Pub Rants

Category: deal lunch

Get ready! A real rant I’ve been wanting to do for awhile.

First off, I want to make it clear that this is in no way a commentary or a critique of Michael Cader and his amazing Publishers Marketplace. I firmly believe that Cader, by launching the Deal Lunch feature of PM, has brought a ton of transparency to an industry that had very little before the site was launched in 2001. He deserves a big round of applause.

But I don’t think the general public realizes that deal announcements on Deal Lunch are based on the honor system. Agents report the information to PM and it’s not Cader’s job to fact check or police the deal announcements posted there.

And I know for a fact that some agents exaggerate or misrepresent the deals they post there. How do I know this? From conversations I’ve had over the years with editors about deals I was skeptical went for the money range represented in the deal.

Sometimes authors talk to one another (as well) and we agents get the real details about what happened behind the scenes of a deal. I saw a deal announcement recently that made me shake my head as I was privy to the deal details. The reality of it was definitely not reflected in how it was announced.

By the way, everyone in the industry knows this. I’m not blogging about a topic that will be a shock to any industry folks. Most of us just shrug and say “it is what it is.” But I think it does a disservice to aspiring writers who might rely on the Deal Lunch for an accurate picture of agents and the deals they do.

And the word that is most misused on Deal Lunch? The word “pre-empt.”

For the record:

* it is not a pre-empt if a project is only shopped or seen by one editor.

* it is not a pre-empt if the project is the contractual option material that the editor then offered for.

* it is not a pre-empt if there are no other offers made on the project. If there is only one actual offer, then it’s simply a regular deal.

Quite simply put, a pre-empt is an offer an agent accepts to keep a book from going to auction because there are multiple publishers interested in the work and there are multiple pending offers or multiple offers already on the table.

Any other use of the term is a misrepresentation of the deal.

So if you are an aspiring writer and you are using deal lunch as research, just remember to weigh all the information gathered there with a grain (or a big pinch) of salt.





Got Epic Fantasy?

STATUS: I’m still buried under a ton of emails and whatnot as I try and catch up post BEA and New York. I have high hopes of resuming Fridays With Kristin next week!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DRIVE ALL NIGHT by Need To Breathe

Because every SF&F editor I talked to said they were open to seeing it. Which made me extra sad when I saw the six-figure deal on Publishers Lunch for an epic fantasy by an author we offered rep to.

Sigh. But can’t win them all.

Then on Monday I spotted the “major” deal for a YA fantasy I offered rep to as well. ARRRGGGHHHH!

Paper cut with lemon poured on it!

Hey, at least I know my gut instinct is still working.

But back to fantasy. If you are working on an urban fantasy, you might be out of luck. Every SF&F editor I chatted with while in New York was being inundated by urban fantasy submissions and with some rare exceptions, were not buying them.

In good news, SF&F editors were being leery about looking at science fiction stuff and now that is turning. They mentioned actively looking for it now and since I just put an SF on submission, I’m thrilled with the reception it’s getting. 

The Criterion For Evaluating An Agent

STATUS: Gorgeous day! Must. Leave. Early. Chutney seconds that.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATHE AWAY by Berlin

This week, Blogger decided to completely reformat their dashboard. I honestly cannot find anything or tweak the colors. Took me five minutes to find my previous postings so I could do my after-posting editing for Friday’s entry. LOL. I should never blog in a hurry but sometimes, I have to do it on the fly or it’s just not going to happen.

I want to expand a little on Friday’s post. I think the most important criterion to evaluate before querying an agent is that agent’s record of sales. Agents should be agenting and therefore selling stuff on a fairly regular basis. And they should be selling stuff that is in the genre of the work you are pursuing representation for.

If an agent is fairly new but at an established house, they should still have a track record of sales since they are using the agency’s reputation when approaching editors. Their stuff will get looked at and since they usually read in front of an established agent and have “training” so to speak; they have honed their eye and will know what will sell.

How can you find out what agents have sold and recent deals? Well, Publishers Marketplace is an excellent resource. Keep in mind, however, that not all agents list their sales there. So that’s not the end all be all. I’ve actually not been announcing a lot of stuff lately for a variety of reasons.

Still, a lot of agents will have pages on Publishers Marketplace or dedicated websites which will show covers of recent releases etc.

If an agent has been “agenting” for awhile (such as 3 years or more) but doesn’t have a lot of sales and to the major publishers, well, I’d take that as negative indicator of their agenting ability.

