WRITING ON THE ETHER: Publishing’s Masks Need To Come Off

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13Writers in the Spotlight: Turn Your Readings Into Book Sales
with Porter Anderson

Join me in this spe­cial three-hour inten­sive Boot Camp ses­sion at Writer’s Digest Conference East (#WDCE) at 12:30pET on Fri­day, April 5. We’ll look at pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion for the entre­pre­neur­ial author in an interactive, up-on-your-feet workshop format: come with two pages of your work in progress, ready to rock and read.

Click here for details.


Publishing’s Masks Need To Come Off

The 21st century cousin of the slush-pile submission is the query-by-tweet. Not only do we get “Dear Editor” letters, we see messages like this on Twitter.  Hey, @BloomsburyPress, I’ve written a teen paranormal romance. Ppl say it’s next TWILIGHT-DM me for details!

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13

Peter Ginna

If that was your tweet, or if you’ve hurled one like it at a publisher, you may not share my enthusiasm for Peter Ginna’s Tweet Not Your Query, Author, or, Why I Don’t Read the Slush Pile Anymore. Ginna writes:

After seeing one too many of those, I tweeted in response, Dear Authors: Twitter is not the way to query us. And this imprint is nonfiction only. If you want to get published, please do yr homework.

 

The hauteur of amateurs is hard to stomach, Ginna is right. He goes on to show you exactly how that self-importance can come across:

Instantly–this being Twitter–I received a stream of tweets disparaging Bloomsbury Press as arrogant and ignorant of the new world where “publishers need to impress and adapt, not writers. We have other avenues.”

But the publisher and editorial director of Bloomsbury Press is something of an exception in an industry that has long veiled itself behind a now-inappropriate mystique.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13A year ago I singled out Ginna for his singular willingness to step forward and respond from the publishers’ camp to a powerful “agent’s manifesto” written by London’s Jonny Geller. Both men arrived with an articulate candor that should have led other traditional-industry leaders to drop more veils and speak more plainly. The whole exercise is worth your review. I dubbed it then “Ginna-rosity.”

One springtime later, the season is chillier than I’d hoped it might be. The Ginna-Geller exchange should have prompted more frank commentary than it has.

 

A statement as forthright and uncomplicated as this one from Ginna’s new essay is curiously hard to come by, even today:

What I’m saying is this: If you are thoughtful and imaginative enough to write a first-rate novel, say, or a gripping historical narrative, you should be able to apply those skills to the process of putting your work in front of an editor. You should not just chuck your query letter into a mailbox addressed to “Editorial Department,  Random House” or “To Whom It May Concern”. Rather than just sending your stuff to every house in the Literary Market Place from Abbeville to Zebra Publishing, you should find out whether the publisher you’re querying even has fiction, or children’s books, or whatever, on its list. You would not believe how often my imprint, which states on its webpage it publishes NONFICTION, receives queries from novelists.

 

Granted, this kind of talk raises the hackles of some writers who misinterpret the rise of the “empowered author” or “entrepreneurial author” as an event of vengeance. It also is the best thing such people can hear or read. The most heavily pom-pom-ed cheerleader of self-publishing needs to remember that the widest crowd of Internet-inspired would-be authors includes a lot of people whose bad guesses at how to “have a hit” make the entire writers’ corps look bad. Ginna:

By definition, writers in the slush pile have not…gone through the thought process, or done the legwork, necessary to put a well-targeted pitch into the mailbox of a specific person, they have trusted to luck or perhaps the dazzling quality of their work, or they simply haven’t thought about it one way or the other. That doesn’t mean they aren’t gifted; maybe they are naive, untutored geniuses. But it does mean they’re not professionals.

He’s right. Ginna is correct. And I’m grateful—annually grateful, as it were—for his efforts to drop the mannered distance of too many publishers and call out clearly to the community.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13On the other hand, nothing eggs on the boys and girls who cry “gatekeeper!” than the kind of silence we heard from the agents’ enclave this week when Ether and Virginia Quarterly Review editor Jane Friedman posted author Melissa Foster’s piece on Agent-Assisted Self-Publishing and the Amazon White Glove Program.

