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

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The January Monthly Round-Up

Well, I'm only a week into February, so it doesn't seem that late to be doing the January round-up.

In January, we...
  • Received 71 queries and declined 87;
  • Received 22 sample chapters and declined 15;
  • Received 1 proposal and declined 1;
  • Received no full manuscripts and declined 1;

We currently have on-hand to read...
  • 9 full manuscripts, including one from a current client;
  • 7 sample chapters;

I am currently waiting to receive...
  • 9 sample chapters;
  • 1 proposal
  • 1 full manuscript

As always, if we request material and don't hear from you in a month or so, we'll follow-up once.  If we don't hear in another month, we'll assume you are no longer interested in representation and discard your materials.

Z