax or put yourself at ease. I think it helped a lot that Sara and I went together as we could casually chat and laugh at what didn’t work.

All in all, this was the least painful experience I’ve had doing the shot. I’ll definitely go back to West End Photography so you can certainly bookmark it if you live in Denver/Boulder.

And one last comment. Be sure that when you do the shot, you have the photographer agree to sign a photo release (or copyright assignment). That way you own the picture and can then use it for any type of promotional material without having to get permission, etc.

That’s really important.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Doing Foreign Rights Deals

STATUS: Contracts and more contracts. I have four total that I’m working on. A fifth one just came in and I just started negotiating a new deal for a current client. Busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE by Natalie Cole

Last year the agency did 29 foreign rights deals on behalf of our clients and I have to say that the sales remain unabated into 2008. We are doing several a week for various clients. All great news.

But I had an interesting thing happen last week. I turned down a foreign offer for one of my clients (and obviously with the client’s permission) because I didn’t think the offer was on par with where it should be in comparison to other foreign offers and the client’s current sales etc.

This is a first for me. Because so many of my clients are (or were) debut authors (as my agency is only five years old), most often we are thrilled to get foreign interest at all. And yes, we always negotiate up the foreign advances etc. but you only have so much leverage when the client hasn’t got a sales track record.

But obviously the agency has reached a new level—especially for established clients with success. Yet another threshold we are crossing as we finish up year five and head into year six of our existence.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Talking Websites

STATUS: I’m working on contracts. Need I say more?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STICKSHIFTS AND SAFETYBELTS by Cake

I had many interesting chats with editors while I was in New York City this past month but I just remembered one that I had meant to blog about. And then I received an email survey about this very question and that reminded me that I hadn’t yet blogged about it.

The editor and I were talking about not-yet-published writer websites and whether we look at them when we’ve requested sample pages and might be contemplating asking for a full. (The URL is often included in the cover letter.)

For both of us, the answer was “yes.” When reviewing sample pages where we like the writing, we’ll often give the writer website a glance and see what’s there. I don’t bother if the sample pages haven’t caught my interest.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a good website, with solid content, if you are going to have one at all. More on this in a minute.

If you don’t have a website, that’s fine too. I’ll still ask for a full manuscript if I like the sample pages enough. There are pros and cons to footing the bill of a website before you are even published so don’t stress about it or run out and get one right now because I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

But if you do have a website or blog and you are currently looking for an agent, or to make your first sale, or what have you, I can offer a couple of words of advice.

Don’t have a website/blog unless it can be a professional one. The homemade sites look it and just make me cringe. It won’t keep me from asking for your full (or if I like the novel, offering representation) but it’s not putting your best foot forward and that’s never a benefit.

What content should it have? Well the standard. About you, what you are working on, any cool interests you have that might inspire your writing, workshops you are doing, critique partners or anything about the writing process.

What you might not want to include is a whole play-by-play of your current editor, agent, or publisher search. This could backfire. I have seen sites where an author has clearly outlined all the rejections (sometimes the letters are posted there verbatim!). It would make me think twice about asking for the full (although the one time I encountered it, I did end up requesting the full as opinions can vary widely) but think of the psychology impact of that. If lots of people are saying NO, maybe I’ll think twice about saying YES.

Now once you have that book deal or agent or editor, I think it’s okay to write about it after the fact.

For blogs, remember that the writing you have there needs to be representative of you and your good work. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you shouldn’t blog if the writing doesn’t represent your “usual” quality—if you know what I mean.

In short, if it shows you off to an advantage, then have a website. If it can’t at this point in time, I wouldn’t worry about it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New York City—What Worked, What Didn’t

STATUS: Happily looking at the big blue skies of Colorado on a 65 degree day. It’s good to be home.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FAIRGROUND by Simply Red

For a paperless office, I must say I was overwhelmed by the sheer piles of stuff that needed reviewing on my desk. So much in fact, I ended up not having a minute to blog between phone calls, handling stuff, and then an evening appointment that ran late last night.

Tomorrow will be my first day where I can actually handle new stuff that needs my attention. I have three lovely contracts lined up and ready for evaluation. Since each contract takes a good 2 hours for me to review, I guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow and the next day.

So was my month in New York worth it? On the whole, I’d say so.

What Worked:

1. I scheduled 40 meetings and I never felt overwhelmed or rushed. That was definitely worth it.

2. I got editors excited about two upcoming submissions. Hooray.

3. Remote office. Network was pretty much worth every penny I paid for it. I held an auction while in NYC and negotiated three different contracts. I also kept on top of most of my daily emails etc. Sara and I also stayed on top of email queries, partial requests, and I did read a good portion of two full manuscripts (at the start of my stay I have to add though—any other time wouldn’t have worked) that I ended up passing on.

4. Living in the Village. I can give you all the names of the great restaurants in my hood that’s for sure. It’s very central to reaching all the publishers in town easily.

What Didn’t:

1. The flu. I didn’t catch it (thank goodness!) but several editor meetings got derailed because of it.

2. With all those lunch meetings, not surprised that I weigh about 4 pounds heavier than when I left. I’m getting on that right away let me tell you. Overall not bad I guess.

