Friday, October 31, 2008

The Demon’s Lexicon Cover: Behind The Scenes

STATUS: Happy Halloween!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GHOSTBUSTERS by Ray Parker

It’s not often you get a glimpse of the behind the scenes discussion about a cover but there were quite a few interesting points for this one.

1. Cover image. Did we want iconic (a la TWILIGHT) or did we think that had been done to death?

Now, I have to say that I’m often drawn to iconic image covers but when you look around on shelves right now, there are an awful lot of them.

So when the Art Director suggested actually having a model shoot to do an image of Nick for the cover. We were intrigued (nervous too because how often does a real human depiction of a character seem right?). We reviewed the models in contention before the cover shoot took place (it’s a hard job, I know, but somebody has to do it!).

For Sarah Rees Brennan, this model was hands down the winner. It was pretty dang close to the Nick she envisioned.

2. Demon Mark. This plays a huge role in the story so Sarah did a nice drawing of how she envisioned it in her head. S&S didn’t end up doing anything with the image but they did play around with the idea.

3. Talisman. If we had gone the iconic image route, I imagine this would have been featured somewhere on the cover. S&S designed the beautiful talisman themselves and created it for the cover shoot. Here’s a close up shot.

4. The Menacing Birds. The Art Director just loved them so we knew they’d make the cover. There were, however, several variations of them but here you see them in their final form.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sneak Peek: The Demon’s Lexicon

STATUS: I just walked over to my early voting location to hand deliver my ballot and drop it into a secure ballot box. Now all we can do is wait until Tuesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IN THE DARK by Billy Squier

Okay, I’ve been dying to show this cover to the world and guess what? You blog readers get to see it first.

Mark your calendars! THE DEMON’S LEXICON releases on June 2, 2009 and S&S has already announced a 100,000 initial print run (and since they “announced” it, I can share this info with you!).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doom & Gloom & Google

STATUS: Four more hours until I can go home and vote!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BOBBY JEAN by Bruce Springsteen

Oh my. I’m reading all my daily news feeds this afternoon and I have to say that even I was stunned at the Media Bistro headlines.

Get a load of this:

Time Inc. plans 600 layoffs

Christian Science Monitor to go Web-only (not bad news per se but certainly sign of the times I think!)

Gannett will Cut Ten Percent of Newspaper Jobs

McGraw Hill Cuts 270 Jobs


In other big, big news, from Wall Street Journal Google settles lawsuit [link from the AP] regarding book scanning and book search. And yes, it means one more thing to talk about during deal negotiations as this is yet another revenue stream. Luckily, my contracts manager and I already have discussed Google revenue and where it falls in many of our contracts.

Publishers Marketplace has several key stories regarding the news. [Click here and here] You may or may not have to subscribe to see the full story. And if you want to read the 141 page settlement, you certainly can by clicking here. I suggest, at the very least, reading Attachment A: Author-Publisher Procedures. Also, here's the settlement administration link.

One of the big questions being kicked around is the difference between commercial availability and “in print.” Does the presence of a book in Google’s book search program constitute a work being in print? There's a lovely explanation of the two tests to determine so in the Author-Publisher procedure. And, according to the Author's Guild, the answer is no as the OOP clause in the contract still prevails and that should contain a sales threshold that defines whether a book is in print. From what I've read of the settlement, that is indeed correct.

But it’s still tricky. What happens when a book is considered OOP (and the rights have reverted to the author) but Google still makes the text searchable on their book search site (and is potentially generating revenue for that)?

Good question. And this too is addressed. Will Google then send statements (and checks) to the authors who hold the rights? Yes, they should (as that is covered under the Author-controlled Section 4.1 of Author-Publisher Procedures Attachment) but the onus is solely on the author and there are a lot of steps outlined! [Payment is detailed in 6.2]

And authors and agents thought it was hard enough extracting information from publishers regarding their royalty statements. This could take revenue tracking to a whole new level.

It’s a brave new world, isn’t it? Happy reading.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Early Voting---Finally!

