Friday, February 27, 2009

When News Hits Home

STATUS: I awoke this morning with what must be the start of a cold. My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GRACELAND by Paul Simon

Every day on Media Bistro, I read some new tidbit on the problems in the newspaper industry. Lay-offs, new advertising on the front page, struggling papers trying to find ways to become more viable in this changing economy and evolving reading medium.

Today it hit home particularly. I awoke to the radio news that The Rocky Mountain Newspaper, publishing since 1859, is running its last edition this morning. Officially as of today, the paper is no more. They closed the doors.

The Denver Post is now the only newspaper in town.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When You Really Mean That The Work Is Not Right For You

STATUS: Still basking in the glow of yesterday’s news. Of course I’m now all anxious. We’ll we stay on the list? We’ll we move up? What’s going to happen? Luckily Jamie is very mellow guy. Takes it all in stride and lets me do all the worrying for him.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HONKY CAT by Elton John

I had a funny thing happen to me not so very long ago. An editor, whom I know well, sent me a finished copy of a soon-to-be-released novel that was on her list that she was obviously very excited about.

When editors do that, they are hoping that the agent or person who the novel is being sent to will talk about it. We call that a big mouth list.

So I cracked open the spine to give it a look as I did not recognize the title. Then I started reading and I recognized it immediately. I had seen the novel in manuscript form and had passed on it. I remembered it well too because the concept was great and I recalled reading the sample pages more than once, having Sara reread them again, and having both of us come to the conclusion that we just didn’t like it.

So we passed with regret.

So now I’m reading the finished novel in all its glory and I can’t help wondering if the editor worked a lot with the author—whether I would like it now. So I read a good 60 pages of it.

I still didn’t like it; I’d still pass on it.

I was so not the right agent for that book even though the book is doing well. (I think it even hit the NYT list briefly). No regrets.

So sometimes when we agents say that a project isn’t right for us, we really mean it. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be right for somebody else. In this case, I’m sure the agent who took it on is delighted to have done so and ecstatic at the book’s performance.

Me—I wouldn’t have read past page 60.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hotel on the NYT!

STATUS: If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

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

Congratulations Jamie on now being a New York Times bestselling author—debuting at #30 on the extended hardcover list.

We here at the Nelson Agency are just thrilled to pieces for you! Go knock ‘em dead in Milwaukee tonight.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pets In Space

STATUS: Getting an early start on today’s blog as I know the event is probably going to go late again tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE FLIGHT DOWN by Norah Jones

A couple of weeks ago, one of my new authors, Gail Carriger, was blogging about why SF & F novels don’t have pets in them. After all, they are an essential part of life in the twenty-first century. It would follow that they’d still be important in the future.

Of course I started laughing because I honestly hadn’t thought about that but then I emailed her and said, “well obviously you have not read Linnea Sinclair.”

Linnea has pets in space.

In fact, there is a pet in her latest SF novel entitled HOPE’S FOLLY that, speak of the devil, releases today. It’s one of the reasons why I love her stuff so much. Her worlds always feel effortlessly fully developed.

Happy Release Day Linnea!

With this electrifying new novel, RITA® award-winning author Linnea Sinclair delivers her most intensely romantic interstellar thriller yet. This time a woman and a rebel leader join forces—and fates—on an impossible mission of romance and revolution that’ll turn them into the galaxy’s most wanted fugitives…


Rya Bennton has been in love with Admiral Philip Guthrie since she was a girl. But can her childhood fantasies survive a hazardous encounter with the newly minted rebel leader? Not much can rattle Philip’s legendary cool—but Rya does. She’s the daughter of his best friend and first commander—a man whose death is still on Philip’s conscience. Now aboard his command ship Hope’s Folly, this man who feels he can’t love and this woman who believes she’s unloveable will put their hearts and lives at risk. Not just with each other…but against an enemy that will stop at nothing to crush them both.

