Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How to Lose a Customer Immediately

Want to lose a customer in one easy step? Refuse to stop bothering them.

I have a website. You have likely reached this blog entry through that website. My website host is GoDaddy.com. You’ve probably heard of them. They are one of, if not the, biggest website-hosting company. Sometimes, though, I worry about their cashflow. The sales they run have an air of desperation to them. The hoops of advertising one has to jump through on their website to get the simplest transaction completed make me crazy. Each one has an ad for some other product. If changing web-hosting companies wasn’t such a pain in the ass, I’d have done it a long time ago.

Anyhow, today a guy named Mitch L., from the Arizona call center of GoDaddy, calls me up and tries to sell me another year of web-hosting, supposedly at some great price. But I’m paid up through next year, so I say no, and then I tell him to put me on the Do Not Call list there and only call me about problems with my account, not to sell me things. He says he can do it, but only if I give him my personal PIN for the hosting account or the last four of my credit card number. Am I the only one who thinks that sounds phishy?

For those of you not in the know, “Phishing attacks use both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers' personal identity data and financial account credentials. Social-engineering schemes use 'spoofed' e-mails to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers Hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond.” This quote is from
www.antiphishing.org, an organization to which GoDaddy belongs.

When I raised the security issues of phishing and that giving him such information as a PIN or the last four of a credit card number to Mitch—who called me, I did not call him—refused to put me on the Do Not Call list. I hung up and went to GoDaddy’s website and read their privacy statement. I then called their corporate offices and spoke with Justin, a supervisor there. Justin wasn’t much more help. He asked me for the last four of my credit card number, which I provided, since I called him. But, after a bit of a conversation in which I stated I thought it was unconscionable that I should have to make two phone calls to get this done, Justin insisted he had to have the last six numbers of my credit card to verify me and put through my request that GoDaddy not call me. That was the last straw. I asked for the number for Bob Parson’s, the Chairman of GoDaddy. Justin said he was unable to provide that information. So I asked for his supervisor.

At this point, I ended up with Alon, in the Office of the President. Alon is one of those guys who never quite lets you get under his skin. He’s about resolving the problem. And he did agree to check off that Do Not Call box on my account for me. But what he also told me made me furious: He said that he has powers and options that representatives on his downline do not. Now, am I the only one who thinks a frontline sales representative should have the power to check off the Do Not Call box? Should it really take three representatives, the last of which is in the Office of the President, to get a customer free of annoying sales calls?

Keep in mind that I told each and every one of these folks that it’s a federal law that they have to stop calling me when I ask them to. Justin and Alon argued with that, saying that, since I’m a customer of GoDaddy, that law isn’t applicable. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that if I ask a company to stop calling me to sell me stuff, they have to do it. Regardless, it’s bad business to keep calling if the customer says, “Enough!” And if the company called the customer, versus the customer calling the company, that request should be honored immediately, and certainly not require the customer to divulge a PIN or credit-card number to make it happen.


So, if you are an author or publisher out there looking for a web-hosting company, I encourage you to avoid GoDaddy like the plague. If they can’t empower their frontline sales reps who call the customers to check off the Do Not Call box when the customer requests it, without backtalk, hoops, b.s. verification of information (keep in mind they called me), then how good can they be at the rest of their job?

Z

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

118 miles and change

Well, we did it. Yes, my wife and I rode in El Tour de Tucson this past weekend, completing well over 109 miles. I personally came in just under nine hours (with thirty-seven seconds to spare!). Nadene came in at about nine and a half hours. Both of improved on last year’s time of ten hours and change and we felt great doing it.

As many of you know, we completed this ride with Team in Training (
http://www.teamintraining.org) which is part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. With the latest tally, Nadene and I have raised close to $6,000.00 in funds for LLS. LLS manages to put a healthy seventy-five cents of every dollar directly into research, patient services, and education. You can read more about it at http://www.lls.org.

You’d think 109 was enough, but the San Diego chapter of TNT has a tradition of riding in together, so after we finished, we rode back out four miles to meet some other folks, then road back in (with a police escort!) the four miles. I think I had 118 or so on the odometer when we finished. Phew!

I want to thank all of those authors who took advantage of my offer to read their sample chapters in exchange for a donation to LLS. I am working my way through the pile and hope to respond to everyone in the next two weeks. We are traveling for Thanksgiving and I’ll be taking all that reading with me on the plane!

If you have ever thought of running a marathon, doing a triathlon, or riding a century (100 miles or more) bike ride, I encourage you to look into Team in Training (TNT). I’ve done four programs with them now (three in NYC; one here) and there are few things in life more rewarding than testing your physical limits and exceeding them. I rode with five other riders, three of whom were riding their first century. And they kicked ass! My congratulations go out to Eric (a/k/a Hoss, for his long pulls at the front of the paceline), Tina, and Colleen for completing their first centuries so strongly.

Though my offer to read chapters has ended (I have plenty of reading to do!), if you are interested in supporting LLS, my TNT website remains active. You can visit it at
http://www.active.com/donate/tntsdh/tntsdhAZack. The photo is from last year and taken of me not long before I proposed to my wife. Apparently we’ll now be doing this ride for the rest of our lives, since it is a celebration of our engagement!

Thanks again for your support.

Z

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Some Authors are Just Crazy...


Some authors are just crazy...and lucky for readers that they are.

I have to admit that I had my doubts when my client, Patrick O’Donnell, called me up and said he was going to Iraq. He’s got a young daughter and he’s not in the military. So why would he voluntarily go to a war zone? When he returned, you could hear the adrenaline still running through his veins in every word he spoke. When he appeared on Fox to discuss his actions overseas, I was genuinely worried about the effect being in the war zone had on him personally.

Now, months and month later, the real effects of his experience are finally here for you, the reader, to see in WE WERE ONE: Shoulder-to-Shoulder with the Marines Who Took Fallujah, coming out this month from Da Capo Press. The raw emotion of the experience is there on every page.

Though, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t really Pat’s story. This is actually the story of one Marine unit that defines today’s military as the new “Greatest Generation.” This one platoon included four sets of best friends. Each of the four would lose a best friend forever.

Five months after being deployed to Iraq, Lima Company’s 1st Platoon found itself in Fallujah, embroiled in some of the most intense house-to-house, hand-to-hand combat since World War II. Civilians were used as human shields or as bait to lure soldiers into buildings rigged with explosives; suicide bombers approached from every corner hoping to die and take Americans with them; radical insurgents, high on adrenaline, fought to the death. The Marines of the 1st Platoon (part of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment) were among the first to fight in Fallujah, and they bore the brunt of this epic battle. When it was over, the platoon had suffered thirty-five casualties, including four dead. This is their story.

