Category Archives: publishing

Doing business in the public eye

business in the public eye

(Photograph courtesy of Mompes)

Most of a literary agency’s business is conducted quietly, behind the scenes. Attempting to bring any of it to light is difficult, because significant context often is missing. Every profession shares this quandary. Looking in from the outside, observers are forced to oversimplify and stereotype other occupations and businesses, because it’s impossible to experience all of them firsthand.

My work as an agent is neither routine nor boring, which makes it fun. After five years, I no longer feel like a novice, but that doesn’t mean I can ever stop learning. Most knowledge workers recognize that continually educating ourselves and monitoring industry intelligence are necessary aspects of our jobs; otherwise, we’d consign ourselves rapidly to obsolescence.

Many of us have been watching and commenting on the latest machinations of big corporations. Because of their size and reach, the largest companies involved in publishing and bookselling must contend with heightened public scrutiny. That’s good, because we need to be reminded that these big corporations establish de facto standards for balancing competition and cooperation, which other businesses in the industry then will emulate. If the biggest companies succeed by dodging taxes, being aggressively adversarial, poaching talent, emphasizing volume over quality, crowdsourcing free content, eschewing customer service, and exploiting their employees, then every other businessperson within the book publishing industry’s entrepreneurial ecosystem will begin to see value in those strategies. Ruthless tactics can appear much less unethical when they’re necessary for survival.

The outrage and dissent, even when inarticulately expressed in debates riddled with inaccuracies, help to reassure me that we haven’t completely lost our ethical sensibilities. And by the way, in the grand scheme, I really enjoy being in a position to advocate for the artist.

Exactly when did kindness and courtesy became unbusinesslike and unsexy? Certain old-fashioned business practices are worth reinstating.

Literary agents for textbook authors

Instead of textbooks, I prefer to handle the licensing of trade books, which are sold to the general public. Some books might be suitable for either type of publishing, but often the author is not. If the author thinks of herself or himself as a textbook author, then heading in that direction probably is a good idea.

The first 4 things a textbook author needs to know

  1. A concise explanation of the different types of book publishing can be found on the University of Chicago Press website in a free chapter of William Germano’s Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books. Without an understanding of these fundamentals, it will be a struggle for a textbook author to make the appropriate connections.
  2. THINKING LIKE YOUR EDITOR by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato

  3. The elements of a textbook proposal have been described thoroughly in Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. The book can be found at a nearby library via WorldCat.org. Information on this topic is easy to locate online using a search term such as “textbook proposal.”
  4. The meaning of “author platform” should not be alien and should not be confused with CV.
  5. Textbook publishers offer on their websites helpful, detailed guidelines for authors, because it’s assumed that many authors will contact the publishers directly with their book proposals. Currently, some of the largest English-language textbook publishers are Macmillan Higher Education, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Education, and Cengage. There are many other textbook publishers.

Who might be able to help

Literary agents who specialize in textbooks

If a textbook project has sufficient commercial potential, the author might be able to enlist the assistance of a literary agent. Submissions guidelines can be found on each literary agency’s website. For example, Susan Rabiner, who is particularly interested in science and economics, says, “What I want to see is an author who is well connected in the field and knows how the field is being taught and what is lacking from existing textbooks.”

The agents listed here are working primarily in the English language.

Barbara Collins Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Group
Marblehead, MA

Carole Jelen – carole@jelenpub.com
Waterside Productions, Inc.
San Francisco, CA

Elizabeth Evans
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc.
New York, NY

Jeff Herman
The Jeff Herman Agency
Stockbridge, MA

John W. Wright
John W. Wright Literary Agency
New York, NY

Michael Lennie
Lennie Literary Agency & Author’s Attorney
San Diego, CA

Michael Snell
Michael Snell Literary Agency
Truro, MA

Neil J. Salkind and Lynn Haller
Salkind Literary Agency / Studio B Productions, Inc.
Great Neck, NY

Rubin Pfeffer
Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC
Chestnut Hill, MA

Sam Stoloff
Frances Goldin Literary Agency
New York, NY

Sandra Dijkstra
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Del Mar, CA

Stephanie Ebdon
The Marsh Agency
London, UK

Sterling Lord
Sterling Lord Literistic
New York, NY

Susan Rabiner, Sydelle Kramer, and Eric Nelson
The Susan Rabiner Literary Agency, Inc.
New York, NY

Will Lippincott
Lippincott Massie McQuilkin
New York, NY

Zick Rubin and Brenda Ulrich
The Law Office of Zick Rubin
Newton, MA

Publishing attorneys with hourly or percentage-based fees

Lloyd Jassin
Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin
New York, NY

I’ll be happy to update this list with additional suggestions and agencies. Feel free to comment or send email to mail(at)robinmizell.com.

