Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Palinomicon

Alan DeNiro has stumbled upon a dark document of nefarious origin, mailed to him anonymously from the wilds of Alaska.

From the introduction:
We harvest the wolves in moonlight,
stitch their tongues together for
this cover, the jerky of Beelzebub.
Paws down! No one look around.
The paper is caribou and pancake
breakfast leaflets,
cremated all-together, then breathed
Upon by tasered polar bear.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Katie, I'd like to use one of my lifelines."
Tina Fey strikes again.

Is it possible that Tina Fey was placed on this planet just to parody Sarah Palin? Because, damn...she's frakkin' brilliant at this:

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Guest blogger Courtney Summers on
How I Got My Agent

When my agent Amy mentioned Colleen was looking for guest-bloggers and would I be interested, I was like, really? Guest-blogging on The (amazing) Swivet? YES! I'm so there! I would never pass up the opportunity to potentially embarrass myself on someone else's blog! And since I know you Swivet readers are pretty cool, which I find fairly intimidating, odds are good this will happen. I no longer know if this is an introduction or a disclaimer, but in any case, I'm really excited to be here. Thanks, Colleen!

My name is Courtney. I write young adult novels. My first novel, Cracked Up to Be, is due out in January 2009 from St. Martin's Press and I keep a blog over here, where I often write about zombies and volcanoes with an urgency that might suggest I'm constantly threatened by both. Maybe I am. Hi!

At first, I was going to do a guest-blog about why I write YA, but realized my reason for writing YA is so simple, I couldn't stretch it beyond this sentence: I love it and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. But since a sentence does not a proper guest-blog entry make, instead I thought I'd talk about how I went about finding my agent and give some advice that will hopefully be helpful to those of you who are actively seeking representation for your own novels.

(But this IS a disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert on anything, except maybe sleep.)

Cracked Up to Be is my fourth completed novel, but it will be my first published novel. The three novels that preceded it have all been banished beneath my bed, where they stay, quietly biding their time until Halloween night, at which point they rise up and go on a killing spree throughout the neighbourhood (true story!). Anyway, those novels were not retired until after I sent a bunch of queries out to agents about representing them, and by a bunch, I mean a ton. So when I finally did get my agent, I was no stranger to the process.

There's not much I can say about the agent hunting thing that hasn't been said and said better by others. It hurts so good! Except when it doesn't! How I came to land my agent, Amy Tipton--as exciting as it was and has turned out for me!--is, I think, a pretty straightforward account. I wrote the novel. I edited the novel. I drafted what I hoped was a passable query letter and researched agents who represented YA novels on agentquery.com (researching agents is always a good idea).

I decided to query Amy, not only because she represented YA, but because the word 'edgy' was in her interests (Cracked Up to Be is an edgy YA), I liked the sound of her bio and I especially liked that she was a newer agent at an established agency. I've noticed some writers will make a list of what they want in an agent and a lot of the time 'must have at least a trillion years of working as an agent under their belt' is somewhere near the top of it.

When I was querying, I actively looked for newer agents because I knew they were actively looking for new clients, and those who worked with established agencies had the benefit of the agency and their colleague's years in the business behind them (and don't forget--a 'new' agent doesn't necessarily mean they're new to the business). There's nothing wrong with querying agents who have been agents for decades--I did that too--but I wasn't going to potentially miss out on a fantastic advocate for my work simply because they were 'new.' So here is my first bit of advice: neither should you. You owe it to the manuscript you've cried, bled, sweat over, torn up and pasted back together to find the best possible fit for it.

I sent Amy a query, she requested the full, and shortly thereafter, she made an offer of representation. I accepted and am happy to report I've been VERY well looked after ever since. She rocks.

My second piece of advice to offer those of you looking for an agent is to Be Professional. I promise I don't mean that in a condescending way. Sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to forget. Sort of like saying 'please' or 'thank you' or asking someone how they are when you meet them on the street. Wanting to fire a mouthy email back at an agent who rejects you is probably a good time to remind yourself to be professional. Airing out your agent hunting grievances and naming names on your blog is probably a good time to remind yourself to be professional. When I communicate with people on the internet, I tend to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and CAPITALIZE and ~*sparkle*~ at them way too much, so in my case, reminding myself to be professional prevented me from sending this email to Amy when she requested my full:
Dear Amy!!!!!!!!,

!!!!!!

YES ~*OF COURSE*~ YOU MAY HAVE ~*MY FULL MANUSCRIPT*~

!!!!!!

~*Best*~,

Courtney!!!!!!!!!!
... Although, I just realized those are the types of emails I send her now.

So that's how I got my awesome agent. Not very dramatic, I know. I wanted to lie and tell you the ghost of Jacob Marley visited me and was like, "YOU MUST QUERY THIS AGENT BEFORE THE CLOCK STRIKES THREE OR ELSE DOOM etc," but you'd probably be able to tell I was lying and that would totally undermine all the advice I put in there about querying agents, since we all know no one takes advice from blatant liars.

(But there really ARE murderous manuscripts under my bed, I swear).

Introducing guest blogger Courtney Summers, YA author extraordinaire!

In the coming months you'll be seeing several guest-bloggers joining me here on the Swivet. I've always enjoyed having co-bloggers, even if just on a temporary basis, and I thought it would be fun to have folks involved in the book industry - booksellers, authors, editors, agents, etc. - come through here occasionally to talk a little about what they do and why they do it.

Our first guest blogger is YA author and FinePrint client Courtney Summers. Courtney is the author of the forthcoming novel Cracked Up To Be. (Some of you may remember that I've mentioned Courtney and her book before.) To add to the excitement, Courtney's second book sale was just announced in Publishers Marketplace:
Courtney Summers's SOME GIRLS ARE, pitched as Mean Girls meets Heathers, a dark tale of high school rivalry in which vicious rumors and nasty tricks are the currency that buy you popularity or seal your fate at the bottom of the social food chain, to Sara Goodman at St. Martin's, in a nice deal, for publication in Winter 2010, by Amy Tipton at FinePrint Literary Management (World English).
And in her own words:
Courtney Summers lives in Canada, where she spends a lot of time planning for the zombie apocalypse to the point where she just thinks it should hurry up and happen already. Also writing books. Her first novel, Cracked Up to Be, is due out January 2009 from St. Martin's Press. She keeps a blog over here and when she's not writing, she's thinking about doing it. Or eating. Or sleeping.
Courtney's going to be popping in here every couple of weeks up from now until the publication date of her book; she'll be writing about the process of getting published and being a YA author. I hope you'll welcome her!

Belated thoughts on 9/11...

Yes, this post is somewhat late but this art project has been on my mind once again and I thought it was time to remind people that it existed and that it continues to serve an important purpose.

Shortly after the awful events of what some of us now simply call "That Tuesday," a small gallery on Prince Street in SoHo opened up its doors and began to invite ordinary New Yorkers to contribute their photographic memories of that day. What first began as a small community art project soon blossomed into an amazing historical document of one of the worst days in American history, a physical - and virtual - library of images captured by ordinary people on an extraordinary day.

The gallery space soon began to draw crowds and groups of people queued up for hours to get inside to look at the photos. It was almost as though it became a necessary pilgrimmage; to see what others had seen, to be able to compare the experiences of these strangers with the events that had shaken your own world, to compare, to confirm that yes - this thing really had happened.

And the mixture of the people who stood on line was just as amazing. German tourists standing next to dust-covered firefighters who were using their precious free time to witness this unusual grassroots outreach, before turning around and climbing back atop the pile of rubble twelve blocks to the south. Weary Red Cross workers on their way to pick up supplies. Groups of young children with their teachers. A band of Buddhist nuns who stood and prayed outside the gallery for hours. Actors. Stock-brokers. Janitors. Chefs. Homeless men and women. All standing together to witness one another's memories.

