Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: author panic

Writers! 5 Survival Tips For The Holidays

The natural delays during the submission process are agony enough for authors, and the whole waiting game gets even worse as we move into the winter holiday season.

But there are some things you can do to help yourself feel like progress is being made, no matter what stage your writing project might be in!


Writers, if your project is currently on query submission, here are 5 tips to help you make it through:


* Thinking about pressing send on that spankin’ new query letter and opening pages email you’ve ben working on? Consider waiting until January 2. Agents are trying to clear the decks. You have better odds if agents aren’t in a hurry.

* Have a query currently out to agents? The odds are probably 90%+ that you will hear a response before the end of the year. Be zen about whatever that response might be. There are new agents to query and new projects awaiting your creative muse.

* Write up a query letter for a novel you haven’t even started yet. Just for fun. Sometimes that very process can help you crystallize your hook or story concept.

* If you just finished NaNoWriMo in November, give yourself permission to take a break from this whole publishing treadmill.

* Eggnog Chai. Just trust me on this one. Probably won’t help your writing, but it will improve your holiday outlook in general.


Writers, if your Agent currently has your project on submission, here are a couple of tips to help you cope:


* You might hear something before December 15, as editors are trying to clear their desks for the new year. But if you don’t, quit checking email. You can do it. Shut that laptop down. Enjoy family instead.

* Make time to write something wholly new, and maybe just for fun, over the holidays. Believe me, you are going to get knocked off your writing schedule. And that’s okay. Just book an appointment in your calendar for writing time. Let it be just as important as everything else you might have scheduled.

* Find a new place to write. Coffee shops and bookstores might be extra crowded and noisy during the holidays. Try a local library instead.

* Set one writing goal, hit it, and then reward yourself with something you’ve been wanting all year.

* Do one thing that makes you feel like a writer. Maybe it’s registering for that class or writing conference you’ve had your eye on. Why not try setting up a happy hour with other authors in your neighborhood or city?

Creative Commons Photo Credit: Alex Janu


Writer Conference Pitch Pro Tips

It’s springtime! That means the Writer Conference season is upon us. And you know what that means, pitch appoints with agents and editors.

I do think yoga breathing exercises are essential to do pre-pitch so you might want to brush up with some practice before you go.

And just in case you’d like a few more tips to help you through, I put together my quick and dirty list:

1. For a 10-minute pitch appointment, plan to spend about 2 minutes talking about your book and 8 minutes interacting with the agent.

2. Nail your pitch in two succinct sentences. Three at most. If you can’t do that, you’ll be in trouble during your pitch.

3. Include one thing about yourself that will make you memorable (but in a good way, LOL). Maybe you have an interesting job that plays a factor in what you write. A funny conference story that is safe to share. A hobby passion that is interesting.

4.. Be prepared to talk about what inspired you. What made you excited to write this book?

5. Come intending to pitch only one book. If, however, the agent asks what else you’ve written or what you’re working on, be prepared to answer that question.

6. Know that this pitch appointment is not a make or break it moment. Not for you as a writer, not for your career, and not for your book; it all comes down to the quality of your writing.

The pitch is simply one stepping stone to getting you read. And if it doesn’t go well, plenty of opportunities to simply query agents the old-fashion way through email. Plenty of authors landed their agent doing just that.

Last but not least, smile and breathe. Most agents and editors are lovely people and they want you to succeed in the pitch appointment.

Scout’s honor!

Pic Credit: Dan Govan


The Concern Is Perhaps Premature

STATUS: All my Texas blog readers, Kristin Callihan’s FIRELIGHT is going to be included in the romance round-up on Good Morning Texas tomorrow, Wed. May 2. Station WFAA-TV channel 8. It’s the ABC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth. How cool is that. I wish I could tune in.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DOMINO DANCING by Pet Shop Boys

When I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last week, I had a writer rush up to me in a panic to ask a question. She was incredibly worried that she had not established her social media platform for her novel yet.

If her release date was in 4 weeks, then I would say she had cause to panic.

But given that she hadn’t actually finished writing her work-in-progress (let alone begin querying for her agent search), I found her concern a little premature.

*grin*

I advised her that at this point in her professional career, she should focus on writing the best novel she possibly could. Plenty of time to get the social media cranking while it’s on submission. I personally don’t know any agent who would say no to an author for a project they love just because the publicity platform isn’t there yet.