As the roles and rigors of agenting adjust—and frankly seem to get only more burdensome—under the digital imperative, one of the keenest quandaries has involved how agents can reconfigure their services to support clients in self-publishing scenarios. Seemingly antithetical to the task (what would an agent have to gain from a client who’s staging his own show?), it turns out that agents can, indeed, be of considerable service to clients in the new paradigm, assisting with “author services,” marketing, publicity, international rights, and overall career management.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13Those who followed the debut of the O’Reilly Tools of Change Author (R)evolution Day conference in New York last month are familiar, for example, with agent Jason Allen Ashlock’s positioning of this new stance as the “radical advocacy” of an industry professional whose partnership with clients can take on new depths and collaborative detail.

But as far as I can tell, no agents joined in the conversation at JaneFriedman.com as Foster proposed precise terms of representation in cases in which the Amazon White Glove Program is engaged.

https://twitter.com/jonnygeller/status/316947472792580096

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, #LBF13, London Book Fair, Digital Minds, #DigiConf13

Jonny Geller

An agent is necessary for White Glove—it’s designed for just that and, speaking of Geller, his Curtis Brown agency in London has used it to set forth a formidable array of more than 200 backlist titles in the States for his clients, as detailed in this write-up from paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen.

Here is Foster outlining the following (where WGP stands for White Glove Program operating in the Kindle Direct Publishing self-publishing arena:

  • Agent remains the Agent of Record for 3 years for work published through the WGP. For sales of foreign rights, audio rights, film rights, or a future publishing contract, the standard agent contract applies.
  • Agent earns 15% commission on all sales from the book for the life of the WGP contract plus one year. After that period terminates, all royalties and rights revert to the author. (Most sales happen in the first two years of publication.)

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13

Melissa Foster

Foster’s contention, apparently based on her own experience, is that agents are—in her mind unfairly—anticipating indefinite commission on properties that exist as White Glove projects for only six or twelve months.

At a site read as widely by authors as Friedman’s, doesn’t it seem that someone from the agents’ camp might want to weigh in with a word or two on this? 

It is patently unhelpful to have authors hammering away at issues of agent relations among themselves.

All sorts of unhealthy cabals come to mind when these occasions turn up, and there need be no animosity among the authors involved at all. It’s just they’re talking about another element of the industry that’s not in the room.

 

Is every agent eager to issue blanket statements of policy that might not apply to colleagues or even to her or his own client relations? Of course not.

But are there agents who could decently say that an author concerned about commisionable engagements on shorter-term arrangements like White Glove should talk to their agents, talk to prospective agents, ask if there’s leeway for the adjustment of contracts instead of rattling on among other authors about it? Of course there are.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13I know many agents who are refreshingly forthcoming with clients and in public settings. I’ve frequently mentioned the blog postings and (and self-published book, How Do I Decide?) from agent Rachelle Gardner because she directly seeks to knock down the mystique that clouds so many people’s image of what an agent is and does.

Agent Kristin Nelson was bracingly up front when interviewed by Mike Shatzkin in January at Digital Book World about her groundbreaking print-only deal for client Hugh Howey with Simon & Schuster, including telling us that she initially had misgivings about whether the deal being offered was fully endorsed by the company.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, FutureBook, #fbook12, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Nigel Roby, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Digital Census

Kristin Nelson

Nelson is among agents who will be at the Writer’s Digest Conference East next week in New York (see our Conferences section below or at my site, and I find conferences to be one of the best settings in which authors can get some questions answered on neutral turf. Outside of pitch slams and formal sessions, “the hallways” can be great moments for quiet inquiries and “safe,” respectful exchanges.

But I have to urge industry specialists—not just agents but also publishers like Ginna, as well as editors and others—to get out of the mask now. The mystique no longer works. It’s counter-productive in a field that needs transparency and shared research.

