Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Talking NLA'S DLP

STATUS: This morning I thought I had a mild day in front of me. After the third fire before 10 a.m., I gave up that notion.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? REMINISCING by Little River Band

So yesterday's announcement is not the be all end all of this topic. I'm happy to chat some more about our new Digital Platform.

As I said yesterday, we developed our model in conversation with our clients. In fact, their input modeled it. I went to them and said, "If an agent was going to offer a supported environment for self publishing, what would make sense to you? What would be of concern? What would make it worth an agent's commission?"

And they told me. They also were gracious enough to review various model outlines and the DLP agreement that any author interested in using the DLP would need to click "I Agree" to use it.

And their help was absolutely invaluable and I feel quite comfortable that what we've created is the right approach--that we have not created something that will be a conflict of interest in representing clients and is a very ethical way for an agent to provide yet another facet of services to our authors.

My client Courtney Milan was gracious enough to post a blog entry on the topic today if you'd like some insight from an author who is currently self pubbing happily and successfully and not through our DLP--which by the way, bothers me not at all. I support her choice. Another client plans to do a guest entry on why she is using the full-service option and why she has been over-the-moon to do so.

Just wait until you see her totally kick-a** cover--something I don't think she would have gotten on her own. It's stunning.

I imagine that if a writer believes that all an agent does is sell books to publishers, there might be questioning on why an author would bother using an agency's DLP. After all, a writer can certainly write the book, convert the efiles (or pay someone to), and put the titles up on Amazon, BN, Smashwords, Apple, what have you.

But you see, my authors know I do so much more than that.

And as an agent, I have relationships with folks that most writers can't even imagine. Will all of them be valuable? No. Have some already proven to be? Yep.

But let's talk DLP stuff.

1) First a correction. In yesterday's entry, I realized that I typed "term of license." Oi! In our DLP agreement, it's a "term of liaison." Not quite the same thing in a rather big way. So my apologies. For our full-service option, NLA foots all the upfront costs--which is why we specify a 2 year term of liaison. Could you imagine plunking down the money and have the author pull it a month later and we are simply out of luck? Quite frankly, my authors are awesome and I can't imagine any one of them doing that but as an agent, I still have to be smart about it.

In short, for full-service, it needs to be on our DLP for 2 years and that's it. After that, authors are free to do as they please and we will even give them their files. After all, they own it. They didn't grant rights to us.

If we haven't recouped in 2 and they take it, are we screwed? Yep. But I'm betting that it's so worthwhile, that they are happy to keep it there. Nothing is in perpetuity. Why would an author do that?

For distribution only venue, an author can come and go as they please. All we are providing is access to venues they can't access. It's our standard 15% commission. For anyone who doesn't think that's worth it, they obviously have not wrestled with google's very unfriendly platform. Not to mention, we have venues that authors individually do not have access to. And let me tell you, having been there and done that, it's probably not worth the headache for an author. Amazon and BN have designed it to be easy. Not all venues have done the same.

2) Now remember, the author is in full control of their work. In the full-service option, they have access to a rather in-depth list of resources for cover artists, copyeditors, proofreaders, developmental editors, publicists, web designers, etc. They choose; we pay. The only exception is the developmental editor. The only reason for that is because we have no say in the revision process and I could see an author running up a rather big tab on the agency's dime by doing endless revisions for months on end. Probably unlikely but once again, we need to be smart about things.

Now, keep in mind, as many of my clients can attest to (for good or for bad *grin*), I'm an agent who edits--probably to the level of a developmental editor.

3) On our full service, we rep the subrights--foreign, film, etc.

One commenter asked "It seems an inherent conflict--the agent has a vested interest in the author NOT publishing with a publishing house else, but instead self-publishing using services NLA benefits from financially."

Actually no. The author client is self-publishing so it's not even a choice for me. I have no say on whether they are on the DLP or not. If they are looking for an agent, my assumption is it's because they want a finger in all pies and are looking for a print/ebook deal with a "traditional" publisher (for lack of a better word). I'm not taking on writers who just want to use our DLP.