The exhibit ran through the beginning of 2002. The gallery began printing and selling the photos, donating all proceeds to the Children's Aid Society. By Christmas Eve, the gallery had sold more than 30,000 prints. A book was produced. Eventually a comprehensive website was created, where every photograph was archived and made available to the public. A video archive of oral histories joined the photographic archive online. The original exhibit toured the United States for nearly a year.

And it grew and grew and grew.

This project - called Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs - is still available online in its entirety.

Go. Look. Witness. Remember.

It is raw.

It is unforgiving.

And it is, frankly, one of the greatest visual arguments against ever making war on other human beings that I have ever seen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On my nightstand at the moment:

Well, not actually on my nightstand, as Stinkyboy tends to shred anything paper that I leave unattended. Let's say that these are stacked atop a teetering stack of books and papers in a place so inaccessible that even Stinkyboy cannot reach it.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett (forthcoming, March 2009): How can you not love this story? A man, bored to tears with his day job and stuck with a hellish underground commute (I so feel your pain, Peter!) decides to write the great American fantasy novel...on his cellphone! (You think I'm making this up? I am not, sir!) Anyway, this is the first in what promises to be a crack-tastic three-book series. Also? Go read his blog, cos he's a funny guy. Anyone who can write an entire 423-page novel on a cell phone would have be blessed with a sense of humor. And, uh, calluses.

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan (forthcoming January 2009):
Fantasy tropes will get their collective asses kicked and then handed back to them on a platter heaped full of steaming awesome in Morgan's first foray into what Nicola Griffith affectionately calls "sword-swangin' fantasy." I seriously heart Richard Morgan and have been begging his editor for a copy of this ARC since Hillary Clinton was still a contender. It was finally hand-delivered to me at lunch last week and I subsequently built a little altar to it in my living room.

Cyndere's Midnight by Jeffrey Overstreet (on shelves now; go buy one immediately!): Last year I had the great good fortune to become acquainted with Jeffrey Overstreet's first novel, Auralia's Colors. It went something like this: Michael Palgon, Associate Publisher of Doubleday, hands me a copy of Publishers Weekly with a review circled in red. "This might be up your alley," he says. "Our sister company publishes it." I read the review; it's amazing. I must read this book. Beg Michael to get me a copy of the book. He does. I read it in one sitting. Email Jeffrey to basically say "Holy shit on a shingle, you wrote a great book and what the heck are you doing being published at a Christian publishing house?" And he writes back, and we have a nice chat about books and faith and publicity and coffee and somehow we end up becoming pals. Turns out? Jeffrey is a prominent Christian film reviewer. Okay, now you're rolling your eyes and I'm about to lose my audience, I can see that but bear with me for moment because I need to say this: Jeffrey's Christianity bears no resemblance to what I tend to call "Jesus Chrispie Crazies" (or what John Scalzi politely refers to as "The Leviticans"). Jeffrey's kind of Christianity is the kind you might actually find the big JC practicing should he ever get around to putting in an appearance at the Second Coming (film at eleven). Ya know, the whole love your neighbor thing? Not all Christians are created equal so no judging. Just cause the haters get all the press doesn't mean everyone with faith supports Fred Phelps. (And, by the way? I'm going to keep waving these damned books at you until you run out to buy multiple copies of them just to shut me the hell up.)

Another comics line bites the dust.

Just one month after word came down from on high that the short-lived Virgin Comics line was closing down* comes news of yet another good comics imprint folding. DC/Vertigo's Minx line was geared toward the same teenage girl audience as highly popular Japanese shojo manga, mixing imaginative storylines with cutting-edge artwork to create some of the best new comics available today. There's more on the announcement here, here and here. Sigh...

*BTW, today the announcement came that Virgin Comics was sold to Liquid Comics. Let's hope they'll resurrect some of those great properties.

Guillermo del Toro to publish a vampire trilogy with William Morrow.

Now, this is exciting! From today's Publishers Marketplace:
Director Guillermo del Toro trilogy of vampire thrillers, written with Chuck Hogan, beginning with THE STRAIN, about an invasion of New York by a vampiric virus, for publication in summer 2009, to David Highfill at William Morrow, by Richard Abate at Endeavor, with manager Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment and attorney George Hayum (world).

Note to self:

Do not leave razor laying face-up next to bar of slippery soap in shower.

::: runs off to stop bleeding again :::

If ever there were a match made in heaven...

Tim Burton, Alice in Wonderland and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

I don't think my heart can take so much excitement.

(PS: If you are a fan of pop culture, anime, comic, manga, gaming or j-pop, you should be subscribed to ICv2's wonderful - and free - daily email blast, from whence this story came. Yes, I just blogged the word whence.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Excellent interview with agent Jennifer Jackson.

Over at what is rapidly becoming one of my favorite new writing blogs (Novelists, Inc.), there is a really wonderful interview with agent Jennifer Jackson.

In one of her answers, she touches on something that I think may be the single most important thing that an author needs to know to become a better writer:
What is the biggest mistake you think writers today typically make in the genres you represent?

Not reading widely enough. Not just in their own genre, but out of it as well; and non-fiction too. I know in this fast-paced world, one never feels they have enough time. I have to work at it to find time to read more than just submissions myself. But I think it’s important for writers to also participate in the community as readers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The subject is steampunk.

Heather Massey over at the amazing SF/F blog The Galaxy Express is talking about steampunk this week: the culture, the genre, the film, the books, the comics, the art, the fashion, and the cosplay. As she says, steampunk is the new black.

Heather very kindly asked to include an interview with yours truly for the second part of her steampunk feature, where I get to gleefully talk up some of my favorite steampunk novels. In addition to an interview with me, she links to myriad great steampunk resources and lots of free reads. Check it out!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

J. Peterman has a blog. (No, I'm not kidding.)

Okay, try to follow me here:

J. Peterman was a catalog retailer famous for selling odd and romanticized clothing in a catalog that featured sketches and purple prose about the exploits of the retailer's founder, John Peterman. In the mid-90s, Seinfeld parodied John Peterman and his catalog business by creating a pompous character named Jacopo (J.) Peterman, who ran a similar catalog clothing business where the character Elaine worked. J. Peterman was portrayed by famous character actor John O'Hurley. In 1999, the actual J. Peterman went bankrupt and sold the catalog company to another company, Paul Harris Stores. One year later, Paul Harris Stores also went bankrupt. John Peterman raised capital and bought back his business. His business partner? John O'Hurley, the actor who had portrayed him on Seinfeld.

This is all a round-about way of telling you:
J. Peterman has a blog. And it's utterly fascinating!

"But I liked the old cardboard scratching post."

Stinkyboy has decided that the shiny new cardboard scratching board that I bought him is not nearly as wonderful as the old cardboard scratching board that I put into the recycling bin two days ago. Thus, Stinkyboy is now living inside the recycling bin. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Exhibit A:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday, September 19, 2008

Everyday is Christmas for the cats.

Stinkyboy and Buddy are pretty much having a day filled with awesome. On the way home from a lovely - and long overdue! - dinner/catch-up gossip with my pal Andrew Wheeler, I stopped by Petco.

This is what Our Feline Overlords scored today: New cardboard scratching post, liberally doused with catnip. New soft leather cat toy shaped eerily like a large rat. Also liberally doused with catnip. Lots of cans of Nutro Seafood and Tomato Bisque cat food (Stinky's favorite). A ginormous bag of Nutro Max Cat dry food (also their favorite; they've not been happy with the Iams dry I bought last time). A bag of tasty Greenies for their teeth. And, last but not least -- a brand new Furminator. (Their old one was lost in the move. Alas!) We have just spent thirty minutes accumulating a wad of loose cat hair as big as my head.

And Stinky has already barfed on the kitchen floor, so I know he's a satisfied customer.

