Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hump Day, Redux (and the hump keeps getting bigger)

Whew. Tough day on the market today. Down over 800 points in 2 days. Wasn't it the Paul Simon song that went, "slip sliding awaaaay"?

Anyway. I'm shaking it off.

Back to the biz of publishing.

From Publishers Weekly (Nov. 17 issue): In addition to the article on cover art in the romance genre, there was a very informative article on the rise and rise and rise of paranormal in YA. In "The Next Dead Thing" the mounting popularity of the genre is examined, in the wake of the Twilight saga. Vampires are still on the scene, claims author Donna Freitas, but all things un-dead are making their presence known. Say, like, zombies. In fact, the many takes on zombies are what seem to be hot hot hot.

Says Senior VP and Associate Publisher for fiction at Harper Collins, Elise Howard says "We are still looking for that perfect zombie property.", while explaining that the "hunger for these novels is still unsatisfied", the fact is that the market is getting more sophisticated in what they want. Because of the glut - the books have to be top notch quality in order to stand out from the rest of the un-dead crowd. The old zombie - rotting flesh and body parts falling off - appealed mostly to the young male reader. But new approaches and titles are changing that. Zombie Blondes, Generation Dead and ghostgirl are some examples. Alessandra Balzer, co-publisher of Balzer & Bray at HarperCollins says "Now that people realize paranormal books are popular, everyone is publishing them. Soon it will be harder to get those books the attention they need, so we have to be really picky about what we publish."

Indeed, other creatures of the night are grabbing their own turf, including ghosts, pixies, weres and demonic creatures, such as The Vours in the recently released The Devouring.

Despite not being able to chart what the future will bring, Bloomsbury's Melanie Cecka said, "If fans are demanding these books, then we want to fulfil the need. But we are all getting more calculated about the books we publish. We are being watchful about what each house is doing, and how to position our authors..."

OT, the best line of the article, however, was that of Children's book buyer Donna Gerardo, who said, "It's pretty sad when the undead are getting better sex than I am."

But everyone agrees that this trend is going to stay strong for a while. The lesson I gleaned from the article? Find the next unique dead thing ... and they will come!

Among the PW reviews were some new names as well as some familiar:

Under Fiction - Karen Rose's Kill For Me (Grand Central; Feb.) - "Rose juggles a large cast, a huge body count and a complex plot with terrifying ease." The Nightingale, debut title from Morgana Gallaway (Kensington) "is a politically inspired romance set in contemporary Iraq." (Feb); St. Martin's Press is releasing Eric Spindler's Breakneck (Jan) but PW finds that "Spindler strays from her comfort zone." Lutishia Lovely's A Preacher's Passion (Kensington/Dafina; Jan) gets this kudo, "Amen to Lovely's hilarious follow-up to Love Like Hallelujah"

Mass Market reviewed The Witch's Grave by Shirley Damsgaard in her supernatural series (Jan), finding a "rather disjointed plot"; The Accidental Sorcerer: Rogue Agent, Book One, K. E. (Karen) Mills (Orbit; Jan) - "Miller's whimsical prose keeps the plot jumping and the readers laughing." And Lone Star Woman by Sadie Callahan - who is really Texas author Jeffrey McClanahan (Signet Eclipse; Jan) gets a great review. PW calls the title "as sizzling romance" and of the author's talent says, "...multifaceted character development, swift pacing and sensuous love scenes set this western romance well above its contemporaries." An impressive review for a male-penned romance offering.

And speaking of the YA paranormal trend, under Children's Fiction - Bones of Faerie by Jannie Lee Simner (Random) earns the debut author "the plotting is strong". Melissa Marr, already established in the YA field, enters into a compilation with other authors in the collection of five original stories - Love Is Hell (HarperTeen; Dec). PW says "consistently supple storytelling will lure readers through all five entries".

PW has 5 romance titles on the harcover list and 9 on the mass market. Romance is still strong, in all its permutations!

The Soapbox endpiece that wraps up the issue is a pithy essay by Stephen Barbara, literary agent and contracts director at Donald Maass Agency, who laments the well-honed query letters that now proliferate, following years of workshops and courses for authors on how to pen them. His problem? "Time was, bad writers wrote bad query letters." He now finds himself sucked into reading a submission with a great query letter, only to discover a dreary to dreadful submission. He concludes, "Nowadays...I figure that my goal is to discover great talent, not run a writer through some Draconian test of his or her ability to follow arcane query-writing guidelines." In other words, to paraphrase the Bard - the book's the thing!

Writer's Digest's Writer's Yearbook 2009 is out and is packed with lots of great intel, including an article (sorry, Mr. Barbara) on how to write (you guessed it) great query letters. This magazine is well worth the cover price of $5.99 for other articles on what agent's hate to find in a first chapter; strategies and advice for quick pitches at conferences; publishing your first book after 50 (which includes an inspiring story of Bangladeshi author, Nirad Chauduri, whose first book was published in 1951 at age 54. His second in 1988 at 90. His third? 1997 - aged 100); the year's wrap-up of the state of the e-book; anatomy of a writer's website; and the piece de resistance of the Yearbook, the wrap-up of 101 Best Websites for Writers.

This year these include selections under General Resources, Creativity, Publishing Resources (check out and,Writing Groups and Communities (, Agent blogs (including the Lori Parker blog I mentioned in an earlier post, as well as, Legal and Business Advice (;, and, Fun Stuff ( and Several Genres (erotica -; horror -; and romance -;

And for anyone looking to broaden their horizons:

For folk in the NYC area, PACE University offers a graduate degree, Master of Science publishing program.

The London Book Fair iwill be held on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, if you happen to be in jolly Old England.

There's the Tools of Change for Publishing TOC Conference, Feb. 9-11, 2009 in New York City.

AND, the big BEA, BookExpo America is also back in the Big Apple, May 28-31st, 2009, at the Jacob Javits Center.

More deals, dealmakers, agent profiles and good stuff to come tomorrow.

Til then, say a prayer, and buy a book.

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