Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Agents Need Full Manuscripts

STATUS: I can’t believe it’s 6 pm and I’m now starting what was on my actual TO DO list for the day. It’s just been one of those.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GRAPE FRUIT- JUICY FRUIT by Jimmy Buffett

If you are a debut author, agents sell your first novel based on a complete manuscript. There are certainly some rare exceptions where a novel might sell on a partial but usually because the author has some kind of strong background in the arena (say as an established screenwriter or prestigious short story credits) that gives the publisher assurance that the writer can pull it off.

Once published and established, lots of authors simply submit a synopsis and the first three chapters to sell the next project.

But for debut authors, why do agents need fulls?

For one very basic reason, I’ve read several requested full manuscripts that were excellent for about 150 pages and then went totally south. And in such a way that I believed the revision to be so large, I wasn’t willing to commit to it with the author.

This happens. Often.

I have to know that a brand new author can carry the novel to a satisfying conclusion. That all the elements will fall into place in a masterful way. Usually a novel’s climax happens two-thirds of the way in the work (not in the first 150 pages), so a full becomes crucial so as to evaluate it.

Just lately, I’ve read two full manuscripts all the way till their conclusions—only to ultimately pass on offering representation. This is rather rare. I can usually tell 100 to 150 pages in whether something is going to work for me or not.

So what was up with these two? I loved certain aspects of the novels. For one, I loved the writing but the story just wasn’t being compelling for me. I read all the way to the end in the hopes that I could finally put my finger on what was bothering me so I could have something useful to say to the writer. I actually never was able to articulate it. Despite really strong writing, I just didn’t feel passionately about it.

For the other, I read to the end because I wanted to see how the work ended and whether the conclusion would give me insight into whether this author could revise enough to make it worth offering an editorial letter with an eye to revising.

As you can imagine, fully editing a manuscript and writing up an editorial letter is really time consuming so I have to be convinced that it might be worth my time. If the ending really wows me, that can be the clincher. Unfortunately for this title, the ending didn’t sway me and I passed altogether. I did write up some of my concerns in my one-page response but it certainly wasn’t a whole editorial letter. (Just FYI—a good editorial letter on my part can easily take 2 hours to write.) If I’m not won over, I won’t commit to the time needed to create it.

Had I not had the full for either, I would have definitely passed. Now I passed anyway with these two fulls but I was looking for a reason to be swayed the other direction. That wouldn’t have happened without the complete work. And I can name two current clients who I asked to revise a full novel significantly before I offered representation. Similar circumstance to the above but in these two instances, I swayed to the side of accepting rather than rejecting.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pitch Alternative Recap

STATUS: Busy Monday as I connect with my foreign rights person to debrief Bologna.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONESTAR by Norah Jones

Thank you all for the many varied responses to my blogs about Pitch Alternatives. I’m actually going to share these blog links with various conference organizers so this was not for naught.

So I can do so, I want to recap some of the options that I think will work most effectively.

The problem, for me anyway, in allowing non-ready writers to pitch unfinished projects is the expectation that is often in place before the pitch. I know that these writers actually still expect an agent to request the material—even if the work isn’t complete.

And I’m very serious about this. I’ve gotten shocked responses from pitchers when I’ve started the session with “Is your manuscript complete” and then when given a “no” reply, they were stunned that they couldn’t just send it a year later when it was ready.

Folks, I couldn’t make this stuff up so what I’m saying is that if we allow folks to just pitch at will, it puts too much expectation on the agent and then we feel like the bad guy by saying, no, you can’t send the partial you have; or, no, you can’t send it a year later when it’s finally finished.

This is what I’m trying to avoid. So here are my ideas. This is working off the assumption that the pitch appointments will be screened and only writers with finished projects will be allowed to “formally” pitch.

For all unfinished projects, here are some viable alternatives. These would all include a fee, above and beyond the conference fee, for the participant to attend. That way the conference is not sacrificing revenue for these alternate ideas.

