Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A First

STATUS: I spent 3 hours on one conference call this morning. Means the rest of my day should have gone uphill, right?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CRAZY by Gnarls Barkley

This may be a sign that we have officially turned some kind of corner in publishing.

I just literally got an email from my author Kristina Riggle who is out doing bookstore appearances for her second novel THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED.

So she’s at her signing when a twenty-year-old gal approaches her to say that her mother is a huge fan of Kristina’s novels and would Kris sign her mom’s Nook.

How could any author resist? Now I’m sure Kris is not the first author to ever sign an electronic device but I do think it’s a first for an NLA author!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Power Of Story—In Any Medium

STATUS: I have a lot on my plate today. If I don’t blog now, it won’t happen.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LITTLE GREEN APPLES by O.C. Smith

Since my father passed away in January, I’ve long wanted to write this blog entry but didn’t feel up to it. I’m going to give it try today.

My love of reading definitely came from my parents—both avid readers. But my father was passionate about books. He was the one who took me and my older brother and sister to the library every Sunday (almost without fail).

In fact, it was my Dad who created my love of science fiction and fantasy. His SFF books littered our house and pretty much covered every shelf.

Our first conversation about “appropriate reading for ten year olds” happened over an SF book actually (Slave Girl of Gor anyone?) It was the only time he ever censored reading and gave up after 6 months when my brother and I ferreted them all out anyway and read them. Just thinking about that memory after all these years makes me laugh.

The hardest thing was getting Dad to read contemporary SF&F. Man, pulling teeth to get him to try a new author. The trick was not to suggest but to just give him the books. Years ago, I did that for Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series, I never got my books back. I was in grad school at the time (when every dollar counts) and I had to go out and re-buy the books for my own shelves. I didn’t let him live that down for years. Last year, I gave him Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR and he was hooked. Another personal triumphant!

And yes, I’m going somewhere with all this. Well, my father had cancer that had migrated to the brain. He was blind for the last six months of his life. I knew he wouldn’t survive without story so I talked him into listening to audio books—a medium he had never tried before. I even got him to try a new author.

When my father was rushed to the hospital right after Christmas (literally, the day after), he had only one request for me, bring him his green iPod shuffle with his latest story.

The man was dying but darn if he was going to go without getting to the end of his audio book—which, by the way, was Brent Weeks’ THE WAY OF SHADOWS.

His last days were at home surrounded by his family and all his books (literally we had the hospice bed set up in the living room). Sadly, he didn’t get a chance to finish the story but not from lack of trying.

And that, folks, is the power of story in any medium.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

One More Question To Ask During The Agent Interview

STATUS: Totally on a 70s kick!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WE DON’T TALK ANYMORE by Cliff Richard

I get that a good majority of you might be thinking “could I just get to that place where I’m asking agents questions because they want to rep me” but in the event that you do, I think there is one more question you should add to your list:

Do you enjoy agenting and do you see yourself being an agent for the long-term?

Now, of course, an agent can always agree in an enthusiastic affirmative and still leave 6 months or a year later but I imagine authors don’t often ask this question. The answer could be interesting or telling. (Or it might not.)

I bring it up because I recently read about an agent leaving the agenting biz to take an in-house publishing job.

Big deal, right? Well, not really but we here at NLA were kind of bummed because this agent-no-longer had landed a client or two that we had been vying for when the author was on submission to agents.

This doesn’t mean that they would necessarily have gone with us at the time if the author had asked that question.

Still, probably worth adding to your list.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wake Up Call

STATUS: Getting this day off to a good start.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BLUE MOON by Elvis Presley

While at RWA in Orlando, I sat on a PRO panel for published authors with Steve Axelrod and Karen Solem. One of the questions asked of the panel was what we thought about Andrew Wylie’s announcement of doing eBooks through his own publishing arm called Odyssey and the Mexican stand-off that subsequently ensued with Random House over it.

For the record, I don’t know Mr. Wylie personally and any viewpoint expressed here is simply my opinion.

My answer at the panel was that I thought it was a strategic wake-up call on his part. He was firing a shot across the bow so to speak to send a very clear message that for well-established legacy authors still in print (for books sold long before eBooks were even conceived), he wasn’t going to 1) settle for the industry’s current low watermark royalty of 25% of net for the electronic versions of those legacy titles and 2) That unless explicitly granted in the contract, the rights belonged to the authors to exercise them as they deemed fit.

This, of course, was in direct opposition to Random House’s viewpoint that they had de facto electronic rights for titles still in print with them. (Hence the stand-off with RH proclaiming that they would no longer do business with Wylie agency.)

Well, I personally didn’t think that this tiff would last too long. The Wylie agency has been around for 25+ years and has too many distinguished authors on its list for RH to ignore forever. They were going to have to come to an agreement and sure enough, that was announced late yesterday.

What does it mean?