That is not the point of offering this service.

Hopefully I've answered all questions. It's after 8 p.m. and all I really want to do is go home and eat dinner.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Rapidly Evolving Role of Agent

STATUS: What a way to start the day. Our ISP had a huge network outage that lasted for 45 minutes. No emails coming in or going out. It's a Monday!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? UPSIDE DOWN by Jack Johnson

Last Thursday I highlighted that the AAR has made some observations on the role of agents in ePublishing. If an agent is both an agent and ePublisher, well, that's pretty much a conflict of interest. If the agent has a biz interest stake in a client's decision, it rather eliminates our disinterested and objective viewpoint when giving guidance to a client.

But the digital landscape is shifting so rapidly and the agent's role is evolving so quickly, what is an agent to do if clients want assistance making backlist titles available in eFormat?

Well, I can tell you what NLA is doing. And because I believe in involving greater minds than my own, I used the best resource of all--our own clients. Working in partnership with them, we developed NLA's Digital Liaison Platform. My lawyer was also a big help but he simply formulated the agreement language once we had nailed down the model.

So what exactly are we doing?

We created a platform where NLA clients can self-publish their content within a supported environment. This is not a publishing house.

Before you say, "isn't this a matter of semantics?" The answer is no. In a publishing house model, the author grants her rights to the publisher and cedes control in that grant.
That is not what we are doing. In our model, our clients maintain full control of their titles. They are not granting them to us. They have full say on covers, editing, pricing, etc. The program is voluntary so if they want to participate on our DLP, they can, but they are also welcome to handle their backlist themselves.

We offer two different options. The first is full service where we hook the client up with cover artists, copyeditors, publicists, and we do the file conversion and make it available on all the electronic distribution venues. We use our individual leverage with all the venues to promote. The second is a distribution-only venue. In this option, the author handles all the details of self-pubbing and conversions themselves but simply want access to venues they can't reach on their own. Overdrive (main source for libraries) would be an example of a venue that individual authors can't reach but we can.

If they are on our full-service DLP, we ask them to commit to a two-year term of license [correction: it's a two year term of liaison, not license. My apologies for not proofreading more thoroughly. There is quite the difference between the two!] since we undergo all the expense and that would be rather uncool for a client to let us do that and then pull the title a month later.

Our agency commission split is the same as it's always been.

Indie Booksellers--we are also on Google eBookstore and Ingram but if you have your own dedicated eBookstore, feel free to contact us directly as we are happy to add your venue to our platform.

Our Launch Title:

SKATER BOY by Mari Mancusi $3.99
The first novel in the sweet, tween-oriented First Kiss Club series.

Apple - access through iTunes

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 1 - How To Become A Literary Agent

STATUS: Through snow and more snow, the show must go on!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I FALL TO PIECES by Patsy Cline

Without further ado, I'm delighted to debut in 2012 a series of video blog rants called Fridays With Agent Kristin. And I hope you cut me some slack with this first one because let me tell you, this was hard to do.

Let me take that back. It was really easy to do a crappy video clip. To do a decent one took me an hour and 15 or 20 takes to nail a clip that was even remotely worth taking on to the editing stage.

I have a WHOLE new appreciation for anyone in the broadcasting arts. Seriously! You have to concentrate on pacing, breathing, every word, every pause, and oddly enough, every blink of the eyes.

If you blink normally during a video clip, you'll look very strange in the finished product. Good thing I didn't know what I was getting into when I started. If I did, it would have never left the idea stage.

So, welcome to Episode 1: How to Become A Literary Agent.

And if you'd like to suggest some topics for me to tackle in future episodes, that's what the comment section is for. *grin*

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The AAR Makes 'Observations' On Agent Roles & ePublishing

STATUS: I need to go home and eat dinner.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOT HOT HOT by Buster Poindexter

Just last week, The Association of Authors' Representatives sent out an email alert to all its members highlighting that the Board has been discussing the current AAR Canon of Ethics as it relates to agent members helping clients with ePublishing.

