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Showing posts from 2008

To MFA or not to MFA?

Image via Wikipediaby Chris StewartThere must be something in the air: this past spring and fall I mentored five of my writing workshop students through their MFA applications. So if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to find and apply for the right program for you, here are some things to think about:MONEY: The first and most important consideration. Can you afford to quit your job, move to the city/state where the graduate program you want to join is located, and either work part time or not at all? Or, if you stay local, can you quit your job or work part time? Or can you keep your day job and ask your boss if you can leave early for an afternoon class, or just take them in the evenings? If your portfolio is good enough, a school will pay part, or all, of your tuition either for one or both years (one year means you received a scholarship, which comes through nomination by a member of the faculty at the institution, or is decided by those faculty who choose the incoming class of…

Publishing Spoken Here

By Richard Curtis

Traduttore, Traditore ("The translator is a traitor") - Italian proverb

One of the critical roles literary agents play is that of translator. We perform the task on several levels. The most obvious and fundamental is explaining the nomenclature of publishing to the uninitiated author. The writer who sells his first book to a publisher and reads his first contract is plunged into a sea of words that may be totally unfamiliar to him, or that are used in a totally unfamiliar way. "Force majeure," "net proceeds," "matching option," "warranty," "discount"—these need to be defined for the novice author. There are many difficult concepts to be grasped, such as "advance sale," "midlist," "fair use," "reserve against returns," "pass-through," and "hard-soft deals." The language has its own slang, too, and our initiate hears bewildering references to who handle…

Take This Job and Shove It

By Richard Curtis

Most writers dream of leaving their day jobs (some have night jobs as well) and launching careers as full-time freelancers. In their eagerness to realize that goal, many of them quit as soon as they've made a few sales. This decision invariably turns out to be ill-advised if not catastrophic after the author discovers that he did not properly reckon the cost of independence, project the size and flow of earnings, or prepare himself psychologically. Even an author lucky enough to strike it rich on his first book should use the utmost restraint before quitting his job to become a writer. By the time he realizes he doesn't know what to write for an encore, he may have raised his lifestyle to an unsupportably high plateau.

The questions of whether and when writers should go full-time are among the most common and vexing that agents have to deal with, and if an agent ever had a notion to play God, here is his opportunity. The responsibility for this decision is awes…

Behind Publishing's Wednesday of the Long Knives

As the publishing industry reels the day after announcements of layoffs by major publishers, you can expect lots of ink to be spilled about the underlying reasons. I doubt if they will drill down to what's really at the heart of these upheavals.

I'm going to ask you to read my comments twice. When you get to the end you'll understand why.

Richard Curtis
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The American trade book industry is undergoing the most serious recession in its history, and though it has rebounded from other down cycles in the past, anyone who thinks it will return to boom times is living in a fool's paradise.

Trade book publishing has been in decline since the end of World War II. Industry boosters cite increased sales volume over that period to support the view that all is well, but much of the growth can be attributed to normal population increases and inflation. For the real story, one has but to look at the long roll call of publishers that have been forced to sell themselves…

Books into Movies

By Richard Curtis

It's often said that they're not making movies the way they used to. That's a matter of opinion (it happens to be mine), but if it's true, the decline can be attributed to the fact that they're not adapting books the way they used to. Since the golden age of filmmaking in the 1930s, the ratio of theatrical films based on books to those made from original screenplays has been steadily shifting to the latter. Today the odds that your novel will be made into a movie are distressingly low, even if your novel becomes a bestseller.

I can't believe there are fewer adaptable books today than there have been in the past. Why, then, aren't they making books into movies anymore?

One reason facetiously offered by book people is that nobody in Hollywood reads. Relying on my own experience, I'd have to say that's untrue. What is probably closer to the mark is that movie people don't have a lot of time to read, but then, neither do book people. …

Behind Publishing's Wednesday of the Long Knives

By Richard Curtis

As the publishing industry reels the day after announcements of layoffs by major publishers, you can expect lots of ink to be spilled about the underlying reasons. I doubt if they will drill down to what's really at the heart of these upheavals.

I'm going to ask you to read my comments twice. When you get to the end you'll understand why.

********************
The American trade book industry is undergoing the most serious recession in its history, and though it has rebounded from other down cycles in the past, anyone who thinks it will return to boom times is living in a fool's paradise.

Trade book publishing has been in decline since the end of World War II. Industry boosters cite increased sales volume over that period to support the view that all is well, but much of the growth can be attributed to normal population increases and inflation. For the real story, one has but to look at the long roll call of publishers that have been forced to sell themsel…

Never the Twain

By Richard Curtis

Most authors have a simplistic notion about how books are marketed and sold to the movies. Their impression is that it their literary agent, operating alone or with a Hollywood co-agent, submits a book to producers until he finds one who likes it enough to make an offer, the same way that book agents submit manuscripts to publishers. In truth the process is maddeningly complicated and confused and can daunt many otherwise sophisticated New York literary agents. And while some agents have better movie and television track records than others, none has formulated a single and satisfying solution to the challenge of efficiently finding the right producer for movie or television adaptations of books.

The film business is by no means a monolithic industry where purchases are made by only a handful of companies. Completely to the contrary, the world we know under the umbrella term "Hollywood" is kaleidoscopically fragmented. Countless producers, bankrollers, screen

Auditing Your Publisher

By Richard Curtis

Most book publishers' contracts have provisions granting authors the right to examine the books and records of their publishers under certain conditions: for example, the examination must take place on the premises of the publisher during normal business hours; no more than two audits may be conducted in any given year; an audit must be commenced within a reasonable time after the issuance of the royalty statement in question; the records on any given book shall not be examined more than once; the publisher is not required to keep records on a book for more than a certain period of time, etc.

Examinations of publishers' accounts are not a daily phenomenon and when they do occur, they are invariably conducted by authors with lucrative contracts. But the vast majority of authors has only the vaguest notion of what is involved in an audit. Perhaps we can rectify that problem here.

Harder to rectify is the somewhat bovine attitude on the part of many authors that th…