Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Hiatus

We're all taking some time off to celebrate a successful year and gear up to start another. So we won't be posting much (if at all) until January 5, 2009. See you in the new year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Do You Know Her One True Love?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Here's something to mull over while sipping the mulled wine, to keep your mind nimble for a while. Can you identify this once-famous romance book? Be the first with the title and author to win the prize! Extra points for knowing the "story" behind the story.

Front cover blurb:
More savage than Sweet Savage Love!
More wuthering than Wuthering Heights!
More windy than Gone With the Wind!

Back cover (names removed so that you can't get away with an easy Google search!):
Meet Lady V[...], whose heart-stopping beauty has caused more coronaries than saturated fats. Join her in a dizzying odyssey as she's transported from nineteenth-century England to old New Orleans (and back again).

Swooning at the drop of an eyelash, V is swept from rapture to reverie, reverie to romp, and romp back to rapture; she won't rest until she finds Real Romance--or loses her virginity--though she'd kind of prefer it if they happened close together.

Voluptuous V's virtue is nearly (darn it!) compromised by such luminaries as the filthy French explorer, [...], who wins her in a poker game aboard a Mississippi steamboat; Lord [...], who dresses like a bloodhound and has been known to lift his leg at masked balls; and most romantically, the dashing Duke of [...], V's One True Love.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winners - Holiday Book Contest!

Okay, we couldn't narrow it down to just two. So in the generous holiday spirit, we have four winners.

Angelia Sparrow - Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas by Russel Hoban
Vicky Burkholder - Silver Spurs, Santa Mouse
As one of our editors commented about the two above: "Both women chose books that were read to them as children (or they read to their children) and the legacy continues. I think it’s wonderful that they’ve managed (directly or indirectly) to foster a love of reading in their kids, who’ve then passed it on to their own kids, via a traditional holiday read. "

Liz - Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan
Yes, it's true that this book wouldn't make much sense or be meaningful unless you have been reading the whole Carpathians series. But it is a great example of the holiday spirit of families and old friends getting together, old and new love, celebration of children, hope for the future.

Amara - Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Mr. Pratchett's Discworld series is hilarious and often such a wonderfully ironic take-off on the real world. It's fun to see what can go wrong with holidays - because it makes us appreciate when things go right.

So, Angelia and Vicky and Liz and Amara - email Give us your mailing address and your pick of the prizes (see original contest post).

And a happy reading holiday to all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reading for Comfort in Life

If you as a writer have ever questioned the value of what you write, go read this whole article. (And have the tissue box handy.)

"Somewhere, there is a woman, sitting in a ro0m, three days past a rape.
Write a story for her.
Somewhere, there is a man, sitting in a hospital room.
Write a story for him.
Story-telling has been around for millennia for a reason--we need to connect. We need to both transport somewhere other than our own daily circumstances and to connect to others, to know that someone out there understands us. Understands our fears, our desires. We need to escape, without physically abandoning our family and friends. Stories do that. We need the hope, the connection, the dream.
Write a story for us."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The News Isn't Getting Any Better...

Macmillan--which owns Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martin's Press, Holt, Picador--is laying off 46 people, about 4% of its staff. Various children's imprints will be consolidated into one company-wide children's division, to be called the Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.

"Book sales are markedly slower this Christmas than they were last Christmas," said Macmillan CEO John Sargent. He further predicted that the tough times will continue "at least through the first half of next year."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Book Contest!

We need some cheery news. The year-end holidays are upon us, we want warmth and light and happy thoughts.

So tell us what holiday themed novel is your favorite, gives you the best "holiday spirit" feeling! Share books we might want to read to lift our own spirits. Now, in order to avoid having everyone list the old classics, let's limit this to fiction published after 1970. The story can incorporate any of the year-end holidays: Christmas, New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice...

Post a comment listing author and title and a paragraph or two about the story and why it is your holiday favorite. On Dec. 22, we'll select two winners. Prizes (of course there are prizes!) will be your choice of:
~ Forbidden Fantasies gift bag: Forbidden Fantasies hardcover book, tote bag, T-shirt, boa
~ four mystery/suspense trade paperbacks
~ four metaphysical/mind-body-spirit nonfiction trade paperbacks

Hmm, now I have to browse my shelves to find a good book to reread to put me in the holiday mood.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Publishing Economy Woes

Where would you be without knowing the continuing woes of the publishing industry? (Reflecting the overall woes of our economy.)

Macmillan has instituted a pay freeze for all employees earning over $50K/year. Employees earning less than that will be "modest" increases. In a staff memo, CEO John Sargent wrote, "We are now clearly in a recession and there is still no clarity on how long or deep it will be. What is clear is that retail book sales are down, advertising revenues are down, and even countercyclical businesses like education are struggling in many cases."

Chronicle Books is laying off close to 5% of their staff. While they say their children's book sales have grown, they are reducing the number of adult titles, and have seen a decline in backlist sales.

