Showing posts with label publishing process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing process. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interns

There's been a lot of discussion in small business circles about whether or not interns need to be paid for the work they are doing. The concern is that companies are "hiring" unpaid interns to do work that should be done by paid assistants. That an unpaid internship should be a learning experience. And I agree. I agree with much of what's being said. What I have concerns about, however, is what's defined as "learning."

When one gets a job in publishing you usually start out as an assistant of some kind, whether an agent assistant, an editorial assistant, publicity, etc. As an assistant you aren't expected to know the ins and outs of publishing, although some knowledge can be to your credit, but you are expected to do a whole bunch of menial tasks. As an editorial assistant I was in charge of all the filing. Lots and lots of filing, and my boss didn't check the files. It was my job to find a paper for her whenever she needed it, and quickly. I was also in charge of the Science Fiction library, which meant lugging boxes of books in and out of a small windowless room every month to stack, sort and rearrange, to make sure we had enough copies of each author and to find the space for them on the ever-crowded shelves. I spent a great deal of time faxing, collecting faxes, making photocopies, fixing the copy machine and sometimes, yes sometimes, I had to do things like run out for a cup of coffee or clean out the disgusting office refrigerator. Was it glamorous? No. Was it a job I loved? Absolutely. I also got to read and edit yet-to-be published books, meet famous authors, get autographed books for Christmas presents, and I got to read and discover new authors. It was my dream job, or would be once I jumped through the hoops.

These are exactly the kinds of jobs (minus running for coffee and cleaning out the fridge) I ask both my assistant and my interns to do. Because what I've sadly discovered is that learning how to file is something that a lot of interns need. I'm amazed at the number of people who have come through the BookEnds doors who don't seem to have a basic grasp of how to file or how to fax (or figure out for themselves how to fax) or even how to mail a package. I wonder if doing these tasks would be considered learning, because in my mind they should be.

I remember Kim telling me once about her own internship at Berkley and how one of her tasks was cleaning out and reorganizing all of the files of a huge NYT bestselling author. She said she loved it. She got to read revision letters and contracts and correspondence between the author and her editor. She learned a ton about the process of publishing. And that's something I've noticed with my interns. Filing is a huge part of this job and some of them will pull up a chair and spend the day filing and reading the files and papers and, yes, learning. Others just seem to chuck the files in any folder (and yes, this has caused us many a headache) and not bothered to use the experience to learn.

Another job I often give the interns is reading. We ask the interns to do a great deal of reading and write readers reports, and I think all of us make an effort to give feedback on the reports and show the intern how to write a stronger and better report (something they'll need to do when applying for any editorial job). What they do with that is up to them. They can learn from the feedback we give them or ignore it. Again, I'm amazed by how many ignore it.

I also ask interns to review contracts for me. These are typically contracts I've already reviewed and negotiated, but now I want a second set of eyes to compare it to the one I negotiated and make sure every "i" is dotted, "t" is crossed, and comma is in its place. Let's face it, for any of you who have ever read a publishing contract, there is a lot of "stuff" in that stack of papers, and yet I'm amazed by how few interns have ever asked me questions about the contract, even when I ask if they have any questions. Isn't this a huge opportunity to learn?

An internship is not like school. No matter whether you're paid or not you're not going to get written assignments, papers and tests. You're going to be given tasks that will help the agency or business move forward. How you decide to learn from these tasks is up to you. In my mind, it's a first step to adulthood and a career outside of school. If you want success in this world you have to be bold enough to take the steps to find it and to participate in it. That's how you're going to learn. Two of the assistants I've had were interns. They were the kind who read the files, asked the questions and made themselves invaluable in their short time here. In fact, the interns who learned the most were always the ones who spoke up and showed a desire to learn more. We were always happy to give them more to learn from.

Jessica

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dreams of Working in Publishing

Hello, I read your blog (Jessica's) about getting a job in publishing. I want so badly to work with new authors everyday, to be involved in the process of publishing and be with great works from the beginning.

It seems clear the main place to be is New York City. I live in West Texas. I am an English major (minor: Communications) and I will be certified to teach high school upon graduation. I do not have the resources to just up and move to the city. I was thinking of completing my Bachelor's degree and using teaching as a way to live comfortably and realistically be able to relocate to the city. That way, I could search for entry-level positions without fear of being destitute or having to move back home.

Is this a good plan?

I know it sounds like I'm not fully committed to my dreams of working in the publishing industry, but I think success stories I hear involve people who have money and resources. I have neither. And I've tried moving to big cities and waiting tables- let's just say that's not an option for me.


It warms my heart to hear someone say that their dreams are to "work with new authors" because that's really what publishing is all about. So many people go into this business because they want to be writers. I'm not sure I ever wanted to be a writer, but I wanted to be a part of the process, which is why my job is perfect for me. I get to work to my strengths and hopefully encourage authors to work to theirs.

You are correct that the right place to be is New York, and I think you have a good and smart plan. It's not easy to simply pack up and relocate to a new place. I know. I did it. When I first decided to move to New York to "make it there" I had nothing but a degree in hand. Okay, I lie. I also had five years of waitressing experience on my resume and, let's face it, you can almost always get a job waiting tables. I knew that I could find a waitressing job while I searched for my calling. That was my plan.

I think packing up to move to a new city and working at something while you achieve your true dreams is commitment. A huge commitment. Once you get to the City there are a lot of opportunities available to those who are searching for jobs in publishing. Both NYU and Columbia have publishing programs. I'll let others comment on the usefulness of those. I don't think they are at all necessary (I know more people who did not do those than did), but I understand they can be good for networking.

Publishers Marketplace has a Job Board that is a definite must for anyone looking for a job in publishing. I know there are other publishing job boards, but I can't say I know what they are off the top of my head. Watch the comments, I'm sure someone will post a list of other places.

There are internships every summer that might work perfectly for you if your "other job" is teaching. Most are unpaid or barely paid, but they will get your foot in the door. And lastly, send resumes blindly. You never know when an opening will come up, so every few months or so send a round of resumes to every publisher you're interested in working for. If you love mysteries, scour the mystery bookshelf and submit your resume to all of those publishers; if you love romance, do the same with the romance shelf.

And good luck. I think your plan is solid and it sounds like you have the drive to achieve your dreams.


Jessica

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Updated Publishing Dictionary

It’s become an ever-popular post, my Publishing Dictionary. This is the fourth version I’ve done. Some of the words and definitions remain the same, but at your requests there have been a number of additions. For those who have been regular readers of the blog, I apologize for the repetition. But just like any good dictionary, we need updates, and here is the New and Updated Publishing Dictionary.

