I'm not sure I'll ever figure out the publishing industry. Leaving aside some of the arcane intricacies of how things are paid for, and the interesting paths a book may take from writer to publisher to book stores, there are all sorts of weird things going on. The latest and at least to me most perplexing are the recent decisions by two name game creators to start and discontinue their non gaming publications. Wizards of the Coast started their imprint, and not long later it went poof. Games Workshop started their imprint a bit longer ago, and has had some really entertaining series and works, and yet they've decided that despite being a money earner, It just isn't something they wish to continue. So, Solaris is up for sale.

Because of the "credit crunch" that has precipitated the whole economic slowdown around the world, If someone wants to buy them they will probably have to pay in cash or have an enormous amount of brownie points stored up with some bank. Given the number of publishers who have official, or unofficial buying freezes, this probably makes for a very short list. Either way, this likely means either a major change, or extinction of a brand that is entertaining, and well run.

Given the well documented layoffs, and reorganizations of major publishers, i can't see anyone who has an SF/F imprint taking on Solaris and doing the right thing by making it mostly or completely autonomous. It's just not enough a part of human nature for someone to make a purchase that large and then leave it alone. Either favors will be called in, or some bean counter will wish for a more profitable editorial team (read less expensive) or they will decide to move the imprint to the US or Germany, or Russia or wherever and lose people that way. On a small team that already lost a key person to Angry Robot recently, those one or two people lost could have a huge impact on the product.

Who knows, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised and someone will buy them and take a hands off approach, or Games Workshop will decide that as good as the goose might taste the eggs are a nicer thing to have overall. Either way I wish the Solaris team, and their authors good luck wherever the land.

I've had the pleasure of meeting several of my competitors over the last couple years. While we all have our own personalities, we do have several things in common. Near the top of that list is a dearth of time. This is true of those of us building our lists, and those who have lists that make their competitors salivate. One of the things that I'll take the opportunity to declare a universal truth of agents is that we tend to ask questions with a precision a neurosurgeon would appreciate. We know exactly what info we are looking for. We want it in a specific order if at all possible, and broken up into orderly clusters that can let us apply that information with the maximum effect later. So when we ask a question, please answer the question we do ask, not the question you wish we'd asked, or the question you think we should have asked, or ala most politicians and public relations talking heads the question you wanted us to ask.

The reasons for this are legion, the most salient are stated above. But they are (at least for me) not the only reasons we do this. For me, and I suspect most agents one of the things taken into consideration when we read enough of a submission and its cover letter is how much we want to work with the person who created the title. I've gotten no few submissions since I started the agency from people who wrote at a publishable level (or very close to it) but who were in the precise technical terms I learned as a psychology student bug-fuck-nuts and who would have sucked up more of my energy than I care to devote to any one person. Indeed, It would be unfair of me to other clients to take on these people who would take my time and energy away from existing and future clients who had entrusted their career to me.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Oct. 28th, 2008 06:12 pm)
I really do wonder how it is that I, or any agent or editor is expected to believe that some people believe they deserve to be read when they can't even put the energy into finding out the basics of submission. Never mind following all of them in their varied and sometimes insane variations.
Just learning them. There are some that there is no excuse for missing. They aren't hard. They don't require much effort. They don't even require you to learn how to program computers. It's just clicking a few icons in your word processor.

Somethings everyone should look into when preparing a manuscript for submission:
  • Page numbering
  • Margin width
  • Standard Fonts
  • Title Page
  • Header content
  • font size
Those are the basics. Honestly. If you can't get these close enough to violate a sexual harassment policy just give up. Really, if you can't figure these out you don't have the ability to understand the written language well enough to produce anything viable with it.

