Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lauren Abramo tells you what to buy!

If, like me, you’re a chronic procrastinator, you may not have bought all your holiday gifts yet! You’re in luck, because if you’re a writer, there couldn’t be a better time to support your own industry—particularly since books are a pretty affordable alternative to a lot of the pricier items we might not be getting this year (make-your-own Muppet, I’m looking at you.).

But that leaves the question of what to buy? After all, it’s not spending money in bookstores that’s the hard part for most writers, it’s buying not the book that you want, but the book that the recipient wants. Just a bit trickier! (In the interests of full disclosure, yeah, some of the below are represented by us, but I recommend them because they’re great and not because they’re ours! Promise.)

If you’re just looking for a really good read to share, see Jim’s previous entry—he read so many books this year, there’s bound to be something perfect in there. But what do you buy for…

Your critique partner or favorite beta reader? Of course, you probably know this person’s taste in narrative pretty well, so Jim’s entry would be a big help. But if you can never keep up with what your favorite reader already has on the shelf at home, try this new illustrated edition of my favorite grammar book or a relatively new fun and accessible addition to the category. If your friend doesn’t get excited about punctuation and subject-verb agreement, try preparing him or her for a successful career with one of the newer tools of the author’s trade, a guide to blogging from the folks at the Huffington Post.

Mentoring boss or devoted employee? Books make an excellent gift for a person who you maybe don’t know so well or for someone who you want to feel appreciated. Especially in these difficult times, it can’t hurt to let each other know we’re glad to still be working in one another’s company! Those with a head for business may appreciate some extra insight into how our minds work, how others’ planning works, how we decide what we buy, or how our financial industry got where it is. And those with no business sense but an excellent sense of humor might like some inspiration for telling a colleague how they really feel about them personally or the mess they left in the breakroom.

Cat lover or dog’s best friend? If you love cats and you love books, how could you not love the combination to be found in Vicki Myron’s Dewey—and with the runaway success and the news that Meryl Streep will be playing the lead in the movie, they may not have time to wait on the list at the local library! Of course the reigning king of dog books this Christmas is probably going to be Marley & Me, between the unbelievable success of the book to begin with and the movie coming out on Christmas day. If they’ve already got the original, there’s always the seasonally appropriate follow up. But if those choices are too obvious or their shelves are nowhere near so far behind, why not think outside the cat/dog paradigm and go for a coyote: Shreve Stockton’s The Daily Coyote (represented by our own Stacey Glick) just hit stores, and it should definitely appeal to the animal lovers on your list!

Twilight obsessed teen or sensitive realist? Has the teen in your life already devoured all that Stephanie Meyer has to offer? In that case (and hey, even if it’s not the case!), our own Richelle Mead for the YA crowd and Heather Brewer for the middle graders are excellent choices. Sick of vampires? Not to worry, Lisa McMann’s got you covered. And if the paranormal thing’s not doing it, look no further than Sara Zarr!

Politics junkie or history buff? Any politics junkie probably OD’d on coverage not long ago, but soon they’ll be in need of a new fix. If your friends and loved ones are full of hope and optimism these days (or were on November 5th, at any rate!) but they haven’t yet read Dreams from My Father, it doesn’t disappoint. But if you’re sure they’re already ahead of the game, why not help them follow the lead of our leader-to-be and check out Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals? That not their style (or side of the aisle)? The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages: 1851-2008 (except, it seems, November and December of this year) is sure to offer plenty of information to peruse and pour over, not to mention a fascinating time capsule. And for a funnier take on political and historical life, try anything by Sarah Vowell.

Babies or the (very) young at heart? While How the Grinch Stole Christmas will always be my favorite Christmas classic, no baby could ever go wrong with the work of Mo Willems at any time of year. Whether you’re preventing pigeons from driving a bus or tracking down a dearly missed Knuffle Bunny, no contemporary childhood is complete without these fun new friends. Whether for your own kid or someone else’s, the work of Mo Willems is a treat worth reading and re-reading—if the baby’s not old enough to thank you, his or her parents’ certainly will!

Nerds, dorks, or the irrepressibly curious? There’s a breed of books that is varied in subject that I like to think of as everything you’ve never known you needed to know. This is the sort of book that I put on my holiday wish list, and if you know someone who gets as lost in Wikipedia as I do (seriously, never send me a link to there—I’ll never get out), they’ll be happy to check these out. What would happen to the world if we disappeared? What happens to our bodies after we die? What were my high school science teachers trying to explain to me? Is there really enough to write about walking for there to be a whole book on it? And what the hell is going on in John Hodgman’s brain?

Do you have a favorite book that makes a great gift? Let us (and your fellow shoppers know) in the comments!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jim McCarthy lets you know that agents do read...for fun!

A lot of people ask me how I ended up in publishing. The answer is kind of simple: I tripped into it. I needed an internship during college so I applied to about 40 places. Stacey Glick was the first person to call me back. Voila!

The more important question, of course, is why I stayed. Another relatively simple answer: I love books. How trite is that? But it’s true…

I’ve said before (probably on this blog) that most people end up working in publishing simply because they’re readers, plain and simple. It’s certainly not about fame and fortune, two things that (on an industry level at least) are not in abundant supply.

Agenting is a reading intensive job. We receive over 2,000 queries a month and dozens of manuscripts cross our desks at a regular clip. But there is a difference between work-reading and pleasure-reading. When I read for work, I’m looking for editorial inconsistencies, thinking about marketability, categorizing and re-categorizing in my head, and trying to identify the audience. When I read for pleasure, I can let those issues go and focus on a book as its own entity focusing on my own personal response. They’re different types of reading, but I’ve always felt that they only enhance each other.

Some people seem surprised that I read a book a week (roughly) for myself. But I’ve never been sure how I could do my job if I didn’t. If I was all critical eye, it seems that I would start to objectify books. But if I read only for personal gratification, I’d…well, I’d be really bad at my job.

What do I read for pleasure? Well, let’s take a look at my reading list for 2008 to date (of course I keep a list!). These are the books I read exclusively for pleasure. I haven’t included anything by my own clients or other clients at the agency, anything I read in order to understand a market better, or anything that I disliked enough to stop reading before I was finished. One book only made it on here because I was on a plane and hadn’t packed alternatives…grumble.

LATER, AT THE BAR by Rebecca Barry

This was a charming little novel about the lives of a bunch of regulars at a small town bar. It didn’t blow me away, but it was an auspicious debut.


