Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Mea Culpa—Never A Position Of Strength

STATUS: Ack. Is it really almost 1:30 in the afternoon? Time to hit that TO DO list hard.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONESOME TOWN by Ricky Nelson

Or another title might be—don’t tweet in anger if you don’t like your book review.

I’m not sure how many of you have followed the Alice Hoffman Tweet debacle but here is briefly what happened. After a non-positive review in the Boston Globe by reviewer Roberta Silman, Author Alice Hoffman shot off 27 twitter tweets in response—one of the tweets included Silman’s email and telephone number and Hoffman urged her fans to respond to the review.

Uh, authors don’t do this. A reviewer is entitled to his or her opinion (hence, the point of reviews).

If you don’t like a review, you don’t like it. Move on. Trust me, mea culpas are not a position of strength. Regardless of whether you are justified or not, this does not put you, the author, in a positive light.

And, as Hoffman realized, you’re just going to end up having to issue an apology through your PR firm.

Now I think you can tweet about how sad you are about the bad review but why draw attention to it? Lots of readers pay very little attention to reviews. Recommends by friends are the largest seller of books. Your friend might not have remembered the Globe review but they might remember this tweet debacle.

So what will be accomplished? Is all publicity good publicity? Maybe this was a great promo stunt and readers will wonder whether they agree with the Globe reviewer and thus buy the book to read it?

What do you blog readers think?

My thought? I think people reading about this incident will just think Ms. Hoffman can’t handle criticism and maybe that old adage applies: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Criticism and bad reviews are a risk in publishing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Head Scratcher

STATUS: Doing some client reading.

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

I just finished reading a query where the writer spent the first two opening paragraphs talking about the interesting setting of Alaska but when the writer hit the pitch blurb, no mention was made of how the setting influenced the story.

It could have been set anywhere.

Well that’s a head scratcher.

I couldn’t help but wonder why all the detail on the location if the writer wasn’t going to use it. So my recommend, If you are going to great lengths to describe an unusual or important setting, make sure the connection to your actually story is clear.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Time For A Cool Change

STATUS: I’m working on two different contracts this afternoon. So necessary, so time consuming, and always delightful when it concludes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? P.Y.T. (PRETTY YOUNG THING) by Michael Jackson
(of course!)


It’s no longer okay for Publishers to say to me in a negotiation: “we have a policy that we won’t do that.”

Especially when I’m talking about royalty structures and for this rant, the royalty structure for a trade paperback.

Just to be clear, there are three main types of print formats for books. There is hardcover--which is of a certain size and has a hard cover covered by a dust jacket. There is trade paperback—which is usually the same size as a hardcover but with, funny enough, a soft cover and no jacket. Then there is mass market—which is the smaller soft cover usually associated with “pocket” size (although some of them are tomes that wouldn’t fit in a back pocket or otherwise).

Today I want to rant about trade paperback royalty structures. For twenty years, the “standard” royalty percentage authors earn from trade pb sales from publishing houses has been 7.5% flat.

Why is that? Why is the trade paperback royalty lower than the mass market version where “standard” starts at 8% and usually escalates to 10% (typically around 150,000 copies)?

Trade pb has a higher price point for point-of-sale so that’s not the reason. Yes, it’s more expensive to print than a mass but it’s not as expensive as a hardcover. And why is there no escalation?

Especially now when publishing is rapidly changing and there is a movement away from doing hardcover publication and doing original trade paperbacks instead—even for debut literary authors.

So why in the world are we stuck with an outdated royalty structure that doesn’t match how publishing is currently operating today?

And it’s not enough to tell me, “well, we’ve never done an escalation for a trade paperback royalty. It’s just not done here at our house.”

Just because it hasn’t been done in the past doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it in the here and now. Publishing is not the same as it was 20 years ago so why are the royalty structures?

Very good question I think.

I’m out. TGIF!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.I.P The King Of Pop

STATUS: Maybe I’m a little too attached to old pop culture but Farrah and Michael in the same day? I have to blog about it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BILLIE JEAN by Michael Jackson

What news. I feel like an essential part of my teen hood has just died. MTV. Thriller. King of Pop. It doesn’t feel like it was 27 years ago.

In Loving Memory…




Here's the link to the original MTV video.

It's worth a little nostalgia for the 1980s Michael

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Editor Rejection Remorse (Definition)

STATUS: Technology can make working effortless. When it’s not working, let me tell you what a headache it can be. What a miserable Wednesday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HUNTING HIGH AND LOW by a-ha

I have to say that I got a kick out of reading all your definitions for editor rejection remorse. In fact, just about every entry had a terrific definition. No one quite nailed what I had in mind when I was coining the term but more on that in a minute.

