Friday, January 28, 2011

The New Way to Get Paid

If you aren't a client of The Zack Company, Inc., but you are a published author with an agent, and your agent tells you he hasn't gotten the check from the publisher yet, it might be time to find a new agent (maybe me?) because your agent is apparently behind the times.

Nearly every major publisher now makes payments to my firm via ACH.  This is, essentially, the same as Direct Deposit, which most of us are familiar with if we collect a regular paycheck at the office.  I am currently receiving advances and royalties via ACH from Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Wiley, and Wizards of the Coast.  I also get payments via wire or ACH from Macmillan imprints, though the preference is always ACH, since my bank does not charge to receive such payments (but charges to receive a wire).  The largest publisher that's yet to implement this (why not, I can't imagine) is Perseus.  When one considers the costs of printing and mailing checks, versus using ACH, there's a huge advantage to using ACH.

The one major headache in receiving ACH payments, though, is reconciling them.  While Simon & Schuster's Royalty Department sends an email outlining the payments they are sending (as required by contract) and Random House has an automated process that sends you a notice, none of the other publishers send any notice at all, even if required by contract.  Most likely, they consider the actual royalty statement that still arrives in hardcopy via the US Mail to be sufficient notice.  And likely it is, except that it generally arrives a week or more after the payment arrives.

The time has come for publishers to become more efficient at paying authors.  The technology is certainly there.  If you do business with Amazon's Associates program (as many authors do), then you have already seen it in action.  Amazon notifies you the payment is headed your way and provides a link to go see the details.  Wiley has a similar operation, but not as slick.

Frankly, though, I would settle for the statements showing up as PDFs (searchable, please), rather than stacks of paper in the mail.  The cost savings in paper, printing, and mailing for publishers would certainly be six figures or even seven figures a year.  This would clearly offset the development costs of a system that lets publishers deliver statements and payments electronically.  And once that system is in place, publishers could easily begin the process of paying authors more often, moving from twice a year to four times a year, minimum.  Right now, most authors have accounting periods that end on June 30th and December 31st.  They then pay authors ninety to 120 days later, after they have massaged the numbers and calculated advantageous reserves for returns.  I have no complaints regarding reserves as long as they are reasonable, but it does not take modern systems three or four months to do those calculations.  Payments should be faster, period.

As an agent, I scan and email every statement, earned out or not (if your agent doesn't send you the  statements on titles that haven't earned out, how do you know they haven't earned out?).  Most of my clients are still paid by check because my accounting software is limited in its ACH capabilities.  But as the capabilities improve, I certainly expect to be paying more and more clients via ACH.

We are swiftly moving to a more paperless and check-free world.  Publishers and agents need to get on board or risk looking like Luddites.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Publicity Update: AMELIA EARHART: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon, by Kathleen Winters

Review from Booklist—December 1, 2010

“Winters follows her biography Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2006) with a refreshing look at Earhart.  Resisting tabloid tales, Winters focuses on responsible accounts and Earhart’s own writings to show how public demands and family pressures induced the aviatrix to fly beyond her capabilities.  Although she is lauded as one of the greatest pilots of all time, Earhart’s contemporaries were less charitable and more realistic, and while her death was mourned by all of them, it did not come as a great surprise.  Winters pinpoints this sentiment at its most poignant by quoting WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) founder Jackie Cochran, who recalled telling her friend before the last flight, “I wish you wouldn’t go off and commit suicide because that’s exactly what you’re going to do.”  With erudite analysis of everything from Earhart’s flying to her marriage and longtime financial support of her parents and sister, Winters proves there is still much to learn about this American icon.  Earhart’s disappearance is legendary; it’s long past time to know its back story and why a final crash was always on the horizon.”

