Pub Rants

Category: Marketing & Promotion

For The Book That Almost Didn’t Sell–Happy Release Day FIRELIGHT!

STATUS: Another phone conference in 20 minutes! Must blog quickly.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LOWDOWN by Boz Scaggs

Blog readers, have I got special treat for you today. If you ever wondered what the editor rejections looked like for a book that has shown every sign of coming out of the gate wildly popular, well today is your lucky day.

Today is the official release day for Kristen Callihan’s FIRELIGHT.


I’ve blogged before about the fact that I almost could not sell this book. And today, Kristen has given me special permission to share her rejections.

But let me preface this.

This debut novel has received two starred reviews (Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) and top pick at any number of romance sites, too many to list here.

When we sent the novel out to already established and successful authors to read with an eye for a possible blurb, we had our fingers crossed that maybe we’d get one or two responses.

Every author on our list read and blurbed it:

“Callihan has a great talent for sexual tension and jaw-dropping plots that weave together brilliantly in the end.”
—Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

“A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.” —Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider

“Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page.” —Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series

“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”
—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr

“Kristen Callihan delivers a dark, lush offering to fans of gothic and paranormal romance. With a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page, Firelight is a sexy, resplendent debut. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”
—Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“This book has everything: sword fights, magic, despair, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that’s hot enough to burn the pages. I couldn’t stop reading. This book is utterly phenomenal.”
—Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Unraveled

“Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.”
—Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Weaver

“A dark, delicious tale of secrets, murder, and love, beautifully shrouded in the shadows of Victorian London.”
—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of If He’s Dangerous

“A dazzling debut, sexy and thrilling. Callihan now has a place on my to-buy list.”
—Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Enchantment

“A fantastic debut that has everything I’m looking for in a story: compelling conflict, beautiful writing, gripping sexual tension, and strong, intelligent characters.”
—Sherry Thomas, RITA-award winning author of Not Quite A Husband and His At Night

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.” —Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”
—Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“Combines romance, wit, and suspense in a fabulous retelling of Beauty and the Beast…with a supernatural twist.”
—Colleen Gleason, international bestselling author of The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

“I LOVED the book! Fabulous writing, great characters, innovative plot. It held me from the first page. I was so drawn in by the quality of the writing. She’s sure to become a fave of mine. I have already raved about the book to my readers group.”
—Gail Link, 2010 RWA Bookseller of the Year

And yet, the editors did not feel the same love.

–I’m afraid I didn’t love the voice, which felt a little bit overdone to me, and this kept me from getting immersed in the story. I’m therefore going to pass; I’m sorry. But thank you for giving me a shot at this, and I hope you will find the right home for it.

–I love your description of the story, but for me, the writing itself doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

–Thanks so much for sending this! I liked the reimagining of the beauty-and-the-beast story, but didn’t quite love the voice as much as I’d hoped

–I do love a great gothic, so I was really hoping to love this. Unfortunately, I just didn’t connect with the voice as much as I wanted to.

–Many thanks for thinking of us for this, but we’re going to pass. Gothics are very hard to sell right now

–I’ve been reading this, and I’ve enjoyed the appealing voice and the strong element of mystery. But while I liked this novel perfectly fine, I just didn’t feel the level of enthusiasm necessary to make this a success. Ultimately I just didn’t feel the strong emotional connection I’d hoped for.

–I really tried hard to get emotionally attached to FIRELIGHT because the atmosphere is so beautifully written. I just couldn’t connect, I’m sad to say,

–I did find plenty to like in the manuscript: Miranda makes a great heroine, and I absolutely loved our introduction to her in the opening chapters. (In particular, the scene where Miranda is having the ethical dilemma over whether to steal or not really hooked me.) The main problem I have, though, is that I never really connected with Archer as a hero. Miranda won me over, but she alone wasn’t enough to make me believe in the romance.

–Here’s the thing-I kept hoping I could make this work, but increasingly we’re having a hard time making new historical romance authors grow in the market.

