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. 

Back to Table of Contents


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

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Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

View posts by 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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