Pub Rants

Category: Publishing/Publishers

Creep Factor Anyone?

STATUS: Back at my hotel early enough to blog.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SO MUCH TO SAY by Dave Matthews Band

Sorry for the radio silence yesterday. I flew in to New York on Sunday and it’s been a whirlwind of meetings.

I have to say that the mood is a little somber in publishing. I heard a rumor of some layoffs at Random House which did indeed happen. I think people in general are nervous about the economy and that’s no less true in publishing.

However, there’s still lots to get excited about. I had lunch today with two editors from Little, Brown Children’s and even though we did spend a good portion of the lunch lamenting the loss of MY SO CALLED LIFE (Gosh, I loved that show and I’m so glad I’m not the only geek missing it…), we did spend some time talking about what we’d love to see.

Both editors are convinced that werewolves might be the new vampires (and that Zombies are almost over). Never thought I’d put those things in a sentence together! And although paranormal, vampires, and werewolves have been hot in the adult market, the children’s field hasn’t really caught up and there might be lots of room for that. I can see it.

We all agreed that we’d love a story that could creep us out. Horror hasn’t been hot in children’s for a long time and the timing just might be right for that. This summer I looked at a YA horror that I really, really wanted to work but the writing/story just wasn’t quite there yet.

And here’s an interesting tidbit. I just sold a steampunkish fantasy in the adult world earlier in the year (SOULLESS) and these children’s editors could really see a steampunk YA working… (yeah, you probably saw that recent Scott Westerfeld deal too…)

I was at a couple of other children’s publishers yesterday and let me tell you, all the editors eagerly asked if I had anything for middle grade right now (which, sadly, I don’t). Lots and lots of room in the MG world.

In the adult world at Little, Brown, one editor mentioned that she would really love to see a big woman-written and women-oriented thriller. A literary thriller wouldn’t go amiss either.

I’m sensing a theme….

Cover Tweaks for HOTEL ON THE CORNER

STATUS: Blogging next week might be erratic but I’ll try and hop on to give you the scoop from all my meetings.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CARUSO by Paul Potts

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sharing the cover for Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, which releases on January 29, 2009.

Often AREs go out with a plain cover (sometimes blue paper) but RH did the galleys with the actual color cover. Lots of AREs were mailed out for early reviews, feedback, bookseller comments, etc. Now based on that feedback, Random House decided to do a few tweaks. Now I find the whole cover process fascinating so I thought you readers might as well.

For HOTEL, RH decided that the maroon filigree was a bit too heavy and de-emphasized the title. They wanted the title to be more prominent and in bigger font.

So, here’s the original cover.

Here’s the final cover with the tweak.

The Demon’s Lexicon Cover: Behind The Scenes

STATUS: Happy Halloween!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GHOSTBUSTERS by Ray Parker

It’s not often you get a glimpse of the behind the scenes discussion about a cover but there were quite a few interesting points for this one.

1. Cover image. Did we want iconic (a la TWILIGHT) or did we think that had been done to death?

Now, I have to say that I’m often drawn to iconic image covers but when you look around on shelves right now, there are an awful lot of them.

So when the Art Director suggested actually having a model shoot to do an image of Nick for the cover. We were intrigued (nervous too because how often does a real human depiction of a character seem right?). We reviewed the models in contention before the cover shoot took place (it’s a hard job, I know, but somebody has to do it!).

For Sarah Rees Brennan, this model was hands down the winner. It was pretty dang close to the Nick she envisioned.

2. Demon Mark. This plays a huge role in the story so Sarah did a nice drawing of how she envisioned it in her head. S&S didn’t end up doing anything with the image but they did play around with the idea.

3. Talisman. If we had gone the iconic image route, I imagine this would have been featured somewhere on the cover. S&S designed the beautiful talisman themselves and created it for the cover shoot. Here’s a close up shot.

4. The Menacing Birds. The Art Director just loved them so we knew they’d make the cover. There were, however, several variations of them but here you see them in their final form.

Speaking of eBook Royalty Rates…

STATUS: Monday madness! Sounds like a new game show. I can’t believe it’s 5 pm already. Lots of phone calls and prep work for my NYC trip in two weeks.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEARTS AND BONES by Paul Simon

Which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago, I just received a letter in the mail today from Random House stating that as of Dec. 1, 2008, they’ll be changing their eBook royalty rate policy.

Sigh. Here we go. RH used to have one of the nicer royalty rates in the industry (of the big NYC Houses that is. I think a lot of the smaller, ePublishing houses have more aggressive standard rates from what comment posters have mentioned.)

RH’s standard royalty rate was 25% of retail (as opposed to 15% of retail that most houses use).

Now they are moving to 25% of net amount received. A big difference. Now it’s still on par with what industry “standard” tends to be in New York but I’m still disappointed.

From the letter: “The new rates are very much in line with the ebook and digital audio rates being offered today by our major competitors. Previously, Random House’s digital royalties represented a considerable premium over the digital royalties offered by other publishers. As the economics of publishing in digital formats come into clearer focus, we realize we can no longer afford to offer such a rich premium if these businesses are going to mature and become profitable.”

