Monday, August 31, 2009

news smatterings and entertaining things

What do you guys think of this? A new Twilight-esque cover gets Emily Bronte onto the UK bestseller list. (via Sarah Weinman)

Click here to see a truly perfect photo Maud Newton took on her walk home. For any of those spoilsports who keep shouting that reading is dead.

Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden talks about ebooks and the future of publishing (focusing on sff). Much of what he says is stuff you guys have already read 1,500 times, since we're internet babies here. But I'd like to highlight a particular statement of his:
io9: Does it make a difference to you if an author has an online reputation? Does that go into your decisions to acquire books?

PNH: Obviously it makes a difference if an author has a public online profile of some sort, even just down to the level of having a moderately popular blog. Most books sell 5, 10, or 15 thousand copies. Most are midlist books. With those people, even a modest online presence can make a difference in sales.

So cheers to everybody here, since you're here because you're working on developing an online platform.

Here, MJ Rose presents her idea for revolutionizing how authors get paid, vis a vis how much (time and money) authors are expected to spend on their own promotion. Her major points are that authors not have to "earn out" the upfront money publishers pay as an advance but then which authors are expected to spend on their own promotion--wouldn't it be more honest if promotional money fell into a different category, something that didn't need to be earned out? (Back to my idea for marketing agreements instead of/alongside advances.) Also, she suggests that royalty percentages be higher if authors are expected to be their own advocates.

Yeah, I work in a house, and yeah, I don't imagine in the mainstream publishing industry much like this is going to change soon, but--yeah, I agree with you, MJ.

That's it for now. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

the first step is admitting you have a problem.


Hi, my name is Moonrat, and I am addicted to The Wheel of Time.

I had racked up a good 12 years of Wheel of Time sobriety--minus a mini-relapse in 2003, when I confess I reread books 1 and 2 but stopped myself there. But I'm afraid I've fallen off the bandwagon, good and hard this time.

Furthermore, my home environment is not conducive to recovery from this dreadful disease. My entire nuclear family, minus Momrat (who sniffs contemptuously at all things epic fantasy), is reading or rereading it with me. Right now, it's a competition of who gets to Book 4 (The Shadow Rising, obvi) first. And I am sorely behind, as I am the only one who doesn't own book 2! No more waiting for my brother or sister to finish--I must get my own copy and plow ahead!!

Now here's the thing about reading, in general. I read a lot (maybe you guessed?). And I've always felt I derived great cerebral pleasure from reading high-minded books I could brag about later, hoity-toity inaccessible classics and literary masterpieces that the New Yorker writes about. Or whatever.

But. BUT. The Wheel of Time is not like that (and this is something I'd forgotten in the last 12 years). The Wheel of Time is something I'm literally dying to read, desperate to read, sitting all day at my desk editing furiously so the time between now and 6:30 pm might come sooner! So that I can scurry home and flop on my bed and read until midnight, then wake up at 6:30 the next morning and squeeze in another two hours of reading before I have to leave for work! (Bathing be damned!)

Oh, the tragedy, the passion, the human drama! With the magic and the wars and yeah, some occasional crappy writing, but for the most part nothing so bad I can't turn off the inner editor saying, "Eek, maybe you should strike this para?" I am SUBMERGED. Nothing else matters anymore; nothing!

I know I'm not alone. This is a friendly forum here--you can trust and come forward. (Haters of WoT will be lovingly mocked, as you have lovingly mocked us in the past!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Memories of Vermont

So, as perhaps I mentioned, I was recently in Vermont for one of my very exciting reunions with my high school girlfriends. Now Vermont has one major detraction--the giant spider that scurried out of my pants Sunday morning--but otherwise seems to be a freakishly idyllic place full of flowers, dairy products, and people wearing bright colors. Also, neighbors say HI to each other, as do--shudder--strangers! Hard for me to wrap my head around, but... what's the word. Oh yeah, NICE.

One major NON-detraction of Vermont turned out to be the Ben & Jerry's factory, a 4-minute drive from my friend's house. Tours are $3 and include a LARGE free sample of ice cream. For others with non-ice cream tastes, there is also the Magic Hat Brewery, the Cabot Cheese Factory, and the Green Mountain Coffee Factory, all of which can be toured.

