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In preparing for death we buy life insurance, longterm care insurance, we make wills and some even choose burial clothes or write out funeral wishes. Sadly, I've yet to experience a situation where an author makes similar arrangements for their literary works. And I've had a number of clients who have passed away.
I am not a legal expert so my first bit of advice is to talk to a lawyer about how best to handle your literary works after your death. When you do however I think there are some things you need to think about.
How will future earnings be distributed? Will they go to one person or set up in a trust?
Who will make decisions regarding the rights to the work? Just because a book is published doesn't mean decisions regarding its rights are finished. There are times when the publisher will ask for revisions (and in this case want to hire someone to do revisions), they might want to change or update the cover or, if its a series, continue the series. Who will be your go-to person for these decisions?
What will happen to other works? Will you allow "found" manuscripts to be published? What if you are in the middle of a contract? Are you okay if the family opts to hire an outsider to see the contract through?
Once you've established the legal portion concerning your books, don't overlook the day-to-day business of your publishing career. My suggestion is put together a file and let everyone in your family know where it is and what it's labeled. Maybe label it with the name of your children, spouse, niece or nephew so they won't need to remember what it's called, but it will easily stand out to them when they're searching for it.
In this file you should include a list of all your publications, earned or unearned. I've had situations where a book never earned out, until it did, at that point sending checks became difficult since no one kept me updated with contact information.
Include who handles the statements or sends checks for those books. If they are self-pubbed you'll need to include detailed information for each account from which you receive money. I would suggest including all passwords and how payments and statements are distributed.
If you have an agent you'll need to include the agent's name and her contact information so the family can get in touch about statements and earnings.
I don't think preparing to make your family's life easier is that difficult, but I do suggest it be done. Until I hear from next of kin and am given strict instructions on how to move forward I will continue to send checks in the name of the author. I'm unsure how long that's going to work for the family or how it will play out during tax time.
There's a new query trend out there, one that isn't helping authors at all, but is driving me crazy.
Here is how the query goes:
Dear Ms. Faust, After seeing on #MSWL that you've been looking for books set in Alaska I knew I had to query you. My book is called Alaskan Cool Guy. The book is about a guy who finds himself alone in the Alaskan Bush after a freak snowstorm downs his plane. Everyone dies. It's truly horrific. Now he must get out all by himself, with only a scissors and an old seat cover as a jacket. ****please note I made up this horrible blurb on purpose --jhf
I have included a brief synopsis and bio below. I hope you like it enough to ask for more. Many thanks,Jessica Author Brief Synopsis: When Frank Franklin's plane crashes in the Alaskan Bush in the middle of Winter, this self-described Whiz Kid finds himself in a situation he never imagined. Lost in a country few could survive with only the remnants of a broken plane for tools, Frank sets out to face what the wild throws at him. At first he's fighting only Mother Nature, but after finding the dead body of what looks like a hunter, Frank starts to wonder if the Grizzlies aren't the least of his concerns. Finally he makes it to safety, changed for the better.
Jessica Author has been writing since she was 12. It's been a dream of hers to be published. Born in Alaska, she has a strong desire to bring this beautiful country to life for readers.
Jessica FaustAddressPhone Email
Okay, here's the problem, besides the fact that your synopsis isn't very good, it's buried. Why would you include the blurb for your book after your letter? I'm already done reading. It's like sending a cover letter and saying, "P.S. Here are the skills that make me best suited for the job"
Query letters should look something like this:
Opening introductory paragraph
That's it. Don't over complicate it.
I've done a ton of blog posts on how to write a proper query letter. Query Shark
is an excellent source of information. Use them.
I've been remiss in doing critiques. Primarily because, well, they aren't that much fun for me. That being said, I've noticed a definite need for them in my inbox and have been asked by a few of you if I'll continue them. I'm continuing them.
Watch for more critiques throughout the rest of summer. I'll be going through those in my inbox. Keep in mind, if you've submitted in a genre I'm not necessarily comfortable with I will probably skip over your query (unless I can convince some of the other BookEnds gals to take it on).
When coaching my assistants and other agents on how to approach editors I've always been very particular about word choice. The word "just" has been a pet peeve of mine for a number of years. It's a word I've consciously worked to remove from my vocabulary and a word I've encouraged my team to drop.
Imagine my surprise when I came across this article
written about Ellen Petry Leanse and her distaste for the word "just".
I agree with everything she says. Using "just" takes away our power. We're no longer marching into someone's office to tell them we've got something they have to read. We're now slinking in to ask meekly if they think it's worth reading and, frankly, giving them permission to reject it rather than telling them they'd be making a mistake by not reading it.
