Pub Rants

Category: New York City

Feel The Fear – Do It Anyway

STATUS: Hum, I thought August was suppose to be the slow month in publishing. Not so much.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  WAITING FOR A GIRL LIKE YOU by Foreigner

Last Thursday, Angie and I spent the day doing round-table chats with the graduates of The Denver Publishing Institute. The intensive month course ended and these 100 or so graduates are now making their way into a job market that is one of the toughest I’ve seen in years.

It’s true. But let that just be white noise as you move forward. You know this info but you aren’t going to let it rule what you will do. If you are determined enough, you can make something happen.

The year 2000 changed everything for me. I was a corporate trainer in my mid-30s making 6-figures doing training for fortune 500 companies. I worked 8 days a month. And I walked away because I didn’t love the job.

Folks thought I was crazy.

That was the year I had teamed up with a fellow corporate trainer and we did an awesome nonfiction book proposal. We had a well known literary agent. Our proposal was aggressively shopped and turned down all over New York (so I do, indeed, now what rejection feels like). But that was incidental. It was my “aha” moment that I wanted to be in this field but not on the writing side of things. But on the biz end.

But I was a corporate trainer. I lived in Denver. This was not the mecca of publishing in the year 2000 (and one would argue that Kate Testerman, Rachelle Gardner, and I do not a mecca make in Denver now)! I started researching what it would take and that showed me that I was going to have to work for an agent first to learn the ropes.

Not exactly a lot of possibilities available in my immediate geographic region. My husband and I sat down and formed a plan. If I had to, I would take a job at an agency in New York. We rock as a couple. We could commuter marriage for a year, two if necessary. That’s how important this was to me and I was determined to make it happen. I started applying for jobs. I went to New York and sat down with several agents who didn’t hire me but were awesome to talk to and encouraging.

Then I went to a local writers’ conference simply to meet the agents and network about jobs. I met an agent who had recently moved to Denver (previously with HarperCollins before having to relocate). She was looking for an assistant. I was looking for a job at an agency. Luck Luck Lucky.

Absolutely. But I was willing to do what was necessary and if New York had proved necessary, I would have done that so stay open. Work outside of “can’t” or “I can’t afford it” or “I don’t want to live in New York City.”

So I learned the ropes at that agency. I did the Denver Publishing Institute as a way of bolstering my network (which was very effective by the way as I sold my first book to a Penguin Editor who was a former DPI grad).

The day the program ended, I was ready. I had a $20,000 business loan and a five year plan and I opened my own agency on August 15, 2002. I gave myself five years to make a profit.

Year 1 – took a loss
Year 2 – took a loss
Year 3 – took a loss, did another business loan (my husband didn’t sleep at all that year as he was pretty stressed about the debt)
Year 4 – small profit so I hired an assistant.
Year 5 – took a loss because of the salary I paid my assistant (another sleepless year for the hubby)
Year 6 – a respectable profit!
Year 7 – an even bigger profit so hired a marketing director
Year 8 – stunned myself on how profitable we were becoming
Year 9 – a really stunning year so hired two more employees (our royalties and contracts manager and our digital liaison)
Year 10 – it’s our anniversary and we are celebrating on August 25th with our clients coming to town to join us. We are on track for our best year ever.

In 2002 for my first trip to New York to network with editors, I bombarded every friend I knew and asked if they had any relatives or friends who lived in Manhattan. They did. I slept on the couch in the apartment of people I had never met because they were family of friends of mine and they graciously opened their doors to me.  (HUGE THANK YOU!! You know who you are.)

Make stuff happen. You’d be amazed at how many people love to be enrolled in what you are doing if you just simply ask!

If I knew then what I know now, I probably would never taken that first step. Thank goodness I was blindly optimistic.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.

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. 

Here’s A Genre I Didn’t Think Of!

STATUS: From the blog silence, you can imagine how hectic this trip as been. Meetings all day. Catching up on emails in the evening, and you have to fit a little bit of fun in there too!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CALL ME MAYBE by Carly Rae Jepsen

I’ve been in New York for the past 3 weeks doing meetings with a lot of different editors at all the different houses. I started off with the editors who acquire young adult and middle grade.