My favorite part of the Ben & Jerry's tour was the Flavor Graveyard. The headstones--there were probably 20 or 25 total--were hilarious. It was also my least favorite part of the tour, because some of the dead flavors sounded pretty delicious.

My People weep that the Holy Cannoli was discontinued.


I love sweet potato pie. I'm not sure if it would be a great ice cream flavor, but this sure makes me curious to try...


Plum favored ice cream... yum. With caramel swirl? Humm. (This one only lasted two weeks, apparently.)


Raisins I don't like. But look how long this one lasted!!


How could this one have gone away?! I don't understand!!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

my friend just let me read her terrible novel! what do I do?

This Salon article had me in giggles--until I thought hard about it. Yelp! What if all my friends think this about every book I work on and then make them read?!? Eep! I'll never know!!

Overall advice--"refusing to comment has value." And also may not totally decapitate your friendship. But eep! Seriously. Does being a good friend maybe also include being honest? We all have so much difficulty judging our own work objectively... if our friends can't tell us the truth, who can?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

just finished reading

A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?

things the rally monkey says

RM: Hey, my buddy wants to meet some girls, and I thought maybe you could help.

YT: Me?! How could I help?

RM: Well, he's a bookish guy, so I thought I'd go to the night crawler of bookworms.

[I kinda like that!]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Love Note to Borders

Dear Borders,

I read this on Pimp My Novel. Then I cried a little bit.

I just wanted to take a moment out of my day to tell you I love you, Borders. I've always had strong feelings for you, back since, like, high school. And sure, I have relationships with lots of local indies--I never claimed to be monolibrous--but you're the only retailer I've ever worked at, and my special feelings for you run very deep.

I know that your booksellers are book people, and so many of them work for you because they get great joy out of sharing the books they love with other people. I know that you have fiction buyers who have resolutely continued to take chances on new and literary fiction even in the spiraling economy (gosh, I hope you're not being punished for THAT, because you've sure supported some of my books). I also know that I believe it's really, really important that there not be only one big chain retailer of ANY kind of media--it goes against my principles--and that I panic for your welfare on behalf of society as well as out of nostalgia.

I also know I can't single-handedly keep you in business (although it might seem like I'm trying, what with how many times I've been in there with coupons lately). But I just wanted to drop you a note and say I'm rooting for you, hard.

Love,

Moonrat

what a week.

This just in, from my assistant:

Click here.

About sums it up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Robert the Publisher's Gem of the Day

RtP: So if we tell the accounts we're printing 30,000, that means we're planning on printing 10,000. It's a multiple of 3.

Sales Assistant: So... You just make up a number that's three times higher than your print run?

RtP: Yes. We lie to the sellers, the sellers lie to the accounts, the accounts lie to the consumers, and everyone knows everyone else is lying, so we can't break the habit. The whole publishing industry is based on lies.

Sales Manager: No, Robert. It's not based on lies. It's based on fiction.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Package!

I am currently reading Kate Walbert's very hotly reviewed new book, A Short History of Women, whose front cover is depicted here. My review of the book will come later, but for the time being I can't resist commenting on the package!

When I say "package," I mostly mean the jacket, although there are a couple of other contributing factors (the board and binding paper color choices, the page cut, the dye on the spine). Now package is something a publishing professional can't help but oo and ah over when they see a new book. I have learned, from experience, that the first thing NORMAL people say when they pick up a new book isn't "Wow, check out the spot lamination on the cover; I wonder how they made those tiny letter legs so shiny? Must have been a real precision cast." Yeah, in fact, it seems that a lot of people don't even know or care what spot lamination is. (Or the difference between embossing and debossing, or between foil and metalic ink.)

