I know we're all looking forward to hearing from Amy that she's ok.
In last week's review Stacy asked about a book being profitable without earning out:
I said: A book can break even AND turn a profit for the publisher even if the advance is not earned out.
She asked: Is that because the author is receiving the agreed royalty rate while the book earns against the advance?
It's because the author is credited ONLY for royalties earned not the total amount earned.
If a book sells 10,000 copies here's the math:
10,000 books x $25.00 (retail price/book) x 60% (discount given to bookstores is 40%) = $250,000.00 GROSS
Less: 10,000 x $3.12 (royalty rate of 12.5% x cover price of $25) =$31,200.00 author earnings (applied to advance)
Less: fixed costs of producing book ($5.00/book) $50,000
Less: other costs of producing book ($2.00/book) $20,000
-31,200 AUTHOR SHARE
-50,000 FIXED COST
-20,000 OTHER COST
= $148,800 retained by publisher
If the author's advance is $100,000, the book hasn't earned out ($100,000 less $31,200) but the book has put money in the publisher's coffers.
These are very very broad estimates, just to demonstrate the math, and are NOT actual numbers.
On Monday I pretty much lost my mind and ranted to a writer who had been asked to do a marketing proposal and thought it was really her agent's job.
Julie Weathers correctly pointed out:
"so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls?"
I think right there is where the whole thing went off the rails.
I respond poorly and at length plus volume to those who seem not to value what an agent does. In this particular case, lack of fuller explanations gave rise to some misconceptions.
I very much appreciate that lunorama was willing to take the bull by horns (or the shark by the snout) and say this:
Mainly, I am uncomfortable with this post because it makes me worried for if I ever gain an agent and need to ask a question about my or their role. Will I be chewed out or "fired on the spot" for being such a total clueless noob? It is not anyone's job to hold my hand, but I also second the person who said I do not feel like I should be "grateful" to someone with whom I have a *business arrangement.*
Agents are not doing authors a free favor. The caveat that the agent only gets paid if the book sells and that it is a "bargain" for the author struck me as weird -- agents are paid for their work and they do have other clients. It's a business, not a charity, not a "bargain." That method exists for ethical reasons, and I am glad it does. It also keeps authors and agents invested in working together until it sells.
I resent the implication that I should...I don't know...feel bad for agents? They do a LOT of work, but they do not take on projects they don't think they can sell (I assume not, anyway) and they are working under the expectation of a payoff, just like the author, so...I don't understand the claim that because they have to wait for the payoff, agents are not paid for their time. It's a quibble over semantics.
I don't want to parse this paragraph out with the things I agree/disagree with but I do want to say I agree I did seem to say being "ungrateful" was cause for firing. That's not what I intended so clearly I didn't say it very well.
I was responding to the implication that "all" agents do is a very little bit of work for a percentage of the deal. That's a real sore spot for me that comes from a lot of people not understanding what agents do.
What I should have said was that if a client really felt like s/he was not getting a valuable service, and said so, I'd part company with them.
I did NOT mean to convey that a client who asks questions will be fired on the spot or, in fact, ever.
This was a good reminder to me to think a little deeper before going off the deep end.
On Tuesday we covered the delicate issue of writing about communities of which we are not a part.
Tom Perkins asked an interesting question
is the designation "Alaska Native" a critical part of your character(s)? I mean, I have a project where I know the qualities my character has, but specific ancestry is not one of them.
Lisa Bodenheim had a good answer for it too:
In response to your question about letting the reader assign whatever mental picture they lean towards. White people will (generally) always assign white to the characters. It's the nature of the culture we live within.
There's a blog post about it here.
I think it's essential that characters be described so they are not all in the image a reader brings to the reading experience. After all, one of the many benefits of reading widely is meeting new kinds of people.
One of my favorite books by Harlan Coben used the reader's assumptions about race as a plot twist. I love that trick.
On Wednesday we discussed revising and expanding a previously published memoir but the comments took a turn into weather as we discovered Amy is right there in the middle of Tropical Cyclone Pam.