 

Look how easily Peter Ginna makes his intentions clear:

Since even our Twitter profile says @BloomsburyPress is a publisher of “140+char serious nonfiction,” an author who queries us about his YA novel has failed to clear even a pretty minimal threshold of effort. My abovementioned tweet was not intended to disparage or discourage authors, but to offer straightforward, good-faith advice. Twitter is a great tool for authors–but so was the telephone. Neither of them are the right tool for finding a publisher.

That’s how it’s done.

And “straightforward, good-faith advice” is what’s wanted.

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Books: Reading on the Ether

As each week, the books you see below have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether, Ether for Authors, or in my tweets. Books by our much-appreciated sponsors are in bold, in gratitude for their support. I bring all thee titles together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. 

Note: Books with an asterisk by their titles are currently on author M.J. Rose’s list of titles that Barnes & Noble is not carrying in its brick-and-mortar emporia because of a dispute with publisher Simon & Schuster.


 

 

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Conferences, Briefly

Are you producing a publishing or writing conference or trade show? Feel free to let me know, and I’ll be happy to consider it for listing here and on my Publishing Conferences page. Here’s an abbreviated edition of that listing.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, #LBF13, London Book Fair, Digital Minds April 5-7 New York City Writer’s Digest Conference East: Author James Scott Bell, who knows the value of coffee, gives the opening keynote address this year at “one of the most popular writing and publishing conference in the U.S.” Writer’s Digest Conference 2013 is coming back to New York at the Sheraton New York Hotel. (Note that this year’s hashtag is #WDCE. I have an Epilogger running.)

Registration is open, information is here.
Use code PORTER to save on your registration.
Live-tweet coverage from this conference.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13At WDCE: Public Speaking for Writers: How to Turn Your Readings into Book Sales – Join me in this special three-hour intensive Boot Camp session I’m teaching at 12:30pET on Friday, April 5. We’re going to look at public presentation for the entrepreneurial author. How do you learn to deliver your work with impact—with your text in your hand and a live mic in your face? Drop me a note or flag me down on Twitter (@Porter_Anderson) with any questions. (Hashtag #WDCE. Epilogger here.)

Registration is open, information is here.
Some live-tweet coverage from this event, as I teach.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13April 5-7 New York City Screenwriters World Conference EastLed by the tireless Jeanne Bowerman, Editor and Online Manager for F+W Media’s ScriptMag, this is the East Coast iteration of the Los Angeles conference held last fall. (This conference’s hashtag is #SWCE. I’ve started an Epilogger on it,  which you might find useful in keeping up with materials in one spot.)

Registration is open, information is here.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13

April 14 London Digital Minds Conference at the QEII Conference Center: Author Neil Gaiman gives the keynote address in this fifth year of the Digital Minds program. Also: Richard Nash, Safari’s Pablo Defendini, Osprey’s Rebecca Smart, Dosdoce’s Javier Celaya, Valobox’s Anna Lewis, Perseus’ Rick Joyce, Penguin’s Molly Barton and Eric Huang, Poetica’s Blaine Cook, and more. (Hashtag: #DigiConf13. Epilogger here.)

Registration is open, information is here.
Live-tweet coverage from this conference. 


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13April 15-17 London Book Fair at Earls Court.  “The London Book Fair encompasses the broad spectrum of the publishing industry and is the global market place and leading business-2-business exhibition for rights negotiation and the sales and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels.”
(Hashtag: #LBF13. Epilogger here.)

Registration is open, information is here.
Live-tweet coverage from this book fair.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

April 17 New York City paidContent Live: Riding the Transformation of the Media industry Brisk and bracing, last year’s paidContent Live conference was efficient, engaging, and enlightening, not least for the chance to see many of the talented journalists of Om Malik’s GigaOM/paidContent team work onstage. (Hashtag: #pclive)

Registration is open, information is here.
Live-tweet coverage from this conference.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, DBW, #DBW13, Publishers Launch, Authors Launch, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, The Bookseller, TheFutureBook

May 2-5 Oxford, Mississippi Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference & Workshops Susan Cushman follows her Memphis Creative Nonfiction confab with this year’s gathering at the shrine.