But in the case of a book like A Short History of Women, I can't help but believe that even the uninterested will take note of the package. The jacket designer--a Rex Bonomelli--did what I consider a bang-up job of cover concept. You can see here: he made use of the repeated O in each word--shOrt histOry of wOmen--to stick in a cast of a period hairstyle, thereby reflecting the cascade of generations in the book. Clever, clever device, in a treatment that's otherwise all type, no reliance on a backdrop image or a particular color. The cover is spare, open, and interesting--unusual and memorable, I thought. Furthermore, Scribner's chose a delicate and effective (I think) spot lamination treatment on the front cover, so all the words are shiny if you look closely. This is an expensive effect--it adds between one and four cents to the cost of each copy of the book, which is a lot more significant than it sounds--but in this case I feel well worth it.

But even beyond the cover concept, our friend Rex Bonomelli still had some tricks up his sleeve. If you're able to check out a physical copy of the book next time you're in a book store, pick one up. First notice the spine--even if this book were turned sideways, only a single copy present in a bookstore, the spine would be eye-catching. Rex has included the three head motif here in miniature. Now flip over to the back cover. Notice the design element of the red hatch marks--and how they recur on the inside flaps. Now on to those flaps--normally, flaps are just blank space filled with text. Rex has actually amplified the flap text--both the book description and the author photo and bio--with tasteful and complementary design elements, a rounded frame and echoing red hatch marks. Although much of the jacket is white space, and only three colors are used, the creative design elements are smart, interesting, and decorative even where you don't expect them to be.

(Interestingly and sadly, from a practical standpoint perhaps white was not the best color decision for the background, and perhaps why we don't see spare, simple covers like this--I have been unable to find any pristine copies in any of my daily bookstore truckling; most copies have at least a little smudge.)

I do wonder (in this case, as in every case) what the author thought of the cover design. Kate Walbert, did you love it immediately? Did you imagine something different? Did it grow on you? Was your absolute favorite design totally ruled out by the marketing team?

Do you guys have any all-time favorite cover and/or jacket treatments? Do you tend to noticed things like the effects, the spine, the flaps? What about things like lamination on the cover, or embossed titles?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Contest!!

Ok, not here. Maybe I'll have a contest soon (I've been cogitating some ideas of General Awesomeness). But Backspace Agent-Author Seminar, a New York writers' conference, is holding a contest for two scholarships to this year's conference. Check out details here. And hey, if you end up coming to New York, drop me a line--I know where ALL the best karaoke bars are.

Which reminds me. SHOULD I have a contest? Are those kinds of things still popular these days? I haven't done one in... more than a year, actually.

Friday, August 21, 2009

seven things about me

I'm feeling self-indulgent! So. A meme!

1. My father named me. My mother had a name picked out--it was Matthew, FYI--but then she was so "surprised" I was a girl she passed out on the delivery table. My dad went and named me something my mother had categorically ruled out earlier because her best friend had named her daughter something similar the year before (but my father believed--correctly, it turned out--my mother secretly still wanted to use that name). So everything worked out, and wrath was not exercised upon my father. No one is sure where my dad came up with my middle name, though. Not even my dad.

2. One of my (living) authors was a character in a movie! As in, another person played MY AUTHOR in a movie! And a movie you might have seen, too!

3. I hate shopping. Trying on pants makes me cry. No exaggeration. A fearless few have put their lives on the line to try to take me clothes shopping, for my own good, when my wardrobe gets really raggedy. Most of them have survived, but few without deep psychological and/or physical scarring. It ain't purdy.

4. I have a dream for my distant future. Others want to be astronauts; this is my pie-in-the-sky fantasy: I own a lovely, spacious, old-fashioned looking cafe with a nice wooden floor. We serve caffinated beverages, sandwiches, and many kinds of pie and brownies. Possibly also wine in the evenings, but I haven't decided. We also host open mic nights and writer workshops a night or two a week. My cafe, of course, sells books. The walls are lined with bookshelves, and all the books on them are books I've already read, so that I can make personal recommendations to anyone (this is why I'm trying to read so many books now!) (well, one reason). AND in the back of my cafe is my independent book publishing company, which I run during normal business hours. It's only me and 2 or 3 other people, because I'm a total control freak and want to run every aspect of publication. But the press is gradually growing in reputation, and we get lots of great review coverage. We have a blog, of course.

