Pre-Order: THINK ON YOUR FEET by Jen Oleniczak Brown

Pre-order Think on Your Feet (McGraw-Hill, Nov. 2019) here!

Jen sold this book after Amy, Jen’s editor at McGraw-Hill, visited Jen in one of the classes that she makes available via The Engaging Educator (EE). EE has served more than 50k people, teaching impromptu and communication skills, among other things.

[For more info about Jen, see this ‘Meet Jen’ post.]

When I saw the PublishersMarketplace listing for this deal go up, and Jen listed without an agent, I did my research–and saw that Jen has a huge platform, a great array of corporate-level links across multiple organizations, and the potential to build out an entire list of great non-fiction projects. (I also happen to be, *ahem*, a former high school speechie and debater. Just watch this, and you’ll understand all things.)

I put in a couple of emails, a great phone call, and now Jen and I are on the move. I love working with her.

While I was not the agent on the project, I highly encourage it–Jen has diverse experience, is such a fun and spunky teacher, and is well on her way to being a 21st-century breakout star. Check it out.

Isn’t Jen just so spunky?

RAINBORNE: Excerpt

Once upon a time, a little girl wrote a novel, and she thought it was brilliant. Said little girl sent many a query, and received many a pass in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (So were the days, once upon a time.)

Today this little girl reads and sells terrific novels, and maybe just a little bit, in her spare time, tinkers with a new one of her own.

Just maybe.

About:

The heart of Emperor Lukas has rotten black, and he moves to finish the thousandth year of imperial ethnic cleansing—secretly seeking artificial means to extend the lifespan of royal blood, beginning with his own.

Desperate to forever secure this imperial dynasty, what remains is for him to destroy the impossibly-traced diaspora of the Vanished: gypsy believers in the legend of a living flame that creates life itself. Were its power salvageable, off-the-grid gypsies could rise to thwart his persecution and imperial destiny both. He will forfeit no end to find the last of them, including manipulating the galaxy’s rain to dehydrate them into extinction.

What Lukas does not expect is that the flame is working out an end of its own, and its chosen instruments lie in a past-less rain tracker from inside the imperial kingdom—of all places—and a gypsy girl raised by the flame itself.

Soon, all will discover that imperial pride bears no match to this flame, and unless the galaxy is returned to right order, skies will turn to fire, stars will fall like ashes, and all its people, royal blood or no, will drop like swamp flies.

RAINBORNE is a 140,000-word epic science fantasy, a deep thriller element integrated, Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky meets Treasure Planet for adults.


PROLOGUE

DUCHO

Before men forgot, they spoke of me in whispers.

Whispers, which bestowed power over the earth.

Bestowed glory, for they were to be like gods.

*

I hear different legends now.

Mothers to daughters, fathers to sons.

They are legends of men who bear within them a kind of dying living. Men who survive in body, eyes empty of softness and light and destiny, and pass living death from one generation to the next. Their hearts no longer live, and they would be corpses were it not for the unity of body that keeps integrated their organs, their mind and their will, their heart despite its death.

These hearts have ceased to live in the fire, and so it is that—where otherwise the world inside of one truly alive brims with flames, releases the sweet perfume of union with others, and bears an infinitely full presence—the dead know none of it, walking the earth as shells dark with emptiness.

-1-

RAPH

The sniper comes to the academy with the sandstorms.

Raph watches from the observatory as she emerges over the gates, small and cautious, a pack over her shoulder, and leaps to the cobblestones in silk moccasins. Swirls of bronzed gold heave behind her, alive and roaring against imperial walls, a crystal sky their very distant backdrop. Sand wipes across her cheeks, and she tucks her face into the linen of her shoulder, seeking an angle at which she can breathe.

It is Lukas III who has called her.

He will soon send her with a rifle to strike against diasporas beyond these walls: bullets through brains and hearts and muscles, guaranteed expulsions of blood, bodies skinned in statements of royal hegemony.

