Friday, October 26, 2007

Question: What's a pre-empt?

When a Publishers Lunch story says a book was sold "in a pre-empt," what does that mean?

A "pre-empt" is a preemptive offer. A publisher conveys this offer in advance of an auction or an expected auction in an attempt to preempt other publishers from getting the book. Typically this offer is conveyed for a short period of time (24 to 48 hours) before it's pulled from the table.

The biggest issue is whether the offer is good enough in order to preclude going to auction. Problems also arise when the offer is for more rights than the author and the agent want to grant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Books I'm Jonesing For

Here are a few books I really want to see:

A serious treatment on the rise of cable television, filled with behind-the-scenes interviews with both the suits and artists who made it happen. Journalism credentials necessary.

American history in the 19th century. The issue chosen needs to be specific, but with enough umph to carry a whole book. I also think that there's room for more history books focusing on a single year or even a few months (April 1865 is a great example).

A gritty, hard-boiled urban fantasy mystery series. Imagine Lehane or Connelly, but paranormal. Must be set on earth in the present or very near future.

Hope Solo


I've been debating whether to post something on the Hope Solo incident for a few weeks. It really has nothing to do with publishing though, so skip this if you don't like soccer. As for me, I am a rather rabid soccer fan. I watch at least three matches a week, and support both the Men's and Women's National Team vociferously.

The WUSNT didn't perform well in the World Cup, barely winning it's initial matches before losing to Brazil 4-0 in the semifinals. There also was significant controversy surrounding the recently fired coach, Greg Ryan, and Hope Solo, the goalkeeper. Solo had been the starting goalkeeper for the team for over two years and had a superb track record. Ryan then made the unprecedented move of switching goalies for the Brazil match. For chemistry reasons this is simply not done - the goalie acts as the manager for the whole defense and it takes time and practice to act as a cohesive unit. In addition, rustiness is very common for goalies - action in games is absolutely necessary to keep sharp. Finally, with the exception of only one goal, Solo had been superb for the team throughout the World Cup and in top form in every game she's played for more than two years.

So of course the team loses, and of course Solo says the switch was a mistake. You don't become a professional athlete by being a shrinking violet. Perhaps she should have kept her mouth shut (even though she was right), but what followed was in my opinion an even worse display of immaturity.

Check out Bonnie Ford's article on ESPN Soccernet for more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Publishing Trends Survey

Interesting survey conducted by Publishing Trends... the information about compensation is sad, but accurate.

Term of the Week: Beauty Contest

Jane Smith submits her book to a bunch of agents, and ends up getting lots of favorable responses and offers of representation. Now she has to decide which agent to go with, and so she either meets with them personally for lunch or drinks, speaks with them on the phone, or corresponds via email to obtain more information. She asks all the important questions - agent biography, submission plans, commissions, general agenting strategy, etc., and then decides which agent to go with.

Agents call this a "beauty contest." We've all been in them, and we've all won some and lost some. They're no fun for us, but great for Jane Smith and writers everywhere. Editors have no sympathy for agents regarding this since they are constantly in beauty contests of the agent's making - i.e. auctions.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Book Quotes: Lance Armstrong

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE: My Journey Back to Life
by Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins
Putnam, 2000

Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Gone Baby Gone"

"Oh no girl, don't do it!"

My wife and I looked over at the person sitting next to us in the theatre, an expression of shock and disgust on our faces. Besides destroying our movie-going experience, this idiotic person clearly missed the whole point of the climax of the wonderful new film, "Gone Baby Gone".

I'll come back to this, but first let me say that if you go see "Gone Baby Gone" and manage not to find yourself sitting beside a really stupid "movie yeller", and you also manage to not sit in front of an older woman who constantly kicks your stadium seat, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film (I only mention that the woman behind me was older because she really, really should have known better, as compared to some fifteen-year-old punk who thinks it's funny).

Adapted from the superb book of the same title by Dennis Lehane, the film stars the impressive Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie, a local Boston PI who is hired by the distraught aunt and uncle (Amy Madigan and Titus Welliver) of a kidnapped girl to join the police investigation. Riding shotgun with Kenzie is his girlfriend, Angie Gennaro, played by a rather limp Michelle Moynahan. Angie is hesitant to take the case because she predicts an unhappy ending, but Patrick remembers the girl's mother (Helene, played by an awesome Amy Ryan) from growing up, and thinks he might be able to help.

The two eventually sign up and are teamed up with two condescending police officers (scene chewing Ed Harris and the under-appreciated John Ashton, of Beverly Hills Cop fame) by police chief Jack Doyle (an overacting Morgan Freeman), and using Patrick's neighborhood connections the kidnapping comes to a quick climax. But not everything is how it seems, and since he's a perfectly drawn noir detective, Patrick is simply too stubborn to let things go.

Though there are some problems that arise with the transition of the book to film, director Ben Affleck does a wonderful job of recreating Lehane's world, a place where nothing is black and white. And this brings me back to the climax, and that stupid movie yeller sitting next to me. There are some choices we make that can't be classified by right or wrong. Some decisions you just make, and then live with for the rest of your life. And unless you're George Bush or the woman sitting next to me in the theatre, the choice is not an easy one.

Exploring the gray that inhabits us all, "Gone Baby Gone" is a definite hit that I guarantee you'll talk about for days after, and Casey Affleck is a star in the making.