Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Keeps Me Up at Night

I'm currently reading MAGICIAN: APPRENTICE, by Raymond Feist, and I like it. I'm noticing, though, that there are a few things he does that I would probably have urged him not to do, mostly involving POV, and I am somewhat surprised by the number of elements he's tossed into the mix and I'm not even halfway through.


As an agent, I often get queries or sample chapters and synopses and as I'm reading them, I wonder, "Where is the kitchen sink?" And this novel is somewhat getting there. Which makes me wonder if I had received this as a submission, would I have accepted it for representation? Obviously, the book has been around a long time and spawned many sequels and has many fans. So not taking it on would have been a mistake. Yet I wonder if I would have.

I've had lunch with more than one editor who told me that he or she had read THE DA VINCI CODE and would have rejected it had it been submitted to him or her. A huge mistake, obviously, if they had. Yet I couldn't get through the book. I thought it a Hardy Boys novel for adults and nothing more.

Then I look at an author like Nelson DeMille. A success, for sure, and in my opinion generally a better writer than Feist or Brown or Ludlum. Yet he has enjoyed nothing like the success of the latter two. The first, he likely has. Why is this? Why do some writers—clearly better writers—fail to be as successful as weaker writers?

I used to say that Grisham's THE FIRM was such a hit because it was written at a sixth-grade reading level. I don't know that for a fact, but it's my guess. Should writers intentionally write more simplistically and at a lower reading level to get more fans? After all, one source I just found says the "average American" reads at an 8th- or 9th-grade level. Thus, if you write above that level, you are potentially limiting your market.

Now, though, we have these doorstops about Harry Potter that are being read by 6th-graders and beyond. Is that because 6th-graders have gotten smarter? Or because the book is appropriate for their age and the rest of the reading audience is a bit dumber and attracted to an entertaining story?

Am I, as an agent who majored in English and clearly prefers a good narrative over a light, dialogue-driven popcorn read, more likely to miss the next big book because of it? Or do I stick to what I believe works and not sell out to the apparent cravings of the masses for the literary equivalent of Skittles?

This shit keeps me up at night.

Z

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bookscan: More Holes than Swiss Cheese

To those authors who don't understand what exactly goes into getting a book sold, either by an agent or by the publisher to stores, I imagine the Bookscan discussion is a bit esoteric. But the truth is, whether or not your book is well written, it may die a quick death because of things like Bookscan and other publishing and bookselling practices or behaviors which have little to do with what's between the covers.

This morning I received an email from Brianna Buckley, Sales Coordinator, Nielsen BookScan, who offered the following information:

Yes, I read blog posts as I come across them, but don’t comment on them. J I will, however, respond directly to the poster if I’m able to correct misquoted facts or answer a question.

“…Bookscan, according to one comment, doesn't include grocery and drugstore chains. I actually didn't know this”

“…I also wonder about airport bookstores.”

Yes, we track food & drug stores, they are tracked in the “Non-Traditional” store stratum, which was added as new in 2008.

We also track Borders airport locations, as well as the Hudson Group’s airport, train and bus terminal locations.

A list of the major participants in our US Consumer Market Panel may be found here:
http://www.bookscan.com/uploads/fs_USAConsumer%20Market_Jan09.pdf

Go ahead and take a look at that list. I'll wait. (Humming theme from JEOPARDY....).

Done? Okay. Notice anything interesting about that list? Like how many places are missing?! Where is Safeway/Vons, probably the largest grocery chain on the West Coast? Where is CVS, one of the largest (and getting larger) national drugstore chains? Where is Duane Reade, the largest pharmacy chain in New York City? These folks count for a lot of books. Where is Overstock.com? Buy.com is worth having, but not Overstock? I'd love to hear from you on these stores, Ms. Buckley.

I heard from one commentator directly last night that Wal-Mart will never report. They are so big, they don't have to do anything they don't want to and apparently they don't want to assist their many publishing vendors and the authors of the millions of books they sell every year by participating. Kind of arrogant, isn't it? Again, I'd love to see the Authors Guild get involved on the Wal-Mart reporting issue and also on the Bookscan issue in general. Authors' careers and being made and more often broken by Bookscan data. Why doesn't the Authors Guild seem to care? Or maybe Bookscan could just pay them to participate. Surely Wal-Mart is interested in money. Make them an offer they can't refuse and then charge publishers and other subscribers an extra fee for Wal-Mart data. You know you'll get it.