In the comments, the most popular definition for editor rejection remorse was an editor who had turned down a manuscript only to later see it be really successful or hit the NYT list.

I think that would also be agent rejection remorse. Grin. Funny enough, I’ve had two books I passed on hit the NYT list and sure, I took a moment to second guess myself but the truth of the matter? I still don’t like either of those books. It so wasn’t right for me. But there is an upcoming release that I went back and forth, back and forth on and then passed—mainly because I was crunched for time and had to make a decision so I let it go. It’s building in buzz as of late so I’ll probably have good regret on that one. Oh well, I only have so many hours in the day.

And editors I’m sure have a moment’s pause as well but every editor I’ve asked said that they can’t spend too much time on things they passed on because maybe it took that certain house with that certain editor to have the vision to put that title on the bestseller list or to give it the good success it had.

Do we believe it? That’s the question….

Now I think it’s normal to have genuine regret if you are the editor who was the underbidder in the auction (as in the editor lost out but really wanted the project). That just plain sucks—especially if the editor did everything in his or her power to get the higher ups to go the distance and they didn’t. Nothing the editor can do there and then to see the project they really wanted be successful can be painful.

Now for me, here is the definition of editor rejection remorse I had in mind when I was typing up last night’s entry. This actually happened. I had an editor pass on a submission with a really glowing rejection letter. The editor used words such as “savored” this novel and “was mesmerized by the beautiful language.”

Yeah, I know. I still can’t believe that was a rejection letter.

A week later, the editor couldn’t stop thinking about the novel and so out of the blue, wrote me an email with an editorial revision letter for the author. The editor mentioned how she would very much like to see this novel again.

She was obviously having rejection remorse. Editors have a lot on their plates in any given day or week so the fact that it was still in the forefront of her mind a week later says a lot. Now whether that will than equal a sale is the crucial question.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Editor Rejection Remorse

STATUS: It’s rather late but I’m thinking of squeezing in one quick sample page read before I call it quits for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHO WILL SAVE YOUR SOUL by Jewel

This is rather like playing a round of Balderdash. Do you remember the party game where you are given a rather obscure vocabulary word and each player has to create a definition? The captain of the round then writes down the actual definition, mixes up the entries, and then the players get to vote on which entry is the real one.

You win points as a player if other players vote for your made-up explanation. If you vote for the real dictionary definition, then you win extra points as well.

So I though tonight we might play a little round of balderdash because editor rejection remorse rather sounds like a phrase that I made up. (In fact, I may very well have but surely I can’t be the first agent to call it such.)

It does occasionally happen and tomorrow I’ll talk about it but before then, come out and play and give the definition your best shot. What do you think it means?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Silence A NO Answer?

STATUS: Good. I still have a lot of reading that needs to be done but I’m starting to catch up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUDDENLY I SEE by Kt Tunstall

When I was in New York, I did spend some time talking to a variety of writers at BEA and at the Backspace Conference.

One writer asked me if silence on a full request meant a NO.

Not knowing the agent or agency, I didn’t really have an answer to that but I might be able to shed a tiny bit of insight on to the question.

I would not consider silence a NO response, but I also wouldn’t wait around for this agent or agency to get back to you. Get those queries out there. Get more sample pages in agents’ hands. Don’t pin your hopes on this tiny glimmer of interest.

Because some agents are like a few editors that I know and avoid, they won’t start reading until they get a heads up that there is other interest. I know, it’s awful to say but often times the truth.

At my agency, I really do try and stick by the maxim we highlight on our website that says we will respond to full manuscripts within 2 months. The key word there is “try.” I can count numerous times where I’ve been woefully behind and the fulls we requested were the last thing on my to do list. I hate that; it happens.

Now we never ask for an exclusive so it doesn’t really matter if I’m late to the read or if I don’t get a chance to read at all because the writer has been offered representation by an agent who read in a more timely fashion. It’s simply too bad for me.

If I were that writer though, I’d still continue my inquiry as to the status of my submission—politely, professionally, but persistently (as in maybe once every 3 weeks). Because you are owed a response. I’m not saying that you’ll get one but you really are owed one.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Bookseller, A Fall Random House List, And A Glimpse Of Buy-in

STATUS: TGIF! I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up on client material this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU DON’T OWN ME by The Blow Monkeys

On this blog, it’s pretty much been publishing from an agent’s perspective. But here’s a great blog entry from Arsen KashKashian of the Boulder Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado. Right here in my neck of the woods.