Added 12/11: Perseus Book Group has announced it is freezing salaries, suspending company contributions to retirement accounts, and not filling open positions.

Co-Authorship - Part 2 of 2

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Things your collaboration agreement should cover:

~ Copyright is joint and equal, unless the two of you agree beforehand otherwise. You must have this documented and signed!

~ Under the Copyright Act, either party can license the nonexclusive rights to the work, provided they fairly share the profits with the other; this can be altered by your written agreement. Do you want to state that neither party can sell, contract or dispose of the story without joint agreement? What happens if you disagree on where to sell it, or on the terms offered by a publisher?

~ What part of the "writing" will you each do? Is one of you plotting and outlining, and the other writing the actual story text? Are you doing alternating chapters, or are you doing characters X and Y and your partner is doing character Z? Who is doing the research?

~ Will the work be submitted to or through an agent? What if one of you has an agent and the other doesn’t, or you have two different agents?

~ How will your "byline" be shown on the book? Are you using a joint pen name? If you are listing two names, figure out now whose name will be listed first, if that matters to either of you.

~ Who pays what expenses? Research costs, mailing, photocopying, phone bills, possibly travel costs, etc, etc. Are these equally shared? Will you each incur your own expenses and then be "reimbursed" from royalties received?

~ Income: Who gets what percentage of the advance and royalties? An equitable division does not necessarily mean 50/50, if you've agreed up front that one person is taking on a significantly greater portion of the work or risk.

~ What if something prevents your partner from completing their part of the work, due to circumstances beyond your or their control? Are you allowed to finish it up on your own? In that case, who gets what credit and what portion of the income?

~ What if that unforeseen circumstance is the death or incapacitation of one of the writing partners? What control will that person's heirs have in the book, before or after completion or publishing?

~ What about future prequels or sequels to this book? Can either author write one individually, or are they also covered by this collaboration agreement and the work and profits must be shared?

~ What happens if something goes legally wrong? If you get charged with copyright infringement or defamation or any host of things for a section of the book that your partner wrote or researched, do you share equally in the legal liabilities, or is each of you responsible for your own pieces? If so, how do you identify and track who is in charge of each part?

~ Dispute resolution: It wouldn't hurt to have your agreement state what will happen if the two of you cannot come to agreement on some issue.

When you submit or sell a joint book:

Well, to start with, make sure your agent, editor and publisher know up front, before contract, that this is a co-authored book. Yes, we have actually had the circumstance of an author returning the contract and there are TWO signatures on it. Huh? Who's this other person and what do they have to do with this book? Or less terrible but still very bad and unprofessional, the author who waits until after the book is accepted to say, "Oh, by the way, I actually co-wrote this with Wanda Writer."

As mentioned previously, our standard contract contains a clause about co-authors and stating that everything is shared equally between them. If that is not how your arrangement with your co-author is set up, the contract must be revised.

All parties in a co-writing situation should sign the same version of the contract. You can't have varying terms. That would cause enormous confusion, plus the publisher would be stuck with the most restrictive version of each clause. For example, you and your co-author can't have different lengths for grant of publishing rights, can't exclude different subrights. If the payments are not equal—for example, one of you gets 75% of the royalties and the other 25%—that must be explicitly stated in the contract, and you both must sign the same version listing the split. Nor can either of you make unilateral changes to the contract—ALL parties must agree on and sign a future contract revision, were such to occur.

Questions? Horror stories about things that went wrong in a co-writing situation, or raves about how great it worked?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Co-Authorship – Part 1 of 2

By Raelene Gorlinsky

We seem to be seeing an increasing number of authors who co-write. Authors may be doing so under both names (Booktitle by Annie Author & Wanda Writer) or under a joint pen name (Booktitle by Patty Penname).

A co-writing project could be the result of advance planning or may be sheer serendipity. Perhaps you and a fellow writer just happened to fall into a conversation where you kicked around story ideas—and before you knew it, had together developed a plot and characters, all the basics of a story. Or maybe you were lamenting that you develop great plots but your submissions get rejected with comments about the flat characters—and the writer next to you mentioned how she developed fantastic characters but then couldn’t think what to do with them. And voila, a partnership based on complementary skills is born. Or the idea could even have come from a third party, an editor or agent who put the two of you together.

But however it starts, it is important that both of you think through the relationship and how it’s going to work. And then put that in writing.

Co-writing has a number of contractual and legal ramifications. What you are creating is a "joint work"—a book prepared by two or more people with the intent, at the time of creation, that their contributions will "be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole." [U.S. Copyright Act]

Many publishing contracts state the default of how coauthoring is handled. Our ECPI contract has a standard clause regarding multiple authors:

"Whenever the term "Author" refers to more than one person, such persons will be jointly and severally responsible for all duties, obligations and covenants under this Agreement, and shall share equally in all royalties and other amounts to be paid under this Agreement, unless otherwise specified in writing signed by all parties."

