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Well, this business doesn’t seem to slow down and this last month has been no exception. I’ve been working with some new potential clients, trying to keep my current clients stick to their deadlines, and keep up with the publishing world. With the recent wild weather in Vancouver I’ve been stuck in my house more than usual and it’s actually forced me to buckle down and focus my energy on the upcoming year.

I’m sensing that there will be a great deal of change in my life and in publishing in the next few months, and I’m ready for the challenges that change might bring because after all I am an optimist!  I’m hoping to sign some new deals and watch all my books fly up the bestsellers list in Canada and the U.S. and work with my associate on some key publicity campaigns.

The latest of my books to hit the shelves is Tony Parsons My Life in the News. You can pick it up at the following website Chapters/Indigo 

or at the Barnes and Noble site:

You can also meet Tony in person at The Vancouver Central Library November 23, 7:30 pm, in the Alice Mackay Room. He’ll be reading and signing his book.

Read a review here:

So you can buy this book along with Hockey Dad by Bob Mckenzie and Why the Leafs Suck by Al Strachan They are sure to make  great stocking stuffers for any guy or gal this Christmas.

And remember, each time you purchase one of these books you are helping a hard-working agent pay his phone bills and pay for the many meetings I have to attend via public transportation. Because I just Love public transportation…



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An Agent’s Adventure in the East

Recently I took a vacation. My first real one in two years. Yes, you heard correctly. The life of an agent is truly glamorous, jet setting around once every two years. And it’s so wonderful that my vacation ended up being a working one. 

I left for the east on September 17th for Ottawa and enjoyed a visit with my family and some friends. One of the reasons I don’t venture East more often is that I have so many good friends who lavish me with food and presents, there usually isn’t enough time to see them all. And if i miss one the consequences can be long lasting. Not that I have threatening friends or anything but let’s just say i want them to remain friends. So I usually just stay in Vancouver to make sure I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. 

On the 18th of September I took a trip to Montreal with my friend Meredith to eat about 5 pounds of smoked brisket from Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen. And I’m not kidding. I really think it was closer to ten pounds. You can check them out here:
I can never get enough to their World Famous Original Smoked Meat. I think I had to walk 80 blocks just to work off my dinner.  But it was worth it. The smell alone is worth the visit. If you are ever in Montreal you have to stop in and have a meal! 
September 22nd was a great day. I met with my client Brian Kilrea, the GM of the Ottawa 67’s. We delighted in smoking Montecristo #5 cigars and chatted about his upcoming projects. On the way out of his office he handed me a Romeo y Julieta cigar. Did I mention I love cigars? Well I do. A great deal. I was very grateful for the kindness bestowed upon me by Brian. I look forward to seeing him again. 

Press anyone? September 25th found me with my friend Phil Legault at the Ottawa Senators- Boston Bruins pre-season game in the press box. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was watching  the game from there. I also met up with Bob McKenzie who signed a copy of my book Hockey Dad
( I sold that one), and Gord Miller, Pierre McGuire also TSN, and Wayne Scanlon ( from the Ottawa Citizen). Thanks to all of them for a fantastic night.
After a few more visits with friends I was off to Toronto where my real work began. I met with editors at Key Porter, John Wiley, McClelland & Stewart, Doubleday, and HarperCollins. I also met with buyers at Indigo and two great agents Sam Hiyate, and Hilary McMahon. Hilary is the fiction agent who secured a $200,000 dollar advance for Thomas Trofimuk and his book Waiting for Columbus. I received some good tips from the both of them. 

The final trek of my trip was to Edmonton on October 1st. On the way there I was fortunate to meet Craig McTavish on the flight and we exchanged information. I mentioned the other sports celebrities that I work with, and he was very interested in chatting. Sometimes it pays to get up and stretch your legs while flying!

Once in Edmonton I met up with my associate Rachel Sentes and we headed out for dinner. Since Rachel is also a client of mine we held a business meeting about deadlines for her new book (she has some editors interested in her book), and then we stopped by Thomas Trofimuk’s book launch at Greenwood’s bookstore. I met a few of Rachel’s writing friends including author Mark Kozub, and it was a nice evening. Unfortunately, the hectic nature of my trip started rearing its ugly head and jet lag began creeping in on me. I was exhausted. We ended the night early to get some rest. 
Friday began early with meetings booked with several clients. Rachel and I met with the author of Money Assassins, Chad Viminitz, to go over some distribution and publicity plans for his book. Rachel sold the book to Insomniac Press and I negotiated the contract. 
Next up was journalist Jane Marshall. She was off to Tibet to finish research for her book that has already garnered interest from editors in Toronto. She gave me a lovely gift of a scarf blessed by the Dali Lama. 

