Pub Rants

Category: Publishing/Publishers

Straight From An Editor’s Mouth

STATUS: Slowly working through emails, negotiations, contracts and whatnot. I’m particularly fond of the whatnots (aka the chocolate jar).

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROCKY MOUNTAIN WAY by Joe Walsh

The week before last, I posted a blog entry on a crisis averted in the publishing world when the ARC of my author’s book (instead of the corrected final proof) was submitted to the printer for the actual publication.

And how wonderful the editor was in terms of getting right on that, trashing the initial print run, and getting the book done right (Kudos J! You know who you are!)

Well, as I mentioned then, it’s rare occurrence but it can happen. An editor friend couldn’t help but share her story. She asked to remain anonymous so I’ve respected that request but otherwise, here is her story in full. She works at one of the major houses in New York.

Hi Kristin–Was just reading your blog. Hope you’re enjoying Maui. I’ve attended and they always do throw a good party. And it’s Maui…

I got a laugh out of your story about your author’s finished book being the ARC version. Well, not a funny ha-ha laugh, because that really sucks for her and her publisher but more a knowing laugh. When I was a 23-year old assistant editor, my executive editor boss got fired and I wound up taking over a bunch of her books. One was a book by a medium-size celebrity who was nonetheless a major-sized headache. After I’d been on the case for a couple months, the celebrity’s paperback comes out. I get the usual three hot-off-the presses copies from the bindery, send one to the author, one to her extremely powerful agent, and stick the third on my shelf. I think nothing of it for a couple hours until I’m taking a phone call, my eyes wander over to my shelf, and I realize that–holy f**king shit!–the printer HAD MISSPELLED THE AUTHOR’S NAME ON THE SPINE! I leap out of my chair, seize the book in my trembling hands, and run down the hall to the managing editor’s office, whereupon I thrust the book at her, point to the spine and burst into tears.

God bless her, she kept her cool, but it was a MAJOR error. We wound up having to pulp something like 40,000 paperbacks at 65 cents apiece. We were lucky that I’d noticed early and the books had only shipped to the warehouse, not to the stores, or we would have had to recall those and lose the shipping money on them. I then had to call the high-maintenance author and her extremely powerful agent and explain the situation, but since none of the copies had gone out, they weren’t too perturbed; and interestingly, neither of them had noticed the error on the spine when they received their copies. Still, it was probably the most freaked out I’ve ever been in my entire career, and that was 10 years ago!

Feel free to share the story, just to show that publishers do screw up sometimes, but we always try to make it right in the end! Would be great to see you if you’re back in NYC sometime soon. Really do want us to have a book together!
XXXXX

Something Learned In 6 Years In The Biz

STATUS: It’s ten minutes to midnight and I’m now going to leave the office. Needless to say, there were quite a few things that needed to be taken care of before I left town. Normally it’s not quite so silly that I’m here until midnight. Just one of those flukes.

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

So reading Molly’s interview got me thinking about what will I know in another 23 years from now. Since I’ll be in my 60s, I guess I might have my fingers crossed for retirement. Big smile there.

But I do know one thing I’ve learned over the course of the 6 years I’ve been running my agency and that is this. Life is too short to deal with crazy editors.

Early in my career, I did a negotiation with an editor who thought that the best way to get her way was to simply yell at me–loudly. So loud I had to hold the phone at arm’s length.

Since this was early on, I didn’t hang up on her although I should have. After that bit of nastiness where I did finally get the editor to talk like an normal person the very next day and the deal concluded, I decided that I would never put up with that again—nor would I ever submit to that editor again (which I haven’t).

And I haven’t had to deal with anything similar until just this year and even then, I still can’t believe it. This time I didn’t put up with it.

Because as Molly points out (although she was talking in the context of problematic author clients and not editors), the deal is ultimately not worth the drain on your energy nor does it remotely create a sense that as an agent, you’ve done the best by that book—either in the negotiation or placing the author with the right editor if you know what I mean.

Life is just too short.

I’m on a plane all tomorrow and honestly, with the Maui Writers Conference going on, I’m not sure I’ll be blogging for the rest of the week but we’ll see.