On Tour

STATUS: Late night for me! Just got back from having dinner with Jamie Ford and his wife. Their plane was a little delayed getting in to Denver. Everything is all set for the event and signing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATERMARK by Enya

Considering it’s so late and I’m not sure I’m capable of writing a coherent blog entry (and no, I didn’t have that much wine!), I figured I’d pop you over to Jamie’s blog where he has been talking about being on book tour—13 cities in five weeks.

His blog almost puts you there—except that you don’t have to wait in line or have odd moments with security.

My favorite shot is the Costco warehouse in Seattle. Where's a soundtrack when you need it?

Friday, February 20, 2009

What It Means To Write

STATUS: TGIF! Hum… not that it matters too much as I plan to work a lot this weekend to try and catch up on things.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DREAMS by The Cranberries

Some days I can’t help thinking, and yes I’ll admit this is cynical, that there are more people who want to write a book than there are people who actually read books.

When asked, just about every person you talk to believes they have at least one book in them. These same people when asked how many books they’ve read in the last year might also say just one.

Back in the day before computers, to be a writer was serious business. Most authors handwrote their first draft before painstakingly typing it on a typewriter. An error on the page meant either careful white-out (hopefully my blog readers are old enough to remember that product!) or yanking the page to start retyping all over again.

The advent of computers makes the writing process significantly easier. Sometimes too easy I think. I wonder if writers work on their craft as much when it’s so easy to copy, paste, delete, or what have you.

It certainly means that more people try being writers. I guess we could make an argument that really only the serious have the perseverance necessary to really succeed as one. That there are still enough hurdles to make the process daunting enough that only the serious continue.

Today I read this story about Christopher Nolan; a writer who, because of his disability, had to use a pointer attached to his head to write. I can’t help but think that this person truly wanted to be an author. Nolan was willing to transcend what could only have been a cumbersome method of getting text on the page to share his art. In my mind, this is a writer serious about writing. Considering that my brain goes way faster than my fingers are able to type, I can’t imagine what the experience must have been like for him. An agile brain forced to slow down to the pace of how he could create. And yet, he wrote. Won the Whitbread Book Of the Year in 1988. Writing was by no mean easy on a whole different level and yet he remained undaunted.

And it’s very sad to hear that he passed away this week at the young age of 43.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Story & Lyrics

STATUS: Whimsical.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HERE’S WHERE THE STORY ENDS by The Sundays

This is a completely esoteric blog entry. I personally think that music can be great inspiration for writing. Many of my clients have playlists associated with their work. Here is the soundtrack for the Gallagher Girls.

Linnea Sinclair has a blues song that frames her novel The Down Home Zombie Blues.

Jamie Ford wrote a whole novel where a missing vinyl record is pivotal.

Do you think a lyric can jumpstart a whole novel? I was listening to The Sundays and this line just strikes me as full of possibilities:

“Oh, I never should have said that the books that you read were all I loved you for.”

I’m intrigued with the possible story that would lead up to someone saying that bit of dialogue.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Art Of The Synop?

STATUS: I’m having a very interesting cover discussion tomorrow. And I’m sharing a fairly hilarious cover discussion in my February newsletter so be on the look out for it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHANGE by Tears For Fears

I actually should not be tackling this subject because for the most part, I don’t read or use synopses.

I know. Shocking. It’s the complete opposite of what you hear. I’m just the maverick in that department.

When I go out on submission with a project, I have my cover letter (many of which I’ve shared with my blog readers) and the full manuscript. That’s it.

If I’m selling something that’s a first in a series or trilogy, I’ll also include a one-page (2 tops) teaser blurb regarding the subsequent possible books.

The reason why? For the most part, from what I can tell, I’ve got many a client who can write one hell of a novel but suck at writing a synopsis. Seriously, it’s almost physically painful to wade through them. I end up asking more questions than the synopsis answered!

But sometimes you can’t escape it and we have to do it. When that happens, here are the tips that I tell my clients so they can write a half-decent synopsis.

