Category: agents

Back to the Drawing Board: MEMORY THIEF Canceled

Well, folks. What can I say? The publishing gods giveth, and the publishing gods taketh away. Anytime your agent calls you and the first words out of his mouth are “I’ve got bad news,” you know the conversation isn’t going to end well.

I found out this morning that Egmont, the publisher that was going to print THE MEMORY THIEF is being shuttered by its international parent. Why? Beats me. I knew they were looking to sell the American arm of the company, and they’d been trying to sell it for the last few months. In the end, it appears they decided it wasn’t worth trying to sell it anymore, and they were better off just closing shop. It doesn’t seem like the world’s smartest financial decision to me (Egmont USA has been doing just fine from a finance standpoint, and was bringing in money, but maybe I don’t understand the ins and outs of international business enough to make sense of it.)

First off, my thoughts go out to the fine people who work at Egmont, and for whom this has a much more immediate impact than it does for me. This is their livelihood, and they’re all about to lose their job. Having seen that process happen at my workplace, it’s an awful, terribly upsetting experience–made even worse by how non-sensical this was.

Then, there are other authors whose books with Egmont were much closer to publishing than mine was. That’s got to be a tough blow. Getting close enough to hold the galleys in your hand, see the cover, and really be able to picture the book coming out in less than a year . . . and then to have that snatched away. It’s a real Lucy and the Football sort of feeling. And the authors whose books are coming out this spring from Egmont . . . I have no idea what sort of a situation they find themselves in. How the marketing will be handled. How the future of their books will be dealt with.

And then there’s me. I was beyond pleased Memory Thief had found a home with Egmont. They seemed like a great company, and I was very excited to do business with them. Jordan (my to-be editor) was nice and has a bunch of experience, and I was looking forward to working with her to make the book even better. But it’s not to be.

Where does this leave my book? Back at square one, more or less. Once we get the letter making everything official, we’ll be submitting the book to other editors and hunting for someone who’s ready to bring it into their fold. We’d sent it out to a fair number of editors back when Egmont bought it, and perhaps some of them will be interested now that things with Egmont have fallen apart. Who knows?

I can’t say I’m not depressed about this. It’s a real bummer. But it’s important to view it in context. It’s a bummer for me, but not a life-changing catastrophe. My thoughts are with the others who are losing their jobs in the middle of January. If it’s any consolation, from what I’ve seen in cases like this, the people involved usually end up in better places than they were to begin with. (Though typically things like this happen when things are really bad at the workplace. To have it happen to a place that’s successful . . . Sheesh.)

I’m also not as down about it personally as I thought I would be. This isn’t dominating my day. I think part of that is that in a way, getting that book contract was very validating in and of itself. I realize that the actual selling of the book is out of my hands in many ways. All I can do is focus on writing novels that other people find worthy of buying–editors particularly. The Memory Thief has passed that test. All this other stuff? Out of my control. That doesn’t mean I’m a worse writer, or the book is no good. It just means I’ve had a bit of bad luck at the moment.

And that’s about all I have in me to write at the moment.

We Need Diverse Books Because

Some of you following my Facebook or Twitter feeds probably saw me post about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign yesterday. I’ve been really pleased to see so many people retweeting the topic and spreading the word. As an author of a book published by Tu Books (an imprint of Lee and Low, one of the publishing leaders in diversity), I’ve watched the conversation about diverse books with no small amount of interest over the last few years. I’m not particularly good at coming up with pithy statements that can summed up in a photograph–lengthy blog posts are more my cuppa. So going on the “a picture is worth a thousand words” maxim, here’s my picture’s worth of words for the campaign.

I’m continually surprised and disappointed that campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks need to exist in this day and age, though I suppose I shouldn’t be. It’s just too easy to sit back and let the status quo stay right where it is.

When Vodnik was published, I’ll admit I had high hopes. Not that it would smash records in the US (though what author wouldn’t like to give JK a run for her money?) but that it would get published where it needed to be: Europe. Americans read the story of a part-Roma boy who moves to Slovakia and encounters racism first hand, and they have an easier time dismissing it. The sad truth is that for many Americans “Gypsies” are characters in fantasy books, not people in real life, and “Roma” might possibly be people from Romania? Maybe? (Then they go looking for a map.)

