Monday, June 30, 2008

A Second Totally Unscientific PubRants Blog Reader Poll

STATUS: It’s a bit quiet leading up to the long weekend so I’m actually getting some things done. And yes, I’m still working on my query inbox…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNKNOWN LEGEND by Neil Young

When we did our completely unscientific first ever Pubrants Blog Reader poll, I realized that I left out one important question (or maybe series of questions).

We talked about covers and back cover copy influencing book buying decisions but we didn’t talk about author blurbs.

Often times before a book is to be published, the agent, editor, and author will put our heads together and discuss who would be a great blurb candidate for the project. Obviously blurbs are going to come for established authors with solid reputations and a large following, otherwise the blurb probably wouldn’t have much weight. The name has to be recognizable and appropriate for the genre, type of book, etc.

For example, this week has been very exciting at the agency as we just received word that Lisa See (author of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan), who we asked to read an ARC of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford, loved the book and is thrilled to give us a blurb to use.

Needless to say, Jamie and I were giddy. Now I realize that the book isn’t out yet and therefore anyone who reads this blog can’t buy it yet, but would that influence you?

So that’s my poll for today:

Do you notice and read author blurbs on books you are potentially interested in buying?

If so, have you ever bought a book because an author you loved and trusted endorsed the book?

If you can remember, what established authors created the swing vote for you and you did indeed buy the book with their author blurb on it?

Have you ever bought a book based on an author endorsement and then were dissatisfied with the book bought? If so, did that impact a future buy for a book for which that same author has endorsed?

I imagine this random poll will spark some interesting discussions this week!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Update On The Handwritten Manuscript

STATUS: TGIF! I actually had hoped to work on some queries today and it didn’t quite happen. I imagine I’ll tackle some this weekend. I have to work on two client edits as well so I’ll let you know on Monday how much I actually accomplish. It’s like my eyes being bigger than my stomach. I always put more food on the plate than I can eat and I always think I will accomplish more than I actually do.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JUST LIKE HEAVEN by The Cure

You will all be relieved to know that that the writer of the handwritten manuscript has indeed gotten in touch with us. This person’s email to us was a little incomprehensible as he described many things in his letter but didn’t actually answer our question about whether we could recycle it or whether he wanted to send postage for its return.

Sara will persevere!

But rest assured, we did not recycle a writer’s only copy. And although I don't believe that there are too many heartless agents out there, maybe we rebalanced the karma in the world of cold-hearted agenting by going the extra distance.

And in a totally unrelated segue, if you want to check out a recent interview with moi, here’s a link.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Agent Matchmaker

STATUS: I’ve been working on queries tonight. Honestly, that’s what I’ve been reading for the past hour. I’m going to need another 2 hours at least to complete what’s in my inbox but haven’t you ever notice that sometimes it’s the thought of starting the task that keeps you from diving in? Once started, it never seems as bad…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT HAD TO BE YOU by Harry Connick, Jr.

Writers often want to know if agents ever recommend other agents for a project they might be passing on.

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Just this week I played matchmaker for a well-established author who had amicably parted with her agent of many years (like 18—it was a long time). She was going in a new direction and hadn’t felt supported so it was time to move on.

One of my authors actually sent her my way so of course I read her sample pages with alacrity.

And it was obvious by page four that she was a fabulous author but I was so not the right agent for her. The genre she was working in was a bit of a stretch for me but sometimes that can be invigorating. I like to take on projects that stretch the boundaries but this was just a mis-fit.

So, I asked her permission to share her query with several agent friends who I thought would be a good fit. Of those agents who responded with a “yes, would love for her to contact me,” I compiled a list and sent to her.

And today I found out she signed with a very dear friend of mine. So fun! I’m thrilled that she kept me in the loop and as she was so lovely to work with, I had begun to wonder if I was a bit daft to not be snatching up this talent. Still, I find that it rarely works out when agents take on projects that aren’t a good fit but they try anyway.

So yes, agents do recommend other agents. I must admit that this doesn’t happen as often for projects I pass on from unpublished authors but it does occasionally happen there as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Query Inbox

STATUS: It’s almost 10 p.m. at night. That pretty much sums it up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THANK YOU by Dido

I’m ashamed to say that I am now officially a month behind in reading queries. All those writers probably have agents by now. So if you’ve been waiting, I do apologize and I plan to tackle and vanquish in the next 3 days. I only have 156 of them waiting for me (gulp)!

