Thursday, November 20, 2008


One of my favorite long-term clients called me yesterday, nearly in tears about the rumors surrounding the $7 million Palin book deal. "I simply can't believe that publishers would want a book like this when they won't give our book the time of day!" she wailed.

She has a good point. This author has had two books published and she is highly credentialed with a Ph.D and vast experience in her field. Her co-author has similar credentials. But neither of them is famous. They don't write a column for a magazine or a newspaper. Their opinions aren't sought by television or radio shows. You wouldn't recognize their names.

Their book is wonderful--well-written, well-researched with thought provoking ideas that could be of great help to a great many people. Why are we having such a hard time getting publishers to look at it, when "that woman" (Palin) is being courted by the biggest and best?

First, of all, I cautioned my author, no deal has been struck, to my knowledge, between Palin or Palin's agent and any publisher. (Rumor has it that the $7 million dollar balloon was floated in order to get the attention of publishers.) Will Palin get a book deal eventually? Of course. Why? Because we all know who she is. Because her face is familiar. Because we've seen her on television and on the cover of newspapers and magazines coast-to-coast. Because the Palin buzz is still out there and we all want to know more about this quirky character who made "mooseburgers" famous.

Does this mean that you can't get a nonfiction book published if you're not a household name? No. It happens every day. But most published nonfiction authors developed a "platform" in order to give publishers more confidence in their ability to sell books. Perhaps they are public speakers, or MAYBE THEY BLOG. It's not enough to write a good nonfiction book these days. Your platform must precede you so that by the time your agent is approaching publishers, he can tell them how many people listen to you already and are dying to get their hands on your unpublished book.

"But, it's not fair!" says my author, and I agree. It's not fair. But that's that way things are. So, if a nonfiction book is in your future, start working on your platform now. You'll be glad you did.

Oh, and my author? As I'm writing this she's working on establishing a blog. She's a fine writer with great information. I'll let you know when she has posted a few times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Busy day of reading and publicty projects. But, fear not, Norton and Wylie are keeping a sharp eye on the manuscripts. (See the eyes of Norton over Wylie's right shoulder.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


One of the things that lured me to become a book agent was the idea of helping to make literary dreams come true. What an awesome feeling, I thought, to be the one to tell a hard-working author that I've sold his or her book to a respected publisher!

What I didn't think about too much was the flip side of this equation--telling a hard-working author that we are "passing" on his or her project. It's no fun and, unfortunately, we do this many, many, many times every day. No to the queries; no to the partials; and sometimes even no to the manuscripts. Today I had the even more poignant chore of writing to several authors who were under contract with us. The contracts have been over for some time and we've not been able to find a publisher. We had gotten very fond of some of these authors and we feel like--uh--failures when we fail. It's awful every time we have to do it and it goes to the heart of this business.

Today I resolve to be a sterner, more calculating agent--to practice a kind of tough love. So let me bare my soul (again) and tell you how I'll do this:
  • I will NOT ask for partials if the query is flawed.
  • If the partial is weak, even if I love it, I will NOT ask for a manuscript.
  • If the manuscript doesn't knock my socks off, I will NOT ask to represent you.
  • In fact, I will not ask to represent you until I have several editors and houses in mind for the work.

I love the dream maker part of this work; I hate being a grim reaper, even with queries. So forgive me for laying this on you, but I've crushed a lot of hopes today. Yet, on a positive side, I'm just one agent in a pool of thousands! So, just because we can't sell something does not mean Ms. Snark, Mr. Post or Laura Literary can't. Don't let one agent's rejection get you down. (Even if I'm that agent.) Send your work to everyone you can think of and continue to improve it as you go. That's the way dreams are made.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Like all businesses, the world of publishing is rumbling with news of layoffs, restructuring and new ways of doing business. Publishers large and small are looking at their bottom lines and trying to figure out new ways to make their businesses more efficient. Independent bookstores and chains are struggling. Borders is in big trouble and their problems seem to be increasing. How does this impact authors who simply want to get their work published?

Unfortunately, the challenges to becoming a published author are increasing. But I advise that you listen to the rumblings, then keep doing what you do. Write and improve and push yourself. Pay attention to social media and consider starting a blog if you have something interesting to say. Write, write, write for whomever you like--church bulletins, your local paper, websites, clubs, organizations, newsletters. Write a journal. Write a cookbook for your family. Write letters. Write every single day.

After all, you're a writer. Just cause the bottom is slowing dropping out of the industry doesn't mean that you should stop writing. When the dust settles, we'll still need writers. We'll still need stories and information. So, write already! (Oh, the photo? That's Norton, one of the office cats, taking a well-deserved rest from shredding duties and enjoying the autumn color.)