Registration is open, information is here.


agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13May 3-5 Boston The Muse & the Marketplace 2013 is a production of Eve Bridburg’s fast-rising non-profit Grub Street program, comprising 110 craft and publishing sessions. (Hashtag: #Muse2013)

Registration is open, information is here.
Live-tweet coverage from this conference.


Reaching Readers confab

May 28 New York City Reaching Readers: Book Marketing Conference 2013 is a production of Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Academy. An early-bird rate of $365 runs to April 15. After that, regular price is $415 for the day.

Registration is open, information is here.


Publishers LaunchMay 29 New York City Publishers Launch BEA is May’s installment of the daylong conferences programmed by Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical and Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch.

Registration is open, information is here. 

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, O'Reilly Media, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, TOC, #TOCcon, Author (R)evolution Day, #ARDay, Publishing Perspectives, Ether for Authors, Ed Nawotka, The Bookseller, FutureBook, Philip Jones, Sam Missingham, Foyles, #FutureFoyles, London Book Fair, #LBF13Writers in the Spotlight: Turn Your Readings Into Book Sales
with Porter Anderson

Join me in this spe­cial three-hour inten­sive Boot Camp ses­sion at Writer’s Digest Conference East (#WDCE) at 12:30pET on Fri­day, April 5. We’ll look at pub­lic pre­sen­ta­tion for the entre­pre­neur­ial author in an interactive, up-on-your-feet workshop format: come with two pages of your work in progress, ready to rock and read.

Click here for details.


Main image – iStockphoto: Jeffrey Driver

Posted in Writing on the Ether and tagged , , .

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He’s The Bookseller’s (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He’s a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he’s a regular contributor of “Provocations in Publishing” with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal’s SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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39 Comments on "WRITING ON THE ETHER: Publishing’s Masks Need To Come Off"

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Victoria Noe
I think it’s time to put everyone in a collective time-out, especially since so many are behaving like they’re in the throes of the “terrible twos”. As Sr. Ellen Thomas used to say to us in 8th grade, “when all else fails, read the directions”. So, obviously (to everyone except the spoiled brats), writers need to study the agencies they want to pitch. Be a rifle, not a shotgun. Duh. Writers can be arrogant, no question about it. I got an email from one asking to swap reviews of our books. I declined, because I review very narrow topics on… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-240542789:disqus Hamlet. “The rest is silence,” before flights of angels sing him to his rest. And you, Viki, are completely right. The details I’ve had along the way of your battles to get quotes approved for your books are a perfect example. And yeah, actually, probably very good work for interns. (Then again, you get into the paid or not-paid mess when you say “intern” these days, which might snap a lot of masks back into place.) I think silence is the worst in all business relations. A certain European nation in which I lived and worked for what felt… Read more »
Victoria Noe
I think there are a couple who said they liked my book but had no idea how to market it. 😉 The point about agencies is one that’s been on my mind, too, as far as the health of their business. Do I want to hire an agent (yes, that’s how I look at it) or sign with a publisher who can’t manage a simple acknowledgement of an email? I don’t take their behavior personally, but it does give one pause. I think vetting agents/agencies and publishers is the last frontier for writers. How attentive are they to business? Is… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-240542789:disqus Exactly, it’s a job interview, Viki. And smart, genuinely professional writers understand that the agent-manager they’re looking for is never going to be the coddling parental figure I think many authors would love to find. The vision of what’s being looked for in that “radical advocate,” in other words, can be quite different from writer to writer. The response, by the way, of “love your book, have no idea how to sell it,” is extremely valuable and, in my mind, honorable. SO much better for an agency to feel it can say that, rather than take on work it… Read more »
Nina Amir
Nice discussion here…Yes, it is an interview with an agent. I’ve fired one. I’ve had three total. I had to discuss “performance” with one. After all, an agent works for you, the writer. As for the publisher, unless you go with a small independent publisher, you don’t get to interview. But you can do due diligence. Research the publisher (and the agent) to make sure you want them backing your project. They surely conduct due diligence on you and your idea; that’s what a book proposal is for. They want a good publishing partner–not just a writer, which is why… Read more »
Porter Anderson

