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Andrew Zack

Andrew Zack

Andrew Zack is the founder and president of The Zack Company, Inc.

In July’s IBPA Independent, Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger wrote about the potential future of a flat royalty rate for authors. Unfortunately, her article included inaccuracies that almost certainly will mislead most authors.

In her article, Rasenberger makes one key statement that is so grossly inaccurate that I feel it calls into question her knowledge of everyday industry practices of the publishing business.

The standard e-book royalty rate for many publisher is 25% of net profits; the publisher shares just a quarter of his profits with publishers.

As a literary agent, I have negotiated publishing contracts with every major house. No publisher shares a percentage of net profits. According to Merriam-Webster, a “profit” is “the excess of the selling price of goods over their cost.” It is not the difference between what publishers are paid and what they pay authors.

What publishers’ contracts actually say is that the publisher will pay the author “25% of the net amount received.” This language is nearly universal in publishers’ contracts. Contracts also nearly always define the term “net amount received.” For example:

All monies actually received by the Publisher from sales by the Publisher (directly or through agents or distributors) of Electronic Version(s), less any applicable taxes, handling or processing fees paid by the Publisher, customer refunds resulting from bona fide errors in the transmission of the Work and commissions paid or payable to third parties.

So, how does this work in practice? If a publisher has an Agency Model agreement with Amazon, it generally will receive 70% of the amount paid by the consumer, less a delivery fee. That delivery fee may be only seven cents, but they add up. On a $9.99 eBook, the publisher may receive $6.93. It will then account 25% of that net amount received to the author, or $1.73. The $6.93 is not the publisher’s profit on the eBook. It may be difficult to calculate the profit on an individual eBook sale because the publisher’s expenses are amortized across the costs of publishing the book in multiple formats. The 25% the author received is a royalty expense. The costs of paying editors, copy editors, typesetters, proofreaders, cover artists, cover designers, interior designers, publicity, eBook conversion expenses, distribution fees, co-op payments, and other expenses all come out of the cumulative amounts received before you can figure out profit. One could easily argue that authors benefit from getting a share of the amount received per book, because so many books are not profitable.

If a publisher has a wholesale-model relationship with Amazon, Amazon is likely paying that publisher 45% of the publisher’s suggested retail price on the eBook, i.e., Amazon is receiving a 55% discount. So, if the publisher has an SRP of $9.99, Amazon is likely paying it $4.50 for every eBook it sells. Amazon may also be discounting the book well below the publisher’s SRP. Of that $4.50, the author would receive 25% or $1.12, though if the contract includes a deep-discount clause that can be applied to eBooks, the author could be receiving just 10% of net, or 45 cents. Regardless, in either scenario, the author receives more money if the publisher has an Agency Model with Amazon.

Is this making a mountain out of a molehill? No, because the difference between a percentage of profits and a percentage of net is as big a deal as a percentage of retail price versus a percentage of net. There is no doubting that deep-discount clauses are prone to abuse. The fix for that is for agents to argue that they cannot apply to “normal wholesale and retail channels, including but not limited to sellers such as, Barnes & Noble, Costco, Walmart, Target, and other retailers customarily engaged in the sale of books.” Some publishers will agree to this and some will not. Like anything else is a publishing contract, the publisher’s willingness to negotiate depends on how badly it wants the book or author.

Anyone who has ever heard the term “Hollywood accounting” should be very afraid of the idea of publishers paying authors based on profits. As for the argument of whether or not authors would be better receiving a percentage of the SRP (as they do on hardcovers and paperbacks) versus a percentage of net on eBooks, that’s highly dependent on the discount. If publishers can maintain an Agency Model with sellers, then the net is actually better and, in fact, would be better across the board. But when discounts get higher and net gets lower, the royalty based on SRP is better.

Therefore, the argument could be made that a flat royalty might work and might make sense, but only if the discounts granted are low enough to ensure authors don’t lose money on the deal. And there are too many moving parts in that. Publishers would have to draw lines in the sand regarding their discounts and booksellers would have to stop demanding better discounts. However, the history of publishing shows the opposite trends. So an across-the-board flat royalty not only would not benefit authors and provide higher income, it would no doubt hurt them.

Do I think publishers could pay more in eBook royalties? Yes, but I am less concerned about the rate being based on net or retail than I am about the lack of escalators. As the number of copies of a book sold increases, the costs of publishing it are amortized over more and more copies. Therefore, the profit per copy increases. Yet, eBook royalties rarely have escalators. Think about that. The eBook edition is the one likely to be available the longest and, over time, probably sell the most copies. It is, by nature of the format, less expensive on a per-copy basis than printed copies. Yet, the author’s royalty rate does not increase based on the number of copies sold. This is the battle the Authors Guild and other writers’ organizations should be fighting: the fight to get escalators on eBook sales.

When you factor in all of the above, flat royalties are not worth considering. They may simplify the accounting, but they work against the very goal the Authors Guild would seem to be seeking in its argument for authors to receive a larger percentage of “net profits.”

Tagged in: Authors Guild eBooks
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While self-publishing experienced huge growth driven by authors who could not get publishers to pay attention to them and agree to publish their books, there are now very good authors—even authors who have deals with major publishers—getting into the self-publishing game. Why? Two words: “company policy.” And, no, I don’t mean banning casual Fridays. If only. I mean insisting on certain rights or royalty rates and refusing to negotiate on those rights or rates.

I have repeatedly been informed by publishers that they must have audio rights and that there will be no offer without the inclusion of audio rights. I have also been informed that they must have World English rights or even World rights, or they will not make an offer. This is not about negotiating the best package of rights given the advance; these are firm take-it-or-leave-it positions. Yet, in most cases, the editors have not even yet read the book!

Whenever I make a submission, I specify the rights I’m offering. And what I offer US publishers is the United States, Canada, and the non-exclusive Open market, excluding Audio, Film, TV, Graphic Novel, Comic Book, and other traditionally retained rights.

All too often, the editors respond by saying, “We appreciate your position, but it’s company policy.” Really? Company policy to withhold an offer or break off a negotiation over rights the house may or may not exercise? Company policy to alienate the author you want to do business with by drawing a line in the sand not after a series of offers and counter-offers, but at the very start? Seems like a terrible way to start a relationship.

