Pub Rants

Category: Marketing & Promotion

(Just a note, this article was featured in our September 2020 Newsletter. To receive our articles first, you can subscribe to our newsletter here.)

Hello to all the PubRants readers sheltering at home. Hope this article finds you healthy, safe, and sane. Glad you are still with us and reading our monthly missive. It’s been a year in the making, but I’m very excited to share with you our brand-spanking new website that just launched this past week. Although September’s newsletter follows the old format, you can expect a newly redesigned newsletter to follow in a couple months, so stay tuned. 

For eight months, I was closed to queries to cover two back-to-back maternity leaves for the NLA family. Congratulations, Samantha and Maria! At long last, I’m back in the query game, so it seemed apropos to talk about trends I’m seeing in my QueryManager inbox

As always, don’t put too much weight on the trends I spotlight here. It doesn’t mean your project is dead in the water. It just means you need to be more creative in your query letter to make your story stand out. One interesting thing to note is that we’re fielding a lot of queries from authors who’ve had prior agent representation and are looking for a new partnership. Because of Covid, agents, like everyone else, are juggling a lot, and I wonder if some are paring down their client rosters. 

Good luck out there! Persevere. 

In the Adult realm:

  • Historicals set in the time periods of the 1960s through the 1990s. Might writers be reminiscing on their pasts so as to escape our present crises?
  • International thrillers with main characters that work at the CIA, FBI, etc. This is a specific thriller genre (espionage thrillers) and not something Joanna or I are looking for, but we still get a lot of inquiries.
  • Lots of stories that use BIG LITTLE LIES as a comp.
  • Jane Austen retellings are trending again. Humorous. Gender-swapped. From a different character’s perspective. That kind of thing.
  • Old-school speculative fiction in the vein of Philip K. Dick and William Gibson—which isn’t quite where the SF&F market is right now.
  • Angsty fiction in which the characters must “find themselves,” but that lacks a clear hook or concept to drive the story. This tends to be perennial.
  • Short books—queries for novellas and novels under 70,000 words. For some reason this is popular, but 70K is pretty short for a full novel.

In the YA and Children’s realm:

  • Steampunk submissions have really wound down over the last year.
  • Pirates, pirates, pirates! Not sure what in the Zeitgeist is driving the trend, but it’s big in YA and MG (middle grade).
  • Fantasy built around elemental powers or magic.
  • Fantasy built around the guardians trope: characters who must protect a chosen one, a secret, a portal, a wall, a source of magic, etc.
  • Fantasy built around court intrigue. Heads up: this market is saturated for editors. Some sales still occur, but they are far fewer than two years ago.
  • Cool dragons with inventive premises are trending for both the YA and adult-fantasy realm.
  • Middle-grade portal/time travel stories—probably because we need to escape our current world. 

Online Writing Events: What’s Working? What’s Not?

This week, the New York Times started publishing a series of articles under the heading “Six Months In,” looking at what we know now (and are still waiting to learn) after half a year of confronting COVID-19. That got me thinking about my friends in the writing world. We’re six months in, and our favorite writing conferences and conventions have been canceled, postponed, or made virtual. Writing is a lonely endeavor anyway, and it seems it has become even lonelier.

Or has it?

All of us at NLA have participated in myriad online events in the last six months, from one-hour Q&As to multi-day virtual events complete with pitch appointments, critique roundtables, social rooms, and dozens of workshops keyed to various learning tracks. We’ve witnessed event organizers innovate in some pretty commendable ways. The occasional tech glitch and Zoom learning curve aside, it’s actually been pretty great.

But I want to hear from you—all of you writers out there who have participated in online writing events and communities in the past six months. In our new virtual world…

• Are you more involved with writing communities, less involved, or the same?

• Is pitching to an agent or editor online more stressful or less stressful than it is in person? Why?

• Are you connecting with the same folks you were connecting with in person, or have you branched out and networked with new folks?

• How has your critique group adapted in the age of COVID?