It means that who controls electronic rights for titles negotiated pre-computer/electronic age is still in question. That publishers, authors, and agents have very different viewpoints regarding it. Disagreements will happen (and some will play out in court). Further discussions and agreements are possible. But in my mind, only when push comes to shove.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taking Some Time Off

STATUS: For the last three days, it’s literally been Dorchester 24/7.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CAT’S IN THE CRADLE by Harry Chapin

I have to ‘fess up. Yesterday, we here at NLA skipped out early to take in a Rockies game at Coors field last night.

So here’s the gang doing anything but reading submissions. Don’t worry, we got back on the ball today.

From left: Anita's friend Alex, Anita, Me, Sara

How cotton candy is meant to be enjoyed!

The Megibow fam!

From left: My hubby, Sara's hubby, and their son clearly demonstrates the other way to enjoy the game!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don’t Have To Tell You What This Portends

STATUS: TGIF! I need it.

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

Starting at 8 p.m. last night, rumors hit Twitterville that Leah Hultenschmidt (Editorial Director) and Don D’Auria (long-time editor) were let go from Dorchester at the close of yesterday’s business day.

For those of you who don’t know, Dorchester has always had a lean editorial staff. With the Departure of Alicia Condon several months ago and the news from yesterday, well, the editorial staff now consists of one person—Chris Kesslar.

This morning the rumor was confirmed by an email from Leah so I feel quite confident in posting this info. Not to mention last week Dorchester let go their digital director and yet they announced a digital initiative. Eyebrow raise.

I’m assuming I don’t need to tell you what this all signifies…

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guaranteed To Give You A No

STATUS: It’s Thursday already?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ARTHUR'S THEME by Christopher Cross

About three weeks ago, the agency started receiving a series of calls from a local gentleman writer. Anita, being the lovely and generous person that she is, answered, gave information and lots of resources to help out the caller.

Evidently that wasn’t enough because this person proceeded to call us several times a week insisting that he had to talk to me. The first couple of calls Anita answered and calmly explained why she doesn’t forward inquiry calls to me and offered help in general terms. When he became belligerent with her, she stopped answering the phone when caller ID clearly showed who it was.

Then we received lots of voicemail messages. It definitely got my attention but not in any way that’s going to help this person’s writing career.

Then he decided to visit the agency in person.

Folks, let me just say that if you come to the office and try and browbeat my assistant, you will be dealing directly with me and you won’t like it. Even though I posit myself as a nice Midwesterner, you will see the Big B—up close and personal. No one treats my assistant that way.

And I’m sure this goes without saying but at that moment, there was no way this person could have pitched his book that would have induced me to look at it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When It’s Not Really An Answer

STATUS: I’m obviously not blogging in the morning…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BREAKEVEN by The Script

This is strange enough to blog about because it’s happen three times in the last 10 days.

Toughest part is that I know that most writers are going to say that this is not really an answer. And I’m going to have to agree.

So what am I talking about? I’ve read three sample pages recently that were well-written, had good story concepts, and the authors definitely understood craft. But (and isn’t there always a but?) I didn’t ask for a full because I honestly didn’t like the characters in the story enough to spend a whole novel with them.

And yes, I completely get that there is a world of literature out there with unsympathetic characters. In fact, that could be considered a literary tradition.

Yet, it’s too simple to say I’m passing on asking for a full SOLELY for that reason. I have read fiction where the main narrators weren’t wholly sympathetic and yet I found myself totally intrigued by the nuance of those characters and the stories to read the entire novel. My book club’s pick for last month, Lev Grossman’s THE MAGICIANS, comes to mind. I really enjoyed that one.

So there is a balance—that fine line between tough characters and a story that remains gripping despite that.

For a couple of these sample pages, that wasn’t the case—at least for me.

And I know that’s not really an answer but it was the only one I could honestly give.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Publishers Behaving Badly--Again

STATUS: Okay, if I don’t blog in the morning, it looks like it’s not happening so more early morning blogging to come.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HER FIRST MISTAKE by Lyle Lovett

Several agent friends have confirmed that Macmillan sent a letter over the weekend asking authors to sign amendments that gave them electronic rights to backlist titles.

Oh Shades of Random House hegemony!

By the way, these letters went out to authors—not to the agents or agencies who represent them.

Tsk, tsk. I wag my finger at you Macmillan.

If you are an author and you received this letter, do not sign or return it without consulting with your agent or attorney first. If you haven’t got either, then pick up the phone and call the Authors Guild. I know the lawyers over there and they’d be happy to take a look at this amendment that has been sent out (if they haven’t seen it already).

Whatever you do, make sure you have a complete understanding of your rights and what you’d be granting if you signed the amendment and what other options exist if you don’t.

This has been a public service message from Agent Kristin… *grin*

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Funnies!

STATUS: I took a rather inadvertent blog holiday this week. August is supposed to be the “slow” time in publishing. This week definitely did not reflect that!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DRIVER’S SEAT by Sniff ‘N’ The Tears

And what better way to end a week of non-blogging then to present the latest literary icon mash up?

It's a truth universally acknowledged...

Jane Austen Fight Club anyone? Enjoy!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Dorchester Goes Digital (Part II)

STATUS: I think my head might be spinning with all the stuff that cropped up today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE GUYS THAT SAYS GOODBYE TO YOU IS OUT OF HIS MIND by Griffin House

Today there is more on Dorchester’s move to all-digital in the Wall Street Journal.