We are word people, it's our job to embrace the power a single word might have and use it to our advantage. Take a look at some examples of publishing correspondence with or without the word "just." You tell me which is stronger.
I'd like to ask if you have just a few minutes to discuss my very important concerns regarding these edits.
I'd like set up some time to discuss my very important concerns regarding these edits.
I am writing to tell you about the terrific new thriller I've written.
I am just writing to tell you about the terrific new thriller I've written.
I'm following up on the submission I sent back in January.
I'm just following up on the submission I sent in January.
Take a look at your query, at all the professional correspondence you have written. Let's work together to eliminate just
from our professional vocabulary.
I've done posts on this subject before and I will likely do it again, but some things have come up lately that make me think it's time for a refresher course.
That and Sally MacKenzie suggested I write this. Sally knows.
Congratulations! You just got the call. All of your hard work, all of the rewrites, the query rewrites and the angst have paid off. An agent (or possibly an editor) wants to work with you. This is a big deal, a big step in your professional career, so let me give some tips on how you should handle this in a way that helps make it a successful step in your career.
1. If at all possible, be prepared. Hopefully you're not reading this post after the offer came in, but instead you're reading it as a way to prepare and make a plan for when the offer does come in. I'm a planner so I like having plans. They don't have to be rock solid, but when something this important happens to me I like to have some idea of what I'm going to be doing and how I'm going to be handling it.
2. Spend some time talking to the agent making the offer. Don't expect this to happen in the first phone call, you're going to be way too freaked out, but plan to have a second phone call. In other words, thank the agent, listen to what she has to say and ask her if you can set up another time to talk when you're thinking more clearly. And yes, its absolutely acceptable to let the agent know that you're overwhelmed with excitement. In fact, I often tell authors to get off the phone, tell friends and family, and let's set up time to talk the next day when she's more prepared with questions and can absorb the answers.
3. Ask questions. This goes back to #1. There are a lot of places online where you can find lists of questions to ask an agent before signing. There is even a list on this blog (one I should probably update). In all likelihood, if you've done your research before submitting, you'll know the answers to a lot of these questions. The more important questions are those that relate directly to you and your career. Some of this will mean knowing what you want out of an agent or what you expect from an agent. Are you looking for someone who edits, who gives marketing guidance, who talks on the phone a lot or prefers email communication? Thinking about what you want in an agent will help you find the questions you need answered. Also knowing what you want from your career (hybrid, traditional, ebook, hardcover, paperback, which houses, etc) will help you formulate questions.
3. Give a time frame. Assuming you have queries and partials or fulls out with other agents you will need to give that first agent a timeframe for when you'll get back to her. I usually think 7-10 days is more than enough time. Anyone who can't respond in that timeframe isn't enthusiastic enough to want to work with you and, let's face it, you want to get your career started so waiting weeks and weeks isn't advantageous to you. So tell the first agent that you do have other agents considering your work, but will get back to her in the timeframe you've established. One little thing here. I would suggest, if you have the opportunity, to always, always, always use this time to get as many agents interested as possible. The agent offering might have been the top of your list, but that's usually not based on actually meeting and talking to the agent. Talking to other agents will give you some level of comparison to know if, yes, this agent is still the top of my list.
4. Contact all the other agents who have your work. There might be some on that list you definitely want to talk to, there might be some you queried, but already know you aren't interested in any longer (this first agent would beat them hands down). That's fine. Knowing that is great. Either way contact them all. For those agents you'd still love to work with, email (or call) to let them know you have an offer and give them a date by which you need to hear. If you've given the first agent 10 days, you might want to give these agents 7 so you have time to deal with any more offers that come in. If there are agents on that list who you just know you aren't that interested in, let them know that you received an offer and you're pulling your material from consideration. That way they won't read the submission unnecessarily and you've given up your time slot (time the agent spends reading submissions) to another author. If there are agents who you've only queried, but still desperately have on your "A" list, email them. A lot of times agents get behind in queries so giving them a chance to request and read the material only works to your advantage.
5. Wait for the offers to come in, spend some time talking to the agents and enjoy the ride. This is your time as an author, your time to make some smart decisions, enjoy the competition for your time, and find a business partner who is truly best suited for you. Go with your gut. Assuming the agent is reputable and experienced then it doesn't matter who else is with the agent or what your friends think. All that matters is that over the course of a phone call this agent feels like she's the right fit for you and your work. No one else's.
There's a kid chant, "first is the worst, second is the best, third is the one with the treasure chest." While obviously first is not likely the worst, I do think this little chant is worth keeping in mind. The first agent will often get the edge just for being first (which makes perfect sense), but in the end the agent you choose, no matter the order she offered, will be the one who is the best fit for you and your work. Her vision for your work, communication style and a general feeling of connection will be what determines who is best for you, no matter the order she came in.
