Thursday, April 30, 2009

Brenda Novak Auction to Start and Final London Wrap Up

STATUS: Getting ready to head out the office door. I do plan to do reading tonight from home.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LUSH LIFE by Natalie Cole

It’s that time of year again! Time for the Annual Online Auction to Benefit Diabetes Research by the indomitable force of nature and wonderful author, Brenda Novak.

And I’m here to highlight that Nelson Literary Agency really stepped up to the plate this year and is offering a WHOLE page of items to be auctioned off.

Just to whet your appetite, I’m giving away breakfast with me at RWA and a writing critique with a 24-hour turnaround time. I will spend several hours on this critique—editing it just like I would a client’s manuscript.

Sara is offering a query-free submission.

NYT Bestselling author Jamie Ford is answering 10 Questions.

Sherry Thomas, query writer extraordinaire, is offering to help you whip your query into shape.

Mari Mancusi and Courtney Milan are offering opening chapters critiques.

Hank Ryan has her own page of good stuff!

And that’s just a brief glimpse of what is available. You might want to check it out.

But back to my London list as promised. I’m skimming through my notes and typing up what I see.

Looking for upmarket commercial fiction—not too literary
Crime fiction
Exotic and/or generational saga
Boy meets Girl with a literary voice
Commercial historical fiction

Finland Children’s
Literary fic as the market is strong
Science fiction is working

Chick lit
Historical romance
Historical fiction

Romantic comedy with lit voice
Jackie Collins type novel
Literary vampires—like the Abraham Lincoln Vampire hunter or literary zombies
Books good for reading groups
Commercial women’s fiction
Mystery that is slightly cozy but has a dark edge
Urban fantasy
Paranormal romance
Horror (must be sophisticated)
Big historical fiction
Literary thriller

That’s all else she wrote.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Power Of Twitter

STATUS: I’ve got under 200 emails in my inbox! Yes, this is worth celebrating. I haven’t seen a number this low in weeks.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHIQUITA by ABBA

Talk about eye-popping. Lisa Shearin just forwarded an email that Felicia Day had sent her regarding Felicia’s twittering yesterday of THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS.

According to Felicia, over 10,000 people clicked on her twitter link to the page for DEMONS.

Of course she can’t track who then purchased but if even just 1% did an actual buy, that would be a solid 100 copies in one day.

I’m thinking all my clients need a celebrity fan! Hello.

But seriously, look at the mechanisms Lisa put in place that allowed people to reach out to her. She knew about Felicia’s blog via Google Alerts and then she followed up on it. If you’ve got a book being published this year, make sure your website is up and ready by the time galleys go out. Make sure there is a way for fans to contact you. If you’re doing a social networking site, make sure that’s ready. Be sure to track your reviews as you never know who might be talking about you! Sure it can be a lot of work tracking this stuff but it just might pay off in nice dividends!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tweet This! Guest Blog Lisa Shearin

STATUS: Ah, disaster day. I spent about four hours straight on the phone this morning. Didn’t even get a chance to glance at my notes for more news of London but I will. Stay tuned.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHE IS by The Fray

Happy Release day Lisa! A series that started quite humbly and is now edging close to 100,000 copies in print. And they said a fantasy series featuring an elf wouldn’t fly. Harrumph!

All hail the promo power of Twitter by Lisa Shearin

Twitter is addictive. It’s all too easy for me to be Tweeting when I should be writing. However, Twitter can also be an incredibly effective way to reach thousands of potential readers. Now, I personally can’t reach that many people with Twitter (as of last night, I only had 216 followers, but I’m proud of each and every one of them). However, I have a fan who has over 460,000 followers on Twitter—actress Felicia Day.

You may know Felicia from Joss Whedon’s Internet musical hit Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, or from the web series The Guild, which she created, writes and stars in. Or from TV shows such as House, Strong Medicine, and Monk. She had a recurring role as “Vi” in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and can be soon seen in Dollhouse, My Boys and in a four-episode arc on the new ABC Family sitcom Roommates—and more.

Felicia’s a busy lady. She’s also a voracious reader who loves fantasy. And fortunately for me, she’s crazy about my Raine Benares fantasy adventure series. “This series is like chocolate to me,” Felicia wrote in one blog review of my books. “I just can’t get enough of it. This is a girl-power fantasy with fighting and magic and sexy hunk elves and goblins galore.”

