Periscope Depth

muse and the marketplace 2011 (pt2)

I owe you some more.

Kelley & Hall: Kelley & Hall are a family of well-regarded local publicists. I showed up late to their talk, so I may have missed a lot of the most useful stuff. But I got a few interesting tidbits, such as how far ahead of time the major glossy magazines decide what they’re publishing (six months, at least). They also listed a number of places where journalists go for sources, and a great way to build publicity is to be cited as a source. The entire audience snapped to attention and started jotting names down at that point. Pity you weren’t there.

(Oh, fine, here’s one for free: Help A Reporter Out [HARO] )

Vantage Press: David Lamb, owner of. I’ll give you the highlights:

  • Out of 300,000 books published in 2009, about 80,000 were self-published.
  • In February 2011, e-books outsold hardcovers and trade paperbacks. (I presume the trend hasn’t reverted since)
  • An author makes about a $3 royalty on a $27.95 commercial hardcover.
  • Most commercial publishers pay out royalties twice per year. However, self-publishing markets like CreateSpace have been putting more pressure on traditional houses by paying out monthly. Vantage might be moving to quarterly royalties soon as a result (no word on the big boys).
  • Vantage’s price points: $8000 for a short book, $10K for a long book and $13K for “dreadnoughts.” Lamb’s words, not mine. Additional services like copy editing, line editing and developmental editing cost extra.
  • Copy editors can not agree on whether “copy-editing” should be hyphenated or not.
  • Vantage works with Lightning Source, who also offers their services to anyone with a .pdf and a credit card. The value-add of Vantage is editing (which you can find online) and publicity (see Kelley & Hall, above).

Not that I don’t think Vantage and houses like it have no role in the future apocalypse, when the tottering wrecks of the publishing houses crash to earth. But I picked up a Kindle sample of a well-received Vantage book, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. It has a starred Publishers’ Weekly review and was a New York Times bestseller, so Vantage clearly put some weight behind it. But whatever editing package Mr. Marlantes was sold, he should have gone one up.

Ann Collette: A frank little lady with a thick Boston accent. She gave her version of the Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Thriller. The difference: as a veteran from the Rees Literary Agency, she was offering her perspective on what she could sell. In addition to the usual good advice – avoid passive voice, stick to “said” as a verb of speech, avoid starting with dreams or weather – she gave a few tidbits based on what she’d heard from the market. Editors want female protagonists, she said, but “not a man in a skirt.”

She ended the seminar by taking some first pages from attendees and giving her feedback live. She rarely made it past the first paragraph – and never past the third – before giving her verdict. Most submissions needed another polish. “Try and find a writing group,” she suggested, in a tone that was kind without being warm. But one submission hit all of her requirements. Not only that, it introduced a puzzle within the first few paragraphs that propelled the reader onward. “I’m going to give you my e-mail,” she said. “I’d like to see the rest of this chapter.” That’s why you keep going to Muse: for magic bits of inspiration.