Also, just in general, agenting is a full-time job. I’d also be hesitant about agents who have been established for a long time but are doing a variety of other jobs on top of agenting.

The Usual Suspects

STATUS: I’m having weather shock. It snowed lightly this morning in Denver. Such fond memories of the beach…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LEAVING LAS VEGAS by Sheryl Crow

On Friday, I was reading through the daily emails from Deal Lunch to see what sold this past week. And sure enough, I saw the deal for a YA project that I just loved, offered rep, but the author went with another agent. Project went at auction too! I could have called that. *grin*

Obviously with the posting of the deal, I got to find out who the author had chosen. And drat if it wasn’t a usual suspect. There are certain names that just keep reoccurring if the author doesn’t choose me. If I love a project and offer rep, I can almost always name the other 6 possible YA agents I’m probably up against. We just have the same tastes. And they are all great agents so talk about stiff competition. But since they are all so terrific, I don’t lose sleep over it. If you are going to lose out, lose out to the best. At least I saw the project.

I bet this happens to editors too. They don’t win an auction and they find out who else participated and I bet they run into the same reoccurring names all the time as well.

But darn those usual suspects…

Sign Of The Times?

STATUS: Ah, only two meetings today. It’s such a nice break. I feel like I can actually tackle the 170 emails sitting in my inbox from yesterday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I GUESS THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE BLUES by Elton John
(Ok, I ‘fess up. I put that song on so I could write this blog entry.)

I saw this deal post on Deal Lunch and burst out laughing. I just love it. I think Caitlin and I might be kindred spirits—even though I’ve never met her.

Sarah Prineas’s THE CROW KING’S DAUGHTER, featuring faerie lore without the urban setting and without drugs, sex, and angst, to Toni Markiet at Harper Children’s, in a good deal, in a three-book deal, by Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates (NA).

A faerie story. A real one! Not meant to be urban paranormal. Not meant to be a Twilight knock-off. It’s truly a sign of the times when an agent posts a deal for what a story is not. I’m so tickled, and I can well believe it went for 6-figures. I’d buy this book!

In other news, I had a great lunch with a children’s editor yesterday. She mentioned that she was seeing a lot of what she called Karaoke young adult novels. Mystified by the term, I asked her to explain. She said she was seeing a lot of submissions where teens passionately talk about their issues in dialogue but there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot per so. Lots of angst. Not much story.

Needless to say, this editor was not buying them. As for me, I couldn’t say I’d be snatching one up to represent.

Karaoke novels. Get it? Teen characters that sing their own angsty song—and I certainly wouldn’t call it singing the blues.

Now that term cracks me up too!

Let There Be Light

STATUS: Working very late to finish up a contract.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LINUS & LUCY by Vince Guaraldi Trio

Firings at HMH. Layoffs at Simon & Schuster yesterday, layoffs at Scholastic a month or so ago, huge structural changes at Random House announced yesterday, HarperCollins delaying pay raises until next summer, and Macmillan CEO outlining that not everyone might have a job going forward

And yet, Michael Cader at Publishers Marketplace had this to say:

“Meanwhile, despite all the attention for the books HMH isn’t buying, our deal reports continue to show steady activity in the marketplace. (Over 90 deals in the past three days; 700 reports since November 1; 1375 since October 1.”

I like that ray of light!

Perfect Timing

STATUS: Starbuck’s eggnog Chai is back! This is a dangerous thing.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU by Mariah Carey

Today I was reading Deal Lunch (a daily email from Publishers Marketplace that lists announced deals) and I noticed a sale for a manuscript that I had passed on earlier in the year and I bet that blog readers wonder how that makes an agent feel. Do we instantly regret the lost sale that we passed on?

To be honest, I have to say it really just depends on how we felt when we read those sample pages.

For example, for the deal I saw today, I simply looked up my notes on the manuscript and I had written a specific message to the author outlining how I saw the talent in the manuscript but felt like it was just over the top for my taste but that I could really see another agent digging it.

Guess what? I was right. Another agent did dig it and found the right home for the author. In this instance, I only felt pleasure for the writer as the deal posting wasn’t a surprise to me.

But that’s not always the case. In fact, just this summer I was swamped and we received sample pages from an author who was looking for an agent after selling the first book on her own.