AAR: The Association of Authors’ Representatives is an organization of literary and dramatic agents that sets certain guidelines and standards that professional and reputable agents must abide by. It is really the only organization for literary agents of its kind.

Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance against all future earnings.

ARCs: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers. Sometimes called galleys.

Auction: During the sale of a manuscript to publishers sometimes, oftentimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have an auction. Not unlike an eBay auction, this is when multiple publishers bid on your book, and ultimately, the last man standing wins (that’s the one who offers the most lucrative deal).

BEA: BookExpo America is the largest book rights fair in the United States. This is where publishers from all over the world gather to share rights information, sell book rights, and flaunt their new, upcoming titles.

Blurb: A one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. People often compare a blurb to back cover copy, and while it’s similar, it’s frequently more streamlined and focuses on the heart and the chief conflict in the story. This is the pitch you use in your query letter as well as the pitch you would use in pitch appointments.

"Blurb" can also be used in a publicity sense. You might ask someone to "blurb" your book, in which case they'll give you a positive quote that can be used to help sell the book.

Book Proposal: The author’s sales pitch for her book. A good book proposal is used to introduce agents and editors to your book and show them not only why it’s a book they need and want for their lists, but also how well you’ll be able to pull it off.

Category or Category Romance: “Category” is the shortened term often used to refer to category romances. These are romances typically, and almost exclusively published by Harlequin/Silhouette in their lines. Examples of category books are published in Silhouette Desire, Harlequin Superromance, or Silhouette Special Edition. Note that not all Harlequin/Silhouette imprints are considered category.

Commercial Fiction: Fiction written to appeal to a large or mass-market audience. Commercial fiction typically includes genres like mystery, romance, science fiction and fantasy. Popular commercial fiction writers include Nora Roberts, John Grisham, and James Patterson.

Commission: The percentage of your earnings paid to your agent, typically 15%.

Copy Edits: Edits that focus on the mechanics of your writing. A copy editor typically looks for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typos, and style.

Cover Copy: The term used to describe all of the wording and description on the front and back cover of your book.

Cover Letter: This is the letter that should accompany any material you send to an agent or an editor. A cover letter should remind the agent that the material has been requested, where you met if you’ve met, and of course the same information that is in your query letter—title, genre, a short yet enticing blurb of your book, and bio information if you have any. This can often be interchanged with Query Letter.

Credentials: What make you qualified to write a book and knowledgeable in your field of expertise. Credentials are usually defined by your level of education and experience on the job.

Editor: The person who buys on behalf of the publishing house. While jobs differ from house to house, typically the acquisitions editor is your primary contact throughout the publishing process. Her editorial guidance comes in the form of the book’s overall structure and writing. She’ll supply major revisions if needed.

Fiction: A story/book based on research and imagination.

Foreword: An introduction to your book that’s always written by another person, preferably someone well known and highly credentialed.

Full: A full manuscript.

Galleys: Another word for ARCs. Galleys aren’t always bound, but are also sent to reviewers as well as other sources for publicity. Galleys are often a copy of your Page Proofs.

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see sub-genres like business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture, memoir, or current events.

Hardcover: A book printed with a hard cover.

Hook: What makes your book stand out from every other title on your bookshelf. If you’re writing mystery it’s that one element that makes your book different from other mysteries, outside of the mystery. If you’re writing a business book it’s how you make your business book different from the others in your field.

Imprint: The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Usually done as a way to market certain types of books. For example, Aphrodisia is an imprint of Kensington. It is still a Kensington book, but by publishing under Aphrodisia you are branding the book as erotic romance. Prime Crime is an imprint of Berkley that brands the books published as mysteries.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Literary Fiction: Fiction that appeals to a more intellectually minded, smaller audience. Literary fiction tends to have a stronger focus on writing, atmosphere, and style than commercial fiction might. Popular literary fiction authors include Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, and Elizabeth Strout.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets (like grocery stores and drugstores). Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4" x 7" in size.

MWA: Mystery Writers of America is the national organization of mystery writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Narrative Nonfiction: Nonfiction written in story form like memoir, biography, autobiography, etc.

Nonfiction: Writing based on fact.

North American Rights: These are the type of rights licensed to the publisher, allowing the publisher only to handle and represent book rights in North America. This means that the author and the author’s agent are responsible for selling/licensing rights anywhere outside of North America (and usually a designated set of territories).

Novel: Book-length fiction. Therefore, note that it is redundant to say “fiction novel.”

Option: Also called the right of first refusal. This is a clause found in almost every publishing contract that gives the publisher the right to have a first look at your next book before you can show it to any other publishers.

Partial: A partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a partial usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a partial usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Proposal.

Pitch: Frequently verbal, the pitch is your Blurb. It’s a one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. It’s what you use to describe the story and entice readers to read the book.

Placement: When your book gets special treatment in the bookstore. Outside of just putting your book on the shelf where it belongs, publishers can pay to have it put on tables or in displays. This is called giving your book placement.

Platform: A term typically used for nonfiction authors, it’s what makes a writer stand out from all of those with similar credentials. A platform is more than just your work experience or educational background, it is the media coverage or speaking engagements that give you national, or at least local, recognition to potential readers.

Preempt: When a publisher makes an advance and royalty offer high enough to take the book off the auction table. In other words, a publisher offers enough money that the author and agent agree that they will sell the book without asking for bids from other publishers.

POD: An abbreviated term for Print on Demand.

Print-on-Demand, aka POD: With improved technology it is now possible to print copies of books based on exactly how many are purchased. Print on Demand books can be electronic or paper.

Proofs/Page proofs: This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages, and the author is given one last chance to review the typesetter's “proofs” to check for typos or other small errors. Proofs are also what are used to make review copies for reviewers and sometimes rights sales.

Proposal: A proposal is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Partial.

Pseudonym: A fictitious name often used by writers who want to hide their real identities. The use of a pseudonym can happen for a variety of reasons. Some writers prefer to keep their real identity hidden because they are writing something controversial (erotic romance, for example), while others like to create alternate identities for different styles of writing, and even others use a pseudonym as a way to re-launch a stalled career.

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course MySpace and other networking Web sites.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to obtain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book. A query letter is your introduction and sometimes only contact with an agent and should not be taken lightly.

Revisions: This is when the bulk of your edits are done. Revisions are typically done with the editor acquiring your book and sometimes with your agent before even submitting a project. Revisions can include anything from fixing punctuation to rewriting the entire book. It’s a collaborative process between the agent or editor and the author.

Royalties: The percentage of the sales (monetary) an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

RWA: Romance Writers of America is the national organization of romance and women’s fiction writers and a great source of information for all writers.

SASE: Short for self-addressed, stamped envelope, a requirement for any author who wants a reply to a snail-mailed query.