What DID blow me away was this book. Junot Diaz does so many things in this novel that I find annoying (interspersing another language to give a novel flavor and liberal use of footnotes were the two most obvious), but the thing is—he’s just so damn good. I would have hated this book because of his stylistic choices if it was anything less than brilliant. It wasn’t. Bravo.


What a fun mystery novel this one was. The first few pages felt a little gimmicky, but once she got going, Lutz won me over with some seriously charming characters and an abundance of wit.

REMAINDER by Tom McCarthy

No relation. That said, I’m tempted to call him Uncle Tom just because it’s wrong. The book? It will totally mess with your mind. I mean that as a compliment.

BEASTS OF NO NATION by Uzodinma Iweala

I had originally intended to read this book after I had finished WHAT IS THE WHAT, another novel about the Lost Boys of the Sudan, but I decided to take an emotional break before getting back to the subject. Good thing. This book is devastating.

RUNNING WILD by J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard is a super-prolific though perhaps not extremely successful author; I read about one of his books a year because they’re all engaging, even when they’re not all that successful. Like this one.

THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr

I know, I know. Everyone else read this ten years ago and fell in love with it then. Understandably. It’s a fabulous historical thriller. Though for me (and I know some would have me crucified for saying this), THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER did the same sort of thing more successfully.

THE SOMNAMBULIST by Jonathan Barnes

Another weirdo little book, this one. It’s a historical thriller by way of urban fantasy with a healthy dose of British comedy and one of the most surprising narrators I’ve ever encountered. I didn’t love the book, but Barnes is certainly one to watch.


I’m still working through 1,001 BOOKS YOU MUST READ BEFORE YOU DIE (and likely will be until, well…y’know). It was such a delight to dive into this novel. And now I really want to go check out the miniseries!


Have you ever read something perfectly pleasant right after you read something brilliant and just felt distressingly underwhelmed? It’s not your fault, Jessica. Sorry.

DISGRACE by J.M. Coetzee

Crikey! No wonder this guy won the Nobel. I started and stopped this novel twice before committing to it. The beginning feels a little familiar (an affair between a professor and his student again? Really?), but he takes it where I least expected and does so brilliantly. You’ll notice Coetzee pop up more below. He got me!


I know I should love this book as many people have raved to me about how extraordinary Hempel’s short stories are. Well, I can’t love everything.


He does it again! Fascinating to go from a relatively recent novel by an author back to something from a long while back. Allegory is possibly the toughest thing to pull off, but he does it!

THE CRYING OF LOT 49 by Thomas Pynchon

No comprende! No comprende! Okay, I actually enjoyed reading this even if it was an incredibly tough little book that kept turning in on itself and revealing new aspects of what it was. Ask me in a year whether I liked it. I’ll still be trying to figure it out.

BEL-AMI by Guy de Maupassant

Here’s one that I never would have picked up minus my “must read” book of books. So glad I did. It felt a bit derivative, certainly, but it was such a charming, entertaining novel if not outstanding.


So much fun! I took this book everywhere and was reading on the subway, in elevators, waiting for lunch dates, and (one clumsy afternoon) walking down the street. Ignorning anything else, Wolfe is a damned fine storyteller and this was super-involving.

THE 39 STEPS by John Buchan

Buchan is long gone, so can I just admit that I hated this book? I finished it because it was short. That is the only reason.

NIGHTS IN ARUBA by Andrew Holleran

Holleran wrote two of my favorite novels, GRIEF and DANCER FROM THE DANCE. The first chapter of this one was brilliant. I hate to admit that after that, he lost me.


Jhumpa Lahiri is just an amazing writer of short stories. I actually didn’t love her novel, but this book and INTERPRETER OF MALADIES are just stunning.


Russians are seriously bleak. This novel depressed the heck out of me, but like all great literature, it ended with a sliver of hope. It was just such a small sliver!

GENERATION LOSS by Elizabeth Hand

This dark novel set in the Maine wilderness made me want to run out and take photographs and talk to strangers. It did not, unfortunately, make me want to read more of the novelist’s work.


Philip Roth makes me stupidly happy. Going back and reading his first book was an enormous treat, not because it’s the greatest thing he has done, but because it allowed a peek at the seeds of a genius that would present itself later.


Marc Acito made me snarfle a Diet Coke on the subway. The bubbles hurt my nose. I have forgiven him for that pain because he was damn funny enough to make me snarfle in the first place.

SLOW MAN by J. M. Coetzee

Ever start reading a book, get halfway through, and then have the rug pulled out from under you? Then get knocked over, rolled up in the rug, and left for trash collectors? Yeah…this book gave me the weirds.


Even the happy Russians are tragic and sad. This reminded me a bit of MADAME BOVARY stylistically. It’s not as good, but hey, what is?


Note to self: don’t read Oprah book club picks any more. Ever.

THE WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga

Note to self: DO read Booker Prize winning fiction. Holy moses, this book knocked my socks off. I’m going to put it in a two way tie for my favorite book of the year. Immediately upon finishing it, I handed it off to someone else to read. There have been some negative reviews recent that state that Adiga somehow failed to bring the entirety of India to realistic life. As though that would have been the point. Or possible. I don’t care what anyone says, this book is brilliant. Violent, amoral, hysterical, disturbing, fresh, thrilling. I could go on for far too long.

THE PIANO TEACHER by Elfriede Jelinek

Sigh. It’s so hard to know what I think about this book because I saw the movie first. And it became one of my favorite movies. And while I’m inclined to say that the novel is superb (as it likely is), I feel like I need to re-read it before I really know what I think about it.

LITTLE KINGDOMS by Steven Millhauser

This blog entry seemed like a much better idea when this list was single-spaced. This is a collection of novellas, one of which I loved, one of which I hated, and one of which fell in the middle. It’s worth it for the first of the three.

GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson

My second pick for favorite book of the year. I didn’t expect to relate too much to a seventy-something pastor in Iowa at the turn of the last century. That didn’t even begin to matter. Robinson took my breath away. The depth of her characters humanity, the fullness of her understanding, and the astonishing beauty of her simple, straightforward writing were captivating. I loved this book. I can’t wait to jump into her next, HOME.


What a fun book! It has monsters, murder, adultery, drug addicts, ghosts, and a charmingly screwed up heroine mapping out her very complicated family history. A blast to read even if I have some quibbles about certain choices.