Cover letters are a separate art, writing a good novel is another separate art. Damn near anyone can string together 80,000 to 160,000 words and call it a novel. It might or might not be good. Sturgeon who was an unrepentant fluffy bunny optimist in my book was wrong or lived a charmed life. But even if you can't write a novel that even a 100 people would enjoy reading, you aren't alone. Not to mention it takes longer to type 1000 words than it does to figure out how to format them. It takes less time to format them properly than it does to find them. So quite frankly there really is no excuse for failing to do so. Arrogance and laziness are not valid reasons, nor is ignorance.

Really, if you can't reason well enough to know how to do simple things, how in the world do you expect anyone to believe you can write believable characters, craft a plot that is well executed, write dialog that is effective, and use description like a scalpel and not an bulldozer? This is like expecting someone who fails their drivers license test twelve times to be able to safely pilot a fighter jet.

[livejournal.com profile] chipaatsua asked several questions that I'll attempt to answer.

First was: 1. what goes into making the decision on whether to offer representation,
First I have to like, really, like a book. Then i have to know where it's going to go first and what I'm going to emphasize in the cover letter to those first editors. Those two go hand in hand. After these, I have to be convinced that the writer will not be a pain in the ass to work with. Yes, that is in bold, in red, and underlined. This point, at least to me, is coequal with quality of writing. If i wanted to deal with crazy people all day long and have them suck the soul out of me I'd buy a big house and track down the people i went to high school with and move them all in.

2) how do you go about offering your authors' work to editors (how do you pick which editor the material goes to first, etc.),

This is actually easier. Than part 1. The type of story and the way the description is executed, the plot, and of course the politics (if any) of the story will make 95% of the choice of where it goes.

3. the average length of time between offering representation and selling the material, and lastly,

Dog only knows. And that's about the same answer any agent is going to give. I've seen agents post to their blogs that it took four years to sell something. I've sold something in four months.

4. when/how do you decide that the material isn't going to sell in its present form.
Admittedly I've only had the business a while, but I haven't run across anything I've decided not to pursue further yet. I have told a client or two that it would not be in their best interest for me to shop a project other than the one that got me to sign them, but that's different.
Yesterday was fun, and all the set work was done by two so I relaxed a bit more the rest of the day. The morning panel The Agent Behind the Curtain was a bit more general than I expected, but probably what the audience needed. Joshua Bilmes did a fantastic job moderating, Eleanor Wood contributed in that cool reasoned way she does. Lucienne Diver was her usual strong business woman self. And Kristen Nelson was the only one i hadn't met before, she was sharp and well focused.

Next I had the signing turned pitch session. This was in the dealers room, thankfully far enough away from most things that I could here the people who were talking to me. The dealers room is large and I spent half an hour talking to Howard and Sandra Taylor. I ran into Jeremy from Night Shade and talked to him for a while.

So aside from Schlock Mercenary I also noticed the folks from Girl Genius, and a demo station for the various versions of Soul Caliber 4, featuring Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Yoda.

Today the only real plans are a brunch with the conchair of Lunacon to beat him into persuade him of a few things I'd like and give him a bit more background on some of the folks who I know want to be there or are going to be there.

After that is a late lunch with [personal profile] canarynoir and then visiting folks at one or two of the parties.

For those keeping track; I talked to Steve Stirling, Jay Lake, Peter Heck, Ken Shoels, and a half dozen others i should remember but don't.

