I have come up with 13 ways for an author to use Google tools that will enhance your productivity and the final product. I first wrote about writers using Google in 2012. But Google’s array of tools has grown and my needs as an author continue to morph, so I realized it was time for a new list. As you read through my list of both obvious and clever ways to put Google to work for you as an author, keep an open mind that you may have 13 additional ideas. Feel free to share! [Read more…]
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Q: What is the assignment clause in a book publishing contract? Is it important?
A: It defines whether you or your publisher can give-grant-sell to someone else the rights and obligations found in your Agreement. It might matter a lot.
I’ve worked on and signed hundreds of book publishing contracts as a publisher, author, agent, and packager. The first Agreement I signed as an author was in 1986 (the book is still in print and I still get a small royalty check every six months) and was just two pages long. Most publishing contracts today go from twelve to twenty pages with the goal of covering absolutely any and every potential situation and conflict imaginable in the ever-expanding and changing publishing universe.
I recently got a call from a friend from the advertising industry who was working on book contract, which was filled with new language and terms for him. He had a checklist of questions, including the assignment clause, [Read more…]
As the launch date for Cuts Like a Knife rapidly approaches, I have been doing a series of interviews for radio, print, and internet book programs. Here are a few of the common questions I’ve been asked.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the father of six great kids – with just one left in the house now. Oh – wait – one came back after college graduation – so there’s two around here somewhere. I’ve spent 30 years in publishing – from packing boxes, writing articles and curriculum and ad copy, editing and managing editorial departments, creating marketing plans and directing art design, and finally serving as exec vp and publisher for three companies. I love book publishing! I’m president of the Ravenwood High School track program (contributions welcome) and participate in our football boosters as well. I freelance publish for retailers, publishers, ministries, and businesses. My lovely wife Amy and I live in Brentwood, Tennessee, and attend Brentwood Baptist Church.
What was your motivation behind this project?
I have always loved character driven mystery and suspense. From the Hardy Boys in grade school, to James Bond and Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe in my teen years, then on to spy thrillers by Deighton and LeCarre in college, and then discovering a plethora of great mystery thrillers from Hillerman, Block, Grimes, Child, Leonard, Mosely, Crais, Silva and a host of other great writers throughout my adult life. I even went through a crime noir faze where I had to reread everything from Chandler and Hammett – The Long Goodbye was the creme dela creme. I can’t forget Graham Greene. The common denominator? Great lead characters. I’ve spent 30 years in publishing and have a couple graduate degrees, but the best training I’ve received to pen my debut mystery thriller comes from the sheer volume of great books I’ve read – and not just thrillers, even if they are my default fiction genre.
I had a tremendous amount of fun writing Cuts Like a Knife – and count it as a tribute to the writers who have brought me so much enjoyment as a reader. I hope readers fall in love with my lead character, Detective Kristen Conner, in the same way. She’s tough and in-your-face. And she’s a fragile mess. She loves God, her family, the Chicago Police Department – her dad was a cop – and anything you put on her plate. Doesn’t mean she gets along with all parties mentioned above – except the food. Kristen also has a secret – but don’t expect me to tell you what it is for at least a couple of books!
What do you hope folks will gain from this project?
I did my best to write a great thriller that has all the twists, turns, and suspense readers love. The fact that my character is such a “graceful mess” to watch in action should make the experience even more fun – I’ve been told by reviewers that there are some real laugh-out-loud moments. I think there will be deep appreciation for Detective Kristen Conner’s simple and honest faith.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project?
I earned quite a few frequent customer awards from Starbucks while writing Cuts Like a Knife. I wrote early morning and late night so I could do the day job. But I’ve never been one for a lot of sleep anyway! I do feel a sense of gratitude from the critical response to Cuts Like a Knife.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists?
See above! LOL. Let’s just say I like a great plot as much as the next person – but the writer that creates a wonderful character is the one I read over and over. Probably my favorite character over the past 10 years has been Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon. The author that inspired me to try and write a Christian character into a general market mystery was Tony Hillerman. His character Jim Chee is a deeply religious and self-reflective Native American – his faith is part of his inner dialog as he solves crimes on the Navajo Reservation.
Anything else you’d like readers to know?
When books don’t do very well you often hear an author complain that his publisher didn’t do very much to get behind and promote the book. Having been a publisher I know there are a lot of factors. I’ve personally worked hard on some books that never caught on – and basically spectated as some others have taken off in the marketplace. But what I can state very boldly is that my friends from Worthy Publishing have done a tremendous job bringing Cuts Like a Knife to market. They hired Jeane Wynne as publicist and she has performed miracles securing reviews from periodicals like USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly for this first-time novelist. If Cuts Like a Knife should fail commercially the fault will be all mine. However, I think we have something special here. The Worthy leadership team has somewhere around 170 years of combined experience in publishing. I’ve asked Byron, Jeana, Kris, Rob and others who holds seniority – but no one will claim most years of service.