I read the sample pages and thought the writing was really good but I had reservations on the story line. I kept vacillating on whether I had time to read a full when I had a niggling doubt. I finally decided that I was just too swamped at that moment to ask for a full. A month or so later, I kept thinking about the samples pages and I knew that I was probably going to regret passing. Sure enough…

Several months later, I heard that an agent friend had signed the writer and had just closed a six figure deal. Yep, there was some regret there (although I was also really delighted for my agent friend because she really is the crème de la crème and I love seeing her succeed). We went to dinner and toasted her obvious good taste.

Being snowed under is never a good reason to pass on manuscript but sometimes, that’s the literal truth which brings me to the point of this blog entry. In publishing, landing an agent or selling a project is sometimes about timing. I know. It sucks to hear that.

My dad used to say that to me when talking about love and finding that perfect partner. I just rolled my eyes but darn, he was right. When the timing in my life was right, I did indeed meet my husband. I’m not sure I would have “seen” the great person he is at an earlier point in my life. The timing had to be right.

Sometimes the same is true about publishing. The right project with the right agent/editor at the right time.

Redux: To Deal Or Not Deal Lunch?

STATUS: Soon (she says hopefully) the accounting upgrade will finish and life will be happier.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CARUSO by Paul Potts

Someone in the comments section was nice enough to provide a link to my former post on this topic. When I took a look at it, I realized there were a couple of other reasons why an agent might not want to post sale news on deal lunch that I hadn’t included.

So, other reasons to keep the news on the down low (so to speak).

1. An author may be concluding a contract with one publisher but has already sold and established a new contract with a new publisher for future books. In order not to lose support from the current publisher, the author might prefer that the new sales information is not shared.

2. An agent has just sold a timely book project on a hot topic that might have competing titles in the works. The sale is kept under hat so as not to tip off the competition. The point is to hopefully have this title release before the others do. (This is more of an issue with nonfiction than fiction.)

If I think of other reasons, I’ll share.

Deal Lunch Blurbs Take Two

STATUS: It was such a gorgeous day in Denver, one can’t help but smile despite being a little tired. I stayed up late last night to read a requested full manuscript that I just couldn’t put down. I literally finished reading around midnight and thought, “it’s not too late to call the author and offer representation, is it?” Ultimately I decided that midnight was a little late to be calling and waited until first thing this morning.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT MUST BE HIM by Vicki Carr

So I was thinking some more about this exercise and I can’t stress enough how nailing your deal lunch blurb can really help you to crystallize your story line for your query pitch.

Interesting that folks commented that the deal lunch blurb didn’t grab their attention as much as the longer blurb (and of course the longer blurb is going to be way better—that’s why I used it for the pitch to editors). Don’t forget. You do have a whole paragraph (or even two) to nail your story concept in your query letter. You don’t just have to use one sentence. The point of the exercise is to simply boil your story down to the main conflict and that’s what really struck me about what some of the comments posted.

If I had simply focused on Angel’s struggle of non-acceptance in the art world, I wouldn’t have highlighted a driving conflict that’s moving the story forward. It’s that simple. These two boys both accept her and her art but they represent two opposite art extremes and ultimately she must decide for herself what she wants her art to be (and in doing so, discovers herself). Conflict.
So keep that in mind when you are tackling this exercise.

Here’s another good example. This novel, by Boston’s Channel 7 Investigative Reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan, will hit shelves in about 3 weeks. Here’s the longish pitch blurb I used in my email letters to editors.

PRIME TIME by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Think that annoying SPAM clogging your computer is just so much cyber-junk? Top-notch TV reporter Charlotte McNally suspects some of it may be much more than that–in fact, she’s certain it carries secret big-money messages to a powerful inner circle of executives who possess the key to its code.

Turns out–as Charlie discovers–the last outsider who deciphered the SPAM’s hidden clues now resides in the local morgue. Was his car crash really an accident? Charlie’s spidey-sense for news may have put her on the trail of the biggest story of her life or the one that may end it.

PRIME TIME, a Lady Lit mystery, introduces Charlotte “Charlie” McNally, a hip and attractive late forty-something journalist who’s facing some life-changing challenges. Charlie’s smart, successful and devoted to Italian clothing designers–but she’s worried her news director is about to replace her with a younger model. Even though she’s won a row of Emmys for her investigative reporting, she’s convinced that unless she digs up another blockbuster in time for the next November ratings book, she may be fired from the job she loves.

Charlie’s got too many pairs of shoes, too many graying hairs, and even a hot flash or two—but she puts her life, and her heart, on the line for a story and readers will never look at SPAM the same way again.

