Sunday, March 15, 2015

Week in Review 3/15/15

The week in review starts with prayers for our friend Amy Schaefer who lives in paradise most of the time, but is now right smack dab in the middle of Tropical Cyclone Pam. 

I know we're all looking forward to hearing from Amy that she's ok.


In last week's review Stacy asked about a book being profitable without earning out:

I said: A book can break even AND turn a profit for the publisher even if the advance is not earned out.

She asked: Is that because the author is receiving the agreed royalty rate while the book earns against the advance?

It's because the author is credited ONLY for royalties earned not the total amount earned.

If a book sells 10,000 copies here's the math:

10,000 books x $25.00 (retail price/book) x 60% (discount given to bookstores is 40%) = $150,000.00 GROSS

Less: 10,000 x $3.12 (royalty rate of 12.5%  x cover price of $25) =$31,200.00  author earnings (applied to advance)
Less: fixed costs of producing book ($5.00/book)  $50,000
Less: other costs of producing book ($2.00/book) $20,000

$150,000 GROSS
-50,000 FIXED COST
-20,000 OTHER COST

= $48,800 retained by publisher (I'd done the math wrong earlier, thanks to eagle eyed blog reader Lisa, it's now corrected)

If the author's advance is $100,000, the book hasn't earned out ($100,000 less $31,200) but the book has put money in the publisher's coffers.

These are very very broad estimates, just to demonstrate the math, and are NOT actual numbers.


On Monday I pretty much lost my mind and ranted to a writer who had been asked to do a marketing proposal and thought it was really her agent's job. 

Julie Weathers correctly pointed out:
"so am I paying 15% so that someone with connections will make phone calls?"
I think right there is where the whole thing went off the rails.

I respond poorly and at length plus volume to those who seem not to value what an agent does.  In this particular case, lack of fuller explanations gave rise to some misconceptions.

I very much appreciate that lunorama was willing to take the bull by horns (or the shark by the snout) and say this:

Mainly, I am uncomfortable with this post because it makes me worried for if I ever gain an agent and need to ask a question about my or their role. Will I be chewed out or "fired on the spot" for being such a total clueless noob? It is not anyone's job to hold my hand, but I also second the person who said I do not feel like I should be "grateful" to someone with whom I have a *business arrangement.*

Agents are not doing authors a free favor. The caveat that the agent only gets paid if the book sells and that it is a "bargain" for the author struck me as weird -- agents are paid for their work and they do have other clients. It's a business, not a charity, not a "bargain." That method exists for ethical reasons, and I am glad it does. It also keeps authors and agents invested in working together until it sells.

I resent the implication that I should...I don't know...feel bad for agents? They do a LOT of work, but they do not take on projects they don't think they can sell (I assume not, anyway) and they are working under the expectation of a payoff, just like the author, so...I don't understand the claim that because they have to wait for the payoff, agents are not paid for their time. It's a quibble over semantics.

I don't want to parse this paragraph out with the things I agree/disagree with but I do want to say I agree I did seem to say being "ungrateful" was cause for firing. That's not what I intended so clearly I didn't say it very well.

I was responding to the implication that "all" agents do is a very little bit of work for a percentage of the deal.  That's a real sore spot for me that comes from a lot of people not understanding what agents do.

What I should have said was that if a client really felt like s/he was not getting a valuable service, and said so, I'd part company with them.

I did NOT mean to convey that a client who asks questions will be fired on the spot or, in fact, ever.

This was a good reminder to me to think a little deeper before going off the deep end. 


On Tuesday we covered the delicate issue of writing about communities of which we are not a part.

Tom Perkins asked an interesting question
is the designation "Alaska Native" a critical part of your character(s)? I mean, I have a project where I know the qualities my character has, but specific ancestry is not one of them.

Lisa Bodenheim had a good answer for it too:
In response to your question about letting the reader assign whatever mental picture they lean towards. White people will (generally) always assign white to the characters. It's the nature of the culture we live within.

There's a blog post about it here.

I think it's essential that characters be described so they are not all in the image a reader brings to the reading experience. After all, one of the many benefits of reading widely is meeting new kinds of people.

One of my favorite books by Harlan Coben used the reader's assumptions about race as a plot twist.  I love that trick.


