Friday, October 30, 2009

Publishers, You Want An Edge On the Competition?

STATUS: TGIF and blogging early as I actually want to leave the office before 7 pm tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY by Led Zeppelin

Then let me throw this idea out there before all of you jump on the 25% of net band wagon so as to be like every other publisher out there offering substandard e-royalties.

Three years ago when I had a hot project (as in I’m getting pre-empts, potentially going to auction, going to have my choice of publishers), if Random House was in the mix, I’d lean their way. Why? Because RH had decent royalties for eBooks (at 25% of retail—which I know doesn’t match ePublishers but for a NYC major, not bad). Obviously other factors were in consideration such as marketing plans, other royalty structures, escalator break points but I think you can see where I’m going here.

This was 3 years ago (maybe even longer) when eBook sales might have added up to 10 copies total in any given 6-month period (SF&F or major authors excluded).

I could see the change a-coming; it was just going to be a matter of time.

So RH, you used to have a strong leg-up—which this year you’ve taken away from yourself. I can’t help but think that’s short-sighted.

You want an edge on the competition? Well then, why are all you publishers racing to do the same short-sighted thing?

Tell you what. Come to me with strong trade paperback royalty escalators, solid e-royalties percentages with escalators, decent audio percentages (downloadable or otherwise), etc. and I’m open to talking about non-outrageous advances or dare I say it? No advance at all if we can truly do a shared equal risk on a no returns basis (a la Vanguard Press and Harper Studio).

Maybe I’m alone on this (but I doubt it), I’m totally open to discussing less on the front end for a larger share of the back end.

But what I hear from publishers is the same low advance spiel with no change on the back end. And you’re wondering why I’m not leaping out of my chair with joy. I often hear that agents are to blame for demanding crazy advances etc. but have publishers asked themselves lately what’s been offered in return? Given an alternative, agents could be persuaded to think outside the box. Not given any viable alternative, then we have to stick with business as usual in order to best represent our clients.

Two to tango, certainly, as I’m thinking that “business as usual” won’t suffice for either publishers or agents as the publishing model rapidly changes…


And since it’s Friday and sheesh did I get off on a rant there, a gratuitous Chutney-in-the-snow shot from this morning. She HATES wearing her fleece. Can you tell? She won’t even look at me. Grin.





No Imeem file available.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Contract A Go-Go

STATUS: It can stop snowing now…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’D RATHER BE WITH YOU by Joshua Radin

I first caught wind of the contract changes from Macmillan via Richard Curtis’s blog about the changes they want to try for in e-royalties.

Oh boy, here we go again. Great, a battle because a publisher wants to do LOWER than that 25% of net that publishers as of late have been trying to push as "standard." I long for the Random House days of 25% of retail...)

Then Publishers Lunch had a note about it, thank goodness.

Macmillan had sent a letter out to agents regarding the changes but for some reason, I, and just about every other agent I know (and folks that’s a lot), had not received this letter despite all of us having numerous clients with the Macmillan Group.

Small oversight I’m sure. When I emailed their contracts director, she mentioned that the letter was going out in waves to agents as their email list was long. Okay, fine. I’m a little annoyed but when I asked for the change letter and the sample of new contracts, it was sent immediately.

So now I’m in the process of reviewing. Macmillan had planned on implementing these new contracts on Nov. 9. Today I got an email that agents can respond until January 4, 2010. Good to know.

And first off I want to give Macmillan kudos for being totally upfront about the changes they want to do. Unlike, cough cough, Simon & Schuster last summer with their out of print clause and, cough, cough, Penguin Group with clause 9.ii.b. back in March.

So they are least being transparent but if the e-royalties are any indication of things they want changed, it looks like more contract battles ahead…

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Argument For The MidList

STATUS: Can you say snow in Denver? Oh my. Good thing the weather forecast is sunny and back in the 50s come this weekend.

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

As a follow up to yesterday’s entry, I want to remind editors that sometimes break-out books come unexpectedly from a midlist author.

Simone Elkeles is a terrific case in point.

Before PERFECT CHEMISTRY hit (close to 100,000 copies in print and over 1500 to 2500 books sold every week for months and months), Simone was certainly what somebody would have called a solidly midlist author.

