Saturday, March 31, 2012

Slightly Less Opaque Grey For Me

STATUS: Popped in on a Saturday to finish up a few things. This afternoon Chutney and I are heading into the mountains for a nice long hike.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MORE I SEE YOU by Michael Buble

Kudos to blog reader and commenter Elizabeth who manned up and explained the appeal of 50 Shades of Grey. Just in case you didn't catch her comment in that section, I'm including Elizabeth's post in its entirety.

I'll man up. I read the hell out of it. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here's why: 

I couldn't put it down.



True, it's technically a mess. It's randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like "a bacon in the night" which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses. And it started out as fanfic, which I get the impression I'm supposed to be all up in arms about. But holy cow. Do you know the last time I read that many words in such a short period of time? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.



Here's what I think people don't understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining. People aren't going to youtube, for example, to watch someone do something meaningful or profound. They're going to watch some guy stick a lit firecracker up his bum. I would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient. That's just how I roll.



So there's something to be said for things that are a little bit campy. I'm a little bit campy. So are my friends. When I got to the point in the book where I realized it was going to be one THOSE stories (I didn't see a lot of Twilight in 50 Shades, but it totally read like "crack-fic" fan-fiction), the first thing I did was go on Facebook and tell two of my friends, "Hey, you have to read this." Because it was absolutely the kind of book they would love. And they did love it. 



Nine copies sold between the three of us. We all felt like we got our money's worth. Not because it was good, remember, but because it spoke that little spot in our hearts that loves those kinds of stories. The fact that it was kind of poorly written just made it that much better.



And I can't explain why that is. I don't know why this book, with its myriad of flaws, the least of which being its word count, held me captive in a way that other, arguably "better" books didn't.


I loved that she was willing to simply be honest and put her reaction to the book out there. For me, I'm thinking this book is kind of like trends that happen in other mediums. There's no easy or clear explanation. It just happens and something becomes wildly popular. For example, the phenom of Ugg Boots (which are not particularly attractive) or croc shoes for that matter. The youtube phenom for Randall's narration of National Geographic footage: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.

There's a spark. It taps into some zeitgeist. There's no explaining it and quite frankly, I don't think we have to. It is what it is.

For me, I'm not sure I would recognize it under all the flaws. I couldn't get past the writing and a lot of groan worthy dialogue. But in the end, who cares what I think. The public has spoken and in the end, that's the opinion that matters.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'd Say 100% Solid Grey For Me

STATUS: Just finished our first Pub Rants Video Webinar. I had a blast. We definitely need to tweak some things for next one though. If you were there, thank you for being our first guinea pigs!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY by Backstreet Boys

While on the train to Venice (and boy do I like saying a statement like that--makes me sound so cosmopolitan) Simone Elkeles's friend Nanci had a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

You'd have to be living under a rock not to have heard about this title. But just in case you have been, here is a link to get you up to speed. It's been in all the publishing news as of late. It's an erotica novel that started life as Twilight fan fiction and then went viral a couple of weeks ago. So there was a big publishing deal and then the movie rights sold just this week.

If something is getting that much attention, it's probably worth an hour of my time to give it a look so I asked Nanci if I could borrow her copy. I read several chapters and I have to admit, I'm not getting it. To be honest, if it had come in via our slush pile, I would have passed on it without requesting a full. I didn't connect with the characters or find myself enmeshed in the writing. Now granted, this genre is not my bailiwick so that's going to be a factor.

Still, it's obviously tapping into some cultural zeitgeist and on that point, I'm curious. It obviously works for a lot of other people so I'd like to know why.

So blog readers, if you read and liked it, share with me because I'm genuinely curious to know.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Bring An Author to Bologna?

STATUS: Still time to sign up to learn how to craft the perfect pitch paragraph for your query letter. The video webinar is tomorrow, Thursday, March 28 at 6 pm MST. It should be a blast to give.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ONLY A MEMORY by Smithereens

In general, the whole purpose of Bologna Children's Book Fair is to pitch your rights list to scouts and foreign publishers in order to generate interest in upcoming titles so as to promote foreign sales. And I certainly did a lot of that while there but for the most part, I have a foreign co-agent who handles that on our agency's behalf.

So what's Frankfurt or Bologna all about when I visit a Fair with a client in tow? It's about face-time. It's about making the foreign publisher feel like an important part of an author's career. It's about marketing dollars and inspiring the foreign editor to choose our clients' books if it's a choice between two.

1) Foreign editors rarely get to meet the authors for whom they are translating. It may or may not translate into more sales but I know from experience that a foreign publisher who has met an author in person is more likely to do a promotional push for that title in translation.

