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Nadia Cornier formed Firebrand Literary in September 2005 after leaving the Creative Media Agency. Prior to working as an agent, Dia began Cornier & Associates, LLC a small marketing firm specializing in author services that still runs in conjunction with her agency. Her experience with marketing has led her to develop campaigns to market her authors' projects to publishers and beyond instead of simply selling them.
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1. Looking for an Assistant Intern

I'm looking for an assistant intern.
I posted details on my website: http://www.nadiacornier.com/


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2. New Blog (for 2008)

Hi All.

Ok, so I started a new blog... Hopefully you'll all come visit.
I have no "friends" and so the blog feels vaguely naked.
It doesn't have much there, but I'm gearing up for a good long year of blogging.


Come visit me:


(if you don't think my new blog title is funny, don't tell me - I am still laughing)


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3. Need Assistant!

Bonjour Blogging Community!

I need some help... hoping y'all would come to my rescue as you have in the past. :)

Chris left Firebrand to take a full time position and I'm in desperate need of some help around the office. Please pass this along to anyone you think might be interested? Thank you!!!

Agency Assistant | P/T

Dear Potential Agency Assistant,

We’re looking for someone who can work with us in our Brooklyn-based literary agency. We have a small office, and we work together closely on almost every project (“we” includes interns, agents, etc), so while we aren’t necessarily looking for someone who wants a career in publishing – we definitely want someone who is reliable, resourceful and smarter than everyone else they know. We want someone who can take a to-do list and maul it to death, who has a great sense of humor, doesn’t believe in “drinking the cool aid” and isn’t likely to blog about the weird conversations that happen here.

Some of the things we’d expect from you on a regular basis:
• Managing submissions and responding to inquiries;
• Providing administrative support (managing agency calendar, confirming meetings);
• Tracking contracts, checks and other important paperwork;
• Reading and evaluating requested material;
• Keeping our databases up to date;
• Hire and supervise interns;
• And more!

Hours: 10-15 hours a week to start, Mondays a must, other hours are flexible.

Please sent an email of interest, a resume if you wish, and your “salary requirements” to Nadia Cornier at nadia at firebrandliterary dot com.

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4. Um...where did it go?

Dear Blog Readers,

So, this is different, eh?

I've had this blog for a few years now and it's been great fun. I've made a lot of great friends from it, received tons of fabulous e-mails (received a few not-so-fabulous e-mails), gotten amazing clients and fab queries, got noticed, got linked to, got unfriended and friended (got dumped once because of it...)... it's been wonderful. When I first started this blog there were very few people in publishing doing the blog thing. In fact, I was told more than once that it was a "really bad idea."

I think blogs are a great idea. There can be a share of ideas, you can reach a bunch of people at once, you can market yourself... and plus, I really like writing!

Here's the thing -- sometimes being one of the first people to get into a thing is a good idea. Sometimes being one of the first people to get OUT of a thing is even better.

I'm definitely not abandoning the ideas behind the reason I got a blog to begin with...
But things are changing and I hate the idea of doing the same old thing, just because I've BEEN doing it.

Here is the plan:

I've had one of my FABULOUS interns (Hi Sonia!) cut & paste all the old entries into different files for me, I've been working on editing the better entries (i.e. the ones about publishing and not the ones about my personal life) and have been adding a lot of information and text from handouts that I wrote and used at conferences. I'm going to put all this into an e-book that you can buy and give a chunk of the proceeds to my favorite writer-charity Absynthe Muse which is currently operating (and doing amazing things for young writers) on a virtually non-existant budget. Since I'm on their board (weeeeee!) I'd like to make a dent in their fundraising efforts because they have a lot of amazing programs in the works.

I'm working on a plan to make Firebrand more inclusively book/marketing/media-friendly. If you read my blog with any regularity you might remember me ranting about how I feel the book market is becoming tighter (not a new theory, mind you) and how regular books are going to have to be replaced by "blockbuster" books, with entire campaigns built around them. I finally figured it was time to put my money where my mouth was (blog was?) and set in motion the things I need to do to help my authors succeed in their careers. I'm looking forward to lots of work, but good stuff...

I'm going to be sending updates about books, awards, releases, rights, etc for Firebrand Clients from the Firebrand website. You can sign up through the website for that newsletter, but it's going to be very dry information (mostly for other people in publishing), but feel free to join up.

In two months (or so), I'm going to try something new... It'll probably be blog-esque, but something *different* and I hope you'll come check it out. I'll post about it here, but if you don't want to keep checking back - you can add me to your feed and then you'll be updated! YAY!

Until we meet again...

Wish me luck!


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5. Fnords and a Writing Prompt

In The Illuminatus! fnords were words that, as children, people were trained to read and fill ill at ease over. Like, they would see a fnord and automatically fill unease and suspicious.

Later, they would sprinkle news stories with Fnords but leave advertisements/marketing free of them -- making a strong consumer society.

To me, a 'contemporary' Fnord is double-talk. It's where if you took the literal meaning of the words, they would mean one thing. But in context, adding in personality and tone, the meaning of the words takes on a distinct and subtle implication of something completely different.

The southern woman's "Bless your heart" is the ultimate and standard female-fnord by which all other fnords should be judged.

Other examples of Fnords:

Wow, I wish _I_ felt comfortable eating that... I'm just too obsessed with how I look.
Oh! You write ____________, I wish I could do that, I just find I can't simply my ideas enough for that audience.

The problem with Fnords is that the only way to combat them is with other Fnords.
There is no way to cut through the bullshit and talk directly, lest you look like an insane person, "But darling, I meant it as a compliment!"

I think it's interesting to watch two "characters" (or real people) speak in Fnords. I've seen women carry on complete conversations in Fnords -- I've had complete conversations in Fnords.
There is a subtle power play or a message being sent, of some sort, and there are only three ways to respond:

Fnord-back: If you're fnord-friendly, try fnording back. Remember some people are Fnord-Pros and you will never be able to out Fnord them, but you can always...
Call Out Their Fnords: You can't just get upset. You literally have to be extremely obtuse-sounding and say, "By that did you mean.... because that's the way I'm taking it?" And then they will either apologize (while Fnording you into believing that you're slightly insane for misinterpreting a compliment) or laugh it off.
Your third option is to go literal-talk them. Respond to what they said literally and not the Fnord-subtext. My dad responds to my mother's Fnording like this. I'm not sure if he's doing it with intent or because he doesn't feel the Fnord, but either way it works: it drives my mother insane.


So, someone Fnorded me (really, really well) yesterday. Which is what sparked this entire thing, and discussions last night with a guy friend who is trying to wrap his brain around some really good Fnords.

I just told my ex that I was writing an entry on Fnords, he wrote back:

Him: It’s good to know that these things don’t bother you, and that you don’t have to use your blog as a fnord in order to shove it back in someone’s face (in a public medium) so that if they read it they go, “wow, that’s so messed up. I know EXACTLY what you mean” when really it was directed at them...

Me: Shut up.