On Wednesday we discussed revising and expanding a previously published memoir but the comments took a turn into weather as we discovered Amy is right there in the middle of Tropical Cyclone Pam.

We're all keeping our fingers and fins crossed that the boat is safe!


On Thursday we turned to how to use fan fiction numbers in a query.

I liked what Kathryn Clark contributed to the discussion:

A lot of the appeal of fanfic is that the readers already love the characters - no need to win anyone over. (Not to mention that I've found it easier to play with other people's characters than to create my own.) In most (though not all) cases, there's no exposition needed beyond "this takes place in episode three" or "alternate universe where Harry Potter isn't a wizard".
I hadn't really considered that writing fanfic is essentially like coming in to a fully developed story line, so much of the heavy lifting has been done already.

Jen brought up a point worth clarifying about fan fiction:

Something to consider: according to my agent, once your work is accepted by a publishing company, your contract will probably say something to the effect of "This work has never fully nor partial been available in electronic format, on public forum, available for download, etc."

So, when I suggested using a site like Wattpad to build a following for a paranormal I was brainstorming, he basically said I would be taking a big risk: if you get a million fans, the Big Five will pay attention. If you don't, you forfeit getting it traditionally published.

This info is absolutely wrong. I hate to flat out contradict an agent, particularly when this is second hand, but this kind of info can get scattered around and taken as gospel.

For starters: yes, many contracts for publication DO have a version of the "never before published" clause BUT BUT BUT if your work has been published before, this is something your agent will TELL your editor during the submission process, and this line of the contract will be struck out.

Contracts are NEGOTIATED, not handed down on stone tablets. I've had to clarify MANY things in various contracts depending on the specific situation of the author.

Second, if you publish on Wattpad, the problem is not that it's published but that Wattpad holds the rights to it.  They essentially become a co-owner of the work. I do NOT know if that can be negotiated because I've never been involved with a work that was originally published on Wattpad.  However, I do have editor friends who have acquired Wattpad works, and they tell me Wattpad gets a chunk of the dough.


Friday's question about #PitMad was very illuminating for me.

S.E.Dee said, and E.Maree echoed

"It's a big target for exploitation by predator publishers and unsavory agents so you need to keep your wits about you. It's also a big, fast-moving sea of tweets and there's no guarantee the agents you like are even seeing yours."

I have seen some of the #PitMad scroll and the retweets drove me crazy, but I had NOT realized it was being targeted by the predatory and unsavory.  That's really sad news.

Janet Rundquist mentioned why she liked #PitMad:

 I like the Twitter pitches because it forces you to distill your story into a single sentence and from there, you can sometimes get a feel for whether it has enough to entice someone to read after all. I *definitely* like the twitter contests better than blog-hosted contests. Far less painful and public if you have not received requests/favorites etc. Also, the twitter pitches still require you to query, so it doesn't replace anything, just gives you a new angle.

as did Liz Mallory:
always considered PitMad a good exercise at least. It forces me to write pitches - 20 or so of them! - and it also helps me see the selling points of the book by what people retweet or what makes me retweet someone else. PitMad is what showed me comps were so important.

But this time I got 3 favorites, and I can't deny that was really exciting. Even if nothing comes from it, it was encouraging.

And Rena has a very nice success with #PitMad:
That said, I found my agent during #Pitmad last September. It was someone I'd never heard of, but when I did my research, I was very excited. We may never have connected without Pitmad. She has been an amazing friend and partner, and she sold my book less than two weeks after going on submission, so I would say I'm a fan of the pitch party that brought us together.

And Jenny Chou's benefits were interesting as well
I REALLY enjoy Twitter pitching and contests. Because I've had lots of favorites and many big publishers are now fighting over my book? No. Because I've made lots of very supportive writer friends from all over the world. I've exchanged chapters for critiques and found a CP. Many of these people were kind enough to re-tweet my tweets. I've seen a lot of really great writing in contests and look forward to Tweeting about some of these books when they are eventually published- and I'm sure some will be. I've also offered my two-cents on some not-so-great writing and I hope I've helped a few people out.


On Saturday we talked about the gentle art of nudging agents who have queries/fulls/requests.

