Pub Rants

Category: career

After I read Kristin’s June article in her “What Makes a Good Agent” series and learned that publishers’ royalty statements sometimes contain significant errors, I took an informal survey. I wanted to know how many of my author friends’ agents audit their statements, and how many of these authors also audit their own.

The authors are split between midlist authors and bestsellers. Almost all said they read their royalty statements carefully. But nearly half don’t audit their statements—mainly because they don’t know how.

Two of the 15 authors were reasonably certain their agents audited their royalty statements before sending them on, while only 3 of the 15 reported their agent took the initiative to help them understand them—suggesting this is a conversation agents and authors should be having more frequently.

Here are the questions and results:

  1. Does your agent actively audit royalty statements?

YES – 2

I THINK SO – 5

NO – 8

 

  1. Do you audit and/or read your own statements? 

YES – 6

READ ONLY – 7

NO – 2

 

  1. Do you know how? 

YES – 6

SOMEWHAT – 3

NO – 6

 

  1. Has your agent ever walked you through a statement? 

YES – 3

ON REQUEST – 2

NO – 10

Royalty statements are difficult to understand. Some of the authors who responded admit they “never learned how to read a royalty statement,”or they “read them, but have a hard time understanding what everything means.”

One author I surveyed believes auditing is the agent’s responsibility. “I don’t audit. That’s her job. If I had to, I’d get an accountant to do it. But I figure that’s why I have an agent. She would walk me through it if I wanted, but that’s one less piece of business I have to do.”

Others take a more active role. “I read my statements multiple times. First, just to review them and make sure everything looks right and complete. Then I go through them page by page and compare to the last statement to see if there is something wonky (good or bad), then I write up a memo to my agent with any questions or concerns, or if there is something odd. We then discuss.”

“I noticed in my last statement, there were line items for Returns for a couple of books that had been released years ago. That seemed illogical, so I asked my agent, and she passed the question on to my editor. Also, I know that a number of my books have been released as audio books as much as a year ago, but I have seen no accounting for sales of those. So I asked my agent, and she asked my editor. Nobody has explained it yet, but I have done payment estimates based on the statements, and our calculations match.” Not surprisingly, this last author adds, “Not only do I know how to read the statements, friends often ask me to interpret theirs.”

Sometimes authors who audit their statements find mistakes. “I once found a $700.00 error on my royalty statement from my publisher that I noticed after scouring the numbers. My publisher apologized and said it was obviously an error and quickly corrected it, but would he have noticed if I hadn’t looked carefully?”

“For two consecutive royalty periods, I had statements passed on to me from a publisher that had gone through the agency’s business department and past my agent that had a glaring error on the first page. Each time, it amounted to an error in my favor of mid four figures. One year the amount totaled approximately $11,000. This was not something anyone should have missed, and certainly not twice. The agent/agency did not catch the error, even after it happened the first time. I did, both times.”

“It’s important for authors to know that even if you have a representative you trust, nothing replaces arming yourself with all the knowledge you can,” my author friend Lauren Baratz-Logsted wisely says, who not coincidentally, zealously reads and audits her royalty statements. Thanks to Kristin’s article and her contract manager’s generous how-to, I’ll be doing the same.

*******

Karen Dionne is an internationally published thriller author, co-founder of the online writers discussion forum Backspace, and organizer of the Salt Cay Writers Retreat and the Neverending Online Backspace Writers ConferenceShe is represented by Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management. 

Last week, Deadline posted the news that Warner Bros. was claiming victory after the dismissal of a $10 million lawsuit regarding the blockbuster movie Gravity starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Quick Summary: Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen brought the suit making a claim that the movie was based on her book that New Line Productions had optioned in 1999. Warner Bros. acquired New Line studios and what is in question is whether Warner Bros, after the acquisition, is required to honor the New Line option agreement.  She explains in good detail on her blog.

So Warner Bros. might be crowing victory but what this boils down to is that the case was initially dismissed based on a legal technicality. Corrections need to be made to the case and then refiled. Nothing really has been decided.

So why should you care? You might be a writer at the beginning of your career. Maybe you don’t have a project under a film or tv option as of yet. Maybe writing as a career is simply a dream at the moment.

