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all that's new(s) from A to Z

All That's New(s) from A to Z presents news from The Zack Company, Inc., a full-service literary agency representing authors of commercial fiction and nonfiction. Read our blog to learn more about our clients and their titles. If you have a question about the publishing business you'd like answered here, please use the FAQ form on our site.

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I know, I know. You're really not that interested in QuickBooks, but as an author, maybe you should be.  Literary agencies tend to do their accounting in QuickBooks, Quicken, or a custom program such as LAMP.  Some may use larger accounting packages, also.  I don't imagine WME or CAA are using QuickBooks!

That said, I've been a QuickBooks user since 1994 and a Quicken user since V4 for DOS.  I've set up two literary agencies on QuickBooks and I think I know the ins and outs pretty well.

One thing that QuickBooks did well—much to my surprise!—was that it launched Direct Deposit for Vendors as a part of its Payroll program.  While the program wasn't perfect—it does not allow you to choose which account to draw from and limits you to just one—it was pretty good.  For those authors who were always looking for wires, it offered a much cheaper alternative.  In fact, given the increase in the price of postage, I'd say we're about breaking even by paying the $1.50 per payment Intuit charges versus cutting and mailing a check.  I recently asked all of my clients to give me their Direct Deposit info so that I could stop mailing checks.

Now might be a good time to point out that Intuit also has bill-paying services:  http://quickbooks.intuit.com/product/add_ons/bill_pay. This service has a monthly fee.  Direct Deposit for Vendors doe not have a monthly fee.  It just costs $1.50 per payment.  "QuickBooks Bill Pay is FREE for the first month.  After your free trial, the service is $15.95 per month for up to 20 payments, and $6.95 for each additional set of 10 payments."  Now that's only about 80 cents per payment for the first 20 payments, which isn't bad and is cheaper than the Direct Deposit service, but let's say you don't have that many bills to pay every month.  A lot of us have auto-debits and maybe a credit card or two and otherwise may not have a lot of bills to pay.  DDfV is the better option there.

Apparently a lot of folks must have realized that, because Intuit has just changed the name of its program from Direct Deposit for Vendors (really anyone you pay) to Direct Deposit for Independent Contractors (http://payroll.intuit.com/support/kb/1002015.html).  As I understand it, if you do not check the 1099 box and include a tax identification number, you're not going to be able to pay that party with Direct Deposit for Independent Contractors.

But not all "independent contractors" are individuals.  Some are corporations or they are individuals who have incorporated.  The IRS does not require you to send a 1099 to a corporation. But now Intuit will.

If you go to http://payroll.intuit.com/support/kb/1002015.html and read it, there's a bunch of links to the IRS about identifying "independent contractors."  Go check them out; I'll wait.

Okay, did you see what I saw?  There is not one thing on these IRS pages that says Direct Deposit can only be used for Independent Contractors.  There is nothing here that justifies Intuit making this change other than because it is losing business on the BillPay side.  At least that's my personal conclusion.

Now, Intuit might argue (I spoke to a rep who didn't quite go here but almost) that because Direct Deposit for Vend—sorry, Independent Contractors—is part of the Payroll Service, you should not be using to pay "bills."  Bullsh!t.

I have been an independent contract and I use independent contractors.  How do independent contractors get paid?  By billing the client!  Hence, every payment to an IC is in response to a bill.  By Intuit's reasoning, we should be using BillPay to pay these and not DDfIC.

This is, pure and simple, a blatant attempt by Intuit to cut services to users and stop users from using DDfV to pay bills Intuit thinks you should be paying $15.95 to the BillPay Service to pay.

And this is really just another example of Intuit and QuickBooks having so many heads, most of which are up this Hydra's rear end.

  • BillPay
  • Direct Deposit for Independent Contractors
  • Intuit Payment Network
  • Intuit Merchant Services


Each of these is an Intuit service to pay or receive payments and they are all in competition with each other.  No wonder PayPal eats Intuit's lunch every day.

So let's talk about PayPal for a second.  I have looked extensively at the fees for PayPal and IPN and IMS and what I found is that PayPal was cheaper, period.  And IPN is cheaper than IMS.  And IPN is now integrated into QuickBooks, so why on earth would you use IMS?  Because you use a credit-card reader at your store?  Okay.  Point taken.  But then aren't there even cheaper options, still?

Long before Amazon launched the Kindle and tried to "put the store in your hands" (my , not theirs), Intuit was putting the store on your desktop with QuickBooks.  Ads for new services galore.  I don't even see the "order checks" button anymore.  QuickBooks users have long ago learned to ignore the clutter of Intuit advertising and the blowback has obviously been severe enough that Intuit has curbed a lot it.

But it is their playground and if you want to play with all the toys, you have to pay the price.  Or maybe, more appropriately, if you want to use the bathroom or get a snack, you have to pay the price.  See, they control the services that integrate with QuickBooks.  And the apparent utter failure of the QuickBooks Marketplace (http://marketplace.intuit.com/find-software.aspx; go ahead and look for anything you've ever heard of) shows how bad they are at giving customers what they want.

And what do they want?  Well, for starters they don't want to be paying $15.95 a month when they can pay less as they go.  But, even more, they want decent PayPal integration.  Not the clunky add-on that PayPal offers or the even clunkier task of exporting from PayPal and importing to QuickBooks.  Just make it work the PayPal the same way it works with every other financial institution. Put your customers' needs and wants first, dammit, and cut a deal with PayPal for true integration.

Meanwhile, I see no reason that you can't continue to use DDfIC to pay anyone you want.  You just need a Tax ID from them and to tick the little box that says they are a 1099 contractor.  Then, when it comes time to send your 1099s, just deselect the corporations and save yourself some forms and postage.

I raised this point with the rep I spoke with today and her biggest concern seemed to be that the IRS might be upset with me for using DDfIC to pay a corporation and not sending a 1099. But the IRS doesn't require me to send a 1099 to a corporation and I'm pretty damn certain this change in name and policy is about making more money for BillPay than anything the IRS says.

If you agree this change sounds like bullsh!t, drop an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and let them know.  Maybe it will be one time they listen to their customers.

Z

Tagged in: QuickBooks
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Recently I got a renewal notice for the Romance Writers of America (RWA), to which I belonged as an agent interested in representing romance authors. I've decided not to renew. I’m not going to be renewing with SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) either. I don’t think I belong to MWA (Mystery Writers) or HWA (Horror Writers) anymore, but I also would not renew with them, either.

The next question, of course, is, Why not?

I’m a member of the Authors Guild and I will retain that membership. I believe the Authors Guild does good work and provides real services to authors. If you are a published author (I believe even self-published authors can join), I urge you to become a member.

But other writers’ organizations haven’t shown their value to me. Sure, there was a lot of activity in SFWA this year, with a lot of conversation and debate about sexism in the science fiction community, and I applaud the efforts of those seeking to remove sexism from SF&F conventions, publications, and online forums. But was this about the genres or about writing? No, it was about the behavior of certain SFWA members. And that doesn’t interest me so much.

I’ve attended my fair share of writers’ conferences and I rarely find myself satisfied with the experience. Often I hear misinformation at the presentations or, equally as bad, deliberately misleading information. Or—and this is one that nearly everyone at these conferences is guilty of—anecdotes presented as facts about the business.

I have met authors, some of whom have ten or twenty books to their credit, at conferences and they present their experiences from their perspective. And that’s fine, except that the perspective of a sixtysomething-year-old author with twenty-five books to his credit cannot really be relevant to a first-time writer. I can go and see Larry Bird speak about playing for the Celtics and moving on to be a coach, but that will not help me shoot a three-pointer myself.

So I’ve thought a lot about what I want from a writers’ organization and I’m not finding it. I want education for writers. I want resources for writers. I don’t want debate about how to run the organization and whether or not this writer or editor or agent is sexist or dresses too provocatively.

Don’t get me wrong. An expectation of polite and professional behavior is perfectly reasonable. I'm just saying that I would prefer to focus on helping writers get published.

But I digress, much in the same way some writers’ organizations have digressed. When I went to an RT conference a few years ago, it felt more like I was at Comic-Con than a writers’ conference, complete with authors in costume. The entire event was about self-promotion by the authors, promotion by the publishers, and sales by various vendors. Actual educational opportunities about writing and publishing seemed to me few.

And don’t get me started about the “pitch slam” I attended at one writers’ conference in LA. Thirty agents or editors or producers in a room and authors got three minutes to pitch them. Why is it that an industry built on the written word seems so enamored of the verbal pitch?

There is a place for the verbal pitch. When you know the writer and know he or she can actually write a coherent sentence, a verbal pitch is a good way to start a conversation. When an editor knows an agent and trusts his or her taste, a verbal pitch is okay to see if the editor is interested. But, in the end, it is still all about the writing.

And when a never-before-published author meets an agent at a writers’ conference, I’m not sure verbal pitches do anything but raise false hopes.

I’ve got a novel. It’s like The Firm, but set in the world of fashion. It’s about a young designer who thinks she landed her dream job and found the perfect man in Milan, the center of the fashion world, but then discovers he’s in the Mafia and the company she works for is a front for human trafficking and she's about to be sold to a Saudi Arabian prince. Only her ex-boyfriend, a Navy SEAL who has followed her to Italy to finally propose, can save her. Can I send it to you?

Hell, yes! Of course, then it shows up and it’s horrible. Just terrible. Full of clichés and sentences built around the word was. And you have to reject it and you hate that such a good idea had such a terrible execution. And that’s 99% of what you might get from a writers’ conference.

Writers’ conferences are businesses. They pay for editors and agents to fly in because they are the “bait” to attract paying attendees. They are Disney cruises, but instead of meeting Mickey and Minnie, you get to meet an agent or an editor.  And if you look at such conferences for their entertainment value, it might be worth it to you to attend.  But if you want to learn about the publishing business and how that works, maybe not.

Writers’ organizations are different, of course. Few, if any, have a profit motive. But are they worth joining? What will you get out of joining one? The Authors Guild is suing Google and calling out Amazon on its negotiating tactics. What are SFWA, RWA, and others doing? RWA has very deep pockets. It could do a lot on behalf of writers. It has 10,000 members. I bet if the RWA announced a boycott of Amazon until it stopped using the availability of a publisher’s titles as negotiating leverage, Amazon would notice. If it denounced ACX, the audio self-publishing division of Amazon, for cutting royalties to authors, I bet Amazon would notice. But I can find no evidence of such activism, other than an amicus brief on behalf of the Authors Guild in its suit against Google.

I make my living working with authors. I think they deserve better from their writers' organizations and until I see them getting it, I’m going to allow my memberships to lapse.

Z

Tagged in: Amazon.com Publishing
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Lately, I've gotten a few follow-ups related to the status of queries or submissions and I thought it might be time to revisit this subject.

I do not charge a reading fee, hence when you submit, you are not paying my firm anything to review your material.  My priority is always the current clients and those projects that will help me earn a living.  That may be your project or it may not.  Statistically, I reject the vast, vast majority of what I get, so odds are that it won't.

At any given time, I have requested manuscripts and sample chapters and I have material from current clients that needs my attention.  I will always prioritize the current clients.

Why can't I tell you where I am with your submission?  Because that takes time and effort to figure out, time and effort I could be putting on other projects that I already represent.

All that said, I will, eventually, reply to every requested sample chapter or manuscript and even query letter.  Might it be months later?  Yes.  Might I miss out on great projects?  Yes.

We do not ask for exclusive submissions.  You can keep querying and submitting.  We are not holding you up.

Is tracking your material to ensure it arrived a good idea?  Sure.  But phoning or emailing (directly or via Facebook) is rarely going to lead to a faster, positive response.  I'll never say never, but every agent I've ever discussed this subject with seems to say it won't.

Thanks in advance for your patience.  We eventually get to everything, I promise.

Z

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So my QuickBooks Payroll subscription was coming to an end.  Like a good little customer, I went online to Amazon and ordered a new one.  The cost savings between buying a new one on Amazon and letting it auto-renew via the software is significant.  Why Intuit doesn't recognize this and simply charge a reasonable amount baffles me.  But it does not, so I do not enter or allow a credit card number into the Payroll subscription screens, which keeps the program from auto-renewing.

As I write this, I am waiting for a supervisor, having given the rep I was working with a full twenty minutes to enter a license number and renew a subscription.  This is a waste of my time, of course, but also Intuit's time and money.  I've got one of their reps tied up for going on half an hour and I'm about to raise hell with a supervisor and perhaps by the time I am done, the Office of the President of Intuit, my go-to solution for the piss-poor support QuickBooks offers.

There is no stronger advertisement for using ADP or another payroll processor than trying to actually use Intuit QuickBooks Payroll.  The problem for me is that I pay a lot of clients via Direct Deposit and I can't do that without a QuickBooks Payroll subscription.  So I'm stuck, for thirty minutes now, waiting to resolve this.

Z

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I've already written about issues with the resolution on QuickBooks but here's a new one.  What's wrong with this picture?

This is what it looks like when I open up QuickBooks.  I ignored it a few times and just clicked on the maximize button, but then I decided to try and resize the window and see if that would stick.  (Hum theme from Jeopardy! while I check.)

Yes!  Score one for this unwilling beta tester (aren't we all beta testers for every new edition of QuickBooks?).