Why do we need diverse books? Because there are still plenty of people out there who are unable or unwilling to realize that we’re all the same at heart. That we’ve got the same desires and aspirations. The same dreams and the same nightmares. It’s ironic that we need diversity in literature to prove to people that we’re the same–and I recognize that we’re not all the same. But this was an issue as far back as you can go. I’m continually reminded of Shakespeare when Shylock says:

He hath disgraced me

and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses,

mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my

bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies—

and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew

eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions,

senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same

food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the

same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed

and cooled by the same winter and summer as a

Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If

you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do

we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not

revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will

resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what

is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a

Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian

example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I

will execute—and it shall go hard but I will better

the instruction.

It’s the same thing, played out again and again over the course of history. The Other is less. The Other is wrong. The Other is Other. But one of the wonderful things about literature–something that sets it apart from other arts like film or music or painting–is that it can throw us into the point of view of someone other than us. You can try to get the same effect in other ways, but books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes.

If books let down diversity, then what else do we have?

I was disappointed by the response to Vodnik. Not disappointed by readers. You’ve all be genuinely lovely. The book has garnered great reviews from established institutions, book bloggers, and Goodreads alike. It’s won awards, and many people have written me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Kids have sought me out at signings, coming just to see me and to talk to me about writing the book. I couldn’t possibly be disappointed by that.

But my agent’s taken Vodnik overseas. He’s gone to publishers in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, France, England–and he’s been told the same thing. They see the reviews, they see the awards, and they get interested. Right up until they find out it’s about a Roma. Then the interest switches off, and that’s that.

“People won’t read a book about Roma,” is what they’re told. To which I say, “They won’t if no one will publish it.” That’s the only 100% foolproof way to make sure no one reads a book. Smother it. Stifle it. Never let it get out. Could I self-publish in Slovakia or Spain? Sure, if I could find someone to translate the book well. Publishing abroad is a fair bit more difficult than publishing here in America.

Vodnik might be a more extreme example than what you typically encounter in America, but I think that by going to that extreme, it illustrates the point more quickly and more effectively than it would by using some of the American examples. Because the same thing is certainly still happening in America. It might not be so blatant at times (or at times it is), but it’s still here. And that’s why campaigns like this are so important.

But do you know what’s even more important? Your pocketbook. I don’t mean to be crass, but it’s true. The publishing business is just that: a business. You vote with your wallet. Before JK came out with Harry Potter, common consensus was that school books were dead dead dead. People didn’t read them. And then came the Boy Who Lived, and suddenly you couldn’t print enough of them.

There are a ton of great books with diverse characters out there. A ton of fantastic authors from diverse backgrounds. But until we as a people start buying those books and sharing them with our friends, they’ll never be heard. Literature might have the power to equalize things, but it can’t do it if it isn’t read.

I’m not saying we all should read things just because it’s diverse or supports a cause. These books are awesome books. If you put one of them into a cage match with a “non-diverse” book, they’d totally go the full number of rounds. I’m a librarian. I don’t have time for bad books. But I also can’t afford to ignore good ones. Neither can you.

I’ve already gone above and beyond my thousand words, but I wanted to end on a positive note. A few months ago, I got a review on Goodreads that I really loved. It’s in Slovak, written by a Slovak, so I’ll just quote a snippet:

No jedna vec bola možno trochu moc. A možno to tak vnímam len ja. Rómska problematika bola podaná dosť drsne. Ja viem, že to je drsné, a viem, že ako našinec to inak vnímam, ale dve či tri scény boli fakt trošku moc. Otázka je, či by sa to tak mohlo stať aj naozaj. A najhoršie je, že by to nemuselo byť také neuveriteľné. A to ma dosť desí. A pre cudzincov to musí byť ešte horšie, keď netušia ako to tu je naozaj. (read the whole thing)

TRANSLATION: (Thanks to Google Translate. It’ll give you the general idea) But one thing was maybe a little too much. And maybe this is just me, I see. The Roma issue was made pretty rough. I know it’s rough, and I know how our people perceive it differently, but two or three scenes were really a bit much. The question is whether it could happen so i really. And the worst part is that it might not be so incredible. And it scares me enough. And for foreigners it must be even worse when they have no idea how it really is here.

Don’t get me wrong: my main goal isn’t to change the world. It’s to write a great book. One that entertains and captivates. But a review like that, by a Slovak, about a book like Vodnik?

It made the disappointment about the book not coming out in Europe a little easier to bear.

