Pub Rants

Category: career

Q&A 2010—Round Two

STATUS: The pre-Bologna must-finish-all-stuff-before-I-leave-town rush has begun.

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

I thought I would have a bit more time to blog tonight so my apologies for not tackling a ton of questions this round.

kimysworld asked:
Compared to the first three months of last year, have you received more or less query letters in the first three months of 2010? What are the most common genres? What do you rarely see?

Yes, our query inbox has definitely grown from last year. This time in 2009, we were probably seeing 80 to 100 queries a day. Now it’s more like 100-150. I have no explanation for it. Perhaps we are on more people’s radar?

Most common genres? Young adult, romance, women’s fiction.

What I would like to see more of? Well written query letters. Grin. You knew I was going to say that. I’d say that easily 50% of stuff we get is for nonfiction or something else we don’t represent.

I’d love to see more queries for literary fiction with a commercial bent, middle grade, and more sf&f. I’d like to build in these areas (and yes we are still beefing our list in the above stuff as well.)

Anonymous asked:
If a writer has gained success in one genre (over twenty novels that have made money, helped build a large fan base, and five contracts for five more books) and he/she wants to switch genres after the contractual obligations have been met because he/she always wanted to write mainstream, is this writer starting from scratch again? But more than that, would this writer be taking a huge chance by walking away from a good thing and trying to pursue another?

I’m a little leery about answering this question. There are so many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Also, this is a conversation you really should be having with your current agent. Now having said that, I will try and answer—although my gut tells me that you already know the answers to your questions and perhaps you are simply looking for encouragement or validation as you walk this new path.

Of course the author would be taking a chance by walking away and starting something else. You already know that is the answer. My question is this: does it have to be one or the other? As in do you have to walk away or can you scale back the number of books in that genre in order to give yourself time to work on something mainstream?

Are you no longer passionate about the genre you are established in? If that is the case, then it may not be worth pursuing more books because your heart isn’t in it. What is your financial picture and can you afford to take a risk? Will fans of your current established genre be open to a move in a new direction? Can you live with that fact if the fans aren’t willing to follow you?

If you want to be safe, I’d keep a foot in your current genre and then test the waters with a new work that is more mainstream. If your heart isn’t in staying in the old genre than you just have to jump in and try it.

There are many stories where this has been successful for the author and I can probably highlight as many stories of where it hasn’t.

Anonymous asked:
How much of your time do you spend reading query letters versus time spent blogging? I’m just wondering because there are several agents who blog every day and I often wonder where they find the time.

I actually don’t spend a lot of time reading queries. First off, we’ve hired a wonderful assistant named Anita. Her job is to read all queries that come in as we can get up to 150 a day. She sets aside the ones that Sara and I need to review. Given that, I try and check my query email inbox once a week. It usually takes me 15 minutes to read the queries there and decide if I want to ask for sample pages or not.

As for blogging, I give myself 20 to 30 minutes a day to write my one entry. That’s it.

Constance asked:
How do you know if or when to resend something to an agent? Are you only supposed to resend a query when they ask you, or can you even when they don’t, if you’ve made extensive revisions?
Constance, I think if you extensively rework a query letter so it’s basically new, I’d resend it. My suggestion? Change the title to something new. Sometimes titles stand out and it will sound familiar. In terms of time span, if you submitted queries and have received mainly rejection responses, I’d revise significantly, wait about 3 weeks, then resend. What can an agent do? Track you down and chastise you for resubmitting? Grin. Be bold. Now if you are rejected numerous times by same agent. Move on. Lots of other agent fishes in the sea.

Alli asked:
Oh, boy, I should triple check before I press send. Here’s the real question:
Would you consider SOMEONE published if they have worked as a writer for a book packager?
Yes. Especially if the book packager is a well-known company with a strong record.

When A New Project Might Give You The Best Momentum

STATUS: Today was about foreign rights and taxes. One fun. The other not. I’m sure you can guess which is which…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by The Fray

Last week we got a query from a writer who had published a fantasy series outside of the US. This person was looking for new representation to shop the series in the United States. There was only one problem. It sounded like the writer’s prior agent had already done so.

Just to make sure, I wrote the author to inquire about that. The return response listed a wonderful submission list with all the editors I would have gone to if I had repped the project.

This author is between a rock and hard place. The submit list was good and if it was rejected by all those places, there’s only smaller publishers to try and to be blunt, potentially not worth the agent’s investment of time.

