Pub Rants

Category: Publishing/Publishers

Chutney Takes Manhattan

STATUS: Absolutely frantic as we tried to wrap up the 1099s (need to be off to the IRS before the end of the month) and get everything else in order.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE by U2

Why the big rush? On Sunday, I’m heading to New York City. That in itself is certainly not news. I tend to go there often as my office isn’t located in the big Apple and I need to do my editor meetings and face time. This year I wanted to try something different. Hence the title of this entry.

This year the whole fam is going to New York City and I’ve rented an apartment in Soho for a month. Now we’ll find out if that state-of-the-art network we installed last year is worth the money we spent on it. Supposedly, I can work seamlessly from any place in the world and still tap in to everything at my office. But never fear, if that fails, Sara will be holding down the fort.

I’m just in love with the idea of a leisurely, non-stressful time meeting with editors without cramming everything into five days with five meetings a day.

I have no desire to live in NYC but I certainly love the town when I’m visiting. And to me, this might be a nice trade-off for being in Denver for the rest of the year (although if all goes well, I might look at doing it again come fall. Let’s wait and see).

So, I’ll have lots of interesting news to post as I give you a daily report from the publishing capital of the world.

And I just might throw a pic or two of Chutney’s first time there as well. Because really, isn’t that what this blog is really about?

Editor Dance

STATUS: Hugely productive day. I cleared the surface area of my desk for the first time in about a month I’d say.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? PROFESSIONAL JEALOUSY by Van Morrison

Today I was de-cluttering the files on my desk when I came across a pile of editor business cards from one of my trips to New York last year.

Often times I jot down a few notes to myself about the meeting or about the editor’s tastes on the back of the card. When I hit the office, I’ll input relevant info into my database for future use.

But what struck me about this pile, and hence the blog, was how many editors had left the business since I had those meetings last year. It was close to half (and these editors, by the way, weren’t new as in assistant or associate editors). They had been in the biz for years.

In fact, I just got an email from one of my favorite editors (with whom I had a client with for many years) that she’s leaving and will be having a baby very shortly. I’m thrilled for her but couldn’t help groaning.

Agents expend a lot of time building our contacts. Of course we’d love the editors to stay put—especially if we match up in tastes etc. There’s nothing worse than the perfect editor who leaves and you can’t match tastes with his/her replacement to save your life. On the flipside, there are several editors I adore personally but to whom I’ll probably never sell a book to because we just don’t share that vision. Invariable those editors stay forever (she smiles wryly). When that happens, it’s a godsend when new blood is brought in to that imprint so I have a fighting chance of landing a client there.

But back to the point. When an editor leaves, agents have to rebuild their contacts. Sometimes it’s easy (maybe there are several like-minded editors at that same imprint and I can focus on another editor there instead), but if there isn’t and a new editor arrives, I add that person to my meeting list for my next NYC trip.

And hope they won’t be leaving the biz in the following year!

Accidental Children’s Agent

STATUS: My hand is tired but the holiday cards are done!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN by Chris Isaak

Two years ago I didn’t even represent anything in the world of Children’s publishing. Now it’s what I’m starting to be known for.

I should have realized this. I love high school movies with a passion (as my husband can attest). I would say that half my DVD collection is high school movies so why it didn’t occur to me that repping young adult and middle grade would be a natural fit is a mystery. I’m just glad that Ally Carter and Jennifer O’Connell insisted on writing for that market and forced me to get savvy. Now I love it.

So genres for the 8 new clients (and funny enough, quite the leaning toward children’s!). If they’ve sold already, I used their name.

Brooke Taylor—young adult
Sarah Rees Brennan—young adult fantasy
Jamie Ford—literary fiction
Helen Stringer—middle grade fantasy
Client 5—young adult
Client 6—young adult fantasy
Client 7—young adult
Client 8—women’s fiction

And you guys know what I want more of, don’t you? Adult science fiction and fantasy. I’d love to take on more romance. I’d love to take on more literary fiction like Jamie.

I don’t suggest querying now (because we close on the 19th) but come Jan. 2nd, bring it on!

TGIF! I’m out.

My Blog Connection

STATUS: Excited. Putting something out on submission always makes me giddy. I love the novel, and I want everyone else to love it too!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARVEST MOON by Neil Young

Hilarious story that I had to share. As I mentioned yesterday, today I’m putting a project out on submission. There was an editor on my list to whom I wanted to send the novel but I didn’t happen to know her. So, I did what I normally do and that’s to ring her up and introduce myself.

So I call and start with my usual “My name is Kristin Nelson and I wanted to call and introduce myself because I have a project that I’d like to send you way.”

The editor stops me and says, “Wait, are you the Kristin Nelson who blogs?

Me: “Uh, yes.”

Editor: “I read your blog!”

