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where book news, agentish advice, party planning, cute animal pictures and general shenanigans collide.
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|Entrance. This year's theme is Alice.|
I'm in Bologna, Italy at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. Many folks on twitter have asked about the fair, especially as so many agents attend and tweet about it! -- so I thought I'd do a little post about what the heck goes on here.
First of all, there is the show floor - if you've ever been to a trade show like ALA or BEA you'll be familiar with the sight of row after row of booths filled with books from every publisher in the US. The difference with Bologna is, there are not only booths for every publisher in America... there are booths for every publisher in the entire world
. Publishers get a chance to look at the best of the best, so that they might "buy in" books from other countries to add to their own lists. It's truly amazing and inspiring to see what is being published elsewhere.
|Costumed characters must've been boiling!|
Also, as with any convention center, you get the assorted giant characters wandering around, weird giveaways and photo ops, lousy food, temperatures that range from oven-blasting heat to ice cold in the space of a few yards, etc.
The second piece of the fair is the Art. There are art galleries, art prizes, and perhaps most striking, the Walls of Art. These are white walls surrounding the main hall, that get papered over by hopeful illustrators displaying their wares. By the end of the fair, these walls are so crowded with artwork that it is dripping all over the floor.
|Day 1 - the walls are just starting to fill.|
|Day 2 - More art to come!|
Now, the part of the fair that AGENTS think is the most important: Rights selling at the Agent's Centre. You'll recall this blog post from a few years ago explaining subsidiary rights in a nutshell
-- well, the rights that agents are mostly here to sell are foreign/translation rights.
|One side of the agent's centre|
Agents and foreign rights managers each have an assigned table in the Agent's Centre. From about 9am to about 6, agents will sit at one of these 100+ tables taking meetings. Every half hour, a new meeting. Some agents' schedules are so intense that they don't even build time in for breaks... this was a bit of a problem this year, as we didn't have an Agent Restroom! ARGH. #bathroomgate #glamorous.
The goals of most meetings include networking and putting faces to names; learning about the market in a given country; and pitching, pitching, pitching. Agents are meeting mostly with foreign publishers and foreign co-agents, and talking about their own list based on what those people say they are looking for.
Not gonna lie - it's truly exhausting. Which is why tonight I stayed in my rental apartment rather than going off to party-hop or have a dinner out. Because tomorrow... it all begins again!
It all starts with one little lie…
--> Are you a fan of twisty mystery and endearingly flawed main characters and lying liars and psychological suspense? LIARS, INC. by Paula Stokes may be your new fave. Get on this!
-->Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?
When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.
Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.
“Even the keenest mystery buffs will be hard-pressed to predict the book's finale, which packs quite the emotional and physical punch. Captivating to the very end.”
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review
or Wherever Fine Books are Sold
Today is the book-birthday of HYPNOTIZE A TIGER: Poems About Just About Everything.
This is a book of madcap poetry and art from the brain of NYT bestselling author-illustrator Calef Brown
, just perfect for the wordplay-wise Silverstein fans in your life.
HYPNOTIZE A TIGER is Calef's first longer-form book, and the sophisticated and hilarious rhymes and rhythms beg to be read aloud.
Here, try it, and see what I mean:
But don't take MY word for it -- here's what other people have to say:"Full of absurdity and off-kilter musings, Brown's collection offers a zingy introduction to the silly side of poetry." - Publishers Weekly"Backyard Byzantines, Hipster Hirsutes, Arcane Arcadians, Rare Rondos ... Calef Brown's poems read like a guest list of Who's Who in Kalamazoo. I loved it. He writes poems we want to turn into desserts." --Jack Gantos, Newbery Award-winning author
"The best books can take you to places you never knew existed. "Hypnotize a Tiger" will blast you there on a Skyscraper Rocket with imaginary companions, herds of wordplay, and a giant smile. Calef Brown is the surreal deal." --Kenn Nesbit, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate "There were certain books that fascinated and excited me as a child. I read them over and over, and they changed my perceptions forever. This is a book like that. It makes a delightful playground of language and concept. Calef Brown is a hero. He is a bulwark against mediocrity. He is my hero too." --Daniel Pinkwater, author, artist, and radio commentator
"With witty poems combined with his amazing paintings, Calef Brown has made his distinct mark in the history of American culture as a true literary treasure." --Dan Santat, Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator
"In your hands you hold a very special book. Get ready to meet a spectacular and hilarious cast of delightfully goofy and whimsical characters that live in each of these delicious poems. Calef Brown has made me feel like a mustached baby tasting sugar for the first time!" --Jorge R. Gutierrez, director of "The Book of Life" and creator (with wife Sandra Equihua) of "El Tigre, The Adventures of Manny Rivera"To get your very own copy of HYPNOTIZE A TIGER, visit your local independent bookstore, Powells, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.
