Category Archives: Writing

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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Perfunctory Post

As you can tell by the very few posts on here, I don’t blog much. I simply don’t have the time. The life of an agent never really stops- you are always looking for the next big book, the next interesting client, and of course cold calling. An agent who doesn’t cold call- doesn’t sell books. We are sales people. You can wrap that title up into a billion other phrases or explanations but this simple word is sales. Some writers claim that all they want to do is write books and leave the selling to someone else. And most of those writers shouldn’t be in sales. That’s what having an agent is for. That, and making sure that you don’t get ripped off at the negotiating table with publishers. Not every agent works out for everyone, and I’ve heard horror stories about mismatches. But if you do your due diligence you might find some representation that will help you on your publishing journey.

This year is shaping up to be a big one for me, and who knows, I might just put more stuff on this blog!

Have a good one everybody. Til next time,

Brian

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What to do during the summer months

Well, I see it’s time for my yearly blog update. Summer is a quiet time in traditional publishing. For the most part, editors and publishers go on vacation like other business people do, and proposals and manuscripts sit quietly waiting to be read and discovered.  So for the month of July I usually work on proposals, sourcing new clients and I take a few days off to enjoy the sunny weather at the beach  in Vancouver. If you have a manuscript or proposal that you want to send out to an agent for representation, July is the month to do it. That’s when we have the most time to review work and when we are looking for the next big deal.

On that note I would like to reiterate my submission requirements because for some reason I keep getting people submitting to me in the comments section of this blog. If you do that it’s a big fat NO.  It’s really clear on my page  who you need to send your work to, and HOW you need to send it. If I can’t trust you to read that small part on this website, then what makes you think I could sell your book? And if I get one more submission with my name misspelled I am going to have to shut this sucker down. My name is BRIAN- B-R-I-A-N  not BRAIN- B-R-A-I-N. Do everyone a favour- throw out spellcheck and read your work manually for mistakes. If you have an error in the first line of your manuscript – I toss it!

Yes, that sounds cruel, but remember. Agents don’t get paid until they sell a book. And then it’s only 15% . We do a lot more behind the scenes than most people think. It’s not just pitching, selling and doing contract negotiations. We act as a mediator when problems come up, distributors when you need help getting your book in the stores or online, and yes, in some cases a therapist when you need some support.

So this summer polish up your manuscripts and proposals (make sure they are typo free) and then follow my submission guidelines. And who knows maybe we might work together in the future.

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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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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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