Plenary: Krista Marino from Delacourt Press, “What I need to buy your book”
Editor/author relationship is like dating:
Trust, Mutual Passion (for the book), Open Communication, Not calling night and day
Liken it to “He’s just not that into you.”
Publishing can make a lot LESS sense than dating can.
I can only speak about my own rules. But each house/editor is different. So here’s my publishing philosophy.
4 things I need in order to acquire a project. Some you can control; some you can’t.
1. I need to connect with protagonist. Authentic voice, real characters.
2. Something different: plot, character, setting or format.
3. Something I can’t forget.
4. I need to understand the project: what author is doing, who readership is, how packaged.
In a relationship, you might date someone who is great but you don’t get each other, no chemistry.
Examples: books I’ve just acquired.
In these books, I found all 4 elements in first few pages of each project.
[She read a lengthy section from each book.]
3rd person narrator can give a story an old-timey feel. Very appropriate for a “classical” book.
About one book: “Author presented such a collection of questions that I couldn’t stop reading.”
Friday Plenary Session, Edward Necarsulmer IV (agent, McIntosh and Otis): “The Role of the Agent in Children’s Book Publication: Navigating Author and Illustrating Careers Through Good Times and Bad”
(economy . . . ) It’s more important than ever that you write your book.
My philosophy of children’s books: in this world today, being a kid is great, but there are hard things about it. Everything is a public experience. But books are the last bastion of the private, the last thing a child feels is his or her own. As this world gets more confusing and insane.
People I represent: Donald Sobel (Encyclopedia Brown), Old Yeller, Madeline L’Engle, AnnDee Ellis
A Day in the Life of an Agent, from Submission to Publication
You guys get up the guts to send me something. I read it. I feel a reaction to it (gut—which is really all we have to go on, so don’t be daunted by rejections) (btw, I get more rejections than anyone). I feel like I’m falling in love. (Agent/author relationship is like a good sexless marriage—not without troubles but nothing that can’t be worked out.) I call you, say I liked what I saw, ask for the next three chapters. I read it, and if the feeling builds, I’ll request the entire ms. Chances are that if I’m that far, my heart is in it. My mentor said agenting is like learning a foreign language. At one point you begin to dream in it. As an agent, when you read something you feel something for, the names of editors begin popping into your head.
An agent is up on the publishing scene, knows likes and dislikes so he can make a match.
I like a more personal relationship with my clients. That affords honesty. Ex: AnnDee sends me her novel and I’m having a hard time getting to it, I can tell her the truth (“I had to go visit my aunt this weekend”).
Anyway, then I decide I’d like to take you on. Then I’ll give you a call, and we’ll chat in great length. Sorta like an interview. We discuss what you want in an agent, what you require in communication, how you feel about editorial work. Also other things like who else I represent, whether we have a film department. I explain that agents take 15% commission.
How can an agent help you?
-selling your book domestically
-foreign translation rights
-television rights (btw, imo agencies with in-house film/television departments are best. If the agency farms it out to Hollywood, children’s stuff doesn’t get the attention it deserves in L.A.)
-“agency” in dictionary means “to have power in a situation.” I negotiate with houses and I carry my agency’s reputation with me, so I carry weight.
Now we are at work on the ms. An editor’s favorite word is no. Because they’ve got to clear their desk. My job as an agent is to help get your ms in shape so an editor won’t say no, to do the basic things that will help them read on.
We get it in shape, and it’s time to send it out. I have probably already dropped your name to editors by now at lunch or whatever. I’ll talk about the editors/houses with you and how they’ll meld with you personally and editorially.
2 kinds of submissions: exclusive and multiple.
Exclusive is very effective.
The #1 reason people leave their agents is lack of communication. I think that’s terrible. Writing can is a solitary profession. If you write to me, upset, I can at least write you one line from my blackberry. I’d like to be there to talk you through writer’s block, if I can.
I’ll call an editor and say I think it’s a perfect fit for her, and ask, “How about a three-week exclusive?” Or we might do a multiple submission—3 or 4 houses to start.
I cultivate relationships with editors, so that when I get a rejection, I get specific feedback about why things didn’t work.
My submission guidelines: 5 pages if it’s a novel; entire ms if it’s a picture book. Include BYU on the cover.
(He told a success story that got snagged after 12 strong rejections. Lesson: don’t give up!)
If we have multiple offers, we discuss them. I consider myself a “best offer” agent rather than a “highest offer” agent. A healthy advance that earns out is much better than a big advance that doesn’t earn out. (That makes it a one-hit wonder.) We look at all factors, such as rights. I do a cost-benefit analysis in my head about what I can probably get for it. There’s no reason to retain rights that you can’t easily exploit. We make these decisions together. I can include a bonus in the contract for if it wins an award. I’ll tell you about each editor I’m considering and how I think they’ll match with you, and I’ll make recommendations.
So we find a good editor. Then the tough stuff starts—I negotiate your contract.
Once we have a contract, I become a voyeur. I get cc’d with the communication between you and the editor. If I don’t think you are being treated correctly, I’ll step in. Agents are professional pests/bad guys. You need to have a working, creative relationship with your editor. If you hate the cover, it’s easier for me to say it than you.
In about a year your book is ready to come out. I start working on your next book.