Showing posts with label agents. Show all posts
Showing posts with label agents. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents

Today I was spoiled for choice concerning topics to write about.

Hugh Howey broke the news about his terrific deal with Simon & Schuster.

Also Dean Wesley Smith has been having some interesting discussions over on his blog about agents and--since Hugh's terrific deal was landed with the help of his agent--I thought, in an odd sort of way, the two stories go together.

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster

Hugh Howey, bestselling author of Wool, has landed a breathtakingly good deal with Simon & Schuster. The bones of the deal are as follows:

- Hugh Howey retains control over ebook pricing and will continue to sell ebooks online.
- Simon & Schuster publishes paper copies of Wool--both hardback and paperback--and (of course) distributes them to traditional brick and mortar bookstores.

Congratulations Hugh Howey!

Here is what Hugh wrote about it:
In March, Simon and Schuster is releasing a print edition of WOOL here in the United States, and I couldn’t be more excited. This deal is all about the new publishing paradigm. There are no clauses limiting what I can write and how quickly I can release. I keep control over the ebooks, which means the prices will stay where they are. ... You’ll finally get a print edition with the utmost in quality and design.
Simon and Schuster is also doing a simultaneous paperback and hardback release. This is just a whole bunch of firsts! I'd encourage you to read Hugh Howey's post in full: Luddites, Rejoice!

Hugh Howey also made a 13 minute video in which he talks more in depth about his publishing journey and how this deal came about. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Agents And The Independent Author

One of the things Hugh Howey mentions in his video (Announcement Time!) is the role his agent, Kristen Nelson, played in landing his deal with Simon & Schuster. And not only that deal, his movie deal with Ridley Scott as well. Hugh Howey said that these deals would never have happened without his agent's help (this is my own transcription):
[W]e're talking about a book that's only been out since January and in that time we've had some incredible things happen.

One of the first of which was hearing from Kristen Nelson in the middle of the night who ... I'd already told some agents I didn't think it made sense to go with an agent, I was happy doing things the way that I was and she convinced me, "Hey, let's explore foreign rights, let's amp up the Hollywood push," both of which have been ... I mean, Ridley Scott and 20 countries later she's proven herself, everything she said has come true.
It seems like Hugh Howey feels that Kristen Nelson more than earned her commission!

Let's think about that for a minute.

Dean Wesley Smith has published two (excellent!) articles in a row about agents (See: A Side Note About Agents and One More Agent Question). Dean and a number of authors have been vocal in their opinions that, these days, authors do not need agents.

In fact, Dean feels that, for most authors, agents hurt your writing career more than they help it. Dean writes:

Agents are no longer needed in this new world of publishing for most writers.

I don't disagree with Dean. How could I? He, Kris Rusch, Laura Resnick and a number of other full-time writers have horror story after horror story involving their former agents. Everything from fiscal mismanagement (author's money not remitted to him, incorrect amount of money remitted, etc.) to neglecting to pass along offers (offers from publishers, movie people, and so on) to the author.

On the other hand, there are some authors who praise their agents. Hugo award winner, Jim C. Hines for instance. Jim has stated publicly that he is happy with his agent. He writes:
[T]here seems to be an assumption ... that I’m blindly sticking with a system that’s screwing me over, that I haven’t seriously considered or researched other publishing options, and so on. I would like to reassure people that this is not the case. I read my contracts, both U.S. and foreign. I review my royalty checks and statements, and I ask my agent about anything that looks odd. (Often he beats me too it, sending me royalty spreadsheets with a note that he thinks some numbers look off, and he’s following up with the publisher.) (In Which Others Worry About the State of my Career)

Does An Indie Author Need An Agent?

It could be that while many, perhaps even most, agents are a hinderance to a writer's career, this is not always the case.

It seems that for certain things: offering one's book for auction, pursuing a movie deal, and so on, having an agent can make sense financially.

Could Hugh Howey have done, himself, everything his agent did for him? Possibly. But chances are he wouldn't have had as much time to write. And chances are he wouldn't have gotten the movie contract or the publishing contract with Simon & Schuster, as quickly.

Also, let's face it, some writers loath the business side of writing. If they could find an agent who was both skilled and honest they would gladly pay them to handle rustling up movie deals and the like.

Perhaps in the beginning, before the writer has hit it big, they don't need an agent. But, afterward, when things like movie rights and deals with large US publishers are being discussed, then having a savvy agent can be an asset.

But, still, the writer is left with the daunting task of finding an agent both skilled and honest.

Other articles you might like:

- Turning Off Your Inner Editor
- Guy Kawasaki Writes The Definitive Book On Self Publishing: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How To Publish A Book
- The Dark Art of Critiquing, Part 2: Formulating A Critique

Photo credit: "My little ladybird" by jonespointfilm under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, November 14

Amazon Lists: The New Slush Pile?

Amazon Lists: The New Slush Pile?