Stories of the martyred ones leave sulfur along the lining of Raph’s stomach. He has never seen them, but the very promise of more stories of ravaged bodies turns him to his post. His palm tests his lamp for its heat as pieces crystallize in his mind: The grander ships, docked more often. A constant flow of military gear through hall arches with long, lean rifles. Shackled prisoners shuffled in behind guards, with skin shades new, some a darker, richer hazel, others so pale that Raph muses whether sunlight ever touches them.

He moves the flame housed in the lamp to the thread that runs through the wiring of the wall, lights it, and watches it shred eastward toward the imperial tower, gentle beneath the sandy onslaught that threatens to kill it.

Awake, this flame says.

For she has come.

-2-

NEL

In a shack built into a deserted island, the Vanished track oncoming rainstorms in the height of black nights. When rainfall moves closer to the island globe hanging in mid-sky, the commune of the Vanished emerges in forbidden quiet, in hidden solitude, to hold vases open to the gift of life that falls.

Their arms loop around ceramic and gold, vases etched and marked by use. When the Vanished feel the tears of rain over the vase rims, and know them to be full, they descend to store supplements in dark, musty cellars.

Quiet, and solitary.

Cool to the touch.

In cellars the vases stand, from which the Vanished draw when the rare drought slams its impact over territories lost to imperial maps. Nighttime militia never checks these posts, but were the commune to be found stealing rain, the emperor would drive his stake home until their heads fell.

In the autumn watch a year prior, rain did not come: a drought. Droughts can be expected, in the same way certain years pass without snowfall to enchant the inhabitants of islands lost to memory.

Now: the second season passes without rain, and the skies stand empty.

Nel of the Vanished bends her head before the thought. The commune has never risked dehydration, and certainly not extinction by dehydration. But vessels in the cellars have stood dry for weeks.

Just one vase, lined with gold centuries old, holds in a fresh collection left sunsets ago by nomadic fishermen in thanksgiving, ese molecules from the isa yet to split. Another six weeks shall pass before this split, and in that time, cups of it will evaporate, victim to time.

That will be too long.

Po needs isa to brew hleb, to enflame human hearts.

Go too long without it, and the hardening of the heart begins. Nighttime screams escape as lungs and brains of the Vanished suffocate without nourishment, the integrity of heart to mind to body shattered.

Gifts weaken, then cease.

Love, with its union, crumbles—the last of the heart before it dies entirely. Then, death lurks upon the members of the commune, final.

Nel’s heart clenches.

Behind her, the Vanished stand, all heads bowed.

A mourning before firm skies impregnated with silence.

Where the Vanished once kept to the promise of re-awakening, re-appearing, returning home, this same promise now feels empty and impossible.

Po steps before all of them.

“And so it is,” he says. “We shall move.”

Move into the open, and risk, thus, life.

Meet W.’s Clients: Jill MacKenzie

Jill MacKenzie


Find Jill Online

Website | Twitter

Meet Jill

Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, and now a resident of FL, Jill is a lovely writer of literary young adult (YA), middle grade (MG), and picture books. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Spin the Sky (Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse, 2016), and is hard at work on a diversity of beautiful, lyrical, literary projects.

City/State or Province: Jupiter, FL

Birthday (MM/DD): 04/15

Describe your writing and how you came to work with Weronika: I’d been following Weronika’s career for a while before I ever queried her. It seemed as though we had the same taste in stories; the same affection for emotional writing and literary novels. And I just loved everything I read about her on blogs and interviews because she seemed, to me, so full of heart.

When I finished my novel, I just knew she’d be at the top of my list of “agents I wanted to query.” She read my book so quickly and it just seemed serendipitous; I loved the way she worked, and she seemed to love my writing.

[Note from W.: Jill worked, formerly, with another agent, who placed her novel Spin the Sky. She queried with another novel.]

Favorite TV show: Ever? That’s a toughie! I really love (but also fear greatly) The Handmaid’s Tale. I also fell deeply in love with a series that didn’t actually make big waves (but the writing and acting were incredible) called Rectify, starring Aden Young. It came out in 2016, but I don’t know if any other TV show has touched me the way that one has.

