Saturday, June 27, 2009

Quick, Pretend You're a Publicist! Yes, Like That, But Blonder.

Would you mind explaining what an agent/editor means when they say they would like a 'one sheet,' more specifically as it applies to fiction?
This is a term borrowed from the movie and music industries. It's a single page that conveys all the most important things about your book in the simplest, more straightforward style.

These things might include:
  • your name and contact info
  • your BRIEF bio, including any recognizable people you know who could blurb you, "ins" in the media, etc. Do NOT say you "think you can get the book on Oprah." For God's sake.
  • a BRIEF explanation of what the book is about
  • the value inherent in the book ("over 200 recipes!" / "reviews 50 philosophical approaches with over 300 dirty jokes!")
  • the trend the book speaks to ("1 out of 150 children is diagnosed with autism" / "with over 50 new websites and blogs and 3 new magazines launched in the last year, rogue taxidermy is the new knitting")
  • who will buy this ("proactive moms who don't know how to tell their toddlers they have to stop nursing")
  • reasons people will buy it ("perennially favorite topics dinosaurs and bedtime combined" / "an antidote to the diabetic epidemic of Fancy Nancy")
  • pretty much anything else you think will help sell the book.
I don't ask authors for this, because that's asking authors to be pros about marketing and publicity and it's pathetic what some people think is marketing and publicity. Certainly it's good for authors to think about M&P, and it's lovely when you find one who is a pro.

But don't send a one-sheet to people who don't ask for it. There are enough people in publishing to whom it's still foreign that you run the risk of the recipient thinking "WTF? What industry do you think this is?"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hooray for Newbies

Hello, I have a few small stories and ideas for children's book. But I can not find anything that tells me what I need to do or where to submit ideas and pieces. Could you please give me some pointers? I have book from the library on editors and agents, but its has nothing in it about children's books. Is there another book somewhere or a website or something that I can get to? I also need it to have specifics on what to send and how to send it. Thank you it would greatly be appreciated.
Anonymati! I call you to arms. Or rather, to the comments.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You, Represented By You

I’ve searched for an answer for this but can’t find it!
What happens when you query an agent, they ask to see several things at once, and like one or two mss but not the rest? I am a published author but have a few pb mss and a new MG ms. Agent is very interested in the novel but not the picture books. If I sign with the agent, does that mean that I continue submitting all the other “stuff” on my own that the agent doesn’t care for while agent submits the novel? Is that a common thing to happen where an agent only submits some of the authors work (the mss they like)?
It's not uncommon, and yes, you can submit the work your agent isn't interested in on your own.

Just don't reference your agent in the query/original submission.
(a) Generally, if you have an agent, your agent is submitting for you, and that's what editors expect.
(b) Mentioning your agent makes it sound like maybe you expect the submission to be treated as an agented submission, but if your agent's not behind it, then it hasn't been through the filter that awards it special consideration at publishers.
(c) Editors are also sensitive to the possibility of author scams (see post below 'cunning stupidity'), so a submission from someone who has an agent but whose "agent" isn't sending the submission raises a red flag.

But talk to the agent in question about this: there are lots of different styles of agenting, and you won't know which one this agent has until you ask her.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Do You Mean It's a Popularity Contest?

I read that one of the biggest risks for everyone in the business—publishers as well as authors- is advances that don't ever earn out. This makes me think editors (even if they like a submission) will not buy a manuscript from an author that has had a previous book that did not earn out. However, I wonder, how could an editor at another house know that a book did not earn out?
We can't. If you tell us what you got paid and how many copies the book sold, we'll be able to take a guess.
Would word spread on the "Editor's Grapevine" so that editors at other houses would also not want to buy a new manuscript from an author whose previous book did not sell out?!
Also, I heard on Book TV on c-span many years back, that if your first 3 books did not sell out, that you should change your name. True? And on the same subject, how do editors feel about taking on an author whose book sells out, but makes little or no more money?
Ah, we seem to have experienced a change in terminology here. We've gone from talking about earning out to selling out. "Selling out" means nothing for publishers, so I'm not sure what you meant by it.

If you mean selling through; ie if bookstores returned your first three books in high numbers, then yes, a change in name might be a good idea. Booksellers look at the track record of books by an author, and if the record they see is "nobody wanted this; just nobody", then they're going to be pretty hesitant to take anything new.

Clarification: I mean changing your name on the printed book. That is, for booksellers, not your publisher. You still have to tell your publisher who you are.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First Pages: Active Again

Sorry about the delay.
The Anonymati are back in business.

