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Posts Tagged ‘Publishing’

An interview with the Tandem cover designer!

Posted on September 30th, 2013 by annakjarzab

tandem cvr quoteI don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cover for Tandem, my third YA novel that comes out next Tuesday (!!!!). If you haven’t seen the interiors of the book, they are also super beautiful. I’m totally fascinated by the process of creating packages for books–it’s a lengthy, and often much-debated process that people outside the industry don’t always get a glimpse into. So I asked Sarah Pierson, the designer of both the cover and the interior design of Tandem, a few questions about this mysterious but very, very important part of making a book.

You are a book designer at Random House–does this mean you design all aspects of the book: cover and interiors? Do you work on all imprints and age groups, or do you focus on YA/novels?
I currently work on all aspects; jacket, interior, and the hardbound case cover. I work on middle grade and YA for the Knopf and Delacorte imprints. I also do paperbacks for the Ember and Yearling paperback imprints.

Once you have a title assigned to you, what steps do you take? Does the editor usually have very specific ideas of what they want, or do you read the book and come up with a proposal of what you’d like to do?

This process varies book to book! I read the most recent draft of the manuscript. It helps me come up with ideas, from big concepts and motifs to small details. Having a strong sense of themes and mood is important to be able to approach the design. After reading the manuscript, I’ll sit down with the editor and talk about how they envision the cover. They tell me what they want the cover to convey and they may ask for specific imagery. Then I start making cover comps based on a few different concepts, either my own ideas, the editors’ or something we arrived at together.
How did you become a book designer? Did you go to art school? What made you want to design books for a living?
I went to Drexel for graphic design and I worked at the library throughout college. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I’ve never been a huge fiction reader! But I loved working at the library because I love books…jackets, paper, ink, bindings, headbands…I love them. I spent way too much time shelving art, design and photography books, stopping to leaf through them. I came across unusual old engineering and science books, and popular fiction was always circulating. I studied everything from a design perspective. Junior year I got an internship at a super cool independent publisher called Quirk Books. A few months after graduating in 2005, I got a job in the picture books group at HarperCollins and have been designing books ever since.
What are some other books you designed, besides TANDEM?
Mister Max by Cynthia Voigt, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, Posses by Gretchen McNeil, Wildwood by Colin Meloy. Check out my website.
What was your thought process behind designing the TANDEM cover? Was your first idea much like the finished product, or did it go through a lot of revisions? How did you go about bringing together all of the visual elements (the girl, the bird, the colors, the amazing title treatment, etc.) into the beautiful cover we have now? 
I read TANDEM very closely. It was so good! The story felt intricate and intimate and epic at the same time. As I was reading, I made note of different things could work as imagery for the cover. I had several ideas at first, and one of those eventually became the final cover. I searched for and used stock photography to use to build the image, combining elements in photoshop in a similar manner from the beginning. After initial comps were promising, I was directed through rounds of revisions adjusting the composition and scale, typography, color, and different models and poses for Sasha.
tandem cvr comp1a
tandem cvr comp1b
tandem cvr comp1c

These are some of the comps from the first round. The basic concept and all the elements are here, but it took time to get to the end result.

tandem cvr comp2a
tandem cvr comp2b
tandem cvr comp2c

Trying out different girls, sizes of the girl, typefaces, colors, ways of blending the sparrow and girl. I had the basic composition and down. This is just a few of the variations.

tandem cvr comp2d

This is when we felt like we had hit it.

tandem cvr comp3

Livened it up with some color. I tried several different background color variations at this stage.

tandem cvr quote

More color to Sasha’s face, more depth in the background, and some fine tuning. Series title is in place and quote at the top.

Knowing that TANDEM was the first book in a series, did that affect how you designed the cover? Did you design it with how you would create the covers for the other books in mind?

I kept in mind how I would change the various elements. I tried working on the second book along with the first once it was more developed to see how they would look together. The sort of soft glamourous starkness is what I hope will carry over through the series.
Okay, let’s talk about the interiors! What was your thought process behind how you did the interior design (which is really quite complex and thought out!)? Do you usually create such design-heavy interiors, or was this out of the ordinary? 
I do not usually design such complex interiors but with its 3 parts, different points of view, and day countdown TANDEM presented a unique chance to do something interesting. At first I was totally stumped about all this! I think I spent a whole week just getting my head around it. I chipped away at it starting with the parts (Earth/Aurora) and then more ideas came out of that. I eventually mapped out the whole structure because it was helpful for me to see it that way.
What is your favorite part of the TANDEM interiors (or the cover!)? 
I like the lines of little dots on the flaps, back jacket, under the page numbers…other places too. It’s a small detail but I think they’re elegant and have a little meaning. They represent ‘many worlds.’
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the TANDEM cover or interiors? Any designs that didn’t make the cut? 
A part of the interior design was inspired by a music video from 2011! I am pretty sure music videos have less cultural impact these days but I find them to be a really nice source of visual inspiration!