Favorite book of the year: For YA, my fave was Nina LaCour’s WE ARE OKAY. It absolutely broke me and I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from it still. Sally Rooney’s NORMAL PEOPLE was incredibly beautiful as well. I think about it all the time, still, even though I read it months ago. 

If I could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive, fictional or historical), it would be: This isn’t as “big” as the question implies, but sometimes I dream that I’m having a meal with or walking beside all the people in my life (even those who only briefly made appearances) that have passed away. I wonder if it’s because I feel a sense of missed opportunity with each and every one of them. I think about how I may have acted or reacted differently knowing that I’d never speak to them again. It’s something I think about a lot, actually.

If I were to hang a quote or an art piece above my fireplace, it would be: “People can only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves.” I’m not kidding when I say I got chills when I read this one. It’s a reminder to me about others. It’s a reminder to me about myself.

Three things to ask me about: my cats (3!!!), my travel past (always my true love), and my two beautiful daughters, for whom I completely and utterly live.

Most interesting idea I’ve encountered in the past three years: The idea of alternate realities and how we may all just be living in one time strand, with millions of others of alternate realities happening simultaneously, is so intriguing to me. The Mandela Effect absolutely blew my mind because, if this theory is right, I’m one of the ones whose memories are not from this reality, but from that one. The novel RECURSION sort of moved me forward with this theory, and now I evaluate it constantly.

Learn More About Jill’s Work

When did I write my first novel? What was it about, and what prompted it?

I actually wrote my first novel when I was nine on my family’s Commodore 64. It was called LET GO. It was ninety-one pages, and it would have been longer if my dad hadn’t accidentally erased it from the floppy disk on which I had stored it. Though it was inspired by Jean Craighead George’s MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, I think I’m ready to admit that it was a little too close to his book, plot-wise, than any original book ever should be. But I was always running away as a kid. Always seeking solitude, a Beat Poet before my time.

If I could read books from any single imprint for the rest of my life, which imprint would it be?

Ooh, also a tough one! I think I’m going to have to go with Egmont. Man, do I miss Egmont. I also tend to read a lot of Speak novels.

If there is any one advice that I’ve heard about writing fiction that has proven itself to be true, which piece of advice is it?

Butt in chair! Because nothing will get done if you aren’t sitting at that computer…

When and where during the day do I write? Lighting? Sound? Coffee, tea, other?

I’m an early-morning kind of girl (perhaps because I live in the tropics where mornings, and only mornings, are somewhat cool). I love my tiny little home office. It’s sparse, save for a thousand books on my floor-to-ceiling shelves and my children’s art covering the wall behind me. Sitting here in the morning with my coffee, and a bunch of words that might, one day, be beautiful, is bliss.

Plot or characters? Voice or prose?

Characters. Voice. Prose. YES!

On The Link Between Queries, Pitches & Contracts

Q. What, exactly, is the relationship between queries, agents’ pitch letters to editors, and the contract that follows?


A. The query introduces the book to an agent. The pitch letter introduces the book to an editor and publisher. The contract finalizes the sale.

See these posts, which have already done the work to put this into foundational context, from former literary agent Nathan Bransford:

  1. What is a query letter from author to agent?
  2. What is a query/pitch letter from agent to editor?

Beyond Nathan’s wonderful posts, note that most writers cannot secure an agent without a solid query letter, which prompts the manuscript request and then an offer of representation to secure the writer as a client at the agency. Once an offer of representation between a writer and an agent is confirmed, that writer confirms agency representation status with a legally-binding agency agreement, and that agent can represent the writer before publishers/imprints with their editors.

An agent and an author can (and ought to) engage in systematic conversations about the nature of this relationship before the agency agreement is confirmed, given that, in signing it, the author confirms a formal, legal relationship for the duration of their career (or project-by-project, pending the structure of the agency agreement).