I just loved so many elements of the story, I didn’t want to shorten it. I wanted the editors to get the real feel of the manuscript which I think the blurb captures.

And yes I’m wordy. I HATE boiling things down to one sentence so I feel your pain. Now time for the Deal Lunch Blurb. To me, the conflict is that Charlie needs to land a scoop, solve a murder, and not be replaced by a younger model so that’s what I highlighted.

Emmy award-winning reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan’s PRIME TIME, the first in her series featuring 40-something TV reporter Charlie McNally who discovers a link between a suspicious car accident and hidden messages in SPAM emails while juggling an on-camera world that values beauty more than journalism, to Ann Leslie Tuttle at Harlequin NEXT, by Kristin Nelson at the Nelson Literary Agency (world).

Deal Lunch Blurbs As A Writing Exercise

STATUS: It was an incredibly busy Monday. I’m a little stunned that it’s 5 p.m. already. But it’s not too late to hop on over to Brenda Novak’s website and participate in the Diabetes auction she has going for the month of May. Thank goodness somebody has a bid in for more than $2.00 for my read and critique (on page 3 of Writers section). I’d feel silly if nobody placed a bid or if it didn’t raise any money for Brenda!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT by Rolling Stones

Miss Snark and Rachel Vater are always doing pitch workshops over on their blogs and no, don’t get excited. I’m not about to do one over here at Pubrants. It has “rants” in the title for a reason.

But I did have a good idea that I wanted to share with my blog readers. I just concluded two deals recently for Kelly Parra and Jennifer O’Connell and by their request, posted those sales on Publishers Marketplace for Deal Lunch. And that got me thinking. It’s a great writing exercise to boil down a project to a one sentence concept in order to post the deal.

Trust me, this isn’t always easy but if you can somehow grab the core of your story in one or two sentences, you’ll know what’s at the heart of your work. That heart should form the main crux of your pitch paragraph that you then build into a solid paragraph or two for your query letter.

So in short, if you can nail your deal lunch blurb, you’ll nail your pitch paragraph.

Of course I won’t leave you hanging; I’ll give you an example.

Here’s my story pitch for a title that just hit shelves this week–GRAFFITI GIRL by Kelly Parra. When on submission, this longish blurb was included in the emails that went out to editors. Notice there are a lot of details included to give a sense of the story, the plot, the conflict, and the main character Angel.

GRAFFITI GIRL by Kelly Parra

How far would a bad girl go to find her rightful place in the art world?

Sixteen-years-old and third-generation Mexican-American, Angel Rodriguez struggles for artistic acceptance among her peers until she begins to explore the underground lifestyle of graffiti art—a place where her Mexican-themed artwork is finally embraced.

The graffiti lifestyle, however, may be more than Angel bargained for.

As she learns new skills with a spray can, she crosses lines she never considered by breaking laws to prove her dedication to the graffiti crew and drifting farther away from her supportive family. All the while exploring new relationships between two Latino boys–one with a beautiful eye for detail and an upscale street address and the other who lives in her neighborhood and who uses the streets as his canvas.

Soon she becomes torn between obligations of family, friendships, and her passion for art. Angel realizes her newfound artistic acceptance may have come with too high a price.

About the Author
Kelly Parra is the daughter of a Mexican-Filipino dad with a comedic streak and a strong-willed Mexican-Italian mom. Her parents, each raised with twelve siblings, filled her head with interesting tales of their childhood, launching Kelly’s love of a good story.

However, when it came time to do the Deal Lunch blurb, I had to just highlight the heart of it. Michael Cader doesn’t like agents being wordy (and trust me, we like to be wordy because we are excited about the book and we want the whole world to know ALL the details). For Cader, the deal lunch blurb can only be about 5 typed lines long—and that has to include all the sale/editor/agent info. That’s short.

To get that, I have to boil down the above 2 paragraphs into one sentence. No dilly-dallying. No long plot outline. I have to focus only on the HEART of the story.

So for me, the real story is about a young Latina who is torn between two boys who represent for her the polar opposite extremes in the art world and where she fits in that world.

Hence, the deal lunch blurb below:

Kelly Parra’s YA debut GRAFFITI GIRL, a struggling young Latina artist looking for acceptance is torn between two Latino boys—one with a beautiful eye for detail and an upscale street address and the other who lives in her neighborhood and who uses the streets as his canvas, to Lauren McKenna and Jen Heddle at MTV/Pocket Books, in a nice deal, by Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency (NA).