I met Felicia through her blog. Like many authors, I have Google Alerts set up for my books. So when Felicia reviewed my first book (
MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND) Google let me know. I popped over to Felicia’s site and read the review. She raved about the book, but . . . uh, not so much about the cover. I have to tell you, it was the most hilarious take on my cover that I’d ever read. (Felicia’s an incredibly gifted comedic writer.) I couldn’t resist it; I just had to jump in and post a comment. Felicia and I have been email buddies ever since. I’ve sent her signed copies of my books, and she sent me a fabulous signed photo of her that’s on my office wall, plus she’s always spreading the word about my books.

With today’s release of my third Raine Benares adventure,
THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS, Felicia graciously offered to post a review on her blog. I asked if she would tout my book on Twitter as well ( and she said she’d be glad to. Felicia’s website and blog get an insane number of hits every day. And with over 460,000 people following her every Tweet . . . well, I can’t wait to see what happens. : )

I know what will happen! They’ll find Raine just as irresistible (I hope!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wrapping Up The London Book Fair

STATUS: I can’t say I’m completely recovered from jet lag but it’s definitely getting better.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TROUBLE SLEEPING by Corinne Bailey Rae

So here’s the wrap up from London. First off, I had dinner with a good agent friend Jennifer Jackson while I was there and she had some huge news to share with me and since it’s so big, I have to blog about it.

I mean, it’s not every day that one of your clients hits the New York Times Bestseller list. And you know what? It’s not every day that the client nabs the #1 spot. This deserves a special shout out.

So CONGRATS Jennifer!!! (And maybe I should say congrats to Jim as well. After all, the author probably had something to do with it… Grin)

#1 NYT Bestseller TURN COAT

But back to talking about LBF. In browsing through Waterstone’s and Borders, it was very clear to me that the UK publishers definitely have a focus on literary fiction. There large book stalls that featured the classics. (I mean when is the last time you saw Thomas Hardy prominently featured in a book store?) Also, a good majority of the floor space was dedicated to contemporary literary fiction. Titles such as Aravind Adiga’s THE WHITE TIGER and Steig Larsson’s GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO were prominently displayed.

Although quite popular here in the states, I really didn’t see any Edgar Sawtelles out and about on floor displays.

I talked with editors from the UK, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Brazil, China and Japan. Every single one of them asked about literary fiction that could have broad appeal. In fact, in several of the foreign territories, literary fiction sales were up. In talking with the editors, it was clear that it has a strong market abroad—in a lot of ways, much stronger than here in the States were lit fic can do well but lit fic with a commercial bent can be blockbuster. Some commercial literary titles like MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER did well across the seas but WATER FOR ELEPHANTS was stronger here at home.

Just interesting.

In Asian territories, literary/commercial historical fiction doesn’t work at all. The editors won’t even look at it. However, UK and European editors say bring it on--they'd love to look.

I may add more to this blog tomorrow as my notes are at the office (where Julie is typing them up!). I headed home early because the weather was bad and Chut is fundamentally opposed to walking in the rain. I’ll glance through them and see if I can come up with a few more “this is what they are buying” lists because I know how much my readers like it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Demon's Lexicon Signing in S&S UK Booth

And here is an extra blog shot of Sarah Rees Brennan's signing for her debut. As a debut author, she had worried that no one would show up. As you can see, that wasn't the case. Sarah twittered before the event to get the word out quickly.

Jackie Collins Anyone?

STATUS: Last day of the fair. It might be 1:00 a.m. Denver time but I’m up and at ‘em to tackle the last round of meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LIES by Glen Hansard

As I mentioned last week, one of the first things I did when coming to London was to check out the area bookstores. In looking at my notes from my Waterstone’s visit, the most interesting thing that sticks out for me is how popular sophisticated urban contemporary women’s fiction is.

Oh, you read that right. I just wasn’t using the term we called it over here in the States.

Chick lit.

This is a genre that actually still works across the pond. In fact, I even had a French editor ask me if I had any shopping in the city with martinis and twenty-somethings. Didn’t even have to be front list. She was happy to consider back list titles for publication in France.

Could have knocked me over with a feather because unless you are already established in the US (Sophie Kinsella anyone?), it’s not something editors say they are actually looking for.

On the shelves of Waterstones, I saw many titles by Marian Keyes prominently displayed. An editor of an imprint at Random House mentioned that Jessica Brody (The Fidelity Files) was working quite well for them.

Check out the cover. Classic chick lit if I’ve ever seen one.