She had published three previous novels before PERFECT CHEMISTRY. All of which had done respectably but certainly nothing like her current novel.

It’s the right book at the right time but when I was selling her two years ago, I had many an editor pass on her with the words “we don’t see this as a big enough book” or “I don’t think we can break this out in a big way.”

Hum…reminiscent of what I’m hearing now.

And yet, some midlist authors grow into big sellers. So just a gentle reminder even though I know all you editors already know this. I get that this isn’t always the strongest argument to sway the powers that be in the ed. board meetings.

But I feel like saying it all the same.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

“Just Don’t See How I Can Break This Out In A Big Way”

STATUS: Ready to turn in for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I GOTTA FEELIN by Black Eyed Peas

I have to say that lately, these are the most dreaded words an agent can hear from an editor.

As I mentioned last week, midlist authors are getting hit the hardest—especially when it comes to option proposals. This and debuts.

Lately, the most common editorial refrain seems to be the above. In fact, editors will even be wonderfully complimentary—really highlighting how much they liked the writing, the concept, the talent of the writer but… And the ‘but’ is the tough part.

If editors don’t see something as a big book, they are passing. Or my other recent favorite, if it doesn’t fit into a very narrowly prescribed genre of what has worked for them (oh let’s say something like dark YA angsty romance), then they are also passing.

Okay…. Hollywood does this too until the next big hit comes out of “nowhere” because it’s nothing like any movie currently out. I know it’s tough, editors, but I’d love a little vision.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some Titles Should Never See The Light Of Day

STATUS: Reading late tonight but I hope not to be burning the midnight oil.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? USE SOMEBODY by Kings of Leon

I have to say that tonight I can completely sympathize with all you writers out there who are struggling with a title for your work.

I find that in general, one of two things happens. Either you immediately know the title for your novel and it, in fact, happens often before you even begin writing or you can’t find a title to save your life.

For the last two weeks, a client and I have been brainstorming titles again. I know what you are thinking—not this again. But hey, it actually worked with Jamie Ford’s Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet (and I’ll be forever grateful that one discarded title idea, Burning Silk, never saw the light of day). Oops, should have kept that hidden under a rock…

For Private Arrangements, we actually have the Bantam team to thank for that one. Our original title was Schemes Of Love—which is not a bad title per se but Private Arrangements is definitely a stroke of genius. (Not my genius mind you….)

Once Upon Stilettos was a Marketing Director’s brilliant idea (I love creative people!). So there is hope for you if you end up selling your novel with its only so-so title.

Which is why when I read queries, I don’t rely too heavily on what a project is called. However, if it’s a rockin’ title, I’ll ask for sample pages even if the query letter isn’t as strong as it could be.

That’s one good reason for a strong brainstorming session before your submit. After all, the title Soulless was an instant winner in my book. Proof By Seduction immediately caught my attention by being clever and original.

Hands down, Ally Carter is the Queen of titles and let me tell you, all the genius is on her side. I’ve not been responsible for any of her wonderful titles.

Keep in mind that queries with good titles definitely stand out but nailing that title isn’t a deal breaker—especially when I’m going to spend the next hour playing with word combos for this manuscript we’ve been working on! Maybe I should put Ally on speed dial…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tis The Season Take Two

STATUS: I love working late! And if you believe that….

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOW FAR IS HEAVEN by Los Lonely Boys

I have to say that I really debated about whether to actually post yesterday’s entry. Blogs can be like email—easily read in two different ways depending on the reader’s perspective.

I was actually only trying to do two things with that entry.

1. Make an observation that for whatever reason, late fall is when we, as an agency, receive the most email queries from authors looking to make a change. It’s pretty much happened every year around this time for the last 5 years.

2. That a lot of these queries are coming from midlist authors, not coincidentally, at a time when midlist authors are getting hit harder now than they ever had in the last decade (by publishers not renewing options or by lowering advances offered or dropping a midlist author altogether etc.)

The only thing I wanted to point out (rather ineptly) is that changing agents isn’t always the answer to solve the issue of an author being hurt by current publishing economic decisions because of being midlist.

