Friday, October 31, 2014

Why it’s Okay to be Afraid of Failure or Success by Rachel Brooks

With Halloween this week, “being afraid” is a theme that’s at the front of my mind. While creepy movies, haunted houses, and more can certainly scare us, this feeling makes me think about writers’ fears. Two big ones are being afraid of failure, and on the flip side, success.

1) It’s okay to be afraid of failure, so long as you don’t let it prevent you from trying.

Every person (and not only writers) worries they won’t have what it takes. What if I’m not good enough? What if I haven’t prepared, researched, and practiced to be at the level I need to make it?

It’s normal to feel this way, but if you never try, then the fear has become more than a feeling—it takes control. YOU should hold the reins.

An important point to remember is that everyone’s definition of “good enough” is different. Your personal journey is unique, as is your success. Only you can determine if you have “failed,” and if you do, then next time you’ll be better equipped to succeed.

2) It’s okay to be afraid of success, so long as you don’t let it prevent you from trying.

This is certainly a valid fear as well. Writers can become overwhelmed by getting an agent, signing a book contract, suddenly feeling like they have readers and followers who are counting on them. What if my sequel disappoints fans? What if other writers turn to me for advice?

Nobody is perfect, and nobody expects you to be (or they shouldn’t!). Being afraid of success is understandable—it can be daunting to take big leaps, stepping out of comfort zones and familiar territory.

But others have juggled success in their careers, and so can you—whether introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between. You’ll find your own personal balance of how to handle the transition from unpublished to published, unagented to agented, few followers to many. Whatever you find “scary” or “successful,” there’s a way to manage it.

Thankfully the writing community is a supportive one, and there is someone that’s been in your shoes too. Whether worrying about failure, success, or both, they are somewhat arbitrary terms that should not define your life, or your writing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Please, Do Not Sign That Contract….by Tish Beaty

Writing is hard work. You pour your heart and soul into a manuscript. You spend hours reading, editing, and rereading it. You debate the pros and cons of self-pubbing, finding an agent, or approaching editors on your own. You have beta readers go through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb before deciding to submit to a few select editors. Twelve weeks later, you have a contract in your hands…a real publishing contract! You read through said contract, and thinking everything is on the up and up, you sign and return it.


A year later, you find yourself in a situation you never expected. Sales aren’t great, your relationship with your editor is strained, you aren’t getting emails returned, and you’ve signed a contract that requires you to submit future works to the publisher for first right of refusal. You want out, but now you’re stuck!

I have had many authors contact me recently, including authors I currently represent, regarding contracts they signed prior to representation. As an agent, I can help navigate the murky waters of rights reversal, however, there is no guarantee that an author will get their rights back once they’ve signed a legal and binding publishing contract. And it stinks when I have a talented author who is stuck in an unsavory publishing situation.

Self-pub, find an agent, or approach editors on your own? A debate for the ages. My recommendation? Should you decide to approach editors on your own or respond to an open manuscript call and get a contract offer…seek out a knowledgeable agent to help you negotiate the contract. You’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into your manuscript! Please, do not sign that contract before ensuring you’ve protected your rights and received the best publishing deal possible.

Friday, October 17, 2014

My First Sale by Leon Husock

 From Publisher's Lunch
Holly Jennings's VIRTUAL REBEL, a New Adult science-fiction about a near future where virtual reality gladiatorial combat is the new popular pro sport and a 20-year-old is the first female captain in the league, to Anne Sowards at Ace, in a nice deal, in a two-book deal, by Leon Husock at L. Perkins Agency (World).

Selling my first book didn’t really play out the way I had imagined it.  In my head I would get a call from an editor with an offer, we’d haggle a bit and agree on an advance and terms on that first phone call (hah!).  I’d hang up, do a little victory dance and call all my friends and family to tell them about it.  It would be a moment of sheer triumph and exultation.  Then, despite the fact that not one of my authors lives in the tri-state area, we’d somehow all end up in a room at a publisher signing the contract together, in person.  Afterwards I would go out for drinks with my friends and celebrate.