A query letter will almost always be the first encounter between a writer and an agent, and given that agents will read 5,000-20,000 or so queries over the course of the year, the letter has to stand out beyond belief in order to capture an agent’s imagination. Beyond the query, the manuscript itself, and where a non-fiction writer is querying also (many will come to the agency without querying, in that they often have a platform or expertise that surpasses the query trenches), the proposal, will also have to shatter the agent. An agent must be persuaded s/he can sell a project before s/he proceeds with its submission.

For a record of public query letter vetting, check out literary agent Janet Reid’s excellent blog, QueryShark.

Some clients will come to the agent without querying: through conferences, conversations begun by the agent or the writer, an agent’s active research and pitching to authors potential book ideas or projects, or otherwise. Especially with non-fiction projects, an idea may be pitched and conversations had before a proposal and an agency agreement are formalized, given that certain academics, experts, or otherwise may have never considered trade publication and sought it out.

One of my own agenting loves and strategies, of a kind, is this kind of non-fiction proposal development, given that I read broadly in the deeper academic or non-trade sphere (dissertations, journals, magazines of a more academic orientation, and otherwise), often encounter life-changing and mind-altering ideas and theory, and find much of it deeply relevant to the greater public sphere. This kind of brainstorming and development work is almost always the purview of the literary agent, even if certain editors do elect to pay close attention to news/social media/publishing outlets, to experts, and/or to writers, to then chase after potential projects.

It’s much harder to find a writer and pitch a novel, even if it does happen sometimes, as agents and editors pull novelists-to-be from the screenwriting or short story trenches; novels are harder to build from the ground up, are far more interiorly and existentially demanding, and the practice of craft manifests itself differently from more academic or factual writing. Memoirs are an exception.

When submitting a book, an agent will often include a solid pitch letter to the editors to whom s/he submits (even if one is not intrinsically required at this stage, in this degree of complexity, given the nature of relationships built over time between editors and agents). It is almost impossible for writers to place a project, let alone to place it brilliantly, without an agent.

A healthy submission–the right project, to the right editor, from the right agent–will then result in a sale, and open up the incipient contract negotiation. When confirmed, and signed, this contract legally binds the author to the publisher.

Thus agents become, and have always been, essential for the management of all the stages of the publication and career-building process: project submission and placement, contract negotiation [there is a need for fluency in the legal dimension, which is given/taught by the industry and mentors; contracts are not mere legal frameworks to protect the author, however, but are also tools of adapting to the industry, fundamentally contingent they are upon the book publishing market as a whole, from publishing models to distribution models (i.e., the royalty hierarchies for different publication forms, from trade hardcover, to trade paperback, to mass market paperback, to electronic, to audio, and more)*], marketing support, career management, and more. The vast majority of authors do not have, nor do they want, the business capacities to agent well for themselves.


*What is the nature of this distinction?

Standard contract language between two parties, to protect the interests of both parties, will be ‘transactional language’ here, identifying the nature of the two parties, the nature of the transaction, and the nature of the obligations due to one party versus another. Here a good contracts lawyer can help review/vet the contract (note: a good contracts lawyer), even though the best agents will be operating at a contracts lawyer’s capacity, if not beyond it; the work of literary agents, in this dimension, is supremely intelligent and demanding work.

Besides a kind of transactional protection, however, the publishing agreement puts forth and guarantees a market-based framework for this particular form/type of product (a book). Inserted into the agreement is not just language that negotiates the transaction between the Author and the Publisher, as two key contractual parties, but also between the Author v. Publisher v. Marketplace, in that the Publisher is going to be publishing within and responding to a Marketplace which he cannot control.

(To be particular, with examples:

A standard contract might mediate a simple transaction between two parties. For example: when you pay me $250k, I will sign over the rights to my house to you. This transaction can be and often is made independent of the state of the housing market, and the necessity of or the desire for this form of transaction often transcends or precedes the state of the market. If the housing market is poor, the house will sell for less, but it will still sell, and on the other hand, if the housing market is strong, the house will sell for more, but once the sale is made, the transaction is completed. If it sells again in another 25 years, the sale will be negotiated in an entirely different negotiation, with an independent set of contractual terms.

