Monday, May 14, 2012

We're Moving . . . This Blog!

Well, after years of thinking about it, debating it, and worrying about it, I decided to take the plunge.  This blog is moving "in-house," or rather "in-site."  So, for future reference, to view our blog, please visit www.zackcompany.com and click on the Blog menu item.

Thanks!

Z

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The April Monthly Round-up

Well, another month come and gone.  It's been exceptionally busy month for me and I can honestly say I've never worked harder.  So hard, in fact, that my shoulder up and rebelled from all the hours I've spent on the keyboard and mouse.  Now I get to ice it daily and go to PT twice a week.  Joy!

So, it remains fairly unproductive here in the reading department?  Why?  After all, isn't reading a huge part of what I need to be doing to make deals?  Sure, but I also have to take care of the current clients, their contracts, royalty statements, and payments.  And we've also started reissuing some of the clients' out-of-print works via our other firm, Author Coach, and its publishing division, Endpapers Press.  You've probably seen some of the cover contests on this site.  Keeping watching.  You'll see more, as more and more of my clients' older titles will be coming back into print this way.

I've also been writing to the Department of Justice, to express my opinion on its lawsuit against publishers, and I've been chasing new business for my clients, of course.  So, no worries.  I may not be getting as much reading done, but I've got plenty to chew on!

So here is the April round-up:

  • 55 queries received; 3 declined;
  • 1 sample chapters received; 1 declined;
  • 1 proposal received; 0 declined;
  • 2 manuscripts received; 0 declined.

We currently have on hand the following:

  • 138 eQueries™
  • 3 sample chapters
  • 1 proposal
  • 16 full manuscripts, including four from current clients!

As always, we appreciate your patience!

Z


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Another Cover Poll! This time for DOUBLOON, by Jay Amberg.

We are bring Jay Amberg's deep-sea diving thriller back into print. Please help us pick the new cover! Remember, we need you to rate EACH cover, or the results will be screwy.

Thanks!

Z

Please Help by Voting on a New Cover for JUST THE WAY HE WAS BEFORE!

Okay, folks!  We are trying to choose a new cover for Mark Patinkin's JUST THE WAY HE WAS BEFORE, the powerful and emotional story of Andrew Bateson who, as a six-year-old, lost both legs following a terrible illness.  This story of his survival and triumph will make any reader tear up and shake her head in amazement.

Please be sure to vote on each cover, not just your favorite, or the voting will be skewed!

Thanks!

Z


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Deadline for Unsolicited Sample Chapter Charity Offer

Someone asked me about my unsolicited sample chapter offer that I offered up in a blog a while back.  They wanted to know what the deadline was.  The answer is June 3, 2012.  So what am I talking about?


My lovely wife, Nadene, has started training for a 1/2 marathon with Team in Training.  As a part of her commitment, she is raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Those of you who read this blog regularly may be aware that I've done five century or century+ bike rides with TNT and that Nadene has done a couple also.  In fact, we got engaged at the end of the first one we did together!

So here's the deal:  I hereby give you permission to submit an unsolicited sample chapter (not to exceed 25 pages and make it the first chapter in your book), along with a synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages, double-spaced).  It must follow our formatting guidelines, found here:  http://www.zackcompany.com/index.php/content/submissions/manuscript-preparation-guidelines.html.  You must include a self-addressed, stamped #10 envelope for a response.  I will read your sample chapter and I will give you my feedback on what works and doesn't work.  If I love it, I'll ask for more. If I don't, you'll know why.  There will be no form rejects!

But here's the catch:  You must contribute $100 to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in support of my wife's efforts.  You must do it by credit card at their site.  And you must include a copy of the receipt they send you so we know you made the contribution.  All contributions go straight to LLS.  They are 100% tax deductible.  Neither TZC nor me benefits in any way.  My wife benefits only because you help her reach her fundraising goal.  (Okay, I benefit if my wife isn't freaking out about reaching her fundraising goal, you got me there.)

Last but not least, please write "LLS offer" on the envelope when you submit.

Here's the link to donate:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/sd/rnr12/nzackt

Thanks!

Z

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Help Us Pick the New Cover for SHADOW FLIGHT!

We're going to be releasing an eBook of Joe Weber's best-selling novel, Shadow Flight, and would love to have your vote on the best cover!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Which Title is Better?


So, we're trying to come up with a new title for a book before we bring it out as an eBook.  Originally called Up and Running, the book told the story of Andrew Bateson, who lost two legs to bacterial meningitis, but overcame his loss in ways that have amazed and inspired readers.  But there original title just didn't seem to catch as many readers as we'd hoped.  Therefore, I'd love your help in coming up with a new one.