At the end of the negotiation, an author should feel he got a good deal, that she trusts her publisher, that he or she looks forward to being in business with the publisher. And that they were treated respectfully during the negotiation.

Authors should feel excited about getting a publishing deal. Not as though they just agreed to an arranged marriage in which the terms were dictated to them. The vast number of authors who get publishing contracts do not get them after an auction or bidding war. Most are patiently waiting for editors to get to their manuscripts and make an offer. That doesn’t mean the offer won’t be for good money from a good publisher. But when the offer comes and it ignores that certain rights were on the table or it takes the position that getting World rights including Audio is company policy and those things are not negotiable, I think most authors end up feeling boxed in and bullied into giving up rights they would otherwise have hoped to license for additional advances and income elsewhere. Perhaps we should just be grateful that getting movie rights has not become “company policy” anywhere . . . yet.

And I understand authors can always walk away, but we both know that it’s not a realistic move. When Hachette had a months’-long dispute with Amazon, it could have walked away. It did not, because that would not have been a realistic business decision.

Fundamentally, these company policies are about making money. Publishers want every chance to make money. As do authors. But making these policies take-it-or-leave-it positions shows a lack of respect for authors and for the traditions of publishing. Sure, publishing is a long way from its days of gentlemen publishers who made deals over three-martini lunches, but publishers still buy the lunches for the agents and authors, if only to recognize the fundamental reality that publishing survives because good authors (and their agents) bring good books to publishers. It may be a buyer’s market (it always has been), but we must still recognize that publishers need authors.

On the other hand, authors do not need publishers. Not anymore. Amazon, CreateSpace, Ingram Lightning Source, Smashwords, Nook, and Kobo will happily take any author’s book and make it available in eBook or print format. NetGalley will help make it available for review. GoodReads will help you promote it with a giveaway. Sure, getting it into traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores may be harder, but it’s by no means impossible.

Publishers need authors. Perhaps that should be the first and most important “company policy.”

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Every year, I approach the release of a new version of QuickBooks like a Red Sox fan approaches the start of the season. I am full of hope and my expectations are that we are going to win the World Series. However, as I am too often disappointed by the Red Sox, I am also disappointed by Intuit and each new edition of QuickBooks.

I’m not in the software business. I run a couple of small businesses. So the idea of anything that makes my day less complicated or saves me money is very attractive. Unfortunately, Intuit seems unmotivated to do either of those things for its customers.

As a prior reviewer of the software, I received a complimentary copy of QuickBooks Premier 2016 from Intuit and installed the Professional Services edition. I use QuickBooks for payroll, also, and pay for my payroll subscription.

Upon installation, the system informed me that the install file was corrupted. This required me to download the files again, making this process a net time-waster.

The program was next unable to apply the payroll update. Another net time-waster.

The program then decided it was unable to open the company file, so I again uninstalled and reinstalled, deleted all temp files, restored a back-up file, and rebooted. Very much a time-waster.

Once I had the program finally up and running and back to exactly where I had been with my 2015 edition, I started poking around. I wondered if QuickBooks supplies had become more competitively priced in the last year. Five hundred high-security checks were $259.99-20% or $208. The same at Costco’s check printing site (which is run by Harland Clarke, one of the largest check printers in America) is $107.70 for Executive Members. Why does Intuit feel justified in charging $100 more than Harland Clarke for the same checks?

I had to revisit some basic settings, such as adding my logo and signature back into the program, and other preferences. It would have been nice if the install had gone smoother and such preferences transferred. Net time-waster.

When I looked at email settings, the program informed me that it doesn’t support my email program, which is Outlook 2013, one of the most popular email clients in the world. Research indicates that I am running a “click to run” version of Outlook and the program is not compatible. Why would this be? If I can create a program that runs with Outlook, don’t I want it to run with all versions of Outlook? Also, research indicates that QuickBooks is not compatible with any version of Outlook 2016.

To me, this is another case of Intuit being that kid in the sandbox who doesn’t want anyone else to play with his toys or, if he lets them play with his toys but he doesn’t like the way things are going, he picks up his toys and leaves. Look at the relationship between Intuit and PayPal. Intuit doesn’t want to match PayPal’s rates on credit-card transactions, but it also doesn’t want to make it easy for users to process payments through PayPal. Add-ins must be used or transactions exported and imported. Or simply manually entered. Yet QuickBooks can download data from hundreds (thousands?) of banks and credit-card companies. There is therefore only one conclusion that can be made regarding why QuickBooks can’t do the same with PayPal: it doesn’t want to. It wants to keep you trapped in the QB sandbox and try to force you to use its toys the way it wants you to, meaning either QuickBooks Payments or the Intuit Payment Network. This is not serving the QuickBooks customer base. This is not making life less complicated. This is not saving the customer time.

As I continued to use the program, my overall impression was that very little had changed. There are glitches, including that the Home view did not come back to the top after certain transactions that closed it were completed. My Customer list is showing up in “flat view,” though I never used that view previously.

Backup options from the prior program were not transferred to the new program, which raises the question of what preferences are transferred and what could be done to ensure all customization of preferences is maintained from version to version?

Something that QuickBooks apparently does not do (or I have not discovered over the years) is track when an invoice or statement was sent and let you pull up that sent invoice or statement to see what was on it.  Yes, it lets you see the date of the invoice, but not the actual status of sent or unsent and what date that was or if it was resent when it became overdue. Given QuickBooks’s ability to attach items to entries, e.g., a PDF of an invoice to a bill entry, and to keep filed copies of tax forms, I am stumped as to why QuickBooks can’t handle the simple copies of emailed invoices or statements the same way. For those of us who are not rigid in our schedule of sending invoices or statements (I know Intuit doesn’t recommend you use both but some of us do), actually knowing if something was emailed and when would be helpful.

Last but not least, I was recently looking at my payment methods and noticed I had both EFT and ACH. These are, for my purposes, the same thing. So I wanted to merge them. Not make one inactive, but actually just merge them so all of the transactions that said EFT would now say ACH. You cannot merge payment methods. This surprised me.