Is this revolutionary and far-thinking? A move that many a small independent publisher will follow?

Well, it would be nice to think so.

Except I have one rather large problem with it. Via our evaluation of recent Dorchester royalty statements, this publisher has been having difficulty reporting monies owed to the author for electronic book sales—even when a quick search of the major eBook retail sites show that the books are clearly available in eFormat and have been available for several accounting periods.

When pushed regarding this issue, I’ve been given a couple of different responses—none of which have actually resolved the problem.

Yet. (Let’s hope.)

So if Dorchester plans to go all-digital, I’m worried for very practical reasons.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Dorchester Ceases MM Publication

STATUS: Today we made a debut author’s dream come true as we sold her first novel. Man, that’s the best feeling in the world.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DREAM CAFÉ by Greg Brown

What news to start my Friday. I’m not here 10 minutes when an agent friend sends me the news that Dorchester is ceasing mass market publishing and switching to electronic. It’s a testament to how linked in we are as the news didn’t officially hit until 2 hours later via PW’s daily news email blast.

I’m just shaking my head. We agents have known for the last year (at least) just how precarious Dorchester’s financial position has been but I must say I was not expecting this announcement.

We ceased submitting to them awhile ago. As an agency, we have three former Dorchester clients (that have moved on to other publishing houses) so for us, only our clients’ backlist titles will be impacted. I really feel for any author who might have signed a deal with them recently as this is not what they signed up for.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Promo Going Gangbusters

STATUS: Pretty much this week has been taken up by a big auction unfolding. Hasn’t left much time for anything else.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TRIOLA by Tropfstein

Today’s topic is about cool promo and how it came about.

Since it has gone viral, you might have already seen this wildly popular video by the critically acclaimed web series The Guild. (They rose to fame last year with Do You Wanna Date My Avator). This year is no different as their fun music video has just knocked Katy Perry out of the top spot on iTunes. Check out the article.

So, first you need to watch the video.

Notice the book she’s reading? If you didn’t, go back and play the video from the start. Yep, that would be an NLA author’s book in that opening scene. It’s BEWITCHED AND BETRAYED--the latest release in Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares series. As many of you probably already know from reading my blog, Felicia has been a long time Lisa fan. So when Felicia knew she’d be reading a book to start the music video, she immediately thought of Lisa and her books.

Well, how cool is that?

But just so you know, even something as fabulous as The Guild can’t just grab a book and use the image without permission in a professional video like this. They knew that too so they came to us right before filming. It was a bit of a mad scramble on short notice, but we were able to get the permission in place within 24 hours (so thank you Ace/Penguin for stepping up to the plate and getting it done!).

Because you can’t buy this type of promotion that gets this kind of internet play and it all begins with an author cultivating and being responsive to the fan base.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

RWA—Orlando, Florida (Day 2 After)

STATUS: Hum… I thought August was the slow month for publishing. Couldn’t tell by all the action we are seeing this week at the agency.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WILDFIRE by Michael Martin Murphey
(Holy cow does this song bring back memories from the 70s! If you can handle the sap, click on the title. *grin*)

Today I promised you my notes from the tidbits and insights gleaned from editors at RWA.

Here’s the consensus:

1. Although editors and agents are a little tired of seeing paranormal proposals, demand from readers remain unabated. So, if you’ve got a great novel with a fresh take on it, well, bring it on I guess.

2. The latest catch word from editors is “heartfelt.” Seems like regardless of whether it is contemporary, historical, paranormal, women’s fiction, editors want that heartfelt emotion. What that really means—you’re guess is as good as mine. I don’t tend to lean toward the small-town Debbie Macomber-like sweetness and light in the romances and women’s fic so if it means that, probably not right for me. I gravitate more toward emotional complexity, sexy, and a little edge.

Probably it’s a term that’s just as nebulous as editors want fresh stories with a great voice. Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read some up-and-coming new romance authors such as Sarah MacLean.

3. Whispers of Westerns and Medievals. Haven’t heard that in a long, long time! Two different editors mentioned they had bought new authors they just loved—even though they are in this tough category. Bring that on!

3. Huge uptick in eSales for romance. Stats are running close to 20% of 100% of the sales pie. That’s a big increase in a short period of time. No surprise though. Romance readers tend to be early adaptors simply because they read so much.

Monday, August 02, 2010

RWA—Orlando, Florida (Day After)

STATUS: Well, you can see how well blogging went during the conference!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LONELY NO MORE by Rob Thomas

I took a ton of notes so I could share with all of you during the conference. I had one hour on Friday to do it but ended up getting sucked into answering emails during that time frame. I know! Blog readers should come first.

So I’ll have lots to share tomorrow but today I want to say a HUGE congrats to Sherry Thomas and Simone Elkeles for winning two RITAs at Saturday night’s awards ceremony. Even with six RITA nominations, a win is always tough. We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Here is Sara Megibow and I with NLA's RITA winners.