Notes from the World of Publishing
November 23, 2007 | Written by admin
The Atlanta Journal Constitution just anounced their winner for the "Worst Book Title of 2007." And it was… Disney’s Cooking with Pooh. Considering we’re all on Thanksgiving break, I thought you’d appreciate knowing what you could have had instead of turkey. Runners-up included Letting it Go: A History of Incontinence, Everything You’ll Need to Remember about Alzheimer’s, and The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Field Guide to Identification.
Two thoughts come to mind: First, you should know that I didn’t actually represent any of those books. Second, my buddy Steve Laube is the guy who put me on to this. Whether or not he repped any of them, I don’t know…
The Writers Guild strike is still going on, and you should know about it. Publishers Marketplace has already noted that it has caused the optioning of film rights to dry up, and agents are receiving force majeur letters from organizations invoking their right to extend their options. The lack of writing is going to put a squeeze on agents who work primarily in the land of Hollywood productions. And a lot of those striking writers are talking to literary agents about doing books.
If you’re not aware, the strike concerns money (there’s a shocker) that should be paid to writers when a program is shared over the internet. And the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is completely correct on this issue. The writer should be paid for digitally distributed content. When a studio sells episodes of a TV show via iTunes, then pays a sub-standard residual to the writer, the writer is the one not being adequately compensated for his or her creative work. Think of it this way: If your book publisher decided they could take your book and sell it to people over the internet without paying you a royalty, wouldn’t you feel cheated? So support the WGA. They’re in the right…
The Regnery Lawsuit is a mess. Regnery is a good company that I’ve done business with. They own some alternative sales channels that can really help boost a book’s numbers. But now some authors are suing them because they believe the company has been diverting book sales away from retail outlets in order to sell strictly through their own wholly-owned subsidiaries (and therefore pay the author a smaller royalty). An interesting debate for those who care about author earnings.
A few years ago, one of the New York houses was accused of selling their books to their wholly-owned Canadian distributors, with the distributor then selling the books Stateside. Oops. That way they could pay the author a smaller royalty. When agents found out about it, they flipped. And the practice stopped…
Chris Coppernoll’s novel Providence had created a fabulous marketing idea. The host of the "Soul2Soul" radio show is scheduling book signings at stores and churches, but using it as a fundraiser for those who have mounting medical bills. The church or store will advertise that Chris is coming, sell books, and the readers get to meet and talk with the author, like any other signing — but the kicker is that 100% of the proceeds collected go to the family in need. He has done several of these already, sold hundreds of books, and raised a lot of money for people who need it. Calling the idea "Providence Cares," Chris Coppernoll is finding a ready audience for the program. Great work! Other authors should consider doing something similar…
If you’re an author who is in need of help on your nonfiction proposal, I want to encourage you to check out what Mary DeMuth is doing on her web site (www.maryedemuth.com). I first met Mary at a Mount Hermon writers’ conference several years ago, and at the time I thought she was doing the best book proposals I’d ever seen. (So I get credit for "discovering" her!) Now she has created a tool to help other authors improve their proposals. I checked it out, and I love it. Great stuff. When I asked Mary for some tips on creating great nonfiction proposals, here’s what she said:
"Writers need to know a few things before they start. First, know your passion. A good book proposal emerges from a passionate idea. Think about the topics you get passionate about when you talk to folks. It’s a huge undertaking to write a proposal, so be sure you have the passion to carry an entire book.
"Second, know your book. What genre is it? Where should it be shelved? How well do you know what the book will be about? Do you have access to good research and great interviews? Make sure a pub board will find your book idea unique.
"Third, know your immediate audience. The first audience of your proposal is the agent or publisher you’re querying. Find out everything you can about them. Do they specialize in the genre you’re writing? Do they take new authors? Have you met and talked face-to-face? What kinds of books are they looking for? Analyzing books already represented is a good step — if an agent already represents three ‘mom’ authors, chances are he/she won’t want to take on another.
"Fourth, know the bookselling industry. Do you know what’s selling? What is oversold? What trends are up and down? Go to bookstores and walk the aisles, sign up for newsletters and updates from the publishing industry, go to conferences, talk to booksellers. It’s imperative that you know what you’re getting into before embarking on this journey.
"Fifth, know yourself. Writing a proposal is the first step in a long journey. Do you have what it takes to bring a book to completion? Can you take constructive criticism? Do you have the time to not only write the book, but to edit it in a timely manner and promote it when it releases? Do you have a critique group to help you through the process? Jan Winebrenner says publishing a book is ‘like giving birth to an elephant — only more painful.’ Are you ready for that?"
Great thoughts, Mary. I expect you’ll be seeing a lot of authors visiting your site.
I’ve got a backlog of questions to get to — I’ll try to catch up in the next week!