About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Boskone 55 - My Schedule

Pasting below my full schedule for Boskone 55, which will be taking place at Boston's Westin Waterfront Hotel from 16-18 February.  Hope to see you there!

If you're spending all of your time hanging out at big comic book and media conventions, and you have any ambition to be a published writer, I'd strongly suggest  you do a re-think some, and look a lot more closely at attending some of the conventions like Boskone that have been part of the science fiction and fantasy community for several decades.  In a convention center full of tens of thousands of people, I'm awfully hard to find.  At Boskone, it's a great opportunity to find and spend quality time with the editors, agents and most especially the authors that can help you to achieve your dreams.  In 2018, Boskone will have half a dozen of our clients attending, and some of them clients as a direct result of my meeting with them at Boskone or another sf/fantasy convention like it.

clients in attendance:
Dan Moren - author of The Caledonian Gambit.  First met him at Boskone.
Auston Habershaw - series with Harper Voyager Impulse. First met him in Boston, and the Boskone trip forced me to get his letter out of my in-box.
Suzanne Palmer - author of Finder, forthcoming from DAW, and first met her at a convention in Boston.
Gregory Scott Katsoulis - author of All Rights Reserved.
Erin Underwood - have a proposal from her on submission, first met her at Boskone.
Toni L. P. Kelner a/k/a Leigh Perry - author of the Family Skeleton mysteries.

Most of them will have their own schedules for Boskone available on their individual websites, and you can find a text view of the entire schedule here.

And as I type this, I'm on submission with a debut fantasy by Nick Martell, whom I saw in 2017 at both Boskone and Balticon.  Without my having met him at two conventions last year, his amazing novel might still be hiding away on my iPad.

You'll get to see me on a few panels at Boskone, including one that also includes literary agent Barry Goldblatt, who is especially well known for his great list of YA authors.  I'll often be hanging out in the hotel lobby or in the dealer's room.  And for some real quality time, sign up for my Kaffeeklatsch, which will be just me and no more than ten or twelve people for an hour of conversation.

Can't wait to be at Boskone.  See you soon!

What Good Is an Agent?

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 18:00 - 19:00, Marina 3 (Westin)
Everybody wants an agent — but why? What's the big deal? Sure they can help you make contacts with publishers, but is that their only purpose? What else can or should an agent do for you? How do you know when your agent isn't really working out? How do you transition between agents without burning bridges?
Erin M. Hartshorn (M), Joshua Bilmes, Barry Goldblatt, Richard Shealy, Hillary Monahan

Soup to Nuts: The Life Cycle of a Book

Format: Panel
17 Feb 2018, Saturday 21:00 - 22:00, Marina 3 (Westin)
What is the life cycle of a book, from completion to publication? Our panel of agents, editors, and authors share advice on everything from querying an agent or an editor to dealing with revision requests, reviewing the contract, maintaining the relationship between editor and agent, and more.
Joshua Bilmes, Richard Shealy, Pete Hollmer, Susan Jane Bigelow, J. Kathleen Cheney

Kaffeeklatsch: Joshua Bilmes

Format: Kaffeeklatsch
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 10:00 - 11:00, Galleria - Con Suite (Westin)
Joshua Bilmes

Marketing Uphill

Format: Panel
18 Feb 2018, Sunday 11:00 - 12:00, Harbor II (Westin)
Sometimes marketing for writers feels like walking uphill to school barefoot in the snow. Does it ever get easier? At what point is enough enough for you and your social network? What about live events? How much should you invest, and how do you measure the return? Our panelists share their experiences and tips for managing your marketing.
Alexander Jablokov (M), Melanie Meadors, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert, Joshua Bilmes, Craig Miller 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Jumping at the Chance

When we’re interviewing for new staff, we’re often talking to people who are currently working at a publishing company, and we’ll often ask why they’re looking to move to an agency. The most common response is a variation of: “I realized that I want to work on the books I like, and at the publishing company, I’m having to work on books the publisher can publish.”

And for me, I don’t think that’s ever been truer than in our work on Gil Griffin’s JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, a wonderful fish-out-of-water story about fish swimming very very far from America’s coastal waters.

Twenty years ago, I was like many Americans.  Australian Rules Football was this weird thing you heard about, mostly as a strange joke about the strange things you’ll find watching TV in the middle of the night.  Then, in 1999, I went to Australia for the first time, and I went to see this strange thing for myself.