I understand that there has to be a certain rigidity in QuickBooks for it to work. Transactions are recorded when you hit record. If you have hit record and twenty seconds later your computer suddenly shuts down, that transaction doesn’t change. It’s not like when you were in college and your computer died and the paper you hadn’t been saving regularly disappeared. That’s a good thing. And I suppose from a financial records-keeping perspective, there’s something to be said for it being rigid. But being able to merge payment methods doesn’t seem like something that needs to be that rigid.

Another thing that I keep wishing QuickBooks would do is make it easier to work with Job Descriptions. For those of us who use “Job” for a deal number, contract number, ISBN, or any other type of number, it would be useful to have the Job Description field show up in the drop-down fields where we enter or pick the Customer: Job. The box they appear in is adjustable, but no matter how wide you make it, no additional information will appear.  So I am forced to keep a separate spreadsheet that tells me to what the Job Number actually refers.

Running only a “service” business, there is no doubt that I do not put QuickBooks as fully through its paces as a business that uses purchase orders or tracks inventory does. However, as my businesses grow, it’s nice to know what my options are.

The “Insights” tab on the Home page is probably the most mislabeled feature of the program. It would be better to have the “Income Tracker” screen as a tab, versus “Insights” or just have both there. Sure, Income Tracker and Bill Tracker are buttons on the icon bar, but they are so far over to the left that I barely noticed them. Valuable features should be more prominently displayed; hence they should be tabs next to Home and Insights.

In the end, I don’t see enough improvements to warrant spending the money to upgrade. And I remain annoyed that Intuit’s priority is not to make the program better to make people want to buy it, but to make it just enough different enough to warrant calling it a new release.

Tagged in: Intuit
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Posted by on in The Business of Publishing

Today is Veterans Day and I am extremely pleased to announce the publication of The Brave Ones, by Michael J. MacLeod. You may have seen the press release when I signed Mike as a client, back in 2013. Yep, this book has been years in the making.

The Army's 2012 Military Journalist of the Year and one of only nineteen photojournalists working within the Department of Defense to have a permanent profile on the DOD website, MacLeod published thirty-two photo essays and dozens of articles on Department of Defense and Army websites, many of which were republished by national news organizations including The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Mother Jones, The Long War Journal, and The latter asked for and published an article by MacLeod about what it is like to be a combat photographer. One of MacLeod's images from that deployment has received the most hits of any image ever published on the DOD website.

MacLeod enlisted in the Army in 2008 at the age of 41, the maximum age at which one could enlist. He attended basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky. From 2009-2010, his unit of paratroopers deployed to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, as the first fully-developed advise-and-assist brigade. Two years later, MacLeod accompanied the same paratroopers to Afghanistan as they conducted the last major clearing operation of the war.
But this is not your usual “war story" and getting the story told is a story in and of itself.
When I started sending this out to publishers, the book didn’t get the reaction I’d hoped for from editors. “The market is too crowded,” “I already have an Iraq memoir,” “We pubbed an Afghanistan memoir and it didn’t perform,” and other reasons to pass on it where offered. No matter that this book isn’t “just” about Iraq or just about Afghanistan. No matter that this was not "just" a combat memoir or that it was not by a soldier who enlisted at 18 or became an officer at 22. No matter that this is actually a combination of memoir and embedded journalism and analysis of the modern-day military. They weren’t biting.
Then I got interest from an editor at Amazon Publishing. I was surprised too. I considered Amazon a long shot, but why not try? The editor liked the book. Her boss liked the book. I felt an offer was imminent.
Then, suddenly, the boss left the company. I just hoped the editor could champion the book to the new boss, whomever that might be and I'd still get an offer.
Then the editor left.
To say this was devastating would be an understatement. Here I thought we were on the verge of an offer and then the two parties that were involved on the publisher's side left.
I began working the phones, trying to keep the momentum going. A new boss came in, but she came from a publisher best known for romances. Would she even be interested in Mike’s book?
Another contact got involved. Honestly, this was so long ago, the order of events is unclear in my memory, but I do know that we got the offer, we negotiated the contract (no small feat in and of itself) and finally had a deal. Phew!
You’d think that would be it until we got to pub day, right? No. I will spare you the details, but the ups and downs of getting to the publication of this book were many and I could probably write a decent one-hour TV drama, multi-episode arc about them (think The Good Wife, but in publishing). But that is not the point today. The point today is that the road to publication is a long one, often a difficult one, and, in the end, no one knows if anyone will actually buy the book, no matter how worthy it is.
So, if this story has intrigued you or inspired you, go ahead and buy the book. It’s an incredible look at our modern-day military and worthy reading for anyone who has friends or family in the service. At the finish, you will have an even greater understanding and respect for those who serve our country, which I think makes this an appropriate book to tell you about on Veterans Day.
Thanks for reading.


Tagged in:
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A few weeks ago, I spoke at San Diego State University to a group of students, most of whom were enrolled in a class on publishing and editing.  I speak to this class a couple of times a year, though I rarely speak on the same subject.  I have spent the class discussing the Department of Justice’s persecution of publishers and Apple.  I have discussed “a day in the life of a literary agent.”  I’ve talked about how I got into publishing and how the business works.  Most of all, I emphasize that publishing is a business and that working in publishing is not the idealized interaction of editors and writers in the pursuit of great literature that they may think it is.  As I’ve often said, “If you leave this lecture thinking you should not go into publishing, then I’ve done my job here.”

Which brings me to this post, my first in a long time.  I write about once a year that agents are people too, emphasizing that our response times may be slow and our acceptance rates may be low, not because we’re not working hard, but because we are people too, with kids and parents, with illnesses and cars that need servicing, with teacher meetings and a desire to volunteer.  All of which means we can’t spend eighteen hours a day just reading and working.  No one can.  No one should.

A number of months ago, a client of mine met a guy at a conference.  The guy had a small press and a small TV production company.  He expressed interest in my client’s work.  I was wary, but had a phone call, which didn’t really make me less wary, but I asked to see their contract as a part of starting a conversation.

