Category Archives: publishers

A busy year so far

As you have noticed, I don’t write blogs here often. I simply don’t have a lot of time! I had some great best sellers last fall on several lists and I look forward to some more big name books this season. Thank you to the very few of you who have followed my submission requirements to the letter. Most of the time people just seem to harvest our email and send off anything they want to resulting in a loud “no” from our camp. I really don’t understand why people do that.

Anyway, as some of you know, I am also a writer and I recently had another one of my poems published on MadSwirl. I really enjoy their site. Here is the latest one for you. http://madswirl.com/poetry/2016/03/wonder-working-power/

WONDER WORKING POWER

by on March 6, 2016 :: 0 comments

On any Sunday morning in your mind,
Probably in winter, a man steps in
To a large baptismal font, or as we
Much preferred, tank. “The old now cast away
For the new. The old ways of sin now purged
For the new life of grace. Baptism just
An outward sign, but a sign nonetheless.
Let us pray.” The rolled up shirt sleeves, in lieu
Of his normal jacket and tie, tell us
That today a few of us will put on

The incorruptible. “Jason, join me,
Would you?” Jason we have known for years and
Works part-time at the local Petro Can.
Nervous at first, he tells us why he’s here.
“When my mother drank too much, we hid. My
Dad left early. He could not take it, so
My sisters and I, we kept hiding. Jill
Got married and so did Laurie. It was
Just me now, hard to hide when there’s only
You. I came to this church because….” He points

But doesn’t need to. “I… Greg invited
Me.” He motions his head shyly towards
Greg, in the same pew eight years, with the same
Yellow brown tie. They exchange smiles. “This church
Took me in and cared. Nobody else cared.
No one. Then Jesus took away my sin.
It rolled away… and now I am, now I
Am—” “Free,” our pastor whispers into his
Mic, in tears himself, as are many. The
Hurt of only knowing slightly, when you

Should know deeply, stings. A few seconds pass,
Very still. On a nod, Jason pinches
His nose and tilts his head, the pastor taking
Him in his arms, and after he has said
“In the name of the father, the son, and
The holy ghost,” briefly dips him in the
Water. Once Jason is back on his feet,
Winds whip up high. “Praise Jesus! Thank you God!”
He bounds out of the tank and we can hear
A soul leap free forever. A child sees

This and sees the hand of the Lord wiping
Away all tears. Later, when age gives what
You hope is wisdom, you think you’re either
Lucky, born into a family who
Cares, or you have Jason’s mother, in which
Case no sleep is ever sound enough. They
Don’t often baptize at the old church now;
Like speaking in tongues, or singing “There’s pow’r
In the blood of the lamb,” people have moved
On. Perhaps corruptible was always
A better fit. Or they’ve lost the eyes of
A child, who saw grace falling all day
Everywhere, as snow deep in winter.

editors note:Salvation in sanctuary. All god’s chillun jus’ wanna be safe! – mh clay

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Visiting Toronto

Just got back from a quick trip to Toronto. It is not easy to see everyone in 3 days, but I did ok:
Wed–spent the whole day at TSN, meeting clients and potential clients
Thurs–Penguin, Mclelland and Stewart, Knopf, Doubleday, then two clients of mine at Sportsnet, then a Leafs game
Fri–HarperCollins, Anansi, Wiley, then a potential client at CBC, then a fellow agent (Rick Broadhead).
Sat–potential client, meeting at the Ritz Carleton.
Then I flew to Ottawa to meet some clients of mine, then flew back to Vancouver.
I sometimes wonder whether these trips are worthwhile, because they seldom result in a sale. Generally I pitch stuff and publishers tell me if they want a look or not. And I do personal follow-ups on pitches in progress (offer, counter-offer, signing, etc).
But most of my sales are an indirect result of these trips. In fact, since 2009, all of my sales have been to Toronto-based publishers. So I think they do pay off….eventually.