Thanks so much to Sarah for giving us a little insight into how a cover gets made! You should absolutely check out her website, which showcases many of the beautiful book covers she’s worked on in her career, including many I know you’ll recognize.

How I Did It

Posted on November 19th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Just dropping a line to say that the kind folks at Kirkus asked me to write an article about “How I Did It” – meaning, how I got published. The idea was for me to give my perspective as someone who both is published and works in publishing. It was really cool of them to ask me to do this (and to call me a “publishing insider”–if by that they mean “publishing gossip“, then yes, true dat/double true), and I had a lot of fun writing the article! You can find the full text here.

In other news, I’m in the final stages of writing TANDEM 2. It’s so weird to me that I’m on my way to a final version of the sequel to a book that hasn’t come out yet and won’t for another 11 months, but that’s the publishing machine for you. We work ahead. Most of the time. Hopefully. I’ve also been reading a ton of manuscripts for our fall 2013 launch here at my place of employment, which is always fun. I’ve just been reading a lot in general, so I’m planning on doing another book recommendations post soon, but I’m constantly putting “Things I’ve Read That I Loved” posts on my Facebook page, if you’re looking for a good book to read right this minute.


Publishing 101

Posted on March 24th, 2011 by annakjarzab

Are you guys reading the posts that Alex Bracken puts up explaining different parts of the publishing process? Sometimes I feel like I should talk about publishing more than I do, since I work in the industry and (you would think) have some insights (I have a whole Publishing tag I don’t even use!), but mainly I just think Alex does it much better than I can or would and I leave it to her. Plus I’m not totally sure I have any insights. Today she put up a post about launch that does a good job of draining the process of some of its mystery.

I have to admit, launch is one of my favorite parts of working in publishing, for a couple of reasons. First of all: I don’t have to do anything. I work in Marketing, and Marketing plays a much larger part in the publishing process than anybody really realizes, so even if I’m not attending or presenting at a meeting, I’m often pulling together last minute information or providing marketing bullets for various decks that my bosses have to present (all of the Marketing big wigs were off site at sales conference this week and even then I was still getting emails with questions–the work is never finished!). But when it comes to launch, I just get to sit back and relax and be presented to, which is pretty sweet.

Second of all, it’s like going to the movies and seeing the coming attractions. There was actually an editor who devoted the end of her presentation to telling us what we were going to see on future 2012 launches, which I loved. Even though I love my job most days and love the books I work on, after working on them for a year you start itching for new blood–What’s the cover of this sequel going to look like? Or what’s this awesome author’s new book going to be about? I basically stalk the place on the server where editorial puts all the launch manuscripts for weeks before launch to see what they’re going to post and come up with my totally OCD list of the order in which I’m going to read them. (However, true to form, I’ve only read one two launch manuscripts so far…my list includes like eight.) Plus I like to hear what Sales has to say–they’re always very vocal and full of opinions and the discussion is really interesting, at least if you’re a total publishing nerd like me. I always learn a lot at launch, or at least find out I have a lot of questions I didn’t know I needed answered. Like: what is a planogram? Account reps for mass market channels say it all the time and I’ve never found the right moment to pull one of them aside and ask what that is. Except I just Wiki’d it and now I don’t have to.

The part of the process where I become involved is Marketing brainstorming, which happens about a month post-launch. At my company all the Marketing folks have a series of meetings in which we all get together and come up with marketing plans for titles on the list. Even though this requires me to think, I love brainstorming. I really like my coworkers and it’s fun for all of us to talk about books, especially new books! I usually read a lot more manuscripts for brainstorming than for launch, mostly because I’ve had more time. Marketing plans go through a near-infinite series of refining stages–when they leave Marketing brainstorming, they’re just rough drafts–but it’s a great place to come up with crazy ideas, like sky writing or getting an Essie nail polish named after a character or pursuing a partnership with Capri Sun or whatever.

One week

Posted on January 7th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Aaaaand now I have the Barenaked Ladies song in my head.