It took probably a month or more for that contract to show up.  My client was interested.  He didn’t think there was a lot to lose in pursuing a deal.  When I did get a contract, I didn’t get a chance to look at it right away.  I had other matters that were pressing and that I felt took priority.  It’s a reality of any business that priority issues get taken care of before those that seem unlikely to generate income.  And in the literary agency business, that contract for $50,000 is likely to be handled before the contract for $5,000 and the contract for $5,000 is likely to get handled before the contract for $500.  Certainly if the deal is for no money, it’s at the bottom of the list of things to handle, pretty much after "order a new toner cartridge."  You would probably be shocked how many no-money offers are received and how often authors are interested in pursuing those.  But agents work on commission, so doing a deal with no money upfront means I'm working for free.  I cannot afford to work for free.

After a follow-up inquiry from the author as to where I was with the contract, I seriously considered parting ways with him.  He’s a great guy and I’ve done some business for him, but nothing like what I’d hoped when I took him on as a client.  But, more importantly, if he couldn't be patient while I found the time to work on his "no money" contract, it was time to part ways.

And then he sent me a letter terminating representation.  Apparently, we were both feeling similarly.  I sent him an email acknowledging it and wishing him luck.

I’ve talked about parting ways with clients before.  It’s rarely a happy occasion.  But I will say parting with this client was a bit of a watershed moment.  Agents are a bit like professional gamblers.  We put our time, money, and effort into trying to find a winner who will make us money.  That’s got to be one reason why we always talk about the writers in our stable, right?  But this writer was not making me money and I had stuck with him for years, hoping eventually he would make me money.

And I know every writer out there would say he was sticking with me for years, hoping I would make him money, but the business is not one where an agent can magically make a publisher buy a book or grow an author’s career. We help authors get deals and get better deals than they may have by using our relationships and knowledge of the business, but if you are not writing something that editors think is “the next big thing,” don’t be surprised if it doesn’t sell.  If your agent tells you that it won’t work in the marketplace, trust your agent and drop the project or find a new agent who thinks it will work. And if you never sell it, be sure to drop your old agent a note telling him how right he or she was.

But I’ve digressed.  I was writing about a watershed moment.  I realized that I had far too many clients on my list that simply weren’t producing actual income for me.  Most of them simply hadn’t written a new book in years after selling one.  For some, their book never sold and they weren’t revising or producing a new one.  Their reasons were many, but mostly it boils down to they are human too and had kids to raise, new jobs to find, spouses who needed their help in life, etc.  And that’s all very reasonable.  But it’s not good business to keep them as clients if they are preventing me from taking on new clients and investing in new projects.  And they were.

How? you might ask.  After all, they aren’t really taking up your time if they aren’t doing anything, right?  Well, it’s more of a mental thing.  You feel you should be revisiting those clients' works (no matter the forty or more submissions already made) or checking in to see what they are doing now (no matter they didn’t respond to the last email or letter you sent to them asking that), versus just looking for new clients.  In a way, it’s hard to admit you were wrong about a book or an author, but if the book doesn’t sell or the author stops writing, then you probably were wrong to take on that book or client.  But sometimes you just have to admit that you have been throwing good money after bad in terms of your time and effort and move on.

There is nothing wrong with any of the fourteen or so authors with whom I parted ways.  They are good people and many are good writers.  Or could be, with more editorial work.  However, just as editors rarely choose to take on a book that needs a lot of editorial help these days, I must stop taking on diamonds in the rough.  There are too many books that don’t need multiple rewrites that I could be taking on and I need to focus on those.

So, I have cleared the decks a bit and I have taken on a couple of new clients and I am reading a revised novel that I still very much like, even though I have represented it for a decade or so and it has not sold in the US (but it has in foreign countries).  So I guess I’m still gambl— investing there.  Change is hard.

I have finished all but one of the sample chapters I had to read.  But I still have a few manuscripts to get through, and I do want to get on the many queries waiting for my attention.  So keep your eyes on your inbox if you are waiting to hear from me.


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Recently I sent out a pile of follow-ups to requests for sample chapters that I had sent out a few months back and apparently never received the material.  A few people wrote back that they had never gotten the first request, which right there leads me to one piece of advice:  If you are querying agents, you must, must, MUST check your spam folder every day to make sure the response from the agent isn't trapped there.  Also, if you know how to whitelist a domain name to ensure any mail from that domain goes into your Inbox instead of your spam folder, you should whitelist the domains for the agents you have queried.  You should STILL check the spam folder, though.

Next, please, please, PLEASE do not query me or any agent until you are ready to share your material.  I know some authors have heard horror stories about how long agents take to read queries and they are all true. But that does not mean you should query when you are halfway through writing your book, building in the expectation that the agent will take six months to read your query.  Because, if one agent reads it and immediately asks for the material and you aren't ready to send it, you are screwed.  The agent will lose interest or even get annoyed.

Presuming you are only querying agents that do not charge reading fees, then please don't waste the time of those agents with reading ANYTHING—query, sample chapter, proposal, or full manuscript—if you aren't fully ready to (1) share more material if requested and (2) accept representation with that agent if offered.  Otherwise, you are just wasting the valuable time of that agent.  The flip side of this, of course, is that you can't complain about an agent taking too long to read to read your query or material because any agent is doing so WITHOUT COMPENSATION.  And you cannot expect detailed editorial feedback—or any feedback, honestly, beyond a "no thank you"—because, again, the agent is reading this material "on spec," searching for new clients, without compensation.  For an agent to spend any time at all writing editorial notes on a project he or she is outright rejecting (without suggesting resubmission after revision) is simply doing work for free and wasting his or her time.  Better he or she spend that time on editing current clients or works for which he or she sees real potential.

So what set me off on this rant?  I just got this email in response to a follow-up from me:

We're holding off from sending you our material because our editor is only a third of the way through her meticulous review of the complete ms.  As we informed you previously, we intend to send you the material when we've read her suggestions and are totally convinced that the book is ready for publishing. 

