Sunday, October 25, 2015

Feeling rejected?

The first book in the Harry Potter series was rejected by twelve publishers. The thirteenth one accepted it, but printed only 1000 copies. Keep these facts in mind when you think a publisher's opinion of your book is better than yours.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The latest stop on the blog tour has my "guest post" on the subject, "Do Boys Read?" (The answer, according to most publishers, is No.) Check it out on, and leave your comments.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The first stop on the blog tour for COME SIT BY ME is actually

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Today begins the blog tour to promote COME SIT BY ME, my YA novel about a school shooting. First stop is, where we do what proved to be an interesting interview.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Latest reviewer of COME SIT BY ME writes: "I was enthralled the entire time. I'm looking forward to more from this author." That tells exactly how much effort the publishers of my 100 previous books put into publicizing them.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Here's part of a review from a blogger who writes "My So-Called Reviews."

This is definitely a book that will split adults, you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it. With teens I can see this book being hugely popular, not only does it deal with things that are prevalent to their world but each character, good and bad, is easy to connect with. Combine that with a clear writing style, fast paced plot & some juicy twists and teens will gobble this one up! Highly recommended to all YA teens ages 14 and up, this is a must read! I would also highly recommend this to adults who are interested in getting inside the true psyche of today’s American teenager, regardless of what you might find there!

Friday, July 3, 2015

CORRECTION: You may NOT get a free copy of COME SIT BY ME by going to the NetGalley website. They have to approve you, by some algorithm I don't understand. Be patient, however, and I think there will be a giveaway of the book later on as part of the promotion.

In other news, a publisher called ChiTeen wrote me and said that they had seen COME SIT BY ME was being published, and they reminded me I had sent the book to them for consideration, so now they were no longer considering it. What they omitted was that I sent the book to them last November (2014)! It is the usual thing now for publishers and agents just not to reply to your submissions or queries, and after several months without hearing anything from ChiTeen, I sent the book to Booktrope, which is now about to publish it. Tells you a lot about the speed with which things are done at Booktrope.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

new book on the way

We're making progress at publishing my first book with I'll write more about the process later, but suffice to say that the editor actually helped me to produce a better book, and the proofreader has done the same. (Can't say that about very many of the editors I've had with traditional publishers.) The cover artist has done outstanding work. Here is an early version:

We may add a little more color and make the title larger, so that it shows up on the tiny images they use for amazon and other web sites. I think it's one of the very best covers we ever had. This is not, BTW, a horror novel. It's about the aftermath of a school shooting, when Paul, a new student, tries to discover what motivated the shooter. Paul is in danger of being the next casualty. I'll post here when the book goes on sale.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Publishers Do For Writers

There was an article in the NYTimes last week about a young man, Max Brallier, whose online book has attracted more than six million readers. It's on a site called Funbrain, and is basically a comic book called "Galactic Hot Dogs." So Aladdin, a division of the Simon and Schuster publisher, has paid him a seven-figure (that's $1,000,000 +) advance for the rights to publish the book (and two sequels) in traditional paper-and-ink format. Aladdin is printing 500,000 copies, and is promoting the book through a million-dollar print and online marketing campaign.
All this is certainly good news for Max Brallier, and fellow authors should applaud his success. What I found interesting came at the end of the article, where it describes his previous work experience. To quote:
"He took a job in publishing shortly after college, at Penguin, and then at St. Martin's Press, where he worked in marketing. That experience has made him keenly aware of how unusual it is to have millions invested in promoting his book. 'So many books get almost zero done for them these days,' he said."

There it is straight from the mouth of someone who has worked in publishing houses. Your chances of getting your book promoted are almost zilch--unless you've already lined up six million potential readers.
That's not true, of course, at a new paradigm publisher like Booktrope (at least in theory). Every book has its own book manager, editor, proofreader, and cover designer--all of whom share in the book's profits. As you know, that's where I am now, and fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Progress at Booktrope

Well, to continue my experiences with Booktrope...the editor turned out to be first-rate, every bit as good as I hoped. If you ever put a book on Booktrope, look for Ross Hardy to be your editor. For this book, I wanted a male editor, not because I'm sexist, but because I hope the book will find an audience among teen-age boys, and I wanted to get the details right. Ross was very helpful with that, and presented suggestions along the way, many of which I accepted. Now the ms. is in the hands of a proofreader, again one of my choice.
Should you think that picking a proofreader isn't such a big deal, let me tell you a brief story about a proofreader we had many years ago when we were doing a YA bio of Captain James Cook for Putnam. The proofreader sent back the manuscript and we saw that she had added copy to our book. It was good copy, and we knew from our research that it was accurate. But it seemed almost too good, so we poked around in our research materials, and found that the proofreader had lifted entire sentences, word for word, from a classic book on the subject. Fortunately, we found that out before the book had gone to the printer's. But if we hadn't, we would have been labeled as plagiarizers--not the proofreaders. So don't take the proofreader for granted.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