Review from Library Journal—November 1, 2010

“In this latest installment of Earhart historiography, Winters (Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air) explores her subject’s skills as an aviator and questions her character, thus providing another corrective to earlier Earhart hagiographies and popular perceptions.  Winters gives us a complex woman who pursued a frenetic career; endured and supported a dependent mother and sister; accomplished transcontinental, transatlantic and Pacific flights although lacking extensive aeronautical savvy; managed to alienate some fellow women pilots by taking credit for their work in establishing separate records for aviatrixes; and padded the record of her time in the air to enhance an already overblown reputation. 

Earhart’s accomplishments have been scrutinized for some time, and Winters’s well-written and thoroughly researched study should serve as a final corrective.”

Reviewed in Kirkus—August 25, 2010

Pilot and aviation historian Winters (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 2006, etc.) succinctly lays out the facts of Amelia Earhart’s remarkable story from “a pilot’s perspective,” underscoring how Earhart tended to skimp on the details of preparation for her difficult flights—e.g., on her last fatal flight around the world, she had not mastered the radio technology and resisted learning Morse code, which would have allowed the ship circling Howland Island in the Pacific to find her. 
The author’s knowledge of aviation history renders this a proficient chronicle of women in flight.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Because you can't just have dead web

In radio, they call it dead air, that few seconds or a minute when nothing is going out and listeners may change the station or not find the station.  This is supposedly a crisis of biblical proportions.

I guess the same can be said of any blog and authors should take note of this.  You can't have a blog and not blog.  You have to find the time and something interesting to say on a regular basis or people won't keep reading.  And I'm as guilt as anyone of not blogging enough. And it's not that I don't have a lot to say.  After more than twenty years in this business, I have quite a bit to say, but there's always a time issue.  Should I spent my time blogging or calling editors and asking them why they haven't read that proposal I sent them three months ago?  Or reviewing royalty statements for errors?  Or sending publicity updates to the foreign agents?  Or reading current clients' new projects or potential clients' projects.  Or updating Twitter with news about a client?  Or updating Facebook with news about my clients?  I could probably keep a full-time Social Networking Coordinator busy.

All that said, here's some updates.

I've only just discovered that Basic Books created a URL and website for Paul Offit's DEADLY CHOICES at  Great idea, but wouldn't it be nice to let the agent know?

Paul was recently on THE COLBERT REPORT, but I can't seem to find a link to the appearance online.  Perhaps later in the week.  Until it does, perhaps you could catch up on Paul's other great books.

In other news, Patrick O'Donnell's GIVE ME TOMORROW has gone back to press for a third time.  This is amazing news, especially since publishing "wisdom" has long been that books about the Korean War don't sell.  But, hey, this is about the US Marines in Korea and those books sell.   This is Pat's second book about the marines, the first having been a recounting of a unit he embedded with in Iraq, WE ARE ONE.  And if you are a fan of the US Marines, you should also check out Jack Lynch's MAJESTIC TWELVE.

Ed Greenwood is busy writing new books for the Forgotten Realms® but if you haven't yet read his Falconfar trilogy, now would be a good time.

Okay! Back to work!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

DEADLY CHOICES, by Paul Offit, MD, Publicity Update

Publicity Update

Offit, Paul, DEADLY CHOICES:  How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (Basic Books)

Booked for The Colbert Report—January 24

Appeared on Good Morning America (ABC-TV)—January 12

Appeared on Dr. Richard Besser (ABC News Now/ (extended version of the GMA appearance)

Appeared on NPR’s Science Friday—January 7

Scientific American will mention the book as Recommended Reading in the February 2011 issue.

Starred review from Booklist: Issue: January 1, 2011

“Infectious disease expert Offit, long an outspoken and prolific champion of universal immunization via vaccines, ratchets up the urgency of his crusade by taking on the loudest and highest-profile spokespersons for the anti-vaccine movement….  Armed with his own arsenal of anecdotal horror stories that focus on worst case histories of the unvaccinated, mostly children, in addition to pages of scientific study citations supporting his premise, Offit pulls no punches. His tone is edgier than usual this time, his arguments more virulent.  It is clear that he wants his message and the facts, not rumors or infectious diseases, to go viral.”