A MERCY by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is a goddess. That is all.

WORKING STIFF by Grant Stoddard

Some people can make sex boring. Moving right along…


Heh. I still chuckle even thinking about this book, which I read at the beginning of last year. Toby Young is a nutjob, but he’s also hilariously self-aware. I think his memoir is most interesting if you care about NY media. And I do.

INTO THE WILD by Jon Krakauer

Here’s a book that didn’t suffer at all from my having watched the movie first. Jon Krakauer can pretty much do no wrong. This is superbly researched, wonderfully written, thoughtful investigative journalism. But everyone else already read it and knew that, it seems. Sometimes I’m late to the game!


A memoir dictated by the one blinking eyelid the author had that was the only part of him not paralyzed. Reading it felt like having someone pressing weight against my chest. Absolutely devastating but so richly inspiring without being saccharine.

AUDITION by Barbara Walters

I already blogged about this. I love me some Baba Wawa.

BEAUTIFUL BOY by David Sheff

Some memoirs… Well, some authors should… Maybe if David Sheff weren’t… Ummm…a lot of other people liked this. Moving on…

DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD by Sebastian Horsley

Ugh. Maybe it was memoir fatigue. Moving on again…


Whee! When you’re David Sedaris, your lesser efforts are still a joy and wonder to read. So congrats to him on this fabulous lesser effort.

PSYCHE IN A DRESS by Francesca Lia Block

Okay, so this book was sold as YA, and I spent most of my time reading it cross-referencing Greek gods on Wikipedia. So either teens are way more knowledgeable about this stuff than I realized or this might have been poorly categorized. That said? Breathtaking.

ECSTASIA by Francesca Lia Block

I found this one in a remainder bin at a used bookstore and dove right back into Block’s writing with wonder. She is so. So. Good.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

When I first heard about this novel, which is about a group of teens forced to battle to the death on live television, I thought it sounded horribly derivative of such movies as Series 7 and Battle Royale. I also couldn’t understand how it would work as a young adult novel. Finally, I broke down and bought it. Color me impressed. If aspects of the story are familiar (and they are), it’s entirely besides the point. Collins throws inhibitions to the wayside and tackles a ferocious plot with verve and talent to spare.


The first half of this young adult novel is stellar. It went off the rails for me slightly in the second half, but I didn’t especially mind. I was still tremendously moved and impressed by Green’s work.

LIVING DEAD GIRL by Elizabeth Scott

Ever rush through a book to get past how painful it is? I’m not talking bad painful. I’m talking novel about a teenage sex slave painful. Yeeouch.

THE ALCOHOLIC by Jonathan Ames

I’m determined to learn more about graphic novels, so I’ve picked a few up to find out more about the market. This is the first time I sought one out just out of the desire to read it. I’ve already shared it with friends. A quick read, it’s also amazingly honest and open, deeply tragic, and laugh-out loud funny. If this is what graphic novels have to offer, it’s no wonder they’re doing so well right now.

It has been a really good year! I’ve read some amazing books, worked through some more of my must-read list, and discovered some new authors who I’ll follow in the future. With a few weeks left to go, I’m about halfway through THE BLIND ASSASSIN by Margaret Atwood, am overly excited about Carrie Fisher’s upcoming WISHFUL DRINKING, and (as ever) am prepared to push aside whole piles of to-be-read books if something astonishing catches my eye.

I’m also prepared for my next entry on this blog to be much shorter than this one!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chasya Milgrom on why we rejected Moby Dick

We really enjoy reading the responses we get to our blog posts and finding out what our readers have to say about our ruminations and rambling on everything from book cover design to the state of the current market. These comments can also be excellent jumping-off points or topics that might be of interest the rest of our readers.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Miriam waxed romantic about the lack of sweeping, escapist fare in today’s book market; books that would allow us to get our collective minds off an awful economy and other goings-on in the world.

One of our readers responded, making the point that in today’s market a novel the length of Gone with the Wind or The Thorn Birds would get rejected immediately for being too long. The truth is we do consider submissions of various lengths including those that have a heftier word count, because, at the end of the day, a compelling novel is a compelling novel. Witness the most buzzed about debut this fall, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. At upwards of 560 pages, this doorstop of a book surpasses your average page count. Despite that, it has been an enormous success, and as Stacey pointed out last week, it was a bestseller way before Oprah got her hands on it. People were moved by the story and bought the book in droves. Another example that instantly comes to mind is Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke, a 624 page tome which came out last year and shot up the bestseller lists. Our own Jacqueline Carey’s first novel Kushiel’s Dart comes in at 695 pages. Her most recent book in the series, Kushiels’ Mercy, is no slouch at 650 pages.

We absolutely crave the sorts of stories that grab hold of us whether they take 250 or 500 pages to tell. We would be remiss in tossing something aside simply because of its length. One of my own personal favorite books, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True comes in at a staggering 928 pages. I’ve read this one a few times and still get that sad feeling as I near the end.

Along similar lines, another reader pointed out an interesting practice – mock submissions, in which cheeky authors take the first ten pages of a classic and send it off to an agent and then wait for their form rejection to come in the mail. The implication here is that a) agents are idiots who often don’t know that what they are looking at is a classic piece of literature and b) agents wouldn’t know a good piece of fiction even if it was staring them in the face.

We aren’t going to lie. A couple of years ago one of our agents rejected Moby Dick (yup, you heard me). The agent admitted this to me freely. Thing about that is, this agent also pointed out that he hated Melville and absolutely loathed Moby Dick. So, just because the book is a classic, does not mean we are going to change our minds about liking it or not. And just because a form rejection comes in the mail, doesn’t necessarily mean that the agent does not know what is being rejected. Often the agent does recognize the work and sees it for what it is, a prank, and sends a form rejection as a courtesy response.

Yes, ultimately agents are business people. We have to take on what we think will sell, and something that sold in 1851 probably isn’t going to top the charts in 2008. Let’s face it, the whaling industry is not really booming in this day and age, and one must take into consideration that classics are born of a specific age and place. In order to be successful, we do need to address what contemporary readers want to read. And perhaps if we’re very, very lucky, we can have the opportunity to represent a modern day classic.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Stacey Glick asks, "Will Books Survive and Thrive?"

