Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Yesterday morning an author called to pitch his novel, and to his great dismay, I asked him to send us a standard one page query letter. “ONE page?” He countered. “How can a single page ever come close to encapsulating a novel so structurally and thematically complex?” Since it might be the 400th time I’ve heard this complaint about the query submission system, I wanted to take a moment to argue the case.

When an agent receives your query letter, they are deciding whether or not to invest serious time in pursuing a professional relationship with you. Yes, reading an author’s manuscript does qualify as “serious time” because we don’t read in the office. We *read* when you *write*…having just finished putting the kids to sleep. We know and appreciate that we’re damned lucky to be part of this industry, but reading manuscripts is and always has been off the clock.

Just like a first date, a query letter is that important initial impression which can either excite or discourage. And just like that one, brief date with a stranger, rejection only means you weren’t what the person was looking for—not that you won’t be perfect for someone else! I saw a query last month that mentioned Nazi Vampires in the first sentence and it really WAS enough for me to stop reading right there. I couldn’t help remembering the time that a man said to me on a first date that he hadn’t read a book since middle school…when it’s not a match, it’s not a match. It hurts because it IS personal, but then again– it couldn’t be more subjective.

Are you thinking, “But what about books that can’t be described? I really feel that my book is special, but only in a way that can be appreciated through the reading experience”? I’d counter with the question—How can you expect any editor to make time for a project that is (to invent a word) unpitchable? How can you then expect that editor to get support from all of their colleagues to buy a book that no one can put into words? But most importantly, would YOU go to a bookstore and spend $23.99 on a book that had no catalogue copy with which to grab your interest?

A brief description may never do your writing justice. But it CAN and should be able to entice the right audience and weed out the critics.

Off the Chain…

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010


It was thirteen years ago when our author George Dawes Green, missing his hometown of St. Simons Island, Georgia, said to himself, “Hey, wait a minute, what happened to the good ol’ days of sitting around on Wanda’s porch telling stories and watching those pesky moths get caught in the light??” Succumbing to the power of nostalgia, George started (with a bunch of like-minded folks in his East Village apartment) what has since become the adored storytelling organization The Moth.  The New York Times calls The Moth “an example of the phenomenon of storytelling that is gaining momentum nationwide. In The Moth’s case, these narrative sessions are fast becoming an institution.” But hopefully this is old news. And in fact, it is! For George is at it again, and this time, he’s going on an “Unchained Tour” in a hand-painted school bus!

George’s newest plan might be insane or brilliant or perhaps a bit of both, but he has decided to do what he can to rescue the imperiled state of independent bookstores in Georgia.  Comprised of Moth storytellers (Dan Kennedy and Edgar Oliver to name a few), musicians, a circus clown or two (!), and an impressive volunteer squad, The Unchained gang intends to go from one bookstore to the next through the state of Georgia, to re-connect the community to its store by telling stories, performing pieces, and perhaps most importantly, really getting to know each other. It’s a bold, perhaps last-ditch effort to insist that independent bookstores MATTER, before it’s too late.

We couldn’t be more proud of George for pulling this ambitious and heroic project together, from start to finish. More importantly– whether you’re a writer, a journalist, an agent, an editor or just a book lover– this is good for ALL of us!

For more information on The Unchained Tour, visit the very informative and exciting website at And hey, if you live in Georgia, make sure to consult their calendar and treat yourself to an evening with the “gang!”

(This post brought to you by Molly Schulman.)

One of Our Schine-ing Stars!

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Cathy Schine’s latest novel, THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESPORT, has just debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List at #7 for Hardcover Fiction! Congrats Cathy! Reader, if you’re a NY Times subscriber, you may recall the front page of the Sunday Times book review from two weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, which raved about this novel to an extent that we’ve never seen from the Times before (linked above). WEISSMANNS is the story of two daughters, one emotional and one logical, who move to a family cottage in Westport, CT with their recently abandoned elderly mother. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s a tribute of sorts to Jane Austen’s SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, but Cathy has brought her unique humor, charm and wisdom to every page of this modern tale. I can’t possibly do justice to this book with any further attempt at description! Read the review above– then surrender to the temptation to buy a copy for your bedside table.

Amazon vs. [well, all of us?]

Friday, February 19th, 2010

If you’re reading this post, you’re here because you’re somehow connected to or interested in the publishing industry. We’ve probably already gone silent for too long on the topic, so it’s time to get some sort of update here for any readers who aren’t yet in the loop about these pricing wars.

The issue of e-book pricing has been of growing importance since the time when, about two years ago, the Kindle came onto the scene. In the early days, Amazon announced that $9.99 would be their standard price for electronic titles, and most people agree that Amazon set this price at rock bottom because they were aiming to make their real profits with the Kindle reading devices. It’s a whole lot easier to buy a $300 gadget when you think– hey look at all the cash I’ll be saving on actual books! But Publishers worried that this pricing model wasn’t sustainable, and independent e-book retailers accused Amazon of “predatory pricing”, claiming that Amazon was moving to drive out all competitors who couldn’t afford to take a loss on each e-book sale (yes, Amazon loses money when they sell e-books at $9.99, read the articles linked below for a more thorough explanation).

Finally, last month Apple joined the e-book scene with the arrival of the iPad (side note: our author Sue Grafton had her book U IS FOR UNDERTOW featured in the iPad demo video!). Ever the trouble-makers (we say this affectionately), Apple put forth a different pricing model to the publishing houses– now referred to as the “agency model”. It allows for publishers to sell e-books directly to consumers, giving the retailer (Amazon and all others) a commission on any sales generated by their online store. Macmillan, one of the major trade houses, announced to Amazon that they would be exclusively operating under the agency model from now on… Amazon balked and tried to fight it by disabling the “buy” buttons for all Macmillan titles (that includes FSG, St. Martin’s, and Holt). The NY Times covered the issue in more detail in this article. Eventually, Amazon relented and (surprise?) several other major publishing houses have now joined Macmillan in adopting the agency model.

But the case really isn’t closed here, and Amazon customers have “fought back” by giving crummy user reviews to books that now have higher electronic price tags. To this we say– “Um, why punish the authors for decisions that are completely out of their control!!?” If you wrote one of these nasty reviews, really, shame on you. However, Amazon has some valid arguments concerning the ongoing controversy over e-book pricing, and we believe it’s important for you to know all sides of this discussion. The current issue of Publisher’s Weekly has an in-depth and we think, quite measured, piece on e-book pricing that should be required reading for anyone who has ever considered themselves a writer, reader or lover of literature in any form.

It’s imperative that we all continue to stay educated about this and all other digital developments. Whether we like it or not, the number of words that now have a variation that begins with “e” is growing every day… we welcome your thoughts!

A Memoir Not to Be Missed!

Monday, January 25th, 2010


Today marks the publication of Josh Sundquist’s memoir JUST DON’T FALL, a hilarious and poignant account of how Sundquist lost his leg to cancer at age nine, and then with determination, grace and good humor, decided to work tirelessly towards attending the 2006 Paralympics in Italy as one of the U.S. Ski racers. Congratulations, Josh! To our readers, do yourself an enormous favor and pick up a copy of JUST DON’T FALL. Sundquist strikes that rare golden chord of great memoir writing– it’s a gorgeously personal story that is also universally accessible and moving.

And if you happen to live in one of the nine cities where Josh will be reading, we highly recommend seeing him in person. Tour dates and schedule are on Josh’s website, linked above.