Try writing a scene with your protagonist & antagonist in Fnords... Keep it short. See if you can get two very clear conversations going: the literal one happening on the surface and the subtext-conversation.

:) If you like yours, feel free to post it.

Try to stay away from obvious fnords like "that's my man" or "I hate your skirt" fnords. Be creative.
Remember that fnords come as the by-product of relationships that aren't quite healthy... and that they can take place anywhere and in any context.

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6. Cute How To

Dan knew I loved the title of this one (...yes, yes, a wee bit bitter), so he was kind enough to send it over to me when it came out. I love this book. I was reading some of the entires like, 'How to tell if you're boyfriend is a cult leader' or 'actually a woman' (!) aloud to everyone in the room. Between laughs there was always at least one person saying, "Um, I think I dated that one."

This book is just fun. I have at least two female friends (and one guy friend) who need a copy of this on their shelves. Just as a reminder to stay away from the bad ones.

I hope Ms. Carlin has sequels on the brain... So cute.

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7. Punk Publicity

Want to see a great example of a press kit?
Here is a press kit for a non-fiction book:


Check it out. Even the book itself is cool -- and about how to market yourself/business/product.

I love Richard and Mark.
They said they wouldn't mind if I posted their complete book publicity/marketing campaign -- but the thing is HUGE so...I'm trying to figure out where I can upload it for easy download. Once I figure that out, I'll post it so you can see the uber-campaign.

Have a great Thursday!

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8. Questions

I had a great, scary conversation yesterday. I went in with one question I wanted to ask:
What makes you think you can just do what you want?

I came out with one answer:
What makes you think I can't?

Sometimes conversations like this can shift your perception just a smidge -- and then your entire view is different. Good.

...So, what makes you think you can just do what you want? What makes you think you deserve it?

Isn't it scary how many people ask you questions like that every day? -- and never so direct. It's done in little quips. In a raise of the eyebrows. In not-quite-encouraging encouragements.

Now you have your answer.
Poor them. They'll never know what they missed.

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9. Mostly for editors and agents...

Does this apply to what's happening (been happening) in the YA field in the past few years?


If so, what are our choices?

Half of me wants to encourage frugality... assuming that it might lead to a longer life...
The other half of me is rolling its eyes at the first half and saying, Get it while you can (moron).

I've met agents on either half (perhaps none so bipolar as myself) and each group has its example of successes and failures.

How do you know that you're getting paid too much for your book?
Is there such a thing?

Will there be a YA bubble burst in a few years when we all realize that the population burst has passed YA-reading levels, that Harry Potter hasn't been replaced, that teens aren't reading as much as they used to be and that ... damn, perhaps these books won't be earning out those HUGE advances?

We talked, at a sip night, about the possibility of the no-advance/low-advance offer in exchange for certain "other" perks. The guaranteed marketing plan, the minimal sale of territories and rights to publish... but here's the thing: if I sold a publisher a book for little or no advance (assuming, of course, that I could convince an editor AND an author to do such a thing) - in exchange for a better marketing plan (if I could convince a publisher to do such a thing) and only sell the right to publish the book in English in the NA territory -- and kept ALL the other rights (including the little itty bitty ones that we seem to ignore)... and then I, myself, would go out and sell all those rights individually and have it planned in such a way that everything would come together with the release of the book (assuming the book gets released on schedule)(assuming that the rest of this is even POSSIBLE)....

And then you have a "book event." The serialized rights in X magazine, the awesome podcast, the free chapters in the neat website, the underwritten audio book in digitial-only format, but full cast... the foreign rights being released almost simultaneously...

Again, if this was possible -- is it even probable?

Because if the author is into it ("Hell ya," she says, "Awesome royalties and no advance to earn out, sure.. let's try it..") and the editor gets her people to buy in ("Minimal risk and they are going to kick ass on the rights to better promote the books we're publishing? Nice.")...

How many agent do you know that:

1) Know enough about subrights
2) Know the right people in their industry in all these subright fields (including magazines, marketing,etc)
3) Are not only connected enough but smart enough to plan out a full campaign for EACH book that they try this with
4) Can handle the paperwork
5) Want to even try? -- because if this works, you're basically limited yourself to way way way way WAY fewer clients (and way way way way way more work).

Now, this is only one suggestion on how to fix the problem.... of course... and maybe a really poorly thought out suggestion...

But, it reminds me of a discussion my best friend told me about regarding nationalized health care. He told me that he would have these long drawn out, middle of the night discussions about creating the perfect nationalized health care that would end with two people, sitting across from one another saying, "Fuck yeah, that would be awesome, but it will never work."

Because it involves everyone working harder, potentially for less, and definitely for less short term gratification.

We are all about convenience...

I'm continually impressed by the larger agencies that have a "new media" person -- because, in my head -- it would be their job to work on things like what I wrote above. Figuring out if this is a possibility. Are they? Unfortunately, I don't know... but I'd like to hear and learn more about creative solutions to some of our more difficult problems.

Drop me a line if:

1) You'd like to introduce me to someone who would fit in my scope of "new media" (i.e. a journalist, editor, marketer, audio book person, web site designer, foreign rights person, amazing artist, etc). I'd love to meet them. Send me an email with "new media" in the subject line.

2) Drop me a comment if you know someone who does something amazing and collective (like a concept above) where it's about making big business out of small ventures.

3) Let me know if you ARE a new media person. Comment or email. Let me know what your job description is. Let me know if you feel you're doing the job you want to be doing.

4) Post a comment with an argument for or against the no/low advance concept. Rage against the Nadia.

5) Post a comment if you saw the new OJ blog and wanted to write something really, really obnoxious in the comments section but then realized you didn't want to be one of a crowd.

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10. Blog Awesomeness

Yesterday I asked Lis to make a tip sheet for Firebrand authors on creating blog content. I'm going to send it to them, but I think she did a great job on this, so I'm attaching it here too. -- Dia


Five Fab Ways to Make Your Blog Awesome and Keep You Sane (by the fabulous Elisabeth Wilhelm)

1. Toot your horn, loudly: Your blog is a marketing tool, so treat accordingly:. Successful bloggers can take business successes and failures, as well as the good and bad in their personal lives, and turn them into fascinating reading. Stay true to your natural voice, and your readers will trust that your compelling storytelling in a blog translates well into book form. Turn your latest rejection into a way for your readers to root for you, and for your publishing success! You’ve just garnered a few more loyal readers.

2. Become an authority: You want to gain your readers’ trust in what you say, based on your previous experience and the wisdom you have to share through your blog posts. If that means you’re an expert at being a YA author and parent of two teenaged boys, then who is to tell you different? Developing your niche will set you apart from the umpteen other author blogs out there.

3. Get geeky: Use the goodies offered with your blog service to your advantage. Set up an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed, copy and paste an intriguing YouTube video applicable to your life, or add a voice post to spice up a blog that may have been straight text. Customize the look of your blog to make it visually interesting, and organize it in a fashion that makes sense, so if people want to buy your book, link to the Amazon.com page, or link to Firebrand’s website on your “About My Writing” page. Stay away from crazy Flash intros and looping midi files—they’ll wreak havoc on older browsers.

