Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The HMH Hold Is Not For Children

STATUS: Happy Turkey Day! I’m out for the rest of the week so back to blogging on Dec. 1.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GETTING BETTER by The Beatles
(Seriously, this is what is playing currently at the moment…)

As to yesterday’s news….

This morning, I did get a chance to talk to an Editorial Director at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s.

She mentioned that the hold did not apply to the children’s division and that she had acquired something just yesterday.

So a little good news on that subject.

As for the hold in the adult realm and how long it will last, I have not uncovered any new information beyond the rumors flying around. If I do discover info from a reliable source, I’ll pass along.

Have a great holiday and see you back here on Monday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Hold On Acquisitions

STATUS: Harbinger of bad news I’m afraid.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? O HOLY NIGHT by Paul Potts
(I haven’t transferred the holiday music to the iPod yet but this one was still on there from last December.)

Ack! Computers. I can deal with it. Ack! Publishers. I don’t want to deal with this. This just off the news wires folks. This is the first time I’ve seen this. Now, granted, I’ve only been in publishing for the last 7 years so really, just a baby amount of time, but I’m talking with some agent friends who have been around for a lot longer and it’s the first time they’ve seen this as well.

This might be an interesting ride over the next 6 months…

From Publishers Weekly
Article by Rachel Deahl

[excerpt]It’s been clear for months that it will be a not-so-merry holiday season for publishers, but at least one house has gone so far as to halt acquisitions. PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.

Josef Blumenfeld, v-p of communications for HMH, confirmed that the publisher has “temporarily stopped acquiring manuscripts.” The directive was given verbally to a handful of executives and, according to Blumenfeld, is “not a permanent change.” Blumenfeld, who hedged on when the ban might be lifted, said that the right project could still go in front of the editorial review board. He maintained that the decision is less about taking drastic measures than conducting good business.

Here’s the link to the full article.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Upgrade Complete. Foibles Remain.

STATUS: TGIF! Ack. Computers.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO by Louis Armstrong

My aplogies. The upgrade was fairly seamless but invariably, something doesn’t work properly or has gotten messed up. I’ve spent most of this afternoon trying to nail down all the fixes so Monday can be a normal work day. [snort]

I’m a little too exhausted to try and form coherent sentences for a blog entry today. Let’s hope I’m back in fighting form on Monday. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: Computer stuff is ongoing and will spill into tomorrow. Oh Joy. (Love the new monitor though!)

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ON THE RADIO by Donna Summer

Because I promised to share my notes (and I only have about 10 minutes to blog), here is what I have scribbled down from the children’s editors I talked to. In no particular order:

--Looking for contemporary stories with a paranormal element. Contemporary main story with just a touch of paranormal.

--voice and character driven fiction (isn’t that what all editors want?)

--a family-oriented story with complicated relationship between main character and parents or main character and siblings etc.

--gritty fiction

--novels where the reader watches while the main female protagonist makes bad choices or learns to survive

--quirky funny, outcasts, dark but weirdly funny

--MG fantasy

--literary voices in YA or MG, well-crafted stories

--more Meg Cabot-type stuff

--hip or hot topics

--MG or YA with boy protagonists

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bigger Is Better

STATUS: Tomorrow will be as pleasant as a root canal.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GOD ONLY KNOWS by The Beach Boys

And I’m not saying that just because I went to the dentist this morning. Luckily I got the clean bill of health so no root canal in my future—except for the metaphorical one that’s happening tomorrow. Yep, you guessed it. Computer upgrades.

That means all brand spanking new software needs to be loaded up and all files transferred. I’m sure I’ll love it when the transition is complete but let me tell you, I’m not even doing the upgrade work and it’s nerve-wracking. (And no, I’m not doing Windows Vista as my tech person advises against it. Too many bugs).

I have to say Lynnelle is the calmest person I know. She’d have to be. Just the thought of wrestling with a computer makes me cranky but she actually enjoys it.

But here’s what I’m most excited about. My new 22-inch monitor. Bigger is better baby. I actually thought about doing the dual monitors but with publishers sending contracts electronically, I really want to see the draft and the final side-by-side.