In the end, it’s so so true that you have to find the right editor with the right vision who is the right fit. When you do, even for a book that almost didn’t sell, it can be magic.

And I think Kristen’s holiday gift to me is the perfect end note!


Happy release day Kristen!

Because It’s Cool & Hip: World Book Night 2012

STATUS: I’ve seen the first beta page for our website redesign. I’m so excited!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MEXICAN RADIO By Wall Of Voodoo
(Just saw the sale for the tell-all by the original MTV VJs. I’m feeling nostalgic!)

Are you an author? Want to be a part of something terrific and spread the love of reading? Then you’ll want to know about World Book Night. NLA has signed up to be a book giver as have some of our authors! We are committed and then some.

Originally started in the UK last year, Carl Lennertz is now taking it on to make April 23 extraordinary in the US.

Find out more about it and how to sign up here. The deadline is Feb. 1, 2012.

Writing To The Market but Also With The Book Of Your Heart–Guest Blogger Sara Megibow

STATUS: I wish I was working late tonight but I can’t….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? O HOLY NIGHT by Josh Groban

Marie Lu is not the only author having an exciting release week! Sara’s very first agented author book is hitting shelves today. Hard to believe but yes, it really does take that long from sale to publication for this to be the first.

What better way to celebrate than to guest blog? (Okay, I’m making her toast with champagne, too, but you get the picture.) Huge congrats Sara and Miranda!


What did debut author Miranda Kenneally do that’s making her book release so exciting? CATCHING JORDAN hits bookshelves today and the buzz surrounding this book is absolutely incredible (ESPN picked up a review of the book yesterday and the Seventeen Magazine online book club is running a feature on it tomorrow).

Here’s the secret – Miranda wrote the book of her heart. She did NOT write to some hot trend. What’s hot in young adult novels right now? Well, one might agree that fantasy and paranormal and dystopian are hot. Contemporary young adult, conversely, might be hot or might not be hot depending on who you ask (I personally am a huge fan, obviously). And, contemporary young adult sports novels? yikes.

CATCHING JORDAN didn’t sell right out of the gate. We DID find the perfect editor for it, but we also had a handfull of editors pass saying, “no one is interested in reading about sports.” Yes, the heroine of this book is captain and quarterback of her high school football team. Yes, there are some scenes on the playing field in which the teammates are talking football plays and field positions and stats. When I read this book in the slush pile I fell immediately in love with the characters, the voice, the dialogue and the personality. THAT’S what I saw in it which made me jump up and down with glee. And that’s what these tremendous reviews seem to be saying too.

If Miranda had ever asked an agent, “should I write about vampires or about football?” it’s likely her first book would have turned out differently. But, as a great credit to her and to our art, she didn’t ask that question. Instead she wrote a book that takes a chance on a concept that we haven’t seen before. And, it’s paying off!

So, if you are looking at publishing and are tempted to ask, “do you think XYZ is hot right now?” stop. Take a deep breath. Yes the market is important but so is writing a book you believe in wholeheartedly. Miranda did just that for CATCHING JORDAN. It wasn’t in the hot trend but in a sense, she did keep the market in mind because it has a luscious romantic element. Something we’ve seen in other successful contemporary YA novels recently. Cheers to an author who took a chance and to the readers (and editors) (and reviewers) (and ESPN) who are loving that gamble!

-Sara

One Very Good Reason To Let Go That Manuscript

STATUS: I’m working super late tonight. It’s often the only good time to really check off items on the TO DO list.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS by Whitney Duncan

HAPPY RELEASE WEEK MARIE LU!!!


As you can guess, LEGEND released yesterday. And there is one simple fact I want all my blog readers to know. If Marie had not been willing to let go of a previous manuscript (that didn’t sell), we would not be celebrating her release this week.

All too often, I hear about writers revising and revising the same manuscript–some even for years. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to simply let it go. It’s never a waste as you learned valuable things as a writer from the process of writing that novel.

It might stay tucked away on your computer forever. And you know what? That might be a good thing! Maybe you needed to grow in your craft and it will be your next novel where the stars will align, angels sing, and voila, publication.

