Pub Rants

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

Tagged Book Expo

What Editors Have Bought Recently – Women’s Fic and Literary

STATUS: It’s BEA time! Oh crazy schedule

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Obviously I’m not just talking to children’s editors while in New York. So here’s a little snippet of what editors have been buying in the adult realm:

1) Literary novels with some sort of magical element (i.e The Night Circus)
2) Multi-cultural literary novels by non-American writers
3) Voice-driven literary novels that shed light on the contemporary modern landscape for protagonists in their 20s or 30s.

In women’s fiction and romance
1) contemporary stories with small town settings
2) southern contemporary women’s fix
3) looking or romantic comedies in romance (haven’t heard that desire in a while!)

Off to the Javits Center!


BEA Week

Status: It’s pouring rain in New York too. Is there anywhere where it’s not raining?


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHATAYA WANT FROM ME by Adam Lambert


Dashing off in the next hour to head to Javits Center. It’s going to be a crazy week but I’ll try and report from the floor. I’m armed with my camera.


And some great news to kick it off. Kirkus lists the Top 26 Galleys to grab at the Fair and guess who is on it?


Heck yes!


In a totally unscientific sampling, I gave an ARC of this title to my 17 year old niece who loved it. She cajoled my 14 year old reluctant reader nephew to read it. He spent an entire day, while on spring break, away from playing his favorite video game because he couldn’t stop reading it.


There have only been two other books that did the same for him. ENDER’S GAME and the HUNGER GAMES trilogy.


This is how I know Marie and I might be on to something with this LEGEND trilogy so if you are at BEA, you might want to hit Marie’s signing on Wed. May 25 at 3 pm at Penguin’s booth #3252.


The last NLA book to be chosen as a top galley at BEA was SOULLESS by Gail Carriger.


This bodes well for us!



And Since We Are Talking About The BEA YA Buzz Panel

STATUS: I’ve got a holiday party to attend tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SNOW by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye

Looking at the blog entry from June 2, 2010 was a nice reminder that I might want to check in on the titles editors spotlighted at the YA buzz panel at Book Expo and see how they are doing.

Here’s the original list for reference.

PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow—Fantasy

INFINITE DAYS by Rebecca Maizel—Vampire/Paranormal

MATCHED by Ally Condie—Dystopian

FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan—Dragon/Paranormal

THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger—Contemporary YA

Well, I can tell you right now that Matched is doing the best out of the gate. In fact, PW just had an article on what an auspicious debut it is. A quick look at Bookscan shows an excellent sales record for the first full week out.

Because of agreement with Bookscan, I can’t list actual numbers but let’s just say if a debut YA novel comes out of the gate over 3000 copies strong, it’s doing really well. And this title is definitely above that. It also hit the NYT list this week coming in at #5.

Crazy sales always confirm that a title was buzz worthy.

In a quick look at the other four titles, all of which were released in August and September of this year, they have, in general, what I would call normal-to-above-average sales out of the gate for young adult titles. FIRELIGHT and INFINITE DAYS having higher sales than the other two, and I think that attests to the paranormal genre holding strong in the young adult market.

From this Buzz panel, at least right now, it looks like Matched wins hands-down as the “break-out” book.


BEA Adult Editor Buzz Panel

STATUS: The most frustrating morning with a foreign rights deal!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? RUBY by Ray Charles

Since we kicked off the week with the YA Buzz panel, it’s only fair to close it out by talking about the adult title buzz panel. I have to say the crowd seemed to have responded much more enthusiastically to the upcoming titles then they did for the YA panel.

For the record, I wasn’t able to stay for the whole panel so I missed out on the last two titles: JULIET (shout out to my agent friend Dan Lazar whose book this is) and THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES (great title!). I can’t really give you insight to the reactions when the editors presented them.

For my part, I was very impressed with all the presentations. Here are the titles to get you started.

ROOM by Emma Donoghue
WEST OF HERE by Jonathan Evison
JULIET by Anne Fortier
BAD SCIENCE by Ben Goldacre
THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE by Benjamin Hale
THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES: A BIOGRAPHY OF CANCER by Siddhartha Mukherjee

For my take, the crowd really reacted to ROOM. It’s got a Lovely Bones element and is potentially the kind of story that you might say “ick, I don’t want to read that” but then you get caught and can’t put it down. I bet you’ll hear people talking about it this fall. I did snag a galley of this one. Love the cover.

