Monthly Archives: July 2011

Agents Are Becoming Publishers Because They Don’t Think Legacy Publishers Will Survive

28 July 2011

SciFi/Fantasy author Sarah Hoyt shares an interesting theory about why so many agents want start publishing operations.

Excerpts:

I haven’t been unagented since 97 and every time I dropped an agent before I secured one first. This time I chose not to do so because I think an agent won’t help. I could be wrong, in which case I’ll shop for an agent sometime in the future. However for now I’m alone, working without a net.

. . . .

But for the last year I’ve had a growing sense that something was wrong [with publishers]. Part of it was the response to two novels I sent out. I’m not going to detail the response, but it wasn’t just that they were rejected but that the way they were rejected indicated answering cold submissions was no longer part of an editor’s primary job. If I had to guess, I’d say that the same thing is going on with this as went on with slush two decades ago. In this case it is due to shrinking lists and problems with distribution. Publishing houses are either sticking with their stable (Probably 90% of the new authors you see are old pros with new names) poaching bestsellers from each other, or hiring on the basis of “she’s a friend of, who has done well for us.”

. . . .

I’m not writing off big publishers. I’ll continue working for Baen. However, my relationship with them is of the sort we never needed an agent. (First, I give the publisher Port, then we negotiate – evil grin.) And I’ve got a few novels I’ll be submitting to a couple of houses for highly targeted type marketing that I’m fairly confident of placing, at least if the houses are still there, and if there’s a market for traditionally published books.

And that brings me to the next step. You see, I believe there will be a market. I believe some (though not all) of the large houses will adapt and survive this. However – and this I can’t emphasize enough – the agencies don’t think publishing is going to be with us much longer or that you can make a living off it.

. . . .

Agencies are feeling the pinch from this, and in response they’re doing something which the agency Lucienne works for just did. (To quote my husband who is the sweet side of this association “Well, they’ve got to make a living, somehow. What would you have them do?”) And while I understand it, I want no part of it.

Yep, they’ve started their own digital publisher.

I know I’ve said here in the past that this was the logical next step in digital publishing. Agencies already sift through slush. They already promote their writers, to greater or lesser extent. So, why not transition?

Well, two problems. First, they’re not transitioning. They’re remaining agents and charging you for the privilege of selling things to themselves. (Kris Rusch has written extensively on the conflict of interest present, but it should be obvious to everyone, too.) Second, they are loading the deals with up front costs. (Perfectly understandable, if you’re in a bid to survive, but it makes them much inferior to most micro publishers out there, who will get you cover, proofread and put up your manuscript for a percentage of your earnings which comes out at the same time your earnings do. I.e. you’ll start earning from the first dollar, not after 1k or so is paid back to the “publishing agency.”)

So, agencies who publish you are making a desperate bid to survive and they’re not necessarily the best deal for epublishing. But why do I say this means they don’t think the big houses will survive?

First, because if they thought this was just a trough in sales, they’ve gone through those before without changing their model and they would do so again. Second, because of the conflict of interest. They wouldn’t risk the appearance of competing with the big publishing houses if they didn’t know, in their heart of hearts that the big giants as such are over.

Heck, the big giants think the game is over. Why do I say that? Because they’re not completely stupid. (Individual editors may vary.) They know – they have to know – that if all they keep in their stable are bestsellers, in a year or two the bestsellers will decide that they can make more money self-publishing or from a micro press. They can. And they have the name, so… why not? Publishers have to see this as clearly as I do. So, why go to that model? Unless your whole intent is as a stop gap measure “to keep us afloat just another two years.”

. . . .

So you could say I’m unagented because the agency my agent works for no longer believes the old model is viable, and I don’t agree with their concept of the new model.

Link to the rest at According to Hoyt

So the agents are afraid of two things:

1. Their authors will find self-publishing rewarding financially and artistically, and

2. Big Publishing is beginning to circle the drain so there will be no more large advances and no more need for authors to use agents to get published.

Passive Guy would be scared if he were an agent.

