Kay: An Agent’s Nightmares

The Nightmare (Henry Fuseli, 1781)

Several of the Ladies have committed to pursuing indie publishing careers; others are more interested in a traditional path. Each strategy has its pluses and minuses, so whichever way is best for the individual, or whichever way opens to an author, will work.

We’ve given some thought here at Eight Ladies to what it’s like being an author, especially the difficulties thereof, but most of us don’t think very hard about the publishers’ side of the equation. I recently ran across a [hilarious] Twitter feed from an agent, describing the difficulties of her work. For those of you who’d like to read the original thread, go here. For those who don’t want to click through, I’m quoting the rest here.

The thread is from Ginger Clark, a literary agent at Curtis Brown. She describes herself as a Bryn Mawr alum. She says her Twitter account will often feature wombats, and I should warn you that if you go there, it does.

Here is her “incomplete list of Literary Agent nightmares” (with minor edits and some explanations):

    [Kay’s note: for a full discussion of joint accounting, see Nathan Bransford’s explanation here. In short, joint accounting means that the royalties for books in a series are calculated together, rather than each book separately. In joint accounting, a poor seller in the series can reduce the royalties of a best seller in the series to zero. In separate accounting, each book is figured individually, so you’d lose royalties only on the poor seller.]
  2. “Dear Agent, [BLANK] Publishers is rolling out a new boilerplate and we would like to….”
  3. Client’s book is orphaned, and the editors left are not acceptable.
  4. Too many familiar faces on Frankfurt flight
    [Kay’s note: “Frankfurt” must refer to the Frankfurt Book Fair, which, according to Wikipedia, is “the world’s largest trade fair for books, based both on the number of publishing companies represented, and the number of visitors. It is considered to be the most important book fair in the world for international deals and trading.”]
  5. Backlist buyout goes horribly wrong.
  6. The one editor in your client’s career who got them, who made them a better writer, who truly understood their way of thinking—that editor is leaving/retiring/disappearing.
  7. Same as 6, but this time it’s the publicist.
  8. Client dies. There is no will. (thank GOD this has not yet happened to me)
  9. It’s the night before you fly out to your first LBF and you have forgotten to print your badge (true story).
    [Kay’s note: I think “LBF” is “London Book Fair.”]
  10. “Dear Agent, [BLANK] Publishers has decided to revamp our royalty statements.”
  11. That editor who HATES you keeps getting promoted.
  12. Your client is very late with their book and has gone off the grid (please note, my clients would never do this).
  13. Twitter. Twitter itself is an agent nightmare.
  14. Your editor’s boss is at the next table at Molyvos.
  15. “Dear Agent. [BLANK] Publishers is introducing a new clause about [FRAUGHT SUBJECT]”
  16. You are volunteered to moderate a panel for the AAR when you skip a committee meeting (also a true story THANKS PEOPLE)
    [Kay’s note: The AAR is the Association of Authors’ Representatives]
  17. Reply All on an unsolicited query.
  18. You are on a six-hour transcontinental flight with four client manuscripts to read, your seatmate brought nothing to do, and THEY KNOW WHAT A LITERARY AGENT IS.
  19. That editor who hates you lives on your subway line.
  21. You wake up some mornings wondering how long this business will last, and if you are doing enough to survive the coming apocalypse. You worry for your clients, and you worry for the business, and you worry for your friends and colleagues. You worry for yourself.
  22. Someone is a dick to your client and you can’t destroy them.
    22(a): Someone is a dick to your assistant and you also are not allowed to destroy them.
  23. Editor you are having lunch with cannot make conversation.
  24. Editor sends back food twice at your lunch.
  25. You have been volunteered to attend a breakfast meeting and no one has told you what it’s about, so you are planning to show up and “be brilliant” and hope that is sufficient.
  26. You have been back from Bologna for six days. Seven clients have sent you manuscripts.
  27. Editor who was once reliable has turned into a black hole and you have multiple clients with them.
  28. “We are invoking First Proceeds.”
    [Kay’s note: This means when a publisher rejects a book for publication because it is editorially unacceptable, some publishing contracts will allow the author to retain the advance and repay the publisher out of the “first proceeds” from the sale to a second publisher. Basically, the author uses Publisher #2 to pay back Publisher #1. For more publishing terms, see Nathan Bransford’s publishing glossary here.]
  29. Clueless civilian: “I couldn’t find your client’s book at Walmart, so I downloaded it for free online.”