There’s a lot of talk everywhere these days about the doomed economy and what it means for all businesses, large and small. No doubt the climate is grim, and people are worried. There have been discussions within the confines of book publishing that speak to all sides of the issue, and reports that book publishing is “recession-proof” given the relatively low price point for books and the fact that people are staying home more, and looking for inexpensive alternatives to entertain themselves. The holiday season will soon show if people will be buying more books, and less of other things, but we are all hoping for good news.

But what about outside of the consumer level – agents selling books and publishers buying them? Will there be a slowdown there, will publishers be buying fewer books and spending less money on them? That debate has been going on through the years and continues through this downward economic cycle with great concern from authors, agents, editors and publishers alike. But really, midlist and backlist books at the big houses have taken a back seat to front list titles for years already, so that’s not really new news. So far, the market seems to be cautiously conservative in some ways and grandiose and lavish in others with a mixed bag of returns. For every gloom and doom story out there, there’s another that’s equally as uplifting and encouraging.

Doubleday just announced a number of layoffs in part because of disappointments like paying over $1 million for Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargolye, and recent reports like New York Magazine’s article by Boris Kachka about the end of publishing as we know it continue to spread pessimism about the future of books (see Michael Bourret’s blog from September 30). But there are still success stories both large and small that make us optimistic about the future of books. All of the recent press about a literary first novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle which has sold well over 500K copies in hardcover at 576 pages is by anyone’s standards a huge hit, and would have been even before it was picked as an Oprah book. And what about the amazing little Randy Pausch book, The Last Lecture, which Hyperion spent mightily on in the hopes it might become another Tuesdays with Morrie, and it’s actually worked on that scale, resulting in a very happy publisher, not to mention a wonderful, lasting legacy for the author’s family. Then there’s Dewey, another big ticket item from Grand Central which they paid seven figures for and has been hovering near the top of the New York Times bestseller list the last few weeks reminding all of us that animal books are still working (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my upcoming The Daily Coyote by Shreve Stockton, which is getting very nice advance notices and response will follow the lead). And there are smaller success stories too. Like Michael Bourret’s children’s book, I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak, that Scholastic paid a tiny advance for and it’s sold over a million copies.

So while there will always be disappointments and books that publishers paid too much for, they seem to keep spending aggressively on the books that their staffs and p&l statements say will break out as a “big” book and continue to make money for everyone for years to come. So far, we don’t really see that changing, and we all continue to search high and low for that next great book, the one that we can fall in love with, and that hopefully can make us all lots of money, too, whether the advance is seven figures, or just a small fraction of that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Miriam Goderich wants to be swept away

So, I’ve been trying to come up with blog topics and feeling really uninspired. All I seem able to focus on these days is how far the stock market will tumble before mining equipment needs to be used to bring it back up and how much the media is ruining our political process (along with politicians who don’t seem to think it’s necessary to know anything about, well, anything before they decide they want to lead the free world). Problem for us in the publishing business is that everyone else is obsessing about the same things and as far as I can tell, we don’t have the book equivalent of Dancing with the Stars to take our minds off the harsh realities we’re faced with.

We need a new The Bridges of Madison County (never thought I’d say that!), a new The Thorn Birds or, for those of us who remember the ‘80s, a new Hollywood Wives to provide thoroughly escapist water cooler talk and the impetus to turn off CNN and be transported by great (if cheesy and farfetched) storytelling out of our everyday reality. Edgar Sawtelle just isn’t doing it for me, frankly.

My point is that it’s been a while since the whole country was talking about (and actually enjoying) a book that was not canonized by Oprah, written by James Patterson, or featured a vampire. Good yarns with big romance, big conflicts, and lots of cliffhangers are certainly not unheard of on the bestseller lists, but the kind of superlative trashy fiction that got people talking, created trends, and provided hours of mindless, titillating escapism is in short supply these days. Everything is put into a category – YA, mystery/thriller, paranormal, literary, etc. – and it often seems that readers are increasingly putting themselves into categories as well.

The beauty of those wonderful escapist novels (Gone with the Wind, anyone?) is that everyone read them regardless of whether they were considered “women’s” or “historical” or “commercial” fiction, everyone talked about them, and despite their literary shortcomings, they changed the publishing landscape. A look at the bestseller lists right now features a little of everything but nothing for everyone. Am I crazy or do you all agree? What great trashy fiction do you wish we were all reading again?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Lauren Abramo on books remembered

Not long ago I had a conversation with an author at a writer’s conference about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which I mention in my essay on our website were much beloved by me as a child. In spite of her otherwise completely sensible attitude, this woman had the nerve to suggest that Farmer Boy was a valuable part of the series, rather than just a distraction to be skipped over. I was distressed to discover my mother also counted it as a favorite. That I could be related to one so foolish is simply shocking!

A month or so later, I attended a baby shower at which fantastic books—including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; Caps for Sale; and The Giving Tree—were put in baskets as centerpieces. The baby-to-be also received two Dr. Seuss collections, featuring some star-bellied Sneetches; poor little Bart Cubbins; and a pair of stubborn Zaks, who I believed as a child had stopped in their tracks near Yankee Stadium, where you can find the sort of circular ramp-like roads that the story’s final illustration shows built above their heads.

These events set me off thinking of remembered treasures from childhood, including Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee which I borrowed from the classroom library of the fifth graders I tutored my freshman year of college, just to see if the magic had held up. It had.

Another book that made a huge impression was Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Have I Loved, which even as a kid I recognized was heartbreaking, powerful stuff. The title often pops into my mind out of nowhere, but it’s only just now that I realized that it was written by the same author as the phenomenal Bridge to Terabithia. The latter is one of my all-time favorite books, which prompted me and my friend Meredith to create our own secret world.

Then there was Little Women, which took me a long time to come around on. I was so angered when Jo spurned Laurie and ended up with the old German guy, and then to make matters worse, Laurie pretended to love the insufferable Amy. I used to hate the book (and Louisa May Alcott for ruining it), but in retrospect, I’ve decided that I love the book except for the minor issue of the abysmal ending. When I last re-read, I just stopped reading at the point where everything goes downhill. That said, if any of my friends or family members disagree that things went horribly awry, then I don’t want to know about it, because I’d hate to have to cut them out of my life.

I also couldn’t get enough of Lurlene McDaniel’s various tales of terminally ill children coming to grips with life and loss. I finished reading a particularly heartbreaking one at field day in the sixth grade and cried through the end as the friends who’d already read it gathered around to rehash it. A similar book, though even more sad for being a true story, was Robyn’s Book: A True Diary by a young woman named Robyn Miller who died from cystic fibrosis at 21. It saddens me to discover that this appears to now be out of print, but I’m glad to have stumbled across a secondhand copy of it in my early teens.