Rachel and I parted ways for a few hours while I met my other client Holger Petersen for lunch at Sorrentinos. In this world of technology my business can flourish, but it’s so important to connect face to face when the opportunity arises. 
The weekend visit to Edmonton wrapped up with a small gathering of Rachel’s friends at a karaoke bar. I must admit that I hate karaoke. I hate everything about it. But, Rachel swore that it was the first and last time she would ask me to go to one, so I reluctantly agreed to attend. It was worth it to meet up with her friends. They are great people. I hope I get to see them again. My visit to Edmonton was brief but rewarding. I had some great meetings, some that I hope to follow up on soon, and I met some really nice people. 
All and all I think it was a very good vacation. I think I’ll make it a point not to wait so long before planning another one. In fact I’m thinking next March would be a good time to go. Of course it all depends on how well my books sell. Speaking of which, click on the links below to get your copies today so I can plan my next vacation- I need some more brisket!!
These books will make great Christmas gifts:

Money Assassins- Chad Viminitz-
Hockey Dad: True Confessions of a (Crazy) Hockey Parent- Bob McKenzie

Why the Leafs Suck and How They Can be Fixed- Al Strachan
Motormouth: The Complete Canadian Car-Buying Guide 2010 Edition- Zack Spencer

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Wow- work is crazy

I can’t believe how time has just flown by. One minute I’m sitting at my dusty desk waiting for the phone to ring ( which it wasn’t), and the next thing you know deals are being made at breakneck speed. I may need to hire a secretary!!

As an agent, I love it when publishers get back to you the same day to tell you that they either have an offer, or they will at least try to meet your deadlines. I love it even more when a prospective client takes the time out on their busy weekend to email me and set up a meeting without having to ask. I love those kind of prospects!!

I was excited this week to receive the fall book selling catalogues which contained several of my sold books- it’s always a step in the right direction when you actually see the results of all your negotiating and unpaid discussions to get a book sold. This past weekend I happily showed the pages to an associate who was equally happy at the thoughts that there might indeed be royalty cheques coming my way.

With all the recent success I’ve been having I took a few days off for quiet reflection and a little sight-seeing with my girlfriend. She flew out here for a few days and we enjoyed the glorious weather walking along Ambleside, eating at La Provence and Memphis Blues ( you should buy those books as well- so that I can afford to eat there more often).

We also got in a few games of tennis, and after a little warm up, I was pleasantly surprised that her game had improved since the last time we played. She doesn’t get to practice much, at least not in comparison to the three times a week I do, so it was great to see that the tips I had given her were paying off. The scores aside, I’m sure any day now she’ll give me a run for my money. It’s also interesting to note that she twisted her knee during one rally, but bravely soldiered on eventually winning that game.

So moving forward, I hope to write a little more on here, and give some insider tips on how to approach an agent with your work. If you would like to hear from me directly, feel free to email Rachel at and she’ll pass it onto me. If you promise Scotch I will most certainly reply.

I bid you all farewell, I have to go and refill the bottles of water in my fridge. It’s a hot one out there today!!

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Agents and the Changing world of Canadian Publishing

Recently I had lunch with an agent friend of mine and the topic of how traditional Canadian publishing is changing came up. There are more writers who are focusing on POD or self publishing routes but who are then seeking out agents to try and publish their second books, and there is great debate about what agent fees and services should now encompass.

In the past, most agents would take on clients, waive fees and just take the typical 15% royalty rate and leave it at that. Not so anymore. It has become quite clear that with the downsizing of staff and editors at publishing houses agents can no longer afford to wait until they sell a book to be paid- the time it takes to pitch books eats up thousands of unpaid hours.

Flat fees for different agent services such as referrals, manuscript evaluations, editing, and the writing of query letters and proposals are becoming common place. You may ask “why wouldn’t I just self-publish if I have to pay for these services?” My answer to that is when you pay an agent for those items you get: quality of work, credibility, and hopefully book sales.

An agent is someone who has skills at speaking the language of books, chasing down editors and publishers who are reluctant to return your calls, and negotiating the best deal for you and your book. They spend hundreds of hours scouring your manuscript, making sure it is free of typos, and presenting the best part of the book to prospective publishers. Self-publishers don’t do that and freelance writers only do portions.