Z

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So I've been playing with QuickBooks 2014 and found my first major glitch:  screen resolution.  I have mine set to 125% of normal, so that I can see the smaller type.  I wear glasses and I'm pushing 50.  I need a larger view.  But I couldn't find some fields on QuickBooks forms and could not figure out where they went.  Well, apparently they were just offscreen somewhere.  I searched online and found this was an issue with other editions of QuickBooks, but I never ran into it with QB 2012.

Not sure about you, but even with my glasses, the resolution is making it impossible to see my screen.  Let's hope they fix this one soon.

Z

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I never did get to review QuickBooks 2013.  Email after email when unanswered.  But I did manage to get my hands on a copy of 2014 and it has been interesting.

First and foremost is the annoying overlay of tips that come up when you start using the program.  Supposed you can "click anywhere to dismiss" but I found that didn't work.  At one point, I had to go to Task Manager to close the program.  Subsequently, I found hitting Escape made it go away.  But it was quite annoying.

The look and feel are quite different from 2012.  I don't know, of course, if this was a change from 2013 or not.  I can't say I like the new look and feel.  To me, it's quite retro and a weird decision.  As so much software gets more modern-looking and, well, Apple-looking, I'm stumped why Intuit seems to have gotten boxier and more Microsoft Access-out-of-the-box-looking.

I've yet to notice any improvements in process in my daily use.  I did notice a rather annoying desire by the program to "link" with my online Intuit accounts.  Also, the "online" button has been changed to one that says "Bank Feeds," which feels far less intuitive to me. What does that really mean to the average and, in particular, new user?  "Bank Feeds"?  When you hover over it, it says "Download banking transactions," which is more clear, but still.  Why not "Download Banking" or "Banking Download" instead of "Feeds"?  Feels like a classic decision made by a computer geek rather than anyone who uses the program regularly.

And it doesn't end there.  When I went to connect to the Intuit Payment Network, the title in the header bar is "Intuit PaymentNetwork Batch Reconcile," which is again computer geekspeak and not what any actual businessperson would say.

So, to answer the question the title, I'd say, no, but I don't see any real improvements that would warrant an upgrade.

For example, I have yet to find any way in QuickBooks to review when I last sent statements to customers.  If you search online for an answer, you'll end up here:  http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/articles/HOW13371, which says check the new Email button, but that showed nothing on the one open invoice I have.  This could be because the invoice predates my upgrade, though.

I've always thought there should be a better way to deal with invoices and statements.  Most advice I have seen says to pick one or the other.  Yet how do you deal with open invoices a month later?  Or finance charges on overdue invoices?  Doesn't it seem that a statement is the way to deal with those?  You can send an invoice for a finance charge, but your client will likely just be confused, unless that client is paying attention to the fact that he or she owes you money.  If the client has merely overlooked the invoice, then it will ultimately turn into an acrimonious situation wherein the client is defensive and you are annoyed.  A process that lets you remind the client that money before finance charges accrue seems needed.

There is an excellent post on strategies to deal with collections here:  http://www.taxnbizpro.com/4813/7-Ways-to-Use-QuickBooks-to-Manage-Collections/.

Where this post is out-of-date with regard to QB 2014 is that 2014 now has an option to remind you about "Almost Due" invoices, which seems set to a default of 15 days.  This would allow you to invoice monthly and then send a reminder statement fifteen days later, which could be useful.

Now, I use the Intuit PaymentNetwork and receive payments directly from clients' bank accounts.  I do not accept credit cards.  What I just discovered is that if I send, say three invoices to one client, IPN charges me if the client clicks on the link in each invoice separately to pay it.  Meaning, I get charged $1.50 instead of .50.  Something to think about if you are IPN and sending invoices instead of statements.  With the statement, if the person paid on the statement, IPN would get .50, which may be why you can't use IPN for statements.

Now, since I'm on this subject, I decided to enable the Collections Center, a feature I had never noticed before.  QuickBooks required me to close all windows to do it.  Then, um, did nothing?  Oh, wait, if you click on Customers and open that Center, there's a separate button for the Collections Center.  However, it does not appear that I can add it to the Icon Bar.  Seems to me there should be a button on the Home screen and you should be able to add it to the Icon Bar.

As I continue to explore 2014, I'll post more, but so far I'm not seeing anything that requires an upgrade nor even encourages one.  The one thing I will say is that if you use Payroll, upgrading becomes more of an issue since you can get an upgrade and a new Payroll subscription online for what the new subscription costs direct from Intuit.  Intuit should just offer users of older versions of QuickBooks a "free" update, just for the cost of renewing your Payroll subscription, I think.  That way, more money would come directly into Intuit, versus third parties.

Z

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Imagine if you went in for a job interview and during the interview, your prospective boss told you that he had reviewed your sales numbers at your prior company and determined that you were not an effective enough salesperson for him to hire.  Then he showed you the numbers and you knew they were wrong.  You would, of course, argue in your own defense, but what if the guy won't listen?  What might you do?  Well, if the numbers came from a third party that reported on your sales, might you sue that third party?  You'd go after your credit-reporting agency for showing you as delinquent on your bills if you weren't, right?  So why not go after this party?

Authors—and the Authors Guild—why aren't you going after Nielsen BookScan?

I wrote about the lie that is BookScan data is 2009 (http://zackcompany.blogspot.com/2009/06/lie-that-is-bookscan.html), but nothing has changed, that is clear.  Yes, it is collecting data from more accounts, but it still is not collecting all data.  And clearly its data is far, far, far off of what is real.  Either that, or publishers are grossly exaggerating sales and paying royalties far above what they should be.  Any author who believes publishers are overpaying, please raise your hand.

I thought not.

Let me be perfectly clear:  Nielsen BookScan is destroying authors' careers.  By reporting grossly low sales figures that publishers use to guide their acquisitions, BookScan is labeling untold thousands of authors as low sellers, even if their actual numbers may be much, much higher.

At Comic-Con last week, an editor handed me a piece of paper with sales figures on a client he had pulled from BookScan.  I won't share the author of the title, but I will share the numbers I was given and the actual cumulative sales figures from the publisher's royalty statements:

BookScan Number

Actual Reported Royalties from Publisher

Discrepancy Percentage

3,998

10,398

71.2%

5,612

13,506

58.5%

893

9,343

90.5%

1,487

22,752

93.5%

As you can see, the numbers are grossly off.  And the publisher based its rejection of the author's new work on these numbers.

Are these best-seller numbers?  No, but for books sold in the very midst of the collapse of the mass-market wholesale business, I think they reflect very well on the author.  And a publisher who likes the author's writing should be able to argue for acquisition based on these real numbers.

While there was a reduction from the first to the second paperback, that’s completely in keeping with what I refer to as the paperback "buy-down" pattern where the accounts order the net sales number from the prior title and then sell through at 50%.  The fact that the author's numbers on the third book were up considerably from the second is a credit to the author.  And even his fourth book wasn’t considerably lower than the third and still outsold the second.

I've sent these numbers off to the editor.  I would hope they will make a difference, but even if they do not, I hope that this editor and all editors will acknowledge that the BookScan numbers are simply not reflective of reality.  Stop using them!  At least to guide acquisitions.  It isn't fair to the authors and ultimately, it isn't fair to the publishers themselves.  They are missing out on the chance to do business with great authors.

Z

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So I spent two days at San Diego Comic-Con this week and have a few thoughts to share:

1.     I never need to go again.

I used to get in for free because I was an industry pro, but this year they changed the policy and divided pros into "creative" and "industry." "Industry" has to pay now, which is really just an excuse to make even more money. I don’t go because I find #SDCC fun. I go for work. So, yes, I get to write off the cost of my badge but I also don’t know that there’s even enough return on investment on the badge to make it worth it. I take ninety-five percent of my meetings at the Marriott.

2.     It’s not fun.

Really, it’s not. Waiting in line for two hours only to not make it into a panel is not my idea of fun. Watching an actor whose work I respect prostituting himself for a thirty-dollar autograph is not fun. Watching @WinnerTwins morph from far too commercially savvy but still rather innocently presented hucksters into black-clad, low-rider wearing, hip-displaying boyhood masturbatory fantasies is disturbing. Watching what I think was a fan dressed as Slave Leia (her accompanying R2D2 was gold) getting ogled and photographed was, again, a bit creepy. Though she was a beautiful and exotic woman and I don’t see how she would expect anything else by putting on that costume and walking into Comic-Con, there’s a part of me that wanted to take her aside and ask her what had happened in her life that she felt the need to put herself on display in that outfit in that venue. This is not a Halloween party with friends and maybe that guy whose eye you were hoping to catch; putting on that costume and walking into Comic-Con sort of implies some serious self-esteem issues.

The very fact of attending makes the idea of a cross-country trip by prop plane attractive. I have seen grosser bathrooms than at Comic-Con . . . in the Cairo airport. I have seen grosser people . . . at the People of Walmart site (which, ironically, just popped up with a virus warning when I visited it, so don’t go there). I have seen higher prices for food . . . I think.

Are there nice people there? Yes, of course. I have met many wonderful small business owners who truly embrace the original spirit of Comic-Con and fly from Wisconsin hoping to sell their self-published comics at a table for which they paid $400 or $900 (depending on where they are) and they are paying $399 a night for a hotel and G-d-knows-what for parking. It’s a once-a-year massive expense in the hope of making it back at $5 each per comic sold. One wonders if they wouldn’t do better at a casino, but they love the con.

3.     It hurts.

It’s physically painful. When I get home, my feet are throbbing and my back is aching. I still can’t believe there aren’t ten-dollars/ten-minute massage chairs all over that con. If you can stand kneading the fat on the back of a 300-pound fan, you could really clean up there.

4.     It’s nothing like the Big Bang Theory.

I love the Big Bang Theory because I think it is funny. I have never played D&D or been a part of a MOO or played Halo but I imagine if I had unlimited time and money, I might really find Halo kind of cool. But I don’t. And Comic-Con is not, I feel, a convention that celebrates the fans that do. I feel like it is a convention that capitalizes on those fans, the same way strip joints capitalize on their patrons.

The guys from the Big Bang Theory love the comics and collectibles and bless them for it. However, one must not forget that part of the humor of that show is mocking them for loving comics and collectibles. And in many ways Comic-Con is mocking its fans, also.

Comic-Con was a con started by fans for fans, but it certainly is no longer that. And the hucksters and showmen there with their posters and t-shirts and toys and film previews and walk-throughs of the ship from Once Upon a Time aren’t there to bond with the fans. They are there to make money from the fans. And just as working in publishing or TV or comics often sucks all the fun out those things for those who work in those industries, Comic-Con pretty much sucks all the fun out of geek media for me.

5.     There’s can be a lot of wrong information.

Last year I went to the self-publishing panel, which was half filled with TV writers instead of authors (sucks when you don’t have enough contacts to fill out the panel). And what I heard made me cringe. Incorrect information about the publishing business and even more about the self-publishing world. Authors from the audience claiming to have made the Amazon best-seller list, but not explaining that it was in the following category: Books>Children’s>Science Fiction & Fantasy>Fantasy>Magic & Wizards>Female Wizards>Under 12>Brunette>Blue-Eyed>Left-Handed. Next year, perhaps that same panel can explain how you can become a millionaire buying and flipping houses using only your credit card, too!  I’m sure there are other, better, more informative panels, but I’ve yet to get into one.

6.     The best surprises have to do with whom you meet.

I asked to share a table at Starbucks in the Marriott and met the Director of Development for the film company behind Ender’s Game. I met a couple of authors in search of new representation, purely by coincidence. I found out a publisher I’d always thought of only for nonfiction is now publishing genre fiction. These kinds of interactions almost make it worth all the trouble. But only almost. I know of an agent who went to a writers’ conference and met her husband there, but I don’t think that’s a good argument for single agents to go to writers’ conferences.

The truth is that comics fans would probably benefit from Comic-Con being broken into two cons: Media Whore-Con and Comic-Con. There would be plenty of crossover, I’m sure, but true comics fans could just go to the Comic-Con and anyone who really, really, really needs an autograph for thirty dollars from the guy who played Boomer in the original Battlestar Galactica can go to Media Whore-Con. I don’t think it will happen, but I can hope . . . just as I hope there will one day be peace in the Middle East.

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If you are a fan of my page on Facebook or following me on Twitter, you likely know I've been binging on eQueriesTM for the last few days.  I've read over a hundred of them and it's always interesting when you binge on something.  You start to notice patterns and commonalities.  And I thought it would be interesting to share a few of them here.

  • Many, many fewer vampires.  This is good!  Not everyone is trying to clone TWILIGHT or find the next Sookie.  Thank you!
  • Far, far too many fantasies.  Yes, I rep fantasy, but could I please get more nonfiction?  More hard science?
  • Barely any science fiction.  Think what you want about Orson Scott Card, but I hope the movie of ENDER'S GAME does something to pump some life into science fiction fans.  I love hard science fiction but I hardly see any of it.
  • More Christian stuff than I would have imagined.  Not that I wouldn't rep a good book (no pun intended) for the Christian audience, but I'm Jewish and so always surprised to get that stuff.  Luckily I have a reader who can take a look at anything interesting and give me an informed opinion.
  • Only one or two that the query was so well written that I actually got a bit excited to get more.  Others were intriguing and I've requested a couple dozen sample chapters and proposals, probably, but only a couple of the queries really had that extra something.

I have over two hundred more to go.  Maybe when I'm finished, we'll see if the trends shifted.

