Thursday, February 7, 2013

OPEN THREAD: Q&A

I'm in the mood to try something different, so here goes: have any random publishing-related questions you'd like me to (try to) answer? Ask in the comments, and I'll respond, either in the comments or in a future post!

Here's one from Jenny in the comments from a couple weeks back to get us started:

What the heck does it mean when you see a romance that says, "first time in print?" Like, did it have a life as a movie or something before? I've ALWAYS been confused about that. Unless it's meant to differentiate from a re-release of a backlist title? But how often does that happen?
I typically see "first time in print" on the covers of books from the big names in the romance industry: Madeline Hunter, Nora Roberts, Debbie Macomber, and so on. What do all of these have in common? For one thing, they've been publishing for a while-- long enough that there's a good chance that their earlier works (say, with Harlequin series) are out-of-print.

Every publishing contract has, or should have, language that defines when a book is deemed officially out-of-print, but what's considered OOP varies from publisher to publisher. Moreover, the onus is typically on the author to ask for the rights to be reverted, and even if the author sends the requisite letter to the publisher, the publisher usually has six months to get the book back into print before they have to grant the reversion. So the publisher might re-publish the book to hang on to the rights, or they might let the author have the rights back so she can self-publish the work, or relicense it to another publisher if she chooses.

All this to say, yes, re-releases of backlist titles happen pretty frequently, especially for the "household names" of the romance genre. The "first time in print" is a way to flag to that author's fans that yes, this is indeed a new book you hold in your hands (or are preparing to download to your e-reader).


What else do you want to know?

9 comments:

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

How often are you seeing clients go the self-pubbed or ebook only route? Is this something you recommend in some cases?

Anne Shirley said...

The other day, I was intrigued by what you said regarding a potential author's online presence. My non-writing work demands discretion, so I've always kept my online presence limited. However, I've also heard that having an internet presence is essential to obtaining an agent.

What do you think? Do agents reject potential authors for the lack of blogs and such?

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

Hi Kayeleen! I think self-publishing is a great option for many writers, and a number of my clients have self-published quite successfully. It's a great way to build a fan base, experiment with pricing, etc.-- and sometimes make more money than you might in pairing with a so-called traditional publisher.

It's not an option I push on people, because (done right) I think it can be a lot more work than partnering with a publisher, but it does give the author more control over things like cover design and release dates, among other things. Sometimes it's the best option for a book in a genre that publishers see as "too narrow" or a book that straddles multiple genres.

I can talk more about that in another post, if you like.

As for the e-only route, more and more we're seeing the big publishers (Random House, Penguin, S&S, Harper, Grand Central, Harlequin, etc) expanding their romance lines in this direction. Romance tends to be a little ahead of the curve, but given the success of Carina Press and Avon Impulse, among others, I think we're going to be hearing about a lot more "e-only" deals with major publishers in the near future. I think the e-only imprints are doing a terrific job, though there's no question there's a tradeoff-- you lose some potential readers in not producing a print edition, since not everyone reads in ebook format. (yet?)

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

Hi Anne Shirley (great name!),

This is a really good question, and one I can talk more about another time. I don't expect my fiction clients to have an online presence at all when I take them on. It's a nice bonus for a publisher if you've already got a big Twitter following, for example, but if you're planning to tweet or blog just to promote your books, it's really hard to develop a following before said books are actually available. So no, if you're writing fiction, you don't need a blog or a Facebook fan page or a Twitter account before you start querying agents. I'd much rather you had no online presence whatsoever than one that cast you in a negative light.

Nonfiction is different: there, platform is critical, and publishers (and agents) are looking online and in traditional media (TV, magazines, newspapers, radio) for evidence that you have an established following of people who will buy your book when it's available. If you want to write a diet book, for example, it'd be very helpful to have a monthly column in, say, Men's Health magazine. A platform is a launching pad for the book-- a built-in way to promote the work to its target audience.

In your particular case, Anne, it sounds like a pseudonym is a very good idea-- and when you go to build an online presence, you'll want to do so using your pseudonym. (And if discretion is paramount, give some thought to how to carefully separate your "real" identity from your "writer" identity online. Don't use the same headshot for both, for example, or Google Image Search will give the game away!)

Jenny H said...

Thanks! That's many years of mild irritation put to rest! Maybe now you can come to my house and find all the missing single socks.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

Thanks for the answer! I'm on the fence about self-pubbing for myself. It seems like a risky sort of business for an unagented author. If you don't have big sales, it might not help my cause at all. I'd be interested in hearing more about your thoughts on the subject.

Sruthi said...

Should an author include their age when querying if it seems relevant? Like a teenaged author writing YA because they might now what teens like to read?

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

Hi Sruthi,

If it's relevant or interesting, then yes, by all means. A teenager writing YA is not new but is still interesting to readers and publishers. We're also intrigued when a debut novelist is an older person-- say, over 80-- because sometimes the novel has been a work-in-progress for decades, and the "labor of love" shines through the prose.

Tiago said...

I love the new tipes of interactions that technologies allows. Today we can be worldwide connected and knowing each others.
It is great for business like the Open Agent system, but also for common people who just wnat to have a chat.