Of course I ask, “What have you been seeing lately?”

Imagine my surprise when no less than three editors (all from different houses) responded with, “crap.”

At first, I wasn’t quite certain how to reply. That wasn’t exactly the answer I was expecting! I opted for, “would you care to define ‘crap.’

And they did. They mentioned recently that they’ve seen a whole slew of submissions that weren’t really ready for an editor to see. By the way, these were submissions from agents.

I asked why they thought that was so. I got three main reasons:

1) They were seeing hot genre stuff, such as dystopian, that they felt like the agents were not vetting as thoroughly as they should.

In other words, in any hot genre, the market gets crowded yet those submitting hope that because the genre is hot, it will sell.

2) There were some agents submitting young adult projects that don’t traditionally rep it and to be blunt, it’s different than repping fiction in the adult realm.

3) A lot of submissions could have benefited from a solid edit and revision before submitting. In other words, they were not in strong shape even if the concept or idea was solid.

Some agents don’t edit before submitting. Some do.

So interesting. I’m definitely looking to avoid submitting crap.


I think I can do that!

Friday Funnies

STATUS: Sun popped out. Yay. I was worried it was going to rain.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? QUANDO, QUANDO, QUANDO by Michael Buble

This article totally cracked me up. Stop the New York Times Presses. Huge news flash.

New York City agent moves from Manhattan to….


And can still do his job as a literary agent!

I’m still chortling.

2010 Comic Con Pics–Take 2

And It’s not Comic Con without great costumes and terrific booth displays. Here are a couple more shots to give you a sense of the convention as a whole.

Some examples of the Booth displays!

Steampunk hat shop.

DC Comics booth

Lord of the Rings dolls. Couldn’t resist taking this shot. Wow. As you can imagine, the dolls were not inexpensive.

2010 Comic Con Pics

STATUS: 589 emails in the inbox. Yep, that sums up my day. Thank goodness it’s a holiday in New York.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? GET TOGETHER by YoungBloods

As promised, pictures from comic con. Friday wasn’t even the “busy” day and it was packed.

Marianne Mancusi at entrance of the convention

Mari holds her Night School poster in the Penguin Booth. Four and half years after initial publication of the first book–Boys That Bite–the series is taking off. Last year, Penguin rebranded the covers and rereleased the first three books and then published book 4 in the series. Night School is book 5 in the series. It will release in January 2011.

Got to have the gratuitous agent/author shot in booth!

Orbit Publicist Jack Womack holding up SOULLESS paraphernalia at Orbit booth.

Nice shot of me with SOULLESS poster in background.

Close-up on the Poster.

Live From New York City

STATUS: Actually, I’m feeling half dead after almost a full week of all-day meetings from 8 in the morning to sometimes 11 o’clock at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUFFRAGETTE CITY by David Bowie

I’m back at the hotel early enough to blog. Every other night I’ve returned so late, I didn’t have the energy to fire up the old netbook and sneak in an entry. I do have LOTS to blog about so get ready for NYC recap next week when I’m back in the office.

Tomorrow I’m at Random House all morning and then I head to the Javits center for New York Comic con all afternoon. Orbit has galvanized the steampunk contingent here in the city (and I can’t believe I just wrote a sentence that has “steampunk contingent” in it…) to attend the con dressed up in their steampunk finery. They’ll be giving away Parasol Protectorate buttons and any fan that is dressed up and wearing the button will have their pic taken by Orbit to use in the Soulless cover art collage with the fan’s pic included.

Now that’s pretty cool.

The Orbit party was held at The Cellar Bar at the Bryant Hotel on 40th street across from the park. I don’t know every attendee but there were a smattering of agents and editors clinking glasses.

I ran into my old buddy and agent extraordinaire—Janet Reid (Fineprint). She was there with the amazing Jeff Somers. Got to reconnect with a young but totally up and coming agent Suzy Townsend (also of Fineprint and hadn’t seen her since St. Louis!) Eddie Schneider (JABberwocky) was there as was Cameron McClure (Donald Maass Agency) (who I tried to talk into saying something really profound for my blog but alas, we were profoundless… I’m thinking the wine floweth. Saw Matt Bialer briefly (Sanford J. Greenberger)

My fab Orbit editor, Devi Pillai, was there looking totally wonderful in a sleek black dress. Tim Holman, so British, always startles me slightly with the European double cheek kiss greeting but by end of evening we were all into the swing of things. I did refrain from saying “Darling” at odd moments and felt rather proud of that.

