Pub Rants

Category: holidays

Happy December! Wishing all our loyal newsletter readers a joyful holiday season. As extra holiday cheer, we are delivering our end-of-year stats early. Normally we make readers wait until January, so click now and enjoy. We’ve also been crunching some newsletter data, and those insights show that 2023 will ring in some change. 

Had I been smart, I would have saved every newsletter created. Best that I can tell, we here at NLA have been delivering a monthly newsletter since 2008. That is basically a decade and a half of delivering insider content to help aspiring writers learn about publishing and navigate the industry. I’m not going to lie. Many a month I’ve been swamped, time crunched, and struggling to carve out the time to whip up an article. Sometimes it feels like an extra homework assignment on top of an already heavy workload. I would daydream about a final newsletter. But now that the time is possibly here, I feel a little melancholy. This has long been a part of my agenting life. 

But in the end, stats tell a unique story. Although we’re proud of having over 7,000 subscribers, only about half ever open the email. Of that half, only 500-1,000 click on a link to read an article we are sharing. What’s clear is that we certainly have a loyal readership (and we heart you folks if you are reading this right now!), but in the end, that’s a lot of time, work, and content development on our part for so few eyeballs. Please do keep in mind that we crunched the data prior to our unexpected hiatus in mid-2022. 

All this is to say with a heavy heart that it might finally be time to retire the newsletter. For the beginning of 2023, the newsletter will be on hiatus as we evaluate the cost-benefit ratio. We might retire it for good, or we might decide to relaunch it in the future with a new look, feel, and focus.

As we love stats, there was no way we were leaving our loyal readers without one last annual sum-up. I know it’s a fan favorite, so we are happy to oblige. 


8,539 : Queries read and responded to. Down from 13,932 in 2022 and although this looks like a precipitous drop, NLA is leaner, more focused team now, and for personal reasons, both Joanna and I were closed to queries for long stretches of the year.

287 : Number of full manuscripts requested and read (down from 353 in 2021): 61 requests for Kristin, 227 requests for Joanna (who was an obvious reading rock star!). For me, 70% were referrals or requests made at a conference or pitch event as I was closed to queries for so much of the year. For Joanna, only 17% were referrals or conference/pitch-event requests. 

64 : Number of manuscripts we requested that received offers of representation, either from us or from other agents/agencies (down from 111 in 2021). This might be an indicator of the burn-out happening across the industry, or it might just be a momentary adjustment. 

4 : Number of new clients who signed with NLA (0 for Kristin—two years in a row, eep—and 4 for Joanna)

29 : Books released in 2022 (down from 37 in 2021 as it is now just Joanna’s and my client lists).

3 : Number of career New York Times bestsellers for Joanna (up from 2 in 2021)—extra congrats to her client Kate Baer.

54 : Number of career New York Times bestsellers for Kristin (up from 51 in 2021). So wonderful to see Jamie Ford on that list again and to celebrate Shelby Van Pelt hitting with her debut novel. 

2 : Number of Today Show #ReadwithJenna Book Club picks (2 in one year, a first for Kristin’s career).

7 : TV and major motion picture deals (up from 5 from previous year, indicating Hollywood is still buying and buying a lot).

2 : TV shows in production (coming in 2023, Wool Saga on Apple+ and Beacon 23, both based on works by Hugh Howey).

109 : Foreign-rights deals done (slightly down from 126 in 2021 which shows there is some belt tightening going on, although 3 of those deals were with Ukraine publishers, bless them). 

1 : In-person conference attended by Kristin (StokerCon in Denver, and lots of people had Covid afterwards but I was okay).

0 : Virtual conferences attended by Kristin.

0 : Physical holiday cards sent (our first year of Paperless Post for clients).

762 : Electronic holiday slideshow cards sent (up slightly from 736 in 2021).

Lots : Of wonderful days reading and appreciating creators. 

(Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels)

For us here at NLA, it was paramount to get June’s newsletter right. We are living in a civil rights moment in history; we simply couldn’t do a business-as-usual publishing article. We embraced and then discarded many a topic for this space. None seemed right (and many would be powerful articles, but my voice is not what needs to be heard in this moment in time).