We're all keeping our fingers and fins crossed that the boat is safe!
On Thursday we turned to how to use fan fiction numbers in a query.
I liked what Kathryn Clark contributed to the discussion:
A lot of the appeal of fanfic is that the readers already love the characters - no need to win anyone over. (Not to mention that I've found it easier to play with other people's characters than to create my own.) In most (though not all) cases, there's no exposition needed beyond "this takes place in episode three" or "alternate universe where Harry Potter isn't a wizard".
I hadn't really considered that writing fanfic is essentially like coming in to a fully developed story line, so much of the heavy lifting has been done already.
Jen brought up a point worth clarifying about fan fiction:
Something to consider: according to my agent, once your work is accepted by a publishing company, your contract will probably say something to the effect of "This work has never fully nor partial been available in electronic format, on public forum, available for download, etc."
So, when I suggested using a site like Wattpad to build a following for a paranormal I was brainstorming, he basically said I would be taking a big risk: if you get a million fans, the Big Five will pay attention. If you don't, you forfeit getting it traditionally published.
This info is absolutely wrong. I hate to flat out contradict an agent, particularly when this is second hand, but this kind of info can get scattered around and taken as gospel.
For starters: yes, many contracts for publication DO have a version of the "never before published" clause BUT BUT BUT if your work has been published before, this is something your agent will TELL your editor during the submission process, and this line of the contract will be struck out.
Contracts are NEGOTIATED, not handed down on stone tablets. I've had to clarify MANY things in various contracts depending on the specific situation of the author.
Second, if you publish on Wattpad, the problem is not that it's published but that Wattpad holds the rights to it. They essentially become a co-owner of the work. I do NOT know if that can be negotiated because I've never been involved with a work that was originally published on Wattpad. However, I do have editor friends who have acquired Wattpad works, and they tell me Wattpad gets a chunk of the dough.
Friday's question about #PitMad was very illuminating for me.
S.E.Dee said, and E.Maree echoed
"It's a big target for exploitation by predator publishers and unsavory agents so you need to keep your wits about you. It's also a big, fast-moving sea of tweets and there's no guarantee the agents you like are even seeing yours."
I have seen some of the #PitMad scroll and the retweets drove me crazy, but I had NOT realized it was being targeted by the predatory and unsavory. That's really sad news.
Janet Rundquist mentioned why she liked #PitMad:
I like the Twitter pitches because it forces you to distill your story into a single sentence and from there, you can sometimes get a feel for whether it has enough to entice someone to read after all. I *definitely* like the twitter contests better than blog-hosted contests. Far less painful and public if you have not received requests/favorites etc. Also, the twitter pitches still require you to query, so it doesn't replace anything, just gives you a new angle.
as did Liz Mallory:
always considered PitMad a good exercise at least. It forces me to write pitches - 20 or so of them! - and it also helps me see the selling points of the book by what people retweet or what makes me retweet someone else. PitMad is what showed me comps were so important.
But this time I got 3 favorites, and I can't deny that was really exciting. Even if nothing comes from it, it was encouraging.
And Rena has a very nice success with #PitMad:
That said, I found my agent during #Pitmad last September. It was someone I'd never heard of, but when I did my research, I was very excited. We may never have connected without Pitmad. She has been an amazing friend and partner, and she sold my book less than two weeks after going on submission, so I would say I'm a fan of the pitch party that brought us together.
And Jenny Chou's benefits were interesting as well
I REALLY enjoy Twitter pitching and contests. Because I've had lots of favorites and many big publishers are now fighting over my book? No. Because I've made lots of very supportive writer friends from all over the world. I've exchanged chapters for critiques and found a CP. Many of these people were kind enough to re-tweet my tweets. I've seen a lot of really great writing in contests and look forward to Tweeting about some of these books when they are eventually published- and I'm sure some will be. I've also offered my two-cents on some not-so-great writing and I hope I've helped a few people out.