5. I have named my kitchen mouse Sylvester Antonio. The Rally Monkey has vowed to kill Sylvester Antonio. It is an epic war, and so far Sylvester Antonio has won every battle. (I'm secretly rooting for him.)

6. I have very, very high hopes for one of my fall books. Please, please, please, buy as many copies as you can and tell all your friends; it's freakin' awesome, and will change the world. (Sigh. So much for blog as marketing tool.)

7. I wake up every morning all excited to go to work. What a dork. A lucky dork.

Ok, now your 7! drop your link in a comment if you decide to play.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

agent follow-ups

Yesterday, someone left me a comment on a back post about agent follow-ups, but I wanted to answer more publicly, since we haven't talked about this particular issue in awhile.

If you've been around here a long time, you know my stance on agent proactivity. Different agents have different strategies for following up with editors, and, frankly, some of these strategies are really, really ineffective.

Here's the thing: editors have developed a habit of hiding their heads in the sand. I can speak on behalf of not all editors, but most. We have so much work--so many deadlines to meet in-house, and so many proposals and manuscripts to read--that if an agent doesn't follow up about a manuscript there is a 9/10 chance we're not going to read it (certainly not going to buy it).

When an agent doesn't follow up, they're demonstrating a number of things, the foremost being that they don't EXPECT the book to sell. "Oh nope, this is no hot property, take all the time you need" is the message we get. And honestly, it takes 15 minutes for an editor to know whether they want to read more or not--not 4 months, or 6 months. Sure, we need a kick in the pants to pick the manuscript up. But if you wait 4 or 6 months to give us that kick in the pants, we'll never, ever, ever get herded into, say, auction on that book.

Furthermore, let's think about this from a practical standpoint. My assistant vets each of my proposals as they come in, and flags ones she thinks I should prioritize because they look interesting. Even if I haven't READ your proposal per se, my assistant and I have already both thought about it in terms of where it might fit (or not) on my list. Say I know right away when a proposal comes in that it's not a good fit. Am I going to pick up the phone and cold-call your agent and be like, "Yeah, no"? Umm, no. As a head-hiding editorial type, I flee confrontation on pain of death. Am I going to *seek out* an uncomfortable rejection phone call? Uh, no. So if you don't call me and ask, you're never going to hear my simple answer one way or another.

Can you blame me? Seriously? I mean, who here ENJOYS saying no to salespeople?

Furthermore, there is a particular type of agent whose business MO is the famous "throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks" technique. That means they take on tons of stuff that may or may not sell, preferring to take a risk on an unusual book than not give it a shot. The catch is that these agents tend to put less work in per title--survival mechanism; how else would they get their work done? This scheme works a lot better for nonfiction, where proposals are concept-driven, than it does for fiction, where drum-tight prose and very particular editor targeting with a pitch are key. The bad 'uns among this lot are the worst culprits for never, ever, ever following up. Often, I quietly feel bad for their authors. Bad enough to face unsolicited conversation by picking up the phone and rejecting the book (if I even remember to)? Uh, no. Sorry. My comfort over yours. I mean that in the nicest possible way.

I get tons and tons of novel manuscripts--tons. I get probably 100 manuscripts (or more) for every novel I acquire. Not exaggerating--when I'm at work later, I'll check my submission log for exact numbers, but I remember pretty well where I was at last time I looked. Also, I know where I'm at: since I work at an indie, I'm hardly the top of the totem. I'm usually on either second or third round submissions, depending on what the novel is about. That means that editors higher up on the totem probably get 2 or 3 times as many submissions as I do--every agent is pitching every literary debut at a particular handful of editors (I could probably tick off their names here). Those poor ladies and gents are also getting hit up by the bum agents who try casting everything at the wall to see what sticks, and then never follow up. Only they have to see a lot MORE of that stuff. So of COURSE I wouldn't blame them for not replying.

As for an agent who tells you that an editor hasn't responded, that's as good as a pass: you have one of two situations here. Either you have a lousy agent, who never followed up, or you have a disorganized and rude editor, one you don't want to end up working with, anyway. The reason I say this is because, as mentioned above, when it comes down to it, it only takes 15 minutes to know whether we want to read more--longer, obviously, if we do, to consider the book, but still--and it's very easy to formulate a polite and helpful rejection letter that helps the agent understand why you're passing.

