Friday, May 2, 2008

Edgar Winners Announced

Best Novel
Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)

Best First Novel by an American Author
In the Woods by Tana French (Viking)

Best Paperback Original
Queenpin by Megan Abbott (S&S)

Best Fact Crime
Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi (Norton)

Best Critical/Biographical
Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (Penguin Press)

Best Juvenile
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion Books for Young Readers)

Best Young Adult
Rat Life by Tedd Arnold (Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Getting Paid

Unfortunately, you don't just get a check in the mail the moment you accept an offer from a publisher to publish your book. The contract has to be negotiated, which can take months. Then both parties need to sign the agreement, and then finally a check gets cut.

But according to most agency agreements and agency clauses in your contracts, the check is made out in the name of your agent and gets sent to them. Your agent will then deposit the check in an account, take out their commission (usually fifteen percent) and any expenses they incurred in submitting your work (typically copying, postage, and messenger fees), and then send you your payment. According to the Association of Authors' Representatives, agent members must send payments due to their clients within ten days after it's cleared.

Most agency clauses (including the one I use) state that an agent is entitled to their commission for the life of the contract, regardless of whether the author ceases to be a client. But if you and your agent do part ways, you and your former agent can request that the publisher send the commission to the agent and the rest directly to you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Favorite Future Classics

The wife and I live in Manhattan. It's a bit crowded, with too many bikes and books for such a small space. We'll move eventually though, and I dream of having my own library, with book shelves built into the walls, bank lamps, comfortable brown leather chairs, and scotch.

So in anticipation of that day I've started to collect first editions. I'm not willing to spend $20,000 on Catcher and the Rye though. Instead, I'm collecting first editions from the past twenty-five years or so that I think might one day be worth some money. Basically, I'm picking books I love and hoping that they have longevity.

I've already got A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane (thanks droobieboy), and I plan on getting the following titles next:

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Any other suggestions? What books will have a legacy in the years to come?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Too Many Writers Spoil the Soup

I recently saw a statistic that over 400 million people worldwide play basketball.

I played it growing up, and I still play now. I'm not bad, but I can't go right and my jumper is shaky at best. I certainly knew at an early age that I could never share the floor with professionals, no matter how hard I tried. I simply didn’t have the talent or the commitment.

Stay with me, there's a point to this.

As you all know, I get a ton of queries each day, and I reject almost all of them. Often times I reject writers who have talent, and I've rejected plenty of writers that have worked long and hard on their craft. But I also get quite a few queries that are utter and complete crap. The writer can't put a sentence together and hasn't bothered to even edit their query, much less their book.

These people are likely part of the 53% of Americans that didn't read a book last year, much less competitive books in the genre they're writing in. They haven't taken a writing class or gotten their MFA. They don't workshop their book with other writers. They don't attend conferences or lectures. They don't even spell check.

I’m not a writer, but it really pisses me off that some people think that anyone can write a good book. Why is writing any different from basketball (and my analogy now makes sense, even though it was clearly silly), or any other skilled profession? What is it about publishing that encourages self-delusion?

My wife suggested that it’s because we all learn as children how to read and write (even if poorly), and that we do it all of our lives and so it becomes second nature (as compared to shooting a fadeaway jumper). Rachel Donadio thinks that self-publishing has a lot to do with it. Others think that good commercial writers are the cause, that people like John Grisham make it look too easy.

Does this piss you off too? If so, who's to blame? Can we fix it?