Pub Rants

Category: Publishing/Publishers

Don’t Box Me In

STATUS: I’m playing huge catch up this evening. My tech person was in to tweak the network earlier today. Now that is all good and done. Yea! It put be a little behind for my goals of the day though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? POEMS, PRAYERS, AND PROMISES by John Denver

One look at my website and it will be pretty obvious to any casual observer that I’ve been pretty darn successful at books for women.

Romance. Women’s Fiction, YA that appeals to young gals. Even my SF & F has a decidedly female readership bent. Heck, the majority of my clients are women too!

I want you all to know that this wasn’t planned. It just happened that way.

But I read a lot and a good portion of my favorite books off all time are not necessarily written by women or even remotely in the field of women’s fiction. (In fact, last night I picked up ENDER’S GAME by Card because I saw it in the YA section of a bookstore. I hadn’t read it in years and I wanted to give it that YA look—as in, wow, they didn’t originally market this as YA so let’s see how that would work. In one page, I just about swooned. What a writer. What a story! I’d sign that one up in a heartbeat and there’s nary a women main character in sight!)

So I just wanted to remind y’all to not box me in. I know it LOOKS like women’s stuff is all I’m interested in but honestly, it’s not. I’m so open that I’m actually more likely to take a risk on something that’s not in that realm because I’m actively looking to diversify my list.

And no, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to start looking at men-men techno thrillers. It just means don’t be afraid to query me for books in the genres I do rep just because the website is currently estrogen stacked.

Weight Of An E-Credit?

STATUS: Today I got a first look at our new sample pages upload database. Totally cool but it won’t be live until January 2007. We still need to work out a few kinks. The idea of going completely paperless is pretty exciting!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ALL MY LOVE by Led Zeppelin

Speaking of paperless, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about e-publishing while doing internet interviews and chat loops lately. The biggest question seems to be whether an
e-publishing credit carries any weight with agents.

As always, this is going to vary depending on the agent. I tend to note them but the truth is they don’t impress very much. For some agents, not at all.

The only exception currently seems to be in the field of erotica where a lot of the erotic
e-publishers really paved the way for the genre to go more mainstream. A lot of e-authors are getting agents for the first time and deals with traditional publishers.

For erotica, it can carry some heft.

Does it hurt your chances? I don’t think so but as I like to remind writers, if you sell the e-rights to your project it can preclude a later print rights sale since most publishers often want to buy the print and electronic rights at the same time and if the electronic rights are tied up…

If you go the e-publishing route, be sure to get a reversion clause in your contract so the rights will revert back to you after a certain amount of time or volume of sales etc. You don’t want the e-rights held into forever. In a phrase, that would be bad.

Reverse Harbinger Of Doom?

STATUS: I’m doing great. Still working on a deal in process but hey, no one is going to be in the office tomorrow so it will just have to wait. The new network seems to be doing okay. I’ve caught a few minor glitches but minor they are so nothing to stress over.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU TOOK THE WORDS RIGHT OUT OF MY MOUTH by Meatloaf

I have to admit that when it came to the genre of paranormal romance, I’ve been a little bit of a harbinger of doom.

I’ve been stressing how tight this market has become. Paranormal has been popular now for several years. Basic trends in publishing will tell us that the market will eventually get glutted and reader demand will fall off, publisher interest will decline, and those authors who are strong in the field will only get stronger but the newcomer will have a hard time breaking in.

Then I held an auction for a paranormal romance last week. The deal is up on deal lunch if you get it.

If not, I’m happy to share. Here it is:

FICTION:WOMEN’S/ ROMANCE
Author of A Darker Crimson Carolyn Jewel’s next paranormal romance MAGELLAN’S WITCH, set in a world where human magic users and demons are on the brink of disastrous conflict, moving to Melanie Murray at Warner Forever, in a two-book deal at auction, by Kristin Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency (World).

Does it change my mind? Yes and no. Maybe I’m not quite the harbinger of doom I’ve been lately but I do think the market is still tight.

Why did this project sell and at auction to boot? Well, I’m not sure if there is an absolute answer to that but here are some thoughts.

1. Carolyn was previously published in historical romance and for one other paranormal romance. Her numbers were solid. Editors like that.

