Monday, November 30, 2009

Book is the New Gift

Turkeys and cornucopias are coming down, twinkly trees and fat dudes in red suits are going up, and they're piping Christmas music into every elevator in the country. This can only mean one thing, gentle readers: the holiday season is coming! And you've only got twenty-five more shopping days before Christmas. What on earth can you get your family, friends, enemies, co-workers, bookies, &c that says "hey, I didn't spend a ton of money on you, but that's okay because I clearly put a lot of thought into this gift and, check it out, I didn't make it myself"?

The answer: books!

Yes, books. It's no secret that books are great gifts: you can get a lot of hardcovers (as well as most trade paperbacks and any mass market paperback) for under $20, you can get something for pretty much everyone you know all in the same store/on the same website, and you indirectly finance the existence of great industry blogs like this one! Everyone wins. Especially you, when you see your five-year-old nephew's face light up on Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa eve upon opening a copy of Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire. You can't put a price tag on moments like that.

NPR has put together a list of the best gift books of 2009, Laura over at Combreviations has posted on Penguin's list of books to give and get, and Big Brother Fearless Leader Amazon has some ideas for you as well.

So Friends, Roman (-à-clef reader)s, (No) Country (For Old) Men (fans), lend me your ears: write, write, write! And, once you're done writing, go buy some more books—your friends/family need you, your economy needs you, and dang it, I need you, too. At the end of the day, you're the ones paying my salary, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a vested interest in your continuing to buy books. That said, I'm off to my favorite independent book store—I've got a long list this year and, somehow, less time to complete it in.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Rerun Week: Part 5 of 5

Episode: "No! Yes! No!: The Schizophrenia of Sell-Through"
Originally aired: Monday, July 13th, 2009

In another post, I mentioned the concept of sell-through. Simply put, sell-through is a percentage representing the number of books an account sells relative to how many it bought (books sold/books bought from the publisher x 100). Logically, low sell-through is bad, decent sell-through is good, and perfect (100%) sell-through is great, right?


It's a little more complicated than that. For the national chains, 70% sell-through is generally regarded as the floor for "good sales." Much less than that and it's clear the publisher, rep, and buyer agreed on too high an initial order, and the publisher will then suffer substantial returns (more on those in a future post). 80% sell-through is very good. Once you get toward 90% and higher, however, the tide turns; as sell-through approaches 100%, it becomes clear that demand is outstripping supply, and it's likely that a lot of sales are lost to other retailers (other chains, independents, Amazon, &c) because the account is out of stock. In this case, the publisher, rep, and buyer agreed on too low an initial order.

(Keep in mind that for most debut authors, the majority of stores at a given account rarely have more than one or two copies on-hand at any time. There are about 500 Borders stores and about 700 B&N stores nationwide.)

Someone recently asked me why it's such a disaster for a book to have too low an initial. (Having too high an initial is clearly a problem—the publisher will have to take the books back.) Too low can be worse, however, due to missed sales; it takes a significant amount of time for frontlist reorders to be processed, shipped to an account's warehouses, distributed from the warehouses to the stores, unpacked at the stores, and displayed. Without a high enough initial, stores and warehouses will often be out of stock during this time, and while some customers will order the book for future pick-up, the vast majority will simply buy it elsewhere.

The sell-through game is a little different for on-line retailers like Amazon, for two main reasons:

1. Amazon doesn't need to order more copies than it plans to sell. The chains have to do this in order to have enough copies in-store to attract consumers' attention, especially if the book is in promotion. Have you ever noticed how those front-of-store tables always have thirty copies of the new Janet Evanovich, no matter how many copies the store sells?

2. Amazon's search function is designed to guide you to the hardcover edition of a book even if the mass market or trade paper is already on sale. Whereas the national chains will return any hardcover copies of a given title to the publisher by about a week before the trade paper or mass market edition goes on sale, Amazon hangs onto them because they know they can continue to sell them. (They also have great discounting, so even if consumers find both the hardcover and the trade paper/mass market, the price difference may be so insignificant that they opt for the hardcover anyway.)

For these reasons, Amazon's sell-through is terrifically efficient: over 90%.

So there you have it: sell-through needs to be good (hopefully at least 70%) but not too good (90%+, Amazon being an exception). There's no such thing as having sales that are too high, but it's very possible to have sell-through that is.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rerun Week: Part 4 of 5

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Episode: "Terms to Know"
Originally aired: Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Lo, a brief glossary of terms I think you need to know to understand book sales (or at least, to understand what I'm talking about at any given time). It's necessarily incomplete, so if you need a definition I haven't listed here, please ask in the comments!

Account—A book retailer (e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Costco, &c). While "store" can mean "account" or refer to an individual store (e.g. the Borders on Park Avenue in New York City), "account" always means "group of all stores with a given name." Roughly synonymous with "company."

Buyer—A person who works for a given account and is charged with buying books (or a select subdivision of books, e.g. science fiction, biographies, &c) from publishers for the account.

Co-op—Advertising/promotional space in book stores (front-of-store tables, in-section face-outs, endcaps, &c) that the publisher pays the account for, often on a monthly basis.

Hardcover—Also called "hardback" or "cloth," a book with a rigid cover (generally cardboard covered in cloth). Comes with a fancy dust jacket and a price in the $20.00 - $40.00 range (USD).

Mass market—Also called "paperback" or "rack-size," these are the "pocket-sized," extra-thick paperbacks printed on lower quality paper and at a smaller trim size. The price is generally in the $4.00 - $8.00 range (USD). Rather than being returned or remaindered, mass market editions are often stripped (see below).

Nielsen BookScan—A service provided by the Nielsen Company since 2001 that tracks book sales. It is estimated that BookScan captures about 70% of total sales, as not all retailers report to BookScan.

Remainder—Remaindered books are books that are no longer selling in sufficient quantities and are being liquidated by the publisher (i.e. sold to a third party at significantly reduced, often near-unit, cost). Oftentimes authors are given the option of buying their remaindered stock at unit cost before the title is offered up to other parties.

Retailer—Book store.

Returns—Often expressed as a percentage, returns are the books sent back to the publisher by the account(s). The return rate is described by (# of books returned by the account)/(# of books shipped to the account).

Sales call—A meeting during which a publisher's rep(s) meet(s) with an account's buyer(s) to sell books to the account.

Sales rep—A person employed in the sales division of a publishing house whose job it is to sell books to an account or accounts.