4. Grow thick skin: Blog drama can seem downright teenagerish, so to avoid getting sucked into a 9th grade catfight, and strive to be positive in how you portray others, especially of fellow bloggers. When in doubt, kill them with sweetness, and you’ll come out as the better person. Choose carefully whether you’d like to enable comments on your blog, since you might not always like what people have to say about you or your writing. Remember that what you write may be completely misinterpreted, despite your best of intentions, so write carefully.

5. When in doubt, consult two people: Pause on posting that entry when you’re slightly inebriated after Nadia calls you to tell you she just sold your first book for six figures. Of how about how another author sniped about you last week in the critique circle. Such posts are better left until morning, and two other pairs of eyes. If you’re breaking news about your book going to auction, clear it with Nadia first, just to make sure it wasn’t supposed to be kept on the DL. Naturally, anything that sends out bad karma, you’ll also want to bury. Thanks to Google and other archiving sites, what is published on the WWW, stays on the WWW. Be sure it doesn’t come to haunt you.

Safety and Common Sense Do’s and Don’t’s

DO give prominent warnings if your blog is not kid-safe. Equally, if you’re posting links to things that would corrupt a 3rd grader or get an employee on a business computer in trouble, list “NSFW” for “not safe for work” next to it.

DO remember that if you have ads displayed on your blog, you won’t always be able to choose what ads are displayed.

DON’T post pictures of your kids or people who haven’t given you permission to post pictures of them.

DON’T infringe on other people’s artistic material and repost text or images from other websites without attribution.

DON’T discuss deals, need-to-know-basis book info, or privileged information gleaned from conversations with your agent or editor. If you wouldn’t stand up in a room at a writer’s conference and shout about the news at the top of your lungs, don’t put it on your blog.

DO consider offering a few articles, a sample chapter, or an FAQ section, that you encourage for people to disseminate, with proper attribution to you. (Look into a Creative Commons license: http://www.creativecommons.org)

DO link to other websites that are relevant and useful, as well as link to other authors’ blogs.

DON’T post your snail-mail address.

DO create an FAQ section, to answer those oft-repeated requests from aspiring authors for you to read their work.

DON’T list an email address in the form of [email protected]. This can be easily picked up by robots, which harvest email addresses for spammers. Instead, either upload a jpg of your email address, so that your visitors can see and read your email address, but it can’t be copied and pasted, or write the email address in a slightly different form, like bobbysue [at] hotmail [dot] com.

DO log out every time you sign in to make a blog post. Your account may get hijacked without you knowing about it until too late.

DO make a commitment to keep your blog updated at least once a month, so that it doesn’t become a dead site.

DO pay the several extra bucks a year to make your domain information private. If you own your own domain, anybody can look it up in the WHOIS database, which by international law contains your home address and phone number. You can often make this information private through your registrar, the website that you registered your domain at.

DO Google yourself regularly and see where you’re popping up online. Post links to the positive press, and address other issues that have cropped up. Most importantly, this will keep tabs on whether someone has been illegally reposting your work elsewhere.

Free Blog Hosts

Fantastic Author Blogs

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11. A Faster Horse

I'm reading PUNK MARKETING by Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons -- read this great passage, wanted to share:

"What [customers] don't like is being asked what they want - because they don't know! Henry Ford said it many years ago and it still holds true: 'If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have told me, 'a faster horse'.'"

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12. My Brain on Digital Media

This morning, while doing some research for a SIP dinner, I came across Google’s information page for Publishers on their new Book Search marketing program. A bit of dissembling here, I think.

Their brand as the premier search tool for our generation has already been solidified in our minds, but now they are working on the next generations…

And is digital media a big enough wave that they are willing to ride – even against the tide of angry publishers with their lawyers and lawsuits?

I emailed a link of this page to editor who inferred that we might be asking the wrong questions, the right question might be, “Why are [publishers] protecting something that has neither readers nor economic value?”

That put a different spin on the research I had been coming up with.

The concept for the evening was Digital Media and The Future of Publishing (or something like that) – so, it was how trends in digital media was going to (or not going to) affect the future of publishing.

And my final answer came down to, “If you don’t use it, you lose it. And then someone else will use it and make tons of money.”

Here is how I tracked the course of this topic to it’s enlightening (and somewhat rhyming) conclusion:

In the beginning there were analog audio recordings.

Analog recordings had certain, distinct drawbacks: they weren’t easily stored – often bulky material was required to record, play and store these recordings. When that changed, what hadn’t was the fact the more you reproduce analog recordings – the worse the quality. So, for anyone who was older than five in the 80s will remember being able to spot a “copy” right away just from the sound quality. The other thing that set them apart was the size of files/materials that analog recordings took.

When the shift moved to digital recordings – the difference in quality was substantial – but more importantly was the quality of the reproductions. Lower costs for producers (i.e. it was easier to make one master that could then reproduce and create thousands of copies that all had master-like qualities and could then become their own masters), but this opened the door for the ease of piracy of audio recordings.

This has been a debate since Napster – but once Napster went away and was replaced by a pay-for programming only, the number of people interested went away too. Just recently it has begun turning around, and then – perhaps – only with the advent of the iPod: which gave us the ability to store lots (and lots) of digital files and it gave it to us in a way that people found exciting.

I bring up the iPod only becomes it comes back into play later – but my point was that although Napster was legally-punted out of the music piracy field, there were a lot of questions over whether that stopped music piracy all together (it didn’t) and if – by getting rid of Napster – we were also getting rid of one of the best ways to market music to new listeners.

Which opened the market for a community-based site that allowed people to share music, find new music and – perhaps more importantly – find one another. A new study being completed around millenniums (i.e. people of the age 15-25) makes the supposition that community based sites, such as MySpace or Facebooks, are no longer in a position to be considered a “fad” – just like you wouldn’t call cell phones a fad. It is now (along with text based messaging) one of the fastest growing communication tools for this age group. Remember this, this will be important later.

Ok – from here let’s move laterally to the other community-based phenomenon, blogs. Blogs, while they may seem like “online, public journals” are not that at all. They are more like one-way directed newsgroups. Where people post material that other people can connect to, comment on or utilize.

But, because blogs are still being considered ‘personal’ there hasn’t yet been a shift from the corporate side of taking it as community based tool. Companies are still trying to be “nice” about blogs and not setting a strong standard of right and wrong when it comes to blogs.

Because of blogs, the internet is become a less anonymous place. It – again – is becoming a group of linked communities. And in any community, identity of the participants is always important.

You can tell this is true (i.e. that it’s no longer personal/private) because of the following reasons:

1) Intelligent people are getting fired for the material on their blogs.
2) There is no such thing as “secret blogging” – as one post was called by the blog writer of Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.

We’ve begun to change the internet from an anonymous mass of dis-information to (with the advent of more and more users) to a community and/or a vehicle for information distribution/collection/storage.

Which is what causes publishers to have policies on blogs (like Random House that says that blogs, “exist on the internet – a public space” or other companies that actually have blog committees).