2. The story line was fresh, fresh, fresh. Of course demons have been done before but her approach had a lot of original elements.

3. World building, world building, world building. When Carolyn and I were preparing for this submission, I really drove this home. To the point where she was probably sick of me but I really emphasized the need to layer her world with small details that make a powerful whole. Small things count in a tight market.

4. Her heroine had such an interesting dynamic to her paranormal ability. In fact, in the opening pages, we aren’t quite sure what exactly is unfolding because the heroine doesn’t know either. She also suffers from crippling “migraines” which ends up being something else entirely. The emotion and the tension in the opening scenes put the reader immediately on the edge. It’s also a great hook. The heroine simply thinks she is suffering from a debilitating condition that has shaped her life. Now a whole new world opens up—literally.

5. Sometimes what causes editor excitement just is. It’s the voice, the world, an original approach, they fall in love.

So the good news is there still is room in the paranormal world—even for a newcomer—so don’t put away those elements quite yet.

Myth Buster #4—Anybody Say Launch Party?

STATUS: Tomorrow I have an auction happening and late on last Friday, I got a first offer for a different submission I currently have out. Deals are in the fall, crisp air!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? CHURCH OF THE POISON MIND by Culture Club

What about all those publishing parties, say you? Surely that’s yet another advantage to being an agent located in New York. There are all those extra networking opportunities at launch parties, book store events, and whatnot, to make business happen.

Snort.

Do you know what agents, editors, and other industry folks do at launch parties and other publishing events? They have fun. They drink. They eat and generally talk about all sorts of things that have nothing to do with publishing.

And there are all kinds of other secrets I could share about what goes down at those parties and who might have partied too much but alas, to paraphrase a line from ALMOST FAMOUS again, there are some things that’s good for a few people to know rather than millions. This would be one of them.

(And I know I don’t have a million-person readership. I just wanted to use the line!)

Myth Buster #3—Out To Lunch

STATUS: Feeling a little despondent. It’s my last day in the tropics. I hear it’s going to snow in Denver on the day we return. How’s that for climate shock?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod. Why I didn’t travel with it is a mystery to me.

So just what exactly to editors and agents do when out to lunch?

We eat of course—and the good stuff. After all, editors don’t get paid a ton of money (until they’ve been in the biz awhile, have a couple of big sellers on their rosters, and have worked up to being senior editors or higher). One of the editor perks is that they have expense accounts to take the agents out to lunch.

Yep. You heard that right. Publisher pays for lunch.

Nothing crazy exorbitant (unless you are the agent of one of the big sellers on the editor’s roster) but definitely nice. And editors have their favorite joints—usually within walking distance of the publishing house because as I mentioned yesterday, lunching is time-consuming and both parties pretty much want to jump right back into work. No wasting time in a cab or on the subway to hightail it back to the office.

What do we do?

We talk. I’d say, on average, 10 to 15 minutes of the lunch might actually be about business. It depends on whether the editor has a client of mine or not. If there is big business to discuss (like an issue, or a publicity/marketing campaign outline, or something along those lines, then that meeting is always done at the publishing house so all the key players can be involved—lunch or dinner then comes afterwards). Sometimes all the key players will come and other times, just the editor.

Publishing folks are busy. It took two months of scheduling to set up a meeting with me, my client, her editor, the editorial director, the head of publicity, and the head of marketing. The publisher just popped her head in to say hello. To get all these people together for lunch might take more than 2 months of scheduling. Big smile here. It happens though.

So lunches are usually just with the editor. What writers need to understand is that the business of publishing is all about who you know and your connection to the editors. If the editor is new to me, lunch isn’t about pushing business (how rude would that be) but about getting to know the editor, his or her tastes, what writers he or she has on the list. Can you send me copies of your list favorites? When the copies come, I read those books and take notes in my database regarding that editor so I’ll know what she likes and what submissions of mine might work for her.

Agenting is about relationships and that’s what is solidified over lunch. The agent is a person the editor wants to do business with and vice-versa.

