Pub Rants

Category: publishers

Anderson News

STATUS: TGIF! And I’m heading out the door.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX by Glen Campbell

There certainly has been some talk in the blogosphere regarding Anderson News and the sudden suspension of business but if you are a genre writer in mass market, you might want to pay attention.

Not to be confused with Anderson Merchandising which supplies to Wal-Mart and Costco, Anderson News was a big distributor of mass market books mainly into the grocery chains. Recent mm releases that were being handled into those venues by AN are getting hit by it. Rumor has it that the books were trapped in locked-down warehouses.

So below are a few links for some of the most recent stories regarding Anderson News.

It’s hard to glean from the stories that are hitting the wires what the everyday impact is but think of it this way. If books weren’t getting into venues as publishers supposed they were, that’s lost sales. Chances are good that’s impacting current cash flow because books weren’t out there to be sold.

And now all AN assets are going to be tied up into what looks like a major lawsuit and countersuit.

The good news is that impacted publishers have switched distributors in a hurry so as to get back to business but what about all the inventory trapped in warehouses? Good question.

Anderson News Suspends “Normal Business Activity”
by Judith Rosen — Publishers Weekly, 2/9/2009 9:09:00 AM

Anderson’s Debt May Top $200 Million
by Judith Rosen — Publishers Weekly, 3/6/2009 7:10:00 AM

Anderson Sues Magazine Publishers & Wholesalers
by Judith Rosen — Publishers Weekly, 3/11/2009 8:28:00 AM

Let’s Talk Co-Op

STATUS: I’m blogging before 7 p.m. Makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game today!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU’VE MADE ME SO VERY HAPPY by Blood, Sweat, & Tears

I probably shouldn’t make an assumption as I start this blog entry that readers know what Co-Op means. Given that, I’ll start with what it means in publishing. When we say co-op, we are using this as a short-hand term for referring to a process of publishers paying booksellers for the privilege of having certain titles prominently displayed on front tables, endcaps, or shelves when a book is initially released.

Otherwise, the book is unpacked and placed on the regular shelf—and if you’re really lucky, maybe placed there face out. Usually it’s just the spine that is showing.

Now as you can imagine co-op placement doesn’t occur for every title; it can’t. Too many books are published on any given day which means booksellers can only accept X number of titles for co-op placement depending on the size of the store. And it goes without saying that publishers only have so much money to pay for co-oping as well.

In general, publishers reserve co-op for their big authors and/or lead titles on any given launch list.

But even as I’m writing this and you are nodding your head, you are probably realizing that bestselling titles tend to be prominently displayed for months on end—even years sometimes. Surely the publisher hasn’t paid for the privilege for all that time?

And you would be right. There is an interesting balance dance between bookstores/sales outlets and publishers. Initially, if a title or author is new, a publisher has to pay to get that prime real estate. However, when a title/author has proving him/her/itself, then the balance tips in favor of the publisher as they then no longer have to pay for that prime location. It becomes in the seller’s best interest to have that title prominently displayed because it’s a money maker for them as buyers will be looking for that author or title. And hopefully they’ll buy other titles too on their way to the cash register.

And then there are programs such as Borders Original Voices. If a title gets picked for this program (and the Borders buyer does the picking—publishers cannot pay for this privilege), then a title or author is going to get the full support and backing of this outlet in all kinds of really positive ways—prime location just being one of them. Now publishers do send out hundreds of ARCs for a shot at the possibility but other than that, they have no say in what will be chosen.

It’s a wonderful thing to be picked for this as you can imagine.

Creative Cost Cutting

STATUS: I’m in the Caribbean this week—doing a vaca before the holidays. Yes, that made sense in some universe at the time that I booked the trip. So blogging might be spotty. I am, however, looking at a lovely blue ocean while holiday music plays over the speaker. Incongruous to say the least!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? by Band Aid

I have to say that I’m all for creative cost cutting if that takes the place of lay-offs in the publishing industry.