1. As you begin, pretend that the reader of the synopsis has not read any prior books in said series so your opening paragraph or paragraphs, sums up the previous novel and explains the world (if that’s pertinent). It creates a base in which to build the rest. Often, even the editor won’t remember every character or background tidbit in a novel that they edited! Not to mention, when selling on synop, the editor may be sharing your explanation with folks who have, indeed, not read your work yet.

It helps to orient the reader in this way and if done right (and succinctly).it can go a long way to making a synopsis strong.

2. Outline your character or characters’ internal conflict.

3. Briefly outline your external conflict and plot points.

4. Once that is clear in your head (and on paper), then you have to decide how is the best way to convey both plot and theme in the synop. My suggestion? Start with plot first. Get that down in a clear, concise manner. This is what will happen in the novel. Once the plot path is clear, then go back and interweave why the heck the events unfolding are important to the story (which is theme.)

5. Now hand this off to a person who knows nothing about your work and see if they can follow the synopsis. If that person can’t, you know you’ve missed and you have some real work in front of you.

The real problem with writing the synopsis is that the story is so clear in the author’s head, they mistakenly assume that it’s clear on the page as well. After all, it makes perfect sense to them.

And when even that fails, just start writing. As long as we have sample chapters on hand, I can squeak by with a very short, one-pager synop that’s more teaser than it is full outline.

And it goes without saying that if you are a new or a debut writer, you must have a full manuscript. Still, even with that in hand, lots of agents request the synop so you might as well get as good as possible at it. I know that at conferences, they often host hour long sessions on how to write a decent one. Time well spent most likely.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It’s A Party & You Are Invited

STATUS: It’s early in the day and I’m tackling my To Do list. Woot.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SOMETHING IN THE WAY SHE MOVES by James Taylor

Talk about a rare opportunity! An insider publishing party and you blog readers are invited.

Jamie Ford, author of a debut novel called HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, is coming to the Denver Tattered Cover on Colfax this February 24, 2009.

To celebrate, the Nelson Literary Agency is hosting a pre-booksigning happy hour* at Encore Restaurant, which is adjacent to the Tattered Cover.

And if you live in the Denver Area, you can join us. Click to play invite.

Both Sara and I will be there and we’ll be raffling off two free copies of HOTEL to some lucky guests. All we ask is that you RSVP to so we have an accurate headcount. Please also plan to attend the booksigning that will follow as that is the point. Knowing my great blog readers, I probably didn’t need to mention that.


*Cash Bar. Appetizers will be served.
Also note that the TC has a free parking garage on the west side of the complex.

Click to play Jamie Ford Event
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox
Make a Smilebox greeting

Monday, February 16, 2009

Am I Hooked Or Not Hooked?

STATUS: Today was pretty quiet because of the President’s Day holiday. I like that. I accomplish a lot and it isn’t even Saturday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FAT BOTTOMED GIRLS by Queen

For 2009, I’m pretty much on conference and contest hiatus. There’s just too much of a time crunch to take on extra tasks or travel but last year, I had promised to participate in a very interesting contest. When January rolled around and it was time to say ‘yes’ to the commitment, I was true to my word.

So over the weekend, I did the Secret Agent contest on the blog misssnarksfirstvictim. Obviously the secret it out but over the weekend, I was reading and commenting on 60 submitted first pages.

The question I had to answer was: “Am I Hooked? Why or why not.”

In other words, it was exactly like reading our slush pile but in this case, the submitters got feedback.

Yeah, I thought that might perk up your ears a bit. And it’s definitely worth popping over there to read the entries and my response to them. I signed each of my comments with the moniker secret agent.

Since I have the wonderful Sara, it’s been a while since I’ve read the slush slush (so to speak) and I’ll tell you right now that two problems rose to the surface on why I said “not hooked, wouldn’t read further” on some of the entries and I’m going to share those two things with my blog readers right now.

The two top problems were:

1. To much telling instead of showing the character in the scene (or too heavy a reliance on back story to jumpstart the story).


