Friday, February 29, 2008

Royalties, Word Count, Marriage, and Orphans

Jennifer Jackson does it again, this time with a great breakdown of royalties.

Nathan Bransford talks about word count. I'm praying that the guy who keeps querying me about his 20,000 word mystery reads this.

Curtis Brown UK and ICM are getting married, or dating, or something.

Finally, a word about orphaned books, the term we use when the editor that acquired a book for a publisher leaves the company. It's actually happening today to one of my clients, as an editor I sold a book to is leaving her company for family reasons. It's usually not a big deal unless your book hasn't been delivered or published yet, or if it was just published recently.

If you're a huge author with a long-term relationship with a well-known editor (imagine Michael Korda), you can negotiate into your contract specific language that allows you to terminate your contract if your editor leaves or retires. Alternatively, if the editor ends up at another house, the two publishers might be able to negotiate a transfer of the title.

But in most cases neither of the above is an option, and you just have to move ahead. The first thing you should be aware of is that there will be a significant delay, as a new editor must be hired (unless the editor's assistant moves up), who must then read all the material and familiarize themselves with the details of each publication plan.

Next, assuming that the publisher still wants to proceed (and they typically will, since the book has been discussed in-house and been approved), you'll need to try to make the new editor feel as committed about the book as they would if they had acquired it themselves. Otherwise, this is when those nightmare stories can occur - the new editor doesn't care about the project they inherit and the book is published without any backing. The book doesn't get any reviews, there's no placement in the bookstores, and no publicity support at all. Speaking from experience, this is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a book.

There are some things you can do to combat this. If my client is good on the phone, I like to have them speak with the new editor a few times almost immediately. Better yet, I'll try to schedule a face-to-face if the author is going to be NYC. I'll also make sure that the editor is getting updated frequently by email about the book so that it stays on their radar, and I'll gently harass them if it falls off of it.

But at the end of the day there's only so much you can do, and with the increased movement of editors between houses over the past ten or so years, this is not a problem that will be going away either.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Literary Mystery/Crime

What writers do I mean when I say literary mysteries/crime?

David Liss, Richard Ford, Ed Wright, Jeffery Ford, Peter Hoeg, Lisa Lutz, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Lethem, and Dennis Lehane.

Feel free to add to the list.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pet Peeves

I collect pet peeves like some people collect stamps. Here are just a few:

People who intentionally and/or irresponsibly misrepresent facts to make their arguments. See Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, and anyone who has criticised the legal justice system based on the McDonald's case.

Queries that begin with a rhetorical question. Or queries that misspell my name, for that matter.

The 4-5-1 formation for soccer, unless you're Barcelona.

Editors who take six months and more to respond to your submission, and then don't have the dignity to apologize. And before you say turnaround is fair play, I always apologize in advance to authors when I've taken a long time in responding to a project.

Small people who use really big umbrellas. You know who you are.

Poets & Writers Interview with Editor Pat Strachan

There's a new interview out from Poets & Writers by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, this time with Pat Strachan from Little, Brown. Fantastic stuff.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vampires Are Not Dead

I'm sure you've read on other blogs that publishers are sick of vampires. I feel this point needs to be clarified a bit.

First, based on a quick search on Bookscan and a perusal of the aisles at my local B&N, the reading public certainly isn't sick of vampire books. As long as they are marketable, publishers will continue to publish them.

Second, I think most editors (and agents) misspeak when they say they don't want to get vampire submissions. I think what they really mean is that they don't want to get unoriginal and often poorly written vampire submissions.