Pub Rants

Category: promotion

Communicate Before You Offer For Free

STATUS: Been reviewing a film contract which pretty much makes me cross-eyed by the end of the work day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? OVER THE RAINBOW/WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Before you head off to post a free novel on your website, you might want to spend some time learning about the pros and cons of doing so.

In my opinion, yesterday’s post is probably most useful for writers looking to break in. If you are already traditionally published and have a publisher, this could be of value but you need a clear plan and the blessing of your publisher.

There are some contractual things you need to keep in mind before you post stuff for free or embrace Creative Commons or pursue other online experiments. Since the beginning of the year, author Cory Doctorow has been chronicling his experiences with free electronic books in Publishers Weekly.

If you haven’t had a chance to read his monthly columns, I think they are definitely worth a read. Here is a link to get you started. There’s no need for me to repeat what Cory says in his articles and so much more eloquently.

One of the things I want to highlight is that Cory is embarking on this documented journey with the full knowledge and support of his publisher Tor/Forge. As a published author, you have terms in your traditional publishing contracts that you must abide by. Posting things for free could get you in trouble. For example, a non-compete clause. Depending on how that’s worded and what the parameters are in your contract, uploading free material could be deemed a competing work with what your publisher is currently publishing for you. Or it might not.

My suggestion? Be sure to have full communication with your agent and your editor about your desire to explore these kinds of avenues. My guess is the publishers are keen to see what authors can do with creative endeavors but would be less enthusiastic if kept out of the loop.

An ISBN That Could Hurt

STATUS: Okay, still haven’t remembered the entry I had planned to do on Friday. How lame is that?

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MANIC MONDAY by Finn Wallace

This weekend I was at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs. I consider that one and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers to be my hometown conferences and so I almost always attend.

This year was perfect. Sara popped down on Saturday to take pitches all day (and she was hugely popular!) and I just got to have fun by teaching two workshops. On Sunday morning, I sat on a panel entitled Industry Changes with Scott Hoffman from Folio and Kathleen Gilligan from Thomas Dunne Books.

Since you can’t talk about industry changes without talking about electronic books these days, that pretty much dominated the conversation (and a lively one at that!).

One participant asked a particularly interesting question. She asked what the three of us thought about a writer putting an entire novel out on the web to build an audience.

I have a feeling that some of you might be interested in our response. I can’t speak for Scott or Kathleen but I’m happy to share some of my thoughts on the topic.

1. In general, I have no problem with writers giving out material for free to build a following. I’m a little bit leery about having an entire novel out there for everybody to read but it’s not going to destroy your chances of doing traditional publishing later. In fact, if you can track the number of downloads and can prove that thousands of people have voluntarily downloaded and read your novel, well, that just might be an interesting way to catch an editor’s attention. It would probably catch my attention. However, it would have to be verifiable—as in we can’t just take your word for it.

2. Another possibility is to have the writer serialize the work (as in only give portions of the work at a time to a subscription list) if intending to pursue traditional publishing later for that same work. That way the work in its entirety isn’t easily available online.

3. Along the same line of thought, a writer might put a novel out there that will always be available for free and use it to platform a totally different second novel that the writer plans to use to explore the more traditional publishing route.

The above discussion led (as you can imagine) into what we thought about self-publishing a work to build a similar audience. As self- publishing becomes more professional, accessible, and easy to manipulate, it certainly wouldn’t surprise us if writers were to explore this as a possibility.

Here’s something to keep in mind though (besides the fact that self published books need solid marketing efforts to succeed). Self-published books (through Lulu or similar) are assigned an ISBN—a sales identifier for that work. And here’s where the ISBN could hurt you. Once a book has an ISBN, then sales of that book can be tracked on Bookscan. If the books sell thousands and thousands of copies, not a problem but if the book sells only 20 copies, this could potentially make the road to traditional publishing more difficult. Editors often check Bookscan when considering previously published writers. Book Buyers at the major chains are looking at these numbers as well.

If the sales record is strong, no big deal; if it’s not, those low sales could create a roadblock unless the writer is willing to change his/her name to start with a clean slate.