I have lots of client books coming out in March. It's thrilling - but it also makes it somewhat difficult to blog about all of them without this blog becoming a wall-to-wall advertisement. So instead of doing a post every time one is released, I'm going to post about them in categories. Here I highlight Fantasy, Speculative Fiction and Horror novels for Young Adults, March 2015 edition:
THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace
Simon/McElderry Books, March 3
In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer's life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo's case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father's death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don't get along. But while Johanna's father's death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren't so sure.
The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess--the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren't the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up--girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.
0 Comments on March New Releases: Fantasy, SF and Horror YA as of 3/9/2015 12:20:00 PM
PS on top: I found some posts by other smart folk like agent Mandy Hubbard and author Jim Chines - if you want to like, double or triple-reinforce the point I'm making. But I'd already started typing by the time I saw those soooo... here you go.
One of the questions I dread most at conferences is, "how much money do books make?" I have a sort of pat answer I usually give, whilst eye-rolling. Something along the lines of "somewhere between $1 and $1,000,000." or "I dunno, how long is a piece of string?"
But let's get real. Many new authors will probably be offered $4-8,000. on a debut picture book text-only to a normal mid-sized traditional publisher. $5-12,000 on a chapter book. $8-20,000 on a middle grade novel. $12-30,000 on a YA. I'm talking average - yes, some will be higher, some whill be lower.
These numbers will be much lower for small presses (and probably much MUCH lower for digital publishers or startups). The numbers will be higher for extremely commercial books with great crossover potential, or for an author who is well-known, or if there is lots of competition for a title or it is "hot" in some way. (The numbers may also be different depending on what rights you sell.) Still, these would be what I'd consider to be unexceptional starting offers. Nothing to get mad about, just, you know. Normal.
Yet we all know of people who got paid a lot more than that.... so what about THEM? Well, first of all, I'd say they are outliers. Yes, I have certainly had awesome six-figure debut sales. But they consist of maybe -- 10% of deals. Most are Normal. On the high side of what I quoted above, perhaps, when all the negotiating is done, but still, not megabucks
SHUT UP JENNIFER! SHUT UP! THIS IS DAYDREAM TIME!
OK fine. Cue the mystical bossa nova music and IMAGINE IF YOU WILL:
You're a new author - maybe you don't even have an agent yet, but you are actively querying, reading all kinds of Publishers Weekly deal announcements, and dreaming of the day your very own manuscript will go on submission and sell, too.
These magic words echo in your daydreams.... six-figure deal. SIX-FIGURE DEAL!
With that kind of money, you could quit your day job, pay for your kid's college tuition in cash AND afford to supersize them fries, possibly from the comfort of your Mercedes-Benz. CHA-CHING, AM I RIGHT? Soon you'll be in a beach house, smiling gently whilst typing away on your latest brilliant novel. Everything is clean and inexplicably made of white linen or similar and somebody has brought you a cup of tea and there's a cool ocean breeze that also somehow smells of chocolate chip cookies and all the cares of your old life behind you--
Not so fast, Hoss. Here comes the dream-shatterer. *music screeches off*COMMISSION:
If you got a six-figure deal, you probably have an agent, too. Your agent will take 15% of your income (possibly 20-25% in the case of foreign income or film deals). This is money worth spending, because without your agent, you would have probably had a lot less dough in the first place, or nothing at all. And your agent is protecting your interests and guiding you in the long-term. OK, fine. But don't forget about --TAXES:
Even if you have a day-job, when you get paid for writing, you are also self-employed. A freelancer. As a writer, you have to pay both Income Tax AND Self-Employment Tax on everything you make writing
. Does that suck? Hell yes
it does. Sorry. You can expect to pay about 30% of your writing income in taxes.