So is the solution to agent’s problems to slither towards some hinkey new business model that creeps out most authors or sign authors to you-are-my-slave-forever agency contracts so agents get 15 cents every time somebody pays a buck to an author?

PG says to agents, “Welcome to the world where lots of people have been living ever since dirt cheap computing power cross-bred with internet everywhere.”

Passive Guy will call this place Disruption World.

Disruption World includes graveyards. All the tombstones have the same inscription. “Here lies the body of someone who didn’t change fast enough or smart enough.”

An entire section of the graveyard is devoted to music studios. There are spots for telephone operators and stenographers and darkroom equipment manufacturers. You might think the graveyard is only for the old, but tombstones also mark the resting places of those who died young, like thick computer magazines and huge computers. Infants named WordPerfect and Lotus123 have their little spots.

Disruption World sounds like a grim place with all these tombs, but that’s not all you’ll find here.

Great palaces line broad boulevards with names like Google and Facebook. Everyone thought Apple would be in the graveyard, but Infinite Loop is the grandest of all avenues, a tale of redemption all the sweeter for its rarity.

The first rule of Disruption World is simple: Add Value.

There are other rules, but if you don’t obey the first one, you won’t have a chance to work on any others.

So, for literary agents, as for so many who have come before, Add Value. Figure out what you’re better at doing than most other people and work to turn it into a business. Disruption World is enormous and growing every moment and since speed and efficiency are mandates, match what you can do better with what fast movers need and you may have a business, maybe a better one than you’re in right now.

Don’t neglect Chinese math. You know Chinese math. If a billion Chinese each give you one dollar or one of anything, you’ll do quite well.

Twitter figured out fast movers need only 140 characters. What a worthless-sounding thing – the ability to take 140 characters and squirt it out onto the net. But at over 200 million Tweets per day, that’s 6 billion Tweets per month, 73 billion Tweets per year. Every day, Twitter users write a 10-million-page book.

One Tweet is worthless, but Chinese math kicks in with enough worthless things. In January of this year, based on prices in specialized markets that sell shares of privately-held companies, Twitter was worth $4 billion. Now, it’s worth $7 billion. All from 140 characters repeated over and over.

Deep, cleansing breath.

PG promises he has consumed only completely legal substances for years on end. He also promises this rant is not the product of any legal mind-numbing liquids. He sometimes misplaces his car keys, but shows no other signs of dementia.

PG probably hasn’t bucked up any agents with this rant, but he does feel better himself, so there you are. One of the benefits of having a blog.

Upon further consideration, he blames this episode on the mental strain accumulated by trying to squeeze great thoughts into 140 characters over and over. It’s great for Twitter, but hell for those who like big words.

 

 

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Agents Who Publish Their Clients are Engaging in Unethical Behavior – Courtney Drops the Hammer

27 July 2011

Yesterday, historical author Courtney Milan wrote An Open Letter to Agents.

Today, she follows up with a long, but eminently readable discussion of agency publishing and conflicts of interest.

Excerpts:

Agents who publish their clients are engaging in unethical behavior.

The only services that I think an agent must avoid are the following:

* Services that involve self-dealing. That means, the agent can’t sell the author to her own publishing house and get a higher percentage of the take. That creates incentives for the agent to not negotiate as hard with competing publishing houses, creates doubt on the part of the author as to whether the agent is really trying to exploit her material.

* Services that invert the principal-agent relationship. In the principal-agent relationship, the author’s essentially in the driver’s seat. That means, if an author says, “I can’t work with that editor; we need a new one,” the agent assisting with self-publishing needs to help her find a new one. (Of course, you can try to clean up the relationship and figure out what went wrong, too.) If the author says, “That cover is crap. We need a new one,” the agent works on finding a new one. If the agent’s vision differs too much from the author’s vision, the self-publishing relationship probably isn’t a good fit. But if the agent is actually publishing the author, what does she do if the author says, “That cover is crap. We need a new one.” What if the author does it four times in a row? Think about that. As a publisher, you are in the driver’s seat. As an agent, you are working for the author. Both those things cannot be true at the same time. I do not believe you can function as someone’s agent if you take the reins from the author’s hands, and I don’t think you can function as a publisher if you don’t take the reins from the author’s hands. These two hats do not fit on the same head.