But someday you may very well be an established career author and what is decided in this court case will have far-reaching repercussions for all authors where Hollywood is concerned. You can bet that book-to-film co-agents are watching this very closely as are literary agents. This will change how projects are optioned in the future.

And just maybe the project being optioned is your book.

Three (hopefully) Inspiring Thoughts For 2015

To kick off 2015, here are my three (hopefully) inspiring thoughts for writers:

1. I recently had a discussion with a writer who had convinced herself that she was a middle-grade author. But when she wrote a young-adult novel, suddenly, that’s when she discovered her voice, the story worked, and she received multiple offers of representation.

If a genre or a project isn’t working, don’t be afraid to experiment with something totally new and outside of what you thought you’d write as an author. You might just discover magic!

2. Lately I’ve read a lot of really nicely written sample pages. I didn’t often ask for a full, but that’s not because these authors didn’t have talent. I just didn’t think it was the right story for this moment in time in terms of the market.

Don’t get caught writing and revising one story. I can name ten of my current clients whose first novel was rejected by me but whom I took on for a later project. Like my father used to say about love, it’s often about timing. I didn’t want to hear it when I was twenty-four, but he was right. And an author’s career is often about the right story at exactly the right time.

Keep writing!

3. Never stop learning. There is always something new to be found that will take your writing to the next level—a level you didn’t even know was possible to achieve. And that might be the moment you are discovered.

Have an amazing 2015!

Last night Anita, our intern Chris, and I went to see Salman Rushdie’s talk at Mackey Auditorium on the CU Boulder campus. Mr. Rushdie is eloquent and quotable. I was one finger typing furiously on my iPhone so as to share some kernel of ideas with my blog readers. Any inelegance in my paraphrasing of his talk last night is solely my fault.

His talk tackled what it is to be a writer in this world.

In a world where 24-hour news necessitates posting something about an event, even if it’s not entirely accurate and only later to be retracted, readers are hard-pressed to find “truthyness” in a lot of journalism these days.

The novel takes on a new form of accurate truthfulness that might be a more accurate reflection of what our world actually is. The novel becomes the depth of the lived experience and the writer is bringing to the public the socially important information that is missing from all other sources.

Rushdie mentioned that the novel, Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for fiction just last week, is all we need to read to truly understand what is happening in North Korea.

And it is for this reason that when they come to power, tyrant and totalitarian regimes target artists and writers.

Rushdie went on to illuminate that we, as people, understand ourselves through the telling of stories. We have the right to tell story our way, through our beliefs, and about our nation. And those stories are a continuing dialogue. Unfree nations try to control the narrative. Not to have freedom to tell stories is true unfreedom.

The job of the writer, as it is for all the great arts, is to open the universe.

Tyrants close the world. A writer’s job is to open it.

Amen.

 

For The Book That Almost Didn’t Sell–Happy Release Day FIRELIGHT!

STATUS: Another phone conference in 20 minutes! Must blog quickly.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? LOWDOWN by Boz Scaggs

Blog readers, have I got special treat for you today. If you ever wondered what the editor rejections looked like for a book that has shown every sign of coming out of the gate wildly popular, well today is your lucky day.

Today is the official release day for Kristen Callihan’s FIRELIGHT.


I’ve blogged before about the fact that I almost could not sell this book. And today, Kristen has given me special permission to share her rejections.

But let me preface this.

This debut novel has received two starred reviews (Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) and top pick at any number of romance sites, too many to list here.

When we sent the novel out to already established and successful authors to read with an eye for a possible blurb, we had our fingers crossed that maybe we’d get one or two responses.