STATUS: So very happy because finally, I’ve got a ballot.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEAUTIFUL DAY by U2

This is unabashed non-publishing-related blog entry. For the past month, I’ve been in mail-in ballot hell—as in I never received my ballot and since I’m on the permanent mail-in ballot list, I was starting to worry as the election loomed ever closer.

Five calls (yep, count ‘em) five calls to the Denver Elections Commission yielded very little helpful information as they had in their records that the ballot had been mailed.

I didn’t believe it could take 12 days to come when it was being mailed in the same city. In fact, I was getting ready to call up a news channel myself when this story hit the wires. I wasn’t alone in my mail-in ballot frustration. There were 18,000 missing ballots because of a glitch in the mailing and the company responsible, Sequoia, didn’t bother telling anyone.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

And today of glorious days, after much hassle, numerous calls and a contingency plan to get my replacement ballot, I opened my mailbox and there it was.

I can’t wait to rush home from work tomorrow and vote!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Speaking of eBook Royalty Rates…

STATUS: Monday madness! Sounds like a new game show. I can’t believe it’s 5 pm already. Lots of phone calls and prep work for my NYC trip in two weeks.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEARTS AND BONES by Paul Simon

Which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, I just received a letter in the mail today from Random House stating that as of Dec. 1, 2008, they’ll be changing their eBook royalty rate policy.

Sigh. Here we go. RH used to have one of the nicer royalty rates in the industry (of the big NYC Houses that is. I think a lot of the smaller, ePublishing houses have more aggressive standard rates from what comment posters have mentioned.)

RH’s standard royalty rate was 25% of retail (as opposed to 15% of retail that most houses use).

Now they are moving to 25% of net amount received. A big difference. Now it’s still on par with what industry “standard” tends to be in New York but I’m still disappointed.

From the letter: “The new rates are very much in line with the ebook and digital audio rates being offered today by our major competitors. Previously, Random House’s digital royalties represented a considerable premium over the digital royalties offered by other publishers. As the economics of publishing in digital formats come into clearer focus, we realize we can no longer afford to offer such a rich premium if these businesses are going to mature and become profitable.”

I was tempted to add some commentary in there but refrained. For me, RH’s generous eBook rate gave them a bit of an edge if all other factors were equal. Well, that’s going the way of the dinosaur.

If you are a new author, chances are good you are going to get the industry standard in your first contract (barring crazy auction and publishers throwing around huge pots of money that is). And if you are an established author (with a solid track record that’s building), well then, all royalty rates are negotiable, aren’t they? eBook being just one of the factors to play with in the deal points negotiation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why You Have Bankruptcy Clauses In Contracts

STATUS: TGIF! I really enjoy writing that every Friday. I finished one contract and got ready to dive into another but alas, too many interruptions. Will have to tackle on Monday.

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

This week I read in Publishers Weekly that Sports Publishing, LLC has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Well, lately, just about every day I read a tidbit in Media Bistro or Shelf Awareness about a newspaper, magazine, bookstore, or what have you calling it quits.

In fact, I received an email today from a wonderful editor at Rager Media (a small independent literary house out of Ohio). He was writing to tell me that they were closing the doors.

That’s very sad news as they were doing some powerful books over there.

But all this got me thinking about bankruptcy clauses. When I heard about Sports Publishing, I immediately got out the contract file for one of my early books—CHAIR SHOTS by Bobby Heenan and Steve Anderson. This was way back in the day when I was foolish enough to take on nonfiction projects before I realized that my expertise was much more focused on fiction and the occasional memoir.

There it was on page 6—a nice bankruptcy clause highlighting how rights will revert. Today I wrote a formal letter requesting the reversion and final accounting so I have it in writing. I'm glad it's there in black and white on the contract page--which is why we have this clause in all our contracts.