I enjoyed the presentation for BAD SCIENCE as I like narrative nonfiction that illuminates the world we live in. In this case, the work tackles scientific misinformation. My book club loves this kind of stuff so my guess is that we’ll probably read it at some point.

BRUNO is exactly the kind of literary fiction that I can’t stand but I’m usually alone in this sentiment and the novel will probably be wildly popular. Just not my cup of tea.

I’ve heard amazing things about JULIET but alas, wasn’t there to hear the reaction. Sara snagged a galley so we’ll be reading.

WEST OF HERE is an Algonquin book (they did Water For Elephants) and the editor is the same, Chuck Adams. I have a lot of respect for his taste so even though the book didn’t stand out for me per se, I’ll willing to bet on it because of reputation of Chuck and the publishing house.

If any blog reader was there, feel free to chime in on the comments section.


BEA Pics

STATUS: Working on the To Do list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BEAUTY IN THE WORLD by Macy Gray

The life of an agent is indeed a hard one—as you can tell from the following BEA pic. I really took one for the team in doing that shot with Simone and Alex at her signing for RULES OF ATTRACTION. *grin* Alexander F. Rodriquez starred as Simone’s character of Alex in the RULES OF ATTRACTION trailer.


Here are two shots of Alex and Simone signing in the Walker Booth:

Here’s a shot of Simone posing with a Fan in the Flux booth during a signing for RETURN TO PARADISE:

In that same Flux booth is a great poster of REVAMPED, an upcoming release from NLA client Lucienne Diver:


BEA YA Editor Buzz Panel

STATUS: Post-BEA madness. Seriously, I have a TO DO list 3 pages long.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DANCING QUEEN by Luke Bloom

I’m back! I had the worst internet connection at my hotel. It made trying to be online beyond frustrating. I ended up only responding to emails via my iPhone and forget about blogging! Yesterday was a bit of a crunch as well so sorry about that.

So let me start filling you folks on BEA tidbits. Most of it is relevant post-show so not to worry. I think the YA editor buzz panel tends to be a nice barometer of what editors will think is “hot” in the fall. In a sense, the editors may be highlighting trends that they think will continue to be strong. Whether that’s true or not I really can’t say. I have followed the “big” books highlighted in past buzz panels and some have gone on to be huge and others have caused just a faint ripple.

So, here are the titles from the panel. Links to them online if you want to read short plot synops:

PLAIN KATE by Erin Bow—Fantasy
INFINITE DAYS by Rebecca Maizel—Vampire/Paranormal
MATCHED by Ally Condie—Dystopian
FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan—Dragon/Paranormal
THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger—Contemporary YA

I could be totally wrong but my general sense of the crowd’s reaction was one of ennui. I also asked a bunch of other people I knew there and they agreed with my assessment so it wasn’t just my imagination. The crowd was listless and didn’t perk up until THE DUFF was mentioned (which by the way, my latest NYT bestselling author Simone Elkeles read for a blurb and loved it so maybe put it on your Wish list).

I think booksellers and librarians are kind of tired of paranormal novels (TWILIGHT but with….). Now having said that, I don’t think teens are and I do think these books are worth watching and may hit solidly this fall. If you were also there at the panel, feel free to chime in on your own assessment of the crowd’s reaction.

I have not read any of the above except for MATCHED as we saw that one on submit, offered rep, and alas were one of 7 agents who offered for it. Needless to say, didn’t land with us. Sold for big money so we were rather sad but hey, went to a great agent that I like so at least we were in the game.

So now y’all can watch the releases this fall and see how they play out. Is the paranormal trend over or still going strong? The next couple of months will be telling for that. I’ve noticed some strong non-paranormal contenders hitting the NYT list as of late. That could be a sign as well.


Book Expo 2010

STATUS: Ready to shut it down for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU AIN’T THINKING (ABOUT ME) by Sonia Dada

You guys can’t possibly have missed that Book Expo is next week in New York. Yes, I’ll be heading there on Sunday. Y’all know what this means. Spotty blogging unless they’ve got good free wireless from the fair floor.