In book publishing, the publishing agreement does not only mediate this simple form of transaction; it also mediates the Publisher’s responsibility to the Author before the entire, ever-changing Marketplace, over the duration of the existence of the book in that Marketplace, across different forms of publication and distribution.

While contract language does, where appropriately negotiated, account for changes in industry standards, what it often does not do is protect against such large potential institutional changes that the entire contract base would need to be re-negotiated, to account for the marketplace infrastructure which will now affect the potential of the author and said book project. Systematically, ever-more-so, authors find it more viable to self-publish, for example, or to publish with smaller or medium-sized publishers that have perfected more sustainable marketing, digital advertising, and distribution models; if we understand your traditional publisher to be the publisher that sets the standard for the nature and quality of publication, no longer do ‘traditional publishers’ own all of the turf, nor do they necessarily consistently excel at the quality of publication. This is the space for agents to be innovative responders to the movements and limitations of publishers before them.

As another, fun little thought, to help put this into context: There are something like 3.5k+ companies with publicly traded stocks on the stock market. I’ve done some basic research here, so take this with some form of a grain of salt, and as merely a conceptual tool, but: Given that the nature of the products on the stock market is so broad and diverse, it is its own project to not only mediate the contract for funds invested between the Investor/Hedge Fund and Company, as example parties, but to also account for the type of Marketplace within which every kind of product is sold, beyond the time frame to which funds are committed as subject to changes at the level of the stock market.

To invest in tech is not the same thing as to invest in organic, hand-made soap, a sprinkle of cinnamon tossed in; in other words, beyond acknowledging that the marketplace for these things does and can change, it could also be possible and wise for investors to push for/pre-determine the outlets by which a product is sold and the medium by which it is produced. As far as I can tell, not all–if not very few–boilerplate contracts between investors and companies that are on the receiving end of this investment include this latter kind of structured contractual language, helping to shape and negotiate the state of the sub-industry for the product developed by any said company.)

Terms with regards to royalties, forms of publication, distribution models, publication discounts, and others are all subject to change–to a change beyond the immediate agency of the publisher who puts the product into the marketplace in the first place. Here, a hard knowledge of different infrastructural pieces within the industry, the degree to which they are subject to change, and otherwise, is fundamental to the highest quality of contract negotiation for authors.

On Deals

Q. What, exactly, is at the foundation of ‘a book deal’?


A. When a literary agent licenses a project (sells it) or projects (sells them) to a publishing house, this transaction (the Word .docx manuscript for the novel or non-fiction proposal in exchange for the financial advance, money paid upfront for the right to publish and distribute the content in any given territory or sets of territories) is considered a ‘deal.’

Once the deal is negotiated and the book sold, the financial advance must be ‘earned out’ (enough book copies sold to return to the publisher the money paid upfront) before the author ever earns royalties. Money that isn’t earned out, however, never needs to be returned to the publisher, unless the contract so stipulates it (depending on the circumstances); it is paid out in its chosen proportion as an intentional investment in the project, and an intrinsic endorsement of its quality and potential.

It is industry standard that the agency takes a 15% cut on any of the earnings involved, from advance to royalties, for base or domestic sales.

With some variance, this cut is anywhere from 15-25% on the negotiation of international/foreign and subsidiary rights, pending the use of a secondary agent or other, diverse factors; there exists a greater scope of difference on this secondary cut than there is in the preceding, domestic one.

It is also industry standard that an agent takes no money from an author until a deal is made; all the hours involved in preparation will, thus, go unpaid until this deal confirmation. A model like this one helps protect against financial abuse of the author, on one hand, and respects the entrepreneurial dimension to agenting, on the other. It is the case, however, that most agents will not seriously engage deeper developmental or editorial work until the agency agreement is confirmed, to protect the agent also from being abused in time–and, in a far more positive, brilliant way, to commit the agent and writer to conceptual collaboration and business partnership.

In multi-book deals, the author and publisher may agree on terms for book projects that have yet to be developed, or are negotiated based on just a proposal for fiction projects (a partial manuscript with a synopsis, rather than the entire book). The same goes for authors with a ‘backlist’ (a history of successfully published titles).