Bill Negotiator brought up the topic of "answering" queries on Twitter:

Sorry to bring it up again, but if any other industry did this wouldn't it be shut down? An HR person tweeting about details of rejected resumes for a job followed by a form no? An online dating website endorsing tweets about failed connections followed by an email that your date didn't like you?

If there are any agents aside from Janet reading this, I hope you'll realize that the query crit hashtags are astronomically disrespectful. You shouldn't use someone's effort to make a private business connection as fodder for your many Twitter followers.

Does anyone else agree with me? Or am I alone here?

DLM wondered:
The question is, how likely is it any Tweet like that would be identifiable to anyone but me? And is it comparable to an agent telling other agents that I and my work are not wortwhile in any way they could recognize if I queried those who heard it?

Julie Weathers finds value in those kind of #Query answers on Twitter:

There are a great many people, me among them, who disagree with you about the query tweeting. In a time when more agencies are going to the no response means no interest, it's tremendously valuable to get a look at the process.

Usually what comes out of it is:

1. Follow the instructions.

2. I can't do anything with your previously published book.

3. It's all subjective.

4. They don't rep this genre. They say they don't on their site. They don't understand it and so they can't take it.

Well, if I wrote that genre, I would make a note, though to be honest, I'd be following the guidelines anyway, not to query this agent. They just don't get it.

Agent A tweets something about a women's fiction with historical elements they wanted to love, but the writing wasn't there.

Julie with one L goes to B&W and says, "Hey, Agent A just mentioned she'd really like a historical WF. Put her on your list."

The tweets are generic enough they could fit any of a hundred stories. The dialogue is stiff. Seriously? Someone is going to say, "OMG that agent is talking about me. I'm so offended."

The tweets give us who follow them an idea of what is and isn't working and I praise these agents for taking their time to do so, just as do the agents who do query critics and write blogs to help writers.

You'll notice I don't do those kinds of Twitter/query replies at all. The closest I've come is running the stats for a Chum Bucket (examples here and here.)

The difference is that I've responded to the querier with this same information earlier in the evening and directly. They don't have to parse out whether a tweet is about them; they've got an email from me that says "good first draft writing."

I'm not keen on those Twitter things at all. I think it feeds the anxiety of writers more than it helps. 

As it turns out, my blog stats are sadly mistaken that I have no extra terrestrial readers because Christina Seine gave us her coordinates here:

This is Christina Seine here, coming to you live from the exclusive Bean de Lima resort on the sandy shores of the Pit of Carkoon

And it turns out she's not alone:
The weather is gorgeous here, although I have to say there is rather an overabundance of woodland creatures taking up space at the bar. There is much excited talk of the Second Annual Bucket of Chum Writer’s Conference set to be held here in the Fall – should be quite interesting.

Craig is on his way to Carkoon (something about prologues?)

Colin's report shows a few more people heading that way:

It's been a busy morning here at Carkoon setting up the branch office. My typewriter arrived, and Christine is just setting up the fax machine (though I think she's having trouble finding the phone line. I'll have Kitty put a call in to AT&T... assuming we have cell phone service).

I just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we here at FPLM-Carkoon (that's Fine Print Literary Management-Carkoon Division--though the way my typewriter's behaving at the moment, Fuzzy Print would be more appropriate) are embracing the philosophy of our mentor and founder, and accepting any and all queries, proposals, spirits, and former US Army Military Police Corps Majors. So please send your queries this way. I'm particularly interested in historical suspense thrillers, lima bean mysteries, and kale memoirs, and LynnRodz is reading Dino Porn (but we'll find something useful for her to do).

Address your queries along with a suitable denomination of the currency of your choice to:

Third Cave Past the Waterhole

although it turns out Colin may be confused about where he is cause on Monday he told Julie Weathers:

Well, we're looking at hiring in the South Pacific. I hear you're particularly good with Aussies...? :)

LynnRodz updated the submission guidelines for the Carkoon satellite office:

Attention: Writers thinking of querying FPLM-CD, no more Dino Porn queries! It's an automatic rejection unless donuts and/or cookies are sent as well and none of this prepackaged or boxed crap either. A little imagination will go a long way so chocolate chip, peanut butter, and Oreo cookies will be thrown back into the slush pile.