And while many of the comments yesterday praised the potential uses of Bookscan, the majority agreed that editors know the Bookscan numbers are "a crock." So why do they ever bring them up? It raises an important question, which is: Why do editors have access to Bookscan and should they? Don't get me wrong, I think that the Sales department should be using Bookscan and possibly marketing and advertising. Presumably those departments know how to interpret the numbers correctly. But editors were mostly English majors, not statistics or accounting majors. Their brains are about words, not numbers. And most seem to be using Bookscan like a big, dead stick with which to beat authors and agents over the head. Is it just an excuse to reject something they didn't like for other reasons but preferred to blame Bookscan figures, as one editor suggested? Or do editors really not understand the limits of Bookscan?

More than one commentator said that Bookscan really only tracks hardcover sales well. In my recent experience, we were dealing with trade-paperbacks. So if Bookscan really only tracks hardcovers well, why would an editor bother to look up an author's prior books if those books weren't hardcovers? Given the back-and-forth I had with the editor, I presume that she really was using the Bookscan data as a reason to reject and not an excuse because she didn't like the book for other reasons. Which leads me to believe that this editor hasn't been fully briefed on exactly what types of sales Bookscan tracks and that Bookscan is a terrible tool for acquiring editors to use in reaching acquisition decisions. Ask the agent for the statements, instead. They may be months out-of date, since publishers issue statements 90-120 days after the period those statements cover ends, but at least they are full reports (or as full as the publisher will provide—don't get me started...), which Bookscan is not. If the agent doesn't have them or won't provide them, then the editor can just presume the worst and say, "no thanks." They reject plenty of books for far less.

If Bookscan is such a great tool, as some said yesterday, perhaps the problem is at publishing houses. Perhaps publishers need to restrict the information from Bookscan to those who can properly interpret it, and keep it out of the acquisition process, since clearly it does not provide anything close to a complete picture even for that which it tracks best: hardcovers.

Z


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Bookscan B.--er, Discussion

To say that I'm surprised by the number of comments my little "rant" about Bookscan yesterday has received would be something of an understatement.  Judging by the lack of information about some of the folks leaving comments, I halfway wonder how many work at Bookscan.  Feeling defensive, perhaps?

Clearly, though, some are acquiring editors and I have broken my rule about anonymous comments being rejected, because I can understand why an acquiring editor doesn't want to leave his or her name while expressing favor or criticism about Bookscan.

Let's look at a few of those comments:

Bookscan doesn't include Wal-Mart, because Wal-Mart won't agree to report, as I understand it.  Also, Bookscan, according to one comment, doesn't include grocery and drugstore chains.  I actually didn't know this.

Now, I'm not privy to much in the way of actual publishers' sales reports, but I'm fairly confident that Wal-mart, grocery, and drugstore chains constitute a huge part of the marketplace, especially in areas where B&N hasn't felt the need to build a superstore.  I also wonder about airport bookstores.  Do they report?  Because if they don't, why the heck does anyone care about Bookscan?  You would never buy stock in a company if the information about it was as incomplete as Bookscan's information is about books being sold.

"Bookscan numbers give insights, not precision into what happened in the PAST. Comparing POS numbers with Royalty statements is bad practice."--This is an interesting point, if it is accurate.  Seems to me that if it is accurate, then publishers could use Bookscan to determine exactly where books are in the supply chain.  But publishers can already get daily rate-of-movement data from B&N directly, and likely every other chain or large seller.  So why do they need Bookscan, again?

Also, I don't know that comparing the numbers is bad.  Remember that statements are issued 90-150 days after the close of the period they are reporting.  Agents know how to read them and factor in the reserves being held to tell if a book is really selling.  (Plus Random House already provides sales by month with nearly every statement, something other publishers could adopt if they want to improve communication with authors and agents).  If there is a discrepancy of one-hundred to one-thousand percent between the two, then either the statements are wrong or Bookscan is wrong, and my money is on Bookscan, because we know that Bookscan doesn't get reports from all selling sources, but that publishers certainly know what they shipped out and got back.