Every author on our list read and blurbed it:

“Callihan has a great talent for sexual tension and jaw-dropping plots that weave together brilliantly in the end.”
—Diana Gabaldon, New York Times bestselling author of Outlander

“A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.” —Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider

“Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page.” —Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series

“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”
—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr

“Kristen Callihan delivers a dark, lush offering to fans of gothic and paranormal romance. With a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page, Firelight is a sexy, resplendent debut. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”
—Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“This book has everything: sword fights, magic, despair, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that’s hot enough to burn the pages. I couldn’t stop reading. This book is utterly phenomenal.”
—Courtney Milan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Unraveled

“Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.”
—Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Weaver

“A dark, delicious tale of secrets, murder, and love, beautifully shrouded in the shadows of Victorian London.”
—Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of If He’s Dangerous

“A dazzling debut, sexy and thrilling. Callihan now has a place on my to-buy list.”
—Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Enchantment

“A fantastic debut that has everything I’m looking for in a story: compelling conflict, beautiful writing, gripping sexual tension, and strong, intelligent characters.”
—Sherry Thomas, RITA-award winning author of Not Quite A Husband and His At Night

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.” —Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”
—Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“Combines romance, wit, and suspense in a fabulous retelling of Beauty and the Beast…with a supernatural twist.”
—Colleen Gleason, international bestselling author of The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

“I LOVED the book! Fabulous writing, great characters, innovative plot. It held me from the first page. I was so drawn in by the quality of the writing. She’s sure to become a fave of mine. I have already raved about the book to my readers group.”
—Gail Link, 2010 RWA Bookseller of the Year

And yet, the editors did not feel the same love.

–I’m afraid I didn’t love the voice, which felt a little bit overdone to me, and this kept me from getting immersed in the story. I’m therefore going to pass; I’m sorry. But thank you for giving me a shot at this, and I hope you will find the right home for it.

–I love your description of the story, but for me, the writing itself doesn’t stand out from the crowd.

–Thanks so much for sending this! I liked the reimagining of the beauty-and-the-beast story, but didn’t quite love the voice as much as I’d hoped

–I do love a great gothic, so I was really hoping to love this. Unfortunately, I just didn’t connect with the voice as much as I wanted to.

–Many thanks for thinking of us for this, but we’re going to pass. Gothics are very hard to sell right now

–I’ve been reading this, and I’ve enjoyed the appealing voice and the strong element of mystery. But while I liked this novel perfectly fine, I just didn’t feel the level of enthusiasm necessary to make this a success. Ultimately I just didn’t feel the strong emotional connection I’d hoped for.

–I really tried hard to get emotionally attached to FIRELIGHT because the atmosphere is so beautifully written. I just couldn’t connect, I’m sad to say,

–I did find plenty to like in the manuscript: Miranda makes a great heroine, and I absolutely loved our introduction to her in the opening chapters. (In particular, the scene where Miranda is having the ethical dilemma over whether to steal or not really hooked me.) The main problem I have, though, is that I never really connected with Archer as a hero. Miranda won me over, but she alone wasn’t enough to make me believe in the romance.

–Here’s the thing-I kept hoping I could make this work, but increasingly we’re having a hard time making new historical romance authors grow in the market.

In the end, it’s so so true that you have to find the right editor with the right vision who is the right fit. When you do, even for a book that almost didn’t sell, it can be magic.

And I think Kristen’s holiday gift to me is the perfect end note!


Happy release day Kristen!

Who Says You Can’t Get A Good Job With An English Degree?

STATUS: I have one more big task I need to tackle before I can leave the office.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HAPPIER by Jeff Leblanc

Over lunch I took a moment to catch up on my PW reading. Even though it’s a weekly magazine, it’s pretty easy for me to fall behind and have to tackle a couple issues all at once.

Over tea and biscotti (lunch of champions!), I was reading an article about a survey conducted by the National Endowment of the Arts on writer salaries. The article mentioned that the median wage/salary for an average worker in the US was around $39,500. The median wage/salary for a writer was around $44,000.

Now granted, this survey wasn’t limited to writers of book works but encompassed all professionals who make their living primarily by writing–be it for information industries, journalism, or for performing arts, etc.

I was a little bemused for I think the general assumption is that it’s a lot harder for a person to make a living via the writing arts. And yet, the salaries are above the median.

Guess that English degree is good for something after all!

Now imagine a lot of fiction authors are wondering when their median wage/salary will reach that level…. *grin*

Story Of An Underdog

STATUS: Yesterday got away from me so I’m blogging “early” today.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SUNSET BOULEVARD by Charlie Robison

Hum, I’m wondering if championing an underdog that then goes on to be successful might be the story of my career.