Depending on mood and energy, i may send out a few more submissions later this afternoon.
On 6/23 I received a requested resubmission to my main business address. Since then I've sent and received about 500 messages from that address. This doesn't count the email address that I receive slush to, most of which gets responded to there as well. It doesn't count the email address that the comments on LiveJournal and Facebook are sent to. This also leaves out the two client works I've read and commented on in that time, the begging of cover quotes for a book. On top of this there is the time I spend sending out books, writing the cover letters, giving gentle toe prods to writers who mope and pretending I'm keeping track of industry news. On top of all this is course my personal email. The email for the 4H club I'm an assistant leader in, and of every once in a while that odd thing where I lay down and be (mostly) still for nigh on four hours at a time. 
Really, its true. One of the things many, many writers don't grok about the business is that no agent, editor, or publisher that is not going to have you as the primary source of cash for a book is looking for a reason to publish your book. One more time. I am not,  neither are Night Shade, Baen, Tor, Ace, Harper Collins, Pyr or any other publisher worth a damn does not want a reason to get your book published. Every single agent, editor, and bean counter is looking for a reason not to publish your book. One of the things everyone is looking for is someone who will not be a nightmare to work with. By this I mean that everyone wants to work with the clue enabled. Yes this is an unfairly high standard since most of us don't hold elected officials to this same standard. None of us mind if you are a little or even a lot ah, blessed by unique thought patterns and mental constructs. We just don't want to see them anywhere except in your book. So please for the love of booze and good books, keep your crazy at home and don't send it out with our manuscript. Doing your cover letter in the fictional language of your world is not helpful, even if you provide a dictionary for easy translation. A query letter that is all done up with email stationary that moves and sparkle with with lavender font over a lilac background is a bit unappealing as well. And yes, obvious as it seems as a way to give your prospective agent or editor a leg up on getting to know your world if your query letter is done in character it will probably earn a brisk dismissal.

Sometimes the human capacity for ignoring things amazes me. Usually it just disgusts me. Statistics have shown the number of men who never get married has steadily risen over the last half century. This means there are more and more men every year with no wife, mother, girlfriend or whoever to do their shopping for them. Studies have also shown the number of that more men are staying home and raising the family while the woman in the relationship works outside the house. And yet, the grocery stores haven’t really changed too much in the last two and half decades. Nor have the people making the cleaners and the laundry soap or the fixtures responded well. Most men want a cleaner to either not smell or smell like cleaner "Evergreen Forest Glade Heavenly Aroma" dish soap doesn’t appeal to most of the male gender too much. And given that on average men are a bit taller than women, having checkout counters where there are no impulse items at that higher level seems a bit foolish. The floor space is still costing the store the same amount, and wasting three or four feet of shelf space per checkout lane doesn't make dollars or sense.


Something else baffling is the fact that the book matrix hasn't really changed in these stores in nearly forever. There are bright kids books, the same mix of big name writers as every other supermarket and convenience store with a liberal mix of romance novels. But, despite the demographic shifts mentioned above, and the increased number of men who go shopping with their significant female other, the number of books aimed at men, has dropped. When a decade or two back I'd at least see the occasional western, or maybe a war or car themed non fiction book. Sometimes there would be the biography of a famous athlete or president and that's about it. I find it odd that there are less and less independent book stores, and more concentration of business niches that were formerly boutique focused into the larger stores, and yet the publishing industry has been slow to respond. Wal-Mart, whatever there other faults has proven it can sell music at a solid pace and is now the largest music retailer in the country. The book store section in the two or three Wal-Mart's I occasionally visit are no larger than they were when they opened, likewise for Target, Kmart, or any of the supermarket chains.


The question to me becomes, do writers, and editors really care who is selling the books that much? With one of the two largest chains in the country on shaky financial footing, and the steady drop in independent book stores, doesn’t it make sense to better penetrate the non traditional markets? Even if Target never amounts to more than five percent of Pyr or Roc's sales it would be one more market to put books in front of potential buyers. It would also be one more market to leverage Barnes and Noble and Borders into distribution deals that are more favorable to the publisher and writer. Maybe the younger generations of men and women who aren't reading as much could be tempted back into the light.


A lot of agents and editors rail on and on about people who can't seem to follow submissions guidelines. There is good reason for this, but that's not what this is post is about.