Really, who needs kids?

Query Update (and stuff)

Very brief updates:

Queries: I am - more or less - caught up on e-queries through September 1st (and in most cases, all the way up through September 17th). Some of you may have noticed that my turnaround time has improved significantly. Being able to read email on the Palm Centro while I'm commuting has drastically increased my productivity; I read and respond to an average of 35 queries on my daily subway commute. Not bad! If your query doesn't contain funky formatting, I can download it onto my Centro and take it with me. But queries with funky formatting or overly long queries don't translate well on the Centro so I wait to read those queries at home, thus the delayed response times to some of you. (A smart person would have put two and two together by now and come to the realization that, yes, I spend more time underground in the subway than I do in my own apartment. Tragic!)

So, if you've queried me before September 1st, and did not receive a response, it's possible I didn't see your query. Either that, or your query came with an unsolicited attachment and was discarded without being read. Feel free to to re-query; make sure you have no attachments that I did not specifically request. (Graphic novel queries, as always, being the exception - please refer to my submission guidelines.)

Partials & Fulls: Mea culpa! Very behind! I've had a lot of client reading to do, and that always takes priority. I'm getting through these slowly but surely and hope to have a response back to everyone from before September 1st by the end of this weekend.

World Peace: Well, chocolate may help. I'm not sure about this one.

Fringe: Nothing can save this show. It is utterly dreadful. Best to avoid at all costs and Netflix old X-Files episodes.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrrrrr!

As ye scurvey blights may well know from th' abuse o' commas an' th' letter "rrrrrrrr" around th' web, today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, aarrrrrr. (I'm still hoping that someone will institute International Talk Like Saul Tigh Day. I imagine it would involve a lot of squinting and a lot of incoherent mumbling, culminating in the inevitable battle cry: "It's in the frakkin' SHIP!" Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

So, to help ye' w' the merry-makin' and seein' to it that nothing comes out o' yer bung hole what ain't proper piratical speeech, here be a pirate talk translator. (Aye, me hearties, and ye' can be settin' yer Facebook to talk like a pirate, too.) Arrrrrr!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The two best things salvaged from two of the absolute worst movies I've ever seen.

In lieu of actual content, you get these two music videos. (Now these songs will be stuck in your head all weekend, just like they've been stuck in mine for the past 48 hours.)

This is Not America by David Bowie, with the Pat Metheny Group
(from the soundtrack to The Falcon and the Snowman)



Bring Me to Life by Evanesence, with Paul McCoy
(from the soundtrack to Daredevil)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Missing 23 NYC school teacher Hannah Upp
found alive.

Good news for the family of 23-year old NYC school teacher Hannah Upp, who has been missing since August 29th. She's alive and well.

It's a bizarre story: she was apparently found in the water just off the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, having jumped from the pier. She was rescued by deckhands of the John J. Marchi ferry and taken to the hospital in Staten Island.

From reading the story, it appears that Ms. Upp may be suffering from some sort of emotional problem. Luckily she was found and taken someplace safe before anything terrible happened. Hopefully her family will be able to get her some help.

Really glad this story has a happy ending.

The Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator

Via Nicola Griffith (who is obviously looking for ways to procrastinate instead of finishing her big-ass historical novel - ahem!), a link to this ridiculous (and funny) time-waster: The Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator. Because, let's face it, Ms. Palin has some come up with some interesting names for her kids: Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper.

Ever wonder what your name would be if Sarah Palin had been your mom?

Well, my name would have been Fire Patriot Palin. Stinkyboy would have been named Stoppage Lead Palin, and Buddy-Cat would have been named Rock Crane Palin. (That's kind of an awesome name for a cat, though, doncha' think?)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Call for new linkity links!
What's missing from my blogroll?

As you may have noticed, I haven't been adding much or updating my various link collections over on the sidebar. And I'm sure that some of them have moved or gone defunct. More importantly, I'm sure I'm missing some great sites that should have a link here.

So here's a public call for links: What's missing? What should be added? Have you noticed any broken links? Leave suggestions in the comments field below.

Criteria for adding: has to be related to books in general, publishing related (including publisher blogs), SF/F (or any sub-genre thereof), YA books, queer books, good author blogs, awesome web-comics and/or ridiculous things that will make me laugh. (Because I need more reasons to procrastinate.) Also any blogs on indie music or NYC that you think I'll like.

Heck, YOU read this blog. You know what I'm interested in.

Hit me, kids!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"I can see Russia from my house!" or,
Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, redux.

Yeah, nailed that one.

Kelly Gay breaks up with her coffee maker.
Lifetime Channel film to follow shortly.

My client Kelly Gay writes a Dear John letter to her Mister Coffee machine.

Kameron Hurley shares her query letter
for God's War

Another author pops into the blogosphere with a public query letter. This time it's my blogging pal Kameron Hurley, who shares her wonderful query letter for her forthcoming book God's War (and two sequels), a query that helped her land a relationship with her current agent extraordinaire, Jennifer Jackson. Jennifer then turned around and sold God's War + the sequels to Juliet Ulman at Bantam. (By the way, you can read Jennifer's comments on Kameron's query letter here. Interesting stuff.)

I read an early draft of God's War about two years ago and lemme tell ya, Kameron can write circles around most people. Her ideas are wholly unique, free from the tropes and cliches that bog down the work of most new writers. Indeed, I think she's invented a whole new kind of SF/F punk writing: sand punk. (She likes to think of it as bug punk, but really, it's all about the sand, man!) Think of it as steam punk but in a desert setting, with insect-based technology instead of thaumaturgy and alchemy. (And, much to my happiness, the book is entirely devoid of wizards and elves.)

Seriously, if this is the first time you've heard of her, make a note: Kameron Hurley is going places, and, yeah, her book is just that good.

* Kameron also keeps a pretty wonderful blog that is always interesting, except when she's talking about My Little Pony, and then it just veers into scary.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Query Project: Fourteen writers share query letters that landed them an agent or editor

Joshua Palmatier, the man who brought you The Plot Synopsis Project, has organized another useful writer's show & tell: The Query Project. He's gathered fourteen extraordinary writers and asked them to share their query letters with you, queries that landed each of them an agent or an editor. They've also included their own commentary on the feedback received from the agent or editor.

Here's a link to the participating writers. Go explore!
Paul Crilley
Chris Dolley
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Gregory Frost
Simon Haynes
Jackie Kessler
Glenda Larke
John Levitt
Joshua Palmatier
Janni Lee Simner
Maria V. Snyder
Jennifer Stevenson
Edward Willett
David J. Williams

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Let the wild rumpus start!"

At eighty years of age, iconic children's book illustrator Maurice Sendak has finally come out of the closet. (The Wild Things were reported to be quite pleased.)

There's a hole in the sky where
the world used to be.

Personally, I still haven't quite reconciled myself to this new skyline.

In case you never had a chance to read it, here's a link to Rick Bowes' magnificent short story, There's A Hole In The City.


Peace to all of you who lost a loved one on that terrible Tuesday morning.

Well, that was a weird dream.

Okay, you know you're overly tired when you finally go to sleep and dream that you and Katee Sackhoff are racing ten-speed bikes together really fast down the Embarcadero in San Francisco, both of you wearing ridiculous neon green helmets and singing Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" together at the top of your lungs. Oh, and you're dodging the BABY TYRANNOSAURUS REX that keeps leaping out at you from behind parked cars. While giant blocks of metal shaped like Legos keep falling out of the sky and landing near you with dramatic thumps.

Dear universe: Seriously, WTF?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Patrick Rothfuss on David Anthony Durham.

Patrick Rothfuss discussing David Anthony Durham. Funny stuff.

Also, in case you didn't know, Acacia is now available in mass market. If you like intelligent fantasy and you haven't read Acacia, well...I don't even know what to say to that. It's like telling me you like Scotch but haven't tried Balvenie or Laphroaig. It's criminal, really.