Another popular author is Susy McPhee for the older set (Husband & Lies and The Runaway Wife). The editor even called it hen lit.

So interesting. But here’s what floored me. I visited all the major houses in UK and every editor mentioned that escapist fiction was working for them (well, no surprise given the economy) but what they were looking for was the big epic dishy and glamorous titles I have always associated with the 80s and Jackie Collins. Think Tasmina Perry’s Daddy’s Girls.
One house had high hopes for Immodesty Blaize’s soon-to-be-released Tease.

I can’t say I’ve had any editors in the US ask for the same. There was some excitement two years or so ago for Tilly Bagshawe (sister of the well established UK author Louise) and her debut called Adored but I don’t think it did as well as they had hoped over on this side of the pond.

I’ll be heading to New York for Book Expo next month. We’ll see what the US editors have to say then. Tomorrow I’ll be on a plane most of the day heading back to Denver so probably won’t be blogging. But don’t worry, women’s lit and shopping weren’t all that the UK editors were looking for. Literary fiction and upmarket commercial fiction is high on their lists as well. I’ll look through my notes and blog, hopefully, on Friday.

Have a happy Wednesday!

Monday, April 20, 2009

LBF Pics

STATUS: Just had some wonderful Indian food before heading to bed. 8 o’clock is a typical dinner hour around here.

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

I heard there was quite a bit of chaos this morning as the fair opened but since I had a breakfast meeting off site, I missed the hoopla. By the time I hit the Fair floor around 10 a.m., everything had been sorted out.

I have to say that I did expect the mood to be rather somber but in the meetings I had, that was not the case. Editors from Germany, Finland, Japan and Brazil, all expressed optimism, were interested in many titles (although admitted that escapism was good) and had mentioned that book sales in their countries had remained steady. Some titles, such as James Hunter's THE SERVANT, had really broken out. Something like 2 million copies in Brazil. That's an eye popping number.

A Japanese editor mentioned that publishers there were aggressively pursuing the mobile phone reader market, which didn't suprise me at all. Where digital is concerned, that country has a lot of early adapters.

I also had one UK editor that popped by my table simply because she was a blog reader and wanted to say hello. That was quite fun.

Here are some pics to tide you over until I can skim through my handy dandy notebad and pick out some tidbits on what is working abroad.
Here is the entrance to the LBF from the Warwick Road Entrance.

The escalator up to the International Rights Center floor.

On the floor of the International Rights Center. Agents, Rights representatives, and publishers hard at work.

View of the fair from above.

Sarah Rees Brennan in the S&S UK booth pointing to her soon-to-be released title THE DEMON'S LEXICON. She'll be signing in the booth on Tuesday, April 21 at 1:30 p.m. (13:30)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What UK Children’s Editors Want

STATUS: Spent the day being a lovely tourist instead of working. And sorry for the tiny covers of yesterday. My computer or Blogger was not cooperating and despite efforts, I couldn't get the pics to upload bigger and I didn't have time to fiddle.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ACCIDENTALLY IN LOVE by Counting Crows

To kick off the blog entry, here is a lovely shot of Blenheim Palace from the gardens.

Alas, Colin Firth did not emerge dripping wet from any neighboring lakes or ponds—much to Sarah Rees Brennan and my great disappointment.

Now that I’m back at the flat, I’m flipping through my little notebook of scribbled writings. From what I can decipher (as my handwriting is not always the best), here are some things UK children’s editors are looking for. In no particular order and a nice sum up of what several editors spotlighted:

--More boy adventure books (although one publisher specifically said their list is full in this arena so not as high on their list)
--YA historical
--would love a prize-winning new teen voice along the lines of HOW I LIVE NOW
--Funny with beautiful writing (so a blend of literary with a really fun story line)
--a modern Anne of Green Gables
--middle grade fantasy that is a girl-driven narrative
--humorous girl stuff that is more than just boys and relationships but is warm, and character driven. Not necessarily issue driven
--high concept middle grade with a really original voice so it can stand out.
--anything that can crossover solidly to the adult market (ie. THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF A DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME)
--a contemporary author with a literary, classic voice. (hum.. that seems to tie in with the modern Anne of Green Gables example above)

Different houses did have different feelings on the market. One house thought that Meg Cabot and her popularity was in the past and another thought she was still burning strong.

I got a sense that all the editors would be open to anything romantic. No surprise there.

And even though I know my blog readers love my lists, it basically comes down to this. Editors want an original story well told.