This week Harlequin sent out an email firmly requesting that authors limit their manuscripts to 100,000 words and under. That will significantly save on paper and printing cost. Guess that means no epic historical romances a la the 1980s. Big grin here.

And the Penguin Group is finally doing what I think publishers should have done something like 5 years ago. They are converting all their computers to laptopTablet PCs with docking stations so that editors can read and edit (“handwrite” if they want to via electronic pen) comments into their authors’ manuscripts.

No more printing out pages. Comments electronically in track changes! Hooray. Fewer trees need to be sacrificed.

By the way, I’ve been doing tablet PCs since 2003. Part of the reason why we’ve been paper-free for the life of my agency.

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?

HarperCollins New Imprint

STATUS: I can see the glass of my desktop. This is the first time in about a month that I’ve reduced the piles enough to have a clear surface. Now I’m off to do client reading like mad because I’m a little behind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN by U2 and B.B. King

When I first read the news, I immediately thought of Vanguard and the new imprint model Roger Cooper is exploring over there at The Perseus Books Group.

This, too, is an advance-less imprint with some big differences. Basically Vanguard focuses mostly on fiction and working with PR-savvy authors who already have an established name and fan base. Instead of an advance, Roger allocates a budget of 50 to 100k (or an agreed upon amount) for marketing and promotion and then there is a 50/50 split with the author in profits.

It’s an alternative for name authors looking for a different publishing model.

For the new HarperCollins imprint, it’s not clear where the focus will be but I hear the emphasis is on nonfiction. So far I haven’t heard mention whether the monies will be used instead on marketing/promotion as in the Vanguard model. The press release only mentioned a focus on the internet marketing and not buying-in co-op space in the stores.

So my thoughts (off the cuff and will probably evolve as I hear and read about how those first authors do with this imprint):

1. I can see this working for established authors with clear name recognition. Not sure I can see the advantage for a debut writer unless he/she has a large platform.

2. One of the biggest issues in publishing is how long it takes to publish. Since most books take 12 months to hit the shelves (and sometimes 18 or 24), this is a huge concern. I’d like to see an advantage in speed for this imprint—to forgo the advance to get books out in a timely manner (which can be a huge leg-up for nonfiction titles).

3. Connected to this is accounting periods. With this new publishing model, I’d like to see a revamping in the accounting/royalty statement period. Currently, publishers release statements twice a year and thus hold author monies/earnings for that time span. Since there is no advance paid, I’d like to see more regular royalty statements so authors do not have to wait unduly for their earnings from this imprint (as they haven’t had any other book monies to live off of in the meantime). Otherwise an author could be waiting up to a year, a year and 6 months, or whatever before seeing any return on their investment in writing/publishing the book. Since we are shifting the publishing paradigm…

4. Will there be monies allocated to marketing/promotion? Will there be a dedicated marketing person or publicist?

I’m sure tomorrow I’ll think of five other things to add here…

AAR Night

STATUS: 10 weeks on the NYT bestseller list and counting…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FREE FALLIN’ by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Last night I attended the Association of Authors’ Representatives monthly meeting. It was meet the editors of FSG night (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). An aspiring writers dream I imagine as there were easily 40 agents all in one place—not to mention 8 terrific editors at the front of the room.

Yes, these meetings are top secret…

Here’s what I found interesting. One editor pleaded with agents in the room not to “clean out their drawers” so to speak and send everything they have. This editor was quite blunt and said she couldn’t imagine that agents who do that really thought each book was really that good and deserved a spot on the rather small and intimate FSG list.

Personally, I was appalled that there were any agents doing that at all! I mean why? There can’t possibly be an upside to that. After all, our most important asset is our reputations. Or perhaps I just feel that way.

You’re looking at an agent who might take 5 projects out on submission in a year and that’s pretty much it. (I’m not counting new sales for current clients in that total.) I haven’t got any drawers to empty—metaphorically speaking.