The last time you heard from our intrepid heroine (me, duh), she was trapped in Newark International Airport, rueing the day she first sacrificed convenience for price in choosing a flight to Chicago for Christmas. Then came radio silence all through the holidays. I really tried to use my long break to relax and sleep in and spend time with my family and friends I haven’t seen in a while. I did a good job at that, but as soon as I got back to New York (and trekked home from Newark–NEVER AGAIN!) I hit the ground running, because my friend Brigitte from my good old University of Chicago days was in town with her husband, so I saw them on both Sunday and Monday night.

Any illusions that I might have given my poor, addled mind a rest over break were completely dashed on Tuesday, when I wrote my friend Nikki an email inviting her to my house for “kiesh.” YES THAT IS RIGHT. I didn’t even notice my painfully egregious spelling error until I got an email from my friend Cambria later that night saying, “Still making quiche? What time should I come over?” And I was like, “OMG ‘QUICHE’!” I think that’s the worst spelling error I’ve made in my entire life. It’s like I had never seen the word “quiche” written out before. I was mortified when I realized my mistake–like I said, HOURS LATER.

The quiche was delicious, though, despite the fact that I put too much filling in the pie crust so it spilled out a little from the sides and then rose like a souffle in the oven. Considering I didn’t measure anything and just threw some stuff in it, I think it was a success! It had broccoli, onion and Swiss cheese in it, if you care.

Anyway, on to business. So, now that it’s Thursday, we’re less than a week away from the publication of All Unquiet Things. Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve spent the bulk of my free time the past few days answering interview questions and posting on Random Buzzers, which you should totally check out if you’re not a part of it yet. My forum is here, but there are a couple of interesting activities posted here that I can’t wait to check out. I thought the AUT playlist was just a link to the playlist I created, so I didn’t even look at it before, but now I see that it’s a section for other people to post their playlists, which is far more interesting to me.

In other news, I came across this article John Green wrote for School Library Journal the other day and found it entirely fascinating. It’s all about the future of reading, and what it means if books become practically free to produce (i.e. entirely digital) and thus publishers cease to exist and there’s no quality control (or just plain control at any rate; people have their own opinions about whether or not quality has anything to do with it–I’m not one of them, but I’ve heard that a lot, that publishers are just pandering to the lowest common denominator, etc. etc.) and the world of literature falls into anarchy (not democracy, which is different). Basically, libraries rule the world is his argument.

Anyway, I’m not going to advance my own opinions because I don’t really believe that the book world will ever become entirely digital in the way John predicts (okay, I guess that’s an opinion, but whatever), but I will say that last night, for some reason, I got into this discussion about The Future of Reading with three people–two strangers I met at a bar, and my cab driver on the way home. The strangers differed on this issue; one said to hell with publishers, let schools be the gatekeepers (which is not a very good solution, if only because not everyone is in school at any given time, but he’s forgiven because he’s an educator); the other was a big believer in libraries, and also argued in favor of publishers.

Better still, the conversation I had with my cab driver. He was extremely chatty, which I normally do not like, because when I’m in a car, or really on any form of transportation, I like to be silent and stare out the window and sometimes fall asleep. I don’t want to be beholden to a conversation with a stranger. But this cabbie was nice, and he asked me what I did, so I told him, and then he asked me if I thought books would go the way of the dodo, and for a moment I was like, “Deja vu!” but then I said that no, I didn’t think that, I think digital and physical books will find a balance someday and neither will become completely dominant. Then he said, “Oh, that’s good, because books are just so charming.” He was completely sincere, and I fell a little bit in love with him. I never would’ve said that books are charming, but they are! QED, books will never die. (Not at all logically sound, I know, but whatever. I never claimed to be a master of debate!)

Starting over (plus a rant, because I just can’t help myself)

Posted on August 29th, 2009 by annakjarzab

It ain’t just a TV show.

(Remember when Starting Over was a TV show? Is that still on? I never watched it.)

As you know if you read my last entry, things on the writing front have been productive, page-wise, but not book-wise. I thought maybe I’d keep on keeping on, change directions/tone/whatever to get the book on track to the end and then revise the crap out of it to make it all blend and fit nicely together into a cohesive whole, but I think I’m too far gone to do that. I decided two days ago on the subway to work that I was probably going to have to start the whole thing over again.

And actually, I’m not freaking out about that. After all, I’ve started a book over before, and it’s being published in January, so it’s not an intrinsically bad thing. For one thing, I think I might have settled upon a name for the book (er, several names; I’m in the process of narrowing it down)!