He’s giving his blog readers a sneak peek of his sales meeting with RH rep Ron and what books he is buying for his bookstore this fall. Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, Jon Krakauer.

Aptly named Random House’s Hail Mary Pass. Hugely interesting.

What do you think? Is this a bold move on RH’s part? They are placing some heavy bets on some big hitters to galvanize the holiday sales. Will it work? Agree? Disagree?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Foreign Publishers Getting Into The Electronic Game

STATUS: I spent four hours on the phone doing a variety of phone conferences. Maybe I should rethink a headset.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IF YOU’RE GONE by Matchbox Twenty

In this year alone, my agency has done over 20 foreign rights deals. That’s a lot for an agency of our size. After all, we only have about 30 clients.

And here’s an important facet I’m noticing. Foreign publishers are now asking for electronic rights to be included in the translation deal. No surprise given all the recent developments in the electronic field but until this year, almost no foreign publisher asked for eBook rights for a work in translation.

That’s all changing and fairly rapidly. In fact, some foreign publishers are preemptively sending addendums to add the e-rights to their agreements. Which cracks me up enormously. I don’t mind accepting but only after a significant revision of the “addendum” and a negotiation of the rate.

But here’s what you need to make note of. The royalty rates being offered by foreign publishers for eBooks is all over the place. On the higher end, it’s 25% of net receipts. The emerging standard that I don’t agree with and fight it every time seems to be 20% of net receipts. I’ve also seen as low as 10% of net offered (heck no that ain’t happening) and I’ve also seen 15% of net which is way low as well.

So you published authors need to review those foreign rights deal memos you receive (if World wasn’t granted to the Publisher because than the Publisher subrights department negotiates the foreign deals and you probably won’t see the deal memo until after the fact).

Check if eRights are included and if you’re not sure, ask your agent. And if they are included and the rate seems low, you might also want to have that convo with your agent.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CONGRATS ALLY!

STATUS: We are dancing around the office; we can’t believe it!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN by Cyndi Lauper

It’s no small feat to hit the NYT series list. Looking at who was on the week before last, it was even scarier. At that time, there was only one non-vampire, non-paranormal title on the list (Diary of A Wimpy Kid).

Then last week, 39 Clues popped back on making that two titles on the NYT Series list.

Now I’m happy to report that there are THREE titles on the Series list. Coming in at #6, The Gallagher Girls land a spot.

HUGE CONGRATS ALLY!




Children’s Best Sellers
SERIES


1 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer. (Megan Tingley/Little, Brown, hardcover and paper) Vampires and werewolves in school. (Ages 12 and up)

2 PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS, by Rick Riordan. (Disney-Hyperion, hardcover and paper) Battling mythological monsters. (Ages 9 to 12)

3 DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, written and illustrated by Jeff Kin­ney. (Abrams, hardcover only) The travails of adolescence, in cartoons. (Ages 9 to 12)

4 THE 39 CLUES, by various authors. (Scholastic, hardcover only) A brother and sister travel the world in search of the key to their family’s power. (Ages 9 to 12)

5 HOUSE OF NIGHT, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast. (St. Martin’s, hardcover and paper) Vampires in school. (Ages 14 and up)

6 GALLAGHER GIRLS, by Ally Carter. (Disney-Hyperion, hard­cover and paper) A school for spies. (Ages 12 and up)

7 THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, by Cassandra Clare. (McElderry/Simon & Schuster, hardcover and paper) A world of demons and warriors. (Ages 14 and up)

8 NIGHT WORLD, by L. J. Smith. (Simon Pulse, paper only) Su­pernatural races form secret societies. (Ages 14 and up)

9 WARRIORS, by Erin Hunter. (HarperCollins, hardcover and paper) Four clans of cat warriors aspire to meet up with the Star­Clan. (Ages 10 to 14)

10 VAMPIRE DIARIES, by L. J. Smith. (HarperTeen, hardcover and paper) Vampires in school, with a love triangle. (Ages 12 and up)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Write The Story That Grips You—Guest blogger Kristina Riggle

STATUS: Back in my office in Denver. And what will I miss most from New York City and the Upper West Side? The Magnolia Bakery. 'Nacking on some cupcakes.





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

Here is an author who really understands what I was trying to get at with the Dancing With The Stars entry of last week.

So often writers see a first novel get published, have lots of success, and just assume that was the first manuscript the author had done. I’m sorry to say it, folks, but it really isn’t so. Yes, a first PUBLISHED novel might have a lot of success but a lot of writers forget about all those drafts hidden under the bed.

And Kristina knows the value of this. She has at least two fully completed novels stashed away—never to see the light of day. Because that’s what it took for her to write a really phenomenal debut called REAL LIFE & LIARS, which hits shelves today. Congrats Kris!