I’d like to close with some advice for people who are considering me as their agent.

Please follow the submission guidelines TO THE LETTER, and please double-check your work. You would be astonished by the mistakes I see, even people misspelling my name, which isn’t easy.

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It’s 2012, has the world ended yet?

Now that’s a tricky question to answer. Why? Because in this last year it seemed like the world of publishing had indeed started the  slow march to extinction. They are being faced with changes that are now starting to effect their bottom line and they are going to have to really dig deep to stay viable. So what does that mean for us agents?

Well, it means we are going to have to change the way we do business as well. We need to source the best manuscripts we can to sell. So if you are thinking of submitting a book, it’s now more important than ever to produce the best work you can. And look at all your publishing options.

Remember, just because you want to self-publish doesn’t mean there isn’t a contract involved. There is. And that’s where  agents are valuable. We are here to negotiate the terms so that you don’t get screwed out of sales. After all, if you are going to spend money on producing a book- why not make sure you get the best deal you can?

Last week I sold a book directly to Kobo- a digital edition of a book that had been out of print for a long time and now has a chance to be read and bought on e-readers. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to embrace change and sell the best writing we can to all the publishers out there. As much as I dislike a lot of the technology out there ( Cell phones) there are some good opportunities for readers and writers to get their work into print.

Agents aren’t just around to sell books. We are top negotiators on the side of the writer.

So, that’s my short blog about stuff. Just got back from L.A and I really wish I could have stayed longer. The rain is sure coming down in Vancouver right now. SIGH.

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Catching up

As the smell of the fall leaves comes through my window, I thought I should catch you up on a few items. As you can tell I almost never get onto my blog because I am so busy making book deals! In the last few months I travelled to Toronto for my twice yearly visit, and met some great editors and publishers, as well as caught up with a few friends from Ottawa and Montreal. It’s always great to travel back east and take in the sites and sounds of Toronto, but I’m equally as happy to come home.

This year has been an interesting one for me and in general for the publishing world. In the media we are seeing more and more stories about authors going the self publishing route but then having issues when their books don’t sell, and then we see ones that breach their contracts without realizing it- and wondering why they just lost their 20,000 dollar advance.

That’s one of the reasons agents are valuable -for their knowledge and expertise in the industry. Too often I hear complaints after the fact about why an author lost out on a deal. My first question is always “Did they have an agent?” and if they didn’t then I tell them “That’s why your author is losing out.” Agents act in the interest of the author first, publisher second. Without an agent a writer has a higher chance of being cut out of profits and second book deals because they simply don’t know what they are signing- or they don’t think a point can be negotiated.

The next thing I hear is ” But Brian, it’s not that easy getting an agent. My work sits in a pile for months before they even respond- if they respond at all.”  My answer to that is
”  A) Did you read their submission requirements down to the letter? Did you follow them? B) Did you research the agent you are contacting? Do they even publish your type of book? C) Did you actually include the bottle of scotch and cigars or did you just say it was on the way? and D) Is your book any good? Not- friends and family good, but actually good- good grammar, good story, good subject. Is it interesting and exciting? Why would I want to sell this?

Remember- once you finish writing the book it moves into the business of selling. It’s not about how great you think your book is, and what ‘people’ say about it. It’s about how it’s going to do in the marketplace. How is your marketing, advertising, publicity going to be put together- what is your platform- does anyone know who you are? That’s what it’s about now, and that’s what you have to show to an agent. And if you do all that then who knows- you may end up with a great agent and a book deal.

And on that note, this Christmas please consider buying one of my newest releases Where There’s Smoke – Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man by William B Davis– he’s a great guy so go and buy his book!!

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BLURBS

So….this week I thought I would address all of you out there who are very close to finishing your outline/sample chapter to submit, whether to me, another agent, a publisher, whomever, really.

You have labored for months. You are just about ready.

And one day when you are thinking about something else…..it occurs to you: “Hey, my uncle knows Steven Spielberg! I wonder if that would help.”