What’s stopping me from diving into a rewrite is strategy. When I rewrote AUT, I rewrote AUT. Not a tiny shard of the originally book remains. I don’t even think I could locate a copy, digital or otherwise, of AUT version 1 at this point. I didn’t back then, either, which necessitated me starting completey over, plus I had an entirely new plot. This is not the same–I’m going to keep the same general plot, but de-emphasize some elements that I’ve been focusing too much on in an attempt, I realize now, to avoid the real meat of the story, which is of course more difficult to write, and also bring an entirely different series of events to the forefront of the story. There’s a lot of good stuff that I want to keep, but I’m always wary of taking things apart and reassembling them with new material. Bumpiness can be smoothed out in revisions, but still. Maybe I should just write everything anew, I don’t know. If you know me, you know I’m loathe to lose a good joke, so it’ll be hard to let go of some of these scenes.

But, of course, onward and upward and it’s not like those scenes can’t be picked up and molded into the new version if I want them to. Right now I’m focusing on research; I’m going to start reading Slaughterhouse Five, and I’ve been listening to Paddy Casey’s “Saints and Sinners” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Soldier” over and over.

On an entirely different note, Diana Peterfreund has talked many times about how damaging book piracy is to authors, publishers, and most importantly readers, because if you don’t buy books or check them out from libraries it sends a message to publishers that you don’t want to read them, and I’m pretty frustrated that she keeps having to say this, that it keeps happening to her and lots of other authors, and that it will probably happen to me in no time.

Honestly, this is ridiculous. Yes, I know books are expensive and take up a lot of room–hence the state of my apartment, which is overflowing with books, and my bank account, which is, you know, anemic. I GET IT. Books are a luxury. But for God’s sake, if you want to read them, do the decent thing and buy them, or check them out from the library. That’s what libraries are for! To democratize–actually, socialize–reading. Libraries are free! You can get a (free!) library card in no time at all, and then you can check out as many books as you can possibly read–for FREE! But the cool thing about libraries is that, while it’s free for you, they actually buy books, so publishers stay in business and authors can afford to keep writing the books that you can read, FOR FREE!

Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but also there’s something I’d like to talk about that is tangentially related–selling ARCs on eBay. Working in publishing, and being a writer myself, this is something that really frustrates me. ARCs are NOT for sale; they are very expensive for the publisher to print, but they do it for publicity purposes, so that booksellers and reviewers and journalists can read the book in advance to prepare for when the book is sold to the public. If you get an ARC of a book, it’s because you are one of the lucky people who gets to read the book early. The last thing anyone should be doing is SELLING an ARC, because they say right on the cover that they are NOT FOR SALE and it is ILLEGAL.

I know some authors who get excited when their ARC is being sold on eBay, because it proves to them how much some people want to read the book, but honestly they should be upset. Because however much money that ARC goes for, it doesn’t matter–it’s not going to the author, and it’s not going to the publisher. It’s going to the seller, someone who got it for free in good faith. Some people might say that it’s the same as selling used books, that that money isn’t going to the publisher or author, either, but it’s actually not the same, because selling a used book is legal and selling an ARC is not. Also, somewhere along the line that used book was bought new, and that money did go to the publisher and author (well, maybe the author, but definitely the publisher). ARCs were never purchased, and they cost so much money to produce.

So please, don’t sell or buy ARCs. Get them from the publisher, lend them to your friends, read them, love them, pass them around, but please, for the love, don’t sell them. And don’t buy them. And don’t download pirated books. Rant over.

ARC party!

Posted on June 19th, 2009 by annakjarzab

ARC party (n.) – The party one throws oneself when one’s Advanced Reader Copies arrive. Involves dorky dancing and photo taking and massive smiles. Varies by author.

Look what I got in the mail today!


Okay, granted, I took this picture with my friend’s point-and-shoot camera in not-so-great lighting, so it’s a little washed out, but in real life they are the most gorgeous creatures I have ever beheld (am I being melodramatic enough about this yet?).

Many have asked me what I plan to do with these ARCs. Well, I plan to keep one. I plan to send one home with my dad next week (he’ll be in town for a business meeting and is taking me out to dinner, w00t!) for my family to have. I plan to send one circulating amongst the Tenners, because that’s how we do. One has been handed over to the wonderful people in my office, some of whom read the book in (a now outdated) manuscript, but most of whom didn’t and still want to. That leaves three. Three beeeeeeeeautiful ARCs.

Which means at least one of them will be given away. RIGHT ON THIS VERY SITE YOU ARE NOW VISITING (or maybe you’re reading this post in Google Reader, I know that’s a possibility). That day is not today, but it will be very, very soon, I promise. Let me repeat: this is not a giveaway post. Howevs. I won’t do one of those very complicated, requires-advanced-calculus-type giveaways where you get one point for this and forty-seven points for that, et cetera. Because I hear judging those is a very lengthy process and frankly I’m awful at math. So I have to come up with something easier. I will do that as soon as possible.