And just as my mind began to wander from these memories, guess whose name keeps coming up! Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret taught me what a period was before that 5th grade girls-only puberty lecture got around to it. Deenie made me realize that posture was important and helped me remember to sit up straight.

And then there’s Forever. In the sixth grade, a friend sat in the cafeteria reading a book covered in brown paper, so naturally I harassed her till she told me what it was and promised to let me borrow it. (I can’t help wondering if that sort of secrecy about reading risqué books is a relic of the past, now that so many young girls are reading the “aspirational” tales of the Gossip Girl crowd.) I also clearly remember a year later sharing the “dirtiest” parts of the book (did it take me a year to work up the courage?) with a bunch of friends who hadn’t read it. Oh how we laughed! And yet, the book made an impression, and I think secretly everyone read it after I did and didn’t laugh quite so hard on their own. Years later, when I worked at Barnes & Noble, concerned fathers would come into the store looking for copies for their daughters, asking in hushed tones if it was age appropriate.

If it hadn’t been for books like the above, I probably wouldn’t love reading as I do today, so I owe some big thank yous to all of the above. (Even Louisa, but don’t get me started on what she did to poor Beth!)

Which books do you remember from childhood that made a lasting impression? Are there books that you use as a test to see if someone’s really worth knowing? And most important, are any of you among those loathsome folks who actually like the ending of Little Women? On second thought, don’t answer that last one!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Michael Bourret talks Doom and Gloom

There’s an awful lot of negativity going around. Wall Street is suffering through a financial crisis heretofore unimaginable, the elections seems to be more about lipstick, pitbulls and insults than about real issues, and New York magazine says that publishing as we know it is dead.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in all of the drama. The economic news is distressing. The whole election cycle has been difficult to watch. And then I was told that publishing had come to an end. Well, crap. Honestly, the headline was more doom-and-gloomy than the article’s actual content. Much of the information it contained was already available, but the piece brought it together quite nicely. And it was interesting to hear what publishing vets think about the changes we’re going through as an industry. It’s funny – we have this election that’s all about change, supposedly, and people are really excited about it. “Washington is broken, change it!” With publishing, we all know the system is broken, but everyone seems afraid of changing it. And, I don’t think it’s simply because people are afraid of losing their jobs.

Change is inherently frightening, especially in a business as old and conservative as publishing. Publishers discovered the web long after most industries, because they didn’t see a way to monetize it. I often worry that we’ll end up like the music industry, focusing on bogus issues (piracy) while the real issues (distribution) are ignored. So it heartens me that experiments like Vanguard Press and Bob Miller’s Harper Studio seem to be getting people’s attention. Both look to turn the publishing relationship into more of a partnership in which the publisher and author take shared responsibility for a book’s success. In their model, either no advance or a smallish advance is paid against a much higher royalty (their 20% - 25% instead of 15%). Risk is then assumed by both the author and publisher, but the reward for the author, should the book succeed, is much higher. Authors in these sorts of deals are expected to come to the table with a much larger platform, however, making this situation ideal for previous bestsellers and celebrities.

But beyond the publishing-as-partnership ideas, we need to fix the system of returns that is the bane of the industry; we need to figure out ebooks, including how to distribute, price and market them; and we need to look at how we can compete in a media saturated world. It’s not like I know the answers to these questions, but it’s a good sign that we’re talking about them.

There are more changes to come in publishing, and I refuse to be depressed about them. In fact, I look forward to being around to take the challenges head-on and to figure out, with unbelievably smart, creative and talented industry colleagues, how to bring publishing into the future.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jim McCarthy attends RWA

Picture it: San Francisco. July 30th. Still reeling from the death of Estelle Getty, a young (fine: young-ish) agent arrives at the Marriott hotel to attend his first Romance Writers of America national convention. In the weeks leading up to this point, many people have asked him if he’ll be overwhelmed being one of the only males in attendance. “Nah,” he replied. “I grew up in a house full of women – three older sisters and only one of me.” It was a stock answer that he fully believed to be true. How wrong he was.

Okay, so really: I thought I wouldn’t be fazed being in such a distinct minority at a conference. Then I show up to the convention and head downstairs to the registration booth. At that moment, a major lunch event lets out. I am standing alone in a hallway that approximately 2,000 women are about to pour into. I feel…conspicuous. The dream where you show up at school without clothes and everyone stares at you? This was that. But with clothes.

After a few hours, I got over it, even if I did get a lot of annoying questions like, “So why do you like romance novels?” Standard answer: “I imagine for the same reasons you do.” What? It let me dodge a question, get out of my, “Ah, you’ve noticed I’m male” spiel, and keep on trucking. And I learned a lot at my first RWA convention. Stuff like:

--Romance authors can teach other authors a thing or two about marketing. This was a bunch of folks armed with postcards, flyers, business cards, and freebies galore. I admire the hell out of the dedication to sales that permeated the entire convention. These authors know they’re working in a business, and damned if they don’t want a piece of the pie. More power to ‘em.

--The sense of community among these authors is fantastic. Writing can be a struggle as anyone reading this blog surely knows. I love that these authors seem to have found so many support groups, critique partners, message boards, and outlets through which they find the means to keep writing, keep working, and make a go of it in a tough marketplace. And this doesn’t stop with new or first time authors. To wit:

--Nora Roberts kicks ass. Here’s a woman who sells gajillions of copies of all of her books and hardly needs to work that hard to promote. She could coast so easily. But darned if she isn’t at the events offering chat backs, doing book signings, making the party rounds, and just generally being on the scene. As someone else described her to me, she is “utterly unexpected.” By which they meant she’s a blast of fresh air—a bestselling author who tells it like it is and pulls no punches, but is also fully supportive of her colleagues of all stripes. I met her for approximately four seconds but was incredibly impressed by her throughout the conference—I wish there were more like her! Plus, she really cut up the rug at the Harlequin party.

--Speaking of which: Harlequin throws amazing parties. Okay, first of all it was at the Four Seasons in a smashing room. And it had an open bar which some authors who shall remain nameless…enjoyed. But most impressive? The chocolate fountain. There were so many things to dip in it! I couldn’t get enough. Much to the consternation of the line forming behind me.