Because you can almost always gauge a new technology’s impact or importance based on the amount of bureaucracy it creates in larger companies – I’d say the blog world has created a nice ripple – and it will continue to do so.

The point, though, is to assume that you’re no longer anonymous. The internet is now public (i.e. everyone is here – and we are all watching). Forget Big Brother. Everyone has their own opinion (trust me, you can find it) and that is going to have its repercussions on the digital age.

Remember how I said earlier that when we changed from analog recordings to digital that the file sizes decreased? That also made them easier to be exchanged, and again – more communities – more exchange of information. Digital media begins to have its foothold in all of our lives.

So - let's say that for education purposes we can use both digital media and internet for good. The Internet Archive says that libraries exist to preserve society's cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. And under the law of copyright – that’s considered fair use. They can upload and digitize books and other media and get away with it because they are open to historians and researchers. Right now they are trying to use digital media to try and further change the face of the internet.

Think wikipedia but with the authority of published books. Great, right?

The problem is: We’re greedy.

Right now 3 out of 5 children in the world do not complete an education beyond the fifth grade level. Because a lot of these children live in areas that cannot afford health care let alone school books, a bunch of MIT students have developed a laptop that can be manufactured for $100 allowed digital textbooks to be utilized on these computers.. Countries, encouraged by the UN, have signed onto the initiative called One Laptop Per Child to help provide an adequate education for all children. Everywhere. Libya signed up for 1.2 million of them.

Now -- as children become more educated. As children grow up with laptops -- learning to read and be educated on laptops, and now with itunes making things accessible to educated teens (remember how text messages and myspace/face book has changed the way teens are already communicating?) there is going to be a shift in the way we look at digital media.

In fact there already is:
Hachette has recently launched a new group : a digital media group that specializes in audio and e-books – but they also look into the market for podcasts, internet downloads, as well as digital delivery to phones & pdas.

And as a friend pointed out to me – Ipods… they wouldn’t be fun to read books on (the screen is too small), but they are downloading books on Itunes now. And… hey… that new Iphone… isn’t that a nice PDA/e-book size reader?

What does this mean for copyright holders? Well, right now, copyright law is protecting them (i.e. people like the Internet Archive) under this act by the following Fair Use terms:

-- is the activity commercial in nature
-- what is the nature of the project
-- How much of the work is being used
-- What is the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

I want you to take another look at the final point on that list of terms. Doesn’t that just scream ‘use it or lose it?’ (goodness, all this stuff makes me wish I had a degree in Intellectual Property Law – note to everyone, I do not… call your lawyers, this is not legal advice!)

--- So, I was reading Galley Cat this morning and it has the guy who works for the Internet Archive having been heard on a panel saying (yes, it’s like telephone at this point), about the lap top initiative, "We're a library for it, and all of our books will be available for anyone with this laptop." he went on to say, "I'm not suggesting that the laptop will become the future e-book,... but digital books popularity can't be far behind."


Right now Google is using the same theory, really. It's for research, so it's not copyright infringement, it's a use of "display right" (i.e. marketing and not sales - that's why they use the "book marketing program" so they can't be taken down as easily in court) -- but they can only get away with this because of the absence of...

That fourth element in the terms of Fair Use.

What is the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work?

Right now, no one is actively using digital media rights to their books -- so this productions isn't hurting sales. It's like me saying, you can produce a book because the book will hinder the movie ticket sales! No one who read the book will go to the movies!

Not true... so it's not competitive. But the minute publishers realize that it’ll be easier to hold up a case against google if they were actively trying to sell or make money off the same rights, and then realize that there is an upcoming market of people who not only read on computers but are going to have grown up reading on computers, guess what is going to become a competitive market?

Here’s the thing – Copyright protects the creator and that doesn’t change if they digitize the material. It’s still the material and the creative process behind it that is being protected.

But, is there a way (like with what happened to Napster) to fight off thousands and thousands of media-and tech- savvy teenagers?

Probably not.

Instead we need to embrace this change and talk about how we can utilize it to our best advantage:

1) Publishers will start to hold back all digital rights. While this is great for the publisher, this isn’t necessarily great for the author (and likely, the agent). Basically if the book isn’t a huge hit, the digital audio rights will go to waste or they might have been a great fit for another audio company. This is saying that one company can do every job equally well – and that’s quite impossible. It also hinders people who already have a sustaining audio relationship on previous books.
2) On iTunes you can currently hear a portion of the music before you buy it. Make sure it’s “right” for you. Display rights would allow people to see the same thing for books. It’s like flipping a book open in the bookstore and reading a few pages. But, what if we could work with iTunes to serialize the first part of the book each week or if there was a subscription service (like a book club system) where people could download digital books to their iphone or podcasts of books to their itunes? Who is going to hold and make the most of those serial rights? How much more important will they become (and are those considered digital rights? Audio rights? Display rights?)?
3) Multi-media – for characters who are intellectual property, for putting books to these new mediums with other media – what permissions and what rights does that include? What do publishers have to buy from the author (and for how much) before they can make a product they are really happy with? What do authors do when the publisher wants everything?
4) How can agents keep up with the knowledge and flow of information that publishers have entire departments for in order to make the best decisions for their clients?
5) When do we start setting out a program to teach our authors/personnel how to use livejournal (or forbid them from using it?)
6) What about myspace?
7) When do we realize that the websites we’re using for books now get the majority of their traffic FROM the books – people who have already purchased the book. Not new readers. Not potential readers, for the most part. How do we switch that?
8) How much is audio book production going to change (style, quality) if people can sample before purchase?
9) How do we reach kids who spend their time communicating digitally? Why wouldn’t we try and reach them or feed them digital products?

I'd like to read your thoughts -- feel free to discuss, disagree, etc.

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13. YAY!

REALITY CHICK has been chosen by the New York Public Library for their list of Best Books for the Teen Age 2007.

This year marks the 78th edition of NYPL's Books for the Teen Age, which selects the best of the previous year’s publishing for teenagers, ages twelve to eighteen years old. All the titles chosen have been read and reviewed by young adult librarians and recommended for this special publication.

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14. The Sky Is Falling

I recently had a discussion which touched upon several cases that I thought exemplify our industry’s aversion to change – and a lot of these issues center around the rise of technology and what that can mean to publishing.

The problem is, like the chick who swore the sky was falling: we’re so busy running around squaking at the top of our lungs about how different it all is and how it will “ruin everything forever,” or we go on denying it to our dying breadths – that we fail to see the truth. It’s not an acorn, we still swear, it’s the sky. And it’s falling. Run.

Here’s the thing: The sky isn’t falling.

Yes, technology is on the rise. We had our first scare with e-books. And the chicken little answer was, at the time, to create a million small publishers that would flood the market with mostly unedited material before a few well thought out business plans could find their way into the mix. Or it was to proclaim, simply, that e-books would never take the place of traditional books because you “couldn’t snuggle with an e-book in bed.”