America has really lost sight of the distant battle for Iraq. As we watch and read the news, we have become fatigued by the constant body counts and steady flood of bad news. And in this fatigue, we have lost our awareness that these are real men and women from families just like our own who are fighting and dying over there. And no one has put the human face on this war in quite the way that Patrick O’Donnell does in WE WERE ONE.

As we head toward November, the month of elections and Veteran’s Day, I urge you to read this book and keep those men and women and their families in mind, be it simply to show your respects on Veteran’s Day, or to inform your voting decisions. Either way, this is a book that will change your perspective on the war.

You can order a copy of it by clicking
here.

Z

Ah, Sweet Vindication!


Ah, sweet vindication!

Every agent and editor has a story like this, though sometimes I think I have more than my fair share! The story goes like this: A proposal comes my way and I decide to represent it. I show it to editor after editor, only to get reject after reject, mostly because there have been prior books on the subject or they thought the book was too small or they didn’t like the writing. But then one editor comes along with a small offer and the author slaves on the rewrites, does battle to put back in some of what is cut, and fights for the publisher to promote. Well, we’ll see how the promotion goes, but we certainly are getting some very positive feedback on the book, ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH: First Lady of the Air, by Kathleen Winters, which will be published this month by Palgrave Macmillan.

Check out these fabulous reviews:

In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews called the book, “A perfectly calibrated tribute to an early heroine of the air.”

Publishers Weekly said, “Drawing on an admirable array of research, aviation historian Winters documents how Charles trained his young wife to serve as copilot, navigator and radio operator on their long pioneering flights. Anne’s important role in early aviation has not been treated as extensively elsewhere.”

And Booklist said, “That the author is able to bring something new to the Lindbergh story is impressive, and she does it through both technical explanations of Lindbergh’s accomplishments and Anne’s own words about her flying exploits, marriage, and writing. In Winters’ beautifully written biography, Anne Morrow Lindbergh emerges as a more complete and relatable character then ever before, and an aviator long overdue for respect.”

You can pre-order this book right now by clicking
here. Do it today and help send a message to all those nay-saying editors who took a pass. It might help make them think twice when your book hits their desks!

Z

Friday, September 29, 2006

Questioning Word's Word Count

Here’s a question I’ve debated thoroughly over the years:

Dear Zack Company,

I'm writing because I've seen different guidelines online regarding how to count words in a manuscript.  Several stated that using the Word word-counting tool doesn't give the proper manuscript count.  Do you have a system you prefer and is there an industry standard?

Thank you in advance for any help on this.

Laila Weir

Ms. Weir apparently hails from overseas someplace, given the country code on her emailed phone number.  Sorry, Laila, that’s long-distance, but I’m happy to address the question here.

As I understand it, Microsoft Word counts anything separated by two spaces as a word.  Thus “a” is a word and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is a word (that I probably misspelled).  Back in typing class, the rule was five characters, including spaces, were a word.  The rule of thumb in publishing is that a page with one-inch margins and using a 12-point, monospaced font (Courier, for example), will contain approximately 250 words.  So if you use US 8.5” by 11” paper, a Courier font and one-inch margins, just multiply the number of pages by 250 and that should be pretty accurate.

Alternatively, take the character count (including spaces) that Word provides and divide by 5.

Z

Monday, August 28, 2006

Hydrate or die...or, well, get dropped from the paceline

I have to confess that this was a hard weekend of training. The move from New York to Southern California has meant a change in topography, and my bike rides are now filled with steeper and longer hills. This weekend, I trained with Team in Training and we rode 35 hilly miles. I was riding with the “C,” or fastest team and, for the first time, I really struggled with the speed. Up around 19 to 22 mph, I found my legs felt dead and I just couldn’t keep up with the paceline. A hard lesson learned about hydration, I think, since that “dead” feeling in my legs generally=dehydrated.

I rode again on Sunday, with a friend, and we did a hard 25 miles. Again, based on what I drank and how I felt, I’d say dehydration was a significant factor. Not to mention that we stopped by a friend’s party in the afternoon and one margarita left me loopy! Now, I may be a lightweight when it comes to drinking, but not that light. This week, I will be paying a lot more attention to fluids.

For those of you who have not been reading my blog on a regular basis, I’m once again mentoring with Team in Training, a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My wife and I will be riding in El Tour de Tucson in November. This is a century-plus event, meaning that it is longer than 100 miles. We are both fundraising and hope to raise about $6,000 between the two of us.

This year, this ride has extra meaning for us. We rode last year and got engaged at the end of the ride. During her training, Nadene had a mentor, Ted, who was a leukemia survivor. Just as training was beginning this year, we learned that Ted had relapsed. His cancer is back. Each day, we get a health update from Ted. Here’s yesterdays, which I found particularly sobering:

Didn't sleep quite as well last night as the night before, but I got in some reading in the wee hours. I had a platelet transfusion. I finally got to talk to my doctor about my prognosis today, and he said that it is worse than before my first transplant. That is generally what I expected. He didn't give me any numbers or anything, but we both understood. We are still going for a cure. Whatever it takes.

The rashes are starting to heal. I actually have a few square inches on my body that are not either bright red or purple. I should charge admission to see the amazing eggplant man!

I have not had a fever all day until this evening. My nurse thinks it is a conspiracy to make her take blood cultures. As I am writing this I am shaking mildly.

I also got a haircut today! It seems like every hair that falls out of your head wants to find its way into your mouth and it drives me nuts! Glad to get rid of it.

Needless to say, whenever we’re on the bikes, struggling, we know that it is nothing compared to what Ted is going through.

As a part of my fundraising, I’ve made an offer in a prior blog posting. But I also want to clarify that you can make a donation regardless of your interest in getting your material read. Every little bit helps. It can just be something you do as a good deed.

Remember, cancer is a “six degrees” disease. If you don’t have it, you know someone who has it. If you don’t know someone who has it, you know someone who knows someone who has it. Someone somewhere in your life has been, is being, or will be affected in a negative way by some form of cancer. So, please, if you can, visit
http://www.active.com/donate/tntsdh/tntsdhAZack and make a donation. All donations are 100% tax deductible.

Thank you.

Z.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Miles to Go to Find a Cure

Whoo boy! Here we go again.

As many regular readers of my blog know, I recently got married. And that marriage started with a proposal at the end of a 109.3-mile bike ride through Tucson, AZ—El Tour de Tucson.

Well, my lovely wife, Nadene, has decided that we must celebrate the anniversary of our engagement by doing that bike ride again, so....

As you may also remember, when we did that ride, it was after training for months with Team in Training, part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Thousands of riders converge on Tucson, all with one goal in mind: Finding a cure for blood-related cancers.

Training with Team in Training has been one of the most rewarding and inspirational experiences of my life and, if you haven’t done it, I strongly urge you to do so. Your perspective on life will change and you will cherish all that you have that much more.