Sell-Through: This is the most important number in publishing. It’s the percentage of books shipped that have actually sold. For example, if your publisher shipped 100,000 books but only sold 40,000, your sell-through is 40%. Not so great. However, if your publisher shipped 50,000 books, and sold 40,000, your sell-through would be 80%. A fantastic number.

Serial Rights: These are rights for serialization often sold to magazines. Cosmopolitan magazine, for example, has started serializing erotic romances, which means they pay to publish a portion of the book around the same time the book is first published.

SFWA: Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is the national organization of science fiction and fantasy writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Single Title: A term typically used in romance (the romance genre) to differentiate category books from those published by other publishers. Single title books tend not to follow strict guidelines like category romances do and can be published by publishers like St. Martin's Press, Berkley Publishing, Random House, etc. Mira and HQN are Harlequin imprints that also publish single title. Single title tend to be longer, 80,000 to 100,000 words. Note, single title books can be part of a series.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Stand-Alone: Stand-alone books are those that are not part of a series. This is a phrase often used in mystery, but can definitely be used in other genres as well.

Subsidiary Rights, aka Sub Rights: These are rights to use the books in other formats. Sub rights could include foreign translation rights, book club rights, movie rights, audio rights, etc.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.

Tag Line: The one line often used on the front cover of the book to grab a reader’s attention. Tag lines, while fun for writers to write, really aren’t necessary until you have a publishing contract.

TOC: An abbreviation often used in publishing to describe the table of contents, otherwise thought of as the general outline and organization of your book.

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically though they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense (not a recommended way to seek publication by most agents or editors).

Voice: The author’s style or characteristics of the author’s writing that are unique to that person.

World Rights: When World Rights are sold/licensed to the publisher the publisher has the ability to represent the book on the author’s behalf and sell foreign translation rights anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the author does get a piece of the pie no matter where the book is published.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Publishing House Procedure

I need some insider info. My (wonderful) agent hasn't really given me any details about the situation so I hope you might be able to.

Last year we went on submission. We came close once with a revise and resubmit but ultimately the editor didn't make an offer. One of the editors from the first round was very slow and when my agent called to follow up, he told her I was doing an R&R. The editor asked to see the revision.

A few weeks after she got the ms, she called me and asked for some changes. They were very minor and I ended the call feeling very good about her and the work she wanted me to do. So we sent the newly revised ms back to her and then we got a note a few weeks later that she loves it. Another note a few days later said she finished it and was sending it to her editorial director.

My question is: what does this mean? Do editors usually send it to their editorial directors before they can make an offer? Is she sending it to the editorial director because she has doubts about it or because she's excited about it? How does a decision about an offer actually get made?



This is fabulous news. There's nothing else to say. Nearly everyone at a publishing house needs to get what are often called "second reads" before even considering an offer. These second reads mean they go to their colleagues to get their opinion. Unlike most agencies, no decision is made at a publishing house without the consensus of a number of people. Who these people are will depend on the house, the genre, the editor, the book, etc. Often an editor will bring the book up at what's called an editorial meeting to get the opinion of a number of editors. In this case she presents the book one week, often using your agent's pitch letter as her guide, and listens to the feedback of others at next week's meeting. Sometimes the decision makers include not just editors, but the marketing and sales team as well, and sometimes the only second read you'll need is from the head of the genre's department or the editorial director, or maybe just the editor's immediate boss.

In this case it sounds like she's hoping to get the go-ahead from the editorial director to make the offer. If the editorial director agrees that it's something they would like to add to their list, they'll discuss where the book would fit on the list and what kind of offer they will be making.

Congratulations and good luck. This is exciting news.

By the way, it sounds like you have a great agent, someone who's really active and involved, so don't be afraid to ask her these questions. That's just part of what you pay her for.


Jessica

Monday, October 18, 2010

Working at a Snail's Pace

I was editing a proposal for a client recently and thinking how much has changed in the fifteen years since I first started working in publishing Really I was thinking about how slow things used to be, and while I know many of you will say things are slow now, you should have been around fifteen years ago.

Fifteen years ago an author would finish a book proposal or manuscript. She would proofread, revise, and edit. Then she would head down to the nearest office supply store, buy paper, and print out 50 to 400 pages. She’d then carefully bind it together with either a rubber band or binder clip, place it in an envelope, drive to the post office, and mail it off to her agent. The material would arrive on her agent’s desk roughly 2 to 5 days later.

Now the author finishes the book proposal or manuscript, proofreads, revises, and edits. She then hits “Save,” opens her email program, types in her agent’s name, hits the “Attach” icon, and then "Send." The material arrives on her agent’s desk roughly 2 to 5 minutes later.

Fifteen years ago the agent would unwrap the package, pull out the pages and a blue or red pen, and read while making notes and marks all over the pages, and possibly composing a letter in a notebook at the same time. Once finished, the agent would sit down at the computer or typewriter (and yes, this is what we had in the office when I first started in publishing) and compose her revision letter using the notes in the notebook. The agent would then bundle up the entire package in an envelope and send it off to the author for arrival 2 to 5 days later.

Now the agent opens her email, opens the attachment in Word, or some other word-processing program, turns on track changes, and begins reading and editing. She make her notes in the margins of the manuscript and tracks any changes she makes. While making the changes the agent (or me) writes notes on overarching problems in an email to the author. When she's finished editing, the manuscript or proposal is attached to the email and sent off to the author for arrival 2 to 5 minutes later.

Fifteen years ago, when a manuscript was ready to go out on submission, the agent would send a copy to the printer and have roughly six copies made. Once those copies were back from the printer, they would be collated into boxes with a query letter that had been written six different times and printed. The manuscript boxes would be placed in envelopes and hauled to the post office for mailing. The submission would arrive in the editor’s mailroom roughly 2 to 5 days later, to be delivered to the editor a day or so later.

Now the agent prepares six different submission emails and attaches the manuscript to each email. The emails are then sent off to the editor for arrival on the editor’s desk 2 to 5 minutes later.

I have to admit, I don’t miss those days.

Jessica

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Different Way of Doing Business

I get a lot of referrals from clients, which, of course, I absolutely love. In fact, just last month (or maybe the month before) I signed a new client who came through a referral. But I digress.

The reason I’m writing this post is because there is definitely a different way of doing business in every industry, and publishing is no exception. When a nonfiction client refers me or introduces me (usually through email) to a potentially new writer, almost inevitably the writer follows up with an email suggesting times when we should talk on the phone. She always has a list of book ideas she’d like to discuss and I never get the feeling she has a book proposal.