I’m Bryce Moore, and I believe #WeNeedDiverseBooks

How I Got an Agent: The End

Her AlibiOkay, this ongoing saga has gone on long enough. Time to bring it to a stunning conclusion. Or at least an end. In our last episode, I had just revised my whole book in about two weeks, despite a busy September. Stacy had it, and it was out of my hands. The next waiting game wasn’t as bad as before. I knew it wouldn’t last forever, for one thing, and I hoped that even if it went poorly, I’d be able to revise once again. At the same time, Joshua happened to send me a shipment of German books. (I’ve been very happy to get one of these a few times a year from him. He gets book deals in German, they send him the books to show it really has been printed, he sends the books to me. It’s a wonderfully parasitic relationship, and it keeps me stocked with all the German fantasy I could ever read.)

Anyway, I happened to get a shipment, and since I always would email to thank him, I emailed him and said thanks and “oh by the way” Vodnik was up at an acquisitions meeting and I’d hopefully be looking for representation soon. He emailed right back to ask to see the revision, and I emailed it off.

A few weeks later, I got the email from Stacy: they wanted to make an offer on Vodnik. I called Joshua to tell him, and he asked for an evening to read the revision and make up his mind. Now, some of you are no doubt thinking, “Duh. Of course he’d represent you once you already have a deal set to go through. Free money.” But that’s not really how it works with good agents. They don’t just want to represent anybody–they want to represent people and books they really love. One of my friends was in this exact situation before with Joshua, and Joshua ended up turning him down. (He went on to make a killer deal on his series, so don’t feel too bad for him.) So this was by no means a slam dunk yet.

But happily, I talked to Joshua the next day. It was a yes. Actually, Eddie Schneider is the agent in charge of YA at JABberwocky, so he’s been handling the negotiations and such, but since Joshua and I have this five years of history at this point, Joshua’s still staying in the loop to give me writing and career advice.

Now that it’s all done, how does it feel? About like how all my author friends said it would feel. There was about a week or two of intense elation, and then that subsided into a “what do I do now” stage. For so long, I’ve been focused on writing a new book or sending out queries on existing books, trying to get to where I am now. Now that I’m here, I have a whole different set of things to focus on. Revising Vodnik again, for one thing–I’ll start that soon. And after that, writing my next piece: either revising something I’ve written, or writing something new. We’ll see what it is.

Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to the months and years ahead. It’s been a long road to get to this point, and then you discover there’s just more road in front of you. There’s probably something deep to think about there, but it’s Monday, and I’m not up for deep. If anyone has any questions, please ask.

How I Got an Agent (and a Book Deal): Part V

Chuck: The Complete First SeasonSorry I didn’t get time to post yesterday. It was quite the hectic day for me, and I just plum ran out of time. Anyway–on to today’s post. When last we met, I had submitted Vodnik to Tu Publishing, which then turned into Tu Books, and I hadn’t heard anything back, but (as I said) that’s the nature of the beast in this industry. Six months isn’t a long time to wait, but it’s sort of standard for the amount of time to wait before you inquire to see if any progress has been made. (At least, that’s the arbitrary number of months I’d set in my head). So I waited until September to shoot off an email to Stacy to see if Vodnik was anywhere near getting a decision made.

I was always hesitant to be pushy at all about books I’d submitted, and I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If you haven’t heard back from an agent or editor, that could mean that they’re on the fence about your book and thinking about accepting or rejecting it. If you get pushy, that could make the decision to reject that much easier. Then again, if you say nothing, maybe nothing happens. See the dilemma? And speaking from personal experience, there’s nothing quite like the agonizing an aspiring author goes through when he’s waiting to hear back from an agent or editor. You know that it’s not likely that it’ll be a yes, and you’ve heard so many no’s before that you keep telling yourself this one will be a no, too–but you can’t help but be hopeful, because sooner or later, it’s got to be a yes, right? But it doesn’t have to be a yes ever, and you know that, so you keep those hopes down. It’s a vicious cycle, and you repeat it every. single. time. you send another query or–even worse–full manuscript out. And each time, you finally get that no, and then you’re depressed and wonder if you’re deluding yourself about the quality of your work.

Do you know what one of my worries was? It was that I was the literary equivalent of one of the contestants on American Idol. You know–one of the ones who are just so bad, but their friends and families have all told them how great they are. Or (just as bad), being one of the ones that’s decent, but just not great. They’re pleasant to listen to, but you doubt they’ll go far. It’s strange, but I feel quite confident in my ability to evaluate any piece of writing . . . but my own. Go figure.

At any rate, I digress. Back to the story.

I sent Stacy a quick email on September 9th. Tu Publishing had started announcing acquisitions, and I congratulated her on the progress they were making, and just asked if she had any update on Vodnik. When I hit send, I didn’t expect a response for a week or two at the earliest.