Still can’t stop talking about it: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Day 19: I sincerely wish I could stop talking about it. I wish writers who send me queries had read Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal and implemented the strategies she outlines in the book. I wish I didn’t need to tell so many prospective clients to back up and learn exactly what publishers and readers expect of them in 2014. I wish I were a fairy godmother with the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and business sense with the flick of a glitter-spangled wand. I’m weary of repeating myself. I’m whining today.

GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina KatzHowever, there is good news! There’s an upside of my frustration, which I assure you is shared by at least a few other agents, as well as book editors and publishers, not to mention successful authors who frequently are asked how they got so lucky. The bright side is that the unbelievably small percentage of writers who apply—that is, put into practice rather than just reading—Christina Katz’s advice can achieve an enormous advantage over the larger number of writers who don’t.

Think about that. Did you just feel the power shifting?

Christina doesn’t promise instant results, and she doesn’t say it’s easy when it’s not. No one ever truly masters self-promotion in a turbulent market, and the mere attempt takes a lot of time. More hard work is exactly what average writers or wannabes will not confront. They believe they should be finished with the work part when they put the last words on the last pages of their manuscripts. They’re ready for the cake, punch, and applause precisely when the going really gets tough. C’mon. Take advantage of their mistakes.

Writers need to exploit every possible asset in order to stand out among thousands of contenders and to get their books noticed among the incredible quantity of titles now frictionlessly available to readers. Those readers easily can choose similar content in other media, often at less expense. Writers who are aware of their competition, respect readers, perfect their manuscripts, consider their art a career, and demonstrate their ability to engage their intended audience, well…

We know who they are.

Full disclosure

Christina Katz is my friend, but I recommend her book because the advice in it is so good. Chuck Sambuchino wrote a similar manual called Create Your Writer Platform, but then I must admit that Chuck’s a friend, too. There’s also Amanda Luedeke’s ebook, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I’ve met Amanda. I like and respect her. She’s a dynamo. Several other books cover this very topic, and some of these resources are likely to be available at the nearest library. By the way, my old neighbor Bob Robertson-Boyd developed the WorldCat interface that shows the closest library where a copy of a particular book can be borrowed.

Musical accompaniment

Believe it or not, I do have a heart. It gets crumpled a lot, to the tune of “The Laugh of Recognition.” Over the Rhine are some of my favorite musicians.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Litmags that specialize in literary travel writing

From my public literary magazine database, I’ve gathered a list of publications devoted to literary travel writing (usually not including space or time travel, for which there are many other outlets). The travel theme gives these journals an identity that appeals to someone like me, who enjoys meandering.

Did you know there’s an International Society for Travel Writing whose website includes information on conferences and publishing opportunities?

White Sands (Fré Sonneveld)

(Photograph courtesy of Fré Sonneveld)

Don’t hesitate to tell me if I’ve overlooked your favorite literary magazine that specializes in travel writing. Perhaps I should have included better-known glossies like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure. I do like to read those at the dentist’s office.

Boat

Caligae Travel Files (for sale)

The Journal of African Travel-Writing (no longer published)

Literary Bohemian

Lowestoft Chronicle

Nowhere

Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine

Perceptive Travel

Pure Slush: A Year of Travel (during 2014)

Roads & Kingdoms

Silk Road Review

Tales To Go

The Travel Almanac

Travel Chronicles

Travel Classics

The Travel Itch

Travelers’ Tales: Editors’ Choice Flying Carpet

Traveltainted

Vela

[wherever]

The Telegraph holds a weekly travel writing competition. Writers can email their entries.

Are you traveling and journaling this summer? Would you post a link to your story, if your travel writing is published this year? (This is a new blog theme. The comment link is just below the title for each post, which is a little counterintuitive, I think.)

Additional resource

The Review Review occasionally publishes lists of literary magazines that share a particular theme or orientation. Head on over there for the lowdown.

Practical business strategies for freelance writers

home office

(Photograph courtesy of Louis J. Hall)

If you want to make a living as a freelance writer, then you’ll need a realistic perspective of the writing endeavors that pay best in relation to the amounts of time they require. Having recently faced financial reality when filing your income tax return, you ought to know exactly how much money it takes to support your household for 365 days.

I’m in the midst of reading Chris Higgins’ $2.99 ebook, The Blogger Abides: A Practical Guide to Writing Well & Not Starving, but it’s not too soon to recommend it as a primer for anyone who wants to make a profession of freelance writing. Based on the author’s experience as a paid blogger, the book is filled with succinct advice that’s logical and easy to understand.