I can build that with an author. I imagine most agents feel the same.


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.


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.


A Story The Editor Will Never Know

STATUS: Doing all the crazy wrap-up before the three-day holiday weekend. Yes!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LEAVING LAS VEGAS by Sheryl Crow

I’ve mentioned before what I call The Curse Of The Sophomore Novel. For whatever reason, authors invariably trip when it comes to writing the next novel after their debut.

My hypothesis is that the first novel took many years to write, had lots of feedback and many drafts. Then novel 2 needs to be written on deadline and usually in under a year’s time. With that crunch, a lot of talented authors kind of blank on all the great tools they used in the debut novel that made it so good. By the way, it doesn’t matter how talented the author, what genre the author writes in, or how many previous novels he/she has under her bed. More often than not, a new author will whiff on book 2.

Good agents anticipate and prepare for this—which leads me to a terrific article my author Kristina Riggle just sent me from Poets & Writers. Editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler has been doing a series of articles on editors and agents and every one of them is a gem. If you haven’t seen them before, I suggest tracking all of them down.

What this month’s article tackles is best described in Jofie’s own words. He says: “This is a story about literary agents. It’s a story about good literary agents and bad literary agents and, more specifically, it’s a story about the tireless, often intangible work that good literary agents perform for their clients during the period after the contract is signed but before the book is published.”

Interestingly enough, none of the agents in the article tackled the curse of the sophomore novel so I thought I would in today’s post.

As I mentioned, good agents anticipate the curse. I always strongly recommend that I see the sophomore novel before it’s delivered to the editor. In fact, I encourage our authors to send it to me (if at all possible) 2 months before the delivery deadline to the editor. Just in case. Occasionally, the author does just fine and the sophomore novel is great. No intervention necessary. More often than not, the curse has reared its ugly head.

For the story I want to share, the editor (to this day) does not know—and this is why details will remain anonymous. In fact, I should say “stories” and “editors to this day don’t know” because it’s happened more than once and none of the editors know.

Author delivered the cursed sophomore novel. I read and said “good heaven! This won’t do. The poor overworked editor will blow a coronary if we send this on.”

Called author and delivered the bad news. Then buckled down with the author to, literally, rewrite the entire novel in 6 weeks. (The author sent me 2 chapters every 2 or 3 days. I would edit and turnaround in 2 days to shoot it back. Author would send next batch and while I had that, author reworked already edited chapters until entire novel was revised.)

Author delivered wonderful “first draft” of novel to editor on deadline.

Couple weeks later, editor called just to tell me what a pleasure reading the novel was and how the editor has never had such a clean sophomore novel delivered to her before.

I responded with “I know. Isn’t the author amazing?”

And I’m positive I’m not the only agent to have ever done this.

By the way, this only ever happens to an author once. After the sophomore curse, the author never missteps again.

Happy 4th of July! See y’all back here on Tuesday.


Never Give Up…Never Surrender! Guest Blogger Mari Mancusi

STATUS: Sorry about no blog entry on Friday. The whole day got away from me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A KIND OF MAGIC by Queen

No doubt, I’ve been on a ranting streak for awhile. For a nice change, how about a blog entry on a midlist series getting a second life. Let’s talk about something positive today rather than more of my righteous indignation. Grin.

Here is Mari Mancusi. Author of the YA BLOOD COVEN vampire series—originally started years ago, before the craze, but now have new covers and a new floor display in Borders.

Never Give Up…Never Surrender!

I know I can’t be the only author who mutters the Galaxy Quest creed every time the publishing industry throws me a curve ball. This particular time was three years ago, when I got an email from a fellow author, published by the same publishing house that did my Blood Coven Vampires series.

“They’re not picking up anyone’s options!” she lamented.

Shocked, I frantically called Kristin and she started to do some digging. Turns out, the author was right. My publisher was basically fading out their YA line and concentrating more on their core business of adult romance.

My series was basically DOA before the third book had even come out.

I was devastated. Though I’d written other books, none meant as much to me as my little vampire series. And I hated disappointing all my loyal readers who, after Book #3 – Girls that Growl – was released, kept begging for more. But what could I do? Kristin went back to the publishing company to ask again and again, but they kept saying no.