For those new to the first pages clinic, please observe the (rapidly rising) number of pages in the queue (in the right hand column).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cunning Stupidity Strikes Again!

I find a message on my voice mail from someone "representing" a manuscript. In faith and courtesy, I return that call, only to discover that the manuscript was written by the caller.

In short: This person has deliberately deceived the editor they'd like to work with, in a way that is then immediately revealed to the editor.

What exactly do you suppose is my reaction?
((To those people (who I suspect will never see this blog), I ask:
Do you ever justify saying something because you perceive it as "sort of" the truth?
Do you think that counts if the person you say it to perceives it as completely a lie?
If lying to people to get what you want (eg, a call-back) is is worth it, is it worth it if it means you won't ever get anything else?))
Well, I'll tell you: While on the phone, I'll be perfectly pleasant, because I've had enough of being yelled at by defensive, petulant strangers as I ever care to. (And that's what you get when you call dipshits on their mistakes, fyi.) But no matter how fantastic your manuscript is, I will never, not ever, work with you.

There's just nothing as bad as a devious imbecile.

Death By a Thousand Alphabet Books

There are editors of adult books in my publishing company. Sometimes they refer manuscripts to us that they think are "for kids". I'm sure they're very good at their jobs, so this is meant in the most respectful way possible: They're morons.

Because this week, "for kids" applies to an illustrated alphabet book of B-list 1970s sitcom actors. Because it's an alphabet book.

I've been the recipient of scores--perhaps hundreds--of utterly unmarketable alphabet book submissions, and I think it's time to address this problem.

There is a particularly pernicious myth in the common psyche that the most basic, fundamental book for children is an alphabet book. That might have been true once upon a time... a hundred years ago. When there were essentially no children's books.

"But children still need to learn the alphabet, don't they?" say the people at conferences who are trying to make me have an embolism. For them, two diagrams:

Of course some --even many-- published alphabet books are not about teaching the alphabet. The alphabet is simply used as a structure for conveying other information. (A structure so overused as to be a publishing cliche.)

And some alphabet books do this well. But most alphabet book submissions are not alphabet books out of clever new ideas, but out of laziness.

Want to be published more than you want to do work? Know a bunch of words that start with the various letters of the alphabet? You're all set! Rant over. Thank you for listening.

Oh, I Am Newly In Love

With this blog. Seriously. Go read.

And it makes me think perhaps there should be a touch of balance after the post The Intern Thinks She's Found Something below.

It's true that as authors, you shouldn't count on interns having any power.

Let us be sure to remember, though, that interns are not worthless. (Indeed, my office would quickly be awash in a backlog of work none of the editors have time to do without the (forever blessed) intervention of interns.)

And while some interns will not go on in publishing, I would need my fingers and toes to count the number of fully-grown publishing professionals who I happen to know worked their way up from internships. Me included. (No doubt there are many more among the people I know; I just don't know it.)

And as authors, you should always, always be nice to interns and editorial assistants. They're low on the totem pole now, but give them a few years and they will be in a position to kick your butt for being a jerk to the interns and assistants beneath them. Fyi.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Definitions for the Perplexed: Lay-Down Date

A "lay-down date" is also called an "on-sale" date, but please don't mix it up with "release date" or "publication date".

The last two are soft terms used by publishers and booksellers to indicate an approximation of when books will be on shelves. The first two are "put it on sale before this date and there will be legal repercussions" terms.

Most books do not have lay-down dates.

1. The only books that get a firm on-sale date are books for which the publisher is expecting (or just really hoping for) a strong and immediate demand.

2. The vagaries of shipping mean that some bookstores will always get their shipments ahead of other bookstores.

3. Which means that if bookstores who get the next Harry Potter (eg) early are allowed to start selling them immediately, the other bookstores are S.O.L. and will lose a bunch of revenue to the bookstores who were lucky enough to get their shipments first.

4. In which case the publisher will be immediately inundated by furious calls from the bookstores that haven't gotten their books. Furious. Inundated.

5. Thus: lay-down dates. Everyone gets a chance to receive the books, and then everyone has to wait for the starter's pistol to start selling them.

6. Plus! The more the publisher can pack the first wave of sales into a single week, the better their chance of getting on bestseller lists. Do publishers want to be on those lists? Hell yes, they do.