Do you want to make David Anthony Durham's nine year old daughter Maya cry??? No, I didn't think so. So get off your asses and go buy a copy of Acacia right this very second. Or, ya know, STAY on your asses and buy one online.

These are Maya's cats, by the way. She is very artistic. (As is John Scalzi's daughter, apparently!) La Gringa thinks theses cats should be on a t-shirt.

Pimpin' Your Book:
More of your questions answered...

More questions from the comments section:
Q: I'm wondering if the marketing team would object to an author engaging in that sort of shameless self-promotion? I was actually thinking of posters and personalized trinkets that relate to the book in some way. Or would that be considered stepping on their toes?
A: It really depends upon what you want to have made, but most likely - as long as you're footing the bill - the marketing and publicity folks would probably love you for making your own giveaways. It's always best to have a conversation with them first, however, because they may be able to tell you what they think would be most useful and what would be a complete waste of your time. (For example: I'll tell you from experience that - unless you are a children's book illustrator or a comic book artist - posters are pretty much a lost cause. They're hard to give away, take a up a lot of counter space, difficult to transport easily and most often end up in the garbage can at conventions and book shows. There is also the inevitability of your forgetting to provide rubber bands, a minor but annoying poster-faux pas.) Additionally, they may be able to send out some of your giveaway material with a galley mailing or finished copy mailing. But do understand that you'll need to find a way to distribute the majority of the materials on your own.

Q: I'm wondering how exactly one would go about breaking into a career in book publicity? I know there's not one direct route, but I'd love to hear your story since it's a career I'd really like to explore.

A: I don't know that there's any one way to break into a job in book publicity. I came to publishing after having first worked for many years as a bookseller and events manager at various independent bookstores in the San Francisco Bay Area. I started in sales and marketing, and eventually moved over to publicity. That's one way of doing it. (FYI, a lot of people from sales, marketing and publicity break into publishing this way, so I'm hardly unique.) Another way is to apply for an internship at a publisher, or what they call "the associates program" at Random House. (Other publishers may have this as well; I'm only familiar with RH's.) The difference between an associate and an intern is that an associate moves around to various departments over the course of a year, so as to get a feel for all parts of the publishing process; an intern usually stays within just one department for the course of the summer or a semester. Publishers frequently hire assistants from the intern or associates pool if there is an opening. There are a lot of resources for someone seeking an entry-level position in publishing: Bookjobs, MediaBistro, and Publishers Marketplace are really places to start. Additionally, you can explore the websites of individual publishers; they usually have a careers sections somewhere online. Good luck!

Q: I'd like to learn more about what goes into creating covers & titles from the marketing department's perspective.

A. I'd love to be able to help you with this but the truth is that I had very little to do with the jacket design of any of the books I promoted. I'd point and say "Pretty, pretty, shiny!" or "OMFG, what were you thinking?" if asked, but that's about it. Anyone out there know anything about the mysterious world of book jacket feng shui???

Q: Do any of the trades actually review mass market paperback originals whether from bound galleys, ARC, or finished books? I've always thought mm were very close to the bottom of the reviewer's heap.

A: Yes, absolutely, the trades (Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Library Journal) all review mass market originals if they get a galley or manuscript early enough to do so (at least three months prior to pub date). And Publishers Weekly even has a whole section that focuses only on mass market reviews.
Keep the questions coming!

(And, NO, I'm not ignoring the online questions. Cross my heart! I'm just trying to work all of the answers into one larger piece so that I don't accidentally leave anything out.)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pimpin' Your Book: The Economics of the Average Bookstore Event

So why is it that more and more publishers are relying less on the traditional author bookstore tour? Why are bookstore tours (with some exceptions) considered to be costly and ineffective? This is why:
Okay, let's say that you're a bookseller and want to host Author X at your store. Author X is pretty popular these days and everyone wants him, so the publisher may ask you to put together a proposal for the event. In the proposal, you'll outline in great detail all of the awesome stuff you plan to do to promote the Author X event. You'll also make a promise to bring in a certain number of copies for the event. A few weeks (sometimes months) go by and then you hear from your sales rep that the publicity department has okayed sending Author X to your store for an event.

Now you start promoting. Of course you'll place an announcement in all the free local online and print calendars, but that's not enough. You promised the publisher a certain amount of promotion for the event so now you're going to spend money promoting the event via your print and online newsletter, and probably place some sort of advertising in a local paper. You'll create in-store signage that is visible and prominently placed. (The publisher may also throw in a 24 x 26 foam-core blow-up of the book jacket that may or may not be destroyed by the time it arrives.) Let's say that all of this (except the foam-core sign) comes to about $400 (a low estimate, btw). Let’s count the cost of the extra two booksellers you add to the schedule to work the event (We won’t count the salary of the event manager). 4 hours x $9 an hour x 2 persons = $72. Now let's say that you order in 120 copies of the book. This is an optimistic order but you don't want to disappoint the author or the publisher, so you bring in enough books to create decorative stacks around the store.

So let's add things up: 120 copies of the book x $13.18 (the cost of the $24.95 book less your retailer's discount) comes to $1581.60. So far this event has cost the bookstore $2053.60 and it hasn't even started yet.

Now let's cut over to the publisher's end. The publicist must provide for Author X the following things: airfare - and remember that these are usually one-way tickets as the publicist is rarely flying an author back to the airport of origin after the event - $475; hotel room in city of event - $250; meals for day of event - $100 per diem; media escort for day of event (a media escort picks up the author at the airport and gets the author to and from all engagements while in the media escort's city) - $300. Oh, and hey! That foam core blow-up of the book jacket that I mentioned above? That bad boy is $100. So far the publisher has spent $1225 and this is one of the less expensive cities on the tour.

However, on night of the event, the store actually sells only 43 copies of the book (which is actually a higher than average number for an event), which brings in $1072.85 (43 x $24.95, the cover price of the book). The author signs another 30 for stock, and the bookstore returns the rest. We're assuming that the 30 he just signed for stock will sell, by the way. They usually do. So that another $748.50; gross earnings for the night = $1821.35. Now let's adjust the expenditures to account for the books returned: 73 books x $13.18 = $962.14 + $400 for promotion and $72 for the employees. Total actual cost of this event = $1434.14.

The net profit to the bookstore for this event? $387.21, which isn’t all that much when you consider the enormous effort expended. In reality, a bookstore would like to see about three times that amount for each event.

The publisher, however, which has spent $1225 to get the author to the event, has recouped only $962.14, making their net loss $262.86. (They’ll probably lose even more that if you consider that many publishers now also pay freight costs.) Consider that the average bookstore tour is usually eight to ten cities, and well, that's a considerable chunk of cash to throw away.

Does this mean all bookstore events are a waste of time and money? No, not at all. There's a lot to be said for authors partnering up with local booksellers to organize in-store events if the author is willing to do some serious self-promotion to get people into the store. Electronic mailing lists, blogs, handing out flyers, designing postcards or bookmarks for the store to give away. The more you're willing to really partner with a bookstore and meet them halfway with promotion to help them save money, the more likely you'll not only have a successful event but be invited back to do another for your next book.

Sometimes it's even worth losing some money on a series of events to help build strong word of mouth for an author whose career the publisher hopes to build over time. But this only works for the right author, however, a true extrovert who's also a dynamic speaker, someone charismatic who knows how to play to an audience. And sending authors on tour is often a solid way for publishers to build good will with bookstores and other partner retailers.

So what kind of books do warrant a big bookstore or media tour? Usually the best candidates for a finacially successful bookstore/media tour are the authors of news-worthy non-fiction (Thomas Friedman, Ron Suskind), celebrity authors (Bill Clinton) or best-selling writers who already have a large following of their own (J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, David Sedaris). These kinds of events can draw as many as 500-1,000 people at a time and are usually held in conjunction with national media appearances of some kind, making every moment of the tour pay for itself.

