Pub Rants

Category: Uncategorized

This month, NLA’s Omar Medina sat down with Quressa’s client Roseanne A. Brown, whose debut novel, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, became an instant New York Times bestseller when it was published June 2 by Balzer + Bray.

Tell us about ASOWAR!
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is a dual-POV YA fantasy set in a world inspired by West African folklore and following two protagonists: a refugee named Malik and a princess named Karina. When Malik’s younger sister is kidnapped by a vengeful spirit, he makes a deal to win her freedom in exchange for killing Princess Karina. To complete his task, he enters a competition for Karina’s hand in marriage in order to assassinate her. However, he is not aware that Karina is planning to sacrifice the winner of the competition in order to bring her dead mother back to life. Thus we follow the two of them as they try to outmaneuver the other without realizing it, and the way their plans are derailed when they actually meet and realize they might be falling in love.

Can you give us any little hints about what’s coming in book 2?
In book 2, we will be exploring more of the continent of Sonande past the city-state of Ziran, where the entirety of book 1 takes place. We’ll also be diving more into Karina and Malik’s pasts, plus deepening the rules of magic and of course the romance.

What inspired you to write this book?
I first got the idea for this book in college in 2016 when I realized I had never read a fantasy novel where a character’s mental illness was not used as a metaphor or villainized in some way. As someone who has dealt with anxiety for most of my life, I wanted to see a Black character who reflected this struggle but still got to be the hero of their story. I’ve also always loved fantasy, so I knew I wanted to draw from the rich oral storytelling and folklore styles we have in West Africa.

On the topic of writing, are you a plotter or pantser?
I’m what some call a road tripper, which is where I have a solid idea of where I’m trying to go and know exactly what is in front of me at the moment, but I’m not sure where I’m going to stop along the way. Is it a very stressful way to draft? Oh, 100%. But it hasn’t failed me yet!

How did you come up with the magic system in ASOWAR?
The magic system in ASOWAR was inspired by the day-name system of the Akan people of Ghana, my mother’s people. Among the Akan, we have a tradition where one of the names an infant is given is decided by the day of the week on which they’re born. These day names hold great importance and, it’s believed, even have an effect on a person’s life, similar to the Western Zodiac. Using this tradition as a base, I created the magic system in ASOWAR where the day of the week a person is born decides what kind of magic they can do. Check out the full breakdown and learn what your magic and horoscope in the ASOWAR world would be.

What was your journey like to getting represented by an awesome agent?
I signed with Quressa back in November 2017 on the wake of a mentorship program known as Pitch Wars. I had revised my manuscript for two months with the help of a mentor, and honestly the whole process was such a rush that I try to remind people my experience was an exception, not the norm. Quressa was the first agent to offer representation during the agent showcase portion of Pitch Wars, and from the start I was blown away by her deep understanding of my book and her vision for not just this project but for my career. I have not regretted the decision even once, and I am so excited to tell the world all the amazing things we have lined up, some related to ASOWAR, some not. 😉

ASOWAR deals with the topic of mental health. What advice do you wish to give readers who might be struggling with their own mental health?
I’d suggest that anyone struggling with mental health not wait until it has negatively impacted every aspect of your life to seek help. I know for me, the stigma within my community against seeing mental health professionals is why I waited so long to seek help. That fear of seeming “crazy” or “damaged” is very valid, but I know now that risk was worth actually getting the resources and support I needed to be able to live better and more fully.

Your book was published right at the resurfacing of the Black Lives Matter Movement. How do you think that might affect how readers read ASOWAR?
I definitely think that the added focus on Black creators during the week ASOWAR came out helped with the wonderful response it’s gotten. However, what I’m hoping is that this support does not dry up now that Black Lives Matter is no longer trending on every site. Black creators deserve support even when there is not a national tragedy occurring.

What are you reading right now? Anything you’d recommend?
Right now I’m reading The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi and just in absolute awe of her character and worldbuilding. Another book I’ve started but haven’t finished yet is Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles, which is basically the Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge book of my dreams.

What’s in your TBR pile on your nightstand?
I’m really looking forward to Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko! Give me all the fantasy featuring Black girls, please. Some of my other most anticipated reads for this year are A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir, Legendborn by Tracy Deonn, and These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m really into Pokemon Go these days. It’s the only activity that really gets me moving and not spending all of quarantine on my couch watching Netflix!