Recently we learned that Nadene’s training mentor from last year has relapsed, and so we are feeling extra-motivated this year to raise as much as we can in donations to help find a cure for leukemia and lymphoma. Therefore, I am once again making a limited-time offer to all those authors out there who would like to help out a great cause:

Though I am currently closed to new queries and submissions, I will read your sample chapter, up to 25 pages long (I strongly suggest you send the first chapter), plus a synopsis (double-spaced) up to 5 pages long, and provide you with my thoughts and feedback on that chapter, in exchange for a donation of $100.00 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Of course, if I love your sample chapter, I may ask for more material and this may lead to representation (no promises, though).

You may make this donation in one of two ways:

Visit my webpage at
http://www.active.com/donate/tntsdh/tntsdhAZack and make the contribution with your credit card, then mail a copy of the receipt you receive along with your sample chapter and synopsis.

Mail in a check in the amount of $100.00, payable to the “Leukemia and Lymphoma Society” along with your sample chapter and synopsis.

All donations to LLS are 100% tax deductible.

This offer expires on November 18, 2006.

I will respond within 30 days to all such submissions. Please do be sure to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your response.

To recap:

• Donate $100 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by credit card on the website and send in your receipt, or donate by check which you will include with your sample chapter and synopsis
• Send in a sample chapter not to exceed 25 pages, along with a synopsis not to exceed 5 pages
• Include an SASE

• This offer expires on November 18, 2006

You get:

• A response within 30 days
• Possibly a request for more material if I love your sample chapter and synopsis (no promises!)
• A written response with my thoughts if I don’t, in fact, love your sample chapter or synopsis
• A tax deduction for the amount of your donation

The Zack Company, Inc. in absolutely no way makes money off this offer (unless I find a fabulous novel and represent it in a big, fat sale to a publisher). All checks should be made payable to THE LEUKEMIA AND LYMPHOMA SOCIETY.

The address for submissions is:

The Zack Company, Inc.
249 South Highway 101 # 520
Solana Beach, CA 92075-1807

This is NOT an open call for submissions. I am closed to any new submissions and queries unless those submissions are part of my efforts to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I will return, unread, any submissions that are not a part of this offer. Please write “LLS Submission” on the envelope.

Please do visit our website and review the
Manuscript Preparation Guidelines prior to making your submission.

Thank you for helping to find the cure!

Z.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Déjà vu in the Middle East

Are you experiencing déjà vu? As I watch the news and see Israel invading southern Lebanon, I can’t help but feel we’re reliving history. Wasn’t it just about twenty-four years ago that this happened the first time? And the US got involved in a peacekeeping mission that ended, essentially, when the marine barracks got blown up in 1983. Will we go down this road again? I’m betting we will, unless, of course, we decide to let the Europeans step in this time. The French have a long history in Lebanon also. Perhaps, since we didn’t allow them to go into Iraq, they’d like to go back to Lebanon and stand in the way of the hundreds of rockets that are falling on Israel every day.

I notice that the news seems much more focused on Israel’s invasion of Lebanon than on the attacks Israel is undergoing. So, let’s recap events here for a second:

  1. Hezbollah runs most of southern Lebanon as its own fiefdom, with the Lebanese government doing nothing to stop them.

  2. Hezbollah launches years of random rocket attacks and border attacks against Israel, with minimal Israeli response (since the pullout from Lebanon years ago, at the UN’s urging).

  3. Hezbollah crosses into Israel and kidnaps two Israeli soldiers.

  4. THEN Israel starts airstrikes on Beirut, hoping to prevent the movement of the soldiers to Iran or Syria and to cripple communications between Hezbollah and those enemy governments.

Imagine for a second that the Mexican government abdicated responsibility for its own border and allowed a terrorist group to start launching random rockets against San Diego. What would the US do? Damn right! We’d invade that entire country. We’d put F-18s into the air and A-10 Warthogs and we’d find those rocket sites and blow them up. We might even create a DMZ that’s ten or 100 miles deep to prevent further attacks. And if the terrorists came across our border in the night and kidnapped two of our guys and the Mexican government said, “Sorry, we can’t help,” do you think we would sit idly by? Of course not.

But should we put US Marines back in Lebanon? Tough call, frankly. But if you want a glimpse of what it was like the first time around, read Distant Valor, by C.X. Moreau. It’s a novel, but it’s one of those novels that you know rings true, written by someone who was there. It was last republished by ibooks, which is now bankrupt, so finding a copy may be a challenge, but check your library for the prior Forge Books hardcover, or buy it used It’s also still available from Brilliance as an audio book. You won’t regret reading this powerful novel that Kirkus described as “A haunting slice of military life that unsparingly catalogues the risks, rewards, pain, and joys of casting one's lot with warriors.” And we all know how tough Kirkus is, so this must be a good read!

Z

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Handy New Tool for Authors and Agents

As a small business owner, I find that I have to be my own tech support guru, janitor, and chief bottle washer. Interestingly enough, this has resulted in friends of mine at major corporations calling me up with questions on how to do things in Microsoft Word or Outlook. Not that I necessarily know more than their Help Desk guys, but I tend to return calls faster.

Which brings me to a bit of an advertisement. I have been using a program called Message Tag (MSGTAG) for a while now and I have to admit I like it. There’s a free version and a couple of versions you can buy. I just bought the big version and actually signed up to become an affiliate, which means if you click the link and buy it, I get a fee. The same is true if you click through to Amazon.com from my site or on one of those Google ads. I find that it helps pay for the cost of my website over the year and, well, why shouldn’t I make a buck if there’s a buck to be made?

Which brings me back to MSGTAG and why I think it’s something for authors and agents to consider.

I make the majority of my submissions by email. Now, I could use Outlook’s Read Receipt, but users can turn that off or refuse it. They can’t do the same with MSGTAG. It’s automatic and, well, beyond their control. Yes, I’m aware that some people find that intrusive, but to me, it’s a way to confirm safe receipt of an email without worrying or making a follow-up call. So this actually saves me and the editor on the other end some time and aggravation.

There are agents who take email submissions (I’m not one of them, but they are out there) and this system will let an author know if their query by email was received and read, without having to bother the agent. Too often, I send off a submission and find out months later that the editor never got it. MSGTAG Status gives you a dashboard that shows which of your emails have been read and which have not. And those are the folks I can now give a call and ask to check their spam folder for the submission, or otherwise just check their email for my submission.

Sold? Then click on the image below and check it out.



Z

The Dastardly Deep Discount

I said yesterday that I was going to write more about deep-discount clauses and so here I am.

Whenever a publisher makes an offer to an author, the general approach is to promise the following royalties:

10% on the first 5,000 copies sold; 12 ½% on the next 5,000 copies sold; 15% thereafter

These royalties are based on such things as the “retail price” or the “Suggested Customer Price.”  In other words, the price actually printed on the book.