Sell-through—Also often expressed as a percentage, sell-through is the number of books sold by an account compared to how many it bought. It is described by (# of books sold by the account)/(# of books shipped to the account).

Stripped book—A book without a cover, almost always a mass market edition. Because it is not cost-effective to return or remainder mass market editions, their covers are torn off by the retailer and shipped back to the publisher as proof the books have been destroyed. The retailer then destroys the books. This is the reason for the "If you purchased this book without a cover..." note on the first pages of many mass market editions. Strippable books are marked with an "S" inside a triangle, often on the inside of the front cover.

Trade paperback—Also called "quality paperback," this is a paperback edition of a book with a trim size roughly comparable to the hardcover edition (if there was one) and larger than that of a mass market edition. The price range is generally $10.00 - $20.00 (USD).

Trim size—The dimensions of a book (generally in inches).


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rerun Week: Part 3 of 5

Rerun week continues with the ten commandments of blogging. Enjoy!

Episode: "The Ten Commandments of Blogging"
Originally aired: Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

1. I am thy blog. If you're an author, you should already have a blog. If you're not yet published, now is the time to start.

2. Thou shalt have no other blogs before me. We all love reading blogs—we wouldn't be here if we didn't—but yours comes first. Write your own posts before you spend all afternoon reading someone else's.

3. Thou shalt not make of thyself an idol. Keep your ego in check; you always want to portray yourself positively in your blog. Your reputation is all you've got in this business, and if you earn yourself one as a likable person as well as a great writer, you're a golden calf.

4. Remember thy Schedule and keep it, wholly. You don't have to write a post every day, but keeping a regular schedule is a courtesy and a sort of unwritten contract between you and your readers; they'll know when to expect new content and will come to appreciate and respect you for that.

5. Thou shalt honor thy agent and thy publisher. You couldn't have done this without them. Give props where props are due.

6. Thou shalt not commit character assassination. Everyone has authors or critics they don't like, sometimes personally. Don't pull an Alice Hoffman. And, I guess, don't try to kill anyone in real life, either.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery, but thou shalt pimp thyself. No one sells you like you do. Facebook, Twitter, &c. The more pervasive your presence, the more likely it is that people will buy your book.

8. Thou shalt not plagiarize. Always quote. Always cite your sources. Always link back to them if they're on-line.

9. Thou shalt not deceive thy audience. Never post anything you don't believe is true, and be sure to provide links to any research you've done. Always be sure to clarify whether a point you're making is an opinion or a fact.

10. Thou shalt monetize. I don't do it because I don't consider blogging a part of my livelihood, but you, as authors, should consider self-promotion as part of the job. Let Google or whomever run a few relevant ads on your blog and make a little cash on the side. (Unless you've got a large readership, though, it probably won't be much.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rerun Week: Part 2 of 5

Today, self-publishing. Enjoy!

Episode: "Self-Publishing: Great Idea... or Worst Idea Ever?"
Originally aired: Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Well, it really depends on why you want to self-publish. In my humble opinion, self-publishing is great if:

• You have an idea for a book that would only be targeted at an extraordinarily small "market," i.e. your family. If you want to bind your great-grandmother's recipes into a cookbook, create a collection of stories for your children, &c, and you only need a few dozen copies, self-publishing is for you.
• For whatever reason, you have no interest in selling your work and merely want to see it in print before you die.
• Alternately, you have no interest in selling your work and merely want to disseminate it widely on the Internet as a (fre)e-book. (If this is the case, though, you might not even really need the self-publishing company, unless you need their website to legitimize your book.)
• You do not have enough copies of other peoples' books to keep your coffee table level.

I consider the following reasons for self-publishing to be very bad:

• Your book has been rejected by every agent and his/her mom, so now you're going to show them/the world/your own mom/&c that you really are a published writer.
• You believe you can sell more books on your own than you could through a traditional publisher, so you're going to forgo the whole system.
• You say you have no interest in selling your work and merely want to disseminate it widely on the Internet, but secretly believe as soon as it's out there you'll start getting phone calls from all those silly agents and editors, offering seven figure advances and instant literary stardom. Later, Brad Pitt will call to politely ask if he might be considered for the role of your protagonist once the details of the movie deal(s) are all hammered out.
• You believe your book is too literary for 99.9999% of agents/publishers and won't sell within the traditional publishing framework because you and your book are just too darn smart.

Before I go much further, I want to make this clear: I think the traditional system is flawed. All systems are necessarily incomplete. (That's a math joke, folks. I don't really think Gödel's incompleteness theorems apply to books. Man, if only you'd read my self-published book, 1010010010101111 Binary Math Jokes—which, by the way, is way too intellectual for the average agent, editor, or reader—you'd get that.)

All joking aside, though, just because the system isn't perfect doesn't mean you're better off avoiding it altogether. Consider these stats (and also these) over at How Publishing Really Works, courtesy of this SFWA article. Compare that to the sales of the average traditionally published book—around 12,000 copies—and you'll understand my general skepticism. Very occasionally, a self-published novel will be something that was somehow overlooked by the publishing industry as a whole and is actually quite good and/or salable. 99%+ of the time, however, these books are either written by the functionally illiterate, are tangled messes of inane plot and one-dimensional characters, do not appeal to the vast majority of readers, are way too long or way too short, or some combination of all of these. In short, most self-published novels are crap.

You might argue that most traditionally published books are crap, too, and if that's the case, you could very well be that guy who believes he and his book are too smart for the entire world. Whether or not this is true, it is a sad and inescapable fact that the market for your book is a subset of all the people in the entire world, so you're S.O.L. even if you and your book really are that smart, which is unlikely. I mean, really, how many Prousts can there be?

So, in summary:

• If you just want a couple dozen copies of your book for family and friends, my recommendation is: self-publish.
• If you ever want to earn money from your book, my recommendation is: do not self-publish.
• If you've tried and tried and done absolutely everything humanly possible and still can't sell your novel, it's probably not very good. Lock it in a drawer and write a better one.

The publishing industry is a creaking, hulking, slow-moving, kerosene-burning juggernaut of 19th-century jerry-rigged methods and models all built pick-a-back one atop another, but it does adapt and is your best bet for getting an audience and a halfway decent check for your writing. Unless you're one of those very few who are better off self-publishing (as described above), get back to work and write something engaging that any agent or editor would be proud to show the world.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rerun Week

Dear Readers,

Since I'm on vacation this week, I've set the blog to re-run some of my more informative posts. Happy Thanksgiving, and I'll be back again on Monday, 11/30!