I just started laughing and I have to admit, that’s the first time I’ve rang an editor whom I didn’t know but who in turn kind of knew me through my blog.

And then it got even stranger. We are both from Missouri (how often does that happen?) and we both had attended the Denver Publishing Institute (but not in the same year). And I’ve read her blog before and didn’t make the connection.

Twins separated at birth! Okay, not really that close but you get the picture. This editor definitely needs to be on my radar, and I’m so glad I called.

I just LOVE it when a new submission allows me to meet a new editor. Even better when I sell that project to the new editor as I did with DEMON’S LEXICON. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Rumors Confirmed

STATUS: With the mail, I’m reminded that it’s October royalty statement time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN DOVES CRY by Prince

The rumor is now official. Harlequin is closing its NEXT and Everlasting lines. Not a huge surprise but now things need to be re-evaluated if an agent has an author writing for either one of those lines.

And I have to laugh. Publishers need to be able to move as fast as the word does and they rarely do. The poor editors. They all had to say they didn’t know anything about it until Harlequin made the official announcement (which happened today). Talk about being in an awkward position.

Once information hits the streets (and I do mean the virtual streets), word spreads rapidly.

Speaking of streets, virtual or otherwise, I had an interesting time getting to work this morning. Chutney and I were doing the usual walk down 17th street before taking a right on Wazee. Usually the streets in Lodo are a little quiet since most businesses are more uptown. Then I noticed there seemed to be an inordinate amount of attractive and well dressed people on the street and literally, standing in front of my office.

But hey, it’s a free country and fashion plates can stand where they like.

I walked into my lobby only to run into several of my fellow office building mates. They asked if I were “in it?”

Confused, I said, “in what?”

“The movie. They are shooting a movie.”

Ah. Well, that explains the people with the walkie talkies. I’m thinking not since nobody stopped me as I walked down the street. I probably ruined a scene and didn’t even know it.

Ends up they are filming an Eddie Murphy movie literally right outside my office door so when his next film comes out, look for the SH Supply Company brick building and you’ll know that is where the Nelson Literary Agency resides.

I have to say that car alarms were featured heavily in the scene they shot this morning because we would hear the command, the alarm would go off, and when “cut” was yelled, it stopped.

And no, I didn’t get a glimpse of Eddie.

The Big Picture

STATUS: Squeezing this blog in before the day gets too crazy. It will be a miracle if I’m back to my hotel room before midnight tonight.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WINDMILLS OF THE MIND by Sting

Tip of the Day: In the course of your publishing career, know that one or all of these things might happen to you at some time.

1. A Bad cover
2. A low advance
3. A book that doesn’t quite reach its projected sales potential
4. Writer’s block while on a deadline
5. Another author being jealous or spiteful of or to you
6. An editor leaving
7. A contract cancelled

And when the bad happens, let it roll off you because in the course of your publishing career, know that one or all of these things might happen to you one day.

1. A gorgeous cover
2. Hitting a bestseller list
3. Having your whole backlist bought for a reprint
4. An advance from your dreams
5. A book that does reach the projects sales potential and then goes beyond
6. Being a lead title
7. Another author supports and helps you with a blurb or cross-promotion etc.

That ultimately it’s the journey that you must savor not just the end result of what you might define as “success.”

Now here are a few shots of several authors who are at the start of this journey.

Agency Anomaly

STATUS: Plugging along. Only two weeks ago I was all pleased because I had caught up on everything. Ah, those were the days…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROCK THIS TOWN by Stray Cats

Sitting on the panel this past weekend also reminded me of a fact that I often forget—the fact that my agency is a little bit of an anomaly in this business.

The three other agents sitting on the panel all handled mostly nonfiction with an occasionally novel to fill out their roster.

I’m the exact opposite. About 98% of what I do is fiction with an occasional story-based nonfiction project such as Kim Reid’s memoir NO PLACE SAFE or Jennifer O’Connell’s book of collected essays EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME. This is actually unusual. The majority of agents sell nonfiction because it’s easier to sell (more quantifiable), takes less time to put together (because most nonfiction is sold in the proposal stage), and it usually tends to make more money (more six figure deals are for nf projects).

So why do I just mainly do fiction? Because that’s what I love and that’s where my passion is. And for me, for some reason, fiction is just easy to sell (and I do sell quite a few projects, even for debut authors, for high five or six figures, and I sell almost every project I take on). My nonfiction stats (early in my career when I handled both) couldn’t compare. I liked things that were too quirky for mainstream publishing. Go figure.

Now my agency thrives because I handle all types of fiction—including genre stuff such as romance or sf&f. A lot of agents are only interested in literary or commercial mainstream and let me tell you, literary fiction is one hard sell. When you understand how hard it is to place a literary novel, it becomes clearer as to why most agents concentrate on nonfiction to pay the bills.