Frankly, I still haven’t quite figured out how I want to handle these situations. More often than not these phone calls end with me saying that the idea sounds viable, and rarely do I ever see a proposal when I tell the author that’s what I would need. Now, I’ve scheduled time out of my day to have the call, wasted time explaining the business to an author, and nothing much comes from it.

So I’ve responded via email instead, explaining how the process works in publishing and letting the author know I’d need to hear more about the book. The author, of course, seems miffed that I can’t take the time for a phone call and, again, I never see a proposal.

Most of the authors I experience this with are business authors, and obviously they are doing business in the way they are used to. I don’t think it’s wrong, it just doesn’t necessarily work for publishing.

Jessica

Monday, March 08, 2010

Finding Agents and Publishers

I have written a book about [insert either fiction or nonfiction subject here] and would like to know where I can find publishers or agents who handle these types of books.

I get questions like this all the time emailed to the blog, in lieu of a query, or even via phone, so while it might seem basic, let’s discuss it anyway.

There are a number of terrific books and Web sites available to get you started on the road to publication. I’m going to ask my readers to comment on some of their favorites as well, so don’t forget to read through the comments section. However, the first place I suggest writers start is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, and they do have a variety of different titles targeted to specific genres. This book will give you a basic understanding of publishing and what it takes to get published. From there you can begin your search for agents and publishers.

I also recommend Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents or Literary Marketplace as a place to begin researching which agents might be right for you. Keep in mind I say "begin" because books are written nearly a year before publication, so you can’t guarantee the information you find there is the most up-to-date. Therefore, I would use these books to write your preliminary list and then work to further perfect your list by using the various Web sites and blogs that tend to have more updated information. Sites I recommend are Preditors & Editors, Absolute Write, Backspace, or Agent Query.

I also strongly recommend that you become involved in a local or online writers group; there are many around the world, including local chapters of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and Science Fiction Writers of America. Whether you write in genre fiction or not these organizations all provide an amazing resource for authors.

And of course, before submitting to any agent be sure to read the submission guidelines and review the information on that agent’s Web site. This will ensure that you follow proper submission procedure and that your material fits the genres the agent represents.

Jessica

Friday, February 05, 2010

Amazon v. Macmillan

By now you all should be keeping updated on the Amazon v. Macmillan battle. If you aren’t, you should be. For those of you who are published this will eventually affect your sales, how your books are priced, and the money you make. For those hoping to be published, knowledge is power.

Earlier this week Wired.com posted this article on the issue. What I think is interesting is this belief that publishers hold a monopoly on their product. That would be like saying Coca-Cola held a monopoly on Coke products. Well, duh, they are the manufacturers of Coke. Granted, the publishing industry is hugely different from a product like Coke, but to some degree it’s not. A publisher should be able to determine the price of their product based on production costs, marketing and publicity costs, advertising, and the price paid to an author. Isn’t that how a manufacturer determines it’s costs?

Amazon and other retailers are welcome to price the products they sell however they like, and if they think the price is too high, I guess they’re welcome to not sell them. That’s how bookstores work. If they feel they can’t sell a certain book they stop selling them. They return the books to the publisher and the author’s numbers go down. It does not make sense to do this to an entire publishing house just like it doesn’t make sense to stop carrying all Coke products just because you think Dasani water might be priced too high.

Ok, I’ve launched into the same point everyone else was talking about and that’s not what I meant to do here today. What I meant to point out was what’s really missing from this discussion, and this article, and that’s the author. I believe, absolutely, that books should be priced by the publishers, but should all books be priced the same? Maybe instead of automatically charging $25 for a book we should look into the costs that go into that particular book. For example, a book with a $100,000 advance, television ads, and money spent on promotion should be priced higher then a book with a $5,000 advance and no advertising or marketing efforts. Maybe instead of putting your money into my book, publishers should start to price books based on the money they’re putting into them? After all, if you aren’t putting advertising into a book, then wouldn’t the author (and book) benefit from a lower price point?

And, if books are being priced higher, where is the author in all of this? Why are publishers still paying such low royalty rates on ebooks? I understand, and I agree, there are still costs that go into ebooks. The publisher will still (hopefully) pay for marketing and publicity, beautiful cover art, cover copy, and editors. Boy, do I hope they continue to pay editors. But if we’re not paying for paper and shipping and production, but we’re still charging the same for ebooks as we are for paper books, then isn’t it fair to start sending a little more of that money the author’s way?

Anyway, in all of this craziness about who has the right to price books, let’s not forget where these books come from in the first place. Let’s not forget the author.

Jessica

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Age and Publishing

Can i realistically expect to write a fantasy novel with a fairly standard Tolkienesque type of plot, as a first book, probably submitting to an agent when i'm around seventeen?

First let me answer the question as you’ve written it, and then let me answer the question I think you meant to ask.

I think it’s absolutely realistic that you could write a Tolkienesque fantasy novel and submit to an agent when you’re around seventeen. However, I don’t think you really meant to ask me what you can realistically do. I think you meant to ask if it’s realistic that you could get an agent.

There are so many variables to this question that I really can’t answer it. First of all, I have no idea how old you are, how long it will take you to write the book, or what you’re expecting. In other words, if you’re twelve now and expect to take five years to write the book, sure, you can submit to agents, but whether or not an agent is going to offer representation depends on how well the book is written, how different and exciting the book is, what the market is like, and whether or not you’re able to connect with an agent who is looking for just that kind of book. If, however, you’re sixteen and a half, I would probably have to tell you that I don’t think it’s realistic that in six months, or even a year, you could finish (assuming you haven’t started) a Tolkienesque book that’s ready to be seen by agents. My guess is that it would probably take you longer to write, revise, edit, and edit more.

I suspect one of your concerns is your age. Frankly, I don’t care. I don’t care if you’re seven, seventeen, or seventy-seven, and I don’t think anyone else should care either. If you’ve written a really great book, all an agent cares about is whether or not it can be sold. Don’t worry about your age. Write the book.

Jessica

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Who Does This?

***Warning to all reading this: It’s full of sarcasm and nothing but a rant, but I had a really good time writing it.

Not too long ago somebody (I’m not sure if it was a man or woman, or even using her real name, so we’ll go with “she”) thought it would be a good idea to send an angry diatribe of an email to roughly 400 publishing professionals. How do I know 400? Because all of our email addresses were there for the world, or at least 400 publishing professionals, to see.

The email was entitled “confidential memo.” I mean, really, how confidential can anything be when it’s from a stranger and blindly sent to 400 people, many, or most, at generic submission addresses? But if that’s what you think, I’ll respect that. Okay, no I won’t.

The email started by telling us all how much writers disregard the publishing industry and hold us all in contempt. My first thought was that you must not disregard us all that much if you’ve gone to the effort to collect 400+ email addresses and send this email, but I’ll keep reading. Apparently, according to this writer, bestseller lists only promote shallow and marketable books and there’s nothing being published that’s written by anyone with any lasting talent. Interesting, the same was said of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen, but what do I know? Maybe they’re just hacks.

