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A VERY NICE LITERARY AGENT INDULGES IN POLITE RANTS ABOUT QUERIES, WRITERS, AND THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY.
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1. Pub Rants Has Moved!!

STATUS: You'll have to check out the new location to see how I'm feeling. *grin*

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  At the time I wrote that blog, it was ANNA SUN by Walk The Moon


I've been blogging since 2006.

That's 7 years!

I haven't made a change in all that time. Yes, sometimes I'm slow. Time to embrace something new.

I've just finished my first new entry at the new location and now I'm kind of wondering why I waited so long. Wordpress is kind of awesome.

All the posts you know and love have migrated over to the new home. We have more sidebar items to add (such as my Query workshop on the blog) but that's coming. And now that it's finally finally done, I'm going back to being a blogging maniac. Part of my problem in 2012 was knowing we were working on the new website and the new blog home etc. I really just wanted to start afresh. New blog look. Maybe even a new blog approach. It's 2013 by gosh.

So don't leave comments here on blogspot. Head over to the new site, check out my latest post and comment over there. I'd love to see feedback on the new Pub Rants. And I'm always game for blog topic ideas.

And don't give me the same old same old Qs. So much is happening in publishing and in the digital realm right now. Give me the questions you wish an agent was answering right now.

See you over at the new site soon!

Pub Rants new home: http://nelsonagency.com/pub-rants/

0 Comments on Pub Rants Has Moved!! as of 2/21/2013 10:37:00 PM
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2. Where Kristin Discusses The Importance Of Metadata

STATUS: Caught the crud on my way back from New York over the weekend. It's not helping with my catch-up efforts.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  EL SUENO DE LA HIJA DEL REY by Savina Yannatou

As many of you already know, I was in The Big Apple last week speaking at Digital Book World. After Mike Shatzkin's interview with me and Hugh Howey, I sat on a panel with my fellow agents Jane Dystel, Steve Axelrod, and Jay Mandel.

My question was this: "What should Publishers be learning from authors who are self-publishing?"

My answer was twofold:

1) Authors who are successfully self-pubbing release a lot of content and a variety of content regularly. For example, one of my authors publishes 2 novels a year but also publishes short content in between the major releases to keep the momentum going. Also, successful self-pubbers do a VARIETY of content. If one work is building (and therefore more appealing to the audience), then the author will set aside the other content and focus on what is building momentum. Because the author is in full control of the publishing, she can make that decision quickly and immediately act on it.

Publishers need to find a way to do the same.

2) Second, success is all about the metadata. Most editors input the metadata tags when the author contract is submitted and then don't think about it again. Well, that's not what successful self-pubbers are doing and that's not what we do at NLA digital either. We are constantly tweaking.

For those of you wondering what the heck is metadata, these are the descriptive tags included in product description and in a lot of cases, embedded in the content file itself of electronic books, that allow a novel to be searchable and discoverable on distribution venues such as Amazon, BN, and Kobo.

I tell a great story about what was unfolding, literally, the week of DBW.  And now I can share it with you. Some enterprising videographer filmed me while speaking (so thank you BookMarketingAME). The video starts a little shaky but evens out. Hear it for yourself.


And here is the visual I didn't include at DBW but can share with y'all via the power of my blog. *grin*

The author's editor is the true heroine of the story for being persistence with her internal team to get the metadata fixed.  Within 12 hours of it happening, voila! This title was not even showing up in the top 100 or even the top 250 in ranking in this category until the fix.



And yes folks, that's the importance of Metadata in a nutshell.

12 Comments on Where Kristin Discusses The Importance Of Metadata, last added: 1/28/2013
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3. What I've Said No To Lately

STATUS: It's 6:30. I can finally start on my actual To Do list for the day. Oi.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  BETTER WEATHER by Good Old War

Who says agents don't read in December right before closing? My colleague Sara offered rep to two new clients right as we were closing. She landed them too! It happens. I'm not sure I added those to the Stats. I need to update.

Not to mention, I miscounted my NYT bestsellers. Oi! I forgot the Manga SOULLESS edition which hit #1 no less. Smack forehead.

But if you are curious, I read 16 sample pages the week before we closed. That's a marathon for me.

And here's a general idea of why I passed on all those requested submits:

-- Really inventive retelling of a well-known fantasy storyline. I liked the writing but I didn't love where the story went so wasn't right for me.

-- Author had recommend from current client. Read. Enjoyed the sentiment of the story but wasn't won over so passed.

-- Author soon to be published by one of the Big 6 publishers and looking for new rep. Thought the writing was lovely but this particular story didn't engage me. I have a fairly full client list so I'm very conscious about who I would take on. I'd have to be in the place of "I'll die if I don't rep this."

-- a fellow agent who doesn't rep anything in the children's realm who sent this author my way. Obviously I'm going to read quickly. Story just wasn't for me. Def. a taste thing.

-- Another author previously repped but changing agents. Cool steampunk world but ultimately I couldn't connect with the characters.

-- Awesome fairy tale retelling/zombie story but alas, I thought it needed too big a revision.

-- Author I met a conference. Some lovely writing for a historical novel but ultimately, too literary. I needed to be more plot-driven so wasn't right for me.

-- Current NLA author sent this writer my way. I found a lot to like with the submission. Great world building but it was a romance and I just didn't feel the passion. Wouldn't surprise me if this author landed with some other agent.

-- Multicultural YA with an inventive premise. Fun but the setting didn't make a lot of sense to me.