Also, I just found out that our server went down last Friday, June 20th between 4 and 5 p.m. Mountain time. If you tried to send us a query during that time frame, it bounced and you probably received a message that there was no such emailbox.

Sorry about that. According to our tech person (who knows way more about this than I do), it was a corrupted configuration file and that file manages the valid email addresses on the server.

So you’ll have to resend it as during that time period (and that time period only!), we weren’t receiving any incoming emails.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stats And A Few More Thoughts

STATUS: I’ve got an auction happening tomorrow. That just makes the day crazy busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A CHANGE WOULD DO YOU GOOD by Sheryl Crow

Basically last night was nothing but whining—at least I thought so until I started to really think about it. It’s actually extremely important for an agent to read for pleasure (and yes, sometimes reading sample pages is fun but ultimately it’s still working so it’s not quite the same thing as reading a book solely for pleasure). Do you know why? Because that’s when an agent feels the joy of the printed page and the written word. That’s when we remember how much we enjoy just reading like normal people do.

It also keeps us in touch with what’s out there, what’s selling or catching people’s attention. I love to read and when you work too hard, sometimes you forget that passion because all you want is to tick off one more item from your long list of TO DOs. So not only is it imperative (work-wise) to read for pleasure but it’s also wise for our sanity in general.

And finally, I have the stats for you from our poll on Tuesday, June 16, 2008. Some comments came in after the cut off and we’re sorry to not include you if your answer came late but we had to create a cut-off somewhere to compile.

Responses: 195
(not everyone answered every question which is why a few of the totals do not add up to 195)

Do you prefer hard copy or electronic?
Hard Copy: 185Electronic: 10
95% hard copy

When going into a store to buy a book, have you then bought a second title?
Yes: 187
No: 8
96% Yes

Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?
Yes: 63No: 131
68% No

Have you ever bought a book based on the back cover copy?
Yes: 155
No: 39
80% Yes

Kristin comment: If you ever needed proof that it was worthwhile to make your query pitch paragraph mirror back cover copy, here it is I think. Agents are just like readers. We can be swayed by good back cover copy.

How often have you bought a book based on a friend or family member’s recommendation?
Always: 5 = 2%
Almost all the time: 19 = 10%
Frequently (much of the time/ around 50% of the time): 75 = 39%
Rarely: 72 = 37%
Never: 23 = 12%

Have you ever bought a book because I mentioned it on this blog? If so, which book(s).
Yes: 63
No: 128
67% No

Which ones:
Ally Carter (23)
Sherry Thomas (13)
Linnea Sinclair (7)
Lisa Shearin (5)
Shanna Swendson (5)
Hank Phillippi Ryan (3)
Jana DeLeon (2)
Kelly Parra (2)
Marianne Mancusi (2)
Cheryl Hingley (1)
Leslie Langtry (1)
Kim Reid (1)
Jennifer O’Connell (1)

Kristin comment: Most interesting point about this question is that I actually mention quite a few non-client books on my blog and nobody mentioned whether that has swayed him/her to buy some other non-Nelson Agency Client book.

How many books do you buy in a year?
0: 01-10: 29 = 15%
11-50: 82 = 44%
51-100: 42 = 22%
100+: 35 = 19%
With several responses of 300+ and even 500+

Kristin comment: Holy cow you blog readers buy books. I love you!

How many books do you check out of the library per year?
0: 87 = 47%
1-10: 16 = 8%
11-50: 45 = 24%
51-100: 23 = 12%
100+: 16 = 9%
Again with several responses in the hundreds

Kristin comment: We love libraries and librarians so it’s perfectly okay with us if you check out from the library. Libraries often buy lots of copies of each book and that makes us happy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Summertime And The Fridays Are Easy

STATUS: Ack. It’s late and I was supposed to have stats today. Till Tomorrow!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SEXUAL HEALING by Marvin Gaye

It’s summer time and the publishing is easy. Actually, that’s not true right now. I was trying to get something accomplished on Friday with an editor until I realized that the half days are here again.

