NincThink Round Table: Know When to
Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ’Em
(Decision Making in a Tough Market)
BY TRACEY LYONS
Industry Guests: Donald Maas (Donald Maass Literary Agency), Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich
Literary Management), Nita Taublib (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), Wendy McCurdy(Berkley/Penguin Putnam),
Paige Wheeler (Folio Literary Management), Carrie Feron (Avon Books/William Morrow), Lou Aronica
(FictionStudio), Bella Andre (NYT Bestselling Author)
NINC Authors: Shirley Hailstock, Ann Roth, and Karen Sandler
Moderator: Alicia Rasley
The session led off with the first question posed to the authors. How happy are you with your current
editor/publisher? Have they done what they promised? If not, why not?
A successful indie author discussed how she’d left traditional publishing to go indie, and then made a
ground breaking deal to keep erights and sell print only rights. She’s excited to be with the publisher and told
the audience all that matters are the numbers. If you have great numbers, great things will happen. One author
felt that her publisher has done what they said they would do. She’s happy to continue publishing with
her publisher, but thinks we should have fair play everywhere. There needs to be a high moral ground, and
everyone should be there. Another author was fired by her publisher and is now with a small publisher. Editorial,
publicity, and marketing are great. The money is disappointing, but she has a beautiful product and
loves what’s being produced. Her eyes are little more open about the industry. The last respondent is working
on the fifth book in a five-book series, but plans to work on what she wants to write and is feeling frustrated
with her publisher.
Do authors feel they get further by making a big stink, or do they feel they can be gracious and still get what they
want? This question was fielded aggressively by the entire panel. From the agents:
“Great power lies in great writing. Don’t be afraid.”
One agent explained to authors why they fail—smart ones listen, others blame publishers. It all starts
with the books. Great writing equals great success.
The squeaky wheel does get the grease, but the author has to be diplomatic, and realize where you are
on the totem pole and act accordingly. This agent wants to back a client request up with sales. New author
with no sales record? All bets are off.
The author should always look wonderful. Let the agent be the bitch.
- One agent went so far as to say publishers work on assumption that authors can’t take the truth and
went on to add, be aggressive, and be professional. Know that big authors will get answers first. But being
a professional makes it easier for you to be dealt with.
From the editors:
- What you get depends on how high up on the list you are. How much the house needs you. Powerful
authors get heard more, mid-list it pays to be polite. The very top of the list gets heard. Many great
books never make it. You see great writers whose books flounder.
- One editor doesn’t feel publishers are out to screw authors, but asks the question do you have an agenda?
Don’t approach decisions like you have an agenda.
- The combination of great marketing and great material will generate great sales. It’s not about finding the
authors. It’s about getting authors to the market.
- Don’t be afraid to ask about numbers. You are in charge of your future, you have right to ask about the
business side of things.
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