Kristin asked me to blog about something educational for her readers. This is a pretty smart crowd, and Kristin has done so much to educate all of you about query letter etiquette and so many other important topics, I'm not sure what I can add. So I decided the most useful thing I could do is share what this process has taught me that I didn't know before.

Write the story that grips you and won't let go. I didn't think about the market when I wrote REAL LIFE & LIARS. I'd been writing something else that was supposed to sell, and I was hating it. So I finally decided to instead write exactly the kind of book I like to read, so at least I would have fun, even if no one wanted to publish it.

Someone wanted it. Several someones. It sold at auction. Even the rejections were lovely.

This time around, I produced a heartfelt and genuine manuscript, and I'm convinced that came through on the page.

Blurbs matter. I've gotten lots of lovely quotes from many generous and talented authors who were kind enough to take time away from their own careers to read my book. And several times in recent weeks, people have remarked with pleased amazement that I have so many quotes "for a new author." I don't know if it affects readers browsing in a bookstore (we could debate that for ages, and in fact it has been debated elsewhere) but I know that reviewers and booksellers have been impressed, and that can only help. One might ask how I landed these blurbs. The short answer is that I asked politely. See next paragraph.

Connections matter. First, networking with other writers kept me sane. I'm hardly a loner by nature, and if not for my support system of fellow writers, by now I would be huddled in a corner, curled around a whiskey bottle. But the business aspect came after the socializing and the friendly support, and this is key. This was no calculated, manipulative attempt at butt-kissing. In fact, many of these connections were in place long before LIARS ever came to be. Thanks to the Internet, networking is easier than ever. Twitter, Facebook, Backspace, various RWA chapters and other genre associations... Our group blog for debut authors, The Debutante Ball, emerged out of connections like these. You don't have to live in New York to be part of a writer scene anymore. Just talk to people about books and writing, and connections will naturally form.

The coolest things don't sound sexy at all, like Target and Costco. I got a few minutes recently to chat with Jen Lancaster (BITTER IS THE NEW BLACK, SUCH A PRETTY FAT, PRETTY IN PLAID) at the Printers Row Lit Fest. That bolded statement is a paraphrase of something she said when I told her my book was going to be in Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's warehouse stores this summer, and it's a Target "Breakout" pick starting in August. This is a big deal for a new author, to have my book in front of so many eyeballs, in so many places, all around the country. For non-writers – and myself, a year ago – it's hard to grasp why that's cool. But it absolutely is!

I'm sure many more such lessons are coming. (Is it tacky to sign a book in blue ink? Do I have to write my whole name or is it OK to scribble "Kristina"?)

That's the other thing I've learned. There's always more to know!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: Chutney and I are heading to Central Park. Or maybe we’ll do Riverside today. Either way, I should take at least one picture of her in Manhattan. What’s a New York trip without one gratuitous Chutney pic?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SILLY LOVE SONGS by Paul McCartney & Wings

Today’s funny courtesy of Sherry Thomas—who despite writing emotionally wrenching and beautifully written historical romances, has a keen sense of humor. Today’s post is perfect coming from her.

TGIF! Enjoy your day.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dancing With The Stars Analogy

STATUS: Today was my final round of meetings. I’m taking tomorrow off and then heading back to Denver.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MAD WORLD by Gary Jules with Michael Andrews
(I rather like this remake of an old Tears For Fears song.)


When I was at the Backspace Conference last week, a fellow agent made an analogy that I thought was rather apt. Here’s my lame attempt to paraphrase the thought.

For all other forms of art, say being a dancer or a painter or a musician, the general public rather believes that it takes years of practice to master the art form. In fact, the artist might do an apprenticeship, take classes, study under a master, or have many practice tries that are then thrown out.

People, in general, don't actually believe that if they take one tango class, they are ready for Dancing with the Stars.

But for whatever reason, this same viewpoint doesn’t apply when it comes to writing novels. Lots of aspiring writers really do think they can hammer out a first novel without studying the art form, without participating in a critique group, without learning the mechanics and boom, get a publishing contract. Get a big advance. Become a bestseller.

Now I know that my blog readers don’t think this way—because you read this blog as well as other industry blogs. You guys are smart enough to know otherwise but I’d say that for at least 50% of the queries we receive, the writers contacting us did very little to master the craft of writing. In fact, they probably didn’t even bother researching elements of the biz.

And yet they think they are ready for Dancing With The Stars. They get angry with agents who they perceive as impeding their success because we aren’t recognizing their talent. And these same writers make it that much harder for you savvy people to be heard through the noise.