3. Some normal business operations. All bills etc. got paid on time but there was very little time to do serious client editing. Thank goodness the two projects that needed tackling came in during the last week and a half of my being away so the clients had a little delay in my getting started but nothing too egregious.

4. Despite the month spent there, I still wanted to have meetings with about five different editors that didn’t happen. That’s unfortunate but will have to wait until my next trip or Book Expo.

Overall, I think I would do it again. I would schedule my appointments differently so there were a little more grouped. I might also create a more formal game plan with a list of goals and objectives to achieve (but that’s because I like to be anal about these types of things).

Friday, March 07, 2008

Kindle Update

STATUS: Into the home stretch. Just one more editor dinner tomorrow night and I’m homeward bound.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S DANCE by David Bowie

Pros definitely outweigh the cons. I think Jeff Bezos should hire me as I convinced more agents and editors to buy the Kindle just by showing them mine and how easy it is to use.

What I love:

1. I love having 2 full manuscripts and 20 partials in one easy to store, easy to hold reader. No more back pain. No paper to lug around. No heavy laptop that needs to sit on my lap to read. And I bought a new purse (another benefit!) that can easily hold my cell phone, Kindle, sunglasses, wallet, spare parts etc.

2. I love being able to choose the font size to read in that is now the default and easy on my eyes.

3. I love being able to have all my favorite books downloaded to the Kindle so I can read them anytime and anywhere I want. Even when I’m traveling and I get the hankering to read Pride & Prejudice for the umpteenth time, it’s there. This is also great in terms of storage. Last year I donated boxes full of books because there was literally no where to put them. I won’t have that problem because even if you don’t want to store it on your kindle, Amazon will store a book for you at your site account.

4. I love the Clipping feature. If I make a note in any document, it is auto saved to this file for easy reference. In other words, I can read 10 sample pages, write a note to myself about each one while reading, and when it’s time to enter my response into the electronic database, I simply open that one file and all the notes are there. I don’t have to reopen each partial that I read. Very handy.

5. I love emailing the documents to myself. No cables. No “I forgot to transfer documents to my Kindle” before walking out the door.

What I would change:

1. I would like more flexibility in being able to organize my downloads into separate folders so my home page always stays neat and clutter free. Right now it doesn’t have that organizational capability.

2. Wouldn’t mind a reader light to turn on just when necessary.

3. Documents downloaded to the Kindle do not have corresponding page numbers that can be used as reference. That’s a bit tough for when I take notes. I can only refer to a chapter.

4. I imagine this was a cost element but a touch interface would be pretty cool.

5. When emailing myself, I’d like the note in the body of the email to be integrated into the document that’s being loaded on the Kindle. Right now, it doesn’t do that.

6. Side buttons are a little cumbersome and it’s easy to turn a page when you don’t mean to.

Other than that, I’m thrilled to have bought one. I spent one night reading a whole novel for 6 hours and my eyes never felt tired. That was the real test.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

AAR Night

STATUS: 10 weeks on the NYT bestseller list and counting…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FREE FALLIN’ by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Last night I attended the Association of Authors’ Representatives monthly meeting. It was meet the editors of FSG night (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). An aspiring writers dream I imagine as there were easily 40 agents all in one place—not to mention 8 terrific editors at the front of the room.

Yes, these meetings are top secret…

Here’s what I found interesting. One editor pleaded with agents in the room not to “clean out their drawers” so to speak and send everything they have. This editor was quite blunt and said she couldn’t imagine that agents who do that really thought each book was really that good and deserved a spot on the rather small and intimate FSG list.

Personally, I was appalled that there were any agents doing that at all! I mean why? There can’t possibly be an upside to that. After all, our most important asset is our reputations. Or perhaps I just feel that way.

You’re looking at an agent who might take 5 projects out on submission in a year and that’s pretty much it. (I’m not counting new sales for current clients in that total.) I haven’t got any drawers to empty—metaphorically speaking.

Also, the editors all said they really preferred a phone call rather than an email before a submission. If I don’t know the editor, or don’t know him or her well, then I always call first but I must confess that all the editors I know super well I almost never do. Seems to me that people are so busy, it’s just easier to respond to an email when you have quiet moment to. So, that was good to know. FSG editors like a phone call.

In good news, I convinced an agent friend who is rather a Luddite that the Kindle really was worth its weight in gold. She’s going to buy it,

And the most fun? I went to lunch with Kathy Dawson at Harcourt Children’s and when I popped open my bag to show her my palm treo (she asked), she noticed my kindle and said she had one too!

The first editor I’ve lunched with who has had the Kindle two months longer that I have. Tomorrow, I’ll report how the Kindle reading is going so far.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Tale Of Reimbursed Expenses

STATUS: This week has been about meeting with editors and my authors who have come to town so no “this is what editors are looking for” stories to regale you with. Although I did have coffee with a children’s editor who is looking for anything multicultural. What a refreshing change as I love multicultural stories as well. And rumor has it that Grand Central is going to be starting a Latino/Latina line over there.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SELF CONTROL by Laura Brannigan

I’m not sure why people think that agenting is a way to get rich quick.