If you’ve ever uttered that phrase (and yes, I’m pretty sure I have), it’s time to slap yourself on the back of the hand.

And then print-on-demand, and then pod casts, and then blogs, and then myspace, and then youtube and then… and then… and then…

But again, we’re so busy defending our brick and mortar companies, our printed pages and our high-on-overhead establishments that we fail to see that things are changing whether we defend our old ways adequately or not. In fact, they are changing and by defending ourselves we become otherwise occupied when we should be engaging ourselves with these new ideas to see how we can best utilize them.

Create teen/reader friendly material for your MySpace page by remembering who the core audience using this medium is. Ok, MySpace has turned into THE premiere place to check out potential dates, but originally it was the premiere place to check out potential bands playing at your local digs on Saturday. It still remains a place heavily trafficked by teenagers and you should keep this in mind. Especially if your audience is primarily teenagers, please consider how “adult” messages or content (not XXX, just adult-mature) feels to a teenaged reader.

Publishers: Your authors are blogging. Where are you? Tons of authors I know are spending their valuable time blogging. Whether or not you consider this time wasted or invested, up to you – but – since it’s happening, it doesn’t matter. Publishers and editors need to take a more proactive role in the education of their authors. Because I always hear editors complaining (Ok, Ok, I’ve done it too) about what their authors are blogging about, and how they had to ‘reprimand’ them for the material they posted on their blogs, but I’ve never heard of a publisher sending out a note to their newly signed author saying, “we know it’s your private blog, but please be considerate of those you work with by keeping the following information private for the following reasons…” I think it’s much easier to send out one general letter to newly signed authors saying, don’t post the cover we sent you to look at because it’s not finalized yet and might change seven more times. This and other general thoughts could solve a lot of potential problems – by keeping them from happening at all. And hey, agents – now’s the time to start thinking about your own notice to authors: How can you help your authors use this new technology to the best of their advantage?

Ok, so podcasts are the official, “Do I really sound like that” medium, but Ipods are making digital audio the new “it” technology on the publishing block. Ok, I know the whole “you can’t snuggle up in bed with an e-book” …but, even better was the line, “Oh yeah? Well you can’t read a book while driving.” (I, personally, can). Audio books are here to stay, and although right now they aren’t producing audio books for every book (“Seriously, have you ever heard of a best selling audio book based on a novel that never went anywhere?”), as the popularity of digital media rises, so will the supply. I foresee quite a few more “Itunes only” deal in the future, straight to digital audio releases for those older, edgy boy-centric books and perhaps the death of CD audio books completely? The path on the digital highway seems to be picking up speed, are you even driving on the road? It’s time to make sure you are shoring up digital audio rights in your contracts, getting in touch with the current and future players, and brushing up on your “radio voice.”

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15. Query Frustrations

There is soon to be a headline, "Literary Agent Goes Query Crazy," and it's going to be how bad queries put me in the mental hospital. And the worst part is, I know a lot of people who query me read my blog. But I feel stupid saying the same things (how to write a query letter) over and over again... (Is this what you want?) Am I (already) crazy for expecting someone who reads my blog and says - I read your blog! - to then follow some of the rules that I lay out there? Any of them?

Maybe I'm talking about it the wrong way...

One last try.

Things you NEED to know and keep in mind when writing a query letter:

1) We are not friends. I don't know you. This is a business letter.
Seriously. I can count my real friends on my right hand and if I haven't called you up in the past month to tell you some wacked out crazy story, or, if I haven't been an hour late meeting you for dinner (to which you kindly waited), or if I don't make you listen to me bitch about the same guy over and over again... You can probably guess we're not friends. Don't confuse friendly for friends. Different. Please treat me like someone who you want to do business with. I'll try my best to respond in kind.

2) It's a pitch letter. A query, as I define it, is a request from an author to an agent/editor that one) pitches the material and then 2) requests permission to send it. That's it. So what is a pitch then? A pitch is a SALES VEHICLE. You are selling me something. Love movies about sales, you come away with: If you aren't selling them, they are selling you. If you aren't closing them, they are closing you. If you aren't selling them on the reasons why they should read your manuscript, they are closing you on reasons why they shouldn't. And -- worst of all, you aren't even there to counter. It's a letter, so it has to be sharp and hit its mark, hard, and then get the hell out of dodge.

You sell people on the following things: 1) an amazing idea, 2) the fulfillment of a need (my needs, not yours -- I personally don't care if writing books has been your lifelong dream until your my client. At the query stage, your closing yourself by saying that, not me), 3) your expertise and platform.

There should be a bloody book on this -- Sales & Marketing for Authors.

Since there isn't (and no, I don't count books on how to write a query letter... that's about crafting a query letter, I'm talking about sales), go google and read up on:

Sales Tips
How to Write Effective Direct Sales Letters
Car Dealership Sales Techniques

JustSell.com has a great list on what a sales person should constantly be doing, I took these off of it (and then expanded upon them):

positively expectant -- Don't reject yourself.
listening -- Pay attention when an agent/editor asks for submissions a certain way
qualifying the opportunity (for both parties) -- Talk about the project.
discovering hot buttons (what’s in it for them)
addressing objections -- anticipate what my objections will be, address them in the query (esp for NF)


And I know you all hate this. I know it. Because, it's not your job (you know how I feel about that statement) -- but it's also not your job to be your own advocate, it's also not your job to promote yourself or come up with great marketing ideas.

But guess what, with the 80k books coming out every year, you're expected to do more than write the book these days. Fact of life. This is YOUR career, you'd promote your book like crazy -- right?

Well, this is the first step. This is your first non-author-related-author-job.
And if you insist on saying, This isn't my job -- a good book should get attention because it's a good book and not just because I wrote a query letter -- that's your decision.
But there are other authors out there who have written good books, too and they are doing their homework and writing the best query letters out there. They are making it their job.

Do you want to compete with them? Or do you want to hold out for "a good book should get attention?"

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16. Richer Dad on Trend Following


This is an interesting article on investing by the Rich Daddy of them all -- that can be applied to following trends in publishing. Read, ingest. Sigh, and then reread and reingest it.

One quote that Kiyosaki uses is Warren Buffet's:

"For some reason, people take their cues from price action rather than from values. What doesn't work is when you start doing things that you don't understand or because they worked last week for someone else."

The publishing version:

For some reason, people take their cues from what has sold or what's a "hot trend" rather than what they feel has personal or literary value/merit. What doesn't work is when you start writing things that you don't really feel or because they worked last week for someone else.


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17. Jet Blueing the Publishing Industry

"We are going to offer something that no other airline will offer customers," David G. Neeleman (JetBlue's founder and chief executive) told NBC's "Today" show early Tuesday. "We're going to be held accountable."

JetBlue, after their recent scheduling issues has decided that to revamp their image they are going to be spending a nice chunk of change on restructuring their company's protocols and creating a Client/Customer Bill of Rights -- and to hold themselves accountable, they will penalize themselves (i.e. offer discounts/bonuses/etc) to custoemrs that are inconvenienced by problems caused by the company.

Um. WOW.