-- Submission from a teen librarian and aspiring writer. Love that! This one was close but ultimately a no.

-- Another previously published author. Arthur legend type set up. Was burned in the past on this kind of concept so would have been a hard push for me. Better for the author to have someone fresh on the job.

-- MG fantasy. Crowded market. Well done but I didn't think I could champion.

-- So a previous work from this writer. I even remembered it. It was historical and a "new adult" work but I didn't think it was right for me despite this becoming a hot trend.

-- Multicultural dystopian with India as setting. Very cool! But having LEGEND by Marie Lu, I'm pretty careful on what I'll take on for dystopia. But I can see this author getting some interest.

13 Comments on What I've Said No To Lately, last added: 1/13/2013
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4. Agenting in 2013

STATUS: I spent 7 hours in the office yesterday revamping our text content for the new website. We are so so close to launching. I can't wait. The new site is awesome. The new blogging medium is going to be hot!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN by Frank Sinatra

Next week I head out to New York to speak at the 2013 Digital Book World (DBW) Conference. I'm rather honored to be sitting on a panel with the illustrious Jane Dystel (who  has repped a half a dozen successful self-publishing authors) and Steve Axelrod (who just recently did the first publicly announced print-rights only deal for his client Belle Andre).

I'm working on my talking points so I'll have something intelligent to say. In this company, I had better! Ms. Dystel represented President Obama for his first book for goodness sakes.

She also recently did an interview for DBW entitled AGENTS UNWILLING TO ADAPT WON'T LAST. Worth a read as I could see myself saying every answer she gives.

Agents who haven't already embraced assisting clients to make their books digitally available are behind. What started off as an added service to assist authors in finding their audience (as part of the evolving role of agents in this rapidly changing digital landscape) has fast morphed into being a necessary service to offer. As Ms. Dystel so aptly points out, it's now, more than ever, our job to help writers connect with audiences.

In whatever medium, form, channel, or type of deal necessary.

In one year, I'm astounded at how fast the gross revenues are growing for authors who opted to publish through NLA's digital platform. Even authors who are digitally publishing on their own use our digital platform for venues they can't have direct access to. Those venues don't have the advantage of being as big as Amazon (hands down the largest seller of ebooks) but even with these "smaller venues" revenues are growing from several hundred dollars a month to several thousands a month in just a few short months.

It's a bit crazy to watch.

Two authors of mine have comfortably quit their day jobs because of their digital publishing success. And who knows, maybe I'll be contracting print-only deals for them, like I did for Howey, in the not so distant future.

Agents -- if you haven't started, the time was yesterday to jump on this bandwagon as I'm fairly certain, it won't be going away.


DBW Panel: Straddling The Models: Authors Choosing to Both Self- and Traditionally Publish.

5 Comments on Agenting in 2013, last added: 1/13/2013
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5. 2012 Year End Stats!

STATUS: Off and running. Need to play catch up on everything that wasn't completed by Dec. 19 when I headed out for winter break. And I'm so close to finishing up the text for the new website so we can finally launch!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BITTERSWEET by Hoodoo Gurus

Happy New Year! I hope your 2013 is off to a raucous start!

I've got contract work aplenty. Sara has an offer on the table and signed somebody new literally as we were closing. The query inbox is crammed with 341 queries from folks who wanted to send in December but couldn't because we were closed to queries that month. 

33
books sold (slightly down from last year).

83
foreign rights deals done (up from 65 deals last year).

16
number of new clients (5 for Kristin and 9 for Sara). Updated to 11 for Sara --she signed two authors right as we were closing for the year!

32,000+ or some big number…
estimated number of queries read and responded to. Down from last year as we closed queries in the month of December.

81
full manuscripts requested and read (up from 69 last year).

1029
number of sample pages requested and read (up from 618 last year).

3
number of projects currently on submission

4
tv and major motion picture deals

2.5 million

number of copies in print for my bestselling series this year

1.2 million

number of copies in print for my bestselling title this year

300,000+

number of copies sold for my bestselling eBook-only title this year

23
number of conferences attended (8 for Kristin (including BEA and Bologna Book Fair), 1 for Angie, 8 for Anita, and 6 for Sara)

20  Forgot Manga edition of SOULLESS that hit #1! Smacks forehead. so it's not 19 but 20
number of career NLA New York Times Bestsellers (I actually sat down to count them up. I was surprised it was that many.)

1
number of books named to Publisher's Weekly list of top books of the year (that would be Sara's THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachman this year).

135
number of physical holiday cards sent

450
number of electronic holiday cards sent

Uh, 30?

number of eggnog chai consumed in the months of November and December. I'm embarrassed to say.

Lots
number of late nights reading on my living room chaise with Chutney

All
number of great days loving my job

17 Comments on 2012 Year End Stats!, last added: 1/13/2013
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6. On The Last Day Of December

STATUS: The usual. I slammed every day as we wind down to the agency closing on December 14, 2012.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR by Mikey Wax

On the last day of December, my true inbox sent to me:

12    Eggnog Chai's a-drinking
11    queries reading
10    royalty statement reviewing
9     checks depositing
8    Foreign deals a-doing
7    Payments a-processing
6     full manuscripts left a-reading
5     contracts done
4     calling clients
3     client fulls
2     pecan sandies

And a Party in the New Year!

A heads up if you aren't on our newsletter circulation or on FB, Nelson Literary Agency is now closed to queries for the holidays. We wanted to make sure we finished reading every query, every submitted sample page, and all the remaining full manuscripts in our queue.