Well, let’s just say I was mesmerized.  I sat in the Melbourne Cricket Ground and watched a Kangaroos game, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

It was, yes, a little bit strange, but it was strange in the way of some wonderful Baskin Robbins flavor, taking a chunk of this sport and a ribbon of that sport and a base of a third, and then it all comes together and it tastes wonderful. It was kind of like soccer, because people couldn't throw the ball but rather had to dribble, pass like a volleyball dig, or kick, which is kind of being like three sports act once. It was kind of like US football with big goalposts to kick through. It was kind of like a clean-skated game of hockey because it was free-flowing and free-form.  I could hardly pick up every little quirk of the rules, but the basics emerged easily enough, even from well up in the stands with no native guide.

And like a Baskin Robbins flavor you really like, and which goes away at the end of the month, I was eager for some future opportunity to taste footy.  When I got that opportunity on my second trip to Australia in 2010, it was just as enjoyable to go to the MCG and take in a footy game.

Subsequent to my 2010 trip to Australia, I discovered you could still find the occasional footy game on ESPN 2 (and now on Fox Sports networks)  As I got to watch more and learn more about the game and the teams and the history…  Soon enough I’m DVRing whatever game is on my cable package, watching all of them, hanging out at The Australian at 1am on a September Saturday to watch the Grand Final, as the AFL’s Super Bowl is known.

Twenty years ago, it was this strange thing, and now it and tennis are my two favorite sports.

Stranger than Australian Rules Football is the fact that Brandon Sanderson’s Tor editor, Moshe Feder, is also an AFL fan, a bigger one, one for longer, much more passionate than I, and one day, two-and-a-half years ago, knowing of my kindred interest in AFL, he sent me a link to this wonderful article by Gil Griffin on US NCAA basketball players looking to make their way into the AFL.

And after I read the article, I knew this needed to be a book.  I had no idea where or how I would sell such a book, because major publishers in the US prefer to buy books about baseball and football, golf and tennis, and other sports better known in the US.  But that wasn’t going to stop me.  Because I’m an agent, and I get to work with the books I want to work with.

So I reached out to Gil Griffin. He was game to give it a try. We worked up a full proposal, and we sent it out to all the sports publishers in the US, and of course, we came up snake eyes. But as Australia is part of the British Commonwealth, we also reached out to our friends at the Zeno Agency in London. Maybe a British publisher that better knew the Australian markets would end up buying the book.  And that didn’t happen.

But John Wordsworth, who had just come over to the Zeno Agency from working at the British publishing house Headline, somehow knew the right person who knew somebody, hooked up the proposal with Nero Publishing in Australia, and by some magical process I still can’t quite believe happened, this passion project that I was never sure would find a home managed to find a pretty much perfect one.  In Australia, the book came out at just the right time in 2016, with a couple players featured in JUMPING AT THE CHANCE making their marks in the AFL.

And this year, JABberwocky is delighted to bring you the first US publication of JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, updated from last year’s Australian edition.

I am pleased as punch.  I’m still not sure what success it’s destined for in the US.  But it’s a great story that has only gotten better since I first came across it in 2015. Players from a country that knows virtually nothing about the AFL are making an impact on footy in Australia, not conjecture or hypothetically but by taking marks and kicking goals and scoring points.

And deep in my heart, I am sure that the right person is going to stumble across JUMPING AT THE CHANCE on the right day and realize what a great story this is. It’s a story we’ve seen five or fifteen times in the movies that I never, ever tire of, the story about the baseball pitchers from India pitching in the show, the story about the kids from a poor school beating the kids from the rich school, the story about the coach from another planet having the winning team with students nothing like himself.  Oh, sure, it’s set against the background of Australian Rules Football, but if Adam McKay can find a way to make complicated financial stuff understandable in “The Big Short,” we can make a movie where people understand enough about the AFL to revel in the triumphs of Jason Holmes and Mason Cox as some of the first players to emerge from the AFL’s American Experiment.  And when that happens, I’ll be happy not just because more people will buy JUMPING AT THE CHANCE, but because I’ll have succesfully shared my love and passion for footy with the world at large.

C’mon, Mate! Take the first step with me. Click on over and check out Gil Griffin’s JUMPING AT THE CHANCE.  Here's an Amazon buy link, which has just gone live, and more to come as the metadata spreads.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars: Made in America

12:23 AM: Actually, I do know what to say.  For a movie full of shots of people slowly coming into focus, it's only fitting that the Moonlight win for Best Picture was initially so cloudy.  Totally, 100% fitting. It summarizes the aesthetic of the film itself.  And, I still can't stop laughing.