2) Those meetings give us valuable information that we might not hear otherwise (or not hear in a timely fashion). Marie Lu's German publisher is making LEGEND their big lead title for fall and sponsoring a German tour! Would this have happened without a Bologna visit? Certainly (as we would have been looped in eventually) but now we are in the know months earlier and can actively help them. Also, they are 10 times more excited to have this big push after we had a lovely sit-down dinner with them and relayed all the latest promo news while in Bologna. We've confirmed they are making the right decision.

3) Targeting a Fair allows an author client to make stops in other nearby countries. When Simone decided to come to Bologna with me this year, she was invited by her French publisher to stop in Paris to participate in a book festival there. Her publisher warned her that maybe 25 or 35 people might show for the signing. Imagine everyone's surprise when more than 200 people came and Simone had a signing line more than 2 hours long! You think her French publisher is going to be paying closer attention to her next release? You betcha. Nothing inspires publishers more than seeing first hand fan enthusiasm for an author.

4) Finding out early that an author is selling like mad in a territory. (ie. The Perfect Chemistry Series is going gangbusters in Germany).

Other benefits of Fair participation include getting the latest gossip about what has sold recently. About what might be hot next. And simply connecting with the UK editors whom I don't see as often. It gives an agent a global perspective of what works--not only in the US but around the world. Or maybe even more importantly, what doesn't work in other territories.

Does that shade what I might take on next in the US? To some extent but it's certainly not the end all be all in making a decision to offer representation but it is part of the big picture.

More pics from 2012 Bologna!

Marie Lu and me in Agent Centre



Simone with her editor Katrin (on left) and her Publisher Suzanne (Random House Germany)



Marie's Bologna dinner with her US, German, and UK publishers!



Simone & Kristin in Venice! Rumor has it that if you kiss under a bridge while riding in a gondola, you'll have good luck all year. I told Simone that even though I was a full service agent, that's where I draw the line. *grin*

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

2012 Bologna Children's Book Fair - Next Hot Thing?

STATUS: Meetings every half hour and running on 6 hours of sleep a night on average. Yep, that's Bologna!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

Three days at Bologna and here's what I can tell you.

On the plane over, people were talking about the next hot trend being about geeks in young adult fiction. Geeks transforming. Geeks not transforming but still winning the girl or the day. Geeks in love.

Do I think it's the next hot trend? I haven't got the faintest idea.

It's definitely clear that foreign editors are feeling the drain of paranormal romance in YA being hot for so long but even with that, they say it's still selling well in Germany, UK, and France. Editors don't seem to be buying a lot of it at the moment though.

Since I'm here with Marie Lu to meet with her very excited foreign publishers (the trilogy has been sold in to 22 territories and counting), we are, of course, asking if dystopian is hot abroad.

The verdict is undecided. HUNGER GAMES fever is definitely sweeping the world but whether that will translate into other dystopian novels also becoming hot has yet to be proven. Well, I've got my fingers crossed for June and Day…

Hands down, for middle grade DAIRY OF A WIMPY KID works amazingly in every country but Russia. Guess they like big burly guys instead of wimps?

*grin*

Some pics!


Anita and I at entrance of the Fair.




Me with Sara's amazing client Stefan Bachmann and the brand spanking new cover for his wonderful middle grade gothic steam punk: The Peculiar




Marie Lu and her Taiwan Publisher Sharp Point! Marie was a rock star. She did the whole meeting in Chinese. (Marie is second person from right.)




Marie and I in the Penguin Bologna Stand.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pub Rants University Begins!

STATUS: In glorious Italy. Such yummy food.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MARLENE ON THE WALL BY Suzanne Vega

If you are an NLA eNewsletter subscriber, you got the skinny early at the beginning of the month and first dibs on the workshop spots. Now I'm giving my blog readers a chance to register.

In 2012, I have six conferences lined up already. I can hardly believe it myself! And at these conferences, I'm schedule to give my forever popular query pitch workshop and the infamous Agent Reads The Slush Pile workshop where I graciously rip to bits the opening pages of manuscripts. Writers just love this one, which convinces me that you folks are gluttons for punishment.

And I imagine that over the years, one or two of my blog readers have longed to attend one of these workshops but have never had the opportunity.

Well, if that person is you, then listen up. On March 29, 2012, I'm launching Pub Rants University and will be offering our first online video webinar called Goodbye Slush Pile! The Secret of How to Write The Perfect Query Letter Pitch Paragraph for Your Novel.

Try and say that three times fast…

This is a video webinar, not just audio, so you'll get a chance to see my lovely mug for a whole 90 minutes. Not to mention, you'll even be able to ask questions during the workshop. It's like Fridays With Kristin for a whole 90 minutes. On second thought, I'm not sure I can put up with myself for that long…

But if you are interested, here's what you'll learn.