Today I read a provocative article in The Miami Herald: Self-publishing industry explodes, brings rewards, challenges.

According to Chris Kenneally publishers as well as agents are looking at self-published books on Amazon as the new slush pile.
As self-publishing took off, a funny thing happened. The big publishers began watching the sales of self-published work on Amazon, and started offering successful writers traditional contracts.

“Publishers have always had places that they’ve gone to find the next crop of big bestsellers,” Kenneally said. “And frankly I’ve had literary agents tell me that Amazon Lists is the new slush pile. That this is a terrific way to find out if they have an audience, if they work, if people are willing to pick it up and love it.”

The most noteworthy may be fantasy writer Amanda Hocking, who put the first of her 10 novels featuring trolls, vampires and zombies online in 2010, made an estimated $2 million over the next year, and signed a four-book contract with St. Martin’s Press by the summer of 2011 for another $2 million.
Oh how times have changed. It used to be that if a writer self-published no publisher or agent would represent her. Now that's where publishers and agents look for new and upcoming writers.

I don't want to sound like a mother hen, but keep in mind that not all agents are equal and if an agent thinks they can make money off your writing chances are you can too, and all on your own.

That's another thing that's changed. Today, more than ever before, writers can do it all themselves.

It's a weird but wonderful time to be writing in. Cheers!

(Thanks to Passive Guy for posting a link to The Miami Herald articles.)

#  #  #

Okay, NaNoWriMo! My word count is 24,013 words and I'm hoping to pass the midpoint and get to 26,000 today. It's starting to hurt, I'm feeling the grind. But we'll do it, we'll finish! :)

Other articles you might like:
- Serial Fiction: Is It Profitable?
- What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?
- How To Earn A Living As A Self-Published Writer

Photo credit: "Fruity Happy Apple Breakfast Cereal" by Pink Sherbet Photography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, October 17

Query Letters: How To Write Them And Who To Send Them To

Query letters, summaries, tag lines, blurbs: sometimes I think this kind of writing is as hard as writing a novel!

Fortunately there are writers like Chuck Sambuchino willing to lend a helping hand. He writes:
When contacting agents, the query process isn’t as simple as “Just keep e-mailing until something good happens.” There are ins, outs, strange situations, unclear scenarios, and plenty of what-have-you that block the road to signing with a rep.
Chuck Sambuchino mentions agents, but query letters can be sent to editors too. Though there are fantastic agents there are also a bushel-load of not very good ones and these days it is possible to have a career as a writer without an agent. If you'd like to read more about this, here are a few great articles on the subject:

Dodging the Agent Bullet and Agents, by Laura Resnick
Deal Breakers 2012 by Kris Rusch,
Agent Fail by Joe Konrath
But Why Would You… Ever Need an Agent in this New World? and Agents by Dean Wesley Smith

Okay, on to the good stuff! Here are Mr. Sambuchino's first four questions and answers about query letters:
1. Can you query multiple agents at the same agency?

Generally, no. A rejection from one usually means a rejection from the entire agency. If you query one agent and she thinks the work isn’t right for her but still has promise, she will pass it on to fellow agents in the office who can review it themselves. Agents work together like that.

2. Can you re-query an agent after she rejects you?

You can, though I’d say you have about a 50/50 shot of getting your work read. Some agents seem to be more than open to reviewing a work if it’s been overhauled or undergone serious edits. Other agents, meanwhile, believe that a no is a no—period. So, in other words, you really don’t know, so you might as well just query away and hope for the best.

3. Do you need to query conservative agent for a conservative book? A liberal agent for a liberal book?

I asked a few agents this question and some said they were willing to take on any political slant if the book was well written and the author had platform. A few agents, on the other hand, said they needed to be on the same page politically with the author for a political/religious book, and would only take on books they agreed with. Bottom line: Some will be open-minded; some won’t. Look for reps who have taken on books similar to yours, and feel free to query other agents, too. The worst any agent can say is no.

4. Should you mention your age in a query? Do agents have a bias against older writers and teenagers?

I’m not sure any good can come from mentioning your age in a query. Usually the people who ask this question are younger than 20 or older than 70. Concerning an age bias, I would say some agents may be hesitant to sign older writers because reps are looking for career clients, not simply individuals with one memoir/book to sell. If you’re older, write multiple books to convince an agent that you have several projects in you … and don’t mention your age in the query to be safe.
Excellent advice! Read the rest of Chuck Sambuchino's article here: 9 Frequently Asked Questions About Query Letters. Thanks to Elizabeth S. Craig for tweeting a link to Chuck's article.

Another person with loads of marvelous information on how to write a query letter is former agent Nathan Bransford. Here are links to a few of his articles on the subject:
- How to Write a Query Letter
- How To Format a Query Letter
- Example of a Good Query Letter
- Example of a Good Query Letter II
- Example of a Good Query Letter III
- Holiday Cheer: Anatomy of a Really Bad Query Letter
- My Query Letter for JACOB WONDERBAR

If you don't read any other article about writing a query letter, read this one: Query Letter Mad Lib. In it Nathan gives a template for writing query letters. He writes:
Well, we're going to play query letter mad lib today. Here's how it works.