Also, the editors all said they really preferred a phone call rather than an email before a submission. If I don’t know the editor, or don’t know him or her well, then I always call first but I must confess that all the editors I know super well I almost never do. Seems to me that people are so busy, it’s just easier to respond to an email when you have quiet moment to. So, that was good to know. FSG editors like a phone call.

In good news, I convinced an agent friend who is rather a Luddite that the Kindle really was worth its weight in gold. She’s going to buy it,

And the most fun? I went to lunch with Kathy Dawson at Harcourt Children’s and when I popped open my bag to show her my palm treo (she asked), she noticed my kindle and said she had one too!

The first editor I’ve lunched with who has had the Kindle two months longer that I have. Tomorrow, I’ll report how the Kindle reading is going so far.

Another Memoir Scandal In The Headlines

STATUS: Piping Mad!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OMG! Somebody is practicing their horn nearby and I can hear it through the vent (maybe a tuba?) And trust me, they need the practice.

Unbelievable! Yet again, an NYT story on how a hugely lauded memoir called LOVE & CONSEQUENCES is basically a fabrication.

Funny how all the memoirs that publishers have bought and have deemed “big enough” have been nothing but fiction disguised as a memoir. The publisher, Riverhead, is now recalling the 19,000 copies that released last week.

I am steamed. Kim Reid and I worked very hard to find a home for her memoir NO PLACE SAFE. An amazing story. A beautifully written story. A completely truthful (and we can back it up with full documentation) story.

Do me a favor? Go to right now and buy a copy of NO PLACE SAFE that’s actually a true memoir. Buy it so these yahoos in publishing will quit paying six figures for what is essentially a work of fiction.

If I hear one more story in the news about a fabricated memoir, I’m going to spit.

Okay, rant over.

And even though John’s memoir LOOK ME IN THE EYE did extraordinarily well (and Kim and I are often in envy of his sales numbers), his story is also true.

So if you want to support truth in memoir by making a purchase, I guess you can buy a copy of his as well. (But only if you buy a copy of Kim’s—she says wickedly).

Vampires All The Time Or None Of The Time

STATUS: What news I’ve received this week! Ally Carter is in week 9 on the New York Times Bestseller List with I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU. If that isn’t enough, my author Hank Ryan just found out that PRIME TIME has been nominated for a 2007 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Holy wow!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATCHING THE WHEELS by John Lennon

So what became clear today? On the romance side, the editors are feeling a little tired concerning vampires. On the Urban fantasy side, editors say “bring it on.” Vampires sell. Vampires all the time.

And I had lunch with a children’s editor from HarperCollins and she said vampires are still okay with her.

But the one thing EVERYONE agreed on is that the vampire twist would have to be special, something different, really solid world building, for them to make the buy.

Anybody sick of hearing about vampires yet?

In other news, contemporary or urban fantasy is selling very well. All the editors are open to a large (or epic) fantasy along the lines of Patrick Rothfuss THE NAME OF THE WIND but unless it’s a title that can go big like that (and in hardcover), the mood isn’t to take the chance as the market is soft in that general realm at the moment.

High concept, big, up-market commercial literary fiction that can be done in hardcover (or maybe broken out big via original trade paperback) is on everyone’s wish list.

There has been lots of buzz around a Ace buy last year that’s coming out this year called DESTROYER MAN.

That’s military/alternate world fantasy and I have to say that although it’s not my usual bag (military that is), the description of this novel had me wanting a copy. Just proof that any tale well told can cause excitement.

I also had the best sushi in a long time tonight in my hood (Sushi Samba). I had been told it was overrated and I was a bit hesitant but was won over completely by an amazing bottle of Saki and something they call the Pacific roll. Truly, I have not seen the like in Denver and that makes me rather sad.

