Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Free" Express Review™

Do we have a sample chapter or proposal from you that we've requested, but not yet had the chance to respond to? Is the waiting becoming a bit much?

Well, I apologize for the delay. We read everything we request, but we can never promise how long that will take. Because some authors are eager for an answer and some are just plain impatient, we started offering a service called Express Review™ some time ago. It works this way: By paying a service fee, you can cut to the head of the line or the top of the reading pile. Now, this isn't a reading fee—as I said, we read everything we request—but just a chance to "cut to the head of the line," just like they offer at Disneyland. It's not for everyone and that's fine.

But here's an offer that may make it more for you:

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I am currently training for my fifth Century bike ride (100 miles) with Team in Training and raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

If you have a requested sample chapter or proposal sitting here with us and you want to cut to the head of the line, you can donate to my charitable effort and receive Express Review™ service. The donation must be at least $60 (more is wonderful) and must be by credit or debit card online directly via the website provided by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The URL is

Your donation is 100% tax deductible and every penny goes to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society directly.

Within ten business days of your donation, I will read and respond to your submission, positively or negatively. If negatively, I will explain why I'm passing. There will be no form rejects.

Please make your donation online and then use the FAQ form on our website at to let us know you made the donation. You'll then hear from me within ten business days.

Please note that making a donation in no way increases your chances of being offered representation. And remember, we read everything we request, but currently we have over fifty sample chapters and proposals and several full manuscripts. If the wait is becoming too much, this is a way to help get a quicker answer.

Thanks very much for your support of my efforts with Team in Training and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Truly, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

They say no good deed goes unpunished and today it was proven.

For years now, I have voluntarily visited and posted to the Absolute Write forums, answering questions and attempting to educate and inform writers so that they can better navigate the rough waters of the publishing seas. And today I was banned from those forums for trying to do just that.

Absolute Write was founded by an author and she was lovely and I remember working with her when I offered to recreate the "Ask the Agent" topic I used to answer questions for on GEnie, the old BBS. I answered questions for a while and then opted out. Other agents came in for a week here and there to answer questions. Now, though, ownership has changed hands and apparently all respect for agents who contribute their time there has been tossed out the window.

But I still frequented the boards, often to address questions directly about my firm that showed up as Google alerts and, while there, I would answer any interesting questions I saw.

As readers of my blog know, I currently have an offer available that allows writers to send me UNSOLITED sample chapters in exchange for a donation to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and I promise to provide written feedback if I pass, so the writer doesn't get a form reject and gets to try their material out on me without dealing with the query process. The donation goes to a good cause and is tax deductible. Seems like a no-brainer, right? A win/win for authors, right?

So one author takes me up on this and is unhappy with my feedback. She disparages my response by posting on Absolute Write, highlighting in particular that I spelled the name of the main character wrong in my letter. In actuality, all I did was add an "er" to the end, as in "Tracker" rather than "Track," and I said as much in several polite and professional posts in response to posts by this woman.

Keep in mind, I did not disclose plot details. I merely responded to her complaints. Her response, in turn, was to complain to the moderator, who edited my posts without my permission, which offended me. After all, there is nothing unique about a character named Track or Tracker. There are many books and movies using this word in the title.

I attempted to make it a "teachable moment" and explain to the users of the site that names of characters are not protected by copyright or trademark unless they are very unique, like "Yoda" in STAR WARS. I also raised for discussion the question of editing a post by a user without his permission at the request of another user. This, to me, was censorship. There is, after all, no legal argument or even ethical argument against the use of the name.

Apparently MacAllister, the owner of Absolute Write (or at least the man in charge) disagrees, as he has banned me from the site, apparenlty forever, for being "discourteous."

Alas, I will no longer be able to answer questions there, nor would I want to, but if you have a question to ask, I am happy to do so here. Simply use the email address in the "About" section.


Friday, February 05, 2010

The January Monthly Round-up

With flowers and heart-shaped balloons crammed into every possible window display and shelves overflowing with pink teddy bears and larger-than-life sized boxes of chocolate, we know that February is among us. Of course, what that means for us, here at TZC, is another monthly round-up of last month’s stats. January was a busy month. Here are the numbers:

• Received: 81
• Declined: 50

Sample Chapters
• Requested: 15
• Received: 9
• Declined: 0

• Requested: 2
• Received: 2
• Declined: 0

We are currently waiting on 3 sample chapter, 3 proposals, and 1 manuscript. No need to fear, though. While we wait, we also have 52 sample chapter, 5 proposals, and 3 manuscripts. You know, just the usual light reading.

The oldest sample chapter has a cover letter dated July 28, 2009, so clearly we are a bit behind. Thus, we are setting ourselves a goal of getting through at least five sample chapters per week.

Considering this is a short month, I’m sure the next round-up will creep up on us before we know it, so check back here in a month and see if we managed to knock out at least twenty sample chapters. Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day for all the lovebirds out there, and for the rest of you…Happy Chinese New Year!


Redefining "Net" under an Agency Model

If you've been following book-industry news, you know that both Macmillan and now Hachette Book Group have announced they are moving to an agency model for selling eBooks. This, of course, raises questions on how authors will be paid royalties. Today, I emailed David Young, CEO of HBG two questions:

What will Hachette’s “commission” to “agents” selling eBooks be? Macmillan’s is reportedly thirty percent. What is HBG’s?

On what figure will the royalty to authors be based? Presuming a 25% of net royalty and a $25 book, one could argue that the “net” figure is the $25, because the selling agent is compensated by HBG for selling the work. Just as publishers do not deduct royalties due the author because of commissions paid to its sales force, neither should it deduct royalties for commissions paid to other sellers.

The second point is arguably the most important, as it could render the "net" royalty that Random House and other publishers have been beating authors about the head with as moot.

Keep in mind that all publishers have sales forces, either their own or via a third-party distributor. Those sales reps work on commission. The more books they sell, the more they make. Under the Agency Model adopted by both Macmillan and HBG and almost certainly to be adopted by others soon, Amazon and other sellers of eBooks will become "agents" of the publisher, required to sell at the price set by the publisher and receiving a thirty-percent commission.

But when a publisher uses a commission sales force, they don't deduct the commission paid to sales reps and pay authors on the "net." They pay off the full retail. And I would argue that the same should be true of eBooks under the Agency Model.

As the Chinese curse says, "May you live in interesting times." These surely are interesting times.


Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Beginning of the End...of Paper Books

If you aren't a regular reader of the Huffington Post, you may want to make an exception and check out my latest entry there, on the beginning of the end of paper books.