To do that, we closed queries on Monday, December 3. Anything incoming will now get our auto-respond email.

But never fear, we'll be back in full form starting on January 2 2013. We'd be happy to read your query then.

7 Comments on On The Last Day Of December, last added: 1/3/2013
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7. What Are The Big YA Debut Break Outs in 2012?

STATUS: I need 5 more hours in any day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? COLORADO CHRISTMAS by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Yesterday Sara Megibow and I went to lunch - just the two of us - so we could sit down and process the year. Celebrate what was great. Commiserate on what wasn't. LOL

Of course the conversations came around to what we think is hot or trending. And honestly, I'm not sure I see any clear direction there but I can say in the adult realm it's definitely genre cross-over novels, literary thrillers, and big upmarket literary commercial novels that appeal to women readers and book clubs.

In YA, it's a  bit more murky. In fact, neither Sara or I could think of a single debut author that broke out in a really big way in 2012. (Marie Lu's LEGEND debuted fantastically but that published in November 2011 so I'm not counting it per se…). Maybe CINDER? That title looked to have done well (and pubbed in January '12). 

Certainly many already established YA authors did quite well in 2012 (Green, Condie, Roth, Dessen, Hopkins, Bray, Asher etc.) but I'm not sure I could name a 2012 debut. So I figured I would ask you folks! Sara and I might simply be having brain fatigue.

At this time of year, I always like to look back at the books on the 2012 BEA YA Buzz Panel. The titles were the following:

CREWEL by Gennifer Albin (Dystopian/speculative)
WHAT'S LEFT OF ME by Kat Zhang (Dystopian/speculative)
SKYLARK by Megan Spooner  (Dystopian/fantasy)
SKINNY by Donna Cooner (Contemporary YA)
COLIN FISHER by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (YA contemporary mystery)

Looking at the numbers on Bookscan wouldn't suggest that any of them are a breakout - although I'm wondering if it just is a slower build now as dystopian/speculative have been a hot trend for a while.

Now there are two contemporary YAs on that list. I was kind of hoping the trend would swing back in the contemporary direction. Too soon to tell I think. Sara has an author doing well in that realm (Kenneally) as do I (Elkeles) but we need the next John Green or Zarr.

Most likely there is a quiet title out there gathering steam. Any ideas? Put some titles in the comments section.

30 Comments on What Are The Big YA Debut Break Outs in 2012?, last added: 12/3/2012
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8. What Are You Looking For?

STATUS: Doing meetings in New York all week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? I'M A BELIEVER by The Monkees

Good question. What am I looking for?

Because I'm rewriting content for our new website (and the submission guidelines are an integral part of that), this question is definitely on my mind as of late. Not to mention, when I attend a conference, invariably I get asked this question. By now, you'd think I'd have a good answer ready. To be honest, I don't.

We also have to answer this question on our new website for our submission guidelines. Since Sara's answer is different than mine, we are tailoring our "what are you looking for" list for our specific agent pages.

By the way, the launch of our new website is a bit delayed. Our web developer lives in New Jersey. Yep, Hurricane Sandy.  He actually emailed me to apologize for the delay as he didn't have electricity. Holy cow! No need for an apology there. We can wait a few more weeks.

But back to our website submission wish list. When I sat down to evaluate what I'm looking for, I find that I'm not interested in creating a nice, neat little list.

Right now our site says I'm looking for literary fiction with a commercial bent, commercial mainstream, women's fiction, romance, science fiction, fantasy, young adult and middle grade.

Sure, that's accurate and true but you know what? That doesn't quite capture what I'm looking for. I want an intense, well-told story and the "genre" is incidental.

This summer I sold a literary cross-over novel that had a lot of horror elements - BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman.

Look at the list above? Do you see the word "horror" anywhere?

Not exactly. Yet, that story was perfect for me.

My book club is going to read Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL.

That's totally up my alley. Do you see "thriller" on that above list? Nope. So what I'm looking for is not clearly defined by a neat little list that I can post on our website.

And today I had lunch with an editor from St. Martin's and a bubble tea with an editor from Random House. (I think the tapioca is still stuck in my teeth…) Both had great previous experience in working at genre imprints earlier in their careers and now, neither is a genre editor per se but both love a big story that has a genre element to it. That's what they are looking for.

And that's what I'm looking for.

I have to find a way to say that on my page that outlines my submission guidelines. Not an easy trick. I do know that I don't plan to post a handy little list because that doesn't really capture what I'm looking for.

I want a good story well told. How you tell that story doesn't need to fit in a neat little category.

20 Comments on What Are You Looking For?, last added: 11/30/2012
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9. When Trendy Trumps Publishing Sense

STATUS: Wearing Halloween tights! Of course I'm having a great day.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SKYFALL by Adele

Don't ask because I won't reveal the title as this post is a true rant. *grin*

Last year I saw a YA manuscript on submission. The author had gotten an offer pretty quickly so I had to read right away. I read to the end (which is rare for me) and ultimately I decided to pass. The story had a lot of promise but for me, there was a bit of an ick factor and I thought it needed a ton of work. It also had a bit of a bizarre ending that I couldn't fathom.  The title went on to sell for big money at auction.

I remember just being astonished. Such a quick sale meant that very little work had been done before submission. In my mind, editors were willing to pay big money for a concept. Well, that's not the first time that has happened. And it's definitely not going to be the last.