Z

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As I read the reports of the upcoming trial for price-fixing in which the Department of Justice is going after Apple and Penguin (the other defendants all settled out of fear the costs of fighting and losing were too great; and the DOJ has, by far, the better track record in winning these things), I can't help but shake my head at the damage being done to the publishing community.

This seems to be a classic case of the cure killing the patient.  Perhaps not yet, but in time.

Simply put, the DOJ says Apple and publishers conspired to raise eBook prices and that consumers were negatively affected by this conspiracy.  A large number of states also sued for the same reason.  Publishers that settled have paid or will pay out millions.  Macmillan alone is said to be paying out $26m.

I remember going to breakfast with John Sargent, the CEO of Macmillan, and he proudly explained to me that the St. Martin's model was to buy a mystery for $5,000 and then make a bit of profit and hopefully pay $6,000 for the next book.  Now, that doesn't apply to every mystery, of course, but probably a lot of them.  Now, I admit to having issues with St. Martin's.  I think its contract is one of the more author-unfriendly and I have issues with the deep discounting they have done.  I think deep discounts should be offered only to non-bookstores and certainly not Barnes & Noble, since the purpose of such discounts is to provide an incentive to an account that would normally not order books to order some.  But that's an argument for another day.

Because throughout this matter, I have a bit of newfound love and appreciation for St. Martin's and John Sargent.  While certainly it acted in its own interests, St. Martin's has been the leader in standing up to Amazon, and if you are an author, then you have to appreciate that.

You see, I love books and I respect authors, and while oftentimes the publishing industry gets lost in its search for the profit part of the P&L, I believe that nearly everyone in the publishing business loves books and a lot may actually be authors or want to be authors.  After all, you don't go to work for a book publisher hoping to become wealthy.

Amazon, on the other hand, professes to love books and authors—and I'm sure the folks there do—but the perspective from where I sit is that Amazon is more interested in "content" that can be sold via Kindles.  And publishers provide content and Amazon wants to provide it to you as cheaply as possible and damn the consequences.  Authors already not making a living wage?  Who cares?  As long as they write.  Self-published novels not edited, copyedited, or proofread?  Who cares?  As long as they get published.

People use to laugh at cable-access channels.  Wayne's World wouldn't have existed without real-life goofballs who were no doubt shocked to be able to turn on their TVs and watch themselves just a few channels away from Law & Order.  But those access stations were part of the deals with communities into which the cable companies wanted entry.  But no one actually needed or, to my knowledge, sought free self-publishing without standards.  Self-publishing always existed but the entry costs were too high for most authors.  And I'm not slamming self-publishing.  Done right, it can be a boon and has been a boon to some of my clients.  But I don't think Amazon offered free self-publishing and higher royalties for those in the Kindle Select program out of a love for authors.  It did it for a desire for more content and to have that content exclusively.

And it didn't sell eBooks at a loss for consumers.  It did it for the same reason your cell-phone company gave you "free" minutes: to sell Kindles and build market share.  But it was devaluing books in the process and publishers saw this.  Now, why the DOJ never investigated this, I do not know.  I've been told that selling at a loss as Amazon did with eBooks could have anti-trust implications.  Why isn't the DOJ looking into those implications?

Consumers comparison shop all the time; it's a national pastime.  And Amazon happily shows us the same product in different formats and priced differently.  Or the same format priced differently.  Or the new and used versions priced differently.  And when consumers see a $25 hardcover and a $9.99 eBook of the same book, they have a true WTF? moment and start to think that $25 for a hardcover is grossly overpriced, even though hardcovers have been published at that price for decades, give or take a few dollars, and aren't actually making anyone rich at that price, either.  Readers start to think that they can recoup the $199 for a Kindle Fire (with "special offers," i.e., advertising on the screen) pretty quickly, depending on how many eBooks they buy.  Which is exactly what Amazon wants you to think.  But if the eBook for that $25 hardcover is only $21, then the savings isn't that significant, so why spend the extra money and go to the hassle of getting a Fire?  That kind of model is what killed the earliest eBook readers like the Rocket.

I have no desire for Amazon to get sued, but I have concerns that it hasn't exactly been playing fair and that in not playing fair it is costing the publishing industry as a whole many, many millions of dollars.  At some point, some editor is going to tell me he can't acquire the rights to publish a book because the house took such a big hit in the DOJ settlement, I'm sure.  And that's going to hurt my client and me.  And you. Because if you are an author, your odds of selling a book to a publisher are made greater by the expenses of this litigation and settlements.  And if you are a reader, you may have fewer options from traditional publishers because they may publish fewer books because of the expenses of this litigation and settlements.

In the near future, the DOJ and states may get to chalk up a win and to claim they cured a great consumer illness by beating the publishers into submission on the alleged price-fixing, but in the process they will have done more long-term damage to the publishing industry and ultimately more damage to authors and consumers than the price-fixing (if it actually occurred).

Z

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As many of my readers know, I use Intuit's QuickBooks to keep my literary agency's accounting records.  And it's served me well over the years.  But there are issues and often persistent ones.

For example, when a check bounces, it's a bit of a nightmare.  Why?  Because there really is no one easy way to deal with it.  You can't unapply the payment without deleting the deposit.  But if you delete the deposit, your monthly reconciliation will be screwed up.  For that to work, it has to show the credit and then the debit.

So when I got a check from someone that bounced, I was excited when my search for the procedure turned up a reference to a new feature, a Bounced-Check Button.  (If that link doesn't work, well, see below.)

But I didn't have a Bounced-Check Button.  So I did some searching and found a long conversation about it here.  The problem with this conversation is that it goes on and on regarding the merits of such a button.  So I called QuickBooks Support in the Philippines (not intentionally in the Philippines, that's just where I ended up).  And the rep there didn't seem to know (a) about the button or (b) what a bounced check is.

So I went back to the article and finally saw this at the very end that says the feature was removed.  But there's still a link on the Intuit Support website.  Confusing, no?

So I called the Office of the President at Intuit and told them about it.  I wish I could bill them for the hour I spent chasing this non-existent feature.

Z

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If you haven't already heard, there are new terms on the table from Skyhorse and Start Publishing for Night Shade authors.  I'm excited to see these, not least because a lot of them reflect the conversations I've had with Tony Lyons and Jarred Weisfeld over the past few days.  I spoke with and reported on my conversation with Tony over the weekend.  And I also chatted with Jarred yesterday.  In a post on io9, the new terms are outlined as follows:

  • 7 1/2 % of retail for all printing books.
  • 25% of net receipts on all ebooks up to 15,000 copies sold and 30% thereafter
  • 50/50 on audio, with a reversion if we don’t sell the rights in six months. Audio rights money to flow through within 30 days of receipt of payment, provided that the advance has earned out.
  • The assignment clause, clause 7, would only apply if the assignment is part of a sale of “all or substantially all of the assets of the company” purchased by either Start Publishing or Skyhorse Publishing.

And I think those are certainly better terms than were previously on the table. And I should; I suggested versions of all of them and I'm pleased to see that Skyhorse and Start have actually gone a bit better than I'd hoped.  The escalator on eBooks, in particular, puts this deal ahead of terms you'll see from Random House and other major publishers.

So, I think authors should take this deal and be happy.  I'm pleased to have been a part of the conversations and I'm exceptionally pleased that Night Shade, Skyhorse, and Start have really listened to the agents and authors involved and worked to improve the terms.  This is the way publishing should work.  It should be a give-and-take between the parties, where each party walks away satisfied.  All too often, authors feel abused in their negotiations with publishers and as though they were ultimately forced to accept terms they didn't want in order to get the deal done.  Here, I think authors can be satisfied to get fair terms and I thank Night Shade, Skyhorse, and Start for working hard to make that happen.

Z

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So I had an hour-long-plus-some telephone conversation with Tony Lyons, publisher of Skyhorse, today. It was very enlightening and no matter what the outcome of the Skyhorse/Night Shade deal, I very much appreciate that he took the time to chat with me.

I’m not going to go into details about what he had to say, since I never asked him if he would mind if I blogged about the conversation. I will say that he shared with me a ballpark figure of how much money was owed by Night Shade and I was pretty surprised that what I feel is a pretty small publisher got that deep in a hole.

Now, what I will discuss here is what I told him and here are a few points:

  • The psychological impact of the letter that was sent was underestimated.
  • I think that 98% of the problem with this deal is psychological.
  • If Skyhorse were to offer a retail-based royalty rather than one based on net, that would help make it more attractive to authors, since authors pretty much believe that “net” equals a form of Hollywood accounting in which the author never sees another penny. However, that could easily mean a trade-paperback rate of 5% instead of 8% (5% of retail generally equals 10% of net based on a 50% discount; 8% was the starting rate for Night Shade). But since many publishers start at 6%, I wouldn’t feel that 5% is a deal-breaker, particularly if escalators are offered.
  • If Skyhorse wants audio rights that are not included in the current contracts, that’s something it should deal with a case-by-case basis. Making it a blanket demand, in my opinion, makes it seem more like a bullying tactic, since the deal was presented as one in which either the majority of authors took it or Night Shade would go bankrupt. Further, I think there should be a reversion option on those rights if they are unsold after a year.
  • Yes, 25% of net is established industry standard for eBooks, but very few authors and agents think it should be.  Most think the rate should be 50%. Hence, Night Shade’s rates of 30% or 50% were much more attractive. I suggested building in escalators.
  • Any payments of past royalties and overdue advances must come from Skyhorse. I simply do not trust that handing over thousands of dollars to Night Shade and expecting it to turn around and immediately start paying authors what they are owed is a worry-free scenario.

Keep in mind that I wasn’t negotiating here. I was merely putting some things out there as thoughts that might make this deal more palatable to authors in general. Authors often have a very different view of how publishing should work versus how it does work and that’s under the best of circumstances. We do not have the best of circumstances here. For example, if you read the Authors Guild Model Book Contract, you’ll find that it bears little resemblance to an actual publishing contract as used by major houses. It is bit like Barbie, in that it is very pretty, but not actually anatomically correct. All of this commentary on the Internet (mine included) seems to imply there’s another option out there, but right now there isn’t (Hello! Amazon?!). The options are Night Shade selling or Night Shade going bankrupt. My preference is the sale, but I do think the terms could be improved in a manner that authors would appreciate and without grossly altering the financials.  Of course, I write that having never seen the financials.

All that said, I hope the conversation was helpful in that it may result in better terms or some additional language that could benefit authors in the long run. And I’ve forwarded Mr. Lyons some thoughts on the terms and language of the letter and I hope that helps move us all toward a document and terms that work for all of the parties involved without authors feeling bullied or screwed and without Lyons feeling like Night Shade’s authors are a bunch of ingrates who don’t recognize that someone is trying to help them.

Z

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Last night about 11:30, I posted a blog about how embarrassed I think the Skyhorse Publishing team should be about its offer for Night Shade Books.  And this morning I got a couple of emails from Tony Lyons (one via his assistant and one from him).  Mr. Lyons wants to chat tomorrow and I'm happy to have that call with him.  In the meantime, though, I just finished reading through this piece on io9:  http://bit.ly/XYJwJG. This is important reading for any Night Shade author and his or her agent. Because here the buyers state their case and it's interesting both for what it says and doesn't say.

For starters, the tone is clear:  Skyhorse sees itself as trying to save this publisher and do its authors a service in keeping their books in print.  And that's something authors should appreciate.  It also makes clear that the owners of Night Shade prioritized making their authors whole and getting them paid all they are due.  And that's something authors should really appreciate.

But there are some points that I found interesting.  Lyons is quoted as saying "they were paying royalties which really nobody else pays."  Now, I can't speak to every contract and author at Night Shade, but I can speak to industry standards.  And for fiction they are well established:

Hardcover:  10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies sold; 12½% on the next 5,000 copies sold; 15% thereafter

Trade paperback:  Tends to be either 7½ of the retail price on all copies sold or 6% on the first 20,000 copies sold and 7½ thereafter.  In some instances, you might see higher rates, but these are the standards.

Mass-market paperback:  Can be as low as 4% of the retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold; 6% thereafter to the more common 6% to 150,000; 8% thereafter to the also common 8% to 150,000; 10% thereafter.

As Lyons states in the interview, the trade-paperback rate from Night Shade was higher, but the breakpoints were high enough that I would expect few authors to ever actually escalate beyond the initial rate of 8%.  So Night Shade was paying about ½% more on the starting rate than many publishers.  Okay.  Got that.

Additionally, Night Shade was paying about 5% more on eBooks than many publishers, but certainly not all, as some pay 50%.  And Mike Stackpole stated in his blog post on this deal that he was getting 50%.  But should that break the bank?  I would say no, since the costs associated with doing eBook editions are quite low if you are also producing a print edition.

So what broke the house?  Lyons, in this article, claims that Night Shade was losing 25% a year, which clearly is not a level of losses any publisher can sustain, and that comment raises the question, How did they last as long as they did?

I imagine the owners might have invested quite a bit of their personal money in the company, but I can only imagine.  Because one thing that has not been discussed by either the owners of Night Shade or Skyhorse is hard numbers.  How much does Night Shade owe authors?  How much does it owe printers?  How much does it owe other creditors?  And how much does it owe its owners?  These numbers are pretty relevant if you want to convince a bunch of authors to take a lower royalty and give up new rights.

The offer from Lyons requires authors to accept 10% of net as a rate on all copies sold, other than eBooks, which would be at 25% of net.

