Pub Rants

Category: covers

But only for you readers who are smart enough to grab the hardcover of SCORCHED when it hits the shelves on September 2.

Hidden DragonCover



And, I have a cool pre-order special if you’ve been thinking of doing just that!

In the changing landscape of publishing, it’s all about pre-orders these days. The actual sales racked up before release day can seriously make a difference on whether a book will land on the NYT or USA Today list or not. So publishers are getting creative in tempting readers to buy early. And sourcebooks is going all out for SCORCHED.

A Gift for You, for Pre-Ordering SCORCHED by Mari Mancusi

We have a special offer for U.S. and Canada YA fans for the release of SCORCHED by Mari Mancusi in stores in a little over three weeks! If you pre-order the book, we will send you an exclusive dragon charm—perfect to wear as jewelry or to decorate an accessory. You have until September 2 or until quantities run out.


Here’s how to get your charm:
1. Pre-order the book (print or eBook) through any retailer (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, your local independent bookseller/Indiebound, Books-A-Million, Hastings, etc.)

2. Email your proof of purchase (receipt or picture of the receipt) to Put “Scorched Pre-Order” in the subject line. Don’t forget to include your home address (US & Canada only please) so we can send you the dragon charm! If you’ve already pre-ordered this book—not a problem! Send us your receipt!

3. You will get an email back confirming when the items have been sent out.

4. Enjoy Scorched when it comes out in September!

Optional: take a pic of you and your dragon charm and share it with Mari Mancusi or Sourcebooks Fire on Twitter! You can find Mari @marimancusi and Sourcebooks Fire @sourcebooksfire.

Friday Funnies – Anatomy of Book Cover Design

STATUS: Haven’t had a good video to share in a while. This one is worth the wait.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON’T GO by Yaz

Chip Kidd is a legend in this industry. Video is not short but worth every minute of your time. It’s a small glimpse into the brilliance of mind it takes to create a truly amazing cover. And I’ll give you a hint. It’s not about bells and whistles. It’s about text.

As it should be. Enjoy!

Disturbing YA Cover Trend?

STATUS: I am well and I’m very apologetic for not being able to blog regularly this fall. I have a feeling I’ll know what my New Year’s Resolution will be….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHEN YOU’VE GOT TROUBLE by Liz Longley

As a sophomore in college back in 1987, I’ll never forget the impact of seeing STILL KILLING US SOFTLY: ADVERTISING’S IMAGE OF WOMEN, a documentary by Jean Kilbourne.

I remember sitting there in my seat, stunned, mouth open, as Kilbourne analyzed example after example of ads that demeaned, sexualized, or minimized women by images used in advertising. She also pointed out the level of violence often depicted towards women in every day kinds of ads for fashion, perfume, food, you name it. Until that moment (despite thinking I had adequate critical analysis skills), I had never connected the dots. And after, I never saw an advertisement, a movie, or the world for that matter, in quite the same way.

And folks, this isn’t limited to the 80s (as evident by Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly 4 which released in 2010). Today, models on Glamour and Vogue can easily have an inch or two airbrushed off their thighs so what everyday women are seeing in the cover picture is a level of body perfection that is literally not achievable naturally.

So last week when I was reading a blog article on YA cover trends by Rachel Stark on Trac Changes, it’s no wonder I had a moment of deja vu. She explores the obsession with elegance and death in young adult covers. She posits that the popularity of such covers might reflect teenage girls’ morbidity and that the images on the covers she spotlights, to paraphrase, present the idea that it is beautiful, dramatic and poetic to be dead. And the fact that these covers are popular with teen girls is a product of what she dubs “internalized misogyny.”

This is definitely an article worth reading and discussing.

And I’m rather happy to report that NLA does not have any young adult titles with dead girls on the covers. A small triumph I’m sure…

Now we do have covers with girls looking pensive and beautiful, girls kissing a boy or holding hands with a boy, and a girl dancing in fire (to name a few). But they are all happily alive.

