Sunday, June 13, 2010

If It's Sunday, We Must Be ....Where?

I'll admit it. This morning I'm mentally lost, or at least in a fog. Part of it is because I'm hurting (nothing major, just annoying) and didn't sleep very well. Part is because my mind is on a project I've been working on with deadlines looming faster than I'd like right now. More on that as the time gets closer -- assuming I have any sanity left. I know, I know, the state of my sanity has always been questionable. What can I say? I'm a writer. ;-)

As I started pulling the blog together this morning, I came upon something I think every writer should be aware of, especially writers who have had or currently have or are considering signing a contract with Bloomberg Press. Three days ago, the Authors Guild posted a letter to its members warning them about the impact of a contract amendment being sent to Bloomberg authors by John Wiley & Sons (JW&S has aquired Bloomberg). The basic import of the letter is that the contractual amendment sent by Wiley would change the royalty system of some contracts from being based on retail price to net price. This could, according to AG, decrease royalties up to 50%. More than that, according to AG, Wiley would be able to keep a book in print with a "lowball print on demand royalty of 5%of net proceeds." Wiley has responded, claiming AG's representation of the letter and contractual amendments included in it is misleading at best and that the royalty changes will benefit the authors involved. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Any way, you can judge for yourself. Here's a copy of Wiley's letter. Read it and judge for yourself. For me, the most troublesome part of the letter is the inclusion of the print on demand language which reads, to me, as their way of keeping a book "in print" so the rights never revert back to the author. Your thoughts?

In other news around the internet, agent Rachelle Gardner says to get to a bookstore. I happen to agree with her. I've blogged before how, as writers, it's important that we read. But it is as important that we take time on a regular basis to visit our local bookstores. Not only does it allow us to see market trends and talk to other readers and pick their brains about what they are reading and why, it allows us to connect with the bookseller. That connection can lead to a recommendation of OUR book to a reader who is looking for something new and exciting. So, the next time you have a few minutes on your hands, get thee to your nearest bookstore.

Agent Janet Reid has an interesting post about how to format an electronic query. As someone who learned to type on -- gasp -- an IBM Selectric typewriter (yes, kiddies, there was a time when computers weren't in every room of the house) old habits about the formatting of a business letter die hard. But Ms. Reid's example and explanation hit home. That said, the caveat of this is to read the guidelines for the agency or publisher you are querying and follow them...no matter how strange or out of date or silly they might seem.

On the topic of following guidelines, agent Jennifer Jackson has two recent posts that show the importance of not only reading the guidelines but following them. The first post encourages us, as writers, to be persistent. Just because an agent turns down our first submission to them, it doesn't mean that agent won't like something else we've written. So, when you have another work ready, query them. This is especially true if you received an encouraging rejection letter from them on the first project. However, don't -- let me say that again, DON'T -- query that agent three or four times in a week on the same or different projects, especially if the guidelines tell you to submit only one project at at time. Submit, my children, wait for a response, wait a few weeks or more and then submit the next project.

Ms. Jackson's second post also concerns guidelines, this time highlighting some of the more odd comments she has seen included in query letters. Comments that shouldn't have been there had the sender simply taken time to read and follow the guidelines. For example, "...if I don't hear back from you within three days, (I'll assume) you aren't interested." WHAT?!? If you can show me any agent's guidelines that says you'll hear back within three days of submission, I have a book or three ready to send. Seriously, the query letter is meant to show us in our most favorable light as writers. Statements such as the ones Ms. Jackson highlights do the exact opposite and are so easy to avoid -- if you read the guidelines.

Finally, for those who write series, and even for those who don't but who have words or names or other conventions in their writing that might not fall under the standard style sheets currently used, agent Jessica Faust recommends you keep your own style sheet and even send it with your pages when you submit them. While it might not keep the copy editor from changing things, it will help. Along those same lines, agent Nathan Bransford recommends for those writing a series that you keep a series bible to help keep all those pesky details, names, places, and descriptions straight from one book to another.

So, any thoughts on these recommendations? Any news from the industry you want to share? The floor is now yours.

24 comments:

Brendan said...

Because of the availability of PoD and e-books I can see a change in how contracts between authors and publishers will be written. Since these techs mean books will as far as the publisher is concerned never go out of print, giving them exlusive rights for ever, perhaps authors may need to place a time based clause. A publisher may retain rights for five to ten years with options for renewal after that. Using time based rights will give an author an easier road to either taking back rights they feel have been mis-used or to bargin for better deals on future book rights sales.