The funny thing about bestseller lists is that publishers don’t actually place the books on the lists themselves. They are there because readers love those books, buy them in mass quantities and, lo and behold, they become bestsellers. I guess it would be better if we only published books readers didn’t want to read or buy? Ah, so many things I’ll have to consider.

And then of course there were the usual complaints about expecting writers to “sell” their books to agents and how writers aren’t salespeople and that the system needs to change. Blah, blah, blah. How do you think we’re going to find authors if you in some way can’t at least tell me about your book in a way that’s enticing? Because if people are getting published daily, new authors, it’s somehow the system’s fault that you’re not?

Okay, so this was my favorite part. The part about how it was a crime that hardworking people spend years writing a manuscript only to get it rejected. Newsflash! I never asked you to write that manuscript. If it’s a crime, it’s a crime you perpetrated on yourself. Don’t blame me, or should I say the 400 of us, because what you wrote isn’t publishable (or at least that’s why I’m assuming I got this email).

And then of course there was a lot of misinformation about how unethical agents are, how writers who are successful are whores, how publishers only want books by actors and politicians and then something about if I liked Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer then I’m nothing but a sheep.

I really only have one thing to say to this person: insult me all you want, but insult my authors and you are a complete fool. Don’t ever assume any of the clients I represent are thieves, whores, or hacks. They are talented writers who have worked hard to get to where they are. I’m not representing them because I’m looking for easy money or to fill bestseller lists (although we’re hoping to do that too), I’m representing them because I like the books they write. No, I love what they write, and this might surprise you, so do thousands of other people.

Don’t worry, it’s people like this who only give other idiots a bad name. Oh, and give me something to rant about. I mean, seriously?!

Jessica

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Translation Rights

Would a bilingual writer be permitted to do his/her own translation? If so, how would this change the royalties or publishing process for foreign publication?

I can’t answer definitively whether or not you’d be able to do a translation yourself because that would depend entirely on the publisher. Certainly, if we are selling foreign rights, it’s something we could present to the publisher, but many have translators they work with already and might find it easier to continue with the same people.

As for how it would effect royalties or the publishing process, it’s hard to say. Certainly, not hiring a translator should mean the publisher could pay, as part of the advance, what they might traditionally include as the translator’s fee. In other words, it could give us more bargaining power for more money up front. It probably wouldn’t change your royalties much though.

As for the publishing process, one thought did cross my mind while answering this and that’s that it might be better to have the publisher do the translation as they traditionally would so you can be working on your next book. A translation is going to be a time-intensive project and presumably you are already going to be under contract and writing your next title when that opportunity comes up. I know that I, for one, would rather have my client moving forward to build a list rather than continuing to focus on the previous book.

Jessica

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Editorial Process

You hear stories all the time about editors working with authors on books, maybe change an ending, add this, take out that, etc. Is this after they've bought the book? I guess what I'm after is, does an editor say, I like this book, but author is going to have to revise the first section, then I'll take it, or I'll take it now, and we'll continue to work on it?

The revisions your editor suggests and works on with you can vary greatly from book to book, editor to editor, and project to project. Like many of the answers I give on the blog, there is no real answer to this question.

The ideal is that all of you will end up with an editor who will ask for some sort of revisions. To quote the reader directly, to ask you to “add this, take out that, etc.” should be normal and expected of an editor. Presumably every single book that’s sold could use a little buffing up. Even if it’s removing one small scene that seems unnecessary.

How this is presented to the author depends on the situation. I’ve had editors call to tell me that they really want to make an offer, but need to know first if the author is willing to change such and such. The changes aren’t required at that time, but they want a sense of how open the author would be to them. In other instances I have actually had editors call and request changes just to the synopsis (this is on a partial submission). For some reason the editor, or editorial staff, felt they needed to see the revised synopsis before the offer came in, and of course I’ve had deals made and finalized and suddenly the author receives an extremely detailed revision letter with no real warning up front. I haven’t been the author of those letters in any of these situations, but my feeling is neither is better or worse than the other. Typically a revision letter will come whether there’s warning or not, and typically that revision letter will be surprising, painful, and hopefully wonderful all at the same time.

I think the best way for an author to look at the editorial process is to assume that an editor is expecting perfection, because even though revisions will always be requested, perfection is what she’s looking for. When being interviewed by potentially new clients I’m always asked whether or not I do editorial work with my clients and my answer is always yes. I will never send a book out on submission until I feel it’s as perfect as we’re going to get it. I never, ever want to receive a rejection letter back from an editor and think that I knew that was a problem, but was trying to get it by anyway. Revisions will only be requested when the editor sees them as minor in comparison to the success she envisions for the book.

Jessica

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You Have No Business Writing

Some time ago I posted a letter from a reader in which she implied that there were certain people visiting writers forums who had “no business writing.” This comment, more than anything else in the letter, caused quite a stir. Many criticized the author for being a snob and not giving a break to newbies.

I have no idea where this statement came from, whether it was based on seeing writing samples or just on the questions people ask. What it got me thinking about though was the entire writing v. publishing discussion. I disagree that there’s anyone out there who has no business writing. In fact, writing can be a wonderful form of communication, therapy, or just plain fun and anyone who wants to write should grab pen and paper or keyboard and computer and get to it. Part of the joy of writing this blog is that I get a chance to write, something I don’t typically get to do.

What I wonder about this reader’s question though is not whether she meant people have no business writing, but whether she meant that there are people out there who have no business seeking publication, and for that I wonder if she might be right. We talk frequently about how busy and inundated agents are and the huge influx of queries we are all seeing. What we rarely talk about however is how many of those should really be seeking publication. Despite what many writers seem to think, not every word you write is brilliant and not every book should be seen by the world. In fact, I spoke recently to a writer at a conference who wanted to write and share the family stories told to her as a child. She was getting older and thought the stories would be lovely to share with family and friends. She wanted to know from me if I thought it was worth getting an agent for. I suggested that in this case she might consider self-publishing. She didn’t want to fictionalize it and really wanted it for the purpose of a family legacy. It seems like a great idea, but not likely something that would sell thousands of copies in a bookstore or appeal to a mass audience.

I think one of the problems the Internet has created for publishing is that everyone thinks every book written deserves to be published, and let’s face it, that’s just not true. I’m not saying that the people the reader was talking about have no business being published ever, but I do imagine there are a lot of books written that aren’t ready to be queried and may never be ready to be queried. The problem often is that there is no way to know that until you actually try.