I was tempted to add some commentary in there but refrained. For me, RH’s generous eBook rate gave them a bit of an edge if all other factors were equal. Well, that’s going the way of the dinosaur.

If you are a new author, chances are good you are going to get the industry standard in your first contract (barring crazy auction and publishers throwing around huge pots of money that is). And if you are an established author (with a solid track record that’s building), well then, all royalty rates are negotiable, aren’t they? eBook being just one of the factors to play with in the deal points negotiation.

P&W’s Interview With Editor Chuck Adams, Algonquin

STATUS: TGIF and I’m off to take my nieces birthday shopping. Can’t wait to see what the hottest things are for the under-15 set.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHY CAN’T I BE YOU? by The Cure

Links are fixed! Sorry about that.

I have to say that the interview series done by Jofie Ferrari-Adler for Poets & Writers is just hands down the best I’ve ever seen. Jofie just has a way of pulling the great stories out of long-time publishing folks that as a reader, you feel like you are absolutely getting the most inside look at the industry that you can.

And his interview with Chuck Adams does not disappoint.

Here is a venerated editor who has edited nearly 100 books that have gone on to become bestsellers and yet, as Jofie mentions, “like many editors of a certain age (and pay grade), Adams was rewarded for his years of service with a pink slip.”

Hard to believe, isn’t it? But Mr. Adams gives wonderful insight as to why that had happened and how much he enjoys being at Algonquin. Chuck Adams is also the editor behind the mega-successful WATER FOR ELEPHANTS and he tells the story behind that acquisition. That, in and of itself, is a good education about this biz.

Other Highlights:

Jofie: Let’s talk about agents. There are a lot of them, and I’m curious about the factors that you would look at if you were a writer, knowing what you know, and had your pick of a few.

Chuck: I would want them to ask certain questions. (click here to read on). He also highlights two young agents that should be on everyone’s radar (and one is a friend—waves to Dan).

But here’s my favorite quote from the interview. You’re preaching to my choir, Chuck, as so many people like to turn up their literary noses at commercial fiction.

“There’s a tendency of publishers to pooh-pooh books that are really commercial. You get this at writers’ conferences sometimes. “Oh, how can you edit Mary Higgins Clark?” People just shiver because they think she’s not a great writer. I’m sorry, she’s a great storyteller, and she satisfies millions of readers. I’m all for that. Again, Harlequin romances—give me more of them. A lot of good writers have come out of Harlequin romances: Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Barbara Delinsky, to name three right there. I think literary fiction is great, and the ideal book is one that is beautifully written and tells a great story, but if it’s just a great story that’s written well enough to be readable, that’s good too.”

Is It Cold Outside In The World of Publishing?

STATUS: I’m finishing up for the day and blogging fairly early.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IN THE MOOD by Glen Miller

Maybe it’s me but I read this article in the New York Observer today and I pretty much wondered why the points raised in the article were considered news. Dire predictions might be interesting to include in an article as a side note relating to a publishing news story but seemed a little lacking in substance to be the focus of this entire news bit. Maybe this is an Op Ed piece? I’m not a regular NYO reader but it didn’t look to be presented so on the website.

With quotes such as “the ecosystem to which our book makers are accustomed is about to be unmistakably disrupted” and “Soon, though, people [editors] may find themselves compelled to be more wary,” I was really expecting some cold, hard facts to back up the pronouncement that books are going to become significantly harder to sell in the next year.

Yes, I certainly can agree that the economy is in the tank and a lot of industries, including publishing, will be tightening their belts. Even with this I’m not sure I’m worried that I won’t be able to sell a new author in the next coming months. I’ve had an enormous success with a lot of debut writers.

I quirked an eyebrow at this quote: “Only the most established agents will be able to convince publishers to take a chance on an unknown novelist or a historian whose chosen topic does not have the backing of a news peg.”

Perhaps they are not referring to genre fiction? There did seem to be a bit more focus on literary fiction and I certainly have to agree that literary tends to be a much harder sell–with or without a bad economy.

Well, since I don’t include myself in the realm of “only the most established agents,” I guess I’m duly put on notice. What do you blog readers think?

As for debut sales getting harder, I’ll let you guys know as the year unfolds. Meanwhile, let me get back to my auction…

Even Legendary Editors Are Still Learning


What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOW SWEET IT IS (TO BE LOVED BY YOU) by James Taylor

I’m running out the door for the weekend (and I’ve got 15 minutes to pack) but an editor friend sent this little note my way:

Del Rey has recently started a big group blog, a sort of a hub for SF/F news and all things geeky; and Betsy Mitchell has been writing a series for it that gives a little bit of insight into the editorial trenches – I thought possibly it might be of interest to your readers? Here’s the most recent post.

It is nice to know that even the legends are still learning.

And I agree. You might want to click around a bit on this blog. Enjoy!

YA Is All About Asking The Right Qs

STATUS: It’s time for sleep I think.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LOVE SONG by Sara Bareilles

I didn’t start this blog week with the thought it was going to be an all Ally Carter litfest but it’s really turning out to be.