I’m putting this out there because I imagine a lot of writers contemplating this route might not have considered the potential ISBN trap.

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.

Taking The Book Trailer To A New Level—Guest Blogger Simone Elkeles

STATUS: Second cool thing that happened yesterday but couldn’t share until today. Grin.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE by New Radicals

I have to say this is a video intensive week but it’s not fair if my blog readers don’t get to see it first so here you go.

For Simone’s new book, she really wanted to do a book trailer that looked like a movie trailer. Considering how many teens loved her first novel PERFECT CHEMISTRY, I have a feeling that they are going to love the trailer for RULES OF ATTRACTION. My only regret? That I wasn’t in LA with Simone for the filming. Be still my Mrs. Robinson’s heart.


From Simone:
I’m no stranger to quirky book trailers. I’ve produced
parody rap videos as book trailers for some of my previous books, but for the sequel to my bestselling novel Perfect Chemistry I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted my book trailer to look exactly like a real movie trailer – with actors acting out snippets of scenes from my book.

I called Pete Jones, a friend and writer/director whose screenplay Hall Pass is currently being filmed with Owen Wilson and Bill Murray and being directed by the Farrelly Brothers. I told Pete I wanted him to direct a “movie trailer/book trailer” and he said he’d do it. Pete hooked me up with producer Pat Peach with Spotlight Films in California, who did an amazing job of auditioning actors and scouting locations (among other things – the guy seriously is amazing). Each audition was emailed to me, so I was a part of the audition process even though I live in Chicago. After hiring actor Giancarlo Vidrio to play the lead high school bad boy Carlos Fuentes (I knew my fans would LOVE him) and Catesby Bernstein to play the lead heroine Kiara Westford, I still needed to find “my Alex.” It was a cameo role for the hero to Perfect Chemistry and Carlos’s brother. I knew I couldn’t settle for anyone less than “perfect.” My fans are obsessed with my Latino hero Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes. They get tattoos with Alex’s name because they’re so obsessed. I knew I couldn’t let my fans down…I needed to give my readers an Alex Fuentes that fed the fantasy of who Alex is in the book.

As I was watching the auditions and the filming date grew closer, I told Pat Peach that nobody who’d auditioned filled the bill to play Alex. He said if I could have any actor in the world to play Alex, who would it be? That was easy – Alexander F. Rodriguez from Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold music video. Talk about perfection! Both Pete and Pat told me it was a long shot. I got Alexander’s email address and emailed him. To make a long story short, I told him I couldn’t imagine anyone else making my character Alex come alive for the book trailer.

To my complete and utter shock (yes, my jaw actually dropped) Alexander emailed me back and said it sounded like fun and he was on board for the cameo role. I flew out to California for the filming, and I felt like a teenager again seeing the heroes I created come to life. To see my characters exactly how I imagined them was surreal and wonderful and crazy and…and I got so emotional when it was over and Pete Jones called “that’s a wrap!” I started crying. Of course when Pete looked over at me and saw tears running down my cheeks, he laughed and said, “Stop it, Simone. There is no crying in Hollywood.” I couldn’t help it…it’s no accident I write romance novels!

Cover Design In 2 Minutes

STATUS: There’s a lot of cool stuff going on today but I’m only allowed to talk about one of them. See below.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PRIDE & JOY by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble

Sometimes a Publisher will put together a really cool promo for an author. And in general, I have to say that the Orbit team is one of my favorites to work with—especially publicity guru Alex. He’s the one that came up with the SOULLESS paper doll promotion. (I’m not biased or anything as he was NLA’s marketing director Lindsay Mergen’s assistant back in the day….Grin).

He, Lauren and Eric of the fab Orbit team (huge thanks!) came up with this just incredible promo—a video montage that compresses hours of labor into 2 minutes on the making of the cover for BLAMELESS—Gail Carriger’s third book in the Alexia Tarabotti Parasol Protectorate Series.

Love Orbit! Galley Cat and Huffington Post have already picked it up.

Check it out.

And for fun, here’s the ‘oops’ first draft of the cover. If you watch, you’ll learn exactly what was the mistake in draft one.

Save Money! Save Trees! No ARCs!