Now, I'm not going to tell you which one I like, but I do have a preference.  I think this is a book that should inspire you and amaze you.  I don't think it's a book about a boxer or a football team.  It's about a six-year-old boy who comes back from a horrible illness and double amputation.  So, given all that, what do you think is the best title?

Thanks!

Z

The March Monthly Round-up

I know, I know, I know!  I am terribly late in doing these round-ups lately.  Well, for what it's worth, not a lot of reading is getting accomplished.  I've simply been swamped with deals, contracts, royalty statements, royalty payments, stabbing myself in the hand, and a cold.

Yes, I stabbed myself in the hand.  It has healed, but for a week there, typing was impossible.

Oh, and I lost another intern.  This one lasted two days.  Now, I have lost interns because they realized this internship involved real work and they didn't have the time or energy to do real work.  I have lost interns because they realized the commute from their apartment to my office was far more of a nightmare than they anticipated.  And I have lost interns because they realized that they suddenly needed this class or that class to graduate and they couldn't do the internship and the class at the same time.  However, in this case, I lost the intern because, and I quote, she felt I had a "strong condescending personality," and this would make for "an unhealthy environment for learning."

Now, my wife will read this and wonder, Why is he posting that?  Allow me to explain.

Publishing is a shitty business.  Really, it is.  You don't go into publishing to get rich.  You shouldn't go into publishing because you want to "read all the time," because you won't.  You should go into publishing because you love books and reading and get a visceral thrill from buying a new book.  But you should not expect it to be easy.

My first boss in publishing made Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada look nearly rational.  My starting salary was $15,000 a year, plus overtime.  My position was split between two women who traded me off like the "slave boy" in The Flintstones.  I regularly worked until 11 or midnight on Tuesday nights because I was not allowed to touch the first woman's out-box again until Friday.  I regularly worked at least one day every weekend.  I was sent out to buy my boss lunch and was expected to make her coffee because she needed decaf (but she drank a six-pack of Diet Coke every day!).  And she clearly felt that this was all something she had earned over the years of toiling in publishing.

My second bosses in publishing were much more sane, but still had earned their stripes only after toiling for years and years.  I used to say that they felt like they had crawled through shit and broken glass to get where they were and they clearly expected I should do the same.

My third boss was a lunatic.  He called me the fucking amateur to my face.  He called a publicity associate a fucking moron.  He called the Executive Editor a fat fuck, though I don't think he did it to her face.  He was known to use the C-word when referring to women.  A real charmer.

Do I need to go on?

Publishing is full of difficult personalities.  Maybe because the business is so hard or maybe because you do need to be creative to survive in it and creative personalities are often difficult ones.  Am I one of them?  Clearly this intern thought so.  Yet, on the other hand, is it condescending if you are lecturing a student on a subject about which she knows nothing?

Rent The Paper Chase or The Devil Wears Prada or, hell, The Empire Strikes Back.  Was Charles Kingsfield too hard on his students?  Was Meryl Streep really too hard on Anne Hathaway?  Was Yoda too hard on Luke Skywalker? (I'm such a geek; I misspelled Yoda and there was actually a correction in the dictionary software and this made me happy!)  No, I am not Yoda.  I'm taller.  But you get the point.  If you are that thin-skinned that you are insulted by someone actually trying to teach you something, then publishing is unlikely to be the business for you.

END RANT

Okay, so I promised the monthly round-up.

For the month of March 2012:

  • 67 queries received; 8 declined;
  • 3 sample chapters received; 10 declined;
  • 0 proposals received; 2 declined;
  • 2 manuscripts received; 0 declined;

I currently have 94 eQueries™ to read, as well as one proposal and one sample chapter (actually, he sent the whole book, but I only requested a chapter, but it's a bound book, so I guess I understand).  And I have more than a dozen full manuscripts from clients and potential clients to read.

Rebecca, my trusty intern from last year (who reassures me that I have a strong personality, but not a condescending personality) is still knocking out a reader's report every month or so.  But until we have a new intern or two starting next month, things will continue to be slow in the reading department.

Thanks, as always, for your patience.

Z

 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Thanks, CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE, for that Big Helping of Crow!

As a publishing person, I treat the Chicago Manual of Style a bit like my bible.  If it says jump in a manuscript, I check CMS to see if it has to say how high?  Alas, I can't say I ever expect it to change anything, as much as expand on things.  But apparently it changed something big and I had no idea.  As in, for years I have had no idea.  So I hang my head here in shame.

That said, I completely disagree with CMS on this one.