1. A morning practice pitch session that is advertised as such. In other words, any writer with an unfinished project can pitch an agent or editor but they go in with the expectation that the agent/editor will not be asking for sample pages. This is solely for fun and practice. I suggest that the conference organizers ask the attending agents/editors if they are open to being faculty for this kind of session. I wouldn’t mind doing it and then the pressure is off me completely because the expectation is clear upfront to both parties participating.

2. A social event with an agent (or editor but I’m not going to retype that each time), limited to 6 participants and held at an off-site location (to avoid interruptions), that’s a roundtable discussion that allows writers to simply have sit-down Q&A with agent. This isn’t a practice pitch session per se but it might end up there if the agent directs it that way. Event to be held in a bar or restaurant so food and drinks are available. Expectation is that participants pay to attend and then also have to pay for their own food and everyone there pitches in to pay for the agent. (Trust me, we won’t eat or drink so much to make this cost prohibitive. Or we shouldn’t anyway!)

3. Coffee Klatch: Morning session in a classroom where participants pay to attend and the fee also includes coffee, tea, and pastries. Hey, I think events don’t work as well if food isn’t there. The conference can set the price appropriately for how much it would cost for the food/beverage service. Or, cheaper yet, the session moderator brings the bagels or donuts (but the session fee still pays for the bringing in of yummies). A similar idea could be done with a special lunch in smaller rooms with smaller tables that are more private (so you don’t get the overwhelming loudness). Participants can pay to have a special lunch with an agent. Limit the number to 5 or 6. Maybe have the event off-site at various restaurants so the Conference does not have to pay to reserve these rooms. Or, utilize the same rooms already reserved and have food brought in. That way the Conference can control cost and make sure the fee covers the expense.

4. Small roundtable query workshop and or opening pages—limited to 6 people. I’m not opposed to this but I just wanted to point out that it’s a lot of work on the agent’s part to prepare for this. At Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, they do this on the Friday before the conference begins, I spend a good two hours easy on reading and commenting on the submissions so I’m prepared. I know you don’t realize it, but it’s asking a lot from agents. I have so very little free time as I easily work 10 or 13 hour days on average just to keep up so I have to get this preparation done in my spare time and to be honest, when I have spare time, I really want to do something fun like hang with Chutney and my hubby. I often don’t feel like taking 2 hours to read opening pages. Just being honest here. I do it but it’s a commitment.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Pitch Alternative?

STATUS: TGIF!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY by Donna Summer

What I’m looking for is a pitch alternative.

Hum… the problem is this. Most conferences charge a fee for a participant to do a pitch session with an agent or editor above and beyond the fee to attend the conference. This is often how conferences generate revenue to run the programs.

So right now, most conferences allow anyone who wants to sign up for pitch appointment to do so. There really is no monitoring of whether the writers have a finish project or even if their project fits with the agent they are pitching.

Most conferences assume that those interested in pitch appts. are doing their homework to sign up with the right person. We’d all like to think that writers would be in tune enough do that.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Examining the conferences I’ve done just in the last year, which was actually a lot because I freakishly agreed to something like 9 conferences last year, I can tell you this. On average, more than 60% of the conference attendees who pitched me were not ready to pitch as they didn’t even have a complete manuscript.

At one conference I did last year, I’d say that the percentage rate was higher. More than 80% of the people I had pitch appointments with didn’t have an even close to finished manuscript for me to look at.

And yet, the agent/editor appts. are the biggest money generators for the conference. I get the necessity of that.

I’m just trying to find some other way to accommodate writers without finished projects to have time with an agent/editor.

Jessica suggested more social events planned for the participants and the faculty. I’m certainly not opposed to that but those events usually are not something that will generate the much needed revenue the conference organizers need.

Not only that but at social functions, agents and editors often like to hang together (because we like catching up with each other as well) and very few attendees feel confident enough to break that “inner circle” grouping. Hey, I’ve been guilty of that and I’m willing to ‘fess up to it. It just happens because we have so much to talk about. The participant interaction is probably not as high as it should be at these mixers.
Now the Pikes Peak conference does an interesting thing with their agent/editor hosted table at the lunch hour (which is free) but the tables are too big and the room is often too noisy to really work well except for the few attendees lucky enough to sit closest to the agent or editor.

