Pub Rants

Category: publishers marketplace

Before 2001, very little information was available about deals happening in the industry. No transparency, really, regarding what agents were selling and what editors were buying. Michael Cader and Publishers Marketplace changed all that. Now, a wealth of deal information is available to anyone via a monthly subscription and the click of a button.

The deals-search feature on the site is a powerful tool that helps agents quickly learn what editors have been buying. It also helps writers research who might be a good fit to represent or buy their novel.

At first glance, the deal-reporting system is fairly straightforward:

Nice = an advance between $1 and $49,000

Very Nice = $50,000 to $99,000

Good = $100,000 to $250,000

Significant = $251,000 to $499,000

Major = $500,000 and up

It’s clear cut, right? The advance falls within a particular range, which determines the announcement term used when posting the sale.

Reality is actually a bit murkier. Why? Because there is an ongoing discussion about whether bonus monies in the deal should be counted as part of the advance or not.

In several recent conversations with editors, most assumed that agents only counted the actual advance, nothing else in the deal. In conversations with several agents, most said “it depends.” Some agents just outright include the bonus monies in the advance when they report their deals. Others assess whether the deal is borderline and may count the bonus to pop the deal into the higher level. The higher the level in the report, the more foreign and film interest might be generated. So this is actually important stuff.

What about when a deal announcement doesn’t mention a level at all? What’s the subtext? There are only two reasons a money range won’t be included:

Reason 1: There was no advance (as is the case for a lot of ebook-only deals), or the advance was so small that it’s better not to mention it at all and leave it ambiguous for film and foreign interest.

Reason 2: The author is so big or well known that the deal is likely to be very high indeed. Perhaps the author’s privacy is being maintained.

Happy deal searching!

Photo Credit: MoneyBlogNewz

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.

 

 

 

 

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!

Top Dealmaker?

STATUS: What a way to kick off 2008! First I get an offer for a project I have on submission which is how I always like to start the year. Then I get the big, big news. Ally Carter’s I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU lands on the New York Times paperback bestseller list at #4 and CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY, which has already spent 5 weeks on the NYT hardcover list, is back on coming in at #9. Woohoo!!!!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I ALONE by Live

Thank you all for all your lovely blog comments on my last entry of 2007. I did have to chuckle though. Selling 22 books over the course of one year is not actually a lot. I have many agent friends who sell double or triple that number (although I have to add here that they’ve all been in the biz for a lot longer than I have).

It’s not a high volume and I have to admit that I don’t see myself as ever being a high volume agent. I don’t take on that many clients or that many projects in a given year so there’s a limited quantity of projects to sell. I don’t want to say quality over quantity because that’s not necessarily the case. I have many agent friends doing a quantity of high quality projects and deals. I imagine as my clients grow their careers, the number will increase over the years just on repeat deals alone.

But here’s what’s interesting and why I bring this up. Publishers Marketplace has a new feature called Top Dealmakers on their website. Let me tell you, this has caused some interesting consternation amongst agent friends and here’s why. Our agent reputations are the key to getting future good clients; we want to be known as top dealmakers! Publishers Marketplace can only rank top dealmakers on quantifiable criteria. In other words, they can’t verify that deals actually sold for the money highlighted by the editor or agent (or by the authors themselves) in the announced deal. The only criteria they can use for rating top dealmakers is based on the number of total sales in a given period (and that is, of course, only if the deals are reported). Many agents don’t report deals for a variety of reasons.

I like to think that might be the reason why Michael Cader implemented this new feature to begin with—to encourage deal reporting. Very smart on his part.

But it also means, quite sadly I have to say, that I’ll probably never be a top dealmaker on Pub Marketplace. Right now, I come in at #40 for Fiction as a whole, #26 for women’s/romance, #15 for children’s (that ain’t shabby I guess!), #8 for young adult.

You get the picture. And I have to admit, this entry is solely self-serving. Big smile here. I might not sell a lot of books in any given year but because that is true, I also have to sell what I take on for more money and that’s not captured in the Top Dealmaker ranking.

Is it better for an agent to sell many projects (but all in nice deals) or just a few projects in good, significant, or major deals—in Deal Lunch terms? And the answer to this is purely subjective because it really depends on how each individual sees it.

Unfortunately, Top Dealmaker on Pub Marketplace can’t use that criterion for obvious reasons (although when I was chatting with Michael before the break, we did talk about it).

Maybe that needs to be my 2008 goal. More deals and all for a lot more money. I’m sure my clients wouldn’t say no to that!

On Publishing—Michael Cader Style

STATUS: Tired and ready for bed. Pardon any typos. I’ll proofread and fix tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME by Jewel

Today I was at the Backspace conference—which was a blast. Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace did the keynote and I have to say that I felt like leaping out of my chair at several points in the speech just to say “Amen” but thought that might sound too much like a revival meeting.

Let’s just say he was singing my song. Preaching to the choir. Well, you get the picture.

So here are some of my notes on some of the great points he made today (and these are just quick paraphrases since I wrote in shorthand and even I can’t read my own handwriting sometimes).

The keynote was entitled “Things No one Understands About Publishing, and the Internet, Featuring the Most Important Thing No One Ever Tells Authors, and The Most Important Thing Publishers Don’t Know.”

In short, Mr. Cader discussed what he felt where principles that the publishing world has been reluctant to embrace because of being entrenched in the old way of doing things.

1. Even if you never self-publish, have no intention to, and pursue traditional publishing venues, go forward and market your book as if it was self published and getting the marketing and the distribution was all on you.

2. You know your material and you know your readership and how best to reach them. Don’t think of readers as only a dollar sign (as in they are there to buy your book and that’s there only purpose). What is important to you as a reader? Answer that question. You have to think about what’s going to grab attention. What’s compelling? What’s passionate about your work? What ignites reader imagination? That’s how you sell your book.

3. You can create readership outside of your book. Internet is the great equalizer. Readers don’t want to be told what to get excited about and it drives marketers crazy. Word of mouth is simply readers talking about what they are passionate about and that’s the most trusted way to create buzz about a book. (And ultimately, that does lead to dollar signs). But that’s not the trade publishing model. They always begin a book campaign by thinking about how to get readers to part with their money rather than how to give readers what content they have to have. Blogs work because they are intimate and personal. Corporate blogs don’t because they can’t capture that authentic and personal feel because it’s about marketing and the bottom line.

4. If you want readers, what do you give away for free? There is the idea that if you give away too much for free, readers won’t buy the printed copy but that hasn’t proven to be true.

5. Genuine interest drives bloggers and they know when they are being marketed to and thus they ignore you. When you participate in the blog world, it’s because you have a genuine interest to make connections—not unlike how we develop relationships with people. It’s non-marketing.

6. Publishing often has it backward. They keep a big book a secret until the release day and then there is a big publicity push. But that’s not how the internet works effectively. The internet is a slow build. Buzz over time. People talking about what interests them about a topic or a book. The internet values what’s old, what can be found in a search, what is repeated over time.