For the most part, however, you won't need a book tour to do effective book publicity. Thanks to the viral nature of the Internet, you can do an interview via a blog, podcast, streaming audio or YouTube and generate far more exposure for your book than a booksigning in Denver, Seattle or Minneapolis that may draw only 32 people. (And your luggage will thank you!)

Hey, writers! Please take this (very short) survey on author self-promotion!

My colleagues and I have been curious as to how published (or about to be published) authors out there approach the idea of self-promotion. Do you hate it? Do you love it? Would you be willing to do more of it if you had the right tools or knowledge? (Or, ya know, enough coffee?)

To that end, we've put together a very short survey - ten questions - and we'd really appreciate it if the writers amongst you would take the time to answer our questions. Thanks very much!

(And please feel free to re-post this link on your own blogs or websites. The more the merrier! The survey will stay active for 30 days.)
Take the survey now!

Pimpin' Your Book: The Economics of the Galley, or Why You Can't Have a Zillion Copies, Thanks!

Going into a little more depth on galleys/ARCs:
As I mentioned yesterday, most new books will have a galley (or Advanced Reader Copy) created. And as I also mentioned yesterday, not all books are treated equally. The number of galleys will depend upon the distribution of said galleys, how much the publisher is willing to pony up for said galleys, and - ultimately - how much the publisher initially ponied up for your book.

For example, lets say that the sales department wants 450 galleys to mail to independent booksellers, and another 650 to go to a Barnes & Noble Managers meeting. The publicity department would like 250 to send to reviewers, bloggers and long-lead media. The marketing department would like 300 to send to a special book club mailing. The author wants 50 to send to friends for quotes and blurbs and just in general to show off and say "Lookee here, I iz a published author!" An SF/F or romance convention may request 100 to use as door prizes, giveaways or auction items. The agent is going to ask for 20 copies as well. And then a copy of the galley goes to every bleeding person associated with the book, from the publisher to the production manager, which comes to another 50 galleys or so. (By the way, these last 50 copies are the ones that most often end up on the giveaway cart or in the garbage. Sad but true.)

So, right there, you've already got 1420 galleys needed, and that's not even a large galley run. (A large galley run is when you have the great good fortune to have your book picked for distribution at Book Expo; a galley run could then run into as many as 6,000 copies.)

Now let's do the math:

A galley costs roughly $6.75 to $8.00 to create, depending upon page count. For the sake of this post, lets split the difference and say that this galley costs $7.25 to produce. So, 1420 x $7.25 = $10,295 just for galleys. This number is run by the marketing director or associate publisher; he or she balks and cuts are made. Why does the author need so many? You copies are cut in half. Why do the indies need so many? Send to the top 150 stores, not the top 450. Why does publicity need so many? Cut to 125, send only to long lead periodicals and then use finished books for a later mailing to reviewers and bloggers. (FYI, a finished book costs about one-third the price of a galley, so using finished books is a hell of a lot cheaper than using galleys to promote.) Why does the agent need ANY? Cut to zero. Agent throws temper tantrum, raise back to 10 copies.

You see where I'm going with this. It always comes down to the bottom line.

When does a book not get a galley?
  • When the manuscript comes in too late (this has happened and is invariably the author's fault - authors, pay attention to editorial deadlines!)
  • When the book is a mass market original: not all publishers produce galleys for MM originals. As an author, however, you are welcome to request one; often they will oblige you.
  • When a book is a trade paper or mass market reprint.
What do you do if your publisher hasn't produced a galley for your mass market original?
  • Ask your publicist (nicely!) to - at the very least - send bound manuscripts to the trades. They'll review from bound manuscripts as long as the pertinent publication information is included (title, author, publisher, ISBN, pub date, price, contact info of publicist, page count, format, and one paragraph summary).
My publisher will only give me fifteen copies of my galley and I need more for my friends and family!
  • No, you really don't. Galleys serve a very specific purpose in promoting your book and they are extremely expensive to produce, so for that reason alone, authors and agents are limited to only what is absolutely necessary. If for some reason you feel you'll need more than a couple dozen galleys, you'll need to let your editor know well in advance of your publication date and then you should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket for the extra print run.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pimpin' Your Book:
How to work effectively with your publicist

As promised, more of your questions answered. Today we're focusing on how you can learn to work effectively with your publicist instead of shooting yourself in the foot:
Q: I'd like to know what would be expected of a new author determined to help all she can, and when she (me) would just be getting in the way. I know not to attempt to draw my own cover art, what else might be a faux pas?

A: Really great question. Yes, indeed, sometimes an author can be overly helpful. And overly helpful author can sometimes be more frustrating to a publicist than an author who refuses to do any promotion at all. At least in the latter case, the publicist isn't being interrupted all day by a barrage of phone calls and emails.