Then we realized we could release this newsletter on June 19, 2020: Juneteenth. One way to honor #BlackLivesMatter is to amplify black voices in literature on this date. So that is what we are doing.

What is Juneteenth? It is a holiday observed each year on June 19 to mark the official end of slavery in the U.S. For the history of this holiday, let me pass the mic to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is an Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

To honor Juneteenth, we encourage our newsletter readers to buy a book, fiction or nonfiction, by a Black author today. Actually, buy two, or three, four, or more. At a loss for ideas? This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, we are positive that you will find a gem.









Creative Common Photo Credit: XoMEoX

On The Last Day Of December

STATUS: The usual. I slammed every day as we wind down to the agency closing on December 14, 2012.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR by Mikey Wax

On the last day of December, my true inbox sent to me:

12    Eggnog Chai’s a-drinking
11    queries reading
10    royalty statement reviewing
9     checks depositing
8    Foreign deals a-doing
7    Payments a-processing
6     full manuscripts left a-reading
5     contracts done
4     calling clients
3     client fulls
2     pecan sandies

And a Party in the New Year!

A heads up if you aren’t on our newsletter circulation or on FB, Nelson Literary Agency is now closed to queries for the holidays. We wanted to make sure we finished reading every query, every submitted sample page, and all the remaining full manuscripts in our queue.

To do that, we closed queries on Monday, December 3. Anything incoming will now get our auto-respond email.

But never fear, we’ll be back in full form starting on January 2 2013. We’d be happy to read your query then.

December–The Slow Month?

STATUS: If I hear that “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” song one more time…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ANOTHER YEAR HAS GONE BY by Celine Dion

Traditionally, December is the month where publishing starts to quiet down as editors get ready to be away for the holidays. Kind of like how August tends to be an unofficial slow down period that then picks up after Labor Day.

If it’s true this December, I certainly can’t tell yet. We close next week but we are working like there is no holiday around the corner. Sara just wrapped up a deal earlier in the week. I’m announcing on Pub Lunch a deal I closed recently. I’m in the middle of two other negotiations–one of which was out of the blue from a publisher who couldn’t offer earlier in the year but now is.

Love that!

And lots of agents are obviously hard at work during this month as some fulls we’ve requested have gotten offers of representation–literally only days after receiving the actual manuscript.

So I would say it’s kind of like business as usual and probably will be right up until we close a week from tomorrow.

Do Agents Buy Books For The Holidays?

STATUS: The agency is only open for another week and two days. I’m a little intimidated on what needs to be done between now and then!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOUSE FULL OF LOVE by Michael McDonal

If an agent buys books as gifts for the holidays, do they only buy their client authors?

Good heavens no–although I’ve certainly bought my share of NLA books to give as gifts. But it would look a bit self-serving if that’s all I did!

Not to mention, I often share extra ARCs with family and close friends so a good majority of them have read the NLA book long before it’s available to the public. It’s one of the things my nieces have LOVED about my being their aunt. *grin* LEGEND by Marie Lu was quite popular with them last March. They laughed when I told them it was releasing this week. For them, it’s been out forever.

So this Saturday I popped down to The Tattered Cover to browse and buy a few more items to wrap and put under the tree. I’m also a TC member and I had to buy my books asap to get the “share the love with members” 20% discount.

What caught my attention?

The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

I have not read this one yet but I’m hearing enough great things to take a risk. I’m rather enamored of the cover as well. I wish one of my client books had that cover!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend by Susan Orlean

I received a complimentary copy from the editor. At first, I was skeptical. I didn’t know much about Rin Tin Tin and didn’t feel overly like I needed to but I am a dog person. I cracked it open and I got sucked in. It’s a really cool book about more than just the dog actor but about Hollywood history etc. My husband got sucked in to.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I just read an article about the making of the cover, which is visually interesting and unique. Publishers are floating around ideas about making book covers a work of art in and of themselves as added value for the physical book.

Unlikely Friendships: 47 Remarkable Stories from The Animal Kingdom by Jennifer Holland

A girlfriend was with me in the store and pointed this book out to me. I took one look and had to buy it immediately.