Right, Nina. And the more agents and publishers can say clearly that it IS business they’re (rightly) focused on, the better they can collaborate in business partnerships with the authors whose work they find salable. Authors can only benefit from plain speech. Hope to hear more of it.
Cheers,
-p.
@Porter_Anderson

JosephRatliff

Viki,

I like what you say here…

“writers need to study the agencies they want to pitch. Be a rifle, not a shotgun. Duh.”

If writers are to expect “fair treatment”… they need to respect and research the agency they are considering pitching… I love it. 🙂

Nina Amir
Viki, I prefer to give agents the benefit of the doubt. I know a lot of them. I know some publishers and acquisitions editors, too. They are typically swamped, and they are all trying to keep their heads above the water in a quickly changing industry. One thing never changes: the search for a great idea and great writer they feel they can market successfully. If writers’ think they can use social media to contact acquisitions editors and agents, though, they are sorely mistaken. As Porter has shown, that will only piss them off. Best to get noticed by doing… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-21592385:disqus Agree with you, btw, on the problem of extremely late responses from agencies, Nina, although on the other hand, I really ache for these folks, knowing how much is crashing in on them over the virtual transom. I’m getting as many as 400+ emails a day on some weekdays, and seeing the aggregate numbers some of the agencies report in terms of queries hurled at them makes you wonder how they answer anyone or find anything good whatever. It was never the best system in the first place (cold submission, even following all the rules — and you’re right,… Read more »
Roz Morris fiction
I’m astonished that no agents commented on Melissa’s piece. It raised some important questions and an agent perspective would have been interesting to hear. It would be fair enough if they explained their thinking, that they were testing the viability of such arrangements and so on. But to say nothing? What message do authors take from that? Can’t the industry regard us as equal partners? Unfortunately there is a long-established tradition that we are not. Publishers have always treated authors like school children. They indulge us for being creative, but don’t allow us to make decisions with the grown-ups. By… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-329334210:disqus Hey, Roz, Yes, exactly, it’s this non-engagement unofficial policy, the silence — as Viki is talking about — that’s so inappropriate. But also yes, unfortunately, the agents’ position in the business for so long have paralleled this part of the publishers’ that I’m afraid a lot of agents just haven’t realized how aloof they seem and how out of touch they can become. As insanely busy as everything has been getting, in fact, I can very easily envision an agent working very hard to become a newly configured service center for clients, without ever realizing that the “silent treatment”… Read more »
Nina Amir

So interesting that no agents commented. I even pointed the post out to one I know who offers assisted self-publishing to clients. Yet…silence.

I wonder, as agents reconfigure their services to meet the changing times, are they afraid of judgment? In fact, I know they have been judged in some cases, especially for getting involved in self-publishing and digital publishing.

Porter Anderson

I’ve speculated with someone else here, Nina, that competition among agents might make it hard for them to feel good about speaking publicly, too. Might they give away too much about what they’re doing with clients, etc.?

JosephRatliff

Roz, you bring up an excellent point when you say…

“Unfortunately there is a long-established tradition that we are not.
Publishers have always treated authors like school children. They
indulge us for being creative, but don’t allow us to make decisions with
the grown-ups.”

One of my thoughts along those lines has to do with the “former” relationship publishers had with authors prior to the Internet.

I think Publishers need to rethink that relationship.