If you go to Google and in "Random House Terms of Sale," you can get here:  http://www.randomhouse.biz/booksellers/pdfs/RHPSRetailTOS.pdf.  This tells you pretty much all you need to know about what the discount granted might be on a Random House title and your expected "net" on which a net royalty might be based.  I couldn't find anything like that for Skyhorse, but then remembered they are currently distributed by Norton, but are moving to Perseus.  Presuming most Night Shade sales will be via Perseus, here are the terms of sale:  http://www.perseusdistribution.com/salesterms.asp.  Based on this, authors' royalties will mostly be based on a net after a 50% discount.  So Skyhorse will sell a $15 trade-paperback at $7.50 and the author will get 75 cents.  Under his original contract, that author would get $1.20.  So the deal loses the author 45 cents per sale.  But is some money better than none? (Let's ignore that most authors would read that sentence and think, I only get $1.20 out of $7.50??!  That's the reality of publishing.)

Let's look at some other harsh realities here:

Most titles never earn out.  That's right.  If you talk to people in royalties departments (something I did a lot of when I was the chairperson of the AAR's Royalty Committee), you find out that the vast majority of titles never earn out.  This does not mean the titles are not profitable; it just means they never earn out.  So for many Night Shade authors, it may not matter at all if their rate is cut.

Many authors never see their royalties escalate.  Since the breakpoints are so high and sales volume on most titles is so low, getting to the breakpoints is often a moot issue.  So, again, eliminating escalators may not matter.

Now, on the subject of audio rights.  I'm not sure if I'm "the one guy" that Lyons refers to in the interview, since I don't think I made it sound like a travesty of justice, but I'll respond anyway.  When one does a deal with a publisher, agreements are made with regard to rights.  Certain rights are included and others are not.  When Night Shade did its deal with Audible, it started making getting the audio rights at a 50/50 split a deal-breaker.  Now, keep in mind that once that initial deal was done, Night Shade does no more work to sell the audio rights.  It merely puts them into the program.  It does nothing to earn its 50%.

Now, some publishers who make rights like audio a deal-breaker will argue that they need "every opportunity to earn back our advance."  Okay.  Where is the additional advance being paid for these audio rights by Skyhorse?  What exactly is Skyhorse doing that it deserves these rights? Well, they might say, we are rescuing the company.  Okay, fair enough statement, but does Skyhorse really need to demand assets that are not owned by Night Shade to make this deal work?

The interview continues on this subject, "Why on Earth wouldn't [authors] be thrilled that we're trying to negotiate on their behalf?" asks Lyon. "Why wouldn't they want us to sell rights that are as yet unsold, and give them half the money? That seems like it ought to be a good thing, and yet it's being portrayed as, 'Oh, they're trying to grab rights that weren't included in the original contract.'"

Well, let's be honest, they are trying to grab rights that weren't included in the original contract.  It's not a "portrayal," it's a fact.  But, also, if I were an author who had unsold audio rights, I wouldn't want to sell the rights to Skyhorse because (1) I don't recall that the contract includes any kind of flow-through provision, i.e., if the audio rights are sold, the author's share is immediately paid to the author within 30 days of receipt.  No, instead that money will be applied to the author's royalty account, which means if the author has an unearned advance, then he or she will not see that money, while Skyhorse will put 50% straight into its pocket.  Another reason is that Audible has a standing deal with Night Shade, so if you hold the audio rights, your agent can go directly to Audible and cut a deal.  Under the Skyhorse deal, you give up 50% and your agent takes 15% of your 50% (presuming you are earned out) and you get 35%.  Under the direct route, your agent takes 15% and you pocket 85%.  It's not the kind of math one needs to have graduated college to do.

Last but not least, when I read this contract from Night Shade, it has the feel of something cobbled together by the publisher frantically and never run by an attorney.  Even if you agree to the basic terms—10% of net royalties for print; 25% of net for eBooks; and giving up audio at 50/50—I'd still say there's plenty of language here that should be negotiated.  The audio rights should come back to the author if no audio is produced within one year and should also have a reversion threshold.  Also, there needs to be clarity about when these new royalty rates will kick in.  Let's say an author agrees to this deal, but is owed royalties.  Will those be calculated at the old rate or the new rate?  In other words, will the new rates be retroactive?  I don't think it's clear in the agreement.  Also, note that this agreement states that all accounting will be cash-based and not accrual.  So if an account orders 100 books in January but doesn't pay until July, those sales will be accounted for as happening in July.  That's not industry standard.  There are other issues, of course, but I'm not going to go through the entire agreement here.  It seems to me that Night Shade and/or Skyhorse could engage with the Authors Guild, the AAR, or SFWA to discuss this agreement and to make sure that it isn't a contract for indentured servitude.  And while I know SFWA has had conversations about this deal, I do not know if it has reviewed this agreement.

In the end, the decision to move forward is each individual author's, but what I'm seeing online isn't promising. Never have I seen a prospective acquisition of a house so publicly discussed and debated.  On the one hand, I appreciate and applaud the transparency.  On the other, I sympathize with Night Shade and Skyhorse at having to defend itself so publicly and to so many individuals.  In the end, though, if authors don't approve some changes that are enough to get Skyhorse to do the deal, the deal will fall through and that could be that.  Night Shade could go bankrupt and authors will then have to struggle, individually, to get their rights back.  There are no other suitors yet (hello, Amazon!) and no better offer on the table.  So as authors bitch and moan and post publicly that they will not be taking this deal, I advise them to be careful what they wish for, as it may come back to haunt them.

In closing, I can't help but think that the real problem here is that this entire deal was "spun" wrong. It's a PR nightmare.  If you want to ask authors to take a cut in royalties, fine, but asking them to go from a retail royalty to a net royalty was too aggressive.  Asking for more rights than licensed in the original contract was too aggressive, also, and arrogant.  If I had had the chance to review this in advance, I would have suggested raising the breakpoints on the hardcover rates and cutting the trade-paperback rate to an industry-standard 7½% straight or even 6% to 20,000 and 7½% thereafter.  I would also have reassured authors that the cuts in rates would not be retroactive and offered any and all authors not interested in the deal the opportunity to negotiate a reversion of rights.  Let's say your book has earned out.  Your rights should be yours for the asking.  If your book has not earned out, you can revert rights by paying back the unearned portion of the advance.  If you are owed an advance, e.g., an advance due on pub that was not paid, you can have your rights back in exchange for the unpaid advance.  However, most authors are loathe to pay a publisher back money.  It just never happens, other than in rare legal wrangling.  So most would probably accept the reasonable revision of royalties but, the authors would feel as though they were treated more fairly and given more options.  And that would have served both of the publishers in this matter better, IMHO.

As I head off to bed, I'm looking forward to my call tomorrow.  It will, I'm sure, be interesting and educational, and I do appreciate the willingness of Mr. Lyons to chat with me about all this.

Z

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I should start this off by saying that I don't really feel the need to write extensively about the letter from Night Shade Books that went out to authors and agents recently.  There are plenty of others doing that, including Joshua Bilmes and Mike Stackpole.  And both of them make good points, so read those posts and then come on back and let's talk about what should be going through the minds of Tony Lyons and his team at Skyhorse:  This is so embarrassing.  Honestly, it should.  I'm embarrassed for them.

I remember when Skyhorse launched, taking its name from one of its editors, Brando Skyhorse, not because he was such an integral part of the team (he's no longer there) but just because it sounded cool.  And it did.  But for a while, I wondered if Skyhorse would survive.  There seemed to be something not quite clicking and the publishing business, as we know, is harsh toward those trying to start up.

But survive and thrive it has and I'm happy for everyone there.  I'm always happy to have another thriving market for my clients' works.  I've never done business with Skyhorse, but I've sent a few things to editors there over the years, mostly if not all nonfiction.  And when you visit its website, you'll find exactly zero titles under "Fiction." Which raises two questions for me:

  1. Why would Skyhorse want a genre publisher such as Night Shade?
  2. Why would a Night Shade author want to be published by Skyhorse?

There are significant differences between publishing fiction and nonfiction, particularly when it comes to publicity and promotion.  Now, some might be reassured that Night Shade's team is going to remain involved with the imprint and so perhaps that ensures some kind of genre knowledge, but that same team is the one that got all of these authors into this mess to begin with, right?  So some authors might be less than excited about continuing to do business with that team.

Furthermore, the terms offered are universally worse than those Night Shade's authors have under their current contracts, a reality demonstrated ably in the two posts I've linked to above.

In a sense, this entire deal seems to me to be:

  1. Bottom-feeding
  2. Extortionist

I recognize that these are terms that both publishers might find offensive, but surely they must understand how offensive this deal is to the authors involved.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, a "bottom-feeder" is "an opportunist who seeks quick profit usually at the expense of others or from their misfortune."  Surely this is an accurate description of the role being played by Skyhorse in this matter.  After all, do we think Night Shade came up with the idea of cutting the royalties and demanding rights it didn't own in order to close the deal?  Well, maybe, but let's come back to that.

That same online dictionary defines "extort" as "to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power."  In this case, I'll go with "intimidation"—agree to the new terms or else you'll never get paid what you are owed—and "undue power" which I'm sure most authors feel their publishers have over them and their careers.

So let's ask ourselves a couple of questions:

  1. Whose idea was it to change the terms of the existing contracts?
  2. Whose idea was it to ask for more rights than those contracts already included?

These are important questions, because they help determine whether these two highly questionable "asks" are Night Shade's or Skyhorse's.  And if Night Shade's, then I think Skyhorse should really consider whether or not it wants to be in business with a company that appears to be trying to take advantage of authors who are caught between a rock and a hard place.  And if it is Skyhorse's idea, then I think authors have to really ask themselves if they want to be published by a house that is so grossly opportunistic at the expense of authors.

Either way, now that this entire matter and the offer from Night Shade is public knowledge, I think Skyhorse should be pretty embarrassed.  We all like a good deal and we understand that business is business, but no one wants to be seen kicking a kid when he's down and taking his lunch money, and that's kind of how it looks right now for Skyhorse and the way it's treating authors here.

I understand that Skyhorse may see it differently.  It may see itself as a savior of these Night Shade authors and that without this deal those authors would be screwed.  After all, some money is better than no money, right?  I guess that's a decision that only each individual author can make.  But why ask for those extra rights?  Why not just try to cut the royalty or, heck, offer authors fifty cents on the dollar for what they are owed?  Why the rights grab?

Night Shade has a deal with Audible.com to publish audios of each of its books.  This, I'm confident, is why Night Shade wants every author to sign over their audio rights, even if the original contract did not include audio rights.  I do not know the terms of this deal, but if there's an advance for every book they turn over to Audible, then Night Shade may be taking advantage of this situation to raise cash at authors' expense.  If Skyhorse is the one insisting on this provision, then it is Skyhorse trying to up the value of the deal to them at authors' expense.

When a publisher buys another publisher, the new publisher may try to change the terms of the contract but more often the publisher merely honors the existing contract.  When Kensington bought the bankrupt Carol Publishing Group, it paid out the overdue royalties and followed the existing contracts . . . and publishers loved them for it.  Even when John Colby bought the assets of the bankrupt Byron Preiss imprint, ibooks, he just picked up where they left off in terms of the contract (alas, he only bought the assets and did not make good on royalties owed).  So why would Skyhorse take such an aggressive position as to demand that the authors accept worse terms and sign over rights not covered by the original contracts?  I don't know, but if this was a decision by Tony Lyons and his team, it doesn't reflect well on them, I feel.

So what's an author to do?  Traditionally, publishing contracts have clauses that revert rights automatically when a publishing house goes bankrupt, but bankruptcy court judges tend to say those will not be honored, since the contracts are assets and the judge's job is to protect assets for the creditors.  But in practice, I have found that trustees assigned to look after bankrupt companies are flexible on reversions of rights.  If Night Shade can't close the deal with Skyhorse, then it will declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as per its letter.  Authors who are owed money will not see that money.  But they may be able to get their rights back . . . eventually.  And what happens then is anybody's guess.

Now, I haven't even gotten into the company that will buy the eBook rights (which will be dealt with separately than the print books and associated rights), because I have never heard of it and I'm wary of any company I've never heard of swooping in and owning rights I represent.  And I will add that I think separating eBook and print rights in today's marketplace is a giant mistake.  I don't know why Skyhorse would let those rights get away.  If print books are going to be a smaller and smaller percentage of the marketplace over time, why on earth wouldn't it insist on getting eBook right also (and pay for them)?

I'm getting a sense that there's a lot of author resistance to this deal, because it does seem unfair to the authors in the long run.  I suspect that Jason is going to get a lot of negative responses.  And then he's a bit screwed, I guess, as are his authors.  But the entire situation is also casting a negative light on Skyhorse and so I wonder if Skyhorse wants to step up here and fix this.  All it has to do is agree to accept the contracts as they are and not to require additional rights and the deal would undoubtedly be done.  But I think Jason Williams and Jeremy Lassen have to walk away.  One of the deal points is that Jeremy Lassen and Jason Williams will stay on with Skyhorse/Start in an acquisition/editor capacity as consultants.  And they are specific that this is a sale of assets and not the entire company.  I have no reason to dislike or distrust these guys; I've actually found them very forthcoming and communicative about their financial issues.  But I think authors will want a clean start with Skyhorse and there are many, many freelance editors out there who would be happy to step up and run that list. So I think they should sell the entire company and take what they can get and move on.  The fact that they want to change the contracts and get extra rights seems to me an attempt to ensure they have jobs when this all gets wrapped up, but if authors are going to lose money in the form of lower royalties and new rights granted, shouldn't these guys lose something, too?  Where is their skin in this game?  If this all goes through, they are in a better-than-ever situation, it seems:  free of the burdens of administration, free of debt, employed, and walking tall.  That hardly seems fair, does it?