Answer: it might.

An editor at Doubleday once told me blurbs were like icing: nice, but not essential.I would agree with that statement….but I would add this: if you are an unknown author building a career, blurbs can help you skip over piles.

That is, if the top of your submission has this:

“I could not put this down!” Steven Spielberg, Hollywood, CA

you stand a MUCH better chance of being looked at, esp. if you do not have an agent.

My point? Go ahead & line up blurbs BEFORE you submit. Make sure they are visible–believe me, it can’t hurt.
p.s. the same goes for intros/forewords.  Say you are writing a book on the history of the Canadiens; it will not hurt your chances if the intro is by Jean Beliveau.

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Nothing like a face to face meeting

Email is great–except for you texting weirdos–& the phone is essential, but to me there is nothing like a face to face meeting.

In fact I would argue that 10 emails=5 phone calls=1 meeting.

And this week has been nice–I was lucky to have the Olympics here in 2010, & because the Canucks have done so well in the playoffs, there are a lot of hockey people in town right now. (And luckily for me most of them are at the same hotel.) This week I have seen

Bill Daly
Pierre McGuire
PJ Stock
Scott Oake
Eric Francis
Mike Murphy
Dan Shaughnessy
Nick Kypreos
Darren Millard
James Duthie
Darren Dreger

And I managed to have coffee or spend some time with

Bob McKenzie
Ray Ferraro
Doug Maclean
Bob Ryan
Ian Mendes
Elliotte Friedman
Glenn Healy
Mike Zeisberger

If you are reading my blog, you are either interested what it’s like being a literary agent, or, far more likely, looking for an agent for your own stuff.

So why I am telling you this?

Here’s why: the odds of me signing up all these people are slim to none (admittedly, two or three of them are already clients, but they only represent 10% of the names here); but still, I feel every minute was worth it. Because the people I talked to know who I am now. They might not do a book, or do a book with me, but the odds are good they will recommend me to others. And they know a LOT of people.

So don’t stop hustling for your book. It’s not supposed to be easy.

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We’d publish you…if you were someone

Just got back from Edmonton, from the Get Publishing conference held every two years. Met a lot of great new people.

The conference  organizers asked me to be part of “Pitch Camp,” where authors can come to see editors, agents, publicists, publishers, etc, etc, for some one-on-one contact.

Six people came to see me over the course of two hours. All of them had some great ideas–& I wish them well.

But my associate, Rachel Sentes, had a story to tell me afterwards that was kind of, well, sobering. One of the six people who came to see her described her adventures trying to get published. She had managed, without an agent, to get her stuff reviewed by some editors at Doubleday. (I can tell you that that is no day at the beach.) Anyway, they were quite close to making an offer…..but never did. The finally told her:

“If you were someone, we would have published this last week.”

Translation: “if you were someone famous, we would have made an offer. ”

In many respects, this is what book publishing has been reduced to: publishers are making less & less, so they are taking fewer & fewer chances. In April I had a publisher in Toronto, a good one, tell me he was uninterested in any book that would not sell at least 10k copies.

So where does this leave the first time author?

Good question. It’s one thing for a  new author with a national tv, print or radio forum. They can always find a publisher willing to take a chance with their stuff, esp. for non-fiction.

I tell new authors they should think about hiring a publicist. (Two great ones in western Canada are gal friday in Vancouver & the publicity mavens in Nanaimo.) There are no guarantees; but publicists can get you the media’s ear in ways no one else can; & this could lead to the kind of regular exposure that publishers are interested in.

The other thing to do is attend events like Get Publishing. I learned more talking to the G.M. of NeWest Publishing than I would have in months & months of reading the website. We can have all the fancy e-availability we want; but nothing will ever replace the face-to-face meeting; not texting; not teleconferencing; not skype.

To all the people who came to see me at Pitch Camp–thanks, & best of luck!

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