Showing posts with label Janet Reid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Janet Reid. Show all posts

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.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Wrap-up

What a strange couple of weeks it has been in publishing, whether you're a reader, a writer or work in the industry. The Kindle-Macmillan (now Kindle-Big 6) kerfluffle has dominated the news and rightly so. It has also become the third topic you don't talk about at the dinner table, especially if you have two or more writers, a reader and -- gasp -- a publisher present. Unfortunately, what folks from all sides seem to be overlooking is the fact that the Big 6's issue with Amazon selling e-books for $9.99 isn't really the central issue, imo. It's part of it, but not the real issue.

The real issue is control and the fall-out has been bad will toward the Big 6, Amazon and a bunch of writers who have been very vocal in their stand supporting their publisher -- understandable -- and badmouthing the reading public that they saw as feeling entitled and ungrateful - very bad. Even if you feel that way, you don't tell the folks who buy your books. It just makes them mad and buyers, when made mad, quit buying.

Let's look at the facts. To begin with, Amazon doesn't sell all e-books at $9.99. Never has and never will. Those books in question are the ones hitting the New York Times best seller's list. The same books that in their hardcover version are sold for $9.99, not only at Amazon but at Walmart, Target and a lot of other stores. Now, does anyone here not see a problem with the statement, paraphrased, that the $9.99 price for e-books devalues the hardcover book? Excuse me? How can it devalue the price when they are the same? Yet that's not something you see the supporters of the Big 6 and their new agency model addressing.

So the question becomes why. If Amazon is taking a hit on selling e-books for $9.99, you know it is on hardcovers sold for that very same price. And yet Macmillan says it pushed for this new agency model even though it would make less money so Amazon can make more. Excuse me??? Somehow that just doesn't ring true.

Okay, before you guys start jumping all over me and telling me I'm missing the point here, I know I'm simplifying things. But Macmillan isn't acting out of the goodness of its heart. Nor is it acting in the best interest of its authors. If it was, it wouldn't have lowered their royalty payments a few months ago. And again, I know they say they are going to change this...but you notice the open letter didn't say how or when -- or by how much. IF, and this is a very big IF, the price increase really did go to to the author -- without whom we wouldn't have the book in the first place -- I might pay more for an e-book than I tend to now. However, not more than the paperback price and especially not the same, or more, than the hardcover.

Things to ask yourself about this issue and then I'm leaving it until there is new information:
  • how often do you buy a hardcover book these days;
  • when you do buy a hardcover, do you pay full-price for it, or do you purchase it at a discount or as a used book;
  • if you are looking to buy a hardcover book, do you comparison shop;
  • would you pay the same for a softcover book as you would for a hardcover of the same book;
  • would you pay the same for an electronic version of the book than you do for the softcover? More? How about hardcover prices?
  • if hardcover prices return to suggested retail prices and not discounted prices for best sellers, will you buy as many books?
  • now, for the big question, has your purchase history of e-books had an impact on the number of hardcover books you've bought and will an increase in the price of e-books make you buy more hardcover books?
For me, I'll keep singing the praises of Baen Books and others who realize they can sell e-books, released on or BEFORE the hardcover/paperback version of the book for a discounted rate and not savage the dead tree version of the book. In fact, many times the sale of an e-book leads not only to the sale of a dead tree version of that same book but also sales of dead tree copies of other books by that same author.

On a non-Amazon v. The Big 6 topic, agent Janet Reid has a great breakdown on what you need before you query. She has it broken down between fiction, non-fic and memoir. Go take a look and tell me what you think. The only issues I take with her list -- which is geared toward her own agency -- are where she says you don't have to have a marketing strategy for a fiction query nor do you need to be able to compare/contrast your book to others. Unfortunately, too many agents -- and publishers -- are now asking for your marketing strategy right off the bat. It's the same with the question of what books is yours like and what makes it different. In fact, there are agency that require you to answer those two questions on their online submission forms right now. So, what's the answer? Research. Find out exactly what the agency you're querying wants and the best way to answer it.

Okay, guys, the floor is now yours. What do you think about all this?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rules for Writers


Last weekend, I blogged about the things I wished I'd known before writing my first novel. That started me thinking about how you can find all sorts of advice, some good and a whole lot more bad, on the internet. One of the blogs I follow on a regular basis is Janet Reid's blog. Ms. Reid is an agent with Fine Print Literary Management -- and no, she's not my agent -- and she has not only her own blog, but she also has Query Shark where you can send your query to be posted and critiqued by her.

One of the things I like about Ms. Reid's blog is that she tells it like it is, at least as far as she's concerned as an agent. Along that line, she's written series of blog entries on Rules for Writers. And no, these are not rules to break...at least not often.
  1. Be ready. Despite what you might have heard, whenever you are attending a convention or workshop where you might be pitching your work to an agent or editor, have your pages with you. Have them in your car, in your hotel room, even in your briefcase in case the agent or editor asks to see them. Of course, you need to wait until they ask for the pages and then you need to find out if they want the pages now or if they want you to send the pages either via email or USPS.
  2. Be reachable. Don't do like I did the first time I sent off pages and list the wrong phone number or email address, etc. In my defense, we had just changed the phone number after years with the same one. Still, it was embarrassing to have to contact the editor and tell him I'd made such a stupid mistake. So, check to make sure you have the right address, phone number, email address and even blog address or web page address all listed. Don't run the risk of an agent or editor really liking your work and then not being able to reach you.
  3. Be brave. This is probably the most important advice Ms. Reid gives, and the piece I fail at the most. The first time to be brave, according to Ms. Reid, is to get up, get out of the house and go to a con or workshop, whether you know anyone else who is going or not. Take your pages. Take part in the critique sessions and don't let what anyone -- be they other participants, an agent or an editor -- make you give up. Listen to what they say, take notes and then see if what they say will actually make your piece better. Then either work to make those pages the best they can be or, if necessary, move on to the next piece, remembering what you learned from the critique.
  4. Be polite. It seems simple enough, doesn't it? But I'm sure everyone out there who has ever received a rejection has felt the same knee-jerk reaction I have. You want to respond to the agent or editor and ask why they rejected your baby. Hopefully, common sense wins out in those situations and you file the rejections away and get to work on your next story or novel. If not, remember what Ms. Reid says. The quickest way to be rejected or fired by an agent is to be rude to any member of her staff.
  5. Be imperfect. I'll admit, this one stumped me at first. Then I read what Ms. Reid had to say. She wasn't telling prospective clients to send in work that hadn't been spell-checked or didn't follow agency guidelines. Far from it. To paraphrase, if you insist on being perfect in your writing, you will wind up never writing anything. Or, you'll write but you will never feel it is ready to send out. So, instead of focusing on being perfect, focus instead on doing the best you can and remember you're human. So you can't be perfect.
  6. Be wary. Very simply, when looking for an agent, remember that they need to have contacts in the industry. As Ms. Reid says, "this industry runs on who you know. An agent who doesn't know anyone is worse than useless. It's ok to ask who do you know to a prospective agent asking to represent your work particularly if the agent is new and doesn't yet have much of a sales record."
So, what rules do you think every writer, especially a writer trying to break into the business, should know?

Also, while you're cruising around Blogger, check out Dave's latest posts about his upcoming move at Flinders Family Freer.