Monday, October 31, 2011

Scarier Than Halloween

STATUS: The last 70 degree day. Okay, I'll admit it. I popped out early to play a round of really bad golf. The weather was beautiful. The company sparkling. Kristin shanked every shot into trees. Ah yes, I'm THAT horrible beginner on the golf course that you never ever want to play behind of.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THRILLER by Michael Jackson (I mean, duh, what else could possibly be playing on the iPod tonight.)

What's scarier than Halloween? Writers signing publishing contracts not fully understanding what they are signing.

I figured I'd devote this entry to scary clauses in contracts that actual writers have signed.

1. The option clause into perpetuity.

Such a monster! I've seen this in too many small publishing house contracts to count. Any decent option clause will allow the publisher a look at the next project (usually narrowed down to specific type and genre) and that's it. Unsuspecting writers have signed contracts where they literally have to show a publisher every work they do--even if the publisher doesn't want it. The clause obligates them to then show their next project, and then the next project and so on.

I think any writer can get out of this (and the court will rule in the author's favor) but probably not without some substantial cost and a good lawyer.

2. Low royalties based on net.

Don't get me wrong, having royalties based on net isn't necessarily egregious. It is when the publisher tries to pass off royalties based on net to be equivalent to royalties based on retail price. In other words, they offer they same as "standard" such as 10% to 5000 copies, 12.5% on next 5000, and 15% thereafter but it's based on net receipts.

Sounds good until you calculate the math. 10% of net equals about 5% of retail price. Not exactly the same thing so do your monster math.

3. Warranties and Indemnities clauses where the author is on the hook for all the costs.

The author should only be fully responsible if they are found guilty and in breach of this clause. I've seen clauses where authors are on the hook for the full cost of even an alleged breach and yet they have no say in the proceedings. Oi! Even Frankenstein got a better deal.

4. Joint accounting.

Publishers love joint accounting. That means they link the monies of multiple books together. In short, an author doesn't see a penny of royalties until ALL books in the contract earn out and only then are royalties paid. You might be waiting years and years to kill that zombie.

5. Unmodified competing works clauses.

If you aren't really really careful, you might be legally obligated to not pursue any other writing work until the books in your contract are out of print and the rights revert back to you.

This is definitely worst case scenario but depending on the language in the contract, you might have backed yourself into this corner. Talk about hamstringing your career as a writer.

For me, in this digital age, the above are way scarier than anything that might go bump in the night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Potpourri And Funnies

STATUS: This week was defined but what wasn't on fire with gasoline explosions. Seriously, I was coming to work each day with the thought: "Can just one thing not be an issue today? Just one."

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WE GET TO FEEL IT ALL by Indigo Girls

But I can also define this week by some really cool things.

1. Got a revised cover for an author who had a hideous cover just last week. New cover is awesome! I'm so pleased and relieved.

2. My colleague Sara held a big big auction for a middle grade boy fantasy novel that went in a major deal (THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann). Squee.

And the best thing ever? Today my author's editor had her baby and get this, she named the baby boy after a character in my author's novel for whom she is the editor.

Okay, nothing beats that. That is just "Yes Way" cool.

And because it's Friday, how can I not share with you www.awkwardfamilypetphotos.com? I read the article in PW, had to check it out. Huge Beverage alert. The below photo was hands down my favorite. Oi!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Singing To My Choir!

STATUS: Monday it was 80 degrees. Today it's snowing. Tomorrow it will be sunny and in the high 50s. And beautiful again by the weekend. Not sure what shoes to keep out or put into storage.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CHINA GIRL by David Bowie

So last week, in my status, I mentioned that we had received three covers and nixed three covers. So needless to say, it's been nothing but cover talks, phone calls, and strategy ever since.

For the newer writers out there, an author does not get approval over covers unless he/she is at a very high level as an author. At NLA (and I imagine this is true for most agents), we always put cover consultation in the contract.

However, the definition of "consult" can be very loose. I've had some editors involve the author from the very first illustrative sketch to the final version. I've had some editors send it to the author when complete and simply say here it is. (To me, that's not consult and I argue it.) For most editors, they are really invested in the author liking the cover so they actually allow a lot of input.

I've been lucky this week. The editors were fully supportive, nixed the covers and sent them back to the drawing board.

And then this morning, one of my authors sent me this link to PW's Blog Shelftalker. I immediately read it and felt an overwhelming urge to say "Amen!" and "Keep singing my song!"

In the past weeks I've said everything mentioned here:

1. Misleading cover image that doesn't remotely match the novel's content.

Please, I beg you, for women's fiction, no more pictures of pastoral objects like a bike or a hammock on a lovely sun porch. Debbie Macomber already has that cover thank you.