It’s such a civilized notion doing half days on Fridays for the summer. After all, we should be out enjoying the late summer nights and reading books for pleasure.

I have to admit that it’s easily been 3 months since I last read a book solely for pleasure—as in not with an eye to take it on or not, to edit it, what have you.

I have to get cracking as my book club is meeting next Sunday and I haven’t had a chance to start the book. Like normal, I’ll probably read it all on Friday night and Sunday morning. And my book club members always wonder why so many of the details are fresh in my mind…

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Funnies

STATUS: TGIF! And I’ve got a lot to celebrate as I’m almost caught up—if we don’t count the fact that I haven’t looked at queries in 3 weeks and that I’m still behind on reading requested sample pages. If you are waiting to hear from us, please wait just a bit longer…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SH-BOOM by The Chords

Sara & I are still compiling the tallies of our Tuesday’s poll so look for that on Monday. Also in regards to the handwritten manuscript we received this week, we decided to go with the happy compromise outlined by many of you in the comments section. Today we sent a letter requesting that the sender send us the return postage if he/she wants the manuscript materials returned.

We’ll await that response and as to your other question, no, I have not read it and don’t plan to. It could be the best and greatest next American novel and I wouldn’t really care. I have a terrific current client list right now and I’m positive that I don’t want to work with an author who isn’t computer savvy in this day and age when it’s imperative (for my communicating with him/her and for author self marketing and promotion). I did that once early in my career where I had an author who didn’t/couldn’t email and once was enough.

Now for today’s funny. Two reasons why I’m sharing. 1) Thought this youtube vid was hilarious and 2) dang these authors are savvy in terms of promotion. What a great and fun way to get the info out that your book has been nominated for a RITA! It’s all about the promo baby!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

eBooks For The Young’un’s

STATUS: I had two things I wanted to accomplish before I left the office today. Yeah, didn’t do either. But other great things are going on.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GOIN' THROUGH YOUR PURSE by Material Issue

And I need to compile the stats from Tuesday’s poll but that will take a little time. In the meantime, here’s a cool article that fits right in to what we’ve been talking about this week. How interesting.

Survey Confirms Younger Generation Less Interested in Traditional Reading Habits
The Bookseller's Reading the Future Survey, presented at a conference last week, reports only half of young people aged 18-24 years old think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years' time. Looking deeper into 18-24 year olds' reading habits, the survey found that 28% were favourable towards the idea of e-readers, compared to 9% of 65+ year olds, and 40% liked the idea of downloadable chapters of books, compared to 7% of 65+ year olds. Transworld publisher Bill Scott-Kerr said at the conference that the statistics point to where publishers are headed in the future. We all know the book is a great piece of technology - you can't drop e-books in the bath. But we as an industry are in a lot of trouble; we don't know where we are going."

Here’s the full article at the Bookseller.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Heat Must Be The Culprit

STATUS: Busy. I’m in the middle of negotiating several new deals.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SWEET SURRENDER by Bread

The summer heat must be going to people’s heads because this is my third rant in a week regarding odd submissions here at the agency.

People! Get down to the pool and take a break I think. Yesterday I received a large box that the writer had spent $32.00 sending express mail. Egad! That’s a lot of money to spend sending a submission to an agency that only accepts electronic submissions. And a colossal waste at that because when I opened this package, inside were pages and pages of a handwritten manuscript.

I’m not kidding blog readers. The submission wasn’t even typed. I’m not even snorting with laughter; I’m too stunned.

There’s no email address included and no SASE. I’m not going to look at it. If that makes me heartless, so be it, but I don’t think I can toss this into the recycle bin either. What if it’s the only copy? Surely a writer wouldn’t be stupid enough to send us the only copy, right? I mean it looks like a photocopied version (another waste of money as we do electronic submissions!) but sometimes that’s hard to tell considering photocopying quality these days.

Okay, do I expend the money to return it? We could send via media mail, which would be pretty inexpensive. I think that’s what we might do but only because I’m feeling generous. Normally I don’t think twice in terms of pitching something like this in the recycle bin.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Do You Do Big Money To Big Publishers?