Maybe I just had sour grapes as I had passed. There's probably some truth in that. From what I can tell though, the book was published in 2012 and it didn't do as expected.

Just recently it happened again with another YA title I saw on submission and passed on because I honestly did not think it was young adult novel despite its trendy concept.

I'm so so ready for something new and for editors to get excited about something wildly different!

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10. And Speaking Of Money - Our Next Webinar - The Anatomy of Money In A Book Contract

STATUS: Not much has changed from last post….

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  CRASH INTO ME By Stevie Nicks

And since we are speaking of money and concerns over the possibly shrinking advances, LOL, this leads right into my very next webinar that's taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 from 6 to 8 pm Mountain time. It's called SHOW ME THE MONEY: The Anatomy of $ In A Book Deal.

I'm literally doing a 2-hour workshop that walks writers through a publishing contract and the anatomy of money in it. I'm using actual contract clauses to illustrate how and what earns a writer money in a publishing agreement.

I'm pretty sure this will be the best tutorial you'll have without actually having a book deal and your own agent walking you through your brand spankin' new contract.

"A little learning is a dangerous thing" as Alexander Pope says but I'm of the philosophy that you can't learn less.  I like to be as thoroughly educated as I possibly can before being confronted with something.

Stuff you'll learn:

1) What can a writer earn in terms of advances for different genres?
2) What are the standard royalties? Royalty escalators?
3) What is "high discount" and how can it impact what you earn?
4) Bonus clauses. What are they? What types can be built into a contract?
5) What subsidiary rights can be sold and what are typical monies involved.
6) Clauses that don't immediately seem to be about money but can impact what you earn anyway.

Sound like something you might want to know? Then I'll see you there.

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11. Because The First Thing That Comes To Mind Is The Size Of The Advance - Not.

STATUS: With New York Publishing shut down, I'm working on a UK contract and catching up on email. I think it's going to be this way for most of the week.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  HOPE I DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU by Tom Waits

Obviously the Random House - Penguin merger is all the news in the publishing world right now. It's a big deal. But I read this article in Publishers Weekly and pretty much snorted my tea.

PW makes it sound like an agent's biggest concern might be the reduction in advance amounts paid for books.

I'm concerned about MANY things that might come about because of the merger but smaller advances is not one of them. It's not even on my top 10 list of things to be concerned about.

Publishing saw the consolidation of publishing houses into smaller and smaller numbers in the early 90s. That evolved into what had been known as the "Big 6" of the last decade.

It's now down to the "Big 5" and quite honestly, I don't see NewsCorp (which owns HarperCollins) settling for the status quo. Wouldn't surprise me at all to see the "Big 5" become "4" with two more houses merging in the not-so-distant-future.

Of course this all has to pass anti-trust rulings, etc.

What does fewer publishing houses mean for authors?

That answer is pretty simple. Fewer choices. Less competition. More uniformity of royalty rates (like that hasn't happened already because houses are already more interested in status quo among themselves rather than actual competition). Narrowed vision of what is the market and what should sell (and they already have tunnel vision as any number of digitally self-published successes have recently proven). More emphasis on commercial blockbusters and less building authors from the mid list.

Getting the picture? Smaller advances? Not a main issue on my radar.

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12. 30 Queries in 30 Minutes

STATUS: Today I took a reading day at home and voila, queries done.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? BENT by Matchbox Twenty

I actually didn't time it but it sounded catchy. Not to mention I can't type up everything I saw.

I asked for sample pages:

1) a YA cyberpunk novel set in India
2) a coming of age literary novel
3) and 2 wildly different YA novels that were both inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel (the latest trend?)
4) A YA novel set in a zoo
5) an SF novel with a very cool premise

I passed on:
1) a literary novel about a disillusioned man in his 40s as there didn't seem to be a clear plot. (You need plot to make it commercially driven.)

2) a multicultural middle grade novel (which I always like to see!) but had a plot where four characters inexplicably find themselves in another world. Actually there were several MG novels with portals. This only works if the portals actually mean something to the story. They aren't solely a door to another world. In other words, it can't just be a vehicle that starts the novel--not original enough.

3) a mystery that was based on someone's life (by the way, I tend to pass on queries that highlight the "based on my life" fact. I'm just suspicious that the author could really fictionalize it. It's fine to have a story based off of a real occurrence or series of events. No need to highlight that in your query letter. Let your writing speak for itself.)

4) A dystopian YA or SF that actually sounded more like an adult novel than anything YA. It also had "memory" as a key component and we've actually seen a lot of that lately.

5) Several romances under 50,000 words (which is category length and not something we'd really represent).

6) A novel that had a lot of mysticism at the core of the story. Not really my thing.

7) Several YA novels that begin or hinge around a brutal murder. Hum… a bit dark for me.

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13. If You Remember One Thing, It Should Be This: Never Sign An Unnegotiated Boilerplate Contract With Any Publisher

STATUS: I feel like I need to flex my brain muscles to get back into shape for daily blogging. 

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DANCE HALL DAYS by Wang Chung

I recently talked to a writer who had signed a small publisher's boilerplate contract.

Shudders.

Let me start by saying that the signed contract was with an established and reputable small publisher. Still I shudder.

Let me highlight here that I wouldn't want a writer to sign the boilerplate contract with any publisher -be it a small one or a big six publisher. All boilerplates are terrible. That's why agents negotiate the heck out of them.