And that’s 30 nightmares from Ginger Clark, literary agent. Makes you sort of glad that all you have to do is figure out the conflict box, right?


Kay: Gargoyle Cover Redesign


We’ve talked about book production and book covers some (here and here), and I’m continuing that conversation by talking about a cover of mine that was particularly hard to pull together. And that was because my protagonist is a garden gargoyle.

First let me tell you that I never wanted to write a story about a gargoyle, garden or otherwise. But my two critique partners got it in their heads that it would be a fun project to write an anthology “about” gargoyles. We could write whatever we wanted. So they dragged me, kicking and screaming, into this abyss.


One of my critique partners, Patricia Simpson, is a Rita-nominated author of gothic romances. Beth Barany writes contemporary romance or fantasy, often for a YA or NA audience. I write light-hearted stories, which sometimes verge on comedy, with a romance angle. So we couldn’t be more different. Continue reading

Kay: Rethinking a Cover

Remember this cover on the left? Not long ago I whined about what a hard time I’d had creating a couple of covers for novellas I’d written. At the time, I didn’t want to hire a designer for work that was unlikely ever to sell well enough to recoup the expense. So I did this one myself. I knew it was weak, and comments validated my opinion. Several of you said it looked like a business or self-help book.

Since then, I’ve had a change of heart about improving my DIY covers. Those stories are all my babies, right? I love them all equally. They all have given me joy and made me sweat tears. So why shouldn’t they all have nice covers?

I’ve hired designers before, many times, for my books and other projects in my day job, but I found this experience to be more interesting than usual. For starters, what sort of image should go on the cover? There’s no reason to put an embracing couple there. In the story, while the couple has corresponded by email for a while, they meet in person only on the last page of the book, and they decide to go for dinner. That’s it. Continue reading

Jilly: 2017 In A Word

PublishHappy New Year! Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2017 😀

If you had to choose one single word to epitomize your approach to the coming twelve months, what would it be?

A watchword is more flexible than a goal or a resolution. More like a theme, defined as an idea that recurs and pervades.

I last played this game in 2014, when I chose MORE (click here to read that post and the comments, where you’ll find some interesting choices). I already had a specific, measurable writing goal for the year—to finish my contemporary romance WIP—but I knew I was letting my inner editor hold me back. I kept under-cooking the conflict, emotion, action, tension, everything…so I chose an intangible, aspirational word to remind me to go for it.

This year I want my watchword to be a call to action, so Continue reading

Kay: All the Data


Slide 12 from the Data Guy’s presentation.

I’ve just returned from RWA’s national conference in San Diego, a trip I thought I’d skip but then went to after all. Jilly needed a California road trip, and who wouldn’t want to go along?

As always, the conference was packed, and my biggest complaint was that the hotel didn’t have enough chairs at the bar, and not enough waiters, either, for that matter. I went to my share of workshops, but one that I didn’t go to was a slide presentation by the Data Guy about ebook and indie sales.

Although the data isn’t complete, it’s a fascinating read. Still, given how hard it is to track indie sales across the spectrum of authors, it’s probably the best we can have right now.

Where do you fit in?



Kay: The Power of a Name

The "Lenox Copy" of the Gutenberg Bible, New York Public Library. By NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) - originally posted to Flickr as Gutenberg Bible, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9914015

The book that started mass market publishing: The “Lenox Copy” of the Gutenberg Bible, New York Public Library. Photo by NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) – originally posted to Flickr as Gutenberg Bible, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9914015

Today I’m feeling extremely happy and fortunate that years ago I decided I wanted to write romance novels. Back then, I wanted to write books that had happy endings, and I wanted to write in a genre that celebrated women’s goals. Of course, romance novelists (and book buyers) are overwhelmingly female, as are many of the editors, designers, and others who produce them, so it’s a female thing right down the line. That gives me a good feeling (although of course I also read books by male authors and enjoy those, too).

Usually at the Eight Ladies we talk about writing, but today I want to talk about publishing because we’ve all had our ups and downs with submissions, contests, rejections, and wins. The other day I read an article about Catherine Nichols, who wrote a literary novel and wanted to get it published. So she sent it out to 50 agents and received two manuscript requests. Yay, right?

Not so fast. Continue reading

Justine: Getting “The Call”

 Okay, maybe not THE call, but I got an email last week from one of the contest coordinators of a contest I finaled in. One of the judges, an agent, requested a full of my manuscript.

*cue excited screams alternated with hyperventilating*

Needless to say, I did a happy dance. With my sister (the advantage of being with family when you receive good news like that!). Continue reading