For the Record

There’s a lot of talk going around about what agents are and are not doing in light of the sudden popularity of self-publishing in digital format. Mostly, I see people blogging about things they have misunderstood, or getting their definitions mixed up. For instance, independent publishing and self-publishing are not the same. Likewise, helping your client arrange to have their book digitally published through an established entity (Amazon for Kindle, Nook, Kobo) does not make you a publisher. So, to set the record straight:

The Knight Agency is made up of agents. We are not publishers, we have no desire to become publishers. We love being agents, we love working with our clients to help them build their careers. We act as middle men between our clients and their publishers so that they can continue to do the work of writing.

In that vein, we are implementing a program that will help our clients who are interested in digital self-publication. Our program includes our taking on the prep work that an author would do to self-publish on their own: finding cover art, converting the format, securing the copyright for their work, obtaining ISBNs, etc. We are not actually publishing anything, but working with the various self-publishing programs at major e-retailers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc. We are not taking a publisher’s commission or cut, but just our standard agency rate of 15%.

This is a service we offer our clients, and only our clients, who are interested in pursuing digital publication for backlist titles that have gone out of print or were never available in digital format, and select new projects that have been unable to find a publisher through traditional methods. We hope that our efforts will allow the authors to focus on their writing instead of getting bogged down in the details of prepping a book for a self-publishing entity. Also, we believe as agents we can offer more in the way of marketing assistance and so on than an author could achieve on their own. But at the end of the day, it’s just another option for our clients.

For more, here’s Lucienne Diver’s take on our program, as well.

Further Migrations

Those of you who frequent Live Journal are most likely aware that the site has been down for the last two days and change due to ongoing DDoS attacks. Makes me very happy I chose to finally move my blog over here to WordPress.

I’m not the only one to have taken the plunge. My fellow agent (and author) Lucienne Diver has moved her agent/author blog to WordPress as well, and can now be found chatting about books and publishing here.

In addition, my client, fantasy author Helen Keeble, has moved to a new home. Her site is still a work in progress, but she has some links up to some of her amazing short fiction. Additional material–including details on her debut YA fantasy forthcoming from HarperTeen (Fall 2012), the extremely witty FANG GIRL (formerly NO SUCKER, for those of you who recall me discussing its sale)–will be coming soon. Helen’s new website is here.

On Your Neighborhood Library

Los Angeles public libraries have recently earned a reprieve; they are once again open on Mondays after months of being closed that extra day each week due to budgetary constraints. I’m hoping it lasts because, unsurprisingly, I firmly believe in the need for these institutions, places of learning and imagination and resources for so many.

I’m not much for using the library myself these days, given my little book-buying problem, plus the great backlog of manuscripts always waiting for my attention. But as a child, the library was my home away from home, especially in summer when I was not one for a structured schedule; my mother rarely sent me to camp once school let out, but rather sent me up the street to our local library branch. I lived on one end of a small park that was divided into two sections. The half closest to my home housed the softball diamonds, tennis courts, swings and a small playground, while the far section, divided from the first by a narrow road, held a pond surrounded by sweeping willows and looping paths that crossed it in several places with arching wooden bridges. Beyond that far end of the park was our local library, a sturdy two-story brick-and-stone affair with a flagpole and two white stone benches out front and a white painted cupola at the top. The first floor housed reference and adult books, both fiction and nonfiction, while the upper level was home to the children’s books and to records.

Every summer my mother would sign me up for the library’s summer reading program, and each week for eight weeks I would venture over on the assigned day and time to sit with other children my age while the librarian, Miss Bell, read on that week’s theme. Each week was something different: mysteries, foreign folk stories, adventure, biography, and so on. At the end of the hour, we would choose a book to check out from the cart reserved for that day’s group, all of them in the same genre. The idea was to read the book on your own by the following week’s meeting.

I, of course, always needed more than one book. We were only allowed one from the cart, to guarantee everyone had plenty of options to choose from, but that still left the rest of the library for me to explore. I would load up on books, as many as I could reasonably carry with me back through the park, and off I’d go. If the weather was pleasant, not too hot or humid, I would invariably stop along the way and climb up into my favorite tree to dig into my haul, unable to bring myself to wait until I reached home. Once or twice my mother came looking for me, wondering where I’d got off to when I was hours late. And the answer was always somewhere different; my body may have been in that tree, but the rest of me was in Oz, or Narnia, or Mary Poppins’s London, or the barnyard with Charlotte and Wilbur.

I suspect most devoted readers have a library story of their own, a fondness for the place that contributed to their love of books. Author Alan Bennett shares his early library memories over at the London Review of Books, and it’s interesting me to see what a different selection of books he recalls, given his upbringing in a different time and place, even as the general spirit of his memories feels comfortably familiar despite their differences.

What do you recall about your early library experiences?

Links for a Hot Summer Day

People keep telling me how horribly hot it is in different parts of the country. We’ve been in the 90s all week, but today it looks like we’re getting a bit of a reprieve. Still, for all of you who intend to stay indoors and bask in the wonders of air conditioning, I offer a few links for some entertaining reading. Enjoy!

Neil Gaiman’s Top 10 – A list of the top 10 books the author likes to read/recommend/give to people. At least until it changes.

40 Literary Terms You Should Know – Most of these you probably learned back in school, but how many do you remember? And writers, how many do you put to use?

The Writer Is Present – Daniel Nester on memoir writing.

A Page in the Life: Chris Adrian – Adrian discusses his latest book, The Great Night, which is based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, from the top of the Globe Theatre.

Writing in Provence – Author Holly Black on her summer writing retreat in France. Warning: pretty pictures may make you want to take a vacation immediately.