First I'm going to need these things:

[Agent name], [genre], [personalized tidbit about agent], [title], [word count], [protagonist name], [description of protagonist], [setting], [complicating incident], [verb], [villain], [protagonist's quest], [protagonist's goal], [author's credits (optional)], [your name]

Now, look how your query turns out:

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]
Best of luck writing your query letter! :-)

Other articles you might like:
- Query Tracker: Keep Track Of Your Stories
- Indie vs. Traditional Publishing, Which Should You Choose?
- How To Sell 100 Books Per Day: 6 Things You Need To Do

Photo credit: davide vizzini

Friday, August 10

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

Contracts: Deadly Agent Clauses

I love Kris Rusch's discussions of agent clauses. I'm sure that many, perhaps even most, agents are kind, honest, people who look out for the interests of their authors. That said, perhaps an agent isn't always familiar with all the clauses in the contract they ask their writers to sign.

In any case, reading what some writers have signed has been an eye-opener. My mother always said that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Let's hope! Kris writes:
[T]he agent clause, which you find in most agent-negotiated publishing contracts, now says things like:

The Author hereby appoints Agent A irrevocably as the Agent in all matters pertaining to or arising from this Agreement…Such Agent is hereby fully empowered to act on behalf of the Author in all matters in any way arising out of this Agreement…All sums of money due to the Author under this Agreement shall be paid to and in the name of said Agent…The Author does also irrevocably assign and transfer to Agent A, as an agency coupled with an interest, and Agent A shall retain a sum equal to fifteen percent (15%) of all gross monies due and payable to the account of the Author under this Agreement.
.  .  .  .
First of all, I’m not assigning anyone anything “irrevocably”—certainly not someone I can fire for cause. Especially if my money goes through their account first. I will not “fully empower” anyone to act for me. (Some agents go so far as demanding legal power of attorney—which is something you should never give anyone. What that means is that they then have the right to be you in all legal matters. No. Do not give legal power of attorney to anyone without good cause—like you’re dying and need someone to handle your accounts (and even then, it might not be a good idea).)

Finally let’s discuss “agency coupled with an interest.” What that means is this: You are giving the agent ownership in your novel. Ownership. They now have a 15% ownership of your book.
.  .  .  .
Through the agent-author agreement and with the agent clause, some major agencies actually take 15% ownership in everything a writer writes, even if that writer never sells the product through the agency at all. This is becoming more and more common.

But let’s assume your agent is a fairly nice person who works for a large agency. Let’s assume that the agency insists on an agent-author agreement, and let’s assume that the agent-author agreement looks fairly benign.

By fairly benign, I mean that the agent-author agreement details the relationship—what you will do, what the agent will do, and even lets you cancel the agreement for any reason with thirty days notice. However, the agreement has one clause in it, one little tiny clause that says something like this:

The Writer agrees that she will abide by the agent clause negotiated by Agent in all of her publishing contracts.

Sounds fine, right? It’s not. Because…let’s assume the agent clause in your publishing contract has this standard little phrase at the end: The provisions of this paragraph shall survive the termination of this Agreement.

This means you’re screwed. You have twice signed legal documents (and maybe more than twice) that says you will continue to pay your agent money on this particular agreement in perpetuity. The first time you signed, it was in the agent-author agreement (stating you will abide by the agent clause), and the second time was when you signed the publishing contract itself.

This is nasty, nasty stuff, folks, and lots of writers have signed it. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of writers have done so.

Don’t you do it.

In fact, if your agent asks you to do so, run from that agent, leave that agency, and don’t look back.

Why? Even if your agent is a really nice person, here’s what these clauses tell you. They tell you that your agent does not work for you. Your agent is interested in his own business and his own profits at the expense of yours.
If you're ever thinking of getting an agent, or have an agent, I heartily recommend reading Kris' article: The Business Rusch: The Agent Clause (Deal Breakers 2012).

Further reading:
- 8 Ways To Become A Better Writer
- Helping Writers De-Stress: Meditation Apps
- Fifty Shades of Grey - Oh My!

Photo credit: GĂ©rald Tibbits

Sunday, April 24

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

Writing a query letter is hard work—nearly as hard as writing the book! That was my experience at least. Nathan Bransford's blog got me through it and helped me produce a query letter I was happy with. I highly recommend this post to anyone writing a query letter: Query Letter Mad Lib.

Skeleton Query

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

Nathan Bransford's Post About Writing Query Letters

Nathan Bransford has several other terrific posts about writing a query letter:

Happy querying!

Other articles you might like:

- Query Letters: How To Write Them And Who To Send Them To
- Query Tracker: Keep Track Of Your Stories
- How To Structure Your Story

Photo credit: "Student and Teacher" by Wonderlane under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.