Not to mention, if the final contract is in locked Word, you can scroll both documents simultaneously. Let me tell you, this makes verifying all changes so much easier. And since I have three contracts currently in the review process, I’ll take that new monitor for a test run on Friday.

And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten. I’m digging out my NYC notes tomorrow…. Have laptop. Will blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Art Of Getting Blurbs

STATUS: Completely slammed today so I haven’t had a chance to do anything with my trip notes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MONEY BURNS A HOLE IN MY POCKET by Dean Martin

So I’m going to be totally lame and let a lovely author make my point for me today. An author of mine alerted me to this post by Lauren Baratz-Logsted over at Red Room and I personally think that every author and aspiring writer cut and paste this advice into a file that you can review over and over.

There really is an art to requesting a blurb. A way of handling it professionally. A way of being gracious if a request is declined. A way of being gracious if a request is granted (goes without saying) but sure enough, one misguided author has managed to flub it completely.

So here’s the link to Lauren’s advice.

Not to mention, Red Room is a rather cool place. You might want to look around a bit. Lots of good stuff for writers on this site.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still Room For The Debut

STATUS: Ack! A radio station in Denver is playing Holiday music 24/7. It’s not even Thanksgiving folks! That’s just wrong.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ANNIE’S SONG by John Denver

So tonight, I had great intentions of going through my notes and highlighting all the other bits of information about what editors are looking for.

Guess where I left my notes? At the office. Guess where I’m sitting right now? In my living room at home. Yep, just another moment of brilliance….

But this I can say without any notes. Every editor I talked to this past week (and I was at all the major houses) spotlighted a debut author on their 2009 list. All these editors were excited about these new authors and I don’t think that sentiment has disappeared.

Every person I know in publishing lives for that moment when we dive into a requested full manuscript and we realize we are reading something special.

In fact, despite account orders being generally down across the board, I have a debut author launching in 2009 and orders were actually up from the projections for that title.

So I wouldn’t spend time lamenting the current condition of the publishing industry (although there is a lot of grim news).

I would be concentrating on writing the best freaking novel you are capable of writing because lots of debuts astound the market. Just ask David Wroblewski.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Maui Reunion

STATUS: It’s raining like crazy in NYC right now.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRUEL TO BE KIND by Letters To Cleo

It might be completely odd to be writing about Hollywood while I’m out here in New York but tonight we did a little Maui Writers Conference reunion at D’Or. Hollywood producer Michael Palmieri was in town and so gathered a bunch of us who connected while out in Hawaii.

It was a small group that also included Jeff Kleinman, Folio; Marcia Markland, Thomas Dunne Books; Robert Guinsler, Sterling Lord Literistic; and Neil Nyren, Putnam.

What did we talk about?

1. Depressing news from Hollywood that Studios were closing their Indie branches and laying people off. Yuck. Studios are only focused on family films (four quadrant target and yada, yada). Sigh. Also, studios are choosing to make known series (think Desperate Housewives) in local markets with local actors rather than footing the cost to export. This makes a huge difference in earned residuals here in the states.

2. Penguin group is celebrating a record number of bestsellers (38!) and thrilled about the success of HBO’s TRUE BLOOD and Charlaine Harris’s books all landing on the bestseller lists. It helps all the departments when there is big stuff like that going on.

3. Accounts are cutting back their orders across the board. Something like 10% down over last year. Borders significantly (even though they’ve promised to reorder in the near future but who knows if that will happen). Orders are down even for the big name sellers. (Yes, such depressing news makes it that much harder to sell a debut.)

4. Newspaper reviews are disappearing faster than you can say boo and that’s really going to hurt those wonderful literary projects that need the review-attention to really gain momentum. Yes, there are online blogs and review sites but ultimately, they haven’t proven to carry the same weight.

5. Sales of perennial nonfiction projects (history, narrative nonfiction with known journalists) are still selling well. (And as an aside, a lot of editors this week have mentioned that they are still looking for that good memoir—in the adult and children’s world—which was surprising.)