Nowhere else can you expect the whole package- so why not spend a little money making sure you have the best of both worlds?

If an agent asks you for money for certain jobs- don’t walk away fuming. Recognize the time and professionalism that it takes to work on your book and consider paying for those services.
( and if you are so inclined- don’t forget cigars and scotch- that seems to be a trend with me, but hey- I’m an easy going agent!).

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Authors and Agents- How Objective can they be?

The relationship between an agent and an author can be tenuous and precarious, but also filled with amazing success and enlightenment. When you work with an agent our job is to tell the author the facts about their work. Even though an author might say they want a no holds barred viewpoint, when it comes right down to it, no author is really prepared for the criticism and work that might be requested to get their manuscript into salable condition. An author’s reaction can depend on how you phrase the bad news and as an agent I need to be very aware of what kind of person I’m dealing with.

This is where my natural talent for reading people shines through. ( No that’s not my ego talking- just a skill I have nurtured over the years). At this point I’m confident enough to be able to let an author know that perhaps they need to rethink what they are doing. I give them ample opportunity to voice their concerns and opinions about their baby but ultimately they have to have confidence in my professionalism to steer them in the right direction.

I recently had this discussion with a prospective client and we chatted about the question of being objective especially if the client was a relative, a friend, or even a lover. Can an agent be truly objective in that situation? No one wants to be the bearer of bad news especially to someone they are close with, and that can place a lot of stress on the agent and the writer.

If your agent really feels that they can’t be honest with you and your work then what solutions could they offer to make the process work for everyone?

Perhaps the agent could have an external reader ( or another agent) read the potential manuscript and offer their opinion. Then your agent could pitch based on the reviews and not feel like they are treating the manuscript unfairly. Or maybe they could ask a relative or someone close to the client to intervene and give the more distressing news to them-leaving the agent to be the one that can be a support for the client. Or they could suggest another agent that might work better for you.

Whatever you decide, it’s important to know that the publishing world works at a snail’s pace and you have to find the right agent for you. One that will respect your work and give an honest assessment of your skills. And as an author it’s time to realize that you are not perfect and if you can’t take constructive criticism you are in the wrong business!

By the way, on a completely different topic I had the delight of playing a very unique tennis player last week. We played 3 sets everyday for three days in temperatures averaging plus 24, a gorgeous week in Vancouver. Although I did manage to win most of the points, I learned a great deal about different styles of playing tennis and how sometimes I should resist the temptation to hit topspin balls seeing that my height is quite an advantage to the game.

All in all though it was a great week and I was happy to neglect some of my agent duties to take a time out and enjoy all that this city has to offer, especially walking along the seawall after a great dinner at my favorite french restaurant. If you get a chance you should go and sit on some of the benches by the water and enjoy the night air this summer. You won’t regret it.

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Agents and New Clients

Yesterday I signed up a new client. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to do that. It’s so exciting in fact, that I celebrate by going for a long walk, smoking a cigar ( if I have one), and having a nice glass of scotch. Yes that’s the kind of wild and crazy guy I am.

Despite what you may think, the life of an agent is not all glamour and glitz. It’s spending every day on the phone, brainstorming ideas of who to contact to see if they want to write a book, reading manuscripts- some great, some horrendous, and then playing the role of a diplomat between publisher and author. So when an agent signs up a client without any fuss or muss it is cause for celebration.

Our life is a solitary one punctuated by playing the odd game of tennis, watching a movie, or going to a baseball game and if one isn’t careful they can become old before their time. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I like what I do, I just wish there was a regular paycheck involved. But you can’t have everything.

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Advice on Publishing

I was going to offer some amazing advice here, but instead I’m going to quote a few of my favourite people on the process of getting published. I hope you have a sense of humour and take some of these quotes to heart ( especially the ones about getting an agent).

” Do you realize what would happen if Moses were alive today? He’d go up to Mount Sinai, come back with the Ten Commandments, and spend the next eight years trying to get published”- Robert Orben, The Encyclopedia of One-Liner Comedy, 1971

” An author should try to get an agent to represent him. Selling a manuscript cold is the toughest way I know to get published. It can be done, but the odds are against the writer.”- William Targ, Indecent Pleasures, 1975

” For better or for worse, agents have increasingly become the keepers of the gates to book-publishing heaven.” – Nancy Love, Everything you Need to Know About Literary Agents, 1995 Writer’s Handbook

” Until you have canvassed at least 25-30 publishers you haven’t given your book the chance it has to get published.”- Richard Balkin, agent, Writers Yearbook 86

” You have to keep writing, keep submitting, and keep praying to the god of whimsy that some editor will respond favorably.” – Attributed to Peter Benchley, novelist

And some of my favourite quotes:

” This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”- Dorothy Parker, critic, quoted in Wit’s End edited by Robert E. Dremman, 1973.