The Year Delay

STATUS: I’m awake. Heck, that’s a good start to the day. I love being in NYC and doing appointments but it’s tough to be gone all day and then still keep up on all the work that needs to be attended to at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Talking Heads

Most of you already know this but for the new readers who might not, this is what you need to keep in mind.

What editors bought last year are the projects that are hitting shelves now. That means if you have a project now that has similar elements to novels hitting the shelves, you’re too late. This is especially true in the world of romance (paranormal in particular) where the trends are pretty easy to spot and the market does shift within a year or two timeframe.

I had coffee with an editor at Dorchester yesterday afternoon. If you know anything about this house, they lean toward debut writers, the editors read a lot of slush on their own, and they don’t mind taking risks with new kinds of material.

This editor is even still open to dark, interesting paranormals but lately there has been a trend of demons being the new vampires.

Or instead of demons, we have dragons.

Folks, it’s not the paranormal element that makes your story fresh or original, it’s the amazing world you build within your paranormal romance that makes the difference. From the slush stuff Sara and I have seen lately, a lot of writers haven’t quite learned that distinction.

So what would this editor love to see?

1. Blends of historical with fantasy (C.L. Wilson’s LORD OF THE FADING LANDS did well—and was quite long to boot)

2. Urban fantasy with a strong romance.

What this editor has too much of?

1. Mystery romance

2. Romantic comedy or straight contemporary romance is a tough field for them (but I have heard that editors are looking for it at other houses so this might be a publisher-specific thing.)

I think what you should take away from all these posts of mine lately is that it’s good to know the market but ultimately don’t get overwhelmingly caught up into it.

I’ll tell you right now that if I found a new, exciting author with a fresh mystery/romance or a vampire paranormal, I could sell it if the story was original, amazing, and basically reinvented how we view the paranormal romance world.

And that’s the kicker. It would have to be just that good when the market is awash in vampire stories or what have you.

Make sense?

No Two Editors Are Alike

STATUS: It’s super late here but I’m just getting this blog in under the wire Denver time.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? D’YER MAK’ER by Led Zeppelin

I had lunch and several meetings with the editors of Bloomsbury/Walker Children’s today. It was a day at the Flatirons.

And the adage couldn’t be more true. No two editors are alike.

I asked them to name the top 5 things they don’t want to see in a children’s submission.

One editor said “no more vampires.”

But the other editor said, “I’m still good; send me the vampires” (but she says she is “slightly tired” of trolls in middle grade fiction).

I have to say that for troll fiction, I have not seen nary a one.

Top five list for Editor A:

1. No more girl stories with famous dad, friend, family member or other. Give her a couple of years and then she’ll be game to see Hollywood insider stories again.

2. No teaching a lesson
(and let me add for the record that saying such in your query letter is always the kiss of death at the Nelson Agency. We are interested in the story you want to tell; not the moral you’d like to teach. Blech!)

3. Time travel is not this editor’s cup of tea (but the other editor says to bring it on).
Once again proving that an agent’s knowledge is often key concerning who is the right fit for a manuscript.

4. No more vampires, please.

5. No more comparisons of Harry Potter meets anything (and the same can be said about the Twilight series).
Darn it all. When are the other agents going to compare their submissions to the Gallagher Girls?

Editor B:

1. No including a sales or marketing plan where you tell the publisher how the book should be published.
(Gee, can’t imagine why that would go over like a lead balloon)

Dang I’m funny this late at night…

2. This needs to go to Oprah.
(Just in case you folks didn’t know, Lady O only does adult trade books).

3. No comparisons to Harry Potter
(hum… where did I hear that before?)

4. For picture/chapter books, please refrain from feeling the need to provide cover illustration done by a friend or Uncle Bob or better yet, your nephew. In fact, no “drawings” are necessary.
(Learning moment: Publishers hire the illustrator—not the author.)

5. If it’s over 400 pages (and first ask the question why your YA or middle grade is that long), but if it is, don’t send the whole thing. A couple of chapters will suffice.

Common sense that is perhaps not so common.

‘night all.