Tuesday, May 17, 2005

On the Issue of Agents--AUTHORS BEWARE

I was taking a look at some of the comments on another writers and readers group fictionfolks and the disturbing discussion was about unscrupulous agents and what is truly acceptable practices.

I've been fortunate to have been with the same agent for fourteen years. So some of the issues that I hear about seem so foreign to me. I'd really like to know from those out there whose agent:
1. requires them to pay for postage, phone calls and copies?
2.Did you sign a letter of agreement with them?
3.What is the duration?
4. Do you pay a reading fee?
5. Do they send you an itemized list of charges per month, quarterly and are those fees deducted out of your royalties or are you paying up front?

In my mind, and perhaps I'm being naive, agents get 15% for the life of a book.....loooooong after they have negotiated the deal. Seems to me that would more than cover the costs of a few phone calls and a couple of packages.

The deal is, the agent works for you. They don't get paid if you don't get paid. It would behoove them to secure you the best deal possible not only for you but for themselves. Phone calls, copies, faxes and mailing are all part and parcel of doing business. That's like saying "free checking" as long as you maintain 50,000 in a account! LOL.

The bottomline is, if you are on the hunt for an agent, I beg you to do your research. You are hiring an employee--an employee who has immediate and lifelong tenure with your work. It is a legal and binding arrangement. You could find out six months into the relationship that it's not going to work, but that agent will get your check first, take their portion and send you the rest... long after you have severed a working relationship with them. "Authors Beware."

1. Find out their client list
2. Talk to some of their clients...(if they are unwilling to tell you--RUN)
3. Check them out in Literary Marketplace and their company name with the Better Business Bureau. (Agents have been known to close up shop and take author's money right along with them)
4. Attend conferences to meet some of these agents face-to-face (whenever possible).
5. Make sure that they represent the kind of work you are writing. That will have a major bearing on where their power is and their contacts are.

You are on the hunt for the ideal employee, one who shares your enthusiasm about your work, your vision and is willing to work with you to achieve your goals. It is a partnership. And just because they are with a big named agency does not mean that you will get "BIG NAME" quality and service. You may wind up as a small fish in a very big pound, especially if you are not a major rainmaker for the company. Take all that into consideration when you are looking for an agent. Do you go with a big agency or someone smaller who can give you more attention or someone new who is eager and hungry?

I have been so fortunate to have been with the same agent. I wouldn't trade her in for the world. She is honest, quick in sending me my checks, brainstorms with me and is always willing to go to bat if I'm not happy about something. And in the 14 years that I've been with her, she has never charged one thin dime for anything.

But that's my lucky story. I'm sure there are many others. But here is a great place for you to share your agent stories and concerns, recommendations and those folks should stay away from.

We need to hear from you.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Publisher's Weekly Gives A Stamp of Approval... Sort Of

Every now and again, you get pleasant surprises in life. Well today I got just that; a solid, quotable review from Publisher's Weekly. Reviews, as all published writers know, is a crap shoot at best. You could have written the greatest American novel and a reviewer could come along and make you want to retire your trusty pen. So when the good ones come along, you relish them. So in absolute shameless self-promotion here it is...
Getting Hers Donna Hill. St. Martin's, $19.95 (224p) ISBN 0-312-28194-3
Three unlikely accomplices—all members of the men-are-dogs club—join forces to right the wrongs they've suffered in Hill's latest (Divas, Inc., etc.), a page-turning tale of murder, intrigue and revenge. On their way out of their gynecologist's reception room, diverse but equally glamorous strangers Nikki Perez, Kim Sheppard-Benning and Tess McDonald are trapped for hours in the elevator during a blackout. Nikki, a Latina ex-con who took the fall for a callous but irresistible boyfriend; Kim, a wealthy, WASPy entrepreneur whose husband threatens to disclose a secret that will ruin her career; and Tess, an African-American high-class madam on the run from the law, join together in sisterly solidarity after trading stories of the betrayals they've survived. The trio forms an alliance and toasts to "getting what's ours... success... [and] retribution," at whatever cost. With its zippy dialogue, ruthless yet vulnerable women and quickly escalating plot, this romp offers satisfying fantasy. (June)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Is It a Career or a Hobby?

I cannot tell you the number of people who have said to me "I want to write a book," "I've been wanting to write this book for years," "I think I have a unique story to tell about my life..." The list goes on. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it is admirable to want to write a book. But trust me, it is more than a notion. Writing is a commitment. So when you decide that you want to write that book you need to also decide if you are a sprinter or a long distance runner. Are you writing for the short haul or because you truly have a calling.

Writing is not only putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. Writing is an art, it is a talent, it is a blessing. With our words, our visions we can take people to places they have never been, open hearts and minds, create dialogue and controversy. The old saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword," is still true. What you put down on paper will remain long after you are gone. It is a representation of you. It is like giving birth to a child and sending the child out into the world. As a parent would you send your child out into the world unpreprared, uneducated, unwordly, unclothed? Of course not. You would want to give the child the absolute best so that they are equipped to face the harshness of the world. In the writing arena that harshness is the reviewers and readers.

You want your work to be as prepared as you would prepare your child. You want it polished. And in order to do that, you cannot wake up tomorrow and decide to "be a writer." Writing is not something that "you become" but rather something that you "always have been." It is what you do, what you dream and fantasize about--not every now and then, but always.

To a true writer, the need to craft a story is like breathing...you simply must.

So before jumping into the pool of established and aspiring authors, truly decide if this is a career, something that you must have, something that you want to see grow. And you know that you are willing to cut off friends, family and social time. That you are willing to invest in your career by taking classes, attending literary events, reading, reading, reading. Don't do it just for the money, (trust me, for most it ain't enough to quit your day job) or to see your name on a book cover. That's a hobby.

Look deep inside. Are you a sprinter or a long distance runner? How much are you willing to commit; a little or a lot. It is about ego or the love of the art?

The decision is yours! Happy writing.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Count Down

Well, as fate and circumstances beyond my control the release of my book Getting Hers is being delayed by a couple of weeks. At first I was really bummed out about it. But then I realized that there was light at the end of the tunnel. With more time, it will give me the opportunity to get the buzz out, hopefully get folks interested in it ... like they do with the movies... you keep seeing trailers until you are almost committed to seeing the movie. The same thing just before a CD drops. So I figure I will use my time wisely... look at my options and make the most of it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Why Does It Last?

As much as it is bad-mouthed, covered in elaborate cloths to hide it's contents, as much as millions deny ever having touched one, romance novels continue to flourish. They remain a staple in the literary world and have over time, evolved from pure historical bodice rippers to sweeping love stories that could even make a grown man cry.

What is it about the genre that continues to fascinate, intimidate and intrigue readers. More importantly, what is it about the genre that births ravenous fans worldwide like no other genre?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

To Be a Superstar

How do you elevate yourself from a common denominator to a superstar? Apparently it's by doing something stupid. Take the chick who decided that instead of telling he beloved that the wedding was off, she took off, cut her hair and said she'd been kidnapped. Now if that is not a runaway bride I don't know what is. She cost her city hundreds of thousands of dollars and yet instead of prosecuting her (as they should) her story is on the cover of every newspaper and news show. What's up with that? My question is, would the authorities have been so kind if: 1. her soon-to-be father in law were not a former member of law enforcement and 2. if her name would have been Beulah Jones from Harlem, New York? My guess is her ass would be peeking out from behind bars instead of from under a towel!!