Archives: Book Proposal

If you’re a fiction or memoir lover, you have probably, at some point, fallen in love with a 20-Something title. Three favorites of ours: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, J.R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar and one hilariously well-written debut, Girls in White Dresses.

Even if a 20-Something book is written by a 40-Something, it’s still perhaps one of the hardest genres to sell—maybe because its primary audience increasingly reads content on Facebook and blogs, which offer so much dishing-all that, well, why would you need to read it elsewhere? (Ironically, according to this report, Gen Y seems to be leading in terms of overall book buying.)

Do readers want a story that is aspirational but characters who are not always? Very possibly. If the heroine of the novel is too precious, polished, or perfect, makes no blunders, has only happy endings—well, they’re just not so likeable, are they? The best 20-Something characters can be down-on-their-luck and still, with exquisite wry humor, make us laugh. And they’re usually tough, not wallowing in pain the way our 20-Something selves may be.

Agents, receiving more submissions in the history of books than ever before, are seeing more and more proposals and manuscripts written by, or about, 20-Somethings. Before you seek representation, here are a few pointers that might be helpful to consider.

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A guest post by Dianna Huff

typewriterDid you know that many of the business and self-help books you see on store shelves – or at your iTunes or Kindle store – are written by ghostwriters? Sometimes referred to as “copywriters,” ghostwriters are the voice behind CEOs, politicians, celebrities, gurus – anyone who needs something written. In addition to books, ghostwriters will often write articles, reports, speeches, and blog posts for individuals. A ghostwriter can specialize in a niche, such as a highly scientific or technical area, or generalize and tackle just about any topic.
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Lately, I’ve been admiring the craft of representation in my friends and colleagues. One agent with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work has been particularly inspiring. Like many agents, she’s witty, charming, and able to make wise decisions and thoughtfully field questions at an impressively fast page. There’s a subtlety to her manner that I can’t quite describe, except to say that her emails never jar me; never rub the wrong way. Remarkable, because being an agent requires both delivering good news and bad, and often disproportionately. This person has achieved a certain delicacy with both – never over-promising, nor glossing or muddying her words. But what I admire most in said mysterious agent? Read more »

Books are made on word-of-mouth.
At least those books that receive critical acclaim or top the bestseller charts. Think The Help or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and countless others.

This is more than publicity. This is the unquantifiable magic of human capital. No matter how much you spend, it can’t really be predicted.

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Being an agent is living with a sense of death-threatening urgency. All my life I was told: “simmer down, what’s the urgency?” “take a chill pill” (that traumatizing childhood experience), or, my father’s famous line, “Your urgency does not qualify my emergency.”

When I became an agent, my boss told me one of the reasons I was hired was on the basis of my urgency. It wasn’t the first time I was reminded of the famous Alanis Morrisette song.

Today, I wanted to share this eCard that speaks to the agent (and writer and dater) experience, particularly when on submission with a proposal. I know many of you relate.

There’s a first rule in becoming an agent: “learn how to manage your client.” This is true of any entertainment agent: when you are invested in someone’s longterm career, you need to allow your client to dream big in the creation process but moderate expectations in the fulfillment of that dream with conservatism, and guide clients to detach themselves from their work as more parties are involved. And encourage that they detach themselves again when they become, as so many artists, the subject of criticism or enjoy the celebrity of fandom–the majority of well-recognized authors experience both, in equal part.

But what about managing your agent or your editor?  Read more »

I recently did an interview with my longtime partner in crime and book blogger extraordinaire, Lori Hettler of The Next Best Book Blog. (P.S. Lori will probably never edit me again, but we had a fun time with this, right Lori?)
Here’s a cut:

Is readership diminishing in the advent of digital publishing?
There will always be readers so long as there is human curiosity. I see digital publishing as a major advantage, not merely in terms of the infinite marketing avenues it allows, but also in terms of hard data that, historically, has not been accessible for authors or their publishers. We never knew who readers were before; what books they liked to read. My personal thought is that what I call “app-sized publishing” (or #micropublishing) is not a bad thing at all, but conversely offers authors and publishers a greater chance to stand out in a high-volume marketplace. This means more books, ultimately with lower production costs, more appeal for multimedia, and more readers—albeit with smaller attention spans.Consider my friend Ted, an avid reader who is also an MD/PHD. Ted has an IPad, an Android; he loves obscure social networks and blogs, and he likes to read on diverse subjects in the little time his schedule permits between classes and residency. In other words, on the subway.

Ted is the reader of the future: the kind writers need to write for, and publishers need to market to.

What does this mean for publishers and authors?
Book purchases at lower costs and higher volume. Greater reader engagement through interactive/social media integrated into enhanced eBooks or mobile apps. More visibility, creative power, and possibly financial benefit for authors.
Those of us who enjoy looking at visual media and reading books but are conservative in our spending—those who  wait for movies to release on-demand, and for cheaper iterations of the IPhone and IPad—likely do not buy a hardcover book at $25.99, unless you just can’t wait another minute for Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Tom Connelly’s, Stephanie Meyer’s, JK Rowling’s latest book. We’ll splurge to that. But a debut author with no prior bestselling credentials and zero recognition, save that great book review in the Times that your mother mentioned? Limited.I’m not saying don’t try to be a bestseller, get an agent, get a book deal with Random House! But if you come up dry, you have options. There are plenty of successful self-published authors out there, and with the dawn of “micropublishing”—not yet an industry term, FYI, just a term I’ve coined—readers can find and impulsively buy your books on mobile devices; we can follow you using social media. You could be the next Kindle Mover & Shaker. And then you can pursue that book deal you’ve been wanting, with your audience already established (which means, a bigger book deal.) Writers need patience above all…any agent or editor will tell you the marketplace is all about timing.

And yet, aspiring authors still see big deals happening for hardcover books….

I love the way the legendary editor Jonathan Karp puts it in a recent New York Magazine article, ‘As for the big advances,’ he says, “when publishers swing for the fences, I think that’s admirable. Does anyone want publishers to bunt?”  Publishers today bank on a book’s possibility to go out of the gate like gangbusters. But everyone knows this kind of success to be negligible, just like publishing’s precedents in music and film.  It’s a very difficult business to represent authors today, however talented, however devoted we are to their books. And so, while I love Karp’s wording above, I find it completely contradictory to his preceding sentence in the very same interview: “Why anyone would write a novel and not want everyone to read it is a mystery to me.” Wouldn’t that just prove that the app-sized or micropublishing model of lower advances, lower production costs, and lower prices is the preferable option if it offers the most expansive visibility bar none?Do you still even read The Book Review, or do you scan Goodreads for recommendations? Vote here.

Read More at: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-kind-of-literary-agency_29.html  Read more »