Either that or I simply have strange tastes most of the time (with the occasional hitting the market square on with a project that generates lots of initial excitement from the get-go).

So here’s another tale of an underdog–a novel that I absolutely loved but had trouble selling. And I can tell you that agents often delude themselves; I seriously expected an auction when I went out on submission with it. I was totally flummoxed when that didn’t happen.

But finally, after much work, this genre bending, doesn’t-fit-into-an-easy-category novel sold. I would call it a dark gothic Victorian historical romance with an unusual paranormal twist.

And I’m always telling aspiring writers not to do what I just did with my description above. LOL. Everything but the kitchen sink!

Given the nature of the story, the editor, author, and I all agreed that we needed to give the novel the best chance possible and one facet of doing that is going after established authors for praise blurbs to hopefully start the early buzz.

Now, the blurb process is not an easy one. In general, you’re lucky if maybe you get one or two blurbs out of 10 or 12 blurb read submissions. Established authors are on deadline, they get asked to blurb a million times, the story isn’t their cup of tea. There are a hundred reasons why established authors pass on reading for blurbs so you don’t go in with high expectation of the response. You’ll be happy with anything that comes of it. And a lot of times that means just one blurb.

Well, in this case, every established author we sent the novel to read it, loved it, blurbed it.

I’m still stunned. This never happens.

“If the word FIRELIGHT sounds cozy–think again. Both characters and plot are literally ON FIRE!! Tremendously, engagingly sensual.”

–Diana Gabaldon, bestselling author of the Outlander Series

“Passionate and sizzling, beautifully written and dark. This unique paranormal twist on the beauty and the beast tale rocks!”

—Elizabeth Amber, author of Bastian The Lords of Satyr

“Evocative and deeply romantic, Firelight is a beautiful debut. I was fascinated from the first page.”

—Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of the Guild Hunter Series

“A sizzling paranormal with dark history and explosive magic! Callihan is an impressive new talent.”

— Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author of Immortal Rider

“Inventive and adventurous with complex, witty characters and snappy writing. Callihan will make you believe in the power of destiny and true love.”

— Shana Abé, New York Times bestselling author of The Time Weaver

“A sexy, resplendent debut with a deliciously tortured hero, an inventive supernatural mystery, and slow-building heat that simmers on each page. I can’t wait to see what Kristen Callihan comes up with next!”

— Meljean Brook, New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Duke

“A dark, delicious tale of secrets, murder, and love, beautifully shrouded in the shadows of Victorian London.”

— Hannah Howell, New York Times bestselling author of If He’s Dangerous

“A dazzling debut, sexy and thrilling. Callihan now has a place on my to-buy list.”

— Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Enchantment

“Utterly phenomenal! Sword fights, magic, a heroine with secret strengths, a hero with hidden vulnerability, and best of all, a true love that’s hot enough to burn the pages.”

— Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author of Unraveled

“Lush and imaginative, Firelight will sweep you away.”

— Zoë Archer, award-winning author of Devil’s Kiss

“A compelling and emotional pageturner that will have readers burning the midnight oil.”

— Anna Campbell, award-winning author of Midnight’s Wild Passion

“A fantastic debut that has everything I’m looking for in a story: compelling conflict, beautiful writing, gripping sexual tension, and strong, intelligent characters.”

— Sherry Thomas, RITA Award-winning author of His At Night

“Combines romance, wit, and suspense in a fabulous retelling of Beauty and the Beast…with a supernatural twist.”

— Colleen Gleason, international bestselling author of The Gardella Vampire Chronicles

Gosh I hope the reading public feels the same! And if you are one of those readers that loves unique romances that don’t fit into neat square boxes, then all I can ask is that you add this one to your To Buy list because it almost didn’t happen. Editors WANT to take chances on unusual stories but it’s a tough argument for them at the editorial board meeting unless they can point to titles that were successful and sold well. That’s the cold, hard truth.

I’ve got high hopes that FIRELIGHT by Kristen Callihan will do just that.