STATUS: Next Monday is a holiday in publishing! Hooray, another quiet day in the office to get caught up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOT N COLD by Katy Perry

This is the latest rally cry in publishing. One of my authors just found out today that her publisher is not going to be doing ARCs for her book. But it’s not just for her title but for all the mass market titles at this house.

Gone. They’ve decided that it’s too costly to continue with the current economic conditions.

For those of you who don’t know, ARC stands for Advanced Reading Copy. This is the main tool in terms of getting reviews and influential blog posts about the upcoming release. Savvy authors can use those ARCs in a variety of ways such as making them available for special promos or having them handy at events or conferences where booksellers attend. And this is just the tip of the ice berg of uses for the ARC.

At the agency, we often use ARCs to shop film or foreign rights (although mainly we prefer a clean, electronic copy—costs of international shipping and all that.

But back to my Author. Her publisher isn’t even offering an electronic ARC. Just a bound manuscript but only on request. Yeah, I said the same thing. This author is feeling really supported….

Now I do understand that the printing of ARCs is expensive and often these copies end up on sale at eBay for pennies (with neither the publisher nor the author seeing any of those royalties) but egad.

As I mentioned above, the publisher did say that they were willing to send out bound manuscripts instead but talk about unwieldy. That’s basically asking a person to lug around 300+ regular sized pages. Any reviewer will be delighted to haul that around on the subway or to the soccer game or wherever they might be trying to squeeze in reading. Not.

I highlight this because now it’s becoming even more important to find alternate ways to connect to your audience before publication.

I have more thoughts on this but it’s getting late so I’m out.

Publicists Help Those Who Help Themselves

STATUS: I’ve actually been spending my time negotiating some new deals for current clients. Hey, that’s always good.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHAT WOULD YOU SAY by Dave Matthews Band

An often quoted adage (that’s not actually in the Bible) with one little word change to make it apply to what I want to talk about today.

If you are a published author, one of the smartest things you can do when it comes to marketing and promotion is to be a squeaky wheel without the annoying squeak.

In other words, how can you politely keep yourself on the publicist’s radar without coming across as disappointed, demanding, or annoying?

One thing Lindsay and I have been working on with our clients is our weekly or bi-monthly reports of what the author is doing to promote their recent release.

It’s a great way to constantly be having a dialogue with the in-house publicist. All the publicists we’ve worked with have been really appreciative. It allows them to talk about the author in the next meeting, maybe even spotlight something cool the author has done, and it often helps the publicist make requests on the author’s behalf.

So take a moment to think about the last time you sent your in-house person a lovely report on all the amazing blog appearances, local signings, conference events, etc. you’ve been doing?

Never too late if you have some nice summaries to share—even if your book isn’t a new release.

This is just part of the reason that together, Mari and I were able to revive interest in her Blood Coven series and get that fourth book under contract. We constantly kept Berkley in the loop on all the things Mari was doing for those books.

How To Get Money Out Of A Publisher

STATUS: It’s been a really frustrating week. It’s already after 5 and stuff that has to be done, I’m only starting on.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OLD APARTMENT by Barenaked Ladies

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to get money from Publishers for promotion—even if you aren’t the lead title or the next big blockbuster book for them.

It’s all in the way that you do it and your expectation. It’s not going to be thousands and thousands of dollars but it may still make a difference for your launch. So how do you go about getting it?

1. Have a clear marketing and promotion plan for the launch for your book. And I’m talking a real plan, not pie in the sky stuff. Things you can actually do, blog tours you already have lined up, speaking events that you will be at. If you haven’t got that in place, you’re not getting any money. When you have that in place, you need to share it with your in-house contact or you’re not going to be able to get money.

2. Choose a promotional element that has the most likelihood of getting funded because you can aptly demonstrate how the publisher will get bang for their buck. In other words, you have clearly outlined goals for the event, how you can make a difference reaching booksellers, or have a workshop or speaking event already lined up if the publisher can just get you there.

