Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hudson Valley YA Society

Are you a YA writer or YA lit lover who lives in the Hudson Valley?  I'm starting a literary salon that you should be a part of.  This means teens, teachers, librarians, booksellers, writers and just readers of all ages who love Young Adult books.

We'll have monthly (or so) get-togethers, featuring an author event followed by general revelry, drinks, shenanigans, book discussions, book swaps, etc.

The Society's first "meeting" will be Sunday, September 26, 4pm at Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck.

Cecil Castellucci, Siobhan Vivian and Natalie Standiford will be reading and signing books at their event at the bookstore at 4pm, followed by revelry at a location to be decided.  Possibly still the bookstore. Possibly elsewhere.  Sort of depends how many people show up and how thirsty we all are.

I will have heaps of giveaways including loads of advance reading copies, and there will be mini-cupcakes.  :-)  So if you are a YA lit enthusiast, drop me a line, RSVP on facebook, join the fun.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Editors Do the Darndest Things

From comments: "I'm still waiting for an agent to blog or tweet about something an editor did that annoyed them. I guess either editors are perfect or all those snarky agents who dare to tell it like it is find it a little harder to tell it like it is when the power balance is shifted."
Yep, you nailed it, editors are perfect!  I love them, no matter what.*

Even when they take months... and months... to read a short picture book.  No problem! That's fine, take your time.

Or when they disappear after expressing interest in a manuscript. Yep.  Just... disappear rather than give a concrete "on second thought, not for me" or any sort of closure. I don't blame them, after all, it's hard to say no.

Same holds true when they take forever to write a rejection letter made of fluffy nothing.

Or when they woo relentlessly before they buy the book, declaring mad love for the author and their work... but then as soon as the vows are said and the ink is dry on the contract, passion seems to turn into business-as-usual, communication dries up, and, and, and...sorry, I just had a bit of a post-traumatic stress flashback.

OK, I guess I don't really love them all all the time.

But they do generally have good manners and do not pee on the rugs.  And you have to admit, they are pretty cute.  Awww...

* In all seriousness... the good that most editors do to help authors and advocate for books they love far outweighs my small annoyances about the process.  And I fully realize that some of these same grievances could be levelled against most agents from time to time.  I am just gently poking fun, and not at anyone in particular.  So authors, don't take this as a post about How Editors Are Evil. They aren't. Well... the ones I know aren't, anyway!

Saturday, August 28, 2010


The question has come up on Nathan's blog, and elsewhere... How do you feel about things like SlushPile Hell and #queryfail and all the other myriad spots on the web where agents snarkily take a piece out of authors?

I admit, I've got a big problem with this stuff. Not because I am not a fan of quick wit... goodness knows I am!  And it isn't because I'm too noble to have a laugh at truly nutso queries. My issue is, I cannot even fathom having the time or energy or desire to keep a bad query in my line of sight for long enough to formulate a tweet or a tumblr about it.  I mean really.  Bad queries are the LAST thing I want to dwell on.

Personally, I don't get the real-time blogging or tweeting of rejections, either. Fans say it is "educational", and I guess it could be, but  a) How can the author NOT know it is them, when the tweet comes directly after the rejection? and b) How do the agents even do it? I tried to just write down for myself why I rejected 30 queries in a row - and for the vast majority, it was because I DIDN'T LIKE THEM ENOUGH. Not too helpful, and why should I spend more time thinking about them?  It's a puzzler.  (I do get this kind of thing if it is something the author has signed up for, like Query Shark, for example - that is a different story, the authors know what they are signing up for, the feedback is sharp but useful, and the shark should get hazard pay.)

So rest assured that, though I may privately (quietly) chuckle, I'm not going to laugh to your face, and I'm not going to post your queries on my blog (unless there is some oddball situation in which I must, and then I'll have gotten your permission). *

Now that THAT'S clear...

* I do reserve the right to tweet in very general terms if I am seeing a multitude of the same mistakes happening a lot in one day, however... but not direct quotes!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Many is Too Many?

Anonymous Comment: you have 24 authors already, and you're opening your email for more?? are you planning on never sleeping again?
Keep in mind, Anonymous, though I don't think that it affected my clients negatively in any way, or that they experienced any lag in communication from me because of it, I have essentially been a part-time agent for the past three years. I've had a "day job" the whole time. Now that day job is gone. Though I am still helping out a few hours here and there at a bookstore, it is for fun, just because I like it and would miss it if I stopped.

The problem with answering the question "how many clients do you have?" is, if I say a number that seems low to you, you'll think I'm not popular. If I say a number that seems too high, you'll think I don't have time. But what is normal, or average? I think that most well-established agents have many more clients than I do.

But not all those clients are active at any given time!  Let's break it down. Right now my clients are:

Writing or revising a contracted book.  5
Writing or revising a book that has not sold yet. 4
Taking a "life break".  2
Incommunicado until they come out of their hidey-holes, barring perhaps one monthly email.
On submission, waiting to hear from editors.  4
Turned in option book, waiting to hear from editor. 1
Occasional email or quick phone call touch base / nudges / questions
Sold, waiting for contracts or edits. 1
Has interest, waiting for offer. 3
Waiting game with sporadic flurrys of activity till they go code red
New Book from Client / Waiting to submit (I'm not submitting anything new during August).  4
Reading, crafting submission lists, writing letters, worrying, editing, thinking about, till projects are in editors hands and it goes to code green. 
Actively negotiating contract.  1  
Daily emails and phone calls, lots of activity for short period of time, until it goes back to code gold.

Some, of course, fall a bit into more than one category.  They are all important to me, but there is nothing I can give to Code Blue-ers right now, and percentage-wise, they are in the majority. Code Green and Gold are on the radar, but there is not a great deal to do there either besides be available if there are questions, nudge the editors, send updates, and be ready for them to go red. Code Pink and Code Red are the most active, but as you can see, they are also the least amount percentage-wise.