If I have something in the submission hopper, I talk about it. I’ve certainly sent a project to an editor who wouldn’t have originally been on the submission list because of a lunch conversation. (But to be honest, the majority of sales don’t happen this way. I have better sales history when my submission list is carefully targeted but you never know. Sometimes an editor has a secret passion that is only revealed over lunch and boom, I’ve got a new submission where that passion is the main subplot or propels the story. Suddenly that editor is the perfect person to look at it. It happens.)

Often, I’ll give a copy of my client list to the editor so they can have it as a reference. Editors often request copies of my clients’ books. Maybe they have been hearing buzz and want to read what everybody is talking about. I’ll send Sara a quick note to get a copy out to the editor.

And yes, sometimes editors want to take you to lunch so they can casually chat about a client of mine published by another house. It’s their job to find out if that client is perfectly happy because if they are not…

But for the most part, we talk about life. What we are doing. Our hubbies, boyfriends, or girlfriends. A new baby. A recent trip. A fun movie we saw. Something crazy that happened on the subway literally on my way to this lunch (and for some reason, this happens a lot to me…). We create a powerful connection.

This is what lunch is actually all about.

Myth Buster #2—Lunching Is No Daily Event

STATUS: I’m heading to the beach in 5 minutes. What mood do you think I’m in?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod.

Writers have a romantic view of agents dreamily heading out to lunch with editors on a daily basis. We dine and do business over yummy sushi or whatever.

Actually there are two myths involved here.

Myth #1—Daily lunches

Myth #2—Conducting deal business over lunch.

So let’s tackle Myth 1 to start.

If editors and agents actually lunched every day, they would never get enough work done. Lunches take a huge chunk out of the day—on average about 2 hours. We don’t lunch lightly. It has to be worth the time investment considering that both of us will have to stay late in order to finish what didn’t happen while we were out to lunch. We literally haven’t got time for daily lunches.

Since I’m out in Denver (but travel to New York often—as do all other non-NYC based agents), I decided to poll some of my New York-based agent friends to see how often they went to lunch with editors. After all, they are just right there. They should be lunching often. Once a week. Twice a week? What do you think?

Now obviously this will really vary per agent. Some might lunch more than others.

On average, my NYC-based agent friends went to lunch with editors about twice a month. That adds up to about 24 to 30 lunches in a year.

Guess how many lunches with editors I do in a year? You guessed it. About 24-30 lunches.

And here’s another aspect of this (and this is true for NYC-based agents as well as Non-NYC agents). A lot of these lunches are not done in New York City.

Surprise!

These lunches can occur at Book Expo (which is not always held in the Big Apple), at RWA, World Fantasy, World Con, BoucherCon, ThrillerFest, Children’s Book Fair, and gosh yes, even at the popular writers conferences.

Not in NYC.

And here’s another myth buster for you. It can happen but it happens rarely that an actual deal will be negotiated over lunch. That’s not the kind of business we do when eating (Deal making and digestion—two things that shouldn’t go together). So tomorrow, I’ll give you a little peek inside what actually does occur at the editor/agent lunch.

Myth Buster #1—Walk This Way

STATUS: Okay, I have a secret to divulge. I didn’t go to World Fantasy because I opted to be in the Caribbean with my hubby for his business trip. For me, it’s mostly vaca with a light smattering of reading work for current clients. Hence, it will probably be blog light all week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? No little iPod.

I just had to chuckle at one of the posted comments from Friday’s entry about agents walking the manuscript over to the editor. Because no agent, even if they live in the Big Apple, would ever walk a manuscript over to a publishing house therefore saving the messenger fee.

Why? Well, first, who wants to lug loads of paper around the subway? But here’s the real reason. Agents don’t mail manuscripts these days. I kid you not. We email it. There are some exceptions (and agents know the editors who will insist on a hard copy etc.).

It’s very rare that I’ll actually snail mail a manuscript. For the good majority of my projects, there’s not enough time. I’ll have an offer in within days and if an editor asked for a hard copy, he or she probably hasn’t even received it before the excitement gets going. I end up emailing it anyway.

And I want to be very clear that I’m not poking fun at this comment poster. In fact, I think the he or she is brilliant for bringing it up because this puts me in mind for a whole series of rants I could do this week about publishing misconceptions and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of being based in New Yor (or not) and how we actually work.

The “manuscript mailing costs” just being one of them.