Jessica

Friday, June 05, 2009

Publishing Dictionary Expanded

I’ve done a similar post on publishing terminology, but I realize that it can never hurt to do it again. For those who have been regular readers of the blog, I apologize for the repetition. What I’ve done today is pulled out that old list and added to it so that hopefully we have a strong list of terms that new and experienced authors can use when they feel stumped. Think of it as the New and Updated Publishing Dictionary.

AAR: The Association of Authors’ Representatives is an organization of literary and dramatic agents that sets certain guidelines and standards that professional and reputable agents must abide by. It is really the only organization for literary agents of its kind.

Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance on all future earnings.

ARCS: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers.

Auction: During the sale of a manuscript to publishers sometimes, oftentimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have an auction. Not unlike an eBay auction, this is when multiple publishers bid on your book and ultimately, the last man standing wins (that’s the one who offers the most lucrative deal).

BEA: BookExpo America is the largest book rights fair in the United States. This is where publishers from all over the world gather to share rights information, sell book rights, and flaunt their new, upcoming titles.

Blurb: A one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. People often compare a blurb to back cover copy, and while it’s similar, it’s frequently more streamlined and focuses on the heart and the chief conflict in the story. This is the pitch you use in your query letter as well as the pitch you would use in pitch appointments.

Commission: The percentage of your earnings paid to your agent, typically 15%.

Copy Edits: Edits that focus on the mechanics of your writing. A copy editor typically looks for grammar, punctuation, spelling, typos, and style.

Cover Letter: This is the letter that should accompany any material you send to an agent or an editor. A cover letter should remind the agent that the material has been requested, where you met if you’ve met, and of course the same information that is in your query letter—title, genre, a short yet enticing blurb of your book, and bio information if you have any. This can often be interchanged with Query Letter.

Fiction: A story/book based on research and imagination.

Full: A full manuscript.

Galleys: Another word for ARCs. Galleys aren’t always bound, but are also sent to reviewers as well as other sources for publicity. Galleys are often a copy of your Page Proofs.

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see sub-genres like business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture, memoir, or current events.

Hardcover: A book printed with a hard cover.

Imprint: The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Usually done as a way to market certain types of books. For example, Aphrodisia is an imprint of Kensington. It is still a Kensington book, but by publishing under Aphrodisia you are branding the book as erotic romance. Prime Crime is an imprint of Berkley that brands the books published as mysteries.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets (like grocery stores and drugstores). Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4” x 7” in size.

MWA: Mystery Writers of America is the national organization of mystery writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Narrative Nonfiction: Nonfiction written in story form like memoir, biography, autobiography, etc.

Nonfiction: Writing based on fact.

North American Rights: These are the type of rights licensed to the publisher, allowing the publisher only to handle and represent book rights in North America. This means that the author and the author’s agent are responsible for selling/licensing rights anywhere outside of North America (and usually a designated set of territories).

Novel: Book-length fiction. Therefore, note that it is redundant to say “fiction novel.”

Partial: A partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a partial usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a partial usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Proposal.

Pitch: Frequently verbal, the pitch is your Blurb. It’s a one-paragraph (or so) description of your book. It’s what you use to entice readers to read the book and describe the story.

Preempt: When a publisher makes an advance and royalty offer high enough to take the book off the auction table. In other words, a publisher offers enough money that the author and agent agree that they will sell the book without asking for bids from other publishers.

Proofs/Page proofs: This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages, and the author is given one last chance to review the typesetter's “proofs” to check for typos or other small errors. Proofs are also what are used to make review copies for reviewers and sometimes rights sales.

Proposal: A proposal is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two). Also called a Partial.

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course MySpace and other networking Web sites.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to attain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book. A query letter is your introduction and sometimes only contact with an agent and should not be taken lightly.

Revisions: This is when the bulk of your edits are done. Revisions are typically done with the editor acquiring your book and sometimes with your agent before even submitting a project. Revisions can include anything from fixing punctuation to rewriting the entire book. It’s a collaborative process between editor and author.

Royalties: The percentage of the sales (monetary) an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

RWA: Romance Writers of America is the national organization of romance and women’s fiction writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Sell-Through: This is the most important number in publishing. It’s the percentage of books shipped that have actually sold. For example, if your publisher shipped 100,000 books but only sold 40,000, your sell-through is 40%. Not so great. However, if your publisher shipped 50,000 books, and sold 40,000, your sell-through would be 80%. A fantastic number.

SFWA: Science Fiction Writers of America is the national organization of science fiction and fantasy writers and a great source of information for all writers.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.

Tag Line: The one line often used on the front cover of the book to grab a reader’s attention. Tag lines, while fun for writers to write, really aren’t necessary until you have a publishing contract.

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically though they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense (not a recommended way to seek publication by most agents or editors).

World Rights: When World Rights are sold/licensed to the publisher the publisher has the ability to represent the book on the author’s behalf and sell foreign translation rights anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the author does get a piece of the pie no matter where the book is published.


Jessica

Friday, March 06, 2009

Publishing Advice

Like many of you, I have a number of social network profiles. Amazing how much time we could spend in those places, isn’t it? While I don’t go to them daily, I do try to check in regularly and keep my contacts up. On my linkedin profile, for example, I try to check in on the Writing and Editing Question and Answer Boards and answer any questions people might have on publishing, how to get published, and the publishing process. And I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it can be.

You all feel that the publishing process is mind-boggling, confusing, and frustrating, and in many ways it is, but I’m here to tell you that you are already miles, years, heck light-years ahead of many other people when it comes to getting published. Why? Because you read this blog, and because you read this blog, I assume you read other blogs, belong to writing groups or organizations, or just generally have some idea of what publishing means. Let’s face it, I live in a publishing bubble. This is my life, so it surprises me at times what people don’t know. It’s actually not the questions I worry about. Questions are fine. In fact, questions are great and heck, we all have to start somewhere. We all, at some point, had no idea what the first step was to get published. All we had was an idea, and to learn we have to ask. It’s the answers that kill me and, obviously, make me a little angry. No wonder you are all so confused and frustrated. Ugh!!

For example, in a recent question I answered the person asked, quite simply, how to get published. There was no mention of fiction or nonfiction and he wanted to know additionally if he needed a literary agent. If I were in a room with the people giving the answers, I swear my face would be beet red and I’d be yelling. The answers were astounding and horrifying and frankly, I really hope this isn’t the only place this writer goes for his answers.

I read that you should only consider self-publishing because all publishers are going out of business and no one is buying books. I read that waiting for an agent is ridiculous and that getting a publisher is a waste of time because by the time they’re done with the book it doesn’t resemble what you wrote anyway. I read that since War and Peace was self-published you should definitely consider that route. I read that a publisher takes your copyright and I read that publishers won’t allow you to include contact information in your book so that readers wanting to reach you need to go through the publisher.

