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Living the vida loca in Edmonton

Well, I never thought I would say this, but going to Edmonton wasn’t all that bad. It was a quick trip- landed Friday night and back on Sunday but the glimpse was enough to make me consider visiting again. When there are leaves on the trees- strange weather there. I mean it’s May and you just got rid of the snow. And what is up with the WIND? Where does that come from?

I tried to play a game of tennis today and the wind ending up moving the ball four feet every time I tried to serve. It was pathetic. I felt pathetic, and I certainly didn’t give my opponent a very fair game. Half of my serves didn’t go over the net, so she really wasn’t able to play that well. Hopefully the next time I grace the city, the wind won’t cause such a problem and she’ll get a better chance to really play tennis.

So in my short trip to the Capital City I ate at Deewhat restaurant, an east Indian establishment with seats that were comfy, but a little short to lean back on. It certainly improved my posture. The only thing I didn’t like was the music, but the service was friendly and even when the saffron rice was being flicked at me by a person that shall go nameless, I enjoyed the evening. Of course the rice incident was in retaliation for some of my straw throwing earlier- so I suppose I deserved it. I walked down Whyte avenue at night and marveled at the amount of bars located on such a short street. Of course there is a church on every corner so there are plenty of places to repent after imbibing each night. One complaint I do have is Edmonton’s strange aversion to serving Johnnie Walker’s Red Label. They have black and gold, but no red. In 3 places I asked for it- no such luck. I’d love to know the reason for that, but then again at least they had scotch.

I also ate at OPM a kind of Asian fusion restaurant which serves seven flavoured beef and a decent wor wonton soup. The service was a bit slow, but we were in the lounge so that may explain it. Also the music kept going up and down in volume which was annoying but that was a small inconvenience in light of the good food. I had a snack at Hudson’s and a breakfast at Denny’s ( pricey and mediocre food), and then a small brunch at Moxie’s, only because I didn’t have time to wait in the line at Barb and Ernie’s breakfast place-maybe next time.

I also got to walk in the lovely Buena Vista off leash park with three very cool dogs, watching them swim in the river and roll in a seagull carcass. Then we all stopped at the snack shack and they had treats. I would love to see what it looks like in the summer. The weather was spectacular until the wind kicked up.

So why was I in Edmonton you ask? Well I was a guest at the MacEwan Get Publishing Conference. They had asked me to participate in the Foot in the Door Queries and Pitch Camp as a literary agent- which luckily for them I am, so that worked out well.

I was please by all the interest the writers had in speaking with me and it was an excellent networking opportunity. I hope I was able to enlighten them somewhat about the job I do, and why it is so important to support traditional publishers. I look forward to attending another conference in the future.
While in Edmonton, I got a chance to meet some of my clients face to face, speak with some potential clients, and connect with someone whom I’ve always been intrigued by but have up until this point, only spoken to on the phone. It was great to meet the person behind the sultry voice and see that she really was everything I expected. And I’m sure I impressed her with my suavity and sense of humour.

Now that I’m back home in Vancouver it’s back to reality. I was happy to have a short break and reclaim my weekend, because as an agent I tend to have to work every weekend so getting away from it all is certainly welcome. So I would like to thank the folks in Edmonton for having me, and especially to the exceptional woman who drove me to and from the airport. ( What on god’s green earth possessed Edmonton to have one so far out of the city? That’s insane!)

So until I visit Edmonton again, thank you and I raise my glass of Red Label to you all.

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How time flies- Pick up your Phone


Wow, it’s been over a month since I’ve written anything on here. I suppose that’s a good thing because it means I’m working a lot. And for an Agent if you don’t work there is no money to pay your bills.
This last month I’ve been working the ancient art of Diplomacy. I’m not sure that what I do is an art, but I sure do try hard to be a kind and patient person when it comes to negotiating with publishers. Our world is a strange one made up of ideas that are proposed and pitched to a small segment of society that can make or break your career.
It takes tact, persistence, and on occasion, anger to make it as a Literary Agent.
I have to say that one of the most annoying tasks is waiting for phone calls to be returned. I believe I have mentioned that to an Agent a phone is a lifeline, so when it doesn’t ring my life becomes frustrating.
I realize that everyone is busy but I do believe in common courtesy and returning a call is extremely important in my life. Last week I left three phone messages and sent two emails to a person that I needed to hear from quite quickly.
Now barring illness or other misfortune, what is a good reason for not returning my calls? Do they realize that the very food on my plate relies on their voice at the other end of the line? How can I pay for my brisket or Montreal smoked ham if they don’t call me back? How would they feel if I didn’t return their calls?
I realize that in this business you don’t want to burn any bridges with either publishers or the media, but there comes a point when they need to realize that what they do actually can affect someone and not in a good way.