So, what are we talking about?  6.2  Punctuation and italics.  Previously, if you ended a sentence with a word that was in italics, e.g., "I just finished reading Moby Dick," the comma following would be set in italics also.  Apparently, in the 15th edition, they changed that and I missed it completely.  So, to all those authors I've chastised for this, I apologize.

That said, one of the arguments in favor of setting the punctuation following a word in italics in italics also was that in some cases two characters would physically touch, e.g., "Get the damn ball!"  See how close that lowercase L and the exclamation point are?  Well, in some typefaces, they would touch.

Now, Chicago goes on to say in 6.4 that the old way is okay, but only for print publications.  Could that get any more confusing!  Especially since there are now electronic versions of most of what is in print!  Does Chicago want us to create two different versions of each document?  Oy!

Z

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Remembering Jack Scovil

The problem with the deluge of email we all endure is that all too often something gets by you that you would really want to know.  Thus, it is only today that I noticed an obituary for my old friend, boss, and mentor, Jack Scovil.

I met Jack when I joined Scovil Chichak Galen as a literary agent in the early nineties.  Jack and his partners, Russ Galen and Ted Chichak, had left the Scott Meredith Literary Agency to launch their own firm.  Coming from the editorial side to the agent side was quite the transition and I deeply appreciated Jack's advice and, more importantly, his sense of humor, which I can only describe as "dry."  As in the Sahara.

Like any growing firm, SCG had its issues and I will always have the deepest gratitude for Jack's practical and insightful advice.  Of everyone there, Jack always seemed the most willing to take the time to counsel a young agent.  He was a true gentleman, a publishing professional from the "old school," and someone I will genuinely miss.

Z

Better Late than Never. The February Round-up.

Ruh roh!  Looks like I completely spaced on doing the February round-up on submissions and queries.  C'mon, people!  You have to remind me.

Quick and dirty:

  • 60 queries received; 94 declined!
  • 11 sample chapters received; 10 declined;
  • 0 proposals received; 1 declined;
  • 3 full manuscripts received; 3 declined (not the same 3 that were received; we aren't that fast!).

  • 9 sample chapters were requested in the month;
  • 1 proposal was requested;
  • 2 full manuscripts were requested.

  • I currently have 5 sample chapters on-hand to read;
  • I currently have 49 eQueries to read;
  • I currently have at least 13 full manuscripts to read.

As always, if we request materials from your eQuery and don't hear back, we'll check in a month or so later and then discard your query if we don't hear from you in another month or so.

For those of you waiting for answers from us, your patience is always appreciated.

Z

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Running for a Cure

Okay, time again to see who is paying attention to my blog posts.

My lovely wife, Nadene, has started training for a 1/2 marathon with Team in Training.  As a part of her commitment, she is raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Those of you who read this blog regularly may be aware that I've done five century or century+ bike rides with TNT and that Nadene has done a couple also.  In fact, we got engaged at the end of the first one we did together!

So here's the deal:  I hereby give you permission to submit an unsolicited sample chapter (not to exceed 25 pages and make it the first chapter in your book), along with a synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages, double-spaced).  It must follow our formatting guidelines, found here:  http://www.zackcompany.com/index.php/content/submissions/manuscript-preparation-guidelines.html.  You must include a self-addressed, stamped #10 envelope for a response.  I will read your sample chapter and I will give you my feedback on what works and doesn't work.  If I love it, I'll ask for more. If I don't, you'll know why.  There will be no form rejects!

But here's the catch:  You must contribute $100 to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in support of my wife's efforts.  You must do it by credit card at their site.  And you must include a copy of the receipt they send you so we know you made the contribution.  All contributions go straight to LLS.  They are 100% tax deductible.  Neither TZC nor me benefits in any way.  My wife benefits only because you help her reach her fundraising goal.  (Okay, I benefit if my wife isn't freaking out about reaching her fundraising goal, you got me there.)

Last but not least, please write "LLS offer" on the envelope when you submit.

Here's the link to donate:  http://pages.teamintraining.org/sd/rnr12/nzackt

Thanks!

Z

Monday, March 05, 2012

Thinking of Trying a "Virtual" Internship

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I seem to have two things that plague me.  One is QuickBooks, a soul- and time-sucking piece of software that I unfortunately can't do business without, so I have to keep beating Intuit over the head with its failures in hopes that it will get better.  The other is interns.  Don't get me wrong.  I love interns.  Most of them are great and hard-working and earnest.  But lately I have had a hard time finding interns and keeping them.  Why is this?  Well, I have a couple of theories...