I’m certainly not passing any judgment on authors who have chosen to change representation. There are so many particulars that go into that decision and you don’t want your partnership with an agent to be like owning a bad stock--riding that loser all the way down to a zero value. Sometimes changing the agent is the only answer (as you need that new agent’s vision and enthusiasm to go to the next stage in your career).

But I do worry that authors are sometimes too quick to make the change—mainly because of how many queries we’ve received as of late. It’s a stunning amount.

Maybe I’m worried for nothing and all the queries we’ve received are from folks who’ve contemplated it for a long time and are just now making the change so as to start fresh for the new year. Statistically speaking though and given the current publishing climate, I’m not 100% convinced.

Another interesting thought I want to throw out there is this. I’ve heard lots of stories, certainly, of authors who have made a change and it was for the betterment of their career.

But less heard are the stories where an author has made the change and then regretted it. Maybe that just doesn’t happen all that often. Or maybe we don’t hear those stories because realizing that isn’t something that’s easy to share.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tis The Season?

STATUS: It’s cold and rainy in Denver. So blah after our gorgeous weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? STEAMROLLER by James Taylor

And I’m not talking about Halloween. For some reason, toward the end of the year, we always get an onslaught of queries from previously published authors who have left their agent (or are thinking of leaving their agent) and are looking for new representation.

I’m not kidding. We’ve literally gotten at least 10 of them in the last week. All of these queries have one thing in common, the author is dissatisfied with where he/she is in currently in the writing career.

And I actually probably know why. Most of these queries are coming from what I would call solidly midlist authors and let me tell you, the market is particularly tough on midlist authors right now.

1. Editors aren’t buying option material. Fact.
2. Editors are letting go some long-time midlist authors. Fact.
2. Sales are down significantly from this time last year. Fact.
3. Editors want to see at really amazing proposal to buy a new book from an author with slumping sales. Fact.

But is it fact that the author’s agent might be to blame? That’s the question. And maybe the agent is,I really don’t know (as it depends on individual particulars), but I do sometimes think that authors buy into the idea that something NEEDS to change so maybe the easiest thing to do is change agents.

All I want to say is that this might not be the right answer as it seems to be the season for these types of queries and it happens around the same time each year…

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nuts & Bolts: Royalty Statements: Lack Of Detail

STATUS: Interestingly enough, I’ve got more film interest for one of my clients. This will be the fourth of fifth deal we’ve done in this year alone. Go film!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOLDING BACK THE YEARS by Simply Red

Just this month I received a royalty statement that only had the following info on it:

Total copies in print
Copies printed during period
Copies shipped during period
Total copies paid during the reporting period [note: because royalties are based on net—not retail price—which is sometimes true for smaller independent houses)
Total copies returned during the reporting period
Net amount earned during period.

That’s it. That’s all that is on the statement.

So right off, we have some legwork we are going to have to do in order to review this statement. Lots of info missing.

Not to mention, I’m going to have to create a whole separate excel spreadsheet so I can track earn-out. On this royalty statement, the advance paid isn’t listed. So it’s going to be up to the agency to track it so we know when the title has earned out because that info isn’t on the statement.

Also a problem? All sales are lumped together in “total copies paid during the reporting period.” That means there is no break-down of format (as in hardcover, trade paperback, electronic). We didn’t grant translation, audio, or other rights so that won’t be an issue (as we’ll sell separately) but I want to know how many of those sales are eBooks. This statement won’t remotely tell me that. And let’s not even get started about high discount, special sales, export, etc.

Do you see what else is missing? No mention of reserves held. Now maybe this publisher isn’t holding any but I won’t know that unless I ask. Some publishers do hold a reserve but don’t list that info on the statement. If that’s the case, we’ll have to make a note to always ask separately.

And the list goes on. For me, less is not more.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nuts & Bolts: Royalty Statements: Sales By Accounts

STATUS: Mondays are usual frantic but today was quiet. I’ll take it. I’ve got two submissions that need to go out by Friday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE CHAIN by Fleetwood Mac

I began with Random House’s statement because it has a lot of detail, but even RH doesn’t have sales by accounts on their statements.

So what is that? It’s the breakdown of sales for your book via the different accounts such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, Indies, book fairs (such as Scholastic) etc.