Yes, situations differ depending on your genre, as certain genre editors have their own traditions. And as I said, I can't speak on behalf of all editors--only most.

What does this mean for you? I know this sounds TOTALLY CRAZY--especially to authors who have been struggling to secure representation for a long time--but ask your prospective agent what their submission plan is like before you commit to working with them. Also, ask if you can call some of their other clients as references (or look up other clients on the internet and see whether they have glowing things to say, and/or whether this agent is well stocked on Publishers Marketplace deal searches, which are not always representative but can be of use). You DON'T have to commit to an agent just because they're offering representation. And I promise--a bad agent is MUCH, much worse than not submitting your book at all. If an agent submits badly, not only does it mean your book isn't going to get read or bought now, it means it probably never will. In publishing, you can't cross the same bridge twice.

Ok, rant over. Pant pant. Please consider the floor open.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

more nerdporn for word lovers!

Debbie at HarperStudio put up this droolable visual post last Friday with all kinds of art made out of words and books. I only stole one of her examples; it's a Saatch & Saatchi ad, so I figured no one would mind if I copied it. But check out the Book House! Or the page sheets! The octopus!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I know, you've probably seen Matt dance already.

But Dadrat just discovered Matt yesterday and sent me the link, and I watched it again and it made me cry again (as we know, I'm very sappy) so I thought I'd post it again.

Where is Matt? 2008

In case you haven't seen Matt yet, either, hope this brightens your day!

Our Friends Down Under (Or, Don't Forget Oz)

Got this note:
Dear Moonrat,

Yay! I have a publishing contract in hand! Unfortunately I don't have an agent to help me negotiate, and I'm a little confused about some of the clauses and whether I have a right to argue them. For example, it says here that they have the right to publish in Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines as well as the US and Canada. I never agreed to that--should I question it?

Thanks,

XXX

Ok, well, first off, I can't help but restate my position on agents (coming from one of the publishers that wants to nickle and dime you to death, please take this as precious advice that I offer at my own expense). If you are an unagented author, even after you get an offer from a publishing company, it's not too late to involve an agent to negotiate on your behalf. Agents call it a "smash and grab" deal--they have to smash into what you've got and grab back what they can. But they almost always earn their 15%.

But anyway, back to Oz. Territory (where a company has the right to publish your book) is a critical component of your deal, one of the three biggest points (the other two being advance and royalties). So you're right to value this piece of the contract.

That said, as an unagented author, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which you'd be able to sell these rights internationally on your own. Remember how difficult it was to get an offer from a publisher in your home country? It's 600 times harder (approximately) to get a deal unagented in a foreign country, where you don't even have citizenship as a piece of your platform.

In this case your best bet is to let your publishing company have those rights, so at least they'll have an opportunity to try to sell them. (This brings me back to why you want an agent, since an agent could try to sell these rights for you.) Don't take my word for it, and assess your own situation, but ultimately wouldn't you rather have your book available in those territories, even as an export, than not available at all, because your publishing company doesn't have a right to sell copies there?

But let's talk more specifically about Australia and New Zealand (ANZ). Our publishing friends down under don't like to be forgotten by the rest of the English speaking world, as they occasionally are. To protect them from being forgotten, they have a law that says British and American publishers only have 30 days from the pub date of a book to work out their distribution schedule in ANZ. If UK and US publishers neglect to work this out, a book is closed out of that market.

Brits tend to forget their Commonwealth friends less frequently than Americans (shame on us), but it's something our rights departments need to keep in mind, and a reason we need to try to place Commonwealth sales as early as possible--ie months before the pub date. (Please cf last week's post on delivering on time--here's another reason not to be late with your finished manuscript.)

But to my friend who wrote here--I'd say don't sit on ANZ rights thinking you can do better elsewhere; if you run out of your 30 days, your book may never be sold in ANZ at all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday morning video

Check out Wendy's classic (50s/60s/70s) commercials! My favorite by far is the first one--the horror movie soundtrack! I don't think they should EVER let women drive!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

oh boy.