Now, having said all that, allow me to ask a question:  Where is Amazon and 47North in all this?  This seems a tailor-made situation where Amazon could swoop in and save the day and take on a backlist of highly regarded titles and earn great goodwill in the author community.  And, of course, it would be pocket change for Amazon to buy Night Shade and take care of the advances and royalties owed.  47North is the SF&F and horror imprint there and the list would fold in nicely.  Audible is a division of Amazon and already publishing audios of Night Shade's books.  This seems to me to be a no-brainer and the perfect solution.  So, c'mon Amazon, step up and save some authors from years of headaches and heartaches and a Night Shade bankruptcy (because if you wait for the bankruptcy and then just buy up the list, that will kind of make you look like opportunistic bottom-feeders and you don't want anyone to think that way about you, right?).

Z

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I've had a new intern in this week.  A local kid who wanted to do something more than lie on the couch during his winter break.  And he's proven quick to learn and conscientious, which is great.  So I handed him a pile of eQueries that I had printed out and asked him to please call these folks and inquire why we had not received their material yet.  In some cases, the requests were made over a year ago and they were followed-up on by email once or twice.  We got a number of folks who had never received the original request for materials.  A few mentioned that once they got our message, they checked their spam folder and found it.  And a few asked that we resend the request.  Seriously?  Seriously?

I hear authors complain about how hard it is to get the attention of an agent all the time.  I obviously have dozens and dozens of queries to get through and more coming in every day.  So why on earth would an author we call ask us to resend the request if they are on the phone with the office?  Why not just ask what we want and where to send it?  Why not say they will check their spam folders and, if they can't find it, call us back for the details?  Why act like we are asking them to do work when they queried us?

I hate to sound grumpy, but I've got little kids who have both been sick.  I've got a wife who has been sick.  My last week included me spending Saturday night from 11:30 to 5:30 enjoying the comforts of the bathroom floor and then a day in bed.  My son spent New Year's Day getting coached on the proper way to bow to the porcelain throne (he's four, but I'm confident this skill will serve him very well in college and beyond).  And Wednesday night our two-year-old held us hostage by refusing to go to sleep between 12:30am and 5am.  So I'm tired and grumpy, yes.

And I know authors have similar lives.  Hell, I worry all the time about my doctors having weeks like I'm having.  Can you imagine having surgery by a doctor who has little kids at home?  No, thank you!

So, since most agents now take queries via email or online form, here are some essential tips for authors:

  • Add those agencies' domains to your Safe Senders or White List.
  • Check your spam folder religiously once you start sending out queries.  You don't want the request from your favorite agent caught in your spam folder.  That's your fault, not the agent's.  It's like not answering the phone when you see his name on your Caller ID!
  • Check agents' blogs.  I like to blog or tweet about the progress I'm making in queries.  (The oldest one I have is from October 30, 2012, so if you queried on that day or later, I haven't gotten to it yet.)
  • Be nice when you hear from us.  Maybe it's due to the increasing number of self-published authors, but the attitude I'm getting from some authors is really incredible.  You queried us.  We didn't scour the internet to find you and your work and come knocking on your door like some Fuller Brush salesman.  So why act like I'm cold-calling you to sell you carpet cleaning?  Be nice.  Be professional.  I always am when authors call me.

As for the folks who asked me to resend the requests, I will read the queries again and consider it if I'm really blown away.  Otherwise, I wish them luck.

Z

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Regular readers of this blog know that I talk not just about publishing but also review QuickBooks and Quicken.  Today I'd like to talk about how Quicken 2013 screwed the pooch on its new budgeting interface.

Like many, we pay our property taxes twice a year.  We don't do impounds (where the bank collects your property taxes as a part of your monthly mortgage payment) and instead choose to use Savings Goals in Quicken to set aside a bit of money every month to pay the taxes.

But those Savings Goals do not show up in Quicken's budgeting feature!

I called Quicken Support to figure this out and apparently I'm not alone, since the rep needed to share my screen and also needed at least thirty minutes to sort this out.  It turns out that you can add Savings Goals to your budget, but you cannot add transfers to and from your Savings Goals.  Instead, when you add the Savings Goals, you can then add transfers to and from the account from which you would be transferring to your Savings Goals.  Got it?  Neither do I and I think neither does Intuit.

There are many things in Quicken that are not intuitive, but I think very, very few are as dumb as the way Quicken 2013 deals with Savings Goals in a budget.

In my mind, I should be able to TRANSFER TO my property tax savings goal each month.  Then twice a year I  do a TRANSFER FROM my property tax savings goal and actually pay the property taxes.  The transfers are a wash; they net to zero.  Some might argue why bother budgeting them?  Well, because I want to know how much I will actually have at the end of each month and the transfers to the savings goal reduce that amount.

I don't see any logical reason for Quicken's programmers to have set it up to work differently and I consider this to be a major failure.

What do you think?

Z

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While no one has actually asked me this question, I imagine there must be a few authors out there who've wondered about my posts reporting three sample chapters declined and whatnot and wondered, "Must he be so happy about it?"

Yes, I must.

As the risk of you thinking "dick" right now, allow me to explain some realities of the publishing industry:

  1. Rejecting things releases endorphins.  Okay, not really.  Well, maybe.  You see, crossing things off lists releases endorphins.  Look it up!  It's true!
  2. Everyone, from the geniuses from whom I want to hear to the guy who collected enough bottles to finally rent some time on the computer at Kinko's to write his memoir of collecting bottles, is writing a book.  And they are querying me.  Or so it seems.
  3. I'm a nice guy.  Really, I am.  I am kind to dogs and I haven't kicked a cat on purpose ever (I did fling one across a room once, but it's not my fault it was sleeping on top of the blanket between my knees when I decided to yank on the blanket while rolling over).  So I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and request their sample chapters and proposals.
  4. Which means I have far, far too much reading to do.
So when I reject a sample chapter (I know; I usually say "decline," but let's be real here) or proposal, I get this little "yippee!" moment that my reading pile is that much smaller and there will be one less author wondering when they will hear from me.  Sure, they may not be happy to hear a "no," but they are happy, I hope, to no longer be waiting.

So when I report that I'm rejecting things, I'm actually high on endorphins and feeling good that I've succeeded in responding to something before an author sends me an angry What the hell?  You have had my chapter for whole month and you haven't read it yet? email.  Because, you know, things that are done for free should be done right away.

Thank you.

Z

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Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues:

It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of Ignition Books's first print title, Domestic Tranquility, by Ken Pakman.

In the thrilling tradition of novels such as Fatherland and SS-GBcomes a thriller set in an America under martial law.

October 1962: Fidel Castro launches nuclear missiles at the US, striking Miami. The US retaliates and devastates the Soviet Union.

November 1963: President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson are assassinated simultaneously by unknown snipers. As the US sinks into chaos, the Joint Chiefs of Staff override the Constitution, execute a bloodless coup, and declare martial law.

Present day: New York City after decades of martial law suffers a perpetual gray cloud cover and rainfall, a remnant effect the nuclear strikes upon the world's weather. Troops and armored personnel carriers patrol the streets. A curfew remains in effect. All of this is just business as usual for Chief Inspector Isaac January of the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division of the New York Garrison. That is until he is called to a grisly murder scene that appears to be an exact copy of a scene that January has seen ten years before. Is it a copycat? Or something else? January suddenly finds himself the target of a conspiracy that marks him, his friends, and loved ones for death, and that will ultimately lead to the very pinnacle of power. . .

"Ken Pakman's Domestic Tranquility is a chilling look at our world as it might have been. Isaac January is a protagonist that could give Lee Child's Jack Reacher a run for his money. This first novel is a must-read . . . and now!"

—Joe Weber, New York Times best-selling author of DEFCON One

"Domestic Tranquility gives you an action-packed thriller of a story, set against a compelling and darkly-imagined background. It's a great read."

—Ian Racey, author of A Traitor's Loyalty

"Awesome story. The concept of a police-state America and the way Mr. Pakman fleshes it out is nothing short of brilliant. From the explosive hand-to-hand combat scenes to a downright scary America controlled by the military, Domestic Tranquility will make you damned appreciative of the freedoms granted to all of us through the ultimate sacrifice paid in blood by the men and women of our Armed Forces. Truly a good read."

—R.J. Pineiro, author of HavocSpyware, and 01-01-00

When I created Endpapers Press, it was to help authors find their way through the self-publishing maze and to produce books that readers would recognize as not just great reads, but also books "done right."  Working with Jennifer Sawyer Fisher of Author Coach, Ken went through a traditional editorial process involving rounds of receiving notes and revising.  Jennifer then line-edited the work and it was then passed to a copyeditor.  The book was then proofread.  Interior design was done in-house and involved hours and hours of carefully checking and double-checking the file.  The cover was art-directed in-house and crowd-sourced via a design contest.  Over fifty entries were received and the final cover was chosen via a poll of potential readers and in consultation with the author.

The book is being produced via print-on-demand and is available via Lightning Source and can be orderd by any bookstore via its Ingram account.  It is also available via CreateSpace, a division of Amazon, and can be ordered directly from CreateSpace or via Amazon.

An eBook edition is currently in production and we'll be announcing that when it is available.

In the coming months, we will continue to publish originals and reissues in both eBook and print-on-demand format, and we welcome inquires from authors and author's agents interested in seeing their works and clients' works "done right."

Sincerely,
Z

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Just as Mitt Romney reminded us, corporations are people, too.  More importantly, agents are people, too.  Let's take my busted two weeks, for example.

November first, I flew to Atlanta for the Atlanta Writers Conference, an all-around well organized and run event.  Except the last night some random guest on my floor decided to throw her "tween" a birthday party in a hotel room and kept me up until the front desk moved me at 1:15 in the morning.  Then I got up at 5:30am to fly home to San Diego to my wife and kids.

Have I mentioned my kids lately?  There are two boys, ages 4 and 2.  They are bright, beautiful, wonderful, funny, exasperating, frustrating, and maddening.  The best way to get my four-year-old to go potty is to tell him not to go potty.  And one or both of my kids has been sick for about the last six weeks.  Oh, and so have my wife and I.  We came back from our trip to Connecticut in October with miserable colds and I pretty much only just stopped coughing entirely in the last day or so.

About two weeks ago, the oldest had an upset tummy and the youngest had a head cold that caused him to gag so badly he would throw up.  Then I took the youngest to the doc after nine days of this head cold to see if he had a sinus infection and twenty-four hours later he started vomiting repeatedly.  He now had a stomach bug.  Was it something he caught from his older brother or was it something we picked up at the doc's office.  No way to really know.

On Saturday, my mother-in-law decided she was still coming to visit, even though the youngest was sick.  That's my eighty-year-old mother-in-law, who had just spent a month housebound with a terrible respiratory infection of some kind.

On Saturday, with a sick kid at home and a week that was clearly not looking promising, I tried to go to a Sears Auto Center to knock out the oil change on my wife's car.  I agreed to an air-filter change at the same time.  To say that they screwed the pooch would be an understatement.  I won't bore you with the details, other than to say what was supposed to be an hour was three and, at the end of it, they refunded me all my money.

By Sunday, my mother-in-law was sick and had spent the whole night vomiting and the next day in bed.

By Monday, my wife had the stomach bug and spent the day—you guessed it—vomiting, or in bed, or on conference calls for work while in bed.  Sometime Monday, my oldest spiked a fever around 102.  The youngest continued his routine of vomiting and diarrhea.  The wife went back to work on Tuesday and the nanny valiantly took care of both kids, since the oldest couldn't go to preschool.

Each time we thought the youngest had turned the corner, he'd prove us wrong by either vomiting in his crib or—my favorite—in our bed (thank G-d for the beach towels the wife put down).  Meanwhile, the oldest just couldn't shake the fever and was really feeling crappy.

As the week progressed, I kept my fingers crossed, in between washing my hands every ten minutes, doing loads of dishes on "sanitize" and loads of laundry on hot.

On Tuesday, I drove my mother-in-law an hour northeast to meet my brother-in-law so he could take her home.  That was two hours shot.

On Wednesday, the nanny had to take the youngest to a class he loves and the wife begged me to watch the oldest for an hour.  All he wanted to do was wash my car, so we did that, during which time I realized that my wife's car had apparently leaked oil on the driveway.  Thanks Sears!

Wednesday afternoon, the nanny brought the youngest down (I work out of a home office that's positioned by the front door and near the stairs to the second floor) and told me he had gotten sick in his crib again.  As she is telling me this, she is holding him, and he then proceeds to do a total Linda Blair impersonation all over her, himself, and the floor (which, thank G-d, is tile).  As she stripped him down and took him to the bath, I went into clean-up mode.

Thursday, I killed the morning taking the wife's car to the dealer, so they could unscrew whatever Sears screwed-up.  Sure, it was a good opportunity to get some reading done, but still a net loss of time.

Somewhere in all this, I finished laying out the text for and art directing the cover for an original novel by one of my clients, which will be coming out soon from my publishing firm, Endpapers Press.

Thursday night I had a burger for dinner and thought, This is going to hurt if it comes back up.  I was prescient.  At 2:30am, I found myself doing flashbacks to college and wishing I was at least too drunk to actually care how miserable I was.  Alas, I was stone-cold sober.