In that sense, the US and the UK are the same.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

US vs. UK

STATUS: It’s been some late nights this week and trust me, my proofreading skills are abominable when I’m blogging regularly, just imagine what it would be like if I were blogging at 1 a.m. London time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK by Sting

And no, this isn’t the Battle of the Titans. What I’m learning is just how different these two markets actually are. Intellectually I know this (and have always known this) but I also think we like to lump it all together and say, hey, we all speak the same language (although the Brits might argue that point) so if we share the lingo, shouldn’t we share the taste? For some books, yes, this will align and match up but for a slew of other books, we couldn’t be further apart even if the ocean was wider between us.

To get a sense of the retail environment, I decided to check out the Borders at Oxford Circus, the Waterstone’s at Piccadilly Circus and then I popped by a Books etc. at Hammersmith. I’m not saying that this is fair representation of all the stores in town; it’s just the ones I managed to visit while I was here.

I took some notes on my observations and then shared it with all the editors I’ve been meeting with this week on both the children’s and the adult side of publishing. If I covered everything in one entry, this would be one heck of a long blog so I’m going to start on the children’s side. I’ll also try and do a couple of entries over the weekend to make up for my general radio silence this past week. Starting on Monday, it’s back to full days and spotty blogging.

So what is clear to me:
1. Boy adventure books are prime time in the UK. Eoin Colfer’s AIRMAN and the young James Bond books. It’s not to say those didn’t do well in the US, they did; however, shelf space, front table displays, etc. is all about the boy adventure books here in the UK. I wouldn’t say it’s getting equal time in the US. And another interesting tidbit. Sometimes wild success in the US does not translate completely over to the same success in the UK.

For example, Robert Muchamore and the Cherub series is big, big, big in the UK. They did do a US version and it hasn’t taken off as much as they hoped. In reverse, Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians series is big, big, big in US and although it’s seems to be growing in popularity in the UK, it hasn’t been quite the phenom it has been stateside.

39 Clues. Not making a dent in the UK market.

2. Some books nail both sides of the pond with equal success. Can you guess at the two titles with matched overwhelming success? One primarily has female readers; the other mainly male readers.

Oh, I’m sure you guessed one right off the top of your head and you’d be right. TWILIGHT series is equally popular in the US and UK. Interestingly enough, so is DIARY OF A WIMPY KID.

Rather cool, wouldn’t you say?

3. Another interesting observation at the UK bookstores that I wish they’d do more of in the US. All three of the UK stores I visited, did crossover shelving in the children’s and adult areas. Here are three titles that were shelved in both sections:
a. Twilight
b. Graceling
c. Harry Potter

The Harry Potter books even had different, adult covers. There might have been more titles but those were just three that I managed to glimpse while browsing the book stalls. I love that. I don’t think I’ve seen a teen book shelved in the adult section of a US Borders, BN, or even at the Tattered Cover. I could be wrong as I just might need to pay closer attention but it looked like it was rather common practice here in England.

And last but not least for this entry, US and UK covers couldn’t be more different if you tried. For example, I was showing editors my upcoming titles that will be releasing in the UK this fall. I had both the US cover and the UK in my portfolio for people to see, pick up, look at cover copy etc.

For Helen Stringer’s SPELLBINDER, all the editors said, “ah, yes, that’s a totally US approach. That wouldn’t work over here.

And then when I showed the UK cover, all their faces lit up and they really oohed and ahhed over it. They couldn’t help themselves and had to pick it up.

That was absolutely fascinating to me! These two covers, the titles, the approaches are radically different as you can see.

Let’s hope that both sides of the pond are right in what kids will reach for when the book hits shelves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Editor Letter For The Pain Merchants

STATUS: Just survived my first crushing London rush hour Tube commute on the Piccadilly line. Talk about being up close and personal with my UK compatriots…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WAKE UP CALL by Maroon 5

I’m having lunch all week with different UK editors—some in the children’s world and some in the adult world. I’ll start blogging about any interesting tidbits I discover tomorrow. I didn’t want there to be too much distance between when I discussed Janice’s original query and the letter I submitted to Donna. We had actually talked about this project a month or two before I submitted it. If memory serves, I was sitting at Donna’s table at Book Expo when I first pitched her this project.

As you can see from my letter below, I always like to pull out what is the most interesting facet to me. How I think this work is different from the multitude of fantasy titles already in existence. For this novel, it’s grappling with the question of whether the ends justifies the means that really stands out for me. So often, middle grade doesn’t focus on that gray area much and I think it’s handled beautifully here.