And I imagine my TC shopping isn’t quite finished. Very likely I’ll be there again this weekend.



What’s playing on the iPod right now? PRIDE IN THE NAME OF LOVE by U2

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow’s inauguration is quite the historic milestone and what a tribute to his birthday. He will definitely be present in spirit.

Aloha from Kauai

STATUS: Off to hike the Na Poli coastline!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Some lovely Hawaiian music

If you hadn’t figured it out, I’m on vacation this week. After flying to Honolulu for the Maui Writers Conference (on the road), Brian and I couldn’t resist a little vacation time.

But it hasn’t been all play and no work so a few pictures to keep you entertained.

Here is Sarah Rees Brennan and I having our first official client/agent meeting at the Outrigger Reef Hotel.

Secret agent meeting at the Puka Dog on Wakiki! As featured on the Travel channel I am told.
Pictured: Holly Root (Waxman Agency), Cathy Fowler (Redwood Agency), my husband Brian. Not pictured but there is Jeff Kleinman (Folio Literary).

And while dashing into the Kauai Walmart to buy more sunscreen, I couldn’t resist a quick peek at the bookshelves. Lo and behold, DELICIOUS has prime real estate.

Have a great rest of your week and I’ll be back and blogging normally on Monday!

A Year In Statistics

STATUS: Vacation time!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHRISTMAS WRAPPING by The Waitresses

Happy Holidays to all you blog readers. The agency officially closes today and won’t reopen until Wednesday, January 2, 2008.

I won’t be blogging again until the new year, but then I’ll be back and in rare ranting form!

Here are the stats for 2007:

books sold

foreign rights deals done (and that includes one pre-empt and one auction)

number of new clients

estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

full manuscripts requested (I miscounted the other day)

number of projects currently on submission

major motion picture deal


new deals for previously published clients

deals for new clients (4 of which were debut authors—as in not previously published)

200,000 +
number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

conferences attended

number of New York Times Bestsellers

number of holiday cards sent

number of Starbucks eggnog chai consumed in the last week

number of late nights reading on the couch with Chutney

number of great days loving my job

Have a safe and happy New Year. I’m out!

A Work Stop Sort Of

STATUS: One more day and counting…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BACK DOOR SANTA by B.B. King

The time is near but I bet you folks wonder if agents really do stop working over the holidays.

The answer is “sort of.” Here at Nelson Agency I won’t be reading queries, sample pages, or even any client material (because I completed all that) but I will be popping in occasionally because of several outstanding tasks.

I have several projects currently on submission so I’ll need to check email and voicemail messages to see if there is any movement on them.

I’m in the middle of negotiating a contract and the contracts person has gone on holiday until the 26th. This means we can’t complete until that last week of December and yes, I will work on that.

I’m awaiting several payments that may arrive this week or next. Those will need to be processed and mailed promptly (or if it’s really close to Jan. 1st, I’ll let the clients make that call if they would prefer to receive it in 2008 instead.)

Then there is the accounting system upgrade. We won’t go there right now!

Tomorrow I’ll share the year in stats and then I’m outta here.

It’s Not Over Until…

STATUS: Okay, I can’t count. I took on 7 clients this year. Sorry about that because, yes, I can keep track of my clients…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ZAT YOU SANTA CLAUS by Louie Armstrong

Dec. 19th. You thought I was going to say “until the fat lady sings.” Nope. We are definitely winding down but last night I read through all the queries that were set aside for me. That means we’ll be asking for more sample pages. The goal is to read them before next Wednesday. I’ll have to wait and see if that happens.

I also read a bunch of sample pages last night and, gasp, we asked for a full manuscript. Right before the holidays no less.

Yes, I plan to tackle that before Wed. as well.

First and foremost are client payments. I’m waiting on three checks that should arrive before next week. Here’s the rub about December. On one hand, my clients would certainly like their money. On the other hand, if the checks didn’t come until January, they would get a whole other year to worry about estimated taxes.

Much better for all checks to arrive by the first week in December or not to bother until Jan. 1!