Have I mentioned this was an intelligent bug?  It must have been, because each time I dozed off, it woke me up.  Around 4:30am, I finally got back to sleep.  The wife had long vacated the bedroom, taking with her the feverish four-year-old who had come into our bed around 1:00am.  They went to sleep in his room.

Around 7:30, the nanny phoned to say that she and her husband were both sick and she wasn't coming in.  The wife called work to say that she couldn't come in, since she now had two sick kids and a husband to care for.  I spent Friday in bed, rising only to get glasses of ginger ale, Powerade, and stacks of Saltines.

Finally, today, Sunday, we all seem to have turned the corner, other than the oldest, who still has a cough, but no fever.  The youngest no longer has a tuchis, which could make keeping his pants up a problem, and I think he's probably gone down a diaper size from weight loss.  I think the wife may be about to put him on a steady diet of bread and butter and pudding.  Anything to fatten him up.

And why have I shared all this with you?  Because tonight I got an email from a woman who sent me her project a while back.  I didn't really request it; an ex-client suggested she send it to me.  But I had had it a while.  And she emailed me and told me to take it out of my queue.  Which I happily did.

But, folks, the point of all this is that agents are people, too.  We are not reading machines who work all day in the office and go home at night to read.  We have families and some of us even have hobbies.  Unless an agent is charging a reading fee and promising to get back to you within a set period of time, then he or she doesn't actually owe you a response within any set time period.  Some authors seem to have this sense of entitlement, as though agents owe non-client authors something.  But, um, actually, we don't.  Sure, we are always on the look-out for good clients and, sure, we want to have a good reputation with potential clients and for authors not to be annoyed with our extended reading times.  But mostly I don't want my actual clients to be annoyed with me for taking too long to get things done on their behalf.  And I don't want my family to be annoyed with me for how much I work.

So if you query or submit to any agent, think about that time you had a week or two like I just had every time you feel pissed off about how long it is taking agents to get back to you.  We are, after all, just people, like you.

Z

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Should authors and agents oppose the merger of Random House and Penguin? The short answer is yes, and the primary argument against the merger is the loss of competition.

The most basic way that agents make money for authors is by creating a competitive environment in which publishers try to “win” good books that they can publish. Sometimes this is done in formal auctions and sometimes it’s done over the course of weeks as editors refine terms and try to talk agents into taking their offer over another.

When Bertelsmann bought Random House, there were many promises about continued “separation of imprints.” Competition would continue, they said. But as an agent representing many authors of science fiction and fantasy, I can prove that statement false. Bantam Spectra and Del Rey did operate separately for a time, but no longer. In fact, I’m told they now have a shared editorial meeting and a rejection by one is a rejection for the other.

Similarly, when Penguin and Putnam merged, competition disappeared. Ironically, the editor who had left Berkley/Ace to move to NAL/Roc suddenly found herself working with exactly the same team she had left, and Roc swiftly started to seem to me a stepchild to Ace.

So, what does a merger of Random House and Penguin mean to the average author? Well, for starters, it means hundreds if not thousands of people will lose their jobs. Once the “integration” is over, why would Penguin Haus (as I like to call it) need two royalties departments, two sales teams, two publicity departments, two subsidiary rights departments, two production departments, two marketing departments, etc., etc? Sure, there might be some expansion of all of those departments in order to address the increase in titles, but certainly people will be asked to “do more with fewer” in order to “create efficiencies.” And this will mean layoffs.

On the SF&F side, Del Rey and Ace are the flagship imprints and even if Spectra and Roc stay around as imprints (can’t give up the sales slots!), I don’t think all of the editors for each imprint can remain. The good ones will stay on and either the younger ones with fewer best-sellers will go, or the older ones who can be talked into “early retirement” will leave. And, of course, there’s the question of DAW, which operates independently under the Penguin umbrella. DAW will continue, I’m certain, but will it stay with Penguin or will it feel the need to strike a new deal elsewhere? I honestly don’t know.

Now, take all of that and multiply by the number of overlapping imprints at the two houses. What will become of Ann Godoff, who left Random House and landed at Penguin? Beyond the usual need to eliminate jobs in the interests of “efficiency,” there are massive personalities that could come into play in this merger. Each house has executives that have developed their own imprints and fiefdoms within the parent company. This is like merging the United States and Great Britain! Who will be president and who will be king? Can we have a president and a king? Not to mention that nearly everyone is likely going to be going into “I have to save my job” mode. No one looking not to make waves will be championing to buy a book against popular opinion. No one looking to stay employed will be arguing with his or her boss for more money for an author.

The internecine warfare that already takes place at major publishers is often the subject of gossip among editors and agents. Imagine what it will be like at Penguin Haus! This is going to be a publishing cage match, folks, pure and simple.

As an agent, I oppose such a merger because I know it means fewer markets to which I can actually submit books. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but certainly sooner than later. Already publishing houses had rules against imprints bidding against each other and a submission to a Penguin imprint not that long ago resulted in an email from the editor asking “Who else here has this?” Because, along with not competing in auctions against each other, there are now conversations that take place in-house about which editor should acquire a book for publication. And you might not get the editor you want.

Every agent has his or her favorites. There are simply editors who are better than others, or whom I liked better when I met him or her. Some are more professional. Some respond quicker. Some are more thoughtful. Some are black holes into which submissions disappear and never see the light of day again. But sometimes, when submitting a book to several imprints, we have to go with editors we’re almost hoping won’t offer on the book, because we know the headaches that will entail. Now, imagine if the editor you don’t prefer outranks the editor at another imprint you like. If both editors want the book, who is more likely to make you the offer? Because, unless you are having an auction and have multiple players, both will not be bidding.

Some houses have a rule that if there is a third bidder not related to the house, then both imprints can bid. But if that third bidder drops out, often the agent and author do not choose which imprint to go with, the publisher does.

This merger does require government approval and I expect the Authors Guild to object, but the Authors Guild is already fighting on so many fronts (seriously; if you are a published author, you need to join, and if you are a wealthy author, you need to donate something extra!). Plus, the publishers will promise that competition will continue! They always do. And it does . . . until it doesn’t. Or until it becomes conditional on other publishers (few that they are!) being in the auction.

In the end, I actually think this will have the reverse effect that the publishers are hoping for. I do not think this will make them more competitive with Amazon, even if they relaunch Doubleday bookstores or their own massive online retail bookselling site. Because reduced competition means reduced advances and likely reduced overall terms for authors. And that will only encourage self-publishing. And that just plays back into Amazon’s hands, since so many self-publishing authors use its services.

And while Penguin does now own Author Solutions, I don’t see how it can really make that work within the model of traditional publishing. Amazon, for example, owns servers to run its businesses. When it started selling server space to other businesses, that made sense. They had the capacity. But Penguin Haus is in the traditional publishing business and Author Solutions is not. Some have said it could be a like a “farm league,” from which authors might be “brought up” to traditional publishing. But I see it more like Little League, where many players with poor skills are trying to make a go at it and only a very, very small percentage will ever go on to club leagues, never mind the majors. So unless Author Solutions can win on pricing services directly to authors, it can’t really help Penguin Haus win the battle with Amazon.

I’ll write more about this over time, I’m sure. But, in the meantime, join the Authors Guild and help fund the battle against the merger. In the end, authors will be better off with more competition, not less.

Z

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Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Atlanta Writers’ Conference in, you guessed it, Atlanta, Georgia. As conferences go, I have to say that this one was very well organized and the organizers treated the agents quite well.

But, damn, they worked us! On Friday, working in pairs, the agents met with about ten authors to critique their pitches. The basic idea was that we would listen to their pitch and then give guidance on how to make it better. The authors would then meet with different agents the next day and hopefully get them interested in their projects. For this reason, the agents they met with Friday were not necessarily their first choice to meet, based on areas of representation.

But it didn’t quite go that way in our room and I understand the same happened in the other rooms.

First, we had a written summary of the book. So when the authors came in, we had questions already, rather than really focusing on the verbal pitch. Additionally, there’s an old joke: How many producers does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Why exactly does it have to be a light bulb? Over and over we pulled the writers’ projects apart, asked them why they went in that direction and not another. And given how nervous some of these authors were, I think we only introduced self-doubt, rather than bolstering their confidence for the next day. Or, arguably, we highlighted issues the agent the next day was sure to spot and gave the authors at least the day to try and revise or deal with the issues we spotted.

But this wasn’t the only problem with the pitch sessions. The big problem is that verbal pitch sessions at writers’ conferences are useless. Authors are nervous and think their entire careers depend on these pitches. But the truth is that it’s the writing that counts and agents rarely see anything written in these sessions (the written summaries at this conference were the exception, not the rule).

Agents are bait at writers’ conferences. Conferences pay for agents’ airline tickets and hotel rooms and meals in order to get them to the conference so that writers will pay to attend the conference and also pay for one-on-one sessions with the agents. But I would argue those sessions are an expensive way to get the attention of an agent.

I told the organizer for the AWC that I thought the pitch sessions should go away and that, instead, they should offer query-letter review meetings. Because those offer a win/win. The author gets his idea in front of the agent, who can express interest or not, and gets to walk away with actual tips and ideas for revising his query letter, which she or he can use going forward.

On Saturday, we met with authors in one-on-one critique sessions. The authors had provided sample chapters from their works and the agents had read them and provided feedback. For about fifteen minutes, I sat with the individual authors and discussed the material I had read and I provided each author with a memo I’d drafted ahead of time containing my thoughts (and, likely, the memo would have sufficed, rather than the meeting). And certainly this has value for the author, though perhaps less for the authors whose works really had little potential or market. I have no doubt one or two left that meeting not feeling very good about having paid for that time with me. Should I have lied?

I know agents and editors who do that. They go to writers’ conferences and they lie. They ask for things they have no interest in, but find it easier to reject the author three weeks later while sitting in their offices, rather than in person at a conference.

I’ve gotten in trouble at some conferences for simply saying I wasn’t interested. Over and over. And why not? Why should authors waste their time sending me things I don’t want to read? Well, from the conference organizers’ perspectives, it leads to dissatisfaction among the authors who paid to sit down with you. It creates buyer’s remorse.

One-on-ones to review query letters work because the writer, no matter the feedback, can always go revise and try other agents. They get value for the dollar. But if you pay just for the chance to pitch the agent and the agent says no, you feel like you just bought a date an expensive dinner but didn’t get lucky. My advice: Stop offering those one-on-one sessions.

I would like writers’ conferences to be more about teaching. Teach authors how to write query letters. Teach them how to properly format their manuscripts (please!). Introduce them to the Chicago Manual of Style and what “style” is. Teach them how to use Microsoft Word to apply styles (the other kind) and create a clean manuscript that can easily be converted for eBook publication or printed book production. Teach them about the marketplace and writers’ groups like the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, and Mystery Writers of America. Give them an overview of the different departments in a publishing house. Explain subsidiary rights and the difference between marketing and publicity. Explain the difference between retail and net royalties. Have a seminar on publishing contracts and what points need to be looked at carefully. In short, writers’ conferences should be about educating writers, and not just about collecting fees from writers for the “privilege” of meeting agents and editors.

One conference I attended years ago had a mock negotiation between an editor and an agent. I’d love to see editors invited and asked to present a P&L to the writers, to show what all of the line items are that go into deciding if a book makes economic sense to publish.

Publishing is a business. It’s not speed dating between authors and agents and hoping that you’ll find someone you like. Writers’ conferences should be like continuing professional education conferences for lawyers and doctors and accountants. Sure, there’s mingling and networking, but also some learning about how the business is changing. About new tools, like websites for writers or software for writers. Make it less about getting your project in front of someone than just getting better information.

And if you don’t, I just might. Keep an eye here. Sooner than later, you may find an announcement of a writers’ conference run the way I’d like to see.

Z

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For some years now, I have tried to publish a monthly round-up of the number of queries, sample chapters, and manuscripts I have requested, received, or declined in the prior month.  Except I'm probably two months behind in doing the posts.

And while I'm as much a fan of stats as the next guy, ultimately, I'm not sure that anyone has really been paying attention.  When it came to tracking the status of your own work, I don't have the sense it was helping anyone.

As always, I'm behind.  I have 352 eQueries to read, numerous sample chapters and a number of full manuscripts.

On the plus side, I did sign a new client last month, K.B. Wagers, and look forward to seeing her revised manuscript.  But is this kind of logging and reporting doing anything other than sucking up time?  I seriously question that it is.  So I'm going to stop, barring a massive outcry not to.

Thanks.

Z

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Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to students at San Diego State University about the publishing business.  The class is ENGL 576 LIT EDITING & PUBLISHING and the description is "Principles and practices of editing and literary publishing. Workshop on small press publishing. Includes editing and publishing workshop."  The students all seemed eager and the professor was enthusiastic.  And I guess I did okay, since she told me I could expect to be asked back every semester from here on.

But the class raised a concern for me.  When I asked how many people hoped to be editors in publishing houses, more than half raised their hands.  When I asked how many hoped to be published writers, more than half raised their hands.  Most of the class was comprised of students hoping to enter publishing in an editorial capacity because they want to be published writers.  And I see this as a problem.

