Tag Archive: writers

Nov 19

Rules for Authors — Number Four

What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 4 – If your “publisher” wants money, they are a printer, not a publisher.

See also Rules 1, 2, and 3 as they are closely related to this Rule.

This Rule summarizes the previous three rather nicely.

Honestly, this is just common sense, and needs very little in the way of expansion. But that has never stopped me from doing it anyway.

Look closely at your publisher. Do they want money to edit your story? Do they want you to pay for or provide cover art? Do they want to charge you a fee to read your story? Does your publisher charge you to have your story listed for sale in their catalog?

In other words, are you, as the writer, going to have to pay the publisher any money at all? What about paying for things that are a part of the publisher’s costs of doing business?

If so, you are not dealing with a publisher…you are dealing with a printer.

If you are dealing with a printer, that’s just fine as long as your goal is to be a printed writer. But let me give you a little tip here…save some money and go down to The UPS Store or maybe the FedEx/Kinko’s and just have them print your story. They can do a nice book-like layout and even put a cover on it (if you provide the art) and make you as many copies as you like.

Yes, it really is just that simple.

Here are seven things that are common to real publishers:

(1) They do not charge for editing.

(2) They do not charge for cover art.

(3) They do not charge to read your story.

(4) They do not charge to have your story in their catalog.

(5) They pay royalties. (The printers do this, too.)

(6) They pay an advance. (All decent print houses, anyway.)

(7) After you are established—and if you’re any good at all—they will contact you (or your agent) asking for new stories.

Again, if the operation you are dealing with doesn’t do all of these things, you are—at best—dealing with a printer. At worst, you are being conned.

Keep Loving!

 

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/11/19/rules-for-authors-number-four/

Oct 29

Rules for Authors – Number One

What follows is one of my Rules for Authors.

These Rules are things that all real authors should make a part of their mentality and are words to live by. Trust me…

After more than twenty-five years in this crazy business, I have learned these things well and they do make a difference!

No. 1 – Money flows TO the author.

While most of the Rules for Authors are not in any particular order of importance, this is number one for a reason: It is THE most important Rule and actually summarizes many of the other Rules into one easy to understand concept.

So, what does it mean?

Simply stated, the author should always be paid for their work and should never pay someone else in order to create their work. See Rules 2, 3, and 4 in particular.

As stated in Rule Number 4, if an author pays a “publisher” for editing, cover art, or anything else, you don’t have a publisher at all…you have a printer.

Think about it…

If you need some business cards, you go to a printer. They will, if you desire, create the artwork, layout, and other technical details for you, and then they will print, cut, and package your cards and ship them to you. You pay the printer for these services, and the printer deserves to be paid for these services. The only place they make any money is by providing those services to you.

A publisher makes their money by selling books. Editing (from acquisitions, to line, to content, and every other stage) is simply getting that product ready for market. The cover art is just marketing. These things are a normal part of the costs of doing business—just like the electric bill—for the publisher.

In other words, these costs are NOT the direct responsibility of the author.

Yes, I know…

The higher the costs of the publisher, the less they can afford to pay the author in terms of royalties, but this is another problem most writers (as opposed to authors) have in their thought processes…an editor (or artist) working for a publisher can process more books for less money than can an independent contractor.

They also do a better job.

If you hire an editor to work on your book, they have a vested interest in saying everything is perfect. Why? Because you are paying them. The more you like them and the more they stroke your ego, the more likely you are to bring them more work in the future.

The publisher’s editors get paid no matter if you like them or not. They keep their job by editing books into something that will sell for the publisher, so they don’t care about your feelings.

And never lose sight of the fact that this is a business. We are all—authors, publishers, editors, artists, etc.—here to make money.

Oh, don’t give me that crap that you write for the joy of writing or that you want to change the world.

You’re going to starve to death with that attitude. Get over it.

Remember that writing is a lot like sex…

At first you do it because it’s fun.

Then you do it for a few close friends.

But if you’re any good at all, you end up doing it for money.

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/10/29/rules-for-authors-number-one/

Sep 24

Representatives v Agents — Do You Need One?

In my Rules for Authors, I make a distinction between an “agent” and a “representative”, and I have received many E-Mails from artists—mostly writers—who want to know the real differences. While some of the differences between the two are alluded to in the aforementioned Rules for Authors, there isn’t much detail there.

In an effort to make this clear to all—especially the budding authors in the room—I decided to write a little more about the topic here.

Before we move into the real meat, I want to address a common question…”Do I need an agent?”

The short answer is no. You can sell books without an agent, and of that there is no doubt. The writer can do all the things an agent would do for them and save the money, but at what cost?