And the answer is no, royalty statements do not contain that information. However, I’ve certainly requested that information when tracking sales for a certain titles. Editors have also volunteered giving that information when a title is doing particular well and we want to chart where the majority of the sales are coming from. Or, equally important, getting on an account who hasn’t bought in for a title—especially when that book is doing well and it’s in their best interest to carry the title.

As hard as it is to believe (especially looking back now), it took Hyperion more than a year to get Borders to seriously buy-in Ally Carter’s YA novel I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You. I know, in retrospect, seems pretty short-sighted of them to take so long. But Borders only had so much room for new YA titles and so Hyperion had to hound them about how good the sales numbers were to make them pay attention to this debut title.

Obviously now they are staunch supporters of the Gallagher Girls series but the break-down showed us what we needed to do.

We actually also use the breakdowns to see which Independent bookstores are really supporting the series and guess where Ally went on her book tour? A very good use of the breakdowns I’d say.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: The day has just begun but I’m hoping to really finish my entire To Do list before I leave tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I WANT YOU by Marvin Gaye

This is such a classic from the New Yorker on the marketing plan. It begins with an introduction from the unpaid intern who has replaced the promotion department at XYZ books.

Need I go on from here? Oh but I must! My favorite line is this one (coffee alert!):

“Once we get back from Frankfurt, we’d like to see you on morning talk shows like the “Today” show and “The View,” so please get yourself booked on them and keep us “in the loop.” If I’m not here—which I won’t be, since after the book fair I go on vacation for two weeks—just tell Jenni, my assistant, when she gets back from jury duty.”

Grin. All in good fun, certainly, but every day I’m happy for having our marketing director.

Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nuts & Bolts: Royalty Statements: Reconciliation To Print

STATUS: Although I’m not in Frankfurt, I spent a lot of today dealing with stuff from Frankfurt Book Fair. We’ve done 40-plus foreign rights deals so far this year. Bring it on! Sara, however, is hugely sad. She loved this project, offered representation but alas, the author had 7 different offers of representation but didn’t choose us. Unhappy face.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FUGITIVE by David Gray

Ready to get back into the tutorial? Okay, I promised rec to print. First off, what does that mean?

A reconciliation to print is this and seems simple enough to give you the clause that we insist on having in all our contracts so you can see what it is in detail:

Reconciliation to Print clause: Upon Author's written request, Publisher shall provide to Author the following information as to any particular six month accounting period: (i) the number of copies printed and bound in each printing of each edition; (ii)the date of completion of reprinting and binding of each edition; (iii)the number of free copies distributed; (iv) the number of copies remaindered, destroyed or lost; and (v) the cumulative total sales and disposals; (vi) reserves against returns; and (vii) licensing income, including licensee's accounting statements.

I will tell you right now that if you don’t have this information, looking at your royalty statement is meaningless.

Why? Because there is no measure in place to compare the info on the statement to what actually happened with the book.

Without the rec to print, your statement tells you nothing. As you can see, I’m not in the camp of less is more and giving more info just confuses authors and agents and wastes everyone’s time by useless questions.

In fact, because Random house gives this info as a matter of course, it takes the least of amount of time for me to review and assess RH statements.

Do I still find errors. Certainly. But then it’s easy to call the royalty department and say, “look, you have an error here.”

And they always reply with “you’re right. Let us correct that and get the corrected statement out to you immediately.” (And just so you don't think this is an RH love fest, other houses have done similar but I've had to ask for the rec to print; however, if an error was found, they've corrected it.)

Analyzing your rec to print with your royalty statement allows you to assess whether an audit is necessary. Given that so many of the big NYC houses are putting limits on look-back for audit (2 years is unfortunately becoming a sort of “standard”), it’s more important than ever to analyze statements and see what action, if any, is necessary.

And I know most of you are thinking that the big NYC houses would never intentionally hurt an author. Call me cynical but if you believe that, then you haven’t been keeping track of the major lawsuits against publishing houses in the last 10 years. Lawsuits that have been won by the way. Now to be clear, that’s not the norm, but it has happened.