Potpourri And Funnies

STATUS: This week was defined but what wasn’t on fire with gasoline explosions. Seriously, I was coming to work each day with the thought: “Can just one thing not be an issue today? Just one.”

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WE GET TO FEEL IT ALL by Indigo Girls

But I can also define this week by some really cool things.

1. Got a revised cover for an author who had a hideous cover just last week. New cover is awesome! I’m so pleased and relieved.

2. My colleague Sara held a big big auction for a middle grade boy fantasy novel that went in a major deal (THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann). Squee.

And the best thing ever? Today my author’s editor had her baby and get this, she named the baby boy after a character in my author’s novel for whom she is the editor.

Okay, nothing beats that. That is just “Yes Way” cool.

And because it’s Friday, how can I not share with you I read the article in PW, had to check it out. Huge Beverage alert. The below photo was hands down my favorite. Oi!

Singing To My Choir!

STATUS: Monday it was 80 degrees. Today it’s snowing. Tomorrow it will be sunny and in the high 50s. And beautiful again by the weekend. Not sure what shoes to keep out or put into storage.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CHINA GIRL by David Bowie

So last week, in my status, I mentioned that we had received three covers and nixed three covers. So needless to say, it’s been nothing but cover talks, phone calls, and strategy ever since.

For the newer writers out there, an author does not get approval over covers unless he/she is at a very high level as an author. At NLA (and I imagine this is true for most agents), we always put cover consultation in the contract.

However, the definition of “consult” can be very loose. I’ve had some editors involve the author from the very first illustrative sketch to the final version. I’ve had some editors send it to the author when complete and simply say here it is. (To me, that’s not consult and I argue it.) For most editors, they are really invested in the author liking the cover so they actually allow a lot of input.

I’ve been lucky this week. The editors were fully supportive, nixed the covers and sent them back to the drawing board.

And then this morning, one of my authors sent me this link to PW’s Blog Shelftalker. I immediately read it and felt an overwhelming urge to say “Amen!” and “Keep singing my song!”

In the past weeks I’ve said everything mentioned here:

1. Misleading cover image that doesn’t remotely match the novel’s content.

Please, I beg you, for women’s fiction, no more pictures of pastoral objects like a bike or a hammock on a lovely sun porch. Debbie Macomber already has that cover thank you.

2. Same Old Cover Designs That Fit The Popular Trend.

I echo Elizabeth, please, no more covers of models in gowns, young women lying down, partial face images. When we got the ARE mailing of the “hot summer books” from a variety of young adult publishers, it was clear that any one title sent in that bunch was going to have trouble standing out. Every single one had a picture of a girl in some kind of dark, mysterious background or in a dark nature setting.

But I would like to add one to the list. No more jarringly ugly covers. I literally got a cover where the colors clashed so badly, I couldn’t figure out why somebody thought that color palette was a good idea.

Trust me, I’m not an art major or graphic designer but I am an avid reader and have seen my share of art through the ages. I know ugly when I see it.

In talking to one editor recently, I said, “all I have is my immediate gut reaction and right now, my gut says Oh Please No.

I could have kissed the editor when she said, “no prob; we’ll throw it out.”

Absolutely No Need to Apologize!

STATUS: TGIF! I will not have to work on cleaning up files because of the computer conversion. We are done!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE IT EASY by Eagles

Today Gail Carriger and I received an email from her Japanese translator apologizing for the delay in getting a copy of the Japanese cover art of SOULLESS to us.

She was emailing because the illustrator was currently in an evacuation camp but trying to finish it and because the Japanese editor on the project had also been impacted and hadn’t been able to be in the office.

Good Heavens. There is no need to apologize.

But this to me is an example of the incredible Japanese fortitude. In the face of dire circumstances caused by one of the biggest earthquakes on record, they felt the need to send us an email—and with an apology to boot!

