Pub Rants

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

Tagged romance

What’s In Our Full Manuscript Queue

STATUS: This is a first for me. CBS films has a dedicated FB page for LEGEND the Movie. And you get first peek at the just released cover. Sweet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MISSIONARY MAN by Eurythmics

This is actually a good question. A quick look shows that we have 8 full manuscripts in the queue to be read. And here’s where they fall:

6 titles are Young Adult (breakdown by genre, 3 fantasies, 2 paranormals, 1 contemporary)

1 title is adult literary fiction

1 title is adult women’s fiction

We just sent responses to an adult fantasy that we passed on as well as a middle grade title that had several agents interested but ended up not being quite right for us.

Of the 3 clients Sara just signed: adult SF novel, adult Historical Romance, and Paranormal YA.

And as a bonus, here is Kristin as a talking head yet again. This time I’m reading a short excerpt from the Philip K Dick nominee SF novel SONG OF SCARABAEUS for the awards ceremony last Friday. The sound is not the best so you’ll probably have to turn up your volume all the way up to remotely hear me. Warning, this scene will probably hook you in!

The author Sara Creasy thought I looked quite spiffy!

Congrats NLA RITA Finalists!

STATUS: This is how I like to start my morning.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOW WE DO by The Game Ft. 50 Cent

Not all the finalists have been notified so I’m hoping we might hear some more news as the RWA website doesn’t update until the finalist has been reached.

Still, we are super excited to say HUGE CONGRATS to…

Simone Elkeles for RULES OF ATTRACTION–Young Adult Romance

And to

Sherry Thomas for HIS AT NIGHT–Historical Romance

Both of these authors won the RITA award last year so if you haven’t picked up one of their amazing novels, what are you waiting for?

Fun Facts On NLA Clients—Take 3

STATUS: Today was a whirlwind of good news and I actually knocked 2 things off my To Do List. I’m flying high tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE WEDGE by Dick Dale

Courtney Milan—next to Chutney, Courtney has the cutest dog on the planet! Seriously, most of you know that Courtney came my way via a recommend from Sherry Thomas but then I met her in person and the Chicago Romance Writers Conference. I was impressed on many fronts.

Paula Reed—is the only client where I found her! I read an article about teachers and Columbine High School in the Denver Post and she was profiled. In the article, she mentioned she was writing a romance so I reached out to her. Now she writes literary historical fiction.

Sarah Rees Brennan—I was the only agent she queried for The Demon’s Lexicon series. Every day I’m thrilled and amazed that it was so!

Kim Reid—I met Kim at the Pikes Peak Writers conference and I think I physically groaned when she said she had a memoir to pitch (she won’t let me live that down!). Her memoir NO PLACE SAFE is one good reason why I’m proud to be a literary agent.

More Dick Dale music on iLike

RWA—Orlando, Florida (Day 2 After)

STATUS: Hum… I thought August was the slow month for publishing. Couldn’t tell by all the action we are seeing this week at the agency.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WILDFIRE by Michael Martin Murphey
(Holy cow does this song bring back memories from the 70s! If you can handle the sap, click on the title. *grin*)

Today I promised you my notes from the tidbits and insights gleaned from editors at RWA.

Here’s the consensus:

1. Although editors and agents are a little tired of seeing paranormal proposals, demand from readers remain unabated. So, if you’ve got a great novel with a fresh take on it, well, bring it on I guess.

2. The latest catch word from editors is “heartfelt.” Seems like regardless of whether it is contemporary, historical, paranormal, women’s fiction, editors want that heartfelt emotion. What that really means—you’re guess is as good as mine. I don’t tend to lean toward the small-town Debbie Macomber-like sweetness and light in the romances and women’s fic so if it means that, probably not right for me. I gravitate more toward emotional complexity, sexy, and a little edge.

Probably it’s a term that’s just as nebulous as editors want fresh stories with a great voice. Still, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read some up-and-coming new romance authors such as Sarah MacLean.

3. Whispers of Westerns and Medievals. Haven’t heard that in a long, long time! Two different editors mentioned they had bought new authors they just loved—even though they are in this tough category. Bring that on!

3. Huge uptick in eSales for romance. Stats are running close to 20% of 100% of the sales pie. That’s a big increase in a short period of time. No surprise though. Romance readers tend to be early adaptors simply because they read so much.

Public Knowledge Now

STATUS: Mondays. I wish we could have Tuesdays without the Mondays.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PLEASE COME TO BOSTON BY Dave Loggins

For those of you who might not have seen the news, Romance Writers Of America (RWA) has declared that Dorchester cannot attend the 2010 RWA conference in Orlando next week because of past due contractual and financial obligations.

I won’t comment further except to say that I’m glad this is now “public” knowledge and that RWA has taken a stand on it.

Talk About the Money

STATUS: If I read my latest Publishers Weekly magazine at the same time as getting a pedicure, does that qualify as working? Hey, it’s summer time.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I AND LOVE AND YOU by Avett Brothers

Last weekend I spoke at my local Lighthouse Writers Litfest. They wrapped up two weeks of celebrating literature and authors with an agent panel at the Tattered Cover in Lodo (which stands for Lower Downtown)—and to be honest, agents doesn’t sound overly celebratory to me but hey, they thought that was the way to do it. Didn’t you know that most of us are full of hot air?

