Nov 122014
 

 

Josh Getzler

So I was looking through my Facebook feed this afternoon, and there are all manner of posts mocking me. THIS friend is packing short and tees for Long Beach. THIS one, already there, is posed in front of a film studio in LA. THAT one is saying where she will be at every moment of the next four days (not the bar. At least not ALL the time…).

 

And not me, this year. I’ll be getting ready for Child #2’s Bat Mitzvah, which is the Sunday following the end of the conference. I had no illusions. Last year, when we saw how the dates lined up, it was very clear that the HSG Client Bowl-o-rama against Team Decker would need to wait another year. I’ll miss you guys. Have fun talking about, thinking about, learning about, and listening to people talking about Crime Fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 292014
 

Josh Getzler

Last week, alert client Elaine Powell tweeted an article at me about a new feature of some UK writers conferences: Dog Walks with Agents. The title of the article in the Bookseller was "Literary Agents Try To Change 'Distant' Image"

It seems that at two literary festivals in England, one of the featured events was a morning jaunt where agents and authors bonded over their dogs, thus humanizing the agents, who might otherwise be thought of as foreboding or unapproachable.

Hmm.

I had a bunch of thoughts about this, all of which were surprisingly negative. I say surprisingly because a) I am a huge dog person, having spent much of my life cohabiting with various retrievers; and b) because I have made a serious effort since becoming an agent to be Out There and approachable. I have spent a lot of time at conferences. I am active on Twitter and Facebook, and have written this blog weekly for more than three years now. So why was my visceral reaction to roll my eyes at such a benign (and likely fun) event?

As I parsed it, I realized that there were two things. The first is that the places I spend most of my time talking to authors at conferences tends to be at the bar (along with everyone else!), where people organically gather at these confabs after a long day of panels and pitches. It’s not forced and it’s not scheduled. (Sometimes it can get sloppy, but that too can say something—how much to do want to work with the agent who starts spilling secrets after a couple of vodka tonics? Maybe it’s a strikeout, but to some, maybe a home run…) I don’t find it to be filled with peer pressure, and agents assume they are going to chat with people they don’t know—with the invite and the plane ticket is the unspoken understanding that you’ll hold court in the lobby.

The second issue I had with this article had to do with the assumption that agents are scary and intimidating and unapproachable, and they will be humanized through their relationships with their pets. There are two things about this: The first is that fundamentally I find that the vast majority of agents (like the vast majority of editors and the bulk of writers I meet, for that matter), are very nice and human (at least in small doses). We enter this business, as I’ve said any number of times in this space, because we want to LIKE things, to say YES, even though we ultimately reject the majority of queries we receive. But our mindset is largely positive and we at least TRY to be optimistic. So we’re approachable. Not like a golden retriever, but not like a komodo dragon, either.

But the other thing that I realized is that, while I am very happy to hang out at the bar with writers who either just finished pitching their manuscripts to me or are going to in the morning, I do think there is a very reasonable desire to be slightly distant from writers who are not clients. My social media persona (as is true with many of my peers), is what I want it to be, by and large. If you look me up, you will know that I play drums, love women’s basketball, am active in my synagogue and with some animal rights groups, am married with kids, and represent a lot of crime and historical fiction, some children’s books, and Other. And that’s fine. In fact, it’s more than many of my colleagues would put out there, but I think it’s enough to be interesting without oversharing.

My clients often know me better, but then, we have a closer relationship, and it’s a two-way street. They can know more about what I think about things, or some of my views. But I think it’s appropriate for there to be a bit of distance between agent and prospective client.  

Finally, I was wondering why walking a dog with me would give you an indication as to my knowledge of the crime fiction market, or how well I line edit (Sheila Boneham, don't kill me!!!!). Now I’m not being obtuse—I know that what breed of dog I have can give as much of an indication as to my personality as the brand of scotch I drink, and I can talk about noir with Frisbees as easily as with tumblers. But in the same way that certain manuscripts can be written perfectly well but have a tone that’s just slightly off, so too is the Dog Walking at the Lit Conference.