Thirty Years In the Biz

STATUS: Downtown Denver is a zoo with the Democratic National Convention starting today. On the walk this morning to my office, I counted at least 10 people standing on the street with at least 5 cameras strapped to their persons.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (DARLIN’) YOU KNOW I LOVE YOU by Tina Turner

I’m just a baby in this industry if you think about it. I worked for another agency before going out on my own in 2002 but even if I count up all the years, it’s certainly under 10. So just imagine what an agent who has been doing this biz for thirty years might know.

Well, you don’t have to imagine as editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler from Grove has been doing a series of interviews for Poets&Writers and this month he interviewed Molly Friedrich—who started agenting back in 1977 when I was all of 9 years old.

I took a lot of good things away from this interview but here are some points that stand out in my mind:

1. Credibility and respect are built over time. Honesty and integrity, for agents, may very well be our greatest asset.

2. That writing is often about original voice rather than labels. (Amen!)

3. That loyalty can mean a lot in this biz—loyalty to an agent, loyalty to a publishing house, loyalty to an author’s vision and career.

4. Selling a novel for a ton of money may not necessarily be the best thing that could happen to the book or to the author. And it’s a myth that all writers will be seduced by the big money. Some don’t necessarily want lots of dollar signs if it ends up being a detriment to a long term career.

5. As publishing gets reduced to fewer houses, there’s a sameness to the type of books that get published and become popular. Could an Annie Proulx be published today as a debut? (There’s a frightening thought!)

6. Some authors, no matter how much they are earning, aren’t worth keeping if they drain your energy as an agent.

7. Whining. There’s too much of it. From authors, from agents, from editors.

8. That we, as agents, know when we’ve done well by a book (and she’s not talking about large advance) and when we’ve messed up. (yep.)

And to me, these seem like good words for agents to live by: “If you’re just going along like a hamster in a wheel, then you’ve lost the pure white heat that makes this business so much fun. And it should be challenging. That’s what separates the great agents from the good agents.”

Importance Of Checking Those First Copies Hot Off The Press

STATUS: Crisis averted!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SELF ESTEEM by The Offspring

Yesterday I talked about an author of mine who had found two uncorrected errors in her acknowledgement page. But now there is more to the story. Concerned, my author continued reading and discovered, to her horror, that the copy of the book she was reading was the first pass used in the ARC.

As many of you know, the ARC is the uncorrected proof—as in the author still needs to get the final page proofs from the copy editor, review, make corrections, and then return to the publisher by that deadline. That becomes the “final” copy that heads to the printer.

In this case, there had been a huge snafu and the wrong document was used for the final printing. Ack and double ack. This is a really costly mistake because the publisher is going to have to trash the initial print run and redo it.

Which they are doing (and unfortunately the release date is going to be pushed back a couple of weeks because of it). An instance of a Publisher behaving wonderfully!

When a book is about to release, often the editor will send out a copy or two of the soon-to-be released book just hot off the press, and thank goodness my author opened up what was supposed to be the final book and gave it a close read. And double thank heavens that she did this right away, the minute the book had arrived in her mailbox because the error can be corrected right now as none of the books have shipped from the warehouse.

One or two weeks later and it would have been a real disaster.

So when that first copy arrives, absolutely admire your final work in print but you might also want to open the cover and give it a read just to be sure.

And don’t panic folks. This type of error is fairly rare but as you can see, it does happen.

Power Of The Proof

STATUS: I’ve been working on a contract for most of the day—speaking of diligence.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DON’T FEAR THE REAPER by Blue Oyster Cult

Which, let’s face it, I don’t tend to do much of on this blog. Sheesh, I always find the error the next day and I do appreciate when blog readers point it out in the comments section. It never offends me. Sometimes I write and post because I’m in a hurry, it’s too late at night, or I simply “read” it incorrectly in a quick skim.

But if you are an author facing your page proofs for the final read-through before submitting the final manuscript for the printer, well, let’s just say you don’t want to hurry or skimp on this proofread.

Two interesting dilemmas that just came up this week:

1. One author found two errors in the very first sentence of her acknowledgements page. Granted, she had actually corrected the errors in the pass but somehow the copy editor missed it. That is the worst feeling. We’ll correct it now but who knows how many books are out there with the missed corrections…

2. Just like scary movie… Just recently an author of mine caught an editor comment and question that was embedded in the narrative of the novel on page 110 of the work. She found the error in the ARC so we had plenty of time to correct that one but it still strikes me as terrifyingly funny that an editor remark could have found its way into a late-stage version and even though it didn’t happen, it could have slipped into a final copy.