Yours in print,


Episode: "What You Can Do: Twelve Easy Steps"
Originally aired: Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

So, caveat: this isn't meant to be a complete list. I'm sure I'll revisit this post and add to it as time goes on, but I've been thinking about it for awhile now and would rather share it with you sooner than later.

So, without further ado: what can you do to sell you book, and more importantly, when should you do what?

1. Completion of your novel. Congratulations! You've written an entire novel (~60,000 – 100,000 words)! Now go edit it. No, don't tweet about how awesome your book is (yet). Edit.

2. Six months later... congratulations again! Between your critique group, your trusted first-readers, and your biggest editor/critic (i.e. you, at least at this point), you've polished your novel to a high lustre. Such a high lustre, fact, that you've begun using British spelling and grammar without even realising it. Ace! (Apparently you are also stuck in the 1980s.)

Have you written a truly smashing query letter yet? You have? Ace again. All mod cons, as they say. (British slang, incidentally, is weird.) Anyway—time to start querying Nathan, Janet, Kristin, Jessica, and all the rest. Cast a wide net, and remember: no exclusives!

3. Three months later... you're still querying? Of course you are, unless you're luckier than Malachi Constant. What, did you think this was going to be easy? Keep at it.

4. Three months after that... Hooray! After several form rejections, a few polite refusals on partials, and one or two fulls, you've gotten an offer of representation. (To make this as simple a scenario as possible, let's say this is one of your dream agents and you accept the offer immediately.) Don't start the party just yet, though. Now you've got real work to do.

If you've got representation, you're that much closer to getting published, and so at this point you need to start expanding (or straight-up building) your platform. If you've already got a blog, ramp it up; if you've already got a Twitter account, tweet it up; if you're on Facebook, start making connections like crazy. If not, get going right now. Start playing the networking game. Check Go Daddy to see if your name has already been registered as a domain name. If not, consider buying it. If so, try and figure out a good alternate name. (Hint: is not a good name.)

To be honest, there's no such thing as "too early," but the offer of representation is, in my mind, when things get serious. If you haven't given thought to blogging/Twittering/website-ing/Facebooking/&c, start now.

5. Another three months after that... O frabjous day! Your book has been sold to an editor! You must now do the following:

Party. Nothing major: you're a working author now. Live it up a little, but do not get outrageously drunk or stab your wife with a penknife. You are not Truman Capote or Norman Mailer (respectively).

Hit the ground running. Discuss everything with your agent and newfound editor. Ask as many questions as you can think of. If you are, like me, unmarried, childless, and have relatively few obligations outside of your day job, I highly recommend you make promoting yourself and your book your new, all-consuming hobby. Figure out what you're willing to commit to (I recommend as much as you think you can safely handle) and let your agent and editor know you're willing to work hard. If you've got substantial commitments (e.g. sextuplets, reality TV show), find a balance.

Ramp it up. If you haven't bought that mega sweet domain name yet, do it. Blog about yourself and your book. Tweet about it. Change your latest Facebook employment to "author" and announce your good fortune in your status. Network, network, network.

Let your critique group know. Go to literary events. If you don't already know the booksellers at your local stores (national chains and indies) by their first names, now's the time to start. Aside from the fact that they're most likely wonderful people who will turn out to be excellent friends, they're going to be very helpful later on (see below).

An aside: definitely talk this over with your editor, but if you feel like it's a good idea and your advance is big enough, consider hiring your own publicist. He or she may be able to work wonders for you.

Oh, and yes—if you're not too up on all this computer mumbo-jumbo (although you should be), see if you can get your computer science major nephew (or some similarly inclined relative or friend) to help you out for a nominal fee (or, better yet, for free). If you happen to know a web designer who can make you an awesome website, so much the better. At this point, it's all about who you know. Keep asking yourself that: who do you know who is able and willing to help you?

Now, in case you weren't keeping track, in this oh-so-magical best-case scenario, it's been fifteen months since you finished your novel. You now have representation. Is this unrealistic? Yes, I think, slightly, but don't assume that novel you finished fifteen months ago was your first one, and do assume that you're a talented writer with a good story, and suddenly it's not so far-fetched after all.

Oh—and order business cards. You're an author now.

Now then—

6. Nine months before on-sale: You might have comp titles already. Ask your agent to check on them for you. If you're neurotic and wealthy enough, pay to track the sales of your comps on BookScan. Discuss potential sales numbers with your agent. Be as realistic as possible. Do not drive your agent insane.

7. Six months before on-sale: You signed your contract long ago and the book has already been through launch meetings over at your publisher's house, meaning that everyone who's going to be involved in selling your book to retailers (marketing, publicity, sales, &c) has known about your book for a few months now. You've got your very own ISBN, retail price, descriptive copy, sell sheets, title information sheets—the works. What's happening now? Well, sales calls. And, if you're lucky, co-op. That means book stores are about to find out all about you.

Remember those friends you made at your local book stores 6+ months ago? Call them. If you haven't already told them about your book, tell them now. Ask if you can do author events, readings, signings, everything, anything. (Discuss this with your agent first.) If you have friends who are established authors, talk to them. See if they'll blurb or promote your book, allow you to guest-blog for them, read with them at area book stores, and so on. You can't do too much of this. You really can't.

Continue to blog, update your website, tweet, guest-blog, &c. The more people hear about you, the better. (Assuming you're always polite and professional—and you are, aren't you? Good.)

8. Three months before on-sale: Keep up your relentless self-promotion, but keep it classy. Follow through on everything. Keep the lines of communication between you, your agent, and your editor open. If you've committed to readings, tours, podcasts, blog posts, e-mail blasts, local radio shows, infomercials, impromptu subway performances, &c—make good on those commitments. If you got your own publicist (see Step #5), he or she will be helping to organize all of these things. Oh, and speaking of organizing, have you scheduled yourself a release party yet?

9. On-sale date: Breathe. Do not check the sales figures yet, they won't be up. Relax. You feel good, you feel great, you feel wonderful. Have that release party you planned three months ago, publish one more blog entry or tweet, and call it a week. You've earned it.

10. One week after on-sale: Your publisher will have your week one sales available. Ask your agent/editor if they can forward them to you. If you're sufficiently neurotic and wealthy (see Step #6), compare these numbers to your BookScan numbers and to the first-week sales of your comp titles. Celebrate or panic accordingly.