What Bookscan might offer is a route to a shorter reporting cycle, but publishers would have to require their customers to report to Bookscan, or at least the biggest ones such as Wal-Mart.  Because if publishers have POS information, they can calculate that those books aren't coming back as returns.  Using that data, they could more confidently start paying authors for actual copies sold, rather than keep large reserves for returns.  Of course, this means that publishers can't sit on authors' money for months and months, interest-free, which makes me think it's less likely to happen.

I'd like to see the Authors Guild get up in Bookscan's grill.  Bookscan is costing authors deals and reducing authors' advances.  Therefore, the AG should have a motivation to go to them and demand better reporting.  It should also be pursuing Wal-Mart to start participating in Bookscan.  If Bookscan is so important to the publishing industry, it should be important to the Guild to make sure that authors' interests aren't being negatively influenced by its existence.

My issue yesterday, though, was that an editor told me she was making acquisition decisions based on Bookscan, and I stand by my position that that's a very, very bad practice.  The Bookscan numbers simply aren't accurate enough.  If the editor wanted sales data, all she had to do was ask me for the royalty statements.  And that's something editors very rarely do, which has always surprised me.

Clive Cussler recently lost a lawsuit with the makers of a movie based on one of his books.  One of the contentions of the movie folks was that the sales figures quoted were inaccurate. Didn't anyone ask for proof?  Sure, agents might balk at sending actual statements and certainly publishers have other resources (like looking the author's titles up on the B&N system, to which most publishers have quite easy access), but why not just ask?  If the agent balks, presume that the numbers are bad and pass. If the agent provides them, and they are good, then it's a win/win.  Of course, one agent's opinion of what good sales numbers are and one editor's opinion of what good sales numbers are may vary as much as the agent's and editor's opinions on whether or not a novel is any good.  But at least the agent and the author and the editor know the numbers should be accurate (or as accurate as anything that's looking back at a period that ended 90-120 days earlier can be).

Don't get confused.  I think that it is perfectly acceptable to not take on an author who doesn't sell.  But you'd better have your figures right before you make that decision, or you might just pass up an author who could be making your publishing house some decent cash.  And I'm pretty sure that's what all the houses want right now.

Z

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Lie that is Bookscan

Today I had a project rejected by a publisher.  It's the author's third book and the prior two books had been well received and have sold well.  But according to this publisher, "the Bookscan sales of his two titles have been modest in comparison to the great praise and attention his work has received, and in this economy that’s a very difficult obstacle for us to overcome with our accounts and booksellers."

There's only one problem with this argument:  The Bookscan numbers are wrong.

According to the royalty statements I've received, the author's first book has net sales of just under 14,000 copies.  According to this editor, Bookscan shows sales just over 7,200 copies.  That's nearly a 100% difference!

Questioned about this, the editor responded, "Bookscan is indeed an imperfect tool, but it’s also enormously helpful to us, and we do interpret the information with the proverbial 'grain of salt.' Our rule of thumb is that Bookscan captures about 70% of retail sales, give or take. In this case, Bookscan shows sales of just over 7,200 copies for the ___________________ book, so it seems that the accepted formula may be a bit low here.  14,000 copies is a strong performance for this title, and it’s great that this one has earned out for the publisher."

A bit low?!  Bookscan is reporting half of what the author's own royalty statements show and, in the case of the author's second book, Bookscan is reporting approximately ten percent of what the statements show.

Are publishers really so dense that they haven't compared Bookscan's figures with their own sales figures?  Surely if they have, then they would have stopped paying Bookscan for its clearly and outrageously wrong data and put it out of business for lack of subscribers.  Because, you see, Bookscan is pretty much only of use to publishers and to, say, news organizations writing about publishing.  Sure, it's supposed to be the Nielsen Ratings of books, but Nielsen Ratings for TV and radio have a purpose:  they tell advertisers where it's worth spending money on what shows.  But books have no ads, so what is the purpose of Bookscan?  To prove that the NEW YORK TIMES best-seller list is wrong?  That the number one book this week is not RELENTLESS, by Dean Koontz?  That the number two book isn't THE PHYSICK BOOK OF DELIVERANCE DANE? (Really?  That's the number two book?)  Do we need some ultimate decider beyond the NYT or Barnes & Noble or Amazon?  I don't think so.