Sharing in the fun were Anne Sowards from Ace and Liz Gorinsky from TOR. Bumped into Ron Hogan (formerly of Galley Cat and Houghton Mifflin).

The Orbit Anniversary party was like a mini reunion.

I have to say that earlier in the week on Monday, Tim, Devi, and I got together down at Pravda in Soho for a drink and I was really pleased to hear that they are actually quite open to adult science fiction right now. There wasn’t even a hint of pessimism to that statement. Considering I had just submitted an SF there, I was pleased. Other editors I talked to in adult publishing really only highlighted military SF or alternate history SF as what was working them. It was so nice to hear some optimism!

These Little Town Blues

STATUS: Turning in for the night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THAT’S LIFE by Frank Sinatra

Are melting away…

Can you guess it? Your intrepid blog reporter had to pop to New York City today to take care of some business so I’m here all week. I’ll try and dig up the dirt and serve it up. I’m interested to know what questions you readers would be dying to ask if you could meet with editors.

For my first night in town, I headed over to the Egmont USA launch list party they were hosting at their offices. I figured since I was here and I’m rarely here for NYC parties, I’d stop by to say hello to Regina and company.

So what happens at a Publisher party? Well, you write your name on a name tag. You hold a glass of wine. You nibble some cheese. You chat with the editors and you connect with a bunch of agents you happen to know who are also there. In fact, the number of agents present far outweighed the number of employees at Egmont!

For the agents, I chatted with Holly Root, Barbara Poelle, Dan Lazar, Ginger Clark, Scott Hoffman, Emmanuelle Alspaugh, and Eddie Schneider (just to name a few).

As for yesterday’s post, I might as well ‘fess up. I actually think the author is lovely and the project did go to an agent friend of mine so I’m happy to give it a plug. The author knows I was really torn on that project when I passed. I also knew about 3 weeks later when I kept thinking about it that I was going to regret passing on it. Such is life. Every agent I know has at least one story like this.

The project was SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater.


Write The Story That Grips You—Guest blogger Kristina Riggle

STATUS: Back in my office in Denver. And what will I miss most from New York City and the Upper West Side? The Magnolia Bakery. ‘Nacking on some cupcakes.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Here is an author who really understands what I was trying to get at with the Dancing With The Stars entry of last week.

So often writers see a first novel get published, have lots of success, and just assume that was the first manuscript the author had done. I’m sorry to say it, folks, but it really isn’t so. Yes, a first PUBLISHED novel might have a lot of success but a lot of writers forget about all those drafts hidden under the bed.

And Kristina knows the value of this. She has at least two fully completed novels stashed away—never to see the light of day. Because that’s what it took for her to write a really phenomenal debut called REAL LIFE & LIARS, which hits shelves today. Congrats Kris!

Kristin asked me to blog about something educational for her readers. This is a pretty smart crowd, and Kristin has done so much to educate all of you about query letter etiquette and so many other important topics, I’m not sure what I can add. So I decided the most useful thing I could do is share what this process has taught me that I didn’t know before.

Write the story that grips you and won’t let go. I didn’t think about the market when I wrote REAL LIFE & LIARS. I’d been writing something else that was supposed to sell, and I was hating it. So I finally decided to instead write exactly the kind of book I like to read, so at least I would have fun, even if no one wanted to publish it.

Someone wanted it. Several someones. It sold at auction. Even the rejections were lovely.

This time around, I produced a heartfelt and genuine manuscript, and I’m convinced that came through on the page.

Blurbs matter. I’ve gotten lots of lovely quotes from many generous and talented authors who were kind enough to take time away from their own careers to read my book. And several times in recent weeks, people have remarked with pleased amazement that I have so many quotes “for a new author.” I don’t know if it affects readers browsing in a bookstore (we could debate that for ages, and in fact it has been debated elsewhere) but I know that reviewers and booksellers have been impressed, and that can only help. One might ask how I landed these blurbs. The short answer is that I asked politely. See next paragraph.