I’ll have my netbook handy just in case so I can blog at a moment’s notice.

So you tell me, what do you want your intrepid literary agent blogger to report from the floor?

I’ll try and accommodate.


Some BEA Observations

STATUS: I’ve got so many great notes to share with you folks. Just not enough time in the day to blog about it all. Thank goodness we have the rest of the week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LYIN’ EYES by The Eagles

I have to say that I’m very glad that I attended Book Expo this year. A lot of things are changing in the industry and it only makes sense that BEA is going to evolve, transform, change, or even disappear (although doubtful) in the years to follow.

I had heard that publishers were cutting back this year and now having seen it, I can tell you for certain that that is true.

Random House had a booth the size of a postage stamp.

Macmillan wasn’t even on the floor. They simply had meeting rooms in the basement—I mean the lower floor that held the conference rooms.

At past BEAs, aisles were so stuff with people, you had to do an interesting shuffle with a lot of “pardon me” to get through. This year, the open space was like walking down an uncrowded boulevard. I think the only time I felt packed in was when the new Balzer & Bray imprint had their champagne toast launch party in the HarperCollins booth. However, once all glasses were distributed, the bar magically disappeared. It was up for maybe 15 minutes total. The champagne bottles were not abundent.

At past BEAs, ARCs (otherwise known as Advanced Reading Copies) abounded. In fact, you couldn’t walk through a booth without tripping over one. This year? Scant would be the word I would use to sum it up. Unless there was an actual signing going on, very few galleys could be had. [Although I should have assigned my client Megan Crewe to be my stealth ARC gatherer as she totally scored with a copy of CATCHING FIRE (hot sequel to The Hunger Games) and a copy of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (which is getting some solid pre-buzz).] She managed to snag about 60 ARCs.

However, in general, I can’t complain about this year’s Book Expo. The show was very good to my authors as the pictures below will attest.

Photo 1: Hank Ryan draws crowds in the Harlequin booth for the release of her third book in the Charlie McNally series–AIR TIME.

Photo 2: Now this is good editor support. Notice how Devi Pillai dressed to match the poster colors. That’s going above and beyond the call of duty! (Actually, Devi hadn’t realized that she had done so until I pointed it out to her.)

Photo 3: Gail Carriger signs her copies of her debut fantasy SOULLESS. One of the few ARCs that were out and about every day for the taking, Gail had some really nice lines–especially considering she’s so new to the scene. In fact, in a funny related story, three separate people at random times came up to me during the weekend to tell me about this really cool ARC they had snagged. Imagine my surprise that at three different times, the book they pulled out to show me was of SOULLESS. I had to then ‘fess up that it was my book.


Photo 4: Nice signage for the third book in the Gallagher Girl series that is releasing next week!

Photo 5: Ally signs in the Brilliance Booth

Photo 6: Electronic Poster of THE SHIFTER in HarperCollins Booth for the Balzer & Bray Champagne toast for the launch list.


Hardcover vs Original Trade Paperback

STATUS: It’s been a bit of a long day. Right now I’m just reading as I’m still a bit behind on client material and requested manuscripts. I don’t think it’s actually possible to get ahead so a perpetual state of being behind is pretty much normal.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL I WANT by Toad The Wet Sprocket

Basically the conversation about whether to publish a debut in original trade pb versus hardcover relates to literary fiction or commercial literary fiction.

Why? Because there are many genres where original trade or even mass market publication for a debut is widely acceptable and the issues of support really aren’t in question.

For example, publishing romance, thriller, and debuts in SF&F often happen in the mass market version without too many blinks of an eye. In fact, in these genres, it’s often a reverse process. An author can start in mass market and move “up” to trade or hardcover.

For those of you who are confused, mass market is the pocket size publication of a work. Trade paperback is the same size as a hardcover (for the most part) but simply has a soft cover rather than the hard (and a lower price point).

Lots of terrific women’s fiction and commercial mainstream projects are published as original trade pbs and work great.

The trick is deciding about a debut in the literary realm. Do you go for hardcover with all the “prestige,” the marketing/pr backing and the reviews (but the higher price point—which lots of readers perceive as too high) or do you go for the trade pb? Right now there are still vestiges of reluctance to fully support an original trade pb in this realm.

