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26. Week in Review 3/15/15

The week in review starts with prayers for our friend Amy Schaefer who lives in paradise most of the time, but is now right smack dab in the middle of Tropical Cyclone Pam. 

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

$250,000 GROSS
-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!

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27. Query Question: fretting about this whole nudging thing

I'm really confused on this whole nudging concept as it seems different for every agent. I queried Awesome Agent -- a top agent at a top agency, very popular and seemingly, well, awesome -- and his/her agency's website says to nudge after 30 days on a query (but says nothing about submissions). So after 30+ days on my initial query, I politely nudged. Nothing. Then a short time later, AA requested a partial in a Twitter contest for the same MS. I sent it and noted that I'd recently nudged on a query, in case AA wondered why I was in their inbox twice. Crickets.

Now it's been 50+ days since I sent the requested partial, and still nothing. Others have reported that AA has been silent on their nudges regarding offers of rep from other agents. AA has also not replied to anyone in quite awhile, according to Query Tracker.
I've done Advanced Searches on Twitter to make sure I'm not missing updates about where AA is in his/her submissions, but there's nothing barring one very vague reply to someone, referencing how some agents are behind.

I realize partials take longer than queries, but given AA never replied to my initial query and isn't replying to people with offers of rep, I'm tempted to query another agent at the agency, as there are others who I think would be good fits as well. I've got numerous fulls and other partials out right now, but I was really hoping to hear what AA thought. But now I just don't know.

Is it just me, or isn't this a little unprofessional? I understand agents are incredibly busy, but AA hasn't closed for queries, or even made an official mention of being behind, or time frames, or anything public I can track down. I want to give this person more leeway, as, after all, they are AA. But I don't want to be the person who nudges their way to a big fat form rejection.

Your thoughts would be appreciated!

Well, my thoughts would probably set something on fire so stand back: This kind of Radio Silence is Not Ok.

And by Not Ok, I mean bad news.

Agents are no more busy than the rest of the world. That we are somehow exempt from 1. common courtesy 2. sound business practices or 3. karma is delusional on our part.  I've been on panels where agents busily recount the number of queries in their inbox or how they have to work on the weekend to keep up, and I want to say "take care of small children and then get back to me on busy."  We're ALL busy. 

The difference is that agents are running a damn business here.  How you conduct your business tells people something.  If you can't be bothered to reply to people that you've asked to send work, that says something.

That said, people get behind. *I* get behind.  Just this week I had to meaculpa a client on letting her emails back up too long.  It happens.  The difference is: you don't let it go 50 days, and you start out with "I'm sorry." And it's NOT the norm.

Yes there's a difference between clients and queriers.  But the standard is the same: if someone asks about a project, a quick reply within a reasonable amount of time is NOT too much to expect.

So, what to do here?

You'll want to keep querying of course.

You'll have to hold off querying other agents at Agent (NotSo) Awesome's agency till you either hear from her or withdraw the ms.

And you'll want to think carefully about what to do if Agent Awesome comes out from under her rock and is excited about your ms.  Bad communication doesn't end at the query queue. It starts there.

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28. Mary Ellen Hughes's Cozy Reading Corner

Who can read a book on pickles without having one or two at hand? I can’t write one without cravings kicking in. Gherkins or dills, along with, of course crackers, and a sip of wine to clear the palate—well, what could be better with a good book?

Mary Ellen Hughes
LICENSE TO DILL (release date Feb. 3)

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29. Query Question: A PitMad request with an open query

I have received a PitMad favorite, but I've already queried this agent. Do I, should I mention the previous query. My previous query was in late January, so the agent may not have reached it yet.

Yes. Just a quick note at the bottom of the query with the pages you're sending for #PitMad will suffice.  "I also queried you for this project on 1/29/15"

Congrats on the favorite!

And now, how's the #PitMad going? Do you like it? Does it seem to work better than queries? The attraction of this eludes me but it's probably cause I'm a fuddy duddy set in my ways.


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30. What's Hot in Romance

I haven't done one of these in a while so I thought I better jump on to this question from a Twitter follower.

@BookEndsJessica what's hot in romance and YA. Where trends are going.
2/11/15, 9:45 AM

I'm going to work on the romance aspect of this question first.

At first I was going to pass this question off to my colleagues, but after some thought I decided to put my old journalist fedora on (no I never actually wore one) and hit the streets. So I called up some of my editor pals and put the question to them.

Contemporary romance is still hot. However, a number of publishers are feeling filled up on small town contemporaries.

Think Alpha. Alpha heroes are where it's at with a number of editors and publishers.

