Tag Archive for publishing

Roller Coaster Week

No one ever said publishing was for the faint of heart but boy, some weeks can be crazier than others. The highs! The lows…

Do you want the good news first or the bad? I’ll start with bad…

Those of you who follow publishing news will no doubt have read that the big chain book stores in North America recently announced that they will no longer carry books produced by Amazon Publishing in their physical stores. That means they won’t carry some upcoming celebrity memoirs, James Franco’s new novel, Deepak Chopra’s new book, #1 NYT Bestselling non-fiction author Tim Ferriss’s new books… or my upcoming YA trilogy, Deviants.

Some will say that it serves Amazon right. That a retailer has no business being a publisher. Or that their business tactics of late have been bullying. While I agree that Amazon has been throwing its considerable weight around, I do think some of the reactions have been at tad hypocritical. Certainly some of the vitriol I’ve read in the blogosphere has been.

It’s amusing how short people’s memories seem to be about who’s David and who’s Goliath in the publishing business. It wasn’t long ago that everyone in the industry was accusing the big chain stores, which many are now rallying behind, of being bullies with unreasonable demands about discounts and returns that publishers claimed would put them out of business. And everyone was up in arms about how the chains were putting the indie book stores out of business.

Let’s fact it… it wasn’t long ago that the publishing industry was excited about the little tech company from Seattle who was giving the industry another way to get books into the hands of readers.

(And I won’t even talk about the fact that Amazon sells the books published by B&N’s publisher–Sterling Books–or that B&N also has exclusive titles and editions.)

The monopoly accusations made by some authors make me shake my head too. It’s been a few years since I studied economics but if memory serves, what Amazon is doing is called vertical integration, different from a monopoly, and since B&N is pretty much the only game in town in terms of physical book stores now (along with Indigo Books in Canada) who has the monopoly? What it seems to me is going on now, is that for decades the publishing industry has been an oligopoly (a few entities dominating an industry) and Amazon is daring to threaten that oligopoly, to change industry practices, and take a bigger piece of the market.

Sigh…

I love book stores. Big chain ones with their variety and coffee shops. Indies with their customer service and ambiance. And when my first books came out last year it was a thrill to see them on bookstore shelves. I do not want to see book stores go under. But who’s going to be hurt by this move the brick and mortar stores are making? For the most part, it won’t be Amazon–they’ve got deep pockets–it will be their authors. Sure, if this move keeps more big-name authors from moving away from the Big Six to Amazon Publishing the strategy might hurt Amazon too but if the dominating  brick & mortar retail chain is refusing to carry a publisher’s books out-of-hand, regardless of each book’s merit or commercial appeal, who is being the bully?

Putting my business-cap on, I think what it boils down to is that while any retailer has the right to choose what merchandise it wants to carry, and I get why they might not like the taste or feel of selling their competitors products, I don’t understand why a retailer would want to force customers to go to their competitor to buy that product. A fan of Tim Ferriss, for example, who may have never bought anything at Amazon before, may now become their regular customer, if it’s the only place he/she can find Ferriss’s new book. If that customer has a positive shopping experience, well, that customer may decide to mostly shop at Amazon in the future.

Are bookstores simply trying to push Amazon into making their e-book titles available in Nook and Kobo formats? If so, I hope the gambit pays off because I’d like my books to be available to as many readers as possible in whatever format they prefer.

In my hopes and dreams, Amazon will make their books available across all digital platforms and the brick and mortar stores will reverse their decisions.

Whether any of these companies are acting out of smart business decisions or fear or spite, I feel like my getting into the debate risks drawing attention to what feels like pettiness–mud slinging and sandbox fights–and I like to stay out of that kind of thing when I can. But at the same time, as a newly contracted Amazon Publishing author, I couldn’t keep silent. I figured friends and readers would be wondering how I feel about the whole thing.

And how do I feel? Like a kid whose parents are fighting. I just want them to stop.