What no editor in history (I believe) has ever said while making an offer is the following:  “Of course, we won’t be paying those royalties on all copies.  Just on the ones that we sell for lower-than-average discounts.  Once the discount gets above 50% or so, we’ll cut that in half, or change it to 10% of the ‘amount received’ or we’ll subtract from the author one-half of the difference between the discount granted and 48%.”

Just in case this isn’t clear, let’s clarify.  If you could get your hands on the average publisher’s discount schedule, i.e., the document that says if you buy one copy of one book you get this discount, but if you buy ten copies of ten different books, you get a much higher discount, you’d find that most publishers have an “average” discount on hardcover books just under 50% or so.  This, of course, is why bookstores can give you, the reader, such a great discount.  They get that $25.00 hardcover book for around $12.50, then sell it to you for $17.50, or a 28% or so profit.  But it gets better for the bookseller.  And, of course, worse for the author.

The more books a bookseller buys, the deeper the discount.  And, in many cases, the fewer books they return to publishers for credit, the deeper more the discount can be, as an incentive to not return too many books.

Thus, this is why in some cases an author can receive a royalty statement in which 85% of all sales are at a reduced royalty.

Now what’s to be done about this?  Well, a savvy agent can try and limit the number of copies that can be accounted for—versus sold—at the reduced royalty. So, yes, the publisher can sell 85% of the books at a 56% discount, but can only account for 50% of the books at a lower royalty.  Because, after all, an author has no control over discount and, more importantly, deep-discount sales should be the exception, not the norm.

What can you, as a reader, do about this?  Well, probably not a lot.  Are you going to stop shopping at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com?  If you are willing to do that, then find your local small, independent bookseller and buy your books there.  Visit the Booksense website at http://www.booksense.com/ to find one.  You can even search for a store that will let you buy your books online.  Chances are that a smaller independent is not buying enough copies to qualify for truly “deep” discounts and thus sales by them are likely accounted for at the full royalty to the author.

And if you are the author, well, read your royalty statements closely and be sure to question if you see a large number of copies at less than your full royalty.  In one case, such a question resulted in an additional payment of $8,000 to one of my clients!

Z

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Pleasant Surprise...


Well, this was a pleasant surprise. The other day a box of books showed up. Simple enough, I know, but the reality is that I not only wasn’t expecting this box, but when I opened it up, I wasn’t expecting this book. You see, this was a box of the trade-paperback edition of
Promise of Glory, by C.X. Moreau.

Originally published in hardcover in 2000, this book was published more than two years later as a mass-market paperback. Now, nearly four years after that, and almost six full years after hardcover publication, there’s a trade-paperback.

This presents an interesting lesson in the publishing business. Publishers often struggle to know the “right” format in which to publish a book. Generally speaking, if you think a book will sell and review well, you publish in hardcover. Then you publish in paperback, to get those sales in markets that don’t generally sell hardcovers (airport bookstands, drugstores, many supermarkets, etc.). Trade-paperbacks are often saved for “literary” works or, more often, “backlist” titles.

What’s a backlist title, you ask? Well, that’s a book that publishers feel they can sell a certain number of copies every single year. It may be a cookbook, a book on parenting, or a work of literary fiction. By publishing in trade-paperback, you spend about the same money on paper, printing and binding as you do a mass-market, but you get to charge more and thus make more money. Don’t worry, the author makes more money too, since the royalty earned is based on the higher cover price.

Now, I admit that I was never notified that the publisher was issuing Promise of Glory in trade-paperback, but I’m not terribly concerned. It would have been nice to have been notified, so that I could tell the audio publisher and that publisher could have done a new push to the accounts, but the audio publishers should be reading publisher’s catalogues and have that information, I think. Meanwhile, Amazon and bn.com tend to link different editions together, so users should be able to find them all.

Meanwhile, if you pick up this book and enjoy it, I highly recommend the first book by C.X. Moreau,
Distant Valor, particularly since it looks like we might be getting back into a military presence in Beirut!

Z

Here's a Killer Deal for You...




I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse....

Just out from St. Martin’s Minotaur imprint is the third in Sheryl Anderson’s terrific mystery
series featuring intrepid and well-dressed reporter Molly Forrester, Killer Deal. This is a wonderful follow-up to her prior two novels, Killer Heels and Killer Cocktail, so how can you refuse that?



“You need a body. A really cool dead body . . .”

Molly Forrester’s best friends know exactly what the Zeitgeist magazine advice columnist needs to prove herself as a true journalist. And when Manhattan advertising maverick Garth Henderson is murdered, she just might finally get that chance with this juicy assignment: an exclusive interview with Gwen Lincoln, the victim’s ex-wife and the prime suspect.

Was it a crime of passion---or something more? Manhattan’s business circles are buzzing with rumors that it’s related to Garth’s buyout of a rival advertising firm. Or infighting among “The Harem,” his six beautiful, talented, and ruthlessly competitive creative directors. Or fashion designer Emile Trebask, Garth’s one-time client and now Gwen’s business partner.

As if solving the ad world’s most notorious murder on deadline wasn’t enough, Molly must contend with a fickle editor with her own agenda, a best friend colliding head-on with true love, and ex-boyfriend Peter Mulcahy trying to worm his way into her story and back into her life. Will it all be too much for Molly’s current boyfriend, NYPD homicide detective Kyle Edwards?

Determined to catch the killer and beat the competition, Molly Forrester digs in her four-inch Jimmy Choos because there’s no turning back. In Manhattan, when you strike a deal, you see it through. Even if it kills you.

Just in time for your summer reading pleasure,
Killer Deal is a thrilling, high-spirited novel to while away those hours on the beach.

Z


Oy, My Aching Head

Oy, my aching head. Why, you ask, is my head aching. Well, I just tried to read ISBNs for Dummies, a guide to the changing format of the ISBN.

For those not familiar, the ISBN is the Social Security Number of the book world. Each edition of each book has an individual ISBN. Take my client Patrick O’Donnell’s book, BEYOND VALOR:

The hardcover ISBN is 0684873842.
The hardcover Large Print ISBN is 0786234334.
The paperback ISBN is 0684873850.
The Abridged Audio CD ISBN is 0553714325.
The Abridged Audio Cassette ISBN is 055352805X.
The Adobe and Microsoft Reader eBook ISBNs aren’t listed on Amazon, but there is one for each, I assure you.
The same can be said for the Audible digital download.

Now, keep in mind that’s for a modestly successful nonfiction work. Think of how many different editions of Harry Potter there must be. And each one has an ISBN that’s ten-digits long. Now think what it will take to make every one of those thirteen-digits long and that every system in publishing will have to deal retroactively with the ten-digit format.