STATUS: Responses are still trickling in so I’ll probably wait a day or two before tabulating the very unscientific results! Thanks to all who participated in the survey!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DANCING IN THE DARK by Bruce Springsteen

In our June newsletter (which will probably go out this week), Sara talks about a query we received that began with this sentence: "Do you sell books to really big publishers for a lot of money? That's all I am interested in and if you are small potatoes, please don't bother responding..."

Insert picture here of Kristin snorting with laughter. The answer is yes, I certainly do sell books to big publishers for big money but I’m pretty certain I don’t want you as a client.
This opening is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin this rant. I’ll just list some thoughts.

1. Why are you emailing me this query if you don’t know my sales history and what I’ve sold lately and in general, for how much? That info is certainly out there if one does the research.

2. How do you define “big” publisher? I know a lot of smaller, independent houses I’d love to do a book with. Algonquin and MacAdam/Cage come to mind. Aren’t they big enough?

3. How do you define “big” money?

4. It’s not always about the money. Now, it’s always foremost in my consideration but sometimes it’s about the right editor, the right house, the right vision and that doesn’t always equal the most money.

5. No agent can guarantee that a project will sell for X amount of money and if they tell you they can, they’re lying. Now sometimes my gut will tell me that a project will go at auction and for good money and sometimes I’ll cautiously share my optimism with the client but it’s always tempered with the caveat that I can’t promise a specific dollar amount.

6. Lastly, if you are in the publishing game for the money, you’ve got a rude awakening in front of you. Do I need to trot out the statistics on how many queries we get versus how many authors we take on and actually sell? Do I need to dig up the stats on how many authors actually make a full-time living solely from their writing? (And the stats are even smaller when we are talking about writers making their living from writing fiction!) Do I need to list the stats on how many author advances are under the 25k range? Or reverse and list some stats on how many authors make six figure advances?

So yep, we do occasionally sell to big publishers for big money but we’ll be saying NO to this query without a second thought. We just don’t need any clients with misguided attitudes. If that’s the case, our client list is full up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

PubRants First Blog Reader Poll Or Something Equally Unscientific

STATUS: I’m getting my 80s groove thing on to start the week. How can you be upset when listening to nostalgia music like this?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE LOOK OF LOVE by ABC

So this morning I’m breezing through my copy of Publishers Weekly as we had just found out our author Sherry Thomas was getting a new PW review for her August release DELICIOUS (and a fab review at that!). I was pretty sure it was coming in the current issue that hasn’t hit my mailbox yet but to make sure, I scanned the latest copy.

Well, this article caught my eye. Zogby International, in conjunction with Random House, did a survey on current readership. Here’s the link if you want to read it more fully.

And here are just a few eye-popping stats from this poll.

82% of Readers prefer the hard copy of a book over the electronic version (Oy! I’m in the minority. I love reading on my Kindle.)

43% of readers go into bookstores looking for a specific title

77% of those readers make additional purchases when looking for a specific book

52% of book purchasers are swayed by cover art

49% of book purchasers are swayed by reviews

35% of book purchasers have been swayed by a cover quote (now my authors understand why we work so hard to get those cover quotes!)

60% of book purchasers are swayed by recommendations from friends or family members.

Word of mouth is everything!

Alas, I didn’t see any stats on back cover copy and whether that influences a purchase. That could have been relevant concerning all my recent blog posts regarding it.

But let’s do our own, not-so-scientific and spur of the moment sample poll:

Do you prefer hard copy or electronic?

When going into a store to buy a book, have you then bought a second title?

Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?

Have you ever bought a book based on the back cover copy? (what the heck, let’s ask).

How often have you bought a book based on a friend or family member’s recommendation?

Have you ever bought a book because I mentioned it on this blog? If so, which book(s). (oh boy!)

How many books do you buy in a year?

How many books do you check out from the library in a year?


I’ll compile our own totally unscientific stats tomorrow or on Wed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How Not To Land An Agent

STATUS: TGIF and I’m leaving the office before 6 p.m. Almost unheard of. But you guessed it, I’m still behind so plan to work this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NOBODY DOES IT BETTER by Carly Simon

Today was crazy. The phone was ringing off the hook. Sara & I were trying to finish up letters to authors whose fulls we had read. We were trying to organize the author dinner at RWA and just generally running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

So when the buzzer rang, and while Sara was on the phone, I just popped over there to hit the door open button thinking it was Fedex or UPS or whoever.