Also notice that I pulled in some pieces from Janice’s original pitch blurb—especially sentences that I thought captured the tone/voice of the story.

Hello Donna,

As promised, I’m finally submitting to you THE PAIN MERCHANTS by Janice Hardy. What I love most is the ethical question at the core of this novel. At the most basic level, this novel is about whether the ends justify the means and the main character Nya is more than willing to sacrifice a principle or two in order to save her sister.

But then where does one draw the line? Nya is already pushing the boundaries of what could be considered the “gray” area between right and wrong. Is it possible to slide across that line and down a path that will have too many consequences to allow a return to goodness?

That’s at the heart of this children’s fantasy. Here’s a peek at the storyline:

Fifteen-year-old Nya is one of Geveg’s many orphans; she survives on odd jobs and optimism—finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion, and two eyewitnesses unable to keep their mouths shut expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in city: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike her sister Tali and the other normal Takers who become league apprentices, she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person-to-person, a useless skill that’s kept her out of the league and has never once paid for her breakfast.

When a brutal ferry accident floods the city with injured and the already overwhelmed Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability is beyond wrong and she refuses until her sister Tali goes missing. Finding her sister means taking on the League and to do something that stupid, she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

The author Janice Hardy is a member of the Georgia Writer's Association and is active in several workshops and critique groups. Her fiction has appeared in Dimensions (A local lifestyle magazine), Predictions (a local genre magazine) and Air Currents (The In-flight magazine for Continental Connection). She’s also an instructor with Writer’s Online Workshops—teaching Essentials of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing and Fundamentals of Fiction. Besides being a writer, she also has seventeen years of experience as an editor. Currently, she’s the editor of The Bahama Out Islands Destination Guide, and works closely with editors and authors on a variety of travel and lifestyle publications.


All Best

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guest Blog: Janice’s Editor Donna Bray On The Pain Merchants Title Change

STATUS: TGIF! As you know, I’m off to London this Sunday. That means blogging might be sporadic for the next 2 weeks while I’m abroad but I’ll try and keep y’all in the loop on UK happenings and the London Book Fair.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE COURIER from Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

Our guest blogger for today is Donna Bray, co-Publisher at Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.

“I wonder if anybody at the publishing company is reading these (great) comments and wishing you guys were in on the brainstorming sessions!”

As a matter of fact… we are.

Many thanks for Kristin for letting me guest blog here in response to her posts, as well as the dozens of interesting, smart, and impassioned comments.

An important part of an editor’s job is balancing the creative vision of the author with the realities of the marketplace. And there are dozens of people involved in this balancing act with me –- sales, marketing, publicity, design, production -- all of whom care deeply about book. And certainly in the case of Janice Hardy’s book, the folks at Harper were incredibly excited about her as a writer and about the potential for the trilogy. So, you can take the extra interest as a blessing or a curse. If these people didn’t love the book so much, they would not have invested so much time and money in getting the best possible title and jacket.

(Ah, the jacket –that’s a whole other post.)

I myself take it as a blessing.

But to answer another reader’s question -- “Do they ever tell you why they change the title for a book?” The short answer is – yes! The long answer speaks more to my publishing philosophy -- there was no “they,” only “we.” A book doesn’t suddenly become my book or Harper’s when I acquire it – it belongs to “us”, and we all want the same thing – to create a wonderful book with an arresting package that will get great reviews and sell, sell, sell.

So, back to THE SHIFTER: While I do still like the title THE PAIN MERCHANTS (as I see many of you do, too!), I can also see why our sales team were leery of it – is “pain” in the title a turn-off? Is it misleading, or not middle-grade enough? To their credit, despite their initial hesitation, sales came around to the appeal of the title and presented the book to the retail chains as THE PAIN MERCHANTS – only to receive a negative reaction there.

I shared the feedback with Kristin and Janice at every stage of this process, and together we decided to explore different options. We were at a bit of a loss, at first (see Kristin’s list of other, discarded titles -– was there anything we hadn’t already thought of?!). But ultimately we made the right decision -- we all wanted to give this first novel its best shot at success. We came up with a title that reflects the story (it is about a shifter, after all) and that feels middle-grade and fantasy. This could lead into another discussion of the importance of strong and clear positioning of a title from the outset… but let me not digress, especially in another person’s blog.