Pitfalls of Boilerplate Contracts

1) Every publishing boilerplate I've seen grants the publisher all rights. Oh boy. Honestly folks, you never want to grant rights to a publisher for things they won't exploit effectively such as dramatic rights (film/tv), merchandizing, theme park rights etc. The rights will just sit there. And you can't earn money unless those rights are sold.

2) Boilerplates have no recourse if the publisher fails to publish. Then writers are stuck in limbo forever! They can't contractually demand the rights back for failure to publish. Writer is stuck. Not good.

3) Boilerplates often have no out of print clauses. I recently derailed a deal because I could not get the small publisher to insert one. They would have had the rights into perpetuity with the author having no way to ever get the rights back unless the publisher felt like it. Uh, no.

4) I've seen boilerplates that have a never-ending option clauses. If the publisher doesn't take the writer's next book, they still get to see the one after that and the one after that….. Yep, that author will never successfully be placed at a new home if that is the case as the new publisher would want an option for next work at the very least. That can't be granted if the above is the case.

5) Boilerplate contracts don't allow the author to see copies of sublicense deals. If that is the case, how can an author know what was sold and on what terms to verify the royalty statements? Good point, right?

And I could go on and on.

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14. New Website Going Live On Nov. 12 or Nov. 19

STATUS: I'll be a much saner person then. Hey, I'm an optimist!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  YOU by Bonnie Raitt

Thanks for all the comments and feedback on FB versus blogging. Quite frankly, I had been sensing that blogging in general was becoming a bit passé. But it sounds like there is still a lot of interest in educational posts being delivered through the longer blog medium. Well, I hear you. I'm still debating on how practical it will be given my overwhelming workload. It's much easier to throw up some insightful posts on Facebook. But I also get that a lot of folks aren't on FB and have no interest in joining. And to be honest, I'm too verbose for twitter. *grin*

When I think of our new redesigned website going live, I start bouncing in my seat. It's amazing. But it's also good fodder for a blog entry.

Here are some of the things I've learned and some tips to share:

1) If you haven't updated your website in the last 3 to 5 years, it's time to take a look at your site and evaluate its effectiveness. I know from our site, it wasn't highlighting all the different ways folks could learn or follow us via social media. Given how much has changed in the last couple years, our site was looking tired, old, and dated. None of that stuff was linked together. That's not effective.

As an author, you can't afford for fans to think the same of your site. They expect more. Is it fair, no, but there you have it.

2) Big question you must answer: who is your audience and what do you want them to learn from the site? The answer might be simple and then evolve into something more complex. For example, a simple answer for our site is this: our audience is writers looking for representation who might be interested in our agency.

So our site has to answer some basic questions - like how to submit to us, etc.  Well, that's obvious.

But our site shouldn't stop there. Writers who look at our website might also be enthusiastic readers (or at least I hope so!). So our site should also be a non-obtrusive advertisement for our client books in the sense that visitors to our site might also want to buy the books they stumble upon there.

Of course we "knew" that for our original site but we were not exploring the full potential there. The new site is going to be great for that without us coming across as used car sales people (or at least I hope that's the case!).

So how does this apply to you as a writer? Well, I see any number of writer sites that don't really answer this question well. How does it appeal to folks who are already fans of your work and then how might it rope in the possible new fan? I honestly don't see writers doing a lot for that second question. If you've seen some good sites that handle it well, include the links in the comments. We can use those examples as learning tools.

3) For our new site, we are adding a "how they came to us" under each client so aspiring writers can literally see who sent us a query (and we found them that way) versus who was a referral or a current client recommend. I imagine including stories like this will keep visitors engaged in our site and may be motivated to click around more and spend more time with us.

As a writer, what have you got that might create that for your visitors? I see so many writer sites that tend to be a plug for the book or books and not much else. If that's the case for your website, it's not doing the right job for you.

4) Clean design - I'm a huge proponent of this. I see so many wordpress websites that have good intentions but as a visitor, I'm completely overwhelmed by the amount of links, buttons, images, or what have you. It may just be me but I can actually feel my heart rate speeding up when I'm confronted with too much info on a web page. It's stressful.

So I can't wait to show you the new site. And yes, I'm getting back to blogging even though that means more entries to migrate over to the new site. I pity our web designer.

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15. A Little Blog Update

STATUS: Yes, I'm still alive!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  WHITE FLAG (acoustic version) by Dido

Travesty I know! It's been more than a month since I blogged. If you are missing me, be sure to check out my Facebook page where I am posting regularly.

Here's the scoop. We are in the midst of doing a whole website redesign and the plan is to integrate the entire blog into the new site.

I'm a bit excited as it will have all our social media fully integrated into it (Sara's twitter and FB. My FB and blog and whatever else might come down the pike in the future. I'm not particularly wed to pinterest or tumblr but I definitely have my eye on other things that are catching the public interest.)

So thanks for your patience as we transition. I haven't been blogging regularly to mitigate the content transfer.

I've also being toying with making my FB status updates more like blog posts. I get that there are space limitations but heck, that might be good given my current workload. FB is easier to do on the fly or with just a short window of time available.

If you have an opinion, ideas to suggest, upcoming social media that should be on our radar, I'm open to hearing all of it. Leave me a comment!

26 Comments on A Little Blog Update, last added: 10/27/2012
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16. Feel The Fear - Do It Anyway

STATUS: Hum, I thought August was suppose to be the slow month in publishing. Not so much.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  WAITING FOR A GIRL LIKE YOU by Foreigner

Last Thursday, Angie and I spent the day doing round-table chats with the graduates of The Denver Publishing Institute. The intensive month course ended and these 100 or so graduates are now making their way into a job market that is one of the toughest I've seen in years.

