Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Category: publishers

The Amazon – Hachette Spat

This just hit the newswire in the last week but I’ve informally known about this since late fall 2013 (as early as November). The problem? My Hachette authors and I noticed this “shipping issue” multiple times and brought it to our Hachette Editors’ attention. 

Multiple times. Repeated emails. We were assured that all was fine. (Which we, of course, did not believe since it kept happening….)

This is yet another moment where big publishing could have chosen to partner with authors and agents by explaining the truth behind Amazon’s muscle flexing.

Instead, Hachette choose to go with “we don’t discuss contract negotiations” tactic, which leaves their authors in the dark, agents like me fuming, and fosters a general atmosphere of distrust that the publisher is not being forthright.

Not the end goal here! What we need is more communication, not less.

Let agents and authors help you take a stand–which is actually what’s going on now and is detailed in this New York Times Article.

As happens time and time again, the truth does emerge and leaves those of us who have been asking about it for the last six months with exasperated hands in air, the desire to bang head against desk, and authors who now won’t believe the publisher when the response is “all is fine” in the future.



Indie Author & Agent Partners – Thought 2

So last week when I was out in New York for the Writers Digest Conference, I gave a talk on why successful indie authors might want to partner with agents.

As I was putting together my talking points, I actually came to the conclusion that why they partner is the wrong question. The real question might be when should indie authors partner with an agent.

If  indie authors are becoming successful, an agent can accelerate their exposure in a big way. For example, I couple of weeks ago I took on self-publishing phenom Jasinda Wilder. On March 16, she released her 18th novel FALLING INTO YOU.

In less than one month, she sold 140,000 digital copies of this title.

Yes, you read that right.

That’s a crazy number of copies in a short period of time. She hit the NYT and USA Today list for several weeks in a row.

She decided to partner with me. My job is now to accelerate her exposure in any way possible. Within a week Publishers Weekly did a feature story on her and I imagine this won’t be the last coverage given her extraordinary success.

Would Jasinda get coverage without me? Sure. But there is no doubt I’m stomping on the gas. This can be incredibly beneficial in talking with publishers and for foreign deals.


Indie & Agent Partners: Thought 1

On Thursday I’m flying to New York City to give a presentation at the Writers Digest Conference on Friday morning. My topic is why a successful indie self-publishing author might want to partner with an agent.

If you are an indie author that doesn’t see the value in having an agent, I’m not really going to change your mind so there really is no purpose in reading my next several blog posts where I share my thoughts. However, if you are curious, I’m happy to share several reasons on why they do. Now of course I can only speak to why several indie authors have decided to partner with me. It’s going to vary depending on the author and the agent.  But I represent several and they find our relationship invaluable.

Thought 1: People are complaining about the archaic nature of publishing and why doesn’t it change.

Okey dokey. Let’s quit complaining and start having conversations to instigate change because how do you think change happens?

In May of 2012, I had Hugh Howey fly out to New York to sit-down with publishers. I thought it was important for them to meet him in-person just so they could see for themselves what a reasonable, personable, and forward-thinking author he was. He was not, and has never been, anti-traditional publisher. In fact, he’s fairly pro-publisher. But a partnership has to make sense and there is a lot of stuff from traditional publishing that doesn’t make sense.

Before Hugh got on the plane, we both knew that it was very unlikely that the meetings would result in an offer that we’d be willing to take.  Yet, WE DID IT ANYWAY. Why? And this might be kind of silly but both of us felt kind of strongly that having in-person conversations with publishers about our sticking points (ebook royalty rate, sales thresholds in out of print clauses, and non-compete clauses) was necessary in order to facilitate possible change in the future. In other words, we weren’t going to see the benefit of it but maybe a future indie publishing author would because we had started the conversation.

And these conversations could only occur via a reasonable author partnering with a reasonable agent who were meeting with affable and reasonable publishers and editors and having frank, smart, and intelligent conversations with them about current contractual sticking points.

For Hugh, it resulted in a very unexpected print-rights only offer five months later (much to our surprise). That was way sooner than either of us had ever thought to hope.

I imagine that in the not-so-distant-future other indie authors (and who might be unagented) might be thanking Hugh for having partnered with an agent (way) back in 2012 so as to have these meetings. Just as they might be thanking Bella Andre and her agent for pulling off one of the first print-rights only deals (that was publicly announced -there might be others I’m unaware of).