2. Not enough mastery of the craft—in other words, the writing needed to be tightened. Too much wordiness, overuse of adverbs, immediately explaining what was just revealed in dialogue, etc.

So if you are wondering how an agent reads and responds to an opening page, you might want to give that blog a look and read through the entries and the comments.

And here’s another interesting thing to note. When I did the contest, most of the the participants had already responded to each entry. I deliberately did not read any of the response comments until I had left my own comment first.

I was amazed at how often the things that tripped me up where spotted and noted by the author writers participating and reading the blog contest.

You want those folks for your critique group. I’m just saying….

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shameless Plug for The People vs. George Lucas

STATUS: Jumping into my work day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? RED RAIN by Peter Gabriel

Okay, this isn’t about publishing but Alexandre Philippe is a long time friend and filmmaker and I just love this documentary he’s currently working on.

And it is definitely a topic that is rant worthy.

In his own words:
“Are you passionate about Star Wars? Did the new trilogy leave a sour taste in your mouth? What’s your stance on the Special Editions? Are you ready to stand up for George, or to stand up to him? In short, if the words Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or even Howard The Duck make you want to speak up, we want to hear from you!

Based on the overwhelming worldwide response to our efforts this past year, we believe we are on the right track. Truly, it has been an amazing journey; and we intend to capture many more voices from every corner of the globe for the rest of the year. And yes, you can still submit footage to us through our September 30, 2009 deadline. Indeed, this groundbreaking, 100% independent and first-ever digitally democratic documentary gives experts and the audience a voice to express their opinions about the single most powerful and influential filmmaker and mogul in movie history. And we promise to deliver a dynamic and impassioned debate for the ages!”

So if you have a blog or a fan site, please take a moment to write about us today. Mention us in forums, on YouTube, MySpace, Facebook. Subscribe to and comment on our YouTube channel. Contact your local newspaper, film blogger or film critic. Email your local Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Howard the Duck (!) fan site. Tell them we exist, and refer them to the YouTube link below and to our website.

Just doing my part. If so inspired, feel free to join in on this fun.

I was nine years old when I went with my family to see Star Wars in 1977. In fact, I have a vivid memory of this because I was kicking and screaming the whole way to the theater. I vehemently did not want to go. My dad said, “you’re too young to stay at home alone and the whole family is going so no more tantrum.”

So why the impassioned negative response? The year prior my Dad had taken my 8-year old self and my older sister to see 2001 A Space Odyssey.

I wasn’t doing that again.

I know! What was he thinking? He didn’t inflict this pain on my older brother!

But of course just 10 minutes into the film Star Wars, I was enthralled. There were no apes throwing bones in front of a monolith! No long segments filled with imagery, music, but no plot or dialogue! Later, when I was in my twenties, I got a chance to watch 2001 again. It was definitely a better experience then.

So which side do I belong on this debate? Not saying.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When An Imprint Goes Bye-Bye

STATUS: For this week, I’ve been ignoring non-urgent emails to make sure I finished up some contract and royalty issues. Today I dug into the 225 that were awaiting my aattention. I’m down to 175. Guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I'VE GOT YOU UNDER BY SKIN by Dinah Washington

Yesterday I mentioned that Bowen Press was closed down but not what happens to all the books that were that list. Basically, the answer is not much—in the literal sense and in an ironic way!

Literal Way
Books are sold to a publisher. Imprint might be listed in the contract but publisher still reserves the right to change how a book is published so if the imprint goes bye-bye, the publisher still owns the right to publish the book. In this case, any book sold to Bowen Press is still a book sold to HarperCollins and nothing much is really happening. The books will still be published by HC.

But in a whole other way, everything is happening. Books on this list get moved to other existing imprints. The books get assigned to other editors. The books could be cancelled (although I haven’t heard any stories in this case—yet). And this leads me to the irony part.

