Pub Rants

Category: publishers

How Well Did Kristin Predict?

STATUS: I’m heading over to the Tattered Cover to do some holiday shopping. Yay!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? CHRISTMAS CANON ROCK Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Oh, I think this might be a fun entry. In a press release from Scholastic, the editors created a list of the top trends from 2010 when it came to Children’s books.

And funny enough, in the Nelson Agency newsletter, I’ve been highlighting a lot of what was “hot” in children’s lit throughout the year. I wonder if my predictions in any way line up.

What do you say? Should we analyze it?

To start, here’s the Scholastic List:

1. The expanding Young Adult audience
2. The year of dystopian fiction
3. Mythology-based fantasy (Percy Jackson followed by series like The Kane Chronicles, Lost Heroes of Olympus and Goddess Girls)
4. Multimedia series (The 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek, The Search for WondLa)
5. A focus on popular characters – from all media
6. The shift to 25 to 30 percent fewer new picture books, with characters like Pinkalicious, Splat Cat and Brown Bear, Brown Bear showing up in Beginning Reader books
7. The return to humor
8. The rise of the diary and journal format (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, Dork Diaries, The Popularity Papers, and Big Nate)
9. Special-needs protagonists
10. Paranormal romance beyond vampires (Linger and Linger, Beautiful Creatures, Immortal, and Prophesy of the Sisters)

In looking at all the newsletters from the past 11 months, here’s what I highlighted was “hot” in our newsletter column:

1. February 2010 newsletter—Dystopian YA fiction as hot.
2. March 2010 newsletter—Paranormal YA US titles hot in translation
3. May 2010 newsletter—I mentioned that I’d be attending the BEA YA buzz panel. I didn’t highlight paranormal romance in the newsletter but I did discuss it on the blog, June 2, 2010 entry.
4. October 2010 newsletter—Dystopian YA mentioned again along with YA SF romance.

Not bad! I actually didn’t talk about children’s fantasy at all but I definitely agree that we have seen a lot of myth-based fantasy stories and just recently I blogged about seeing fairy tale inspired stories—which is kind of in that same vein.

A return to humor is news to me so very interesting. As for special-needs protagonists, I can’t say I’ve seen that many but what I have noticed is stories where the main narrator has a sibling with special needs. Tangential but maybe worth mentioning.

In the October newsletter, I also highlighted that editors would like to see the next John Green. That’s humor and the male voice. That’s not mentioned here but I do think that might trend.

Oh, That Google Thing

STATUS: I’m blogging before 5 p.m. I’ll call this a great day! I demonstrated restraint as I did not have an eggnog chai today….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHEPHERD’S PIPE CAROL by Bryn Terfel

Actually, just one of the many Google things as of late but this one is definitely worth a blog post. Long awaited and much expected, Google announced the launch for Google eBooks (formerly Google Editions).

An eBookstore to rival Amazon and Apple. According to the press release, it is the largest eBook provider offering up to 3 million books for sale and download (many of which are in the public domain). Click here for the article.

According to the president of ABA, this latest game changer can benefit Indie booksellers the most. They now have access to a store platform that will allow them to sell eBooks from their stores (about time!). It’s also the first eBookstore that’s not directly connected to a specific eBook reader. And, according to the release, publishers can sell traditionally or through agency model (see sidebar tag for electronic books for more discussion on that issue.)

Now if we can just get everyone to agree on a specific eBook format… Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Advertising That Works?

Status: It’s the final sprint into the holidays. Goal? To finish everything. All client reads. All incoming submissions. All Royalty Statements. All end of year deals. And yes, we’ve got a lot going on in that realm.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU by Mariah Carey

Over a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Groupon for Denver, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I mean, how can you beat deals like a 90-minute massage for $29.00? That’s a steal no matter how you cut it. So I’ve been aware of this company for a while and have happily Grouponed many a great deal. Tonight, I was reading a Newsweek article on how this mode of advertising is really working. After all, it introduces subscribers to local companies that they might not have discovered otherwise and more importantly, if a subscriber buys the deal for the day, that person is committed to visiting that company or using that service in the very near future.

Smart.

But why do I bring this up in relation to publishing? Well, I was down in Santa Fe for the holidays and what pops up on my iPhone? The daily Groupon deal. This time, much to my surprise, it was a deal from Simon & Schuster. $40.00 worth of books for $20.00 from the S&S website.

Game on!

I would love to know how this Groupon worked for them. I’m also assuming that this Groupon hit several major cities—not just Denver. Someone is paying attention over there at S&S. Nicely done (although I imagine some independent booksellers might not be as enthusiastic to hear this).