Ok -- So, wow.

There is something amazing about the level of intensity here at JetBlue --- which most people LOVE. They are what they are, and they usually do it really well.

In an amazing marketing/pr sweep - they have done the following things:

1. Recognized that they inconvenienced a lot of their customers.
2. Acknowledged it to their customers and the general public. (!!!)
3. Set in motion a plan that would provide a direct and immediate solution to their customer's concerns.
4. They told the world about their plan. That if it works, will have the admiration and loyalty of their happy clients and if it doesn't, sets them up for a big belly flop that will have other companies laughing at them.

I think it's amusing and impressive all at once. Amusing that we are so used to poor customer service that someone doing a good job is shocking news. And impressed that in a world where it is so acceptable (even if not happily met) to find poor customer service, JetBlue is going above and beyond to say, "Look we're different. And we'll prove it to you."

It takes a lot of chutzpah to be an innovator... to make a change, any change. It takes even more to make a change to an otherwise "good enough" company. Why risk it? So, a few people walk away. There are plenty more customers/clients/authors where that one came from.

Yikes. It's hard to break out of this mentality. It's hard to think of each person you come into contact with as part of a network of friends - the six degrees -- that you will constantly come into contact with. But in the end it's about respect, isn't it?

Respect for one's time, one's talent/craft, one's energy.

There have been any number of complaints that I've heard from authors -- the turn around time for manuscripts, the feeling of helplessness that you have while waiting to hear back from publishing industry professionals, the need for information and accessibility.

And I think we're just starting to answer these questions. And by "we" I mean the publishing industry as a whole.

But how about the complaints/concerns that editors have for agents? The complaints/concerns that agents have for authors? The complaints/concerns that clients have for the people they work with?

So, instead of asking you to list your complaints ('cause goodness knows that LJ can only support a finite number of comments before it blows up), I want you to post an important item that would be on the following lists (try to limit it to one item per each of the three lists, and don't repeat other people -- we're going for greatness and new concepts, not repetition):

The Author's Bill of Rights
The Agent's Bill of Rights
The Editor's Bill of Rights

-- As creative, talented, business-minded people -- what do we get -- as consumers (and each of us, in our own way, is a consumer) and what do we deserve?

I'm interested in your opinions on this... Read the rest of this post

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18. Seth Godin and the Form Rejection Letter

Godin wrote this short about how Google rejects employee applicants -- typical form rejection letter (I know you know what that is), and he talks about how in our haste to make quick responses we sometimes come off as being short or snarky instead of simply brief. He concludes with:

Even when you say no, you're marketing.

Which makes me wonder about our rejection form letter.

I've heard lots of takes on the rejection form letter.
The agent who uses a half sheet form letter, because Damnit, rejection letters cost. They cost to reproduce, they cost in time to fold and -- goodness forbid we try and personalize them.

My form rejection letter:

Thank you for sharing your work with us. Unfortunately, it is not a good match for Firebrand and we will not be able to offer you representation.

I hope you excuse this ‘form’ letter, but it is really only representative of our lack of time and not a lack of respect for your work. Please understand that there are many reasons why we must turn down potential clients. We look for material that immediately grabs our attentions and emotions, and that we believe will do well in the current publishing and bookselling market. But sometimes we even pass on well written, marketable projects simply because it is out of our realm of expertise and would be better represented by another agent with different taste or experience.

Thank you again for sharing your submission with us and we wish you the best of luck in your search for the right agent.


We usually personalize it with: Dear (Author's First Name). Which makes me go batty when people write novels under names like: N. Cornier. Dear N., Awkward. Although I feel no real compunction against not personalizing a rejection when the query wasn't personalized beyond Dear Sir/Madame.

Seth Godin (my hero) asks some serious questions about the Google rejection letter -- I will try and apply these questions to publishing rejection form letters:

Is this rejection letter going to be tossed, or is it going to serve as a marketing tool to help Firebrand find more authors?
What if the letter was a little bit less formal?
What if it included links to other agencies that were accepting material from new, potential clients?
What if there was a remarkable way to be reconsidered with a new project?


I think my form rejection letter fails on all fronts -- This does not serve as a marketing tool for Firebrand. It's formal (in my defense I had a less formal version that I ran by some of my clients and they vetoed it!). I'm terrified of including links or information about other agents lest they say something like, "Nadia recommended me," When I hadn't read the material. But, I suppose that's something I could fix.... I certainly don't go as far ot suggest that there is a remarkable way to be reconsidered with a new project... I think I'm terrified that someone who I think is unpublishable will continue to send material to me, over and over again. So, I err on the side of skeptical disinterest.

What if I were to use something more like the following:

Dear Nadia,

Thank you for sharing your work with us. Unfortunately, it is not a good match for Firebrand and we will not be able to offer you representation.

I hope you excuse this ‘form’ letter, but it is really only representative of our lack of time and not a lack of respect for your work. Please understand that there are many reasons why we must turn down potential clients. We look for material that immediately grabs our attentions and emotions, and that we believe will do well in the current publishing and bookselling market. But sometimes we even pass on well written, marketable projects simply because it is out of our realm of expertise and would be better represented by another agent with different taste or experience.

While I cannot offer a personal reccomendation, and you should individually research any agent you send material to, I'm familiar with and am fans of the following agents who are accepting material from new clients:

X AGENT AT X AGENCY is looking for...
Y AGENT AT Y AGENCY is looking for...
Z AGENT AT Z AGENCY is looking for...

Or, if you'd like to submit a *new* project to me, please keep an eye on the news page of our website for regular updates on projects that I'm looking for. If you feel you have a match, I hope you'll consider sending it to us for consideration.

Thank you again for sharing your submission with us and we wish you the best of luck in your search for the right agent.


Nadia Cornier


I'm not sure this would fly.
At least not with other agents... Hm... Food for thought.
My immediate reaction is: Why am I doing their homework for them?
But am I? Do you heavily research the agents you send material to? Or do you wait for them to offer representation before you research them?

LA. So much to think about.
I'm going to bed. :) Work tomorrow.

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19. Beautiful

Rubin just sent me these pics. Thought they were beautiful -- wanted to share.



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20. Fantasy Football

I'm in a ranting mood. My apologies.

The other night I made the mistake of writing an email to my bud about fantasy football with a small aside that said, "Is there really such a thing?"

Yes, yes, I know there is really such a thing as fantasy football, but within the context of the email I was basically questioning the legitimacy of such an activity. Isn't it a somewhat ironic activity? Fantasy Football. Fantasy sports at all, basically being able to imagine yourself playing the game from your office cubicle -- well, it sounded funny to me. Somewhat akin to me sitting on the couch, watching a workout tape and then thinking - Oh yeah, I am HOT.

My bud was affronted.

He mounted a counter-attack: "I think you underestimate fantasy football."
Obviously darling. Obviously.

Not to be deterred by my 1) lack of interest and 2) chortling, he went on to list the many reasons why fantasy football is smarter than doing crosswords, why most people suck at it (but he does not) and how it's such a big part of the industry now that every major sports site has a dedicated section to fantasy sports.