Very, very few of my friends in publishing have actually written published books.  Very few have ever mentioned that they go home and work on their own writing.  Now, before you jump on all that as one of the "biggest problems with publishing," let me point out that when editors go home, they shouldn't be writing, they should be reading.  That's how editors find new books to publish.  They don't sit in their offices reading all day.  They sit in their offices reading and responding to emails, writing contract requests, dealing with production questions, writing sales memos that can be turned into tip sheets, writing catalog copy and the like.  And going to meetings to discuss which books they might next acquire or that are soon to be published.  That is an editor's day:  an endless number of meetings and phone calls and emails.  Not reading.  Not editing.  Those two things you largely due at home.

Usually when someone tells me they want to get into publishing because they want to write, I tell them to go get a job pumping gas and then go home at the end of the day and write.  Because working in publishing is not going to give you much time to write.  You'll be too busy editing other writers and probably challenged to find your own voice.  As an editor, I have always felt one of my strengths was that I could read an author's work and edit in a manner that made their work better but without rewriting and without changing the author's voice.  I feel editors have to be chameleons who can change style with ease, depending on the work being edited.

But let's not forget that there's a lot more to publishing than just editing.  I worked in a bookstore in high school and college.  I worked in a library during college.  I worked on my high-school and college yearbooks.  And I attended the Radcliffe Publishing Course (now the Columbia Publishing Course).  I can't be sure, but I'd be willing to bet a small sum that none of the students in that class had worked in a bookstore or library or on a yearbook.  Yearbooks seem like a joke for many, I know.  Who needs a physical book when we can just use the Facebook Timeline to go back and see all the pictures from our time in college?  Yet they are a microcosm of the publishing industry.  They have to be written, photographed, edited, laid out, printed, and sold.  Just like any other book.  And bookstores are dying off left and right, but they still exist and are a wonderful education in how readers buy books (mostly based on the cover and from reading the flap or back-cover copy).  And they let you see what sells and what doesn't sell.  And understanding that selling books is what the publishing business is about is an important lesson for any writer.  It not about the publishing; it's about the selling.  It's not about winning literature awards; it's about selling books.  Few publishers are actively hoping their authors win awards as much as they are hoping the damn books just sell.  Selling books keeps the lights on, not winning awards.  If winning the award helps sell more books, fantastic.  But the end goal is the same.  Sell books.  Amazon is not letting every idiot with a computer self-publish and sell via its site because it is trying to "support the arts."  It is doing it because it wants to sell more books (and, in the way an alien race might seed the world with small microbes that in a century will irreversibly change our planet, it is trying to change the very nature of how books are published, though not for the better, I think).

I told these students that I needed interns and to be in touch if they were interested.  I hope to hear from several.  But I also hope I succeeded in communicating that book publishing is a business and if you want to get into publishing as a career, it should because you love books.  Because nothing excites you more than starting a new book.  Because you'd rather be reading a good book than doing just about anything else.  But not if you want to write for a living.  If you want to write for a living, get into public relations, magazines, newspapers, or websites, where the need for new content requires you to be constantly writing.  Getting into publishing because you want to write is like getting a job at the Frazee or Benjamin Moore store because you want to be an artist.  Spending years as an editorial assistant hoping to get promoted while making $30,000 a year (if that!) will not make you a better writer.  It will make you a frustrated writer who hasn't written anything in a long time.

So where is that next generation of publishing professionals?  I'm not sure.  I got into this business because I loved books.  I spent hours and hours reading them most of my life.  And while there's a bit of the old saying about never seeing how things are made (laws and sausage come to mind), I still love getting lost in a good book.  Except now it's far, far less often than it once was.

Most of what I read isn't publishable, in my humble opinion.  Someone once told me that, based on the stats I published online, I ultimately reject 99.75% of what comes to me.  That means most of what I read is really quite bad.  Yet I keep looking, hoping to find that fleck of gold in the mud, that diamond in the dirty coal mine, that I can help reach the masses and, more importantly, that might help me strike it rich.  Because, in the end, I am trying to make a living here and the books I choose to represent I choose not so much because I love them, but more because I think I can make some money licensing them to publishers.

Literary agents and even editors are, in a real way, gamblers.  We are investing thousands of hours a year in reading, editing, and submitting projects hoping for the phone to ring and an editor to offer tens or hundreds of thousands (a million would also be nice) of dollars for the rights to a book we represent.  So what publishing may actually need is smarter gamblers.  I have often said that I wish editors did less acquiring based on their personal preference and more on what they know will sell.  No one published Gor books because they were great literature.  Hell, no one published Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling because they were writing great literature.  It was entertainment and damn good entertainment.  And I have no problems with that.

So if you have the spirit of a gambler, love books, and like to be entertained, you might have what it takes to work in book publishing.  We could use you.  I hope you'll take the shot.

Z

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When we started publishing out-of-print titles via our other venture, Endpapers Press, a division of Author Coach, LLC, I have to admit my expectations were guarded.  These are older titles.  I figured they would take a couple of years to earn back what was spent to convert them.

Then I got a sales report from Amazon for the month of July and I nearly fell off my chair!  Stingray, by Bruce "Doc" Norton, sold several hundred copies.  In fact, when I looked it up on Amazon over the weekend, it was ranked #1 in the Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > History > Military > Vietnam War category.  Whoo hoo!

In addition to that great news, the publication of two old Joe Weber books in eBook reissue turned into audio offers for both books.  And the publication of Lisa Seidman's Killer Ratings as an eBook original turned into an audio offer also.

So, if you have out-of-print books or even originals you are hoping to self-publish, here's some real proof that it is worth your while.  So check out www.endpaperspress.com for more information on how to make that happen!

Z

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"Jay Amberg takes his place among the elite of this country's suspense-adventure authors."—Clive Cussler
 

 


San Diego, CA, September 18, 2012—Ignition Books, an imprint of Endpapers Press, announced today the reissuing of the classic work of deep-sea adventure in the tradition of Clive Cussler:  Doubloon, by Jay Amberg.

In the half-light of the Gulf of Mexico’s false dawn, the salvage boat Sea Devil capsizes and sinks, killing Nick Gallagher, a well-known treasure hunter. When his estranged son Jack, a recently retired navy fighter pilot, comes to Key West for the funeral, he discovers that the sinking may have been no accident.
 
Amid the torrid, honky-tonk atmosphere of Key West and the volatile weather of the Gulf, Jack Gallagher attempts to find out what happened to his father and why. He confronts a motley group: his father’s vindictive ex-partner, Cuban exiles, a Cajun dive master, a venal and pompous politician, a bombastic lawyer, a high-handed archeologist, and a sultry, seductive reporter. As he searches for answers, Gallagher inexorably becomes captured by his father’s obsession for the Magdalena treasure: a vast array of gold doubloons, silver ingots, exquisite jewelry, and priceless artifacts lost when a hurricane destroyed the Spanish treasure fleet in 1642.
 
A second dive accident, a burglary, a courtroom brawl and another death all lead to the violent climax at the heart of a hurricane in the Gulf. Ultimately, Gallagher finds not only the truth about his father’s death, but about his father’s life, as well as his own, and about the real treasures in life: loyalty and friendship.
 
“A beautiful, combative reporter, some crafty Cuban expats and a raft of weather-beaten divers keep the plot moving at a steady clip. The final recovery scenes in the face of a raging hurricane deliver true high seas drama.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“This action thriller is written in the Clive Cussler mode: a hearty, exciting plot; familiar characters.... The story moves along smartly.... Fans of high-seas adventures will no doubt stick with it until the end.... Recommend Amberg to Cussler fans....”—Booklist
 
“Amberg has great fun explaining the routines involved in diving fortreasure, safe methods of decompression, how artifacts keep in salt water, and other seagoing details. Salty sailor talk. And the reader gets greedy for that bullion.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Murder, betrayal, and a fortune in lost Spanish treasure, Doubloon has all the elements of a terrific adventure tale and Amberg pulls them together like a master. This book never slows.”—Jack du Brul, author of Pandora’s Curse


Doubloon
Ignition Books
eISBN 978-1-937868-08-6
$4.99

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With August behind us, here's a round-up of queries and submissions of the past couple of months, but first some random thoughts and information.

I know authors get impatient and want answers now to their queries and submissions and I'm sorry that I'm not a faster and more diligent reader.  The truth is that I want to read everything when I'm both not distracted and, well, awake.  As the parent of two young boys, one of whom wakes up before 6am more days than not, I fight a daily battle with sleep deprivation.

More importantly, though, I also have many current clients and I owe them my time and attention before I go looking for new clients.  At least, I think so.  And lately my responsibilities to those clients have grown, as I have been helping several of them bring older works back into print.  Now, once upon a time, this would mean shopping their books to publishers and hoping for a miracle.  Because selling an out-of-print book to a traditional publisher to put back into print is an uphill battle any day.  That hill is a little less steep these days, since many publishers are now looking for such books to bring back into print as eBooks but, as I tell my clients, why let a publisher do it and pay you 25% of net when you can do it yourself for a few hundred dollars?  So a lot of my work on behalf of clients these days has been helping them bring their OP books out as eBooks and new print-in-demand editions.  I even went so far as to create a small press via my other company, Author Coach, to do it, Endpapers Press.

But Endpapers Press is not just for clients of The Zack Company.  If you are a published author with out-of-print books and interested in bringing your OP books back into print (they must have been previously published by a traditional publisher and gone through traditional developmental, copyediting, and proofreading), then we would be pleased to help bring those books back into print and to pay you a highly competitive royalty.  Just fill out the form on the Endpapers Press website requesting more information.

In the meantime, though, if you are here wondering where we are with your materials submitted for representation, here's the round-up:

July 2012

  • 49 queries received; 19 declined
  • 1 sample chapter received; 2 declined

August 2012

  • 55 queries received; 60 declined
  • 2 sample chapters received; 4 declined
  • 1 proposal received; 1 declined
  • 2 full MSs from current clients read and responded to

We currently have on hand to read, the following:

  • 11 full manuscripts or proposals, including one massive MS from a current client
  • 252 eQueries dating back to April 12th
  • 5 sample chapters
  • And we are waiting to receive about a dozen or so sample chapters or proposals

So what does this mean for the average author submitting?  Well, the reading isn't happening as fast as I would like, either on my end or the publishers' end.  And the offers are taking far, far longer to come to fruition and then contracts are taking months to even show up in first drafts.  But I don't seem to have any less work.  So we'll keep plugging along and we'll try to communicate more regularly.  But if anyone knows a college kid in San Diego in need of an intern, send them my way.  I can use the help!

Z

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A number of years ago, I got a package of material in the mail.  It wasn’t the usual submission package; it was a pile of newspaper containing a series of articles written by a Providence Journal columnist named Mark Patinkin.  He’d been referred to me by Jon Karp, then of Random House, now head of Simon & Schuster, so I took the submission seriously.  I can’t claim, though, that I got to reading it that quickly.

Partially, I wasn’t sure what to make of this pile of newspaper.  Where was the book in it? I wondered.

One afternoon, I started reading.  I was single at the time and fatherhood was about as far from my mind as one could imagine.  Yet, as I read these columns about a young boy named Andrew, I kept finding myself tearing up and even full-on crying at times.  I had to stop reading time and time again because I was so moved by what I read.  I can’t imagine what it was like for those who read these only as the newspaper published them, rather than having the chance to read them one after another immediately.  The suspense must have been excruciating.  The story was heartbreaking:  A young boy gets a deadly disease.  Can he survive?  Can his family survive?  Priests are called.  Masses are said.  Life-changing surgery is done.  But can he recover?  The cover of the book tells you so much, but the journey to become that boy, to be in that place where that photo could be taken is so much more complicated and affecting.

As a father today, I cannot begin to imagine the pain the Bateson family went through . . . or the ultimate joy.  This is truly a story of tragedy turned into triumph. 

Originally published in hardcover by Center Street, an imprint of Hachette, as Up and Running, the book is now republished in eBook format with new material showing where Andrew is in his life now.  Read it.  You will not be disappointed.

Z

 Just the Way He was Before
The Inspiring True Story of a Boy's Survival and Triumph

Mark Patinkin
Quadrant Books
eISBN 978-1-937868-11-6
$4.99

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Okay, I officially need an intervention.  Somehow, I've let the number of eQueries™ waiting to be read grow to more than 300!  This is crazy.  Hence, I will be working hard to get through them before I leave for the long weekend.  First will be reading and categorizing, then any I'm not interested in will get responded to, and then we'll work on the requests.  So if you've been waiting . . . and waiting . . . oh, and waiting, your wait should be over soon!

Z

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A while back, I was tweeting about the glamorous life of being an agent.  Today is a great example.

4:30am:  Wake up to the sounds of my wife's alarm going off times three.  She had a plane to catch.

5somethingam:  Wake up again to my wife bringing our oldest son, who is four, into our room and putting him in bed with me.  He was upset about mom leaving.

6am:  Having not slept anymore, having refused to put on the Wonder Pets or Sesame Street, I get out of bed with my son and take him to go potty.

6-7am:  Refuse 312 times to put the TV on.  Try to talk to my son, while keeping an eye on the monitor to see if my other son is ready to get out of the crib yet.

6:53am:  Receive text from wife with picture of an airplane "for the boys."

7am:  Get youngest son out of crib.

7:12am:  Wife calls from plane to say good morning to the boys.

7:12-7:55am:  Give boys breakfast.  Discuss which kind of cereal oldest wants.  Call my father so he can chat with the boys.  Wish my father would wear his hearing aids so he could actually hear the boys.

7:55:  Get boys upstairs against their wishes.  Start getting oldest ready for camp.

8am:  Lupita arrives!  Takes charge of the boys and I get to go get myself ready for the day.