--Romance writers read. These people lined up for ages to get books signed, were able to chat about other writers in the genre, knew the reputations of publishers and who worked with whom. They’re by and large extremely well-read in their field and hyper-aware of where they want their own work to be placed and how to position themselves. I often ask the same question when I’m pitched books: Who would you compare your writing to, or whose career would you want to emulate? Lots of people get bashful at this point and say they hate to compare themselves to other writers. I hate that. And I didn’t get it this weekend. Instead I got humble but intelligent answers like, “I’m not going to say I’m at her level, but I like to think I’d appeal to the readers of Blah O’Blah because we share a style and…whatever, whatever.” If you’re pitching me a book, I want to know that you have a sense of who your audience is. If you don’t know what else that audience is buying…bad sign numero uno.

--Don’t get between a romance author and a dessert tray. Seriously, I almost had to take someone down who unleashed her inner howler monkey on me because she thought I was cutting in line for the tarts. Similarly, don’t pick a fight with an agent on the dessert line. I can be meaner than you. That’s all I’m sayin’.

I’m sure I learned other things, but I’ll have to take some more time to process them. Anyone else at RWA?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Adina Kahn approaches the gender divide

A few months ago, Jim McCarthy wrote about an AP poll that stated one in four people didn’t read a book last year. Many people found this news to be shocking and disappointing. Personally, I was more fascinated with another statistic: women read more books than men. According to the poll, the average woman read nine books that year, compared with only five books for men.

I tend to challenge broad statements made about the differences between men and women. For example, film executives would have you believe that the only people going to the movies are teenage boys. When Sex and the City was such a huge success in theaters recently, I felt like it was the hundredth time that I’d witnessed the industry’s amazement at the fact that women do indeed also like to go to the movies! So am I really to believe these reports about women having more interest in reading than men? I decided to do a little detective work and get to the bottom of the book buying habits of men and women.

I started by looking up what sorts of books women and men are more likely to buy. According to a recent Harris poll, women are more likely to read mysteries (57% versus 38%), religious books (32% versus 24%), and romance novels (38% versus 3%). Men are more likely to read history (44% versus 27%), science fiction (34% versus 18%) and political books (22% versus 9%). None of these statistics are especially startling, but what I did find a little surprising is that overall many more women read general fiction than men. In 2007, an NPR story commented on studies showing that men actually account for only 20% of the fiction market.

A quick glance at a recent NY Times fiction bestseller list seems to support this statistic. Nora Roberts, Janet Evanovich, Jane Green, Emily Giffin, Danielle Steel, and Lauren Weisberger are just representative of the primarily female authors on the list, and most of their books have female protagonists. The non-fiction bestseller list, however, appears to be more gender neutral, at least in terms of content.

I decided to conduct my own poll and sent out an e-mail to some friends inquiring about their reading habits. Many women wrote back that they felt they read the same amount of non-fiction as the men in their lives, but confirmed that they did read more fiction, while they thought men tended to gravitate towards history, biography and general non-fiction books. Interestingly, a few men replied that while they didn’t read much fiction, they felt they put in more hours each day reading online news sites, magazines, and newspapers.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic of all is that of the friends I e-mailed, many more women than men responded with answers. So after all of my research, I guess the only thing I can state with certainty is that among my circle of friends, men and women both read an impressive amount of books, but only my female friends read my e-mails!

So what do you think about all of this? Do women really read more than men?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jane Dystel on when to submit to publishers

So many of my clients ask me when the right time is to submit their proposals to publishers. Are there times of year when things quiet down? Is there a perfect time to submit a first novel, a self help book, or a proposal for a wonderful memoir? Here are a few thoughts.

There used to be a time some years ago when things really did quiet down in the summer, and I would advise that very few (at least multiple) submissions go out then because it was so difficult to get a group of publishers who were not out on vacation. I don’t believe that any more. Certainly it is more difficult to get a group of twenty editors that are all in their offices at the same time during June, July and August, but the business is so competitive that I now consider the summer almost as busy as other times of year. Because summer is a time for beach reading, I do tend to submit material that I feel is “lighter” – romance, commercial fiction, thrillers, mysteries – books of that sort.

Right after Labor Day is “back to school” in so many ways. Everyone has returned from vacation, and it is a very active and competitive time for multiple submissions. This is one of the best times of year to get an editor’s attention – and we do try to take advantage of this. This selling period, though, is relatively short. In mid November, things really slow down in anticipation of Thanksgiving, most company’s sales meetings and the Christmas and New Years holidays. At this time of year, I tend to submit option titles, but many fewer multiple submissions.

I have always found the first four months of the year to be the busiest and most productive in terms of sales. I work towards getting my clients’ proposals ready for submission at that time – self help at the very beginning of the year, important fiction and non fiction afterwards. This period slows right around Memorial Day and BEA (that’s the big national book expo for the uninitiated) and then picks up again with the summer reading submissions.

Of course all that I have said here can be altered for the sure fire bestseller which can be sent out anytime. I have sold books for 7 figures during the dog days of summer, and I remember one Christmas period when I sold over 10 books.

Having guidelines, though, does help my clients to know the ebb and flow of the submission process; these also help us in advising them on what to do when.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lauren Abramo's thoughts about writers conferences

So Jim McCarthy talked to you all last year about writers’ conferences, but with conference season in full swing it seems like a good time to come back to it!

I’ve been to two writers’ conferences so far this year (the Writers’ League of Texas conference in Austin and was at The Writers’ Institute in Madison), and it looks like that’ll probably it for me till 2009. It’s a light year for me, but between all the agents here we have attended or will attend nearly 20 conferences in 2008—that’s a lot of weekends away and extra reading material!

While we’re never hurting for new submissions to read, we’ve been pretty successful finding new clients at conferences. Off the top of my head, I can tell you our own Tom DeWolf, Richelle Mead, and Suzanne Selfors all first met people at the agency at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) conference. Just this year, Michael Bourret met Jill Alexander at The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference—and her book then sold to an editor she met at the same conference! And Jim McCarthy and I are both going out to editors soon with projects from writers we met at conferences.

Of course, the truth is, we don’t sign someone up from every conference we attend. There’s no magic number, no quota. If we love it and believe we can sell it, we’re taking it on. Likewise, if it’s not right for us—much as we really enjoy meeting writers face-to-face in a business that increasingly involves bonding with our computer screens—that face time isn’t going to change our minds. As always, what it comes down to is what’s on the page.