6. Flip flops are not good footwear in New York City (don’t ask, we got sidetracked!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Creep Factor Anyone?

STATUS: Back at my hotel early enough to blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO MUCH TO SAY by Dave Matthews Band

Sorry for the radio silence yesterday. I flew in to New York on Sunday and it’s been a whirlwind of meetings.

I have to say that the mood is a little somber in publishing. I heard a rumor of some layoffs at Random House which did indeed happen. I think people in general are nervous about the economy and that’s no less true in publishing.

However, there’s still lots to get excited about. I had lunch today with two editors from Little, Brown Children’s and even though we did spend a good portion of the lunch lamenting the loss of MY SO CALLED LIFE (Gosh, I loved that show and I’m so glad I’m not the only geek missing it…), we did spend some time talking about what we’d love to see.

Both editors are convinced that werewolves might be the new vampires (and that Zombies are almost over). Never thought I’d put those things in a sentence together! And although paranormal, vampires, and werewolves have been hot in the adult market, the children’s field hasn’t really caught up and there might be lots of room for that. I can see it.

We all agreed that we’d love a story that could creep us out. Horror hasn’t been hot in children’s for a long time and the timing just might be right for that. This summer I looked at a YA horror that I really, really wanted to work but the writing/story just wasn’t quite there yet.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. I just sold a steampunkish fantasy in the adult world earlier in the year (SOULLESS) and these children’s editors could really see a steampunk YA working… (yeah, you probably saw that recent Scott Westerfeld deal too…)

I was at a couple of other children’s publishers yesterday and let me tell you, all the editors eagerly asked if I had anything for middle grade right now (which, sadly, I don’t). Lots and lots of room in the MG world.

In the adult world at Little, Brown, one editor mentioned that she would really love to see a big woman-written and women-oriented thriller. A literary thriller wouldn’t go amiss either.

I’m sensing a theme….

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cover Tweaks for HOTEL ON THE CORNER

STATUS: Blogging next week might be erratic but I’ll try and hop on to give you the scoop from all my meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CARUSO by Paul Potts

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sharing the cover for Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, which releases on January 29, 2009.

Often AREs go out with a plain cover (sometimes blue paper) but RH did the galleys with the actual color cover. Lots of AREs were mailed out for early reviews, feedback, bookseller comments, etc. Now based on that feedback, Random House decided to do a few tweaks. Now I find the whole cover process fascinating so I thought you readers might as well.

For HOTEL, RH decided that the maroon filigree was a bit too heavy and de-emphasized the title. They wanted the title to be more prominent and in bigger font.

So, here’s the original cover.

Here’s the final cover with the tweak.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Words of Wisdom From Julie The Intern (Part II)

STATUS: I’m off to New York next week so it’s been a little hectic getting prepared for all my meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TALKING ‘BOUT A REVOLUTION by Tracy Chapman

On Tuesday, Julie handled all of our unsolicited mail. Quite an experience and it inspired her to write this blog entry.

At the Nelson Literary Agency we only accept email. That doesn’t mean you can use email if you feel like it or if you would prefer, it means we only accept email. If you send snail mail you will receive a response, a standard response telling you try again via email.

When snail mail is sent to the Nelson Agency, Kristin will never see it. Only Julie the Intern will before it meets its fate in the recycling bin. I might read some of the letters if I feel so inclined, or if something catches my eye, but don’t bet on it. It wastes paper and does not get you one step closer to reaching your literary dreams. All it does is give me paper cuts. At least I can say I am thoroughly entertained by some of the things we find in the burgeoning stack of mail.

I’m not entirely sure what the checks are for seeing as we do not charge anything to see queries. What happens to these checks? If the sender has also included a self-addressed envelope it gets sent back. Otherwise, it gets to enjoy the comfort of the paper shredder.

Full manuscripts
I can’t even conceive why people send full manuscripts to us. For one, we don’t accept snail mail, as I have hopefully gotten across. Secondly, query letters, sample pages, or something are customary to send to an agent before you throw a full manuscript on their desk.

Popcorn, DVDs, self-published books, etc.
I’m not sure what the popcorn was for. Of course, I don’t know why we get any of this. If you’re lucky, we might ask for postage money to send books back.