Of course, I could have given up then and there. After all, I’d just gotten a new children’s publisher and was under contract for two hardcover books at a much higher royalty rate. I could have easily moved on and said goodbye to my blood coven vampires. To my twin heroines, Sunshine and Rayne.

But the series meant too much to me for that. And it meant too much to my readers who kept begging to know what happens next. So I kept pushing. I started a “Save the Blood Coven” campaign in which I got readers to help spread the word and get bookstores and libraries to stock it. I did videos, I enlisted a street team, I encouraged my readers not to let the big corporations decide what they got to read.

And so the sales continued, slow but steady, over the next two years. And every day I’d have new teens write to me and say they’d just recently discovered the series. But though the publisher kept reprinting the first three books, they also kept refusing to buy book #4.

Then, out of the blue, something strange happened. My editor from Germany wrote me an email, asking about book #4. She said she didn’t care if the US published it or not. Would I consider writing it just for them?

I decided to do it. Namely because it allowed me to continue writing my beloved series. And Kristin and I schemed for alternative ways to get it to a US audience. Maybe a small publisher would see the Bookscan numbers and see it as an opportunity. Maybe we could sell it POD since I already had a fan base. Or I could give it away as an e-book. Somehow – someway – I was determined to get that story to my readers, no matter what!

But before pursuing those more drastic options, Kristin decided to go back one last time to my US publisher, to see if they’d changed their minds. After all, the Twilight movie had just swept into theaters and vampires were hotter than ever.

And low and behold, they said yes. Not only yes to a fourth book, but also that they would reprint the first three books as well, with shiny new covers for a whole new generation of (vampire hungry) fans!

I think I cried when Kristin told me the good news. She, in return, said that the sale, in many ways, meant more to her than ones she’d made for six figures because this particular sale was a victory. The result of a two year battle that seemed hopeless until the very end. But we didn’t give up. We didn’t surrender.

And sometimes, even in these bad economic times, a story of publishing can actually have a happy ending!

Mari

Visit the series at www.bloodcovenvampires.com


When An Imprint Goes Bye-Bye

STATUS: For this week, I’ve been ignoring non-urgent emails to make sure I finished up some contract and royalty issues. Today I dug into the 225 that were awaiting my aattention. I’m down to 175. Guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’VE GOT YOU UNDER BY SKIN by Dinah Washington

Yesterday I mentioned that Bowen Press was closed down but not what happens to all the books that were that list. Basically, the answer is not much—in the literal sense and in an ironic way!

Literal Way
Books are sold to a publisher. Imprint might be listed in the contract but publisher still reserves the right to change how a book is published so if the imprint goes bye-bye, the publisher still owns the right to publish the book. In this case, any book sold to Bowen Press is still a book sold to HarperCollins and nothing much is really happening. The books will still be published by HC.

But in a whole other way, everything is happening. Books on this list get moved to other existing imprints. The books get assigned to other editors. The books could be cancelled (although I haven’t heard any stories in this case—yet). And this leads me to the irony part.

In the Ironic Way
Nothing much will be happening for these orphaned books because when the agent originally sold the project, one of the pros in choosing Bowen was to have the title on the launch list. There are lots of big pushes for a launch. It can be a huge benefit.

Well, that just went away.

Instead of the excited publisher, Brenda, who bought the book, we now have an editor who just got assigned a title or titles to his/her already crowded list. Hum… how much attention will that title get? [note: agents can be instrumental in getting a book assigned to a specific editor but this isn’t always possible.]

There was probably a marketing person and publicist assigned to this imprint. Now it goes into the general HC pool.

Now if one of the titles was planned to be big, chances are good the publisher will still do the big push as the momentum started months ago for titles about to be released and stuff is already in play. Those titles will more than likely be fine.

For the other titles? They might be missing out on some love which is where the agent steps in and starts raising some ruckus to find out what will be done for their orphaned project. But we aren’t miracle workers, we can raise a fuss but that doesn’t mean the publisher will respond.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease though. If we are noisy enough, they might step up and do some stuff just to shut us up.

This is also where I, as an agent, would encourage an author to step up on the promo plan. The author should have been working on this before this moment in time so if they have, this is a good opportunity to make sure the new publicist etc. has the promo plan in hand that the author can discuss with him/her and get some positive attention. [Publicists are more inclined to help those who are willing to help themselves.]