11. One month after on-sale: You might have some reviews. If they're positive, blog, tweet, podcast, &c about them. If they're negative, say nothing. Do not try to explain away a bad review in your blog—you're only creating more links to negative press. And for the love of God, do not pull an Alice Hoffman.

12. Three months after on-sale: You're hard at work on your next novel, mate. (This British slang thing is seriously addictive.) Publishing is a business and you're a professional now; celebrate your victories, be gracious about any pitfalls or shortcomings, learn from your mistakes, and keep writing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Waffling On the Issues

And on the fifth day of the workweek, Eric rested and forgot to edit Laura's round up. Sucker. (Vicious lies! —E)

Buenos dias, amigos and -as. I thought I'd start with the bad, and just rip the Band-Aid off the day. Yes, I'm afraid it's true: Google does own your life. Well, it owns your orphaned books, at any rate. Google says it'll open "new avenues" for writers with out-of-print titles, but can you really trust the Goog? Especially when you know that they hosted the after-party for the National Book Awards and didn't invite you? To round out this section, which I have mentally titled "confusion and hypocrisy," I thought you should know that WalMart is denying any predatory pricing, and Barnes & Nobles won't let you buy e-books with their gift cards. But it's not all bad! Turn your frowns upside down, and check out the contest below.

B&N says they'll fix the e-book gift card problem soon, but Amazon has no intention of fixing its gift card problem: you can't use a gift card to buy anything bundled with a gift card. Womp womp. This no-e-book-for-gift-card thing is going to be a problem for romance readers, who are notoriously promiscuous with their formats. Harlequin is intent on cashing in on this promiscuity with its new imprints, Carina Press (for e-books) and Harlequin Horizons (for self-pubbers). A number of people have weighed in on the latter, most people being unhappy, unhappy, more, more, and more.

A problem these imprints won't come up against is being nominated for the worst sex (because romances are sexy). But some people have been nominated! This of course begs the question: where is the good sex in literature?

The good sex is (duh) in the last Twilight book, because it is sanctioned by the holy bonds of matrimony and vampire effing. The movie comes out today, as your scream-induced eardrum punctures should attest. See some sweet Twilight tats and products here, and see what National Book Award nominees say about the series. Spoiler: everyone tries to be nice, but kind of fails, because authors are awkward.

Speaking of awkward, those who have been reading Combreviations may have noticed that I am in lurve with things you can make with a waffle iron. So far we've seen waffle cookies, waffle cake, waffle bacon, and waffle brownies (that last one is courtesy of Alicia, my hero). In honor of my slight obsession, and, perhaps, as justification for buying a waffle iron, I'm bringing back Ye Olde Weekly Contest (please, contain yourselves). My challenge to you: come up with a use for a waffle iron other than waffles and the deliciousness above. Ground rules include nothing oddly sexual or distressingly violent. But other than that, I need excuses to buy a waffle iron.

So that's it from me, see you here next week, or all week at Combreviations.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Got 99 Blog Posts (Plus A Bonus One)

It's time to bust out the champagne and tiny hors d'œuvres, mes amis, because today marks our 100th post here on PMN. That's right: if I had a nickel for every blog post here on Pimp My Novel, I would have five whole dollars. That's lunch at Subway, assuming I don't want chips or a drink or have to pay any kind of tax. And to think that it feels like it all started only yesterday.

Laura and I have posted on a variety of topics over the past few months, covering everything from co-op to remaindered titles to the perils of self-publishing. So, while I crack open the bubbly in celebration of my blogging achievements/anticipation of the upcoming, unavoidable, annual Thanksgiving Day fiasco that is bearing down on me with terrifying speed, let me know: what have been your favorite PMN moments? Least favorite? Most interesting posts, least interesting posts, theories on expansion to Twitter, Facebook, &c? Suggestions for the addition of a new semi-regular feature (e.g. "Prithee, Inform Me," "Monday Mailbag")?

To the comments with you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are You... Going Rogue?

A little over a month ago, I posted on the then-upcoming (now recently released) memoir of one Sarah Palin. I also mentioned that I didn't know of anyone who would read it and was skeptical as to how well it would sell.

Well, apparently, it's selling. And while I did admit that I expected significant sales outside of so-called liberal bastions like New York City, apparently it's also selling well in cities like New York. And, as usual, I have a couple of theories as to why.

• I massively underestimated the number of curious independents—and even liberals—willing to shell out to read about Sarah Palin. Whether they're just angling for her side of the story or looking for a (relatively) inexpensive way to feel better about themselves, people are picking up her memoir.
• There's more controversy surrounding the book than even I expected, and I expected a fair amount. I figured, however, that Mrs. Palin wouldn't want to write anything that might endanger a potential presidential bid in 2012, so the book itself would be fairly boring and drama-free. Not so! Palin takes shots at McCain staffers, apparently stretches the truth, and may well still be gunning for the presidency. Quel fromage.
• Both Amazon and are selling the book for just $14.50. Sure, it's not the low, low price of $9.99 we've been hearing about, but it's still relatively inexpensive, especially if it's being bought as a gift. Books are the new gift, people! Write that down.

So, yes, I did ask this in my last Palin Post™, but it bears asking again (especially since I get the feeling opinions may have changed): are you going to buy Going Rogue? If you answered last time and are changing your mind this time around, why? Have you been surprised by friends' or family members' requests for the book for Christmas? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? Festivus?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prithee, Inform Me: The McTitle

The Memory Keeper's Daughter.
The Bonesetter's Daughter.
The Heretic's Daughter.
The Calligrapher's Daughter.
The Hummingbird's Daughter.
The Concubine's Daughter.
The Gravedigger's Daughter.

Are we perhaps seeing a pattern?

I'm not sure whether this is something authors are unconsciously doing (due to their constant absorption of contemporary fiction), something agents and publishers are purposely doing because it's the new "[Insert Adjective Here] Wife," or both, but it's an interesting trend and I'd like to get your take on it. Have you noticed this before, or with other title "templates"? Do you think it's a sign of homogenization within the industry?

Have at it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nothing To Do With Fourth-Grade Math

If you've been around these parts long enough to have read my Terms to Know, then you know that in publishing, remainder (or remaindered books) are titles that are no longer selling in sufficient quantities and are being sold off by the publisher at a steep discount in an attempt to 1.) make at least some money off the remaining copies, and 2.) clear out space for new inventory in the warehouse. How does this process work, though? Well, I'm glad you asked. (Not really—it's sort of depressing.)