One of the questions asked at the panel was how much of an advance can a writer expect for a debut novel.

Admit it. All of you just perked up your ears. Always, always, writers want to know about the dollars involved. The problem is that this question is really hard to answer. Depending on the novel, it literally could go for any amount of money.

When pressed, which happened of course, the audience wanted to know what was “typical.”

Once again, no such thing but if you hold a gun to my head, I’ll say this:

1. Most debut novels will have advances of under 25k per book. I’d say that’s typical.

2. What a debut novel will get for an advance will depend on genre.
a. Romance novels—5-15k per book
b. YA or MG—10-30k
c. Mysteries & thrillers—Uh, no idea. Don’t rep them. Janet Reid, my friend, can you chime in here? I think you are the Queen of repping this genre.
d. Literary fiction—10-30k
e. Women’s fic—10-30k (are you noticing a pattern here?)
f. SF&F—5-25k

Okay, fine. I told you the money—as long as you realize this list is meaningless, we’re fine.

Have I sold a debut romance author for six figures? Yes. Debut literary author for six figures? Yes. SF&F debut author for 6? Not yet (but I’ve gotten really close…).

Etc. It all depends on how many editors want your particularly debut novel. For my part, I often feel the most satisfaction for selling a debut that took forever to place (and the author was on the verge of giving up hope) and the novel I sold for peanuts that then exploded and just sold and sold.

Now that’s the kind of money I like to talk about.

One Book or Two? Maybe Three?

STATUS: I was “this close” to getting to everything on my TO DO list today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MY WAY by Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson

Last year, a fellow agent friend and I gave a workshop on doing a single-book contract versus a multi-book contract. I was a little surprised at how many writers showed up for it. Hey, maybe these would make a few good blog entries.

First Q: When is doing a single-book contract ideal and when is a multi-book contract best?

Answering this question takes into consideration a lot of different factors. Let’s start with the obvious. If you write genre fiction, it’s almost always to an author’s advantage to do a multi-book contract.

For example, if you write fantasy and the first book being sold is the first in an envisioned trilogy, well, it would be better to have the publisher commit to three books. That way the entire series has a shot of being published. It often takes several books for a series to pick up momentum. What’s important is the publisher commitment—even if in the end a series does well and it was “undersold” initially in terms of the advance.

More common case is that a series has to build over time with the subsequent books and then the books start to earn out. Besides, who wants to sell book 1 in a trilogy only to be left in a lurch if the publisher doesn’t pick up the other books? It’s not easy (read “nearly impossible) to sell books 2 & 3 to another house. If sales are sluggish, it’s really unlikely another house will pick it up.

For another genre such as romance, careers build best if an author can release books within 6 to 8 months from each other. That means really tight schedules/deadlines for the author to make that work so doing multi-book contracts make sense. It’s also best to do multi if the stories are “linked” (as in they stand alone but have characters that might have been introduced in first novel).

Is there an advantage or disadvantage for doing 2 books vs. 3 or 4? Sure. Lots of agents differ on their opinion of this so I can only speak for myself. In general for me, the number of books sold at one time depends on the author (how fast he/she can write), on the project (how many books envisioned) and whether I think the author was undervalued. What I mean by that is if the offer was initially too low for a 3 or 4 book deal or if I thought the monies should have been higher in the auction and I don’t want to lock the author in for too many books at the lower rate. Obviously, reverse is true. If the monies are good, then why not lock in for more books as the commitment is strong from the publisher.

As you can see, lots of factors at play. How does an agent know? We’ve been doing this long enough that we pretty much use our gut sense of what feels right as the offer unfolds. I’ve yet to be wrong.

I’ll talk about single-book contract tomorrow.

2010 RITA Nominations

STATUS: Feeling much better although that’s not hard to do after how awful I felt during the last two days. To be a little gross, I can’t believe my body can produce this much mucus. Blah. Kristin—1 Flu–9

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARVEST MOON by Neil Young

This post is long overdue as the news came in last week—and big news it was. Nelson Literary Agency has 6 RITA nominations for 2010! Woot.

Biggest congrats to Carolyn Jewel who is a double finalist! Much deserved Carolyn as I think you are an amazing writer who is flying under the radar and shouldn’t be.

2010 RITA for Historical Romance Finalist

2010 RITA for Paranormal Romance Finalist

2010 RITA for Regency Historical Romance Finalist

2010 RITA for Romance Novella Finalists
“This Wicked Gift” by Courtney Milan in The Heart of Christmas

2010 RITA for Young Adult Romance

Harlequin Horizons Debacle Revisited

STATUS: Dashing out again in about 15 minutes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COME BACK AND STAY by Paul Young

Sorry for the blog silence. I left my hotel around 8 in the morning yesterday and didn’t arrive back until after 10pm. Sure, I could have done the blog entry via my iPhone but I really can’t see me “thumbing” in a whole entry.