I have not heard anyone who understands the concept conflict of interest explain to me why providing services that would touch on this are not a conflict of interest. I’ve heard agents say, “I just won’t let it be a conflict” or “our interests are never perfectly aligned, so why bother?” but sorry, those things are cop-outs.

. . . .

I’m more disturbed by someone who says, “I will avoid a conflict of interest because if the interest conflicts, I will act as an agent instead of a publisher,” because that tells me that this person has never studied how professionally irresponsible behavior takes place. That’s where it starts–by telling yourself that you can minimize the impact by not doing anything wrong.

No. You minimize the impact of a conflict of interest by not putting yourself in a situation where conflicts of interest will occur.

. . . .

I believe that the person who says, “It’s not going to be a problem” is someone who is not self-aware enough to avoid problems. And even though I may trust that person’s intentions, I don’t trust their results. I’m fundamentally a process person. I think that people are more likely to save money if they transfer it into a second account, instead of telling themselves not to spend it unless they really need it; I think that the best way to avoid eating too many cookies is not to buy any; I think it’s a good idea to take away someone’s keys before they start drinking; and I think people are more likely to do good because they make themselves keep away from temptation entirely. Process leads to prophylactic rules–meaning they’re by necessity cut larger than they need to be, to avoid harm. They may seem stodgy and weird, but the rules of agency relationship have arisen out of long experience.

As far as I remember, and as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, general agency law offers the same advice: an agent in a principal-agent relationship needs to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. Keep to good process, and you’re not creating a risk. Create a risk, and you’re acting irresponsibly. Even if that risk is never actualized into actual harm, that’s irresponsible.

. . . .

It’s easy to trust an agent when things are going well. But we all know that when things don’t go well, people naturally tend towards blame. They want to look for reasons–and we all know that in publishing, sometimes there really is no reason, or sometimes the reason is something that’s totally out of our control. But now, the client is looking, and they start wondering: Did my agent fail me? Did my agent not put her all into negotiating a better offer from that house because she wanted to make her own house look attractive? Did she do her fail to place my manuscript before the right people at better houses, because she really wanted to publish me herself?

It doesn’t matter if there’s merit to the argument. The doubt is there. It’s insidious. It’s hard to shake loose, and that’s the kind of thing that can undermine agent-client trust. It’s not big, and it’s not flashy, but it’s real.

. . . .

“But,” someone might say, “my client has never mentioned having a problem with my conflict of interest!”

Tough beans. It’s the agent’s job to remain free of conflicts, not the author’s job to police them.

A conflict of interest is not something that is decided by the author and the agent. It’s decided by common law. There are real legal principles at issue here. You can’t just make up an answer and think that’s good enough.

Link to the rest at Courtney Milan

Passive Guy congratulates Courtney on presenting the conflict of interest issues in a way that any non-lawyer should be able to understand. She describes real-life situations for agents and authors and how the conflict inherent in the agent-as-publisher can poison those relationships even if both parties have the best intentions.

Had you sat through as many legal ethics presentations as PG has, you would have a greater appreciation for Courtney’s achievement.

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Conflict of Interest? Agents Don’t Want to Know

27 July 2011
Comments Off on Conflict of Interest? Agents Don’t Want to Know

Passive Guy received a bunch of emails plus comments on his post – Agents in Conflict with Clients – Issues and Responses.

One of the longer comments criticized the harshness of some of the criticism of the agency in question, Bookends LLC. PG felt the comment merited a detailed response.

Since PG’s response was toward the bottom of a long line of comments and the information may benefit visitors who didn’t make it down that far, here is a slightly shorter version:

I and many other lawyers who have examined the agent as publisher issue see conflicts of interest of a deep and potentially insoluble nature and have discussed these in extensive length. One of the things I try to do on this blog is point out potential problems in the contractual relationships authors undertake with publishers and agents.

I am not the only one who sees significant issues for authors in the “new normal” contracts some publishers and agents are offering or insisting upon. I recently blogged about C.E. Pettit, a long-time publishing and intellectual property attorney, who made a persuasive case that standard ebook royalty provisions mandated by one large publisher and closely copied by other large publishers may be a violation of antitrust laws.