So my little rant for the day.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Editors Bought or Wanted To Buy Recently

STATUS: I think I’ve officially beaten the “What Editors Want” horse to death now!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU AND ME AND THE BOTTLE MAKES THREE by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been asking editors what they have bought lately or what they had been the underbidder for in an auction. Here’s what a couple of editors had to say.

These folks were from a variety of houses such as HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster, Random house, Macmillan group etc.

You’ll notice the reference to well known projects. Editors use it too. It’s a quick way of summing up a project for someone who hasn’t read it. And I know a lot of my blog readers will say that editors don’t want to buy anything new or original (and that’s certainly true in some respects) but all I’m trying to point out here is how important and effective a tool it can be to know where your book fits in the market.

On the Adult Side
1. A memoir the editor described as 3 Cups of Tea meets Into Thin Air
2. A collection of essays about motherhood
3. A Friday Night Knitting Club type book for the women’s fiction market
4. A thriller with a dark and damaged heroine
5. A thriller with a nasty vampire FBI agent as hero (and this was not to an SF&F house)
6. Women’s fiction about a group of women attending a cooking school
7. Historical novel set in Russia and featuring a Ballerina
8. A literary novel that is atmospheric and interior
9. A literary satire on a main character who becomes a famous novelist
10. A crime caper that’s sharp and funny
11. A commercial novel about the retelling of Dracula from Mina Harker’s POV
12 A commercial novel by a Nigerian author where the main character who has many wives and many children but when his newest wife can’t get pregnant, it calls into question his whole family life.
13. A women’s fic novel where the main protagonist doesn’t realize she is in a coma and reexamines her life.


On The Children’s Side
1. A story with the Fae but from the boy’s POV
2. a middle grade novel set in Afghanistan and San Francisco—kind of like Kite Runner for kids—serious themes but without the adult content
3. A YA done in free verse where the narrator has to save her older sister
4. A YA horror novel
5. An alternate history/steampunk type YA set in London after WWII
6. a YA where a college drop-out crosses a necromancer.
7. A literary YA with a Southern setting from an adult author who is lauded for her literary adult fiction.
8. A telling of the Anastasia story but with a contemporary spin
9. A historical YA with a supernatural twist
10. A biography of Charles Darwin told via letters Charles wrote to his love Emma

[And I forgot to mention this when I originally posted but if you want the real skinny on what editors are buying, sign up for the Deal Lunch daily email via Publishers Lunch. Deals included usually have a short description of the novel sold as well as who sold the project and who bought the project. In three months, you'll have a good idea on what is selling.]

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Gallagher Girls Are Here!

STATUS: Manhattan had some rockin’ thunderstorms last night about 3 in the morning. Chutney is not a fan. Took me 20 minutes to coax her out of the closet.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY PREROGATIVE by Britney Spears

Interesting Fact #1: I signed Ally as a client for an adult novel—not a young adult novel. In fact, her first two published novels were adult women’s fiction for Berkley.

Interesting Fact #2: This series has over a million copies in print.

Interesting Fact #3: The first two books in this series, I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You and Cross My Heart And Hope To Spy, both hit the New York Times Bestseller list. For this book to hit the NYT list, we’ll have to land on the series bestseller list along with the Twilight Series, Percy Jackson, Night World, House of Night, Mortal Instrument, Vampire Kisses, Nicholas Flamel, and Pendragon.

If we do, it will be one of only three non-paranormal/fantasy titles on the list (with Diary Of A Wimpy Kid and Maximum Ride). [I stand corrected! I hadn't read Maximum Ride but according to the comments, I guess it has a paranormal element. I amend, "If we do, it will be one of two non-paranormal/fantasy titles on the list."]

Happy Release Day Ally!




DON’T JUDGE A GIRL BY HER COVER
When Cammie “the Chameleon” Morgan visits her roommate Macey in Boston, she thinks she’s in for an exciting end to her summer break. After all, she’s there to watch Macey’s father accept a nomination for vice president of the United States. But when you go to the world’s best school (for spies), “exciting” and “deadly” are never far apart. Cammie and Macey soon find themselves trapped in a kidnapper’s dangerous plot, with only their espionage skills to save them.

As her junior year begins, Cammie can’t shake the memory of what happened in Boston, and even the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women doesn’t feel like the safe haven it once did. Shocking secrets and old flames seem to lurk around every one of the mansion’s corners as Cammie and her friends struggle to answer the questions, Who is after Macey? And how can they keep her safe?