” That’s not writing, that’s typing.” – Truman Capote, novelist, appraising Jack Kerouac’s work, TV interview with David Susskind, Open End, 1959

And my friend says that this one seems to mirror me, but I can’t think why.

” I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.”- George Bernard Shaw, playwright, quoted in Reader’s Digest, June 1943

And for those that get an agent- make sure that it’s the right fit for you!

” Look, they’re not interested in a talking seagull.” – What Richard Bach’s agent told him after his novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970) was rejected more than 20 times. The book went on to sell 3, 107,500 copies in hardback, and continues to sell as a mass market

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Happy Friday

Since it’s Friday and everyone is already out enjoying the weather, I thought I would jot down a few little things that make me happy. What’s yours?

  • Finding you have just enough bread to make a really good sandwich
  • Getting money back that you loaned to someone and had forgotten about
  • Signing up a really good client that wants to work with you- without you having to call them a billion times
  • Realizing that you have just enough scotch to tide you over until the weekend
  • Extra bacon at Sophie’s- she is too nice
  • Not feeling guilty about taking the day off and seeing a movie
  • Receiving brown paper packages tied up with a blue bow that made them smile on the long drive home
  • Enjoying mini addictions while still maintaining New Year’s Resolutions
  • Knowing that someday all your hard work will pay off
  • Knowing that people out there care about you, no matter what your level of tennis might be
  • Having a cuddle

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Good friends, Good times

Ah, good friends equals good times. When an old friend comes into town, even at my age I like to indulge in a little scotch and recollection over a few cigars. What is it about reminiscing with someone you’ve know for dozens of years that makes you feel that all is right in the world? Is it the excuses it provides? ” No, I’m not working today, I’m going out with my old friend from school” or is it the shared memories of spending endless nights in pubs. Well no it couldn’t be that because I don’t remember the nights in the pubs- too much scotch. But that’s what these old friends are for- not recalling the good old times back in the day.

This week I have the pleasure of catching up with a good friend of mine and skipping out on as much work as possible. We’ve gone out to fine restaurants (not the Persian one- I won’t name names but I will NEVER go there again. Not only was the food mediocre but the service was appalling. Post a comment if you want the name of the place to avoid a food catastrophe), we’ve played golf, gone for walks, watched sports on television and may even watch a few movies. But throughout his visit I very rarely felt like saying “Okay, I’ve seen you -now get the hell out of my apartment”. This could happen if you are a new friend, but with old ones all is forgiven.

As Walter Winchell said, ” A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

I have to agree. And it’s going to suck not having an excuse to avoid work when he leaves.

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Perfection- is there such a thing?

Yes! When it comes to manuscripts the answer is simply yes. As Voltaire once said ” Perfection is attained by slow degrees;it requires the hand of time.” And so I ask you as a humble agent to please take your time when you submit a sample of your work to be considered by an agent.

I know perfection is tough to achieve but the very mention of the word “typo” sends chills up my spine.
I’ve been told that I’m a bit of a taskmaster when it comes to the written language, and indeed although you may find a few errors in this post ( if you do you can enter to win a great prize package- of what I don’t know but I’ll think of something), but I can’t overstate the importance of taking care to prepare your work BEFORE you submit it to an agent or publisher.

Now occasionally a person gets lucky. Take one of my esteemed colleagues for example. I have the utmost respect for this person and she is a perfect example of everything you need in an agent even though when she first started out she made some errors. ( She won’t admit to them so don’t even TRY to go that route) She didn’t see them as huge errors, but a misplaced comma or semicolon can make the difference between publication or the garbage bin.
Of course in her case she succeeded in selling the manuscript but I think that’s because she is a force to be reckoned with and no one ever wants to say no to her without a very good reason.

For everyone else in the world the rule is SEEK PERFECTION or don’t even think of sending out a manuscript or query letter or book proposal to an agent or publisher. Send it to as many friends, professional editors, or family members you can to catch all of your errors and then read it again.

So my tip today is TAKE THE TIME and go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb. Or the typo man will be on your case.

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