No, it’s this woman who has come to drop off a package. The dog is barking (as it’s the highlight of her day—after her morning walk that is) and Sara is telling me the agency lawyer is on the phone and do I want to take it, so without thinking, I just say “is this a delivery for me.” The woman smiles and says “yes” so I take it, set it down, and dash back to the phone (as my lawyer and I have been playing phone tag for a couple days).

I don’t think anything more about it until an hour later when I remember the package so I go over to check it out.

I had just closed a deal for a client recently and often clients will send thank you gifts for a first time sale (which isn’t necessary but we never say no!) so I just assumed that was what it was (and from a local Denver place and hence the hand delivery). One of my favorite gifts was designer cupcakes from a local Denver Bakery that a client in Oklahoma had sent us. Yum!

Guess what? It wasn’t. It was an author delivering a personal query letter, a copy of her book, and a lovely package—which we can’t accept.

So Monday, Sara is going to have to ring her up and ask her to come and retrieve it as it’s just not appropriate. As an agent, I have a lot of integrity and I don’t want to be “bribed” to review a project (however nice the gesture is on her part). This is not how you land an agent.

And we really don’t want to accept the gift. Had I been less frantic at the moment, I would have asked her the nature of the delivery and would have refused it there and then but alas, there was just too much going on.

So don’t do this folks. We do read all our queries and every author we have taken as a client sold us on their project via a query letter and then their sample pages. No bribe needed.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Contest Judging—Again!

STATUS: I’m a bit tired so this one is going to be short.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUCIFY by Tori Amos

I spent the evening judging the paranormal category of the Daphne du Maurier contest for unpublished authors.

Oy! It was the point system again. Totally flummoxed, I decided I would just read each entry carefully and write a bunch of notes on the contest entries themselves rather than on the score sheet. This took about 5 hours to do. (Now you know why we can’t respond to sample pages received!) I figured that way the authors could see what I was thinking the moment I had the thought.

I still had to fill out the point sheets though. I totally struggled over how to score whether the writing was evocative or whether the dialogue moved the story forward. I liked each entry in different ways so to assign a point score for the same components—when I didn’t necessarily think the score divisions were what I would comment on for a particular entry—was a challenge.

Still, despite all this, my rankings were clear in my mind. I knew which entry was number 1 for me and then down the line.

And nope, I can’t talk about it. You are just going to have to wait for the Daphne awards at RWA.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Building The Pitch Paragraph (Part Six Redux: Ysabel)

STATUS: I’m beat. I just can’t stay up until after midnight without consequences. Makes you wonder how we did it in college all those eons ago.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CANDY EVERYBODY WANTS by 10,000 Maniacs

I think I can officially call my work done here. You guys don’t need any more lessons on pitch paragraphs. You’ve got this nailed. It’s so easy—until it’s your own work, right?

Step One: Find the plot Catalyst
It’s pretty easy to spot in this one. It’s in the second paragraph when Ned & Kate surprise an intruder with a knife in a place he should not be. Cryptic warning ensues!

Step Two: Identify what method is being used to build the paragraphs in the cover copy?
Paragraph one is mostly back story (why they are living in Aix-en-Provence) and a little bit of hint in terms of Ned’s character with the reference to inheriting his mom’s courage.

Paragraph two highlights opening plot elements and then the catalyst.

Paragraph three is setting actually. Not something I’ve really talked about much in relation to pitch paragraphs. Here, setting the mood is rather important to the story so the copywriter juxtaposed the modern with the old to capture that this story has a timeless element to it.

Paragraph four is about how the setting relates to the other plot elements that will unfold. We are in a place where the border between the living and the dead is suspect. This means something from the past is going to be able to come into the present and if this copy is any guide, that’s not going to be a happy thing.

Step Three: Analyze the copy as a whole.
So this copy is 8 sentences. A lot going on in those 8 sentences. You can see where it pays to chose wisely the details to include.