Queries for other agents
We received a letter addressed to Ethan Ellenberg. As far as I know, Ethan Ellenberg isn’t hiding under one of our desk chairs. Make sure to get the address correct for the agent you want to send to.

Handwritten queries
Handwritten queries are unprofessional, enough said.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Words of Wisdom From Julie The Intern

STATUS: It feels a little disconcerting to “get back to business” after the historic win last night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH by Depeche Mode

Over the years, Sara and I have received numerous requests from folks interesting in interning at the agency. Well, we considered ourselves a pretty well-oiled machine (cough)—okay maybe a creaky slow machine—but in other words, we felt like we had our processes down and we didn’t see a good role for an intern.

Until the superintendent of Denver Public Schools called us earlier this summer asking if we’d consider one of their high school students. Now how can we say no to DPS? Both Sara and I believe that it’s our civic duty to teach and mentor young people so for the first time in our history, Nelson Literary Agency took on an intern.

And we are so glad we did. Julie has been wonderful to have these past months and in even better news, she’s willing to share with you blog readers some of things she has learned.

So, in her own words (and not edited by us), here are a couple of blog entries from our intern.

My name is Julie. I’m a high school student doing an internship at the Nelson Literary Agency who hopes to one day be a writer. My time at the agency has been a great learning experience. While I knew I wanted to be a writer for awhile, I was completely clueless as far as the business aspect was concerned. In my naive mind I thought it was as simple as sending in your manuscript to a publishing company and hoping for the best. The literary world is far more complicated. Here are a few rules I have learned through my observations on query letters and sample pages:

Don’t go out of your comfort level. Don’t write about an Alaskan wilderness survivor if you know nothing about Alaska or wilderness survival. The readers interested in your work will be able to tell if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Focus. If your main character has an evil twin who is a time traveling wizard that only gains power by eating muffins baked by her long lost lover’s ghost, that is a lot to digest in one story.

You’re a writer, so write. Writing is the biggest part of the battle, so complete your work. That might seem like a stupid thing to say, but several people that we have asked to see sample pages and even full manuscripts have said they can’t because they haven’t finished. Don’t even worry about going on to the next step if you don’t have your manuscript finished and polished.

Decide what genre your work is, and search accordingly. There are several websites listing agents, but it’s not as simple as sending a query letter to the first one you find. It might take awhile to find an agent that fits what you write, but it’s better to send to five agents who represent your type of book then ten that don’t.

Submission guidelines, need I say more? I can’t count how many query letters we receive that have their own idea as to what should be sent. If the agent wants five sample pages right away, then send them. But never assume one agent wants the same information as another. That goes for sending method, too. If an agent only wants email, only send email. At the Nelson Agency we don’t even look at a query letter if it’s sent by snail mail.

Agents are really helpful, and I’m not just saying that because I work with one. October was big on royalty statements, and if anyone ever has a question to the usefulness of agents, this is the time to prove their worth. Not only are contracts a pain in themselves that an average writer would never know a thing about, royalty statements are the follow up kick in the rear. Agents have to study the statements to ensure their clients are getting what they should be based off of their contract. That means lots of pages with lots of complicated jargon.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Get Out And Vote

STATUS: Happy Election Day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STAR WARS (MAIN TITLE) by John Williams

Really, is there anything else to say today?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Publisher’s Weekly Best Books Of the Year

STATUS: Now this is news I could have every Monday Morning!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS by Barenaked Ladies

Just got an early peek at this week’s PW magazine and the Best Books of the Year is their cover story. In PW’s words, “Once again, we take the opportunity near year’s end to review the year in books, highlighting the very best of what American publishing had to offer in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, comics, religion, lifestyle, and children’s.”

And guess what? NLA has a client book on that list!

Huge congrats to Sherry Thomas for her extraordinary debut that made the list (as well as having the cover featured in the article!). PW reviews a lot of books in the course of the year and to be one of five titles to make PW’s list in that category, well, you don’t have to take just my word for it that the novel is good.

Click here to buy.