IMG_1541

Oct 222014
 

Josh Getzler

During the past few days, there have been two interesting developments that are worth noting, and thinking about if you are a book person and deal at all with the digital world.

The first thing, which happened over the weekend and broke Twitter, was that an author, Kathleen Hale, felt that she was being trolled by a reviewer who gave her latest book one star. She described what she did to engage in an article for the Guardian (UK), which may be found Here. All hell then broke loose, with writers and bloggers and readers taking sides (or at times specifically NOT taking sides) as to whether a writer should engage with a reviewer. Some of the best discussions were written in Jezebel and on Smart Bitches Trashy Books and on Chuck Wendig's blog. For the record, I think it's a very bad idea for an author to engage with a reviewer for many of the reasons that will be apparent if you read all of these articles. 

The second thing that happened is that Simon and Schuster and Amazon reached an agreement to stave off an Hachette-like stalemate over ebook pricing. Is this agreement (as well as a few smaller publishers' agreements over the past few weeks) the signs of the dominos beginning to fall in a quasi agency-model fashion (details as to what that means can be found most clearly on Publishers Marketplace), or is this an aberration? For myself, given that the biggest series I represent is coming out in April from Little, Brown--of Hachette--I at least hope we are inching toward industry peace. 

 

Just say no?

 Books, Josh Getzler, Writing  Comments Off
Oct 152014
 

Josh Getzler

Recently a number of my agent colleagues and I were discussing whether it’s worth even saying that we would look at young adult novels that are self-described in the query letter as “dystopic.” Dystopic is, at this point, a signifier for “any theme that’s been popular for a long time, been successful, and now is so saturating the market that an editor’s eyes roll back in their heads before the third syllable.” “Vampire” was the “dystopic” of four years ago, and “wizard” of four years before that.

It brings on an interesting thought process, and one that we deal with regularly: When a theme is popular but well-represented, do you keep evaluating submissions, hoping to find something different, or better, or unique? Or is that a waste of time?  Do I look at ANOTHER thriller that feels like a rewrite of Jack Reacher or Da Vinci Code in the hope that a particular editor hasn’t found his best-seller? And how do we even know that the time has passed?

This is one of those areas where we use the tools in our toolbox: experience, taste, and connections.  We will ask our friends on the Buy Side over lunch or drinks, who at this point would rather see the 125th knockoff of Fault in our Stars than another Hunger Games. We ask our agent colleagues whether they are having any luck (not with debut YA dystopia for the past couple of years by and large). And then we look at the queries themselves. Does this feel utterly familiar? Is this loner ex-Seal Team 6 back home in Western PA bringing anything new to the table? Is the writing undeniable? Is it worth spending the next six months whipping it into shape for the hope that one editor at one imprint hasn’t found that one special novel after 900 passes.

And then we take a deep breath, email the author, and say “Any way you can put it in space and call it science fiction? Add some sex and call it New Adult? Kill someone mysteriously and call it a cozy?”

And hope for the best.

 

 

Oct 082014
 

Josh Getzler

As readers of this blog doubtlessly know, Wednesday is Pub Day for Jeff Cohen and his VERY CLOSE FRIEND EJ Copperman’s first (official) collaboration, The Question of the Missing Head. As you may also know, but I will reiterate it, this is a Dead Guy Family Affair, where Monday, Tuesday and Thursday Dead Folk are all involved in our respective roles. But the other thing that we are collaborating on is raising money for autism charity Aspen. As Jeff said yesterday,

The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGEwill see to it that for every person who posts a picture of themselves on Wednesday holding THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD in some form, $9 will be donated to ASPEN, and it won’t be your $9, but you can claim responsibility for it.