So if you were one of those people in the last month who ‘forgot’ to return my call, take a couple minutes and dial my number or drop me an email. Whether you use a blackberry, a cell phone, or something that has an Application to dial, call me. It’s good for you and good for me. Well I don’t know about you- but I’m thinking of myself and my growling stomach.

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When is an Author Not an Author?

Well, that’s debatable, but I’d like to suggest: When they are self-published. Oh yes, let the missives fly- but I can take it! I think what bothers me the most is when a self-published author mascarades as a legitimately published author- and yes I use that word knowing I may recieve hate mail- but facts are facts.
Publishing traditionally equals credibility in the eyes of the public. And if the public perceives you as that kind of author- and you aren’t that kind of author- I think it’s misleading.
I’m going to put something in here from Wikipedia ( it’s a sin yes- but oh so handy) And saves me from typing alot ( and I’m citing it so it’s okay)

Types of self-publishing

Vanity publishing
Main article: Vanity press
Vanity publishing is a pejorative term, referring to a publisher contracting with authors regardless of the quality and marketability of their work. They appeal to the writer’s vanity and desire to become a published author, and make the majority of their money from fees rather than from sales. Vanity presses may call themselves joint venture or subsidy presses; but in a vanity press arrangement, the author pays all of the cost of publication and undertakes all of the risk.
In his guide How to Publish Yourself author Peter Finch states that such presses are “to be avoided at all costs.” Because there is no independent entity making a judgment about their quality, and because many of them are published at a loss, vanity press works are often perceived as deserving skepticism from distributors, retailers, or readers. Some writers knowingly and willingly enter into such deals, placing more importance on getting their work published than on profiting from it.

Subsidy publishers
A subsidy publisher distributes books under its own imprint, and is therefore selective in deciding which books to publish. Subsidy publishers, like vanity publishers, take payment from the author to print and bind a book, but contribute a portion of the cost as well as adjunct services such as editing, distribution, warehousing, and some degree of marketing.[1] Often, the adjunct services provided are minimal. As with commercial publishers, the books are owned by the publisher and remain in the publisher’s possession, with authors receiving royalties for any copies that are sold. Most subsidy publishers also keep a portion of the rights from any book that they publish. Generally, authors have little control over production aspects such as cover design.[2]

True self-publishing
True self-publishing means authors undertake the entire cost of publication themselves, and handle all marketing, distribution, storage, etc. All rights remain with the author, the completed books are the writer’s property, and the writer gets all the proceeds of sales. Self-publishing can be more cost-effective than vanity or subsidy publishing and can result in a much higher-quality product, because authors can put every aspect of the process out to bid rather than accepting a preset package of services.[1]

Print on Demand (POD)
Main article: Print on demand
Short run printing is also called Print-on-demand (POD) or Print Quantity Needed (PQN). POD publishers generally do not screen submissions prior to publication, and many are web-based. They accept uploaded digital content as Microsoft Word documents, text files, or RTF files, as printing services for anyone who is willing to pay.[1] Authors choose from a selection of packages, or design a unique printing package that meets their requirements. For an additional cost, a POD publisher may offer services such as book jacket design with professional art direction; content, line, and copy-editing; indexing; proofreading; and marketing and publicity. Some POD publishers offer publication as e-books in addition to hardcover and paperback. Some POD publishers will offer ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers) service, which allows a title to be searchable and listed for sale on websites.
Many critics dismiss POD as another type of vanity press. One major difference is that POD publishers have a connection to retail outlets like Amazon and Books in Print that vanity presses generally do not.[3]



What’s the most common link between them all? YOU PAY MONEY TO BE PUBLISHED.
And that’s what is wrong with authors who claim to be authors when they have paid a printer to put their work out there. I don’t have a problem with paying people to market your books, put together proposals, source agents or any of that- but I do have a problem with advertising
yourself as an “author” when really you haven’t done all the work you should have. Promotion is one thing, building credibility as a traditionally published author is another. And if there is one thing that Stephen King never did- it was consider self-publishing ( Read his On Writing book and you’ll see what he went through)

Oh yes, I have no doubt many people will be upset by my statements and I am happy to debate these facts- by all means someone prove to me that self-publishing is a good thing and I will gladly offer up some form of apology.