So I’m trying to find some kind of happy medium that could work, and I’m open to suggestions.

So bring it on. How could we solve this problem?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1 Hour With An Agent

STATUS: The blizzard indeed hit. Although I live within walking distance of my office, Chutney took one look at the 30 mile an hour winds and blowing snow and lifted her nose in disdain. I could do what I wanted but SHE was not going out there. We are working from home today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONG HOT SUMMER by Style Council

Well, a long hot summer is what I’m dreaming of right now. All I can see is a wall of white snowflakes out my window.

Just recently I was having a discussion with a conference organizer about pitch appointments. As an agent, I think it’s pretty much a waste of time to have a writer pitch a fiction project that is either only in idea-form or only partially written.

After all, we attend conferences not only to connect with writers but to find clients. Shocking I know! If a novel isn’t written, there’s nothing I can do with it.

From her perspective, she thought the value of pitching for their attendees (even those with unfinished novels) was to allow the writer to have a networking opportunity with an agent.

So I started to think about that. For me, a pitch appointment is not a successful networking moment. For the most part, if a project is not ready, that’s all I really remember. Not the writer or the story.

But I do see the value in networking. After all, I just took on a new client a couple of weeks ago who I met and remembered from a conference I attended 4 or 5 years ago.

I’m serious. That’s exactly what happened. I actually don’t remember if she had pitched me at the conference. She might have. The pitch I have no recollection of. What I do remember is the variety of social moments orchestrated by the conference that gave her an opportunity to mingle with me. We had some fun chats which weren’t necessarily related to her project. She reminded me of that when she queried me all these years later.

Then she submitted the most wonderful novel I’ve read in a while….

As an agent though, I don’t take on clients because they’ve networked with me; I take on clients whose writing I love. If they also happened to have networked with me, so much the better I guess!

But I understand where this conference organizer is coming from. Conferences often need the revenue generated by pitch appointments to keep the conference going.

So I thought of an alternative and I wonder what you folks think about it. I suggested that instead of one-on-one pitch appts (which I think should only be reserved for finished manuscripts), what about a networking hour with an agent for writers who have works in progress but aren’t ready for pitch time? Limit the size to let’s say 6 people so that it’s small, intimate, and not intimidating.

I even suggested that the hour be held somewhere social—like at the bar or at the restaurant so all participants could have a beverage or snacks while the talk unfolds. Then it feels like fun rather than work. For the agent and the participants! Conferences could charge for the session if revenue is a necessary evil.

6 people, 1 agent or editor, and 1 hour to ask about your project, its viability, the process, publishing, what have you.

I’d love it I think. The expectation is not that I’m going to request sample pages because the project isn’t ready. Then I don’t feel bad about gently telling them in a pitch appt. they’ve paid for that they can’t pitch a project that isn’t complete. I’m off the hook but the writers still get quality networking time to get questions answered.

Interesting or no?

And if you had 1 hour with an agent, what would you ask?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RITAs and NYT

STATUS: Hugely excited. Today was just a day for good news.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? KOKOMO by Beach Boys

I have to say that Denver is expecting a fairly large snow storm tomorrow. I wish I was in Kokomo.

But today is for celebration nonetheless.

Congratulations, Sherry, on your double RITA nomination for PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS for Best First Book and Best Historical Romance.





And Congrats also to Jamie for hitting #15 on the New York Times Bestseller List for HOTEL. This means it will actually be printed in the paper rather than just online with the Extended List.


Happy happy happy dance!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You’ve Got Google Questions? Authors Guild Has Got Answers.

STATUS: Google on my mind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I DON’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT by Indigo Girls

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve spent the last 2 days thoroughly reading the 140-page Google Book Settlement. Yes I’ve talked to my attorney about it. Yes, I’ve discussed it with other agents. Yes, I have even talked with the Authors Guild General Counsel about it. But despite those many wonderful and revealing conversations, nothing beats a thorough understanding that comes from actually reading the settlement. For me, I felt like I needed all the pieces in place before creating my own Google letter that went out to clients today.