I have in the past stood up for a title that sales was unsure of -- some felt, for instance, that WE ARE THE SHIP by Kadir Nelson was not obvious enough, even with the subtitle “The Story of Negro League Baseball.” Every day, editors and publishers do support the vision and instincts of the creative people we work with –- and we bump up regularly against the demands of the marketplace, which presents more and greater challenges daily. We may struggle on the way to the final book, we may disagree, we may have difficulties or disappointments -– but if it all begins with the idea of “we,” there’s a much better shot of getting to happily ever after, with author, agent, and publisher counting our big piles of beans…

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Pain Merchants Title Saga

STATUS: I leave Sunday for London and the London Book Fair. I’m heading out early as I have a whole week of meetings with UK publishers.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU by Whitney Houston

Titles are always a fascinating discussion I think. For this project, the author Janice Hardy and I were involved every step of the way.

First off, and you couldn’t tell this from the original pitch blurb, THE SHIFTER is middle grade fantasy. When Donna Bray at Balzer & Bray (HarperCollins) bought the trilogy, she mentioned that the title would probably have to change for this audience. Since titles change all the time, it wasn’t a deal breaker—especially when Donna pre-empted in a very good deal (in Deal Lunch speak). We were over the moon to be part of the Balzer & Bray debut imprint launch list which is happening this fall. We’ve gotten lots of extra press that might not have happened if that weren’t the case.

But back to the title. As Janice mentioned in the comments section, her UK publisher is actually keeping the original title. I guess what works across the pond gets the thumbs down on this side of the Atlantic.

So here’s the saga. We knew right after the sale that a title change was requested so we got cracking on some alternatives. Right off, we came up with a title that everyone at B&B liked.

So the title “The Pain Merchants” shifted to “The Healing Wars: Nya’s Curse.”

Great. All parties were happy. Then Donna went to sales conference and the title didn’t play well with the sales reps but they like The Pain Merchants. So back to the original title (which of course Janice and I were pretty happy about).

Great. We were set. Got the title. We were also involved in the cover discussion at this time. We saw at least 4 or 5 different cover concepts that were being considered. Settled on one that we all loved. Then that got shot down at sales conference as well. Back to the drawing board for the cover but hey, at least we have a title, right?

Nope. Then sell-in to the various accounts happened. The accounts didn’t like the title (but were great with the new cover concept which is the cover y’all saw yesterday).

Okay, we couldn’t have Healing Wars or Pain Merchants. How about Pain Shifter?

Nope. That didn’t work as the accounts didn’t want the word “pain” in it. When BN, Borders, and the bigger independents say nay, guess what happens? You ditch the title and come up with something else.

THE SHIFTER is what the accounts liked so that’s the title. With the really wonderful cover art, I think viewers will get that it’s fantasy and not paranormal (which would be shapeshifters, vampires and the like).

Also, if you look under Janice’s name at the top of the cover, you’ll see we managed to save something. We liked “The Healing Wars” for the series title and there it is.

Here’s a partial list of some of the titles we played with (and hey, they can’t all be gems!):

A Talent for Trouble
A Touch of Trouble
Hands Full of Secrets
Sisters of Hope and Sorrow
A Choice for the Hidden
The Luminary's Bane
The Broken Healer
Healer's Curse
The Secret Shifter
A Bargain At Any Price
The Pynvium War
The Missing Apprentice
The Price of Pain
The Price of Pynvium
She Who Has No Choice Has Trouble
Killing Touch
Shifting Pain
A Choice for Those Who Can't Choose
The Secret of Pynvium
A Miracle for Geveg
Trading on Misery
Trading on Pain
Nya's Curse
Nya & The Luminary
Nya's War

Tomorrow I’ll share the submission letter.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Janice Hardy's Query Pitch Blurb

STATUS: I spent most of today on the phone. Some days are just like that. Now that it’s after 4, I’m going to now tackle my TO DO list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAINTED LOVE by Soft Cell

This morning I realized it’s been a while since I spotlighted a client’s query. I always find it interesting to talk about what caught my interest and hopefully it’s a good learning tool for blog readers as you revise your own query letters.

Today’s story is a little different as Janice didn’t query me by email per se. I actually met Janice at the Surrey International Writers Conference that is held in Vancouver, British Columbia. And no, Janice is not Canadian; she actually hails from Georgia. She just happened to be at the conference.

She had signed up for a 10-minute pitch session with me so she “queried” me via a verbal one-on-one pitch.