Where I work, there are a number of inventory managers whose job (among other things) is to monitor the rates of movement of their titles through retailers. If any fall below a certain threshold, the inventory manager will make a recommendation to the publisher to remainder those titles. The publisher reviews these recommendations and, if he or she agrees, those titles are officially remaindered. Generally, the first step is to offer the unsold copies to the author at unit cost; that is, the author has the opportunity to buy his or her unsold stock and do whatever he or she wants with it: try to sell it him/herself, donate the lot to charity, fill a water tower with it and swim around in it like some kind of bibliophilic Scrooge McDuck. The sky's the limit!

If the author doesn't want the unsold copies, however, then the books are auctioned off to retailers that specialize in remaindered books, such as Crown Books (not to be confused with the Random House publisher of the same name). As mentioned, the publisher loses some money (but not as much as they would by simply pulping the stock), makes space in the warehouse for titles that are moving, and savings are passed on to the retailer and you, the customer. The publisher loses out a little bit, and the author loses out a lot (since, as far as I know, no royalties are issued on sale of remaindered books).

Clearly, all authors want to avoid having their titles remaindered, but the sad truth is: there's nothing you can do about it besides write a killer book and do whatever you can to help sell it. Your efforts are often necessary to make your book a hit, but almost no amount of effort on your part can save a book if it's just not taking hold in the market. Not unless you and Oprah are BFFs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Plugs, Er, Round Up

Ladies and gents, Laura's Friday round-up:

Oh, hey, what's going on? Well, funny you ask! Monday was the inauguration of my solo blog, Combreviations. So, if you only read one blog, quit reading this one, jump ship, and clicky clicky over to Combreviations—I post three times a day, straight up fluff content. If you read more than one blog, you should probably add it to your rotation. Because... my posts cure cancer? And I'm a lady, and ladies are great. (Tempting though it may be, do not listen to Laura. Her posts neither cure cancer, nor are they as great as mine. – E)

Although we all know the lady-types are great at writing, sometimes we do not treat their writing as we should (shame on us). We patronize women by calling their work "chick lit," we say they write female poems, and we don't give them awards. Atone with this feminist reading list—find your feminine mystique.

A dyed-in-the-wool bra burner, who in no way encourages women to like stalkerish men, Stephanie Meyer will be appearing on Oprah, and has a biography coming out. She would probably disapprove of Cory Doctorow's response to parental outrage over teen sex (oh no!), since her universe has no teen sex.

A high school teacher who also believes in teen sex assigned a really sexual Palahniuk short story to his students and got in a ton of trouble. I, like Meyer, choose to believe that no teen has ever had sex, and will spend my time reading my Bible handwritten by 30,000 people or my Xbox Bible, depending on how I feel.

Please, stem your outrage (over teen sex, my mockery, or my Jesus joke—oh, wait, that was last week). Take deep, meditative breaths and remember that the inventor of the AK-47 originally wanted to be a poet. Yea, you thought you knew everything about poetry? I bet you can't even pass this poetry quiz (gauntlet: thrown!).

Fine, let's stray from the sex and guns and poetry. Here's the story behind Clifford the Big Red Dog, and you can generate your own children's book title, which may or may not involve animal noir.

If you're looking for gifts for your favorite Friday round up writing blogger (or your "friends and family"), you can always get these awesome bookends. Especially the Star Wars ones. Or you could buy this someone a copy of T-Rex's autobiography! You could order a Nook, but they're on back order, or you could get this old-fangled paper book about really ridiculous science flops.

I know, I know, the paper book. What a joke, my friends. Don't paper books know that the mall bookstore is dead? That the library is now a social scene, not for reading? That the 1768 Encyclopedia Britannica was totally inaccurate?

Sometimes life is hard. But, readers, life doesn't need to be hard for you. Because we can hang out every day, over at Combreviations. I know, I know—I'm excited too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

After looking at the results of yesterday's poll and some of the comments you all had re: the evil that is e-ink, I (as usual) have formed some opinions and generated a few thoughts in response. (I have lots of thoughts and opinions, most which have to do with books and/or cookies.)

First, the problem of eye strain. As mentioned in the comments and in Nathan's Jedi mind-reading mirror poll, most e-reader screens are made with e-ink, meaning they reflect light like a book page does, rather than generating light like a computer screen. Though I'm still warming up to my Sony reader, I have to say that eye strain isn't an issue for me, and I'm curious as to whether the problem of eye strain is generally related to personal experience or is merely assumed to be true based on a perceived analogy between backlit computer screens and e-reader screens.

Second, the price. True, e-readers these days will cost you a bundle, but much like the VCR (remember those?), DVD player, and pretty much any other media device, the price is going to drop precipitously once multiple generations of the machine are available and market penetration reaches a certain point. I voted in Nathan's poll, indicating I'd spend $100 on an e-reader, though to be fair I might drop $150 if I really, really liked it. At $100 for a reader and $10 (roughly) per book, it would only take 15 "hardcovers" to pull a full copy ahead of the p-book game. Observe:

$18 per print hardcover x 14 hardcovers = $252.
$100 e-reader + $10 per book x 15 "hardcovers" = $250.

And I'd recoup my initial investment on the 13th copy ($18 x 13 = $234; $100 + $10 x 13 = $230). True, readers aren't retailing for $100—yet. But eventually they'll get there. Will you buy one then? (I'm starting to feel a little like Sam-I-Am here.)

Third, there's the problem of having your entire library in one place. Admittedly, yes, if you drop your reader in the toilet, you'll lose all your books. Unless, of course, the future is graced by a magical yet strangely ominous entity that ties your virtual library to an on-line account, not an individual reader, so if you order a new reader from them and access your account on it... all your books will be back.

This does not happen if your house burns down with all your print books in it (heaven forbid).

Fourth, resale and lending. Barnes & Noble's newfangled nook (no capitalization allowed, apparently) has a rudimentary lending feature, and there's no reason to think better lending applications won't be integerated into future models. True, resale will probably be forever beyond the ability of the e-book (or, more accurately, retailers will prevent this capability in order to maintain profits... unless they decide to take a cut of whatever profits you make on the resale), but why would you need to resell an e-book? Is it taking up too much space on your e-shelf or in your e-garage? Personally, I don't find this a serious problem.