And you thought I was purposely avoiding my slush pile and email queries these past couple of weeks!

If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that the Authors Guild was a named Plaintiff in the initial suit back in 2005 when the copyright infringement first began. And they have continued to be active in how this settlement will unfold and the creation of a new entity called the Book Registry.

In other words, they’ve been a strong advocate for authors’ rights in this matter.

And they are making available many valuable resources regarding the suit and the upcoming settlement and what you need to know about it on their website, for free, even for non-members.

That’s a heck of a public service. If you’ve got Google questions, chances are you can find the answers.

Hum… maybe you should think of joining the Authors Guild if you aren’t already a member. With a $90 annual fee, I’d say that’s money well spent.

And if you haven’t looked at the Google Book Settlement site, you might want to take a peek. It also has an informative FAQ page there.

If you are an author with in print or out of print books, the AG recommends that you do opt in for this settlement and claim ALL your books—even foreign editions. You can always change your mind later about allowing or not allowing display rights or even if you want to remove a book forever from being included in the Book Registry.

If you do nothing, you are automatically included and bound by the settlement and you won’t have a say in how your books are handled because you must claim them through this formal process to have control of how the content is handled via the Book Registry.

You can opt out of the settlement but AG only recommends that if you want the fun of suing Google yourself. Better have deep pockets is all I’m saying…

So find out what you need, get the answers to your Qs, so you can decide if you want to opt in.

ps. If there is any part of the settlement that you plan to read, I'd recommend Attachment A: Author-Publisher Procedures.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bologna By Day & Night

STATUS: Heavens it was a crazy day!

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

And I haven’t got the energy for a proper entry. Sorry. But hey, PW’s Craig Virden is blogging Bologna By Day & Night. And for those of you living under a rock, we are talking about the annual Bologna Children’s Book Fair—THE rights fair for anything in the children’s realm.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: TGIF!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHAT YOU NEED by INXS

So, what are you capable of? Can you create three good reasons to pick you?


video

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Gallagher Girls Are Coming

STATUS: HOTEL landed in the USA Today bestseller list for the very first time. Granted, pretty high up there at #118, but hey it’s start. Right after Eckhart Tolle.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HAVE YOU EVER SEEN THE RAIN? by Spin Doctors (CCR cover)

June 9th.

The galleys didn’t even have the cover. You blog readers are some of the first people to see it.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PW Survey Says

STATUS: HOTEL moved up to position #21 on the NYT extended hardcover bestseller list. Couldn’t be more thrilled for Jamie. Happy dance at the office this afternoon.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SILK PYJAMAS by Thomas Dolby

Every year PW does an annual job survey. I actually did a search for the 2008 survey results but I’m thinking they haven’t been released yet because the article didn’t pop up.

So the most recent I could find was from 2007. The good majority of editors in New York are women. There are many different theories as to why that is true. Most likely the culprit is starting salary and women are more likely to put up with low salaries at a beginning of a career. There is also a theory that traditionally, men do more “supporting of the household” in our US world so can't "afford" to enter the field.

I’m not going to touch that gender story but what I can tell you is this. Despite the fact that publishing tends to be, percentage-wise, more heavily slanted towards women employees than men, women editors are still paid less than their male counterparts for equivalent positions. This PW article simply touches the tip of the iceberg (discussing managers vs. editors). The full survey goes into more detail about salaries for equivalent positions.

Folks, gender bias is alive and well in the field of publishing.

However, I don’t think this statistic holds true for women agents…Hence why I’m on this side of the publishing fence.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dad Wisdom & Publishing

STATUS: I really need to tackle the emails piling up in my inbox.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WOODS by George Winston

When I was in high school, my dad told me two things. Finding that special someone is all about timing and HS boys are intimidated by bright women.