I received this question from a reader. I can't thank you enough for that. I'm clearly running out of ideas and need all the help I can get. That being said, you didn't exactly send me an easy question to answer. ;)
I was wondering if you'd do a post regarding author branding? Specifically, how an author should brand his/herself. How an agent can help this process. And the importance of creating a brand.
Kudos on thinking about this and what it means for your career. Branding is important. Think about some of our most famous brands. In almost any decision, Coke, Rolex and Harlequin make they consider their brand. Sometimes a brand changes or brands shift, but everything you do from your website to your social media, your book covers, the next book you write, and even your presentation at a writers conference should reflect your brand.
When we think of branding let's look at publishers as our guide. Every publisher has an overarching brand--Grand Central for example. Under that brand Grand Central has found a way to distinguish the various things they do. Forever is the line that focuses on romance, Grand Central Life & Style focuses on, well, life and
style books (nonfiction), and Twelve
their specialty imprint (for lack of a better term).
As Jessica Author you need to determine what your brand or brands are. If you want to write in multiple genres then the
best thing to do is create your own "imprints" which would be brands under one brand umbrella. Maybe Jessica Author is where you start so that's also your thrillers, but Jessica Writer is where you want to start your historical romance career. In some cases the areas might crossover so you might be able to stick to one brand (thrillers and romantic suspense or YA thrillers for example). If they don't cross over you might have to start an "imprint."
No matter what you do your brand needs to become so representative of what you write that when someone says Jessica Author people know exactly what you write. Think Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or Sarah Dessen. Authors often get frustrated with agents and publishers who encourage them to write in one genre. But this is why. If you want a brand, you need to stick with something to build it with. Later, once you have that brand name, you can expand and build, maybe add Dassani water to your list ;)
As for how to brand yourself, well there are no easy answers to that and it would depend on what you're writing. How do you want to brand yourself? Would you like to be the author who dispenses writing advice or legal advice? Maybe the one who makes great pies. Whatever you do, make sure it ties in to what you're writing and the person you are. And everything you do should match the tone of your books. Design a website that matches the cover of your books (use the same font even) and use a social media picture that constantly sells your brand (book covers probably).
This is where your agent can help. Together you can talk about the website and social media, your bookmarks, ideas for marketing and new and different ideas for building a brand.
Just like writing a book, there are no tried and true guarantees to what works and what doesn't when it comes to brand building. However, thinking about it is the first step to success.
Note: I did not credit the reader for the question. I wasn't sure if you wanted your name public. If you'd like the credit leave your name and a link to your website (if you have one) in the comments and I'll add it to the post.
Ooh, my first interview. I feel important. I’m coming for you, Oprah.
What's your name? Where do you go to school? CUNY- College of Staten Island What kind of books do you most like to read? I’m a big YA reader. I love pretty much all subgenres, from Fantasy to Contemporary. I’ll also take this time to tell you that Harry Potter has been proven to be the best book series on the face of the Earth. Proven by me. Just now. I also love a good Psychological Thriller. If you can keep me confused for 200 pages and then reveal a killer in the last 50, I’m down. What's the last book you read (not including a submission)? So, I’m always juggling reading. The last book I’ve completed was THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu. I’m still on LEGACY OF KINGS by Eleanor Herman, and loving it immensely. What interests you about a career in publishing (assuming you'd like a career in publishing)? It took me a lot of sitting and wondering to figure out what I finally wanted to do, and I didn’t even figure it out when I was sitting and wondering. When I finally discovered that there were people behind the books besides the author, I was immediately hooked. I’ve tried my hand at writing a thing or two (and those of you who can do it have been touched by an angel), but to no avail. I began to immerse myself in the publishing industry and researching the logo on the spine of every book. I’m just interested in all that I haven’t read. I want to see the behind the scenes of the things I love most and discover everything I haven’t already. What lead you to BookEnds? Long story or short story? Short story- I realized no one would hire a college grad without some experience, and did my research into agencies I would like to be a part of.
Long story- I was born on a snowy night in late Decem— I’m kidding. After reading the acknowledgments in Divergent and discovering my career goals, I researched all positions in the industry. I came to the logical plan of applying to internships in the agenting world first, before applying to a House for an internship. I can’t decide where I would rather be. I’ve applied to many agencies before coming across Jessica Faust on twitter. I’ve read every word on the BookEnds website, including the internship post and what made me apply was how nice the posting was. Seriously, go look- so nice. So I applied, and I had a good feeling after polishing my cover letter to as best as I could. The excitement was real when I got an email back.