From an author’s perspective, it sucks to hear that your books will not be in these big chain stores, and sucks even more to have that decision be based, not on your books’ merit or commercial appeal but on who published them. (Yes, I know that authors with smaller publishers and self-published titles have been suffering this for years but those reasons made sense to me as they were about distribution logistics and return issues…)

Last week an editor of a book review site, Book Riot, described a dilemma she faced when she was about to give a book she’d loved a positive review–before realizing the book was from the Amazon Publishing ecosystem. Her post is interesting. She made me feel better and worse all at once… I knew having reviewers refuse to read my books, or be predisposed to hate them, and not having the books stocked in some brick and mortar stores were risks I was taking when I chose Amazon as my publisher. (Yes, they chose me but I also chose them).

I went into this with my eyes (mostly) open. And no matter who your publisher is, there’s never any certainty that the big chains or indies will carry your books. No guarantee you’ll get reviews, negative or positive. I knew there would be pros and cons to choosing Amazon as a publisher, and I still hope the benefits of my choosing Amazon Publishing will outweigh this newly revealed downside–they are, after all, good at getting books in front of the right readers–but it’s impossible to even guess at this point. Time will tell. Right now, hearing this news simply sucks.

Did you forget I promised you good news, too?

The same week these worrying press releases came out, I also got some fantastic news!!!

I got a fabulous quote for Deviants from a #1 NYT Bestselling author! Woo hoo!

Quote to be revealed at a future date when I feel more like celebrating. :)

To agent, or not to agent

A funny thing happened to me yesterday and while I normally try to save my writer-heavy blogs for the Drunk Writer Talk blog… I just needed to share.

First, the back story. (I know, I know. But this isn’t a novel.)

In January, 2005, with a very rough first draft completed, I pitched my ms THE MISEDUCATION OF APRIL HILLSON to an editor at Publisher X at a conference. She actually read the first 10 pages at the conference (different kind of pitch meeting) and asked to see more, which I immediately sent to her. Let’s say in the first week of February, 2005. I also pitched to a few agents at that same conference, one of whom asked to see the full about a week after I’d sent her the partial in February 2005. (Ack! Remember the very rough first draft line?)

I went mad, worked 12 hour days and got a completed ms to that agent in April, 2005. Sometime during 2005, I found out that the editor at Publisher X I’d pitched to, and who had my partial, had changed to another publisher, so I wrote that editor submission off and concentrated on getting an agent. In July 2005, I pitched to Deidre Knight at the RWA National conference in Reno. She asked for a partial. In November, she asked for the full. And in early Feb, 2006, another agent at TKA, Pamela Harty, offered me representation. (Yippee!)

I sent a rejection letter to the agent who’d had my full by then for almost 10 months. (We had corresponded via e-mail a couple of times and she’d had a baby some time during those 10 months, slowing her down.) But that’s not really the point of this post.

My new agent sent my ms to a number of editors in March 2006 and within a week we heard from one editor (at publisher X, coincidentally) that she loved it and was passing it around to other editors at the house to read. About a week later, we heard that 4 other editors at publisher X had all read the ms all the way through, also enjoyed it, but wondered about the structure and could I make some changes. I made the changes and to make this getting-to-be-a-long-story shorter, publisher X ultimately passed on the project in September 2006. (An aside. the editor then moved on to another house, asked for it again, but couldn’t get it past all the hurdles at that house either. It’s a tough market right now. Sigh.)

So, back to what happened yesterday? I got a package (via fed-ex no less) from publisher X rejecting the partial I’d sent more than 2 years ago. Not only did it take 2 years for them to respond, it was on a book that they’d seriously considered buying a year ago.

Bottom line? With an agent, my full ms was read in less than a week. Without an agent, a partial on the same ms took 2 years to be read. (and frankly, I don’t think it was read at all.)

Which piece of wisdom to believe?

We’ve been talking about what kind of writer we want to be over on DWT… and I realized the real answer for me, many days, is simply PUBLISHED. I want to be the published kind. The kind who can tell her friends where to buy her books. The kind who actually gets paid (even if it’s only a pittance compared to the effort expended). But my urgency some days is admittedly wrapped up in wanting better answers for my family and friends, when they ask, “How’s the writing going?” with increasing trepidation and pity in their eyes. I’m a proud person. I hate that.