First you need to understand what the window of time is for your book project; that's the time where your publicist is actively (or sometimes, not so actively) promoting your book. Here's a rough timeline of how publicity works (and do keep in mind that every publishing house is slightly different so this by no means should be taken as gospel):
  • Initial conversation with publicist: The timing of this can vary. If the publisher is planning to send you on tour for your book, this conversation may happen as far out as a year before publication. After all, they'll need to ascertain your availability and give you ample time to arrange for time off from a day job, if need be. They'll also need time to get your event booked into various bookstore calendars, which usually needs to happen about six months before pubdate. If, however, you aren't be sent on a book tour, this conversation usually happens about 4-6 months prior to pub date.
  • Author questionnaire: Sometime during the above time frame, you'll receive an author questionnaire (most publishers send one, but not all). This questionnaire may come from the marketing department, your editor or your publicist, depending upon the publisher. The purpose of the questionnaire is get as much useful information about you, your book and any possible media contacts you may have as possible. It helps determine where to send the galleys, where to pitch you for local (and possibly national) media, and what kinds of things the marketing department might successfully try to promote your book. Don't ignore this questionnaire!
  • Author photo: Again, sometime during the above time frame, you will be asked for a high-res head shot for an author photo. Some authors are under the mistaken impression that a publisher will send a photographer out to your house for a photo shoot. If you're Stephen King, James Patterson or J. K. Rowling, this might happen. Otherwise, this is your responsibility. (Read your book contract; it says so right there.)
  • 4-6 months prior to pubdate: galleys sent to book trades
  • 3-5 months prior to pubdate: remainder of galleys sent to long-lead media, magazines, newspapers and any other appropriate media
  • 6 weeks prior to pubdate: Finished books are in the warehouse, finished book mailing w/ press release and/or press kit goes out to short-lead media, online reviewers, local and national media (TV and radio) and anyone else that may have been left off that initial mailing.
  • 6 weeks prior to pub date through 6 weeks after pubdate: Active window of publicity. This is the time during which your publicist will be focusing on your book, doing follow up calls to reviewers and media, booking interviews for you, keeping the sales force informed about breaking publicity news for your title, and generally trying to keep your book in front of the media and sales force. Communication with your publicist will vary from conversations every day (sometimes several times a day if you are on tour) to weekly updates. Your interaction with your publicist really depends on the amount of media coverage your publicist is able to get for the book; they'll need to touch base with you to fit interviews into your schedule and let you know of any new confirmed reviews.
  • 6 weeks after pub date: Your publicist is now actively moving onto other book projects. Unless your book is in the Top Ten of the New York Times bestseller list, or unless you are on an extended tour (for example, when I toured Matthew Stover for the book tie-in for Star Wars Episode III, he was on tour for 32 days straight, which meant that the active window of publicity was considerably longer than normal), you will be expected to start handling your own publicity. Communication will start drying up. It's perfctly okay to contact your publicist during this time if you have questions or need advice on something, but you shouldn't be hounding him/her for new interviews and/or reviews. This is the time period during which many authors become "that annoying author". Don't become that author!
  • 3 months after pubdate: Your book publicity is effectively in your own hands from now on. Start thinking about the following things for your next book: what worked for you, what didn't, what would you change if possible, were there any publicity opportunities that you think were missed, was there anything that surprised you (in a good way!), etc... When you have your initial conversation with your publicist (who may or may not be the same publicist, by the way - every house differs) for your next book, have your post-mortem in front of you for easy reference. When I worked with Terry Brooks at Del Rey, this was always the first conversation we had when planning for the next book, and it was extraordinarily helpful for me in planning his upcoming publicity campaign.
So what can you do to work most effectively with your publicist? How can you make it easier for your publicist to do his/her job promoting your book?
  • Get your author questionnaire back as soon as possible, filled out as completely as possible. This is the time for you to let your publicist know if you'd like copies of your book sent to specific personal contacts for either quotes or reviews. (And this shouldn't need saying, but I'm saying it anyway: do not list Oprah. You will lose all respect and your questionnaire will be passed around and laughed at for all eternity. Spare yourself this, please.)
  • Let your publicist know as far in advance as possible your travel and personal schedule. If you will be unavailable for interviews on a certain day because it's your child's birthday or something, let your publicist know. If you are planning any travel at all, let your publicist know. Even if your publisher won't send you on a tour, your publicist may be able to set up a bookstore event or some local interviews in the city you'll be in. S/he'll also be able to arrange for you to do stock signings at local bookstores. If you are planning to attend a writing conference or convention, let your publicist know in advance. S/he not only can try to get you some panel programming or set up an event, s/he can also let the sales force know that you'll be in that city so that they can be sure there are books in the bookstores. Here's an example: fantasy author Greg Keyes is also a tournament-class fencer; he frequently travels to fencing competitions all around the country. When I worked with him as his publicist, I always tried to set up at least one bookstore event or local interview in the cities where the competitions were held. And if you having speaking engagements coming up, let your publicist know!
  • Get a cell phone: Yes, I know that some of you have an aversion to cell phones. Get over it. When your publicist needs to get hold of you to see about scheduling an interview, s/he doesn't want to keep a reviewer, feature writer or producer waiting until you get home to check your messages. That's a great way to lose an interview altogether. If you're on a book tour, you absolutely must have a cell phone. Plans change, flights get delayed, interviews get postponed. You need to be accessible at all times. Get a cell phone.
  • Have access to email: I've worked with authors who insist on doing everything by telephone. It's time consuming and leaves no paper trail in case you need to access information later or need details of an interview in writing.
  • Hire a professional to shoot your author photo: As sad as this may be, author image sells a book every bit as much as the content of that book. Having a great head shot for your book jacket can only work in your favor. It may be tempting to have your wife or brother-in-law or that Pakistani guy who runs the bodega down the street take a photo of you to save money, but you get what you pay for, and a professional head shot is well worth the money you'll spend. Make sure that when you do this, however, that you own the negatives or digital files. Get this in writing. Otherwise, your publisher will need to keep purchasing the rights to use the photo from the photographer, and that leads to a very annoyed art department.
  • Don't be a prima donna: Nobody likes a prima donna. Think about about what you're asking for before you ask. Is it really necessary or did someone tell you that this is what you're supposed to ask for as an author? Difficult, high-maintenance authors develop a reputation with publicists, booksellers, producers, media escorts and other authors. How do you know if you're behaving like a prima donna? Take this easy quiz: You're on book tour, have just arrived at the airport in Los Angeles at 8:00 PM and your car service hasn't arrived to pick up to take you to your hotel. You A.) pick up the cell phone and call your publicist at home in New York (where it is 11:00 PM), complain vociferously and wait for s/he to call the car service company to find out what happened, B.) hail a cab to take you to your hotel, save your recipt for reimbursement later, check in and after doing so, call your publicist's work number to leave a message letting him or her know about the mix-up with the car service. If you chose option A, congratulations! You're a prima donna! If you chose option B, you're a normal, rational adult, capable of surviving your first book tour without having your hand held. Does the publicist need to know that the car service screwed up? Absolutely! Does the publicist need to know this at 11:00 PM at night? Probably not.
  • Understand the hierarchy of publishing and to whom specific questions should be directed: The only questions that you should be asking your publicist are those having to do with publicity, ie, questions having to do with interviews, reviews, book tours, press materials, getting books to event venues, requests to send a book to a specific reviewer, etc. If you want to know how your book is selling, you ask your editor. If you want to talk about ways to best utilize your massive website email list, you talk to the marketing department. If you are getting calls from friends who are not seeing your book in bookstores after pub date, you call your editor who will inform the sales department. If you are doing a local event and notice that the bookstore in question has no display copies of your book, you call your publicist. You see the difference? And if you don't like a review of your book that you just saw on Amazon.com, well, you don't call anyone. There's nothing your publisher can do about that. Just suck it up and move on.
  • If you hire an outside publicist, be sure that s/he and your in-house publicist are communicating: There's nothing worse than finding out that a freelance publicist is duplicating your hard work. Make sure that your freelance publicist is in constant communication with your in-house publicist. Have them coordinate who will be working on what part of your campaign. For example, your freelance publicist may be focusing on getting you online and podcast interviews while your in-house publicist focuses on radio and print media.
  • Do not ever - I repeat - DO NOT EVER contact a reviewer on your own: You may be tempted to reach out to a particular reviewer to whom your publicist has sent a copy of your book, in order to "helpfully" follow-up with that reviewer about your book. Don't. Do. This. Ever. It is incredibly unprofessional and can result in your books never being reviewed by that particular reviewer again. Additionally, you may be tempted to ask for a list of all the places your publicist has sent your book. This is perfectly acceptable but understand that if your publicist sends you this list, s/he will do so without attaching any contact information. This is for two reasons: 1.) to protect the privacy of the reviewer/producer and prevent what I mentioned in the first sentence, and 2.) this information is proprietary and confidential; giving out contact information could result in your publicist being fired. (Likewise, as an unpublished author, you should never reach out to follow-up with an editor to whom your agent has submitted your manuscript; this is one of the biggest mistakes a potential writer could ever make.)
  • Keep your agent in the loop: Your agent is your advocate; keep him/her in the loop about anything going on with your book, including publicity and marketing plans. Too often an agent won't know about a potential problem until it's too late for the problem to be fixed. If your publisher wants you to come in and meet with the publicity and marketing folks, ideally your agent should accompany you. If you are having problems communicating with your editor or publicist, you need to let your agent know. Handling these kinds of situations is part of our job. Before you go to your publicist's supervisor, go to your agent. Your agent can try to remedy the situation first, and if not, then s/he can go to your publicist's supervisor on your behalf. We work for you; let us do our jobs.
  • Don't be afraid to share your publicity and marketing ideas; just do it the right way: If you have ideas for marketing and promoting and publicizing your book, share them with your publisher. Ideally, you should do this early on, in a written document that you send to your editor, who should then send it on to the marketing and publicity department. You can always ask your publicist if s/he received it. Schedule a telephone appointment to go over your ideas with publicity and marketing. (Hopefully, your editor and agent will be included on this phone call.) If some of your ideas are shot down, accept it gracefully and move on. Your publisher may not have the time or budget to implement all of your ideas. Likewise, some of your ideas may not be the kind of promotions that your publisher feels will drive sales. And selling your book is the whole point. And some of your ideas may just be plain stupid. (Hey, it happens to the best of us!) Also, don't be afraid to ask for certain things: postcards and bookmarks are fairly inexpensive and easy to produce; more often than not the marketing department will say yes.
  • Don't be afraid to communicate with your publicist; just do it the right way: Don't call your publicist several times a day with new questions. Don't send your publicist more than one email a day. Instead, gather up as many of your questions as possible into one email, and then wait for an answer before sending off another. If your publicist hasn't responded within 24 hours, it is perfectly acceptable to leave a voicemail message follow-up. As a publicist, I received upwards of three hundred emails a day. Sending ten or twenty angsty/helpful/"hey, I've got an idea!" emails a day to your publicist will not help your book campaign, and can frequently hurt it, as your publicist is spending valuable time - time that s/he should using to pitch your book to media - placating a needy author. [See above re: prima donna.]
  • Don't forget to say thank you: It's not necessary to buy your publicist or editor or marketing person a gift. But it's absolutely proper to send a thank-you note or email after your campaign is over. And you'd be surprised at how often authors don't do this. Say thank you. It'll go a very long way toward earning you respect as a professional.
Okay, I thinks that's about all I can think of right now, but as always, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments field. And if you are a publicist or marketing professional, please feel free to add your own tips; I'll add them to the post above!

