Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Musings

I think they got it right this time. Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain is the new Starbucks book selection, available in stores in May. Check out this great story about how he got his agent and sold the book.
The Locus Award nominees are:

Science Fiction Novel
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
Braysl by Ian McDonald
Halting State by Charles Stross
Spook Country by William Gibson
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Fantasy Novel
Endless Things by John Crowley
Making Money by Terry Pratchett
Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe
Territory by Emma Bull
Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Young Adult Book
Extras by Scott Westerfeld
The H-Bomb Girl by Stephen Baxter
Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier
Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

First Novel
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Saturday

I got back from London late last Friday night, and woke up very early Saturday morning as a result of jet lag. In fact, I was up so early that I ended up eating lunch at 10:30. I then went to the Upper East Side for brunch with my client Brian Jones and his editor at Arcade (If I was a hobbit than this eating schedule would have been fine).

We had a wonderful time, and then we all headed over to the majestic New York Society Library, where Brian was scheduled to speak that afternoon. He gave a wonderful talk that captured the essence of Washington Irving and his celebrity, and he had the whole audience enthralled. An audio of his talk can be heard here.

Still, I have to admit that I started to fade a little bit by the time I got home and I was looking forward to a nap on my couch. But somehow i had forgotten that the Spurs were playing Phoenix in the first game of the playoffs. Of course, it ended up being one of the best games I've ever seen, a thrilling double overtime victory over those whiny Suns.

As you can imagine, I didn't even get a wink of snooze time.

But my Saturday wasn't over yet. Once the game ended my wife and I headed out to a small gathering to celebrate Jim Butcher's recent book success (he's on The New York Times Bestseller list for SMALL FAVOR and has a new graphic novel out). I had a wonderful time, and the wife confirmed after that I didn't slobber too much - a legitimate concern not just because I'm a big fan, but because by then I was seeing double.

We got home. I crashed hard. A pretty cool Saturday, I have to say.

When Editor-Agent Relationships Go Wrong

Let’s say your agent has sold your book for you. Once the contract is done there is a changing of the guard from agent to editor as the editorial process proceeds.

Most agents will stay out of the way at this point, asking only to be cc’d on correspondence and only getting involved if there is a major bashing of heads. But on occasion agents do involve themselves in this part of the editorial process, most often to the detriment of the book. The way I’ve seen it manifest is that an author will complain about the editor’s editorial requests and the agent will act as an enabler for the author’s discontent.

I don’t suggest that my clients should always agree with an editor’s opinion, but I do think they should carefully and rationally consider it, and in some cases at least attempt to revise in accordance with the editor’s requests. Often times the author will discover that the changes do make sense after they begin them.

So now the book is done, and this is where I’ve seen and experienced other problems. The editor has developed this close bond with the author, and so they start conveying information and decisions about the book’s publication without speaking to the agent. Cover art is selected and catalog copy written. Information about print runs, pricing, and other logistical details is shared. Or perhaps later the publisher decides not to release a paperback edition or lets the book go out of print.

In my opinion, and in the opinion of almost every agent I know, these are all details that need to be shared and discussed with the agent, often in advance of speaking to the author. Our advice to our client in such situations is part of the fifteen percent we earn, especially in the case of a debut author who knows little about such details.

An example. Cover art is one of the most contentious issues between authors, agents, and editors. The art is typically generated by the publisher, and then most editors share the cover art with the author as either a courtesy or because of contractual obligation. Few authors actually have approval over cover art, but most contracts should state that you have a legal right to be consulted.

I’ve heard of some editors who present cover art to authors without hinting that the author’s opinion is either desired or matters, and a debut author may not feel comfortable speaking up. This corresponds with the commonly held view on the publisher's side of things that such decisions are best made by publishers. However, I absolutely feel that authors should provide their input on such decisions, though delicately, and so it’s important to have an agent there to avoid any land mines.

I actually know of a few very good editors who simply just don’t get why the agent should be involved in such conversations. As a result, I always suggest to writers to make sure to involve your agent in everything and tell your editor to do the same. Make your agent earn their fifteen percent.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reading Isn't Fundamental Anymore

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. George Bush's $3.1 trillion budget proposal for 2009 eliminates the funding for the Reading is Fundamental book distribution program. This program, which would cost 26 million dollars next year, has provided more than 300 million books to over 30 million underprivileged children since its founding in 1966.

Instead, Bush has proposed to raise military-spending to levels not seen since World War II. He proposes $515 billion for Pentagon's day to day operations, higher than the total combined military spending of every other country in the world (and this doesn't include supplemental requests).

We're spending enough to make the Pentagon the 10th richest country in the world, but we can't spend what amounts to 0.005% of this on a program that distributed books to nearly 4.5 million children last year?

Want to do something? The RIF website has a link to help supporters email their congressman and senator.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Catching Up

To the 166 people who queried me (correctly) since April 11th, I promise I haven't forgotten about you. I will respond some time this week.

Poets & Writers Interview with Nat Sobel

Another great inteview from Poets & Writers conducted by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, this time with agent legend Nat Sobel.