Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Query Question: Reliability of Publishers Marketplace deal announcements

Thank your for posting about auctions and pre-empts on your blog  - it seems to be a less-often talked about issue (as far as I can tell when I researched all that stuff in the past). It brought to mind a post that Kristin Nelson had a week or so ago about how some agents exaggerate their reporting in the Publisher's Marketplace venue. 
 It also reminded me of seeing a post by another agency that said they don't post in PM because it feels like bragging. (This one made me both laugh and also think, "hmm" about their success rate, neither of which I believe they were going for as they are a Christian-based agency.) They then asked about how much querying writers rely on PM.
For my part, I liked PM to help me with kinds of sales and frequency (and not necessarily about the $ end of it, which is where I feel like the agency worrying about bragging is actually considering). I know not all agents or editors report sales, but it gave me an extra piece of information to work with. I also just enjoy seeing what's coming down the pike in various genres. 
My question (finally): If a querying writer is to spend the money on PM, do you believe that is a valuable asset for him/her? How reliable is the information?


I think it's an amazing trove of information, but mostly about what's NOT there.  If you are considering an agent who has ZERO sales posted at Publishers Marketplace, you'll want to ask some pretty precise questions:

1. What have you sold this year?
2. What books are being published this year that you sold?
3. How do you handle foreign rights?
4. How do you handle film rights?

The answers you're looking for here are:

1. List of books with author names and publishing houses.  Preferably houses you've heard of. If you haven't heard of the publisher, fire up the google machine.

2. List of titles that you can look up on Amazon, or B&N.

3. A specific answer. It's perfectly fine if an agency lets the publisher retain translation rights. If the agency tries to retain those rights, who handles foreign rights at the agency? What kind of track record do they have. (See #1 and #2 above)

4. Just make sure they don't leave your film and performance rights with the publisher.

If you find an agent with just a few deals posted, ASK why that is.  I'm woefully behind on posting deals on a bunch of books for a lot of reasons that I won't go in to in public, but will mention to a prospective client [under the cone of silence of course.]

If you find an agent with a lot of deals, I think you're able to trust the reporting. Sure a few agents bump up their sale to the next category, but really who cares.

The purpose of making a book sound enticing on PubMkt is to attract foreign, audio, and film deals. It's not to hoodwink authors.

If a book sells in a "pre-empt" an agent thinks it's more likely to get noticed. I don't particularly care if an agent is  fast and loose with terms in order to attract attention for his/her clients. 

I will say that I insist on accurate reporting here at The Reef.  It's always easier to report correctly, so you don't have to remember what you said.

You should be MUCH more interested in the agents who have clients on the lists of books that sell well. That's where you see the folks who know how to sell books to the right editor at the right publisher and get sales and marketing excited.



AJ Blythe said...

A good question. I'd be interested to hear if anyone here (or Carkoon) has: used PM and if they thought it was value for money?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this clarification Janet!

I keep considering subscribing to pubMkt but can't seem to decide either way, but this seems to clear that up quite nicely.

It sounds as if your advice is to sign up for this service once you've received an offer for representation, as at that point a particular agents deals becomes of vital interest to the prospective author. Especially if there is more than one offer on the table.

Plus, at that point, you pay people to do things to make sure nothing insane is about to happen to you. i.e. hiring an applicable contract lawyer or entertainment lawyer who can verify that your great grandchildren won't owe someone their firstborn child, due to a special recoup clause that you didn't meet.

Great post Janet! Lots of great information that I will be saving here (especially what to ask and what you want to hear from an agent who offers)!

Susan Bonifant said...

The sorting and reporting capabilities on PM have been invaluable for me in compiling agent lists by genre. And the "who represents" feature is helpful once you DO come up with a decent comp.

Colin Smith said...

$25/month doesn't seem a lot, but when you have six kids, most of whom are over 13, that $300/year has to justify its place on the budget. This is helpful information, however, as I chew on that decision.

The comment about the Christian-based agency not wanting to "boast" left me a little puzzled. If advertising is boasting, then a lot of churches are in a lot of trouble. Advertising, from a Christian perspective, is not so much about "boasting" but about answering the question, "Why should I go to your church/buy your product/sign up with your agency over someone elses?" If you can't answer this question, or your answer is, "there is no reason" then you need to question whether your church/business/agency needs to exist in the first place.

Good question and fascinating answer. :)

Anonymous said...

I've used PubMkt for about four years now. I can't imagine not having it b/c otherwise, I'd feel like I was somehow out of the loop on publishing scoop. :)

I've used it to research agents and editors. Just the other day I was poking around to see the title and book blurb about the latest acquired by various editors I was interested in, as well as the date.

I also get the Publisher's Lunch Deluxe and the Weekly Lunch emails which tallies up the reported deals of the day and week, and comes with the membership.

I think one of the things I've always noticed on PubMkt is I almost always see agencies, editors, pub house names I haven't seen before, or don't recognize. Not that I have any way of remembering every name out there - unless I was QOTKU or worked in publishing - still it amazes me because I look at any "new" information as a potential future opportunity.