Soon Cammie is joining Bex and Liz as Macey's private security team on the campaign trail. The girls must use their spy training at every turn, as the stakes are raised, and Cammie gets closer and closer to the shocking truth...

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Value Of A List

STATUS: Heading into the final week of meetings and boy the days are packed.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG TIME by Peter Gabriel

Here’s my advice for the day. Don’t read too much into these lists I post. I do it because writers are so interested in knowing what editors want (or don’t want in this case). As if there is some magic formula embedded in their “want” list.

The actuality is this. There are certain trends in publishing. Right now in YA it’s the paranormal element—be it a zombie, vampire, werewolf, witch or what have you. Basically, editors end up seeing so much in this genre, they get weary of it. Only THE best projects will stand out in the crowd. Only a really unique story will grab the attention of the sales force in an editorial meeting. In fact, editors contemplate their spin (how they’d pitch it) before they are even willing to make an offer to buy it. If they don’t have that new spin, they’re passing. Market is crowded.

Logically, you guys all know this. So when I say that editors aren’t buying epic fantasy, is that true? Sure. Until I put an amazingly written, wholly original epic fantasy in front of them. Suddenly, they are open to buying.

But what I’m trying to point out with my lists is what editors are seeing too much of—so those books are going to be a much harder sell for the agent. That’s it.

Today I spent the morning at a wonderful literary house—Grove Atlantic. They don’t have mandates. They don’t follow trends. They buy brilliant writers who write screamingly well. (So hard to find I might add…)

They did a title called BROKEN FOR YOU that I wish I had sold. In fact, I’d love more submissions in that vein—literary novels with emotional heart. Oh, that’s so hard to find. The level of writing matched with the emotional complexity of character… A lot of times writers will have one or the other fabulously done. That’s what upmarket commercial fiction usually encompasses. To have both together, well, that’s the trick.

As an agent, I’d love more of that. I’d love to do a book with Grove Atlantic. I waited five years for a book like Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet. I’m willing to wait another five for a title like Broken, but I’m hoping I don’t have to.

Friday, June 05, 2009

What They Don’t Want

STATUS: I’m always an optimistic. It’s no longer morning (shoot, it’s almost dinner time) but I am going to blog today. TGIF!

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

Sometimes it’s just as interesting to find out what editors don’t want. I’ve perused my notes to come up with this little list to share with y’all.

1. Thrillers where the conclusion is obvious.
2. Police procedurals that try too hard to be multicultural rather than authentic.
3. Romance that is too soft and fuzzy with no real meat to the emotional story.
4. Romance set in the Regency ballroom. Let’s mix it up some.
5. No stories about women over 40 starting a new life. Seen this too many times. Even if well written, it’s going to be too hard to push.
6. In YA and MG, taking popular trends and trying to make the story deep and literary.
7. MG fantasy that is too average and with the regular story tropes.
8. Epic fantasy—unless something really unusual or phenomenal writing.
9. Chick litty YA with no substance.
10. A bad story poorly told

Just wanted to check that you were really reading…

And just to top it off, in film, dark stories with no happy ending are a tough, tough sell.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nick Hornby, Dan Brown, Gail Carriger!

STATUS: I’m actually going to take the day off tomorrow but I’ll slip in the blog entry for the early morn.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNBELIEVABLE by EMF

I just can’t stop laughing. Don’t get me wrong. I’m tickled to death. When am I ever going to see one of my authors included on a list like this again?

It’s Nick, Pat, Dan, Elizabeth---and Gail!

Congrats Ms. Carriger! I heartily agree with the Media on this one. (wink)


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Roger Bilheimer

MEDIA SELECTS ITS OWN “BUZZ” BOOKS AT BEA

More breakout books are picked in random survey

Norwalk, CT, June 3, 2009: Members of the media who regularly cover the book industry were asked by BEA convention officials this year to submit their favorite buzz book of the show. Lance Fensterman, Vice President and Show Manager for BEA, notes: “This is one of the most unscientific surveys that we could possibly initiate but it’s also one of the most interesting because anything goes. Most importantly, the survey calls attention to a couple books that may have been overlooked by others, and if this is the case, then I think this effort is well worth it! The people that we asked to participate know an enormous amount about books, they have been coming to the convention for years, and it’s their job to seek out sleepers and winners.”

The guidelines were simple: show officials asked the media for their personal pick of the most interesting book at the show. This could be measured by the book itself, its publishing history, what was been heard about the book at BEA (i.e. its “buzz” factor), or a simple assessment of the title based on reading jacket copy or meeting the author. There were some duplicate responses but officials are not “weighing” or “rating” the results. The final list of books represents the full range of titles submitted back to BEA on the last day of the show by the “movers and shakers” in the media whose job it is to cover the world of books.

AMERICAN ON PURPOSE by Craig Ferguson (HarperCollins)
CONNECTED: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (Little Brown)
JULIET NAKED by Nick Hornby (Riverhead)
SOULLESS by Gail Carriger (Orbit)
SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy (Doubleday)
SPOONER by Pete Dexter (Grand Central)
STITCHES by David Small (W.W. Norton)
THE LOST SYMBOL by Dan Brown (Doubleday)
THE SWAN THIEVES by Elizabeth Kostova (Little Brown)


ABOUT REED EXHIBITIONS: Reed Exhibitions is the world’s leading events organizer. In 2007 Reed brought together over six million industry professionals from around the world generating billions of dollars in business. Today Reed events are held in 38 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, and organized by 39 fully staffed offices.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sign Of The Times?

STATUS: Ah, only two meetings today. It’s such a nice break. I feel like I can actually tackle the 170 emails sitting in my inbox from yesterday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES by Elton John
(Ok, I ‘fess up. I put that song on so I could write this blog entry.)

I saw this deal post on Deal Lunch and burst out laughing. I just love it. I think Caitlin and I might be kindred spirits—even though I’ve never met her.

CHILDREN'S: MIDDLE GRADE
Sarah Prineas's THE CROW KING'S DAUGHTER, featuring faerie lore without the urban setting and without drugs, sex, and angst, to Toni Markiet at Harper Children's, in a good deal, in a three-book deal, by Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates (NA).

A faerie story. A real one! Not meant to be urban paranormal. Not meant to be a Twilight knock-off. It’s truly a sign of the times when an agent posts a deal for what a story is not. I’m so tickled, and I can well believe it went for 6-figures. I’d buy this book!

In other news, I had a great lunch with a children’s editor yesterday. She mentioned that she was seeing a lot of what she called Karaoke young adult novels. Mystified by the term, I asked her to explain. She said she was seeing a lot of submissions where teens passionately talk about their issues in dialogue but there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot per so. Lots of angst. Not much story.

Needless to say, this editor was not buying them. As for me, I couldn’t say I’d be snatching one up to represent.

Karaoke novels. Get it? Teen characters that sing their own angsty song—and I certainly wouldn’t call it singing the blues.

Now that term cracks me up too!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Because It Really Could Happen To You—Guest Blogger Sarah Rees Brennan

STATUS: Running out the door in about 30 minutes for all-day meetings. If I had been smart, I would have taken a day or two off right after BEA. Make note for next time….

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

As authors (and even as agents), we aren’t always up on the latest technology so let this be a reminder to always have a backup system in place—even for things you didn’t think needed backing up.

The sad part of this story is that the attack on Sarah Rees Brennan’s live journal and her email account was obviously a deliberate one. We can only assume it was meant to sabotage her release day as Sarah Rees has a large online following and there are a lot of great things tied into her internet presence for her release day.

The good news is that she foiled her saboteur. With the help of a lot of good friends, supporters, and fellow generous writers, Sarah is good to go today--her official release day for her debut YA—THE DEMON’S LEXICON.

Congrats Sarah!




It happened six days before my book came out.

I was in the shower, singing a country music song and blinking coconut-scented bubbles out of my eyes, when I heard my phone ring and scrambled out to answer the phone. It was my friend Bob. 'Hello, Bob,' I said in a perplexed way. 'Aren't you at work?''

Go to your computer,' he said. 'Don't freak out. I'm going to help you fix this.'

I went to my computer and saw that my blog had been deleted. I'd been writing my blog for seven years, since I was eighteen, and it had a lot of my life recorded in it: the parts dearest to me were the posts announcing my book deal, and all the posts I'd made about the terrifying, wonderful process of publication in the almost two years since then. They were all gone.

Then I tried to get into my email, and discovered that was where the hackers had got in: the thought of malicious strangers being able to go through all of my personal and some fairly crucial business emails had me shaking in my fluffy pink bath towel, but there was just no time to panic: I had to call about a hundred people, starting with my bank, proceeding onward to my website hosts and my friends, all the while being on the phone to report the computer abuse to both livejournal and google.

Thanks to the efforts of my more computer savvy friends, who were basically acting as my ninja team of technology, I got control of my blog and my email back in less than three hours. Unfortunately, that was plenty of time to delete every post I'd ever made on my blog, and every email I'd ever sent or received: emails from a long-distance boyfriend, my first email from my publisher, a million emails from my best friend in the diplomatic service. Not to mention all of my email contacts, which was scary given the whole six days to publication, and all the people I needed to be in contact with whose email addresses I had not memorized.