I responded to the author to say so. What advice would I give in this situation? As hard as it may be, it’s time to write something new. Go out with a fresh project in the US. If that book does well, then the agent can always go back to that initial series and rekindle interest in a possible buy. (Good sales can do that.)

Unfortunately, this author did not have anything new to share but I did respond again to say we’d be happy to look at new future work.

Writing as Business (Part 3)

STATUS: I finished up to client full manuscripts this week. I’m finally catching up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ICE CREAM by Sarah McLachlan

As promised, here are some of the books that I’ve read over the years. Please note that this isn’t an endorsement of any book. Read at your own risk. Big grin here. I’m simply highlighting some of the books I have read.

This is by no means a complete list. Just what I can remember off the top of my head.

Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money by Paul Merriman (probably the best book I’ve read….so far)

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko

The New York Times Complete Guide to Personal Investing by Gary Klott

The Motley Fool Investment Guide by David Gardner and Tom Gardner (I actually read a much earlier edition of this book but it’s no longer in print)

Rich Dad Poor Dad By Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter (not really an investing or money management book but an interesting read).

I also have a subscription to Better Investing Magazine. Good, solid articles that are practical. (Note: I belong to an Investment Club, have so for 4 years, and we follow Better investing guidelines)

I also read Smart Money magazine for a while and Kiplinger’s.

And I bet there are a ton other good reads out there that I wouldn’t mind picking up so feel free to add some recommendations in the comments section.

Writing as Business (Part 2)

STATUS: Bursting at the seams. Got two bits of exciting news for one of my clients and it’s under gag. We’re not allowed to share yet. So I guess I’ll just tease all my blog readers with it instead.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? LET’S STAY TOGETHER by Al Green

This topic obviously resonated with quite a few people. In all honesty, I probably should have one of my clients do a guest blog about the topic of finances as a published author. Hopefully they’ll all just chime in on the comments section.

Okay, if you are a published author, here are some things that I recommend.

1. Find and then pay for a good tax accountant who can give you sound accounting advice for your writing business. You may start as a sole proprietor but as many of my authors have done, when real money starts coming in, it may pay (as in tax advantageous) to be an LLC or an S-corp instead.

When I say “pay for,” I mean it. It’s worth every dime to pay a CPA for his/her expertise. Be sure to ask around to other writers and get recommendations for a good one. Like all people in service industry, levels of expertise vary.

Gee, that’s true of agents as well.

2. When you have your contract, note the dates in your money management software for when you can expect to get paid. Then pad it by two months at least. I say this because things don’t always happen on time. The contract can take 2 to 3 months to negotiate and then it’s always another 6 weeks after signing for you to get paid. Foreign monies take even longer than that. As the agent, I always expect payment 6 months from when I’ve sent off the contract to my client for signing. It can take that long. For one client, the foreign publisher lost the contract and it took us a year to get paid. And that was even with me bugging them every other week for it.

You as the author might run into draft problems and not deliver the manuscript on time and so that d&a payment you were hoping to trigger might not happen until several months later. Trust me, this happens more often than not so keep that in mind.

So a couple of addendums to this:
–If you are a debut and your career is young, don’t start by living off your writing. I think you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt if you do that. Writing money is gravy money. Not factored in as part of the monthly living expenses but it can pay for a great vacation or a down payment on a car or what have you. Personally, I say put all of it into a good interest CD that you can’t access for a year. That way you’re forced to ignore it for a while. But heck, I know that’s not always feasible. I’m just suggesting it.

–Don’t quit you day job until the back end royalties can pay for your daily living expenses without issue. Back end is the royalty money you earn once your advance has earned out. This does not include the advance you might earn for your next book because that’s an advanced that hasn’t earned out yet. And just an FYI, statistically speaking (and this is by no means exact), only about 10% of books actually earn out their advances. The good majority of them don’t. And here’s another interesting tidbit, if a book does earn out the advance, it can take 2 years or more before that happens. One of my authors just earned out (which is hugely exciting) but it took 4 years. Now you know why I emphasize back end royalties that pay your daily living expenses without an issue.

3. When you get your check, pay your taxes right then and there. Now some folks are really great money managers. If you are, then you can ignore this. However, I think the majority of us are not quite that anal and I’ve heard stories time and time again where authors don’t do this and find themselves in a world of hurt. Work with your tax accountant to find out what is the likely percentage that you’ll owe and don’t wait, just mail the dang thing to the IRS and tell yourself, this was never my money anyway. If you don’t have a tax accountant, a good rule of thumb is 20% of whatever the check was and send that in. If you’ve overpaid, you’ll get it refunded.