My response? You can Groupon too! For Tattered Cover, that’s a groupon I would buy in a heartbeat and then send the link to all my Denver friends.

Taking It Public—An Update

STATUS: I’m working at home again tonight. Ah, the glamorous life….

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE SOUND OF SUNSHINE by Michael Franti and Spearhead

Jana’s announcement from yesterday has produced a couple of positive results:

1. Kobo immediately removed Jana’s titles from their site and contacted Jana with the news. They also are willing to set up an agreement with her so she can directly sell her titles through their venue.

2. Dorchester informed me that they have submitted the requests to have the titles removed from the various ebook sites. Currently though, they are still available on some sites such as Amazon and BN.

3. RWA (Romance Writers of America) and SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America both sent out emails to members regarding this issue and asked that members contact them if they are facing similar from Dorchester. Both organizations are looking into it.

4. Many valuable discussions have unfolded on blogs and twitter regarding it.

In general, this avenue is not what would have been preferred, and I do think it could have been avoided altogether but one can’t deny the results.

Taking It Public

STATUS: Getting this entry in late as you can see.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NOT THE GIRL YOU THINK YOU ARE by Crowded House

Well, if you were plugged into the publishing world via the internet, you might have a little sense of how my day unfolded.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m referring to, you might want to take a moment to click on this link. My author Jana DeLeon, fed up with Dorchester and the fact that they were illegally selling copies of her ebooks long after her rights had reverted back to her, decided to take that news public.

I only have one thing to add. Despite no response to my previous calls demanding they cease and desist what they were doing, I still called Dorchester to warn them. I did not receive a return call—that is until today after the news broke.

A New Change In The Children’s Realm

STATUS: It’s actually a gorgeous day in Colorado. 70 degrees and we are almost to the end of October! I want to pop out early and take a long walk with Chutney. I’ll work more tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DO YA by Neil Nathan

When I was out in New York, I was super pleased to hear this little tidbit of news from two editors at two different publishing houses. It used to be that in the children’s realm, an agent could only submit to one children’s imprint at a time under the larger corporate umbrella.

In the adult realm, we never did this. We’d submit to all imprints and just make sure the editors in the same house knew who else had it.

Well, it was considered a no-no in the children’s realm (Sidenote: I often did what I wanted anyway and submit simultaneously if I thought the project was right for more than one imprint. I did get reprimanded a couple of times, but what are they going to do? Not allow me future submissions?)

Anyway, to get back on topic, I’m super thrilled to hear the news because of course I’m not interested in deliberately annoying people. I just thought this rule was rather dumb.

What if I submit to one imprint at let’s say XYZ Children’s and the project moves fast (as in lots of editors interested) but that particular XYZ editor passes on it. Well, now there is no time for me to ping another XYZ editor at a different imprint. I’m already setting up the auction or what have you. Now that publisher is completely shut out of the action even though the project “might” have been a fit for a different imprint and editor.

It bugged me. I never want a publisher to not have the opportunity to participate and now that there is a shift in mindset on this particular topic, it won’t happen.

More Neil Nathan music on iLike

Live From New York City

STATUS: Actually, I’m feeling half dead after almost a full week of all-day meetings from 8 in the morning to sometimes 11 o’clock at night.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SUFFRAGETTE CITY by David Bowie

I’m back at the hotel early enough to blog. Every other night I’ve returned so late, I didn’t have the energy to fire up the old netbook and sneak in an entry. I do have LOTS to blog about so get ready for NYC recap next week when I’m back in the office.

Tomorrow I’m at Random House all morning and then I head to the Javits center for New York Comic con all afternoon. Orbit has galvanized the steampunk contingent here in the city (and I can’t believe I just wrote a sentence that has “steampunk contingent” in it…) to attend the con dressed up in their steampunk finery. They’ll be giving away Parasol Protectorate buttons and any fan that is dressed up and wearing the button will have their pic taken by Orbit to use in the Soulless cover art collage with the fan’s pic included.

Now that’s pretty cool.

The Orbit party was held at The Cellar Bar at the Bryant Hotel on 40th street across from the park. I don’t know every attendee but there were a smattering of agents and editors clinking glasses.