The ARCs are getting a lot of my attention right now, but actually I got some other stuff in the package also. I got two jacket flaps, for instance.


Click the pic to expand.

They are GORGEOUS. The ARCs are not shiny, but the cover will be matte gloss, which is new terminology for me, but basically it means glossy in some parts and not in others (Cyn Balog‘s debut, FAIRY TALE, which comes out next week, is a good example of a matte gloss cover–the wings are glossy but the black background is not–and is actually the one my editor used to demonstrate to me what that means, because Cyn’s another Delacorte author and she had a copy on hand). The photo on the finished copies of AUT will be glossy.

And as you can see, they carried my favorite squiggly brackets over onto the spine. Love that. The jacket also tells me who took the photo (a very talented woman named Eva Kolenko) and who created the design (a very talented Random House cover designer named Angela Carlino). Thank you so much, ladies, for this cover! I’m really lucky.

I also got a copy of the RHCB spring 2010 catalog. AUT has its own page, which may or may not contain the sentence “A dark, atmospheric thriller that’s an unputdownable debut.” I don’t know, maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.


Posted on June 9th, 2009 by annakjarzab

ARCs are used for a bunch of different things. Publicity sends them to reviewers; marketing gives them away in contests (and…other stuff, probably). Authors send them to their mothers and fathers, who show them off to relatives and coworkers regardless of the age of said author. Editors send them to other authors, bigger name authors who might just say something nice that they can put on the cover of the finished product.

My ARCs are coming sometime this week, which means my editor will be sending them out to other people, people way more established in the industry than I am, so they can read it and maybe blurb me. I just want you to know, if nobody likes or wants to blurb my book I HAVE IT COVERED. My friend Mary (alternately known in these parts as MD, Tha Dubbs, Her Royal Dubbsness, etc.), who has an unspecified job at an unspecified publisher and knows from blurbs, generously offered to provide a couple for the cover of All Unquiet Things if, for some reason, the whole blurbing thing goes horribly awry. If I’m extremely unlucky, one of these gems may end up on the AUT cover:

“She’s my friend, so take this with a grain of salt, but it was pretty good for a first try.”


“I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would.”


“On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a good, solid 6. That’s a D. And you know what they say: Ds get degrees. I would say maybe this earned an associate’s degree from Normandale Community College, where my Aunt Patty Jo got her nursing degree. I mean, it’s definitely not a Harvard D–that’s like a Normandale A++, which isn’t even allowed. But definitely would be accredited somewhere. Good work, AUT. You’re a plumber. ‘Read nights and weekends! At your own pace!’

I could keep going, but I won’t.”

OR (my favorite)

“Not terrible.”*

Vote for your favorite in the comments!

*You should know that Tha Dubbs didn’t actually say this about my book, but a different one altogether. If that author doesn’t want to use it, though, I’m all over it.**
**Also, she hasn’t actually read my book. She’s waiting for the ARC.


Posted on May 30th, 2009 by annakjarzab

Whoosh! BEA totally washed over me like a hurricane today. Up is down, left is right, there’s a blister on my pinky toe and I feel like I just ran a marathon, but I’m so grateful to have gotten the chance to go.

The day looked something like this:

8:50 AM: Got to the Javits center, after having taken a cab because I was too much of a lazy to get out of my apartment at a decent time. I wandered around like a little lost fawn, desperately seeking the place where I was supposed to pick up my badge. Eventually I just walked up to a counter and was like, “I’m 99.9% sure I’m in the wrong place, but where’s the Media Room?” Apparently, I meant the Press Office. I found it and got my badge (that hot little piece you see in the picture below*) and met up with my coworkers for the 9:30 panel called Driving Success with Teens & Tweens: Authors Share Online Success Stories. But not before spying a woman dressed in nothing but a turquoise bikini. Where was I, the Adult Video News Awards?


9:30 AM: Panel: Driving Success with Teens & Tweens. The authors featured on the panel were Sarah Mlynowski, Jessica Burkhart, Robyn Schneider, Julia DeVillers, and a very valiant Maureen Johnson, who I gather from her Twitter is totes sick (as in ill). She really rallied. They chatted for a while about the importance of having a website (frequently updated), blog (actually written in, and not just about your books), and building a community with Facebook, Ning, Twitter, and Polyvore, which I’d never heard of before but Julia DeVillers talked about and made to sound really cool. This panel (like all the panels I attended at BEA) served to prove to me that I’m doing the right things, and that there are a lot of smart people in this business. That was nice to hear.