Each country has an “issuing organization” that hands out ISBNs. In our country, it’s actually part of R.R. Bowker, a large data-mining firm that publishes a lot of the directories you find in libraries.

Now, the reason I, as an agent, find this transition a bit terrifying is that publishers calculate royalties based on sales, and sales are reported with ISBNs! Just as everything in your life related to your taxes is tied to your Social Security Number, so is everything related to an author’s sales and royalties tied to ISBNs.

Now, it’s not like publishers haven’t had a while to plan for this. In fact, I found an entire website, including a PDF download, for how to deal with the ISBN transition. It’s located at
http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/isbn/transition.asp. But think about Y2K and what a headache it was for companies to change from a two-digit year format (01-01-99) to a four-digit format (01-01-2006). Imagine what a small publisher that has an old royalty system will have to go through to start accurately reporting using thirteen digits instead of ten. Imagine what a large company with an inflexible system might face.

So, a word to the wise author. Start reading your royalty statements closely. Look at each title you have and figure out what your average sales per period are. And if your first statement with a thirteen-digit ISBN shows sales that are not in line with prior periods, request a reconciliation to print or, better yet, do an AUDIT.

I wonder, in fact, if this transition will result in dozens or hundreds more authors conducting royalty audits.

Did you know that very, very, very few publishers ever get audited by authors? Why is this? In part, it’s because audits are expensive for authors. Yet the VP of one publishing house told me of a larger, well established literary agency that hired a forensic accountant and started conducting audits (perhaps if you are a larger enough firm, you can hire someone on salary and not pay huge, hourly fees). The results were, I’m told, thousands upon thousands of dollars in additional royalties. And, of course, in such a case, the cost of the audit would be for the publisher to pay.

Further, I was told that the major discrepancy found related to the deep discount clause. I’m going to write more about the dreaded deep discount clause in the coming days, so stay tuned....

Z

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Well, I've been a bit busy...


Dear Reader:

Please forgive my absence from this blog for the past few weeks. As you can see, I’ve been a bit busy getting married!

I’ve received some inquiries via email as to when I will reopen to queries and the answer is that I don’t know. I have made little progress, between moving from NYC to California and getting married, in my reading pile, and I will not reopen to queries until I get everything I currently have read. Right now, most of it isn’t even unpacked from the boxes! If it makes anyone feel better, my bike hasn’t been unpacked either, and I think everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows how important my bike is to me. I assure you that, as soon as I am ready to reopen to queries, I will post that.

To all of those who passed along their good wishes, thank you. To all of those who haven’t, we’re registered at weddingchannel.com.

Just kidding!

Z

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring Cleaning the Agency

Well, spring has sprung here in New York City and I have to say it’s quite beautiful. While the weather remains on the cool side, the sun is shining and that’s always good for the mood.

I’m crazy like a squirrel in November, trying to get my act together as I prepare to move West. I’ve gotten an email and phone call or two asking when I’ll again be open to queries and the truth is, not anytime soon. My guess is that I could be closed to new queries and submissions for several months, while I get reorganized in my new space and take care of the submissions that are here.

Now, that said, someone recently sent me a note saying that I had been featured in a magazine (I’m unsure if it was The Writer or Writer’s Digest) as being open to new authors and queries. Honestly, I’m not sure how that happened and I apologize if someone read that and went to my website and found out that I wasn’t taking new queries. And thank you for checking out my submission guidelines before submitting.

So what I have been up to, since obviously it’s not reading new queries (well, a few still trickle in, despite my many posted requests)? I did read and ultimately pass on a fantasy that I’d hoped would be better than it was. I also have been editing a new proposal by fitness author Adam Weiss, and have three full manuscripts from current clients that I need to read, on top of the twenty-five or so from prospective clients.

Also, lots and lots of housekeeping. Can you believe that a contract negotiation can produce over one and a half pounds of paper, before the contract has been signed? In anticipation of my move, I’ve been purging files and I have to say I’m a bit surprised by how much room I now have. I’ve also purchased a neat new scanner, a Fujitsu ScanSnap and, while I can’t claim it is perfect, it’s changing my life a little.

Most authors probably don’t realize how much of an agent’s life is taken up with paperwork. For example, according to Tom Maciag, CFO of Hachette (formerly Time Warner) Book Group, about 90% of the books they publish do not earn out. Tom shared with this the AAR Royalty Committee back when I was the chairperson. That means that HBG sends out thousands (tens of thousands?) of royalty statements every year that don’t have checks with them. But each of those statements has to be dealt with in some fashion by an agent. Now, some agencies may have accounting departments or bookkeepers who take care of that, but since most agents are operating on their own or with a partner and have little or no support staff, most of this paperwork falls on the shoulders of the agents. And that is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. The standard Simon & Schuster statement is about four pages, I’d say. There’s a Payee Summary that shows what my firm, as the payee is receiving. Then there’s a Proprietor Summary that shows what the author is receiving. Then there is a Title Summary, which shows the activity for each title. But, in reality that Title Summary is more an Edition Summary, since each edition, be it hardcover, paperback, or electronic, gets its own statement. So a book that was published in all of those formats can easily have a statement that is six, seven, or eight pages long. Multiply that by the dozens of titles (hundreds or thousands for larger, older firms) any agent may have, and you’re talking a ton (perhaps literally!) of paper!

Which brings me to my little scanner. It makes very quick work out of statements and on a going-forward basis I’ll be scanning and forwarding statements in electronic form, rather than making thousands of pages of photocopies each year. Think of all the trees saved, not to mention all of the polluting toner and ink that won’t be used. Authors can then keep the electronic copies or,if they must, print paper copies.

My question, though, is why can’t publishers deliver this information in a more useful form? Why not send royalty data in Excel spreadsheet form? Or at least in a capturable PDF form? Why make agents and authors redo all of the data entry? Did you know there are about a half dozen different software programs out there to help literary agents do their accounting? The problem is that most are very expensive ($5,000 minimum, I’d say) and that they require the user to input all of the data from the royalty statement. Now let’s say you have a statement that is unearned by several thousand dollars. Is it worth your time to crunch the numbers on that and look for errors? What are the odds that you’ll find something that pays you back for all those hours? For most agents, the answers are “no” and “slim.” That’s not to say that statements are always correct. I’ve found thousands for clients in statements. I’ve also been told by one VP & Publisher that one agency hired a forensic accountant who has found tens of thousands of dollars for various clients by examining the differences in discounts granted and the royalties paid. Because that’s where the errors inevitably seem to creep up. The wording in the standard contract may be “sixty percent or more,” but a smart agent might get them to change it to “more than sixty percent.” Well, if that publisher makes thousands of sales at sixty percent and it’s not until 60.1% that the rate changes from 10% of retail to 10% of net, you have just made your author the different between $2.50 and $1.50, or a buck a book! Times 10,000 books sold, that’s a nice chunk of change!

