Kelly and JJ answer questions this week! What does it mean when an agent or editor follows you on twitter? How can you be an effective moderator for a panel? How can you cancel your book contract or break up with your agent? You've got questions, we've got answers!
Questions about being on Submission
What does it mean when an agent or editor follows you on twitter?
The truth? It doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean an offer or rep or a book deal is imminent. They might simply like your tweets. Don't torture yourself trying to read into this.
Should you have a (monetary) number in mind when you go on submission?
You should always talk with your agent before going on sub so that you can have a realistic expectation of what money in publishing looks like and where your book likely sits in the market. Also discuss with your agent what your strategies are for various scenarios (what's the floor for a pre-empt, etc). But it is very difficult to gage advance amounts for debuts. If you're a previously published author and you're going out with your second or third book, then you will probably have a much clearer sense of what advance range you're looking for, because you want to continually grow your career and so hopefully you can increase advance amounts from deal to deal.
If an editor on your sub list recently made an acquisition does that mean your book is dead in the water?
No. What is announced today doesn't have much bearing on what is going on submission tomorrow. A deal announced today might have been submitted 6 months ago and offered and accepted 4 months ago and has been in contract negotiations since and is only just being announced now that contracts are signed. And editors are always shopping for a shifting set of years and seasons. So as long as the content or premise of your book isn't incredibly similar, try to put deal announcements out of your mind. Those books aren't your competition.
Questions about Ending Agreements
How and when should you leave your agent?
Before you leave your agent, we suggest you have a very frank conversation with your agent about your concerns and give them the opportunity to address them. Agents aren't mind readers! But if after a frank conversation you still don't want to continue, then formally end the agreement by informing your agent, usually in writing. Read your agency agreement to find out if your agency agreement is at will or if you have a renewal period (either is fine so long as the renewal period is say, a year and not, say 15 years). If your book has been on sub, request all the submission information from your agent before you part ways: the list of editors and their responses. If the book is still out there with some editors who haven't responded, have your agent withdraw the submission so you can have a clean break. Remember, if you agent has sold books for you they are still entitled to commission on all moneys that come in for that title, even if they are no longer representing you going forward.
As for when to leave your agent? You're really the only one who can make that determination.
How do you cancel your book contract?
In your contract there should be a rights of termination clause that details ways for both the publisher and the author, respectively, to terminate the agreement. (If there's no language in the contract about the author's rights to terminate? DON'T SIGN). In the author's case, that almost always means you're going to have to return the advance. Every penny of it. If you decide you want to cancel your book contract, talk to your agent and let them handle it. Don't just email your editor like, "I'm out!" Explain your concerns and reasons to your agent and let them facilitate the cancelation. Be prepared to sign a cancellation addendum and return the full amount of all moneys that have been advanced to you.
How can you be an effective moderator on a panel? Make yourself familiar with the panelists and their work. Have some general questions prepared and know how you want to shape the conversation, and bring a notepad so you can jot down things while people are speaking so you can circle back to points that interest you. As a moderator it's your responsibility to guide the conversation and make sure that all of the panelists get a chance to speak. People of color, women, disabled people, queer people--these panelists are often drowned out in these conversations by others who dominate the conversation. As a moderator your job is to move the conversation along and whenever possible give all panelists an opportunity to be heard equally.
Can you translate visual elements from tv/comics to books? (I.e. Clues in the back, jarring music changes, etc?) If so, how?
Ultimately visual media and novels are just completely different things, with different strengths and weaknesses. Novels really excels at exposing a character's interiority; we can know characters intimately in novels in a way that we really can't in film or tv. If you want to plant clues in a novel, there are ways to do that effectively. Mention these key details and give them the same neutral weight that you give innocuous things, so that we neither dismiss or suspect it, but can recall it later when it comes into prominence.
What We're Working On
Kelly is prepping for submission, editing, and building her lesson plans for her class at the Loft.
JJ is revising, revising, revising.
What We're Reading
Off Menu Recommendations
That’s all for this week! Next week JJ sits down with the delightful Marie Lu for an interview! So as always if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, send us an ask on Tumblr, or tweet using the hashtag #askpubcrawl!