The $9 comes from matching three dollar donations from Jeff and EJ, Terri’s folks over at Midnight Ink, and my agency, Hannigan Salky Getzler. Please take photos and send them in.

 

But that’s not all! Midnight Ink, bucking the Tuesday publication day trend of many other publishers, instead releases its books on Wednesdays! So tomorrow is also the pub day for two other Midnight Ink offerings that are very dear to my heart: Linda Joffe Hull’s second Mrs. Frugalicious mystery, BLACK THURSDAY, and Sheila Webster Boneham’s third Animals in Focus mystery, CATWALK.

 

OK, so I’m hugely prejudiced here, since I’ve worked with these authors for an awfully long time. But I have to say, it’s a terrific bunch of books. All different, but all within the same basic area of mystery where you learn something—whether about how a 20-something guy with Asperger’s thinks, or certain secrets about saving money, or about feline agility trials. All eclectic, all interesting, all good reads, all with mysteries that work, because these writers are skilled . Buy them all (Terri would certainly agree), and Enjoy!

 

 

Oct 012014
 

Josh Getzler

 

Thanks to everyone for your good wishes while I was out with the shoulder surgery. Still barking a bit after two weeks, and I've got an I-Can't-Shave beard going and am still sleeping upright on the couch. But getting there. Thanks to Danielle Burby and Todd Moss for posting the past two weeks.

 

One of the more exciting things that happened in the past month is that Book Culture, an independent bookstore that lost its lease uptown, announced that it was reopening in one of the retail spaces below my apartment building. And instead of putting up the usual brown butcher's paper to cover the windows during renovation, they put up a happy sign telling the story of the return of a bookstore to the former site of an older store, Endicott Books, which was one of the inspirations for You've Got Mail.

 

This weekend, my wife and I were taking a walk and saw that there were a bunch of brightly colored stickies on the window of the store. Turns out that an anonymous Upper West Sider decided to create an Old School Pinterest board and put out a bunch of sticky pads and Sharpies and asked the neighbors to write notes about the new store, take photos, and post on Twitter with #BOOKCULTURE. And they did. And the neighborhood is truly giddy. More next week, but here are a couple of very happy pictures.

 

Bookstore stickies (2)

 

Bookstore sign (2)

Sep 292014
 

Jeff Cohen

Note: For an update on the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE, see below. You'll want to read this.

Seriously: Have I ever given you any indication that I know how to get thousands of people to look at a blog piece? On a good day, I get 200 people to visit here.

You're a little ticked off now, right? Think I misled you?

But marketing is a necessity to the author. (Don't ask, "The author of what?" Just go with it.) It's not about trickery and it's not about lying to the reader. Do those things and you might get someone to take a look. Once. What are you going to do now that you've annoyed them? What have you accomplished?

I can't claim to have the magical formula that will bring the thundering hordes to your blog post, your Facebook page, your web site or your front door. Anyone who tells you they know for sure is lying or mistaken. But I can tell you what certainly DOESN'T work, and I can say so with confidence, since I have tried each one and watched it fail in a spectacular fashion.

  1. Promising a visitor something you can't deliver. (See above.) This is especially good at getting people mad at you. Because the intelligent ones will realize immediately that you're a fraud, and the less intelligent ones will try what you advocate, fail, and blame you.
  2. Making general statements based only on your experience. If you want to blog about yourself, that's fine. I do it sometimes, and posts about my daughter, my dog and my wife have attracted some of the larger audiences I've gotten here. But don't try to extrapolate your experience and make the reader think it will definitely apply under any circumstance. You don't know, because your experience is just that--yours.
  3. Stating something without doing the research. If you want to make a statement, make it. But be sure you're right. I have gone off on a tear at times here and made statements that, when I was typing them, felt great--only to find out I was astonishingly wrong. Colossally wrong. I mean, wrong. Check first.
  4. Politics, religion--what could go wrong? Everything. Write about the "forbidden" topics if you want. That's your right. But go in knowing for sure that your opinions are definitely going to piss some people off. And maybe you know in your heart they're just wrong, and what the hell--maybe they are. It won't convince them of anything and it won't make them less mad. It's fine to do if that's the kind of blog you want, but don't be naive about it--you're going to annoy. Be prepared to deal with the consequences.
  5. Making your post a flat-out sales pitch for your book. I have done this one (see two weeks ago, sort of) and I promise you I will do so again. That's perfectly fine--this is a forum about crime fiction and I write crime fiction. The reader is always free to click elsewhere. But doing nothing BUT hawking your book is just going to bore and irritate. The fiction you write isn't the only place you have to worry about entertaining an audience. And by the way, I have a Question of Missing Headbook that came out last Wednesday and another coming in less than two months.