 

 


SFWA gives RH’s Hydra Imprint The Thumbs Down

If you’ve ever wondered about the efficacy of writer organizations such as RWA or SFWA when it comes to protecting authors, then the last twenty-four hour period has proven just how valuable they can be.

Last week on Facebook, I linked to an insightful blog article Victoria Strauss had posted on the SFWA-endorsed site Writer Beware about the new Random House Hydra imprint. Yesterday, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) issued this statement:

Dear SFWA Member:

SFWA has determined that works published by Random House’s electronic imprint Hydra can not be use as credentials for SFWA membership, and that Hydra is not an approved market. Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable.

Hydra contracts also require authors to pay – through deductions from royalties due the authors – for the normal costs of doing business that should be borne by the publisher.

Hydra contracts are also for the life-of-copyright and include both primary and subsidiary rights. Such provisions are unacceptable.

At this time, Random House’s other imprints continue to be qualified markets.

Today, within twenty-four hours, Random House responded and asked for a sit-down with board members of SFWA.

I’d say that’s your membership dollars hard at work for a good cause. If you write in this genre and you qualify to be a member but for some reason aren’t one, maybe now is a good time to join. I only foresee more battles like this in the future.

 

 

 

 


Slightly Less Opaque Grey For Me

STATUS: Popped in on a Saturday to finish up a few things. This afternoon Chutney and I are heading into the mountains for a nice long hike.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE MORE I SEE YOU by Michael Buble

Kudos to blog reader and commenter Elizabeth who manned up and explained the appeal of 50 Shades of Grey. Just in case you didn’t catch her comment in that section, I’m including Elizabeth’s post in its entirety.

I’ll man up. I read the hell out of it. All three installments in two and a half days. 800,000 words. BOOM. Just like that. I think I gave it four stars on Goodreads or something.



And here’s why: 

I couldn’t put it down.



True, it’s technically a mess. It’s randomly punctuated. The dialogue is all over the place. The characters are bipolar. The sex is vanilla. Typos abound (at one point Christian stared at Ana like “a bacon in the night” which made a weird sort of sense, actually). Ana has this really weird habit of doing figure skating jumps off gymnastics apparatuses. And it started out as fanfic, which I get the impression I’m supposed to be all up in arms about. But holy cow. Do you know the last time I read that many words in such a short period of time? Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.



Here’s what I think people don’t understand: Good hardly ever factors into popular or entertaining. People aren’t going to youtube, for example, to watch someone do something meaningful or profound. They’re going to watch some guy stick a lit firecracker up his bum. I would rather see Sharktopus than The English Patient. That’s just how I roll.



So there’s something to be said for things that are a little bit campy. I’m a little bit campy. So are my friends. When I got to the point in the book where I realized it was going to be one THOSE stories (I didn’t see a lot of Twilight in 50 Shades, but it totally read like “crack-fic” fan-fiction), the first thing I did was go on Facebook and tell two of my friends, “Hey, you have to read this.” Because it was absolutely the kind of book they would love. And they did love it. 



Nine copies sold between the three of us. We all felt like we got our money’s worth. Not because it was good, remember, but because it spoke that little spot in our hearts that loves those kinds of stories. The fact that it was kind of poorly written just made it that much better.



And I can’t explain why that is. I don’t know why this book, with its myriad of flaws, the least of which being its word count, held me captive in a way that other, arguably “better” books didn’t.

I loved that she was willing to simply be honest and put her reaction to the book out there. For me, I’m thinking this book is kind of like trends that happen in other mediums. There’s no easy or clear explanation. It just happens and something becomes wildly popular. For example, the phenom of Ugg Boots (which are not particularly attractive) or croc shoes for that matter. The youtube phenom for Randall’s narration of National Geographic footage: The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.

There’s a spark. It taps into some zeitgeist. There’s no explaining it and quite frankly, I don’t think we have to. It is what it is.

For me, I’m not sure I would recognize it under all the flaws. I couldn’t get past the writing and a lot of groan worthy dialogue. But in the end, who cares what I think. The public has spoken and in the end, that’s the opinion that matters.


I’d Say 100% Solid Grey For Me

STATUS: Just finished our first Pub Rants Video Webinar. I had a blast. We definitely need to tweak some things for next one though. If you were there, thank you for being our first guinea pigs!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY by Backstreet Boys

While on the train to Venice (and boy do I like saying a statement like that–makes me sound so cosmopolitan) Simone Elkeles’s friend Nanci had a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard about this title. But just in case you have been, here is a link to get you up to speed. It’s been in all the publishing news as of late. It’s an erotica novel that started life as Twilight fan fiction and then went viral a couple of weeks ago. So there was a big publishing deal and then the movie rights sold just this week.