I'm always the last to hear! It's been everywhere else already, but that makes me no less excited that our ol' buddy Kiersten has just scored herself a giant three-book deal from HarperTeen in a pre-empt that rocked New York publishing this week!! Her debut novel, PARANORMALCY, will be coming out in Fall 2010.

Why are you still here? Run off to her blog and squee with her!

Friday, August 14, 2009

leading indicators a particular agent is a hack #472

A line from an actual query letter (details fudged, of course):

"...As author Susan Smith embarked on my journey to discover her ancestors' path to America..."

Nice, "agent" "Sharon Sloan." I "totally" believe you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nathan's publishing glossary

Nathan Bransford has updated his classic glossary of publishing terms, and as a general reference it is extremely pleasing.

To get nitpicky, though--Nathan, re: your definition of editors: I do NOT live in Brooklyn, FYI. Also, I have met at least one other editor who did not live in Brooklyn. Although since that time she has moved to Brooklyn. But that's not the point.

deliciousness

I guest blogged today (with some SERIOUS help from Dadrat) over at Cakespy, my longtime blogging buddy. Here's my post on Dadrat's Birthday Peach Crisp recipe.

CakeSpy actually made me original art to go with her post!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

editing your life

Do you guys read The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotations? You'd think it would get boring after a couple, but... it doesn't. Click through for today's.

Funny (and grammatically incorrect) on two levels. Teehee.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Reasons to Make Your Delivery Date (Or, Please Don't Be Late, Even Though We Always Are)

Ok, I'm having the worst trouble with one of my authors, who went through a minor family problem earlier this summer and who says she's simply not in the right "frame of mind" to finish the last two chapters of her manuscript right now, and she'll get back to me when she's feeling more up to it. (Can I just mention? Her contractual delivery date was May 1, 2009.)

All right, I want to be sympathetic and understanding--I really do!! I'm a compassionate person!! But I'm also compassionately interested in the author's career. (Not to mention my own, which is obviously hinged around the success of this one specific book!!!)

Here are the reasons it's in the author's best interest to make their contractual delivery date, not in any particular order of importance:

1) Long Leads. For those not familiar with this term, it's what magazines require if they're going to review your book. Magazines set their monthly columns well in advance, so if your FINISHED materials aren't at the magazine 5 months in advance, you can kiss any magazine reviews buh-bye.

2. Blurbs. When you have an early completed manuscript, you have time to do a blurb campaign with it--and those can take ages. (Getting famous people to read books=not quite as easy as it sounds.) But hey! Who needs any copy on their book cover? I think those blank covers with nothing but an image or a quote from the author's own introduction are sexy. Totally.

3. Rights Sales. Foreign publishers, especially if you're looking for same-language co-pubs across the Atlantic (eg if I'm looking for a British publisher, or if a British editor is hoping for an American publisher), requires a rough manuscript or submittable materials A YEAR in advance if they want to make a big deal out of things. They'll need a finished manuscript AT ABSOLUTE LATEST 6-8 months before the home country pub date. (I'm not even going into Australia here--that's an even more complicated kettle of fish, and even more of a reason to get stuff in on time--Ozzy friends, I'll come back to you later.) There are also audio, book club, and large print sales, all of which need to be fully executed well in advance, because all of those groups ONLY want to publish simultaneously with the originating publisher. They need your materials SIX MONTHS IN ADVANCE or there's no way they'll take you; competition is simply too steep. But hey! Who wants their book made into an audio book, anyway? Listening to things is stupid. And who wants their book translated into French? No one even likes France, as a whole, I've found.

I should also mention here that rights sales precipitate buzz--meaning, weird as it may sound, a rights sale may get you publicity coverage, or drive review interest. So yeah.... another opportunity maybe not to blow.

4. In-House Interest. If your manuscript is in in a timely fashion, perhaps people at your publishing house besides your editor--your publisher, your publicist, your sales people--will actually have a chance to read it, instead of just talking about it vaguely. Don't you want the people who are selling and publicizing your book to actually know what it's about? Just a thought.