Knowing we may not find any new clients, we still find it worth it to go to conferences each year. For one, free travel is one of life’s great joys. We also enjoy the opportunity to meet with other agents and with editors—it’s truly strange how many people live a couple stops away from me on the train whom I’ve only ever spent time with while halfway across the country!

All that aside, though, we really appreciate the opportunity to share what we know about the business with authors who are eager for the information (hence this blog, really). An author who understands how things work in publishing is good for all the rest of us in the business. When we go to conferences, we sit on panels, do Q&As, answer general questions in pitch sessions and at luncheons, and attempt to help writers figure out just what it means when you take the work you’ve done for you and try to turn it into something others will read. And not only that, but we learn from what we hear, too. It can be really edifying to sit on a panel with a book reviewer or publicist and hear their take on the questions we know from the agents’ and editors’ sides.

And why should you go? Well, if you’re wondering how to get started, how things work, and what to do next, a writers’ conference just might be the help you need. If you have a completed novel or nonfiction proposal ready to shop, by all means take advantage of the pitch session opportunity that a writers’ conference provides. Don’t go expecting a ton of feedback or a detailed critique —it’s hard to tell much of anything from a pitch—but consider it an opportunity to capture our attention more easily than you might in the slush pile.

But more than that, go to learn. Go to attend workshops and panels. Go to meet agents, editors and other industry professionals (and learn that we’re not nearly as scary as you might think). Go to network with other writers in your area.

And don’t feel like you absolutely need to attend one. Plenty of authors are published each year who’ve never attended a conference, so while it can certainly be helpful, it’s not a must.

So to those of you who attended conferences for the first time this year, what did you think? Would you go back and would you encourage your fellow DGLM blog readers to try it out?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Michael Bourret asks, "What's in an advance?"

If there’s any topic in publishing that’s the most controversial, it has to be the advance. For those not in the know, in the most basic terms, this is the money the publisher pays an author for the right to publish his book. The advance is paid “against royalties,” meaning that an author must “earn out” his advance through book sales before he starts making money above and beyond the advance. That said, you do not have to pay the publisher back should you not earn out your advance (despite what you may read elsewhere on the internet).

Now, let’s be honest: we all like to make money, and I’m sure we’d all be happy if all books had million dollar advances, but those super-sized advances are rare. Advances (for first books) range from the nonexistent (literally zero dollars) to several million (for certain public figures), and they can fall anywhere in between.

I think what’s most of interest to authors, though, is how publishers decide what to pay. Generally, they do a P&L (profit and loss statement), where editors enter all sorts of information: the projected trim size, price point, royalty rate, and estimated first year sales based on comparative titles and their performance. By doing a little bit of math, they figure out what they think they can pay as an advance that will be earned out. Then they offer you less than that. That way, if you have any sort of leverage, they’ll have room to raise their offer while still being in their comfort zone. At many houses, the sales and marketing departments review the P&Ls and add their two cents. They can quickly kill any house interest if they don’t think the book works – after all, they have to sell it. But they can also up the numbers based on what they think they can do with a project.

Competitive bidding situations can certainly affect the limits that publishers have, but even then, they have a maximum advance calculated. No matter the enthusiasm or excitement about a book, the advance offered is a business decision.

But what, you ask, is a good advance? “Good advance” means different things to different people. Some authors want the largest advance possible, thinking it will mean instant superstardom. But as many writers can attest, a big advance doesn’t necessarily mean big sales. So, some people think a good advance is a modest advance, since this means that it is more likely that the advance will be earned out. And, a publishing career is based on expectations. If you’ve received a million dollar advance and sell 20,000 copies, you’re a failure. Selling that next book suddenly looks a whole lot harder. If you receive a $5,000 advance and sell 20,000 copies, the publisher will be clamoring for your next one – and you’ll be asking for more than $5,000!

The idea most people have is that the books with the biggest advances that get the most attention from the publisher, and books with small advances can languish with no support. That’s true to an extent. But it’s certainly not always the case. Publishers won’t throw good money after bad – if the book’s not working, it’s not working. And a smaller book showing some traction may get more support later in the process.

And now, with publishers like Vanguard, HarperStudio, Berrett-Kohler, and others, getting no advance may be a good thing! These publishers work on a model where little or no money is paid in advance in order to share better royalty percentages and more marketing dollars with the author. It’s not for everyone, but when it works, it can actually be the most lucrative in the long run.

So what’s the best advance? Provided you want a career, it’s the one you can earn out. Which might be big and might be small, but if the publisher’s expectations are met, then all is well.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Miriam Goderich discovers children's books

I like to think of myself as a fairly well read person. I even enjoy mocking my younger colleagues when they haven’t heard of, much less read, some obscure Victorian author whose praises I’m singing for whatever reason (yes, we’re that kind of office). But there is one literary category that I am woefully ignorant of and which makes them – the mock-ees – feel very superior: children’s books.

Because my earliest years were spent in foreign lands, by the time I got to the U.S., I had not read a single of the classic children’s books that are as much a part of American kids’ experience as frosted flakes and mac & cheese. Closing in on nine years of age by the time my parents and I arrived on these shores, I preferred comic books or more grown-up book fare. So, I missed out on those foundational reading blocks. When, in college, my friends waxed nostalgic about Ferdinand the Bull, Curious George, or Eeyore (everyone, it seems, strongly identified with Eeyore) I just nodded and pretended to know what they were talking about. When they mentioned Corduroy, I thought, “how much fun can a book about fabric swatches be?” and turned back to whatever Russian novel I was engrossed in at the time.

Many years passed in blissful ignorance of children’s books. Then, my son was born. And, I didn’t have a clue what to read to him – Notes from the Underground didn’t seem appropriate bedtime reading, somehow. Happily, lots of wonderful people sent him the classic board books. Along with him, I was introduced to Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Runaway Bunny. And, despite the brain numbing repetitiveness (we went through at least two copies of Goodnight Moon) I found that these stories held up remarkably well. They were still charming the 150th time you read them out loud with the exact same inflection all the way through.

But then, my son and I both started getting bored with the limited selection. We wanted more narrative, more suspense, more drama. So, again, I was at a loss. I asked around and Lauren Abramo and Jim McCarthy gave me a list of their favorites. I also started looking at lists on Amazon for suggestions and finally became acquainted with some of those books my friends mentioned lovingly all those years ago. Turns out Corduroy is a bear – who knew? Ferdinand is a very cool, pacifist bull. Eeyore is quite the existential donkey. Harold and his purple crayon are delightfully hallucinogenic. And, Caps for Sale is really funny – especially if you use just the right tone when reprimanding the monkeys.