But my contracts manager recently told me that she’s seeing some push-back from publishing houses wanting to eliminate the clause. (I’d have to dig a little to find out what the rationale is behind that.) Now I’m also not a corporate bankruptcy attorney so I really can’t detail the vagaries of how corporate bankruptcy unfolds. All I know is that I'd rather have the clause in that contract so rights revert—even if the courts don’t allow that to happen automatically. Good thing I have an intellectual property attorney and his firm on retainer. Looks like I'm about to learn how it works.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Responding to Full Manuscripts

STATUS: Just watched Casino Royale. Liked the movie. Definitely one of the more intelligent Bond films I’ve seen. Can’t say the blonde Bond does it for me but I’m all for the edginess of his character. Much more interesting and satisfying in the long run I’d say.

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

Since a lot of the blog readers can’t be reading all of my entries from the beginning of this blog, it’s good to highlight NLA policy every once in a while. Long time blog readers will know two things about our agency.

1. We never ask for an exclusive. This means that any writer who sends us a full manuscript is free to shop that manuscript to other agents. All we ever ask for is the courtesy of knowing if another agent has expressed interest and if the writer has signed elsewhere (so we don’t read a manuscript that is already off the table).

2. We always write a letter of explanation as to why we are passing when we request and read a full manuscript.

Now it’s not a detailed editorial letter or anything like that but we do explain (hopefully in some detail) why we are passing. Often times we even mention that we are open to seeing a revision.

So I always try and do my best to read within 2 months of a request (as stated on the website) but despite my best effort, it doesn’t always happen. The good news is that no writer is obligated to wait on me.

Which, sigh, is often the best that I can do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

With Regret

STATUS: Heading home to work on client editing actually. One of those long days. I have two contracts to tackle tomorrow…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GROOVE IS IN THE HEART by Deee-lite

Ugh! Today I passed on a full manuscript that I’ve had since June. Now it didn’t take me five months to read it and figure out that I needed to say NO. I actually started reading it about 4 weeks after we received it. It took me five months to figure out if there was any way that I could say YES.

What do I mean? I mean that I literally couldn’t decide. I went back and forth and back and forth. My assistant Sara was fully behind the novel and really advocated for it.

What was I hung up on? Several things actually. I personally had a love/hate relationship with the writing. While I was reading, I often had moments where I thought the prose was brilliant and dang it all, manuscripts like this deserve to be in print.

Then I would read a chapter and think, “what the heck is going on here?” I’d have to reread, re-orient myself in the narrative, and then move forward. Trust me, I asked myself numerous times if an edit could fix this.

I think an edit could but it’s going to need to be an intense, in-depth edit. The key question is do I have the time to devote to what I think is a worthy manuscript? Well, I think I could have made the time but ultimately, I started thinking of my submission list and as I went down it, I could just hear the editor responses.

“I personally loved it but couldn’t get support in house.”

“This was inventive but I didn’t see readers feeling emotionally connected to the story (because it’s literary and not commercial fiction but sometimes there’s no arguing that…)


“I hated this.” (Let’s just say the novel had a very complicated narrator and a very complex narrative style and editors will either love it or hate it. There will be no in-between).

Ultimately, I don’t think I could sell it and it was with a lot of regret that I passed. I have a feeling this will be a manuscript that stays with me and that I’ll think about it. I hope another agent can see what I couldn’t.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Like You Haven’t Got Enough Novels Waiting On Your Nightstand

STATUS: Lately I’ve been mulling quite a few blog topics and I must say I’m itching to do a series of entries on something. What I haven’t determined quite yet.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SULTANS OF SWING by Dire Straits

And I’m going to recommend that you add a few more because the 2008 National Book Award nominees were announced this past week.

In Young People’s Literature:

Laurie Halse Anderson for Chains (S&S)
Kathi Appelt for The Underneath (Atheneum)
Judy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied (Scholastic)
E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion)
Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now (Knopf)

In Fiction:

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead)
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba (Scribner)
Peter Matthiessen, Shadow Country (Modern Library)
Marilynne Robinson, Home (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Salvatore Scibona, The End (Graywolf Press)

Monday, October 20, 2008

From RITA Nomination To Hollywood

STATUS: You know you are having a busy day when your stomach starts telling you that you need to eat lunch. You swear you’ll get to it after just one more thing and the next time you look up, it’s 3 in the afternoon.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEVERLY HILLS by Weezer

I don’t often cross reference to another blog post of mine but this story I shared on Romancing the Blog last Friday is too good not to repeat here.