Of course I might be a little bias because if everyone self publishes then I might be out of a job- but ignore that and listen to my missive.
Do the work- Do it right- and Don’t self-publish!

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The Phone and all its uses

When is a phone conversation too long? When you’ve come full circle and start repeating the same comments over and over again? When you forget why you called in the first place? When you start speaking about banal food choices and whether something is frozen or not? When you start answering everything with a question in a sing songy voice?
Yup. I’d say just about then.

Of course it’s always good if you are on the phone a great deal to invest in a portable phone. That way when you are speaking with someone and you really have no interest in what they are saying, you can do other things around the house like sweeping ( if your maid isn’t due to arrive the next day), or cooking up a nice bowl of poutine. Even in a small home, a portable phone ( when it doesn’t need recharging) is handy and shows that you really are a multi-tasker.

As an agent I am on the phone 3/4 of the day so a phone is a lifeline. But despite what you may think I don’t actually own a cell phone. Why? Because I don’t need one. In fact most people, except for maybe neurosurgeons really need a cell phone. Life isn’t as rushed or as important as most people make it out to be. And the world has become to reliant on the need to communicate every second of the day ( I have gmail for that!)

How many times have you been in line for a cashier when someone is either on the phone in front of you or are actually conversing as they are completing their transactions? Did we all really have to hear about how dumb your coworker was? Or that you wanted to tape something on television but forgot to set your dvd recorder? How did we live before hearing all these common excruitatingly boring daily transgressions everywhere we go?

By not having a cell phone I’m saving all of you from more noise pollution and from hearing the really boring chatter like how many buns and danishes I ate yesterday, and that I really only have decaf once in awhile, and that I know that my friend is probably really good at playing tennis I just don’t want to admit it.

So I’ll close with this little tip

Don’t answer the phone. If it’s important they’ll call back. If they don’t well someone might have died so maybe forget my first tip and answer the phone just in case. But don’t spend to long on there, some of us don’t have call waiting.

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Things you shouldn’t send in the mail

1. Processed cheese slices ( they don’t fit in the envelope well and arrive all broken and moldy)
2. Poutine (even in bubble wrap it just doesn’t taste the same)
3. Marshmallows ( going through the sorter just seems to squish them all into mush)
4. Liquor – (the small hotel room bottles are acceptable but the big ones seem to get swiped by the postmen)
5. Business Cards ( you are risking identity theft- you can’t be too careful even if they were from Staples and only cost 25 cents )
6. Self-published books ( why add one more thing to put you into debt by mailing them out to people?)
7. Oxygen bottle refills ( don’t ask- you wouldn’t understand)
8. Cheques ( they say they are in the mail- but we all know differently don’t we)
9. St. Patricks Day book ( I don’t know why but a friend told me that hers was stolen out of her mailbox one year and it made her sad)

I was going to round it out with 10 items, but then that would be predictable and we can’t have that can we!!

Tip Number 4: Don’t send your agent requests for you to be on Oprah. We hate that- and in light of recent news events it’s probably not your best interest to be on there in the first place, especially if you write a fake holocaust book.

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Taking Pride in Your Work

Taking pride in one’s work is both a blessing and a curse. I prefer to think it’s a curse. If anyone has ever worked in menial labour job they know exactly what I mean. For example, I have a friend who works in a retail store on the weekends part time to make a little extra money. It’s certainly not the job that University prepared for her and she really has no plans to stay there, but for now it gives her a little extra stability while her other business takes off.

I know lots of people who have part time jobs, although not all of them have pride in their work. She is constantly telling me tales of how her co-workers slack off while she is left to finish the work that they don’t care about. What drives her to do this? Why should she care so much that everything is done correctly? Does anyone know the answer to this question?

By being conscientious about her work, fixing other people’s mistakes, showing up on time, and being a responsible worker, she has inadvertently become an enabler for all those that display poor working habits. Through her hard work and toil they are becoming successes. Albeit she’s not sure what successful heights they are reaching- since it’s in retail, but nonetheless, she isn’t making her life any richer by helping them.