Of course, my colleagues here always knew about this treasure trove of literature and some, like Michael Bourret have been extremely successful in the children’s and YA markets. As for me, the experience of reading to my kid is made even more delightful by the fact that I’m discovering great books.

What are your favorite children’s books? (I still need lots of recommendations.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jim McCarthy on what makes a memoir publishable

Listen, there are a whole lot of memoirs out there--memoirs of abuse, addiction, recovery, disease, divorce, religion, race, parenting, and just about anything else. Lots of them are great. And lots of them aren’t. But what makes a memoir publishable?

Since it came out a few weeks back, Barbara Walters’ autobiography has sold about a jillion copies. Give or take. I bought one. I ripped through that bad boy like it was a Harry Potter novel and I didn’t want anyone to give away the end. I DVR’ed all of Baba’s press appearances and saved them for after I finished the whole tome. Why? Let’s face it: Babs isn’t the best writer in the universe, but you know what? She doesn’t need to be. Sure, she repeats herself a bit here and there, and she’s a bit overly straightforward. Did that slow me down? Please. This was a book I cancelled plans for. Barbara Walters is one of a very few people who could write their memoirs in Pig Latin, and it wouldn’t matter. The woman has led such an astonishingly fascinating life that once she starts dishing, there’s just nothing better.

Most people, of course, haven’t led quite as fascinating lives, so they need to try a little harder. Memoirs almost always work best when two particular things are going for them: the story being told is incredibly unique, but also, the author is someone you are able to relate to on some level. Take one of my favorite memoirs of the past few years, Jeannette Walls’ THE GLASS CASTLE. Walls grew up with vagabond parents roaming the country before ending up in a shack in Appalachia that she eventually left to move on her own to New York and support herself through college. Other than eventually ending up at a university in Manhattan and, uh, having parents, my story and Walls’ bear essentially zero resemblance. But she writes with such grace and accessibility. More importantly, she can work her narrative from two sides: she is able to step far enough away to look at her own life with impressive clarity, acknowledging how it will be perceived by readers. But she also is able to recall (and express) the emotions of those years, the connections to her family, and how she made it through some really tough times.

The risk with all memoirs is how self-indulgent they can become. I was actually shocked into laughter recently when I saw an ad billing Augusten Burroughs’ THE WOLF AT THE DOOR as “His first memoir in five years!” Really? Five whole years?! How have we made it so far without more personal stories about a guy who…um…what has he done again? Considering Burroughs also writes personal essays for one of the lad magazines and has pumped out about three or four other memoirs about his first forty or so years on earth, it’s particularly distressing that he is only now working his way around to the topic of his father. If he keeps churning out memoirs as fast as he does, I’ll keep an eye out for his incisive take on a grandparent or cousin in five more years.

Of course, Augusten gets to keep writing memoirs because people keep buying his books. I personally don’t understand why. James Frey seems to write with more credibility. But what can you do? The first Burroughs memoir, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, worked because it was a fascinating story, well-contained, and fabulously written. I still didn’t like it, but that’s irrelevant.

So remember: it’s not enough to just be talented, and it’s not enough to just be interesting. If you want to write a memoir, be both. And be relatable. And make sure you can find enough distance from your own life to write objectively. No pressure…

Memoirs really are just about the toughest things to do well. Which just makes it that much more thrilling when they work. Some of my favorites include Lily Burana’s STRIP CITY; Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s I AM NOT MYSELF THESE DAYS; Jean-Dominique Bauby’s devastating THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY; Ann Marlowe’s HOW TO STOP TIME; and Paul Monette’s BECOMING A MAN. I’d include a list of my least favorite (I’m looking at you, Dave Eggers), but why start a fight?

Any of you out there working on memoirs? Have any favorites to recommend?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jane Dystel on publishers that think outside the box

A number of our blog posts over the past months have dealt with agents and authors thinking outside the box as they pursue their book projects. Today, I would like to discuss what I hope is the beginning of a trend on the publishing side: Publishers dealing with authors in non-traditional ways whereby ultimately both Publisher and author establish a more lucrative and satisfying relationship.

A number of years ago, I heard of a CDS Books which had been founded as a distribution company but which, after a number of successful years in business had begun a publishing program of one or two books a season. They had a very unusual business model: CDS would not pay any advances to their authors; what they would do however was to “buy” only North American book publishing rights and pay a royalty beginning at 20% and escalating up to 35%. They would also commit to spending a minimum of six figures for promotion, publicity and advertising. They allowed the author to retain serial, book club, audio, video, multimedia, electronic and all translation rights so that he or she could sell these rights themselves.

One of our new clients whose sales had been falling due to a lack of attention on his previous publisher’s and agent’s part agreed with me that being published by CDS might well be an interesting and successful experience. As it turns out, we were correct. That author has enjoyed increased sales of his last two books in all arenas. Since he was first published by this company, it has been sold, and its two founders have gone off to pursue other ventures. Now known as Vanguard Press, the company is beginning to publish more books and my one fear is that it will morph into a traditional publishing organization and will stop paying as much attention as it has in the past to each individual author and book – thereby losing its distinctive advantages in the marketplace.

And now another company is being formed, this time as a division of HarperCollins. Bob Miller has left Hyperion, after almost twenty years as founder and President, to start up an as yet unnamed “publishing studio” at HarperCollins. He will begin this new gig with a very exciting business model. It is a bit different from the Vanguard model, but it is still distinctive and shares an “out of the box” philosophy.

In this case the author will receive an advance of no more than $100,000.00 for book rights which will almost always include the author selling many of the traditional rights – book, serialization, book club, audio, foreign and translation rights. The royalty on book sales however will be 50% of the profits. This will enable the author to ultimately earn far more money than he or she might have with even a significantly higher advance and a standard 10%, 12.5% and 15% royalty rate.

Admittedly, neither of these formulas will work for every author; many require money up front in order to finish their books; others believe that the success of their books is tied to the size of the advance they receive (I am not a believer in this theory having seen it disproved too many times).

I urge all authors, however, to consider these new “out of the box” publishing formulas for their books; I, for one, hope that more of my colleagues on the publishing side will strike out with adaptations of these new and creative business models.