In the publishing world, it’s sometimes hard to sort out the “truth” amongst the many myths and slices of wisdom and rules and archaic business practices… And two conflicting “pieces of wisdom” I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are these:

1. If a book is good enough, it will find a home.

2. Even really great books don’t get published and not all books published deserve to be.

Somehow, I’ve managed to exist believing both of these things, even though, they contradict each other on the surface. One of the writing instructors I had when I started writing novels, told me that it takes Talent, Persistence and Luck to get published. (I’ve also seen this listed as Talent, Timing and Tenacity… but you get the idea.) But my instructor said that, in his opinion, 2 of the 3 is enough.

This, to me, explains the really great books not finding homes (talent, but either no luck or no persistence) and the mediocre or even crappy books getting published (no talent, but luck and persistence combining.)

I, and a few other writing friends, have recently suffered a few disappointing setbacks… situations where it looked like good things were about to happen and then they didn’t. At times like those, it’s so easy to assume we suck. That our writing just isn’t good enough. If it was, our books would find homes, right? We’ve been persistent, after all! But I’m still fighting not to get trapped by that self-doubt, however strong it may pull some days. My books, some day, will find a home.

That said, I’m also still fighting to not start house-hunting for my book in neighborhoods I don’t think it belongs in. (That sounded snobby or like I’m pro-segregation.) But, my point is that there are lots of neighborhoods for people to live in, many kinds of houses. Some people want a big yard in the suburbs, some people want to walk to work — and similarily, there are lots of publishing neighborhoods. I think I know which one I want my books to live in, which one would best serve the books, my career aspirations, etc. and I don’t see the point in setting up home, taking the time to decorate etc., in the wrong location, just so I can say I’m published. (Although I concede I may find myself eating these words some day. Perhaps soon.)

Jenny Crusie, in her great inaugural PRO-retreat keynote a few years ago, likened getting your first publishing contract (or, if you’re already published, a book really taking off) to getting struck by lightning. As much as I hate this idea, (too much given over to luck, with super-low odds) it’s also what I live by.

I just need to keep putting more lightning rods out there.

Agent Hunting

Just in case any of you have yet to discover the wonderful group blog The Debutante Ball, I thought I’d post a link to Eileen Cook’s post today on how she found her agent.

click here

(How’s that for a lazy blog!) Not Eileen. Me. LOL

O.J.’s contract cancelled!

There is a God.

This just reported in a Publisher’s Lunch Extra:

——————————
Monday, November 20

Faith Restored–Simpson Cancelled
News Corp. just released this statement: “News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch today announced that the company has canceled publication of the book If I Did It as well as the corresponding FOX broadcast network special.
Mr. Murdoch said: “I and senior management agree with the Americanpublic that this was an ill-considered project. We are sorry for any pain this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson.”
—————————–

If he still gets some of the advance, I sure hope the Goldman and Brown families get it like they should.

Shooting yourself in the foot

Why do so many aspiring writers get so angry about the industry? Yes, we get rejections. Yes, they can be arbitrary and subjective. Yes, there’s plenty of conflicting advice out there. Yes, lots of good books don’t get published. Yes, lots of mediocre ones do.

If you can’t accept these things, (and others), don’t try to be a published writer.

What’s got me riled up?

One of my e-loops has a visiting agent this week. Great opportunity for un-agented writers to ask questions, get a feel for said agent, etc. Also, apparently, a great opportunity for a writer to be rude and ensure said agent will never accept him/her as a client.

This particular agency doesn’t respond to queries unless they ask for a submission. Fair enough. “We’ll contact you if interested” is a pretty common practice in the job hunting world. It’s perfectly fair for a literary agency to do this.

The agent also explained how rare it is for a query to catch his eye. Really? This was news to people? Anyone who has spent even a minute in this industry also knows this is just the way it is. Agents get oodles of queries and can’t possibly request pages from all of them. He explained this quite well from his perspective in his post.

Why then, would a writer reply with a really snarky note to the agent suggesting that if the agent isn’t looking for submissions, why he didn’t just state that on his website and not accept queries.

I want to scream at this writer.