Follow Roseanne online:
Website
Twitter
Goodreads

This month, Nelson Literary Agency honors one of our own. Rebecca Taylor, our former literary assistant, recently celebrated the release of her debut women’s fiction title, HER PERFECT LIFE (Sourcebooks Landmark, June 2, 2020). We couldn’t wait to talk to her about it and share her words of wisdom and encouragement with you.

Congratulations on the release of HER PERFECT LIFE! Tell us a bit about the book.

Her Perfect Life by Rebecca Taylor (Sourcebooks, June 2020)

It’s about two adult sisters, Eileen and Clare, and their very different lives. Eileen is an overwhelmed mother of three who is navigating a troubled marriage and financial insecurity. Clare is a world-famous, hugely successful novelist, living with a husband who worships her. At the beginning of the book, Eileen learns that Clare has killed herself despite her outwardly perfect life. Eileen flies to Clare’s cliffside mansion north of San Francisco in hopes of learning why her sister would take her own life. The book is told from the perspectives of the two sisters, past and present. 

As a writer, what surprised you the most about working for a literary agency?

First, the data management required for even a single author can be tremendous. For example, think of one author with five titles, each of which sells into twenty foreign-language markets. That’s 100 contracts and revenue streams that must be monitored and tracked, not to mention sales numbers, manuscript files in their various stages of drafts, edits, and final-final versions, marketing info and data for each author, each title, each market… Way more work goes on behind the scenes than most authors even begin to imagine. The management of all that information is exponential. Because of this, agents really do need to LOVE and believe in a title before deciding to invest all this very real sweat equity trying to get a book into the world.

Second, even if a book is well written and an agent believes in it enough to take it on, it’s far from guaranteed that book will connect with a publisher. And even if it does make it to the shelves, it may not find an audience.

Finally, most authors do not read their contracts. Or, if they do read them, they don’t ask questions about language they don’t understand. 

How did working for a literary agency inform your writing?

Working for a literary agency made me more aware of the industry as a whole, not just what I felt passionate about writing in the moment. I had always heeded the advice about writing the story you wanted to tell, the story you’re passionate about. With my five YA books, that is exactly what I did—and I was never able to find a traditional publisher for those books. That awareness helped me to think more critically about a project before I began writing it. It also helped me focus on what sort of book I would like to be writing not just next week, but next decade. What genre would give me the flexibility to tackle new ground while still staying true to my love of creating character-driven works? Women’s fiction was the answer for me.

After you published five YA books, HER PERFECT LIFE is your debut women’s fiction. Tell us more about what prompted the switch. Will you continue to write YA?

First off, my reading habits changed. I’ve always read widely, but as a reader, I found I was losing interest in the YA market. This, I am certain, was because my own children were moving into their teenage years. As a parent, I found it increasingly difficult to get into the teen headspace in a way that would genuinely resonate with a teen audience. As a mom navigating the parental world of setting expectations, defining boundaries, and taking away privileges, I found I was a living, breathing antagonist to that entire shelf space. Teen-centric story ideas stopped lighting up my creative centers—that well ran dry. But I did, suddenly, have a lot to say about women and mothers. Writing women’s fiction was a transition that made both logical and emotional sense to me. As for writing more YA in the future…who knows? But it’s not something I plan on or can even envision doing at this point.

As a full-time school psychologist and busy mom, how do you carve out the time you need to write?

It is definitely getting easier now that the kids are older. Much less feeding, dressing, and entertaining is required for teens than two-year-olds. At this point, it’s mostly balancing writing with working. One benefit of working in public schools is that I have plenty of time to write during the summer months—even if the warm weather does make focus far more challenging. During the school year, I generally get up around four a.m., so I have a couple of hours to write before work. I’ve tried writing after work or before bed, but I’m basically brain dead by that point in the day. I prefer to go to bed early and get up early.

Do you have a writing community or support system? If so, how has that helped you work toward and achieve your goals?

I have belonged to a few different professional writing organizations, both local and national, over the years. Through these, I have met many wonderful writers and taken countless classes that have both inspired me and helped me improve my writing. But by far, the most helpful support system has been my fellow writer girlfriends. When we can make it work, we take retreats together and focus on writing all day long. Then, in the evenings, we come together to eat dinner, drink wine, and talk, talk, talk. More regularly, we try to get together for brunch at least every few months. I love and cherish this time we spend together. 