On our end, we were just relieved to hear some news that they were safe. We have not gotten a lot of information on our Japanese counterparts as of yet.

Quick & Easy Answers

Status: Doing Client reading.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? IS THIS LOVE by Bob Marley

1) What happens if you can’t sell a book to a publisher?
If we have exhausted all possibilities, I’ll put aside and concentrate on the author’s next work. If the next sells, that always allows us to revisit the prior novel. Sometimes the decision is made to let the past be the past and simply move forward.

2) How do you know if a writer’s idea is a good one?
Not a clue really. All I know is what I like and what really resonates with me. I’ve had the good fortune of having what I like generally match up with what editors like and are willing to buy. Just like every other agent in the world, I’m not 100% right all the time. Sometimes I love a book and can’t sell it.

3) If Hollywood has bought the film rights, does the author get a share in the profit?
The sad news is that in general, the author does not get a share in the profit. Although all film deals will have the standard “5% of 100% of net,” most Hollywood films will never show a profit because of how studios manipulate the accounting. It’s worse than the mafia. So agents often build in a lot of ways for the author to make money on the film deal that aren’t tied to “profit” so loosely defined. The option price, the purchase price, bestseller bonuses, box office bonuses etc. These are payments that are not contingent on the film making money.

However, some authors do get a share in the profit. That is not a percentage based on net but a percentage based on a cashbreak point on gross.

A very different thing. Also, it is possible to put merchandizing in a separate pool with a separate percentage. Good money to potentially be made there as well.

4) Can you publish your book yourself or do you have to have a publisher?
Of course you can publish a book yourself! That’s not the right question though. Anyone can self publish; the question is distribution and how to get folks to read what you self publish.

5) How do you decide if the cover art is good?
I have to say that cover art is not my strength as an agent. I have no background in art and not much of a creative vision. However, I do know what I like and what I don’t like. If I don’t like it and neither does the author, I fight like crazy to get it changed.

6) Do publishers show animation for cover concepts?
No. But wouldn’t that be cool?

7) What happens if more than one publisher wants the book?
Then you have an auction my friend! As an author, it’s always the best place to be. However, I do think that writers have a misconception that all auctions equal big money. That is not necessarily true. You can have modest auctions that are in low five figures.

Another Reason To Nail Your Query Pitch Paragraph

STATUS: Blogging before noon! That means I’m head of my To Do list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU’RE ONLY LONELY by JD Souther

There is an interesting trend I’ve noticed lately in publishing. I think it has to do with the tightening of budget and the laying off of staff (actually, I’m just speculating that is the case.)

More and more lately, my clients and I have been practically writing our own cover copy for upcoming releases. Lately, it’s been clear that the copy writer has maybe seen just a brief synopsis of the plot before coming up with copy. By the way, this is not unusual. There is no way a copy writer could read every single book he/she has to write cover copy for. Still, in my mind, you don’t have to read the entire manuscript to be ready to write good copy. You really only have to read the first 30 pages of a novel to knock it out (and that’s easy enough to do even if the copy editor has 30 or 40 books to handle).

As I’m typing, I realize that this entry might sound like a complaint but it’s not. I actually prefer when the author and I are intimately involved and really get a say in the copy text (especially if the first draft we’ve received is really bland or just off).

So it’s more of an observation—as something I’ve noticed in the past 6 or 7 months. You folks are going to hate me for this but yet another reason to nail your pitch blurb paragraph in your query letter. You might actually be called upon to significantly contribute to the final copy that will go on your book jacket. You might as well master the craft now…

Q&A 2010—Round One

STATUS: I shouldn’t pat myself on the back when I have to leave next week to go out of town. I so want to enjoy being caught up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LEGEND IN YOUR OWN TIME by Carly Simon

Wow. That’s a plethora of Qs. At least I know what I’ll be gabbing about next week—which is good because pre-trip is always a tad hectic.

worstwriterever asked:
1) If you had to choose a different career than literary agent, what would you choose?
I used to teach college back in the day. Unbelievable to me that it has been over 15 years ago now. I think if I weren’t going to be a lit agent, I’d probably teach again. I really enjoyed it.