It is also the case that, in some models, an author may not be paid an upfront financial advance but will earn money just on a royalty structure alone; while more rare, this model is not necessarily less beneficial or profitable to the author and, by extension, his/her agent, given that the royalty structure may be and often is different across different deals.

How are deals announced? And how are those announcements structured?

Deals made by literary agents on behalf of their authors are reported on the database PublishersMarketplace. Not all agents report deals, and not all deals are reported. On the most part, however, this is the most comprehensive database of publishing negotiations available.

[Note: Publishing is a slow business. One of my writers and I (and the same may go for other agents) may spend time to prepare a manuscript for submission; it is not atypical for me to sign genius writers who need some tightening with their craft. Following preparation, submission windows can be months’ long, given that editors receive many submissions from agents, need to read entire proposals and manuscripts, and need to walk through the entirety of a multi-tiered acquisitions process before an offer is extended. This acquisitions process often includes getting second reads and reader reports, a profit-and-loss (P&L) and sales analysis, and vision-casting for the marketing and publicity capacity and potential at any individual imprint.

On the other hand, sometimes, given the right circumstances, an editor may read even overnight or during the day–and an acquisitions process can be pushed forward. It may be, but is not necessarily, a reflection on the quality and potential of the manuscript–sometimes it’s as simple as the perfect agent-editor mix, with an editor who has nothing else on their plate.

Once an offer is made and extended, the contract negotiation window can take weeks to months. The deal involved may be announced either once confirmed or once the contract is fully signed, pending the publisher’s preference. Once deals are announced, approximately 9-24 months might pass before the book is published and available for purchase. During this window of time, the publishing house works to lay out the manuscript for its published aesthetic, design a cover, determine a marketing/publicity plan, prepare bookstores for the book’s publication, and more.

After a deal announcement, the title may and the content of a book will change during its editorial window, prior to publication: In the case of novels and memoirs, editors provide editorial feedback immediately, edits are made, and the novels go into copyediting and final production. In the case of non-fiction projects, the manuscript must first be completed in full, once the proposal is accepted/purchased; editors tend to be intimately involved in the final development stages here, per the academic-styled argument that justifies the book’s development and placement.]

Deal announcements will include, with some degree of variance, the following information (note that, if a deal doesn’t include a certain detail, it doesn’t mean that the detail isn’t ‘present’ or ‘important’–there are many reasons for publishers and agents to not disclose all details in public, at any given time):

  • the author of the book;
  • some descriptor about the author’s expertise and/or his/her history of publications, where applicable;
  • the title of the book sold;
  • the description of the book sold;
  • the editor who acquires the book;
  • the imprint for which the book is acquired;
  • the number of books involved in the book deal (deals can be negotiated for single or multiple titles, pending the circumstances; it is usually the case that only the first is completed, where fiction is involved, and it is rare for non-fiction to sell in multiple-book deals);
  • the particular form of the submission or sale, where applicable:
    • exclusive submission: an agent sends the project to only one editor/imprint–usually on a very limited timeline, such as 2-3 weeks, before the project goes out wider–and the imprint chooses to buy it, which is indicative of the relationship the agent has with this editor and/or a strong degree of certainty that the editor would be interested in the project and the imprint will be able to extend an offer proportionate to the value of the project, given the lack of editorial competition; -OR-
    • at auction: an editor/imprint makes an/the first offer, additional imprints follow with offers and interest, and the imprints proceed to bid on the project (in different formats) until the agent and author select the best offer, for the winning imprint to take the project (side note: just because an auction isn’t reported doesn’t mean that one didn’t happen, and just because an auction didn’t happen doesn’t mean that multiple houses weren’t interested–there are other, more informal ways of mediating the interest of multiple imprints); -OR-
    • in a pre-empt: when an auction is set-up, one editor/imprint can provide, prior to the formal start of the auction day/time, such a high or quality offer that the auction never actually unfolds; if an imprint ‘wins’ the auction in this way, it is considered a pre-empt(ive) offer to/win before the auction itself
  • the financial advance for the book(s) (the advance will be paid out according to a complex payout schedule that includes, for example, a cut at contract signing, another at manuscript delivery, and a final cut upon publication, all per individual book; where multiple books are purchased, the advance will be split across multiple books, and a sizable advance for three books–as one example–might then be paid out in full over several years);
  • the intended publication date/season;
  • the agent who negotiated the deal;
  • the agency for which this agent works; and/or
  • the territory(ies) to which rights for any given project are licensed.

