Friday, May 27, 2005

Books in print--for better or worse

Ah, yes. The ever increasing number of books in print. Let's discuss.

Each year, the number of titles in print becomes larger and larger. According to
the latest statistics from Bowker, we are now up to 195,000 (new) titles in the United States.

As it turns out, only 50 titles came from the big publishers and university presses; the remaining 194,950 are all POD.

At least that's the way it seems.

As for in-print titles, in 2002, the number was 1.5 million. In 2004, we jumped up to 2.8 million. Holy smokes.

But for real: the reason the number of titles is growing is not (completely) because of new PODs, it's because all publishers are letting less and less go out of print (and, most likely, because of POD technology--so round and round we go.)

This number, which seems to annoy more people in proportion to its increase in size, should be growing. It should go up every year--until we stop letting titles go out of print. Maybe bigger is better after all.


On a different front, yet another book has successfully made it from POD to traditional publisher (albeit a small one.) John D. Moore's CONFUSING LOVE WITH OBSESSION (iUniverse) has been sold, according to Publisher's Marketplace, "to Hazelden, in a nice deal, by Penny Nelson at Manus & Associates." (A "nice deal" means it sold for $50, 000 or less.) Congrats to Mr. Moore.


And lastly, Britta Steiner Alexander (who is an agent with the Ned Leavitt Agency, and Ned Leavitt was an agent with William Morris for 13 years, so . . . ) tosses in her two cents on getting an agent and other matters on her blog. But one post worthy of note: How to get a publisher to buy your successful self-published book. While this is not a hyper-informative entry, it makes the point that the first thing an agent is going to want to know is how many books you sold. As indicated so far in my Agent & Editor Q&A series, the number varies from person to person, but the more books the better--so, if you think 200 books is going to grab an agent, think again (unless you sold those books in the first day, all on Amazon.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Agent & Editor Q&A: Agent Three

The Rear Admiral for the Atlantic POD-dy Mouth Fleet is proud to introduce you to: Agent Three. Sounds like a side-kick from Get Smart. Oh, but this person is so much more. And no Cone of Silence is needed!

Agent Profile: This agent has been selling fiction and non-fiction (evenly) to the snooty-toots of New York for just under 20 years. Agent Three sells "approximately 2 titles per month from the current stable of authors and another 1 or 2 per month from new authors, but closer to one" -- so that adds up to, we'll say, 40 titles per year. Wow. Agent Three has [his/her] own agency in New York and lives just outside of the city. This agent gets [his/her] calls returned promptly.

Girl: What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company? Is there a difference in quality between POD and traditionally self-published?

Agent Three: Worst case scenario, POD titles are equal to the slush pile or the standard submissions we see everyday. Best case scenario, the POD book might be a soupcon better only because the author might have tried to clean it up more intensely since they were paying to publish. And I see no difference between POD and other self-published means. It is just a different publishing model; what is underneath usually remains the same.

Girl: If you like a book, do you care if it was once published POD?

Agent Three: No. In fact, I sold a book last year that was a POD title. I found it in a bookstore near my home and thought, "what a great book. I wonder who published this." When I realized it was self-published, I hunted down the author and offered to represent her. I sold it four days later for $45,000.

Girl: What if someone pitched a POD book to you and told you it had sold 1000 units in 6 months? Or 3000 units in a year?

Agent Three: Well, that can only help, in my opinion. But I have seen a lot of horrible books sell copies in the five digits. So sales numbers mean nothing to me unless there is talent to back it up. If I am going to attach my reputation to a book, it better knock my socks off.

Girl: Do you think POD will eventually revolutionize the publishing industry?

Agent Three: How could it? The "revolution" that needs to occur in the industry is the removal of the "returns" model. And though POD could aid in this effort, it is not the solution. It would be like moving from one sinking ship to another. Plus, the cost and time delay of production is a big loser. I attended a conference recently where POD was getting a lot of attention and they kept saying, "we can print a book off the same day the request comes in." But when someone asked why it takes two weeks to get one shipped through Amazon, they gave a long string of excuses regarding all the intermediary channels (the POD publisher, Lightning Source, Amazon, etc.) Bottom line is it is too slow. "In print" and "in stock" are not the same thing. That is why having a book "in stock" is something we all strive for. Fundamentally, I would say e-books are a much more valuable media form: cheaper and faster (even instant.) If it were just easier to read them. . .

Girl: Do you think POD publishers are taking advantage of hopeful authors by giving them a glimpse of being in a bookstore?

Agent Three: I'm not sure it matters. [The authors] are paying for a service like anyone else. Unless they are not getting what they paid for, or were lied to, then that is how the business operates. As for the glimpse of being in a bookstore, that's got to be a mighty dim glimpse. I've seen some in stores, as I mentioned, but I can count them all on one hand with two fingers broken.