Stephen Simmons said...

The "series bible" idea I was already doing - I have a separate file that I keep open while writing, and I add every new character r place name to it as I introduce them, with a blurb of who/what they are and why they matter. But the style sheet had NOT occurred to me, and should have. I have found myself constantly skimming back, trying to remember if I had been capitalizing this or that title, or form of address ...

This blog always seems to have a remarkable degree of synchronicity for me. No idea why that is. But you posted all that information on contracts today, the day after I received the contract for my first-ever print short-story sale (the others have all been e-zines only). Are you reading my mail? :)

matapam said...

Series Bibles. Oh yeah. And timelines both for the series and in each book. This helps me find problems, things crowded together or so far apart as to be unlikely as cause and effect. It forces me to put in some hopefully subtle time-is-passing hints and may even make the whole more comprehensible.

I'm trying to get most of it on the computer instead of on paper, which is where it started, years ago.

Amanda Green said...

Brendan, we're already seeing the some publishers trying to use e-books to say a book is never out of print. The flip side of that is some of these same publishers are trying to hold onto electronic rights long after they have expired contractually. I'm afraid we're going to see some legal wrangling, and possibly some case law being made before this particular issue is settled. The problem with using time-based rights is that there is always boilerplate the publishers will insert, or try to insert, that makes that time limit nebulous at best. Still, that's what agents and attorneys are for I guess.

Amanda Green said...

Stephen, I'm a big proponent of the series bible and style sheets. That is one thing Sarah has taught me. The series bible becomes very important the more books in the series there are. Not only does it help keep things straight in my mind but it helps when a copy editor comes along who isn't familiar with the series and tries to change something.

As for reading your mail, nope. Haven't even read mine yet. However, on the topic of your contract, the things to look for are what rights are you selling -- exclusive or non-exclusive, print or electronic or both, length of time you are selling the rights for. Also, is there a clause about the rights reverting back to you if the press happens to go under before the story comes out? Just a couple of things to keep in mind.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, timelines are wonderful tools. Not only does it help keep me from forgetting the sequence of events from book to book, but I can also look at the timeline to make sure the chapters have the appropriate peaks and valleys. As for getting your timelines and series bible onto the computer, good luck. I still have a lot of handwritten pages on a series I may go back and try to resurrect now that I have a vague idea what it means to actually write a novel. [VBG] I will say the obvious though since I had several files become corrupted on one of my backup jump-drives the other day -- be sure to back it all up on multiple devices and in multiple formats. Fortunately, I had so I didn't lose more than 100 pages of my historical fantasy or the opening 30 pages of a steampunk novel I've been playing around with.

matapam said...

Backup, backup, backup.

I've got CDs, flashdrives and when I think I'm through, I print it and get out the red pencil. And keep the printout.

And keep one off premises in case of a fire. There are services that'll e-warehouse stuff, or I could email them to myself.

I used to be lax about it. Backedup once a month if that. The day my computer died made a believer out of me.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, yes! I've had backups and hard drives all fail within days of eachother. And we won't even begin to talk about the forms of tech that are no longer viable, ie old floppies, zip drives, etc. So I have multiple jump-drives, external hd, cd-roms, hard copy and emailed copies to myself. But then, I've been accused of being a tad obsessive about these things. ;-p

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda, I had to produce a series bible for KRK and a style sheet. There was just too much to keep track of.

It's a great idea.

Kate said...

Backups of backups good (I've lost things to crashes - AND had my backups fail and/or be corrupted)

Series bible essential. Format irrelevant, but there's got to be somewhere that's got all the notes about what's happening, how titles are handled and all the odd trivia about the world.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, did you create you own template for it or did you follow someone else's? I ask because you can find so-called templates for them that are so detailed that, by the time I get a good start on one, I don't want to write the book. Others that are out there seem too limited in what they want you to keep track of.

Amanda Green said...

Kate, you have my kind of luck when it comes to multiple crashes of tech happening at just the wrong moment. That's why I not only back up on multiple types of removable systems (jump drives, external hard drives, etc) but also e-mail the work to myself. I've been hit with hard drive failures too many times at critical points in a manuscript not to. As for format of a series bible, mine tend to be more handwritten notes than anything else, which is why I'm always on the lookout for a decent template I can adapt to suit my needs.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Amanda, I made them up after I'd completed the booke and was trying to keep track of things as I edited.

I didn't use a template.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, thanks. That's what I figured and is what I tend to do. But it never hurts to ask ;-)

matapam said...