I have to say, that the first thing that caught my interest was the title: THE PAIN MERCHANTS. What’s even more interesting is that the publisher ended up not going with this title. See the cover I’ve included below. Go figure. I found the title immediately interesting and I knew that I wanted to read the sample pages she was going to submit after the conference. In fact, I emailed Sara to be on the lookout for them.

For some reason, I don’t have the original letter she sent with the sample pages but I did save her pitch paragraph from that letter. Since that’s the crucial part, I’m including it here. Tomorrow I’ll share the letter I sent to editors when I submitted this work.

From Janice’s cover letter:
Seventeen-year-old Nya couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail. As one of the city’s many orphans, she survives on odd jobs and optimism — finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion and boys unable to keep their mouths shut, expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in Geveg: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike normal Takers she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person to person, a so far useless skill that’s never once paid for her breakfast.

When an accident floods the city with injured and Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability feels as wrong as fish with feet. That is, until her sister Tali goes missing — then walking fish don’t sound so bad after all. Because finding Tali means taking on the League, and to do something that stupid she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

Janice’s pitch blurb annotated:
Seventeen-year-old Nya couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail. As one of the city’s many orphans, she survives on odd jobs and optimism — finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. KN: I’m caught by Janice’s voice in the opening lines. “Couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail” and “surviving on optimism.” I’m looking forward to reading on. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion and boys unable to keep their mouths shut, expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in Geveg: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. KN: I knew I was right to ask for sample pages. There is the contrast between the theft and the act of compassion that makes me interested in this character. Not to mention had the “uh-oh” moment that a secret revealed to powerful people can only be trouble. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike normal Takers she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person to person, a so far useless skill that’s never once paid for her breakfast. KN: Here I have to understand the world and Nya’s power so Janice explains. But then she hints at the issue. This is a “useless skill” that I’m now assuming is not going to be considered useless by these powerful people. Intriguing.

When an accident floods the city with injured and Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability feels as wrong as fish with feet. KN: Plot catalyst that starts the story. I don’t know what is as wrong as fish feet but I still love the voice and I’m thinking the story is going to tell me if I start reading. Also, That is, until her sister Tali goes missing — then walking fish don’t sound so bad after all. KN: Ah, this situation is going to put our character in a compromising situation. Now her sister is at stake. What is she willing to do? Good set up of conflict. Because finding Tali means taking on the League, and to do something that stupid she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. KN: I have to read this now! As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?
KN: This last line just nailed it for me. I like stories where the character might have to grapple with moral ambiguity.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Complaining About Agents

STATUS: Getting ready for the London Book Fair so both Sara and I are working rather long hours.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE FEAR by Lily Allen

I realize that I’m probably just about to express an unpopular opinion. Basically I simply raised an eyebrow at the whole agentfail extravaganza at the Bookends Blog.

I’m sure it’s cathartic to get out all your annoyances and grievances against agents but for the most part, it’s a waste of energy and time.

For the agents like Jessica, Janet, Nathan, Jennifer, Lucienne, Nephele, and Deidre who blog (and sorry I can't name everyone), you are preaching to the choir. We ALREADY do everything we possibly can to reply quickly to queries and sample pages (even fulls!), to help writers, and to really be resources for those who are looking to get published.

Despite all that, I’m sure we all still have disgruntled writers out there who have a complaint against us because we never received their query or our response got caught in their spam filter and it was never received, etc. The list could go on.

We simply don’t have enough hours in the day to make sure all communications get through where queries are concerned because that, quite simply, is so low on our TO DO list, it barely registers.

Although I know that it feels like the world to you writers as you navigate the seemingly unfriendly waters of getting an agent, finding a publisher, etc.

I get that. But we are only X number of people with X number of hours in the day and even now, we are working easily 10, 12, sometime 14 hour days or more. (And yet, I still manage to squeeze out 15 or 20 minutes to write a blog entry—time away from my hubby and Chutney who are right now doing something fun together like snuggling on the couch while I type this. I do it because I’m committed to educating writers.)

And those agents who you are really complaining about—those who don’t ever respond to queries, who take 6 months to get back on sample pages, who ask for an exclusive and then hold your full manuscript ransom for X number of months, they are not reading agentfail. In fact they are not blogging or even reading blogs most likely.

So despite the big outpouring, I seriously think that very little will change. So I’m glad you had the moment of catharsis but could you have taken that same time and energy and sent out 20 queries instead? Revised your opening chapters? Get critiqued on your query letter?

