Friday, November 10, 2006

Nick says . . .

This is a small excerpt from the Writer's Corner over at the website for Nicholas Sparks. Granted, this data wasn't written yesterday, but it still holds true:

Because publishing is becoming more business-oriented each day with more examination of the bottom line, it's harder to break out than ever. Publishers are generally less willing to take big chances in "growing" an author. They want books that will sell, and usually sell right away. If they don't think yours will sell, odds are, they won't take a chance on it. Why? A major reason is because authors in general have become more prolific. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner have fewer published novels combined than any number of contemporary novelists -- Roberts, King, Koontz, Steel, etc.

So, next time you call on a POD publisher, tell 'em Nick sent you.

Further, Nick writes:

. . . You have to understand business factors that are important to the editors making the decision on whether or not to buy your novel: What's the genre? What successful books are similar to the one you've written? Why is yours better? What's the market for your novel? How can we get the word out to that market? And most importantly, will this book be recommended to others?

Here are some other questions they might ask:
  • Does your book have movie potential? What I mean is, have you already sold the movie rights?
  • Does your book have to do with cryptic religious messages? Sorry, scratch that. I meant elephants.
  • Does your name even vaguely resemble Setterfield or Sittenfeld?
  • Just exactly how well do you know Oprah?
  • If you're book is self-published, have you already sold 20,000 copies? I mean, we need some proof it will sell. You think we take chances? On second thought, you probably sold it to everyone who would want a copy. Never mind.
  • How large is your extended family? Big readers, are they?
  • Is your book a fraternity or sorority memoir? We'd love to get our hands on that alumni list!
  • How much of your advance are you willing to invest in publicity?

It's a brutal industry. Just ignore the bruises and be happy you're in it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One other reason HarperCollins, et. al., aren't doing as well: Dilution

I keep reading about how HarperCollins (and all the other big publishers) are not turning as good a profit as they used to. Many claim the long term problem is due to people spending money on other forms of entertainment, like DVDs (though that market whines as well) and video games. The truth here is that folks have only so much money to spend on entertainment, no matter the form. People won't spend more money, they just move a portion of money from one type of entertainment to another.

But aside from the competing types of entertainment out there, there is one within the publishing industry that is repeatedly ignored: self-published books. If you do a little math, you can see how much money is being pulled from the commercially published books and being transferred over to POD. It's bigger than you think (if would have to be or why would iUniverse and Lulu continue to exist)?

I'll be conservative. Let's say you have 50,000 POD authors (don't laugh; PublishAmerica claims to publish a quarter of these). And let's go with the average number of sales for a POD book (which I think is a too low) of 75 units (don't laugh again; this doesn't take into account POD titles that sell extremely well, like the 5,000 copies of the DIDYMUS CONTINGENCY that Jeremy Robinson has sold). So, 50K times 75 units is 3,750,000 books. Now add on the average price of $17. That means over the past couple of years, POD has stolen just shy of $64 million dollars from New York (not including Xlibris, which funnels its profits back to the Random House). And the truth is this is probably double that.

The publishing industry has become incredibly diluted. Not just with POD, but how about all the small publishers that have claimed their stake? Even the number of agents submitting books to editors has reached an all time high. We are beyond the point of the massive publishing groups like Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck looking to snatch up the next William Morrow or FSG. Who's even a possibility? Maybe MacAdam/Cage. Other than that it is an ocean of ultra-small publishers that will never have the appeal to draw a major in to buying them.

The times, among other things, are a changin'. Check out what the New York Daily News has to add about POD.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The center of the universe: Boise?

I've had a bunch of authors contact me recently about picking an agent (they actually got offers from more than one) and if I had any advice on who to select. Well, in most of the cases, all of the agents were excellent, so I really couldn't give much feedback.

But then the issue of where the agent was located came into play--and two authors said they would probably go with the one located in New York (vice not New York). Since this is something that Kristin Nelson had blogged about recently, I thought I would add my half buck as well.

Location of an agent really means nothing. At all. Granted there are still a lot of agents who lunch quite a bit with editors, but the industry is really changing. As the old school agents and editors retire and *sniff* pass on, the younger breed is bringing a new tone to the publishing world.

I remember an agent that had offered me representation for my first novel. She wasn't that old, but she was definitely old school. She kept telling me how when she made a submission, her books were noticed because she packaged them up in a nice, attractive box. She just kept saying this over and over. The box, the box, the box. "When my box arrives. . . " I couldn't take it. This was a gal who wanted nothing to do with the Internet. Everything we did in the early days was sending and faxing pages back and forth. It was bizarre. Respected as she is, I’m glad I never signed with her.

Now--according to the folks I deal with in NY--very few folks want paper at all anymore. And all I can think is how that poor agent has a crapload of unused boxes in some self-storage place on Staten Island.

Where was I?

Location, right. So it really does not matter where an agent is in this day and age. Sure, schmoozing is still important, and certainly the point of BookExpo as well as the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs—not to mention conferences. But living in New York to pitch books? 99% of this stuff--pitching, negotiating, editing--is done over the phone and email anyway. You don't see writers moving to New York to get closer to their editors, right?

So bottom line: An agent living in New York certainly can't hurt. But a determining factor? Not in a million years. An agent's reputation is the same regardless of their home address.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Significantly hurt . . .

Are you feeling lucky?

For all of you enthralled by Google-bombing, you should check out what happens when you put in these items in the Google search field and then hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button:

Scam publisher

Publishing rip-off

Vanity authors

The possibilities are endless. The results are mostly the same.


Elsewhere in the POD world:

Susanne Severeid won the second place Literary Award for Published Fiction by the Arizona Authors Association (first place went to an author at HarperCollins). And you can read an interview with Susanne here.

Arthur Edwards has done at MySpace what so many indie rock bands are doing: putting some free material up to listen to. You can visit his MySpace page and listen to the audio of a good portion of STUCK OUTSIDE OF PHOENIX there.

And anyone interested in getting an author appearance, etc. for a book club, feel free to send an email to Christopher Meeks, author of THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN AND THE SEA, to set up a date.

And you thought I was anonymous. This lady (guy?)
really pushes the envelope.