Okay, that contract I’ve been waiting for just him my in-box, so it’s time to go read that.

The old saying is, “The Devil is in the details” and in this job, that’s certainly true.

Z

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The March Round-up

Well, here we are in April, so I guess it’s time for the monthly round-up.

In March, despite being closed to new queries and submissions, I received fifty new queries. According to my little spreadsheet, I rejected thirty-eight of those, which makes me think I’ve been lax in keeping track. I’m not sitting on twelve queries.

I also rejected at least thirty-five sample chapters or proposals. Again, I wonder if I was quite keeping track.

At this point, I can honestly say that I’ve read every sample chapter or proposal I have. However, I have not requested any more manuscripts from the sample chapters that I liked. That’s because I still have something like twenty-six full manuscripts here to read.

Under the subject of what have I been doing....

I’m pleased to report that I have deal for THE STORY OF VACCINES, a terrific work of nonfiction covering the history of vaccines and the vaccine makers who created them, by Paul Offit, MD, to T.J. Kelleher at Smithsonian Books. I think this book could be BIG and am really excited about it.

Keeping the streak going, we have a deal for three more years of BILL KROEN’S GOLF TIP-A-DAY CALENDAR, by—duh!—Bill Kroen, a terrific golf professional and all-around great guy.

March was an exciting month because Mark Patinkin, author of UP AND RUNNING: THE INSPIRING TRUE STORY OF A BOY’S STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE AND TRIUMPH, and Andrew Bateson, the young man featured in the book, were on THE TODAY SHOW! Sales on Amazon.com immediately spiked to as high as position 145. If you haven’t read this terrific book, I can’t urge you strongly enough to run (no pun intended!) and get a copy.

This was also the month that Sheryl Anderson and Mark Parrott delivered the final manuscript for their latest, KILLER DEAL, third in the Molly Forrester mystery series. And Patrick O’Donnell delivered the first draft of his new book on Iraq, WE WERE ONE: SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER WITH THE MARINES WHO TOOK FALLUJAH. I think this book has the potential to stand out in a big way from the pack of Iraq books. Pat joined up with a marine unit and completely became one of the men. He ate, drank, slept and you-know-what like a marine. He lived through combat, had men killed around him, and nearly got killed several times himself. This is "combat journalism" or "combat history" at it's best. Ernie Pyle would be proud.

Sub-rights to Sheryl Anderson’s KILLER HEELS & KILLER COCKTAIL were sold to Preiw in Thailand. Sub-rights to Peter David’s SIR APROPOS OF NOTHING were sold in Spain. And Richard Child’s first novel, HAND OF THE PROPHET, was sold in Spain (and still available in the US) to Editorial Via Magna.

It’s been a crazy month, as I prepare to move west to California. Yes, my fiancé won the negotiations and I’m headed to sunny San Diego. This is one more reason not to be mailing me anything until I post here that I’m once again looking for new material (I think there are a few of you out there trying to be sneaky and thinking you’ll get to the front of the line if you submit when I said I’m closed).

If anyone wants to buy an apartment in New York, I’ve got one to sell! Just use the FAQs form on my website to send me a note expressing interest.

Okay, that’s it for now. Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but life interceded.

Z

Monday, March 06, 2006

What a day!

Whoo hoo! What a day. Check this out folks:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #147 in Books (See Top Sellers in Books)
Yesterday: #405,354 in Books

Yep, that’s right. Mark Patinkin’s rank on Amazon rose 405,207 places in a day. Now THAT’S impressive. Hopefully you had the chance to catch Mark and Andrew Bateson, the subject of UP AND RUNNING, on THE TODAY SHOW this morning. It was a great piece and a great appearance. Essentially, it was the kind of publicity that most writers would happily perform a contract hit to get.

Speaking with Mark this afternoon, he informed me that Andrew received a round of applause from the studio crew when the segment was over, something that apparently doesn’t happen a lot around THE TODAY SHOW set.

To say that I’m proud of this book would be an understatement. I think one reason this book speaks to me is that I have a little cousin who was born with some real foot-and-leg challenges. She underwent surgeries as a baby and wore braces for the first four years or so her life. I have watched her grow into the world’s most precocious child, who seems to have no fear of what comes before her. I think Andrew’s story inspired me to look at her and hope that she’s as successful as Andrew has been in triumphing over the physical challenges he’s faced.

If you haven’t bought your copy of UP AND RUNNING yet, and would like to do your part to help push it up the Amazon.com best-seller list, please click
here.

Z

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Recipe for Dating Success

If you’ve been reading this blog regularly (perhaps I should just write “IYBRTBR,” since I use this phrase often here), then you know that I got engaged a few months back and have been busy planning a wedding. I have to confess that being out of the dating pool is pretty much a huge relief. No more three rounds of margaritas with some woman I knew in the first ten minutes I’d never see again. No more staring at the computer screen reading profiles. You get the drift.

Meanwhile, quite a few of my friends seem to be partnering-up to, which is great. I guess it was just a matter of time. However, if you are a single woman reading this, or know a single woman, here’s a book you absolutely need to get as soon as possible, SMART MAN HUNTING, by Liz Kelly.

This book is a genuine publishing success story. Liz originally self-published this book and then had the fortune to get picked up by a special program at B&N. She actually sold more copies of her self-published edition than many books from major publishers manage to move. And that’s all on her. She’s been a tireless promoter of her book and her dating coaching business (see www.smartmanhunting.com). Her current publisher, Citadel Press, clearly saw a good thing in Liz—primarily that she would promote and sell the hell out of her own book for them—and picked up the rights to do a new, updated edition.

Well, now the new edition is out, just in time for Spring Fever and for all you single women to get out there and start dating and mating. But don’t go out uninformed or unarmed.
Buy SMART MAN HUNTING: The Fast-Track Dating Guide for Finding Mr. Right. You'll find pages filled with hot new dating tips and marketing twists, including insight-filled bachelor and bachelorette surveys, a compatibility quiz, and dating coaching success stories.

You’ll also find the dating codes that let you quickly recognize a man for what he really is. Here are a few examples:

● All Sports Fanatic (ASF)
● Hello Goodbye Guy (HGG)
● Guy with Offspring (GWO)
● Love Match (LM)

By learning the codes and recognizing the traits of the men they describe, you can quickly learn how to spend your time dating the men you want to date.

They say a good shopper always goes to the grocery store with a recipe in mind. Well, the same goes for a woman on the dating scene. And SMART MAN HUNTING can help you find the right ingredients for your dating recipe!

Z

Go ahead. Blow your horn.

I've gotten a few comments and emails asking me why I had the Comments featured set to only registered users. The answer was that a few posts had been put up here that I thought were inappropriate and they were anonymous. So I thought if I forced folks to register, that would result in folks stating their opinions, but requiring them to identify themselves. I have no problem with folks voicing a reasonable opinion, but I don't appreciate negative comments posted anonymously.