He is looking for clients. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be answering questions on the loop. He wouldn’t be looking at any queries. He accepts queries in hopes of something truly exciting (to him) catching his eye and finding a new great writer.

Dear writer: All he told you was the truth–that he can only request pages for a very small percentage of the queries he gets in. This is true of all agents–especially those who are well-established.

Okay. Rant over. I’m done.

The Mountains Exist!!!

After 36 hours of wondering whether the hotel’s marketing materials had been a big fat lie, mountains have emerged from the fog, creating a beautiful vista from my hotel room in suburban Vancouver. (Otherwise known as Surrey)

Eileen Cook, on the other hand, remains shrouded and I’m beginning to believe she only exists in blogland and not in real life :-)

Having a great time at the conference so far and my mind is swimming with too many thoughts to be very coherent.

I just came out of an “advanced” class on mastering POV. Two quick thoughts:

1. I’ve noticed the use of the word master or advanced in the title of a workshop (this one used both) greatly increases the number of male writers in the room. Perhaps I’m not being totally fair, though… The presenter was a sci fi writer and some of the participants may have attended mostly to hear him.

2. The degree to which writers of other genres know nothing about romance or women’s fiction continues to amaze me. Although, given the ounce of reflection possible while I was typing that last sentence, I realize that until 4-5 years ago, I knew nothing about romance, either, so why I expect a sci fi writer to have a clue, I don’t know. (When I wrote my first romance, I thought I’d be breaking new ground by doing a sex scene from the hero’s POV. Little did I know they ALL DO THIS. At least for the past 10-15 years…)

Not that the presenter didn’t have a clue. It was actually a very good presentation on POV (one of the best I’ve seen) — just not what I’d expected from an “advanced” class on “mastering” POV. Virtually every member of RWA knows what he taught in that class and it shocks me how new the idea of staying in one character’s head for a scene was, to many of the writers in the room. Also interesting… he suggested that if you have two main viewpoint characters, you should avoid scenes where both are present, or if such a thing cannot be avoided, you should write that scene from a third viewpoint character’s POV. He said to use one of the main viewpoint characters and not the other, but have them both in the scene would be difficult and confuse the reader.

Made me think romance and women’s fiction writers and readers must be really smart. :-) But I already knew that.

Writers are nice people

There are lots of stereotypes of writers–particularly romance writers I suppose–and the more writers I meet, the more I think these stereotypes aren’t based on any kind of reality.

Not for genre or mainstream fiction writers, anyway.

This year, between serving on the board of my local RWA chapter and attending way too many conferences for my own good, I’ve had the pleasure to meet many authors including several big-time bestselling authors. I have to tell you, they just couldn’t be a nicer, smarter more generous group of women.

Maybe it’s because in romance and women’s fiction we’re writing about human relationships, so the writers who are good at showing these relationships to readers via their words, are also good at human relationships in “the real world”. Maybe it’s because writers understand what makes people tick?

Don’t know… But what inspired this post was a lovely dinner Saturday night with Mary Jo Putney who kindly came up to Toronto to speak to our TRW members. While answering our questions in the afternoon, she was frank and open and honest and encouraging,and then was gracious and really good fun when the board took her and her husband out for dinner in the evening.

I’m wondering, if all stereotypes exist because they’re true… where are the nasty diva’s eating bon bons? Where are the sad introverts who live only through their characters? I’ve never met any writers like that. Have you?

(Not that being an introvert is a bad thing . I’m a bit of one myself. By sad introvert, I just mean that stereotype of a lonely romance writer with absolutely no life or friends besides her cat. The Joan Wilder before she goes to Columbia stereotype.)

Back from Jersey

Hey!

I watched ET tonight (very highbrow TV selection) and Anna Nicole’s mother was on. She was chastising her daughter for not having buried her grandson yet. “What kind of mother would do that?” she said.

Not that I’m defending Anna Nicole or her parenting abilities… but what kind of mother would go on National TV and criticize her daughter????

Seriously. Apple don’t fall to fur from the tree there, do it?

I’m blogging on drunk writer talk today about setting career objectives and sticking to them. The NJ conference was great. Really glad I went.