Most publishers these days are still shying away from new paranormal romances. While a lot of editors still love it personally, the market has slowed and they are working to build the authors they have rather than buy new ones.

Sports romances are hot. I keep hearing this again and again. It's a great place for an Alpha hero, although not all sports work. For whatever reason, baseball hasn't typically been hot in this market, but football and hockey always seem to work.

There are more than a few editors who would love to see foreign locals, Scotland is especially big. I'd suggest sticking with the UK (England, Scotland or Ireland). A contemporary Men with Kilts perhaps? This is a fun one. I'd like to see something like that.

And I'm always hearing a lot about working class heroes. We all seem to love our firefighters, construction workers and police officers.


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31. Query Question: How to employ fan fiction numbers in a query

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.


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32. How You Can Find Inspiration for New Book Ideas

I've always been an idea person. Even as a young editor I loved going to Barnes & Noble to pour over books and magazines and come up with my own ideas. I developed a cigar book, a beer book and a couple of different romance and mystery series ideas.

As an agent I continue to do the same. I'm always at the ready for an author who is having trouble thinking about what might be next or wants to take a germ of an idea and make it bigger. I've got a list of ideas and, in fact, just yesterday Jessica and I added three new romance ideas to that list. The trick is always finding the right author. The one with the perfect voice to match our vision.

Naturally, I'm often asked where I get my ideas and my answer is everywhere. I get them from magazine articles I read, blog posts, something I see on the train or even reviews of other books. In fact, sometimes the best ideas come from other books. No, I don't rip off another idea, but something really great can get me thinking about other things. For example, reading Wonder by RJ Palacio got me thinking about all sorts of other ideas. Ideas that I don't think I'm ready to share with the world until my author has run with them.

I'm not sure if it's just easy for me because I'm naturally an idea person, but if you feel stuck for what to do next sitting in front of your computer staring at the screen is not going to give you the idea. Get out there and explore. Read other books, read blogs, read nonfiction magazine articles. Go to a movie and, more importantly, read another genre or sub-genre. Some of the world's best ideas come from copying something else and making it your own. For example, could Gone Girl become a historical romance?


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33. Query question: revising/expanding a previous book

 I wrote a memoir about my childhood based on what I remember and what I was told. I didn't know anything much about my past, how to write a book, or research that goes with it. I was adopted. So, without the research I just rushed through with writing and self publishing the book. Since then I've located my biological parents and did research. I have all the research documents and people to back me up. How can I used what I have to rewrite my memoir? How so I explain the rewrite? Can I use a different title for my book?

You can do anything you want since this is your book, and your story. "Revised editions" or second editions of books are much more common with textbooks than memoir, but there are lots of people who write more than one memoir of their life. The late great Leonard Nimoy is a case in point. I AM NOT SPOCK was published in 1975.  I AM SPOCK was published in 1995.

You might think about writing a completely different book rather than revising. That will solve the biggest problem you face which is reader confusion.

You don't want readers to think they've already read the book if you want them to buy the revised and expanded version. Also, you don't want people to think it's a different book and be angry cause they'd read
the first version.

You can use a different title, but that makes it a new book.

You can call it an updated, revised, expanded version and use the same title but you MUST put "parts of this book originally appeared in an edition published in X"  OR "this edition is a revised, expanded version of TITLE published in X"

Nothing gets a reader annoyed like thinking they've been hoodwinked by old books being sold as new. 

And you might address the issue of the revision/expansion/update by writing a preface to this new book, saying what you said here: you've got  more info and more story.

The rule here is to be transparant with your readers and buyers.  

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34. Managing Social Media

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?


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35. Query Question: my characters are people of color; I'm not

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.

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36. March New Releases: Fantasy, SF and Horror YA

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.

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37. The Power of #MSWL

If you are on Twitter, you are looking for an agent and you haven't yet checked out #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) you're doing yourself a disservice.

The #MSWL hashtag is a place where editors and agents update their newest wants and desires. No matter what an agency's website says things change, and they can change dramatically. My website might say I'm actively looking for mysteries, but last night I just finished The Girl on the Train (which I haven't actually finished yet) and now I'm dying for a suspense and scouring my query pile for the perfect book. For the next The Girl on the Train. This is the time to send me a suspense and I'll let you know that on #MSWL. 

#MSWL let's you know when an agent is hot for something and, maybe, when she's actively looking for something instead of just browsing.