What has surprised you most about your internship at BookEnds? Truthfully, I am endlessly surprised by the amount of knowledge that the BookEnds ladies hold in their brains. I am constantly learning new things. I always try to contribute at meetings, but at many of them I just to sit back and watch. Seriously, my head bobbles back and forth from agent to agent. The way they talk about market trends, submissions, contracts, royalties, everything from legal to industry news… it amazes me. I understand an internship is a learning opportunity, but I never, in a million years, would have expected to learn as much as I have. What have you enjoyed the most at BookEnds? 1. My weekly run-ins with Buford the BookEnds Mascot-Dog. Quite the character. 2. Just being in the office and listening. The one-on-one conversations that I’m able to have with any of the agents, about any topic are truly enjoyable. They’ve allowed me to come into my own more in the publishing world, and I could talk, or sit and listen for hours. What do you think authors or other prospective interns might like to know about the BookEnds team? I think authors and fellow students/interns to be need to know that this is the agency that should be at the top of your list. Everyone here loves their job, clients, and work. Authors- These agents are some of the most helpful, knowledgeable and creative people that I’ve had the pleasure of working for. Interns- You’ll never feel uncomfortable in the office. Everyone is down to earth and personable. You’re constantly learning, and if you’re going to spend time interning, at least make sure you are getting the most out of it. I’m also going to take this time to publicly thank every agent for everything they’ve taught or done for me. I appreciate all the guidance and working opportunities you’ve given me. I’m proud and grateful to have begun my publishing career at BookEnds. After nearly completing your internship, what are your thoughts on being an agent or working in publishing in general? After almost finishing (sadly) my internship at BookEnds, I have many thoughts about the field. For instance, Agenting is the most freedom any human could ever have in a professional position. It’s fun and creative and ever changing. You abide by your rules and only take on projects you love. As far as the industry, in general, I’m happy that I’ve found something I love and am passionate about, and that it is within my arm’s reach. Hey, if you’ve made it this far into the post without checking Twitter or Facebook, Thank you for reading! And what’s a self-respecting Tweeter without some self-promotion? Follow me here!
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For those who aren't a member of the romance community, RWA is the Romance Writers of America national convention. Each year it's in a new location and brings in close to 2000 writers, editors, agents and other industry pros. There are workshops, signings, appointments, cocktail parties and meet n' greets. The entire week wraps up with a giant awards ceremony.
Just typing that exhausted me.
This year RWA convenes in NYC and while that makes it more fun for the writers, it makes for more work for the rest of us. My week started on Monday and I have appointments and meetings through Saturday. It's exhausting, it's exhilarating and it's definitely productive. Like with any professional conference (Malice, Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, etc) I'll be leaving with a long to-do list.
All of BookEnds (including our intern James) will be traveling the halls of the Marriott. We'll be taking meetings, taking notes and posting a lot of what we're learning on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. So keep an eye out to learn not just what's hot in romance, but what's hot in all of publishing.
If you see any of us, make sure to take a moment to say hi. If we have a spare moment we'd love the chance to pull up a stool and talk.
Everywhere I turn people are talking about Go Tell a Watchman. And I don't blame them. This is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in publishing since Harry Potter. But unlike Harry Potter, I'm not sure I'm going to read this one.
To read this book I'd have to read To Kill a Mockingbird first. I've read it, and I've seen the movie, I believe as an assignment sometime back in my teen years. I have incredibly fond memories of the characters. They live on in my head in the same way an old friend lives on. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember them with a fondness that I hope never to lose.
It's because of those memories that I might never read Go Tell a Watchman. I've been saddened by the controversy surrounding the book and even further saddened by some of the reviews I've read. Everyone is entitled to an opinion of course and I think many will find they need to read the book to see what people are talking about and, possibly, prove reviewers wrong. For me though, I'd like to hide my head in the sand on this one and remember Scout as she was in my childhood.
Summer is here and so is summer reading. I actually have a stack of books sitting here by my side. All great potential beach reads. Some are new, books I've begged editors for, and some are older books that I've pulled from my shelves. I'm embarrassed to admit that some are galleys for books that were published a few years ago.
I was just updating my Goodreads account and realized I hadn't updated the blog in a few books.
At #BEA I picked up The Killing Kind by Chris Holm. I devoured this book. This is exactly the kind of book I love and would love to see. How can you go wrong with a hit man who targets hit men? The way the story plays out is really the true magic though, the twists are perfect and the end leaves you satisfied, but still desperate for the next in the series, which is really disappointing since this book doesn't even officially publish until September. Put it on your pre-order list.
Two great things happened to me at #CCWC. I had a terrific conference experience and I was given a copy of Charlaine Harris's Midnight Crossroad, the first book in her new Midnight Texas series. Charlaine has such a great style, one that's truly all her own and I love the mix of the paranormal with a true mystery. This was a fun read and one I know Jessica Alvarez has been chomping at the bit to get her hands on so I'll be passing it along to her.