To sum up, the AAR realizes that the role of literary agent is changing and that many author clients will be asking their agents for assistance in making backlist titles available in electronic form.

For full disclosure, I am a member of the AAR and will continue to be in 2012.

As of this January, the AAR is not making any changes to the current Canon of Ethics but the organization is, however, sharing these observations which I'll paraphrase here:

1) An AAR member may receive compensation only from the client for the agent's services. Agents may not separately engage in business, ie. electronic publication, where they receive compensation from exploiting the client's work. In short, Agents can't be publishers and still be AAR members.

So for example, Agent Richard Curtis has a separate ePublishing company called eReads. He is not a member of AAR. And please, do not take this as any personal commentary on Richard. This is just an example.

2) Agent is obligated to inform client of all the financial implications of any ePublisher and the agent can't take action to put his own biz interest above the interest of the client.

In other words, it pretty much is a conflict of interest for agents to be both an agent and an ePublisher as they may want their clients to publish with them instead of with some other ePublisher.

And yet, the role of agent is evolving rapidly. So what do agents do with clients who are interested in making their reverted backlist titles available on electronic platforms?

Well, I can't speak for all agents but I can finally tell you what NLA will be doing as we launched our Digital Liaison Platform in November of 2011. And last week I did ring up the AAR lawyer to discuss our current model and whether that would be in conflict with the AAR Canon or its current observations.

It is not. In fact, he asked me to share the details of our model so as to share with the AAR board. They are reviewing any number of approaches that agents are pursuing.

And starting tomorrow, I'll be sharing our model with y'all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

When You Are A Beginning Writer, The Keyword is Focus

STATUS: Snowy day in Denver so I definitely felt like working.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OUT OF TOUCH by Hall & Oates

It occasionally happens that when we request sample pages, read it, and then send a rejection letter, the writer will often approach us with another project. Nothing wrong with that!

But here's what surprises me. Sometimes it's a story in the same vein (as in the same genre or it's also a young adult or what have you) but a lot of times it's not. I'm constantly amazed at how often the next project pitched is wildly different. Not even in the same ball park as the submission we just read.

When you are beginning as a writer, by all means, explore a few genres. Find out what seems the most fun to write, the best fit for your writing skills, what you are passionate about. Then focus.

If you write a young adult contemporary and then the next book you pitch to us is for an adult, dark literary thriller, you are going to get an eyebrow raise.

Now don't get me wrong. The writer might be fully capable of writing both with impressive skill. But more likely not.

We also often get queries where the writer offers us a whole potpourri of choices of their work to review. Couple thoughts on that. One, it''s overwhelming; two, it comes across as unfocused; three, I'm going doubt the writer's ability to master all these formats.

Just another tidbit to keep in mind while querying and writing.

And to add one more thing here, a writer might believe her strength is in one genre, might get a lot of rejections, gives up on that genre, and then tries something else and that is what works. That's smart.

And that's not what I'm talking about here. *grin*

Monday, January 23, 2012

Should Dorchester Remain on Probation? Yes.

STATUS: Was all set to potentially launch something cool on Friday and lo and behold, ice storm in Seattle. Trust me, this makes sense because we are based in Denver but our tech person, who manages all things digital, is in Seattle. She had no electricity or internet for 3 days. Shudders.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FREE by Graffiti6

Last week, the Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America reached out to SFWA members about Dorchester Publishing.

Dorchester's probationary period is scheduled to end on January 31, 2012 and SFWA would like to evaluate their progress in meeting the benchmarks SFWA set for them.

By their request, members could contact them with any information that the Board should consider.

Well, let me tell you, I was happy to oblige. I wrote a letter clearly outlining my stance that that Dorchester should remain on probation or be delisted altogether based on not making any progress whatsoever on benchmark 1: That it fulfills its contractual and financial obligations to the authors it has already published, including full and accurate accounting of royalties per contract, with scheduled payment of any royalties outstanding.

Despite repeated requests for updated accountings and the thousands of dollars still owed in back royalties to NLA authors who used to be with Dorchester, we've received excuses, delays, and no good faith efforts to resolve their obligations.