A couple of tips to making your #MSWL experience successful:

  1. Never pitch on Twitter. Once you see what an agent wants go to that agent's website and follow the submission guidelines.
  2. Don't write because of what you see on #MSWL. Just because four agents say they're looking for something doesn't mean you can write and submit it in time. Just keep an eye out for when that post appears that matches what you are writing.
  3. When querying because of #MSWL make sure to tell the agent. It will keep them Tweeting and might move your query to the top of the pile.
Good luck and have fun! I've encouraged all the agents at BookEnds to use #MSWL and I encourage all authors to pay attention to it. 


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38. Rant: So, what exactly do you do, really?

Agent Lovely wants a marketing proposal and I'm confused.
I wrote the book--memoir--already, and that's what Agent Lovely is representing. She's asked me to create basically an entire book proposal minus the chapter summaries and sample chapters. (Thankya Jesus I've spent the last few years building "platform").

But it feels weird. Isn't any of this Agent Lovely's job, or her intern's job? (1)  I'm currently in a residency with Famous Best-Selling Memoirist, and when I asked her(2), FBSM said that sounded weird, that marketing proposals are for when you haven't written the book yet and want to sell based on a sample and platform. FBSM's position is that agents make phone calls and pitch the book based on the writing. (3)

I made the proposal, subtitling it "Let's Market, Bitches," which may be slightly passive-aggressive on my part but also reflects the voice of the manuscript. While making it, I realized it's probably better I did, because I have enough experience writing PR to do a very good job.
Now I'm wondering: I have radio appearances and social media and TV appearances and I write a mean press release, and I'm compiling all of this myself…so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls? (4)

How much of my own work should I be doing here? I was already planning to market as much as I can after (hopefully) selling, do I have to do a big chunk of the selling part, too? Am I just being ungrateful here? Is this all part of the strange new world of No-One-Actually-Knows-What-Sells-Books-Anymore? (5)

Let's start at the beginning.

(1) Is writing a marketing statement your agent's (or sweet mother of god, what the hell are you thinking?) her intern's job?  No, it isn't. It's your job.  You spent a year building platform (good!) and you know which people know about you and how to reach them.. You as much as said so in the next sentence.

Your publisher will know how to reach general book buyers, but if you've got niche interest readers for your book, you'll be the one to know about this.

Your agent's job is to sell the book. Your job is to write it.  Marketing plans are an essential part of the non-fiction pitch even though memoir is sold like a novel (ie finished when pitched)

(2) There are few things that drive me crazier than people asking for advice from folks who are not suited to offer it by virtue of their experience being limited or out of date. Famous Best Selling Memoirist doesn't need a marketing plan  because she is 1. Famous 2. Bestselling. And if her first book was sold more than five years ago, her experience doesn't apply to you.

Nothing has changed more in the last ten years than how books are sold to the general public. Thank you Amazon, thank you meta data, thank you social media.  FINDING your reader is an enormous challenge. Famous Best Selling has already found her readers.

And the fact that she didn't tell you to talk to your agent chaps my fin. But then we all love to be asked for advice it's true.

(3) Famous is an idiot if she thinks that's what agents do. Maybe that's what her agent does. If that's true, she has a bad agent.   A competent agent is going to do a lot more than make phone calls to sell your work. And that's just the start of things.  Negotiate the contract, make sure the editor gets an editorial letter to you on time, monitor the production schedule so you're not looking at the cover six days AFTER it went to the printer. Audit the royalty statements. Explain the royalty statements to you. And that's just the stuff I did Friday.

The fact that often times we DO write the proposal, or pieces of it, does not mean it's our job. It means we're willing to help you do yours. 

(4) You're not paying anything yet. Let's all remember that your agent doesn't see a dime until you do. If you honestly feel like your agent isn't going to be worth the money, do yourself a favor and split now. There is nothing worse than a client who does not value the service provided.  It's like dating someone who thinks going out with you is marginally better than staying home alone and watching Friends on NetFlix.

(5) Yes you are. And you should knock it off. 

Let's review:

1. Your agent will be working with you for your entire career, or the very least the sale and publication of your book. Generally you are NOT going to pay her for the value of her time. You're going to get a bargain by giving her a percentage of what you earn, and only AFTER you see money too.

2. Don't ask for advice or take advice from people who have outdated experience, or a wildly different experience on how things "should be going."

3. Talk to your agent.  If you seriously think she should be writing your book proposal tell her so. If you think you can save money by pitching directly, go right ahead.

If one of my clients had written this question, I'd fire them on the spot. I can't stand working with people who don't value the service I provide, and life is too short to do that any longer than it takes to write a termination letter. There are a LOT of people out there with terrific projects.  If you don't think I'm worth it, they sure as hell do.