He had me until he said:

Hey, if women can obsess over shoes, we get this as a guilt-free, strange-look-free reward.

...This coming from a man who just told me that he was so good at fantasy football someone was thinking of getting him a "FUCKING RING, like a Super Bowl ring."

I'm sorry -- but ... come now. You cannot compare fantasy football with shoes. It just doesn't work. Women NEED shoes or they wouldn't be allowed to enter classy establishments, like 7-Eleven. You don't need a fake superbowl ring to shop at 7-Eleven. You also need shoes or your get frost-bitten toes in a snow storm. How will fantasy football help you out in the middle of a blizzard? The character Carrie from Sex in the City once said that she had 40k dollars worth of shoes -- which my friend would probably faint over, but I just read an article that said that they lose over a billion dollars (A WEEK!) in productivity to office professionals playing fantasy football.

Let's compare: a uber-shoe obsessed person = $40k, Normal, every day people playing fantasy football = $1 billion dollars (a WEEK!??!). Which is worse?

USATODAY tried to play it off like men NEED fantasy football. Last August they ran a story where the same consultant who ran the study (to figure out how much money companies were losing) said that to ban fantasy football could have even MORE adverse affects on the company in terms of morale and comraderie.

::blank stare::

I've decided three things.

1. I'm going to play fantasy football next season -- and I'm going to kick my friend's fantasy football playing ass.

2. I'm going to go improve my sense of morale and comraderie with the purchase of a pair of new shoes.

3. I want an adult novel where a character gets uber-obsessed with fantasy football and it leads to his/her ultimate undoing. Any takers?

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21. Don't cover your pitches, they aren't private

Everyone has made a bad pitch every now and again. Agents do it, Editors do it, and goodness knows Authors are doing it all the time.

What I love most is going to other agent's website and reading the pitches that they post (of their own, or of authors who have submitted to them). And then I love listening to authors bicker with one another over how dare they do such a thing! These were sent privately, and a certain amount of professional courtesy would dictate that you keep it all private. And if you laugh at someone's horrible query, you simply laugh in private.

Again, I've gotten one or two that I thought was so ridiculous that I've called my best friend and read it to him over the phone (barely making it through the whole thing, I was laughing so hard). Then there were the few that I get pissed off at and call him simply to rant, and he goes, "I don't get it -- is that a good pitch or a bad one?"

But, the one time he said to me, "Nadia -- You NEED to call this author and set him straight." I was ... affronted? Shocked? Appalled? All of the above? Of course I wasn't going to CALL the author (or even email him). It wasn't my job to educate him on what he was doing wrong, or keep him from making the same mistake with other agents/editors. Was it?

So I tried it, privately, a couple of times. The really young author who swore he'd "give up" if I didn't accept him, because he had already been rejected by four other agents. The published author who was so desperate she would do anything. The obnoxious query that was written with so much aggression it hurt my eyes just to read it.

And it kind of worked. Sort of. I'm not sure if it meant anything to them -- because it's very hard to take direct criticism. Which is why people are always telling writers that they should read -- if for no other reason that you can learn (about both good and bad writing) by noticing it in other people's works. It's why other agents help blog readers by posting queries and their comments on them. To help educate people.

So, I'm reading one of my favorite PR Blogs -- The Bad Pitch Blog (it's really for public relations, but, heck -- every author should read this blog before pitching and apply it to their own queries)(agents, too) and there was an interesting post by my FAVE PR author (Full Front PR Author:) Richard Laermer.

A year ago he started a blog with a friend to stop PR people from being lazy (not a direct quote -- but you can go find the post yourself). And what they would do is post pitches that simply sucked. That were written by professionals and still -- just plain, ol' sucked. And then they would explain why they sucked.

He said the outpouring was impressive. And here are a few points he made (and that I want to make to you):

"5. Outrageous emotions sent our way. The way people responded to our “outing” them for being bad at pitching was shocking. I mean, why get mad at us? It wasn’t like I went to your offices and pulled the pitch from your pile, dude. I’m a bad man? What kind of ridiculousness is that? Why wouldn’t we print the self-serving ruckus you served to the media?!"

His point, at least from my point of view, is this: Don't get mad at people who post bad pitches. Be mad at yourself for writing a bad pitch. Be mad at each other for writing the bad pitches that clog the "publishing arteries" that make it so difficult for the good projects to be easily spotted. And, if we might be so daring as to suggest it -- learn from the pitches that have been posted (even if it was your own).

There is NO reason why you should write a sloppy, bad pitch. And, let's do the accountability thing, there is NO reason why I should write a sloppy, bad pitch.

As authors, editors, agents -- it is our job NOT to be sloppy. It's our job not to write a bad query/pitch. Not to suck at this thing we want to make our living at.

There are no more excuses.
No more, "Well, I'm good at storytelling but not at selling myself." Too bad. It's your job. And if you read this post over and think, "No, it's not my job..." Perhaps it's time to think about what your job is.

I believe there are only a few fundamental reasons for sending something to an agent:

1. You believe in what you wrote.
2. You believe it SHOULD be published.
3. You want to make money on your creative endeavors.

The culmination of statements one through three mean the following: It's your job. It's your career. It's a business. If you're just in for the "I love to write, I would do it forever and ever no matter what." -- Great, buy yourself a journal at the drug store and go nuts.

If you're in it because you want to be published. Learn your craft. Then learn the business of working within the industry. Write a clean, smart query letter. Take your ego out of the equation and ...get published.

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22. Dissatisfaction

"In our group of denizens, we had no envy for the rich. We didn't know any rich. We thought everyone lived the way we lived, if we thought of it at all.” – Steinbeck on recalling his years before financial success.

It’s happened more than once that I’ve known (worked with, met, heard of) an author who upon learning that their first book sold that they felt elated: it is often the culmination of years of work to receive ‘the call’ that says that yes, someone else appreciates your talent, your crafting and that they are going to publish you. That elation is contagious, but perhaps not so much as the dissatisfaction that sometimes follows soon thereafter upon learning more about other people’s deals. If it’s not the advance, it’s the attention that another author is getting from their editor. It’s the attention another client receive from their agent. It’s the love publicity is showing another release that season (Did you see the arcs that they were sending out to everyone? Why don’t they do that for MY book?).

And perhaps the frustrating part is that the same people who have these discussions (sometimes not even with their agent or editor – but worse, with their friends who may be in a less advantageous position and wondering why they are complaining at all), are often the ones who do not take any responsibility for the position in which they find themselves.

They do not listen – I’m not talking about the authors who ingest good advice and then work with their team to create a compromise that addresses the questions posed (if not the answer suggested) – I’m talking about those who instead know it all, want it all and then blame it all – on other people when it does not lead to the end result they had so perfectly imagined.

Dissatisfaction with one’s life, deal, book, career, relationships is a state of mind -- not a state of finances. Please remember that the next time you complain… because the next moment of dissatisfaction that you blame on someone else will indeed be contagious – causing other people to be dissatisfied working with you – and nothing is so damaging as a person’s poor attitude.