I just want to thank the people who have in the past and will in the future follow the submission guidelines. Often I download six, seven or more submissions or more and take them with me if I expect to wait for a while. I can be sitting in an airport, a doctors office, or getting my taxes done. When after going through several bad submissions be it here at my desk  or sitting on a train, I'll get to someone who got it right. Opening a file and realizing i don't have to worry about how to contact this person because their file isn't book.doc and they have heaven forbid put their contact info in the file is an unalloyed joy. It's also about the only one an agent or editor should be able to count on every time they hold their nose and go spelunking.

So to those of you who get it right, thank you.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( May. 15th, 2008 08:47 pm)
Some people insist that science fiction exists for the purpose of exposition in an indirect fashion over the affects of technology and or the lack of it upon humans and their most pervasive byproduct society. I'll argue that any fictions first duty is to entertain. If one can pontificate via their literature in a sotto voce manner, much power to them. But, entertainment must come first. To me, nothing is a greater turn off in a work of fiction than a hard sell recruiting pitch to a whatever visionary idea the author is expounding upon. This is why I adore writers with the craftsmanship to create alloy with their fiction, vision, and science. Sometimes one of these is week link, or just too odd to be believed. In A Brave New World,by Aldous Huxley, to me the story telling is probably the strongest element. The science was sketchy even for the time, and the vision was replete with well, vision that made the science seem plausible. In Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn, I think all three elements were of equal strength in the underlying matrix, and few authors have ever managed to do this. There are a few modern writers who do this well, and i have the privilege of introducing you to another excellent book.

Dave Freer and Eric Flint's "Slowtrain to Arcturus" from Baen October 2008
Slowtrain )

It occurred to me the other night while talking to someone moving into the industry that there were a few less obvious things about the industry that someone one should pass along. Given that I don't know anyone with parents that cruel, I decided to do it myself.

Things thou should know:

1) From your lips (or keyboard) to everyone's ears:

You may have been under the impression that only prayer moved that fast. You're wrong. The publishing industry gossip-net works with a speed that shames any high school gaggle of incrowders and their hangers on. Anything you say can and will be turned in half a million different directions and spun with an ease rivaled only by the spin masters in D.C. in a million more.

2) Funny, they didn't look important

That's right, they didn't. Where ever you are in professional circles, or the internet there are probably at least three people with some sort of stroke there who you don't know, don't recognize and as a rule don't want to offend. That doesn't change the fact that they are important. Most of the people I know in this industry remind me of college professors, accountants and librarians, several of them are or were in fact just those things. Of the handful with vast amounts of presence, you'll almost never see them in one place, it just works that way.

3) Fans are crazy

Yes, I love them. But ask around the con circuit, ask about Tazer Con and Sprinkler Con, or The Boskone From Hell and for some of the other war stories. Better still, go read the things Mercedes Lackey went through regarding a stalker, its right there on her website in all its many colored glory. That aside, the fans are the reason you get paid to lie to people. Fans (and pros) have long, long memories and will repeat what they experience of you for quite some time.

4) Patience isn't a virtue, it’s a necessity.

In some businesses things run about willy-nilly with events happening at a nearly glacial pace, this one isn't nearly so fast. So patience isn't a virtue, it’s a lifeline to what sanity can be claimed for anyone who makes up entire worlds to keep the little voices in their head distracted and then falls far enough under the sway of their hubris to believe other people will want to read their inventions.

5) Oh no they didn't!

Well, yes they did and no they didn't. They obviously don't have the wit to appreciate the quality of your pearls, and the probably did say or do something about if that makes no sense to you. Take note Sherlock, you're now in their shoes.

6) The Bigger they are titled

The less you can figure out from the title. Take royalties for instance, really, it won't take much room. The more grand the name of something in the industry, the less sense it may make. Is that Executive Production Assistant Editor the one doing the work and the one with the stroke or are they the glorified coffee toter, who knows, see numbers one and two.

7) Musical Chairs is a way of life

When you were seven musical chairs was a game you played at birthday parties, and any other time your parents wanted to wear you down in a controllable fashion, you probably aren't seven any more. Do you remember that editor you met who worked at publisher #2 six months ago? Well by now, they may be an agent, an editor at another house, a full time writer, or they might have gone on to do something at loosely connected to the degree they spent years laboring to get. But don't worry, they could be back.