And I have no problem making my sentiment on the situation public.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weighing In On SOPA-PIPA

STATUS: Rather a quiet week. I'm finally catching up since beginning of year. This might last a week or two but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD by Jimmy Buffett

I love sopaipillas! Add a little honey and powdered sugar and you've got yum. Truly one of my fav desserts.

But SOPA-PIPA, not so much.

As most of you have probably heard by now, there is an internet strike occurring and thousands of sites have gone dark (such as boing boing and wikipedia) in protest.

Both Acts have lovely-intention sounding names: Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act.

Who doesn't want to protect intellectual property or stop piracy? The act of piracy steals money out of authors' pockets and is often like whack-a-mole to stop.

Despite the backing of almost every major publisher, I do believe that both Acts overreach in their scope and there will be serious ramifications if passed.

I could offer some analysis but to be honest, greater minds than mine already have.

Web Goes On Strike

Legal Expert Says Online Piracy Bill Is Unconstitutional

Technology & Marketing Blog

Controversial Copyright Bills Would Violate First Amendment

Libraries Are the Best Counter to Piracy

Cory Doctorow: Copyrights vs. Human Rights

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Because It's Cool & Hip: World Book Night 2012

STATUS: I've seen the first beta page for our website redesign. I'm so excited!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MEXICAN RADIO By Wall Of Voodoo
(Just saw the sale for the tell-all by the original MTV VJs. I'm feeling nostalgic!)

Are you an author? Want to be a part of something terrific and spread the love of reading? Then you'll want to know about World Book Night. NLA has signed up to be a book giver as have some of our authors! We are committed and then some.

Originally started in the UK last year, Carl Lennertz is now taking it on to make April 23 extraordinary in the US.

Find out more about it and how to sign up here. The deadline is Feb. 1, 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Funnies

STATUS: 7 pm on a Friday night. This is lame. Oh the glamorous life of an agent...

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? Listening to Youtube

Finished with auction. My brain is mush. This is a punt (pun intended).

To borrow from Jon Stewart, this is your Denver Moment of Zen.

*grin* Huge beverage alert.

Monday is MLK day (so no blogging) but coming later next week, a whole new something on the blog called Fridays With Kristin. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Importance Of Specifying Format Of Initial Edition

STATUS: Auction tomorrow. Always fun.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FADE INTO YOU by Mazzy Star

Here's a contract tip that is both simple and yet can have a large consequence if not done.

As an agency, it's been a long-time policy for our deals that publisher must specify initial publication format in the contract. For example, if a publisher wins a book at auction and part of them winning was a commitment to doing the book as a hardcover (for example), then when it comes time for publication, we don't suddenly want the publisher to do the book as a trade paperback original instead.

One reason for this has to do with the author's ability to earn out an advance. If a publisher paid a solid six-figures for something, the author is going to need the hardcover sales (with the higher price point) to earn out. Not to mention, with a hardcover initial edition, the author gets two publishing shots toward earn-out as the publisher, as a general rule, will publish the trade pb edition about a year later.

Makes sense.

Here's another reason for specifying format of initial edition. As agents, we want to ensure that a publisher will do both a print AND electronic edition and not just publish a digital-only edition if that was not the original intent for accepting deal/contract. (Sidenote: Obviously, if an agent is selling a title to a digital-only publisher, then ebook only as initial format is understood.)

In this rapidly changing publishing landscape, and the rise of ebook sales, it is conceivable that a publisher buys a book with the intention of doing both formats and then decides later to not do the print edition and publish it only as an ebook.

I have not heard of this happening--yet. But why chance it?

Part of our job is to anticipate possible issues.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Big Reveals Shouldn't Happen In A Conversation

STATUS: Gosh, it was too gorgeous outside to work. What the heck. It's January. I need it to snow so I don't want to skip work!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? RIGHT DOWN THE LINE Gerry Rafferty

One of the problems of having blogged for so long, since 2006 if you can believe it, is that I often feel like I'm repeating myself. When I mentioned this to an agent friend of mine who also blogs, she said that I simply can't worry about it.