Now to go through my stack and decide what's next.
I'm not sure what's going on out there or on what list my name has been placed, but the queries I've been receiving lately are absolutely horrible. I'm not talking about the books that are being queried, but the queries themselves.
For some reason no one wants to write a blurb, feeling instead that cutting and pasting a 2-5 page synopsis is a better idea. I'm getting details about the writer's path to writing (I don't care that you started at 13 or how old you are now). I'm even getting details of the person's family life.
Queries are really very simple. Just as simple as a cover letter. I need you title, your genre, your word count and I need a brief 2-3 paragraph blurb about your book. Essentially the back cover copy for your book.
If you can't put that together I am going to immediately figure that you couldn't write the book either or are too lazy to do the many rounds of revisions you'll likely need prior to publication.
The only thing these poor queries do are irritate me and make it easier for me to empty out my inbox.
The other day I read a submission that I thought was really strong and had great potential. However, given my already busy client list I didn't think I was going to be the best agent for the project. This book needed someone who could be truly passionate about it, who had a love for the genre and who had the time and desire to really work with the author on the project. Instead of just passing however, I passed it on to another agent at BookEnds. Someone who fit every one of the criteria I thought the book needed.
When I do something like this I often wonder what the author will think. Does the author later think less of the offer she receives because it isn't the agent she submitted to, although it is the agency? or Does the author think this is a great opportunity because her project definitely landed in the right hands?
As we see when we receive responses to rejections, every author is different. Some will be offended that the agent they first submitted to didn't want it in the first place and others will be elated that the agency as a whole felt so strongly about the book.
Like everyone else, an agent only has a finite number of hours in the day and can only represent so many clients and give them the attention she feels they deserve. When reviewing submissions, we at BookEnds are reviewing for ourselves first and the agency second. We all work very closely together and that doesn't just mean bouncing ideas off each other, it means working hard to get as many great books published as we can, and helping each other build a strong career as an agent.
When we pass a project on to another agent within BookEnds it doesn't mean we didn't think it was great and are tossing our trash onto someone else's pile. In fact, it's the complete opposite, we think the book has some real potential and were excited about its possibilities, but feel it needs to be with the right agent, not any agent.
I'm going to pre-empt some questions here and say that we don't always pass everything on so if you feel there are two agents at BookEnds who might be right for your book feel free to query them both. Never at the same time, but if the first passes there's no reason you can't try the second. Just don't tell anyone else I said that. ;)
Summer is killer for me. It feels like I'm constantly running around trying to get things done, but never actually able to get things done. Vacations and the general "slow-down of summer" can be partially to blame for this. Naturally a lot of people vacation in the summer and because of that it always seems like it takes days instead of just a day or two to get the answers you want.
In addition to summer vacations however, there are summer conferences. RWA and Thrillerfest are the two biggies that I'll be attending. I'm excited to go to both and will have a lot to celebrate at both, but there's also no doubt that they're exhausting and time consuming.
The weirdest part of all of this is that because of all the running around I'll be doing this summer I'll be less likely to get to submissions in a timely manner however because of all the running around I'll also be getting a lot more submissions.
If it weren't for a recent Kindle glitch, I'd be reading more submissions, but that's not helping things either.
So, I'm caught up on all queries through the end of June. I'm caught up on all requested submissions through (gulp) the end of March. If you sent something that should have been answered by now please feel free to resend. If you sent material or a query in the time periods that I have not yet gotten to I thank you for your patience.
It's July and that means pitches. Lots and lots of pitches.
This month I'll be attending both Thrillerfest
and I'll be taking appointed pitches at both as well as, I hope and assume, I'll be meeting authors throughout the conference who might want to pitch their work.
There are a ton of great places to find tips on pitching, including this blog, instead I'm just going to talk generally about pitch appointments.
First things first, I think there is far too much emphasis placed on the pitch. I've been told by conference organizers that I have to take five hours (8 hours sometimes) of pitches because that's all the authors want. If that's really the case that's a shame, but I don't believe it's true. I think pitch appointments make it easy for conference organizers to fill time and not have to juggle workshop schedules for agents and editors.
Pitch appointments will not get you published. They are no different from a query letter except they are in person and will probably stress you out a whole lot more. In fact, most standard pitch appointments won't do you any good at all unless you take control of the pitch.
Of course every agent feels differently about how those 10 minutes (3 minutes sometimes) should be used, but since this is my blog I'm going to tell you how I think it should be used.