2. Same Old Cover Designs That Fit The Popular Trend.

I echo Elizabeth, please, no more covers of models in gowns, young women lying down, partial face images. When we got the ARE mailing of the "hot summer books" from a variety of young adult publishers, it was clear that any one title sent in that bunch was going to have trouble standing out. Every single one had a picture of a girl in some kind of dark, mysterious background or in a dark nature setting.

But I would like to add one to the list. No more jarringly ugly covers. I literally got a cover where the colors clashed so badly, I couldn't figure out why somebody thought that color palette was a good idea.

Trust me, I'm not an art major or graphic designer but I am an avid reader and have seen my share of art through the ages. I know ugly when I see it.

In talking to one editor recently, I said, "all I have is my immediate gut reaction and right now, my gut says Oh Please No.

I could have kissed the editor when she said, "no prob; we'll throw it out."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Funnies!

STATUS: Where in the world did the day go? This week has been the cover issue week. Literally, three covers received, three covers nixed.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU'LL NEVER FIND ANOTHER LOVE LIKE MINE by Lou Rawls

Today's entry has absolutely nothing to do with publishing but it did make me laugh and laugh. Gee, I can't imagine who the culprit might be.... *grin*

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Verdict Out On Whether A Good Idea Or Not

STATUS: For the last three days running, I've made it a goal to power through all the emails while I was at Frankfurt. I started out with 170. Made good headway but now for three days running, I've started with 130 emails and I still have 130 emails. Can't shake the feeling of running in place….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THIS GUY'S IN LOVE WITH YOU by Herb Alpert

As I was walking the Frankfurt Fair floor, perusing the booths on display, I stumbled upon a booth for a company called Booktrack. In short, they do sound tracks for electronic books.

Not sure what I think about that, so I figured I'd give it a listen.

The sample work on the floor was the short work IN THE SOUTH by Salman Rushdie. I popped on the earphones and gave it a listen as I read. There was ambient noise and sounds that connected with the text on the page.

Kind of reminded me of Spa on XM radio.

Did I think it enhanced the reading experience? The jury is still out on that for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Frankfurt--Day After And Then Some

STATUS: Went to Frankfurt with a cold. Had the cold during all of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Brought the cold home with me. Truly, I like to hang on to things.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHE'S NO LADY by Lyle Lovett

I figured blog readers would get a kick out of this. Agents Agents! As far as the eye can see… Kind of like Water Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.


Jamie Ford, who was there at the Fair meeting with his many foreign publishers, said it looked like a sweat shop and wondered where the sewing machines were. Rather apt.

It's definitely not romantic in any way shape or form. Agents sit down with scouts, territory co-agents, and editors to highlight frontlist titles as well as nice selling backlist titles that are available for translation sales. It's not unusual for a rights person to have 12 to 18 appointments in a day, back-to-back, and in thirty minute intervals. Lunch is often optional.

And Frankfurt is not London, Paris, or Rome (not to offend any German blog readers!) but the downtown area is probably the least charming European city I've been to. I imagine outside of the city centre there are lots of nice spots but considering what was available within walking distance of the hotel, it was slim pickings.

To offset the rather bland Frankfurt, a day trip to Heidelberg was in order! From Left: Jamie Ford, Me, Luceinne Diver (also a client of mine) and Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Frankfurt Book Fair - Day 1

STATUS: All last week I was knocked out of commission by a nasty head cold. Winter hasn't even begun. Like the overachiever I am, just getting it done early.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MR. JONES by Counting Crows

This week begins the madness that is the Frankfurt Book Fair and guess where yours truly happens to be.

For the last three years, I've made a point of attending each of the main book fairs: London, Bologna, and now Frankfurt. I have a foreign rights person so it's not imperative that I go specifically so you might be wondering why I pursued this goal.

You can't best support someone who is representing your authors until you've seen for yourself what the fairs are all about. It's helps significantly to prepare the rights and press sheets so that foreign editors can best utilize them if applicable to their markets.

Also, if an editor has bought a lot of your clients, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting simply to connect on a personal level.

For this year's fair, I have two authors with me: Gail Carriger and Jamie Ford. Both have sold tremendously abroad and have been bestsellers in several other countries besides the US.

So what does one do at Frankfurt? Lots and lots of meetings in the agents' centre which is about the size of two football fields. And I'm not exaggerating here.

The Fair is so big, it can literally take 30 minutes to walk from an appointment at one hall to another.

To put this in perspective, it only takes me 15 minutes to walk from my hotel to the Fair.

Tonight I attended two parties--one at the German publisher S. Fischer Verlag and the other held by Hachette at the Hessischer Hof.

The Hachette party was so packed, I literally walked in and had to stifle the urge to turn around and walk back out. Elbow to elbow. I thought the chances of my finding anyone for whom I might be looking would be slim but oddly enough, it worked.

The undefinable magic of Frankfurt.