Maybe because I’ve got Ally on the brain. You see, I just finished reading the final copy-edited version of book 3 in the Gallagher Girl Series. Yes, it has a title but I don’t think that has been revealed as of yet so I’m not going to share.

This might sound odd but when an agent has a hugely successful author, one of our greatest fears is whether the author can live up to her previous books. For my part, there will always be a special place in my heart for LYKY because, of course, that book was the first. Kind of hard to top–especially when I think of the scene where Macey comes to the rescue in a golf cart. Truly, one of my favorite YA scenes of all time.

But then for book 2, there was the whole Josh versus Zach and it’s hard to top the dance scene.

And then there’s book 3 in the series. All I can say is that hands down, this is Ally’s best book. And I’m not just saying that because I’m the agent. It really is her best work. And just to be a tease, you might want to go out and rent Cary Grant’s North By Northwest. I’ll say no more.

But my blogs don’t tend to be pointless so why am I waxing poetic about Ally tonight? Because I was just over at her blog reading about the wrong questions aspiring young adult writers were asking at a recent conference Ally attended and I couldn’t help but think about my own YA workshop at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers this past weekend. I, too, thought the attendees had good questions but ultimately they were asking the wrong questions. They were focused on the minutiae. How long should a YA novel be? What is and what is not allowed in novels for this audience? How do I write a novel that will be a bestseller? (And the truth is there is no way to answer that question—as I’ve discussed this week).

For me, aspiring writers often want the magic bullet point list—as in if they do XYZ, that will guarantee success.

I’m here to tell you that there is no magic list. Sorry to disappoint. But there are the right questions to ask. So go and find out what they are and what the difference really is between writing for adults versus young adults.

Overnight Success Takes 2 to 10 years

STATUS: TGIF (Even though I’m blogging a bit late tonight.)

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT’S TOO LATE by Carole King

Have you ever noticed that when an author becomes really popular, readers act like the author’s success appeared out of nowhere?

In reality, a big success takes anywhere from 2 to 10 years.

For example, in the young adult world (and in a lot of cases, the adult world as well), Stephenie Meyer’s name is on everyone’s lips. As an author, her Twilight books seem to “come out of nowhere” (if you talk to folks who have recently discovered her).

But the first book TWLIGHT, was originally sold in late 2003 and the initial hardcover of the title released in 2005.

It’s not three years later and suddenly this author’s name is everywhere (including a lot of non-print media). For a lot of folks, it feels like “overnight” success. However, that’s really an imaginary construct. Basically the book just reached critical mass in terms of awareness and thus looks like the success is sudden.

Here’s another great example. I sold my author Ally Carter’s first YA book, I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU back in 2005. It released in hardcover in 2006 and it wasn’t until 2 years later that this title hit the New York Times Bestseller list.

Overnight success indeed! I think I would call that more a slow build but except for rare exceptions, that’s how overnight success really happens.

Do You Look At Rejections?

STATUS: Totally celebrating. Instead of 300, I only have 60 emails in my inbox. It’s the small things in life.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ZOOT SUIT RIOT by Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

This month I’m putting several projects out on submission and I just read a discussion about this on the Backspace chat forum so it seemed like a good topic to bring up.

If you are an agented author with a project on submission, do you request to see your rejection letters?

At my agency, my clients don’t really have a choice (or at least I never really gave them one). When a rejection letter arrives, I immediately forward.

Why? Well, for several reasons.

I, in general, believe that an author has the right to see any communication regarding their project. It is, after all, their work.

Besides, if I don’t forward it right there in then, it’s unlikely I’m going to remember to send it later on. We do everything electronically here and yes, I do save the email letter in the client’s file but I almost never look at it again once a letter comes through. I know some agents wait until all the responses are in and then send them on but I think that would drive me crazy—like work hadn’t been completed or worse yet, I’d forget to send the letters at that point in time. Better to forward right away for my general peace of mind. Now I realize that it might not cause peace for the author so I always forward with commentary—either an encouraging note, or some inside insight to the editor and why he/she personally might have passed etc.

If editor feedback is helpful, I ask that the author to keep it in mind. If it’s not, I say just roll with it. Rejection is a part of the publishing game and I think in the long run, it’s in an author’s best interest to develop a thick skin. If the rejections in the submission stage bother you, just imagine how hard it will be to take a bad review?

Buck up and deal with it. It’s not personal (though it feels so). It’s simply a part of being a writer. Now of course, any client can call and bemoan the letter. I’m okay with that as that is a normal, human response. Or write a venting email to me about the editor’s lack of vision. That’s just fine too. If you can’t vent to your agent, who can you vent to?

Luckily, as of late, I’ve sold just about every project and for clients, rejections are so much easier to take when there is an offer already on the table. Funny how that works.

And if you are a writer who hasn’t reached the agent and the publisher submission stage and may still be looking for that elusive agent, then rejections just signal that you are in the game.

Considering that 90% of the population wants to write a novel but never have the guts to go for it, being in the game is a huge thing. Even though it sucks, rejections are a badge of honor. A rite of passage for when the publishing day finally arrives. Every published writer has a story of a rejection.

You can’t tell a good keynote speech without it!