Allow me to list the ways this response fails:

  • If the author wasn't ready to share her material, why did she query me?
  • The original query was dated August 12, 2014, or over six months ago.  I requested the sample chapter three months later, in November.  So this writer queried me literally months and month before she was ready to submit her work?
  • Why on earth is she having her book edited to the point where she is "totally convinced that the book is ready for publishing"?  That strikes me as both a waste of time and money, as well as some combination of naïve and arrogant.  It is naïve because it ignores the reality that no book that comes into an agent's office is or even should be "ready for publishing."  Because one presumes that one chooses an agent for his or her knowledge of the marketplace and thus the agent might have recommendations, which the author may then ignore because she or he has decided the book is "ready for publishing"? Further, what the heck does this author think the editors at publishing houses do?  They edit books.  Hence, while you should certainly have a book that is written well and formatted properly, no author simply submits a book that's "ready for publishing."  Who does that, you might wonder?  Publishers, when they send a book the printer.  Because a printer is the only one who expects a book "ready for publishing."  Agents and editors do not.

That's not to say agents and editors don't appreciate clean manuscripts, but even a mega-best-selling author will benefit from the hard work of your agent, editor, copy editor, and proofreader.  Not to mention potential comments from the Sale Department (depending on the book) or even the buyers at the chains (again, depending on the book).  Thinking you're going to send out a book "ready for publishing" is like sending me or the publisher a color printout of "what the cover should be." For the love of G-d, never do that.  That's why there are Art Departments and Art Directors and why your cover will be discussed in meetings and by the Sales Department and the chain buyers, etc.  At the most, feel free to send along some covers (AFTER your book has been contracted for by a publisher and hopefully after they've asked) of other books that are in the style you'd like to see on your book.

But if you are not ready to share your book until it is "ready for publishing," then by all means do NOT query anyone until it is as ready as you feel it can be, and then still be ready to do more work, because what you, an author who has not worked in publishing for decades, may think of as "ready" may be quite different from what an agent or editor thinks.


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In my last post, I reviewed QuickBooks 2015 and commented on the lack if improvements.  Well, here's a development I missed.  Intuit PaymentNetwork does not work in QuickBooks 2015. 

From the IPN website:

We are excited to announce the upcoming release of QuickBooks 2015. There are many new things you can do with QuickBooks 2015 including at-a-glance insights, improved reports, and more.

However, we wanted to let you know that Intuit PaymentNetwork does not work in QuickBooks 2015 for Windows. When you upgrade to QuickBooks 2015 for Windows, you may continue to use Intuit PaymentNetwork outside of QuickBooks, but you will need to manually add pay links to your emailed invoices and then reconcile deposits and fees on your own. (Click here to see how.)

A solution will be available for QuickBooks 2015 for Windows before the new year, allowing you to add a Pay Now button to your emailed invoices. Therefore, if you rely heavily on Intuit PaymentNetwork, you may want to consider upgrading to QuickBooks 2015 for Windows after the new year. If you do not rely heavily on invoice enabled payments, we invite you to upgrade to QuickBooks 2015 as soon as you are ready.

Well, that's just dandy.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given that I've complained for years about the fact that Intuit had three separate payment divisions.  I guess they finally decided to consolidate.  But why would they do it in such a disorganized fashion?

For example, how is it possible they didn't have their ducks in a row before releasing 2015?  And if they knew they wouldn't, why not retain IPN functionality in 2015 and make the change in a later update or even in the 2016 version?  Well, I think I know why.  Because it would "inconvenience" Intuit to do it that way and it might cost them increased fees that forcing people to use QuickBooks Payments might generate.  Damn the fact that it may inconvenience customers to suddenly no longer have an IPN option available.  And it's not like this is well advertised.

I only figured out what was going on when I upgraded and it asked me to log into my IPN account from within QuickBooks and told me it was moving me over to QuickBooks Payments.  Then I got an email that they were sending me a card reader.  Huh?

Of course, I didn't order a card reader, but apparently they really want me to have one.  It's a mobile reader and intended to work with your phone.  I guess if I ever decide to start selling extra copies of my clients' books on the street corner, I'll be all set.

To me, though, this process of removing IPN from QuickBooks before QuickBooks Payments is fully operational and integrated with the program is yet another example of Intuit's arrogance.  If Intuit were a car maker, it would be selling cars without brakes and telling us, "Don't worry.  We'll install those for free next quarter."

Caveat emptor.


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Ah, the joys of upgrading. That, of course, is generally an oxymoron when it comes to anything related to computers and software, but let’s explore the realities of upgrading from QuickBooks Premier 2014 to the 2015 edition.

I received my copy of 2015 free from Intuit, based on my having written a number of prior reviews of the program, albeit often negative ones.

I think it was Captain Kirk who said it was the natural human condition to be dissatisfied, for that is what drives human beings to always strive for more, to be better, to improve. So when I express my frustration and annoyance at QuickBooks, it’s not to drive users away, but to drive Intuit to do better. In fact, to do much better—DAMMIT JIM!—because there's so much room for improvement.

For starters, QuickBooks requires you to log into your Intuit account just to install the software. If you are like me and essentially never log into your Intuit account, this results in several minutes of racking your brain and searching your computer for the password to your Intuit account. Now, keep in mind that there is absolutely no discernable reason that you should have to log into your Intuit account to install this piece of software. Perhaps later, during set-up of payroll or other services, you might have to, but certainly not just to install it. But there it is, telling you to do so.  Mr. Spock would probably find that “Illogical.”

Next I found the new “Insights” page, along with the Home page. This is supposed to provide a snapshot of your profit and loss year-to-date, though it comes with a warning that it is most useful with companies using the accrual method. So apparently those using the cash method are SOL. “The information shown in Home page Insights is based on accrual-basis reporting. If you use cash-basis reporting, the information you see may be different from what you expect.” Information that is different from what I expect? This isn’t a science experiment during which I’m open to different outcomes. If they are going to create a page that provides “Insights,” then it should produce actual insights.

That said, I found it interesting and imagine that there may be those who find it useful to see open invoices, overdue invoices, etc., as well as a graph of income and expenses. But I would find it more useful if the chart had income and expenses side-by-side, rather than in the positive and negative form in which they appear.  Data presentation is extremely important to data interpretation and presentation here is poor.