A Fond Farewell: Saying Goodbye to Characters We Love

It would have been a little difficult to ignore Harry Potter fever this past week leading up to today’s release of the final film in the series. Potter mania is something we’ve all grown used to over the past decade or so, and the knowledge that this would be the last time the world gathered in joint appreciation for the boy wizard and his cohorts has left many people feeling more than a little nostalgic. Certainly, I’m no exception. But for me the true goodbye took place in July of 2007, with the release of the final book.

J.K. Rowling’s world has always been about the books for me, first and foremost. Reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a farewell to the characters, to their adventures, and to the excitement that inevitably preceded the publication of each installment. By contrast, the film was a farewell to these actors we have watched grow up on screen, to little Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, now adults who have graduated from Hogwarts and the fame it afforded them, off to spread their wings in new projects and roles. It has been a pleasure watching them go from ten- and eleven-year-old child actors just finding their feet in the industry to the accomplished performers revealed in this, their last effort for the Potter franchise.

Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint
Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint (credit:

Much has been made of the unique format of this series—both books and film—in that J.K. Rowling succeeded in creating a series of books for children where the characters aged in each book (something Warner Brothers was miraculously successful in mimicking by maintaining the cast throughout all eight films). Much of our attachment to these characters comes from that structure—we feel like we really know them all. But the Potter books are not the only ones where children grow up. One has only to look to the Narnia tales—where the Pevensie children age (both forward and backward!) or Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet—with Meg and Charles Wallace Murray going from children to adults, to know that children do not always stay stagnant. It is true there are many series where children or teens appear frozen in time, but in many cases those series are ongoing and episodic, about a collection of similar, repeating adventures with no overriding arc. In fact, the open-ended series is as popular with adult readers, in particular within the mystery and urban fantasy genres. A detective or monster hunter can continue indefinitely through book after book, solving new puzzles and fighting ever-mounting evil.

So when does an author decide to call it quits? How does a writer say goodbye to the characters they love—particularly when the public adores them, too? Part of the beauty of the Harry Potter saga is that Rowling knew from the very beginning how many books she intended to write. She had the arc planned in her head, had written the epilogue for book seven long before she began the book itself, and has maintained that the adventures of Harry Potter are complete. There are rumors, as there always are, that she will give in and return to the world she has created, but would that be the right decision? The books as they stand form a complete and satisfying tale. Yes, she could write early history—delve into Dumbledore’s youthful adventures or give us more stories about the Marauders. Conversely she could push forward and follow young Albus Severus Potter through his own Hogwarts years. But what would that truly accomplish? In the end, she has told the story she planned to tell in the way she planned to tell it, and experienced unprecedented success in the process. There is much to be said for leaving off at the height of that success, rather than continuing on until interest peters out. Too many authors, especially those with open-ended series, write long past the fading of their ideas and end up ending on a sad note, with dwindling sales and/or worsening reviews.

Everything ends. That includes film franchises, television series, and beloved books. Life moves forward and, even if farewells can be a little sad, it is exciting to anticipate what new things will sprout up to replace the old. I, for one, look forward to discovering where J.K. Rowling will take us next.

Linkity Link

Happy July 12th! I’m sure it’s some sort of holiday somewhere. Plus it’s the boss lady’s birthday, so if you bump into Deidre Knight on the interwebs today, give her a virtual hug. 😉

So–new blog home. I’m liking it so far, though I’m still in the early stages of tinkering with WordPress. The reality is that I’m knee-deep in submissions and reading for clients–more so than usual–so I haven’t had as much time to play over here as I’d like. But I managed to get the RSS feed up and a few more links in the sidebar. More to come, I promise. And I really will change the banner up in the header, even if I am kind of fond of those chandeliers. The entire scope of the photo makes me feel like I should be waltzing in a wonderful gown. But I want something more publishing related, so… Maybe I’ll put up a photo of the stack of unread novels next to my bed. Er…stacks.

In the absence of enough free time to conjure a brilliant post for you all, I leave you with my favorite alternative–links. Enjoy!

Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2011 Book PreviewThe Millions on the big releases for the next six months. Actually more like eight. Not everything is here, obviously, since they’re focusing on big hardcover, literary-type works, but it’s still an interesting overview. I know my to-read list picked up a few titles.

Into the Deep – A very thought-provoking and mysterious photo by artist Lori Nix, courtesy of The Paris Review Blog. There’s a story there…

Jim Shepard on Short Stories – The writer recommends five books of short fiction he finds worthwhile, and explains why.

Guided by the Lit: Or How Two Classic Authors Became Contemporary Life Coaches – Author and Columbia professor Jenny Davidson looks at the way authors of great literature have somehow become guides to how we should live our lives, in the summer issue of BookForum.

Penguin Books UK Announces Live Chat with Copywriters – The publisher will offer up a live online chat with their staff copywriters on July 14. Could be useful for writers looking for tips on how to dream up titles or write a short book synopsis (think back cover blurbs). Keep in mind this is the UK publisher, so the chat will be London time.


A New Home

Welcome to the new home for Writing and Rambling. The spam situation at Live Journal has just gotten to be too constant and annoying, and much as I love the layout there it was not enough to tempt me to put up with the ongoing filtering issues. So, here I am over at Word Press. Thanks to everyone who posted suggestions in comments on the old blog, or who volunteered their platform experiences at the last couple of conferences I attended. You were all very helpful.

You’ll note this layout is still somewhat a work in progress. I hope to have the sidebar properly populated and a more appropriate header photo loaded shortly, but I’m still in conference-recovery mode and I felt it was more important to make the move and start blogging again than it was to make sure everything was pretty. So stay tuned for the complete transformation, and of course some real content.