So reviewing and analyzing your royalty statements is hugely important. I’ll also tell you right now that not all agents are created equal in this matter. Some agents just look at the statement and lay back and think of England. Others have whole departments devoted to the care and analysis of statements.

Nelson Literary Agency? We hire an outside gun who has been doing reviews, audits, and lawsuits on royalty statements for 25 years.

And let me tell you, together, we have found plenty of errors that needed correcting—always in the author’s favor.

So, that’s the rec to print.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We Interrupt This Royalty Statement Tutorial

STATUS: It was a great day I have to say.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WOMAN by John Lennon

To bring you a special squee moment!

Wait, I’m a professional.

I interrupt this royalty statement tutorial to give our client Jamie Ford huge congratulations for hitting the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list coming in at #15 for Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet (and after only being on sale for five days).

Yes, that’s more like it!



That makes it NLA’s third NYT bestseller for this year.

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nuts & Bolts: Royalty Statements: A Look At Random House

STATUS: Statements and more statements.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? POOR UNFORTUNATE SOULS by Little Mermaid soundtrack.

When talking about royalty statement, first off you need to know that not all statements from different houses are created equal.

Today I’m going to begin by talking about the Random House Statements. They are my favorite. The statements are at least four pages long (sometimes longer depending on formats sold) and always contain all the information I need to evaluate if the statement is accurate.

Now this is not to suggest that every other publishing house has terrible statements. That’s not true. They just sometimes don’t contain all the info needed and then we have to request the extra info we need. All the houses, in general, are great at giving you the reconciliation to print info on request—but you have to request it. With RH, it’s all there.

Love that. (Tomorrow I’ll explain reconciliation to print, what it means, and why it’s important to have it when evaluating the accuracy of royalty statements.)

But for now, back to the Random House statement.

Page 1:
For RH, this is the royalty summary sheet and also highlights the ending royalty period. Then the page looks something like this (depending on what rights were sold to the publisher and how many formats have been exploited—by format I mean hardcover, paperback, audio etc.)

There would be four columns for the formats listed:
Current Copies, Current Earnings, Cumulative Copies, Cumulative Earnings

Hardcover
Trade paperback
Mass market
Audio
Electronic book

Then of course the above columns would be filled with numbers. The rest of the remaining sheets in the statement are to show detail for this summary sheet so you can see sales broken down by the individual ISBN numbers for the various formats.

So the next page or pages will have six columns:
Market, Royalty Rate or external market, royalty per Unit or net receipts, current copies, cumulative copies, cumulative earnings.

Then of course all these columns would be filled it with numbers.

But the next page is my favorite at RH—the Print Summary (this is all the reconciliation to print info that’s so necessary to review statements). Three columns for all this info.

Description, Current Copies, Cumulative Copies

Shipments
Returns
Reserves released
Reserves held
No Charge

Total reportable sales

Printings
Returns to stock
Scrapped from stock
Adjustments
Internal Summarization
Inventory

Total Shipments

Then we have the Sales Summary by Market with four columns:

Market, Gross Copies, Return copies, Net copies
US
Canada
Export
Spcl disct
No Charge
Total

Then we have Rate of Movement by Month with three columns

Month, Shipments, Returns
Oct
Nov
Dec
Jan

As agents, we stay on top of print runs done, how many copies in print, what is Bookscan reporting. Does the info we have match up to what the statement is telling us? If not, we are going to have a lot of questions.

In order to grab the columns, I was looking at a statement where only North American rights were sold to the publisher. (In other words, translation was not given to the publisher and the agency kept them to sell separately.) If the publisher has World rights, then that detail will also show on the royalty statement.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. More tomorrow!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Hard At Work On The Holiday

STATUS: My office is three blocks from Coors Field. Really, what did you expect?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME by Harry Carry (Not really but I couldn't resist.)

Here I am. Hard at work on a late Monday afternoon. Not that it did a lick of good. Curse those Phillies! Grin.



Friday, October 09, 2009

Three Articles Worth Sharing

STATUS: TGIF—even if it’s cold in Denver.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BARE NECESSITIES by Phil Harris

Sorry to interrupt our fun with royalty statements (and don’t worry, I’ll resume on Monday) but I saw these three articles and they definitely are worth sharing.

