Pub Rants

Category: publishers

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.

We Won’t Leave The Light On For You

STATUS: Bologna Children’s Book Fair is almost upon us. Oi. Not ready yet.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? MERCY by Duffy

On Thursday, I got word that the doors were locked, lights out, and the phones disconnected at Dorchester.

I know. Surprise. Here are links to my previous entries on Dorchester and its impending demise.

As a matter of course, I did touch base with my lawyer simply to see if there had been a bankruptcy filing. I’m actually not expecting to find one.

Now why do I say that?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I know a lot of blog readers have backgrounds in law so feel free to chime in via the comment section with your surmises.

More to come tomorrow.

Should Dorchester Remain on Probation? Yes.

STATUS: Was all set to potentially launch something cool on Friday and lo and behold, ice storm in Seattle. Trust me, this makes sense because we are based in Denver but our tech person, who manages all things digital, is in Seattle. She had no electricity or internet for 3 days. Shudders.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FREE by Graffiti6

Last week, the Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America reached out to SFWA members about Dorchester Publishing.

Dorchester’s probationary period is scheduled to end on January 31, 2012 and SFWA would like to evaluate their progress in meeting the benchmarks SFWA set for them.

By their request, members could contact them with any information that the Board should consider.

Well, let me tell you, I was happy to oblige. I wrote a letter clearly outlining my stance that that Dorchester should remain on probation or be delisted altogether based on not making any progress whatsoever on benchmark 1: That it fulfills its contractual and financial obligations to the authors it has already published, including full and accurate accounting of royalties per contract, with scheduled payment of any royalties outstanding.

Despite repeated requests for updated accountings and the thousands of dollars still owed in back royalties to NLA authors who used to be with Dorchester, we’ve received excuses, delays, and no good faith efforts to resolve their obligations.

And I have no problem making my sentiment on the situation public.

Weighing In On SOPA-PIPA

STATUS: Rather a quiet week. I’m finally catching up since beginning of year. This might last a week or two but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD by Jimmy Buffett

I love sopaipillas! Add a little honey and powdered sugar and you’ve got yum. Truly one of my fav desserts.

But SOPA-PIPA, not so much.

As most of you have probably heard by now, there is an internet strike occurring and thousands of sites have gone dark (such as boing boing and wikipedia) in protest.

Both Acts have lovely-intention sounding names: Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act.

Who doesn’t want to protect intellectual property or stop piracy? The act of piracy steals money out of authors’ pockets and is often like whack-a-mole to stop.

Despite the backing of almost every major publisher, I do believe that both Acts overreach in their scope and there will be serious ramifications if passed.

I could offer some analysis but to be honest, greater minds than mine already have.

Web Goes On Strike

Legal Expert Says Online Piracy Bill Is Unconstitutional

Technology & Marketing Blog

Controversial Copyright Bills Would Violate First Amendment

Libraries Are the Best Counter to Piracy

Cory Doctorow: Copyrights vs. Human Rights

What’s Hot Down Under

STATUS: I was very glad to hear that New York City didn’t get as hard from Irene as anticipated but my contacts on Long Island are still without power. Eep.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? UPSIDE DOWN by Jack Johnson

As I’m based in the U.S., it’s easy to get tunnel vision on what is hot because obviously I’m mostly focused on this territory. Now granted we sell a lot of projects abroad and some of our authors are wildly popular in places like Japan more so than in the US so I’m certainly aware of territorial differences but I still find it fascinating all the same.

So when I was in Australia, I had a chance to visit with a couple of editors. One publishing division was housed in a charming old Victorian-style mansion and others had sleek modern offices. I rather liked both settings.

Some things I learned took me by surprise. For example, in talking with ANZ children editors, they are still having a wonderful market for picture books. I don’t rep this genre (so please don’t send me queries for it) but I’ve heard any number of editors and agent friends who handle picture books in the US bemoan the state of trying to break out a new author in this arena. The climate is tough here but Down Under, they are still seeing really great success–even for new authors. This could partly be because the Indie bookseller market holds a significant sales percentage still in that country.

Two chain sellers–Borders and Angus & Roberson–had closed doors and editors were greatly concerned. With it went 20% of their sales market. In consequence, print runs were down by several 1000 depending on the author.

I was also surprised to see Costco in Melbourne and Sydney. I didn’t realize that company was there. (I also saw a few Targets). Interestingly enough though, neither venue sells books in Australia yet. I mentioned that it tended to be a strong sales venue in the US so I will be watching to see where that goes, if anywhere, there.

In ANZ, for young adult, dystopian has not taken off in a big way yet. HUNGER GAMES is certainly popular and they’ve had nice success with some other dystopian titles but no big break out. Well, let’s hope Marie Lu’s LEGEND will help jumpstart that trend. I’d appreciate it.

In a similar vein, paranormal romantic YA is equally hot there as it is in US (no surprise). What has gotten harder is literary YA–and that use to be a good market for them.

For middle grade, the ANZ publishers bemoaned the dearth of MG boy adventure stories (that sounds familiar!) and Wimpy Kid blew it out there. No surprise really. That’s a series that feels really universal.

In the adult realm, they publish a lot of Australian authors (as they should) and they always do it in trade paperback. There are very few hardcovers published there. They still love beautifully written stories so US imports like a recent debut THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is having nice traction.

Another interesting tidbit is that an adult title called THE SLAP did mildly in the US but really broke out Down Under (and it was from an Aussie author so maybe no surprise) but it did well in Europe too.

Editors like what they call “watercooler” books. Fiction that tackles issues that readers can dig in and talk about around the proverbial watercooler.

That’s a wrap. By the way, this blog entry is not meant to be the end-all be-all of the ANZ literature market. It’s just smattering of random bits of info but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Random House Gets A Clean Bill Of Health

STATUS: Leaving the office at 5 p.m. That never happens!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU AND I by Wilco

In good news, we’ve now gone through all our Random House statements from the spring with a fine tooth comb and I’m delighted to report that RH is not doing a wholesale change to their electronic book royalty rate on existing contracts; there was simply an error that was resolved promptly.

Contracts that have the royalty rate of 25% of retail will still have 25% of retail. Now, I have heard that they want to change any 15% of retail to 25% of net (which is actually to an author’s advantage per my previous blog entry) but I have not personally seen that so as far as I’m concerned, that’s simply a rumor for now.

As RH royalty statements are my fav in the biz and because they always resolve issues quickly, I’m back to happy.