The long answer is yes, especially if you plan to make a living at writing. An agent will get the best deal for you (that is, more money) and can usually get a book sold faster than you can on your own. More importantly, the agent is good at selling books. The writer is good at writing books. While you are doing all the things the agent can do (better), you are not writing. If you don’t write, you don’t eat. See my point? Do what you do best and let an agent do what they do best.

First, let’s look at the traditional literary agent. What exactly does an agent do for the writer? The short story is that they shop your book around to publishers and work to get the best financial deal for the writer. Most agents have contacts at many publishers and can bypass the slush-pile of works waiting on the acquisitions editor’s desk, effectively bringing your story to the top of the heap. This doesn’t mean that the editor will accept the work for their publishing company, only that it will be looked at sooner. Some agents have good enough rapport with the publishers to increase the chances of a particular work being accepted, but this is a dying art. Most agents can’t—and won’t promise—that your book will be accepted by any publisher.

Many agents do other things for the writer…pre-editing before trying to sell the book is just one example. Some agencies have editors on staff or on contract who will do some level of editing long before the manuscript ever sees the inside of a publisher’s office. Just how much editing is done depends on the particular agency. Also, some agencies charge an extra fee for this service, and that amount varies wildly. Other agencies offer promotion and other things, but that is rare.

The big thing about agents is that they tend to contract for only one book from a writer at a time. As the writer evolves, becomes more popular, and develops a following of readers, the agency may offer a contract with a broader scope, but new-comers to the business will get a one-time contract for one book. In other words, if you have a track record of being a saleable author, you may get a long-term, multi-book deal, but if you are fairly new, you’ll be relegated to one book at a time.

Then there are the fees charged by agents…the industry standard is 15% of gross royalties, including any advance. In other words, for every dollar the publisher pays you, the agent gets fifteen cents. Also keep in mind that some unscrupulous agents may charge you for things like telephone calls, mailing manuscripts, and travel. The good agents include these kinds of things in the standard 15% cut. As a rule, the publisher actually pays the agent and the agent takes their cut and sends the rest to the writer. Simply put, the publisher won’t split the payments to two different places (that raises their costs) and the agent doesn’t trust the writer to send them their slice of the pie. Sorry, but that’s the way things are.

In a typical agency, the actual people doing the work of an agent can have literally dozens of writers as clients. (I know of one agency whose agents have well over a hundred clients.) This is especially true today where the vast majority of the contact between the agent and publisher is via phone or E-Mail. There is no need to travel to the publisher’s office to pitch a book to the acquisitions editor…you can do it all from your desk. This means that the agent’s time for a particular writer is quite limited. If you, as an author, need personal attention for some issue, you’ll probably need to make an appointment. This begs to question just how focused can such an agent be on your book and selling it to a publisher for the best deal. Due to the workload, the agents will tend to take the first offer they get—within reason—and move on to the next sale…for another writer.

There are hundreds—if not thousands—of literary agents out there. Just do a Google search and you’ll get a huge list.

But there are also “Literary Representatives” out there. These are different animals than what most writers are used to, and they function more like a talent agent. Let me tell you about them…

Representatives contract with a writer, not for just one book, but for all the books the person will write over a given time frame. In other words, the representative will take your great books, your good books, and the crap that we all turn out now and then, and they will sell all of them. Honestly, an agent will take a pass on all but the best work, and that becomes wasted time. The representative takes the good with the bad because they are selling YOU, not a particular book.

As I said, this is more like the traditional Hollywood talent agent than a literary agent. Many such representatives work with a wide range of artists, not just writers. A few examples of the kinds of artists these representatives deal with are: writers, actors, screen/tele-play writers, painters and other media artists, and even people in the professional sporting world.

Such representatives tend to be hard to find because they rarely accept submissions. Instead, most watch the industry for new rising stars, and will contact the writer first. Some do take a limited number of submissions, but that can be a disappointing process for the budding author.

The representatives that do accept direct queries or submissions have a very low acceptance rate, usually around 0.05%. Yes, that’s right…they tend to accept only about one in every five-thousand writers who make a submission. Some are even lower. What makes it worse for the budding author is that the rejection letters from agents are usually non-personal form letters with no details…they just say thanks, but no thanks. Representatives tend to send a rejection letter that is highly personalized and tells you exactly why you are being rejected, often in very blunt and direct terms. Something like, “Maybe you should consider a different career choice…I understand that McDonald’s is hiring.”

But, if you ARE selected, that means you are going places, and the representative is there to help that happen.

Most representatives provide all the things an agent does, plus a lot more. Editing of a manuscript before shopping it around to publishers is always included. And we’re talking about a real edit here, about what the publisher would normally do. The idea is to get the book almost ready to go to print before the publisher even sees it. Books are edited by staff or contracted people for all the normal things like spelling, grammar, and the rest, but some books need special attention. For example, a historical novel needs an appropriate historian to review for factual correctness. A sci-fi work might need a real scientist in some field to review the science. You get the idea.