Building The Pitch Paragraph (Part Six: Ysabel)

STATUS: So it’s after midnight, which should tell you how my day went. And is this Tuesday’s entry or Wednesday’s?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DESERT ROSE by Sting

Okay so we didn’t have much luck analyzing the cover copy of THEN WE CAME TO THE END as we couldn’t find it online. Tonight (or this morning), let’s try a title where the commenter provided the cover copy for me. What can I say? I get lazy when I’m tired.

Are you ready? This one has elements of many genres so it should be fun.


From Guy Gavriel Kay's YSABEL:

Ned Marriner is spending springtime with his father in Provence, where the celebrated photographer is shooting images for a glossy coffee-table book. Both father and son fear for Ned's mother, a physician for Doctors Without Borders, currently assigned to the civil war-torn regions of Sudan. Ned has inherited her courage, and perhaps more than that.

While his father photographs the cathedral of Aix-en-Provence, Ned explores the shadowy interior with Kate Wenger, an American exchange student who has a deep knowledge of the area's history. They surprise an intruder in a place where he should not be: "I think you ought to go now," he tells them, drawing a knife. "You have blundered into a corner of a very old story."

In a modern world of iPods, cellphones, and SUVs whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and Roman legions, a centuries-old saga seems to be beginning again.

In this sublime and ancient corner of the world, where borders between the living and the long-dead are most vulnerable, Ned and those close to him are about to be drawn into a haunted tale, as mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, changing and claiming lives.

Step One: Find the plot Catalyst

Step Two: Identify what method is being used to build the paragraphs in the cover copy?
* Back story?
* Other plot elements?
* Character?
* Combo?

Step Three: Analyze the copy as a whole.
How many sentences is it? What elements make up each individual paragraph? What seemed effective and why?

I’ll check back in tomorrow (or today) so we can discuss.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Big In Russia Actually

STATUS: Almost finished with all my Book Expo follow up stuff.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN IT’S OVER by Loverboy
(Bring on the red leather hot pants!)

I’m almost embarrassed to admit I have Loverboy on my iPod. Almost. They are still actually quite a lot of fun to work out to.

I’m not sure why but Russian publishers are buying a lot of projects as of late—and in all types of genres—but they are. Recently I’ve sold two debut fantasy and romance authors in that territory. They love historicals and I just sold a client’s recent book and her entire back list to a Russian publisher. They’ve also bought a young adult urban fantasy in that territory (but traditionally I haven’t sold a lot of YA there).

The hardest country to place right now is the UK. I recently did a deal for my middle grade project in that country but I think it was helped by the fact that the England is also the setting for the novel.

The UK has been notoriously tough for the past 2 years. If a manuscript doesn’t have international appeal (read: if it’s too American), they won’t touch it. They’ve become very tough for Historicals as well (which have traditionally worked well over there but the market has grown tighter in the last couple of years).

But here’s a first. Just recently I sold a YA project in Finland. Finnish! How fun and exciting is that? I also sold a YA in Turkey! Not two countries that immediately pop to mind when selling young adult titles but there you have it. I’ve also recently sold a new romance author in France as well as another young adult title there. Those are some firsts in the French language. Romance in general does tend to sell well in Denmark and Germany, but the latter has cut back as of late on its buys. Publishing has been hit hard in that country and I’ve noticed that offered advances are lower than they have been in the past.

I really love seeing the cover art and getting the foreign copies of books sold. If you go to our website, we actually post a lot of the foreign editions of our books. I must admit that Sara and I haven’t updated it recently but we’ll get around to it when we are a bit less swamped.

So from my limited perspective, that’s what is currently selling abroad as of late.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Where’s The Rise In The Mass Market Paperback?

STATUS: TGIF! Lots to do still over the weekend. One of these days I’ll get caught up and I’ll feel less guilty.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO I DO by Stevie Wonder

Here’s an interesting monkey wrench to throw into our whole discussion concerning hardcover versus paperback.

Many of you mentioned that that the price point on HC is just too high—you wait for the paperback release, which often happens about a year after the HC release.

In recent articles I’ve been reading in Publishers Weekly, it has been often mentioned that sales of the mass market paperbacks have been on the decline. In other words, the pocket size versions that usually have a very nice price point of $5.99 or $6.99.

Now I have to wonder why that is. If price is the issue, then that certainly solves it so the reader can buy the book. It’s only a couple of dollars more than a fancy Starbucks latte. (That’s putting it into perspective!). Yet, sales are down over previous years.