I am one-hundred-percent sure that if Bookscan were reporting higher numbers than publishers, publishers would pull their subscriptions and put them out of business.  Why?  Because agents and authors would be hammering publishers and demanding to know why the publishers are reporting lower numbers and where the hell are our royalties?!  But because Bookscan reports lower numbers, publishers happily use its data to crush authors and insist that they can't pay what the author or agent believes a book is worth because Bookscan says the author isn't selling as many copies as the author says he or she is.  Even presented with actual royalty figures, publishers seem to still favor Bookscan, which I think puts a burden on publishers to ensure that Bookscan gets it right.

Thus, I propose that publishers should have to report their sales to Bookscan and Bookscan should have to reconcile the differences.  After all, don't publishers want accurate reporting?  Doesn't Bookscan?  So if Wal-Mart or Amazon or Target or whomever that isn't reporting to Bookscan won't provide the figures, why shouldn't the publishers?  Sure, the publishers would be reporting wholesale numbers and not point-of-sale figures, but certainly that's better than having no data at all?

C'mon, Nielsen, put your money where your mouth is.  And publishers, too.  If you want to make or break authors' careers and base your acquisitions on Bookscan data, then you need to have accurate data, which you don't.  So, please, put up or shut up.

Z

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Disturbing Trend

I got a call today that was another example what appears to be a disturbing trend among publishers:  Offering rights they do not control.

For those not intimately familiar with publishing, the area of subsidiary rights is likely unfamiliar. Subsidiary rights are rights other than the simple right to publish the book in the United States.  Thus the rights to publish audio, electronic, British, and translation editions are all subsidiary rights.

A US literary agent may license World rights to a publisher, which gives it the right to publish a book in the US and throughout the world, but few publishers actually publish around the world.  Most sublicense the rights they licensed from the author to a publisher in the UK or in foreign countries.  Thus, a book like THE DA VINCI CODE could have many publishers around the world.

Now, a US literary agent may also choose not to license World rights and instead to license only US rights or World English rights.  In such cases, the agent would try to license those rights for the author directly.  The author generally makes more money this way, as the advances from these non-US licenses are not applied to the US advance, which is the case of the US publisher controls the rights and licenses them, plus the author is not giving up a 20-50% piece of the pie directly to the publisher as its "share" of rights income.

In the past year, I've had two publishers contact me and say they wanted to license rights they did not control...as in, the contract with those US publishers did not include the authorization to license the rights in question.  And in the case of today's call, it was apparent that the publisher had been actively negotiating to sell rights it did not control and had no right to be shopping.

Folks, imagine if I called you up and told you that I had an offer for your house.  But you never engaged me to sell your house.  Heck, you barely know me.  I just happen to work at a company with which you have done some business.  That's pretty much the call I got today.

Earlier this year, another publisher called me up and wanted me to let them sell rights they did not control.  I told them I would be happy to deal directly with the other party, but I was not about to authorize them to license additional rights.  That would be like letting the guy down the street sell your car and take a cut, even though you happen to own a car dealership.  Crazy, right?

When I get a call about rights I do not control, I refer the person to the party that does control the rights and that's it.  I don't try to horn in on the action.  And I certainly don't try to sell rights I don't control.  How would the US publisher feel if I was out shopping the translation rights?  Those rights were licensed to the US publisher as a part of the US publication deal and it's up to the US publisher to find those foreign publishers.  In doing so, the US publisher will get at least 25% of the income on the deal and get to apply the author's 75% to the advance paid for the US edition, so likely the author will not see any more money for years.

Publishers, unless you want agents out there selling rights you control, you should stop trying to sell rights you don't control.

Z

Monday, June 15, 2009

Letterman vs Palin

I've been watching with some amusement the growing controversy regarding David Letterman's jokes about Sarah Palin's daughter. I watched the now-famous non-apology and I thought he handled it pretty well. I might have actually gone in a different direction, though, if the facts support it.