That said, I have changed the settings so that anyone can post a comment. However, I ask that you at least sign your name and city to the comments (like you see in a magazine, e.g., Andy Zack, New York, NY). Comment moderation is on, meaning that I will receive and be able to approve or disapprove of comments prior to posting. Anonymous comments will not be posted.

I hope that you find this a reasonable request and look forward to reading your comments.

Finally, please feel free to post general questions using the comments field. I will answer them in the comments field or I will post a new entry with the question and answer. Or you can visit my site and use the FAQs form to send me a question (but no queries!).

Thank you.

Z

If a Book Sells, but the Publisher is Bankrupt....


If a tree falls in the forest but nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I believe, technically, the answer is yes, but the question, If your book sells, but your publisher is in bankruptcy will you get royalties? is a more complex issue.

This, unfortunately, is the situation facing one of my clients, Peter Holt, author of the terrific new thriller, CHROMOSOME 8. Published just before Christmas (yes, I am very behind on my blogging), this book is firmly in the tradition of Clive Cussler and sure to appeal to fans of his works and, say, Michael Crichton’s. But ibooks, the publisher of this book, just declared bankruptcy and so one has to wonder if there will ever be royalties received, not to mention whether or not their distributor, Publishers Group West, will continue to fulfill orders.

Let’s say they will. What then? Any money received will go pay off the creditors right? And while authors can be creditors, they are unlikely to be the first in line for moneys received, I expect. If there’s a bankruptcy lawyer out there willing to comment, that would be appreciated.

In the meantime, though, you might want to hurry and
buy up all the copies of CHROMOSOME 8 you can find, because I think this author is someone with a future. Given the right circumstances (the sudden death of Clive Cussler, perhaps), he could rise to best-sellerdom.


In the meantime, though, I'll be trying to figure out if the bankruptcy clause in the contract is actually valid and does that mean the rights are already the author's again? And I'll also be trying to figure out if there's stock somewhere and whether or not PGW is still shipping copies.

Ah, the glamorous life of a literary agent!

Z

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mark Patinkin, author of UP AND RUNNING, to appear on THE TODAY SHOW March 6th

Today’s entry is a bit of lesson in good things and bad things. Right now, I know the good thing is supposed to happen, but immediately after a bad thing may happen, but I don’t know yet if it will.

On Monday, March 6th, if the stars are properly aligned, my client, Mark Patinkin, author of the book UP AND RUNNING, will appear on THE TODAY SHOW, along with Andrew Bateson, the young boy whose story is told in the book.

Now, an appearance on a national news show is, of course, a major coup and we are all very happy and excited that it’s happening. Potentially, this is worth thousands of book sales. But here’s where the problem lies: the book was published in September 2005. That’s right, this book has been out for six months.

Now, if you know anything about the book business, you know that it’s not exactly a patient one when it comes to returning books. I’ve heard that some airport stands pull a book by lunchtime if it didn’t sell any copies in the morning. Regular stores tend to do returns at the one-month, three-month, or six-month point. It just depends on how aggressive they are to keep new titles out front. So, the reality is that many bookstores may have already returned UP AND RUNNING. Thus, when Mark and Andrew appear on THE TODAY SHOW, viewers interested in going out and buying the book that day may, in fact, have a hard time finding it.
So, what can an author (or agent) do? Well, I’ve been calling the publisher, Center Street, trying to find out if they got the word out to the accounts (there’s been plenty of advance notice), and I’ve been trying to determine who many books may still be at regional distributors like Ingram or Baker & Taylor. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck.

The only saving grace in all this is the existence of online retailers like Amazon and B&N. While I will be the first to voice my problems with both online retailers, the reality is that they do make available books that might not be found in the local bookstore.

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you already know that I spent about two years and 120 individual pitches and submissions to sell this incredibly emotional and inspiring book. And it means the world to me that a national television show has seen the same qualities in this story that I did: a story that will be appeal to America and leave readers and viewers with the strong feeling of fortune that medicine and faith can combine to work wonders. That young boys can endure and survive the most horrible experiences and still turn out to be vibrant and full of life. Will this book change your life? No, but it will make you appreciate what you have so much more. And if you or a loved one suddenly faces what seems to be an insurmountable challenge, remember Andrew Bateson, the boy who, everyday, puts on two prosthetics so that he can get UP AND RUNNING.

Z

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Catching-Up, Part One

I admit I feel a little guilty. I haven’t been posting here and the truth is there’s been a lot of good stuff to write! But I’ve just been swamped. Tonight, though, is my night to play catch-up. I’m going to break this up into parts, so that if you don’t want to read it all in one shot, you can just read the parts you want.

I guess I should start with the February round-up of materials received. Forgive me for being blunt, but please stop sending me material. I am currently closed to new submissions, yet in February I got thirty-three new queries. Interestingly enough, a couple of sample chapters that I requested so long ago that I’d already tossed the original submission letter also showed up...but weren’t what I’d hoped for, and got declined. I also rejected forty-seven total queries.

Now, since I’m closed to new submissions, you may wonder what I’ve been up to. Well, I’ve been finishing-up notes on several projects and making submissions! I currently have 224 active submissions of numerous projects through the world. Yes, the world. For example, there are some foreign editors who take submissions directly from the US. And plenty of UK editors. I submit throughout the world to editors directly or through my foreign agents, though that 224 doesn’t include the submissions my foreign agents may have outstanding.

Here’s a sampling of some of the projects I’m working on:

STONEWALL & THE MAJESTIC TWELVE

This is the true story of MSGT Jack Lynch, USMC, and his unique team of men and one woman that he put together to conduct harrowing, ridiculously dangerous convoy missions in Iraq. Like some real-life video game, this team mounted up and went out with one mission: Find and kill the enemy.

While other units routinely sought the safest routes and allowed armed militia to stroll by with impunity, Jack Lynch and his Maji Knights, took the offensive. This is action-packed combat, coupled with an underdog team that had to fight the higher-ups every step of the way for equipment and personnel in order to execute their mission in Iraq. This is a book America will find enraging, not at Lynch and his team, but at the government and the military commands who did not give these incredible men everything they needed.

From Lynch’s first day in-country, when he responds to a bombing at an Iraqi recruiting center, to the final days when senior officers conspired to break-up and weaken the team, readers will be drawn in and left amazed by the qualities that Lynch exhibits. His descriptions of the bombing bring home the everyday realities of the war in Iraq in a way no television footage ever could (only a horror movie director would dare to put on television what Lynch saw).

This is a nonfiction DIRTY DOZEN in many ways. The key difference is that most of this team fought to be included. No condemned men here. In fact, some of the team extended their tours in Iraq just for the opportunity to join the team and take the war to the enemy.