San Diego is home to a number of state and community colleges.  A lot of the students here are working their way through school or living on very restricted budgets.  While an unpaid internship provides a valuable learning experience, if you need that job at Starbucks to pay the rent, you're not going to give it up or change your schedule to do the internship.

The other issue is traffic.  When I get an intern from SDSU or "down south," as we say here in San Diego, she often don't realize what commuting during rush hour will do to her day.  Add on the cost of gas in this day and age and the fact that most interns aren't driving a Nissan Leaf, and you get an even greater burden.

So, I am considering taking on a "virtual" intern or two.  What would this mean?  Well, for starters, you wouldn't have to come into the office.  But you would need some kind of set hours, so that I would know when I could reach you and so that we could do some Skype interaction.  I'm a firm believer that interns are not just free labor.  I have to put time into the internship also and use that time to teach you something about the publishing business.  But not computers, okay?

My last intern, who lasted a week or so, was a Mac user.  Okay.  But I found myself constantly coaching her on how to use the Windows computer in the office.  Hence, requirement number one:  You must be using a Windows-based computer.

Requirement number two:  You must have an eBook Reader.  I don't care if it's a Sony, iPad, Kindle, or Nook, but you have to have one of them or you won't be able to read the manuscripts I send.

With all of my interns, I constantly find myself teaching them how to use Microsoft Outlook to track email, use tasks, and the like.  But if you are a virtual intern, I can't do that.  Hence, requirement number three:  You must own and know how to use Microsoft Outlook, including Tasks.  Why?  Because I'm going to have to set you up with your own email account and because I'm going to be using Outlook to assign you tasks, which will be tracked in Outlook.

Interns in the office can get fairly complex tasks that I have to explain and then do a few examples, etc.  This will be difficult with a virtual intern.  Hence, requirement number four:  You must be able to work independently.  You must have the intelligence to figure out what needs to be done and the confidence to then do it.  Examples?  I have no idea.  I've never had a "virtual" intern before.

Requirement number five:  You must be incredibly trustworthy and have references.  You must be discreet.  You will have to sign an NDA.

So what do I think my virtual intern will do?  First, read and report on a full manuscript per week.  You will be given a template for a Reader's Report and I will review your reports and give you feedback.  You will also write rejection letters for those projects we don't want to consider further.

You will proofread eGalleys for the eBooks we are producing.  If you have experience proofreading, you will be a stronger contender for this internship.

You will generate front matter for the eBooks we are producing.  You  may also write copy to appear with the books on Amazon and other websites.

You will draft press releases.  If you have experience in this area, you will be a stronger candidate.

You will update the web site and Facebook group.  If you have experience with Joomla and K2, you will rock!  If you have social-media marketing expertise, I will hug you...virtually, of course.

You will write submission letters.  Let's say you find an amazing novel during your reading and we take it on.  Then you will write the submission letter for it to go out to publishers.  Yes, I will revise it, tweak it, etc., but you will take the first shot, for sure.

So, if this sounds interesting and you think you have the skills required, hop on over to the Internships page on our site and apply.

Last but not least, I'm still in the "how would this work?" stage.  I don't promise to take on anyone at all in this role, but if I get the right candidate(s), I certainly will.

Thanks!

Z

Monday, February 27, 2012

Help Us Pick a Book Cover!

We're about to bring back into print I AM ALIVE! a US Marine's account of being a Japanese POW in WWII.  We'd love your help picking the perfect cover.

Which of the following covers catches your eye the best and makes you want to pick up the book and read more?



Thursday, February 23, 2012

We're bringing Bruce H. Norton's classic Vietnam book, STINGRAY, back into print!  Help us choose the perfect cover by voting below.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When Conferences Drop the Ball

I'm supposed to speak at a writers' conference this weekend.  Specifically, the Southern California Writers' Conference.  And I want to apologize in advance to anyone who expects me to be there, since it really looks like I won't be there.

You see, I wrote to the conference director back in September, offering myself as a speaker.  I got back an email asking me to attend and also saying I'd be getting some sample pages to read and then I'd be doing some one-on-ones with authors.  The sample pages, I will admit, I completely forgot about.  After all, I'm not the organizer.  For this, I was told I'd receive an honorarium of $250 (I didn't ask for such, but it was offered).

Yesterday, Monday, February 13th, a package with 14 sample chapters arrived in the mail.  The conference starts Friday, February 17th.  As I reported to the conference organizers, there is no way I am going to be able to read 14 sample chapters by Friday.  I should have had them a month ago, at least by February 1, since their deadline for submissions was January 28th (far too close to the conference, in my opinion).

