Pub Rants

Category: Publishing Industry General

Series of Upcoming Articles – What Makes A Good Agent?

For years, I’ve been friends with the Backspace Co-Founder Extraordinaire Karen Dionne. Over the break, she reached out to me to see if I was open to doing the 2016 Salt Cay Writers Retreat in the Caribbean.

Like I need to think about that. Conference in a warm, tropical setting? Oh, heck yeah, I’m in. But as we were chatting, we started talking about how writers sometimes want an agent so badly, they are willing to sign with an average or even a below-average agent. Trust me, not all agents are equal.

And I said, “Well, writers don’t know what they don’t know.”

In that moment, a lightbulb went off for both of us. Writers don’t know what a good agent does. How could you if 1) a writer has never experienced it and 2) a writer has had one agent and no way to assess just how strong they might be at the job.

Granted, this is solely our own opinions, but having done this for 12+ years, and to good success, I have a very clear view of what makes for an excellent agent—an agent who is advocating for the author in every facet of managing the author’s career.

Karen has been in this biz a good long time as well. Through Backspace, she knows a lot of writers. She’s heard the good, she’s heard the bad, and she’s heard the truly ugly.

So Karen and I decided to do a whole series of articles on what makes a good agent and the articles are going to appear in the NLA newsletter first before they go public on my blog Pub Rants and on the Backspace Website.

And this is our gift to all my loyal newsletter followers, and pass it forward as both of us welcome new followers as well.

For my whole career, I’ve done my best to provide good information and an education for any writer interested in learning about the publishing industry.

Stay tuned, and I hope your 2015 is amazing.

UPDATED 7-9-2014

The fight continues. Amazon proposes paying authors 100% of the royalties as the dispute continues.

Click here for NYT Article.

Authors Guild says Amazon’s intention is to pit authors against their publisher.

Amazon Proposal Rankles Hachette and Authors.

Almost better than an episode of Dynasty!


Original Post:

In one corner, we have Stephen Colbert giving Amazon the finger (and I don’t mean proverbial) on live evening TV.

In the other corner, we have Joe Konrath ranting against Mr. Colbert and defending Amazon based on information from the 2013 DOJ settlement but not based on facts regarding this particular negotiation.

What should the average reader think or believe? My suggestion is nothing at this point. Neither Stephen Colbert or Joe Konrath know what the actual negotiation stand-off is about. This is not a polarizing moment when one side is clearly right and the other side is clearly wrong.

Both Colbert and Konrath are simply making suppositions about what they think is going on in this dispute, but they don’t actually know. And let me go on record saying very clearly that neither do I, but I can make some educated guesses and extrapolations.

So my best guesses are these:

1) Is Hachette negotiating to reinstate the agency model in their Amazon contract, but Amazon would like to remain wholesale?

2) Is Amazon pushing for a greater wholesale discount? Traditionally, the wholesale discount has been about 50%. A higher discount would radically change wholesale structure, publisher profit, and author royalties.

3) Is Amazon willing to reinstate the agency model but looking for a higher than 30% commission for being the agency of distribution?

4) Is Amazon pushing for more money in exchange for retail services (for pre-order buttons and co-op)?

Only the parties negotiating know.

Mr. Bezos, you may be learning first hand that actual facts don’t play a part in the court of public opinion, and right now the general sentiment is not in Amazon’s favor. Over lunch, one high-ranking publishing professional told me she believes that what Amazon is proposing in this negotiation is an untenable position for any publisher to accept. I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.


Amazon & Hachette Scuffle Over Terms

Tracking the Amazon-Hachette Response

Much At Stake in the Amazon-Hachette Fight

Amazon Vs Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin

Booksellers Score Points

Amazon Defends Its Stance

Last year we participated in World Book Night and gave away THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH and GOOD OMENS.

I’m over the moon that last night, World Book Night announced that Jamie Ford’s Debut  novel HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is a 2014 pick- both the regular and large print version.

To sign up to be a Book Giver and give away Jamie’s book, or if you’d like to choose something else (but really do you want to? Grin.) click here.

The auction has concluded. Wowza. I’m completely humbled. And trust me, I’m going to spend hours on this critique! The winner deserves that and more.

I don’t think Dave and company are going to believe me when I tell them how much money we raised on their behalf.

THANK YOU! I’ve said it before but y’all are awesome. If you still want to make a donation, feel free to. I haven’t closed that portal yet.

First off, let me just say how AWESOME every single one of my blog readers is. You guys have just blown me away.

Right now my 50 page Manuscript critique with 30 minute follow up Skype session is at $2500. That’s crazy! And just FYI that the auction closes today (August 7) at 5 pm Mountain Time. As soon as it ends and there is a winner, I’ll be sending out an email to set up the date and time.

And for folks not bidding but just wanting to make a donation, we’ve raised $3240.00!

That’s $5740.00 total!!!

Dave, Jen, Jason, Rebecca & Timothy are just going to be stunned.

Big Hugs. People in publishing are the best.

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.


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

We had sunshine but warm it was not. I needed that down jacket you are seeing me wearing.

Best story of the night? Standing on the corner of 16th Street and Market when Isaac zipped by on his pedicab. On such a cold evening, we couldn’t help shouting out “free book to celebrate World Book Night?” He said, “no thanks” and starting riding away. He wasn’t interested in any religious material (although I didn’t realize at the time that he thought we might be giving away some religious literature). I called out, “But it’s Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens (sorry Terry I was speaking quickly) and The Phantom Tollbooth.”

Isaac whipped around so quickly on his pedicab, I felt like I had whiplash. “No kidding?” he exclaimed..

No kidding!

He thought Book Night was so cool, he insisted on being our Pedicab bookmobile and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was darn chilly. Not a lot of people walking up and down the mall. But we loaded up on his pedicab and he zipped us up and down 16th street looking for kids and other delighted folks who couldn’t believe we were giving away free books. No strings attached.

Pictures to enjoy!  And Sara’s son Elan was our very special ambassador! Thank you Elan for braving the cold with us! And thank you Isaac! If you see this blog post, drop us a line. You made World Book Night a triumph for Nelson Literary Agency. We’d love to send you the pics.

Kristin&IsaacSara,Elan,Isaac,Kristin-withbooksMan-BabyStrollerAnita-Kristin-withRecepient CoorsField

Oh it’s happening – despite the fact it’s 25 degrees out right now and we will all be bundled to the max and unrecognizable. LOL. Last year it was 82 degrees on this date. Oh fickle Mother Nature.

We’ll be celebrating World Book Night as promised but instead of being at Skyline Park and 16th street, we’ll be on Wynkoop near Coors Field. There is a Rockies game scheduled and I’m betting that if you are a diehard enough fan to sit outside in 25 degree weather to watch a game, you might be a reluctant reader. Besides, kids will be there!

With the minimal foot traffic along the mall we are likely to get because of weather tonight, we’ll hedge our bets. So come join us. Bring Hot Cocoa and say hello! Just look for the banner. And notice that I’m wearing Rockies colors.


KN & WorldBookNight-Poster

And incidentally, my birthday! If you haven’t got plans on Tuesday, April 23, come join the gals of NLA at Skyline Park on the 16th Street Mall of Downtown Denver. We’ll be talking to passerby’s, reluctant readers, and giving away two very cool books.

Last night my husband says to me, “I’m a reluctant reader. Can I get a copy of Good Omens?” I replied, “it’s true you are a reluctant reader but you can afford to buy a copy so no, you don’t get one.”

I know! I’m tough. No nepotism people!


GoodOmens PhantomTollBooth