Funny enough, I thought that was a lot of hooey. Sheepish apology to my lovely dad because he pretty much was right. But as a teen, you pretty much assume that a parent couldn’t possibly be right.

Hindsight really is 20/20.

So what in the world does this have to do with publishing? Well, two things actually.

The first I’m actually a little hesitant to say but I’m inspired by a recent entry from Editorial Ass on a whole different topic but tangential in nature, so I think I’ll take a risk and put this comment out there as well.

From my personal experience (and I really can only speak from that perspective), I truly believe that for literary fiction, it’s much easier to sell boy writers than gals. I know. Who can possibly make such a general statement but I have to say that I’ve encountered several worthy manuscripts that I’m rather convinced that if the writer had been male, the novel would have sold.

Just empirical proof, of course; no scientific method employed.

And second, publishing is often about timing. For example, if you are currently a writer of young adult or middle grade fiction and you have a paranormal element (read: vampire, werewolf, witch or what have you), you might be stymied by the timing of putting said project on submission right now.

The market is crowded. Editors are weary in some respects. (Agents too!) Just last week I had an editor turn down even looking at a manuscript because she felt her list was too crowded with the supernatural.

That’s a sure sign that a trend is winding down. Now that doesn’t mean nothing in that realm will sell. It just means that any project that does will have to be X times better, X times more original, than similar projects sold 2 years ago.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rethinking Contract Clauses

STATUS: Relaxing. Just about to do some sample page reading for an hour before hitting the sack.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? F.M. by Steely Dan

With all our recent deals, I’m definitely in contract mode this week. And there is a lot to think about.

With the Google lawsuit settlement happening, all current and future negotiations are going to have to address revenue split from Google advertising from the book registry. If the publishing house is participating that is. And don’t get me started on the whole topic of if the book is already on Google book search and is, indeed, searchable. We’ve been spending the last two weeks putting together letters for each individual client regarding their books and Google.

But that’s not all. The digital revolution is making us rethink contract clauses—even within the current standard language.

Take this for an example. My contracts manager and I got to talking on Friday about what is a rather an innocuous clause in the contract. In the royalties section, Publishing contracts always specifically state that no royalties will be paid for copies given away to promote sales or to charitable institutions etc.

Or similar language. It varies depending on house and contract.

Well, we were talking about electronic book giveaways done recently by Stanza, by Kindle on iPhone and even by Orbit—which I highlighted a couple of weeks ago (the Brent Weeks’s debut for $1).

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not remotely opposed to these kinds of promotions but I am thinking that perhaps an author needs to have a say in it and if they are to have say, then that needs to be in the contract—and dealt with in the copies given away clause. I think free ebook promotions can have strong impact but I also think the author should have input regarding how that ebook promotion might work. Little things like for how long will the promo last? How many copies will be given away? How will the publisher measure sales from said promotion? Interesting, no?

So now I’m thinking perhaps we need to ask for author approval on free copies done for special electronic promotions.

Suddenly, it makes that little clause a whole new ball game.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Anderson News

STATUS: TGIF! And I’m heading out the door.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX by Glen Campbell

There certainly has been some talk in the blogosphere regarding Anderson News and the sudden suspension of business but if you are a genre writer in mass market, you might want to pay attention.

Not to be confused with Anderson Merchandising which supplies to Wal-Mart and Costco, Anderson News was a big distributor of mass market books mainly into the grocery chains. Recent mm releases that were being handled into those venues by AN are getting hit by it. Rumor has it that the books were trapped in locked-down warehouses.

So below are a few links for some of the most recent stories regarding Anderson News.

It’s hard to glean from the stories that are hitting the wires what the everyday impact is but think of it this way. If books weren’t getting into venues as publishers supposed they were, that’s lost sales. Chances are good that’s impacting current cash flow because books weren’t out there to be sold.

And now all AN assets are going to be tied up into what looks like a major lawsuit and countersuit.

The good news is that impacted publishers have switched distributors in a hurry so as to get back to business but what about all the inventory trapped in warehouses? Good question.


