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March 2015
A Message from Kristin Nelson

The Twitter Verdict Is In...Sort Of

Kristin Nelson

Today is my Twitter anniversary! (@agentkristinNLA) It’s officially been one month.

My verdict?

Twitter is fun. It’s about sound bytes more so than in-depth analysis or substantive information about publishing and the industry. (I’m such a brainiac for figuring that out—ha!)

As a former college professor, I’m much more interested in educating aspiring writers (as my blog Pub Rants can attest to), and Twitter is not really the medium for that. So I tweet to point to my longer blog articles. Probably not the most effective use of the medium, so I don’t see me becoming Master of the Twitter Domain.

Twitter, however, casts a terrific spotlight on personality.

And yes, it’s great if an agent has a sparkling personality that shines on social media. Just also make sure they also have the business savvy to go with that lovely personality.

The teacher in me just had to say that.

Pub Rants University

Recording only of The Nitty-Gritty: How Digital is Transforming the Publishing Landscape

Friday, December 01 at 12:00 pm

This is a recording of the Webinar held on June 25, 2014.

Agent Kristin has given this workshop at numerous writers’ conferences in 2014 and invariably, attendees tell her this workshop was worth the price of conference admission! For the first time, NLA Digital is making the recording available to writers for the low, affordable price of $19.99.

Agent Kristin explains how the world of publishing is rapidly changing and how this impacts writers at every stage of their careers. She explains digital changes making the headlines and tackles the confusing terminology peppering these news stories. (What is agency pricing exactly and why did the Department of Justice slap Apple’s hands? What role is Amazon playing in all these changes?) She also tackles contract terms that may restrict traditionally published authors from self publishing.

Key Topics:

  • Should an author digitally publish?
  • What are the pros and cons?
  • Can an author who is traditionally published, digitally self-publish?
  • What are the potential contract hurdles?
  • Can an author partner with an agent to digitally publish?
  • How is the agent role changing as the industry changes?
  • What is metadata and why is it your friend?

You can buy access to this Webinar recording until December 1, 2017.




Register Now

eSpecial Price

Free March 1-31

           
Recent News
Think Like an Agent

Commanding Authority: An Agent's Negotiation Edge

By

The genesis: In January 2015, Backspace co-founder Karen Dionne and I had a conversation in which she mentioned that writers sometimes want representation so badly they are willing to sign with an average or even a below-average agent. Trust me, not all agents are equal. I replied, “Well, writers don’t know what they don’t know.”

In that moment, a lightbulb went on for both of us. Writers don’t know what a good agent does. How could you if (1) you’ve never experienced it and (2) you’ve only ever had one agent and no way to assess just how strong he or she might be at the job?

Thus, this series of articles was born.

*******

Article #2: Commanding Authority: An Agent’s Negotiation Edge

in the series WHAT MAKES A GOOD AGENT? by Agent Kristin and Karen Dionne, co-founder of Backspace

In January, one my clients emailed me a great note to kick off the new year. She wrote:

“This is going to sound random, but I feel the need to do a bit of effusive gushing to you. As you probably know, authors eventually turn to gossip (about their contracts too) and I recently found out that several writers I know are stuck with joint accounting, one of them being a NYT bestseller. To say the least, I was agog. My next, immediate thought was that I have the best agent ever.”

Because my client knows that all our contracts here at NLA have separate accounting. I really appreciate when my authors recognize a good job well done because let me tell you, great contract negotiation is not the sexy part of agenting. But it’s the backbone of a great career for my authors.

First, let me explain what joint accounting is: A multi-book deal that grants joint accounting allows the publisher to apply all earnings for all books on that contract to the total advance granted; in other words, none of the books earns out until all of the books earn out.

Separate accounting, on the other hand, specifies that each book’s earnings apply only to that book’s advance; in other words, if book one earns out, the author begins to earn royalties, even if the subsequent books on that contract have yet to earn out. Yay! Royalties!

I decided early in my career that Nelson Literary Agency would only do multi-book deals if the contract granted separate accounting. I weighed the pros and cons, and I just couldn’t see an advantage to granting joint accounting. Since my job as agent is to advocate on behalf of my authors, I’ve held firm on this issue—even if it means we can only sell one book to an editor instead of two or three.

If editors know that joint accounting isn’t available, they don’t bother asking me for it. Why am I sharing this example? Because I want to discuss what could be considered a rather nebulous concept, and my #1 criteria for what makes a good agent:

Good agents command authority naturally.

What does it mean to command authority naturally? For one thing, it means that an editor has immediate respect for the agent. They view the agent as powerful, well informed, and fair yet tough. Especially when it comes to negotiation. So if the agent has established that she won’t grant XYZ in a deal, then editors don’t bother asking for it. In other words, the agent is not a pushover as a negotiator.

There are many agents who are absolutely lovely people but who don’t command authority naturally.

Why should you, as a writer, care about this?

Because it is the essence of this biz. Publishers (who are not evil, by the way) want the most they can get out of a contract (which is often not in the author’s favor), and the agent’s job is to grant only what won’t be detrimental or disadvantageous to the author so that the author gets the fairest contract possible.

The goal is to meet in the happy middle, where both the publisher and the author feel satisfied. And it’s simple: Authors with strong contracts have more successful careers.

So if an agent commands authority naturally, editors will respect that. Editors who know an agent is a negotiating pushover will ask for as much as possible, and since the agent won’t stand tough on key issues, writers get stuck with yucky stuff in their contracts, joint accounting being just one example.

In fact, I know of agents who simply accept the first offer an editor gives without any negotiation whatsoever. Yikes!

Agents who command authority naturally get their projects read more quickly.

Agents who command authority naturally get higher advances and better royalites for their authors’ work.