In the Ironic Way
Nothing much will be happening for these orphaned books because when the agent originally sold the project, one of the pros in choosing Bowen was to have the title on the launch list. There are lots of big pushes for a launch. It can be a huge benefit.

Well, that just went away.

Instead of the excited publisher, Brenda, who bought the book, we now have an editor who just got assigned a title or titles to his/her already crowded list. Hum… how much attention will that title get? [note: agents can be instrumental in getting a book assigned to a specific editor but this isn't always possible.]

There was probably a marketing person and publicist assigned to this imprint. Now it goes into the general HC pool.

Now if one of the titles was planned to be big, chances are good the publisher will still do the big push as the momentum started months ago for titles about to be released and stuff is already in play. Those titles will more than likely be fine.

For the other titles? They might be missing out on some love which is where the agent steps in and starts raising some ruckus to find out what will be done for their orphaned project. But we aren’t miracle workers, we can raise a fuss but that doesn’t mean the publisher will respond.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease though. If we are noisy enough, they might step up and do some stuff just to shut us up.

This is also where I, as an agent, would encourage an author to step up on the promo plan. The author should have been working on this before this moment in time so if they have, this is a good opportunity to make sure the new publicist etc. has the promo plan in hand that the author can discuss with him/her and get some positive attention. [Publicists are more inclined to help those who are willing to help themselves.]

And if they haven’t, guess what the author needs to be doing pronto!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From Debut Launch To Non-Existent

STATUS: I wrapped up a contract negotiation—which always feels like a nice accomplishment. A big check mark on the to-do list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BE OUR GUEST from Beauty and the Beast

Today just saddened me I have to admit. When ALA Midwinter was here in Denver, I threw a shindig with fellow Denver agent Kate Schafer Testerman for the visiting editors and librarians at Cru Wine Bar in Larimer Square. We wanted to welcome everyone to our cow town.

Well, one of the guests was the very lovely Brenda Bowen of Bowen Press (HarperCollins) but Bowen Press is no longer as of today.

Here’s the link to the story. She formed her imprint literally only a year ago. In fact, she was launching her debut list at ALA Midwinter. I can’t imagine how any of the authors on that list feel—to be suddenly without imprint and editor. [Now do you understand how important an agent might be? This might be your only static person in this whirling maelstrom!]

Every day when I get my Publishers Marketplace email or PW Daily, I cringe every time I open the email. What bad news awaits me this week? What ax has fallen? Who else is now going to be listed under PW’s Comings & Goings with newly hatched gmail addresses?

In the same article, PW stated that HarperCollins was keeping its newly minted Balzer & Bray imprint. Thank goodness as I have an author on that launch list whose debut comes out this fall. Talk about a panic moment as I waited for the full article to pop up on screen.

And yet, despite the news, I plan to move forward agenting as I always have. Being deliberate and picky about what we take on but we are still looking for a great project.

And speaking of looking, Sara has her new page up at PM. Now isn’t that good news? Not only did I promote my assistant, we hired a new assistant to help us both. We are welcoming back our intern Julie who is now in her first year of college and a paid employee.

Hey, I’ve done my part for the economy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Editorial Anonymous Dictionary Of Publishing Terms

STATUS: I’ve got a crowd of things on my desk—two of which are important in terms of must get done today. So short, sweet, and to the point works for me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? POETRY MAN by Phoebe Snow

Hey blog readers, if co-op was interesting, do you want to hear more info about P&L Statements, Bookscan, PPB, Earn-out etc.?

Then hightail it over to EA’s blog and make your interest known. I know That Anna Genoese (formerly an editor over there at Tor) used to blog about a lot of these topics when she was still working over there but I haven’t seen an editor tackle any of these subjects in a while.

Brilliant I say.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Вы говорите по-русски? (Vy govorite po-russki)

STATUS: Ready to call it a day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? 1812 OVERTURE by Tchaikovsky [Chicago Symphony Orchestra]

I’d say, on average, our agency does at least one foreign rights deal a week. Hey, we only have about 30 authors total so that’s pretty darn good.