The post obviously hits the target reading audience for that Blog but it’s a good lesson to put here as well. If an award is prestigious or important enough, it’s worth the time and money to enter. You might just win or it might open another door you hadn’t even thought of. Just ask my author Kelly Parra.

From my Oct. 17, 2008 post—and here’s the link.

Have you been thinking about entering your novel into the RITA awards? Have you been waffling because you’re crunched for time? Let me remind you that the deadline is fast approaching (Dec. 1!) and regardless of how little spare time you have, this is a contest you don’t want to miss.

Why? Because I can tell you first-hand the power of a RITA nomination. It can land you in Hollywood.

I just closed a major motion picture option deal for my author Kelly Parra because of the double RITA-nomination for her young adult novel GRAFFITI GIRL. Yep, you heard that right. My author didn’t even win this year’s 2008 RITA but she’s winning in a whole different way (although she was very sad not to take home that beautiful statue).

This past July, several movie producers decided to check out Romance Writers Of America’s National Conference. Obviously, they gave special attention to any work nominated for the prestigious RITA award. Several weeks later, this producer got in touch with us. One call to my film co-agent and a week later, we had spanking new film option. This in turn is generating new excitement by foreign publishers in Frankfurt (as I write this).

All a year-plus after initial publication of the novel. And to top off the good news, Kelly’s new novel INVISIBLE TOUCH is releasing this month and this film interest is igniting excitement for her second novel. In fact, you should check out her cyber launch on The Secret Fates Blog.

So let me ask this question again. Have you been thinking about entering your novel into the RITAs?

Why are you waiting? Hop to it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

P&W's Interview With Editor Chuck Adams, Algonquin

STATUS: TGIF and I’m off to take my nieces birthday shopping. Can’t wait to see what the hottest things are for the under-15 set.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHY CAN’T I BE YOU? by The Cure

Links are fixed! Sorry about that.

I have to say that the interview series done by Jofie Ferrari-Adler for Poets & Writers is just hands down the best I’ve ever seen. Jofie just has a way of pulling the great stories out of long-time publishing folks that as a reader, you feel like you are absolutely getting the most inside look at the industry that you can.

And his interview with Chuck Adams does not disappoint.

Here is a venerated editor who has edited nearly 100 books that have gone on to become bestsellers and yet, as Jofie mentions, “like many editors of a certain age (and pay grade), Adams was rewarded for his years of service with a pink slip.”

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But Mr. Adams gives wonderful insight as to why that had happened and how much he enjoys being at Algonquin. Chuck Adams is also the editor behind the mega-successful WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and he tells the story behind that acquisition. That, in and of itself, is a good education about this biz.

Other Highlights:

Jofie: Let's talk about agents. There are a lot of them, and I'm curious about the factors that you would look at if you were a writer, knowing what you know, and had your pick of a few.

Chuck: I would want them to ask certain questions. (click here to read on). He also highlights two young agents that should be on everyone’s radar (and one is a friend—waves to Dan).

But here’s my favorite quote from the interview. You’re preaching to my choir, Chuck, as so many people like to turn up their literary noses at commercial fiction.

“There's a tendency of publishers to pooh-pooh books that are really commercial. You get this at writers' conferences sometimes. "Oh, how can you edit Mary Higgins Clark?" People just shiver because they think she's not a great writer. I'm sorry, she's a great storyteller, and she satisfies millions of readers. I'm all for that. Again, Harlequin romances—give me more of them. A lot of good writers have come out of Harlequin romances: Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, to name three right there. I think literary fiction is great, and the ideal book is one that is beautifully written and tells a great story, but if it's just a great story that's written well enough to be readable, that's good too.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Can A Manuscript Jump The Shark?