I ran into my old buddy and agent extraordinaire—Janet Reid (Fineprint). She was there with the amazing Jeff Somers. Got to reconnect with a young but totally up and coming agent Suzy Townsend (also of Fineprint and hadn’t seen her since St. Louis!) Eddie Schneider (JABberwocky) was there as was Cameron McClure (Donald Maass Agency) (who I tried to talk into saying something really profound for my blog but alas, we were profoundless… I’m thinking the wine floweth. Saw Matt Bialer briefly (Sanford J. Greenberger)

My fab Orbit editor, Devi Pillai, was there looking totally wonderful in a sleek black dress. Tim Holman, so British, always startles me slightly with the European double cheek kiss greeting but by end of evening we were all into the swing of things. I did refrain from saying “Darling” at odd moments and felt rather proud of that.

Sharing in the fun were Anne Sowards from Ace and Liz Gorinsky from TOR. Bumped into Ron Hogan (formerly of Galley Cat and Houghton Mifflin).

The Orbit Anniversary party was like a mini reunion.

I have to say that earlier in the week on Monday, Tim, Devi, and I got together down at Pravda in Soho for a drink and I was really pleased to hear that they are actually quite open to adult science fiction right now. There wasn’t even a hint of pessimism to that statement. Considering I had just submitted an SF there, I was pleased. Other editors I talked to in adult publishing really only highlighted military SF or alternate history SF as what was working them. It was so nice to hear some optimism!

If You Think A Publisher Will Be Filing…

STATUS: First day of fall. Makes me kind of sad. I want summer to stay awhile longer.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WONDER by Natalie Merchant

…for bankruptcy, what is the best thing an author can do?

My answer? Get your rights reverted before the filing so the books aren’t tied up indefinitely by the court as non-reverted titles will be deemed assets of the company.

By the way, this is true even if you have a bankruptcy clause in your contract specifying that rights automatically revert. Bankruptcy courts don’t perceive it that way and they trump contract clause.

I also suggest you get a full accounting, if you can, of what is owed to you. You want this for several reasons: 1) if you have to file a claim as a creditor in the bankruptcy, you’ll know for how much. 2) you might be able to take the amount loss as a tax deduction (but ask a tax expert first).

Sometimes It Pays to Pay…

STATUS: Life in the fast lane…not. Sheesh. Where has this day gone? I’ve got three more things I absolutely must do before leaving tonight.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? AMERICAN PIE by Don McLean

For professional advice. Having been an agent for 8+ years, I’ve certainly dealt with interesting events in publishing. Bankruptcy is just one of them.

A couple of years ago, an independent sports publisher filed for bankruptcy to re-organize. One of the first books I sold in my agency’s infancy was impacted.

What I learned? Most publishing contracts have bankruptcy clauses and ALL of them are useless. If a company files for bankruptcy, even if your contract stipulates that rights revert automatically, the bankruptcy court sees it differently and the rights can be tied up—sometimes for years.

Luckily for my author, I was able to negotiate the rights back with the help of my IP attorney and another attorney specializing in bankruptcy.

Sometimes it pays to pay for a professional assistance when it comes to specialized events like the one I describe above. If you’re an author facing similar and going it alone (sans agent), don’t ask friends or google the web. Get the facts. And in a lot of cases, it’s information only an expert can provide so you might want to consider it.

Wake Up Call

STATUS: Getting this day off to a good start.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BLUE MOON by Elvis Presley

While at RWA in Orlando, I sat on a PRO panel for published authors with Steve Axelrod and Karen Solem. One of the questions asked of the panel was what we thought about Andrew Wylie’s announcement of doing eBooks through his own publishing arm called Odyssey and the Mexican stand-off that subsequently ensued with Random House over it.

For the record, I don’t know Mr. Wylie personally and any viewpoint expressed here is simply my opinion.

My answer at the panel was that I thought it was a strategic wake-up call on his part. He was firing a shot across the bow so to speak to send a very clear message that for well-established legacy authors still in print (for books sold long before eBooks were even conceived), he wasn’t going to 1) settle for the industry’s current low watermark royalty of 25% of net for the electronic versions of those legacy titles and 2) That unless explicitly granted in the contract, the rights belonged to the authors to exercise them as they deemed fit.

This, of course, was in direct opposition to Random House’s viewpoint that they had de facto electronic rights for titles still in print with them. (Hence the stand-off with RH proclaiming that they would no longer do business with Wylie agency.)

Well, I personally didn’t think that this tiff would last too long. The Wylie agency has been around for 25+ years and has too many distinguished authors on its list for RH to ignore forever. They were going to have to come to an agreement and sure enough, that was announced late yesterday.

What does it mean?

It means that who controls electronic rights for titles negotiated pre-computer/electronic age is still in question. That publishers, authors, and agents have very different viewpoints regarding it. Disagreements will happen (and some will play out in court). Further discussions and agreements are possible. But in my mind, only when push comes to shove.