What are you working on now?

A second book of women’s fiction that is due to my publisher very, very soon. I’m nearing the end of the first draft, but I have found it difficult to focus over these past few months. I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of June, if not sooner. 

What advice do you have for writers who are working toward landing an agent or their first traditional-publishing deal?

  1. The waiting and rejection, rejection, rejection can be hard. So hard. But realize this: Even when you connect with that agent and finally sell that book, the waiting and rejection do not end. They just look different and tend to be more public. Get as comfortable as you can on publishing’s lumpy couch and do your best to keep writing through all the discomfort.
  2. Celebrate the small successes along the way.
  3. And finally, if you ever feel like you’re at the end of your rope with this business, like you just can’t take the rejection anymore and you really want to quit—then quit. I cannot recommend quitting writing and the pursuit of publishing more. I have quit twice in despair and frustration. Obviously, I crawled back to try again. But it was only when I came back after quitting for the second time that I truly understood I would continue to write for the intrinsic pleasure even if there was never going to be any external reward for my efforts. Once I realized that about myself, I was able to enjoy the process again and loosen my grip on trying to make publishing happen. And eventually, it did happen—eighteen years after I started writing my very first book. 

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.

OTHER  LINKS:

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

Newsflash!

If you are looking for our “subscribe to our newsletter” button, you won’t find it quite yet. We are currently transforming the design, and we are migrating over to a new, more user-friendly delivery service. We plan to launch the new look on April 1. Once we’ve fully transitioned, we’ll be sure to announce that the subscriber button is back up.

Sit tight and don’t worry, I’ll remind folks in April.

Agenting in 2013

STATUS: I spent 7 hours in the office yesterday revamping our text content for the new website. We are so so close to launching. I can’t wait. The new site is awesome. The new blogging medium is going to be hot!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN by Frank Sinatra

Next week I head out to New York to speak at the 2013 Digital Book World (DBW) Conference. I’m rather honored to be sitting on a panel with the illustrious Jane Dystel (who  has repped a half a dozen successful self-publishing authors) and Steve Axelrod (who just recently did the first publicly announced print-rights only deal for his client Belle Andre).

I’m working on my talking points so I’ll have something intelligent to say. In this company, I had better! Ms. Dystel represented President Obama for his first book for goodness sakes.

She also recently did an interview for DBW entitled AGENTS UNWILLING TO ADAPT WON’T LAST. Worth a read as I could see myself saying every answer she gives.

Agents who haven’t already embraced assisting clients to make their books digitally available are behind. What started off as an added service to assist authors in finding their audience (as part of the evolving role of agents in this rapidly changing digital landscape) has fast morphed into being a necessary service to offer. As Ms. Dystel so aptly points out, it’s now, more than ever, our job to help writers connect with audiences.

In whatever medium, form, channel, or type of deal necessary.

In one year, I’m astounded at how fast the gross revenues are growing for authors who opted to publish through NLA’s digital platform. Even authors who are digitally publishing on their own use our digital platform for venues they can’t have direct access to. Those venues don’t have the advantage of being as big as Amazon (hands down the largest seller of ebooks) but even with these “smaller venues” revenues are growing from several hundred dollars a month to several thousands a month in just a few short months.

It’s a bit crazy to watch.

Two authors of mine have comfortably quit their day jobs because of their digital publishing success. And who knows, maybe I’ll be contracting print-only deals for them, like I did for Howey, in the not so distant future.

Agents — if you haven’t started, the time was yesterday to jump on this bandwagon as I’m fairly certain, it won’t be going away.

DBW Panel: Straddling The Models: Authors Choosing to Both Self- and Traditionally Publish.

What Are The Big YA Debut Break Outs in 2012?

STATUS: I need 5 more hours in any day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? COLORADO CHRISTMAS by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Yesterday Sara Megibow and I went to lunch – just the two of us – so we could sit down and process the year. Celebrate what was great. Commiserate on what wasn’t. LOL

Of course the conversations came around to what we think is hot or trending. And honestly, I’m not sure I see any clear direction there but I can say in the adult realm it’s definitely genre cross-over novels, literary thrillers, and big upmarket literary commercial novels that appeal to women readers and book clubs.

In YA, it’s a  bit more murky. In fact, neither Sara or I could think of a single debut author that broke out in a really big way in 2012. (Marie Lu’s LEGEND debuted fantastically but that published in November 2011 so I’m not counting it per se…). Maybe CINDER? That title looked to have done well (and pubbed in January ’12). 