It would be so handy if these characters who move into our heads would submit bios. Instead they make us figure them out as we go and often after the whole story is done, for checking continuity as we edit.

matapam said...

Okay, this totally out of left field, but I had to stick it somewhere on the site.

http://www.theonion.com/articles/minotaurs-the-new-vampires-says-publishing-executi,17601/

NEW YORK—In a desperate effort to find a trendy new fantasy subgenre to succeed the ebbing vampire craze, Razorbill Books executive Graham Childress decided this week to throw all his professional weight behind a new series of novels featuring minotaurs, the bull-headed, human-bodied creatures of ancient Greek mythology. "Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about minotaurs," Childress said at a publishing conference, frantically trying to drum up enthusiasm for the planned trilogy about a bad-boy minotaur who transfers to a new high school and eventually falls for the one girl who can see the pain and sensitivity behind his brooding exterior. "Plus, labyrinths are really hot right now." The first installment of Razorbill's minotaur series is slated to hit shelves on Dec. 14, the same date three rival publishers will release novels featuring a bad-boy mummy, a bad-boy cyclops, and a bad-boy Mayan vision serpent.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

For years, since I moved to CO -- the week I moved, actually -- I have patronized Murder By The Book, in Denver. They've always been pretty good with local and new authors. I attended more signings for one shot wonders than I care to mention, because I wanted to support the store and its efforts. Our vacations in Denver used to start with a visit to the store where I NEVER came out with less than $250 in paperbacks.
Used to start? Flash forward. Musketeers mysteries came out. I sent them a nice letter reminding them who I was, assuring them this was indeed their customer despite the fancy name, etc. No answer. My phone calls were deferred to "someone else". I sent them with the letter bookmarks and the comic booklet. I got up there as soon as I could before first book came out. All I got was "We have no intentions of ordering it." NO explanation and no politeness, either.
They never stocked it. They still don't stock my cozies, though they're doing QUITE well.
WHY? Who in hell knows? That I know I've done nothing to offend them. EVER. They talk to several writers/fans in Denver. Is there some wild rumor around me going around? Not that I know, and I can't begin to imagine why there would be.
So, I buy my vacation mysteries for the Kindle and I will not darken their door again. I know, I know "but if they tought they couldn't sell it." Maybe they did. (which didn't stop them in the past from having "maiden voyage" signings for local writers.) But there's no reason for them to think that of the refinishing mysteries. And they're still NOT stocking them.
THAT was the only relationship I tried to build. As you see, it worked.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Also, I'm in the middle of rewriting my Future History because this story is at least 300 years after Thena, maybe 500, but I don't know for sure, till I go THERE>

Amanda Green said...

matapam, you are an evil woman. Isn't it bad enough I have characters refusing to die when they are supposed to? Now I have to think about minotaurs running around???

I had a laugh at the article. I've thought about -- and talked about -- writing UF with a lot of different characters and creatures, but a minotaur has never been one of them. It most especially hasn't been as the lead critter. I think the article's use of the word "frantically" in describing the publisher's efforts to drum up publicity says it all.

Now, to go find the mental bleach to get rid of the minotaurs running through my mind.

Amanda Green said...

Sarah, unfortunately you have fallen prey to the same idiocy that so many other writers have when it comes to stocking the shelves of bookstores. The person in charge simply orders what they like never taking into account what their customers might want. We won't even go into how that screws up the computer numbers. All I can say is it is their loss, especially considering what your numbers for the cozy mysteries, Darkship Thieves and No Will But His have been.

matapam said...

Amanda, my poor attempt at an Urban Fantasy has a minotaur, as a rather minor character. So I found this very amusing. Gee, maybe Maverick needs a bigger role.

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, I want to read it when you finish. I guess I've just never thought about a minotaur in modern day.

matapam said...

I started with 12/21/2012, postulated a temporary merging of worlds with individuals merging with the closest/most similar thing in the other worlds. And keeping a few qualities after the worlds split up.

Maverick started as a ton's worth of semi-feral dairy bull. Having merged with several humans, intelligent Bruins, nano-dustdevil-trans-humans, horses, dinosaurs, werewolves . . . He's kind of confused, right now.

But the world isn't working terribly well. It was _supposed_ to be scary. Nasty. Dark. ::sigh::

Amanda Green said...

matapam, write it the way it wants to go. You can always clean up the details later. But I can see where this might not want to be dark. And I still want to read it...bwahahahaha.