Agreed, you can't get an e-book autographed—yet. But the first completely wireless, slim, full-color, touch-screen-with-stylus (for my personal annotations and Michael Chabon's signature) reader that comes out for under $200 will have my hard-earned cash faster than you can say "nook." Yes. That fast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poll is the New Blog

First: happy Veteran's Day!

Next: business. The last time I ran a poll (three long weeks ago), I wasn't too surprised to learn that about half of you are waiting for e-reader technology to improve before you'll decide to buy one. I must admit, however, that I was a taken a bit aback by the fact that nearly a third of you insist you will never buy one of those damnable devices so long as you live.

In the interest of science, I hereby submit to you the following follow-up poll:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fun Fact: The MTI Bump

"MTI," of course, standing for "movie tie-in." It's probably no surprise to you that the sales of a book jump when the film version comes out, but there are a few interesting facts regarding the MTI phenomenon that may surprise you:

• The publisher not only accounts for the number of copies of that fancy movie tie-in edition when gearing up for book sales around the movie release date, but also tries to factor in how many copies of the original edition they'll sell due to the publicity surrounding the film. Yes, both the movie tie-in version with that shiny screen shot cover and the original version get a nice sales push from the movie. (This is more pronounced if the book has already been published in paperback form.)
• Even if the reviews for the movie are uniformly abysmal, there will still be a bump in sales for the book. No one is quite sure why this is, but my theory is that most people bank on the book being better than the movie (or, alternately, they want to see whether the book was just as bad).
• As far as I can tell, there's no real second jump in sales when the DVD of the film is released.

Many of you have asked how the movie tie-in phenomenon is figured out in-house. It depends on a lot of factors, but the most important one is: the film rights for your book have to be optioned and somebody (somebody pretty important) has got to turn your book into a movie, which can take years. And that's just not my department. I'll do some research to see what I can dig up, but the honest truth is that without a novel that will translate well to the screen (which is very different from a generally brilliant, salable novel), you're pretty much out of luck.

And besides, if you're writing books in the hopes of having them made into movies... why not just cut out the middle man and write screenplays?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rightsizing is the New Downsizing

There comes a time in every young Sith apprentice's life when he or she must decide to turn on the master and kill him/sell him out to the Jedi/decimate his sweet Google Analytics stats by diverting web traffic to her new blog. That time is now: Laura has just started her own blog, Combreviations, where she will talk about... whatever she wants. Fear not, gentle readers: she'll still be doing the weekly round-ups here at PMN. You just have significantly more content to read every week. Hooray for you, and congratulations, Laura!

Speaking of Laura's new blog—or, more specifically, the content of her first post—if you haven't heard, Walden is being "right-sized" to 130 stores (down from around 330). Now, it'd be easy to go a little nuts and declare this another nail in the Borders coffin (for those not in the know, Borders owns Walden), but I don't think this is the case. Here's why:

· While I think decreased foot traffic through malls (vis-à-vis the recession) has been partly responsible for the decision, you have to realize that these stores have been on their way out for nearly a decade. Borders has been steadily reducing the Walden store count since 2001 in an effort to increase efficiency and profitability, and if pushing the count down to 130 stores helps them do this, then I encourage it—although I am sorry for anyone losing a job due to the restructuring. My good thoughts are with you (yes, I occasionally have good thoughts).
· Theoretically (and according to the company), this "right-sizing" will allow Borders to finally fully integrate Walden into their computer system, which will be a huge relief for everyone in the industry currently having to juggle the separate (and oft-incompatible) Borders and Walden systems. This alone will contribute considerably to increased efficiency in title (re)orders, getting titles listed in the computer system, and so on.
· Barnes & Noble is making a similar move with their B. Dalton mall stores, which indicates to me it's more of a "mall book store" problem than a chain-specific one. With the rise of e-books imminent and the current print-book market currently split between the the superstores, Amazon, mass merch retailers, and large independents, there's not much room left for the mall folks, and that limited space is shrinking fast. I'm not even sure I know anyone who buys books in a mall anymore.

What do you think?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fridays are Fundays

Friday is Laura round up time:

This week, I learned something important: there's no need to blog, people. No need at all. You can be successful without it and, in the case of the PMN bloggers, perhaps despite it. You can use your iPhone instead and read your eyes out, or write your novel on your cellphone for NaCePhoNoWriMo, or tweet some literary chatter. Or you can use Twitter to find Amazon products that aren't clearly marked as advertisements (FDIC, now you don't pay attention?). If you're into snippets, you can buy some books chapter by chapter from Simon & Schuster, although you might be screwing the author on e-royalties (but who knows? I have no idea—unless you're MacMillan, in which case the answer is yes).

And all you smug, hippie e-book readers—you think you're saving the Amazon rainforest with your interweb books? Nope! And as someone from New Jersey, I can say: the environment? I don't even know what that is.

Bruce Springsteen is writing a memoir, and again, as someone from New Jersey, I can say: this is better than if Jesus Christ himself came back from the dead (again or for the first time, depending on your belief system) and wrote a memoir. Because Jesus couldn't sing for shit.

People are going nuts for authors, and authors are going bananas in general. Frank Bruni's book is being turned into a TV show, someone distilled Jodie Sweetin's memoir to the good parts, Rick Riordan is starting a new series, and Jerry O'Connor is writing a book on parenting (because being a parent for like thirty seconds requires a book, if your wife is really hot).

Glenn Beck is the new Oprah for thrillers, which is fitting, since the man's life is thrilling. He had his appendix removed after collapsing on the air (cough on the radio which is less cool cough)! But who trusts the appendix-less? I demand a full organ contingent, friends. Organ-less need not apply.

Mike Huckabee is going on a book tour, and I do have to say, I love Mike Huckabee (not necessarily for his politics, but for his adorableness and jokes). AC/DC is not going on a book tour (as far as I know) but they have a book too, and are adorable. The estate of the late Stieg Larsson is having a less than adorable baby momma drama moment, which hopefully will shake out before the ghost of Stieg has to get involved. Let this teach us all: write a will. And if you don't have any beneficiaries, I am happy to fill in for you. "Laura who blogs at Pimp My Novel" is actually my legal name.

Also making ghosts confused: re-imagined Dr. Seuss covers. Ghosts are not confused by, but rather are jealous of, the continued vampire love. Gawker asks the vampire trend to please die, but this brief history of vampire literature and this book about Dracula say otherwise. EW got an except from the Harvard Lampoon satire of Twilight, called Nightlight, which I think begs the question: what person who likes Twilight is going to buy this, and what person who dislikes Twilight is going to chuck twenty bucks down the hole to let someone else make fun of it, when they have me and I charge nothing?