What’s causing that do you think? Is it aging baby boomers who can’t (or don’t want to struggle) with the smaller print? I’m not there yet but soon I’ll be able to relate.

Trade paperback (same size as HC) is a bit on the rise—but not in huge numbers. (I really wished I had saved that article or articles so I could reference it here. I’m too lazy to look it up right now as I only have a few minutes to blog before I head out of the office.)

If price is the issue, than folks should be buying more mass markets rather than fewer. That doesn’t seem to be the case…

Have you seen the slightly over-sized mass market versions some publishing houses have been experimenting with for their big name authors? They aren’t as big as the trade pbs and not as small as the regular mass market. I know they were experimenting to see if that would draw readers. I haven’t seen any statistics on those yet. They are priced a buck or two higher than the regulars.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Foiled By Whether This Is The Back Cover Copy Or Not

STATUS: I’m really swamped right now so pardon yesterday’s radio silence.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNBELIEVABLE by EMF

So we haven’t analyzed back cover copy for about two weeks now. With that in mind, I thought I would pull up my list of suggested examples culled from the comments section for this blog entry.

I’ve been hearing the buzz (which has been around for a while) for the National Book Award winner THEN WE CAME TO THE END and since it was suggested, I thought it would make a good choice.

But I’ve literally just spent the last 20 minutes on Amazon.com and BN.com looking for the flap copy (if you are talking hardcover). This could also be the back cover copy for a trade pb but sometimes publishers decide to use that space for quotes instead (thinking that would be more powerful to sell the story).

On Amazon, all I could find were reviews. Clicking on a variety of “search inside” features didn’t get me to the flap copy or to the back cover where a blurb might be.

On BN.com, there is a synopsis listed. This may be the flap copy or back cover copy but it’s more of summary than what, traditionally, back cover copy or flap copy tends to be.

The Tattered Cover online has this same snippet listed as the description.

Here it is:

No one knows us quite the same way as the men and women who sit beside us in department meetings and crowd the office refrigerator with their labeled yogurts. Every office is a family of sorts, and the ad agency Joshua Ferris brilliantly depicts in his debut novel is family at its strangest and best, coping with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks.

With a demon's eye for the details that make life worth noticing, Joshua Ferris tells a true and funny story about survival in life's strangest environment--the one we pretend is normal five days a week.

I have to say that I’m not sure this little snippet would have sold me on picking up, buying, and reading this book. The reviews on the other hand made my book club interested in at least including this book title in our next vote.

Not sure what point I’m making but if this is not the book copy and the actual copy is noticeably absent from the websites, it does rather de-emphasize the importance of that marketing tool.

Still, I think back cover copy is valuable as a learning tool for writing query pitch paragraphs. Perhaps my real point is to say that online sites have more room to offer a variety of written info about a novel to the reader beyond the back cover copy. And in fact, maybe enticing back cover copy is less important than reader and professional reviews.

It’s an interesting discussion…

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hardcover vs Original Trade Paperback

STATUS: It’s been a bit of a long day. Right now I’m just reading as I’m still a bit behind on client material and requested manuscripts. I don’t think it’s actually possible to get ahead so a perpetual state of being behind is pretty much normal.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL I WANT by Toad The Wet Sprocket

Basically the conversation about whether to publish a debut in original trade pb versus hardcover relates to literary fiction or commercial literary fiction.

Why? Because there are many genres where original trade or even mass market publication for a debut is widely acceptable and the issues of support really aren’t in question.

For example, publishing romance, thriller, and debuts in SF&F often happen in the mass market version without too many blinks of an eye. In fact, in these genres, it’s often a reverse process. An author can start in mass market and move “up” to trade or hardcover.

For those of you who are confused, mass market is the pocket size publication of a work. Trade paperback is the same size as a hardcover (for the most part) but simply has a soft cover rather than the hard (and a lower price point).

Lots of terrific women’s fiction and commercial mainstream projects are published as original trade pbs and work great.

The trick is deciding about a debut in the literary realm. Do you go for hardcover with all the “prestige,” the marketing/pr backing and the reviews (but the higher price point—which lots of readers perceive as too high) or do you go for the trade pb? Right now there are still vestiges of reluctance to fully support an original trade pb in this realm.