As it turns out, my blog stats are sadly mistaken that I have no extra terrestrial readers because Christina Seine gave us her coordinates here:
This is Christina Seine here, coming to you live from the exclusive Bean de Lima resort on the sandy shores of the Pit of Carkoon
And it turns out she's not alone:
The weather is gorgeous here, although I have to say there is rather an overabundance of woodland creatures taking up space at the bar. There is much excited talk of the Second Annual Bucket of Chum Writer’s Conference set to be held here in the Fall – should be quite interesting.
Craig is on his way to Carkoon (something about prologues?)
Colin's report shows a few more people heading that way:
It's been a busy morning here at Carkoon setting up the branch office. My typewriter arrived, and Christine is just setting up the fax machine (though I think she's having trouble finding the phone line. I'll have Kitty put a call in to AT&T... assuming we have cell phone service).
I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we here at FPLM-Carkoon (that's Fine Print Literary Management-Carkoon Division--though the way my typewriter's behaving at the moment, Fuzzy Print would be more appropriate) are embracing the philosophy of our mentor and founder, and accepting any and all queries, proposals, spirits, and former US Army Military Police Corps Majors. So please send your queries this way. I'm particularly interested in historical suspense thrillers, lima bean mysteries, and kale memoirs, and LynnRodz is reading Dino Porn (but we'll find something useful for her to do).
Address your queries along with a suitable denomination of the currency of your choice to:
Third Cave Past the Waterhole
although it turns out Colin may be confused about where he is cause on Monday he told Julie Weathers:
Well, we're looking at hiring in the South Pacific. I hear you're particularly good with Aussies...? :)
LynnRodz updated the submission guidelines for the Carkoon satellite office:
Attention: Writers thinking of querying FPLM-CD, no more Dino Porn queries! It's an automatic rejection unless donuts and/or cookies are sent as well and none of this prepackaged or boxed crap either. A little imagination will go a long way so chocolate chip, peanut butter, and Oreo cookies will be thrown back into the slush pile.
Our head honcho here in Carkoon is a vegetarian health nut, so only fresh ingredients are allowed.
Automatic partials will be requested when accompanied with: Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Russian Tea Cakes, macarons, and tassies.
Fulls will be requested with: Spitzbuben, Kalacky and Rugelach.
Don't worry about me Colin, I'll be the taste tester and I'll even make the tea. (Yep, I've got the sweetest job in Carkoon!)
best typo of the week, and which should really BE a word: DLM's "vommenting"
The Sleepy One recommended Blue Start doughnuts in addition to Voodoo Donuts here in Portlandia, and oh my gastric juices…. YUM!!! Fabulous Bill Cameron, Pirate Heidi Schulz and Publicist to the Stars Dana Kaye and I took a field trip there and it was to DIE for!
I'm just stupidly behind on reading and everything else because I've been out here in Portland at Left Coast Crime, and yes it is FUN!
I know fanfiction isn't a "publication credit," but how do you feel about it in a query letter? I started writing it about a year ago just for some stress relief, and now I've got a few thousand subscribers (people who signed up to get an email every time I post something) and I'm closing in on 1.5 million reads. Several of those readers have specifically said they'd love to read my books if I ever publish something. I know a lot of people look down on fanfiction (for various reasons), but those kind of numbers sound to me like they could translate into a good readership! The book I'm gearing up to start querying soon is erotic romance and is original, not a rework of anything fan-related, but I'm really hoping some of my fanfic readers would be interested.
I don't really have anything else to count as publication credit - I'm in RWA and that's about it - so it would be nice to include this if it would be seen as a positive. I'm worried about agents seeing the word "fanfiction" and immediately writing me off as a crackpot, though. What do you think?
The problem here is that people read fan fiction because they're already fans of the thing you're writing about: Star Trek/Star Wars/Shark Filled Query Queues. Will they follow you OUT of that world? No one really knows. We do know that huge numbers of blog readers does not always translate to huge number of book sales. What people read for free, and what people are willing to part with $25 or $12.99 for are VERY different numbers.