This week's reminder: The MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE is now extended to this Wednesday, October 15! Before then, buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD by E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen and take a photo of yourself with the book (or title page of the ebook). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter for all (especially me, so tag me on it) to see. For everyone who does that on  I will donate $3 to ASPEN, the Autism SPectrum Education Network, and our own Josh Getzler's HSG Agency will match the donation. And our own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink will match THAT donation. And our very own Marilyn Thiele will add $1 each, to bring the total to $10 per picture! That pledge is good for the first 100 people to post--be one of them! 

Also: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble in East Brunswick, NJ on Tuesday (Oct. 14) at 7 p.m., talking (because try and get me to stop), signing and taking MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE pictures with anyone who has a copy of the book. Come by if you can--Cathy Genna of the B&N there really knows how to put on a show!

Sep 232014
 

Todd Moss

 

This week I’m very pleased to welcome as guest Tuesday Dead Guy author Todd Moss, whose Golden Hour (Putnam) is available at all the usual outlets, plus airports, train stations, Costco, and think tanks everywhere. Todd has been let loose the past few weeks, following publication; but his experiences may have been slightly different from what either he or you might have expected.

TMoss Cover (2)

I had no idea what to expect from the book tour for my debut thriller THE GOLDEN HOUR, released September 4th. I’d written several nonfiction books and had spoken in front of groups about foreign policy hundreds of times, but this was my first foray into fiction and certainly my first book tour. It’s been strange, nerve-wracking, and pretty cool all at the same time.  Here’s what I think I’ve learned so far.

  Todd sitting (2)

It’s okay to be excited. After all the hours alone in the office and alone in my head, the novel is now, finally, out there. And people who’ve heard about it, want to meet the author. I’ve been really struck at the number of friends (some I haven’t seen since high school!) who are both giddy and gracious about my first novel. Most haven’t even read it yet, yet it’s been tremendously gratifying and humbling to receive the flood of emails, Facebook messages, and even knocks on my front door. I’m a guy who normally shirks away from being the center of attention, so I’ve had to force myself to soak it all in, to take a few moments to just enjoy it. And even at 44 years old, it feels good to make your parents proud. 

  Housto airport 2

Yeah, no one knows you… yet. While friends and family have been pouring it on thick, no debut author has a fan base. This means any “book tour” sounds like a grand affair… but it’s not. I’d assumed that book signings would be at big box bookshops in cities like New York, Los Angeles, perhaps Atlanta and Chicago. Nope. After two launch events in my hometown of Washington DC, my publisher sent me to independent shops in Arizona and Texas. At first, I didn’t quite get it either. Then it was patiently explained what should have been obvious:  “No one knows you yet. No one will show up, especially in the big crowded markets.”  So instead, my stops have been specialty crime and thriller bookshops. Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale organized an intimate discussion about my book and, in an age of ISIS and Ebola, the role of America around the world. Murder by the Book in Houston hosted a reading and Q&A with around forty thriller fans.  Just as importantly as these in-person events, both shops provided a marvelous platform for tapping into their enthusiastic reader networks. Even if you aren’t generating lines around the block, it’s still exhilarating to sign a tall stack of your own books! (Note from JG--This was the best photo we had--it was after Todd had already signed the tall stack, and folks were carrying their own copies to him by then. Because even better than signing the tall stack is SELLING OUT the tall stack...)