(This is why I always thank my lucky stars that I have such a wonderful group of authors to work with).

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23. Response to comment.

kazare wrote:
I know that agents/publishers don't literally just look for that 'new' thing all the time. It's not just 'amazing or nothing,' but why does that impression seem to be so prevelent?

I think it's because of a few reasons -- and I hope I don't get slapped upside the LJ for this, but:

2) LOVE.

For love or money -- bad movie, good concept:

here it is, cold...
An average book takes the same amount of time and effort to sell as an Amazing book...often more time, because it's unique qualities (albeit smaller qualities) are harder to sell than a unique concept/storyline/amazing new voice. But, a "different" book has a better chance of staying on the shelves longer. Because it's unique. So -- that means more money. More projected sales, higher royalties, higher advance = more money. And as much as everyone says they love books, everyone (at least in agenting) also loves to make money. Otherwise, we'd be editors, who do twice as much work without the added incentive of 15% of the fruits of their labor. Trust me, I ask editors all the time, "Why not agenting?" and they actually LOVE their jobs. Craziness.

Ok, but love... It's easy to enjoy a book that you've read before. It feels familiar. It's like seeing a movie you've watched a million times, knowing you're going to enjoy it... so you watch it again, rather than trying something brand new. But the thrill isn't the same, is it? Romance novels are some of my favorite books to read --- they all end the same way: LOVE, Relationship, Happy Ending. But, this is where Chick Lit began to teeter on funny edges... It was brought in under the romance section where it was breaking a formula (the romance formula = the couple meets, they go through conflicts, they solve conflicts, happily ever after), but still had a big enough impact that something was going on there... Now, once people started really getting into chick lit, and the market began filling up -- they realized, Hey - this isn't romance?! This has some of the same elements -- but it's not a romance novel. So, they started moving away from trying to categorize it as such and it became more a sub-genre of women's fiction. (Also why some people are calling 'chick lit' = 'young women's fiction').

So -- when you have a brand, a formula that works, something recognizable by readers -- it feels familiar and good to them. So we buy those books, so publishers publish those books. But, it's very hard to be amazing in books that all share the same general plot points. So, when an author IS amazing (my favorite is Julia Quinn for this or Jude Devereux, Judith McNaught) -- it sticks out like a purple elephant in a room of china.

Anyway - back to my point, an amazing book just sticks out. It just does. We're always looking for them. We don't always find them, we dont' always sell/buy them -- but we're always looking. Because these are the books that will make our careers (again, back to money -- but somewhat more than that, at this point) -- these are the books that people will remember after they have read them, years later, that stick with them --

And that's a different thing for each reader. My amazing book may not be your amazing book... but, when I find one -- I try to sign it asap.

Hope this answer the question.
Back to answering all the emails I've received over the past few days while I've been at SCBWI and then out of the office. So if you've emailed me recently, expect a response soon.


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24. Clean Fire Trucks

I'm reading (amongst other things) Seth Godin's newest book, Small is the New Big -- Godin's style is taking observations he's made in his community and world and relating them back to 'big' business ideas. One section is talking about how in his neighborhood, the volunteer fire companies all have very clean fire trucks. He says it's true because between fires, the fireman clean their trucks.

Godin writes: "Sounds a lot like where you work. Most organizations are staffed with people waiting to prevent new fires. Instead of going out to the community and working to prevent new fires, the mind set is that firemen are working to put out the fires that have started..."

He later continues: "It's about cleaning our plate, finishing your assignments and following instructions. Initiative is hard to measure and direct and reward. Task completion on th other hand, is a factory orientation that is predictable and feels safe. In fast-changing markets, clean fire trucks show attention to detail but rarely lead to grown and success."

Some of you (dearest blog readers) are business owners, but the majority (if not all of you) are in publishing. Here's the connection I want you to make... Writing books for publication is a business. It's not a hobby (that's what the IRS calls it when you don't sell anything) and it's not a "fun thing to do on weekends" (it's way too much work for that). Instead, think of it as you would running a business... and now apply the above quotes into the way you decide what projects you should be working on (or acquiring, whatever).

Let me help make the connection here:

Most authors (and dare I say, publishers/editors) are people who are waiting for the alarm to ring. The "alarm" in this case is the next trend that we all want to jump on. Instead of going out and finding a project that is different, the mind-set is that we are content to work within the framework of that we already feel comfortable doing.

For authors, this mean writing the same book - over and over again. Because "that's what our fans and our publisher want from us," and it means having back to back contracts that do not afford us the time to generate new, amazing life-changing ideas, because we're so busy cleaning our plates, finishing our assignments and following the instructions we've laid out for ourselves in our last project. The instruction that say simply, This is what my editor has bought already, this is the way I write a book my editor will buy tomorrow.

For editors/agents, this means buying the same book, but different - over and over again. It's the thing that busts an editor up - over and over again. Finding a project that they love but can't get past the editorial board. Finding a project they feel - in their gut - will be amazing, but not being able to convince sales & marketing that it can be a viable success for the company because --- it simply hasn't been done before. Thankfully an agent only has to compete with other agents, but usually has the 'power' to acquire the books they wish to.

The cure for this (the creativity-follow-your-heart-stifling trend) is difficult and perhaps even painful. It involves trust in oneself and a trust in one's talent - two things that seem to be in short, short supply. For an author it means letting go of projects that aren't perfect (for your heart and for your wallet) and waiting, patiently for the right idea to come along. It means never, ever again uttering the words, "But this one is already finished" or fretting when there is a lapse between contracts. It means working harder than you've ever worked before, because "hard work" is not the long hours you put in fulfilling your six book contract - it's "hard work" because being original and writing an amazing book is hard.

It means making a decision that's right for your career instead of right for right now.

For editors, this is much harder -- editors are already looking for this type of project. And when they find it, they sometimes have to cry, bribe, scream and beg to acquire. But they ARE looking for it. When an agent asks, What are you looking for? The editor invariably answers, A good book. Because they are The Stuff-seekers. Note "The Stuff" is in capped for a reason. Nobody knows what the stuff is, if we say, 'We're looking for XYZ" it means because we've probably already seen it, or saw a hole it can fill, but what we really want is something we've never thought of before. Something NOBODY has ever thought of before -- and we want it to be Amazing.

Agents share this dream. Which is why I get phone calls or IMs from agent-friends at weird hours of the night (when we're all still reading queries and partials) and they say: I JUST FOUND A GREAT PROJECT! Again, not "I just signed a great project" or "I just sold a great project" (although I get those calls too) -- but I just *found a great project. It means something to us, because it's still rare. It should mean something to you.

The last line of that essay by Godin is: "What a great way to describe a stuck but busy organization. 'They sure have clean fire trucks'."

No more "good" -- I'll wait (no matter how painful) for "amazing" or nothing. A scary place, between amazing and nothing.

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25. I'm not dead...

but I am sick.
I hate being sick.
Send me pity comments. I'm cleaning in an attempt to de-sick the apartment.

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