And now for a question I can't answer: Why are most lay-down dates on Tuesdays?
Nevermind the (sometimes absurd) theories that Millions found through the intensive method of (ahem) googling it. Go read it from someone who actually did their research.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Far From the Madding Slush

I've seen mentioned in various places that it's important to belong to organizations like SCBWI and to mention it in your cover letter/query. How do you feel about that?
There are many lovely things about the SCBWI. I've been a member myself.

The overarching thing that's great about the SCBWI, though, is that it gives everyone who already knows their way around the industry a place to send newbies instead of trying to give the uninitiated several mountain-sized clues oneself.

Membership in the SCBWI indicates a willingness to learn, and that absolutely counts for... a tiny little bit. Because it doesn't indicate an ability to learn, or an ability to write.

Willingness to learn is important, sure, because it shows you know there is something to learn.
But it really just puts you on the step above the dreadful amateurs who think they'll send the story they wrote for their grandchildren (the single story they've ever written) to a publisher and see what happens; the crazies who feel the world owes them a publisher for having written something (the single something they've ever written) of such genius and power; the maniacal jerks who think the only thing that stands between them and wild success is "persistence," defined as "pressuring, harassing, and stalking publisher staff."

Joining the SCBWI is a good thing, and if used well, it can be a great thing. But it's not going to the school of SCBWI that will get you published. It's graduating.

High-ho Bissell Powerbrush Deluxe, Away!

Janet Reid on buying vacuums and following directions.

I heart you, Janet.

The Intern Thinks She's Found Something

Hi, I just had a student intern at a very good independent publishing house ask to see a full ms. How much does her input count in the editors' consideration/acceptance of my book?

Sometimes we like our interns. Sometimes we like them a lot. Every once in a while we'd strongly like to hire them, but even then they've got years of editorial work ahead of them before they're ready to make acquisition decisions themselves.

So if they reallyreally want us to read a manuscript they found, we will (but maybe not today. Or this week. And if it gets a bit buried it may be a month or two).

Interns are not automatically esteemed, and they shouldn't expect to be. The point of an internship is that they get the opportunity to make a great impression on the people they might work with, and may become esteemed through performance.

Maybe the editor who reads it (eventually) will love it. If so, she'll be the one to argue for the acquisition. And if so, then the intern will have earned several points for choosing something that house might like to publish. Generally we're just looking for interns who will only pass us hypothetically publishable manuscripts, instead of every vaguely cute thing with no hook at all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some Editors Are More Anonymous Than Others

What do you recommend as the best way to find out which editors edited which books? I want to select books with certain similarities to my stories, and then submit to those editors.
It's not easy to find those answers. Editors stay in the background a great deal-- deliberately. So the best you can do at most houses is to submit to the imprint which published the books you admired.

Sometimes googling a title and the word "editor" will come up with something, but at most houses they don't put up web pages listing most of the books an editor has worked on. But some do.

Classes for the Perplexed

As the children's librarian of the Bank Street College Library, Lisa Von Drasek is often asked to review manuscripts from faculty and graduate students to evaluate if they are "publishable". She writes, "I find that in these discussions about children's book publishing there is a knowledge gap."

Know someone vaguely clueless? Please, pass the word on.

This class is a nuts and bolts class for anyone who is thinking about submitting a manuscript for publication to get an overview of the business or just wondering how a children's book gets published.

A new class Children's Book Publishing 101
June 30 Tuesday, 5 pm - 8 pm
$125 (not offered for credit)
Registration Deadline: 6/22

Ever wondered how a children's book gets published? Bank Street College Children's Librarian Lisa Von Drasek will provide an overview of children's book publishing. What does an editor do? Do I need an agent? Is there a market for my idea? How do I submit my manuscript? What is a book proposal? What is the deal with self-publishing? We will follow the process of children's book publishing from manuscript to bound book in the bookstore. Please note: This is an introduction only. Manuscripts will not be reviewed.

Class is at Bank Street College of Education
610 West 112th St.
NY NY 10025
For more information 212.875.4649

Lisa Von Drasek is the Children's Librarian of the Bank Street College of Education. She teaches pre-k through 8th grade as well as children's literature to graduate students. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, Lisa has reviewed children's books for School Library Journal, The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post Book World, and is a contributor to the Barnes and Noble Review and She has been named a 2007 Mover and Shaker by Library Journal as a leader in the field of librarianship. Lisa has served as a juror on the New York Times Best Illustrated, the Newbery Committee , American Library Association's Notable Children's Books, and the Bank Street College of Education's Children's Book Committee. Over the last twenty years, Lisa has been a retail book buyer, retail book seller, marketing and sales associate for publishing houses, public children's librarian, school librarian, reviewer and teacher.