STATUS: One of my goals for this travel week was to get caught up on the fulls we have requested. The week is drawing to an end. I’d better hop to it!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SOS by Rihanna

You know I almost never respond to questions in the comment section but one astute reader asked a question that really got me thinking. Have I ever asked for a full manuscript, started to fall in love, and then had the manuscript jump the shark halfway or three quarters of the way through the full?

The answer is yes. In fact, that should be in capital letters-- YES. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it can be a huge sad moment.

It’s one reason why agents always read until the end—even if they are sure they love the voice, the plot, and what have you. There really is such a thing as a manuscript suddenly taking a sharp left turn and leaving the agent stunned and confused.

What’s interesting though is this. I don’t keep a running track record but I do know of a few authors whose first projects I read, really liked, had this happened so I ultimately passed on that novel who then went on to get agented (and sold) with a later manuscript. Sometimes it’s just that last little kernel of knowledge that the author needed to learn about plotting before having it all click on a more mature manuscript.

In fact, one of the authors I have right now is a writer I passed on originally for her first manuscript (not exactly for this reason but for something close). I then took her on for her second novel and sold it at auction.

So when I see it, I always tell the writer that the manuscript diverged too suddenly for me (and why) but we see talent here and would be open to seeing future stuff.

Sometimes they take us up on it. Sometimes they end up represented by an agent friend (which is how I ended up knowing about it). Otherwise I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t remember as I don’t keep track.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is It Cold Outside In The World of Publishing?

STATUS: I’m finishing up for the day and blogging fairly early.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IN THE MOOD by Glen Miller

Maybe it’s me but I read this article in the New York Observer today and I pretty much wondered why the points raised in the article were considered news. Dire predictions might be interesting to include in an article as a side note relating to a publishing news story but seemed a little lacking in substance to be the focus of this entire news bit. Maybe this is an Op Ed piece? I’m not a regular NYO reader but it didn’t look to be presented so on the website.

With quotes such as “the ecosystem to which our book makers are accustomed is about to be unmistakably disrupted” and “Soon, though, people [editors] may find themselves compelled to be more wary,” I was really expecting some cold, hard facts to back up the pronouncement that books are going to become significantly harder to sell in the next year.

Yes, I certainly can agree that the economy is in the tank and a lot of industries, including publishing, will be tightening their belts. Even with this I’m not sure I’m worried that I won’t be able to sell a new author in the next coming months. I’ve had an enormous success with a lot of debut writers.

I quirked an eyebrow at this quote: “Only the most established agents will be able to convince publishers to take a chance on an unknown novelist or a historian whose chosen topic does not have the backing of a news peg.”

Perhaps they are not referring to genre fiction? There did seem to be a bit more focus on literary fiction and I certainly have to agree that literary tends to be a much harder sell--with or without a bad economy.

Well, since I don’t include myself in the realm of “only the most established agents,” I guess I’m duly put on notice. What do you blog readers think?

As for debut sales getting harder, I’ll let you guys know as the year unfolds. Meanwhile, let me get back to my auction…

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

When A Movie Heads South

STATUS: Out of the office and it’s busy! All good stuff though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I WILL POSSESS YOUR HEART by Death Cab For Cutie

Or in other words, you know a movie has jumped the shark when your two nieces under the age of 15 start heckling the movie screen.

Yesterday I took my lovely nieces (one age 10, the other age 14) to see the movie CITY OF EMBER. Both of them had read and loved, loved, loved the book so they were pretty stoked to go see the movie adaptation.

And the movie certainly started very strong. Good world building. Good characters (my 14-year old niece assures me that Doon, played by the young actor Harry Treadaway, is quite hot). Good strong plot points.

We were all very happy with it.

Then about 35 minutes before the movie’s end, something happened and let me tell you, my two nieces noticed it right off. Suddenly the movie lost its plot and turned into a Disney-like theme park ride where the events that happened in the ending minutes didn’t really tie up the plot. In fact, the movie became kind of silly.

It was the after-school showing and there was no one else in the theater (so fun to have a private screening!) so my nieces started heckling the movie (a la Mystery Science theater style).

