Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Deals & Contracts

A police officer pounds on your door and when you open it, yells you’ve got 10 minutes to get out before the fire hits. What do you take?

Well, if you are Kristin’s good friend Dave Olsen, you take nothing. Sadly Dave was out of town when the alert came to evacuate because of the Colorado Springs Black Forest fire was raging out of control and just about to hit his street. Luckily, one tenant, Jen Stemen was home. Rebecca and Timothy (who had literally just moved into their bottom half apartment two weeks prior) were not there. Nor was Jason Sullivan who lived in the apartment above the workshop barn.

Jen has ten minutes. She grabs everyone’s laptop and throws it in her car. Then she runs to grab her dog Cosmo, Dave’s dog Shadow, Jason’s dog Switters (all big dogs). Then she dashes to load them into her tiny car only to realize that there isn’t going to be enough room.

She has to make a split decision: dogs or car?  She  doesn’t hesitate (even though she had no renter’s insurance). She abandons her car. Throws the laptops, the dogs, and her just-in-case suitcase into Dave’s old truck and hightails it out of there. The house, the entire property, is completely destroyed.

TV coverage captured the 100 foot flames that was their street. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my posting on the day I learned that Dave had lost everything but was cheerfully moving on and even quipping about how he could now move to Boulder, Colorado to be closer to his daughter. Nothing to pack!

Every year I donate a 30-page manuscript critique with a follow up Skype session for the Brenda Novak Charity auction because my nephew has juvenile diabetes and this is a cause close to my heart. Well, this is very personal for me as well. My friend Dave is lucky. He is insured. It will cover a lot but probably not everything.

But this auction is for Jen and Jason–who had no renter’s insurance. And especially for Jen, who sacrificed to save the pets. (And please let me take a minute to say that if you are renting your place and don’t have insurance, please buy some. Today. You just never ever know. Usually it’s under $100 for a year. Well worth the cost for the absolute worst case scenario. And I hope you never have to use it!)

So if you’ve ever wanted a critique from me and you want the money to go to great cause, now is your chance. I’m really hoping to raise at least $1500.00. Deets below.

BLACK FOREST WILDFIRE AUCTION –

50-page Manuscript critique followed by a 30 minute Skype Session

Runs: August 2, 2013 thru August 7, 2013

Click on this link and bid.

And if money is tight and you really can’t participate in an auction but might like to donate a buck, you can do that too. Just click on this link. Even if you think $1.00 is not a lot, that’s $1.00 more than what they have right now and if 200 people donate a buck, that adds up.

And THANK YOU. Except for the small percentage that GoFundMe takes to process donations, ALL the money will go to Jen & Jason.

 

Pic 1: Me, Jen, and Dave on the day we were clearing the property

Pic 2:: the house before

Pic 3:  the house after

Kristin-Jen-Dave OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA z - hillside view of house - AFTER

I’m sure you’ve been dying to see a picture of Agent Kristin manning a wood chipper. Finally, your chance. My husband Brian and I spent a weekend with Dave helping him clear his property after the Black Forest Wildfire destroyed his home and everything there.

Pic 1: Dave chainsaws a tree

Pic 2: One tree down

Pic 3: That’s me picking up branches that have been cut so as to take to the wood chipper

Pic 4: I’m watching Dave cut so I can grab those branches

Pic 5: A very dirty Kristin & Brian

Pic 6: Dave & Me & a wood chipper

Pic 7: Me feeding the chipper. Fargo anyone?

Pic 8: The clean up crew. Jen, who saved the dogs, is sandwiched between me and my husband Brian. She, who had just lost everything, still came to help clean the property. Amazing gal!

Pic 9: My favorite picture! Dave had a stack of firewood for his fireplace. It was the ONLY thing that didn’t burn. LOL How ludicrous is that?

DaveChainsawsTree DaveWithFoundation Landscapeshot_me&branches KN&Dave-tree-down Brian&Kristin-dirty Dave-Kristin-Woodchipper KristinFeedsChipper TheCleanUpGang Firewood-didn'tburn

So last week when I was out in New York for the Writers Digest Conference, I gave a talk on why successful indie authors might want to partner with agents.

As I was putting together my talking points, I actually came to the conclusion that why they partner is the wrong question. The real question might be when should indie authors partner with an agent.

If  indie authors are becoming successful, an agent can accelerate their exposure in a big way. For example, I couple of weeks ago I took on self-publishing phenom Jasinda Wilder. On March 16, she released her 18th novel FALLING INTO YOU.

In less than one month, she sold 140,000 digital copies of this title.

Yes, you read that right.

That’s a crazy number of copies in a short period of time. She hit the NYT and USA Today list for several weeks in a row.

She decided to partner with me. My job is now to accelerate her exposure in any way possible. Within a week Publishers Weekly did a feature story on her and I imagine this won’t be the last coverage given her extraordinary success.

Would Jasinda get coverage without me? Sure. But there is no doubt I’m stomping on the gas. This can be incredibly beneficial in talking with publishers and for foreign deals.