And if they haven’t, guess what the author needs to be doing pronto!


Straight From An Editor’s Mouth

STATUS: Slowly working through emails, negotiations, contracts and whatnot. I’m particularly fond of the whatnots (aka the chocolate jar).

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROCKY MOUNTAIN WAY by Joe Walsh

The week before last, I posted a blog entry on a crisis averted in the publishing world when the ARC of my author’s book (instead of the corrected final proof) was submitted to the printer for the actual publication.

And how wonderful the editor was in terms of getting right on that, trashing the initial print run, and getting the book done right (Kudos J! You know who you are!)

Well, as I mentioned then, it’s rare occurrence but it can happen. An editor friend couldn’t help but share her story. She asked to remain anonymous so I’ve respected that request but otherwise, here is her story in full. She works at one of the major houses in New York.

Hi Kristin–Was just reading your blog. Hope you’re enjoying Maui. I’ve attended and they always do throw a good party. And it’s Maui…

I got a laugh out of your story about your author’s finished book being the ARC version. Well, not a funny ha-ha laugh, because that really sucks for her and her publisher but more a knowing laugh. When I was a 23-year old assistant editor, my executive editor boss got fired and I wound up taking over a bunch of her books. One was a book by a medium-size celebrity who was nonetheless a major-sized headache. After I’d been on the case for a couple months, the celebrity’s paperback comes out. I get the usual three hot-off-the presses copies from the bindery, send one to the author, one to her extremely powerful agent, and stick the third on my shelf. I think nothing of it for a couple hours until I’m taking a phone call, my eyes wander over to my shelf, and I realize that–holy f**king shit!–the printer HAD MISSPELLED THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON THE SPINE! I leap out of my chair, seize the book in my trembling hands, and run down the hall to the managing editor’s office, whereupon I thrust the book at her, point to the spine and burst into tears.

God bless her, she kept her cool, but it was a MAJOR error. We wound up having to pulp something like 40,000 paperbacks at 65 cents apiece. We were lucky that I’d noticed early and the books had only shipped to the warehouse, not to the stores, or we would have had to recall those and lose the shipping money on them. I then had to call the high-maintenance author and her extremely powerful agent and explain the situation, but since none of the copies had gone out, they weren’t too perturbed; and interestingly, neither of them had noticed the error on the spine when they received their copies. Still, it was probably the most freaked out I’ve ever been in my entire career, and that was 10 years ago!

Feel free to share the story, just to show that publishers do screw up sometimes, but we always try to make it right in the end! Would be great to see you if you’re back in NYC sometime soon. Really do want us to have a book together!
XXXXX


Importance Of Checking Those First Copies Hot Off The Press

STATUS: Crisis averted!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SELF ESTEEM by The Offspring

Yesterday I talked about an author of mine who had found two uncorrected errors in her acknowledgement page. But now there is more to the story. Concerned, my author continued reading and discovered, to her horror, that the copy of the book she was reading was the first pass used in the ARC.

As many of you know, the ARC is the uncorrected proof—as in the author still needs to get the final page proofs from the copy editor, review, make corrections, and then return to the publisher by that deadline. That becomes the “final” copy that heads to the printer.

In this case, there had been a huge snafu and the wrong document was used for the final printing. Ack and double ack. This is a really costly mistake because the publisher is going to have to trash the initial print run and redo it.

Which they are doing (and unfortunately the release date is going to be pushed back a couple of weeks because of it). An instance of a Publisher behaving wonderfully!

When a book is about to release, often the editor will send out a copy or two of the soon-to-be released book just hot off the press, and thank goodness my author opened up what was supposed to be the final book and gave it a close read. And double thank heavens that she did this right away, the minute the book had arrived in her mailbox because the error can be corrected right now as none of the books have shipped from the warehouse.

One or two weeks later and it would have been a real disaster.

So when that first copy arrives, absolutely admire your final work in print but you might also want to open the cover and give it a read just to be sure.

And don’t panic folks. This type of error is fairly rare but as you can see, it does happen.


Denver Skyline Photo © Nathan Forget [Creative Commons] | Site built by Todd Jackson