First article is a follow up to the one on Tuesday about FTC fining of blog reviewers for nondisclosure. Richard Cleland highlights that the FTC doesn’t have the authority to level fines, and he says, “the blogger or endorser would not be fined, but the advertiser would.”

Second is a blog entry on the HuffPo site from Steve Ross (Former President, Collins Division at HarperCollins and Sr. VP, Crown Division at Random House) asking why we can’t all just get along and responds to two recent blog postings by Chip O'Brien and Mark Coker with the following:

“Both blogs are, to this reader, rife with fallacious thinking, faulty reasoning, and/or tunneled perspectives that ignore the complex realities that publishers face during this turning point for the industry. But at a time when it is in the best interests of everyone who loves books to help the major houses endure, they're being scapegoated, demonized and ridiculed for trying to survive with the crippling business model they've been handicapped with for decades.”

Last but not least, FrogDog Media does a children’s iStorytime ap for the iPhone—just in case you want your 3-year old to read instead of playing a video game on your iPhone. Kinda cool. And they are doing all picture books by new writers.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nuts & Bolts: Royalty Statements: Accounting Periods

STATUS: Cross-eyed from reviewing statements all day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OUT OF AFRICA by John Barry

So I have to admit that it’s been a while since I did some nuts and bolts type blog entries. Personally, I find them a little tedious as I LIVE the nuts and bolts of publishing every day. But I don’t want to forget that a good majority of my blog readers have not been published yet and may actually be endlessly fascinated by some nuts and bolts blog entries.

Either that or I’ll bore y’all to tears. Both are equally possible.

Since I’ve been yammering away about royalty statements all week, let’s dig in to this topic. I’ll have to start off a little light because it’s just now occurring to me that this might make a couple of interesting posts and I’m typing this from home (rather than from work where I would actually be looking at a royalty statement).

Obviously I can’t share specifics about any given statement (as that is client confidential) but I can certainly tell you about what is generally on royalty statements (or is missing) and what information agents end up digging for.

So flex your fingers and kick off your shoes; we are diving back into some Agenting 101 entries that I’ll need to bookmark on the sidebar.

Because it’s a little late in the day (and I really need to finish up a client manuscript read), let’s start with something simple.

The accounting period.

This is a lovely and archaic system that publishing houses have in place despite all our digital technology. I imagine that at one time, this sort of accounting period made sense. In today’s world, it’s a relic and I wish it was like a dinosaur and would become extinct.

The traditional NYC Publishing houses do reporting in 6-month increments. For ease of explaining, imagine a royalty period that begins January 1, 2009 and ends on June 30, 2009.

Six months.

Then the publishing houses, and this cracks me up, get four months (oh you read that right—4 months) to generate and mail that royalty statement (with a check if monies are owed). Why four months is necessary in this day and age is rather a mystery. Or maybe not a mystery. Publishing houses want to hold on to your money for as long as possible. (As an aside, I love Holt Uncensored and Pat Holt’s idea of revolutionizing the royalty system by making online royalty accounting available for authors). Brilliant—but then there would be no reason for taking four months to mail you the statements.

But I digress. So if you have a royalty accounting period that ends on June 30, 2009, the author is going to have a royalty reporting period of April/October (October for the June-ending statement and April for the December-ending statement).

All information on the statement will be for sales (in all formats) from that six-month period. So when you get the statement, you're already months behind in knowing current numbers.

Got that?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Agent Crystal Ball Myth

STATUS: Reviewing royalty statements—of course.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I LOVE ROCK AND ROLL by Joan Jett

Agents really don’t have a crystal ball to anticipate the market. For example, 2 years ago when Gail came to me with her manuscript SOULLESS, I wasn’t sitting at my desk thinking, “wow, if Jane Austen were to write a Victorian Steampunk fantasy, this vampire/werewolf comedy of manners called SOULLESS would definitely be it and yessiree, this type of parody is the wave of the future.” Heck no. I just sat at my desk thinking, “wow, this is cool and I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Little did I know two years ago that in 2009, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies would hit a cultural nerve and climb the New York Times bestseller list and something like SOULLESS would be hitting the market at exactly the right time. Now I look like a genius who anticipated potentially the next “hot” trend. Uh…. yeah, that’s it.