• What types of online events have attracted you to participate, and how did they catch your eye?

• What could online-event organizers do to improve writers’ experiences, or what types of things do you wish would be offered?

• Have you attended virtual author readings or book-launch events? If so, what’s worked? What hasn’t?

I want to hear from you! Leave a comment with your thoughts down below. Next month, I’ll report back on the virtual writing world through your eyes…six months in.

(Unfortunately, our newsletter redacted the email we included to receive your responses. Please use the comment section to share your thoughts with us!)

Creative Commons Photo Credit: Ralf Steinberger

If you’re a writer on Twitter, you probably know that #MSWL is a popular hashtag. It’s how lots of agents and editors broadcast their submission wish lists.

I love it! But I can say with complete certainty that I’ll never post a #MSWL list. Why? Simply because I honestly don’t know what I’m looking for until I start reading it.

Case in point: When I read Stacey Lee’s UNDER A PAINTED SKY in manuscript form, never in a million years would I have posted to #MSWL that I was looking for a young-adult novel set in the American West, with two female protagonists—one Chinese, one African American—on the run and cross-dressing as boys to disguise themselves.

Yeah. I don’t think that would have come up.

But the minute I started reading, I knew I had to have that book. And thank goodness Putnam Children’s agreed with me.

So here’s the plain, honest truth: I have no idea what I’m looking for until the voice of a story grabs hold of me and doesn’t let go.

Just recently, I sold two science-fiction novels—DARE MIGHTY THINGS and THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS. Both, oddly, feature a competition at the heart of the story.

Ha! If you’d asked me whether competition stories were on my wish list, I probably would have said no. Popularity of The Hunger Games and all.

But once Emmett got a hold of me in THE BLACK HOLE OF BROKEN THINGS, I was 100% in. And in DARE MIGHTY THINGS, once Cassie Dhatri convinced me that competing for the opportunity to be an astronaut was cooler than competing for a prince and a kingdom, my inner geek girl squealed with delight. I was in.

So keep that in mind when you ask an agent, “What are you looking for?” If they have a ready answer, take it with a grain of salt. Rarely do we find exactly what we are looking for.

As the Rolling Stones would say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.”

Photo Credit: Hey Paul Studios

If I was looking for evidence of how powerful Amazon has become in the book-selling market, then I don’t need to look much further than the news I received yesterday! Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series hit the New York Times young adult series list. [ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE, CURTSIES & CONSPIRACIES, and WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY]

So what you might ask. Agent Kristin always has titles hitting the NYT list (Ha! I wish that were true.) But it happens often enough that I’m guessing folks aren’t surprised to hear the news. So why is last night’s news a big deal?

It’s big because of the timing of the hit.

As a general rule, unless a title is a big perennial seller, titles don’t hit the list except during release week and the immediate weeks following. That’s when any given title is going to have the most number of sales (in a short period of time) to catapult it on to the NYT list.

But in Gail’s case, Waistcoats & Weaponry was the last title to be released and that happened in November 2014. It’s months after the release. So then the question becomes, what caused it?

I’ll tell you. It was the Kindle Daily Deal for Etiquette & Espionage that happened last week. Thousands and thousands of ebook copies sold during a short period of time. As we can now see from yesterday’s news, it was enough to propel the whole Finishing School series onto the NYT list. (FYI – once there are three books or more in a given series, then an individual title can no longer appear on the regular NYT list. It can only hit the NYT on the Series List.)

Hubby and I went out to dinner to celebrate my 35th New York Times bestselling title/appearance. I do tally the first appearance of a series on the NYT list, attributing “the hit” to the last release in terms of my title count. Otherwise I’m not sure quite how to do it.

Regardless, it’s news worth celebrating.

Is HarperCollins Pitting Authors Against Booksellers?

Just this week, HarperCollins announced that they would give authors a royalty incentive (35% of net instead of 25% of net) on any sales of an individual author’s book(s) that are sold via an affiliate link to HarperCollins’ new consumer-facing branded book retail site.