It's true. But let that just be white noise as you move forward. You know this info but you aren't going to let it rule what you will do. If you are determined enough, you can make something happen.

The year 2000 changed everything for me. I was a corporate trainer in my mid-30s making 6-figures doing training for fortune 500 companies. I worked 8 days a month. And I walked away because I didn't love the job.

Folks thought I was crazy.

That was the year I had teamed up with a fellow corporate trainer and we did an awesome nonfiction book proposal. We had a well known literary agent. Our proposal was aggressively shopped and turned down all over New York (so I do, indeed, now what rejection feels like). But that was incidental. It was my "aha" moment that I wanted to be in this field but not on the writing side of things. But on the biz end.

But I was a corporate trainer. I lived in Denver. This was not the mecca of publishing in the year 2000 (and one would argue that Kate Testerman, Rachelle Gardner, and I do not a mecca make in Denver now)! I started researching what it would take and that showed me that I was going to have to work for an agent first to learn the ropes.

Not exactly a lot of possibilities available in my immediate geographic region. My husband and I sat down and formed a plan. If I had to, I would take a job at an agency in New York. We rock as a couple. We could commuter marriage for a year, two if necessary. That's how important this was to me and I was determined to make it happen. I started applying for jobs. I went to New York and sat down with several agents who didn't hire me but were awesome to talk to and encouraging.

Then I went to a local writers' conference simply to meet the agents and network about jobs. I met an agent who had recently moved to Denver (previously with HarperCollins before having to relocate). She was looking for an assistant. I was looking for a job at an agency. Luck Luck Lucky.

Absolutely. But I was willing to do what was necessary and if New York had proved necessary, I would have done that so stay open. Work outside of "can't" or "I can't afford it" or "I don't want to live in New York City."

So I learned the ropes at that agency. I did the Denver Publishing Institute as a way of bolstering my network (which was very effective by the way as I sold my first book to a Penguin Editor who was a former DPI grad).

The day the program ended, I was ready. I had a $20,000 business loan and a five year plan and I opened my own agency on August 15, 2002. I gave myself five years to make a profit.

Year 1 - took a loss
Year 2 - took a loss
Year 3 - took a loss, did another business loan (my husband didn't sleep at all that year as he was pretty stressed about the debt)
Year 4 - small profit so I hired an assistant.
Year 5 - took a loss because of the salary I paid my assistant (another sleepless year for the hubby)
Year 6 - a respectable profit!
Year 7 - an even bigger profit so hired a marketing director
Year 8 - stunned myself on how profitable we were becoming
Year 9 - a really stunning year so hired two more employees (our royalties and contracts manager and our digital liaison)
Year 10 - it's our anniversary and we are celebrating on August 25th with our clients coming to town to join us. We are on track for our best year ever.

In 2002 for my first trip to New York to network with editors, I bombarded every friend I knew and asked if they had any relatives or friends who lived in Manhattan. They did. I slept on the couch in the apartment of people I had never met because they were family of friends of mine and they graciously opened their doors to me.  (HUGE THANK YOU!! You know who you are.)

Make stuff happen. You'd be amazed at how many people love to be enrolled in what you are doing if you just simply ask!

If I knew then what I know now, I probably would never taken that first step. Thank goodness I was blindly optimistic.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.

25 Comments on Feel The Fear - Do It Anyway, last added: 9/8/2012
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17. Friday Funnies - Anatomy of Book Cover Design

STATUS: Haven't had a good video to share in a while. This one is worth the wait.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON'T GO by Yaz

Chip Kidd is a legend in this industry. Video is not short but worth every minute of your time. It's a small glimpse into the brilliance of mind it takes to create a truly amazing cover. And I'll give you a hint. It's not about bells and whistles. It's about text.

As it should be. Enjoy!


13 Comments on Friday Funnies - Anatomy of Book Cover Design, last added: 9/8/2012
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18. 68 Queries In 60 Minutes

STATUS: Auction day tomorrow.  Always fun.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? HOT STUFF by Donna Summer

I can't help but think of the movie The Full Monty whenever this song pops up on the iPod. Always good for a smile.

I must admit that I've been a little behind on query reading so Sunday evening, I sat down to power through them. You are reading the above title correctly. I averaged less than 60 seconds for each query read.

If your pitch wasn't, well, pitch perfect, I was hitting the pass button.

Here's something agents hardly ever reveal (and this of course could only apply to me so take it with a grain of salt) but I honestly believe that your chances of grabbing an agent's attention decreases in the warm summer months.

Quite frankly, I'd rather be outdoors doing something fun rather than reading. I feel the exact opposite in winter months. I'm happy staying home and catching up. Consequently, if I were to look at my client list, I probably took on more clients during the winter months than I do during the summer.

Not a hard and fast rule by any means but something to keep in mind.

So Sunday I'm reading 68 queries. I actually only asked for sample pages for 10 of those queries. You'd be right to think that the ratio was small. So what was up?

Here's what I saw:
1) At least 10 YA dystopian queries where I didn't think the concept felt original enough for what is a crowded market.

2) 5 queries for literary novels that said there was a commercial bent but I wasn't seeing it in the query lettr. They sounded too literary for what I can take on and be successful with.