-How to structure your query letter
-How to identify your plot catalyst
-How to boil 300-plus pages of a novel into one pithy pitch paragraph
-The 4 main approaches to building your pitch paragraph around the plot catalyst
-Real examples of what works and why
-Real examples of what doesn't work and why
-Submit of your first draft tag line

Click Here to find out more details and to register. As I don't want the workshop to be too big and unwieldy, the number of attendees is limited so keep that in mind!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 6 - Pitch versus The Synopsis

STATUS: On plane in just a few hours to head to Italy. There might not be much blogging next week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YELLOW by Coldplay

Scheduling this post so hope it works correctly!

I'm going to lay to rest, once and for all, the difference between a pitch and a synopsis.

Okay, that's a little grandiose but you get the picture.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Now Dorchester Is Trying To Sell The Company

STATUS: Leaving for Bologna, Italy on Friday for the Book Fair. Ack!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SET FIRE TO THE RAIN by Adele

I also have some land 100 miles west of Ft Myers I'd like to sell you….

What would a week be without an update on Dorchester? I can't imagine what company would be interested in buying an ailing organization with such a significant amount of debt. I don't have updated numbers from the phone call last year but back then, debt owed was in the millions.

Maybe it's good for the taxes.

But straight from the horse's mouth, here is a letter from Dorchester's president.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Their Failure is Not Mine - Guest Blogger Mari Mancusi

For some reason, Internet Explorer is not showing the blog so had to delete last post and redo. My apologies to anyone who commented.

Don't worry, Fridays With Agent Kristin video rants will resume next Friday! This week seems to be all things Dorchester.

--Kristin




I still remember the day my dot.com company dragged us all into the conference room on Friday afternoon—pay day—and announced there would be no pay checks distributed at the end of the day. Not today—and not ever again. We were summarily dismissed and suddenly found ourselves unemployed--with no way to make up the money that was owed to us. It was devastating, to say the least. I felt powerless and weak and alone.

Fast forward 10 years and bring on the déjà vu when I opened my mailbox to find a royalty statement from my long time, traditional publisher, Dorchester. While the statement clearly stated I was owed money, there was no check inside. Dorchester was having financial difficulties, just like my dot.com and chose not to pay what it owed.

But this time, I wasn’t going to just lay down and die. Maybe I’d never see a dime from Dorchester, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t make a dollar on my own. And so, as Kristin worked tirelessly to get the rights back to my books (even the ones she didn’t represent the first time around!), I started researching how to publish these backlist titles on my own. For many reasons not detailed here, I decided to use Kristin’s digital liaison service to launch the books rather than self-publish them on my own. Together we began the process of working with cover artists, copyeditors, and converters to breathe new life into these old books. I even did some rewriting! One of the advantages to digital publishing—you can always update and tweak your product. (Though my husband likes to tease me and say I’m like George Lucas in that regard...)

Today we launched Tomorrow Land, a post-apocalyptic, dystopian YA romance previously published as Razor Girl in Dorchester’s crossover Shomi line. Best described as a post-apocalyptic pilgrimage to Disney World in a zombie infested wasteland, the story follows two teens who had fallen in love before the apocalypse and then separated, Casablanca style, only to be reunited four years later and forced to find a way to trust one another again. All the while trying to deal with those pesky, flesh eating zombies!

The artwork, by the way, was custom created for the book by artist/illustrator Tony Sahara. He’s amazing, isn’t he? He’s also did the artwork for Alterntiy, my next young adult dystopian release, coming May 1st.

I can’t tell you how awesome a feeling it was to wake up this morning and see Tomorrow Land up for sale on Amazon and know—without a shadow of a doubt—that I’ll get properly paid for each and every download. On a book that will never go out of print and costs half the cover price. So not only do I benefit—but readers do, too! Total bonus.

I know that I will never get that last check from my dot.com company. And there will never be a royalty check in the mail from Dorchester. But you know what? Their failure is not mine. I’m determined to make the best of this bad situation and come out on top in the end.

NOTE: My heart goes out to my fellow Dorchester authors who were not able to get their rights back. It sickens me that this company would not only steal earned money from its hardworking writers, but then steal their intellectual property as well. I hope you find a way to get your books back in the end.

Kristin's NOTE : If you are a Dorchester author with rights in question and titles currently still available online for sale, you lose nothing by reaching out to the various electronic distribution venues and finding out exactly what you need to do to get those titles removed from sale. Will it be a lot of work? Probably but potentially worth it in the end. I, of course, also recommend you consult with an attorney. I would also reach out to other former Dorchester authors and see how you might be able to help each other.


About Tomorrow Land


Can true love survive the end of the world?