Of course, links to sell you more services or supplies are prominently featured at the bottom of this screen, because Intuit, like Harry Mudd, rarely misses the opportunity to sell you something. Tribbles, anyone?

Also on this page was a chance to upload my logo, which I thought a cute way to personalize the page, but was surprised the program didn’t know that it already had my logo, because it prints that logo on checks and invoices for me. What this logo really does is demonstrates that different parts of QuickBooks are designed by different teams and those teams don’t really work together.  If they did, then the program would first check the appropriate folder to see if there is a logo already uploaded for checks and invoices, etc., and install it here.

The Home page is largely unchanged, though I have noticed that it is often sized incorrectly and I’m unsure why that is. Prior versions of QuickBooks had a notorious problem with different screen resolutions. If your Windows Display settings were set to 125% instead of 100%, there were often buttons—like the “save and close” button on checks—that simply didn’t show. Or columns on the “write checks” screen that didn’t show. This problem appears to have been addressed on the Write Checks screen, so I can’t figure out why the Home screen is being quirky.

Once I loaded the 2015 version and started working with it, I found so little that seemed different that I had to ask if there was a comparison chart. There is and it’s here: According to it, there is exactly ONE new feature. Everything else is an “improvement.”  I feel like a million users have been asking for “More power!” and some guy with a Scottish accent at Intuit is saying, “I canna give ya more!”

Illogically, Intuit acted like a stubborn human and ignored my recommendations that it stop trying to make QuickBooks file manager. There’s still a Documents Center where you can upload or scan in documents, but at least there’s a handy link in case it gets completely fracked up (sorry for mixing up Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, but Star Trek never had its own version of the F-word). You see, those files are stored in a separate folder and then linked to whatever point in QuickBooks you attached them. QuickBooks has a utility to help you find the attachments folder and then “refresh” those links. Or you could, you know, just keep a separate folder of invoices or bills or whatever that’s not at all linked to QuickBooks and thereby reduce the odds of mucking up or corrupting both your Company file and all those other documents.  Also, one should not keep all of one’s dilithium crystals on one basket.

When I bought a car with a built-in navigation system, some folks told me I was nuts. “It’s just one more thing to break and then you’re driving around with a car with a broken GPS and you can never sell the car until you invest in fixing it.” Yada yada. It was an entirely valid point, but you couldn’t get leather seats without the navigation package. But QuickBooks doesn’t come with leather seats, so you can choose to ignore the opportunity to attach files willy nilly and avoid headaches down the road. It’s certainly the choice I made.

Similarly, I don’t understand the need for the “Lead Center,” which features a link to Not an ad or obtrusive button, but a little link. If you’d like to know more about Quickbooks and Salesforce integration, you can go here: But there seems to be an oversight in the desktop version.  This link shouldn’t be here.

According to the website, “Salesforce Integration for QuickBooks Online [emphasis mine] brings your existing data together so you can get deeper business insights and focus on what matters most: getting more business.”

But what if you don’t use QuickBooks Online? Should I take this to mean that this integration only works if you are using an entirely different version of QuickBooks than I am? Well, isn’t that annoying? And what does that mean for the usefulness of the Lead Center in the desktop version of QuickBooks? Is it just taking up useless space? Certainly it appears that way.

Regardless, though, this is another feature of QuickBooks on which I wish they hadn’t wasted time. How often is your bookkeeping person interacting with your customers? How often are your sales guys chatting with the bookkeeper? The reality is that this integration really only works for small companies where the owner is keeping the books and overseeing sales. And Salesforce really just isn’t cost-effective for such small companies, I think.

If you are a small-business owner and need to track leads but don’t want to or can’t afford Salesforce, then the Lead Center in QB just looks like a very amateur database that was tossed into the program. Outlook’s Business Contact Manager or ACT! can do better. Or, hey, a separate Saleforce account, because if QB’s desktop version doesn’t work with Salesforce, you might as well have a separate account.

Listen, I like a Swiss Army knife or multi-tool as much as the next guy. And I see advantages to making QuickBooks do things beyond basic bookkeeping. But storing documents and tracking leads are not things I want or need QuickBooks to do. I need QuickBooks to track my money and my money alone, please. Enough with the bells and whistles that just make a lot of noise but really aren’t needed in a bookkeeping program.

So let’s talk about a few things I think QuickBooks could really do to improve:

Combine the Customer and Vendor lists. I get it, Customers are people who pay you. Vendors are people you pay. But if you have anyone who falls into both categories, you need two entries. This isn’t efficient and begs the question, Why do you need separate lists? Wouldn’t it be easier and more straightforward to have one list of contacts and maybe, if necessary, check boxes to add them as one or the other or both?

There is still no PayPal integration. You cannot download—versus import—transactions from PayPal, and you cannot directly receive payments or send payments using QuickBooks and PayPal. I get that Intuit has its own payment processing divisions. In fact, I think it has three: Direct Deposit for Independent Contractors, Intuit Payment Solutions, and the Intuit PaymentNetwork. And each one has different capabilities. DDfIC used to be Direct Deposit for Vendors, but then people started using it to pay companies instead of individuals and Intuit apparently caught on that this conflicted with its Bill Pay service. Now DDfV was about a buck and a half a payment but the Bill Pay service is $15.95/month for up to 20 payments. Also, DDfV is just that, Direct Deposit, but Bill Pay is a glorified service to print and mail checks. It even states in its FAQ list, “While many of your payments will be made electronically, some payees (and, of course, individuals) cannot receive electronic payments.” So DDfV was for individuals, but people used it for businesses. Now you cannot use it for businesses unless you get an EIN from them and check off the little 1099 box. The theory is that you will send all of the payment recipients 1099s, but since you don’t have to send corporations 1099s, you can just deselect them when the time comes to print your 1099s. Complicated workaround there, eh? Data’s cat could probably figure that one out.

What’s annoying about all this is that Intuit appears to have changed DDfV to DDfIC and required you to entire a tax ID and check off the 1099 box because people were using it to pay recipients other than independent contractors. Of course, some of the independent contracts I pay are incorporated and thus I was not sending them 1099s, so Intuit just made extra work for me.