Anderson News Suspends “Normal Business Activity”
by Judith Rosen -- Publishers Weekly, 2/9/2009 9:09:00 AM

Anderson's Debt May Top $200 Million
by Judith Rosen -- Publishers Weekly, 3/6/2009 7:10:00 AM

Anderson Sues Magazine Publishers & Wholesalers
by Judith Rosen -- Publishers Weekly, 3/11/2009 8:28:00 AM

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Agent Joe Regal Weighs In On Niffenegger Sale

STATUS: I feel normal. No cough. No sniffle. I’m so happy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHERE THE STREETS HAVE NO NAME by U2

This is very cool. Audrey’s agent, Joe Regal, commented on yesterday’s entry. That happens so rarely, I didn’t want it to get lost in the comment section so I’m posting it here. My hearty thanks Joe.

I have a Google alert for Audrey's name and have been watching the response to the news of the sale, and since this particular thread seems to be from a thoughtful group of writers, I thought I’d take a chance and weigh in.

First, as Audrey's agent, I very much fought against the news of the sale coming out. It seemed likely to stir resentment, and I already expected reviewers to approach the book with knives drawn before any leak of the money involved. For instance, since the NYT never reviewed THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE in any way, shape, or form, how could they say positive things about the new book and not look kind of foolish? In my submission, I specifically mentioned this likelihood and begged editors not to discuss the potential auction or possible eventual sale price with anyone.

Needless to say, word got out anyway. I tried to talk Motoko Rich out of doing a piece, but the leaks were so broad that there was really no chance. Thus my somewhat exasperated comments in the article, once I realized the article would run whether I participated or not.

Another reason to keep the news quiet was precisely because of the inevitable Charles Frazier comparison. It's a hell of a lot more than a nuance that, unlike him, we sold a completed novel, a brilliant book that is a step forward for Audrey as a writer. It's weird, inventive, original, singular, and not necessarily as commercial as the first book, but she has grown as a writer and handled the second novel challenge by pushing herself to grow as a writer, with new challenges and new rules, none of which had anything to do with sales. All she could control (as I noted in the article) was the actual writing, not how people responded to it. So she focused on that and wrote a truly remarkable novel.

That the industry responded to positively isn't just because of her track record; people genuinely loved the book. A few editors told me, "this is so much better than TTW!" That kind of irritated me, because I think TTW is a pretty great book, but I got the point: editors recognized she had grown as a writer. So, combine a great book with a great track record, and you have the closest thing to a sure thing in a very uncertain market, and publishers were eager to pay handsomely.

The key takeaway here is simple: write the best book you can and then sell it. Arguments that "she could take her time to write her second book because the mortgage was covered" are way off the mark. She didn't sign a two book deal with the first or second novel because she knew how hard it is to write a good book and she didn't want the pressure of a deadline hanging over her. It’s hard to herd cats on a schedule. Maybe if you're a genre writer, OK, it’s possible, perhaps even necessary, but otherwise, keep your day job and write a great book and sell it when it's done. In Audrey's case, she kept her day job for years after publication of TTW; she was careful to live in a way that put the ability to do her work her way, on her schedule, before any other material needs. She protected her priorities. That's discipline, and she had been practicing it on modest means as a visual artist for decades before she became a writer.

I hope this is useful information. All best wishes for luck and courage to all writers here working to write the best books they can.

Joe Regal

Update 2:54 p.m.
Kristin: Joe's not knocking genre writers as his agency reps them as well. It also occured to me that maybe I should add the link to Joe's website so y'all can check it out.

Thanks for appreciating my note. A risky thing to do, but I couldn't resist. And sorry for the couple infelicitous phrases and typos. One clarification: I'm not dismissing genre writers; I'm saying that the rules are a little different. For instance, my colleague Markus sold a new crime writer, Josh Bazell, to Little, Brown in a two-book deal. The main character of his first book, BEAT THE REAPER, is designed to be a continuing character, and the house paid a nice advance because they're investing not only in the writer but in that particular character. They don't want to spend money to make the character a star (never mind the writer) without having the ability to spread that investment over two books and without feeling like they won't have some time to evaluate whether they've "grown" the series. So while it's possible we could have battled to make it a one-book deal, it would have been counter-productive -- it wouldn't have served the publisher OR the writer.

