Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ten juicy tidbits I took away from the Space Coast Writers Conference (the following info came directly from a New York literary agent):

1. "Lists" come out twice yearly
Front list: Big tour authors; current best-sellers
Mid-List: Most new books, more experimental or from new authors
Back-List: Evergreen or perennial books that plod along year after year

2. Many mid-list authors barely sell enough copies for publishers to offer them another book; the mid-list is shrinking and instead of adding more authors to the list, new authors are replacing older authors.

3. Among literary agents, what used to be termed "platform" is now called "content" (means an author's means of getting his/her name before the public).

4. "Traction" means the sales numbers that larger publishing houses look at when presented with a self-published or small press book that is doing well. Purchase of these books is not exactly commonplace, but it does happen; called "self to shelf."

5. Book titles and plots/ideas can't be copyrighted but song titles and lyrics can. Be sure to do your legal homework in the use of registered or trademarked products.

6. What literary agents look for:
A. How prepared is the author to apply for the job of "Book Author"? What is his/her strategy? Marketing plan? How does he/she plan to help? (Promo is now more the writer's job than ever before and publishers expect them to get out there and get their hands dirty.)
B. Is there a good answer to the old Max Perkins (the agent who discovered Hemingway)question: "Why does the world need this book?"
C. Does the book have a good prognosis? Will the topic sell in the projected market two years from now? (The average time from contract to press is 1-3 years.)
D. "Perfect pitch" - the query must elicit sparks and stand out above the rest. Key words to include are "fresh" and "new."

7. Agents make their decisions based on page one of your query; sometimes paragraph one. Don't overwhelm them with multiple pages and start with an irresistible hook.

8. "Querial killers" (rookie mistakes in queries):
A. Ignoring "show, don't tell"
B. Not including these crucial elements: Protaganist, Setting, Problem, Take-Away (take-away must be significant and memorable; must connect with targeted readers).
C. Author expecting to sit back and let the publisher sell the book.

9. "Acq.Ed" (pronounced "Ack Ed"): Acquisitions Editorial meetings are usually held weekly at publishing houses to discuss/discard/choose new projects. Agents are often invited in the later stages; Agents consider themselves "midwives" in delivering new books, or matchmakers between publishers and authors.

10. Book titles are VERY important; current trend is for buyers from major book sellers to be queried for title suggestions (because of their fingers on the pulse of the public). Titles must grab the eyeballs of readers from first glance on; new trend is shorter titles for fiction and non-fiction, with longer non-fiction subtitles explaining the specific topic of the book.

Parting quote: "All the sensitivity in publishing can fit in a gnat's navel."


Faith said...

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