Call them cynical but I call them real. Even I could tell the movie had started to miss and my nieces had no compunction against saying so. It seems to me that this is simply an instance of adult writers (and movie makers) completely underestimating the audience and doing some sappy, simplified ending rather than something that would really conclude the story.

Because I see this so often in children’s submissions—where it’s obvious that the adult writers have also underestimated the audience—it seemed worth mentioning here.

However, CITY OF EMBER is a brilliant book and it’s not Jeanne DuPrau’s fault they mucked it so get thee a copy.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Other Colorado Book Award Nominees

STATUS: Today was a travel day as I’m out of town for a week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FADE INTO YOU by Mazzy Star

With all the excitement last night (and the rather late hour when I wrote my entry), I totally forgot to highlight the other two worthy nominees in Kim’s category. We were up against some tough competition with BOXING FOR CUBA by Guillermo Vincente Vidal and OBIT by Jim Sheeler.

And check out some of the press coverage in the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post. In the RMN, Kim's win for NO PLACE SAFE is the headline!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

NLA’s Colorado Book Award Winner

STATUS: Just returned home from the awards ceremony and the post-celebration.

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

It’s official! An hour or so ago, Kim Reid won the Colorado Book Award for her memoir NO PLACE SAFE.

I cannot tell you how proud I am and how pleased I am for Kim. If you haven’t picked up this wonderful book, it really is worth the read.

Kim Reid with the Colorado Book Award

Pulling A Part-Nighter

STATUS: It’s after midnight so I’m very ready to go to sleep.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JACKSON by Johnny Cash

It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while, I’ll pull a late night to push through to the end of a client edit. However, since my brain is now feeling a bit fuzzy, I’ll wait until the clarity of morning (and a nice chai latte) to actual put words to paper for my revision suggestions. Luckily for me, this is the second look at this particular manuscript and the client did a mighty fine job on the revision so we are really just looking at tweaking.

As most agents will tell you, the only time we get a chance to read (uninterrupted) is after office hours. In fact, I never do reading while at the office. There are just too many normal daily issues that need attending to. April/October is our busiest royalty period so a lot of statements are coming in just about every day. That along with current submissions, an issue with an upcoming release, cover discussions, getting ready for Frankfurt, there just aren’t enough hours in the day it seems.

Tomorrow evening is already spoken for with the Colorado Book Awards. Wish Kim Reid luck as her memoir NO PLACE SAFE is in the running.

Chutney has now tucked her head under my knee so that’s the biggest sign that it’s time to call it a day (or should I say, a night?)

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Power Of Books

STATUS: I don’t know why but regardless of how much I accomplish on Friday, Monday morning is about catching up on emails and what’s happening for the rest of the week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WINDSWEPT by Bryan Ferry

My author Shanna Swendson got the coolest email from a social worker last week. Apparently, Shanna’s ENCHANTED INC. series helped a stroke victim. The social worker had gotten a call from a woman who had been caring for her elderly mother. This caller’s mom had recently suffered a stroke that had caused the mother to lose her sight and the ability to use the left-hand side of her body. The daughter was really worried because after the stroke, her mother had become depressed and unresponsive.

Then one day the daughter picked up the first book in Shanna’s series, Enchanted, Inc., and begun reading it aloud to her mom. Part way through the story, her mother starting perking up, paying attention, and became animated enough to ask about what happened next. The daughter reported to the social worker that her mom’s outlook since has totally brightened.

How cool is that? As Shanna says, “it's not exactly a miracle cure, but it's still touching to realize you've had that kind of impact on someone.”

I imagine it’s emails like this that inspire writers to write.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Rather Unique Promotional Idea

STATUS: Like a dork, I’m totally dancing around the office while Chutney barks with happiness. It’s the end of the work day on Friday after all.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FLASH DANCE by Irene Cara

Doreen Orion is a local author that I met thanks to Bella Stander. The three of us and John Elder Robison all went out to dinner before her book released.

Her memoir QUEEN OF THE ROAD: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own hit shelves back in June.