On Thursday I’m flying to New York City to give a presentation at the Writers Digest Conference on Friday morning. My topic is why a successful indie self-publishing author might want to partner with an agent.

If you are an indie author that doesn’t see the value in having an agent, I’m not really going to change your mind so there really is no purpose in reading my next several blog posts where I share my thoughts. However, if you are curious, I’m happy to share several reasons on why they do. Now of course I can only speak to why several indie authors have decided to partner with me. It’s going to vary depending on the author and the agent.  But I represent several and they find our relationship invaluable.

Thought 1: People are complaining about the archaic nature of publishing and why doesn’t it change.

Okey dokey. Let’s quit complaining and start having conversations to instigate change because how do you think change happens?

In May of 2012, I had Hugh Howey fly out to New York to sit-down with publishers. I thought it was important for them to meet him in-person just so they could see for themselves what a reasonable, personable, and forward-thinking author he was. He was not, and has never been, anti-traditional publisher. In fact, he’s fairly pro-publisher. But a partnership has to make sense and there is a lot of stuff from traditional publishing that doesn’t make sense.

Before Hugh got on the plane, we both knew that it was very unlikely that the meetings would result in an offer that we’d be willing to take.  Yet, WE DID IT ANYWAY. Why? And this might be kind of silly but both of us felt kind of strongly that having in-person conversations with publishers about our sticking points (ebook royalty rate, sales thresholds in out of print clauses, and non-compete clauses) was necessary in order to facilitate possible change in the future. In other words, we weren’t going to see the benefit of it but maybe a future indie publishing author would because we had started the conversation.

And these conversations could only occur via a reasonable author partnering with a reasonable agent who were meeting with affable and reasonable publishers and editors and having frank, smart, and intelligent conversations with them about current contractual sticking points.

For Hugh, it resulted in a very unexpected print-rights only offer five months later (much to our surprise). That was way sooner than either of us had ever thought to hope.

I imagine that in the not-so-distant-future other indie authors (and who might be unagented) might be thanking Hugh for having partnered with an agent (way) back in 2012 so as to have these meetings. Just as they might be thanking Bella Andre and her agent for pulling off one of the first print-rights only deals (that was publicly announced -there might be others I’m unaware of).

 

 

Because The First Thing That Comes To Mind Is The Size Of The Advance – Not.

STATUS: With New York Publishing shut down, I’m working on a UK contract and catching up on email. I think it’s going to be this way for most of the week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  HOPE I DON’T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU by Tom Waits

Obviously the Random House – Penguin merger is all the news in the publishing world right now. It’s a big deal. But I read this article in Publishers Weekly and pretty much snorted my tea.

PW makes it sound like an agent’s biggest concern might be the reduction in advance amounts paid for books.

I’m concerned about MANY things that might come about because of the merger but smaller advances is not one of them. It’s not even on my top 10 list of things to be concerned about.

Publishing saw the consolidation of publishing houses into smaller and smaller numbers in the early 90s. That evolved into what had been known as the “Big 6” of the last decade.

It’s now down to the “Big 5” and quite honestly, I don’t see NewsCorp (which owns HarperCollins) settling for the status quo. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the “Big 5” become “4” with two more houses merging in the not-so-distant-future.

Of course this all has to pass anti-trust rulings, etc.

What does fewer publishing houses mean for authors?

That answer is pretty simple. Fewer choices. Less competition. More uniformity of royalty rates (like that hasn’t happened already because houses are already more interested in status quo among themselves rather than actual competition). Narrowed vision of what is the market and what should sell (and they already have tunnel vision as any number of digitally self-published successes have recently proven). More emphasis on commercial blockbusters and less building authors from the mid list.

Getting the picture? Smaller advances? Not a main issue on my radar.

(Just a note, this post is from our archives. Some references and links may be from past years.)

STATUS: I feel like I need to flex my brain muscles to get back into shape for daily blogging.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DANCE HALL DAYS by Wang Chung

I recently talked to a writer who had signed a small publisher’s boilerplate contract.

Shudders.

Let me start by saying that the signed contract was with an established and reputable small publisher. Still I shudder.

Let me highlight here that I wouldn’t want a writer to sign the boilerplate contract with any publisher -be it a small one or a big six publisher. All boilerplates are terrible. That’s why agents negotiate the heck out of them.

Pitfalls of Boilerplate Contracts

1) Every publishing boilerplate I’ve seen grants the publisher all rights. Oh boy. Honestly folks, you never want to grant rights to a publisher for things they won’t exploit effectively such as dramatic rights (film/tv), merchandizing, theme park rights etc. The rights will just sit there. And you can’t earn money unless those rights are sold.

2) Boilerplates have no recourse if the publisher fails to publish. Then writers are stuck in limbo forever! They can’t contractually demand the rights back for failure to publish. Writer is stuck. Not good.

3) Boilerplates often have no out of print clauses. I recently derailed a deal because I could not get the small publisher to insert one. They would have had the rights into perpetuity with the author having no way to ever get the rights back unless the publisher felt like it. Uh, no.