Girl: Do you think POD publishers will have an impact on books already out of print?

Agent Three: Yes. POD could make the term "out of print" extinct. Do I think they can/will bring every title back? No--there are costs associated with everything. And books that did not sell well in the first place will probably stay dead and buried. But POD might just save a big part of the [big publishers] weakening backlists.

Girl: If someone POD'd a book but still wants to pitch editors/agents, should he or she simply send the paperback?

Agent Three: No. I want to be able to make notes and/or make copies. I want the version I can submit to my contacts with the houses. A paperback is good for a flight, but that's about it.

Girl: Bonus question: True or false-"If you have a brilliant manuscript, your book will find a home/get published."

Agent Three: False. I have to tell very talented writers two or three times a year that their books will not get published because the publishers passed for whatever heedless reason. It happens all the time. And, sadly, I have sold many more thrillers in the last three years than literary works . . . books that I absolutely loved.

Girl: Anything you want to add?

Agent Three: It is a tough book market. But it has been worse. Think about who will read your book. If the audience is severely limited, you might want to try POD first as a way to build sales first.

Thanks so much, Agent Three. And thanks for at least trying to sell some literary stuff. Thrillers are cool, too, though. I mean something has to pay for that Jaguar, right?

Coming up soon . . . Editor Two, who happens to be running behind because [he/she] is so busy rejecting quality manuscripts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

No Poddy at the Quills

Yeah, that's right. If I had any hopes that my debut novel might be nominated for the Quill Awards (I didn't) set for October 22nd, they are dashed now.

NBC will run the first-ever nationally televised "book awards" hosted by a "celebrity" (what, like everyone doesn't assume it will be Steve Martin?) this fall to a handful of authors in a range of categories.

What, you think "best POD novel" is one of them? You'll have to settle for my simple Needle Awards, folks.

Besides, the requirements for the Quills are fairly stringent (and thus why Poddy will not be showing):

Competition in the book genre categories will begin with a slate of about 1,800 eligible titles. To make the long list of nominees, a book must have been published in its original format in North America between August 1, 2004, and July 31, 2005, and marketed in the United States. It must also meet one of the following criteria: a starred review in Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program selection, one of the ABA's Book Sense Picks, a Borders Books & Music Original Voices title or has made it onto the bestsellers list of Publishers Weekly, Book Sense, Barnes & Noble or Borders.


But enough about me.

Let's discuss anonymity, which has been getting a bit of buzz in my email and in the comments. Anonymity is a beautiful thing. It allows people to be honest. It also allows people to be rude, I guess, but the honesty outweighs the bad.

Why am I anonymous? A reminder: if I wasn't, I would be open to "attacks" on Amazon and BN to all the people who asked me to review a book (but did not.) Secondly, this would be akin to handing out blurbs on a weekly basis, and that's no good either. Furthermore, my agent and editor friends stay anonymous for a reason: they do not want to be pelted with inquireies from hopeful POD authors; they are willing to share their insight/knowledge, but not so much their time, you see?

So, for those of you dying to know who I/we are . . . you'll have to enjoy us through the fog.

And, no, I am not Nicole Krauss. Unfortunately.

Tomorrow: Agent Three!

Monday, May 23, 2005

MORE TOWELS by Grant Jarrett, (iUniverse)

Where Seinfeld heralded itself as being a show about nothing, I might think Grant Jarrett's MORE TOWELS: IN BETWEEN THE NOTES might be a memoir about nothing.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. (*rim shot*)

In fact, it seems there is a string of memoirs hitting the market about twenty- or thirty-somethings that have accomplished absolutely nothing but seem to have something to say; indeed it is a point of angst among many literary folks in the Big Apple. These authors are not survivors or seers or anything else. They're just clever.

At the same time, some of these are fantastic texts, like this one and this one.

And Mr. Jarrett's book is quite good too. I'll admit before going any further that it is a guilty read. The story-teller is not particularly likeable. At all. It is the story of a lousy musician playing in a lousy band during the time where band members wore vibrant velvet and polyester. It's a story about a guy finding (trying to find/not finding) himself.

It's about nothing.

But it is funny. The book is littered with humorous vignettes and poignant stories regarding the (underground) music scene of yesteryear. Jarrett certainly devotes a large portion of the book to his sexual conquests and while at times it starts to weigh like a sandwich with too much mayonnaise (chew on that one for a while) the quality of writing brings it through with shining colors (in velvet and polyester.)

Maybe this book came out too long ago (2002) because it is a hot genre in New York right now. It is vaguely similar to HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL by Joe Eszterhas, but delivers the story from the trenches instead of the heights.

Well worth a read--and it's an easy one at that.

One other note: at the time of this review, MORE TOWELS is discounted 60% on Amazon, making the price $6.38. A POD for under seven bucks? The end of the world might nearer than we think.