And then there’s the irony of that entry in the Bill Pay FAQ list that seems to fly in the face of the reality of DDfIC, meaning it says you can’t use ACH to pay individuals, but that is exactly what DDfIC does.

Then, of course, there’s IPN which is like the bastard step child of Intuit Payment Solutions. One can’t help but think that it was developed to compete with PayPal, but PayPal does more than IPN does and pretty much what Intuit Payment Solutions does. And it may do it for less than either one when you compare credit card fees. And if you want to duplicate PayPal’s functionality in QuickBooks, you actually need both. Which is fracking ridiculous.

Honestly, there are days I wish Intuit would suck it up and just buy PayPal. Or vice versa. And then it could put a stake through the heart of both IPS and IPN and just integrate PayPal. That QuickBooks ignores that fact that thousands or millions of its users want PayPal integration and doesn’t make it happen is the epitome of arrogance, I feel.  It glaringly proves that Intuit isn’t interested in what its customers want and is only interested in what it can foist upon its customers and make more money for itself.

But I digress. I was discussing features QuickBooks could add that would actually be helpful. For example, address-checking, ZIP+4, and address bar-coding. I am a user, but I also like to use windowed envelopes for mailing checks. So when I enter a new vendor or customer, I have to put the address into’s software and make sure I have the USPS-preferred address, including the ZIP+4. But that doesn’t put a mailing barcode on the check and it would be nice if QB did this so that those of us using windowed envelopes had not only the correct address, but a machine-readable mailing barcode on the check also.

Simplify the Payroll Subscription program. Coincidentally, as I was upgrading my QuickBooks, my payroll subscription ran out. I had called earlier in the month, after getting a reminder that it would auto-renew, and cancelled it so it would not auto-renew when the current subscription ran out. This was ridiculously time-consuming, of course, and born out of the reality that the renewal price was going to be $374. AYFKM?! I knew I had purchased a payroll subscription in the past for $99, but the options have certainly changed over the years. And I was willing to pay a bit more to avoid a lot of the paperwork headaches and have QB fill out the forms and allow me to file them electronically. But $374 seemed like a lot and I knew I could do better.

Last year, I bought a package via Amazon for $269.99. Still a lot, but more than $100 less than the auto-renew price. Unfortunately, this year I could not find a stand-alone payroll subscription at the retail level. Not at Amazon, Staples, or Costco. Which kind of made me wonder if they were trying to force users into accepting their price-gouging. Then I stumbled upon a link to QuickBooks Payroll via Costco and gave them a call. Now, the price on the website seems confusing: $22/month for 12 months, PLUS $2/employee/month ( But when I called them up, they looked at my account, found that I had been on one plan, then switched for a year. The older plan was “Intuit QuickBooks Payroll Annual Enhanced Up to 3 Employees” and a Costco Executive member price of $214.99, before taxes. A bit better than $374, right? That’ll buy a lot of Romulan ale!

But it’s also annoying as hell. Why is buying an Intuit QuickBooks payroll subscription like buying an airplane seat? The prices change constantly, the options change regularly, but if you work the system right, you can save a ton of money. Who has the time for this shit? (And don’t say “YOU!” because I don’t, but I also can’t buy ANYTHING without doing some research.)

When I was a kid, my father taught me about the KISS principle. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I often feel that no one at Intuit ever learned that. The features it adds often do nothing or actually increase the odds you’ll eventually frack up your file with attached documents that are no longer attached or by using a Lead Center that is supposed to sync with Salesforce but does not. The cost of its checks still exceed the cost of those you can get from Costco, which are printed by Harland Clarke, a leading check printer. QuickBooks charges $257.99 for 500 with a hologram and Costco $107.39 to an Executive member for 500. Who founded Intuit? P.T. Barnum? Because clearly they think there are a lot of suckers out there.

Unfortunately, there is really no other option out there for small businesses when it comes to bookkeeping programs and if you have been using QuickBooks for even a short time, the process of changing would be so laborious that most people would rather get root canal.

So, given that there is exactly ONE listed “new” feature and that “improvements are incremental at best, should you bother to upgrade? The short answer is no, but if you are a Pro user and need a new payroll subscription AND you are under the newer plan that charges $2/employee/month, it may make sense to just buy the upgrade with the payroll in one package. At Costco, that’s $359.99, so still cheaper than a one-year renewal of the payroll service under auto-renew and you get the updated program. If you are a QuickBooks Premiere user, you are SOL, as I cannot find a package that includes both Premier and Payroll. But you will likely still do better getting your payroll through Costco as an Executive Member than doing anything directly through QuickBooks.

And that, folks, concludes my review of QuickBooks 2015: To Boldly Go . . . Nowhere.


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Posted by on in The Business of Publishing

I don’t usually write about the clients who leave me.  Frankly, it doesn’t happen a lot and when it does it’s not exactly a proud moment, so why would I?

But I discovered something today about a client who left me that I think offers an educational opportunity about the business, so I’m going to share it.

I had a client I met when I was an editor.  I was involved with the acquisition of one of his books by the publisher for which I worked.  I got the book in, though, due to in-house politics it actually ended up being acquired and edited by another editor.

When I became an agent, I ended up taking on this author as a client.  I honestly don’t recall how he came to me (did he write me? did I call him?).  Doesn’t matter.

I ended up selling a couple of books by him to a publisher.  He was not, in the end, very happy with the publisher.  In fact, he described the president and publisher of the house in some very negative terms and felt that the house did a very poor job selling his book.  He vowed never to publish with that publisher again.

Then there was a new novel and I had some editorial issues with it.  I thought it needed to be rewritten.  He ended up shelving it instead and he kind of went radio silent on me.  I reached out now and then.  There was an offer to reprint his reverted backlist, but he turned it down.  I reached out another time and got, essentially, a “don’t call me, I’ll call you” response.  He was busy with his day job, had moved once or twice, and I wondered if there were other personal issues at play.  I regretfully decided I should give him his space and focus on more active clients.