SusanKayeQuinn
The most heavily pom-pom-ed cheerleader of self-publishing needs to remember that the widest crowd of Internet-inspired would-be authors includes a lot of people whose bad guesses at how to “have a hit” make the entire writers’ corps look bad. At the risk of being a hackle-raised author, this gets tiring. Are there editors who “make all editors look bad” or agents who “make all agents look bad?” As Roz mentions, the industry is used to treating authors like children to chastise, or intimidate, or ignore, not as partners in the publishing process. These same kinds of broad brush “authors behaving… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@twitter-131637380:disqus Hi, Susan, thanks for your comments. I think that if you read the column again, you might realize that yes, there are agents making that whole group look bad, and I have said so. Those who don’t respond, who aren’t engaging with the community in the digital transition under way — for the moment, those who could be participating in the discussion about the White Glove Program precipitated by Melissa Foster’s post — all these people being silent, unlike publisher Peter Ginna, are, in fact, making their sector(s) of the business look bad. I don’t think we are overly… Read more »
SusanKayeQuinn
I appreciate the call for taking off the veil, as much as I don’t expect that to actually happen soon. But the comparison of “amateur writers overrunning the industry” to “armies of untrained, inexperienced, self-appointed “doctors”” is… entertaining. 🙂 But not a very good analogy. I’m an engineer by training and used to design aircraft engines (among other things). In fields where lives are at stake (doctors, airline pilots, aircraft engine designers), there are rigorous tests, certifications, degrees, and other means for ensuring the safety of everyone involved. Writing is an ART for heaven’s sake. Precisely the kind of thing… Read more »
M.E.Welman
Susan, I could not agree with you more on the whole “acting in their self-interest,” dynamic. It’s not in any agents’ self interest to comment on Ms. Foster’s posting, as least not right now. I say that because I think there is probably a lot of “what the heck does this mean for me and my ability to make a living?” questioning going on behind the scenes. If I were an agent, I may be silent too on this as I am not sure what’s around the next corner. It’s hard. I’ll give them a pass on that right now,… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Hey, M.E. – Thanks again for weighing in here, great to have you here on the Ether. And yeah, I think the bombardment experienced by agents has to be unbelievable. While shutting down as a result is completely understandable, though, it’s not helping them function as communicative members of the wider community — which would help them so much, frankly, during this period of transition when they can easily be viewed with suspicion. So I hope for them as well as for authors that more agents can find ways to handle things without withdrawing behind this “industry silence” that’s so… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Thanks for getting back to me, Susan. I agree with you on the dynamics of change, maybe with just a bit more optimism than you for the timing — I think healthily self-interested business people (I also agree with you on on self-interest being at least part of the mechanism) will move fairly quickly, as in the case of someone like Kristin Nelson, whom you rightly point out. Her first contact with Howey, she told us at DBW, in fact, was to write to him, not the other way around, just to tell him she liked his work and that… Read more »
SusanKayeQuinn
*waves back over the hordes of people making art even if you don’t think they should* 🙂 focuses resources on proven capability Er, resources? Whose resources exactly are we wasting? The authors who spend countless hours improving their craft? I have a Ph.D. in engineering and I can tell you that even in that industry, the people who are insisting on credentials are generally not the ones who are creating the iPhone. I see you’re invested in this viewpoint, so I’ll happily wave and move on. One last point about Hugh Howey, just because the perspective you brought is so… Read more »
Porter Anderson

Thanks again, Susan.

Just a point of clarification, that’s you saying that Hugh Howey had no credentials, not me. 🙂

And yes it’s good to agree. Here’s to great partnerships and success.
-p.