So far, Booktrope has worked out very well for me. The way it works is that editors, proofreaders, cover designers, and book managers (who sell the book in various ways) post their profiles/qualifications on line. Then the writer contacts the ones he/she likes to ask if they'd like to join the team for the writer's book. I posted the manuscript online so they can tell what they're in for. Right now, I have all four positions lined up with people I think are highly qualified. While the editor is working on the manuscript and the cover designer on the cover, the book manager and I have been discussing ways to publicize the book. She is encouraging me to get on as many social websites as possible. I'm already on Facebook, and have two blogs, this one and one for the Samurai Detective Series (
So I signed up on Twitter, and I'm still puzzling over what people who aren't famous use it for. I don't know how to restrict myself to 140 characters. I looked at the Twitter site for John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, a very successful YA book and less successful movie. I ran into a blizzard of posts like, "My wife and I are getting dressed for the Time 100 Most Influential People gala," and "Kanye West is entertaining at the Time 100 Most Influential People gala. He's a genius."
OK, enough of that. I get sick retyping things like that. Eventually we're all going to wind up like the Kardashian family, except for those of us who aren't strikingly beautiful or handsome. (The rest of us will just be their followers.)
I'll try to post more often here because the book manager says I have to do that to attract more followers. We'll see.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

some good news

Here at last is some good news. I should have posted earlier that Dorothy and I found an editor who gave us some work. This person edits the successful Grosset & Dunlap "Big Head" series. It got its nickname from the cover art. Each book is a biography, and the artist portrays them with "big heads" that make them easy to spot. The books are paperbacks, aimed at a younger-grade audience, and most importantly sell like crazy. Anyway, they're branching out from biographies into places and events, and we were assigned a very desirable subject: the Great Pyramids.
    We recalled years ago reading that the two most popular subjects for young readers were Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs, and we told an editor (jokingly) that the obvious title would be "When Dinosaurs Roamed Ancient Egypt."
     Anyway, the editor liked what we did, and "Where Are the Great Pyramids?" is scheduled for publication this fall. We were assigned two more titles, and are hard at work on them.

Even better news is that I found somebody who liked my YA novel "Come Sit By Me." Since this book has a school shooting as its back story, publishers and editors and agents ran from it like vampires from garlic. The great fear is, I assume, that there will one day be a school shooting and the shooter's locker will be opened to find that he (they're always male) had been reading "Come Sit By Me."
The fact that this is a topic that is probably discussed in every high school, and most grade schools, in the country means nothing to the publishers.
Having given up finding a publisher or agent, I began to look into businesses that have what I call a new paradigm for the publishing business. I wasn't going to pay for having my book published--that's a very old paradigm called vanity publishing.
No, this company brings together authors, editors, designers, and "book managers" on projects. Everybody is given a share of the profits (providing there are profits). That gives everyone on the project an incentive to do well--a piece of the action, you might say. What's in it for the author? Well, first of all, my share of the profits is 30%--much better than any publisher ever gave me. And secondly, I am finally assured that the sales people involved will actually try to sell the book. I will keep you all posted on how it goes.

Friday, March 6, 2015

There's a site for writers called Absolute Write Water Cooler. Lots of cool features, including people reporting on their experiences with agents. There's one called "How Real Publishing Works," and I posted the following. I recently heard from somebody who had read it, and I wrote back to him. It's too long to read in just one post, so let's start with my original post:

Somebody asked what's changed since this thread first began. Well, I didn't read the entire thread, but I saw a lot of things in the beginning that are different now. First, let me tell you that I've published 100 books for children, YAs, and adults, both fiction and nonfiction. My publishers have included Knopf, Putnam, Oxford University Press (when they had a children's division), Scholastic, Philomel, Wiley, Little, Brown and many more, so I am experienced. I also won an Edgar and other awards and received many starred reviews, so I think I'm a good writer.
But one of the big things in publishing now is Nielsen BookScan, which tells anybody who pays for it how many copies your books have sold. And believe me, if your most recent books didn't sell well, you've just become a non-person in the publishing world. Might as well change your name and start over. (There was an article in the NY Times about an agent who actually did that for a client, because that was the only way the agent could sell the client's next book.)
And let me tell you, extremely few publishers (and none of the big ones) will consider your book unless it is submitted by an agent. And now many of the agents won't look at your book unless you've already published, or unless you come recommended by someone they know (like one of their established clients.)
So let me tell you how I became a non-person. My wife and I (we usually collaborate) had written a nonfiction adult book for Little, Brown that did well enough that they brought it out in paperback after the hardcover edition. We were lucky enough (Ha! so we thought) to have the editor-in-chief for our editor, so we came to him with a proposal for a book about the theft of the Mona Lisa. He considered it, and then came back to us with a counter-proposal: do a book about that crime and several other crimes that had occurred in Paris around that time (early 1900s). He even did his own outline.
Unfortunately, we couldn't resist because we thought that if we wrote the book according to his outline, he'd make sure it was promoted. Little did we know.
We slaved away, turned the book in, and then waited. He sent the manuscript back with some line edits which we then took care of, and said the book would be out by such-and-such a time. The next we saw, there was the cover of the book on Amazon. It was the worst cover we had ever had in all the books we've written. Well, we had a clause in our contract that said the publisher had to "consult" with us about the cover, so we took it to our agent, who agreed that the cover was unprofessionally bad. But after conferring with the editor, he told us it was too late to change it. (Did I mention that the editor no longer took our phone calls? In case you don't know, that's a very bad sign.)
Then, one day, we got a message from the publisher's rights department that Vanity Fair was going to publish an excerpt from our book! Hooray! That surely meant it was going to be big and that the publisher would push the book.
Nope. In fact, while we worked with the editor at Vanity Fair to stitch together the parts of the book they wanted (all the parts about the theft of the Mona Lisa, BTW), he let us know that the rights person at Little, Brown had actually tried to talk him out of buying the excerpt. Well, since the editor was still not accepting our calls, we called the rights person, who kind of laughed sheepishly and admitted that was true, saying only that there was another book about the theft of the Mona Lisa coming out, and she wanted to make sure Vanity Fair had the right one.
Actually, our agent told us later, the sales department had looked at our book well before the pub date and decided not to devote any energy to it, partially because they didn't understand the concept and partially because of the other book about the theft of the Mona Lisa. Young writers don't understand that to publishers, not all books are equal. They have limited promotional resources, and don't divide them up equally. It's no longer a world in which wise editors like Bennett Cerf and Max Perkins promote their authors. You have to appeal to the sales people, who would rather sell a nice, easy-concept self-help book than your literary efforts.
So time went by, the issue of Vanity Fair came out, with our excerpt mentioned on the cover, but still we didn't see our book in bookstores. Then, a month after the original pub date, the rights person called us to announce gaily that she had sold the paperback rights! Hooray! Who bought them? Well, some academic publisher in the Midwest who paid--wait for it--the lavish sum of $1000 for the rights! Then we knew that the publisher was truly giving up on our book before it ever got a chance. (Later, a British movie company optioned our book three times, so somebody besides the editors at Vanity Fair must have thought it was good.)
Well, as you may guess, Nielsen BookScan didn't report high sales figures for the book...and because of that, our agent would no longer send our proposals out to publishers. He didn't have the guts to tell us that outright because as it happened, the contract he had "negotiated" for us with Little, Brown let the publisher have the ENTIRE $10,000 that Vanity Fair had paid, as well as the $1000 that the academic publisher had paid. (In truth, they were applied against our advance, which the book will never earn back.)
The agent, of course, claimed that our proposals weren't good enough for him to send out. In reality, at least two of those proposals were eventually published--by other authors with harder-working agents. So I told my wife that an agent who doesn't send out your work, isn't an agent, and we left him.
Our next agent was a young woman who seemed energetic and ambitious. In reality, she wanted to turn some of our earlier books, which were out of print, into e-books. She too failed to get us any new work, and one day we got an email from her saying she had had a baby and wanted to work on raising children instead of pursuing her career in publishing.
Leaving us without an agent, and a bad sales record on BookScan. Which means we've been trying without success to pitch new book ideas to new agents. The majority of them, BTW, never bother to respond at all. One of them suggested that she could try to place one of our books with an academic publisher. She thought she could get $5000 for it. Of course, that is before her 15% cut, taxes we'd have to pay, and the rights for illustrations (which usually run around $1000). So given that it takes well over a year (or two) to write the book, that doesn't explain how we can eat and pay rent.
Right now, I'm sending around to agents a couple of YA novels I've written, since that's a popular genre that we've been successful at before. One agent asked for the full manuscript of one in May. I wrote her in September asking if she'd gotten around to it, and I got a curt note saying she was busy. Another agent, with a second book, asked for a full in July. I wrote her in September and she told me she was reading it and would have an answer in two weeks. That was five weeks ago.
We have decided to self-publish. Can anybody blame us? Check out the first of our blogs at
And that's REALLY "How Real Publishing Works" in 2014. And BTW, you can guess when I read about the trouble Little, Brown is having with can guess who I'm rooting for, can't you? Go, Amazon!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

How a Literary Agent Views Editors

This isn't what I planned for the next post, but it was just so good, I had to post it.

I've been scanning the web pages of literary agents, looking for one that might want to represent us, since our last agent had a baby and said she would rather raise the baby than be an agent.

This is from the section of one agent's website that tells prospective authors how to write a book proposal. Says a lot about what's wrong with publishing, and why you should consider publishing your own book:

In most cases, editors and publishers ...are often very young, often in their 20s or 30s. So you need to try to make the proposal as accessible as possible. This means you should consider using charts, sidebars, graphics, tests, and so forth to make the proposal as interactive as possible, as well as to make it look interesting on the page; remember, you’re giving this to somebody who was raised on TV, so s/he may have a very short attention span....
          Although the proposal is not supposed to be complete, you should also keep in mind that some editors are not that great at “connecting the dots.”