Q: Do I Need An Agent to Sell My Book Proposal?
A: It depends.
This is almost like me asking you if I need a realtor to sell my house. Okay, in light of the current housing market, that might not be a very nice parallel. But then again, a quick look at the publishing industry might make that comparison even more apt. But back to the question and topic.
In the “old days” of publishing, let’s say prior to 1990, there was a common publishing phrase that referred to an unsolicited manuscript that was sent to a publisher as something that “came in over the transom.” (A transom is literally a hinged window over a door. Think of the book return slot at a library.) In other words, a writer sent in his or her manuscript to a mail drop, which then ended up in one of several 4-foot high stacks in a junior editor’s office, and which after six or seven months of collecting dust was either rejected with a form letter – or voila, it got discovered and published. One way many publishing companies handled submissions that came over the transom was to hire college interns to sift through hundreds or thousands of manuscripts over summer break and separate the winners from the losers.
Many publishers were still leery of agents in the mid-90s. (Many still are.) Since acquisitions is the lifeblood of publishing, they preferred to take the initiative and go find someone with a marketing platform to promote their own work; if that person couldn’t write, the publisher would help them write it with a ghost writer or collaborator. If an author didn’t have a platform but had exceptional verifiable credentials – for example a professor at a university with a reputation for expertise in a particular discipline – the publisher would still take the initiative. Both of these and many other scenarios still happen all the time but even when the publisher is responsible for basic ideation, it is more common to work deals through an agent. And next to never over the transom.
The worry for publishers back in the “old days” was that once an agent was involved, he or she would demand too much money up front as an advance and too much in royalty rates and thus damage the economies of publishing. (Okay, the publishers were right on this point for many deals.) But even with that concern, sometime in the mid and late 90s, agents went from being a luxury for big name authors who wanted to sell projects to one of the big publishing companies, to a near necessity for almost all writers interested in placing a project with almost any size publishing house.
Today, many publishers will no longer receive unsolicited manuscripts from authors. They prefer and require agent involvement. In a sense, the agent, for many publishing companies, has become a way to streamline the acquisitions process – and maybe even reduce head count. (In other words, the agent has become the primary acquisitions editor for a lot of publishers.) The hardcore, full time, certified agent – and yes, there are many former editors and other publishing staffers who moonlight at agenting – earns his or her commission (more often 15%, up from 10% even a decade ago), along with a trustworthy reputation that opens doors to a variety of acquisitions editors and publishers, by carefully screening authors and projects and vouching to the publisher that the author can deliver both great material and can help market it.
What does this mean for the aspiring author? It means that finding an agent who will represent your work can feel – and be – as hard as selling the project.
So, do you need an agent? The answer is YES, if …
1. You don’t have inside connections with one or more publishers who are already disposed to buying a project from you.
2. You haven’t been approached by a publisher to write a project, which is a dream come true for anyone who has toiled with speculative work (you still might be better off with an agent if the deal seems fishy in some way).
3. You don’t have a large established platform (connection to a well defined audience that is motivated to buy from you) whereby you can guarantee a certain number of sales. (Some publishers will make a deal with this kind of author if the author commits to buying X number of copies, which becomes part of the contract. Some authors, particularly if they speak to large audiences, will then determine that they’ll make more money self-publishing.)
4. You want to be with a larger publisher (not necessarily the right option for every author or project) that will present your work to bookstores and other retailers. (I have a friend who has sold more than 1 million copies of his self-published book. He still feels dissatisfaction because the books he published with big time publishers did not do well in the trade.)
5. You have a big idea and a big audience that loves you, but don’t know the first thing about book publishing and aren’t really fond of writing.
That list isn’t close to being exhaustive and even if you can turn each point around and answer it conversely, you still may not need or want an agent. And acquiring the services of a well connected agent who really believes in your work is no guarantee that your work will be purchased by a publisher at all, much less at terms that feel reasonable to you. Plus, today there are many more professional quality self-publishing options available to the aspiring author. (Click here for my blog on whether self-publishing is for you.)
So do you need an agent? Unless you have the ways and means to sell a self-published work or have incredible connections within the publishing community, the answer is undoubtedly yes.
So you want to do your own video blog with little or no help, experience or budget? I found a way to combine common productivity programs from Apple, Cisco, and Microsoft to create an author video blog of my own. You probably won’t want to do it the same way I do, but I’ll bet this video gives you some ideas for you to figure out your own model.