Melissa Foster
Hi Porter, thank you for the mention today. I appreciate your interest in the article and the attention (or lack there of) that it garnered. I would imagine that agents aren’t commenting because they aren’t sure of just how to respond. What I have proposed will take effort on their part — to monitor different end dates for (some) contracts. Also, there is no reason for them not to consider a new way of doing business with the WGP clients–as having knowledgable self-pubbed clients is beneficial in the long run. Authors who are keeping up with marketing trends, literary trends,… Read more »
Porter Anderson
One of the things we haven’t mentioned yet, Melissa, is that agents are in competition with each other, of course. This, too, can make it important to play one’s cards close to the chest. And it can also make it harder for agents to speak out loudly on specific issues and policies and proposals. Both exposure and expectations can be a result. Nevertheless, for the rest of the industry, this is a problem, no matter how understandable or prudent such silence may be or seem to be. While we don’t have a good answer on this kind of thing, we… Read more »
Nora Lester Murad
I’m new to writing but here are a few things I’ve learned: 1) when some people say “don’t let rejection hold you back” and others say “listen to feedback from professionals to know if your work is ready,” it is very hard to know how to proceed; 2) while some agents may think it’s unprofessional to query by tweet, a whole bunch of other agents are involved in gimmicky pitching events that make the whole thing feel like a contest of luck; 3) while @BloomsburyPress may only publish nonfiction, there are a bunch of other Bloomsbury companies that DO publish… Read more »
Porter Anderson
@noralestermurad:disqus Hi, Nora, many thanks for reading the Ether and for your comment. Yes, I think it can sound as if you’re getting mixed messages, but in the examples you give, I don’t think you’re actually hearing something contradictory, and maybe I can help. Professionals will differ in their opinions of your work not only in their personal tastes (subjectivity plays a major role in publishing decisions) but also simply in what they need and want to work with. The message of not letting rejection hold you back is very common in publishing and it means not to let those… Read more »
Nora Lester Murad

Interesting. I feel like you kind of reiterated what I said, or was trying to say. It’s a diverse and changing industry and learning to navigate it is work.

Porter Anderson

It definitely does take work, a great deal of work, and more time than many folks expect, too, you’re right, Nora. I think many folks who want to write are finding it a far more complicated and taxing venture than they’d imagined it would be. Thanks again for all your input and for joining us here at the Ether!
-p.
@Porter_Anderson

Bloomsbury Press
Nora, you’re right that there are several Bloomsbury imprints (some in the US and some in the UK) and I concede that it’s not that easy to distinguish among them, especially on Twitter. This is another reason why I don’t recommend Twitter as the medium for communicating with publishers about submissions. I have to reiterate what I said in my post: if you’re going to be professional about your writing, you need to invest the time to inform yourself about the houses you’re submitting to. The first stop in that process should probably be the imprint’s website, which is likely… Read more »
Nora Lester Murad

I do believe I’m a person who does the work of learning the industry, following the rules (even when there are different sets of rules) and I wasn’t suggesting that something is wrong because it’s hard. It’s hard. It just is. What I meant to express is that I don’t think it should be so painful. I am really struck–and saddened–by what I interpret negative feelings on all sides that seem to add stress to an already challenging situation.

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GrigoryRyzhakov

I loved Melissa’s piece as well. With the e-book marker saturation and narrow profit margins (or often even losses) writers can’t afford giving away their royalties and control over book management carelessly.

One thing I didn’t find in the piece is the solution for agents. What would be a good incentive for them to risk taking the new empowered authors? In the end, there should be a consensus.

Melissa Foster
Thanks, Grigory. The agent has absolutely nothing but gain in the White Glove situation. If a book cannot be sold traditionally, agents earn zero dollars when a book is self-published (assuming the author did not go agent-assisted). The program that I have outlined in the WGP is a win-win because agents can earn SOMETHING by being more flexible by HOW they represent. The question is, earn zero dollars bc authors are smart enough not to hand over a percentage of revenue forever, or earn 15% of all sales for a negotiated time period. I think the main issue is that… Read more »
GrigoryRyzhakov

Thank you for clarifying this for me, Melissa. So, If I understand correctly, author gives away a 15% of the book profits to her agent for just a limited period.
You mentioned – A WGP book is promoted on three Amazon pages in rotation with other WGP books for a period of thirty days – I wonder whether this advertising will be worth writer’s time she would spend seeking an agent’s representation. Would agents and Amazon help authors getting early book reviews? It’d be sensible.

Melissa Foster

Grigory, no the way the contracts currently work is that the royalty division is for the life of the book. What I have proposed is a limited time royalty split.

As for if it’s worth the time, I think this is more for authors who are working with agents already to sell a book or they’re working together on one book, then the next goes into the WGP if it’s not right for traditional publishing.

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