12:13 AM: I have nothing more to say.  I look forward to reading about the final ten minutes of tonight's ceremony.  I don't know what to say.

12:04 AM:  And Dunaway looks spectacular.

12:03 AM:  Beatty and Dunaway.  A nice touch.  Drunaway also appeared twice in the ill-timed Rolex ad, in her role in Network.

12:01 AM:  The most special Oscars are the ones when I get to start typing an "AM" in for the live blog.

11:58 PM:  If wishes were fishes.  But while I enjoyed La La Land, I just don't really see this, even if everyone kind of said it's what would happen.

11:57 PM:  I don't want Emma Stone to win.

11:50 PM:  The Best Actor field was originally considered to be Affleck's to lose, then looked like maybe he would lose it to Denzel.  I am very happy with this win.  http://brilligblogger.blogspot.com/2017/02/ready-set-oscar.html. Very humble speech. Bottom line, I'd love to be twenty again, just so I could go to college and go to grad school and do a dissertation on Manchester by the Sea, awful use of music included.  It's a special film in so many small and wonderful ways.

11:42 PM:  No complaints here.  Damien Chazelle directed Whiplash, which was quite a fine piece of work, and followed it up with another quite a fine piece of work.  La La Land isn't my favorite of this year's movies, but it's every bit a director's vision and passion and hard work as any of the other films it was contending with.  And, yes, Whiplash was also a damn fine piece of work.  It's quite rare for a young director to start out with films like this that are critically acclaimed and genuinely accessible to a wide swath of moviegoers, that don't put me to sleep or thrive only in the rarified atmosphere of Park City.  So I'm happy.

11:38 PM:  Oh yay! Another Verizon ad.  More to the point, poor Cameron Crowe.  His Jerry Maguire is kind of like my autobiography; I screened it for my 50th birthday party, in fact.  So to see his pleasant We Built a Zoo turned into fodder for the Matt Kimmel show tonight. Sigh.  And it is a pleasant movie.  Not a great one, but a very pleasant one.

11:30 PM:  Yay! Manchester by the Sea wins for Original Screenplay. Matt Damon will now happily eat all the McRibs he's gotten over the course of the evening.  Lonergan is an excellent playwright and screenwriter, and plays like Lobby Hero are as worth seeing as Manchester by the Sea is.  He's had "History" in Hollywood, which is a little too long to discuss here (I'll add a link later), but taking home an Oscar tonight after the odyssey of Lonergan's last movie has to be sweet.  And it is such a good screenplay,

11:19 PM:  Nice to have a shout out to the teaching of arts in public schools, which has been losing ground for years due to budget cuts and teaching to tests.  But. Really.  Someone's mother let someone leave the soccer team to appear in a school musical.  The horror.  The horror.

11:17 PM:  If you weren't pegging La La Land in the Score and Song categories, you should never get to fill out an Oscar pool ballot again.  Ever, ever again.

11:15 PM:  http://variety.com/2017/film/news/fantastic-beast-first-harry-potter-oscar-1201997179/. So this was the first time that any Harry Potter movie won an Oscar for anything.  I'm not the biggest fan of the series; Azkaban is the only of the movies that I've actually liked.  But still, you think of all the technical resources poured into the movies, often by top talents in the industry like Production Designer Stuart Craig, or music for some of the film's from John Williams, and the visual effects, and etc. etc., and it's hard to believe there's always been something better every single time, until tonight.

11:08 PM:  Spoke to soon.  The purple prose of unnecessary clutter in an Oscar musical # hath returned.

11:06 PM:  Here we go again.  The #s from La La Land would be perfectly fine if it was just John Legend singing and playing piano, and instead we've got all sorts of unnecessary stuff going on in the background.  At least they appear to have exited the stage without hitting John Legend in the head, like one of the flags did in the Moana number earlier.

10:57 PM:  Because we all think of Bridges of Madison County as first choice of Meryl Streep's excellence.  But it's a surprisingly good movie, and it has Clint Eastwood, whose Sully deserved more love from Oscar than it received.

10:54 PM:  One of the best ever presentations about the Sci/Tech Oscar presentation.  And are we looking at a midnight EST closing time for the Oscar ceremony?

10:42 PM: Great Google ad.

10:41 PM:  If we do get to vote for the best Walmart short, the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg is far and away my top choice.  It was fun.