I think pitches are an opportunity for you to get to meet agents personally and see if they might be the right person for your book. I know I've told this story before, but one of my best pitch appointments was with author Shelley Coriell
. Shelley sat down not to pitch her book, but to meet me. She told me this right away. She explained her goals for her career, talked briefly about her book and handed me a recipe for one of her favorite desserts (Blackberry Cobbler). She told me that since her book wasn't ready she would simply query me when the time came. In the 10 minutes we had Shelley made herself memorable. We chatted about a few things, her career, publishing in general and my philosophy as an agent (she did ask me questions as well as told me about herself). There was no point in Shelley pitching because she knew she could query me when the time was right.
All that being said, let's find a way to make pitches more enjoyable for both of us.
Relax. Don't think of me as the interviewer, think of yourself as the interviewer.
Have your pitch ready, but don't think of it as the only thing you're going to do. Also come prepared with some questions. Ask about me, the agency, publishing, or ask me my opinion on something that came up in an earlier panel or a discussion with other agents.
Listen. I will listen to your pitch and then I'm going to critique it. If I'm not asking for material I'm going to ask you questions that address my concerns. It could be that the hook feels slight or the plot feels overly complicated. Don't try to argue with me about why I'm wrong or how that's in there. If you need to take the full 10 minutes to explain your story there's a problem with your story. Even if I am asking for material I might ask some questions. Don't just defend your book, think of my questions as something you can use to hone your pitch and your query.
Enjoy. Conferences are a great way to feel energized about what you're doing. Pat yourself on the back for going to a pitch appointment in the first place. It's not easy and it's one more step toward publication.
With the restructuring at Berkley/NAL I've had a lot of great talks with clients about their careers and publishing careers in general. Unfortunately, in this case, we were forced to have these conversations because with any merger/restructuring, authors are going to feel the impact, good and bad.
When new people are in charge (of anything) things will change and in publishing that usually means the publisher will take a closer look at what's working and what's not and some authors will feel the fallout.
It is always difficult for an author to face the fact that something isn't working or is no longer working. There's nothing worse then putting everything you've got into a book series only to learn that your contract won't be renewed (that you won't be offered to write more books in the series). For every author during a time like this there's always a feeling of loss. I mean face it, I'm not sure there's any author who feels good about not finishing the story.
Sometimes though, that non-renewal might in fact be the smartest business decision anyone ever made for you.
For so many years writers spend all of their time focusing efforts on being published. An incredible goal to have. However, once you are published your goals need to change. No longer is your goal to be published, and it should always be bigger than just staying published. Your goal is now to build a career and continuing to write books that are reaching fewer and fewer readers with each book does not a career make.
In fact, there have been times when I've talked to my clients about ending a series even if the publisher is offering on more. If we can see the writing on the royalty reports and we know numbers are going down why would we want to continue on that road? It's certainly not building anything.
So instead of seeing a non-renewal as a personal insult or as a publisher who doesn't like the kind of thing you write, look at it for what it is, an opportunity to make some career shifts, something every business has to do from time to time. After all, Coca-Cola hasn't had the success it's had by only putting out a cola. When consumers wanted lemon lime they created Sprite and when water became trendy they added Dasani.
While every business owner will mourn the loss of books they love writing, no successful business owner closes the business. Instead she takes a close look at what the market is begging for or wants and checks her back pocket for which ideas fit those needs.
I think you're going to see a lot of blog posts based on the restructuring of Berkley/NAL. It's when something like this happens that I find myself with a whole slew of new ideas. Usually based on conversations we're having in the office or with clients.
One of these conversations involves the midlist. For those who don't know, the midlist is defined as those books that fall in the middle of a publisher's list. They aren't the top sellers (not always bestsellers, but those books that sell the most) and they aren't at the bottom, those books with sales so low that they just aren't salvageable. You know, books that only sell 2,000 copies. Ever.
Midlist books are those books that are selling moderately well, have solid sales, but just aren't pushing to top selling status. They could be mysteries, romance, nonfiction, paperback, hardcover. They could be anything because it's not about the genre, but about sales.
One of the things the Berkley/NAL conversation has brought up is the death of the midlist. The same death I've been morning since my first day in publishing. I mean, I've been around long enough now that I think I can say that's a freakishly long mourning period.
Here's the truth as I see it where the midlist is concerned. Authors who languish in the midlist are not going to be given contract after contract just to remain midlist authors. That's not what the midlist is about (at least not these days). The midlist is a place for publishers to grow authors from. Its where great books go to grow. A publisher will always have a midlist of some sort because a publisher will always be buying new books from new authors and somewhere along the way someone is going to have numbers that aren't top selling numbers, but aren't at the bottom either. When those authors come along the publisher is going to look at those numbers to see which direction they are going and what can be done to boost that author, those books and those numbers into the top selling range.