I think this book has all of the elements of a best-selling story: great characters, underdogs versus authority, life-threatening action, and powerful, evocative writing. And I trust more than one editor will also and hope to get some action on it soon.

THE STORY OF VACCINES

This new proposal encompasses a book that will tell the story of Maurice Hilleman, the most successful scientist in history, and also the story of how nearly all of the major vaccines used today were discovered and the consequences, both positive and negative. Paul Offit, MD, as author of the acclaimed new book, The Cutter Incident (Yale), and Chief of Infectious Diseases, as well as Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is preeminently qualified to write this book. The book will be written for the general public, but will have strong course-adoption potential. From readers of such best-sellers as The Hot Zone to more serious works such as the author’s own recent book, The Cutter Incident, this book has the potential to reach readers from the corner Barnes & Noble to students in health policy, health administration, medicine, ethics, law and more.

We already have about four publishers showing strong interest in this book and I’m tentatively going to hold a closing on this in a couple of weeks.

A closing, for those not in the know, is sort of like an auction or just a “due date” by which I’m hoping all publishers will get back to me. In a perfect world, I’d be able to do that for every book, but the realities of the business are that you really only want to do it for books that have interest from several publishers. The hope, of course, is that once they all know there’s competition, they’ll be willing to bid more for the book. On the flip side, though, I’ve seen editors come into auctions with low-ball bids, in hopes that there won’t be that much competition and they’ll be able to get away with paying less. Unfortunately, when some publishers are faced with the question of buying a book at auction, they will choose not to bid, assuming—perhaps wrong—that the book will go for more than they’d be willing to bid, so why bother? Strange logic, eh? I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks just how strange the publishers considering this book might be.

TRUE NORTH II

Few books have made me want to pack my bags and head north as much as George Erickson’s TRUE NORTH. Check out these great reviews:

“...an entertaining romp through the north, through history, through science, through astronomy, through ex­ploration, through many interests and activities; a romp with something for everyone. ...a joyous voyage of ... aeronautics, exploration and history all wrapped up in one entertaining, readable book written with humility and humor by a pilot with the capacity to dream, and the ability to make the dream come true.”—Canadian Flight

“One of the top 100 books of 2000.... There are moments in True North when one suspects that Erickson made his wish [for omniscience] and it was granted. We’ve had far too few books like True North....”—Globe and Mail

Erickson is the spiritual descendant of the great explorers he writes about. A brave adventurer in his own right...he can also weave a good story.”—Chicago Tribune

“Talk about an ultimate adventure.... One of the top ten outdoor books of the year.”—Outdoor Canada

In this new book, George heads back north and once again gives us a wonderful look at the far reaches of Canada and Alaska. It’s the perfect “armchair adventure,” and I hope to see it in stores for next Christmas.

Just to give you a sense of what I do all day, STONEWALL & THE MAJESTIC TWELVE was submitted by email to about forty-five editors in the UK and the UK, and mailed to two. THE STORY OF VACCINES went to more than forty. And TRUE NORTH II went to about twenty in hardcopy and another twenty by email. Figuring out who gets it is a time-consuming process. An art, more than a science, I think. Getting the proposals edited, formatted, and whipped into shape is an even greater time-consuming process. Each of these proposals has well over a dozen hours of my time invested in editing, rewriting, or reformatting. In some cases, I sent several rounds of notes to the author(s), asking for rewrites. Then I had to read the revised. In the end, it will hopefully all be rewarded with a deal to publish the book, but I admit that’s not always the case. Hence, now you perhaps understand why I sometimes describe my job as “professional gambling!”

Z

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The January Scorecard and Standing Up to a Bully

Well, it’s the start of February, so I guess that means it’s time for the January scorecard.  As readers of this blog know, I’m closed to new queries and submissions right now.  That means, you should not query me until you read otherwise here or on the Submissions page at my website.  And, even when I’m once again open to queries, you should never send more than a query unless requested.

So, what happened in January?  Well, things slowed down, but did not come to a stop, as hoped.  I received fifty-two query letters.  I rejected forty-six of those and set aside a few that looked interesting.  But please don’t let that encourage you to write.  While I won’t reject anything just for showing up, the truth is that I’m not doing anything with those I set aside and probably won’t for months.  I also passed on twenty-eight sample chapters and three proposals that I had requested.  I received one requested manuscript.

I currently have approximately eighty-one submissions to review, including eighteen full manuscripts, of which two are from current clients.  Now, how long would it take you to read eighteen full novels?

Additionally, in 2006, my goal is to go deeper with my current clients, rather than conducting a broad-based search for new clients.  Does this mean I’m not going to take on any new clients?  No, it does not, but I suspect they will be fewer and farther between.

Now, onto other news:

I published an email in this blog a few months ago, demonstrating how one publisher was trying to bully a client of mine into taking a poor deal and even worse contract terms.  Also, I’ve written here that authors have only one real weapon in a negotiation:  the willingness to walk away.  And in this case, my client did just that, while extensively rewriting her book.  We’ll soon be shopping that book to editors again and, I believe, will find her a deal with a publisher willing to give her much better terms.  I have to say, it always shocks me when “major” publishers act like playground bullies and I’m glad my client had the mettle to stand up in this case.

Three new titles that I represent have just been published.  I’m going to blog separately on each one, so please be sure to check back here in the next couple of days.

Z

Monday, January 16, 2006

The 2005 Scorecard and the Plan for 2006

Dear Readers:

I’ve received a couple of posts here about my lack of posts these past few weeks. Like many a publishing company, my firm was closed over the holidays. Since then, I’ve been playing catch-up on a lot of work, not to mention planning my wedding! Yes, much to my bride-to-be’s frustration, I’m insisting on helping with the planning. ;)

One decision I’ve made in the past few weeks is to close to new queries or submissions until further notice. Why is this? Well, in 2005, I received 1435 queries. I declined 1133. I received 195 requested sample chapters. I rejected 223. I requested and received sixteen full manuscripts. Now, all of these queries and submissions are from prospective clients. And the truth is that some current clients have had works sitting here too long, waiting for me to read them. Thus, for 2006, I have decided to go deeper with the current clients’ works, rather than continuing a broad search for new clients. In doing this, I have posted on my site that I’m not accepting new queries or submissions and suggest that authors check back there before querying.

Further, I will no longer be answering questions on absolutewrite.com’s Ask the Agent forum. I actually started this forum just over a year ago. And I’ve enjoyed being involved. But over time I’ve found that there are many others there with the time on their hands to answer questions, and thus I’ve decided to focus my attention on my website and answering questions via this blog. If you go to my site, there’s a form to send a question. Questions asked there, if appropriate, will be answered here. Similarly, questions posted here in comments will be answered in future blogs.

Many thanks for stopping by!

Z