It came an hour and a half later. Not only was it positive, but it was really positive. Stacy had liked the book, but was waiting for a bit later in the Tu Books publishing schedule to look at it more closely, since it lacked the people of color element. I responded with an idea that had been germinating at the back of my mind since I’d read about the people of color emphasis at Lee and Low. While most people in Slovakia are as Eastern European White as they get, there’s a significant minority population: the Roma. (You might know them as Gypsies, although that’s not the PC term for them, FYI). I emailed Stacy back to see if she’d be open to me revising the book, incorporating a significant Roma element into the revision. (I’m oversimplifying here to make things flow with the story more–there will be more explanation of Roma and the revision at some future point on my blog).

After a bit of back and forth, it was set: Stacy was going to reread Vodnik and email me any big changes that stood out to her, and I was going to do the same. Then, I’d revise the book. Oh–and I’d get it all done by the end of September. Vodnik at the time was about 95,000 words, give or take. This was happening at the same time that I was working on my wood shed, painting the garage, and doing a slew of other things in my life. (If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll no doubt recall this period.) In fact, just a few days before I’d emailed Stacy in the first place, I’d been complaining to Denisa that I was too darn busy, and I was on the lookout for things to ditch in my life to simplify my schedule.

But you know what, when opportunity knocks, you don’t just say “hold on until I’m ready.” I dove into reading Vodnik, which I hadn’t touched in over three years. I had some friends read it and get me suggestions, too. Stacy got her notes to me on the 17th. For the next week and a half, I had no spare time at all. I finished the revision on the 27th, exhausted, but happy with it.

I should be able to bring this storyline to a close with my next entry in the series–hopefully on Monday. I’m at a conference tomorrow, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see anything from me. Doubt I’ll have internet and time to post. In case I don’t, have a happy weekend!

I Have a Book Deal! (How I Got an Agent: Part IV)

Deal or No DealSo it’s official. I’ve sold Vodnik to Tu Books, a new imprint at Lee and Low that’s focusing on publishing multicultural fantasy, sci-fi and mysteries. This is the last bit of info that I’ve been waiting to fall into place before I continued my How I Got an Agent series, which can now also be called How I Got a Book Deal.

When last we met, I was talking about how I kept submitting new novels to Jabberwocky, reluctant to revise any of the ones they’d already seen. While I was submitting to agents, I was also submitting to editors. For those of you who don’t know, typically these days you’ll get an agent first, who will then send your book to various agents and sell it to the highest bidder (or only bidder, as is often the case). Why is it this way? Because most publishing houses have restricted their submissions policies, now only accepting agented manuscripts (books that are represented by an agent). So if you want to “break in,” your best shot is with an agent. Agents work on commission–they typically get 15% of whatever you get. But they also negotiate your deals for you, and you usually end up coming out ahead on the deal, even after their cut.

Anyway, this is just to explain that I wasn’t restricting myself to agents alone. I would send in manuscripts to publishing houses I thought would be a good fit. One such place was Mirrorstone, an imprint of Wizards of the Coast (the place that does all the D&D books). I sent Weaver of Dreams to Stacy Whitman when she was working there, and she asked to see the full manuscript. While it didn’t work out (Mirrorstone closed their non-D&D lines, and Stacy moved on to different things), I kept Stacy in the back of my mind under the “People who seemed to like what they’d seen from me” file–the same place Joshua was listed. When Stacy started a new publishing house called Tu Publishing, dedicated to printing multicultural fantasy, I immediately made the connection between it and Vodnik, my Slovak-based fantasy novel. They started accepting submissions at the beginning of 2010, and I sent in Vodnik as soon as I could. I heard back March 4, with Stacy requesting the whole manuscript. (Editors, like agents, usually just want a query letter and possibly some sample chapters. If they like what they see, they ask for more.)

Enter the waiting game.

Soon after I sent Vodnik in, Tu Publishing was bought out by Lee and Low, and it became Tu Books. That’s great, right? Because now it wasn’t just an independent publishing house–it was part of an established house that’s already made a name for itself in the multicultural world. True. But it also focuses on publishing books about people of color, and Slovakia (in case you’ve never been there) doesn’t have much in the way of people of color. At least not western Slovakia. My characters were all quite white. I read the change in focus with a bit of disappointment, but I still hadn’t heard back from Stacy, so a glimmer of hope remained.

Months went by, and the glimmer got smaller and smaller. I moved on to different writing projects (well, I did that immediately–you get nowhere in this business waiting to hear back from people. It can take months, and that’s just the nature of the beast. Always be writing something new.)

And . . . I’m out of blogging time again. Tune in tomorrow for more!

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