Our head honcho here in Carkoon is a vegetarian health nut, so only fresh ingredients are allowed.

Automatic partials will be requested when accompanied with: Mexican Wedding Cookies, aka Russian Tea Cakes, macarons, and tassies.

Fulls will be requested with: Spitzbuben, Kalacky and Rugelach.

Don't worry about me Colin, I'll be the taste tester and I'll even make the tea. (Yep, I've got the sweetest job in Carkoon!)


best typo of the week, and which should really BE a word: DLM's "vommenting"


The Sleepy One recommended Blue Start doughnuts in addition to Voodoo Donuts here in Portlandia, and oh my gastric juices…. YUM!!! Fabulous Bill Cameron, Pirate Heidi Schulz and Publicist to the Stars Dana Kaye and I took a field trip there and it was to DIE for!


I'm just stupidly behind on reading and everything else because I've been out here in Portland at Left Coast Crime, and yes it is FUN!


Adib Khorram said...

I missed "vommenting" the first time around. It might be the greatest portmanteau ever.

Unknown said...

Vommenting is awesome.

Prayers are indeed out for Amy and Donna.

I hope the shark is having a great time in Portland. I'll have to check conference schedules and do some stalking.

Stacy said...

Thanks for answering my question, Janet.

DLM said...

Hee - it's a little bit funny just how gratifying my brief illness has turned out to be. :) My wee and paltry brain comes up with the occasional amusing accident ("ask me about my novel!").

My own personal favorite portmanteau word was one from my dear sweet ex: porculent. For when you're feeling both fat AND piggy.

Loving the reports from Carktoon, but with Janet on the anxiousness to hear Amy and family are okay.

The Sleepy One said...

Yeah, I'm glad you liked Blue Star Donuts!

Crimelandia has been amazing this year. So many talented authors and fun panels.

DLM said...

reCAPTCHA just came up with a good one: miniows. The minions of cats!?

Gossamer is going to want some miniows, I just know it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Giddy up, WIR rides again.
Lets me relive the vommenting days. Love it.

Unknown said...

Sorry that the #pitmad re-tweets drive you crazy! I'm sure it must feel like 1000 pre-published writers are throwing a party right outside your office window- complete with live music and balloons and streamers and free wine and chocolate for all! And then once in a while a real live agent stops by and everyone throws confetti! But after 12 hours we pack up our empty wine bottles and sweep up the confetti and go back to our solitary writing caves with the hope that maybe - just maybe- someone remembered we were there. :)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Best to Amy.

The WIR is my Sunday highlight.

Congrats to those who catch the Shark's attention. It's a thrill to be mentioned by her.

Thank you Janet for hosting this blog and answering our questions.

I hope the Voodoo doughnuts don't cause vommenting.

Colin Smith said...

Another great sum up of the week. And I echo the sentiments of my fellow commenters regarding Amy. I hope we hear from her soon.

Just to clarify: We here at FPLM-CD are not actually located IN the South Pacific. But given Julie's experience with Aussies, I thought there might be an opportunity there for further expansion... :)

I daresay this has been making the rounds on the Internet, but I heard it first today from one of my kids:

American: Favor, Honor, Color...
Brit: What are you doing?
American: Getting rid of U. :)

Aren't my children lovely? :D

Amy Schaefer said...

I'm fine! We're all safe in our corner of paradise. No direct word on the boat, but considering the path of the storm, I'm sure it is okay, too. Thank you all for thinking about us.

Vanuatu was flattened, however. It is a tiny country made up of 83 islands, and the relief effort is going to be difficult to organize. The people there could use your prayers and support.

Colin, I miss using my 'u's. Colour looks so much nicer than color. Neighbour, favourite... you can't beat a good u.

Now, to business. You want to expand your Carkoonian experiment into the South Pacific, and you didn't think to talk to me? We at the Paradise branch take our territorial rights very seriously, you know, and will defend them vigorously. I bet I can snag a top attorney out of the vommenters without even trying. Dena, where are you today?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Glad to hear you are safe, Amy, and yes thoughts and desires for speedy help to the people in need.

Yay. Wonderful to get a mention in the WIR.