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39. Week in review March 8, 2015

I think Julie Weathers really summed up my thoughts on the comment community here when she said this on last week's WIR: "I love hanging out with y'all. No matter how bad the day is, I can' count on you to pick me up. What a great crew."

Turns out that if want to be kissed all we have to do is eat jam, and Poor Dead Jed will step up to the task:
"I hate both vegemite and marmite. Horrible evil stuff. Did date someone in my early twenties who always had it on her toast for breakfast, and then expected me to kiss her goodbye when we left for work. Heck, no. Eat jam instead, and then I'll kiss you."

On Monday the topic was money, and the various forms of shenanigans that contracts can have. 

Doranna was quite correct that the lag between when payments are slated and due, and when they are actually received can be a brutal wake up call. I spend entirely too much time tracking down money my authors are owed.

Sara inquired if it was wise to set up an LLC and get an employer identification number to use as your tax ID  rather than a social security number.  I think it's very smart to do that. Keeping your income and expenses separate from your personal finances is a smart business move. And this is a business.

Sunliner asked about royalties. "If a book sells, for example, $20, how much of that reaches the author's pocket?"

It depends on your contract. If you're paid a royalty based on the cover price, say 10%, then for every book sold you're credited $2.00.

Remember that books can be returned, so that number can change over several royalty statements. 

Often royalties are based on net amount received by the publisher: Books are sold to bookstores at a 40% discount, so a bookstore pays the publisher 60% of the cover price ($12.00) for each book, and your royalty is calculated on that amount.

There are a MYRIAD of ways to set up royalty percentages. All of them are listed in you publication contract. Make SURE you understand that contract before you sign.  I've seen publisher boilerplates with some pretty awful royalty clauses, but I've negotiated them out.

french sojourn asked why I hadn't included film money in the post.  Most books don't get optioned, and most options don't get picked up.  If a film deal comes along, it's gravy.       

It took wildly bestselling Lee Child YEARS to get Jack Reacher on the screen. His books had all been optioned for years, but the film business makes book publishing look like a kid's lemonade stand.

Film money is paid out differently than books: you get a lump sum for the option and the option runs for a specific amount of time. Once the option expires, it can be renewed or shopped again.

The percentages kick in when the film is actually getting made. And those percentages are negotiated at the option stage, by the kick ass books to film agent I hope you have.

I have one of the best guys in the country right now (he did the deals for DIVERGENT and THE DUFF) and he's made LOTS of deals for my guys, but none of it is on the screen…yet.

As for how does a two-book deal translate: when you option books for film,you option rights to the characters. Thus you're locking up all the characters in a series with a film deal. So, there's no difference between one or a dozen books if they all feature Felix Buttonweezer, Kale Chef to the Stars.

S.D. King asked "If an author does not earn out the advance, is that person blackballed in the industry?"

Not even close. A book can break even AND turn a profit for the publisher even if the advance is not earned out.  I like to have my books earn out because it means the book is selling well, but I'll take that hefty advance check too thank you very much!

On Tuesday we revisited the tar pit of comp titles.

Susan Bonifant rightly pointed out that "how a title does in the marketplace" is something to consider. Since most of you don't have access to that kind of data, the thing to focus on is what M.B. Owen said ""tell the agent what the experience of reading the book will be like."

And Colin is permanently living in Carkoon now. Send sunscreen.  LynnRodz, Kitty, and Janet Rundquist, not to mention Christine Seine, are hellbent on joining him. We'll need a branch office there soon.

Wednesday we shot the moon on traffic. The topic was being controversial in your blog postings. As usual your comments and insights helped me refine and revise my opinion on this.

Kitty pointed out what can happen when commenters go feral: 
I used to read another really good lit blog but quit when the blogger tip-toed into politics one day and all hell broke loose in the comments. She didn't say anything offensive, but it generated an ugly civil war amongst her readers. By the end of the day, she deleted the whole post and promised never to inject her personal political views again. I kept checking her blog periodically, but finally quit because that one incident had soured the blog, like a rotten apple in the bin.

I will say that this is the bloggers dereliction of duty. I believe that the blog keeper has a responsibility to wrangle the comments. Commenters can be crazy, off-topic, lima bean lovers, but they CAN NOT insult or belittle the other commenters.  I delete those comments as soon as I find them. I delete the ones that are intentional, and the ones that aren't. We may be wild and crazy here, but by godiva, we will be civil.

Which is exactly Colin's point here
 "truly amazes me what people come out with on Twitter sometimes. I've "unfollowed" well-known writers not because I disagreed with their views, but because they expressed their views so disagreeably."