  Todd signing (3)

 

Todd and stock of books

A modern tour is much more than bookshops. I keep hearing that the halcyon days oflarge crowds to meet authors are largely over for all but the most famous writers.  So, in addition to a handful of select bookshop appearances, I’m talking about THE GOLDEN HOUR at lots of other venues that can draw interested crowds. Since my thriller revolves around a professor who works inside the U.S. Government, I’m speaking at colleges (Columbia, Pomona, Texas A&M, Tufts, Harvard) and related professional associations (World Affairs Councils, think tanks). I’m also promoting the book through radio, newspaper opeds, social media, and even a few TV shows. Each of these hits relatively small audiences, but they accumulate. These efforts, I hope, will build fan momentum for the next book… and maybe even a more ambitious second tour?

  MSNBC

In the end, that’s the point: lots of small steps toward a fan base who will love your book, tell their friends, and (fingers crossed!) buy the sequel. 

 

Todd Moss, senior fellow and COO at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC and the former top US diplomat for West Africa, is author of THE GOLDEN HOUR, the first in the Judd Ryker series from Penguin’s Putnam Books. Todd is represented by Josh Getzler. 

Sep 162014
 

Danielle Burby 

When Josh asked me to take over his blog for today (because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery), I couldn't, for the life of me, decide what I wanted to write about. Foreign rights? The vote for Scottish independence and the power of the historical narrative to impact life today? Why I love stories that tackle social issues? Nah. But there is something people have been asking me about a lot recently and that I'm never sure quite how to handle. It's something I love discussing, but feel a little bit strange talking about with people who know me in my publishing life. My experience as a junior agent/playwright. 
 
For those who don't know, I am a produced, and agented, playwright. It's a big, crazy, adventure that I never explicitly planned to take, but that brings me some of the greatest pride and joy I've ever felt. 
 
Ultimately, I see my two careers as very different, but complementary, parts of my life. I strongly believe that being a writer myself makes me much more sensitive to the needs of authors, especially when it comes to communication on the editorial side. I, too, have had people tell me, "I love your work, but please tear up the entire thing and rewrite it." I have been given editorial advice I didn't agree with and stood my ground, defended my choices. On the flip side, I have also learned to hear criticism, no matter how painful it may be, and to accept when I need to make changes. I honestly don't want to tell you how many times I rewrote my first play. I actually changed the ending midway through the play's run, if you can believe it! Now, although the play has already been produced and reviewed, I know I'll have to go in and make more changes if I want it to move up in the production ranks, as I hope it does. 
 
What this means for the writers I work with is that I understand exactly what I 'm asking of them when I write a big fat editorial letter and say, "So look...we need to completely rework the structure here," or, "That character that we both love actually doesn't belong in this particular book," or even, "You might want to consider changing genres." I give my notes with all the empathy in the word and I have the battle scars to prove it. 
 
Working on the agenting side also gives me a very clear perspective as to what it's like out there for writers. It shows me how important it is to be polite and professional at all times, whether you're a writer, an editor, or an agent. I've learned the importance of email tone and how to develop relationships. I think every writer should make a real effort to understand the business side of the industry because sometimes, when wrapped up in the creative side, it can be hard to remember that that's just what this is: a business. 
 
However, it is a business that revolves around creativity. One of my favorite parts of my job is looking into the heart of a narrative and figuring out, with the author, how to bring it to the surface. I love talking to authors about their visions and working as a team to strengthen their ideas and take the book another step forward. As a writer, I know that there's only so far you can bring a story on your own. As a publishing professional, I like to be the person, or one of the people, who helps someone take their novel one step farther. 
 