8:30am:  Take oldest to camp.  Manage to get away without tears (his, not mine).

9am:  Stop by cashier's office to actually pay for camp this week.

9:20am:  Arrive at office to start working.  On the way, leave message for editor asking status of contract that has been pending for months.

9:20:  Download too many emails.  Delete too few.

9:30:  Log onto Library of Congress to read more about sending files for CIP data.

10am:  Review banking transactions for incoming funds.

10:05am:  Check on work by webmaster.  Note fixes needed.  Begin attempt to make blog entries automatically appear on the Facebook page for The Zack Company.  Not sure I'm successful, but if this entry shows up there, then I guess I was.  Also tried to set up integration with Twitter (@thezackcompany) feed.  Somewhat concerned I will break the Internet since FB posts to the TZC page already feed to Twitter.  I could create a loop that will suck up all the bandwidth of the universe and end the world.  Or not.

11:50:  Start this blog post.  Which I will now post.  If the world subsequently comes to a screeching halt, apologies.

Z

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This fall, Da Capo Books will publish Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc—The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day’s Toughest Mission and Led the Way across Europe, by award-winning military historian Patrick O'Donnell.  The advance praise has been stupendous.  If you are a military history fan, this is a book you should pre-order now!

Advance Praise for Dog Company

“No World War II historian can tell the story of the U.S. Army Rangers better than Pat O’Donnell, and in his book Dog Company he has managed to relate the remarkable history of a single Ranger company in an informative and entertaining way. It is a great read, and I recommend it highly, both to history buffs and those with only a passing interest in America’s past.”

—Joseph Balkoski, author of Omaha Beach

“An intimate history in the Band of Brothers tradition.  Only a gifted combat historian like Patrick O’Donnell could bring Dog Company’s story to life with such stunning immediacy and well researched accuracy.  Chock full of pulse pounding action and keen insight, this book is a true page-turner.  I highly recommend it!”


—John C. McManus, author of September Hope, The Americans at D-Day, and Grunts

“Wow! Another victory for Patrick O’Donnell, who really captures the spirit of this elite group of Rangers––possibly the toughest fighting force America has ever put together.  Dog Company is every bit as good as Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, and likely even better.”

—Flint Whitlock, author of If Chaos Reigns

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I received this news via email today.  Some time ago, I wrote a few articles for The Writer and I'm very sorry to hear that it appears to be going away.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

Dear contributor,

I’m sorry to announce that The Writer magazine will go on hiatus after the October 2012 issue, which is in production now. Kalmbach Publishing Co., which owns The Writer, is currently looking for a buyer for the magazine, and our hope is that The Writer will re-emerge under the careful stewardship of a new owner.

We deeply appreciate the fine work of all our contributors over the years, writers and illustrators who have helped us maintain the high editorial standards first set by founders William H. Hills and Robert Luce in 1887 and continued for so many years by Sylvia and A.S. Burack.

Please note:

Selected queries and submissions from recent months will be saved and forwarded to a new owner (or destroyed if no buyer is forthcoming). Other queries dated March 1, 2012, or later will receive a rejection notice in the coming days. Queries dated prior to March 1, 2012, should be considered rejected. All queries and submissions are free to be pitched elsewhere.

Outstanding contracts and payments are in process now. If you have concerns about payments owed, please contact me after Aug. 6 at XXXXXX.

Regards,
Jeff Reich

 

----------------------------------------------------------------
Jeff Reich, editor
The Writer magazine

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Hello and Happy early Fourth of July!

Although we included some numbers from June in our last posting, for clarity’s sake we are still going to give June its own monthly round-up.

Received & Declined:

  • Queries received: 70
  • Queries declined: 8
  • Sample chapters received: 3
  • Sample chapters requested: 4
  • Proposals received: 1
  • Manuscripts declined: 1

Currently on hand we have:

  • 218 eQueries™
  • 5 sample chapters
  • 1 proposal
  • 8 fiction manuscripts
  • 2 nonfiction manuscripts

Andy has also offered representation to two new clients—one nonfiction and one fiction. In addition, two of the manuscripts we have under review are from current clients. To give you insight on the speed we are working at, we declined 18 more queries today and requested one proposal and one sample chapter. I have quickly learned that our time reading submissions is shared with dozens of other publishing tasks, ranging from reviewing royalties to checking each and every edit before finalizing a eBook reissue for publication!

Thanks again for your support and patience!

Marie

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Greetings!

As the new intern, I have immediately realized that a few short months with The Zack Company will involve a college semester’s worth of reading, from queries to sample chapters and proposals to full-length manuscripts. Before I begin to dig through this mountain, Andy has asked me to help him get you all up to speed, so here is the monthly (and-a-half) round up of submissions for May and half of June. As follows…

May:

  • 61 queries received, 7 rejected
  • 2 sample chapters received, 1 rejected
  • 1 proposal received, 1 rejected, and 1 requested
  • 1 manuscript rejected

June (through the 17th):

  • 40 queries received, 2 rejected
  • Representation offered to 1 science fiction author

As of today, June 18, we have 8 fiction manuscripts from potential clients, 2 fiction from current clients, and 2 nonfiction from potential clients, all to be read! We thank you for your interest and patience as we put the necessary level of attention towards each and every submission. 

—Marie

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Another great review for Josh Berkowitz's touching baseball memoir, Third Base for Life.

From the website Jewish Baseball News:

I read this book very quickly and wished the experience could have lasted longer. Third Base For Life draws obvious comparisons to The Bad News Bears, but I saw a lot of Field of Dreams and Moneyball in the story, too. The narrative made me laugh out loud, and it brought tears to my eyes in a few places. It is hard to identify which aspect of this story spoke to me so loudly and so clearly. It is as much a story about baseball as it is about a father’s relationship with his son, and with his own father. For me, the story hit very close to home, in part because my sons also attend a small Jewish day school, and because I can’t quite imagine rising to the challenge Berkowitz conquered. I wonder whether Third Base For Life will hold the same appeal for other readers. I am pretty sure that it will.

You can read the entire review here:  http://www.jewishbaseballnews.com/third-base-for-life-a-memoir-of-fathers-sons-and-baseball/.

And, of course, you can buy the book here:


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact:
Contact Person:         Andrew Zack
Company Name:        Endpapers Press, a division of Author Coach, LLC
Telephone Number: +1 (858) 384-0265
Email Address:         
publicity {at} authorcoach.com
Web site address:    
www.authorcoach.com / www.endpaperspress.com

 

Veteran Literary Agent Launches Endpapers Press
Managed Self-Publishing Solution for Authors

 

San Diego, CA, June 12, 2012—Veteran literary agent and author coach Andrew Zack, founder and president of The Zack Company, Inc. (TZC), and Author Coach, LLC, announced today the launch of Endpapers Press, a managed eBook and print-on-demand (POD) self-publishing solution for authors.

The on-line marketplace is not only growing for new books, but it has presented an incredible boon to authors with deep and even not so deep backlists of out-of-print books. For authors who have invested in creating their own eBooks and print-on-demand editions, the rewards have been impressive, but the process of creating a quality book and placing it on-line with multiple booksellers is not a simple one, and on-line reader reviews can swiftly take a toll on the rankings—and sales—of an author whose work has not been professionally converted and published.  Authors who hope to build an audience and grow the sales of their backlist titles or original eBooks must produce professional-looking editions or face the disappointment of their readers.  Endpapers Press’s production team ensures that readers will be focused on the writing and story and not on the quality of the book production.

“Reading to my oldest son at night, I often talk about the parts of the physical book. The dust jacket, the headband, and, yes, the endpapers. To me, publishers that care about books go to the extra effort to not just publish a book, but to physically build an attractive and quality book. Endpapers, in part, signify quality,” said Zack, emphasizing that Endpapers Press will not be a vanity press, but a service provider for authors of quality fiction and nonfiction, often bringing back into print books that were originally published by major houses. For authors of original works, Endpapers Press editors will take authors through a professional publishing process, including developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading, to ensure a high-quality result.

Endpapers Press has already published several titles that are currently represented by The Zack Company but were out-of-print or to which eBook rights were not licensed to the publisher. And it currently has in the works several original eBook editions by TZC or Author Coach clients. Endpapers Press is open to working directly with authors or literary agents on publishing out-of-print or unsold titles as eBook and/or Print-on-Demand editions and offers an industry-leading royalty of 75% of net royalty on many titles.

 About Endpapers Press

Endpapers Press is a division of Author Coach, LLC, an author-services company working directly with authors of commercial fiction and nonfiction. For more information, see www.authorcoach.com and www.endpaperspress.com. The Zack Company, Inc., is a full-service, commission-based literary agency representing authors of commercial fiction and nonfiction. For more information, see www.zackcompany.com.

 

###

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Today's mail brought a big box of a book I have been so looking forward to seeing in print, A Traitor's Loyalty, by Ian Racey.

As a young reader, I loved alternate histories like Len Deighton's SS-GB orThe Divide, which I remember vividly.  Just the basic premise—that World War II ended very differently than it did—was pretty terrifying to a young Jewish reader.  But the plots were pretty thrilling, too.  I'm a sucker for alternate history stories, but I took on A Traitor's Loyalty more because it was so damn well written.  Check it out and I promise you won't be disappointed!

Simon Quinn walked away from a brilliant career with MI-6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, but now they have blackmailed him into returning to Berlin.  His mission: locate Richard Garner, a British spy who has disappeared and is suspected of defecting.  He enlists the help of Ellie Voss, a Third Reich dissident who opposes Nazi rule but still considers herself a German patriot.

But when Quinn and Ellie discover the true reason Garner went into hiding, everything changes for them.  Now, pursued by both the Gestapo and MI-6, Simon Quinn must choose, not between his country and treason, but between the brutal Nazi leaders battling for the succession: Reinhard Heydrich, the key architect of the Final Solution, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and Gestapo.  For  this British spy, it is a choice that will test even . . .

A Traitor's Loyalty.


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With Father's Day nearly upon us, I was delighted to see a rave review for THIRD BASE FOR LIFE:  A Memoir of Fathers, Sons & Baseball.  I quite love this book.  I found it inspirational, moving, entertaining, and it honestly is the perfect gift for any dad of kids of Little League age.

Check the review out here:  http://mlbreports.com/2012/06/03/berkowitz/.

And buy the book here:


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The Association of Authors' Representatives is urging literary agents to write to the Department of Justice on the subject of the DOJ lawsuit against Apple and several publishers, some of which have already settled with the DOJ.  One such letter was recently brought to my attention and I thought I'd link to it here:

http://www.idealog.com/blog/letter-to-the-doj-about-the-collusion-lawsuit-and-settlement/

What's interesting about this letter is just how technical it is in its evaluation of the business and the settlement.  But one of the issues that I see and wish were being highlighted just a bit more is that Amazon as a publisher isn't at all distinct from Amazon as a bookseller.

It seems to me that rather than punishing publishers and Apple, the DOJ should be considering the issue of Amazon as a publisher and its relationship to consumers as a bookseller.  Further, it seems to me that to be fair what likely should happen is that Amazon as a publisher should be broken out from its parent company and made to run as a regular publishing company . . . on an arm's-length basis with Amazon the bookseller.  Because without this requirement, Amazon Publishing enjoys an unfair advantage over every other major publisher.

Take marketing:  Amazon has the data and the ability to use that data to reach millions of consumers.  Amazon Publishing has that same ability because there is no distinction between the two.  Amazon the bookseller sells access to publishers by allowing publishers to pay Amazon to send emails to its customers.  But Amazon the publisher doesn't have to pay (as far as I know) and its books simply get promoted to Amazon customers as a part of the whole operation.  So should all publishers be given access to that data, just as cable and telephone companies were forced to give their competitors access to the wiring they had so painstakingly and expensively put into place?  Perhaps that's a fair development.

Plus, if forced to sell to its sister company on the same basis as other publishers, Amazon Publishing would lose a major advantage.  Right now, Amazon Publishing offers terms that are arguably quite a bit better than those offered by other publishers.  It actually does take advantage of cutting out the middleman, a/k/a the traditional publisher, and passes along some of what the traditional publisher takes out of the mix to the author.  And that's certainly attractive to authors.  But is it fair to other publishers?  I'm no lawyer, but to me it does smack a bit of unfair competition and I'm honestly surprised there hasn't been a lawsuit that addresses this lack of fairness yet.

Or the DOJ could just take the position that it all washes out eventually.  Yes, publishers may have some advantages over Amazon.  Yes, Amazon may have some advantages over publishers.  And a level playing field is nice.  But if that's the goal, then will the DOJ force brick-and-mortar booksellers to stock Amazon Publishing's books?  Where will this sudden and apparently massive regulation of the book publishing industry end?

Z

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We're running a poll to find the best new cover for the eBook edition of Distant Valor, by C. X. Moreau and would love to have you vote.  Please be sure to rate each and every cover using the star system, so the results will be properly calculated.


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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I gotta admit, it said I was a little slow. Then again, my sister has long said that!

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department


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Posted by on in TZC

Well, it's been a long time coming, and I admit I took this step with some trepidation.  Google's Blogger has a lot going for it, but it does require you to break a cardinal rule of websites:  It makes you leave the site.  So we have moved the blog to our site and hope you will continue to read it here.

Like anything web-related, there are going to be some growing pains.  I am ably assisted by my webmaster in this matters, but please do have some patience while we work out the kinks.

Thanks!

Z

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