Huh?! While there was some good advice there (in the answers, not in my examples) and of course I added my fifty cents, I worry which advice the author will really follow and I worry how frequently people identify themselves as experts and yet don’t know anything about publishing.

So just when you think you know nothing about this business, I think you can happily pat yourself on the back and remind yourself how far you’ve come. You know where to go for great information and you know what a literary agent can do for you and hopefully you know that the publishing process that War and Peace went through does not translate to today’s market.

Jessica

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can You Do Better?

With the economic downturn and mass changes in publishing as well as many other industries, I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling about how publishing models are outdated and need change. What I haven’t heard though are a lot of ideas for how those changes should be made.

Let’s face it, publishing is in trouble. Fewer people read books and publishing companies are running on outdated models. That being said, I also think there are a lot of things that publishers are still doing right, and some of what I am seeing others complain about are not things I necessarily think need to be changed. But I’m interested in hearing from you.

Some think the answer is buying fewer books. For some that means only buying premier literature (which sounds to me like the end of commercial fiction). But what does that mean and what about the millions of People magazine readers out there who are willing to plunk down $30 to buy Jenny McCarthy’s book on autism or the autobiography of Kenny Loggins? And what about all of the amazing books that have wowed American and international reading audiences because someone was willing and able to take a chance? Sure, there are a lot of books that fail every year, but how do we know ahead of time that they won’t succeed. Some will argue that the writing is crap, but those same people will say the writing is crap about a multitude of bestsellers. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is one thing that will never truly change about publishing and that is that its audience is fickle and unpredictable. Reading is a personal thing, and while we can look at similar books to try and judge how a book will do, in the end we’ll never know until the readers have their say, and I for one like the opportunity to give the readers many chances to judge.

Some think we should stop paying huge advances to authors, and, frankly, I don’t have any complaints about that. As I say to my authors all the time, if you were meant to make the money you think you should be making on a book, you will. If you feel a publisher is underpaying you, prove them wrong by earning huge royalties. The problem is you won’t make it now, you’ll make it a year, two years, or three years from now. Can authors make that switch and are they comfortable continuing to write with little to no up-front reward?

Some think we should eliminate the return system in publishing, and here’s where you’ll hear a resounding “yes” from me. I just don’t get it. I just do not understand why any business thinks the producer needs to be responsible for the ordering of the bookstores, especially in this day and age. Publishing is the only business that takes the hit for over-orders made by bookstores that seem to intentionally over-order, instead of printing just what consumers demand. What is interesting about this one proposed change is that by making it you will automatically make the changes asked for above. Fewer books will be printed because bookstores will be less willing to take risks on some titles, and advances are going to be lower because unless we know 60,000 copies of a book is going to get ordered, publishers are going to become more cautious. Economically it makes a lot of sense, but environmentally it makes sense too. Why are we printing thousands of books only so that they can be ripped up later? It makes me cringe.

But what about you? What do you think the publishing industry needs to do to enter this new century and save themselves?

Jessica

Monday, October 20, 2008

When to Put the Finishing Touches on Your Book

I recently received a question from an author about indexing. This particular author is working on her book and would like to include an index. Her question was at what point she should do that.

Indexing is a tedious and difficult process and is one of those things you shouldn’t even begin to think about until the book has been sold, edited, and finished, and, frankly, it’s typically not something the author does herself unless she has previous indexing experience. While a publisher’s contract will sometimes say that the author is responsible for the index, it usually doesn’t mean that the author is responsible for doing the index, but simply for paying for it. Keep in mind, frequently we can make this the publisher’s responsibility. Either way, the publisher will usually hire an indexer to create the index, and this can’t be done until the book is fully edited and laid out in pages because it doesn’t make sense to do an index until you actually have the page numbers to match the references to.

This question also brought to mind other things I frequently see in the early stages of the submission process that I think should never be included, and that’s a cover, a title page, acknowledgments, and a dedication. Let me discuss each of these things individually.

1. As any published author will tell you, it’s rare that a publisher will keep the original title, let alone cover. And while it’s great to have an idea or a vision of what your cover will be, the publisher is the ultimate decision maker. So I don’t suggest spending time creating artwork to submit with your manuscript. Just send in the book, but do include a great title, because even if the publisher ultimately decides to change the title, a great title can catch an editor’s attention.

2. Including acknowledgments in an unpublished manuscript is the true sign of an amateur to me. While many people may have helped you create the manuscript you’re submitting, you’ve just reached the tip of the iceberg in the work that’s needed to be done. Does that mean that I’m mad my name isn’t going to go in? Nah, I don’t care about that. It means I wonder if you have any idea of what an editor might still make you do to this book.

3. While a dedication is unlikely to change I just don’t suggest you include it. Wait until you turn in the full manuscript to your editor.

Jessica

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Publishing Dictionary

I’ve had a request from a client to put together a publishing dictionary of sorts, an explanation of publishing words and phrases that you hear or see all the time but aren’t always sure of the meaning. I’m not going to go into great details on the how and why of these words, simply a what. In addition to the words that were requested I’ve included a few of my own that I think sometimes cause confusion.

AAR: The Association of Authors’ Representatives is an organization of literary and dramatic agents that sets certain guidelines and standards that professional and reputable agents must abide by. It is really the only organization for literary agents of its kind.

Advance: The amount the publisher pays up front to an author before the book is published. The advance is an advance on all future earnings.

ARCS: Advance Review Copies. Not the final book, these are advance and unfinalized copies of the book that are sent to reviewers.

Auction: During the sale of a manuscript to publishers sometimes, oftentimes if you’re lucky, you’ll have an auction. Not unlike an Ebay auction, this is when multiple publishers bid on your book and ultimately, the last man standing wins (that’s the one who offers the most lucrative deal).

BEA: BookExpo America is the largest book rights fair in the United States. This is where publishers from all over the world gather to share rights information, sell book rights, and flaunt their new, upcoming titles.

Cover Letter: This is the letter that should accompany any material you send to an agent or an editor. A cover letter should remind the agent that the material has been requested, where you met if you’ve met, and of course the same information that is in your query letter—title, genre, a short yet enticing blurb of your book, and bio information if you have any.

Full: A full manuscript

Genre: The classification of books. Examples of genre in fiction include mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and in nonfiction you might see business, health, parenting, pets, art, architecture.

Hardcover: A book printed with a hard cover.

Imprint: The name within the publishing house that the book is published under. Usually done as a way to market certain types of books. For example, Aphrodisia is an imprint of Kensington. It is still a Kensington book, but by publishing under Aphrodisia you are branding the book as erotic romance.