Potential (Base) Territories: There is always diversity in these options (technically, every individual territory can be included in or excluded from a contract), but these are the standard territory frameworks within which agents place projects

  • World [domestic (USA & Canada) English, worldwide English, & international/translation rights are licensed to the domestic publisher; the publisher manages all secondary placements in international territories via its own internal foreign rights department, where one exists]; -OR-
  • World English [domestic & worldwide English rights are licensed to the domestic publisher, often with some variance in the UK/New Zealand/Australia territories; international/translation rights are retained by the agent in order to manage at the agency level, often with the support of a foreign rights agent & licensing agencies in foreign territories]; -OR-
  • North America [domestic English rights are licensed to the domestic publisher, while worldwide English & international/translation rights are retained by the agent in order to manage at the agency level, often with the support of a foreign rights agent & licensing agencies in foreign territories]

Additional Territories & Subsidiary Rights: International/Translation (almost every country around the world has domestic, translated publication outlets, though not all are viable marketplaces for projects placed domestically, and the degree to which any given project can or will sell in any territory is subject to the individual territory’s economy; see one listing of the potential territories here); AudioFilm/TV; Electronic; Anthology/Serial Rights; and more

Records of Financial Advances: Not all publishers and agents elect to break financial advance information, for a diversity of reasons, but where included, the financial information is included according to this legend, available on PublishersMarketplace–

Screen Shot 2019-07-13 at 8.51.14 PM


You can find an ever-updated record of the deals I’ve negotiated here.

Editor Letter for GEARBREAKERS

What is the link between a good query letter, a pitch letter to editors, and the contract that should follow–in order to finalize the sale of the book?

See this blog post here.


Context for Zoe’s Query & My Pitch:

Zoe just broke her query letter versions for her debut, GEARBREAKERS (Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan, 2021).

See the three versions of her query letter in the post linked to above, including the version that she sent me, back in the fall.

The query prompted a request for the manuscript (the first paragraph gave me a heart attack, so tight and intentional was the craft, so evocative was the voice!), a read in three days, an offer of representation, some basic editorial work, and a sale to Macmillan.

I can’t wait to see this cover, and to see this gem of a novel in readers’ hands. We’ve got a good 1.75 years to go.

Some thoughts, to help put everything into context:

  1. There are some query letters that are so deeply immersive, evocative, and stunning that they make your jaw drop and shake your mind. I think Zoe’s was maybe 70-85% there, by the time that the third query letter went out, given a lot of world-building elements in the query letter as well as a lack of immediate clarity about the plot arc. (Here’s where just reading queries means, in my experience, for many agents, the loss of an opportunity to capture something great in execution at the level of the actual craft and novel; it’s why I prefer to start with the pages, as genius writing can’t be taught, but plot- and arc-related crafting can be, where a novel needs it.)
  2. At the same time, what I understood immediately reading the query letter and the pages was that there was something atypical about the structure of the novel, and this is also true: it’s not a typical protagonist v. antagonist set-up. I won’t break more, but the plot movement was unreal.
  3. This is, ultimately, I think, a difficult novel to pitch–for all of the reasons above–even when, in reading it, it all fits together seamlessly and stimulates the reader’s imagination. Zoe’s voice is also distinct, and here’s one example of a teen writing to teens that leaves its mark.
  4. When I went on submission, I wanted to do two things: (1) to break Zoe’s voice, and a sense of the maturity and intentionality in this 19-year-old’s grasp of her own crafting; and (2) to try to capture what is otherwise a rather complex plot set-up, without departing too far from Zoe’s own grasp and intent–in that, her hold on the novel’s world-building and set-up is so distinct, and particular, to depart would be to pitch a different novel entirely.
  5. What I didn’t include in the pitch is the Pacific Rim comparison, because, after having watched the film, given the query, having never seen it before, I ultimately voted that the book reads nothing like the feel of the film–even as both share in these multi-story monstrosities of robotic tech.