Agents who command authority naturally are granted more compromises during negotiation, making sure contracts are advantageous for the author.

Agents who command authority naturally get more leverage when dealing with conflict (for instance, over a cover image or something else in the author’s career).

By the way, this doesn’t mean that the agent will always get her way. But it does mean that the editor respects, values, and weighs seriously the agent’s opinion. And sometimes that translates into swaying the editor on the issue.

Agents who command authority naturally are just better at the job of agenting. And in my mind, if the agent is better at agenting, the author is going to have a stronger, more successful career.

And since authors want to make a living writing, this becomes pretty important indeed!

Archive:

February 2015 Newsletter – Article #1: Agent As Savvy Business Manager

Kristin's Book Club

2015 Reading List

This last meeting was exciting. Our club has been together for 17 years. There has been a lot of turnover, as you can imagine. People joined but couldn’t read a book a month. Or folks moved away. It happens. But over the years, there have always been three core members: me, Liz, and Carrie (with Jen sort of off and on, attending maybe one or two meetings a year). During January’s get-together, we welcomed five new members: Nancy, Anita, Becky, Angela, and Karrie. And if you recognize some of the names as having worked for NLA, then you’d be correct! All but Angela. She is brand new to Denver.

As we do at the start of every year, we voted on our reading list for 2015 (see below). I’m always thrilled when an NLA author is chosen, and it’s the only young-adult title we’re tackling this year.

Regarding Chris Cleave’s GOLD, book club was equally split. Some readers thoroughly enjoyed the book, and some were only so-so. Although the writing was very good, the consensus among the lukewarm came down to the fact that the characters were well drawn but hard to care about. Not always a deal breaker, but it felt essential to this story. And the big plot reveal (no spoiler included here) was fairly obvious. We debated whether or not that was intentional on the author’s part.

The 2015 Lineup:

ONE SUMMER, AMERICA 1927 by Bill Bryson – Nonfiction

UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee – Fiction

BAD FEMINIST by Roxane Gay – Nonfiction

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr – Fiction

WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US by Suki Kim – Nonfiction – Memoir

THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton – Fiction

NO PLACE TO HIDE: EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA by Glenn Greenwald – Nonfiction

THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich – Fiction

LEXICON by Max Berry – Fiction

I’m listening to Bryson on audio (I love him as a narrator), so I’ve already gotten a good start on this one. Happy reading in 2015.

Guest Article

Trust: The Foundation for The Editor/Agent Relationship

Karen Dionne

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 Conference.

One of my favorite panels regularly offered at my Backspace Writers Conferences was one in which I invited an agent I respected to bring in an editor they’d worked with to discuss the process of selling and bringing out a book. Sometimes called “Agents and Editors, Working Together,” sometimes “The Business of Selling the Book,” these discussions were far more interesting than their titles. I loved how they pulled back the curtain on an aspect of the publishing business that authors generally don’t get to see: the relationship between agents and editors.

The conversations were always casual, engaging, and honest. It was easy to see that the agent and editor respected each other and enjoyed working together—even though they acknowledged their jobs often put them on opposite sides of the fence.

I thought about these panel discussions after I read Kristin’s article about how a good agent needs to command authority naturally. In one discussion, the editor lamented how hard it was to know if the agent pitching a manuscript was telling the truth.

Agents lie to editors? I remember thinking. Apparently, some do. Editors know it, and it makes their jobs harder. As an example, the editor said an agent might tell her they have “interest” in a manuscript. Normally this means another editor wants to acquire the book. But “interest” could mean as little as the agent and editor had waved to each other in the hallway. The editor was exaggerating for effect, but the truth beneath her comment was clear.

“I will never, ever lie to an editor,” the agent broke in. “I’m a salesperson, so naturally I’m going to portray the book in the best possible light. But I will never say anything that’s factually untrue.”

“I know that,” the editor replied. “And I trust you. Personal relationships are super important to figuring out what’s actually going on [in negotiations].”

Or as Kristin puts it: “For an agent to command authority naturally means that an editor has immediate respect for the agent. They view the agent as powerful, well informed, fair, yet tough.”

Kristin also says: “Agents who command authority naturally get their projects read more quickly.”

In the same panel discussion, the agent told the audience that if he thinks a book will generate interest from multiple publishers, he likes to send the book to editors on a Thursday. Why Thursday? So the editors can read the manuscript that night, get their colleagues on board the next day so they in turn can read the book over the weekend, and the following week the agent can hopefully set up an auction.

“We hate when agents do that!” the editor said. Dropping everything she had planned and reading is the last thing she wants to do at the end of a busy week. But because she respects the agent, she trusts that when he says the manuscript is hot, it really is, and he’s not lying in order to get the project read quickly. So she reads the manuscript right away.

“Agents who command authority naturally are just better at the job of agenting,” Kristin says.

At another of my Backspace conferences, when I met the editor the agent brought in for this panel and told her who my agent was, she said, “You have a good agent. He’s tough.”

I found out later that my agent and this editor are friends. Yet their friendship doesn’t preclude my agent being a tough negotiator when the situation calls for it. More important, this editor respects my agent because he is.

Karen Dionne is represented by Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management. This panel discussion along with the full Backspace Writers Conference video archives are available exclusively to Backspace subscribers and online conference registrants. 

New Releases

Under a Painted Sky

by Stacey Lee

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician–not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town
for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush.

Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to
their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are notmany places to hide on the open trail.

Buy It Here:

       

Prudence: The Custard Protocol Book One

by Gail Carriger

Introducing the Custard Protocol series, in which Alexia Maccon’s daughter Prudence travels to India on behalf of Queen, country…and the perfect pot of tea.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Buy It Here:

       
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