Then I started up a small press to help my clients get their reverted titles back into print.  I was very excited about it, as were a number of my clients.  I’ve published twenty-six books by my clients now, mostly reissues, but a few originals.  Some of the titles have moved thousands of copies, some have not.  It’s not unlike the rest of the publishing business.

When I reached back out to this client about reissuing his books for him, I got put off again.  And then I got a termination letter.  It was a perfectly pleasant termination letter, a bit of “it’s not you, it’s me” in tone and expressing a desire for a “fresh start.”  But it also mentioned that he had a completely new novel.  Done.  Ready to go.  And rather than letting me handle it, he was moving on.

This was, you can imagine, upsetting.  So we exchanged emails.  The tone got a bit less pleasant.  Clearly there were some pent-up frustrations about his career.  Obviously, I didn’t talk him out of parting ways with me.

Fine.  It happens.  I haven’t given it much thought since, though I will always be rather sad about this “break-up.”

Today, my intern, not realizing we no longer repped this author and while looking up some information on Amazon, discovered his new book.  It’s coming out early next year.  It has some great quotes from best-selling authors and apparently some Amazon Vine readers got early copies and so there are actual reader reviews already.  Seems to be a solid four-star book.  Good for him.

But here’s where the “learning opportunity” comes in.  This author was so frustrated by his old publisher that he vowed never to be published by that publisher again.  He thought the publisher did a terrible job with his last two books.

Yet his new publisher is simply a different division of the exact same publishing house.

And not even the main division, the one that has regularly picked up former New York Times best-selling authors and pumped some life back into their careers.  No.  It is with the “mystery” imprint.

Consider that there aren’t many publishers out there and each has multiple divisions and multiple imprints.  Ace is not Del Rey, though both are now imprints of Penguin Random House.  Thomas Dunne Books is not Tor Books, but both are part of Macmillan.  William Morrow is not Harlequin, but both are part of HarperCollins.  Putnam is not the same as the Penguin Press, but both are part of Penguin Random House.  Pocket is not Scribner, but both are part of Simon & Schuster.  I could, obviously, do this all day.

But all of those imprints and divisions that are not the same but are part of the same corporate parent?  They pretty much all share the same sales force.  That’s right.  You have one sales force for the massive parent company, selling the books by all of the divisions and imprints, just as you have one order department and one warehouse.  In fact, the first things to be consolidated when two publishers merge are the sales and order departments and the warehouses.  It is a minor miracle when a small publisher is bought by a large one and it gets to keep its sales reps.  Though I assure you that’s likely not a long-term situation.  Over time there will be attrition, retirement offers, and assimilation, until there’s just one sales force.

So has this author who was so unhappy with his prior publisher actually achieved anything in terms of his career here?  Well, he has a new editor, publisher (the person, not the house), new publicity department, etc.  But his book will still be sold by the same sales force that let him down the last time.  In fact, there’s a real chance that some of those reps and the accounts they service will remember his last book and it may not even register on them that it is coming from a different imprint.  And they may simply treat it as though it is coming out of the same house.  Because when it comes to the larger publishing complex, it is.

I would never have shopped this guy to other imprints of that same parent company until I had exhausted every other opportunity with other publishers.  He was so unhappy there.  And can he have a better experience with a different division or imprint at the same parent company?  Sure.  But can he go from mid-list and not successful to best-seller?  That would greatly—truly—surprise me.  His book is going to be sold into accounts by the very same sales force that previously sold his books.  At the top is the same guy who was running the show when he was published years ago by another division.  This is, in the end, no “fresh start,” but just the same old-same old.

And that frustrates me.

As an agent, I want my clients to succeed.  And if a client left me and became a raging best-seller, it might really undercut my confidence.  But that has never happened to me.  Dumb luck?  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s just a reflection of what I’ve always said about the agent-author relationship.

In 2005, I wrote an entry for Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, in which I opened my description of the “client from hell” as authors who “have probably published two or three, or maybe three or four, books.  These are likely fiction but might be nonfiction.  They have ‘fired’ their previous agent because their career is going nowhere and that is, of course, the agent’s fault.  They are looking for an agent who can ‘make things happen.’”

I would love to meet that agent.  I want to meet an agent who can overcome a bad sales track record and solid but not exceptional reviews for an author’s works and make something fantastic happen for that author’s career.  Because I don’t think any agent can do that.  Only the author can, by writing so exceptional a new book that so blows away an editor and publisher that they will go to extreme lengths to make the book succeed and to help it overcome what has happened for this author in the past.

I still remember sitting at lunch with an editor who handed me an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of a book he said was going to be a best-seller.  He told me that so many people had read it in-house and loved it that they had just printed thousands of additional ARCs.  There were, as I recall, tens of thousands of ARCs in print, more copies than any of the author’s books had ever been printed for publication.  Why so many?  Because the publisher wanted to put a copy into the hands of as many people in the sales “funnel” as they could to ensure that they saw for themselves the best-selling potential of that book.  That book was the Da Vinci Code.

Do I think my former client’s new book is the next Da Vinci Code? Based on the reviews so far, no.  And based on what I know of the publisher and its abilities to create best-sellers, no.  But I hope my former client does become a best-seller.  Why?  Because as much as we ended up parting ways kind of the same way a lot of couples break up, I think he’s a very good writer and I'm a fan of his work.  And if this new book succeeds, maybe by the time I retire and have the time to read for fun, there will be a nice pile of new books by him for me to enjoy.


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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: 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 (  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 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 (; 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.


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.


Tagged in: 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.


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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.


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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?).


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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.


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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:, 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:

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.


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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 (, 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













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.


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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.


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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).


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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.


Tagged in: Intuit QuickBooks
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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.


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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.


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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: 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:  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:  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.


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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, 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 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?).


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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.


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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?


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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.


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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."


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.



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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.


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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 for more information on how to make that happen!


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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

Ignition Books
eISBN 978-1-937868-08-6

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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!


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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.


 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

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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!


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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.


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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.

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!


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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…


  • 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. 


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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:

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

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


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 and The Zack Company, Inc., is a full-service, commission-based literary agency representing authors of commercial fiction and nonfiction. For more information, see



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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:

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:

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?


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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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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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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.



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