Why all of this work? Agents place books all the time without this. Yes, they do, and the process can take weeks or months, or even longer. The representative tries to place the books in days. The only way to do this is to be able to prove to the publisher that the book has very little left in terms of work to go to print. A fast once-over, a cover, a few blurbs, and a week later, the thing is on the store shelves. This saves the publisher a ton of money, so they are willing to take a chance on a new writer. And they are willing to pay more.

Almost all representatives do promotional work, too. Pick a media, and they will use it to push a writer or book. A big part of book promotion is the old reliable book signing. The representative works with the publishers and stores to set these up. All the author does is show up in the right place at the right time.

How much does all this cost? Usually the same 15% the writer would pay an agent. The thing is that the agent figures they will sell this one book, and that book will sell a certain number of copies leading to a given income for them. The representative has higher target sales and represents the writer, not a book, so their income ends up being higher.

And here’s another big deal…the people who work directly with the writers at most representatives only have a few clients, in most cases less than ten. This means they can focus on you and your book and also help you with any special needs you might have.

As a side perk, most representatives also offer other services that writers and other artists need. Things like legal services, accounting and tax help, travel, retreats, classes, and a wide range of other goodies are usually available for additional fees. Some of the fees are additional percentage points while others may be just one-time fees. It varies and is usually billed on a case-by-case basis.

But there is another cost…the representatives will push you to produce books. In the evaluation stages, they will determine what you are capable of doing in terms of writing, and they will make it clear that this will be your goal. If you fall below a certain predicted annual sales figure that varies from one representative to another, they likely won’t contract with you. This is because they are investing a huge sum of money in you and your work, and they need to make a profit. For a typical novel, a representative could easily invest $100,000 before the book is even sold to a publisher. Since they get 15% of gross royalties, the book needs to pull in nearly $700,000 in royalties. If we assume the book has a cover price of $15 and the royalties are 10% of that, this works out to selling about 450,000 copies. And this is just to break even. All of this rolls together to say that the representative needs you to write a lot of books to make a living.

Welcome to the real world, kiddies. Writing is not easy. Writing takes a lot of time. Writing is hard work. Sometimes, you will need to write instead of lying in front of the TV with a bag of chips and a beer. Sometimes you will need to write instead of going to your son’s baseball game. And guess what? If you were doing any other job, the same things would still happen.

The difference is that you would be making less money and doing something you probably hate to do.

And never forget that writing is job. There is no difference between writing and driving a truck…you do both to make a living. You might love to write and hate driving that truck, but you do both for the same bottom line reason.

Think of it this way…

Right now, you get up, go to work, work, have lunch, go home, and decompress. This all probably takes up around eleven hours a day. After that, you try to eek out some time for the family and for writing. If you can write 500 words an hour and squeeze in two hours a day, it will take you 110 days to write an average novel. That’s about three books a year.

Now, imagine this…you get up, sit down at the computer for eleven hours, and then spend the rest of the day with the family. The careful reader will note that you have MORE time for the family now because the writing is already done. If you write the same 500 words an hour, it will take only 20 days to write your next book. This works out to around 18 books a year.

It ain’t rocket science, people.

“But”, you ask, “I can do that on my own or with an agent, right?”

Frankly, I doubt it.

If you do all the promotion, pitching the book to publishers, and everything else, where does the time for writing come from?

An agent doesn’t care what happens beyond this one book. Besides, if you dump 18 books a year on the typical agent, they will do one of three things: Place them at the first publisher that comes along for low-ball dollars; Run screaming from the room and tell you to find someone able to deal with that workload; or Tell you they are all crap and to come back when you have a real book. None of these are optimal solutions.

The representative will take all of these books, get them polished up and ready, and place them for the best deal possible. And then ask when you will get the next book to them.

And there is one final reason to have an agent or representative…

Almost all of the major players in the publishing business prefer “agented” submissions. Some even require it…in other words, no agent, no thanks. The publishers do this to weed out the bad apples as early as possible…it saves them time and money.

Sorry for the mixed metaphors. Anyway…

Do your homework and decide if you need an agent, representative, or nothing at all. If you need some help, talk to other writers about who they use and their experiences. Sadly, a typical response is, “I use Joe Blow and he sucks, but I have a contract.” Luckily, this is usually followed by, “But I hear that Richard Roe is pretty good.”

Then start contacting the names on your list. Are they accepting new writers? What are their specialty areas, if any? How many clients does each contact person work with? How long is the contract? And anything else you can think of.

The idea here is to make you successful.

How you define that is totally up to you.

Keep Loving!

Permanent link to this article: http://melodeeaaron.com/blog/2012/09/24/representatives-v-agents-do-you-need-one/