10:30 AM: Flounced around with my boss for a while, meeting people and searching for a specific person who was not to be found. Oh well!

11:00 AM: I was going to go to another panel, but instead I met up with the awesome Josh Berk, fellow Tenner and surely decent Pennsylvania librarian. We decided to visit the Egmont booth, which I erroneously thought was in the back left corner of the floor–WRONG! Turns out, it was literally right behind where we had been, at the Random House, erm, “booth.” I dragged Josh and his poor librarian friends all over God’s green goodness, and nobody was too pleased with me, but whatever, we found it eventually. At least I can admit when I’m wrong. On the way, though, we saw Dr. Ruth, and Josh and I had our picture taken with her (she is tiny, and we look like GIANTS next to her). Amusingly, she wasn’t fazed by the request, probably because it happens all the time, but she wasn’t at all interested in why we wanted our picture taken with her or who we were or what we were doing just randomly accosting her like that. The picture’s on Josh’s camera, but I’ll link you to it when it goes up–I’m sure I look hideous.

The Egmont people are so lovely. Josh and I introduced ourselves, and I passed out some bookmarks, and we talked to the Egmont staff about Alex and Kay and Lindsay‘s books. Everybody was so excited about them, and Elizabeth Law (Egmont President extraordinaire) is incredibly friendly, demanding of me, “Why aren’t we friends on Facebook?” Must get on that, I’ve been neglecting Facebook for a while, sorry FB. I grabbed an ARC of Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have by Allen Zadoff, which looks great. Then Berk and I took off for a Debs brunch that we’d decided to crash (okay, Berk was invited; I was not, except if you think an invite from Berk counts, which I can assure you it does not).

Except! First, as we were walking through the Harlequin booth on the way to the doors, we ran smack dab into a veritable nest of authors. Sarah CrossDeb, Team Castle alum, and author of the newly released and certainly awesome (though I have not read it, I plan to tout suite) Dull Boy–was kind enough to put up with Berk and I, even though we were being such fools. I giddily shook hands with Ally Carter, NYT bestselling author of If I Tell You I Love You I’d Have to Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and the soon to be released Don’t Judge a Girl By Her Cover (almost snagged a finished copy of it at the Hyperion booth, but alas I did not–cool story, huh?)–books I ADORE–and another Team Castle alum. I told Ally I love her books, and she was like, “I love your dress!”, which was sweet of her to say (also, it is a cute dress). I foisted a bookmark on Ally, Sarah, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes, the adorable author of Golden, Tattoo, and Fate (which I have at work and am trying to find time to read–so many books, so little time), ALSO a Team Castle alum (everybody was at that castle, apparently). Everyone was very nice and friendly, and it was sort of hilarious that, having not sought them out at all, I ran into so many authors I follow and admire.

12:30 PM: Berk and I crashed the Deb bruncheon. Everybody was really welcoming to us. I got to see Megan Crewe (Give Up the Ghost) again–talked to her for a bit at the kid lit drinks thing at Houndstooth last night–and Aprilynne Pike, whose debut Wings is on the NYT list for, I think, the third week now, which is awesome for her. I also got to meet Jon Skovron (Struts and Frets), Jenny Moss (Winnie’s War), Pam Bachorz (Candor, which you couldn’t even get ARCs of at the Egmont table, they went so quickly), Neesha Meminger (Shine, Coconut Moon), Shani Petroff (Daddy’s Little Angel) and Michelle Zink (Prophecy of the Sisters). Michelle and I sat next to each other, and she was so nice to me! We talked about California, where we both used to live, and New York and how crazy Californians look at you cross-eyed when you say you’re moving away from California, like why would you ever leave? Trust me, there are reasons. Even though Berk and I were sure we’d get booted from the table any minute, it was a great time, and everyone was really lovely.

2:00 PM: Back to BEA for another panel, this time Book Bloggers–Today’s Buzz Builders. I work with book bloggers every day for my day job, and I love them. I love what they do for books, I love how sincere they are about their passion for the written word, I love how nice they are, I love hearing what they think about the books I send them…it’s a great community, and I’m glad to be a part of it, if only tagentially. I feel a lot of affection for book bloggers. The panel confirmed for me things I pretty much already knew about how bloggers liked to be pitched and how they think publicists (I guess I pretty much fall into that category) can improve, and we’re definitely taking their suggestions to heart, while also feeling a bit puffed up about how well I think we do what we do.