5. Events. Most venues book up FOUR MONTHS in advance. Some book up even earlier. But hey, maybe you didn't want to do any readings, anyway.

6. Pre-pub reviews. There are four pre-pub venues, and I bet even non-book people could name at least one. They are Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. They're the definitive sources you see turning up on Amazon and book jackets, and they are what wholesalers, indies, libraries, and distributors use to determine how many copies they're taking well in advance--which majorly affects your print run. And, by the way, they don't consider anything they haven't received FOUR MONTHS in advance. But hey! Who wants to sell to libraries, anyway? Who needs a big print run?

Rar. Ok. I'm down off my little soapbox now. But Author o' Mine, if you're out there reading--please go finish your effin' manuscript, k?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Momrat just called.

She really, really doesn't like one of my forthcoming books. "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I just think you should know my honest opinion," quote.

Sigh.

This is the thing--Momrat always gives it to me straight. She's the one person I can count on: if she says she likes (or loves) it, I know she means it. Which gives one confidence in a world where most people are too shy to say negative things to your face!!

But yeah... let's hope other people like this one better than she did.

new cover for LIAR

Yay!! I've been following this saga for awhile--and things have ended happily. If you're not familiar with this issue (a successful YA book about a young woman of color which was marketed and sold in the states with a white-looking woman on the cover) it's definitely worth checking out the PW article, which sums it up. And bloggers, essentially, made this happen. Via my comrade-in-arms Editorial Anonymous.

Friday, August 07, 2009

famous writers can be crankypantses

JacketCopy recently posted this fun short article on 5 famous feuds between/among famous writers. Tolstoy challenged Turgenev to a duel; Hemingway trash-talked Fitzgerald, even though Fitzgerald discovered him; Melville stopped being friends with Hawthorne after the latter got more successful. Vargas Llosa punched Garcia Marquez in the face.

Any surprise? I feel like any profession that mixes up creativity with ego is going to end in silly rivalries.

You guys heard of any other such tasty literary gossip? All the LA Times's examples were male-male rivalries--anyone heard any stories about lady rivalries?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

things the rally monkey says

YT: I have to tell you something.

Rally Monkey: Uh oh, what?

YT: I can't type up your poetry anymore.

RM: Why not?

YT: Sylvia Plath typed up all Ted Hughes's poetry, and it stunted her creativity, bled her dry, and killed her.

RM: Well, that's not going to happen to you.

YT: How can you tell?!

RM: Honey, Sylvia Plath put her head in the oven. You don't even know where our oven is.

woe betide us

Someone has forgotten their glasses today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

catcall of the day

Random Guy on Street: God bless you forever, sweetheart. You have the most beautiful eyes.

YT: How would you know?! I'm wearing sunglasses!!

Random Guy: I can just tell.

[better luck next time, buddy.]

boo

One of the other tenants in our office building was really, really mean to me this morning. :(

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

print runs, for serious here

Argh!! I'm so IRRITATED with everyone in publishing who lies about print runs! Thanks to the Literary Saloon, who exposed this story vis a vis some clever footwork PW did. It's a great example of why LYING about print runs is STUPID.

Harper declared they'd printed 150,000 copies of Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones. PW checked Nielsen BookScan--which tells no lies*--and noted that only 17,000 copies of The Kindly Ones have actually sold through in retail. What a monumental overprinting flop! Right? Well, now that there's already soot on their nose, Harper confesses they actually only printed 47,000. They blew the number up by 3. Which... is pretty typical. Real times three.

Why this stupidity? Why?

Well, we talked here about why people want first print runs to be huge. There ARE reasons high print runs (or declared high print runs) are beneficial to a book, but this system is unrealistic and stupid.

Awhile ago, I wrote my opinion of a literary success--the answer I gave was any book that sells more than 7,000 copies. Check out the comments if you're interested--I was surprised to see how many people agreed with me.

Which means the figures we throw around--tens, hundreds of thousands, millions of copies--they're all made up, and make everyone have unrealistic expectations. Nielsen BookScan does indicate to anyone who has access that books that are great successes don't necessarily sell even 10,000 copies. A book that's a success is one that's well-written, well-reviewed, appreciated by its readers, and (ideally) one that earns out its advance. At least, that's my idea of success.