You see, my guess is that the jokes were written by someone or several folks who didn't bother to check on which daughter was traveling with Palin. So they wrote a bunch of jokes that were fair game for an eighteen-year-old but not a fourteen-year-old. Dave could have gone on the air and said something like this:

"We've been getting a lot of calls and emails and reading in the press the comments about former VP candidate Sarah Palin complaining about the jokes we made about her visit to New York, some of which included jokes about her daughter. According to Govenor Palin, those comments were directed at her fourteen-year-old daughter, Willow, and the govenor has called me a pervert and her husband has accused me of promoting the rape of fourteen-year-old girls.

"Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I am completely aghast at the concept that anyone out there thinks these jokes were about Willow. I would never joke about a young girl in such an inappropriate manner. I am a parent and I completely understand the powerful emotions such comments would bring about in the Palins...if I were actually talking about the fourteen-year-old daughter, Willow.

"Which, of course, I wasn't.

"You see, we're running a talk show here, where we tell jokes. This isn't THE NEW YORKER or THE NEW YORK TIMES. So sometimes our fact-checking isn't the best. You see, we thought it was the other daughter traveling with the govenor. You know, Bristol, the eighteen-year-old daughter, the one of legal age, and also, not coincidentally, the one who got knocked up and had a baby out of wedlock. The jokes, which we admit might have been a bit tacky, were aimed at her. But, then again, have you been watching our show? Because not being tacky isn't exactly something for which we are famous.

"So, to the Palins, and to Willow, I apologize. I absolutely wasn't talking about Willow and I wish her well and hope that she understands that sometimes people make mistakes. Just like her parents did, when they didn't teach her sister, Bristol, to be safe and use birth control if she was going to have sex with her boyfriend.

Thank you."

Z

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I Do All Day

Have you ever wondered what a literary agent does all day?  Think we just read and search for wonderful new authors?  Think again.

Today I spent close to an hour filling out a form 8802 for two clients.  This is the form that lets them get a form 6166, which will let their Spanish publisher only deduct 5% income tax from their whopping 300 Euro payment instead of 24%.  Paid the fees online and emailed the form to the clients to complete and fax to the IRS.  Now I get to wait 45 days for the response.

I emailed a client some supportive (I hope) thoughts on his mother dying.

I followed up with a film agent/manager.  Possible lunch in LA to come.

I logged receipts on some submission follow-ups so that when the editors claim not to have heard from me, I have proof they opened the email.

I pulled the trigger and authorized an Australian web firm to redesign the TZC website in Joomla.  Will be adding eQuery form so that I can put an end to accepting paper queries.

Emailed old high-school friend who is now a graphic designer about fixing logos for TZC and my other company.

Spoke to the wife two or three times about how much of each bottle my son is drinking.  Consulted with nanny on baby’s eating, sleeping, and, of course, pooping.

Went to the Postal Annex and picked up mail.  Bought bananas, lettuce, and fudge-covered grahams.  Don’t tell wife about the latter.

Remembered mail in trunk of my car.  BRB.

Received one full ms from author saying he was “inclosing” per my request.  Hopes for next best-seller quickly faded.

Received another full ms with SASE into which ms would never fit and which I will never use because we don’t return full MSS because PO won’t accept such a big package with stamps.  Total waste of expensive stamp and large envelope.  Though, if I take him on as a client, I guess I can send his rep agreement in it.  Pretty sure it is 10-point Times Roman.  Good thing I’m seeing the eye doctor tomorrow.

Received a THIRD full ms (holy crap!) that author says is mine exclusively (though I did not ask for it exclusively).  Looks like 10-point Courier New.

Pondered why I bothered to put MS formatting guidelines on website and note in request letter to go look at and use them.

Wife called to ask how to open gas tank on her new car.  I had no idea.

New ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and KIPLINGER’S PERSONAL FINANCE in the mail.  First tip in KIPLINGER’S:  “Don’t waste your money on magazines that have no meaningful purpose, like EW.”  Ah, irony.  Yes, I’m kidding.

Holy crap!  Adam Lambert is GAY!???

Miss California is fired.  Alas, Trump didn’t do it himself as he is apparently allowed only to say “You’re fired” on THE APPRENTICE.