All Nonfiction Is Creative

STATUS: I’m behind in reading sample pages in the electronic database. I know there are several people who have waited more than 2 months for a reply. My apologies. I just have a lot of client material that is taking first priority. I’m hoping to get semi back on track after RWA. Thanks for being patient.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONE WAY OR ANOTHER by Blondie

This is a rant I had totally forgotten about until now. I sat on a panel at the Tattered Cover—Lodo on Saturday morning for the Lighthouse Writers Litfest.

During the Q&A, several attendees posed a question about their “creative nonfiction” work. This, of course, puzzled the agents and editors sitting on the panel. Why? Because there is no such genre as creative nonfiction. All nonfiction (and fiction for that matter) is creative by nature so calling something “creative nonfiction” doesn’t really define it.

And then I remembered. This is a term often used by universities and writing programs but in publishing, we don’t use it.

If you are writing a memoir, it’s called a memoir.

If you are writing a collection of essays, it’s called a collection of essays.

If you are writing a prescriptive nonfiction self-help book, then that’s what you call it.

Seriously. No agent will ever call and editor and say, “Yo Jane, I’ve got a creative nonfiction project to send your way.”

So I would exorcise this term from your writing/publishing vocabulary (and if you head a writing program, see if you can get that terminology changed). It’s actually a disservice to writers trying to break into the publishing world.

Now, don’t worry. It’s not like I’m going to delete every query that uses it but it will raise an eyebrow and show you up as a novice right when you are trying to demonstrate your savvy and professionalism.

But What Is Your Story?

STATUS: Is it really three in the afternoon already? It just can’t be…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? GONNA MAKE YOU SWEAT by C&C Music Factory

Last but not least, I have one last word on the memoir and then I’m going to rant about something else for a while.

Here’s the last point that I want to make. Often when writers pitch their memoirs, they often focus on the fantastic/dramatic element that, in their mind, is the unique impetus that drives the story, such as the disabled sibling (or the genius sibling), the psychotic mother (that’s a popular one), the drug addicted brother, father, sister or whoever–you name it, the daughter who accused the father of abuse (and it’s the mother’s memoir) that I’m often left asking, “but what is your story.”

I have often asked this question to aspiring memoirists and have stumped them. And the answer might be that they don’t really have one—and hence, what they have won’t really work as a memoir.

A simple question but an important one if you plan to write in this genre.

I’ve Got A Memoir But It Could Be Published As A Novel

STATUS: TGIF. Fun weekend planned as the in-laws (whom I adore) are in town for Father’s Day. Coors Field here we come.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? 50 WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER by Simon & Garfunkel

I love the memoir. I could talk about this genre for weeks but I imagine some blog readers are thinking, “move on already.”

Seriously though, I read a lot of recently published memoirs on my own, for fun, because I just love that thrilling inside look into another person’s life. If I found more “just blow me away” ones, I would take them on. So I’m going to continue talking about this genre until I’ve exhausted all rant-worthy topics associated with it (and don’t worry, my arsenal is starting to run low).

So the above title to this blog entry is yet another kiss-of-death-otherwise-known-as-an-automatic-NO-from-an-agent for any aspiring memoirist. I cannot count the number of times I’ve chatted with a writer in person who has finished a memoir but when pitching the project to me will often say, “I wrote it as a memoir but it could be published as a novel instead.”

The answer to that is no it can’t.

And yes, I’m going to tell you why because this misconception is definitely a rant-worthy topic.

Although a memoir often shares certain similarities to a novel (as in there are scenes, dialogue, development of characters, and sometimes world-building) a memoir is not the same as a novel. They are two, distinctly different creative processes in how they are crafted and written.

So an already written memoir can’t be “published” as a novel or even vice-versa. It’s like saying my nonfiction self-help book can double as a novel. These are two wholly different entities. Apples and Oranges (James Frey, non-withstanding, but even A Million Little Pieces would have to be redone completely to make it stand as a novel because the crafting of a novel is not the same as the crafting of a memoir). Repeat after me: they are not interchangeable.

Now, I’m not talking about writers who have yet to begin the writing process and are wondering if they should simply take the real-life experience and use that as inspiration for writing a novel. That’s a different ball game altogether (but I also want to point out that such a direction has a whole different set of pitfalls). The key words here are “use it as inspiration.” Let’s just say when writers try to take a real life event and fictionalize it, something gets lost in the translation because the writers get too attached to what “actually happened” versus writing an original scene with developing characters and so on. Usually, but not always, the writing of this “novel” is just terrible because the writer doesn’t have any distance to the material nor are they using the elements of writing good fiction to create it.

But as I said, that’s actually a whole other blog entry. A memoir is a memoir—not a novel. A novel is a novel and can’t easily be “revised” into a memoir.

So don’t approach me with, “I’ve written a memoir but if it would be better, you could submit and publish it as a novel instead.”