Friday, October 3, 2008

What Comes Around, ...

Three years ago I attended the Florida Writer's Conference (which I am going to again this year) and announced that I was starting to look at erotica. A shy woman scheduled a meeting with me and told me she was working on a novel about a former Sunday school teacher who discovers Internet porn and how it transforms her life.

I told her to send it to me. It was both edgy and sweet, but needed work in its story-telling and structure.

When I got the gig at Ravenous Romance, I looked up the author. She had finished her novel. We read it, and we had a brilliant intern who helped her restructure the book.

She had also grown as a writer by then too, so we were able to buy the book, as well as a short story.

I was the editorial reader on that novel, and I was thrilled to see just how compelling this novel had become.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Tip for the YA Market

So, I was talking to a publisher who is expanding their middle grade fiction list into YA, expecting that they would want more vampires and zombies in high school. I was shocked when he said, "What we're really looking for is historical YA. We think it will be huge."

So, if you've got a historical that you can change the age of the protagonist on and/or a YA that could/should be set in the past, get to work polishing it off.

And let me know when you sell it (or send a query to Jenny Rappaport at

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When Does a Writer NOT Want a 3-Book Deal?

You do this job long enough and you forget that it all looks so much simpler from the outside looking in!

Will Entrekin writes in "Is there ever a time a writer isn't trying to get a three-book deal?"

And the answer is when the economy is good.

Say you're a first time author. You've finished your first 300 page novel and your agent gets you a deal - an OK deal, but nothing quit-your-day-job life-changing. Publishers often want to sign you up for your next novel - often referred to as "untitled" - so they can lock you in at the first-time writer rate. They often "basket" or "joint account" the two-book or three-book deal, so that you have to earn out the entire two or three-book advance before they start paying you any royalties. It's a win/win situation for them. They get the great new voice at a discount rate and if you hand in a "sophomore slump," they can turn it down and ask for the money back.

With a three-book deal, even if your book does moderately well (block-busters are an exception), you won't see any added revenue until three years after the first book has pubbed (because it takes most companies at least one year, but often 18 months, to go from manuscript to print).

So, when the economy is good, you and your agent would expect that your first book would do well and that you should wait for domestic and foreign and film sales to come in to see if you can get a larger advance for your second book, based on performance. You might not, but they should offer you at least what they did for the first one (unless it bombs, which does happen) and the money won't be joint-accounted.

Sometimes the author wants the guarantee of future publishing and writing income (and wants to quit that day job), so s/he takes the three-book deal. Even with a three book deal that covers three years, the author usually has to take another simultaneous three-book deal (or three separate book deals) to make ends meet as a writer.

When the book is part of a series, it's often advised to go for the multiple book deal, too. It's really hard to move a series from one publisher to another, unless it's really popular - and you loose the backlist upsell. But, in a good economy, you're agent would probably be able to get them to drop the joint accounting. Not so easy now.

But when the economy is bad, publishers can just stop handing out contracts and a lot of working writers have no money coming in.

So that's why I say take the three book deal now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Does This Ecomonic Downturn Mean for Writers?

In case you've been writing under a rock, let me inform you that we've been in a recession in New York for the past six months.

This stock market fiasco is hitting the city pretty hard. One of the 7 major houses has had a hiring freeze since June. They were 4 editors short since the end of the summer, and were not even looking for interns to supplement (BYW, I am looking for interns).

I know a young woman who had been offered a job (not in publishing) in NY and was set to move here this week. On Tuesday morning, she received an email that said they were sorry, but they would have to rescind their job offer in light of the current economic situation. It's gonna' be tough here for the foreseeable future.

It's not all doom and gloom. I just sold another book for one of my clients to Harlequin's Spice line. But the bad news there is that it won't be pubbed until 2011.

And there's the rub. These publishing companies work so far in advance, that when they decide to slow down acquisitions, they can literally just stop buying for 6 or 9 months. And that's what I predict will happen here.

So my advice is to close on any offer that comes your way now, or try to get a three book deal, because it's going to be very slow for the next few months.

But I would love to be proven wrong.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My New Blog

To further the separation of Church and State, I've decided to start a second blog, where I will write about being an editor. This is my agent blog.

There you will find what we're looking for in calls for submissions, as well as what we've bought, so head directly to

I'll also be chronicling what it's like to start a new publishing company, which is pretty amazing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Separation of Church and State

There's been a lot of concern about how I will juggle the roles of agent and editor in this new venture, so we've worked out a system where any potential conflict of interest and/or the appearance of impropriety is nipped in the bud.

So here are the rules:

I will not take a commission on any sale of work by one of my clients to Ravenous Romance. The sale will be handled and overseen by one of my two agent colleagues at L. Perkins Agency. Jenny Rappaport will handle those authors who fall more directly into the romance side of erotic romance (which is one of her specialties), as well as any of my horror/fantasy clients who have ventured into this arena. Marsha Philitas will represent my authors who lean more towards the erotic, which is her specialty. Jenny Rappaport can be reached at and Marsha Philitas can be reached at

Both Jenny and Marsha will receive 100% of the 15% commission on these sales.

I will continue to represent my erotica clients on existing deals and their options. New material in this genre, whether it be for Ravenous Romance or another publisher, will be handled by either Jenny or Marsha. Although I will be available for consultation, these will be my colleague's deals.

I will continue to represent my clients on their non-erotica deals.

I my some day take on a new client, but I am pretty full at the moment, so new clients to the agency will be directed to either Jenny or Marsha for the immediate future. However, I'm reading everything that is sent to me.

I will not edit my own clients' work at Ravenous Romance, unless they ask me to.

No writer is required to sign with the L. Perkins Agency in order to sell to Ravenous Romance. They may remain unagented. They can sign with Jenny or Marsha. They can sign with another agent.

Jenny and Marsha are not required to take someone on just because they've signed with Ravenous Romance.

Ravenous Romance will gladly buy books from other agencies.

OK, so why am I doing this? Especially since I am losing a substantial amount of my income by transferring my writer's commissions to Jenny and Marsha.

I have put my money where my mouth is. I believe that the future of mass market is epublishing and that the market for well-written erotica for women is still largely untapped. I am lucky to have two publishing colleagues who agree with me and have put their experience and resources behind this belief.

I have always been an entrepreneur. I owned a neighborhood newspaper in Manhattan when I was 22. I started my own literary agency in 1987. It is my nature to start things when I feel there's a need.

I feel there is a need.

Some writers believe that being an agent is all about making money. That has never been the case with me, as I come from a journalism background. It's about getting published. Most of my writers are "working writers," which means they support themselves from the craft, so they write at least two, if not four books a year. Few publishers want four books by one author, so they use pseudonyms or write in two fields.

I have always thought of myself as a "writer's fairy godmother." When people unfamiliar with publishing ask me what an agent does, I tell them that I am a writer's manager. It is my job to keep writers writing, and published. In a market that is changing as radically as publishing today, that's not easy.

Ravenous Romance will keep writers writing, and eating. While they wait for the next big book to place and/or figure out what the new trend in the marketplace is, Ravenous writers will be building an audience and getting a royalty check that has no reserve against returns.

Ravenous Romance is for all writers who would like a more immediate return on their writing investment and who want readers a few months after the book is finished.

There's more than enough to go around, as we are buying over 400 books a year and at least 365 short stories.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Twitter and Facebook

Just to let you know, we've started Ravenous Romance reports at both Twitter and Facebook, so please follow us as we start this new company. I can't believe how many people are already following us.

Holly Schmidt is doing an almost day-to-day account of what we're buying on Twitter.