But, ummmmm, regarding math....? It's definitely not my strong suit but with the Shark at a Crimelandia Conference in Portlandia perhaps some of the fumes from those exotic Blue Start donuts have affected the math and/or figures she used?

When multiplying 10,000 books x $25.00 retail x 60% discount I come up with a total of $150,000.00 which MEANS the publisher retains a whopping $48,800.
Is that right?

Flowers McGrath said...

Any chance we could get a refresher on the historical meaning/origin of carkoon in comment land. Trying to read everything but alas, so so many words and very little time.

Loving the weekly review, and all the posts as always!

Susan Bonifant said...

Amy, I'm glad you're safe. I've been fretting since this a.m.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Bessie: Carkoon....the furthest I went back was 2/25-26 when Colin exiled himself there over lima beans, sparkling water, and whisky/brandy reference. I'm sure there's something further back. And I'm also sure Colin and the crew can explain it much better than me.

In fact, I think there's a Carkoon short story, if not a novel waiting to be written!! But...what genre shall it be?

Colin Smith said...

AMY!!! So glad to see and hear that you and yours are okay! :) I will nod sagely and add the people of Vanuatu to the prayer list. But let me be the first to admit I'll be looking it up on a map... :)

As for the Paradise branch... well, I'm Janet would go for that. After all, she would HAVE to take a tour of the premises to make sure it's up to FPLM's standards. That would include at least a few days taking in the beach, sampling the local beverages, and getting feedback from the resident sharks. Sounds like a winning idea to me. And with Julie helping on the Aussie front... :)

Bessie: As far as this blog is concerned, here's where my time on Carkoon began: I believe this is the first reference to Carkoon. :)

Colin Smith said...

For those interested, here's a BBC report on Vanuatu, including video clips and pictures. It's one thing to read Amy say the country's been flattened. It's quite another to see it for yourself:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...


Who-ray you are oh-kay.

Saw Vanuatu on the news. Awful, just awful.

Prayers and support coming from my end of paradise where it's mud-month. Snow is finally melting and the muck is shoelace high.

Craig F said...

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho it off to Carkoon I go. With five tons of beer making equipment and a plan.

It is a wonderful thing to be drain bamaged because I remember absolutely nothing about prologues last week. That will make my revenge all the more sweet.

I will get the woodland creatures drunk and get them to sign a petition to end those nasty P things.

Within a couple of years prologues will be eradicated from the known universe.

Dena Pawling said...

Amy! I'm so glad you're okay!

So far as I understand it, FPLM's main office is in New York, with a branch in Carkoon [which I can't find on my apparently-outdated map but I have a sneaking suspicion it's not anywhere near California] and a branch in Paradise [which appears to be even farther away, altho the sharks are definitely swimming around there, because y'all are defending your territorial rights so vigorously.]

I'm only licensed in California.

Would love to help you any way I can, tho. I won the door prize at yesterday's RWA chapter meeting [a book on writing fiction, yay], so karma is currently in my favor. Or, conversely, is your branch open to queries? Yes, today I'm taking advantage of karma and sending out a few more. Maybe I'll send one your way :)

Colin, yes your children are lovely. Mine are... well... mine. This year is a big birthday year for three of my four:

#1 – 21 [altho he's already been legally sauced, because he was stationed in Okinawa last summer and the legal drinking age there is 20. He was somewhat disappointed when his deployment ended and he had to return to the states lol]

#2 – 19 [his bday is tomorrow]

#3 – 18

#4 – 16

Our weather is certainly safer than a hurricane/cyclone, but it's definitely not paradise here. We've been sweating thru several days of 98 degree heat, which as I understand it was the hottest recorded temperature for March 14, 2015 in the entire USA, and today an ambulance was called to my kids' first baseball game of the season because a spectator succumbed to the heat. Air conditioning is a wonderful thing.

I'll stop now before this turns into a vomment, or is it already too late for that?

Colin Smith said...

Dena: Kitty's going to check with the local authorities here on Carkoon (some guy who lives in a hut... no? His name is Hutt? Really? Okay...), but I think your California license is good here. So I'd be pleased to have you be the official legal representative for FPLM-Carkoon. There are some pretty shady creatures in the caves nearby, so it's possible we'll need some help with evictions if things get out of hand.