Thus the dilemma. Forgo the higher price point and the stronger royalty percentages to satisfy reader desires (and if you do the math, authors earn less money with trade pb until the tipping point), or go for the hardcover, get more support and have a higher chance of earning out that advance (or the greater risk of failure if it doesn’t work).

See the issue?

Now I think publishing is evolving because so much good new literary stuff is coming out in original trade pb and succeeding but yet, there are still these hesitations (as the failures loom greatly)—and for good reason.

If we are going to revolutionize the industry and move more to this format (which I’m certainly not opposed to), then let’s re-examine all the facets of it—including the marketing/pr, the print runs, the royalty structures, and gasp, even maybe the advances paid for works that will be pubbed in original trade pb.

I’m lobbying for a holistic approach to the question—rather than simply examining individual facets. Publishing, traditionally, doesn’t work this way. By examining recent history, this is not a nimble industry which makes it interesting for agents to navigate and thus why the BEA panel was so fascinating to attend.


Report From BEA (Part Two)

STATUS: It’s always a crush when I’ve been out of the office for a week. I’m proud to say I’m now finally seeing open spots on the desktop for the first time today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BACK HOME AGAIN by John Denver

Here’s how I can sum up my BEA. With the exception of the Graphic Novel Author Breakfast on Saturday morning, any event I had planned to attend was a bust—real snoozers.

And the one panel that was a spontaneous choice was the one I enjoyed the most—and that was the panel discussion on Hardcover versus original trade paperback for a debut novel.

Basically there was no consensus on whether it helps or hurts an author. Several examples were given for both—of how a trade price point really helped to break out an author and how an author got sunk by the hardcover pub with the higher price point.

There was even mention of my larger concern about not getting the audio deal and foreign rights for an original trade pb (although I have to say that foreign publishers seem very flexible with what they buy and the format doesn’t seem to impact too much).

My hope was that the discussion could veer into new territories, like setting up the possibility of rethinking how original trade paperbacks are bought, their marketing/promo plans (because let’s face it, as agents we are mostly worried about original trades not getting the love from pr and marketing and the reviews needed to really succeed as those aspects have been slow to evolve), and perhaps discuss new trade original royalty structures if more and more books are pubbed as original trades and not hardcovers. Those percentages haven’t changed in a hefty while

I don’t care if something is going to pub in trade pb if I know I can get the support, the backing, and that my author could earn as much via that medium than through hardcover as the original format.

Lots about pubbing original trade make sense and yet, there’s still those possible issues that make it hard not to be hesitant. Still, I see it’s where the industry seems to be leaning so I’d just like to see some other aspects about this format embraced.

But back to the Graphic novel breakfast.


From left: Jeff Smith (author of Bone), Jeph Loeb (producer of Heroes and currently writing Hulk for Marvel), Mike Mignola (Hellboy), and Art Spiegelman (Pulitzer Prize-winner of Maus)

Here’s what I learned. Folks who write and illustrate comic books are passionate about them and a lot of writers have been doing this for some time—long before it was popular.

1. They all were slightly amused by the term graphic novelists.
2. They are, and always will be, comic book writers, thank you very much.
3. They are all slightly amused to be considered “cool” now as well.

The tipping point for comic books happened, for some reason, about 4 or 5 years ago and they knew it when librarians started coming to them with “no need to sell me on the format, I get it but what should I be buying? What’s Good?” That’s when the format had arrived into the mainstream. It’s also not just about comic book publishers anymore. Many traditional publishing imprints (like S&S and Random House) are buying comic books and positioning them like traditional books (for lack of a better word).

I found the whole breakfast, and especially Spiegelman’s visual presentation about the history and the how and why of how he go into it, particularly fascinating.

I certainly can’t say that I’ve been a long-time fan or anything like that but I’m interested. I certainly had a bunch of comic books when I was growing up (boy did this bring back memories) and many of my college buddies wrote, illustrated, and collected comic books so I was certainly exposed to the medium. Now I just need to get back in touch with those guys and say, “hey, your time has come. Maybe we need to dig out those works.”

Last but not least, I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing the author autographing stalls. One author called it horse racing in reverse. It does rather mimic that!



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