Snort. I can barely type that with a straight face but there seems to be this misperception.

I opened my own agency in August of 2002. I had a small business loan and a five-year plan in place when I embarked on what is a risky proposition. (Actually, starting any small business is risky not just agenting).

When I launched, I truly believed it would take 5 years for the agency to be profitable (and if it weren’t by then, I was in trouble). I hit profitable (as in not operating in the red—salary plus all expenses) in year three by a slim margin. Still, I was quite proud. I was definitely ahead of schedule.

So in those early years, I tracked reimbursable expenses (such as photocopies, postage, the basic stuff) and was reimbursed by the client. But here’s the kicker. The reimbursement ALWAYS happened after the sale of the project to a publisher. If the project didn’t sell, I ate the cost. I repeat. The author was not responsible for anything if the project didn’t sell. Was not recuperating those costs hard to swing in those early years? You betcha but I was unwilling to do otherwise despite my red bottom line.

I have heard of perfectly legitimate agencies (with trackable sales) billing their clients for reimbursable costs at the end of each year regardless of whether a project has sold or not. It’s not against AAR regulations. It’s certainly not sketchy per se but for me personally, I don’t agree with that practice.

For me, the billing for “costs” before any sale has the potential of being abused by agents and agencies that are either ineffectual or operating pretty close to the margin of actually not being legitimate. For my agency, I wanted to make sure the boundaries where absolutely clear.

Now I’m in year five and enjoying solid success, so what did I decide to do (and I actually did this two Januaries ago when I was becoming profitable in year three). I did away with reimbursed expenses.

Yep, you heard that right. I don’t track expenses and expect the client to reimburse—before or after a sale now. The agency foots the bill as the cost of doing business.

There are two exceptions though. The agency does track costs associated with International postage or wire transfers (as those are unusual) and we also do track book purchases used in selling subsidiary rights (because that can get expensive very quickly). We always email the clients first to find out if they want to provide the copies and if not, to check if the cost incurred is okay with them before we proceed.

Perhaps we’re crazy but I find that ultimately it’s not worth the time and effort to track it.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I haven’t talked about fees or reimbursable costs in a long time and I think it’s wise to keep talking about this issue. As I mentioned, legitimate agencies might have this practice and as long as they have a long list of documented sales (where it’s obvious their reputation is impeccable), it’s probably not a worry.

However, I would ALWAYS approach it with caution as there are many marginal agents/agencies that are happy to be reimbursed for submission expenses but don’t have the corresponding sales. And if you are going to be billed for those expenses, it should ALWAYS be accompanied and documented by receipts.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Another Memoir Scandal In The Headlines

STATUS: Piping Mad!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OMG! Somebody is practicing their horn nearby and I can hear it through the vent (maybe a tuba?) And trust me, they need the practice.

Unbelievable! Yet again, an NYT story on how a hugely lauded memoir called LOVE & CONSEQUENCES is basically a fabrication.

Funny how all the memoirs that publishers have bought and have deemed “big enough” have been nothing but fiction disguised as a memoir. The publisher, Riverhead, is now recalling the 19,000 copies that released last week.

I am steamed. Kim Reid and I worked very hard to find a home for her memoir NO PLACE SAFE. An amazing story. A beautifully written story. A completely truthful (and we can back it up with full documentation) story.

Do me a favor? Go to right now and buy a copy of NO PLACE SAFE that’s actually a true memoir. Buy it so these yahoos in publishing will quit paying six figures for what is essentially a work of fiction.

If I hear one more story in the news about a fabricated memoir, I’m going to spit.

Okay, rant over.

And even though John’s memoir LOOK ME IN THE EYE did extraordinarily well (and Kim and I are often in envy of his sales numbers), his story is also true.

So if you want to support truth in memoir by making a purchase, I guess you can buy a copy of his as well. (But only if you buy a copy of Kim’s—she says wickedly).

Monday, March 03, 2008

What’s Frustrating For Agents

STATUS: Gearing up for my last week chock full of appointments. Can I say I think I might be lunched out?

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

Last night I had dinner with an agent friend. I have to say we dished the dirt on the editors we love and the editors we’d rather not deal with.

I’m sure EVERYONE would love me to list that on my blog but some things are better left unsaid. And just to reassure editors out there who read this blog, it would have to be pretty egregious to get on our “no send” list so don’t sweat it if you are like 95% of the editors out there who are great, sane, normal, and a solid editor who tries his or her best.

But here is an interesting tidbit from our discussion. We were talking about client projects that come in and despite our plea for revisions or a solid edit, the client declines and would prefer to submit as is. And in our hearts, we know it won’t sell.

We submit anyway, and it doesn’t sell. Our only hope is that the editors point out our same thoughts and feelings in their response letters.

If that doesn’t happen, well, we can always try and beg for another revision so as to take it back out again (which by the way, both of us would be willing to do as we can convince the editors to give it another look if it’s a strong/major revision).