I also have no idea on what topics I'm expected to speak.  I offered to talk about more than one, including the following:

1.   How to write a great query letter
2.   Introduction to the book publishing agreement
3.   Should I self-publish?
4.   Should I get a book doctor/author coach?

So, now I sit here three days before the conference is to begin, with no time to read 14 sample chapters and with no idea what I'll actually be doing at the conference.  I have no schedule.  I have no information.  Oh, wait!  I just checked their website and found that on Saturday, from 2:40-4:10, I'm supposed to do a presentation on "Should I Self-Publish?"  Nice of them to let me know.  And apparently I'm supposed to be doing one-on-one consultations all day before that and an agents panel after that.

Listen, given proper notice, I'd be more than happy to do all that.  But given notice on 2/13 for something that's happening on 2/18, which includes hours of reading and hours of presentation prep time, I don't see how I can.  And since I'm local and they haven't spent money on a plane ticket or hotel room for me, I'm going to bow out, guilt-free.

It's a shame when a conference isn't organized and doesn't pull it together.  I did all I could to be a good guest in anticipation of the event, but with a young family, two companies to run, and a new intern I'm training, I'm simply not in the position to drop everything to prepare for a conference that should have gotten me information and materials much further in advance.

My apologies to those who hoped to meet with me there.  I trust the conference will refund your funds or arrange for a new reader.

Z

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Then go self-publish, please.

Yesterday, I did my monthly round-up and, as a part of what that all entails, I emailed a number of authors from whom I have not yet received the requested sample chapters or proposals that I asked for on December 31.  Today I heard back from two of them.
  1. Hi, I'll submit this but only electronically.
  2. The sticking point for us is that we no longer have a working printer: We do everything by email these days.
To each of these authors, I responded, I wish you the best of luck with your work.  Sorry we won’t be seeing it.

Why did I do that?  Well, my request clearly stated that I only accept sample chapters as hard copies.  If the first guy doesn't want to follow my submission guidelines, that's fine.  Then I suggest that if he wants to do business his way, he should go into business for himself and self-publish.  However, if he wants an experienced literary agent, perhaps he should consider doing business the way the agent does business.

As for the second writer, that you don't have a working printer essentially makes you unacceptable to me as a client.  What if I wanted to send you a contract via email so that you could print it and sign it and get it back to a publisher that much more quickly?  What if I needed you to print and sign a tax form so that you wouldn't be taxed twice in Germany?  If you want to be a working writer, you need a working printer.  And printers are dirt-cheap.  A new laser printer is just barely over $100.  A new inkjet printer can be had for less than $50.  And this author is complaining she doesn't have a working printer?  I understand we are in a tight economy, but cancel the cable TV for a month and buy a printer, okay?

Let's talk about two things now:
  1. Why don't I take sample chapters electronically?
  2. The cost of submissions.
I don't take sample chapters electronically because I like to take notes on them and because it takes quite a bit of time to take that chapter, detach it from the email, save it somewhere else, and put it on my Sony Reader.  And after spending ten minutes doing that, I might read eight pages and decide it's not for me.  Thus it is not efficient or cost-effective for me to accept sample chapters by email.  Plus I can't take notes and I can't hand a stack of them to my intern and ask her to read and comment if they aren't on paper.

Back in the day, before agents started doing anything with potential clients via email, an author could expect to spend quite a bit of money on queries.  Think of all those envelopes, plus the envelope for the SASE, plus the stamps for both the query and the SASE, plus the paper and the printer ink or toner.  It probably cost most authors at least $1.50 plus their time to get out one query.

Now let's say that author got requests from five agents for the full manuscript.  Let's say that manuscript is 400 pages.  Let's say the cost of printing that manuscript is ten cents per page at the local copy shop.  Print one original at home on a laser printer and the cost of printing is around twenty-five cents per page.  Just laser-printing is $100, plus the cost of paper, so call it $107.00.  Now we need five copies (the author should keep the original should she or he need more copies down the road).  400 pages times five copies is 2,000 pages times twenty-five cents is $500.  Now the author has to ship those full manuscripts.  Via Priority Mail Flat Rate and with the label prepared online is $10.85, times five is $54.25.

Do I really need to total it all up?  Authors are saving thousands upon thousands of dollars a year because agents now accept queries and full manuscripts via email.  Some may also accept sample chapters that way.  And if you only want to submit to agents who do, that's your prerogative.  Or you can always self-publish.  But please don't email me that you will only submit a sample chapter via email.  And please don't tell me you don't have a working printer.  The first is obnoxious and the latter just isn't pragmatic.

Thank you.

Z