Imagine finding your first love, only to be ripped apart by the apocalypse. Peyton Anderson will never forget the day she was forced to make a choice--between her family--and Chris Parker, the boy she'd given her heart. And now, four years later, as she steps from the fallout shelter and into a dead and broken world, he's the only thing on her mind.

All Chris "Chase" Parker wanted was to take Peyton away and keep her safe from harm. But he waited for hours in the rain on judgment day and she never showed--breaking his heart without ever telling him why.

Now the two of them have been thrown together once again, reluctant chaperones of a group of orphan children in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead still walk...and feed. As they begin their pilgrimage to the last human outpost on Earth, can they find a way to let go of old hurts and find the love they lost--all the while attempting to save what's left of the human race?

"A high-stakes, high-octane tour through a devastating and deftly imagined future. This is Mancusi at the top of her game." --Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A New NLA Milestone!

STATUS: Having a great afternoon.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU CAN CALL ME AL by Paul Simon

I rarely post twice in one day but I can't resist.

For the week of March 18, Gail Carriger's TIMELESS is sitting at #17 on the NYT list and at #98 on the USA Today. Definitely worth celebrating.

But what's really fun?


SOULLESS The Manga graphic novel just hit #2 on the NYT Graphic novel list.

That's a first for NLA!!


The Sky Tumbling Down

STATUS: Only 65 emails in the inbox to start the day!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE by Carole King

Wait! What is that I hear? I think it's the wind whistling down Park Avenue and through the Dorchester non-existent office space.

In a world where information is found in a quick Google search, why try and dissemble?

Here is a link to a notice to Dorchester of foreclosure for the note and a sale of the assets that were pledged as security on a loan.

Back to my question. Why do I say that I don't think I'll see a bankruptcy filing soon? By the way, this is not a statement of fact. Simply a supposition on my part.

I don't think Dorchester will file unless forced to. It's costly to file and go through the process. Meanwhile, monies are coming in and not being paid out.

Last year when my lawyer and I sat in on the phone calls where Dorchester disclosed their financially precarious position, the list of creditors was part of that conversation. There are at least 6 companies that might find it worthwhile to force Dorchester into Bankruptcy to recover monies owed.

And I hope they do.

But to be blunt, those companies will crunch the numbers. If they come out ahead in what they will recover versus what it will cost, then my guess is they will do it. It certainly won't be altruistic.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

We Are so Dense About Technology That We Can't Figure Out How To Forward Our Phones

STATUS: Typical Denver schizophrenic weather. I was wearing short sleeves and no jacket yesterday while taking Chutney for a walk in 70 degree weather. Today it's going to snow. Yay spring!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MATILDA by Harry Belafonte

To a new office location.

Let's see a show of hands. Who believes that Dorchester might simply be moving offices and the phones are currently being "switched over?" (see the added links in comments section of yesterday's blog post.)

Hum… thought so.

So to my post of yesterday. I'm going to make my readers do a little work. I can't hand over all the information on a silver platter. *grin*

I mentioned that Dorchester has disappeared and that I don't think I'll see a filing for bankruptcy any time soon. Now why do I say that?

Surely if a company is defunct they'll file for bankruptcy, right?

Not necessarily….

So tell me why.

Meanwhile, all Dorchester eBooks are up and still for sale across all the electronic distribution venues. Where is the money going? We know for certain it's not going to the authors.

Every night I sleep easy knowing that I fought tooth and nail to get rights reverted for each of my five authors who had backlist there when Dorchester first breached those contracts and weren't paying owed royalties. Even for titles I didn't represent on their behalf because it was before my time as their agent.

And I'm also happy to report that those authors are self-publishing those books and making a very nice income on backlist ebook sales. Want to support a former Dorchester author? Check out their offerings on the links connected to their names.

JANA DELEON
MARI MANCUSI
LESLIE LANGTRY
CAROLYN JEWEL

A happy ending for us but I feel for all those authors who couldn't get their rights. I strongly recommend you reach out to the various agencies that support authors: Authors Guild, Romance Writers Of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America etc. I can't list all of them here.

These organizations might be able or connect you with the right people who can advise you on next step if your rights are in question.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

We Won't Leave The Light On For You

STATUS: Bologna Children's Book Fair is almost upon us. Oi. Not ready yet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MERCY by Duffy

On Thursday, I got word that the doors were locked, lights out, and the phones disconnected at Dorchester.

I know. Surprise. Here are links to my previous entries on Dorchester and its impending demise.

As a matter of course, I did touch base with my lawyer simply to see if there had been a bankruptcy filing. I'm actually not expecting to find one.

Now why do I say that?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I know a lot of blog readers have backgrounds in law so feel free to chime in via the comment section with your surmises.

More to come tomorrow.