Don’t believe me? You only have to ask Marie Lu.

From Marie’s face featured in Times Square after the book sold to stories in Entertainment Weekly, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, what a ride it has been, Marie!

5 Starred Reviews

“Lu’s debut is a stunner. Weaving the strands of SF dystopia, police procedural, and coming-of-age—with touches of superhero and wild frontier traditions—she fashions a narrative in which the action is kinetic and the emotional development is beautifully paced. First in a series, this story is utterly satisfying in its own right and raises hopes high for the sequels to come.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A gripping thriller in dystopic future Los Angeles…This is no didactic near-future warning of present evils, but a cinematic adventure featuring endearing, compelling heroes.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review

“. . . the delicious details keep pages turning to learn how it’s all going play out. Combine star-crossed lovers with the need to take down the Republic and you’ve got the makings for potent sequel.”
—Booklist, Starred Review

“Debut author Lu has managed a great feat—emulating a highly successful young adult series while staying true to her own voice. Legend will give Hunger Games fans something worthwhile to read while they await Katniss’ movie debut—and, most likely, Day and June’s.”
—VOYA, Starred Review

“Teens will love the page-turning suspense and emotional tension created by the dynamic characters. Following the success of Hunger Games, many dystopian books are filling the shelves, but this book stands out.”
—Library Media Connection, Starred Review

LEGEND, yesterday, in the promo stand as you walk into Barnes & Noble:


Marie on the PBS Late Night Show with Tavis Smiley:


And best of all, we heard that LEGEND was being featured in elevator news reels today. Wacky but a heck of a lot of fun!

So thank you, Marie, for being undaunted and forging ahead writing that next novel in the face of rejections.

Have a wonderful, wonderful release week.

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 www.awkwardfamilypetphotos.com? 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.”

Story Of An Underdog

STATUS: Yesterday got away from me so I’m blogging “early” today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUNSET BOULEVARD by Charlie Robison

Hum, I’m wondering if championing an underdog that then goes on to be successful might be the story of my career.

Either that or I simply have strange tastes most of the time (with the occasional hitting the market square on with a project that generates lots of initial excitement from the get-go).

So here’s another tale of an underdog–a novel that I absolutely loved but had trouble selling. And I can tell you that agents often delude themselves; I seriously expected an auction when I went out on submission with it. I was totally flummoxed when that didn’t happen.

But finally, after much work, this genre bending, doesn’t-fit-into-an-easy-category novel sold. I would call it a dark gothic Victorian historical romance with an unusual paranormal twist.

And I’m always telling aspiring writers not to do what I just did with my description above. LOL. Everything but the kitchen sink!

Given the nature of the story, the editor, author, and I all agreed that we needed to give the novel the best chance possible and one facet of doing that is going after established authors for praise blurbs to hopefully start the early buzz.

Now, the blurb process is not an easy one. In general, you’re lucky if maybe you get one or two blurbs out of 10 or 12 blurb read submissions. Established authors are on deadline, they get asked to blurb a million times, the story isn’t their cup of tea. There are a hundred reasons why established authors pass on reading for blurbs so you don’t go in with high expectation of the response. You’ll be happy with anything that comes of it. And a lot of times that means just one blurb.

Well, in this case, every established author we sent the novel to read it, loved it, blurbed it.

I’m still stunned. This never happens.

“If the word FIRELIGHT sounds cozy–think again. Both characters and plot are literally ON FIRE!! Tremendously, engagingly sensual.”

–Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander Series

“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”

—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr

“Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page.”

—Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series

“A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.”

— Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider

“Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.”

— Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Weaver

“A sexy, resplendent debut with a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”

— Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“A dark, delicious tale of secrets, murder, and love, beautifully shrouded in the shadows of Victorian London.”

— Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of If He’s Dangerous

“A dazzling debut, sexy and thrilling. Callihan now has a place on my to-buy list.”

— Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Enchantment

“Utterly phenomenal! Sword fights, magic, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that’s hot enough to burn the pages.”

— Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author of Unraveled

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”

— Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.”

— Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“A fantastic debut that has everything I’m looking for in a story: compelling conflict, beautiful writing, gripping sexual tension, and strong, intelligent characters.”

— Sherry Thomas, RITA Award-winning author of His At Night

“Combines romance, wit, and suspense in a fabulous retelling of Beauty and the Beast…with a supernatural twist.”

— Colleen Gleason, international bestselling author of The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

Gosh I hope the reading public feels the same! And if you are one of those readers that loves unique romances that don’t fit into neat square boxes, then all I can ask is that you add this one to your To Buy list because it almost didn’t happen. Editors WANT to take chances on unusual stories but it’s a tough argument for them at the editorial board meeting unless they can point to titles that were successful and sold well. That’s the cold, hard truth.

I’ve got high hopes that FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan will do just that.





And speaking of authors who like to tackle unusual but powerful stories, if you haven’t had a chance to read a Sherry Thomas romance, well, you are in luck. You can’t try her out in ebook for only $3.99. Random house is doing a special promo.

Amazon

BN

Kobo

Google eBooks

Sony

The NYT Children’s Series List

STATUS: I’m back from vacationing Down Under! And it’s official. Australia has the cutest animals on the planet. There is just nothing to compare to the Koala, Wombat, tiny Blue Penguin, and the Wallaby. Squee. I couldn’t contain myself there was so much cuteness.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SOMEONE LIKE YOU by Adele

While down under, I met with quite a few Australian Editors so I have some interesting notes to pass along to my readers. I promise I’ll do that tomorrow.

Today, I just have to take a moment to say CONGRATULATIONS Simone Elkeles for hitting the NYT Children’s Series List this week (#8).

I couldn’t post the news last Thursday (Wednesday in USA) because I had literally just come off the The Great Barrier Reef where I had been snorkeling. A text message was waiting for me and alas, no internet connection.

Hitting this series list is tough to do–especially when you only have 3 books that have to compete with total sales from series with more than 4 or 5 books in them.

So take a moment to revel in it Simone!

Simone also hit the USA Today bsl coming it at number 77. Since that’s ALL books in all any format, that’s huge too.

All for a series that editors told me wasn’t “big enough” while on submission because it was a contemporary YA with no paranormal elements. I don’t know about you guys, but feeling big enough to me. *Grin*

Because It Carries More Weight When George R.R. Martin Says It

STATUS: I was at work for a full day yesterday. Today I’m working from home. Guess I pushed that envelope too far.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUPERSTAR by The Carpenters

Agents are fans too! On Sunday, some friends and I headed down to the Tattered Cover in Lodo to get our copies of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS signed by the grand master himself.

Given the huge crowd of fans, no one was allowed to pose and take a picture with Mr. Martin. (Smart move on his part!) My friend happened to snap an incredibly dorky shot of me after he signed my book and I was walking away. Shows how comfortable with myself I am to share this lovely photo with the world.


But before the signing, Mr. Martin shared a tidbit of wisdom that all writers could benefit from. He mentioned that aspiring writers would often come up to him and declare that they were working on a 7-book series–just like him.

To paraphrase Martin, he said that being a beginner, unpublished writer declaring that he is writing a 7-book series is kind of like being a guy who has just started rock climbing and announcing to the world that the first climb he’s going to do is a little hill called Mount Everest.

That’s absolutely not what you want to do. It’s too hard. Too big in scoop. If you are a beginning rock climber, you want to start with the climbing wall at your local REI or a small hill that won’t kill you first.

As an agent, I’ve given this advice any number of times but in the end, writers don’t believe me. Okay don’t believe me. Believe George instead! Forty years in this biz, he knows what he’s talking about.

Martin’s recommendation? Start with short stories where you are forced to have a beginning, middle, and end. You are also forced to nail plot and character in a short amount of space. Then graduate to something bigger–like a novella or one stand-alone novel. Master that. Then tackle the big series.