Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where oh where should my agent be (located)?

Do you request many full manuscripts? You wrote that you requested zero and rejected one.

Here's my question: When looking for an agent should you ony look in the country you live in or look one in which your current manuscript is based? My current WIP is a MG historical fiction about children who were evacuees during WWII in England.

I actually do not request many full manuscripts. If I like a query, then I request a sample chapter and a synopsis. I can usually tell from that amount of material if the author has real skill, and then I request the full manuscript.

As for your agent, you agent should not be based on where the book is set (how many Vietnam War novels are repped by Vietnamese agents to US publishers?), but should be based on where you want the book published, keeping in mind that very few authors have more than one primary agent.

If you get a US agent, that agent will most likely represent you around the world, either directly or via a network of sub- or co-agents. There are some authors who have both a primary US and a primary UK agent, but they are few in number.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Monthly Round-up: October 2009

About a month ago, I wrote what I'd term the "mother of all updates." It was long, it was detailed and it covered a wide variety of topics. And then it wouldn't upload. Oy. And in my attempts to conduct trial and error experiments and make it upload, I actually managed to lose the entire thing. So I threw up my hands in the air and took a few weeks to recover.

So, let's try this again, shall we?

Somewhere below, I'm going to put the submission update, but first I want to plug a few things, so please keep reading.

I've often said that ninety-nine percent of an agent's job is follow-up and truly this month proved that. For example, I have a book that's supposed to be on a semi-annual reporting schedule, but for some reason, the publisher had it in its system as annual. Using some figures the publisher sent me, this book should have earned tens of thousands in royalties, yet my client has not received the money because the publisher made an error in its systems. I'm still awaiting the report and any payment due. Not to mention that since the payment is nearly six weeks overdue, I'm going to have to chase an interest payment on the late payment. Joy.

It's a sad reality of the publishing business that royalty departments are quite low on the totem pole. Many publishers have quite simple reports, showing only net figures upon which the royalties are paid. Some don't even show the reserve for returns, but simply factor that into the net number. The result is that authors are forced to put an enormous amount of trust into publishers. Yet, as in the example above, accidents do happen.

Another recent example was that a publisher paid a subsidiary rights share at an incorrect rate to my firm. In fact, they did know the correct rate, but for some reason chose to send fifteen percent (my commission rate) to my firm and the balance directly to the author. This, of course, was not just wrong, but it was also a breach of contract (as is the late statement and payment noted above). When I contacted the publisher, the person responding explained to me what they did in a manner that indicated he thought they'd done everything just right. My response was to call the royalties manager and explain what a massive error this was in so many ways. Eventually I was informed that the publisher's contracts department had incorrectly entered the information into their system, resulting in the error.

Because royalty departments are low on the pole, they often don't get the funds needed to have the personnel or resources to really do their jobs with the same degree of checks and double-checks that, say, a credit-card company or bank do. The press in the first example has, I'm told, one royalties person for the whole company. Many years ago, when Macmillan revised their royalty statement, I was a member of the Association of Authors' Representatives Royalty Committee. We met with reps from Macmillan and expressed some further improvements we'd like to have seen. We were told, essentially, that Macmillan had just spent $2 million dollars on their new systems and they weren't going to be spending any more on it. That may actually have been as long as ten years ago, and their statements still have the same issues as they did then.

The lesson here is that every author, whether represented or not, has to carefully read his or her statements, check the balance forward against the last statement, look to see if that sub-rights license they heard about from the editor actually shows up on the statements, and make sure the rates being paid are correct. Any questions or issues should be addressed to his or her agent first or, if there is no agent, to the publisher in writing. Be sure to keep your paper trail and the dates and times of any contacts with the publisher as a part of your records.


So recently I got in a few finished books you'll certainly want to read:

The paperback edition of THE BRENNER ASSIGNMENT, by Patrick K. O'Donnell is out. And I have to admit, I think it looks even better than the hardcover.

But you be the judge. Buy them both, put them on the shelf, and compare them.

The hardcover edition of Pat's latest is also out. THEY DARED RETURN is the thriller story of a team including Jewish spies who went back behind the lines in Germany during WWII. It's been published in the UK also, by Simon & Schuster UK, for those of you reading from overseas.

Reviews have been terrific, as usual.


Also recently received was the Russian edition of Sheryl Anderson's KILLER HEELS. Just goes to show you that everyone loves sexy shoes and a good mystery. If you've never caught onto this fabulous series (four titles in all), you can pick them all up in paperback now, from Minotaur.


As you may have noticed from walking through any store recently, the holiday shopping frenzy has begun, which means we are that much closer to the end of the year. So buy the golfer in the family another year's worth of helpful tips and tricks in the form of BILL KROEN'S GOLF TIP-A-DAY CALENDAR 2010, now out from Andrews McMeel.


We're deep into the school year, but if you are home-schooling your children, then you definitely want to pick up a copy of the REVISED edition of HOMESCHOOL YOUR CHILD FOR FREE, by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski. As there are still copies of the first edition in some stores, be sure to check that you have the new one.


For the fantasy reader on your holiday list, be sure to pick up the latest (or all!) of Ed Greenwood's Falconfar series. The first book, DARK LORK, is now out in paperback from Solaris Books, with the second, ARCH WIZARD, out in hardcover. The third book, FALCONFAR, has been delivered and may be out for the holidays, though more likely it will be February or March of 2010. The entire series is or will be available on audio from Brilliance Audio, also.


Okay, you've been very patient, so here's the monthly round-up for October 2009:

We received 30 queries and declined 24;

We received four sample chapters and decline none;

We received no full manuscripts and declined one.

We are waiting to receive:

Nine requested sample chapters and two proposals.

We have on-hand and need to read:

24 sample chapters and 1 proposal;

Five full manuscripts, plus one from a current client.

The new eQuery™ form seems to be working well, after a few kinks were worked out. If you tried it but didn't get a "Thank you" page after submitting and got an error message, then I did not get your query. Please try again.

As always, I'm happy to answer questions about the publishing industry on my blog. If you have any, please send them to blogquestions at the zackcompany domain.