I think she's right. So I've probably blogged on this topic before but what the heck, it's worth saying again.

A novel's plot should not be a series of conversations where characters move from one place to another and all they do is have chats with other characters.

(Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE might be the one exception. But even at closer look, you can see that Rice didn't fall into that trap. Even though that novel is basically one long conversation, the vampire narrates scenes as if they were actually happening so there is sense of immediacy, action, and event plotting to carry the novel.)

We see this a ton in fantasy manuscripts but hey, it's not limited to that genre. Recently, I've seen this structure in a lot of young adult samples we've been reading.

By the way, established writers can fall into this trap--usually when they are on deadline and simply trying to get the story on the page.

Take a moment to evaluate your own novel. How many times do you have characters sitting down and having a conversation? If it's a lot, you might want to start rethinking your "plot"!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Games Agents Play

STATUS: Started off the day with 80 new e-mails in the inbox. That's a tough Monday.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GOLD by John Stewart

When we obviously have nothing better to do….

Last year, I had dinner in the home of a client and her husband. After the dessert, we decided to play a game that they often do with their friends.

From a bookshelf in their office, the player grabs a published book from the shelf. Any book. Once back at the table, the player reads aloud a page from anywhere in the novel.

The question is two-fold. For the non-agent players, would they have continued reading? Why or why not? For the agent, would I have offered representation for the book based on that one sample page?

It was eye-opening and hilarious. The basic idea is that a novel should be able to hold up to intense scrutiny even if a random page is selected from anywhere in the story.

For my part, I would have passed on a well-known romance writer (oops!). To be honest, the writing didn't hold up. I was completely surprised when the author was revealed.

For several readings, I admired the writing but knew I wouldn't have represented it--despite the obvious quality of it. Sorry Cormack McCarthy! (Remember, taste really does play a factor in this!)

And out of the all the readings we did that night, there was only one that when the reader came to the end of the page passage, I said, "absolutely! I'd have offered rep for that in a New York minute."

That author was Margaret Atwood.

Kind of interesting, don't you think? I wonder how much we are swayed by recognizing an author's name and reputation. In this game, you didn't know and had to make a judgement based solely on the words on the page.

Friday, January 06, 2012

2011 Year End Stats!

STATUS: I'm baaaaacccckkk!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
(oh the nostalgia….)

Happy New Year! I hope your 2012 is off to a rip-roaring start. Mine is. I've got exciting news on the film front for two of my authors and an auction unfolding next week.

I even signed a new author when we were closing for the holidays. Talk about cramming stuff in as the year closed.

My New Year's resolution is to be a better blogger in 2012 so I better get started.

books sold (up from 28 last year). Why the big jump? Two agents on fire during the year.

foreign rights deals done (pretty much on par with last year).

number of new clients (Kristin and Sara combined)

36,000+ or some big number…
estimated number of queries read and responded to. We get so much spam these days, despite good filters, it's hard to tell. We estimate anywhere from 80 to 100 a day. Times that by 365 and you get approximately 36,000.

full manuscripts requested and read (down from 98 from 2010)

number of sample pages requested and read (this is down from last year--mostly because I took a several month hiatus from reading submissions actually. I'm back to reading lots in 2012 though so bring it on).

number of projects currently on submission

tv and major motion picture deals

2.2 million
number of copies in print for my bestselling series this year

1.1 million
number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

8 for Kristin (including BEA, RWA and Frankfurt), 4 for Anita, and 9 for Sara
number of conferences attended

number of career NLA New York Times Bestsellers (who says that's an unlucky number!)

number of books named to Publisher's Weekly list of top books of the year (that would be LEGEND by Marie Lu this year)

number of physical holiday cards sent

number of electronic holiday cards sent

number of eggnog chai consumed in the month of December. It was probably 31 but that makes me look like a glutton!

number of late nights reading on my new chaise with Chutney

number of great days loving my job

2012 is going to be a GREAT year!