And selling foreign translation rights is just fun. I mean, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see their work published in Slovene? (Exactly, I figured it was in the general area of former Yugoslavian Republic but I did have to look it up). Or in Indonesia (which has an interesting alphabet and great covers). Oops, was thinking Thai! Thanks for the catch in the comments section.

But as good and fun as the foreign deals are the one drawback is the rather untimely payments. I think the word I’m looking for here is glacial—as in the pace of the payments.

If I close a foreign deal today, I can expect signed contracts and on signing payment to come at least 6 months from now. Eight is not unusual. Twelve is ridiculous.

And that’s what I’m currently facing. Sure enough, I have a foreign publisher who has not paid up and the contracts were signed in March 2008. This is too much. Time to get tough.

I’m interviewing big burly guys with Slavic accents and unpronounceable names. Must be fluent in Russian…

Friday, February 06, 2009

Guest Blog: Sara Megibow

STATUS: I’ve been working contracts this week so now I’m weeding through the 178 emails that need attention.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SMOOTH OPERATOR by Sade

Note from Kristin: My wonderful assistant for three years, Sara Megibow, is now an acquiring agent! She is actively looking for great projects and here she is in her own words.

Three years ago my baby boy turned one and I told my husband, "Yes, I will go back to work but only if the job is PERFECT!" About two weeks later, I interviewed with Kristin at her original office in Denver. When I came home from that interview I was breathless and I told Mark, "My gosh, that is the coolest industry in the entire world - I love what she does and I want to be a part of it!" Thus, history was made.

I am happy to announce that Kristin has recently honored me with a generous promotion. My new title is Associate Literary Agent and YUP - that means I am now able to take on projects of my own!!! Thank you Kristin!

So for all you writers out there I am here to say - there is one more hungry agent in the hunt!! I have the backing of the Nelson Literary Agency - complete with fabulous training and support, a network of powerhouse co-agents and a history of publishing successful books (95 sold as of most recent count!) And I have three years of experience reading query letters, sample pages and full manuscripts with an eye toward picking that which will sell (and sell big). I helped Kristin choose PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS by Sherry Thomas (named one of Publishers Weekly's top books of 2008) and HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford (released this month to HUGE accolades).

Going forward, here are some of my personal preferences and favorites:

Science Fiction and Fantasy = This is probably my all time favorite genre. For me, it is important to create a vivid, intense world that is incorporated seamlessly into an engaging story with complex characters. No big deal, right? Here are some recent reads which I feel capture these qualities: OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch and HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik. I also love everything written by Robin McKinley and Carol Berg.

Romance = I know I've said it before, but I love super sexy, intelligent romances. My favorite authors are Sherry Thomas (I know, I know, I'm biased) and Pamela Clare (everything she's written). I also adored MOON CALLED by Patricia Briggs and Carolyn Jewel's recent release SCANDAL. I'm a romantic, so about any subgenre works for me (except inspirational) as long as the writing is superior and the characters are solid.

Young Adult and Middle Grade = I have to admit, vampires and werewolves are not top on my list right now. I know it can still be done, but I am secretly on the look-out for books set in the real world (with a multicultural spin or a historical spin would be great). I loved UNDONE by Brooke Taylor and AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES by John Green.

Finally, that all-encompassing genre of commercial fiction. For me, just about anything goes as long as it's well written. I couldn't put down MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH by Arianne Franklin. Bring on the historicals and the multiculturals in this area too.

Happy writing to you all - I can't wait to read more proposals! And thank you again to Kristin for this wonderful opportunity!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Let’s Talk Co-Op

STATUS: I’m blogging before 7 p.m. Makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game today!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY by Blood, Sweat, & Tears

I probably shouldn’t make an assumption as I start this blog entry that readers know what Co-Op means. Given that, I’ll start with what it means in publishing. When we say co-op, we are using this as a short-hand term for referring to a process of publishers paying booksellers for the privilege of having certain titles prominently displayed on front tables, endcaps, or shelves when a book is initially released.