On Thursday, I stopped by Harlequin to talk with several editors there. Now I realize that this whole Horizons business was a corporate decision made at the Toronto headquarters and they probably didn’t even bother to tell the editors in New York before they did it but I still voiced my negative opinion about Horizons now called DellArte. Now one editor did try out the spiel about how publishing houses need to shift models in this bad economy but I wasn’t having any of that.

I said vanity publishing was predatory—plain and simple and that needed to be understood. That Harlequin had a reputation that they are now putting in jeopardy and that the writers organizations had every right to speak out strongly as their whole purpose is to protect writers.

And speaking of, Mystery Writers Of America issued a statement today. Here it is:

Dear MWA Member:
The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

What does this mean for current and future MWA members?

Any author who signs with Harlequin or any of its imprints from this date onward may not use their Harlequin books as the basis for active status membership nor will such books be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration. However books published by Harlequin under contracts signed before December 2, 2009 may still be the basis for Active Status membership and will still be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration (you may find the full text of the decision at the end of this bulletin).

Although Harlequin no longer offers its eHarlequin Critique Service and has changed the name of its pay-to-publish service, Harlequin still remains in violation of MWA rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin’s traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:”

The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher’s for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.”

Harlequin’s Publisher and CEO Donna Hayes responded to our November 9 letter, and a follow up that we sent on November 30. In her response, which we have posted on the MWA website, Ms. Hayes states that Harlequin intends as standard practice to steer the authors that it rejects from its traditional publishing imprints to DellArte and its other affiliated, for-pay services. In addition, Harlequin mentions on the DellArte site that editors from its traditional publishing imprints will be monitoring DellArte titles for possible acquisition. It is this sort of integration that violates MWA rules.

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President,

MWAMWA’s Official Decision: That because Harlequin’s for pay publishing business violates MWA’s rules for approved publishers, MWA takes the following action: First, Harlequin shall be removed from MWA’s list of approved publishers upon the adoption of this motion; Second, that all current active status members of MWA whose status is based upon books published by Harlequin shall remain active status members; Third, that MWA decline applications for active membership based upon books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the effective date of this motion; Fourth, that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into prior to the adoption of this motion shall be eligible for the Edgar® Awards, except that books published by DellArte Press shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards regardless of when such contract was entered into; and Fifth that books published by Harlequin pursuant to contracts entered into after the adoption of this motion shall not be eligible for the Edgar® Awards.

MWA’s Executive Vice-President, and her or his designates, are directed to continue discussions with Harlequin in an effort to reach an agreement that would allow for Harlequin to be an approved publisher according to MWA’s rules. This e-bulletin was prepared by the MWA national office on behalf of the MWA National Board of Directors.

I have been told that Harlequin is still have dicussions with RWA over this matter.

Good but I don’t necessarily see Harlequin abandoning this appalling business path with Horizons/DellArte. I think the lure of easy money is too strong.

Horizons Is Not Remotely Like Harper Studio Or Vanguard Press

STATUS: Heading off for Thanksgiving Break. I won’t be back to blogging until Monday. Seems like bad timing with all that’s going on but don’t worry. We haven’t heard the last of it yet. If I hear any breaking news, I’ll try and update the blog.

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

Today, Thomas Nelson Publishers joins the Harlequin hoopla in a ridiculous blog post. Ashley and Carolyn Grayson posted their response—to which I whole heartedly agree. I find it laughable that Hyatt believes that agents are speaking out against the ripping off of writers via vanity publishing arms because we see “self-publishing” as a threat.

As many commenters have already noted in my blog comments section, vanity publishing and self publishing are not the same. A distinction that Hyatt does not seem to understand. I suppose he also believes that venerated writing organizations such as RWA, MWA, and SFWA, all of which have a long tradition of helping and protecting writers, are similarly trying to keep the status quo by vehemently speaking out against such blatant ripping off of writers.

I also want to make this distinction.

When I spoke to an editorial director from Harlequin last week, the editor mentioned that “several other publishers were doing it.” The only difference was they didn’t announce their vanity publishing arm.

Incredulous, I had asked “like who?”

The editor could not respond with a list of names.

I’m wondering if the editor was erroneously comparing Harlequin Horizons to a legitimate publisher such as Vanguard Press or Harper Studio.

They are not remotely the same.

At Horizons, the writers are forced to pay for their work to be “published.” And forced to pay for “marketing” or anything else from a fee-oriented “menu” of choices. The writer foots the entire cost.

At VP and HS, the publishers pay for publication. The authors are not out any money from their pockets. Vanguard and Studio also commit a certain percentage of monies to the marketing/promotion as part of the plan. In lieu of the advance, there is an equal split of royalties between Publisher and Author.

And another key factor, at VP and HS, the books are available for wide distribution via traditional sales outlets just like a traditional publisher.

None of these things are true at Harlequin Horizons (or whatever they are calling it now).

And the most egregious part of Horizons? The fact that Harlequin planned to refer rejected authors to this option as a “viable” alternative.

As RWA, MWA, SFWA have all pointed out. That’s not legitimate publishing, it should not be advertised as so, and it’s just plain wrong.

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