Example: A mystery/crime book sold to Stairway Press yesterday. (RAINY DAY WOMEN by Kay Kendall) I've never heard of Stairway Press.

JulieWeathers said...

I've seen people recommend subscribing to it. I know it has some good information. I just can't justify another $25 a month right now.

Lifestyles of the poor and shameless.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Donna: it's good to hear about your experience with it.

But I'm with Colin and Julie: can't justify the expense at this time. Perhaps when I get closer to having a polished draft on hand.

Hey! there is a robot dancing in my recaptcha!

S.D.King said...

As a few others have mentioned, I just can't justify the expense at this time, especially since I am a world-class Googler and can often find what I need from other sources.

The other potential problem for me is that yes, I enjoy writing, but I LOVE learning and I can see myself spending hours and hours delving into this information and then justifying it as career research. In reality, I don't think I could handle one more distraction. I already check three blogs daily: Janet, First Victim, and Books and Such.

And note to Janet - hope you have a very meaningful and blessed Easter weekend. See you Monday.

Shaun Hutchinson said...

AJ: I've always used PM when querying and found it invaluable. It's $25/month, which can be difficult to justify, so I find subscribing for a month or two, doing the research, and then canceling my subscription worked best. If I needed to fill in some blanks after I canceled, QueryTracker and agency websites are also full of valuable info.

Honestly, the best way I compiled a good list of agents to query was to search through books I thought were similar to the one I was querying (but not too similar) and find the name of the agent who repped it in the acknowledgements.

Liz Penney said...

I love PM. It's like peeking behind the scenes. Plus it's great to see what's selling in your genre and finding comps.

I can't afford it every month but I used it while querying, once things came to an offer situation.

Oddly, found some of the most unresponsive agents (no response on fulls) also had the fewest reported deals. Like one per year or two years. Conversely, some of the most active agents were also the most responsive to queries and submissions.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the justification of expense dialogue, I can see having to let it go in a year or so - unless something happens such that I can continue. Right now I pay every six months - $140.00. I guess I get a little off for doing it in six month increments.

It will be hard making that decision because it's always harder to take away than it is to never even start. Like all those doggone channels we pay for and never use, yet to go down to cheaper packages cuts out some of the channels with our favorite shows.

Yeah, Lisa...I got a dancing robot too. What's up with that???

ProfeJMarie (Janet Rundquist) said...

First of all, I think it's a shame that so many of us have felt the need to say we can't justify the expense, as though we're being bad writers or authors for not subscribing to PM. No guilt! It's just another tool that is available. If you all want to know, I open all NY Times articles in Chrome's incognito mode so I don't have to pay that subscription or be limited to only 10 articles/month. That's probably worse, don't you think? :D

Anyhow.. I am the one who asked this question and the most interesting answer from Janet is the bit about attracting the subsidiary deals. This makes sense because I appreciate being reminded of the broader purpose and goal behind such a service as PM.

@brianschwarz You mention that the suggestion is to subscribe after getting an offer of rep, and I suppose you could, but I found it more helpful for before that stage - during my query process. It gave me an idea of *what* books agents were selling and if they really were a match for what I was querying them for. After signing with an agent, it's more for what Donna says about being in the loop - it's fun and one day I think maybe I'll see MY book in there. Then I'll end the subscription, hahahaha.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know if libraries can carry subscriptions to PM? My library doesn't, but that might just be my nook of the world.

JulieWeathers said...

Before everyone disappears for the holiday, I want to wish everyone a very blessed Easter. I have decided this is the year of rebirth for me, in many ways, spiritually and otherwise.

I know a lot of you are struggling to finish books or get an agent. Remember the journey is worth the climb once you get to the top of that mountain and look around. If it were easy, everyone would do it, but only you can tell your story. Of the billions of people who have been born since time began, there is only one you. You are unique and you're a miracle. You are in this time and place for a reason.

"...God gave me my talent and I was afraid of facing him one day if I didn't use it."--Jack Sorenson

Christina Seine said...

I subscribe, but only in spurts. Mostly, I want to know what kind of books are being sold, and whether any of them are like mine. I have this ridiculous fear that someone will sell a book with my plot just as I'm polishing up the finishing touches on my edits. But also, if I'm feeling particularly down-about-the-mouth, I go to PM and search agents using the six-figure-deals tag. That always cheers me right up. SOMEONE is selling books for heaps of money, and it makes me happy, even if it ain't me.

Kristin Nelson's blog post a few weeks ago was a real eye opener. I guess it shouldn't be that surprising, given the tendency to fudge in any competitive arena. But it just reinforces the need for writers to do real, in-depth research on any agent they are considering. How fortunate we are, to have so many tools at our disposal. And how fortunate we are that there are agents like TQOTKU and Ms. Nelson who are willing to take the time to put so much advice and information out there for us.

Christina Seine said...