When rumors abound that a publisher is cutting the midlist it isn't mean that a publisher is taking out one kind of book over another, it means the publisher is making room for more. Have I ever told you that I'm an eternal optimist?
Books that languish in the midlist, that are selling a little less with every new book (in a series for example) aren't making money for a publisher and aren't growing an author's career. And that is always the goal, whenever an agent takes on a new client, whenever a publisher buys a new book and whenever an author sits down to write the goal is, and should always be, to grow that author's career. Not to languish in any list.
We are off for the weekend celebrating Independence Day and hopefully taking some time for relaxing reading. I'll be finishing up Charlaine Harris's Midnight Crossroad and considering what I should read next.
Have a safe and happy holiday!
Recently I received a query in which the author seemed embarrassed about the genre she was writing in. Sadly, I see this a lot and not just from querying authors, but from published authors as well. It's discouraging and disheartening.
See, I love the books I represent and I love the authors I represent. I'm proud of each one and excited to introduce them to new readers. Most importantly, I respect every author of every genre, even those I don't represent.
Sitting down to write a book in any genre, of any length is no easy task. I couldn't do it and I know many in publishing who feel the same way. It's why we aren't writers. So don't let someone else tell you that what you're writing isn't a "real book" or isn't important. It is. And if you can't be proud of your book how are you going to convince other people it's something they want to buy and read? Learn to love what you're writing now and it will show later when you're trying to build your brand.
We’re oh-so-excited for the cover reveal of Andrew Brumbach‘s spectacular debut middle grade adventure novel, THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT (Delacorte, 2016). Hop on over to the good folks at Middle Grade Minded for the big reveal and an interview with Andrew.
By: BookEnds, A Literary Agency,
Blog: BookEnds, LLC - A Literary Agency
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I've been known to tell writers that they don't have to involve themselves in social networking if they don't want to. It's a statement that makes agents cringe, editors blanche and writers cheer.
I've always been fairly active on Twitter. I Tweet in fits and starts as the mood takes me and Beth does a terrific job managing the BookEnds Facebook page. Recently though BookEnds has signed up on Instagram and I'm absolutely loving it. I love taking pictures and I think it might be the perfect place for someone who wants to be involved in social media, but doesn't want to do a whole ton of work. In other words, with Instagram you can post and go if you want.
As Jessica A said, it was a great time to launch our Instagram account. We had BEA and I traveled to California for a conference. I saw a lot of terrific Instragramable things and I posted them, all the other BookEnds agents have done the same. Instagram is fun for me. It allows me to explore another venue of creativity and its quick. A great photo and a few tags can be done in about five minutes. A lot quicker than a blog post.
I don't think any body or any author needs to have their hand in every bit of social media. There's just too much. If anything, find the one that best feeds your soul. What do you need as well as what can you give? Instagram gives me a fun break from words and allows me to paint pretty pictures in a different way.
Last week I posted this Tweet:
If you haven't read the article you absolutely must. It's the creepiest thing I've heard in a long time. Since reading it I've thought and thought about what kind of book I'd like to see and then I thought about all of the different types of books that someone could create from this crazy story.
Which is why I think writers sometimes worry a little too much about protecting an idea. The idea in this case is a book based on this particular true story, but what any one writer does with that idea will likely be completely different from what another writer will create.
A YA author might create a story about a young girl who moves with her family into the house and is either possessed by a demon or lives in terror of what is in the walls. Maybe she has supernatural powers, maybe she doesn't.
A suspense or mystery author might create the story of a killer who used live in the house and buried bodies in the walls, or a killer who killed as a child and is now trying to get back in the house because he needs to be there to start killing again.
A romance writer might write the story of a woman who inherits the house and moves in only to be terrorized by these letters, stalked even, when the hero comes to investigate and saves the day, and they fall in love.
A SFF writer could write the story of an alien abduction that happened in or around the house...
Or, even if all of the writers who take my idea and run with it write in the same genre, the possibilities are endless. What's really going to be important isn't the idea (although that's a terrific first step), but the execution. How the idea or the story plays out, who the characters are and the author's voice.
I love the beach. The sound of waves crashing, the smell of salt air, the warm sun on my sunscreen-lathered skin. It’s all perfect for reading, except I really hate getting sand in my books. Luckily, my father’s beach house has plenty of comfy seating with a great view of the ocean. I’m fortunate that I’ll be able to spend plenty of time there this summer with a book in one hand and an umbrella drink in the other.
It's no longer news that there have been some dramatic changes at Berkley/NAL, changes that aren't necessarily a complete surprise, but still difficult for everyone involved.
I knew this was something I needed to, and wanted to, address on the blog, but after several starts and restarts I realized I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.
