Tags: sfwa bulletin

Survivor...Publishing Style

I've been crazy busy for a while now, which is definitely better than the alternative!  Thus, I realized recently that I've been so occupied making deals that I haven't stopped to post them.  I'll be rectifying this on Publishers Marketplace et al as time allows.  I'll also get back to posting my Agent Anonymous articles, originally published in the SFWA Bulletin, like this one from the October-November 2009 issue.  I hope you enjoy!

Survivor...Publishing Style!

I was originally going to do this article on what to expect when you hit big, because, believe it or not, there are special complications that come along with becoming a huge bestseller, but I can hear y’all now, “Yeah, cry me a river.  What about surviving in this tough market?”

So here we have it.  Survivor…publishing style.

Be Creative

First of all, in a very competitive market, good enough just…isn’t.  Even if you’ve sold on proposal in the past time and again, you may find that you’re being asked to jump through a few more hoops—tweak or rethink synopses, write a bit more material, maybe even a complete manuscript—as publishers try to assure that each and every book published is truly polished and positioned to sell.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, though it can feel that way when you’re the one writing away on spec. 

It’s very important for publishers to see how your work will stand out on crowded shelves among all the others released that month (not only by them, but by their competitors).  This means working toward really fresh and original voices and ideas.  Whether you’re writing epic or urban fantasy, sf or horror, you’ve got to bring it…a new take, something you feel passionately enough about to pour your heart and soul into. 

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Demystifying the Mystical Art of Negotiation

As promised last week, here's another of the "Agent Anonymous" articles I wrote for the SFWA Bulletin, this one from the April - May 2009 issue.  I hope you enjoy!

Demystifying the Mystical Art of Negotiation

I’ve been staring at the screen trying to figure out how to start this article.  “Show me the money!”  Seems too clichéd, especially since we all know we won’t actually see the money for a couple of months after negotiation…one, at least, in which to get the contracts and haggle out any remaining points, send said contracts to the author for signature and get them back to the publisher, and another few weeks for the publisher to process the contract and payment.  So I went looking for good famous quotes on negotiation.  There was a surprising dearth of quotes.  Apparently, the concept of negotiation is either not terribly inspiring or the great negotiators like to play their wisdom close to the vest. 

Finally, I found the following on ThinkExist.com, attributed to Dean Archeson: “Negotiation in the classic diplomatic sense assumes parties more anxious to agree than disagree.”  This, of course, is the essence of negotiation.  Parties come to the bargaining table because they want to make a deal.  In the publishing sense, the publisher wants to buy a book or series and we want to sell it…for the right price. 

There are as many ways to arrive at that price as there are stars in the sky.  And it all starts well before the words “Here’s our offer” are even uttered. 

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"Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" the reprise

Last month I posted "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart," about agent/author break-ups, and I promised you the sequel, about the difficult topic of splitting with your publishing house.  Well, here it is, reprinted from the August-September 2009 issue of the SFWA Bulletin.

Don’t Go Breakin’  My Heart The Sequel by "Agent Anonymous" (aka me)


The demented DJ in my head is now playing this section of Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, “You know it’s really not my habit to intrude,” to which my inner BS meter is responding with fits of laughter.  Last Bulletin I discussed the painful parting of author and agent.  This time, it’s the equally problematic parting of author and editor or publishing house.  


First , we all know about options, yes?  Option clauses exist in all book-length fiction contracts.  They grant your publisher the first look at, say, a detailed outline or synopsis and three chapters for your next project, and set a time limit for the editor’s response.  Now, publishing houses will argue for vague, broad options, like “next work;” agents will argue for specific, narrow options, like “next book-length work in the series.”  The result might be to one end of the spectrum or the other or somewhere in the middle.  For example, “next work of science fiction” or “urban fantasy.”  Whatever your option says, that’s what you’re obligated to show your publisher.  The contract will also delineate an option period, usually something like thirty days from delivery and acceptance of the last work under contract if you have an agented agreement. 


You’re free to take your work elsewhere—

Immediately if:

-The work is not covered under the option.  For example, it’s a work of mystery and your option specifies fantasy.


Down the line if:

-You’ve negotiated in good faith with your publisher but are unable to agree to terms.  (You have the obligation to give the publisher a first look, but not to accept an offer you find unacceptable.)

-The publisher has not responded within the option period.


Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

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