Why then does she continue to toil at this thankful job, picking up after all those co-workers who happily try to do the least amount of work possible- while earning the same money? I think it’s because she’s basically a good person, and even though she will refuse to admit that until her dying day, the fact of the matter is that she actually cares what people think about her and that would mean death. And really is it so bad to be good?

Now excuse me while I go knock back another scotch and think of some more amazing items to discuss on my blog.

p.s Tip number 3: Remember when they say clean up in aisle 2- it’s best not to look.

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Calling in sick on yourself

You know it’s very difficult to call in sick when you are self employed.

You have to find a cell phone ( since I don’t own one- don’t get me started..I know…I know… how does an agent function without one- but I do very well thank you), and once you find one ,you have to dial and hope you get the answering machine so you don’t have to explain just how ill you really aren’t.

If you are lucky enough to get your own answering machine then you can say the rehearsed speech with a really ill sounding voice ( If you are a girl you can sound sexy like Lauren Bacall) and maybe you’ll get away with not having yourself call you back and demand you show up.

Today was one of those days. I just couldn’t answer one more phone call or open one more manuscript so I called in sick. I know I’ll regret it, my paycheque will reflect it, but until they can come up with a way to give sick days to the self-employed I’m afraid I’m going to have to suffer with the lost wages.

So if any of you out there think that being an agent is all roses and money. Think again. And think really hard before you send me (or gal-friday) your manuscript- cause with the mood I’m in today you had better hope it’s a best-seller!!

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Self-Publishing Addressed

Hi, some nice person said they were considering self-publishing, and after reading my tip that said don’t do it- they asked why?
Well in my honest opinion I’m of the belief that publishers should be paying YOU to publish your book and not the other way around.

On reason I dislike self publishing is that when you self-publish no matter WHAT the POD press tells you- you will NOT get into bookstores except through consignment which will take about 48% of your retail value. Sure, places like Author House and I-Universe talk a good game, and they will list you on internet sites but they won’t get you where you want to be- which is on the bookshelves. At least not before you’ve shelled out all your money.

Now if you were only planning to sell say 50 books to friends and family- then why not? You can even go through something like the Cafe Press at the University of Alberta a machine that prints your book out for you while you wait.
But if you actually want to make some money and really want people to read it, or a newspaper review it- then think carefully before you lay that money down.
With a traditional publisher comes credibility and distribution and those speak volumes.

Try an agent- they aren’t all bad. In fact I’m pretty good. And so is my partner in crime at http://www.gal-friday.blogspot.com.

I hope that helps a little. Of course if you want all the reasons- then contracts signed in blood will have to be signed!!

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After the Superbowl

During the Superbowl ( I am a HUGE fan of football- so if you are a famous football player who wants to write a book I WILL return your phone call), I ate my world famous Waldorf Fruit Salad and three danishes and Lay’s Classic potato chips. Mmmm Potato Chips.

After the game, I settled in to watch the repeat broadcast of the Federer-Nadal Australian Open Final. I am also a true fan of tennis and get onto the courts at least once a week, although I don’t know if that is going to help when the famous gal-friday comes to town. Apparently she is a provincial medal winner who is bound and determined to beat me. We’ll see. Mind you if I keep eating all those danishes she might have something on me!

I was disappointed that Federer lost though not as sad as he was, but here’s hoping he can come back in the U.S Open.

For those of you who know my work- you’ll recognize that the work of a literary agent is never done. There are NO weekends in my line of work. So I settled in to read some manuscripts submitted by some clients. I do enjoy reading new work, and I have an amazing piece just waiting on my desk next weekend courtesy of a client in Edmonton. I can’t wait!

So here is my tip Number 2: Don’t expect your book to be a classic
Why? Let’s draw from an American favourite:

” A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
Mark Twain- speech- “The Disappearance of Literature,” 19th Century Club, November 20, 1900. quoted in Mark Twain’s Speeches edited by Albert Bigelow Pain, 1923 ( Holy jebus- the citation is longer than the quote- that’s why being a literary agent is tough- you actually have to assign quotes to the proper people!)

Well that’s it from me and that’s it from him

Ciao!

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Welcome to my Blog

Welcome to my Blog. It will be amazing. It will be filled with innuendo, references to scotch and cigarrettes and an insiders view of the world of a working literary agent.

But don’t expect much this for this first entry. I’m actually trying to make a living you know!

My first tip- If you are thinking of self-publishing, no matter how lucrative the deal- Don’t.

Stay tuned for more amazing tips like my first one.

You won’t be disappointed.

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