If you do love Twilight, and also love Barbie, Twilight Barbie is here! If you'd like to geek out about something a little less doll-creepy, XKCD has this awesome, awesome map of where different characters are throughout the story in Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. It almost makes you want to buy the XKCD book, which has an odd traditional publishing path. Geek Dad has a book gift guide for the geeky man in your life, and there's a great list of 70 facts you never knew about Marvel (the Hulk was almost red! History: rewritten).

And NaNoWriMo writers: this e-book publisher wants your NaNoWriMo romances, and this playlist will break writer's block, as you have no time for writer's block. Keep on trucking (only 24 more days!) and you, like the fake AP Styleguide Twitter guy, can be sassy and agented.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


This year marks the tenth anniversary of the birth of NaNoWriMo, or "National Novel Writing Month." If you're not familiar, NaNoWriMo works as follows: you sign up in early November, write as much as you can during the month, and if you break 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th, you win. Hooray, you! You wrote a novel!

...or did you? Here's the deal: first, 50,000 words is not a novel, unless you're writing middle grade. You're going to have to beef it up to 60,000 words—minimum—and would probably be better off getting it into the 75,000 – 90,000-word range. Over 100,000 is probably pushing it.

Second, even if you have 75,000 – 90,000 words, that is not necessarily a novel. Unless you've got all the necessary parts in place and working, it's just a pile of words.

Third, no one in his or her right mind should be submitting a manuscript to agents if it isn't the absolute best piece of writing he or she is capable of. If that's true of whatever you churned out in a month without editing, you probably shouldn't be writing. Period.

Last, it seems that a lot of people are missing the point of NaNoWriMo altogether. Despite Chris Baty's invitation to "write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together," a lot of folks are getting really amped up about having finally written a piece of fiction of substantial length and are more concerned about FINALLY BECOMING AUTHORS ZOMG than about having fun writing crap, which is what the contest is really about. If even one sentence of whatever you concoct in the spirit of NaNoWriMo leads you into a publishable novel somewhere down the road (with substantial editing and revision, of course), you should count yourself lucky.

Think of it this way. Over 119,000 people signed up in 2008. If even one in ten of those people thought they could pass off what they'd written that November as a finished novel and tried querying agents, that's eleven thousand nine hundred queries (thanks to Marshall in the comments for correcting my mega-sweet math skills), assuming each person only wrote one. And who only queries once? No one. Especially not people who think they've got a representation-ready novel after a month of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing. As you can imagine, it gets kind of annoying when a small minority of NaNoWriMo-ers believes they're done at 11:59 PM on November 30th and starts the Query Machine going at full tilt at 12:01 AM on December 1st. It's especially annoying because the holiday season is the industry's busiest time, meaning agents and editors are already swamped and really don't want to have to deal with an influx of terrible writing from writers who may or may not understand anything about the book publishing industry.

So, in summary:

· If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, have fun!
· Don't send your 50,000-word MS—or even 90,000-word revision—to agents until and unless it is the strongest piece of writing you could possibly forge in the fires of Mount... Your Imagination.

Tomorrow: Laura! Round-up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Monday Mailbag: Wednesday Edition

Continuing on from yesterday's post: real questions. Real people. Judge Judy.

SM Schmidt writes: What exactly does the big craze behind the holiday season mean for a debut author?

Probably not much, unless you're lucky enough to score some co-op. If so, you may see a reasonable spike in sales (the holiday season is the industry's busiest). If not, you might see a small increase in sales, but I wouldn't count on it.

e writes: I'd love to learn about everything that happens "after the sale": covers, interior layout, galleys, ARCs, blurbs. And, how the sales team view all of this. What gets you excited about a book, excited enough to really push it to buyers?

I'll have to write a separate series of posts on this. Be on the lookout in the weeks to come.

Anonymous @ 1:05 writes: How do some books become movies while others become tv shows while still others become graphic novels?... What about deadlines? Let's say the book sells to editors on January 1st. How long does it take for it to get to the bookshelves and how long does the author have to write book 2 (if it's a series). Can deadlines be pushed back?... How are book tour schedules decided?

1.) This really depends on how the film/TV rights are optioned and sold, so, short answer: case-by-case basis. You could push to have your novel released as a graphic novel if your heart were set on it, but don't count on anything happening on that front if you're a debut author. Plus, if you want to write a graphic novel, why not cut out the middle man and just... write a graphic novel?
2.) Case-by-case basis. Usually it's a year or so between acquisition and publication. Deadlines can be pushed back for any number of reasons. Or not.
3.) Book tours: case-by-case basis. It's something you'd work out with your publicist through your agent.

She Wrote writes: What about bringing along your own illustrator?
What if your mss has maps? Do you have to use the publisher's artist for that or can you use your own?

How about the use of real towns/cities and agencies. My series is all centered on a protagonist who is employed in one particular law enforcement agency. Are there any particular "no-no's" I have to watch out for?

It really depends on your publisher whether you can bring your own illustrator, and this may be a question better answered by a children's book editor like Editorial Anonymous. As for real towns/agencies—no problems that I know of.

Terry writes: I would especially like to hear more about series.

I'll do some research and get you a post on that sometime this holiday season. In the meantime: I get the impression you're more or less right that mysteries tend to be sold as series. The most recent dozen or so mysteries that I remember doing kits for were generally part of two-book series, minimum.

Anonymous @ 3:48 writes: I'd love to know how authors decide on which publisher to sign with. Do editors ever approach writers or just wait for an agent to approach them. Also how do smaller publishers make themselves known to agents and sign books?

Totally on a case-by-case basis, although factors include royalty rates, advances, terms of contract, sub rights issues, publisher/editor reputation, and so forth. Editors have been known to approach authors, but I wouldn't hold your breath. As for smaller publishers: general schmoozing and conference/convention-attending. It's all about connections.

lauren writes: I'd like to know about publishers' logic behind acquiring and publishing books that are given very little marketing push. You know: ARCs, page in the catalog, and little else. And what happens to those books and their authors when said books get little to no sell-in at the chains?... Why do publishers continue to spend money packing their lists with books that disappear? And is there anything an aspiring author can do to avoid being in that situation in the future?

2.) A slow and painful death.
3.) I have no idea. I think the lists overlap too much as it is.
4.) Probably not.