The markets for different types of writing will fluctuate, but the laws of supply and demand remain predictable. Lower barriers to entry (digital publishing and online distribution) enable and increase suppliers (writers). If the demand (from readers) for the product (written work) remains steady (it has!) and does not increase along with the supply, then prices for the product (written work) will decrease. Whimpering and wallowing in self-pity will not change this.

In his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky makes the point, “If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.”

Advances in free or inexpensive web editing, blogging, or content management software have all but removed the technological barriers that existed when the Web was new. Now that virtually everyone can publish their written work, publishing per se gradually is shifting from a professional to an amateur endeavor. Some say the transformation already has occurred.

Web-based content is distributed globally and is more easily retrievable than printed materials, which means the best and the most widely discussed writing on the Web can be reproduced and shared with few obstacles. If “published” no longer distinguishes the professional from the amateur writer, then perhaps “widely read” and “paid” have become the new criteria. How to find readers and get paid are the problems a freelance writer needs to solve now. It should be some consolation that being a good writer matters as much as it ever did.

Additional resources on this topic

Publishing the work of currently and formerly incarcerated writers

Writers who are prison inmates seem particularly isolated from potential mentors and writing peer groups. Very few publishers specialize in their stories. Writing workshops for inmates offer education and inspiration, but the participants are bound to have a difficult time finding additional outlets for their creative work.

These are a few of the organizations that provide publication resources to, or publish the work of, currently and formerly incarcerated writers. Maybe prison workshop instructors will share this list or consider founding a new publication.

I’ll add to this list when I notice more in this niche. Please feel free to leave a comment about any publication I’ve overlooked.

Successful writers learn to conduct their own research and manage their careers, while novice writers often miss the practical lessons and remain stymied. Joining a good writers’ group is one of the best ways to get answers and advice about how to be published.

Writers and reinvention

I’ve been thinking about the qualities I should be looking for in prospective clients, because tomorrow I’ll resume taking queries from writers. You would think I’d have the selection criteria down pat by now. When I started my agency five years ago, the publishing industry was changing dramatically and I wasn’t the only person who had a lot to learn. From the start, I’ve looked for clients who are able to adapt to rapid technological innovations, but new technology is only part of what writers are contending with as they continually reinvent themselves.

Expanding the scope of what I mean by adaptability, and perhaps reframing it as resourcefulness, would more accurately describe what I need to see in prospective clients. A strong drive to achieve goals is essential, too, but persistence on its own—without talent, work ethic, intelligence, and social skills—comes across as mania.

On my agency’s website is a page titled Resources for writers that might be one of the best kept secrets on the internet. I like to hear from writers who know that an agent is just one of a variety of assistants and strategies—in other words, writers who already have shown the self-initiative to use as many available resources as they can.

This list tops my Resources for writers page:

On my site are more resources useful to writers, including writers who don’t need, don’t want, can’t get, or already have agents.

Reinvention is a survival mechanism. Writers who have learned to be resourceful and professional make wiser decisions about their careers, and they’re better able, when they choose, to collaborate with literary agents, editors, publishers, and publicists.

Literary agencies located in Australia

Review of Reviews for Australasia

(Image courtesy of State Library of New South Wales)

 

Why not share a list if I have it, right?

I’ve been told, as of 2013, there are very few literary agents serving writers in Australia. Following are the agencies I’ve noticed in both Australia and New Zealand, although I haven’t met any of the agents.

Please feel free to advise me if you learn of any others or if you’d like to have your agency’s website added to this list.

For related information, please see the Australian Literary Agents’ Association Code of Practice.

 

Alex Adsett Publishing Services – Brisbane, Queensland

Australian Literary Management – Balmain, Sydney, New South Wales

The Authors’ Agent – Terrigal, New South Wales

Calidris Literary Agency – Castlemaine, Victoria

Cameron’s – Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales

Curtis Brown Australia – Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales

Drummond Publishing Services – Woodend, Victoria

Frances Plumpton Literary Agency – New Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand

Gilbert Literary Agency – Dunedin, New Zealand

Golvan Arts Management – Kew, Melbourne, Victoria

HLA Management – Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales

Harry M. Miller Group (HMMG) – Fox Studios Australia, Moore Park, Sydney, New South Wales

Jacinta di Mase Management – North Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria

Jenny Darling & Associates – Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria

Margaret Gee – Sydney, New South Wales

Margaret Kennedy Agency – Brisbane, Queensland

The Naher Agency – Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales

Rick Raftos Management – Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales

Zeitgeist Media Group – Summer Hill, Sydney, New South Wales