3) Several queries from writers that we had passed on but they had revised and wanted to know if we would read again. Right now I'm too pressed for time to give something a second read so I passed.

4) Several authors looking for new representation but I didn't think we'd be a good fit given what they were currently writing and what has been appealing to me as of late.

5) Several middle grade novels that the queries themselves sounded too didactic. I didn't take a chance to read the sample pages fearing the same.

6) Several steampunk fantasies that obviously pay homage to Gail Carriger but sounded a bit too romance or derivative for what I'd take on considering I rep Gail Carriger.

7) Lots of epic fantasy queries from a previous blog post where I mentioned that editors were more open to seeing these stories as of late. But it's hard. Most of these queries were a bit too generic and you really have to make your fantasy pitch stand out. I particularly liked the one where the writer instructs me it's not the "typical fantasy" as this one has character development. Like that's the original element. Trust me, I've read a lot of epic fantasy and all the terrific ones have great original concepts and excellent character development.  You are going to need both.

Then of course there were the 10 queries I asked sample pages for.

One query startled a laugh out of me. That got a request. Another was a really charming middle grade novel. The query was inventive, well written, and charming in and of itself. I had to ask for sample pages. The writer left me no choice.

I only have August and September before the weather turns cool again so I'm looking for reasons to say NO. Come first snowfall, I'll probably be looking for reasons to say YES.

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19. 2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part III


STATUS: Loved seeing so many NLA clients represented there!

Kristen Callihan's sequel to FIRELIGHT!



The hilarious moment when we realized that Emily from the Penguin group looked exactly like the model on Sara's client Michael Underwood's Geekomancy cover!





And Friends Don't Let Friends date vampires!! Lots of buzz in the HarperCollins booth for Sarah Rees Brennan!




20. 2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part III


STATUS: The best part of comic con!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? nothing as I'm heading out. 

Getting into the Firefly panel!
And standing under the 50 foot Hall banner for Marie Lu's Legend! (Yes, I'm the tiny figure under it.)






3 Comments on 2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part III, last added: 7/17/2012
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21. 2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part II


STATUS: Heading out the door in 15 minutes. I'm doing the interview for Spotlight on Gail Carriger!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SOMEONE LIKE YOU by Adele

Gail Carriger and I --washed in color at the Hilton Bayfront. 


Sara's client Jason Hough and his Del Rey Editor Michael Braff



Gail right after her Witty Women in Steampunk panel. 


2 Comments on 2012 San Diego Comic Con - Part II, last added: 7/16/2012
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22. San Diego Comic Con - The Latest Shiny Promotional Venue

STATUS: The problem with summer is that I'd rather not work long hours. Too much sunshine and lovely outdoor weather.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  TONGUE TIED by GroupLove

There is no doubt in my mind that Comic Con in San Diego is the shiny new conference that all writers want to attend. I get it. It's a blast. Geek Chic. Fandom over great shows like True Blood and Game of Thrones. Honest to goodness movie stars. Fabulous parties (I'm still lamenting that I didn't get to go to the Entertainment Weekly one.)

What's not to like? You can even buy some funny, cool, and geek insider T-Shirts.

But is it necessarily the best promotional venue for a writer?

Jury might still be out on that but here's my thinking. If your book has an obvious connection to the fan base that attends, I'd say yes, it's a worthwhile promotional venue for an author.

Gail Carriger is a great example. She writes steampunk fantasy and also has a graphic novel equivalent of her popular The Parasol Protectorate series.

Her publisher, Orbit, had a full-size paper cut-out of graphic novel Alexia Tarabotti in their booth. Here I am standing with it. 



And fans even come dressed up as Gail's characters for her autograph signings.



I can safely say that her fan base is present at this Con in full force.

Same would hold true for Marie Lu and her Legend Trilogy. Since there is a video game in the works below is a sneak peek), she had lots of fans at this event.



As an author, ask yourself. Do fans who love my books love all things geek that can be found at San Diego Comic Con? If the answer is yes, then this shiny venue is a good fit. If it's not, I wouldn't recommend it even though it's the latest "hot" thing.

4 Comments on San Diego Comic Con - The Latest Shiny Promotional Venue, last added: 7/20/2012
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23. Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. Roni Loren Guest Blogs

Re-posted with permission from original blog post here.

Sara, our lawyer,and I all helped Roni through the situation but here is the whole story below.  You can no longer say that you haven't been warned!

Guest Blogger: RONI LOREN

So today I'm forgoing the usual Fill-Me-In Friday post to talk about something that I've been wanting to blog about for a while but couldn't until the situation was wrapped up.

For those of you who are super observant, you may have noticed some changes on my blog over the last few months. Tumblr posts went away. Fiction Groupie disappeared. I deleted most of my Pinterest boards. The Boyfriend of the Week has changed format. And all my previous posts from the past three years--all 700 of them--now have new photos on them.

Why is that? What happened?


Well, you've probably figured it out from the title, but it's because I've been involved in a case regarding a photo I used on my blog. Like most of you, I'm a casual blogger and learned my way into blogging by watching others. And one of the things I learned early on was that a post with a photo always looked nicer than one with just text. So I looked at what other people were doing for pictures. And mostly it seemed that everyone was grabbing pics from Google Images and pasting them on their sites. Sometimes with attribution, most of the time without. And when I asked others (or looked at disclaimers on websites and Tumblrs), it seemed that everyone agreed using pics that way was okay under Fair Use standards.