Anonymous @ 6:44 writes: They say the time to get yourself into viral marketing is before your book is sold. Give me some examples of what you'd suggest. Blog? Facebook? Website?

"They" are correct, and all of the above are excellent ideas. Check out this post for more details.

Since several of you asked about auctions and series, I'll do my best to address those sooner rather than later. Tomorrow: NaNoWriMo, and why (despite its good intentions) it gives me (and the publishing industry as a whole) a migraine!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday Mailbag: Tuesday Edition

After many a delay, fair readers, I've finally gotten around to answering some of your questions. Without further ado, part one of two— writes: What I really would like for you do is tell me exactly what to produce that a publisher simply could NOT turn down because the product (novel) is just what the market gets exicted about and every professional in the sales department of a major publishing house dreams of having assigned specifically to him/her.

P.S. Any idea for a character name?

If you are J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter #8: Harry Potter and the Endless Denouement would be great! If not, then I can't really think of anything. (In all seriousness, I don't think such a project exists, aside from aforementioned HP book.)

Character name: Longfellow J. Turing-Test III, Esq.

Anonymous @ 10:16 writes: I'd love to see you talk about what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house when an editor decides to bid on a novel that's up for auction, particularly from an unknown debut author. We've seen the P&Ls for a normal acquisition, how does the process change when bids must be made quickly? Does sales have any input then?

I'm always curious what makes the difference between a book that gets a little deal and one that generates a major deal.

This is probably going to require an entirely separate post, but the short of it is: pretty much everything is the same, but happens, well, much faster. (I'll have a chat with some of my editorial bros in the near future to get a more specific & thorough answer for you.) Suffice it to say, major deals are usually brokered by and between major agents and authors, although there are exceptions. More to come on this.

Anonymous @ 10:26 writes: WTF is going on with art departments? Half of my books have marginally-competent covers--I mean, really deeply crappy--and my editor agrees and still can't get a new cover. I've worked with three publishers, and at every single one I started to suspect that the art department had evidence of the publisher sleeping with the interns, or something. They're unassailable. Why?

I have no idea, though I tend to think it's all bureaucracy and politics. Will talk to the art bros on this one & get back to you. As for series—again, more of an editorial question, but the impression that I get is that they're pitched as such and agents/authors generally try to go for the multi-book deal from the get-go. If a publisher signs you for three books and your first one bombs, I'm sure there are methods by which they could cut you loose, but my feeling is that if they're locking you in for three books, they're going to put enough money and resources behind the project to—in the immortal words of Tim Gunn—make it work.

Anonymous @ 11:53 writes: What is the difference in value between a big best-selling author and a midlist author? (Obviously money, but how much exactly?)

And how much value do midlist authors have to publishing houses?

It depends, and I'm really hazarding a guess here, but my theory is several hundred thousand (or even millions) of dollars in billing, depending on how "mid-list" or "bestselling" one is (there are shades of gray, so to speak). Midlist authors are the bulk of represented authors at a house and are important as such, but their titles don't get the same treatment as the Big Fancy Authors, the Hot Shot Authors, or the Celebrity Authors.

Anonymous @ 11:58 writes: I'd like to see a post on how publishing handles books with non-white main characters and multicultural relationships etc. from the percentage of such books published to the marketing to the cover-selection etc.

Though I know you may not want to because not a lot of people are comfortable talking about race, but it is a very important subject for those of us authors of colour who aren't writing the 'norm'.

It's not that I'm uncomfortable talking about race, I'm just not sure I know enough to answer your question—or even whether the data you're looking for exists. As for cover selection, apart from the recent fracas over the cover of Liar, I haven't seen anything specifically problematic with regard to books by or about people of color in general.

Fllay writes: What does it really mean to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List?

Again, this will probably require an entirely separate post, but the short answer: it means the New York Times, through a process that is considered a trade secret (so even if I knew it, which I don't, I couldn't reveal it to you), solicits data from a wide range of national book retailing chains, independent stores, and wholesalers, then uses that information to figure out whether it thinks you're cool or not. (I kid.) Seriously, though, they do their best to calculate who's really selling the most copies here in the good ol' U.S. of A., and they slap them onto the pages of the NYT once a week. (More data from our One True Lord Wikipedia here.)

Tomorrow: part two!

Monday, November 2, 2009

We Regret to Inform You: The Form Rejection

For those of you in the know (and there are more of you than you might think), there have, over the past several months and years, been periodic imbroglios re: the use of the form rejection by literary agents. I don't usually foray into this territory, but I thought a patented PMN Analogy® might be of some use. It's actually not my analogy—I'm shamelessly appropriating it from a guy I was talking to last week—but I find it too good to pass up.

Remember when you applied to college? Fun, right? The standardized tests, the trips to the guidance office, the teacher recommendations, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, &c &c. The point being: remember when maybe you didn't get into that one college? Did they send you a personalized four-page essay on how you were super great, but they just didn't have room for you? Or did they send you a one-page "thanks, but no thanks, better luck elsewhere"?


As I've said before, you, gentle (though as-yet-unrepresented) readers, are not any given agent's primary focus or responsibility. Their time and efforts go first and foremost to their clients, and only after they've negotiated contracts, calmed down their own hysterical authors, sat through endless rounds of auctions, and attended every known (and many an unknown) conference on the planet do they have time to sit and read your query. This is why said query has to be good, and this is why you can't be upset with a form rejection. Not only does an agent not have time to respond to every individual person who queries him or her, but to be completely honest, he or she wouldn't owe you a personal rejection even if he or she did have the time. Disheartening, perhaps, but true.

Caveat: this doesn't mean I wholeheartedly endorse the form rejection for, say, partials or fulls, and I've never been a fan of the idea that no news is bad news (i.e. no response means rejection). And I do realize that most (if not all) writers view their work as reflections or extensions of themselves, and often (perhaps subconsciously) equate rejection of their work with rejection of their overall abilities as writers, or even with rejection of themselves, period. But this is not the case, bros and she-bros. It's simply a rejection of your novel, not an indictment of your character.

I don't mean to sound harsh here. I write, you write, we all write, and we all get rejected. None of us likes being rejected, and I'm sure agents don't relish the opportunity to reject us. But it's a necessary evil of the system, cats and kittens, and if you want to graduate from the Publishing School of Hard Knocks, you've got to be able to take a form rejection or two. Or ten. Or two thousand.

All I can say is: soldier on, dear readers. Never give up! Never surrender!