For the record, in the spirit of full disclosure, I can't actually dance like the captcha robot.

Lizzie said...

I did the same as Shaun and some other commenters: subscribe for a month and get as much information as I can. Does anyone know if PubMarketplace is restricted to one IP address? Maybe we could all share the service for a couple bucks a month.

Lilac said...

Julie: thank you so much for your uplifting and inspiring words. We all need to be reminded sometimes of how wonder-full we are. And that there is a reason we have these gifts to share with the world.

I would like to wish all of you – lovely commenter, readers and Janet --that your sweet dreams will come true in the best of ways, soon. And that each moment along the way will be filled with meaning and joy.

You are all fantastic people, with great energy, and the world needs to hear from you.

Have a peaceful and blessed holidays.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Donna: Yes, he's kinda cute isn't he? Or is he a she?

Christine: ha! But we can try, can't we? And enjoy laughing at our silly attempts.

Julie: thank you for the words of encouragements. Writing novels is certainly a long-term endeavor. The more I read other novels and then I look at where mine is at...whoo boy.

Anonymous said...

I thought he or she WAS kinda cute. Had a lotta shakin' goin' on in the rump.

Better than me, even after a few cocktails.

And Julie, yes, thank you for your inspiring words, it's really nice to hear and be reminded of our individual talents, and uniqueness.

Same to you Lilac, thank you for your special message!

(Of course I will still be lurking about JR's blog... just b/c.)

Anonymous said...

Janet Rundquist:

Thank you for that insight. I may have to reconsider my position, though being at the latter end of querying my current project, I may save this nugget for my next go-round!

I can't even express how thankful I am for this writerly environment where people at many stages of the process are willing to share advice and encouragement. It's truly wonderful.

I hope everyone has an incredible Easter/Spring. You all deserve it!

Lilac said...

Donna, it's my pleasure. :-)

(And I have a feeling that all of us will still be lurking about JR's blog…)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This post is why I love QOTKU's blog. There is so much to learn. Shaun and Donna, thanks for your input. Reading PM before quering or even finishing a m/s is sage advice.

If writers are serious, they can open a tax ID number and write off the expense. One can have a salary and also a business that gains or loses. Expenses are deductions. It's a headache but an accountant's service is also a business expense. Subscribing to PM seems well worth it.

I wish Janet and everyone else a peaceful Easter week. It's not just about the chocolate.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Either my (off topic) comment posted just before 1:00 PM didn't go through or Janet deleted me. If it didn't go through, is was a great "mysterious" question and if it did, hahahaha Janet, I won't ask again.

Colin Smith said...

2Ns: If you didn't get an email from Janet saying she removed your comment, chances are it didn't post. I believe Janet has said that she reserves the right to remove comments, but at least with regular commenters (if not everyone) she will let you know she removed it and perhaps explain why.

And no, I can't dance like the robot either. :)

Colin Smith said...

Well, okay, I probably could dance like the robot if I was more inebriated than I've ever been in my life, and I have no intention of getting that soused. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, 2N's - a mystery defined as the disappearing question! Intriguing... :)

No problem Angie! I can't always give as good advice as some out here b/c I'm not always in the same shoes (querying for instance) BUT, I do love to at least try share when something pops up here and there I know a little about. I've thought about writing all this off - except I haven't earned any money yet - and I THINK if you claim to be self-employed you have to start making money within three years. (according to IRS) Therefore, until a book sells, I am not claiming self-employment - yet.

Maybe someone else knows better than me about that three year thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna and Angie

I don't know about the US tax system, but in Canada, you have to have 'reasonable expectation of income' in order to claim writing-related things like conferences or subscriptions. It doesn't matter how serious a writer you are, if you haven't made money related to these items, they won't let you claim. I do think you're allowed 3 years without income, though, like Donna says for the US.

I've been serious about writing fiction for over a decade. Even though I've been writing as my day job for a decade, if the education or business items (conferences or subscriptions) aren't directly related to my day job, they don't count.

Here's hoping I make even a small amount of money with my fiction this year. That way, I may be able to claim a few years worth of such things (but I doubt they'll let me go back ten years.)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yeah Colin, I have received an email or two from Janet when she saved my butt from my own srupidity. She's a peach that way.

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks, @ShaunHutchinson.

It seems it is worthwhile, but like many others here the cost is the issue. But I like the idea a few have of subscribing for a short time. I might consider that before I next start subbing.

I *love* the dancing robot. He makes me smile :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks BJ. Every now and then something sticks in my head (3 yr thing) Having said that, I think it's similar here - you have to earn money against what you're claiming to have spent money on - otherwise - no go.

I'll have to ask our tax person next time I see her how far back I can claim expenses. Wow, if I could go back at least the three years I've been unemployed and doing this "for a living" (she says with a ginormous giggle) that would be GREAT. I've kept my online receipts for memberships, etc.

I bet QOTKU can educate us when she's back.

That little robot must be getting tired by now.

Lizzie said...

I'm on Twitter @LizzieAwrites