More irony but in no way funny:  Pro-life group wants to buy clinic of doctor who was shot dead by pro-lifer.

Guard gets killed by white supremacist at the US Holocaust Museum.  The alleged killer was James Von Brunn, 88-years-old.  So much for getting wiser as we get older.  Apparently this guy just got more pissed off.  Irony is that I’m pretty sure that guard wasn’t Jewish and that the killer apparently wrote a book called KILL THE BEST GENTILES.  Non-Jewish guard working at the Holocaust Museum?  Well, buddy, looks like you got your start.  Too bad we can’t gas you and cremate you.  Now THAT would be irony.

Got what I believe is the ELEVENTH copy of the Google Class Action notice, this time for a dead, former client.  Please Google, stop sending these and stop your stupid scanning program and just spend the money on literacy.  It would be a better cause.

Wrote a letter to a client who is completely MIA.  Work email bounces and home phone number seems to be a fax line but won’t accept a fax.

Double-checked that publisher got the cover fixed on Amazon for client’s book.

Followed up with another publisher about an egregious act involving contract amendment and royalties.  Still waiting for them to fix that.

Followed up on D&A payment due client; over a month has passed since delivery of the ms.

Followed up with local comic-book publisher about lunch meeting.

Email in-box now has only 56 emails in it.  Not bad.

Still need to process the new submissions, read the query that came in today, and by then it will be time for the nanny to go home and me to take over.  Whoo hoo!

Z

 

 


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Job Hunting?

Recently I noticed this ad for an Associate Publisher at Touchstone Fireside.  I thought I would post it here because I think it's a wonderfully concise description of what exactly a "publisher" at a publishing house does and therefore highly worthwhile for authors to read.

The Publisher of Touchstone/Fireside, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is seeking an Associate Publisher to handle all the logistics of publishing approximately 50 titles a year. From marketing and publicity to sales, this is an excellent opportunity for a candidate who is a “jack of all trades” and looking to be the second-in-command at a dynamic imprint. Strong interaction with all departments within S&S -- and with authors and agents -- is required.

Responsibilities include:

Primary point person/liaison for sales division, including: coordinating all sales meetings; pub grids and schedules; preparing agendas for focus and positioning meetings; identifying lead titles; responding to issues on call reports; attending sales calls with reps as needed; brainstorming backlist promotions; and identifying opportunities. Liaison for supply chain, including: attending all reprint and first print signing meetings; monitoring all inventory issues; and tracking turn-around times. Interaction with marketing, including: overseeing TIP sheets (researching competitive tiles & brainstorming selling points); approving marketing materials, sell sheets, and ads; coordinating all marketing plans and promotions on white sheets; and approving and trafficking catalog passes and layouts.

Contact with authors and agents, including: communicating with them and responding to all queries; monitoring their expectations; and communicating sales figures, publicity and marketing campaigns. Additionally, this position will work closely with the editorial department to secure advance quotes for books; determine necessary sales materials, final approval on TIP sheets.

Requirements: Seasoned (7 plus years), highly pro-active team player with a passion for book publishing; excellent writing, organizational and administrative skills; meticulous attention to detail; a mind and eye for numbers and budgets; and an ability to juggle multiple priorities in a fast-paced environment; and polished communication skills. Ideal candidate will have either a sales or marketing background, or a combination of both. College degree required.

Z

QuickBooks Sucks...Just a Little Less?

None of my blog posts here have received more comments than the one I wrote on QuickBooks 2009.  I said, in short, that it sucks.  And it does.  In fact, it sucks so bad that I expect that we will see some major changes in the next version, if you are willing to pay for yet another upgrade.

I recently noticed an interesting workaround to one of the biggest points of "suckage" in QB 2009, which is the Online Banking center.  Oh boy, does it ever suck.  Like a ten-year-old trying to get the last little bit out of the bottom of a milkshake.

I use account numbers.  However, if you have account numbers turned on, the QuickFill function doesn't work in Online Banking.  It still works in plenty of other places, but they changed the way Online Banking works and for some reason they refuse to change it back.  So they broke it, they know how to fix it, but they refuse to do so.  Go figure.

