Friday, February 17, 2006

Agent & Editor Q&A: Agent Four (Jenny Bent!)

Not all agents and editors feel the need to be veiled, as it turns out. Here with us today at Cafe POD-dy is one of New York's finest, the lady who put the Uber in Uber-agent: Jenny Bent with Trident Media.

Her bio from the Trident website is right here, but rest assured that she has a who's-who in literature as her client list. "She has been working for 10 years in the publishing industry as an editor, bookseller, and literary agent. Jenny has a BA/MA with first class honors from Cambridge University in the UK; she grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia" and her previous proximity to the University of Virginia is something we try not to hold against her.

Girl: Thanks for stopping by, Jenny. Feel free to dive into the fruit and cheese platter. Don't fill up too much, though--the masseurs will be here shortly. In the mean time, please tell us about some of your greatest POD/self-pub success stories.

Jenny: I hate to answer this one for fear of leaving someone out, but I think the most obvious one is of course Laurie Notaro, who tried to get published for seven years before she finally went to iUniverse. She took out an ad at Amazon that popped up every time you looked at the Sweet Potato Queens Book of Love page (unfortunately you can no longer do this), and my husband at the time happened to see it and mention it to me. The rest of course is history—I sold it in three days and it debuted at #7 on the NYT list. There have been others of course, the Jennifer Colt McAfee Twins series; Will Clarke’s amazing books, both of which have been optioned by Hollywood; a book on scrapbooking by Wendy Bagley that she literally published herself with no POD company which I sold overnight for six figures to Hyperion…the list goes on.

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?

Jenny: I do not distinguish at all between the two.

Girl: What is downside to a book having gone POD before you try to sell it? Everyone assumes the author already eliminated “first rights” to the book. Is this true?

Jenny: I don’t see the downside, and I don’t think people assume this. It depends on the contract, and there are always ways to work on that if you sell to a major publisher. I often see very good projects where the author just doesn’t have the platform to sell the book, and I think, “I wish they would self-publish or do POD” so I would at least have a sales record to show the publisher.

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? What kinds of stats turn your head?

Jenny: I always hope for even better stats than that, but if someone has amazing reviews and is making Amazon bestseller lists, it tends not to matter. Many of the POD books that have become best-sellers have numbers like that initially.

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

Jenny: I think it already has, to a certain extent.

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

Jenny: Kind of, yes. And anyway, if you’re using print-on-demand to get the attention of a New York house, the New York house would rather you not be in bookstores anyway. That way you won’t have a weak sales track that they’ll have to contend with when they republish your book.

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

Jenny: Sure. It’s a great way to get out-of-print books back into print.

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

Jenny: Yes, with reviews, sales info, etc.

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

Jenny: False, unfortunately. I try to sell books all the time that I think are wonderful and sometimes they don’t sell.

Girl: Any advice you can throw out to all the hopefuls out there?

Jenny: If you have a great book that for whatever reason hasn’t sold to a New York house, or if you have a book that’s kind of “outside the box” or a book where New York houses will require you to have a better platform before they’ll buy it, self-publish or do POD. Then prepare yourself to promote, promote, promote. Read anything MJ Rose has to say about it, because she’s been a huge success in that arena. The more press you can get, the more books you can sell (hopefully in non-traditional outlets, like hair salons the way E. Lynn Harris did), the more review attention and Amazon bestseller lists you can hit (they have a list for EVERYTHING so it’s often not that hard), the more chance you have to sell the book to a New York house that will hopefully get you the publicity and distribution that you need.

Thanks, Jenny, for your marvelous insight and advice! And feel free to stick around; I paid these guys for a full day!

And folks, don't forget the announcement of the Needle nominees On Wednesday, February 22nd at 8:00 am!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Mark your calendars!

Big news here at Needle Central. I was having a very difficult time making the selections for the nominees for the Needle Awards. As I have mentioned previously, all of the books I selected/reviewed for 2005 were wonderful. Some were very good, some were excellent and some were simply outstanding.

Unfortunately, more than five were outstanding--and I could not find a way to shave off the extras. So I figured I should cut out the books that are already represented by agents, but I figured that made absolutely no sense at all, essentially punishing the books that have already managed to succeed a bit.

So, then I thought, "Hey, this is my own stinking awards presentation, I'll pick as many books as I want!"

But when I mentioned this to the wonderful agents and editors who were going to select the winners, the general reaction was this: "Are you out of your effing mind? I don't have time to read the five books you wanted me to judge in the first place."

After a few labored discussions with these generous yet feisty people, I realized that the group was sort of split. That is, two of the folks are literature-oriented and the other two are commercial oriented--and neither was thrilled about having to read books that might have fallen in the opposing category.

So I made everyone happy (though more like happier): I managed to add one more agent and one more editor (both had expressed interest in reading for next year's awards) and now have broken the awards into two categories: Literary and Commercial.

Here's how it's going to go. There will be five books selected for the Commercial Needle and five books selected for the Literary Needle. There will be a winner in each category, but no 1st place, 2nd place, etc.--just the winners.

And even with this change, I still feel like I had to cut out a few books that definitely deserved to be nominated. But this is as good (or bad) as it's going to get.

So stay tuned and check your calendars. Nominees will be announced at 8:00 am right here at POD-dy mouth on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006 (that's one week from today.)

Winners will be selected over the weekend of March 18th and will be officially announced at 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006 and the PDFs will be send out to the folks who requested the info (27 agents and editors so far, including esteemed folks at Bantam, Crown, Tor, Penguin Putnam, William Morris, Trident Media, ICM, Inkwell and many others.)

What a year this has been. I certainly never thought it would come this far, or that the best folks in the industry would be paying attention, or that over a half million people tuned in this past year to see what was happening. Coming up soon, I will have a post listing the general stats of the past year (like how many submissions I received, how many gigabytes of PDFs were sent my way, etc.) Even I was surprised at some of them.

And, to totally blow your mind, tune in Friday for the return of Agent & Editor Q&A (agent #4) with mega-agent, Jenny Bent!

Monday, February 13, 2006

NEVER SAY MURDER by Geoffrey Walters (Dog Ear Publishing)

Greg Thackery is a sex addict. And like most addicts, he's a bit paranoid. So when he witnesses someone threatening to kill his co-worker--and his co-worker soon ends up on the slab--he thinks the cause of death is more than just heart trouble, as everyone claims.

And based on the horrible and sudden downward spiral of Greg's life, his paranoia might be more in line with reality than he thought.

So goes the plotline of NEVER SAY MURDER by Geoffrey Walters. This is a snappy little thriller--er, murder mystery--er, pulp fiction/whodunit. For those who don't get my point, this book defies categorization.

The upside? The odds are you're going to like this tasty treat. Walters manages to deliver, no matter what your preference in fiction may be. Fast paced and a fast read, he weaves a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat and manages to mix in some new elements. (Greg Thackery is not exactly in the wrong place at the wrong time; he's highly imperfect. When this recovering sex addict is fired for having downloaded porn to his computer, he has to wonder who knows about his problems enough to have planted it there.)

But it seems everyone has secrets--including his murdered co-worker--and Greg must hurry to sort them all out before there is nothing left of his life.

You can grab this super novel from Amazon (with the 32% discount!) at a mere $10.85. What are you waiting for? Even James Frey doesn't write fiction this well. (*rim shot*)