I did get the phone call from the editor.  Admittedly, I got it while I was at the gym and had a brief conversation in the gym lobby, covered in sweat, before telling her I’d have to call her back later.  That was the beginning, and while it was certainly exciting, it wasn’t quite final enough for that moment I was looking forward to.  The negotiations were conducted alternately over phone and by email, and all told they took about two weeks and, though the haggling is done, the contract has yet to be signed.  There wasn’t really a single moment where it felt done, and so I have yet to get those drinks with my friends.

            It wasn’t the big first sale I was hoping for, but it wasn’t insignificant.  I realized afterwards that you read about authors selling first books for hundreds of thousands of dollars often enough that it’s sort of what you expect.  Of course, when I thought about it I realized that the reason you read about it is because when it happens it’s newsworthy.  So I didn’t quite get that moment I was hoping for, but having sold that book gives me a quiet confidence about the future which is, perhaps, just as valuable to me.  Any career you have yet to succeed in inevitably fills you with a certain unease about your prospects; now that that first book is sold all the others I might sell in the future have become infinitely more tangible and concrete.  Plus, I think I’ve finally convinced my parents I have a real job.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mentoring My New Agents

I do hope you’ve been following our Agency blog now and can see that we have started writing weekly posts here. I wanted to use this as an opportunity for you to get to know the taste and style of the agents who work here, since there are now six of us!

Three of my agents are fairly new – Tish Beaty, Rachel Brooks and Leon Huscock.  Rachel and Leon did internships with others agents and Tish worked as an editor before she joined the Agency, but by and large they are fresh clay for me to mold.  I have been having a wonderful time teaching them about the business and how it has changed over the years, as well as how it is changing right now as I type this.

I love to teach, almost as much as I love to write (I am actually teaching a class through Writer’s Digest University right now on epublishing).  I began teaching at NYU in 1987 as a 24 year-old journalism grad because I had started a neighborhood newspaper in Manhattan and complained to my Dean that there were no women teaching in the newspaper part of the program.  She said I was right and offered me an adjunct position.  And when I left journalism and went into publishing, I taught at the Center for Publishing for many years.

Mentoring is also important to me.  I was poorly mentored as a young journalism student at NYU.  I was lucky enough to be assigned to intern at one of the leading feminist magazines of the day under the tutelage of a number of women who were legendary in the field.  I imagined I would learn new and fabulous things, but when I sat in on my first editorial meeting and tried to contribute, I was told that I had nothing to offer because I hadn’t even marched on Washington yet. So I sorted through mountains of slush and was told to just reject everything because the editors already knew everybody worth knowing, but I pulled an essay by Candice Bushnell and kept it for a few years because I found her voice so compelling.  If they had paid any attention to me, they could’ve launched her career.

But  I digress. 

I promised that when my turn came, I would take the time to truly mentor and try to match the interests and talents of my protégés with what we could both offer each other.

So I am thrilled to report that mentoring Tish, Rachel and Leon has been really exciting and interesting for me too.  Each of them has enough of my taste to excite me when they take on a new project.  I even wish I was repping some of their books, which makes it even more fun.

Tish is just the queen of erotic romance and erotica and she loves a good dirty story.  It is so much fun to hear her discover new authors and send out their work.

Rachel has a passion for young adult, new adult and historicals that is daunting.  She is discovering new writers every day and I am loving watching her find her clients.

Leon has a terrific passion for sci-fi and fantasy paired with the young adult and new adult wave of books.  I hope he will find this generations’ new voices in two of my favorite genres.

Can you tell how much I am enjoying the teaching process with them?  I am learning things about their style and books through their experiences. And learning things about myself as both an agent and a reader.

If you want to learn about being an agent, please feel free to email me! We have an extensive internship program.