Susan Bonifant has the best summation of this ever "People can fall so deeply in love with being seen, and lose all awareness of how they are being viewed."

Thursday we talked about sales rates.

Joan Kane Nichols's agent story made my blood boil:
 "Several years ago, I had an agent who was sending around a children's middle-grade novel I had written. He sent it to six editors. It got some nicely written rejections, but still rejections. The agent then sent me an email saying, basically, we're through. Sorry, couldn't sell the book, you're no longer my client. Needless to say, I was devastated.'

I saw a very similar thing happen this summer with an author pal of mine I met through the ChumBucket. I was appalled when his agent pulled the plug after one round of what seemed to be half-hearted submissions.  This is the kind of info that should be shared publicly on places like AbsoluteWrite and QueryTracker etc.  If an agent chooses to conduct business like this, authors should know. Also, this is something an author should ASK about ahead of time.

Christina Seine's hiking story makes me think she'll like the nice rolling desert out at Carkoon.

Amy Shaefer (logging in from Paradise) summed this all up very nicely: 

I think this falls under the heading of Bad Math. Selling books is not a random draw; we don't all have an equal chance of being published (or repped, for that matter). Whether a book sells or not depends on so many things: its quality, persistence on the part of the author to get it to agents, persistence on the part of the agent to get it to editors, publishing climate, subject matter, genre, current trends, and plain old good timing, to name a few. Yes, you can calculate what percentage of writers actually sell their first book, but don't expect it to be meaningful information. In the end, it is just another pointless thing to fret about. Go forth and write something fantastic.

And just cause my ego requires me to add to Amy's second comment about speedy sales: the fastest time from submission to offer I've ever had was five hours.  It was a helluva day let me tell you.

And then the comments veered right off into cookies, not the data kind, which meant I spent the rest of the time reading and laughing. And thinking of baking cookies.

Friday the topic turned to referrals within agencies. 
Jenz asked 
So when you reply with "Agent X here at FPLM might be a better fit," I may then query that agent and personalize with "JR suggested you may be a good fit"?
I had something like this happen at a conference, an agent just suggesting a few names. I know that's not a referral, but I was never sure if I should include that in the query, or how to word it if I did.

The best way to word is use the exact or closest possible words the first agent uses. Thus if I say "Agent X might be a better fit" you say "I queried Janet Reid for Nostrums of Carkoon" and she suggested you might be a better fit.

Or "Janet Reid suggested I try you when I met her at the Conference on Carkoon Exiled Writers last Tuesday.

Julie Weather's paper eating horse story is yet another small delightful story. And did you notice the names of those beasts?

Eileen made me reach for the smelling salts when she mentioned she'd be querying with Fifty Shade of T-Rex. But at least it's not "plane porn" an idea so weird I'm glad Stephanie mentioned it.

Saturday the discussion was resubmitting after extensive revision. 

Dena Pawling told us
"last week I sent my primary CP an email. “It's ready! Yay let's celebrate, it's finished and it's ready! So now I'm procrastinating lol”

My CP gave me the pep talk. It's a wonderful story, she said. You need to send it out, she said.

Last week, instead of working on individualized query emails to the agents on my A-list, I made some changes to my blog.

My CPs and my freelance editor say it doesn't, but my main fear is whether it starts too slow.

I think we need to collectively encourage Dena to get this puppy in the mail THIS WEEK.  She should report next Sunday on how many agents she queried.  And just to get her properly motivated she should be required to query ME as well.

After all, to quote the Poor Dead Jed 
"There can never be enough tweaking in the world to convince a writer that their novel is truly finished and completely perfect. But at some point you have to stop and say, "enough is enough, this is ready to send." And then send it."

and then GingerMollyMarilyn mentioned apple fritters and man oh man, I started thinking about my upcoming trip to Portland and Voodoo Donuts.

Which means next week's blog posts could be a bit less organized and on-topic than normal. I'll be there for Left Coast Crime which means a lot of meetings, a lot of time in the bar, and a lot of slinking around in the book room looking for new stuff to read.

It was 66 in Portland yesterday, and I've still got snow on my fire escape here in New York. Tuesday can't come soon enough.

I started a couple of really good books this week but mostly I'm back to reading full manuscripts. I know that's good news for those of you who've been waiting awhile.

My favorite link this week is this about barcodes on library books.

Daylight Savings Times sucketh.