Recently, though, I noticed a new tab on the Edit Vendor screen.  I don't know if this has been there all along or if it just showed up during a patch.  Either way, it does create a workaround. It's called "Account Prefill."  Fill in the account (QuickFill works just fine here; again, go figure) here and when you download your transactions in the Online Banking center, the account will be prefilled for you.  Of course, this only works if you don't have a bazillion vendors and you use the same accounts for the same vendors over and over.  For example, every time I buy gas, it goes to a generic vendor called "Gas Station." So this just goes to the right account for Automobile Expense or Fuel and Transportation or whatever you choose to call it.  Over and over, the same every time.  This is fine.

However, if you go to Staples and buy office supplies and a new computer and a new desk, you might have a problem, since that's likely three different accounts.  QB allows you to have three different accounts in "Account Prefill," but I haven't played with the function to see what happens if you have more than one.  Maybe your dropdown list in Online Banking would be limited to those three?

So, as I said at the top, QuickBooks 2009 may suck a little less, but it still sucks.  I wish Peachtree or Microsoft would create an easy-to-use, easy-to-change-to program that would let us communicate effectively to Intuit what we think of its programs, but so far they haven't done that, so we're all stuck.

Z

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Supporting Writers' Groups

Recently I decided to join three writers' groups to show my support for writers in those genres.  The groups are:

  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
  • The Romance Writers of America
  • The International Thriller Writers

I've previously been a member of SFWA, but not of RWA or ITW.  ITW is actually fairly new, but I've been impressed by its newsletter and its goal of expanding readership of their genre.

RWA has long had a reputation for working with publishers to improve the quality of romance novels published and its members are among the most professional of writers.  And now that I represent romance, it seems appropriate that I should join.

I look forward to exploring the online communities of these organizations and receiving queries from their members.

Z

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Process of Elimination

Perhaps it's some spring-cleaning impulse or just the fact that we bought a new car this weekend and will now once again have car payments, but I have been ripping through sample chapters and proposals eagerly trying to find something promising.  Alas, I'm not really finding it.  Today I declined eight sample chapters and proposals, which leaves me with four to read. Yes, four.  I don't think I've ever gotten it down this low.  And one of these I can't even read, because the author emailed me from Sri Lanka to ask if he can send in a revised version and I said yes.

So, by process of elimination, if your last name isn't one of the following and you have a sample chapter or proposal on submission with us, I'm sorry to say we've passed on it (if you haven't heard from us yet, it's on its way):

  • James
  • Young
  • Salpeter
  • De Livera

Here are the folks we are waiting on:

  • Brown (Grady):  full ms
  • Barrett:  proposal
  • Dracoules:  full ms
  • Grant:  sample chapter
  • Katz:  sample chapter
  • Mulrooney:  full ms
  • Stojak:  sample chapter
  • Watt: sample chapter
  • Wexler:  full ms

Please note that if we don't hear from you within a month, we'll probably follow-up, but after that we presume you are no longer interested and will discard what we already have from you (query or sample chapter).

Here the folks whose manuscripts we still have to read:

  • MacKinnon (one negative reader's report; one positive)
  • Hanford (one positive reader's report)
  • Fett (one positive reader's report)
  • Schrader-Seccafico (resubmit of revised; unread)
  • Perrota (two positive reports; one negative)
  • Connor (being read)

If you are the author of one of these manuscripts and you have already found representation or a publisher, please let me know immediately so that we don't waste valuable time giving it further consideration.  Otherwise, I appreciate your patience and I am working as quickly as I can to get through things.

Z


Monday, June 01, 2009

The May Monthly Round-Up

I've been pretty good about getting through the partials and proposals, so here is the May monthly round-up:

  • 35 queries received; 23 declined
  • 7 sample chapters received; 22 declined
  • 2 proposals received; 1 declined
  • 1 manuscript received; 1 declined

We are currently waiting on:

  • 3 sample chapters
  • 1 proposal
  • 4 manuscripts

We currently have on hand and need to read:

  • 19 sample chapters
  • 3 proposals
  • 6 full manuscripts, plus 3 full manuscripts from current clients

Several of the full manuscripts have had favorable first and even second reads, but I haven't read them personally yet.

In May, I offered representation to two new clients.

Z