Ack.

In other news, two fun things going on in the blogosphere.

Chuck Sambuchino at Guide to Literary Agents is looking for the worst logline ever for his The “Worst Storyline Ever” Contest. This is going on now until the end of August. A glory of sorts…

Lucienne Diver, client and fellow literary agent, is hosting Mystery Week over on her blog so if you write in this genre, you might want to pop by and check it out. Some great advice going on over there.

Publishers Behaving Badly

STATUS: Cuddling with Chutney. What finer way to spend an evening?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? By The Lovin’ Spoonful
(Yep, I haven’t been able to get that song out of my head since Friday!)

There is definitely something in the water. Usually August is a slow time in publishing but heck, you couldn’t tell from the news as of late.

I heard a story from a publicist today about an agent who had some poor women’s manuscript for a year and a half and still hadn’t put it out on submission before the author fired the person (and I’m not talking about an author spending quality time with a manuscript via the revision process either). This was simply an inexcusable lapse. Bad, bad behavior.

But they aren’t the only ones getting into trouble lately. Publishers are getting into the game as well.

First there’s the whole “Random House is afraid of terrorism so we are canceling THE JEWEL OF MEDINA” story. It was enough to get Salman Rushdie (who is published by RH) to come out and admonish them. I’m thinking that this is an author who knows a thing or two about censorship sponsored by fear.

And then I read another article about F+W Publications, a big enough company that should know better than to mishandle reporting of foreign sales royalties. Yep folks, that’s what accounting systems are for and from this article, sounds like they need an update to say the very least. I imagine this story will inspire some close scrutiny of F+W royalty statements.

Sheesh, this biz is often madness. Sure you want to be a published author?

Friday Funnies!

STATUS: I was in tears with laughter. What a great way to end the week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’VE GOT IT by Simply Red

And this is for my new author Courtney Milan who just had her 5-house auction on Wednesday for her debut historical romance PROOF BY SEDUCTION which ended with Harlequin winning it in a good deal…this is exactly how it went, right?

No Freewheelin’ With The Blurb Endorsements

STATUS: It was quiet for one day. I can’t even believe I said it was quiet yesterday. Plenty to do between now and Thursday. Won’t be in the office on Friday and of course, no blogging.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DEMOLITION MAN by The police

I’m not really going to tally the results this time. Yesterday’s “poll” was more about creating a discussion around blurbs. For an author who is receiving the blurb endorsement, it’s an incredible feeling. That someone way more established than you (or famous) thought your novel worthy of praise. It’s big validation for a debut author in a world where there aren’t many validating moments outside of sales performance. And I always think of it as incredibly generous for an established author to do. When done right, it takes a lot of time to read a novel and it takes even more time to think of a short, pithy blurb that really captures the author’s emotion about it.

Try writing one for a favorite book of yours just as practice. It’s not easy.

For readers, it seems a mixed bag. I do know that booksellers and publishers absolutely do believe that blurb endorsements help to sell books.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned:

1. The author name has to be pretty big—as in immediately recognizable—for it to make an impact.

2. Readers do feel it’s part of the advertising.

3. Authors should not be too carefree about what they blurb as that can shape reader perception—of the blurbed books and for the books that author writes. Blurb only books where the endorsement is really meant.

4. Many readers find it helpful. That maybe they’ll try a new author they might not otherwise if a favorite author has blurbed the book.

5. The text of the blurb is just as important as the blurb itself. Faked enthusiasm is recognizable.

A Second Totally Unscientific PubRants Blog Reader Poll

STATUS: It’s a bit quiet leading up to the long weekend so I’m actually getting some things done. And yes, I’m still working on my query inbox…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? UNKNOWN LEGEND by Neil Young

When we did our completely unscientific first ever Pubrants Blog Reader poll, I realized that I left out one important question (or maybe series of questions).

We talked about covers and back cover copy influencing book buying decisions but we didn’t talk about author blurbs.