I believe in honesty with my authors and agents (and other people, too). But I HATE the sour notes in conversations when I'm talking to an editor from another house and bragging about a book--they ask how many copies we printed, I proudly say 10,000, and they go, "Oh..." I always forget that we're all trained to blow things up, and that that number sounds ridiculous to them.

Let's break the chain of stupidity, guys. I'm for all honesty, all the time.

*cf Mark Twain: "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." And Nielsen BookScan. Which represents 65%-70% of sales, usually, depending on the kind of book it is.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Seeking Publication: What's My Category?

This actually happened to me this morning. I feel ok blogging about it, though, because I am 100% certain the agent in question can't possibly read any industry blogs (although out of respect for the author I'm going to replace all the relevant details).

~~~

9:43 am: My phone rings.

YT: [Moonrat] speaking.

Agent: Hi, this is [Agent] from [Agency]. We haven't spoken before, but I was wondering if you'd be interested in taking a look at a great nonfiction project I'm representing.

YT: Sure. What is it?

Agent: It's called [Title].

YT: Ok. So... um... what is it about?

Agent: Well, it's the story of what it means to be from Appalachia, about the culture there.

YT: Wait, I'm not clear--is this a memoir?

Agent: It's a combination, kind of part memoir, part history, part travel guide, part novel. It's very poetic, but just really good readable nonfiction.

YT: Oh. [Pause.] I'm sorry, I'm still trying to see if it fits my list--which category would you say the book is? Like, which shelf would it be sold on in a bookstore?

Agent: Oh, narrative nonfiction, definitely.

YT: ...Narrative nonfiction?

Agent: Yes, it's a really unique book that really fits into all those categories.

~~~

I'm ending my dialogue rehash here. First, quick caveat--please NEVER say "really unique"--it's grammatically incorrect and makes editorial types cringe. Ok, moving on to more important things.

When I hung up the phone, the only thing I could think to myself was: Has this agent ever been into a book store?

Where did he get the idea that there's a "Narrative Nonfiction" shelf in bookstores?

Although I do think this particular agent's pitch was pretty lousy--I essentially asked three separate times for a category designation, and had to ask what the book was about because he failed to tell me on his own--ultimately I decided to be forgiving. I've worked in publishing long enough to realize that category, while perhaps THE most important question for an editor and his/her sales team, isn't something authors and agents think of automatically when they are writing and pitching. During the writing process, creativity takes over. On my end, we need to be able to squeeze that creativity into one of a finite number of pre-established boxes.

Know going in EXACTLY which shelf your book will be sold on in your neighborhood indie, BNN, or Borders. If the shelf is unclear to you, you're going to need to reshape your project--perhaps not much, but definitely a little.

Here, as elsewhere, I'm not claiming the system is perfect. But stock buyers (here I mean the bookstore owners and corporate buyers, not customers) at the major chains and at many large indies buy by subject. That means that the sales rep from your publishing company needs to talk to one specific designated subject buyer, and convince that one person that your book is worth the precious space in their section and budget. This is why subject-ambiguous books often do not succeed. It is very, very difficult to even sell them into stores.

Caveat: there are SOME subject nuances, and you should work together with your crit group or agent to try to think of what they are. You may think of your book as a romance novel, but perhaps your agent thinks it will do better pitched as commercial women's fiction (yes, they're different things). You may have written a middle grade novel that your agent thinks might be a better YA fit. Or a self-help book that your agent thinks actually would fit better into spirituality (or psychology, or medicine, or nutrition, whatever).

But picking category successfully is a big step toward nailing your book deal, and a good agent is going to make sure you're clearly tagged.

Janet Reid offers an invective on "exclusive" agency submissions

This was very interesting to me, since it's not my end of the business and yet something I know writers have to face. Janet says exclusive agency submissions are bad business, and I believe her.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

just finished reading

The Size of the World, by Joan Silber. My review here. Anyone else read it? Any thoughts?