That means not only that the royalties are split evenly between the co-authors, but also both of you are fully responsible for all contract terms, for all legal liabilities and commitments.

A publisher has the right to ask to see the collaboration agreement between co-authors when contracting a joint work, although it is my understanding that many do not actually request it. However, there are circumstances where the publisher may certainly want to see the agreement, such as if the royalties are not to be an even split or if you want to specify which name gets listed first when the individual co-author names (rather than a joint pen name) are to be shown. A document signed by all parties showing agreement to this arrangement, and dated before the contract is executed, is what the publisher needs to be sure their contract does not conflict.

It is extremely important that there be a written (signed and dated) collaboration agreement between two or more authors who are working together on any writing project. Do not say, "But we're best friends/sisters/spouses." Things change, life happens, attitudes can alter, external circumstances arise. What if your writing partner dies or becomes unable to write? Or decides to move to Tibet and live in a monastery halfway through the book? Or gets pregnant with sextuplets? Who's going to do what part of the work now, and who gets how much of the profits?

Your written agreement can be drafted by a lawyer, or you can draft something yourself and have a lawyer review it. There are sample author collaboration agreements and advice available online. Even if you don't use a lawyer, get everything down in writing and both of you sign it! (And if you are married, some states require spousal signature, since this relates to joint assets or income earned during the marriage.)

If you write more than one book together, you may need to modify the agreement for each book. Or you could have an agreement that covers several books or a series. The agreement needs to state the planned book title(s) or series.

Working out these details in advance will prevent a good deal of potential conflict and stress later. Lacking any legal document stating otherwise, everything will be considered an equal split between the two of you, and that may not be how you want it, and may not cover unexpected circumstances. Talking about all this up front—and then writing it down—is critical to the reasonable functioning of a team, whether two or more people.

(Part 2 will cover what should be in the collaboration agreement and issues related to submitting and selling a joint book.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Black Wednesday"

Update 12/4: Also being reported are a freeze on raises at Penguin, a delay of pay increases (until after 7/1/09) at HarperCollins, and the elimination of 13 U.S.-based positions at Bowker.

Yep, that's what today is now being labeled in the publishing industry.

As reported by Publishers Lunch and Publishers Weekly:

Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster has "enacted a reduction in staff in which 35 positions across the company were eliminated, from areas including our publishing divisions and international, operations and sales," according to a memo from ceo Carolyn Reidy.

Despite having "literally examined our budget line-by-line to find those areas large and small where we might further economize," Reidy says "today's action is an unavoidable acknowledgment of the current bookselling marketplace and what may very well be a prolonged period of economic instability. In light of this uncertainty, we must responsibly position ourselves for challenges both near term and long."

Separately, Simon & Schuster Children's president Rick Richter has resigned "to explore other opportunities in publishing," leaving December 5. Rubin Pfeffer, senior v-p and publisher of the children’s group is also departing.

Random House:

The first part of the Random House reorganization everyone has been expecting under new CEO Markus Dohle was announced this morning. President and publisher of the Bantam Dell group Irwyn Applebaum is leaving the company immediately after 25 years there. The publishing line itself is being absorbed by the Random House group, under Gina Centrello, along with the Spiegel & Grau unit that had been part of Doubleday. It puts the company's two big mass-market lines together in the same division, though Dohle says that they will "continue to have separate editorial departments."

The Doubleday Publishing Group has been disbanded. Knopf will absorb the Doubleday and Nan A. Talese lines, while the Crown group will incorporate Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and WaterBrook Multnomah.

Thomas Nelson:

Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt announced that the Christian publishing house has laid off 54 employees, or 10% of its workforce. [...] the cuts, which take effect on Friday, affect almost all departments and were necessary because of the slumping economy.


Becky Saletan is leaving her post as publisher and VP of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; her last day is December 10.

Galley Cat ( is reporting: "The shock waves just keep coming out of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Executive editor Ann Patty informed us this morning that she has been "fired," along with an unspecified number ("a lot") of other employees. "

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We Know Who You Are!

By Raelene Gorlinsky

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to our poll about our blog viewers. You can see the results in the right column. We found them quite interesting.

Writers who read our blog are about evenly split between published and unpublished authors—we’d truly had no idea how that would break down. There’s a nice sprinkling of “publishing professionals” (editors, agents, etc). And it’s great to see that people read a variety of genres; we don’t feel our ramblings are only applicable to the romance genre. Hey, we’ve even got some male participants (about 4%); we appreciate their perspective.

Of course, most interesting of all is that apparently 16 respondents had no sex. Uh, wait…that didn’t come out right. What I meant was, 7% of respondents did not select a gender. Now, this could be because you are shy, or perhaps didn’t feel it was a relevant question. But I lean more toward the explanation that we have some paranormal or alien participants (given the popularity of those genres right now) who just don’t comfortably fit into the “male” or “female” categories.