SOULLESS is powerhousing out of the gate with thousands of copies sold in its first two weeks on sale. It’s number #21 on Bookscan’s fantasy bestseller list (and may have the potential to climb some—although it’s going to be dang hard to knock Charlaine Harris out of the top 10 slots with her Sookie Stackhouse/HBO’s True Blood series.)

It looks like I’ve had incredible foresight but the truth is that I didn’t know this was going to happen. Any agent that tells you differently is feeding you a load of you know what.

Now we can surmise, guess, analyze what is hot and what is still selling and make some assumptions about what might trend in the future.

But none of us actually know. Which is a good reason to never ask the question at a writers’ conference!

Congrats Gail on a stunning debut!




Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Blog Reviewer? Disclose Or Face Fines. Seriously.

STATUS: My favorite—reviewing 50 pages of legalese in a film option contract. Not. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’M GONNA BE (500 MILES) by The Proclaimers

Oh this is rich. This just in from Wired. The FTC is now telling Amateur Bloggers to disclose that they’ve gotten free review copies or ARCs or face fines.

FTC wants tweet disclosures as well.

What a happy can of worms to open. Can you say hard to enforce?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Tectonic Shift

STATUS: Halloween is going to be here before we know it. I’m not sure I’m ready for it to be the holiday season soon.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNDER PRESSURE by Queen (with David Bowie)

Or to quote Malcolm Gladwell, we may have reached the tipping point. As I mentioned earlier this week, October is a big royalty statement month here at the agency. All the publishing houses have different royalty reporting periods but the good majority of statements come in February/August, and April/October. In the last week, we’ve received a ton of statements.

And it’s always a happy time because with statements comes money.

But that’s beside the point. What I wanted to highlight tonight was that I’m reading a ton of statements from different houses, different authors, and different genres.

I’m noticing one big change. The amount of eBooks being sold in any given accounting period has risen dramatically.

I’ve been watching this for years. Four years ago, any author that sold more than 50 books in the electronic form (in one accounting period) was blowing it away and mostly I’d only see high numbers from our SF&F authors.

Now I’m looking at titles selling 500 to 1000 copies (and certainly sometimes more) in electronic form regardless of the genre. Even this time last year the numbers were not running nearly this high.

The tectonic shift is happening and it’s all clearly spelled out on paper—although one has to wonder how long those paper statements will last…

Friday, October 02, 2009

Friday Funnies

STATUS: I let the mail pile up all week so I’m finally going through all stuff that didn’t need immediate attention.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CAUGHT UP IN THE RAPTURE by Anita Baker

I was on my laptop last night and found this picture that Simone Elkeles sent me. I just laughed and laughed. Only in New York!

She snapped this shot from the back of a cab where she was riding to the marketing meeting we were having with the Walker team for PERFECT CHEMISTRY.

I definitely think pink is his color. TGIF! I’m out.




Thursday, October 01, 2009

How An Agent Earns Money From A Conference

STATUS: October is a big royalty month for us so a lot of statements and a lot of money coming in.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I CONFESS by The English Beat

So my blog entry on Tuesday totally got me thinking. Agents can make money from conferences and here’s a terrific example.

I have a debut middle grade novel coming out this week (October 6) and this novel totally made me money from a conference.

How?

I actually met Janice Hardy at the Surrey International Writers Conference two years ago. She had scheduled a pitch appointment with me. She sat down for a 10 minute session and pitched me the project.

I was immediately intrigued and asked for sample pages. I emailed my associate Sara Megibow and told her to be on the lookout for it. The sample pages came in. I read and liked them so asked for the full.

Then I signed her. We did a revision (because the ending needed work). When ready, we went out on submission to editors.

I accepted a six-figure pre-empt for the Healing Wars trilogy.

I’d say that’s making money! It’s a project I may not have landed if I hadn’t attended the conference so technically, this is money I made from a conference. Grin. Just not in the way that writers mistakenly assume.

I actually can’t remember if Surrey charges an extra fee for the pitch appointments or whether that’s part of the general conference price. Either way, agents don’t receive that money; the conference does.

Happy Release Week for THE SHIFTER Janice!