Starred review for Paul in the 12/1 Kirkus

“The issue comes down to coincidence vs. causality.  A baby is vaccinated and thereafter develops seizures, brain damage, autism or other disorders.  So powerful is the need to find a cause that vaccines become the target and no amount of clinical or epidemiological evidence will change opinions.  …countless studies have discounted any association [between mercury and autism], but the protests mount, with many states allowing parents to opt out of vaccine programs.  The danger is that with too many kids unvaccinated, herd immunity is lost and epidemics become a reality.  Offit rightly points out that it would be a mistake to go this route to demonstrate why vaccines are essential; what we need is a restoration of trust.

“A much-needed book with solid evidence—deserves all the publicity it can get.”

“Dr. Offit brings to life in careful and compelling detail the story of misguided and dangerous activists using bad science to attack one of the most effective public health interventions ever devised.  It is a must-read cautionary tale of the abuse of celebrity, the media, misinformation and fear.”
—Steve Novella, Assistant Professor and Director of General Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

“Paul Offit is that rarity: An eloquent, outspoken scientist with a gift for writing narrative.  I cannot imagine a better counter to the scientifically challenged—and just plain dangerous—anti-vaccination movement.  We’re fortunate to have him.”
—Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science and co-author of Unscientific America

Deadly Choices carries a very important message for parents, journalists, physicians, and everyone who cares about children and health.  It is a passionate, but also compassionate, call for civil discourse and rational conversation on a subject which matters so much to each of us individually and to us all as a society.  It is a fascinating account of society and science, politics, publicity, and public health.”
—Perri Klass, Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics, New York University and author of Treatment Kind and Fair

“A medical crisis has come to America.  Diseases of our grandparents’ generation are making a deadly comeback as more and more parents choose not to vaccinate their children.  How did this happen?  Who is responsible?  And what can be done to reverse this unconscionable assault upon our nation’s public health?  For the answers, provided in clear, common sense, page-turning fashion, I recommend Deadly Choices by Dr. Paul Offit—a timely and courageous call to arms by the nation’s foremost expert on pediatric infectious disease.”
—David Oshinsky, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Polio: An American Story, and Jack S. Blanton Chair in History at the University of Texas

“With Deadly Choices, Paul Offit has once again brought clarity and reason to a subject that desperately needs them both.  If you care about the health of your children – or the health of anybody’s children – you need to read this book as soon as you can.”
—Michael Specter, Staff Writer, The New Yorker and author of Denialism

“This is a courageous book by a courageous researcher and physician.  Paul Offit’s new book tells the truth about the anti-vaccine movement, its unquestioning followers in the media and about the deadly consequences of their campaign of fear.  Deadly Choices demonstrates that the enemies of immunizations are successful because too many of us have remained silent in the face of their falsehoods and intimidation.  Dr. Offit shows that by standing up for science we can win the war against those who would leave our children defenseless against infectious disease.”
—Robert M. Goldberg, Ph.D., Vice President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and author of Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used to Hijack Medical Science for Fear and Profit

Monday, January 10, 2011

(Belatedly) The December Monthly Round-Up

If there's one thing that'll throw a monkey wrench into your ability to get reading done, it's having a new baby in the house.  By the time you find the time, you're exhausted.  It's a real challenge.

That said, I'm excited to report that I have new intern starting today and she will be (hopefully!) of great assistance in helping me get through much of the reading we have pending.

That said, I currently have on-hand:
  • 69 eQueries that need to be read;
  • 5 Sample Chapters that need to be read;
  • 13 Full manuscripts, 4 of which are from current clients, and 1 from a prospective client that is over 1,000 pages!

We are currently waiting fro a mere 4 sample chapters and 1 proposal.

Lest you think I am completely slacking...

In December, we received 38 queries and declined 61.

So if you are waiting from an answer from us and haven't heard yet, it is almost assured that we are still considering your material.  Your patience is deeply appreciated.