In other words, if the author is directly responsible for the sale, they get a higher royalty percentage. (Note: this only holds true for sales of books by the author. Authors can’t provide HarperCollins links to other author books and get an affiliate commission on the sale.)

To sum up, authors are rewarded if the sale is made directly through their publisher.

So does that pit authors against booksellers?

In my mind, the answer is no. Here’s why. HarperCollins is not mandating that their authors provide and feature ONLY links to the HarperCollins’ branded retail site.

HC is simply asking that the link be included along with all the other retail links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, Indiebound (the consortium of independent booksellers), etc.

If HarperCollins mandated that authors could only use their links on websites, newsletters, and email blasts, that could create a problem.

But it does raise another interesting thought. If Publishers have online storefronts? Are they in direct competition with booksellers? After all, they are now selling direct-to-consumers.

(By the way, Publishers have always had the ability to sell directly to readers via mail order, phone sales, catalog, and special sales, but it hasn’t been a big revenue avenue in the past, except for some specific titles.)

That answer is probably yes, if a publisher’s retail store starts building real market share.

Last year we participated in World Book Night and gave away THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH and GOOD OMENS.

I’m over the moon that last night, World Book Night announced that Jamie Ford’s Debut  novel HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is a 2014 pick- both the regular and large print version.

To sign up to be a Book Giver and give away Jamie’s book, or if you’d like to choose something else (but really do you want to? Grin.) click here.

When I was at the Writers Digest conference earlier this year, I listened to a panel on how indie self-publishers creatively promote. All the folks in the audience were taking copious notes and invariably they asked, “what works in terms of promotion.” They wanted the magic bullet so if they did that, the work would get noticed.

The panel members answered by giving some examples but they cautioned that no one in the audience could use the same promotional approach because it had been done before; now it’s too late to do it again. It won’t have the same impact. To stand out, folks have to be creative and come out with the next big thing that hasn’t been done before.

Like that’s easy.

But it’s so true. Remember when the book trailer was something crazy new and inventive? Now they are so common, it’s all just noise to readers (although they are super fun and I still like for my clients to have them).

Simone Elkeles ran her own company when she was in her mid-twenties. It forced her to think out of the box and be super creative with all the marketing. And I have to say that when she’s releasing a new series, she brainstorms for what will really go viral.

Now I’m not suggesting that everyone spend the budget Simone does for her promotion but what just-about-to-be-published writers need to do is analyze what they like and what is fun for them to do and see if that can’t be turned into an interesting or unique promo opportunity.

if you have a passion that will show through. And nothing exemplifies this more than the Reality TV Episodes Simone created for her brand new Wild Cards series. You can just tell that Simone loved putting this together. Check it out for yourself!

 

 

Or catch it on Youtube:

Wild Cards – Episode One

You might need a boat given the flooding but pull on your rain coveralls and your galoshes and join Nelson Literary Agency down at the Denver Tattered Cover Colfax tonight (Sept. 12, 2013) at 7:30 p.m.

It’s the launch party for Jamie Ford’s SONGS OF WILLOW FROST!

Laid back reception with pints and Pakistani food to follow at the 3 Lions Pub (three blocks from the book store).

All are welcome. I’ll see you there!

SongsOfWillowFrost

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.

DragonCharm

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 teenfire@sourcebooks.com. 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.

With over half a million ebooks sold, Slate.com and The Wall Street journal dub this originally self-published post-apocalyptic thriller  “the next Hunger Games” mega hit.

And Nelson Literary Agency invites you to a Book Launch Party for Hugh Howey’s WOOL!

FRIDAY, March 15, 2013

7:30 PM

The Tattered Cover

2526 E. Colfax, Denver, CO 80206

Event info

After the signing, hang out with Hugh and the gals of NLA for beer and conversations at

 The Three Lions Pub 

2239 E. Colfax, Denver, CO 80206–a short walk away

Appetizers will be provided. Cash bar.

Please RSVP!  rsvp@nelsonagency.com

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