Also: I might sound like a broken record on this one, but seriously, if you are going to be a career writer, TREAT YO' SELF to a good accountant who knows a lot about artists and freelancers. They will save you much money and angst in the long run, and, your accountant's fee is tax-deductible.EXPENSES:
As I said, you're self-employed. All the fun stuff like office supplies, a new laptop, travel to some conference or bookstore, HEALTH INSURANCE, etc? Probably coming straight out of your pocket. The good news is, anything related to your writing job, including said office supplies, your office space, travel for research or promo, and other self-promotional stuff, is tax deductible, at least in part, so keep good records
. The bad news is, well, you have to pay for it in the first place, "tax deductible" doesn't mean free
. (As far as insurance, unless you're lucky enough to have a great day job or a spouse who can provide, well... thanks, Obama. Seriously... thanks, and God bless you, Sir.)
Most book deals in the kids book world are structured so the payments are split into 2 or 3 parts. (Many huge deals and books in the grownup world are divided even more than that!) So you get one part on signing, one part on delivery and acceptance (D+A) of the final manuscript, and sometimes one (often smaller) part on publication.SO LET'S CRUNCH THE NUMBERS.
If you luck out and get a "six figure deal" today, assuming all works according to schedule in a perfect world, and your agent doesn't have to chase down any money for you, and your publisher doesn't go under, and your editor gets notes to you in time, and you have no crises ... your deal might look something like this:March 2015: Make the deal! Yay! It's a nice one. 2 books for $100,000 total! Welcome to the six-figure club! :D
April/May 2015: Your agent gets contracts and negotiates! June 2015:
PAYMENT - on-signing, 20k each book, 40k total - minus 15% for agent, and let's be generous and say 25% for taxes because of that great accountant: $24,000 total
November/December 2015: Book 1 Due (for publication Winter 2017)January 2016:
PAYMENT - D+A book 1, 20k - minus 15% for agent, 25% for taxes: $12,000 total
November/December 2016: Book 2 Due (for publication Winter 2018)
PAYMENT - - D+A book 2, 20k - minus 15% for agent, 25% for taxes: $12,000 total
February 2017: Book 1 PublicationMarch 2017:
PAYMENT - On-Pub Book 1, 10k - minus 15% and 25%, $6,000 total
February 2018: Book 2 PublicationMarch 2018:
PAYMENT - On-Pub Book 2, 10k - minus 15% and 25%, $6,000 total
So you didn't make 100k, actually, you made 60k (or less), spread out over the course of four years, and probably at least one of those years you get... not much. In this example, $24k in 2015, $12k in 2016, $18k in 2017, $6k in 2018.
I mean, you know, that's not NOTHING, it's a great deal for most kids books... but it's not exactly "bathe in champagne" time. You'd make as much or more working minimum wage at the Gap for four years.
SO, what to do?
The single best thing you can do for your career is KEEP WRITING GREAT BOOKS.
Seriously. Keep writing. Success builds. Books in print, books that continue selling, may make you money for years to come. A nice fat ADVANCE is great, but ideally you'll earn out your advance and collect royalty checks for the rest of your life.
But earning out and seeing more $ probably won't happen until after the book has been released, and sometimes it doesn't happen till LONG after... and can never be counted on to happen at all. So that means that you probably won't see a non-Advance check on these particular books until late 2017 at the very earliest - probably, in reality, not until sometime in 2018. Meantime, you'll be dead of starvation. So yes. Don't quit your dayjob. Or do, and WRITE MORE BOOKS!
I could go on and on but I think that's enough out of me - maybe "how to quit your day job" can be another blog post for another day. What about you, any thoughts on this or further questions?
A 7th-grader reached out because she wanted to interview me about being an agent for an expository writing assigment. Since some of these are questions that I get a lot, I figured I'd answer on the blog. Hopefully the answers are helpful to the student, and may be of some interest to other readers, as well! :-)
1) What role do literary agents play in the writing community?
A literary agent helps a writer navigate and manage their career. Much in the same way most actors have talent agents who help them get fancy movie roles and negotiate their contracts, or basketball players have sports agents who get them sneaker endorsement deals, authors have literary agents who help place their work with publishers. Agents also may help get those books translated into other languages and get made into movies, apps or toys. And an agent helps an author with all kinds of other business matters. Almost every book that you see in the bookstore is there because an agent helped the author place the book with a publisher.