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

My colleague Amy Tipton is a wonderful agent for YA books. Last October, Amy sold Courtney Summers' first novel Cracked Up To Be to Sara Goodman at St. Martin's Press. It was Amy's first book sale, Sara's first acquisition as an editor and, of course, Courtney's first book.

Third time's the charm, as they say, and these three first-timers together shaped one terrific book. Here's the new book trailer for Cracked Up To Be:

Kelly Gay guest-blogging at Fantasy Debut

Just popping in to let you know that my client Kelly Gay is doing something interesting over at Tia Nevitt's great book blog Fantasy Debut. Tia has asked Kelly to write about the experience of having one's first book published. Kelly will be checking in there at various times to talk about where she is in the process and what that feels like.

Her first post is up now, and she's talking about how difficult it can be to switch gears mentally once you do sell that first book:
It’s been six months since I signed with my agent and nearly three since I sold to Pocket Books in a two-book deal. And quite frankly, it’s taken a little while to get used to the idea and to my new routine. I was used to scouring the web for industry news, writing up queries, polishing partials, pitching to editors and agents at conferences and being the best aspiring writer I could be. After a decade or so I became pretty good at it. I had a lot of confidence in my pursuit. That pursuit became my comfort zone. And after my sale, after all the furor died down, I suddenly felt out of my element. Stepping out of one's comfort zone can be an odd feeling.
A great post. Go check it out the whole thing!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pimpin' Your Book:
What is publicity & marketing, anyway?

Time to answer some more questions about book publicity and marketing. I thought, however, that before I get to answering more of the questions y'all submitted, it might be useful to first provide you with a (very simplified) definition of what book publicity and marketing actually is. (The above may very well have been a grammatically disastrous sentence, thus the reason I never worked in the editorial department.)

The first thing to understand about the publicity and marketing departments is the difference between them.
  • The publicity department primarily focuses on free (or nearly-free) promotion for the book and author: reviews, interviews, TV & radio appearances, feature stories in print periodicals and online, public appearances and - when warranted - bookstore or media tours.
  • The marketing department focuses on paid promotion of the book and author. There are variations of marketing.
  • Sales marketing focuses on putting together the sales conferences (where the marketing department "sells" - ie, pitches your book to the sales force and tries to get them excited about it), in-store placement (also known as co-op, ie, those big stacks of books you see on end caps and tables in bookstores), sales materials, and special discount promotions geared toward large chains, jobbers, clubs (Sam's, Costco, etc) and indie bookstores.
  • The trade marketing department (the one most people think of when they think of marketing ) also includes online marketing, and focuses on consumer promotions, contests, book clubs, supplementary materials (reader's guides, bookmarks, t-shirts, etc), online promotions, website creation, email blasts, newsletters, etc.
  • The advertising department is an arm of the trade marketing department that focuses on paid newspaper, television, radio, magazine and online advertising.
  • There are also academic (aka school) marketing departments and library marketing departments (self-explanatory), but for the general purposes of this post, we'll be focusing on the retails market.
To make it easy, just remember this formula:
  • focus on the author + media +/- book tours = publicity department
  • focus on the book + consumers + online + sales force = marketing department
The second thing to understand about publicity and marketing is that not every book gets equal treatment. Basically, the more money the publisher pays for your book, the more money they will put into promoting it. The majority of first-time authors - particularly debut fiction writers - will fall into the category of mid-list. (And contrary to popular belief, mid-list isn't a dirty word.)

With some rare exceptions, most new books will get galleys created (also called an ARC [advanced readers copy] if the marketing department has gone to the trouble of having a fancy cover slapped on it) and mailed to the trades. These are the publications that are considered the most essential to the book trade; in the United States, these include Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The New York Times, Library Journal, School Library Journal, and Booklist. A later mailing will go out to additional magazines, newspapers, and online reviewers. Your book will most likely get a finished copy mailing with a press release or press kit that goes out to additional reviewers, local and/or national media, and - if the publisher has a website and/or email newsletter - placement on that as well. Depending upon the book and author, the publicity department may try to set up phone, online and print interviews as well.

What most new authors won't get is a bookstore/media tour. The vast majority of new books being published will have a publicity budget of less than $500. Unless the publisher feels the need to send an author out on a media/bookstore tour or spend money on a TV satellite or radio drive-time tour, then there is no real reason for a book to have a publicity budget. The truth is that, for the most part, bookstore/media tours are costly and ineffective, both for the publisher and the bookseller. They are especially ineffective for fiction.

Marketing is less set in stone and is more geared toward an individual book. The marketing department may arrange for you to do book club telephone tours. They may create a special tchotchke for the publicity department to send out with galleys, something that they hope will be talked about and created buzz. They arrange for the book to be featured at any appropriate conferences and book/media conventions. And although online marketing falls into this area, you shouldn't expect your publisher to build you a website or pay for you to have one built. The marketing department's sole purpose is to come up with creative ways to promote your book to consumers and booksellers. But they tend to spend a lot of time on a very few lead titles, so the chances are that you may never even speak to anyone in the marketing department.

The third thing to understand about the publicity and marketing department is that they are not your adversaries. What they are - like most publishing departments these days - is under-funded and under-staffed. Your publicist may be working on as many as 40 titles in one three-month publishing span, possibly more if he or she handles a great many trade or mass market originals. Likewise, the experience of the publicist assigned to your book may depend a great deal upon the size of the advance you've received and whether or not your book is considered a lead or sub-lead title. An inexperienced publicist can still be a passionate advocate for your book, however. But even the most experienced, competent, and/or passionate publicist has only a limited amount of time to spend working on your book; the best thing you can do is make it as easy as possible for the two of you to work together so that your publicist can make the best use of his/her time on your project.

Tomorrow I'll talk about how you can help make that happen.

Friday, September 5, 2008

An editor talks about query letters. Good stuff!

Over at Suvudu, Del Rey VP & Editor-in-Chief Betsy Mitchell has been writing a (mostly) weekly column about publishing called "What I Learned This Week". In this week's post, Betsy discusses bad cover letters on unagented submissions. Really, really, really bad.

This ties in very nicely with A.) Moonratty's awesome post about unagented submissions earlier this week, B.) Nathan Bransford's comprehensive and educational post about what not to put in a query letter and C.) Jennifer Jackson's very smart contributions to the same subject today.

To sum up: Write queries that do not suck.

That is all.

23-year old New York City school teacher missing: can you help the police find her?

Hey, New Yorkers! Via GalleyCat comes disturbing word of the disappearance of 23-year old New York City school teacher Hannah Upp. She has been missing since August 29th. If you've seen her, please contact the 30th Precinct of the New York City Police Department. The number is in the photo below. (No, this isn't a joke.) More information here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ronald Reagan in heels. (No, seriously.)