Thus the dilemma. Forgo the higher price point and the stronger royalty percentages to satisfy reader desires (and if you do the math, authors earn less money with trade pb until the tipping point), or go for the hardcover, get more support and have a higher chance of earning out that advance (or the greater risk of failure if it doesn’t work).

See the issue?

Now I think publishing is evolving because so much good new literary stuff is coming out in original trade pb and succeeding but yet, there are still these hesitations (as the failures loom greatly)—and for good reason.

If we are going to revolutionize the industry and move more to this format (which I’m certainly not opposed to), then let’s re-examine all the facets of it—including the marketing/pr, the print runs, the royalty structures, and gasp, even maybe the advances paid for works that will be pubbed in original trade pb.

I’m lobbying for a holistic approach to the question—rather than simply examining individual facets. Publishing, traditionally, doesn’t work this way. By examining recent history, this is not a nimble industry which makes it interesting for agents to navigate and thus why the BEA panel was so fascinating to attend.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Report From BEA (Part Two)

STATUS: It’s always a crush when I’ve been out of the office for a week. I’m proud to say I’m now finally seeing open spots on the desktop for the first time today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BACK HOME AGAIN by John Denver

Here’s how I can sum up my BEA. With the exception of the Graphic Novel Author Breakfast on Saturday morning, any event I had planned to attend was a bust—real snoozers.

And the one panel that was a spontaneous choice was the one I enjoyed the most—and that was the panel discussion on Hardcover versus original trade paperback for a debut novel.

Basically there was no consensus on whether it helps or hurts an author. Several examples were given for both—of how a trade price point really helped to break out an author and how an author got sunk by the hardcover pub with the higher price point.

There was even mention of my larger concern about not getting the audio deal and foreign rights for an original trade pb (although I have to say that foreign publishers seem very flexible with what they buy and the format doesn’t seem to impact too much).

My hope was that the discussion could veer into new territories, like setting up the possibility of rethinking how original trade paperbacks are bought, their marketing/promo plans (because let’s face it, as agents we are mostly worried about original trades not getting the love from pr and marketing and the reviews needed to really succeed as those aspects have been slow to evolve), and perhaps discuss new trade original royalty structures if more and more books are pubbed as original trades and not hardcovers. Those percentages haven’t changed in a hefty while

I don’t care if something is going to pub in trade pb if I know I can get the support, the backing, and that my author could earn as much via that medium than through hardcover as the original format.

Lots about pubbing original trade make sense and yet, there’s still those possible issues that make it hard not to be hesitant. Still, I see it’s where the industry seems to be leaning so I’d just like to see some other aspects about this format embraced.

But back to the Graphic novel breakfast.

From left: Jeff Smith (author of Bone), Jeph Loeb (producer of Heroes and currently writing Hulk for Marvel), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), and Art Spiegelman (Pulitzer Prize-winner of Maus)

Here’s what I learned. Folks who write and illustrate comic books are passionate about them and a lot of writers have been doing this for some time—long before it was popular.

1. They all were slightly amused by the term graphic novelists.
2. They are, and always will be, comic book writers, thank you very much.
3. They are all slightly amused to be considered “cool” now as well.

The tipping point for comic books happened, for some reason, about 4 or 5 years ago and they knew it when librarians started coming to them with “no need to sell me on the format, I get it but what should I be buying? What’s Good?” That’s when the format had arrived into the mainstream. It’s also not just about comic book publishers anymore. Many traditional publishing imprints (like S&S and Random House) are buying comic books and positioning them like traditional books (for lack of a better word).

I found the whole breakfast, and especially Spiegelman’s visual presentation about the history and the how and why of how he go into it, particularly fascinating.

I certainly can’t say that I’ve been a long-time fan or anything like that but I’m interested. I certainly had a bunch of comic books when I was growing up (boy did this bring back memories) and many of my college buddies wrote, illustrated, and collected comic books so I was certainly exposed to the medium. Now I just need to get back in touch with those guys and say, “hey, your time has come. Maybe we need to dig out those works.”

Last but not least, I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing the author autographing stalls. One author called it horse racing in reverse. It does rather mimic that!