If you’re disciplined money manager, okay, stick the monies you owe the IRS into a high-interest bearing account and then only draw from that account to pay your quarterly taxes (April 15, June 15, Sept. 15, Jan. 15). Make some money on the interest at the very least. Now if your honest with yourself and know that you’ll fall into the trap of thinking the next advance will pay those taxes, don’t wait. Mail your check to the IRS the minute you get your check from the publisher or agent. I can’t force you to do this but I’m really encouraging it.

4. When you get your check, pay yourself first. What exactly does this mean? That means you put away money for retirement even before you pay your bills. If you’re under the salary cap, open yourself up a ROTH IRA (one of the best investing tools out there because when you retire you won’t be taxed on monies you withdraw from a ROTH because you will have already paid the taxes on it). Damn straight folks. And even if you are not good with numbers and investing, just go to Vanguard’s website and look at the ROTH IRA here. Sign up for an index fund that follows the S&P 500. Usually those are the safest with the least amount of crazy ups and downs.

Max it out. Pay in the full amount you are allowed to legally in any given year.

And folks, I’ve been investing for years but I’m no expert. My suggestion here is not to replace advice from a professional financial advisor but if you don’t know where to begin, maybe this will help you to get started.

I’ll also try and dig up the money management/investing titles of all the books I’ve read over the years. It might be a good reading list for you.

5. Open up a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Plan). You’re a writer and you’re self-employed. This is a retirement vehicle for the self-employed and it allows you, percentage wise, to put the most money away for retirement than you can in an IRA.

6. If you are living off of your writing, create a budget with all your expenses and only pay yourself X amount a month and stick to that. That way you won’t suddenly run out of money and be really anxious for your next payment (see above—which might get delayed, or yikes a contract canceled, or a manuscript rejected and you have to pay back the advance). All grim scenarios but can be a reality.

7. Buy yourself something nice to remember your first check by. I know. Totally opposite of everything I’ve said above but your first check from your first book advance is special. Celebrate it.

Then do all of the above.

Do You Run Your Writing As A Business?

STATUS: I tackled exactly one thing on my To Do list today and there are something like 20 items that need immediate attention. I’m still wondering how that happens.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD by the Beatles

Today I had a morning meeting with my tax accountant to review my company’s P&L (Profit and Loss Statement) and the Balance Sheet. We wanted to review how we were doing in comparison to last year. We analyzed our current cash flow, upcoming expenditures, quarterly taxes, and generally made certain that we were financially sound and would continue being so.

Just three weeks prior to this meeting, I had connected with my bookkeeper to evaluate the P&L and Balance Sheet to see if anything was out of whack—which, interestingly enough, always happens. Just the nature of accounting.

Years ago, I read in a book (and I wish I could remember the title) that Americans who spent at least 1 to 2 hours a month reviewing their finances, discussing budget (or for heaven’s sake creating a budget), learning about investing, reviewing one’s 401k or Roth IRA, and just generally doing money management ended up 10 times wealthier than their fellow Americans who didn’t. (And it didn’t matter where these money planners started in terms of their income.) This book also highlighted that 90% of Americans spent more time watching TV did they spent on managing their money. I believe it.

So where am I going with all this? If you are a writer, even if you are unpublished, you need to treat this like a business. You need to sit down at the beginning of the year (or the beginning of the quarter) and create a business plan for yourself and your writing. This is how much I’m going to budget for my writing, for paper, for ink cartridges, for getting an agent, for attending a conference to learn the craft, or for joining a site like Backspace, and so on. You need to an excel spreadsheet or quicken or whatever money program you use to track expenses and hopefully, monies earned.

Why? Because even if you are unpublished, it makes good money sense to know exactly how much it costs you a year to pursue your dream. It allows you to plan. It shows you the cost benefit (or not) of pursuing this as a career. It gets you primed and ready for when you are published author and you definitely need to be doing this, budgeting appropriately, paying your taxes, and deciding on when you can write full-time versus when you need to keep that day job.

You might as well start making a good habit of it now. Besides, don’t you want to be one of those people who are 10 times wealthier than their counterparts who never discuss money on a regular basis? I know I do—which is why my tax accountant and I spent 2 hours discussing it this morning and this is just one of many sessions we’ll have throughout the year.