Literary Agent: A literary agent works on behalf of the author to sell her book and negotiate with publishers. A literary agent also helps with career planning and development and sometimes editing and marketing.

Marketing: Marketing is advertising that is paid for, including ads in magazines, display units in stores, and things like postcards or posters.

Mass Market: Also called “rack size,” these are paperback books originally designed to fit in rotating book racks in non-bookstore outlets (like grocery stores and drugstores). Mass market paperbacks are roughly 4” x 7” in size.

North American Rights: These are the type of rights licensed to the publisher, allowing the publisher only to handle and represent book rights in North America. This means that the author and the author’s agent are responsible for selling/licensing rights anywhere outside of North America (and usually a designated set of territories).

Preempt: When a publisher makes an advance and royalty offer high enough to take the book off the auction table. In other words, a publisher offers enough money that the author and agent agree that they will sell the book without asking for bids from other publishers.

Proofs/Page proofs: This is the last stage of editing that a book goes through. They are a copy of the designed pages, and the author is given one last chance to review the typesetter's “proofs” to check for typos or other small errors. Proofs are also what are used to make review copies for reviewers and sometimes rights sales.

Proposal/Partial: A proposal or a partial is frequently what an agent will ask for when taking a book under consideration. For fiction and narrative nonfiction a proposal usually includes a cover letter, a designated number of chapters from the book, and a synopsis. For non-narrative nonfiction a proposal usually contains an extended author bio, an overview of the book, an expanded table of contents, detailed marketing and competitive information, and of course sample writing material (usually a chapter or two).

Publicity: Advertising that is free. Publicity includes magazine and newspaper articles, radio and television interviews, and of course MySpace and other networking Web sites.

Query: A one-page letter sent to agents or editors in an attempt to attain representation. A query letter should include all of the author’s contact information—name, address, phone, email, and Web site—as well as the title of the book, genre, author bio if applicable, and a short, enticing blurb of the book.

Royalties: The percentage of the sales (monetary) an author receives for each copy of the book sold.

Sell-Through: This is the most important number in publishing. It’s the percentage of books shipped that have actually sold. For example, if your publisher shipped 100,000 books (great number!) but only sold 40,000, your sell-through is 40%. Not so great. However, if your publisher shipped 50,000 books, and sold 40,000, your sell-through would be 80%. A fantastic number.

Slush/Slush Pile: Any material sent to an agent or an editor that has not been requested.

Synopsis: A detailed, multipage description of the book that includes all major plot points as well as the conclusion.

Trade: To make it easy, trade is the shortened name for trade paperback books and is basically any size that is not mass market. Typically though they run larger than a mass market edition.

Vanity Press: A publisher that publishes the author’s work at the author’s expense (not a recommended way to seek publication by most agents or editors).

World Rights: When World Rights are sold/licensed to the publisher the publisher has the ability to represent the book on the author’s behalf and sell foreign translation rights anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that the author does get a piece of the pie no matter where the book is published.


Jessica

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stages of Editing

Once the publishing contract is finalized, one of the first questions debut authors ask is what’s next. A very valid question and one I’m afraid I often forget to explain. After all, editing and publishing has been my life for 15 years; it’s sometimes hard to remember what others might not know.

This explanation of the editing process comes from my own experience as an editor at Berkley Publishing and can obviously differ from house to house or even editor to editor. However, these are the basics of what you should expect your book to go through once you turn in that completed manuscript.

Step One, Revisions: Once you’ve turned in your manuscript you should expect to hear back from your editor in about 6 to 8 weeks. I know that seems like a long time and, frankly, it is, but editors are busy and we need to be realistic about how long it can be. Unfortunately, I’ve had some editors take upwards of six months and others never give revisions at all. Again, every editor has her own technique. When you do hear back from your editor it’s going to, hopefully, be with revisions. And these can be all over the place. I’ve had editors ask that the book be completely rewritten, while others simply requested some touch-up work. My hint to you: the longer the revision letter the fewer the changes. Short revision letters tend to include things like “the protagonist is too mean and I don’t like her” or “there’s just not enough suspense here.” While long revisions letters can say things like “on page three the color of her eyes change from blue to brown” or “the dialogue on page 25 feels forced, not like the characters I was reading earlier.” Letters can be one short paragraph (the scary ones) or twenty-some pages. I think my longest was 15 pages.

Revisions are the most critical piece of the editing process. These are the changes that will make your book as strong as you can possibly make it.

Step Two, Line Edits: Once the revisions are complete and the editor is happy with what you’ve done (and by the way, some revisions can go multiple rounds), it’s time for line edits. These are the little inconsistencies the editor wants to make sure aren’t missed. Things like eye color changing, poor word choices, stiff dialogue, or awkward writing, etc. Minor things that can usually be fixed with a word change or two. Often and usually the editor does line edits on the manuscript itself and sends the entire package off to the copy editor without you seeing them. That’s fine, line edits and copy edits really go hand-in-hand.

Step Three, Copy Edits: Copy edits are typically done by hand (although that is beginning to change) on the original manuscript pages. Most copy editing is done by a freelance copy editor outside of the publishing house, although managed by someone in the copy editing department. The copy editor is someone I greatly admire because it’s certainly not a job I could ever do. The copy editor looks for things like typos, grammar errors, punctuation errors. The copy editor makes us all look good. That’s her job.

After copy edits are completed the entire manuscript is sent back to you for review. Here you can stet changes (maintain your original wording rather than the editors’), answer any questions or concerns and make any necessary changes. This is really it. Your last big chance to fix the book and add or subtract anything you might have missed.

Step Four, Page Proofs: Once you have reviewed, fixed or corrected the errors from the copy edits the book typically goes to the typesetter, and again, this is still amazingly done by hand. The typesetter takes the design given to them by the publisher’s design team and makes sample book pages. These are often call page proofs. They are printed on regular 8.5 x 11 paper, but designed to give you an idea of what the book will look like. If the book is a trade paperback you will usually get one book page per printed page. If it’s a mass market paperback you’ll get side-by-side pages on each printout.

These page proofs are then sent to you for one final review. These are not meant for major edits, but primarily to make sure all of the changes from the copy edited manuscript got into the final edition and to correct any new or missed typos. The page proofs are what are referred to in your contract when you are not allowed to make changes that affect more than 10% of the manuscript, otherwise you are charged for the changes. This of course does not refer to any errors that were caused by the typesetter.

Note: the page proof stage is also when copies are sent out for review. The publisher and reviewers know that some mistakes might be found, but the essence of the book is there and ready for review.

And once you send those page proofs back you have officially signed off on the book. The next thing you’ll see is a beautiful finished product with a shiny new cover and your name on top.

Jessica