Be proactive folks. Not reactive. That’s how you play to win.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Age Defying

STATUS: Snow? There was snow in the forecast? I love when they predict a foot of it and we get nada. And spring is back! In the 60s tomorrow. Hooray.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I WALK THE LINE by Johnny Cash

Now here is a dilemma in need of a practical solution. Last week, Sara fielded a call from a 94-year old woman looking for help in republishing a narrative historical nonfiction work that she wanted to see back in print before she died.

She had no access to the internet so we couldn’t direct her to our usual list of online resources that we give out when people call.

She could not drive—which rules out the next helpful hint we usually give people which is to visit the local library and talk to the librarian.

She did not live within walking distance of any kind of resource and although we didn’t ask about her physical health, we rather did get the sense that her mobility might be limited.

I have to say that we were a little flummoxed as to how to help her. Sara actually spent 30 minutes or more talking with this caller to see if she could come up with a solution. We thought about maybe ordering a book for her and having it delivered but she had vision issues so that wasn’t going to work.

We finally ended up asking her if she had a grandchild that lived in town (or wouldn’t mind a long distance call) and whether he or she could ring us up as we’d be happy to talk to them and point them in the right direction to the best of our ability. So far they haven’t called back.

Which makes me positive that we left out some wholly obvious solution to assist this caller.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: Expecting large snow storm tomorrow so lots of reading time ahead of me I think.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAKE A CHANCE ON ME by Erasure

Know no limitation. Have a great weekend.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Writer Beware! Always Willing To Take One For The Team

STATUS: Done for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUPER BAD by James Brown

This blog entry is for you Ann & Victoria. You two are super bad in the best possible way.

I think there are very few people in the world who are willing to take the time and energy to stand up for the rights of unsuspecting newbie writers who get scammed by unscrupulous people who call themselves “agents.”

Ann & Victoria have devoted countless hours to the cause. They have blogged about it. They have chatted on various writers forums to warn new writers of scams and to educate them on what they should look for. They have publically denounced scammers. And they’ve been willing to be sued. Yep, you read that right. They always say bring it on! Regardless of how many hours it will probably eat into their private lives.

That’s sacrifice and they deserve some major kudos!

And it makes me so happy to read about how the latest attempt to intimidate them with a retaliatory lawsuit has failed. The scammer failed to respond to discovery or otherwise prosecute the lawsuit. In other words, the criminal didn’t bother to show up.

How sweet it is! Now this “agent” is being investigated for fraud by the Florida Attorney General’s office.

And the good news continues! This just in from the Writer Beware Blog site. Because of their unrelenting hard work, The Federal Bureau of Investigation has decided to create a special task force to help agents in their field offices recognize and deal with writing scams.

Oh yeah. That’s super bad! Alas, if only it were true...

Still, the lawsuit was real enough. To salute the Writer Beware team, let me ask you this. What have you done recently to help spread the word about scammers? Have you blogged about it? Provided links from your website or blog to Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors?

Have you helped to educate a new writer on a writers’ forum or at a conference lately?

Be part of the solution. Blog, twitter, facebook and make those links live today. Let’s get the word out that scammer “literary agents” who charge fees will not be tolerated.

Monies flow to the author, not away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

When Is The Point Of No Return?

STATUS: HOTEL still on the NYT Hardcover Bestseller list! Woot. This week tied for #15. I didn’t know that could happen.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROSANNA by Toto

One of blog readers left a comment about whether an agent has ever gotten to page 100 in a novel and then had the manuscript click into place.

I started chuckling; I couldn’t help it! I’m not trying to belittle the question.

I just wish that I could invite y'all to come to the office and read our slush pile for let’s say a month. Trust me, at the end of 30 days, you’ll get exactly what I’m about to say.

No agent is going to slog through a 100 pages in the hopes of a full manuscript coming together on page 100 or thereafter.

That’s the blunt truth.

We figure if something’s not working by page 20, it’s probably not going to happen. So much of the first 100 pages is so essential to a novel working to its completion. I can’t even fathom how the possibility might happen of a novel coming together so late in the writing. I guess theoretically it could happen…

Now, if I like an opening premise or some aspects of the writing and I’m leaning NO, I will sometimes skip ahead twenty pages and randomly read 5 pages together to see if something grabs me enough to continue reading.

But I can truthfully say that even though I’ve done that numerous times, it never resulted in my asking for a full.