So all I'm saying is that the rules are different, because the conventions are different. If you're a crime writer, for instance, you're supposed to hand in that next book a year later, maybe 18 months, so the house can publish on a consistent schedule and build the series. That isn't the expectation with literary fiction. No slight intended! Especially from someone who, if he has time to read anything but his own books (he doesn't at the moment), reads genre.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shown The Money?

STATUS: I’m starting to, gasp, feel normal. Surely this is the end of bad cold?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU BELONG TO ME by Anita Baker

I just read on Galley Cat that Audrey Niffenegger, author of the very wonderful TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, just sold her next novel for 4.8 million.

Sources close to the negotiation say….

This cracks me up. If the publisher or the agent really didn’t want the public to know what a book sold for, trust me, the word would not get out. Unless a leak happened of course. (There are many tales of editorial assistants being bribed for info but I have to say, I never could confirm any of these tales. And I imagine all the EAs out there are wondering how to get that gig!) Regardless, either a leak happened or the parties involved wanted it to be known.

Now my blog is not about whether Audrey deserves said advance. That’s really not the point. Her first novel did well; based on sales numbers alone I’d say that advance is commensurate* with performance. Now it didn’t state this in the article but I’m sensing this was a complete manuscript she sold (as it’s been six years since the release of her prior novel).

[side story: I was at the 2003 BEA in LA when I happened by the MacAdam/Cage booth to talk to an editor friend of mine. She mentioned this debut author of hers so I wanted to stop in and lend support. There in the booth was the editor, the author, a large stack of galleys, and not too much traffic. I sat down and had a cup of tea and some lively conversation. I took a plain blue cover galley home with me. Yep, you guessed it. I have an original galley of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE—which I read and loved.]

But that’s off topic. Basically, and here’s the point to my blog entry, wait for it, I want to say that I think Audrey was smart. She wrote her next novel and then sold it. Actually this is all speculation as I certainly don’t know if that’s what she did but it sounds like it from the article.

Talk about significantly alleviating the pressure of performance for a sophomore effort.

We don’t talk about it much in publishing but I do think it can be rough on an author to do really well with book 1, do a big deal for a next book, and then have the pressure on for the writing of said second novel.

I know what you’re thinking. Cry me a river. You’d like to have such a problem.

[*thanks for the typo catch! I laughed when I reread my entry this morning.]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

5 In 4 Weeks

STATUS: Feeling a bit better today. The next day is always the real test with this cold.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CONSTANT CRAVING by k.d. lang

At the beginning of the year, I think most of us in publishing, especially agents, were assuming there was going to be a big slow down in the deals done, books bought, new authors breaking in etc. At the very least, one assumed that any submission might take a few more weeks or a few more months to place.

And all of the above may be end up being true but here’s some good news. In the last four weeks, we’ve done 5 book deals.

For the stats, four of those deals were for already established clients but one of the deals was for a spanking new writer. A debut.

So hey, if you’ve been feeling the pinch, sensing the negativity in the air, worried about whether you’ve got a shot at getting your dang novel published, I’m here to say that business is happening.

And on top of that, I signed a new client last week. Never-before-published writer and
this new novel is brilliant. I can’t wait to shop it.

I’m feeling very optimistic and so should you.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gone Fishin’

STATUS: I wish. Home sick today. Again. Sorry about the blog silence.

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

Yes, this nasty crud is going on 11 days now. I talked with my doctor this morning and she said that this bad cold is lasting from 2 to 3 weeks with the sufferer occasionally feeling better only to be smacked down worse the next day.

Great. So I think I’m mending and it’s just misdirection.

This also means I have, on average, another 4 to 10 days to enjoy this crud. Shoot me now!

I do hope to be back in the office tomorrow…

Friday, March 06, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: TGIF! Have a great weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EVERYTHING LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC by The Police

Okay, absolutely nothing to do with publishing but I’m still sick and this just made me laugh. Enjoy!

video

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Do You Indiebound?