3:00 PM-ish: Back to the floor. I loved Egmont so much I went back with my coworkers and we chatted with Rob, from the sales/marketing side, and Nico, managing editor. Great guys! Really friendly and easy to talk to. I love the start-up nature of Egmont and their real investment in the books that they’re publishing. I think they’ve got a terrific launch list, and their next seasons are going to be just as impressive, if what I heard is any indication. Nico chased me down after we left with an ARC of Todd Strasser’s Wish You Were Dead, which he thought would interest me. Thanks, friend! I also stopped by the Sourcebooks booth for a while–wish my friend Paul was there, so I could see and talk to him, but he was back in Chicago. Boo.

4:00 PM: Yet another panel, Stupid Things Booksellers and Publishers Do. I didn’t really know what to expect of this panel, honestly. I didn’t know that it would focus so heavily on the symbiotic but highly contentious at times relationship between publishers and booksellers. I think that’s because instead of “Stupid Things Booksellers and Publishers Do,” I’d read “Stupid Things Publishers Do,” because, you know, that’s the side of the industry all my experience lies in. But the title clearly says “Booksellers and Publishers,” so who’s the stupid one? I liked the panel, and I thought the discussion was interesting, but it sort of devolved into a “you do this crappy,” “well you do that crappy” sort of argument, and we noticed that the consumer–the most important part of the publishing industry, THE READER!–wasn’t mentioned often, if at all. Carla Cohen, from Politics and Prose in D.C., was sitting right behind me, and she had a lot of biting, insightful things to say, most of which I agreed with. It was an experience, especially since I know next to nothing about bookselling.

And that’s it! Now I’m home, resting, reading Julie & Julia and chilling out after my rather exhausting day. Oh, here’s a piece of goodwill towards men that shouldn’t go unmentioned: I told Berk that my friend, Mary, a frequent commenter in these here parts, hadn’t been able to get her hands on Catching Fire and was DYING to read it. I couldn’t lend her the copy I read, because it doesn’t belong to me and got snatched out of my hands the second I was done, but Berk very kindly gave me one of the copies he ended up with. Now MD has it in hand, so I hope to receive many emails that just say “djkl;afdjksla;fdjksla;fdjkls;asdf! This book is so good!” tonight. I owe ya one, Josh. And Mary, you owe me one. Your soul will do. Note: I DO NOT want your first born.

*Why yes, that is a Catching Fire mockingjay pin you see attached to my lanyard. That other pin you see? Well, that’s one of the darling little matryoshka buttons I bought on Etsy** (the woman who made them was SO sweet, she did a custom order for me and even sent me a little something extra, which was lovely of her) to include with prize giveaways and the like. Because those are coming! Once I get my ARCs. Which, judging from the way ARCs are suddenly flooding the Tenners being published in the same season as me, could be any day now.

**I know the Etsy page says they’re magnets–I bought magnets, too, but I asked her to make the same things into buttons as well, so there are both! What people will get in giveaways is up to me, WAH WAH.

Edited to Add: I forgot to mention that I met Jen Hayley and Shana Silver at the Kid Lit event at Houndstooth on Friday night, too. They were wonderful and sweet, tolerating me graciously. I would talk everybody’s head off about books and YA and writing if I could, everybody’s so cool to indulge me. Although I suspect many must feel the exact same way. 🙂

Submitting to Joanna

Posted on October 12th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

So my wonderful agent, Joanna MacKenzie, was in town this weekend. We had lunch with my editor on Friday, followed by after-work drinks with my friend Abby, who was an intern at Browne & Miller the same summer I was. Since Joanna is actively building her list, I asked her what she was looking for, and also if I could post about it on my blog. She said yes, so here it is:

Joanna helps out on a lot of different kinds of projects, but when it comes to building her own list she really is looking mostly for YA, not middle grade. She’s really interested in seeing angsty, coming-of-age novels, and is open to paranormal and fantasy, but no fairies! She was very clear about the fairies. If you do decide to query Joanna (which you should totally do, she’s an awesome agent, I know this first hand), please follow the submission guidelines on the Browne & Miller website. If you send an email query, ONLY send your emails to mail [AT] browneandmiller [DOT] com, not to any other email address. They have a specific system for handling queries, and sending emails directly to the agents’ inboxes will not endear you to them because it mucks up the system.