Often times before a book is to be published, the agent, editor, and author will put our heads together and discuss who would be a great blurb candidate for the project. Obviously blurbs are going to come for established authors with solid reputations and a large following, otherwise the blurb probably wouldn’t have much weight. The name has to be recognizable and appropriate for the genre, type of book, etc.

For example, this week has been very exciting at the agency as we just received word that Lisa See (author of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan), who we asked to read an ARC of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford, loved the book and is thrilled to give us a blurb to use.

Needless to say, Jamie and I were giddy. Now I realize that the book isn’t out yet and therefore anyone who reads this blog can’t buy it yet, but would that influence you?

So that’s my poll for today:

Do you notice and read author blurbs on books you are potentially interested in buying?

If so, have you ever bought a book because an author you loved and trusted endorsed the book?

If you can remember, what established authors created the swing vote for you and you did indeed buy the book with their author blurb on it?

Have you ever bought a book based on an author endorsement and then were dissatisfied with the book bought? If so, did that impact a future buy for a book for which that same author has endorsed?

I imagine this random poll will spark some interesting discussions this week!

Stats And A Few More Thoughts

STATUS: I’ve got an auction happening tomorrow. That just makes the day crazy busy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? A CHANGE WOULD DO YOU GOOD by Sheryl Crow

Basically last night was nothing but whining—at least I thought so until I started to really think about it. It’s actually extremely important for an agent to read for pleasure (and yes, sometimes reading sample pages is fun but ultimately it’s still working so it’s not quite the same thing as reading a book solely for pleasure). Do you know why? Because that’s when an agent feels the joy of the printed page and the written word. That’s when we remember how much we enjoy just reading like normal people do.

It also keeps us in touch with what’s out there, what’s selling or catching people’s attention. I love to read and when you work too hard, sometimes you forget that passion because all you want is to tick off one more item from your long list of TO DOs. So not only is it imperative (work-wise) to read for pleasure but it’s also wise for our sanity in general.

And finally, I have the stats for you from our poll on Tuesday, June 16, 2008. Some comments came in after the cut off and we’re sorry to not include you if your answer came late but we had to create a cut-off somewhere to compile.

Responses: 195
(not everyone answered every question which is why a few of the totals do not add up to 195)

Do you prefer hard copy or electronic?
Hard Copy: 185Electronic: 10
95% hard copy

When going into a store to buy a book, have you then bought a second title?
Yes: 187
No: 8
96% Yes

Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?
Yes: 63No: 131
68% No

Have you ever bought a book based on the back cover copy?
Yes: 155
No: 39
80% Yes

Kristin comment: If you ever needed proof that it was worthwhile to make your query pitch paragraph mirror back cover copy, here it is I think. Agents are just like readers. We can be swayed by good back cover copy.

How often have you bought a book based on a friend or family member’s recommendation?
Always: 5 = 2%
Almost all the time: 19 = 10%
Frequently (much of the time/ around 50% of the time): 75 = 39%
Rarely: 72 = 37%
Never: 23 = 12%

Have you ever bought a book because I mentioned it on this blog? If so, which book(s).
Yes: 63
No: 128
67% No

Which ones:
Ally Carter (23)
Sherry Thomas (13)
Linnea Sinclair (7)
Lisa Shearin (5)
Shanna Swendson (5)
Hank Phillippi Ryan (3)
Jana DeLeon (2)
Kelly Parra (2)
Marianne Mancusi (2)
Cheryl Hingley (1)
Leslie Langtry (1)
Kim Reid (1)
Jennifer O’Connell (1)

Kristin comment: Most interesting point about this question is that I actually mention quite a few non-client books on my blog and nobody mentioned whether that has swayed him/her to buy some other non-Nelson Agency Client book.

How many books do you buy in a year?
0: 01-10: 29 = 15%
11-50: 82 = 44%
51-100: 42 = 22%
100+: 35 = 19%
With several responses of 300+ and even 500+

Kristin comment: Holy cow you blog readers buy books. I love you!

How many books do you check out of the library per year?
0: 87 = 47%
1-10: 16 = 8%
11-50: 45 = 24%
51-100: 23 = 12%
100+: 16 = 9%
Again with several responses in the hundreds

Kristin comment: We love libraries and librarians so it’s perfectly okay with us if you check out from the library. Libraries often buy lots of copies of each book and that makes us happy!