If something is getting that much attention, it’s probably worth an hour of my time to give it a look so I asked Nanci if I could borrow her copy. I read several chapters and I have to admit, I’m not getting it. To be honest, if it had come in via our slush pile, I would have passed on it without requesting a full. I didn’t connect with the characters or find myself enmeshed in the writing. Now granted, this genre is not my bailiwick so that’s going to be a factor.

Still, it’s obviously tapping into some cultural zeitgeist and on that point, I’m curious. It obviously works for a lot of other people so I’d like to know why.

So blog readers, if you read and liked it, share with me because I’m genuinely curious to know.


Now Dorchester Is Trying To Sell The Company

STATUS: Leaving for Bologna, Italy on Friday for the Book Fair. Ack!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SET FIRE TO THE RAIN by Adele

I also have some land 100 miles west of Ft Myers I’d like to sell you….

What would a week be without an update on Dorchester? I can’t imagine what company would be interested in buying an ailing organization with such a significant amount of debt. I don’t have updated numbers from the phone call last year but back then, debt owed was in the millions.

Maybe it’s good for the taxes.

But straight from the horse’s mouth, here is a letter from Dorchester’s president.


The Sky Tumbling Down

STATUS: Only 65 emails in the inbox to start the day!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I FEEL THE EARTH MOVE by Carole King

Wait! What is that I hear? I think it’s the wind whistling down Park Avenue and through the Dorchester non-existent office space.

In a world where information is found in a quick Google search, why try and dissemble?

Here is a link to a notice to Dorchester of foreclosure for the note and a sale of the assets that were pledged as security on a loan.

Back to my question. Why do I say that I don’t think I’ll see a bankruptcy filing soon? By the way, this is not a statement of fact. Simply a supposition on my part.

I don’t think Dorchester will file unless forced to. It’s costly to file and go through the process. Meanwhile, monies are coming in and not being paid out.

Last year when my lawyer and I sat in on the phone calls where Dorchester disclosed their financially precarious position, the list of creditors was part of that conversation. There are at least 6 companies that might find it worthwhile to force Dorchester into Bankruptcy to recover monies owed.

And I hope they do.

But to be blunt, those companies will crunch the numbers. If they come out ahead in what they will recover versus what it will cost, then my guess is they will do it. It certainly won’t be altruistic.


We Are so Dense About Technology That We Can’t Figure Out How To Forward Our Phones

STATUS: Typical Denver schizophrenic weather. I was wearing short sleeves and no jacket yesterday while taking Chutney for a walk in 70 degree weather. Today it’s going to snow. Yay spring!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MATILDA by Harry Belafonte

To a new office location.

Let’s see a show of hands. Who believes that Dorchester might simply be moving offices and the phones are currently being “switched over?” (see the added links in comments section of yesterday’s blog post.)

Hum… thought so.

So to my post of yesterday. I’m going to make my readers do a little work. I can’t hand over all the information on a silver platter. *grin*

I mentioned that Dorchester has disappeared and that I don’t think I’ll see a filing for bankruptcy any time soon. Now why do I say that?

Surely if a company is defunct they’ll file for bankruptcy, right?

Not necessarily….

So tell me why.

Meanwhile, all Dorchester eBooks are up and still for sale across all the electronic distribution venues. Where is the money going? We know for certain it’s not going to the authors.

Every night I sleep easy knowing that I fought tooth and nail to get rights reverted for each of my five authors who had backlist there when Dorchester first breached those contracts and weren’t paying owed royalties. Even for titles I didn’t represent on their behalf because it was before my time as their agent.

And I’m also happy to report that those authors are self-publishing those books and making a very nice income on backlist ebook sales. Want to support a former Dorchester author? Check out their offerings on the links connected to their names.

JANA DELEON
MARI MANCUSI
LESLIE LANGTRY
CAROLYN JEWEL

A happy ending for us but I feel for all those authors who couldn’t get their rights. I strongly recommend you reach out to the various agencies that support authors: Authors Guild, Romance Writers Of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America etc. I can’t list all of them here.

These organizations might be able or connect you with the right people who can advise you on next step if your rights are in question.


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