2) Who or what inspired you to want to become a literary agent?
My friend Barry Goldblatt is an agent, and when I met him ten years ago, I thought his job looked super cool and interesting. (He represents Libba Bray, Holly Black, Shannon Hale, Jo Knowles, among many other amazing authors.) I decided I wanted to do that, too! So I got an internship in 2006 or so, then joined my agency in 2007, and officially became an agent in 2008.
3) What did you have to go through to be a literary agent?
Everyone has a different path to becoming an agent. Personally, before I ever started, I first worked for a decade in bookstores as a buyer and events person... So I knew a LOT about books and publishing, and a lot of authors, illustrators and people in publishing. That means when I decided I wanted to become an agent, it was probably easier for me than it would have been for somebody starting from scratch. I still started out essentially as an unpaid intern, but I was able to move up a bit more quickly than usual.
Still, what might have looked like "overnight success" to an outsider was, in fact, the result of 15+ years of work.
4) Was it hard to get the job?
Again, it's not really a job you apply for and interview and either get or don't get. You don't get a regular paycheck or have to wear a uniform or anything. Instead, it's a career that you build. So, yeah, it's hard to build a successful career - it takes years, and patience.
5) What was the biggest lesson you've learned so far in you career that you would like to share with fresh agents? And what is the hardest thing about being an agent?
Imagine if you turned in an assignment to your teacher on Friday... and instead of getting the grade back the following Monday, you got the grade six months later, out of nowhere, when it had been so long you'd already forgotten about it, gone on summer vacation, become an 8th grader. Now you have to go back and re-do part of that old assignment AND add an essay and make a poster for it, tonight. UGH! What the heck! You don't even TAKE that class anymore! But you have to do it, or you'll retroactively fail. Well.... that's kinda what publishing is like. ;-)
If you are expecting overnight riches and success, you will probably be disappointed. Everything in publishing is extremely slow, and patience is critical. (This is hard for me, as I am rather impatient by nature.)
As for the VERY hardest thing about being an agent -- well, agents get new clients when the authors write us what is called a "query letter." I get hundreds of query letters a week, but I can only take on maybe five new clients a year. It's definitely hard to say no to good projects... but I have to do it, every day. :-(
6) What kind of writers have you worked with? Are there certain writers you work with more than others?
I only work with authors of books for children and young adults. Other agents have other specialties; my specialty is kids and teen fiction.
7) What are some things you need to stay organized?
I use a paper calendar, a google calendar, and a bullet journal for day-to-day scheduling and assignments. To keep track of all my clients and their various projects, I have a lot of excel spreadsheets, plus color-coded labels in gmail, plus a paper notebook in which I have a page for each book we are working on with all the pertinent info on it. I do end up double-entering some of the information, but I have had my computer crash and lose tons of information and it was very horrible, so I always like to write things down on paper, too, rather than rely exclusively on the computer!
8) Did you have to take extra classes in high school and/or college to become a literary agent?
Agenting is essentially an apprentice business - really the only way you can learn it is by doing it, while being mentored by a more successful agent. There are no "agent classes."
I know agents who have MFAs in writing, PhDs in Literature, Masters of Business Administration degrees, law degrees... or, like me, studied something totally random in school, like theatre or history! What you major in doesn't really matter. But what DOES matter, whatever your college major, is that you become quite good at writing clearly and reading critically.
In addition to English (writing and literature) classes, you might also find that classes in contract law, business, marketing, web development or book-keeping come in handy. But they aren't required by any means.
9) Would you do anything over the summer before or while you've been an agent to be a better agent?
Well, sadly, I don't get summers off. :-) Probably you mean, would I suggest anything that YOU might do over the summer to potentially become an agent in the future. IF that's the case: I'd suggest you try to get a job in a bookstore or library.
Read everything you possibly can. And don't just READ... read critically, and pay attention to which publishers make which books. If you do, you'll start to see that different publishers have different styles and specialties. Pay attention to who publishes what. This will come in handy if you become a professional book person later -- book people pretty much always talk about who the publisher is when they talk about a book.
10) What qualities do you need to be a successful agent?
At the very least, a successful agent will probably be a great communicator, and know a LOT about books and publishing.
I hope that helps - let me know if the comments if you need clarification or have other questions.