Bringing down the (publishing) house…or maybe not

Posted on April 7th, 2008 by Anna Jarzab

If you subscribe to Publishers Lunch (which you totes should if you’re an aspiring writer/editor–if you’re either of these things seriously, I think it’s a good investment to fork over the $20 a month it takes to get a paid subscription, because then you get access to the infinitely helpful Who Represents? and Deals features, as well as many other things I don’t use because I’m lazy; the Daily Lunch email, though, is free), you will have noticed that you got a bonus email about half an hour after Lunch was delivered to your mailbox on Friday. Bob Miller, the president of Hyperion, resigned because he’s moving over to HarperCollins to “‘launch a new global publishing program based on a non-traditional business model’ starting on April 14 described as a ‘creative publishing “studio” that challenges conventional trade publishing standards.'” I read that and was like, “Whatever the eff that means.”

Well, this is what it means. Apparently, some things bug Miller about the industry: 1.) returnable product, and 2.) huge advances that are never earned out. These are the same things that bug me! And almost every other writer, even the ones who get the huge advances because they are pretty hard to earn out, especially if publisher enthusiasm over the project dwindles throughout the editing/production process and in the end they don’t give the book a big marketing push, which happens a lot. “Returns”, for those who don’t know, refers to the practice of bookstores ordering books, not selling them, and shipping them back to the publishers’ warehouses. The publishers even foot the return shipping bill. I was pretty shocked when I heard about this, and now that I think about it I might’ve first heard about it from Bob Miller himself, because he was the kickoff speaker at the Denver Publishing Institute the year I attended. (Sidenote: he is very nice and personable.) I don’t know of any other industry that allows stores to return product. It allows bookstores not to take responsibility for managing their inventory, and also gives them no incentive to sell any given title. I think everybody on the publishing side of the business–authors, agents, definitely publishers–hate this practice, and good for Bob for not standing for it anymore. I’m sure they won’t go to a 100% non-returnable basis immediately, and truthfully everybody needs to get on the bandwagon, it can’t just be one new imprint to make a considerable difference in the way business in this industry is conducted, but it’s a great start. Even Robert Gruen, the EVP of merchandising and marketing at Borders, said, “We generally support the idea of looking at potential solutions to a return system that is not working well for the industry as a whole.”

The advances…well, I am of two minds. I don’t like the idea of them paying no advances. I think that shows a lack of faith. Also, if the publisher doesn’t make an initial investment, what’s to keep them from just abandoning the project halfway through, or ditching it once it’s released and not marketing it? Not much is stopping them from doing the latter anyway, and it happens all the time, but at least when there’s a substantial advance on the line there’s a financial.

HOWEVER. As someone pointed out to me today, this is not actually such an original idea. There’s an imprint of Perseus Books Group already using this model, Vanguard Press. Roger Cooper, the founder of Vanguard, spoke about his model at BEA last year. They don’t pay advances at all, but the royalties are high by industry standards–not as high as, say, 50% (Miller’s new imprint at HC proposes a 50/50 split between author and publisher; obvs, the authors agent would get a cut of the author’s half), more like 15% on trade paperbacks, but that is higher than anything else that I’ve heard of for any authors other than those in the lofty J.K. Rowling/Stephen King/Nora Roberts/John Grisham stratum. Here’s what the author gets in return: Every book is assigned a freelance editor, and every book is assigned a freelance publicist. Every book gets Internet marketing. Authors retain all of their rights, which is a biggie. And best of all? There is a marketing/publicity budget built right into the contract. I don’t know their policy on returns, but they seem to be doing quite well, relatively speaking. They don’t usually take risks on debut authors, and I’m sure that Miller’s imprint won’t, either. That would be too much of a risk on the author’s side as well as the publisher’s. Vanguard’s list is mostly comprised of authors with an established following, those that usually sell between 27,000 and 30,000 hardcover copies per book.

So, here’s my analysis. This is an interesting model, one that works for another imprint. The 50/50 split is generous, especially if they commit to a marketing budget and plan in the contract, because then the author knows that the publisher is doing everything it can to sell their book (note: I don’t know if Miller’s imprint plans on doing this). The elimination of returns as much as possible is something I definitely support. I think that authors with more stability in the industry could benefit from the no advance-high sales payout model quite nicely. I’ve always thought it was ridiculous to pay people like Dan Brown and Nora Roberts such huge advances, because if the math is off and the book sells big but not as big as everyone expected, the publisher could end up actually making very little profit in the end. We want publishers to make a profit. It’s good for the industry, it’s good for the author. This is not an imprint where a debut author would be well served. There’s just too much uncertainty in that situation, and I’m sure they will not be acquiring anything from a brand new author. However, I think it’s interesting, if not completely original, and if we could all just move to non-returnable product like every other industry, that’d be really great. Thanks for kicking it all off for us, Bob! I’m sure that the imprint will flourish under him, as Hyperion has done well in his 17-year-tenure. Vive la revolution!