Connections matter. First, networking with other writers kept me sane. I’m hardly a loner by nature, and if not for my support system of fellow writers, by now I would be huddled in a corner, curled around a whiskey bottle. But the business aspect came after the socializing and the friendly support, and this is key. This was no calculated, manipulative attempt at butt-kissing. In fact, many of these connections were in place long before LIARS ever came to be. Thanks to the Internet, networking is easier than ever. Twitter, Facebook, Backspace, various RWA chapters and other genre associations… Our group blog for debut authors, The Debutante Ball, emerged out of connections like these. You don’t have to live in New York to be part of a writer scene anymore. Just talk to people about books and writing, and connections will naturally form.

The coolest things don’t sound sexy at all, like Target and Costco. I got a few minutes recently to chat with Jen Lancaster (BITTER IS THE NEW BLACK, SUCH A PRETTY FAT, PRETTY IN PLAID) at the Printers Row Lit Fest. That bolded statement is a paraphrase of something she said when I told her my book was going to be in Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s warehouse stores this summer, and it’s a Target “Breakout” pick starting in August. This is a big deal for a new author, to have my book in front of so many eyeballs, in so many places, all around the country. For non-writers – and myself, a year ago – it’s hard to grasp why that’s cool. But it absolutely is!

I’m sure many more such lessons are coming. (Is it tacky to sign a book in blue ink? Do I have to write my whole name or is it OK to scribble “Kristina”?)

That’s the other thing I’ve learned. There’s always more to know!

Submit Now Or Later?

STATUS: Work all morning. Meetings all afternoon. That’s New York!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY JACK KEROUAC by 10,000 Maniacs

Yesterday I had an agent friend who doesn’t handle a lot of adult trade fiction shoot me an email with an interesting question. She asked this: with fiction, she had heard that some agents were not even submitting right now and were planning to wait 6 months to let things settle down. In other words, things were a little volatile right now with lay-oofs and projects that might have been bought 6 months ago were now being passed on in this current cautious climate. (Hard to sell a project if you are unsure the editor is going to be there 2 months from now.) Since I did a lot more adult fiction than she did, what did I think?

Darn good question. To be honest, I didn’t have an answer. I’ve been doing quite a few deals as of late but all for current clients who are already established at their houses. None for debut authors in the adult field. Now I do have some YA submissions out but that’s not the same thing.

Since I’m here in New York, what better way to find out than to ask? Well, the lucky editors at St. Martin’s Press were first up to bat so I asked them, what is SMP’s stance on buying adult fiction?

Here’s what was said:

1. They had wondered why it had been so slow. They weren’t seeing the usual amount of submissions that normally happens for this time of year. (Interesting.)

2. That SMP (and this was emphatically said) was aggressively buying so bring it on. (Nice!)

3. Major accounts were tightening their buy lists. Not ordering as much and not as far in advance. (I’ve heard this from several places—not just SMP.) So if a project is borderline in terms of an editor loving it, they might pass. (Agents might not be submitting right now in order to not risk this.)

So what had they bought recently? SMP just paid big money to lure two mystery authors to the house. One editor had bought two novels—a mystery caper and then a literary commercial novel about a Viet Nam soldier and his specially trained German Sheppard who worked as a team in a special army unit.

You know how much I love dogs. I would have LOVED to have seen that second novel. History. Dogs. A War. Gosh, no one ever sends me that kind of stuff. Oh wait. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet (although there are no dogs in that one.)

So novels with that intense emotional hook or connection. Check. Historical novels. Check. American based narrative mystery or crime nonfiction (a la Devil In The White City). I don’t do but check. Memoir. Check. And I learned a new term. Editors are looking for midstream mainstream. (i.e. Stuff in the Jodi Picoult realm where it’s ordinary people faced with extraordinary decisions about real problems).

Midstream mainstream. Try saying that 5 times fast! (I think I just call it upmarket commercial fiction.)

Okay, check.