4) I’ve seen boilerplates that have a never-ending option clauses. If the publisher doesn’t take the writer’s next book, they still get to see the one after that and the one after that….. Yep, that author will never successfully be placed at a new home if that is the case as the new publisher would want an option for next work at the very least. That can’t be granted if the above is the case.

5) Boilerplate contracts don’t allow the author to see copies of sublicense deals. If that is the case, how can an author know what was sold and on what terms to verify the royalty statements? Good point, right?

And I could go on and on.

Creative Commons Photo Credit: Best Picko

Why Bring An Author to Bologna?

STATUS: Still time to sign up to learn how to craft the perfect pitch paragraph for your query letter. The video webinar is tomorrow, Thursday, March 28 at 6 pm MST. It should be a blast to give.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ONLY A MEMORY by Smithereens

In general, the whole purpose of Bologna Children’s Book Fair is to pitch your rights list to scouts and foreign publishers in order to generate interest in upcoming titles so as to promote foreign sales. And I certainly did a lot of that while there but for the most part, I have a foreign co-agent who handles that on our agency’s behalf.

So what’s Frankfurt or Bologna all about when I visit a Fair with a client in tow? It’s about face-time. It’s about making the foreign publisher feel like an important part of an author’s career. It’s about marketing dollars and inspiring the foreign editor to choose our clients’ books if it’s a choice between two.

1) Foreign editors rarely get to meet the authors for whom they are translating. It may or may not translate into more sales but I know from experience that a foreign publisher who has met an author in person is more likely to do a promotional push for that title in translation.

2) Those meetings give us valuable information that we might not hear otherwise (or not hear in a timely fashion). Marie Lu’s German publisher is making LEGEND their big lead title for fall and sponsoring a German tour! Would this have happened without a Bologna visit? Certainly (as we would have been looped in eventually) but now we are in the know months earlier and can actively help them. Also, they are 10 times more excited to have this big push after we had a lovely sit-down dinner with them and relayed all the latest promo news while in Bologna. We’ve confirmed they are making the right decision.

3) Targeting a Fair allows an author client to make stops in other nearby countries. When Simone decided to come to Bologna with me this year, she was invited by her French publisher to stop in Paris to participate in a book festival there. Her publisher warned her that maybe 25 or 35 people might show for the signing. Imagine everyone’s surprise when more than 200 people came and Simone had a signing line more than 2 hours long! You think her French publisher is going to be paying closer attention to her next release? You betcha. Nothing inspires publishers more than seeing first hand fan enthusiasm for an author.

4) Finding out early that an author is selling like mad in a territory. (ie. The Perfect Chemistry Series is going gangbusters in Germany).

Other benefits of Fair participation include getting the latest gossip about what has sold recently. About what might be hot next. And simply connecting with the UK editors whom I don’t see as often. It gives an agent a global perspective of what works–not only in the US but around the world. Or maybe even more importantly, what doesn’t work in other territories.

Does that shade what I might take on next in the US? To some extent but it’s certainly not the end all be all in making a decision to offer representation but it is part of the big picture.

More pics from 2012 Bologna!

Marie Lu and me in Agent Centre

Simone with her editor Katrin (on left) and her Publisher Suzanne (Random House Germany)

Marie’s Bologna dinner with her US, German, and UK publishers!

Simone & Kristin in Venice! Rumor has it that if you kiss under a bridge while riding in a gondola, you’ll have good luck all year. I told Simone that even though I was a full service agent, that’s where I draw the line. *grin*

2012 Bologna Children’s Book Fair – Next Hot Thing?

STATUS: Meetings every half hour and running on 6 hours of sleep a night on average. Yep, that’s Bologna!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I PUT A SPELL ON YOU by Bryan Ferry

Three days at Bologna and here’s what I can tell you.

On the plane over, people were talking about the next hot trend being about geeks in young adult fiction. Geeks transforming. Geeks not transforming but still winning the girl or the day. Geeks in love.

Do I think it’s the next hot trend? I haven’t got the faintest idea.

It’s definitely clear that foreign editors are feeling the drain of paranormal romance in YA being hot for so long but even with that, they say it’s still selling well in Germany, UK, and France. Editors don’t seem to be buying a lot of it at the moment though.

Since I’m here with Marie Lu to meet with her very excited foreign publishers (the trilogy has been sold in to 22 territories and counting), we are, of course, asking if dystopian is hot abroad.

The verdict is undecided. HUNGER GAMES fever is definitely sweeping the world but whether that will translate into other dystopian novels also becoming hot has yet to be proven. Well, I’ve got my fingers crossed for June and Day…

Hands down, for middle grade DAIRY OF A WIMPY KID works amazingly in every country but Russia. Guess they like big burly guys instead of wimps?

*grin*

Some pics!

Anita and I at entrance of the Fair.

Me with Sara’s amazing client Stefan Bachmann and the brand spanking new cover for his wonderful middle grade gothic steam punk: The Peculiar

Marie Lu and her Taiwan Publisher Sharp Point! Marie was a rock star. She did the whole meeting in Chinese. (Marie is second person from right.)

Marie and I in the Penguin Bologna Stand.