Anyone crazy enough to test their marriage by living in a tin box 24/7 for a whole year just might have some interesting promotional ideas.

And sure enough, she does. So check out this idea from Doreen and in her own words.

If you go to my homepage, you'll see a red box on my book for a sweepstakes. To enter (for great prizes), people have to watch 3 of my video trailers and answer questions based on them. I purposely tried to make the questions funny and in the tone of the book, since the objective, of course, is to generate interest in QUEEN OF THE ROAD (hopefully, the trailers themselves do that, as well).

My fabulous web designer, Steve Bennett at came up with the sweepstakes idea and also designed it. He works with someone who submits to sweepstakes sites. The sweepstakes sites then post the link to my homepage. From there, people can enter. (I did it this way, rather than a direct link to my sweeps so people also get a feel for what the book is like from the home page.) Steve says the prizes need to be substantial, like in the few hundred dollar range. However, an author doesn't even necessarily need to pay for the prizes on her own, but can get corporate donors. (Celestial Seasonings picked my book as their June/July book club pick, and they've been wonderful, so it was easy for me to ask them, but I bet authors can make connections with their own local companies). You'll notice that when the entry is completed, there is a blurb about the book which includes some of the great reviews it's gotten (my idea - why waste the space?).

The day after my sweeps launched (August 22nd), my web traffic quintupled. My Amazon ranking went way down. The book is currently in 6th printing after only 3 months out. (THAT's not just due to the sweeps, as I've been doing a lot of radio, and had great book reviews. Just thought I'd throw that in.)

Let me know if you have any questions about this. I truly believe this is a unique way to get thousands of people to view author videos who are already net savvy. And, it seems to be working for me.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

World’s Best Paid Authors

STATUS: I’m actually heading out of the office early to finish up a client edit. It’s just easier to do that when I’m not answering the phone or checking emails.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HALFWAY HOME by TV On The Radio

At least according to Forbes. I imagine all of you can guess who heads the top of that list.

Harry Potter anyone?

I have to say that I was a little surprised not to see Nora Roberts' name there. Seems to me that she overtook Danielle Steele years ago. Maybe that’s only in volume of novels published per year rather than in dollar signs. I really don’t know.

And before y’all get stars in your eyes, I wouldn’t buy into the idea that writing is your path to riches. It can be but it’s probably up there with getting struck by lightening or winning the lottery.

It has to happen to somebody (of course) but if you’re a writer, I wouldn’t count on it. Writing has to be your passion and if good things follow, monetarily, for you—hooray!

I know. I know. You are all going to dream big anyway. Can’t say I blame you.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

eBook Royalties

STATUS: Finished up a contract today. Oh man, that always feels so good to get the final draft out to the author to sign. Contracts are by far the most time-consuming part of an agent’s job.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PROUD MARY by Tina Turner

As agents, we are constantly learning. Even old veterans had to learn the ins and outs of eBook royalties over the last decade.

And even still they are tricky. Every publisher has their own structure (which is a bit annoying) but there you have it. Also, there are two basic ways to pay e-royalties.

Some publishers do a straight percentage of retail price of the work (standard is 15%). But some publishers do the royalty based on net amount received. Not quite the same thing. Standard for net amount is 25%.

So you have to check the language. You might look at a contract and see 15% and think it’s all groovy. But 15% of net amount received is not the industry standard.

See what I mean?

Then there are some publishers who refuse to do “standard.” You have to know who they are and take it into consideration before granting a book. Sure, the percentage of
e-royalties is miniscule compared to overall sales of a book in print formats but who knows what the future might bring so you have to at least think about it.

Some publishers allow language that if the industry e-royalty rates go up in the coming years, you can go back and re-negotiate it in the contract. I’m all about that and get it in my contracts whenever I can.

Right now, after looking at my incoming royalty statements, it’s very clear to me that the best sales for eBooks are still in SF&F. No surprise there as SF&F readers tend to be tech savvy and early adapters.

It will be very interesting to see how this sales percentage grows over the next decade when tech savvy young’uns start becoming book buyers (or so we hope they do!).