Ultimately, I'm a fiction junkie and I love being part of the conversation, whether as a reader, a writer, or a junior agent/assistant. So yes, I am both a person who writes and a person who works with writers. I love those dual roles because they give me a broader perspective, and by understanding both sides of the same coin, my love for each is cemented and my ability in each is strengthened. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Sep 152014
 

Jeff Cohen

SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know E.J. Copperman's true identity (and I'm guessing that category applies to no one at all), don't read any further. I wouldn't want to disillusion a reader. Or a non-reader. Or anybody else. 

So here's the thing: As was discussed in some detail last week, HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's mystery featuring the fictional Samuel Hoenig, will be published by our very own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink in just a hair over three weeks, on October 8. It's a mystery involving and told by a man who has a high-functioning form of an autism related disorder, and it involves, as one might expect from the title, a missing head, in this case a frozen one.

It's also the first official collaboration between myself and E.J. Copperman, and that's sort of an interesting situation.

That's right, friends, it's the first book I ever wrote with myself.

The cover of the book clearly states the authors' names as, "E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen," as if that clears anything up. But the fact is I was alone in the room when it was written, although that's hardly a definitive indication that anyone called E.J. Copperman didn't write the book. E.J., after all, is me, and nobody's tried to keep that a secret for quite some time.

In and of itself (which is an expression that doesn't mean anything, but whatever), the fact that both of my names are up on the cover of the book is somewhat irrelevant. If you enjoy the book, it could be written by GruberHans Gruber and it wouldn't matter. If you don't enjoy the book, it could be a work of Pg-02-shakespeare-g_175920tWilliam Shakespeare (who as far as I know never knowingly wrote about Asperger's) and that would be equally unimportant. 

But sitting down to write the book a few years ago (it took a while to find a home, and thankfully Terri liked it), I honestly didn't know if it was going to be a Jeff book or an E.J. book, and I do actually approach the two differently, even if I'm not conscious of the effort at the time. So in writing THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (which had another title back in those days), I was sort of channeling the E.J. side of my brain even while the Jeff side was poking his nose into it just to keep things on an even keel. So it really is a product of both.

I got the idea when Evan Hunter and Ed McBain (both of whom were actually Salvatore Lombino) wrote a book together. Now, that seemed like a great idea! You get two author names on the book for followers of either previously published writer, and you don't have to split the royalties! What's not to like?

It does irk me when (as a number of review sites and an online retailer or two) some people consider HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD as strictly an E.J. Copperman book and leave my birth name off it entirely. I mean, I worked as hard as E.J. on it--harder even, since I was doing the typing--and I think I deserve a little credit, don't you?

Having just sent off the draft of the second Samuel book, whose title has not yet been confirmed (and I've learned to keep my mouth shut about such things), I can say the second time around it was more of a total collaboration because now I was aware both names would be on the cover. There was more give-and-take, but either way, I got or gave because there wasn't anyone else there. Except our new dog ImageGizmo, who is adorable but chews things a lot.

So I can tell you something I never knew before: Collaborating with yourself can be fun and rewarding. But the best part, without question, is writing the authors' acknowledgments, when I got to thank myself twice.

 

P.S.: Our sincere wishes for a quick and easy recovery to our own Josh Getzler, just now starting toward getting his shoulder back the way it should be. We want you back here ASAP, sir, so get to work!

P.P.S.: While we're on the subject of Josh, he has informed me that HSG Agency, of which he is the "G", will match my total donation to ASPEN, the Autism Spectrum Education Network, when we tally it all up from the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE (announced here last week). Remember the rules: Buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD and have it in your hands on its publication day, October 8. Take a picture of yourself with said book (or e-reader title page thereof). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter and make sure I see it. I will donate (and now Josh will match) $3 for every picture posted up to 100 pictures that day. Don't miss your chance to donate to a very worthy cause without spending any extra money! And thanks, Josh and everybody at HSG!