It still makes me feel a little ill to think of all that, lost. Then my tech ninjas said 'Sarah... this looks like deliberate malice rather than a regular hack' and I said sadly that given the timing, I had figured as much.

It was probably just someone who didn't like my style on my blog, and thought they'd take me down a peg. Holy violation of privacy, Batman! The internet is sometimes a scary place.

Since I was given that object lesson in It Can Happen To You, I collected up some very, very simple tips (I am not a tech ninja, so I can only understand the basics!) on how to safeguard yourself against hackers, and wish to share them with you guys. Especially since I know a lot of you are writers, and I don't want anyone trying to ruin your big day! So three tips, then.

1. Using your password on public or unsecured wifi is not safe, as it means you're broadcasting your login data: so if you're going on holiday or away on business and you're going to be using public or unsecured internet for some time, change your password before you go and when you come back.

2. Whenever you're given a link, hover your mouse over it and see where it leads before you go there: just going to a dodgy site can infect your computer, so always regard new sites with a little wariness.

3. And then there are passwords, and how we really do need them to be random, even though it's so much easier to remember your dog's or your boyfriend's name... Not that I'm suggesting those two things are on the same level. I really love my dog! Here's a great site with tips for creating better passwords.

And if despite your precautions - and I thought I'd taken precautions myself - it happens, well, it happens, and it's awful, but right after it happened to me my blog readers were collecting up all their saved entries from my blog, and helping me reconstruct it. Lots of people re-sent emails to me that they'd sent me years ago. And one blog reader provided me with some handy tips, much like the ones I'm giving out to you! The internet can be scary sometimes, but it can be great as well.

Even though that day last week was horrible, today is wonderful. My book is out - my very first book, on shelves, where people can read it!


And nobody can delete that.



A stack on the table at the Borders--Penn Station



Monday, June 01, 2009

Some BEA Observations

STATUS: I’ve got so many great notes to share with you folks. Just not enough time in the day to blog about it all. Thank goodness we have the rest of the week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LYIN’ EYES by The Eagles

I have to say that I’m very glad that I attended Book Expo this year. A lot of things are changing in the industry and it only makes sense that BEA is going to evolve, transform, change, or even disappear (although doubtful) in the years to follow.

I had heard that publishers were cutting back this year and now having seen it, I can tell you for certain that that is true.

Random House had a booth the size of a postage stamp.

Macmillan wasn’t even on the floor. They simply had meeting rooms in the basement—I mean the lower floor that held the conference rooms.

At past BEAs, aisles were so stuff with people, you had to do an interesting shuffle with a lot of “pardon me” to get through. This year, the open space was like walking down an uncrowded boulevard. I think the only time I felt packed in was when the new Balzer & Bray imprint had their champagne toast launch party in the HarperCollins booth. However, once all glasses were distributed, the bar magically disappeared. It was up for maybe 15 minutes total. The champagne bottles were not abundent.

At past BEAs, ARCs (otherwise known as Advanced Reading Copies) abounded. In fact, you couldn’t walk through a booth without tripping over one. This year? Scant would be the word I would use to sum it up. Unless there was an actual signing going on, very few galleys could be had. [Although I should have assigned my client Megan Crewe to be my stealth ARC gatherer as she totally scored with a copy of CATCHING FIRE (hot sequel to The Hunger Games) and a copy of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (which is getting some solid pre-buzz).] She managed to snag about 60 ARCs.

However, in general, I can’t complain about this year’s Book Expo. The show was very good to my authors as the pictures below will attest.

Photo 1: Hank Ryan draws crowds in the Harlequin booth for the release of her third book in the Charlie McNally series--AIR TIME.





Photo 2: Now this is good editor support. Notice how Devi Pillai dressed to match the poster colors. That's going above and beyond the call of duty! (Actually, Devi hadn't realized that she had done so until I pointed it out to her.)




Photo 3: Gail Carriger signs her copies of her debut fantasy SOULLESS. One of the few ARCs that were out and about every day for the taking, Gail had some really nice lines--especially considering she's so new to the scene. In fact, in a funny related story, three separate people at random times came up to me during the weekend to tell me about this really cool ARC they had snagged. Imagine my surprise that at three different times, the book they pulled out to show me was of SOULLESS. I had to then 'fess up that it was my book.


Photo 4: Nice signage for the third book in the Gallagher Girl series that is releasing next week!



Photo 5: Ally signs in the Brilliance Booth



Photo 6: Electronic Poster of THE SHIFTER in HarperCollins Booth for the Balzer & Bray Champagne toast for the launch list.