Aside from the immediate concerns of clients, negotiating specific contracts, etc, much of my time is spent reading, doing research and getting to know editors - which I do for all my clients, and would be the same if I had three or three hundred.

Of course, this answer is personal to me, I in no way want to imply that this is "right" or that agents who have many more or fewer clients than I do are "wrong."  I just know how my own time-management breakdown works.  The long and the short of it is, personally, I've only signed one new author this year and I have time for a few more. Not a LOT more - but a few more. Now I just have to find them.  :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Lots of new stuff on the life front. My insane roadtrip (11 states in 7 days) ended and my stint in New York began. When I first got here, I was suffering from general exhaustion and freaked-out-edness. I suddenly found myself in the countryside and I was scared of... I don't know. Ghosts? Wild animals? Basically I'd never slept someplace simultaneously so quiet and SO LOUD. 

But now I'm used to sleeping in what sounds like the ancient rain forest, and I've met some new friends, and gone to the county fair, and started working a couple days a week at a very cute bookstore (which is a great way to get to know the neighborhood as well as keep myself in the mix about new books)... well, let's just say it's been quite a week.

Now that I have my internet set up, and a table that doubles as a desk, I am ready to get back to work. There are about a thousand unread emails to catch up on, and some client books to read. But here's a secret: I have more time on my hands here, and I gotta pay for this place somehow. So I am definitely looking to take on a few new clients. Have something awesome?  QUERY ME! 

And I need to get back in the swing of the blog, too, so if you have questions I can answer, feel free to fire them at me in the comments. If it is a short answer, I'll reply in comments, and if something warrants a long reply, I will blog it. 

Hope everyone else is having a productive and exciting end-of-summer!  Wheeee!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On the Road

As many of you know, I am moving to New York for a while, which means I've packed up all my stuff and am driving cross-country this week. (Currently in Wyoming!) I'm having fun, but it is exhausting, and I am definitely not going to be coming up with any new content here for a while. :-)

If you'd like to follow me on the road, I am posting occassional pictures and fun stuff on twitter at #roadtrip10

Otherwise, I do have my phone and can check internet occassionally, so if it is urgent, by all means contact me -- but if it can wait, that would be good. I should arrive by 8/20, be settling in to my New York digs by 8/23, and back in the swing of things for real by September.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Public Service Announcement, or, How to Insult Your Local Independent Bookstore

If you are an author and you only link to A**zon on your website, booksellers will hate you. Really.

If you go to a store, get a bunch of book recommendations and then go buy them online?  You might as well walk up to the manager, slap her, and tell her that you hope her store closes. Yeah. That's how big a jerk you are.

If you go to a booksigning at your local independent bookstore, and you don't buy a book?  YOU ARE ROBBING THEM.

If you are an author yourself, set a good example for crying out loud. Shop at bricks-and-mortar bookstores and link to indiebound or an indie store on your website. When you try to befriend booksellers, a good way to do it is by actually buying the books they recommend. When you go to "support a friend" at a signing, try actually being supportive by BUYING A BOOK.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In the Spotlight

Ever wanted to know every single thing about me ever?

Check out this astonishingly thorough "Agent Spotlight" on Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles blog.  Literary Rambles looks like a terrific resource for agently research, so if you are on the hunt for representation, bookmark it!  (But never forget to visit the agents own website as well, just to make sure all the info you gather is up-to-date.)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

How to be an Agent, or, You Want a Piece of This?

Being an agent isn't all about reading books and knocking back bon-bon martinis, despite how Twitter might make it look.  I keep getting asked for career advice from would-be agents.

Oh, I have some advice:
  1. Finish school. Doesn't matter in what, but try something useful, like an advanced degree in business, medicine, engineering or law.
  2. Get a job that pays well so your mom can brag about you rather than having to loan you money.

Well, internal critic, I prefer to think of it as being realistic. But fine.

In all seriousness, these are some of the qualifications to get in the door, in no particular order:

* Must be extremely confident and outgoing (or at least able to present as such)
* Must be good at negotiation and arguing
* Must have a head for business
* Must be detail-oriented, tough, practical, no-nonsense, and ambitious.
* Must be able to deliver, and take, a crushing amount of rejection.
* Must be a book expert, have tons of market-savvy
* Must know A LOT about the ins-and-outs of publishing
* Must be able to read and understand a contract
* Must have good connections
* Must be willing to work for free

These are nearly all qualities that are easiest to get by having a career in another branch of publishing first. This is why many agents are editors, publisher rights managers, booksellers or buyers before joining agencies.

This is an apprentice business. There are no classes, there is no certification. The best way to learn to do it is by doing it, and pretty much the only way you are going to get to do that is by interning/working for an existing agency. Generally for free. Then it helps enormously if you continue being mentored by those agents when you are ready to start taking your own clients.

Should you start your OWN agency?  Probably not. If you don't have a name that will open doors yourself, you'd best work for an agency whose name and reputation will help you get those valuable connections. If you are not an expert in the areas of contract law, subrights and similar, you had better be part of an agency that has experts on the roster. Sure, anyone can theoretically just call themselves an agent, but you'll be in for a big, nasty surprise if you think you can bluff your way through with nothing to back you up.

Best case scenario, even if you join an awesome agency, build up an amazing list of clients and start selling right away, it is extremely unlikely that you will be able to earn enough consistent money to live properly until your books are published, earn out and start earning royalties - in other words, for about 5 years. The less experience you have in the publishing world to start out with, the longer you will have to intern, and the more difficult you will find the beginning of your career.

So if you're serious, start here.