STATUS: Going to bed early. I’ve got to kick this cold.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I”LL BE AROUND by Joan Osborne

Because writers are quite comfortable with online book sites such as Amazon, often times it doesn’t occur to them to include independent bookstores in the links they provide on their Buy My Book website page.

If you’ve got a book about to be published and a website to promote said book and you as the author, the first think your publicist is going to ask you to do is to link fair on your author website. Include Amazon, BN, Borders but don’t forget the Indies.

Not sure how? Click here.

Haven’t got an indie link? Might be time to update the old website.

Haven’t ever heard of Indiebound (formerly Booksense)? Can’t hurt to learn a little more.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So PW Hates Your Book

STATUS: I’m really hoping to feel less congested tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SEASONS OF LOVE from the musical Rent

No doubt about it. It sucks when you get a negative review from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or Kirkus. Although from Kirkus, we all kind of expect one since it’s so rare for them to write a good one. It’s almost badge of honor to get a bad review from Kirkus! Means you have arrived in publishing.

By all means, take a moment to be sad. Email close friends so you can get some immediate emotional support.

But don’t bother getting mad; get even.

And the best way to do that is to take the sting out of that bad PW review. You know it’s going to be out there on Amazon.com, BN.com, Borders, and your closest large Independent bookstore website. There’s nothing you can do to change that. All those websites will post the big reviews. But you can minimize the impact.

How?

By gathering all the good reviews you can and by getting solid “must read this book” blurbs from well-known authors. Then you bug your editor or in-house publicist to bug their contact over at the main sites to also include all these other good things about your book.

With any luck, these sites will post new info as it comes in and that black eye of a PW review will be lost at the bottom of the page. Even if it’s still there, prominently coming up as the first before all other reviews, at least you have populated that page with all kinds of good stuff that any discerning reader can then weigh and judge if they want to buy the book. The one bad review won’t be center stage.

Action is the best medicine.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Double Trouble

STATUS: Is it possible to have an eye before the storm for a cold? I was feeling fairly good yesterday and today was just blah. I did drag myself into the office. Man I’m hoping for better things tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FEELING GOOD by Michael Bublé
(Okay, the irony of what is playing on my iPod has not escaped me as this is exactly how I’m not feeling at the moment.)

I find this fact very interesting. I was talking to Sara this morning because I’ve been reading on various blogs about a huge increase in the number of queries that other agents are currently receiving.

Since I don’t read the first wave, so to speak, I’m not on the front lines of what we are receiving on a daily basis so today I asked Sara and Julie.

I was a little stunned to hear the answer. Our email queries, which in the past have numbered about 100 day, have doubled in recent weeks.

Now part of this might be because of NLA’s announcement of Sara’s promotion to associate agent and that she’s now acquiring but I don’t think that can totally account for the huge jump. Other agents are obviously experiencing the same and they may not have had an announcement of a new promotion to generate it.

So what’s up do you think? I have to say that I’m at a loss.

We are, however, reading every single query received and responding to it. All by email, of course, since we don’t accept any paper queries.

But I’ll tell you right now that even though we are replying to every query, the senders aren’t necessarily receiving them. We get a lot of bounced messages. We will try one more time to resend but if it bounces again, we leave it and that poor writer will think we are one of those agencies who say NO by not saying anything at all.

We also don’t respond to emails requesting that we accept the invitation to bypass the spam folder by following XYZ step. We haven’t the time for it.

So make sure you can be reached easily.

And for those who never got a response, we heartily apologize. We did send one.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Two Rays Of Light

STATUS: I actually stayed at home sick today. I’m feeling a lot better though so I think I’ll make it into the office tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEFORE HE CHEATS by Carrie Underwood

There is so much dreary news as of late that one has to wonder if anyone is buying books. Well, they must be because today I found out that two of my authors’ books have gone back for their fifth reprinting this week!

And both have love stories at the core. Hum…
.