Of course what I like to be is independently wealthy. Wink.

2) I tweeted your post(s) yesterday because they rocked. If you’re not on Twitter, how come?
Oi! It’s on my list of things to do. Honestly! Anita, our new fab assistant is getting us on Facebook and Twitter very soon so keep an eye out.

MeganRebekah asked:
I don’t know if this outside your power/knowledge, but I’m wondering why Perfect Chemisty isn’t available on Kindle?

In this case did the publisher decide not to go ebook? Or was that decision made on different level? Any insight onto the reasoning?

Walker, Simone, and I all want to be in eBook format. The eBook was supposed to be available by now but the reason it isn’t has a lot to do with the whole Amazon hoopla and publishers changing to the agency commission model etc. I expect it will be available very soon as Simone’s editor keeps assuring me that it’s in the pipeline etc.

Cheryl asked:
Staying with the cover art theme, could you explain the process. I assume the editor gives the art department direction and the writer’s input is slim to nil (unless your name is Stephen King and your publisher contracts an independent illustrator to do your cover art).

And have you ever had to battle a publisher on your client’s behalf because the cover art was just all wrong or looked like it had been slopped together?
The answer to this question really depends on the editor and the publisher involved. I have some editors who keep us in the loop on EVERYTHING regarding the cover—including seeing early sketches from the cover artist. Then other houses just want to present the finished cover to you (which I hate). Now, in general, editors really want their authors to be happy with covers so they often ask for a lot of feedback before the cover process begins such as how a character looks or scenes that could be cool if represented.

No matter what, I always have a new author put together a file of covers they love and why (and grabbing most from their publisher but others are included too). That way the house gets a sense of the author’s taste even if they aren’t going to get a direct say in the art.

And yes, I’ve done many a battle over cover art. Sometimes I’ve won. And sometimes I have not. In the latter case, I always pray that the publisher was right and I was wrong and the cover works in a big way.

More Qs tomorrow.


STATUS: I’m finally caught up. I don’t know what to do with myself.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MARGARITAVILLE by Jimmy Buffet

I’m having performance anxiety. How can I possibly follow the last two wonderful blog entries?

I need to make a video or something. Speaking of, if you couldn’t get enough of the cover design for BLAMELESS, Orbit Art Director Lauren Panepinto gives an interview here. There is even a glimpse of an earlier version of the cover for SOULLESS. I find that just fascinating and thought my blog readers might think so as well.

Alex, Orbit Publicist, emailed to say that the link was all over twitter including a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. Yes, that Guy from Apple. I think my clients might be too cool for me… Grin.

Let’s hope some of these folks will buy the book….

Also getting amazing feedback from Simone’s book trailer for RULES OF ATTRACTION. I’m hoping that is tweetalicious as well. (Hey, maybe I can get a new word into Urban Dictionary.) It’s gotten a thumbs-up from my 16-year old niece and as all of you might not know, she rules the universe.

If it looks like I’m stalling in writing this entry, you’d be right. I’m floundering around for a good topic today. I haven’t got anything new to relay in terms of contracts and electronic book royalties. For one of my contracts in play, we may be reaching a record on how long it’s taken for a publisher to come to terms with us on language regarding this issue. We are at 6 months. Oi! I so feel for my client. Luckily she realizes how important all this is and so is being really terrific and patient about it. But yuck, 6 months and we’ve been pushing. It’s not like I’m sleeping on the job here….

I’m also getting ready for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I’ll be flying out next Thursday to Italy. I’ll be giving you the scoop from the floor while there. So in the meantime, maybe it’s time for a few questions. We did this in December and it was fun. I thought maybe I’d entertain some every couple of months so let’s see if you have some good ones for me.

Please no questions easily answered via our website or have been discussed ad nauseam on this blog.