April 25th, 2008


deals may be about more than money - the agent perspective

This week, I closed a deal for Laura Anne Gilman AKA suricattus, author of the Retrievers series and the upcoming spinoff at Harlequin Luna. The deal was for a brand new series, currently titled The Vineart Wars. Before you read any further, go and read the author's take on this. And, then, there's my version of the story....

It starts off much the same. We were exchanging chatty emails as suricattus attempted to convince me to attend a Cooking/Wine Expo. I was reluctant. The venue, the date, the cost... so, it was suggested that if there was a way to make it a research trip and tax-deductible, then I might be more amenable. And there it was. A fantasy based on wine and vineyards, and the author was off and running because it was a lovely dovetailing of her interests and passions.

*time passes*

The author presented a proposal, which was discussed (revised, hacked to bits, blown up, revised some more). As I recall, there were other beta readers as well. Eventually, there was a more polished version that felt ready and, though the type of fantasy was a well-trodden road, the concept had a number of fresh twists and we decided to go for the multiple submission. (As an aside, I'm the kind of agent that decides this on a project by project basis. IMO, not everything is suited to multiple submissions and I am certainly no advocate of the throw it at the wall of publishing and see if it sticks method.) Four editors were chosen for a variety of reaons - their own interests, their publisher's approach to publication, among other things. We were looking for enthusiasm, commitment, an ability to give this somewhat upmarket packaging, and a good editorial fit. Money would be nice too (we both would need to increase our wine cellar selection, after all).

*time passes*

One editor passed (though she craved a glass of wine while reading the proposal). A bit more time passed and then one of the remaining three editors came in with an offer. A multi-book offer. Nice. The other two editors were informed that we would now accept a best-bid* as we were looking for the best fit for the material, not necessarily a bidding war. Due to bad timing, the London Book Fair added a few days to their response time. Of those two, one declined to counter-offer, but the other wanted to make an offer and came back with more money per book, but for less of them. At this point, much debate occurred.** The sticking point seemed to be commitment issues. But, also of interest were feedback on editorial issues, packaging intentions, and positioning in the market. Questions were asked and answered before a decision was made. It was a challenging decision with many factors, and I knew that both editors would do a great job, too.

But, now... it's time for the research. suricattus always brings great wine to match up with my cooking.... She even got me into Shiraz finally, so I was recently labeled by a sommelier as an ABC consumer.

*There are several kinds of offer/counteroffer situations:
(1) Open-ended: No closing date. Everyone who wants to gets to make an offer and bid and counter-bid.
(2) Closing date: The agent sets a date on which offers are due, and then bid and counter-bid ensues.
(3) Best Bid: Can also include or not include a closing date. Best bid means that each publisher bids once and only once and then the offer that the author considers the best is chosen.

**Factors considered in bids (not an exhaustive list):
(1) advance amount per book
(2) # of books covered by offer
(3) separate vs. basket accounting
(4) territory covered by agreement
(5) intended publishing format
(6) intended publishing schedule
(7) promotional package, if any

letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 122
# of partials requested: 1
genre of partials requested: fantasy

What you need to have in order to query me:
- a finished manuscript of novel-length fiction (if you are a new author -- not an idea, not a work-in-progress; already published* authors can send queries on partials/option materials)
- preferably in English
- preferably in a genre that I profess to have an interest in (those genres are many, but do not include poetry or children's picture books)

Here is what you should send (to me, other agents may have other preferences):
- a query letter
- an SASE if by snailmail
- the first five pages of your work (plain text if by email, no attachments)
- a synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages)

*where published means paying market recognized as professional

code monkey like fritos

TGIF - courtesy of Jim Butcher (who showed me this one)

(And now I'm off to read a pile of manuscript pages this weekend....)