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40. Query Question: how much revision till it's new

A year ago, I queried for a manuscript and got several full requests. They were all rejected with the primary reason being the opening was too slow, and various other style quirks as well (1), but most of these agents did request to see future projects (2). I've spent the past year revising the novel and it turned into a completely different novel, with the exceptions of character names and some character personalities, as well as a specific setting and half the title (3). Altogether, the plot is 90% new (and I did rewrite the entire thing), but in a query, there would be parts that would ring bells for agents who have already received a query on the previous version of this work.
I know in one of your recent blog posts you said that no means no. But since a few of these agents did love the premise & writing style, can I still query them with the new, different version of this project? And if I do, should I mention that I've queried a different version of this previously?

See above.

Now, here's why I said no.

First, look up where I marked (1).  You got rejections saying "the opening was too slow" etc. That is NOT a complete list of why they didn't pounce on your novel with all four fins.

It's what they told you. It's not necessarily the COMPLETE reason.

What they did say clearly is FUTURE projects. (2)
That means something not-this.

You've painted and plastered, and replaced the fixtures, but this house is still at the same address.(3)

I know you want to start with the agents who expressed interest in your work, but you're better off shopping this to fresh eyes.

I've gotten a couple of these refurbished fulls, and I don't think I've ever said yes on the second go-round. 

If you elect to ignore this advice, you should mention that you queried before, took their advice to heart and rewrote the novel completely.  The part about taking their advice is the key here.


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41. Terrie Moran's Cozy Reading Corner

This is my reading spot in the corner of a patio in North Fort Myers, Florida. Since my Read 'Em and Eat series is set right down the road in Fort Myers Beach, I like to pour myself a glass of sweet tea and relax in the sunshine with my pal "Fishy" and an entertaining cozy mystery. Speaking of cozies, I am busting my buttons becauseWell Read, Then Dead has been nominated this year for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. At the same time, the excitement is building because the next book in the series is Caught Read-Handeddue out July 7, 2015.

--Terrie Farley Moran
Well Read, Then Dead
Berkley Prime Crime

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42. Query Question: intra-agency referral

Is it unreasonable to expect intra-agency referrals when one agent rejects a query or passes on a partial or full MS but thinks an associate may be interested? I believe that the rejecting agent would not be burdened with much extra time, and could possibly earn valuable extra credit points for a comfy (rumored) afterlife existence. 

It's not reasonable to expect anything other than a reply to a query. Anything else is a bonus.  

Very rarely will I reply to a query with "Agent X here at FPLM might be a better fit." When I do, it's NOT a referral, it's a redirection. Agent X handles dinosaur porn, I do not. I have not read your pages of dinosuar porn, and even if I had, I have no way to judge their merit.

And what you think is not "extra much time" isn't. Inevitably there is a back and forth with Agent X so s/he can know how much I've read, and if there are any special circumstances ie it's my mom querying the dinosaur porn so X has to be polite etc.

And I'm not depending on earning afterlife points in my query queue. I earn those when I negotiate contracts.

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43. JF Wishlist Updates

I posted on Twitter the need for blog ideas. It seems I've run out already.

@BookEndsJessica Hmmmmmm.... any changes to your/your colleagues' wishlists?
2/11/15, 9:44 AM

This is actually a great question only because these things change all the time. An agent can talk to an editor or read a great new book and get excited about something new.

While I'm always looking for the standards: Cozy mysteries, mysteries, suspense, romance, women's fiction and YA, there are those submissions I will drop everything for.

Suspense--a great dark suspense stand alone or series with, preferably, a female protagonist, romantic suspense and definitely YA suspense. Give it to me dark, make it gritty, and I require that it leaves me in a panic about what's around the corner.

Women's fiction with magical realism ala Sarah Addison Allen.

Contemporary YA with dark secrets and big story lines.

An entire week where nothing happens so that I can catch up on all the reading I want to do and need to do. If that week happens to be at the beach with margaritas at the ready even better.

A new talented agent knocking at my door. I'm looking to grow our BookEnds team and I really only have a few requirements: Smart, fun and someone we'd all like to have a drink with. Oh, and you'll need some experience as either an agent or an editor. Your areas of expertise can be just about any genre. http://www.bookends-inc.com/employment.html

This new standing desk from Ikea

Image result for ikea bekant sit/stand desk

Richard Blais or either Voltaggio as a private chef.

I'll keep my fingers crossed.


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44. A Reader's Slump

On my post for How Much of the Book Do You Read? this comment came up:

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story has left a new comment on your post "How Much of the Book Do You Read?": 
I try so hard to read a book all the way through--especially if I've bought it!
If it gets to the point where I'm just skimming to read and don't care and am not retaining what I've read, I'll stop. Every once in a while, I'll skip to the end to see if it gets better (And I never read the end first!).
Sometimes, it's hard to say if the book isn't for me, or if it's because I'm headed into a slump. I think I'm headed into a slump now. I didn't love a major YA title that many other people are loving and buzzing about. I put down two other books without finishing them for the moment because I wasn't enjoying them, and I've been looking forward to both. I picked up the one again two days ago and managed to finish it BUT didn't really enjoy it and I normally love the author! 
So am I slumping? Did I just have three not-me titles in a row? I don't know! 