Otherwise, the book is unpacked and placed on the regular shelf—and if you’re really lucky, maybe placed there face out. Usually it’s just the spine that is showing.

Now as you can imagine co-op placement doesn’t occur for every title; it can’t. Too many books are published on any given day which means booksellers can only accept X number of titles for co-op placement depending on the size of the store. And it goes without saying that publishers only have so much money to pay for co-oping as well.

In general, publishers reserve co-op for their big authors and/or lead titles on any given launch list.

But even as I’m writing this and you are nodding your head, you are probably realizing that bestselling titles tend to be prominently displayed for months on end—even years sometimes. Surely the publisher hasn’t paid for the privilege for all that time?

And you would be right. There is an interesting balance dance between bookstores/sales outlets and publishers. Initially, if a title or author is new, a publisher has to pay to get that prime real estate. However, when a title/author has proving him/her/itself, then the balance tips in favor of the publisher as they then no longer have to pay for that prime location. It becomes in the seller’s best interest to have that title prominently displayed because it’s a money maker for them as buyers will be looking for that author or title. And hopefully they’ll buy other titles too on their way to the cash register.

And then there are programs such as Borders Original Voices. If a title gets picked for this program (and the Borders buyer does the picking—publishers cannot pay for this privilege), then a title or author is going to get the full support and backing of this outlet in all kinds of really positive ways—prime location just being one of them. Now publishers do send out hundreds of ARCs for a shot at the possibility but other than that, they have no say in what will be chosen.

It’s a wonderful thing to be picked for this as you can imagine.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Accidental Children’s Agent

STATUS: Got the cover for Helen Stringer’s middle grade novel SPELLBINDER today and it rocks! Flat out I can’t wait to share when it’s ready, ready. I just love it when the cover works completely. The concept, the art, the font. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s my very first middle grade novel sold. Squee!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STRANGE by Patsy Cline

When I first started my agency back in 2002, I repped adult fiction and nonfiction. Within two years, I knew that my heart wasn’t in the nonfiction projects. I enjoyed reading it; I didn’t enjoy repping it. But all my agent mentors told me that you couldn’t have a successful agency without nonfiction. I was told again and again that it was so much easier to sell then fiction.

Obviously I didn’t get that memo because for me, my experience was the exact opposite. Take on a novel, sell. Take on a self help project, a root canal would be better then that submission. It just wasn’t my talent.

And I didn’t represent anything in the children’s realm. I hadn’t read any titles in years; I mistakenly assumed I wouldn’t be any good at it.

Then a client of mine had written a YA novel and asked if I would rep it. This was at the beginning of 2004. Not having any experience in this realm, even at my previous agency, I had to learn. I analyzed all the deals and tidbits I could find on Publishers Marketplace. I called up several agent friends who specialized in children’s and said, “tell me who do I need to know.” They did and off to New York I went to meet with those editors.

The minute I walked into an editor’s office, which had a life size cut-out of Glinda The Good Witch, I knew I was in the right place. It was just a moment of powerful realization.

I ended up selling my first young adult project at auction in under two weeks. Then I was hooked. Because all I had on board at the time were writers writing for the adult market, I sent out an email to all my clients to see if anyone else was interested in writing for the young adult market.

You guessed it. The only client who emailed back with interest was Ally Carter—and I don’t think I need to retell that story! The accidental children’s agent.

I remember talking to my husband right after my first YA sale and I mentioned just how much I was enjoying this whole other aspect of publishing. My hubby replied, “Duh, it’s a no brainer that you would like it.”

“Why is that I asked?” genuinely puzzled.

He said, “look at our DVD shelf. What do you see?” I went over to peruse the titles and sure enough, there was an impressive amount of high school-set titles.

I was rather sheepish. I hadn’t even realized but he was so right. It was an obvious and natural fit that now I can’t figure out what took me so long to get a clue.