Certainly many already established YA authors did quite well in 2012 (Green, Condie, Roth, Dessen, Hopkins, Bray, Asher etc.) but I’m not sure I could name a 2012 debut. So I figured I would ask you folks! Sara and I might simply be having brain fatigue.

At this time of year, I always like to look back at the books on the 2012 BEA YA Buzz Panel. The titles were the following:

CREWEL by Gennifer Albin (Dystopian/speculative)
WHAT’S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang (Dystopian/speculative)
SKYLARK by Megan Spooner  (Dystopian/fantasy)
SKINNY by Donna Cooner (Contemporary YA)
COLIN FISHER by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (YA contemporary mystery)

Looking at the numbers on Bookscan wouldn’t suggest that any of them are a breakout – although I’m wondering if it just is a slower build now as dystopian/speculative have been a hot trend for a while.

Now there are two contemporary YAs on that list. I was kind of hoping the trend would swing back in the contemporary direction. Too soon to tell I think. Sara has an author doing well in that realm (Kenneally) as do I (Elkeles) but we need the next John Green or Zarr.

Most likely there is a quiet title out there gathering steam. Any ideas? Put some titles in the comments section.

And Speaking Of Money – Our Next Webinar – The Anatomy of Money In A Book Contract

STATUS: Not much has changed from last post….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  CRASH INTO ME By Stevie Nicks

And since we are speaking of money and concerns over the possibly shrinking advances, LOL, this leads right into my very next webinar that’s taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 from 6 to 8 pm Mountain time. It’s called SHOW ME THE MONEY: The Anatomy of $ In A Book Deal.

I’m literally doing a 2-hour workshop that walks writers through a publishing contract and the anatomy of money in it. I’m using actual contract clauses to illustrate how and what earns a writer money in a publishing agreement.

I’m pretty sure this will be the best tutorial you’ll have without actually having a book deal and your own agent walking you through your brand spankin’ new contract.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing” as Alexander Pope says but I’m of the philosophy that you can’t learn less.  I like to be as thoroughly educated as I possibly can before being confronted with something.

Stuff you’ll learn:

1) What can a writer earn in terms of advances for different genres?
2) What are the standard royalties? Royalty escalators?
3) What is “high discount” and how can it impact what you earn?
4) Bonus clauses. What are they? What types can be built into a contract?
5) What subsidiary rights can be sold and what are typical monies involved.
6) Clauses that don’t immediately seem to be about money but can impact what you earn anyway.

Sound like something you might want to know? Then I’ll see you there.

A Little Blog Update

STATUS: Yes, I’m still alive!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  WHITE FLAG (acoustic version) by Dido

Travesty I know! It’s been more than a month since I blogged. If you are missing me, be sure to check out my Facebook page where I am posting regularly.

Here’s the scoop. We are in the midst of doing a whole website redesign and the plan is to integrate the entire blog into the new site.

I’m a bit excited as it will have all our social media fully integrated into it (Sara’s twitter and FB. My FB and blog and whatever else might come down the pike in the future. I’m not particularly wed to pinterest or tumblr but I definitely have my eye on other things that are catching the public interest.)

So thanks for your patience as we transition. I haven’t been blogging regularly to mitigate the content transfer.

I’ve also being toying with making my FB status updates more like blog posts. I get that there are space limitations but heck, that might be good given my current workload. FB is easier to do on the fly or with just a short window of time available.

If you have an opinion, ideas to suggest, upcoming social media that should be on our radar, I’m open to hearing all of it. Leave me a comment!

BEA Pics And Sara’s Live Webinar

Status: Dashing out to the subway to be somewhere in 20 minutes


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? Nothing At The Moment


Here is a BEA Pic to tie you over until I can properly write up some entries. Sarah Rees Brennan and Marie Lu at the Young Adult Buzz Panel.

Link


Sara is also giving an amazing Webinar today called HOW TO HOOK AN AGENT WITH YOUR QUERY LETTER. It’s starts at 1 pm Eastern.


I know, I know. Not much advance notice but you can still sign up and participate even if you can’t be there during the scheduled time frame. Writers Digest records it and participants will have access to it at any time at a later date for up to one year. You can still even ask questions that will be responded. No need to miss out if you have a life or work!