And I think it's a great question. Do you ever have a reader's slump? Those times when you seem to hate, or not like, or just are bored by everything you read?

Sometimes I think we need a change of pace and sometimes I think I read for my mood. I find that I read heavier things in the winter or crave classics (lately I've been craving both  Little Women and Pride and Prejudice). In the summer, I want a wonderful romance or a fast-paced suspense. Something quick and easy. When life is hard and busy and hectic and I want something that's going to easily take me away from it all. Other times I just need a good cry. In all of those cases where I need something from a book another genre isn't going to work. If I need a good cry, something light and funny is only going to aggravate me. 

But Bonnie, I've been there, I've been in a place where I'm fidgety and another book won't help. Is it a slump or just a reader feeling unsatisfied. 

I don't know the answer to your question. However, I would like to know if you ever finished and enjoyed those books.


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45. March New Releases: Picture Books

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, then, are the Picture Books of March 2015. Enjoy!

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46. Query question: more on comp titles

My question regards comp titles. You've spoken many times about the need to know what's selling in your genre right now, and to showcase this knowledge in your queries by naming successful comp titles. You've also said that if we can't find appropriate comp titles we're not doing the right research.
I write high concept YA, of which there are many, many on the market right now. My main character is also a lesbian. The number of YA novels featuring f/f romances is on the rise, but everything I've seen is exclusively contemporary or science fiction/fantasy (m/m romances are a different story). I've scoured Goodreads, Absolute Write, and many other forums, but the recommendations I get there tend to be obscure. Titles that receive more than a couple thousand reviews on Goodreads are rare. The most mainstream I've found are Malinda Lo's books, which were published by Little, Brown and have sold reasonably well. They are also fantasy novels. The lack of representation motivates me to finish my novel, but at the same time discourages me from ever hoping to be published by a large company.
My question is: Am I focusing on on the wrong aspects of my work when looking for comp title, i.e., should I list titles that are similar in concept and tone but with straight MCs? 

Yes. What you're missing here is the unique selling point for your novel: your character is a lesbian. AFTER you've done research and found few titles, then you know that you've got something that is probably fresh and new. That's a GOOD thing.

You're on the right side of "there's nothing quite like mine" because you've found books that are similar to yours but without the main character being a lesbian.

Comp titles aren't the same as clone or twin titles.  Lee Child writes very different books than those of John Sanford. I love both authors and their books. Both are generally called crime novels. They appeal to the same readers. They're not similar books in plot, tone or character.  

You've also not mentioned utilizing one of the best resources available to you: your local library. Librarians live for this kind of question.  Give them a shout.

And while we're at it: writers, support your local library. Join Friends of the Library and volunteer to work at the annual book sale. Kick in some money to the fundraiser. Writer letters of support to the government body that funds the library.  

Libraries, like writers, are the foundation of democracy and we all need to make sure both stay strong. 


Today's blog post brought to you by The Tao and The Bard by Phillip dePoy.

The Tao Te Ching or Book of the Way of Virtue is a touchstone of Eastern philosophy and mysticism. It has been called the wisest book ever written, and its author, Lao Tzu, is known as the Great Archivist.

Shakespeare, the Bard, was the West’s greatest writer and even invented human nature, according to some.

The Tao and the Bard is the delightful conversation between these two unlikely spokesmen, who take part in a free exchange of views in its pages.

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47. A Word on Submissions

I know not every agent works this way, not even in our office, but I want to put it out there that if I send you a helpful rejection I am alway happy to see the material again should you make dramatic changes based on my suggestions.

In fact, my guess would be that most agents would rather see a query again than hear later how the book sold, with another agent, because on the suggestions she made.

So even if I fail to ask you send the book to me again, the door tends to be open. Because I hate to lose out on something I liked enough to give advise on.


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48. What I Wish You Knew About an Agent's Job

Recently I posted on Twitter that I had run out of blog ideas. Brilliant planning since I just restarted the blog. Well thankfully a few kind souls came to my aid with questions that they thought I might be able to answer. We'll see about that.