And speaking of authors who like to tackle unusual but powerful stories, if you haven’t had a chance to read a Sherry Thomas romance, well, you are in luck. You can’t try her out in ebook for only $3.99. Random house is doing a special promo.

Amazon

BN

Kobo

Google eBooks

Sony

Hard Wired For Conflict Equanimity?

STATUS: I’m feeling this strange desire to belt out Men At Work songs. Wait, that’s because I’m jet lagged and actually in Australia!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? ENGLISHMAN IN NEW YORK by Sting

Last Thursday, Angie and I got a chance to do informational interviews at the Denver Publishing Institute. As 2002 grads (and I can’t believe it’s been that long!), we were happy to give back by chatting with the graduating students looking for careers in publishing and specifically those who were interested in agenting.

I did about 15 interviews and during the day, I have to say that something completely crystalized for me.

Q: What does it take to be a good literary agent?

A: The ability to handle conflict.

Q: What does it take be a happy literary agent?

A: The ability to be sanguine about all the conflict you deal with on a daily basis.

I know. This should have been obvious but I had never boiled it down to the above. Ninety percent of agenting is troubleshooting and doing conflict resolution.

And I’m not exaggerating.

An agent’s job is to be the author’s advocate. Plain and simple. And that means it’s the agent’s job to sometimes be the “bad guy” so the author can have a warm and fuzzy relationship with his/her editor and publisher.

The agent is the person who says the tough things when they need to be said.

So if you are by nature, a conflict avoider, then being a literary agent is not going to be a happy job for you. It’s not like anyone loves conflict (or maybe some folks do!) but some folks are more hard wired to deal with it with equanimity.

Definitely something to keep in mind if you want to pursue this particular career.

Calling All Denverites

Status: It was already in the 90s by 9 a.m. this morning. Poor Chutney was not happy with her walk in Central Park.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? SHE BOP by Cyndi Lauper


Even though I have a healthy ego in regards to my agenting, I really do think that this a once-in-a-career opportunity.


I found out this week that Jamie Ford’s Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is in the running for One Book One Denver!


Always the last to know….


But I’m so excited at the possibility I can barely sleep. I really don’t know if I’ll ever have another book in the running (although one never knows what the future will bring)!


As many of you know, Jamie is not a Coloradoan but his wife is and her family still lives here. They visit Colorado often so even though he’s not a local author per se, he’s an honorary or sometimes local. Either way, he is a writer of the West.


So what is this blog post about? I need your help! The title is in the running but I need Denverites to vote.


Here’s how it works. You go to the voting website here. Of course they are going to want you to register (sorry about that!) because they are collecting info for Denver Events eMailing list. You can always unsubscribe later


Then you’ll see the three titles and I won’t mince words. The competition is tough. I personally enjoyed The Art Of Racing In The Rain and my book club is scheduled to read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks in just a few short months. I’m not disparaging these titles at all but I still want HOTEL to win!!


It’s a little confusing on the site but voters are suppose to vote on each title by ranking them with the number of stars that applies to your rating of the work.


So, it’s not a matter of the book with the most votes win but the book with the most votes and the highest ranking of stars wins. I hope that makes sense…


If HOTEL does win, trust me, Jamie will be coming to town for a variety of One Book One Denver events. NLA will hold a party and all Denverites are invited!


Fun Facts On NLA Clients—Take 5

STATUS: I think my telephone’s handset is permanently glued to my left ear. Way too much phone time over the last few days.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? THE LOVECATS by The Cure

Wrapping up the fun facts tonight!

Mari Mancusi—It took me over two years to convince her publisher to buy the fourth book in the Blood Coven Vampire series. Then they did, repackaged the back list with new covers and now the series is doing great and we are up to having recently sold book eight!

Lisa Shearin—who has well over 100,000 copies in print for her Raine Benares series had a ton of passes while on submission for MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND because the editors didn’t like the “fun voice.” It wasn’t the “norm” in fantasy.

Shanna Swendson—Gets regular royalty checks for her Enchanted Inc. series even though the first book published more than 5 years ago. Talk about evergreen!

And I have a ton of other facts that will probably never see the light of day but this has been fun to recap.

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