Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The Backspace conference this past Thursday-Friday was excellent!  My favorite part was the query letter small group that I was part of with Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch.  I end up seeing her at every conference I go to and she is so friendly and offers very insightful feedback, so it was a lot of fun to head up the session with her. 

For our panel, we read the query letters of everyone in our group and then discussed their strong and weak points.  I was very excited that the pitches for everyone in my group were non-fiction, since I am trying to build my non-fiction list right now, and they were all good.  I ended up requesting to see a bunch of them and giving the writers my card.  I really hope that I get to hear from all of them.  Every once in a while people, for whatever reason, don’t end up giving me a chance to read their work even after I request to see it, which can be a bummer.

I know this is probably not what you think of when you think of an agent-writer exchange, but it happens.  I’ve met people who have really great manuscripts and I get all revved up to read them, and they never come.  Then a few weeks down the road, their manuscript will suddenly pop into my mind and I want to snap my fingers and go, “Darn it!  What happened to that?”

The proposal at Backspace that probably captured my attention the most was for a memoir entitled RUNNING WITH ROMNEY.  It was by a special agent who was part of the Romney security detail during his campaign in ’06.  I loved his proposal and was enthusiastic about it during our query session.  I hope he sends it to me; I’m going to snap very hard if he doesn’t.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cross Your Fingers, Toes, and Everything Else!

One of my clients, Brianna, has a proposal for a fabulous non-fiction book, entitled THIEVES WHO CHANGED HISTORY.  The book will consist of the profiles of 15 significant thieves and the crimes they committed that--you guessed it!--changed history.  For instance, Robert Fortune is one profiled criminal who assisted in bringing down China's economy when he stole seeds from tea plants (along with knowledge of how to cultivate them) for the East India Trading Company.   There are also going to be great quizzes and sidebars for each chapter.  

I am very excited because a super big editor at Random House has expressed interest in the project!!  I'm crossing my fingers that she loves it as much as I do!  And holding my breath until she gets back to me...

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi...

P.S.  I will be at the Backspace Writers Conference this Thursday-Friday!  The conference is at the Radisson Martinique in New York.  I look forward to seeing you there and hearing your pitches!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I've been a little grouchy lately, because Andrey has been selfish enough to accept an offer to go to grad school in London, rather than stay in New York with me and my other roommates.  It's part jealousy (I LOVE England!) and part angst over the thought of having to move.  One of my favorite things to do is walk all over New York and explore, so you might think I would relish the chance to shake things up and move to another area of the city.  But the truth is that even though I like to explore, I also like to come back to a comfy home base.  Thankfully, my other roommates and I had a powwow a few nights ago and we have decided to stay!  I think that Fred is really excited about this, because it means that he can move into Andrey's old room and not have to live in the living room anymore.

I love my neighborhood.  There are pretty buildings and trees (as long as you don't go one avenue over, because then it turns into this weird, tranny hooker hangout - which can be something to love, as well).  It's also insanely convenient; there are two grocery stores (one is 24 hours!), a laundromat, a cleaner's, lots of delis and restaurants, hair salons, Duane Reades and Rite Aids, and banks.  And now that it's spring, I'm starting to love it more and more.

The weather has been so nice lately, and I've been making up random excuses to take mini-breaks from reading and go outside.  The other day,  I walked two blocks to Duane Reade so I could buy a power strip.  And a mini hairbrush.   I do need both of those things.

Funnily enough, one of my friends lives just a block away.  We interned at Writers House together before I got a job there and now she is an Assistant Editor at Thomas Dunne (St. Martins).  We were catching up at lunch when we realized that we live less than two minutes from each other!  She is my "strange coincidence" friend.  When I was at a Little, Brown party in February, I met an editor named Wes Miller and I had no idea why his name sounded so familiar.  I ended up blurting out, "Oh my god, you're Kat's boyfriend, aren't you!" and then quickly had to explain why I knew that in a non-stalker way.  Thankfully, he was very understanding.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Like the Priceline Negotiator, but for Books!

Last week, I was invited to attend a contracts negotiation seminar sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and the Early Career Committee.  Sean Fodera, the Associate Director of Contracts at Macmillan, discussed the many components of a publishing contract—such as subsidiary rights, option agreements, royalty rates, advances—and how they vary depending on the publishing house and also on the negotiations done by the agent.

It was a very interesting night and I feel like I learned so much!  One of the finer points we talked about was ways authors can (or cannot) earn out their advances when it comes to money from subsidiaries, which I actually did not know about.  There is a provision called “flow through,” where the publisher will only pay the author money due from subsidiary rights if the author has already earned out their advance, and one known as “pass through,” where the author receives that money regardless of whether or not the royalties from their books sales are equal to the amount they received as an advance.

That hurt your head, right?  Contracts can definitely be a tricky area, especially for first-time authors who have never dealt with them before.  Sean told some horror stories about unagented authors he worked with who ended up signing contracts that were detrimental to them in some ways.  That is another reason why I think that self-publishing can be a dangerous option at times; unless you already are well- versed in publishing contracts, it can be a scary process to negotiate one on your own.  Also, agents have connections to foreign rights-, audio-, and film agents who can really help you make the most money possible with your book.

One of the subjects we tackled during the seminar was e-books, which as you can imagine, was a hot topic.  It made me wonder if authors really know why this is such a big debate issues nowadays, other than the fact that more and more people are buying them.

In the past, the standard e-book royalty was 15% of the list prices, whereas now it is normally 25% of net receipts.  This new standard is known as the “Agency Model.”  Before the agency model, agents sold e-books pretty much the same way they sold printed books. 

When Apple became an e-book retailer in 2010, they changed the way things were done by acting as a sales agent for publishers, which means that they took a 30% commission from each e-book sale but had the publisher set the price of the e-book.  Authors would take their royalty money from the 70% that went to the publisher.  So in the old model, an author would receive $1.50 for a $10.00 e-book, whereas now they would receive a slightly higher royalty of $1.75.  

The “ehhhhh” part of all this is that the publisher can pretty much determine how much they (and their authors) will get since they can set the list price, and the Department of Justice isn’t sure how good that sounds.  However, the Justice Department's proposed settlement, which allows Amazon to function without making a profit, will  prevent traditional bookstores from entering the e-book market and will create an Amazon monopoly.  Basically, blame Steve Jobs.

It’s all your fault!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


So I figured out how people get free time to read…their laptops (which they haven’t backed up for a year) crash.

Yeahhhh.  Thankfully several of my friends are computer programmers/software developers and they extracted my hard drive and did lots of nice, magical things to my new Tobisha ultrabook so that all of my documents are on it and everything is ready for me to use.

While they were arguing about performance options and other mind-numbingly un-understandable things, I had time to read THE DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, which I really enjoyed!  It is a non-fiction account of a young dressmaker who begins an entrepreneurial business in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Suchhhh a good book!

For a while, though, I wasn’t really able to enjoy the book because I was scared to death that I was going to lose all of my clients’ work, submission lists, and so on.  About two weeks before, two of my clients had their computers crash on them, which was probably my friendly warning from the gods, which I blatantly ignored.

But I have learned my lesson.  I MUST BACK UP MY FILES.  MUST.