8) The SMOF's rule the (fan) world

Secret Masters Of Fantasy is not (usually) an insult, it too is a way of life, there's even a convention for them. These are the people who either do have as much stroke as a peeved editor or think they do, you probably can't tell which group they are in. Assume they do have the stroke to damage your career. Just because you meet them running a con in San Diego, doesn't mean they aren't engaged so someone who runs cons in Philly, see numbers one, two and seven.

9) There are no new spins

If you have produced something publishable, you probably haven't created something original, or innovative, or heaven help us all never been done before!. You've hopefully managed a way of executing a story it that is entertaining, and well done. That's it, deal with it. As soon as you say of those things or there equivalents you lose credibility faster than a toddler with crumbs on their lips who claims not to have eaten the missing cookie.

    Last night as I was for some inexplicable reason watching Celebrity Rehab and thinking about what to post for Bittercon., i was struck by a thought. That thought was struck by a question. After filing assault charges and a brief flirtation with a civil suit, I decided that I'd go with thought, that I'd take the abuse and stay with the evil that is thought. Because somewhere, somehow I had to set an example of how not to quit. Besides, Thought loves me!

     With all the stories about dark urban environments, the cold reaches of space, and the heartless politics of arenas from corporate to courtly and criminal to pugilistic, I have to wonder where the bad relationships are? Sure we've got relationships where the two people don't get along. One is a defense attorney, the other is a street cop, that's all well and good and creates emotional weft that we can all appreciate. But what about the battered party in a relationship? The person who arrives at work ready to slay adversaries with briefs, bullets or whate'er the weapon on their field of battle and yet can't stand up to their (in)significant other? I know a few of this type, their the person who'll tell school comities, police, and bad drivers do some anatomically improbable things, and then go home and never raise their voice except to apologize for their imagined faults to the one demon they can't bring themselves to fight.

    Another type we don't see are those involved in relationships that spin on the axis of addiction. In any relationship involving addiction one person is the symptom bearer. Everyone else is somewhere on the continuum of helpful to harmful. Most people being somewhere on the darkside, usually unintentionally. I think in the right hands, a story where someone wears themselves to a nub trying to keep someone they love well supplied with their drug of choice so that person doesn't have to turn tricks or steal for a fix could be interesting.

    Obviously, at least in the context of science fiction and fantasy, these make rather poor things to hang an entire story on, but they do make interesting things to know about one or more of your characters.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jan. 21st, 2008 10:52 am)
Holy Hell. Someone explain to me how i fell asleep around four and woke up at quarter past seven and can manage to type in that nearly competent way i generally manage. Please, really. I'm not a morning person, i don't play one on tv and i didn't even have more than a cup of coffee yesterday?
Now onto near relevance:
I've become convinced that Fen are not made for four day cons. By midday yesterday everyone (over 18) was dragging. Even some of the twelve to eighteen crowd were moving at less than full speed. The only party i know of was a semi quiet affair where there were a few people from Pi-Con, a guy from some con in the mid Atlantic traded bad jokes and con creep stories.

I ran into the moderator of my Appeal of Evil panel and she, I, the fabulous Sara Harvey and about half a dozen others were seen talking for about an hour outside the con suite from two thirty to three thirty while Sara and i ostensibly looked for Michael Whitehouse. Tim Lieder and I managed to talk several times, and I nearly had a conversation with Jeff Mach as he was wandering about around two O'clock.