You properly place the obligation to conduct due diligence when entering into any partnership upon yourself.

One of the principal things I try to do around here is provide authors with adequate information so they are able to perform better due diligence on the contracts publishers and agents may ask them to sign. Many authors have shared deep regrets at having signed one or more terrible publishing contracts. As discussed here, authors who signed agency contracts with questionable clauses are reported to be considering litigation against the estate of that agent, who is now dead, so they can move to other agencies.

Since you’re a first-time commenter, you may not have had the opportunity to read any of my “How to Read a Book Contract” posts. I try to make these useful due diligence resources for authors.

As far as Bookends is concerned, I mentioned I was generally an admirer of the agency through its blog posts before their announcement of an agent/publishing business. As far as I know, they seem to be excellent agents. Many of their clients attest to the quality of their agency services.

However, I know enough about doing business online to judge their introduction of a publishing arm as a disaster. Their reputation has taken a severe hit over the last couple of days because of the manner in which they conducted the introduction and responded to the criticisms posted to their blog. Perhaps their publishing arm will provide a valuable service that many authors will use. Perhaps they will take steps to disclose and mitigate conflict of interest issues when they enter into publishing agreements with authors who use them as agents.

I hope so, but am not encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.

Speaking generally about agents who have become publishers for their clients and not about Bookends in particular, it is my impression that they do not want to know and understand the nature and potential severity of their conflict of interest issues.

A lot of people wave off conflicts.

Having litigated some conflict of interest cases on behalf of legal clients in a former life, I can attest that it’s not a hypothetical problem. When a former client comes to believe someone they trusted has abused their trust, that client wants blood. If a court finds a material conflict of interest and betrayal of trust, that court will deliver some blood to the person who was wronged.

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Scam Literary Agent Targets Indie Author

27 July 2011

Writer Beware tells the whole story:

There’s been some Internet buzz over the past few days about an apparent scam in which an unknown individual, posing as agent Jodi Reamer of uber-agency Writers House, targeted an unsuspecting author with a fake representation offer, followed by a fake high-advance contract offer from a major publishing house, all in the space of a few hours. As quickly as the hoax evolved, it collapsed–just one day after announcing what she believed was her good fortune, the author, self-published YA writer Aaronni Miller, revealed on her blog that she’d been punk’d.

A statement by Writers House appeared to confirm the hoaxer’s existence.

Writers House has learned that a series of fake emails claiming to be from WH agent Jodi Reamer have been circulating to self-published authors this week. “These emails, which contain a number of false statements, have not in fact come from Jodi Reamer and should thus be disregarded.” One easy “tell”: they advise that any e-mail from a non-Writers House address “expressing interest in representation is counterfeit.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

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A Grateful Author Thanks Her Agent

27 July 2011

Indie author and regular visitor David Gaughran (Make sure you get Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should if you don’t have it already) has written a great story about an indie author who made it into the indie hall of fame with an Amazon contract and says she couldn’t have done so without her agent.

Excerpts:

J Carson Black has agreed a three book deal with Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s new thriller and mystery imprint. The deal will include her bestselling thriller The Shop, as well as two yet-to-be-released titles.

This is very interesting news.

For those who don’t know J Carson Black, she is the author of seven titles, and first self-published in June 2010. She didn’t see significant sales for months, and only really took off in April this year.

. . . .

Here is the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:

Self-published author of four Amazon Kindle Top 100 bestsellers, J. Carson Black’s THE SHOP, a story of the Manson-style murders of a superstar and four contestants on the set of a reality show in Aspen, Colorado, to Courtney Miller at Thomas & Mercer, in a three-book deal, by Deborah Schneider of Gelfman Schneider (World English).

Exciting stuff.

For those worried about their own sales figures, you should know that even after eight months of being on sale, J Carson Black was still selling in small numbers.

In February 2011, she sold 137 books. The following month she sold 1,280 books, and the month after that – April – she sold over 10,000. But that stunning rise didn’t prepare her for what happened in May – over 70,000 books sold. That rate of 2,000 a day or so has pretty much held up through June and July.

. . . .

The Shop has sold very well (around 65,000 copies), but it is not J Carson Black’s top seller – Darkness On The Edge of Town gets that honor. Amazon obviously feel that the market isn’t saturated yet for The Shop, that they can take its sales to another level again, and that there is a huge untapped market for it in print.

Remember, Amazon have amassed mountains of data on the buying patterns and preferences of their customers.

. . . .

She was also one of the first writers I asked to contribute to Let’s Get Digital, and one of the first to respond. I’m just going to quote a little from what she had to say there:

They say writing is a solitary business, and that’s true when it comes to writing the book itself. But I’ve had a lot of help getting to the milestone I reached today. At the time of writing (June 5, 2011), I’ve sold a little more than 100,000 Kindle e-books—and that’s just for the year so far.

There are many reasons for this, but the pivotal moment for me came last summer when my husband Glenn decided to (a) get my rights back from my former publishers, and (b) put those books up on Amazon Kindle.

Without that step (which I initially thought of as a waste of time—I made one sale in June and 2 sales in July) we’d still be looking under the couch seats for change. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Glenn, because without him none of this would have happened.

. . . .

But this deal is special to her, and to her agent. When I spoke to J Carson Black earlier today, she had this to say:

The Shop went to all the best people in the best neighborhoods, and was turned down flat. My agent, the incredible Deborah Schneider couldn’t believe it. She loved that book, thought it would sell instantly. She’s been in the biz for a long time, and she was sure it would be a hit. So this is vindication for both of us. She spent two-and-a-half years trying to sell it, but I think things have tightened up so much in New York it’s very hard for anyone to break in–or in my case, break back in.

Vindication indeed.

Link to the rest of this great story at David Gaughran

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Amazon’s Blows the Roof Off With Revenue Growth

27 July 2011

Amazon just reported a great quarter with revenue up 51% over the same quarter last year.

Excerpts:

Operating income for this quarter, and guidance for next quarter appear to be lighter than expected. This happened last quarter as well. Amazon is hiring like crazy and making investments for the long run.

Amazon’s earnings release doesn’t reveal much, but CEO Jeff Bezos says the ad-supported Kindle 3G is now the best selling Kindle.

. . . .

Head count continues to explode, with Amazon adding 5,300 new people in the quarter.

Link to the rest at Business Insider

Profit was down 7.7% from last year because Amazon is spending so much on growth according to the The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire after a few days)

A quick check of several securities analysts shows everyone recommending additional purchases of Amazon’s stock. Amazon has just missed doubling its share price in the last 12 months.

Passive Guy would note in passing that, should Amazon’s hiring rate continue, in the next six months, it will hire the same number of people that Borders will be laying off.

Unfortunately, it won’t be the same people who lost their jobs at Borders. Fortunately, Amazon will pay far higher salaries to most of its new hires than Borders paid to most of those who have been or will be laid off.

Apple and Google have lots of money, but Amazon’s revenues this quarter – almost $10 Billion – are about ten times the total market value of Barnes & Noble – about $1 Billion. PG would hate to be in a big-spending competition with Amazon these days.

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The End of Borders and the Future of the Printed Word

27 July 2011

OK, maybe Passive Guy will never finish with posts about Borders.

This gloom and doom is from publisher Peter Osnos for The Atlantic:

Manhattan’s West Side might have more book readers than anywhere else in the United States. Until recently, the thriving cultural stretch of Broadway that includes the theater district, Lincoln Center, and some of the city’s best venues for quality movies was also choc-a-block with enormous bookstores. The high-rise Barnes & Noble emporium opposite Lincoln Center closed several months ago because of soaring rents, and now the expansive and elegant Borders superstore in the Time-Warner Center on Columbus Circle is on the way out, as the chain goes into liquidation.

So, in this flourishing area of the city — a span of more than three miles — there is no longer a general interest bookstore. There are still many good places to browse the aisles for books elsewhere on the island — The Strand, Posman’s in Grand Central Station, and Book Culture in the Columbia University neighborhood, among others. Barnes & Noble is still going strong — its superstores in strategic locations are bustling, B&N.com has been gaining traction, and the Nook is clearly the runner-up to Amazon’s Kindle as an e-reader favorite. Nonetheless, the demise of Borders signifies a major change in the marketplace for books. The unraveling of the country’s second largest book chain means a tremendous boost for digital retailers such as Amazon and the potential for a self-confident Barnes & Noble and the stronger independent stores to benefit by adding customers.

. . . .

Who is right? The answer is that no one really knows. But I especially liked the observation of Neil Strandberg, manager of operations at Denver’s great independent, Tattered Cover. On PBS’s Art Beat, he commented:

The work of Tattered Cover has been, then, to re-shape the business out of acknowledgment that printed book sales will continue to decline for the foreseeable future. We are smaller, retail-space wise than we were a few years ago and we will be smaller, I wager, a few years hence. Meanwhile we experiment with new product, inclusive of ebooks via our partnership with Google, food, gifts and services to local authors. I have every reason to believe that in ten years’ time, there will be a retail setting that everyone recognizes as the  logical descendent of today’s retail bookstores. The trick for all of us is to juggle declining printed book sales with new products and new services and the appropriate amount of real estate in the right location. . . . Taking a cue from some of the technologies that have been so disruptive, collectively, the indie community is crowd-sourcing the sustainable bookstore-like thing of tomorrow. One of us is going to figure this out.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Anticipating the response of some visitors to the first part of Mr. Osnos’ article, allow PG to explain that Mr. Osnos can’t help it that he lives on the West Side (undoubtedly Upper). He almost certainly has an intellectual if not emotional understanding that people do read, even a lot, despite the fact they have the misfortune to live far to the West of the West Side, perhaps in Ski Resorts or No Clue.

 

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An Open Letter to Agents – Must Read

26 July 2011

A killer post by regular visitor and historical romance author Courtney Milan:

You want to know the number one question that authors are asking me about my self-publishing venture? Bar none, it’s this: “How are you dealing with your agent?” I can’t think of a single published author who wanted to ask me questions about self-publishing who has not asked that question, and wanted to talk about it at length. The ratio of questions about my agent to questions about everything else that I’m doing has been about 15:1. I’ve talked to other agented authors who have self-published, and they are also fielding questions about their agents, I suspect at approximately the same ratio.

Agents, I don’t think you have any idea how much your writers are talking about you right now. Seriously. I don’t think you have any idea. I am getting multiple e-mails every day from writers who are worried about what their agents are doing, and who are worried about how to handle agents, and who want to be fair to their agents but also don’t want to pay them a percentage when there’s little to no work involved, and/or the agent handles little of the risk.

Agents, I don’t think you realize how many concerns your writers have about you right now. Seriously. I don’t think you have any idea. I know you think that the lines of communication are open, but they aren’t nearly as open as you think. At least, I assume that’s the case–that your clients aren’t talking to you about their concerns–because when you breezily dismiss certain concerns, and when I’ve already fielded e-mails from clients of yours where they voice those exact same concerns, I have to assume that your clients don’t feel that they can talk to you about what you’re doing. The alternative is that they are talking to you about their concerns, and you just don’t care. I don’t want to think that’s the case.

Your clients do care about having an agent that is free of conflicts of interest. Your clients do care that you don’t create financial incentives for yourself to not fight for a better deal. Your clients do want to feel that you are always, always on their side, that they don’t have to question whether they’re negotiating for the best deal possible, because you will do it for them. Don’t make us doubt you. We want to trust you, but it’s hard to do that if you set up a publishing arm.

. . . .

You’ve got one big thing going for you. As far as I can tell, every published author out there desperately wants her agent to stay relevant. You’ve helped authors build careers. You’ve fought for them. You’ve made authors lives easier. Agents have kept us sane at times when we were ready to scream and burst into tears. Authors don’t want to get rid of you.

But most authors won’t give you 15% to press the “upload” button, either–and we sure as heck aren’t impressed when you pitch us at a 50/50 split. We’re talking to each other. A lot. When someone agrees to a 50/50 split, and then discovers that the work that was done was about $300, and not done very well–that they’re paying someone 50% to undersell their work–they’re not happy. You may not see a lot of this chatter, but authors do–we’re holding this conversation over and over, through e-mail and on loops, and I’m seeing a lot of authors from every part of the list saying the same thing. The number of authors who are saying that they trust their agent, no matter what she does, is vanishingly small.

. . . .

But you’re in a tough spot right now for a second reason. When it comes to assisting authors with self-publishing, agents know less than the authors. Your agent friends can help you if you don’t know something about a particular house. But they don’t know the right answers in self-publishing. There isn’t an agent out there that has the savvy that Bella Andre, Joe Konrath, and Amanda Hocking have in self-publishing. Not a one.

The traditional information storehouse has been inverted. Right now, the people who know the most about self-publishing are authors, and trust me, the vast majority of authors are aware of that. For the first time, authors are having questions about their careers, and their agents are not their go-to people.

Passive Guy was tempted to include the whole thing. This is one you’ll want to read to the end at Courtney Milan.

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Stephen Leather Makes an Amazon Connection

26 July 2011

For those unfamiliar with him, Stephen Leather is the Joe Konrath of Great Britain – an established writer who jumped into self-publishing and found success.

Now Stephen is taking the next step and connecting with Amazon’s captive publishing arm in the UK:

Stephen Leather’s bestselling e-books The Basement and Once Bitten are to be republished under Amazon.co.uk’s Encore programme. Leather will join other indie writers such as Joe Konrath who have been picked by the initiative, which seeks to unearth talent using reader reviews and sales. Amazon is redesigning the covers and will publish them in November as print books and will relaunch them as e-books.

Leather, who has published books with Hodder & Stoughton, has sold 200,000 copies of the e-books since he decided to self-publish them on the Kindle before Christmas last year. He said the move was his attempt to crack the US market. He said: “I see it as a continuation of the experiment that I started in October last year. I feel as if I have gone as far as I can with them and so I’m keen to see what Amazon can do with their marketing techniques. Most of my sales have been in the UK, pretty much 90% in fact, and Amazon Encore will give me the chance to crack the American market for the first time, which I hope will produce a knock-on effect for my Hodder and Stoughton thrillers.”

On his e-publishing blog Stephen hints that the Kindle indie market may be changing, making it harder for self-published writers to break-through simply by underpricing traditionally published books. He writes: “Yes, independently-produced e-books can do well, but I think they’re selling mainly because they are cheap, and the market for cheap books is actually only a fraction of the total market. And as I’ve said elsewhere, the hard fact is that the vast majority of independently-produced e-books simply aren’t very good and people are starting to realise that. Obviously the fact that readers can download samples before buying does weed out the really bad books but I am pretty sure that as time goes on readers will become more concerned about quality than price, which has already happened in the US.”

Link to the rest at Future eBook

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Great Last Lines – How to End a Novel

26 July 2011

We’ve had a couple of posts about first lines in novels and everyone knows, for commercial purposes, they’re extremely important.

Last lines are a different story. PG doubts a last line ever sold a book. However, a true artist wants to finish and finish well for the reader, like a concert pianist who makes certain the last note is so good no one in the audience will move until it fades away.

Since first lines have had their moment, seeking balance in an unbalanced world, Passive Guy will propose some worthy last lines in novels.

Actually, regular visitor Julia Rachel Barrett proposed the first of the excellent last lines:

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Here are a few additional last lines Passive Guy likes:

He knelt by the bed and bent over her, draining their last moment to its lees; and in the silence there passed between them the word which made all clear.

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

~

Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.

Don DeLillo, White Noise

~

But that is the beginning of a new story — the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his transition from one world into another, of his initiation into a new, unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is over. —

Fyodor Dostoyevsk, Crime and Punishment

~

I never saw any of them again—except the cops. No way has yet been invented to say goodbye to them.

Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

~

It’s done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I’ve stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I’ll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.

James Crumley, The Final Country

Feel free to suggest others.

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