My Pitch to Editors:

The Windups were created to protect this nation.

I was created to protect this nation.

Godolia needed me, and so the Academy pulled me apart and put the Mods in the places where there was once breath and life and color, and called it my evolution. They said I should celebrate the day the sky bled.

In an age of mechanical deities puppeteered by a power-hungry nation, the sole defense against the onslaught of false gods is a ragtag group of renegades—the Gearbreakers—headed by the infamous Eris “The Frostbringer” Shindanai. Her mission: infiltrate any Windups—a charming nickname for hundred-foot-tall bionic nightmares that dare to cross her path—and take the atrocities apart from the inside.

Opposite Eris stands Sona Steelcrest—a full-fledged Windup Pilot, built to destroy for the nation. She is expected to be grateful for the wires shoved through her veins, the microchips implanted along her brain stem, and the cable sockets puckering the skin of her forearms.

Yet: Sona’s actual loyalties lie elsewhere. When she learns of a new model of Windups that could mean the end of the Gearbreakers, she seeks out the Frostbringer’s help.

For the first time, Sona has found something to fight for, but, more likely—in breaking one loyalty in exchange for another—something to die for.

As cinematic and vivid as novels come, GEARBREAKERS is a 134,000-word YA sci-fi that blew my mind—part super-deep friendship, part Hunger Games-esque intensity, with a pinch of Cinder [note for readers: Cinder was also published by Feiwel & Friends!] and a commentary on tech tossed in.

The author, Zoe Mikuta, hails from Boulder, CO, and is an 18-year old freshman at the University of Washington-Seattle, where she studies English. She is also a kickboxer, a skillset that makes for some kickass action.

This novel is Zoe’s debut, and demonstrates a profound depth of voice, world-building, and intensity-in-friendship—all that far surpass her age.

[Not serious, but still serious:

Please buy the novel now. You won’t regret it.

Love,

Dubz]


Also, think this, just more ragtag orphan-y and vibrant. Zoe writes with so much color.

“The Power of Vulnerability”

Nine years ago, this TED video blew minds, and now ranks as one of the most-watched videos on TED, with 41+ million views.

I highly encourage it. One of the conversations that I have often, with those who are willing to embark on this conversation, is about their experience–the “structure,” you could say, of their experience. Brené Brown’s work treats, in one primary way, of vulnerability, as the fruit of the healing of shame and guilt interiorly.

One common conversation that can be had is the degree to which one possesses shame and guilt, and the degree to which the possession of this reality interiorly impairs (debatably, of course–see thoughts that follow…) or affects one’s daily experience. Brené’s question was, and remains, “Is your experience, minus guilt and shame, any different in quality or type than one with guilt and shame?”

Better yet: Have you ever tried an experience without these interior realities? Or, better-better yet-ish: Did you even know that you’re living out of really deep interior shame, guilt, a lack of self-possession, and otherwise? Ah-ha! Maybe, if someone pointed it out to you, that this is the way that you live and/or experience yourself, in an act of love, trust, and vulnerability, you’d understand that there’s someone out there who’s making a proposal and who’s had a different experience of reality.

Given that shame and guilt are universal potentialities (everyone in the world has the potential for this kind of experience, and it’s a rare person who hasn’t had it), it’s an interesting and easy place to start: I know what this felt like, once, and I sought to be vulnerable, and integral, and simple, and it changed my experience. Or something like that that. Who knows?

I encourage her writing. Reading her changed my life, and confirmed a desire to read and live in a particular way.

She now has the coolest documentary about courage available on Netflix, and I highly encourage it.