@BookEndsJessica @BookEndsKim What is something that you wish people who submit to you knew about your job?
2/11/15, 10:55 AM

Thank you @EmilieLoritch for your question. This is something I hope I convey regularly on the blog when it might feel like I'm really just kvetching. Of course a couple of things came to mind, but the very first thing I thought of has more to do with writers and their expectations than it does with me and my job. At least I think that's what I'm about to write.

The first thing I want people to know about agents is that the least important thing we do is actually sell the book. I think there is, understandably, a lot of emphasis on that sale and while that's not wrong (because without the sale none of the other stuff, the more important stuff, would really happen) it's probably, in some ways, the easiest part of an agent's job.

What an agent actually spends the day doing is dealing with all that other stuff which really amounts to planning the author's career. I would say the most important thing you agent does for you is negotiate the contract and I don't mean the advance and royalties. I meant he nitty-gritty details of the contract that will allow, or not allow, you to do other things in the future. With contract negotiations comes an eye toward the author's career. What will this author want to be doing next year or two years down the road and how can I make sure this contract doesn't prohibit that?

I'm going to keep this simple rather than go into the myriad of other things an agent does, but what I will tell you this, which I know you've heard before, is that one of the things an agent rarely does while in the office is read. That means submissions or otherwise. Between phone calls, meetings and contracts there's very little time to put my feet up and whip out a good book.


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49. Query Question: so why exactly do you want me to shut up?

In a recent post, you offered as an aside that a writer whose platform involved speaking out on the issues of the day might not be a good fit for you. Can you expand on why a polemicist or controversialist, however well known, might not be right for you, and why such a platform might be counterproductive in the realm of fiction writing. 

I make my living selling books to publishers and then helping authors have successful careers. By and large this means selling Many Many copies of this  book, then the next book, and so on. Rinse, remainder, repeat.

An author who is busy writing blog posts on why Felix Buttonweezer is a scamp are 1. alienating all Felix Buttonweezer fans; and 2. getting known as a Felix-basher, not novel writer.

I'm not saying don't do it, I'm saying do it in moderation. A blog that's all Felix, all the time isn't a blog that general readers are going to follow, or check in with to find out there's a new book coming.

What many writers realize only after the book is published is the author persona is an entity that may not be a clone of the writer.

May I use myself as an example here? I've been known to rant about certain political things once or twice. Most often it's in response to a query.

Sometimes I really bring out the big guns and start quoting Scripture.

Most of my blog readers are willing to let me do this because I don't do it often, and I'm generally not going to delete their comments if they disagree with me.

This blog is known for dispensing information, advice and rants to writers. That's my goal. The other blog posts are just cause I get riled up sometimes as we all do.

When  you're planning your social media, ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to make friends who will buy your book and support your career?  Is it to convert people to your political agenda, or show them the error of their ways in thinking differently than you do?

Those are mutually exclusive goals, and if you don't know it, I do. 


Today's blog post brought to you by The Tao and The Bard by Phillip dePoy.

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50. Query Question: so, what's your batting average?

I've been reading a small debate on a writing forum. Someone stated that only 50-60% of first novels (represented by an agent) actually get picked up by a publisher. Their source is an agent's blog post. Another person questioned whether that agent's estimates are accurate. I'm sure some agents have different rates, this is supposed to be a rough average.

Is it true that even if someone signs with an agent, their odds of successfully getting a publisher for that book are only 50-60%? At first glance, that seemed a low figure. I'm afraid it really is accurate. But I'm curious about your thoughts on this. I want to recall a post by you about this (though maybe it didn't give actual figures?), but I can't find it again now.

You're missing two key pieces of information: time period, and number of books.

First, if an agent hasn't sold a novel within a day of signing the client, that's not a problem. A month isn't a problem either. Six months either, particularly in this acquisition climate. I've got several novels I've had on submission for longer than six months right now. There are a couple strategic reasons, and a couple just have editors who are backlogged as hell right now.

So it's entirely possible that I won't sell half my novels on submission within six months.

I have sold books that I've had on my list for nine years.

And let's all remember that Philip Spitzer, an agent I revere, had a James Lee Burke  novel on submission for something like seventeen years before selling it.

The amount of time is hugely important for assessing something like this.

And here's the other factor: if I can't sell the novel I signed a client for, generally s/he's going to write a second or a third.  We'll hit on one of them, we hope, eventually, but it makes the stats look bad if you're only considering the first novel an author writes.

But, more important here, your question tells me you're having doubts. Stop it.

As a writer, you must be determined to be the exception to any statistic that says you will fail. You must be willing to see that bleak truth, and refuse to let it apply to you.  There's a lot to be said for vision and tenacity as keys to success.

Don't focus on statistics right now. Focus on your writing.

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