But I’m here now, accident or no, and how sweet it is. I can’t wait for my first two MG projects to publish this fall.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Titans Of Historical Romance

STATUS: If I can have the rest of the week be as productive as today, then I might finally be caught up. Did I jinx myself by saying that?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THINK I’M IN LOVE by Eddie Money

As much as I hate to say it, there is a lot of dreck that is published in the genre of romance.—and I’m a huge fan! But there has been many a time when I’ve started a novel just to get frustrated within the first 60 pages on the shallowness of the characterization, on the unoriginal plot structures, and just the sheer dumbness of some of them. I’ll put the novel down and not pick it up again. And I’m very suspect of that author’s next romance.

I’m not a fan to keep reading an author just because I might have really loved something they’ve done in the past. If disappointed one too many times, I’ll stop buying that writer. [A fact I wish more romance readers would do when already established writers aren’t living up to their past writing prowess]

So I have to say that it’s with delight when an established writer WOWs me with her tenth novel but that’s exactly what Eloisa James did for me in Desperate Duchess.

OMG! What a read. This writer broke every romance convention there is. The main character sees the handsome unattainable Duke in the opening chapter and decides she must have him.

But he’s not the hero that she really needs to fall for and marry.

Love it!

The main character doesn’t particularly care for children. Holy cow! Can she get away with it? And she does.

Love it because I’ve never, ever ever seen that before in a novel and she pulls it off. At least for me, I still really liked the heroine (and yes, she softens her stance as the novel progresses but still!)

A secondary story line that has nothing to do with romance but yet has everything to do with the plot unfolding.


So I could rave on and on about Eloisa James but what I’m trying to highlight here is that I’m really picky when it comes to reading historical romance. I want it to be complex, emotionally pulling, and hot! That’s why I represent Sherry Thomas who has been called one of the best historical romance authors writing today. That’s why I represent Courtney Milan who hasn’t debuted yet but I think is in the same category.

And that’s why I’m also so proud to be representing Carolyn Jewel’s fourth historical romance that hits the shelves today—SCANDAL.

I personally think this work is a tour de force. The best thing she has ever done. And don’t just take my word for it, hear what the Smart Bitches had to say about this novel.

Now Carolyn also writes paranormal romance and in this realm, she writes very gritty, lots of language, and hot bordering on erotica. If that’s not your thing, that’s okay. You can still pick up her historical romance which is a whole different ball game. In the HR realm, in my opinion, she’s writing up there with Eloisa and Sherry and if you like those authors, SCANDAL will not disappoint!

Happy Launch Day Carolyn!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Where Have All The Young’uns Gone?

STATUS: It’s a little hectic lately. I guess we consider ourselves as hitting full swing in this new year.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TRUE by Spandau Ballet
(Jake Ryan anyone?)

This weekend I attended an event called Writers Respond To Readers at the Tattered Cover. And who said agents never attend publishing events.

The program lasted all day (although I had to duck out for about 75 minutes in the morning) but I had the pleasure of listening to Molly Glass, Laura Groff, and David Wroblewski. (I missed John Burnham Schwartz.)

Writers Respond To Readers is a yearly event that TC puts on. It costs $50.00 for the all-day fest. Coffee is free in the morning and each participant gets a lovely bag with three or four ARCs (this event was sponsored by HaperCollins so the variety of titles came from them).

Okay, an all-day event that is for no small pocket change. Tickets can only be purchased by phone and tradition has it that the event sells out in about 30 minutes every year.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s some book love! There’s hope yet for our industry. But here is what I found interesting and this is by no means a scientific survey.

Over 95% of the attendees were women.
In my early forties, I was a young’un in this crowd.

And that made me a little sad as I have to say that this might possibly be the future of this industry. Where are the younger people? And I think it’s too easy to say that the entry fee was keeping them away as young people will spend $50 without blinking an eye—but maybe not on a book event.