"Wednesday night I watched the Republican National Convention on television and there, before my very eyes, I saw my Dad reborn; only this time he's a she." -- Michael Reagan on vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

(By the way, do Anne and Nancy Wilson know that John McCain is using Barracuda as his theme song? I could just weep, I tell ya. Just weep.)

==========
Edit to Add: Intrepid Swiveteer Gina Black sent me this link: Apparently the Wilson sisters have fired off a cease and desist letter to the McCain campaign.

Also? Here's a genius plan for derailing the McCain campaign.

The GOP gets tripped up by its own rhetoric. Again.

Via John Scalzi, this gem floating around the internet in response to Sarah Palin's jab at Barack Obama for being a "community organizer":

“Jesus was a community organizer.
Pontius Pilate was a governor.”


I sense a Cafe Press shop in the making.

New rule on leaving comments:

I absolutely value your opinions and respect healthy debate in the comments section. You’ll note that I rarely delete or moderate the comments. However, when comments threaten violence - even jokingly – or become offensive, I won’t tolerate it.

I don’t care how much you may dislike a politician (or anyone else for that matter) - commenting that you want to “punch Sarah Palin in the face” is irresponsible and immature and has no place on this blog. Find another way to express your frustration, please.

"The Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson."

Um, ooooops. And Peggy Noonan's response here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pimpin' Your Book: Your questions answered
(The first in an occasional series)

Oh, gosh, I promised y'all a blog post tonight, didn't I? Okay, then!

So I waded through your questions about book publicity and marketing (most of them excellent questions, by the way) and have pulled out a couple of short ones to answer this evening, as it's late and I just got home from work and there's a tuna sandwich waiting for me (if Stinkyboy doesn't get there first).
Q: I am hoping to self-publish my first book. How do I go about spreading word about my book to review critics and convince them to review my book? I can't find info about this anywhere on the internet.

A: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

No, seriously? No book reviewer is going to review a self-published book. They just don't have the time or space. Something that may be helpful to know is that many book reviewers and producers develop the same kind of professional relationship with a book publicist that an agent and editor develop with one another, a professional relationship based on mutual trust and years of solid book recommendations. A really good publicist knows how to match a book with a producer or reviewer based on that book reviewer's or producer's interests and taste. A newspaper book critic (if there are any left) who may have only one column a month in which to fit four science fiction or fantasy titles is not going to waste those precious column inches on a self-published book from an unknown author. Even if you hire a freelance publicist to do a big mailing, your book is gonna end up in the recycling bin. Don't waste your postage.

Now, local media may be another matter entirely. Occasionally a local celebrity or public figure will write a book geared toward a specific local interest. In that case, the author may garner some interest from local media if s/he's willing to do a lot of legwork, follow-up phone calls, and self-pimping. And sometimes a self-published book has a very specialized built-in audience. An example of this might be a book on the history of dressage that is sold only at horse shows. These kind of self-published books can do very well if the author is willing to so his or her own sales.

But book reviews? Not gonna happen. Sorry!
==================

Q: Okay hopefully this is not too out there. I get a lot of inspiration from music and find myself compiling a playlist for each project. (They come in really handy when the muse takes a powder.) I've often wondered if it would be possible to incorporate something like this into marketing a book, or if it would just be a big hairy mess of copyright issues.

A: Actually, there are authors who've included lists of songs in the backs of their books. There are no copyright issues for merely listing a song title. Problems arise when you want to use the actual song recording or lyrics from the song; bad idea unless the song is public domain. You'll always need to secure permissions for using song lyrics in a book - and guess what? That's the author's responsibility, not the publisher's.

Occasionally authors have proposed including a CD of their favorite songs with the book packaging. If you'd like to to stay on the good side of your editor, DON'T SUGGEST THIS! This is right up there with "Do you think you can get me on Oprah?" and "When will I hit the New York Times bestseller list?" on the list of Big Enormous Kick-Me-I'm-So-Stupid Author Questions.

If you really want to be creative with music, do what New York Times bestselling YA author Frank Beddor did with his series The Looking Glass Wars (a funtastic re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland - well worth reading!). Frank (who was also the producer of There's Something About Mary, by the way) hired a local Los Angeles band to create and record original music as a soundtrack to his novel. He then made the music available as a free download at the book's website. All of this was the author's idea, and done at the author's expense, but his publisher made excellent use of Frank's innovative marketing ideas when they promoted the book.
Okay, that's all for this evening. More tomorrow! And please feel free to keep sending in questions.

Projects I'd like to see in my inbox:

As much as a I love YA and genre fiction, I do have many other interests. Here are a couple of the projects I'd like to see hitting my inbox someday soon:
Business books geared toward women (especially entrepreneurial how-to)

Books on marketing & online marketing geared toward entrepreneurs, small business owners and non-profits

A fresh take on career guidance for young women preparing for the workplace

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Publicity & marketing: what would you like to know?

Most agents out there became an agent in one of two ways: A.) they started as an assistant to another agent or agency and learned the business from the ground up, or B.) they made the move to an agency after working for many years as an editor at a publishing house.

As some of you may know, I came into agenting via a less-traditional route: my background is in book publicity, marketing and sales. And if you think about it, agenting is just another kind of marketing. The end result is the same; get the book into the hands of people who will talk about it, buy it, and then talk about it some more.

Having a background in publicity and marketing can be an extremely effective tool when it comes to evaluating the commercial potential of a new project. (It also pretty much guarantees that I don't know how to use my indoor voice. Ever.) And it's becoming more and more common in agenting. My FinePrint colleague Janet Reid was one of the best book publicists in the business before she made the transition, and my friend Holly Bemiss over at the Susan Rabiner Agency made the leap to agent after working her way up to Associate Director of Publicity at Houghton-Mifflin several years ago.

I haven't talked much about book publicity or marketing on this blog but maybe I should.

So I'm opening this up to y'all: what would you like to know about book publicity, promotion and marketing? Leave your questions in the comments field. Ask me anything. I may not have the answer to your question but I'll try to answer as many as I can this week before I fall dead from exhaustion or am forced to go clean the litterbox yet again.

Why do you need an agent?

Moonratty has an excellent post about why authors should never submit unagented manuscripts to a publisher.

I agree with about 95% of the post. I would argue, however, that in certain kinds of genre publishing and with smaller presses, unagented submissions are expected and - in some cases - encouraged. Some larger genre publishers and many small indie presses actively solicit slush for any number of reasons. They wouldn't solicit slush if they didn't occasionally find a gem. But a manuscript referral from a trusted agent will still go to the top of the pile at these houses.

Even if an editor at one of these houses makes an offer on your unagented submission, do yourself a favor and try to get an agent before the deal is finalized. It'll be better for you in the long run, for all of the reasons outlined in Moonratty's post.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Quick Tip: Is your email program or embedded signature costing you your query letter?

My sister-in-law used to use a free service on her Bellsouth email account, one that attaches cute graphics to the bottom of the email. Other folks I know have professional logo gifs or signature gifs embedded in their outgoing email. Some of my friends send me emails that have tiny little virtual business cards attached, "vcf files", the idea being that these files can be easily dragged and dropped into MS Outlook. And several of my friends have email that attaches an odd little file called "winmail dat" to the bottom of their emails.

All of these are considered unsolicited attachments when they show up in an agent's email inbox; nine times out of ten, agents (including myself) receiving that email will delete it unread. The alternative is opening an attachment from a complete stranger and possibly unleashing a computer virus in your hard drive. This is the reason that so many agents who accept email queries also ask that you send no unsolicited attachments.

Do yourself a favor and double check that your outgoing email doesn't carry any unwanted attachments of any kind. That cute little dancing puppy animated gif could be costing you your query letter.

"Yeah, pretty sure I do know
what's wrong with the law. Pants!"

One Australian law firm's attempt at improving employee morale:



(via my colleague Janet Reid)