When Random House and Penguin announced the merger in 2013 everyone in publishing knew that change would be coming. At the beginning of 2015 we started to see the first effects of those changes. Appointments were made announcing new names in new positions, contract renewals were slow to come and imprints were consolidated. While I'm not sure any of us foresaw what exactly would happen, it's hard not to look at these changes and see why it did happen. In many cases there was just too much overlap between the many imprints of the new Penguin Random House.
It's been a tough week for a lot of people, including the BookEnds team. We've been in business for over 15 years and we've worked with editors over at Berkley/NAL for 15 years. These are long-standing, trusted relationships. I'm not going to lie, when I hung up the phone with an editor who lost her job I cried. She's good at what she does and a victim of restructuring. I'm going to miss discussing everything from cover copy, to contract negotiations, to cover art, to an author's next idea with her.
While agents and editors are often seen as working on opposing sides, the truth is we work more closely than many realize. I think sometimes even more closely than we realize. Together we are part of an author's team and together we work to try to make each decision in the author's best interest. That means long discussions about the cover art, the cover copy and even the direction an author is taking with her next book or her career. An author's success means success for all of us. Seeing an editor leave, for any reason, is losing a trusted member of my team.
Well if I'm upset, you can imagine the state of many Berkley/NAL authors. The question in almost every author's mind is what's next. What can an author expect during a time of upheaval with their publisher and what should an author do? Of course each author's experience is different. For some everything is status quo and nothing should change. For most, unfortunately, change is inevitable. Even those who are lucky enough to retain the same editor, change is happening within the publisher and that will have an impact on everyone. This could be because of the change in the art department, the copy department or even buying decisions. I'm not saying it's all bad, I'm just saying there will be change.
The first thing to remember is that we can't control the actions of others. The only person you can control is yourself. Panicking isn't going to help, but coming up with a plan might.
Once you've taken a few deep breaths here are some suggestions:
1. Penguin Random House just introduced this wonderful Author Portal where you can see sales, royalty reports and get hints and tips to how to build your brand as an author. Spend some time there and really look things over. Take notes if you need to. Get some perspective on what more you might be able to do to build sales and, most importantly, get perspective on how your brand is doing. A good CEO always has an idea of how well the company is doing at any given moment. As the CEO of your brand you should do the same. Check out your book sales. Are they going up? Going down? Do they seem to be holding strong?
2. Talk with your agent. Once you have an idea of what your numbers look like, give your agent a call to discuss them with her. What concerns do you have and are they valid? Should you continue on the same path or is coming up with something new a good idea? Knowing how to proceed is always smart, plus, as one author once said to me, "it's always good to have something in your back pocket."
3. Ignore the gossip. I can only imagine what the writing loops and discussion boards look like right now. In fact, I think I'd prefer not to imagine it. Watch out for the doom and gloomers, the Chicken Littles with the falling skies. This sucks. It sucks for a lot of people, but as in any good Dystopian YA, those who are prepared to fight and accept change will win. Those who want to sit in a hole and refuse to accept change, will die (probably in some horribly gruesome death). If you are concerned about some of what you're hearing please call your agent. Many times she has an insider's perspective that can be very helpful.
4. And here is the same advice I give in any situation. Keep writing and make your next book even better than the last.
Change is always a frightening thing and it's not going to be an easy road for some people, but those who are willing to pull up their boots and keep walking (love that song) will always see the light at the other side.
I’m so thrilled to wish Jessixa Bagley a very happy pub day for her debut book, BOATS FOR PAPA. I met Jessixa at SCBWI NY in 2013; that was the first conference I attended with my agent hat on after nearly ten years on the other side of the desk at Simon & Schuster. Jessixa came to my session, politely introduced herself and struck up a conversation. She was a runner-up in the Illustrator Showcase and submitted a dummy called Drift to me after the conference. I opened it and was immediately drawn into the world of Buckley, a young beaver who creates increasingly intricate boats to send to his absent and much missed Papa. And she made me cry. Tears-streaming-down-my-face cry. I sold the book to the brilliant and wonderful Neal Porter. Neal, … [more]
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We are so very excited for today’s cover reveal! THE SWEETEST THING by Christina Mandelski is a fantastic contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and cake, and it’s soon to be re-released on Amazon with this gorgeous new package and some yummy bonus materials.
When it comes to cake, Sheridan Wells is a true artist. She’s happiest working in the back of her family’s bakery, dreaming of the day her mom will come home. But when her dad makes an announcement that threatens to change their lives, Sheridan launches a desperate plan to find her mother before it’s too late. Add to that a school art project that she can’t seem to start, a moody best friend and the fact that she may or may not have been asked out by the cutest boy in