Overall its been a fun con, but I'm way to tired for anything erudite...
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Jan. 8th, 2008 11:57 pm)
A few people I know have just launched a new ezine. They are in need of content, and sponsors. I know all but two of the people involved, you might not yet be getting the same notice as a few of the bigger ezines, but you'll get attention, and publication. Good luck to those who submit, and to those involved in running Darwin's Evolutions.
First, I must apologize. I lied. Others lied and i abetted them. There really is a secret hand shake. Pay attention, take notes, post it above your computer, on you fridge, get it laminated and post it in your shower too. This is the most valuable thing you will ever hear about this or any other business.

onyxhawke: (Default)
( Dec. 3rd, 2007 11:56 am)
Effective immediately The OnyxHawke Agency will now begin accepting non-fiction in three categories.
History, Political Science/Commentary and Psychology

All non fiction books must include at time of submission:
  • Educational credentials
  • Glossary of terms and acronyms.
  • Must be referenced. All books submitted with only a list of sources and no foot/end notes or other in text references will be rejected as plagiarism
  • Must have as little as possible in the way of references from any of the contributors
  • Must include in a separate file the complete contact information for all contributors and include their educational credentials and publishing credits.
  • No "pop psychology" or self help books.
  • There really is a line between history and political science, please keep your opinions out of the main text of the history books.
  • Desired sales positioning: general non fiction, text book, other.
My website will be updated with this info as well as soon as I remember to get my wonderful webmistress to do so.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Nov. 9th, 2007 07:49 pm)
The con so good it took five days to recover from.

So, fun people at the con i wished I'd talked to more:
J.V. Jones, Lois Bujold, David Coe, Marissa Lingen, Elizabeth Bear, Kristen Britain, Julie Czernada and a half hundred others I didn't write down the names of and didn't know.

People I unfairly monopolized the time of:
David Drake, Sarah and Dan Hoyt, C.E. Murphy, Kate Paulk, Darwin Garrison, Ekatrina and Chris Sedia.

Ships I passed in the Con:
James Maxey, Mark Newton, Lucienne Diver, Mary Kowal, Sean Wallace, David Anthony Durham, and more...

Person I'm most likely to get into trouble hanging around with:

As much as I like talking to and listening to the non-pro's at cons (just try to shut me up, really) I think i like last year better as a professional environment. The fans are great, and the nearly ready for publication are fun and who i depend on for my client base. But WFC is really a free form business meeting, and some pro's felt intimidated. I noticed there were a lot who seemed bemused to be at a WFC that had  almost as many fans as industry pro's. I know some pro's never go to any other cons but i think there are better cons for meeting the pro's in meet-the-fans-mode.

And now for the pics!
That was my fun, busy, and dizzying WFC, next con Arisia 2008.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Nov. 2nd, 2007 11:48 am)
Morning. It's been less than three hours since I got out of bed. Thanks to two cups of coffee, and as many quick walks in the forty or so degree air, i have achieved artificial, and shaky alertness. World Fantasy Con is it's usual, quietly bustling self, replete with the industries name players. L. E. Modesitt just walked by, The Nielsen Haydens are in attendance. David Coe, Kristen Britain, Laura Gilman and Elizabeth Bear are wandering about, Jeremy Larsen was decked out in a zoot suit last night, and Lois Bujold actually remembered me!

I've run into old friends, Sarah and Dan Hoyt, Darwin Garrison, and Kate Paulk. The fabulous ladies of Carpe Libris have brought their wit and wonder to the masses. Gene Wolfe, and Patrick O'Leary are talking next to me. The fabulous Catie Murphy and her husband Ted survived a terror ride back to their hotel last night, and are still speaking to the driver. Jennifer Jackson, and Lucienne Diver are of course turning heads and making agents with lesser lists jealous, per usual. Tempest Bradford, and Jenna Waterford are having a spectacular time and bringing smiles to those with the wit to catch theirs.

Lois Bujold read from chapter five of Passage, the third Sharing Knife book. It's due out the end of April 08.

More news, as I invent it.
onyxhawke: (Default)
( Oct. 19th, 2007 02:31 am)
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
  - GK Chesterton


onyxhawke: (Default)


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags