Archive for 'in which i open up in an afterschool special kind of way'

What Stace had to say on Friday, December 11th, 2009
Agent Appreciation Day

(A side note: I was supposed to post Simon Wood’s second guest post yesterday, but the day got away from me. Sorry. It’ll go up Monday. Also, sorry this is so late. I slept until almost one o’clock this afternoon; hubs has been out of town for ten days (he got back last night) and I don’t think I slept more than five hours a night the whole time he was gone, including weekends, so I was totally exhausted). Anyway,

Today is Agent Appreciation Day, in which we writers blog and tweet about how much we love our agents, in an effort to make up for not giving them Christmas presents. (Ha, actually that isn’t true. I sent my agent a present last week, and I’m sure most of us send gifts anyway. But still.)

I talk about my agent a lot here, I know. So I actually debated whether or not I even should post anything today. But then I decided, why not. It’s fun to talk about him, and it’s fun to be involved in something like this.

My agent is Chris Lotts from Ralph Vicinanza Ltd., and we’ve been together (in the working sense, of course) for almost two years, which is kind of weird to think about. I queried Chris with UNHOLY GHOSTS on a Monday, and signed with him two days later on Wednesday, which still amazes me. To be honest, I queried him thinking I didn’t have a chance in hell of even getting a partial request, considering how highly regarded he and the agency are; the idea that he would want to work with me and my creepy little “junkies and ghosts” book seemed like a total impossibility.

But I sent the query anyway, because as I said a while ago, “either you think the book is publishable or you don’t.” I did, and I sent the query, and I have never stopped being thankful that I did. In the almost-two-years we’ve been working together he’s sold UNHOLY GHOSTS to Del Rey (US), HarperVoyager (UK), Egmont Lyx (Germany), Amber Publishing (Poland), and Blackstone Audio (audio rights US). He also handled the contracts for DEMON INSIDE and sold the third Demons book, DEMON POSSESSED, to Juno/Pocket. I think it’s safe to say he’s an awesome and very effective agent.

So, to celebrate this most important of Important Literary Holidays, here are the top five things I love about my agent, Chris Lotts:

1. He’s always there. He always takes my phone calls, on the rare occasions I do call (I prefer email). Not only does he take the calls, he’s actually happy to hear from me! He tells me he’s glad I called. He calls me, too. He emails me, and replies to my emails. I once had a problem pop up on a day he’d taken off work. He still saw my email and got involved.

2. He knows how to talk to me. Okay, this one sounds a little weird, so I better explain. It’s not that I need some sort of special white-gloves treatment or anything; if I did he probably wouldn’t be so happy when I call him. But he knows how to calm me down when something upsets me and I decide my career is over. He knows that when I send him a proposal or an idea for a new project, and he hates it (okay, I can hear him in my head right now saying, “I don’t hate it!”, so read that as “he doesn’t think it’s as marketable as some” or whatever) he can come right out and tell me; he doesn’t have to beat around the bush. He knows I can take a joke and that I’m annoyed by hesitation and wishy-washiness. And when I ask questions, even questions that feel to me like they’re probably kind of stupid questions, he answers them and tells me they’re not stupid questions.

3. He’s willing to step in and handle stuff I don’t wanna handle. He stays on top of things like payments I’m supposed to get. He offers me advice, thoughts and opinions. It’s all very professional and makes me feel well taken care of. Which is nice.

4. The agenting stuff itself. Aside from all the personality things and the warm fuzzies and whatnot, he knows how to sell my work. He knows how to get me the best deal possible. He knows what editors are looking for, and when we talk and brainstorm on the phone (yep, see, there’s that talking thing again!) he has great ideas and advice. It’s very cool. It’s nice to feel that through him I’m connected to the industry, and to learn more about it.

5. In April hubs and I went to the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale (this huge, awesome Polynesian restaurant where we used to go all the time when we lived there). The Mai Kai has a gift shop, and in that gift shop I saw two little Hawaiian/Polynesian dolls; you know, the tacky plastic ones with the really big eyes, where the girl is in a grass skirt and the guy in short or something, and they’re both wearing leis? Anyway. I saw these and purely on impulse bought them for him and sent them up, hoping he would get the joke. He did. Not only did he get the joke, he told me he was putting them on his desk. Seriously, how awesome is that?

Of course there are a lot more reasons. But what it boils down to is I like the man, and I like working with him, and I think he likes working with me. I have compete trust in him, and that’s hugely important.

I know discussions pop up from time to time on the internet about the role of the agent. I know there are discussions about what the relationship should be. I know there are people who feel that the agent works for the writer, and so the process of getting a agent shouldn’t be so hard and agents “shouldn’t have so much power” and blah blah blah.

To me the writer/agent relationship is more of a partnership. When looking for a partner in anything, whether it’s business or a work project or your love life or whatever, you don’t just grab somebody and say, “You’ll do,” and get down to business. You get to know them. You talk. You see how it feels, if you click. You can’t just grab any agent and “hire” them, and if you could I don’t think that would be a good thing. Because the relationship is about so much more than “Here’s my book. Go sell it,” or “Go write this book, and by the way you’re not allowed to do X, Y, or Z.” Chris and I discuss things. We plan things. I tell him how I feel about things and he tells me what his feelings are on it, and I usually take his advice not because I feel like if I don’t he won’t like me anymore but because he’s the one with the experience.

To put it bluntly, I pay him (in commissions) to sell my work, and to give me the benefit of his expertise. Why in the world would I pay him for his advice and then refuse to take it? That’s like hiring, I don’t know, a very famous, very expensive interior decorator, then handing them the paint, wallpaper, and furniture you want him to use and telling him to get to work. You know what I mean? What’s the point in getting an expert if you’re going to ignore everything they say?

This is turning into a longish rant, and I only meant it to be short. Oops. So anyway. My agent. He’s awesome, and I appreciate him.

(For a long list of other writers participating in Agent Appreciation Day, go here.

  • What Stace had to say on Monday, November 23rd, 2009
    Harlequin Horizons is not a self-publisher

    So Friday night my friend Jackie Kessler and I were invited to discuss the Harlequin Horizons situation on a podcast TV show. We readily agreed. I can’t speak for Jackie’s motives absolutely but knowing her as I do I assume they were the same as mine: to let people know that HWHo was a Bad Deal, that it is misleading, that it serves only to pour money into HQ’s coffers on the backs of aspiring writers.

    Joining us were two other commercially published writers, Simon Wood and Paul Clayton, as well as the host and two other self-published writers.

    I was excited to have the discussion. I enjoyed it immensely. I felt it was a lovely, civil, and fun conversation, respectful all around, and that we all managed to agree that vanity publishing along the lines of the HQHo model–whereby authors are charged exorbitant amounts of money and fed empty promises in exchange was something writers, whether they are commercially published or self-published, should not countenance or participate in.

    Let me make something very clear, because I’m seeing confusion on this issue that frankly astounds me. The HQHo model is NOT a self-publishing model.

    I have, as I’ve said here before and as I said on the show Friday night, absolutely nothing against self-publishing. There are some excellent self-published books out there. There are a lot of writers who feel that this is the way they want to go, and is the wave of the future. And that’s fine.

    But let’s analyze the differences between what the self-published authors are doing, and what HQHo wants its customers to do. I’m going to use my Strumpet series as an example, because as I’ve said here before, I do have tentative plans to self-publish the thing one of these days.

    Were I to do that, I would go to I would upload the document into their system, choose a format (or more than one; ebook and paperback, for example), and set a price; probably either at cost or maybe a dollar over it. I could remove the file at any time. I would be using my rights as the copyright holder myself. I would be buying an ISBN for it (if I chose to) myself, and would own that ISBN. I would design a cover, if I wanted. I could advertise the book as much or as little as I liked; surely I’d link to it on my blog and site, and when I get emails about it (as I still do) I’d direct those readers to the Lulu page. I’d be solely responsible for the marketing and advertising. I could, for example, choose to pay Kirkus Discoveries a couple of hundred dollars to review it.

    For this I would pay nothing. If and when people chose to buy the book, Lulu would earn the cost of producing that copy and I would make whatever amount was paid by the reader over that production cost.

    In short: I pay nothing, I control everything, and I keep all the profits. That is self-publishing. (It’s a tad more complicated than that, yes, but I’m trying to strip it down to its essence for the sake of clarity.)

    Now, what if I wanted to print the series through HQHo?

    First I’d pay anywhere from $600-upwards of $2000 just to get HQHo to agree to print the book. I would sign an agreement with them whereby I agreed to give them that money and at the very least, the rights to publish it. I’d pay more for them to design a cover. More for them to assign it an ISBN, which I would not own. More for them to list the book. More for them to send it to review sites–several hundred dollars over the cost of the review itself, in fact. Heck, if I wanted to, I could pay $20,000 for them to produce a “Hollywood book trailer”–a service other companies will perform for less than 1/4 that cost, and that I could do for free.

    If and when a copy of the book sells, I would get 50% of the net monies received; that is, half of the money after whatever expenses HQHo claims, which makes no sense since I have paid all those expenses up front.

    Here’s what I don’t understand. All of the self-published authors I’ve ever met are passionate about self-publishing and the benefits they feel they get from it. They want to have complete control over their work. They want to make the largest amount of money they can for that work. That is absolutely their right.

    So why, then, are self-published authors not condemning this vanity business model? Why are they not discussing that writers don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to a big corporation like Author Solutions in order to self-publish, that it can be done on their own, and that by doing it on their own they get to keep control and keep all the profits?

    I thought, in the discussion we had Friday night, that we were all in agreement that vanity publishing in this fashion was wrong, and that it mislead authors. I thought we were all in agreement that while self-publishing can be beneficial in some circumstances, and there is nothing inherently wrong with self-publishing (save the difficulties in distribution, etc.) vanity publishing simply cost too much and provided too little benefit. I thought we’d had a friendly and respectful conversation.

    Apparently I was wrong. Turns out, Jackie, Simon, Paul, and myself are simply scared that self-published books will put us out of business, in addition to being elitists.

    I don’t quote or link to that post in order to pick fights. I quote and link to it to demonstrate how incredibly disappointed I am, and how I feel I was lied to and misled.

    At this time, my long comment in response to Mr. Cochran’s post has still not been approved. In it I expressed my disappointment, and how had I known the purpose of the show was to debate the validity of self-publishing I would have altered my comments accordingly. I feel as though I was bait-and-switched; i.e. told I was discussing one thing, when really the discussion was about something else, and that I was deliberately misled so that certain conclusions could be drawn from my comments.

    Certainly I’m hurt on a personal level that my feelings on the topic of HQHo and its vanity press model, and my sincere desire to help writers, are taken as proof that I’m selfish, greedy, and jealous, and just want to keep those more talented than myself down.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe at all that NY publishing is so out of touch with real people that they are incapable of choosing books people like to read. The mere presence of NYT bestsellers and literary phenomenons like Twilight belie that statement. Sure, Twilight may not be your cup of tea; you may think it’s a lousy book. But you cannot deny that a NY editor read it, thought, “Readers will like this,” and was correct in that assessment.

    Just because YOU don’t like it, doesn’t mean other readers won’t. Publishing is a BUSINESS. That business is SELLING BOOKS TO READERS. Just because YOU do not like those readers’ tastes, doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to have them or that publishers aren’t entitled to cater to them.

    Do great books get passed over every day because of the bottom line? Sure. Does that mean everything that does get published is watered-down same-same crap? No, any more than all self-published books are crap. No, I don’t believe self-publishing is best for everyone; remember, the average self-published book only sells 75 copies or so. But for some it can absolutely work, and I’ve never denied that.

    And none of this changes the fact that I would expect someone who has self-published, who has learned about self-publishing and is an advocate of it, to see that HQHo is NOT self-publishing, and to be just as concerned about educating new writers about the difference and how they can truly self-publish and not pay through the nose, as those of us who are commercially published. I would have expected that self-published authors and self-publishing advocates would be just as vocal as we’ve been in trying to educate writers, and not use this as an opportunity to play “You NY writers are hacks running scared from us.”

    But I guess that’s just my selfishness talking.

    What Stace had to say on Monday, September 28th, 2009
    Some stuff that’s happening

    First, not only did Charlaine Harris give me such a great blurb for UNHOLY GHOSTS, she talked it up on her blog the other day:

    “I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of Stacia Kane’s forthcoming Unholy Ghosts after I met her at DragonCon. Unfortunately, this novel won’t be out until May. You should put it on your calendars NOW. The world-building is unexpected and complex, the characters are alive, and the protagonist Chess is a treasure. I have a very hard time reading a book with an alcoholic or drug-addicted hero, and in fact I almost closed the book after the first chapter. I’m so glad I didn’t. The characters are complex and indelible, the plot is fascinating, and I can hardly wait for another book, months before this one will be out.”

    Second, I got word this morning that Karen Marie Moning, awesome NYT Bestseller that she is, also read and loved all three books in the Dowside series, and said:

    “Expect the unexpected. Kane delivers dark, sexy urban fantasy at its finest. I couldn’t put it down!”

    Which is totally cool. And was a great way to start my day.

    Which is the other thing I want to talk about.
    Read the rest of this entry »