Having several thousand people wanting to read your work though, that's gotta be a good thing. Even if only a few teleport over to your new work, that's better than none.
I also don't think agents and editors think of fan fiction writers as crackpots either. Some of the writing on fan fic sites is to the left of gruesomely terribly bad, but that's not you of course.
As far as I know I have but one client who wrote/writes fan fiction. S/he does it under a pseudonym and we did NOT mention it in the pitch for the novel.
But, since it's not a pub credit, and it's not an awesome number of people who want to buy your book (you said several) I'm going to vote for leaving it out only so that if I'm wrong about the crackpot thing, you won't find out the hard way.
I always tell my clients to manage social media in a way that works for you and that makes it fun for you. It makes it sound so easy, but for anyone on social media or looking to build a brand, you know it's a juggling act at best.
My social media is varied and while some of it is for work, I do have a few accounts that are purely for pleasure. As a business professional, which we all are, I think it's important to know when to have that divide. For BookEnds I have the blog of course, Twitter
, a Facebook
page and BookEnds has a BookEnds Facebook page
. I also have a LinkedIn page
which I constantly consider deleting in the hopes that I'll never have to look for another job again.
Obviously I seem to have a handle on the blog. Of all my social media it's the one I spend the most time on. For a while I debated whether or not the blog, or blogs, were still viable, but now I think I just do it because it's something I enjoy.
Twitter is easy for me. I feel like I can check it when I want and ignore it when I have to. I like how instant it is and I like how the responses happen quickly. Beth manages the BookEnds Facebook page so luckily all I have to do is send her updates and check things as I feel like it.
It's my own Facebook page that I struggle with. When I first opened the account I accepted all friendships and suddenly that became so overwhelming. I would log on to see updates from thousands of people I didn't even know. I tried to make a group just to keep an eye on my clients, but even that feels overwhelming, especially since I don't do it daily. So do I dump Facebook all together and just accept that it is what it is or do I keep it active for people who aren't on Twitter, but like to read my updates via Facebook? Do I simply make sure it's something I check daily and accept all friendships, but only pay attention to the group (if I remember to add people)?
I don't like having a social media page that goes unchecked and unloved, but it's a conundrum for me as to how to fix that without regrets. Isn't it funny that I should have such anxiety over a Facebook page?
My current WIP features a young Alaska Native man, and while he’s not the MC, he has a very prominent supporting role (he is actually one of my favorite characters), and there are several other minor characters who are also Alaska Native. Since the book takes place in Alaska, this is appropriate, I believe. I am not an Alaska Native, but I have lived in Alaska for 26 years and I have many very dear friends who are. So while I don’t have personal experience being IN this culture, I hope that my associations with it (and extensive research) will create a voice that rings respectful and true. I also have zero experience being a man, but while that’s a whole different can of worms (no pun intended), for some reason don’t see that as big of an issue.
My question is this: I am hearing a lot of call for diversity in novels, which is awesome, but I am also hearing criticism about writers appropriating a culture for their own means. Obviously, writers must write outside their own reality (otherwise, what’s the point?), but when does writing about a race or culture outside your own become appropriation? We’ve discussed this a bit in our writing group, but I’d really love to hear your perspective on this. Thanks!
This is a tough but interesting question. It's very much akin to getting things "right" when simply by being a visitor to the culture, you can't know what's "right" down to the last detail. You will always see the culture through the prism of outsider.
That does not mean however that you can't write fully developed and interesting characters from that culture. The key is like that of all good writing: make it feel authentic, but not just to you, to the people from that culture.
Appropriation is a loaded word for writers, whose job it is to steal everything they can and write about it. When does it cross the line? Everyone is going to have a different view on this, but the thing to pay attention to are people in that culture.
I didn't understand that The Help wasn't a fun book until I read the comments about it written by Roxanne Gay.
While it's not about appropriating culture, it does seem to say that stories are given a wider audience only when those in power agree to tell them.
I'm not sure there's a real answer to your question. I think by asking it, by being aware of the problem, you're on your way to steering clear of it.