Perhaps Kitty can find out what the judges are like here. Hopefully not too different from what you have there in SoCal. :)

Janet Reid said...

Lisa, you're right about the math. I did it by hand and carried an extra one. I did a quick Excel spread sheet and you're right! Thanks for catching that. It's corrected now.

Colin Smith said...

Gorsh durnitt! I was hoping to get Lisa as our accountant for the Carkoon office. We need someone good with numbers. The last accountant couldn't count beyond 30. After that he ran out of toes. But it looks like she's in QOTKU's good books, so she won't be exiled anytime soon... *sigh*

Megan V said...

Glad to see you're okay Amy!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

So you're.....not going to tell us the title of the Harlan Coben book? I know it's a popular conception that we library workers get to read all day, but je regrette, ce n'est pas vrai, so I can't read 'em all to find it myself ;)

(additionally, my "to be read" list is not something we're going to talk about. Nor my "to be watched" list. My "to be written" list I'll discuss occasionally.)

Dena Pawling said...

Hey Colin,

I'd be honored [or is that honoured?] to be your official legal representative, so long of course that you've okayed it with any powers-that-be at the main office.

I've evicted professional baseball players, professional basketball players, actors, and yes lawyers. So altho you'd think it would be a professional courtesy, I've done it.

There is at least one judge around here that does sort of remind me of a Hutt. Which makes me think -- are you sure the "shady creatures in the caves" aren't lawyers?

Or if nothing else, it sounds like an excellent name for a rock band.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Colin: believeyoume, you do not want me as an accountant. Basic checkbook balancing I can do. Complicated proposed/actual budget spreadsheet schtuff....nope.

Amy Schaefer said...

Dena, you are dead to me. I ask you for help, and what do you do? Run off to join my adversary. You all may think you've got in good over there in Carkoon, with your tangerines and your beer and your fancy photocopiers, but you underestimate Team Paradise at your peril.

Something tells me I need another coffee.

Dena Pawling said...

LOL Amy! You have shark-infested waters and seem to be VERY GOOD at defending your territory. You certainly don't need the likes of me!

And think about it. If I evict the cave-dwellers on Carkoon, maybe they'll move on to Paradise and help the sharks defend your territory. Sounds more effective than the legal system :)

And besides, I haven't been exiled yet, altho it seems I'm on my way.........

Craig F said...

When she gets here I'll get her into a compromising position with a Vegemite sandwich and send you a picture.

It's always good to have some of the dirt from under your lawyer's fingernails. Besides, she only gave a Stabenow book three stars.

Amy Schaefer said...

The question is, do I want the Carkoonians here? We have pretty strict entry requirements for Paradise. I'll only accept strays on a case-by-case basis.

I'm starting to think that extra coffee was the problem rather than the solution. I need to mellow out a little. I know! I'll go eat lunch on my porch. Maybe another pod of dolphins will pass by as I nibble my Camembert.

LynnRodz said...

Another great WIR and a lot of lurkers commenting for the first time this week. It was nice to see new names.

Amy, I'm glad you and your family are all right. Don't worry, we'll send you the coffee drinkers. We couldn't find the coffee maker and I think we all know how some people become when they don't get their morning brew. It's not pretty. They're the creatures in the next cave Colin was talking about. Our branch office in Carkoon is strictly tea, wine, beer and (when REJ gets here with the tangerines) sangria.

Megan V said...

Amy—I'm nowhere near as humorous as Dena, but I do have a law license. Perhaps you'd be willing to accept this stray? Crimes are my cup of tea and I might be able to argue that Dena's defection was a crime under Paradise Law, which would, of course, require that she be removed to Paradise's Jurisdiction. You'd have her back from those Carkoonians lickety-split.

Colin Smith said...

I think we need QOTKU to establish FPLM-Paradise as an official branch before war breaks out. :)

FPLM-New York, FPLM-Carkoon, FPLM-Paradise... this is getting like CSI--only with better scripts. :)

french sojourn said...

So glad to see Amy's comment.

"Fair winds, and following seas."

Cheers Hank

Flowers McGrath said...

This is the silliest best natured comment bunch ever. "Wow" may be an understatement.