During last week's review comment column Julie M. Weathers referred to losing her work in some sort of horrible computer meltdown. I weep bitter tears at the thought of some of those novels lost pretty much forever.
And let me say this about backup: it's really hard to beat an actual paper copy. I know they told us we would be in the electronic age and paper would be a relic of the past but I still like real copies of things. Things like contracts. Addendums to contracts. Copies of checks. I have it all electronically too so I can send copies quick as a wink, but if the world falls apart, I've still got your novel. And your financial records.
Lance asked about Miss TidyPaws the Blog tender who keeps her ice cream in alpha order:
Is the alphabetical order for ice cream necessary because the manufacturers misspell chocolate?
I may have had a run of bad spelling last week, but I think chocolate is spelled correctly on my ice cream
and Panda In Chief made me laugh out loud with this:
I am now picturing the Pope joining in with the Friday dance-a-thon, showing off his swing moves with Janet.
Wouldn't that have been GREAT??
I guess the next question would be: what CD would we choose for the Pope to dance to?
On Monday, we turned to the question of whether politically conservative authors have a harder time getting published.
DLM said exactly what I was thinking:
This is the only place on Teh Intarwebs I would dare to read the comments after a post like this. This community is exceptional.
Yes, you are. I often say it's the comments that make this blog what it is, and I mean it.
I love what Adele said:
I'm a little surprised at the number of posters who want their agent to share their values, worldviews or political affiliations. I'd want an honest agent who shares my devotion to furthering my career. Period.
Politics is a very sticky wicket and Julie M. Weathers pointed out one instance where an agent really shot herself in the hanging chad:
"But back to the question at hand: I'm sure there are some agents who might take politics into account when choosing a client."
Why, yes, there are.
An agent boldly demanded on twitter last year, "If you belong to this party, just stop following me right now!"
I didn't belong to the party. I don't belong to any party, but I stopped following her. It's none of her business what political party a prospective client belongs to. If she's that hardcore, I don't want to deal with her in any fashion.
Good to know this agent is an idiot now rather than find out later. Back in my early days I was hired to close up the office of a literary agent who died after fifty years in the business. Talk about eye opening! One of the most interesting things to see though was that she repped books that had very Christian evangelical bent, and the lady herself was Jewish. Her clients LOVED her (calling them to relay the news of her death was an emotional experience, let me tell you.) I wondered at this odd pairing at the time, but soon realized the authors didn't want a minister. They wanted an agent.
On Tuesday we talked publishing terms again, this time wrestling with "what is previously published"
Dena Pawling asked
Janet, I'm curious why you [and/or other agents] won't look at previously published material. Is it because the editors/publishers you sell to, won't buy it?
It's easier to sell books that don't have a track record. Generally books that have already been published haven't sold more than a few hundred copies. Pitching that to an editor requires some fancy footwork on why this amazing novel and gung ho author with a crap sales record will be a good risk.
Decent Agents (not the money grubbers)
Wait! WAIT! I am nothing if not a mercantile capitalist shark. Money grubbing is NOT the insult you think it is!
Then Julie M. Weathers diverted me with a link to this book of maps
I ordered two copies of the book.
One is for me.
One I'm holding in reserve but I'd give it to His Holiness if he expressed interest.
But I'm also thinking of making it the prize in a writing contest. The winner might have to come wrest it from my clutches though.
Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said:
I confess annoyance when I find a rather stark and uninformative agency Web site--and by that I mean little more than an agency name and contact address. At the very least I'd like an agent bio with some professionally useful info (ie "I have 20 years experience, rep romance, don't rep biographies.") and a client list of some sort.
Well, that sent me scrambling to check out my various bios hither and yon. And that's sort of the problem: there are about 20 of them at last count. Keeping them updated is one of those things that is never at the top of the priority list. That's why I try to keep mine very general. I don't want to have to change my bio if some of the specifics change every couple month. Marginally uninformative is easier to maintain.
I understand and agree with your point and in a better world, I'd have the same bio listed in every single place, and a list of all the places it appears so I could update in the blink of an eye. It's not a better world.
Donnaeve was a bit off topic, but still, this was interesting:
Guess what happened to moi? I WROTE A SYNOPSIS and I liked it.
On Thursday we talked about how to evaluate a smallpublisher
Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli asked
Thank you for this and for those links. I've copied and saved the contract examples. I've never heard of 'control of characters.' Do you, kindest queen of Sharks, know of any authors who lost control over their characters.
The first and most obvious way to lose control of your characters is if the publishing contract transfers copyright from the author to the publisher. A book contract should never do that. The word LICENSE is imperative. A license to publish a book (ie permission to publish a book) should specify a period of time and the territory covered. Copyright transfer isn't permission to publish it's transferring ownership.
Second way is to have an unending contract. That means no reversion clause, no out of print clause, no termination clause. Without those specifications, a publisher can hold on to the rights to publish the book in perpetuity. And if it's a really dreadful contract it might just not be the book, but the characters, setting, and time period.
Many of you mentioned work for hire. Generally a work for hire does NOT involve an author selling their own novel; rather they are writing a novel within parameters of an existing series. Star Trek and Star Wars novels are classic examples of work for hire. The authors who write those novels do not control the copyright for the books.
When Michael Connelly said he was "getting his rights back" I can assure you without even looking at his contract that he meant when the license expires, not that he'd actually transferred ownership of Bosch.
We talk about "getting rights back" a lot, but it refers to the period of time of the license running out.
As to the author who created an entire series, including characters, in a work for hire, I can't comment on that because I'm not familiar with it. My sense is that some terminology is being used in ways that are unclear....but again, I don't know.
DLM picked up on my point about book pricing and asked:
I find #5 especially arresting, in our list above, because it's hard not to wonder if some authors don't look at high prices and think "Yeah! I am worth $32.50!" before the dismay sets in ... Have you had to talk any authors down on expectations like that before?
Generally the only time I talk to my authors about book pricing, we're talking about ebooks. And that's a whole 'nother kettle of kvetch.
A publisher who lists novels at $32.50 is most likely a publisher I'm not working with. That kind of price makes the book less attractive to libraries, and all but the most fervent of retail buyers (mom, grandma, people trying to get into your pants.) (Non-fiction book prices are different...and ask me how much I paid for the latest Bill Vollman novel)
High retail price is not a deal breaker but you really need to know where your market is when considering a publisher who does that. For authors who sell 80% of their books in ebook format or trade paper, a high hardcover price doesn't matter as much. If your first 500 buyers are libraries, it matters a lot.
This is info I give clients, but generally it's me telling, not us discussing.
On Friday, the Six of Crows writing contest was posted. Results for that will be up on Monday.
There's a new entry up at QueryShark.
Just a bit more than a week to go until Bouchercon in Raleigh. I know Colin Smith is going (have given his photo to all security personnel along with kale detectives.)
Are any other blog readers heading to Raleigh? Let me know!
Sadly, His Holiness did not stop by the office, but we were prepared if he did.
Have a great week!