Here is an example of a disclaimer I found on a bigger site (name of blog removed):

THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

And site after site had the same kind of thing. Just look on Tumblr, that same type of disclaimer is on a ton of them. And I'm thinking--well, that must mean it's okay because if that weren't true, sites like Tumblr and Pinterest couldn't even exist because reposting pics is the whole POINT of those sites. So off I went doing what everyone else does--using pics from Google Images, putting a disclaimer on my site, etc.

Well on one random post, I grabbed one random picture off of google and then a few weeks later I got contacted by the photographer who owned that photo. He sent me a takedown notice, which I responded to immediately because I felt awful that I had unknowingly used a copyrighted pic. The pic was down within minutes. But that wasn't going to cut it. He wanted compensation for the pic. A significant chunk of money that I couldn't afford. I'm not going to go into the details but know that it was a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn't have for a use of a photo I didn't need.

It wasn't fun. But the fact of the matter is, I was in the wrong. Unknowingly. But that doesn't matter. And my guess is that many, many of you are doing the same thing I was doing without realizing it's a copyright violation. So I wanted to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistake.

Here's what I learned about Fair Use:


It DOESN'T MATTER...

if you link back to the source and list the photographer's name
if the picture is not full-sized (only thumbnail size is okay)
if you did it innocently
if your site is non-commercial and you made no money from the use of the photo
if you didn't claim the photo was yours
if you've added commentary in addition to having the pic in the post
if the

42 Comments on Blogging Authors Beware! You Can Get Sued. Roni Loren Guest Blogs, last added: 7/24/2012
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24. Agent Reads The Slush Pile Tomorrow - Wednesday, July 25

STATUS: Have to leave a tad early today. My plan is to read a good portion of a client manuscript this evening.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  LAID by James

At conferences, the biggest complaint I hear from aspiring writers is this: there is never any feedback given when an agent or an editor sends a rejection letter.

Or, if there is a response, it tends to be generic--something along the lines of "I just didn't fall in love with the story."

Writers don't have a good sense of what is really causing an agent to stop reading.

Well, this webinar is designed to answer that question. It's a no holds barred (and a tough workshop so be warned) but if you want an honest, straightforward, and helpful response as to why your sample pages might be getting rejected, then this is it.

This is a "fly on the wall" glimpse of an agent reading her slush pile.

I read the first opening 2-pages submitted by the participants of the workshop. If I would have stopped reading, I stop and clearly say why. In general, we tackle about 20 entries selected at random. 

The I crush the writer's fragile ego under my critique hammer… Just kidding. This is not American Idol style.

I don't pull the punch but I do try and be sensitive and helpful. This webinar is not about denigrating the writer but it's also not for the faint of heart.

If you think you are ready, then you might want to consider it. Register here. And I'll see you tomorrow.

11 Comments on Agent Reads The Slush Pile Tomorrow - Wednesday, July 25, last added: 7/26/2012
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25. A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch - A Query Is A Query Is A Query

STATUS: Working though 245 emails in the inbox. You can't hide from me!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now?  DON'T STOP by Foster The People

An yet, writers always have some confusion on what is the difference between a pitch and a query. Seems like a good topic to tackle (as I can already see a myriad list of sub-questions within this topic).

Let's start with the basics.

A query is a professional business letter that introduces your work to an agent or editor. These days, this letter is sent by email rather than snail mail. In the query letter, you will have something called a pitch paragraph. The query letter will also contain an introduction and the author's bio or credentials. It will be one-page long.

A pitch is the verbal delivery of the main pitch paragraph from your query letter. In other words, you need to have a quick way to sum up the opening plot catalyst of your novel in a sentence or two while talking to someone. That way your audience gets a clear and immediate gist of what your novel is about.

Here's a great example from a novel I just sold by David Ramirez called MINCEMEAT. It's a good example because in this instance, I actually did something unique. I pulled out the pitch from the main pitch paragraph. I don't always do that but I did so in this instance. Also, when I was in New York in May, I verbally PITCHED this work to editors using the one sentence pitch highlighted in pink.

Here's my submit letter to editors--which in essence is the agent's QUERY letter to editors (to draw a comparison to what writers are doing when they approach agents):

Hello XXX,
It's pretty rare that I send an email about a manuscript submission that I can sum up in a one sentence pitch. Trust me, I tend to be wordier than that!

But here it is:
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new home aboard one ship, The Noah, and this ship is carrying a dangerous serial killer.

Intrigued? I hope so. At its heart, the concept for this SF novel MINCEMEAT by David Ramirez is quite simple but what unfolds is layer after layer of complexity.

Since most editors prefer I don't leave it at one sentence, here's a little bit more about the manuscript:

Priss Dempsey is a City Planning Administrator on the Noah, a vessel carrying the last survivors of Earth on a thousand-year journey to a new home.  She is equal parts psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat, a vital part of the mission, but her life seems to lose purpose after she experiences Breeding Duty.  Kept asleep through the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, she still feels a lost connection to the child she will never be permitted to know.

Policeman Leonard Barrens approaches her with a request for hacking support in the unofficial investigation of his mentor's violent death. Only Barrens knows that a crime has been committed because he came across the mutilated remains before Information Security could cover it up. To everyone else, the missing man was merely "Retired," nothing unusual.

Their investigation takes them through the lost dataspaces in the Nth Web and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a Mincemeat Killer after all. And what they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity.

May

16 Comments on A Pitch Is A Pitch Is A Pitch - A Query Is A Query Is A Query, last added: 7/25/2012
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