3. Have clear expectation of what they a publisher will and will not pay for. For example, let’s say you have some cool media and speaking events already lined up at ALA (American Library Association) as you planned to be there anyway. Then go to your editor and say, hey, look what I’ve got going here. Would the Publisher be willing to pay my way for airfare and hotel? If you can show a reasonable benefit, I find that editors have been pretty open finding some money for you. (Let’s say you are doing events close to home, you do the driving and that cost and see if they’ll pay for hotel. Make it a partnerhsip.)

4. Here’s another good example. I have one author who does a lot of speaking at various events and sites. These speaking engagements are being paid for by the people hosting the event (publishers love that!). Great. But what about some promo materials to be at those events? We’ve gotten publishers to pay for excerpt booklets, bookmarks, special give-aways, promo posters to have there, etc.

5. Here’s another great way to get money out of the publisher. Show them exactly what you have budgeted from your own money for promotion. Publishers are more likely to give money to authors who are clearly working it from their end. Even if they don’t pony up ths time around, they might be willing to partner on promo expense for the next book. They might even pick up the tab for a book trailer.

6. Show that you are media savvy and can handle whatever is thrown at you. Collect interviews and share them with your editor and in-house contact person. Publishers are more willing to put together a publisher-paid tour for you or maybe even a call-in radio tour (which doesn’t cost them money but does take a lot of time for a publicist to set up), if they know you’ll make the most out of those opportunities.

These are just a few things. Tons more out there if you’re creative, savvy. Find out what works and what doesn’t.

And don’t assume that these kinds of things are just for the biggest sellers. I’ve gotten many different kinds paid promotion stuff for solidly mid-list authors or even debuts that weren’t lead titles etc.

The last thing you need to remember is this: You can’t get what you don’t ask for.”

What’s the worst they can say? No. You can probably live with that.

Why We Have A Marketing Director

STATUS: Heading out for the night but plan to do some much needed client reading in the next couple of nights. Hubby is out of town. Amazing how much more work gets done when that happens.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUNDAY MORNING by Maroon 5

Early this year, I realized I was spending in ordinate amount of time talking with editors and in-house marketing and publicity people about my clients’ upcoming releases.

In fact, I was spending so much time doing that, I started wondering when I would have the time to read new material and take on new clients. After all, I’m an agent, not a marketing coordinator.

And that’s why this past March, I hired Lindsay Mergens to be out Marketing Director here at NLA.

Here’s a link to her bio so you can see what a great background she has for this job. However, being a Marketing Director for an agency is not the same as this corresponding title in a Publishing house. What exactly would she be doing? Would she be duplicating Publisher effort by actually doing marketing and publicity? Nope, that’s not what Lindsay does.

So here’s what she does—think of it more like coordinating.

1. Tracking all upcoming releases and doing a timeline of what is being done in-house and when we need to be following up with the author’s assigned publicist about the marketing plan.

2. She works on the marketing plan with all our authors so they have something to say other than “I don’t know what I’m doing with this.” All authors know more than they think they do. She adds these things to the Publisher’s plan and helps to tweak what will be done.

3. Sometimes she gets money out of the Publishers for an author visit that they might not have done otherwise if we hadn’t simply requested it.

4. She is the liaison for the in-house publicist and marketing person assigned to the author.

5. If the author would like to hire an external PR company as well, Lindsay hooks the author up with the right people. She also reviews any PR proposals that an external company might present.

6. She attends meetings with me in New York when we are meeting with the Publishing marketing and publicity people. As she used to be one, she knows exactly what to ask.

7. When the marketing plan is formed and finalized, Lindsay is the point person to see that all things get implemented and that all the info is disseminated to me, to the author, rights co-agents, etc.

8. She helps authors fill out the client Author Questionnaire (which can be a huge deal as that is often the in-house template that will be worked from).

9. When folks contact us about having one of our authors come and speak, Lindsay handles that and coordinates with the publisher,

10. Book Trailers. Marketing Materials and so forth, Lindsay reviews it all, requests changes if necessary or generally helps guide this whole process.

11. Book tours abroad. Lindsay handles it and coordinates with US publisher.

This list could go on and on. In fact, I’m probably leaving out tons of stuff but this should give you an idea of why I would hire someone to do this for the Agency. As the main agent, I’m cc’d on all communications but honestly, I’m not sure how I did without her for so long. It’s a job in and of itself.