10:38 PM:  One of the biggest changes from when I was growing up -- it's so much less likely for a Best Picture to also vacuum up wins in the technical categories.  Film editing is often a very tough category with lots of worthwhile nominees, and I'm kind of pleased with Hacksaw Ridge winning in this category.  And of course, we'd all expected two hours into the ceremony that Hacksaw Ridge would have twice as many Oscars to its name as La La Land.  Mel Gibson has been a good sport about the ribbing he's taken from K├╝mmel, and why not.  If I could get a little ribbing in exchange for two Oscars for my movie, yeah, probably me too.  It remains to be seen if Matt Damon will feel like he's gotten any return on his investment in ribs.

10:25 PM:  So I'd have pegged Production Design for Fantastic Beasts, rather than Costumes.  That's why we play the game.  It is "most likely correct" that I would not have done well in an Oscar pool.  "Most likely correct."

10:18 PM:  "This is Ryan Gosling.  He's very handsome.  Don't look into his eyes."

10:01 PM:  Around and about the halfway mark, and the Sting number is a great place for a bathroom break, and for Lady Gaga.  Except it was probably too short for a bathroom break.

9:58 PM:  On Bill Paxton:  https://twitter.com/ecoevoevoeco/status/835990351278112768

9:50 PM:  And, yes, Viola Davis did win for Supporting Actress, while I was telling you about Lynn Stalmaster.  If Verizon should be calling AT&T's add, I'd like to suggest that Apple go after Samsung's.  Apple's approach to ads can use an updating, and maybe that can be a column idea for Dan Moren.  Final thought on this set of ads:  will there be some kind of toll free # or something, so that after the Best Picture, we can give an award for the Best Walmart Receipt Picture?  Even better, can they get Jeff Bezos to come up on stage to present that award?

9:44 PM:  While we head to the coronation of Viola Davis, some notes on the excellent group of honorary Oscar recipients.  Anne Coates may be best known for the "match cut" in Lawrence of Arabia and has decades of achievement as a film editor.  Same for Lynn Stalmaster, who was one of the leading casting directors, a category that has a branch in the Academy but not an Oscar to award -- making his receipt of an honorary award the only way of honoring.  For whatever reason, the first film that popped to my mind as being cast by Lynn Stalmaster was "Tootsie," and I surfed over to IMDB to see if that was in fact a correct recollection.  It was.  But I could just as easily have associated Stalmaster's name with the casting of Superman: The Movie or dozens upon dozens of other films.  And casting is so very important.  Who cast Hidden Figures?  Whomever it is, that's a hidden figure behind the success of a movie that relies heavily on the quality of its cast.  Frederick Wiseman is one of the leading documentarians of our time.  As his time has gone on, it's gotten harder and harder to love his movies if you aren't a critic because nobody's able to tell him to cut, and he distributes his own movies.  Better to go looking at a movie from decades ago like Titticut Follies than his most recent In Jackson Heights, with all due respect to the fact that I know several of the people who appear in the most recent.  But at his best, and even sometimes at his longest, he'd shed light on US institutions from hospitals to fashion to the military to prisons to schools to more.  It's hard to say you're a movie lover or cineaste of any sort whatsoever if you haven't seen something that Wiseman has directed.  Do you need me to tell you about Jackie Chan?

9:33 PM:  After having to endure two Verizon ads in just the first hour, I may cancel my FIOS service the moment the ceremony is over.  Also, I have no plans to be Disney's guest on March 17.  Maybe I will go look for a VCR tape of the animated version that I can hold up to the light because I can't play it on a VCR.

9:30 PM:  The bummer about that Arrival win -- Sully was also nominated, and Sully was a really good movie that deserved more Oscar love and which I really wish I'd gone back to see a second time, and it doesn't even get a consolation prize.  I really, really, really liked Sully.  It would be on my Ten Best for 2016, hands down.

9:28 PM:  In honor of Arrival winning, I will doze off for most of the acceptance speech, wake up near the end, and decide I woke up too soon.

9:23 PM:  That was a nice Walmart ad, which doesn't make it any less soul deadening for me to walk into a Walmart.  Also, maybe Verizon should hire a good advertising agency, like the one AT&T is using.

9:19 PM:  Lesson to writers:  do not clutter up your movie with unnecessary flourishes the way the Oscar performance of "How Far I'll Go" had those people with blue flags going back and forth in the background for not particular purpose.

9:14 PM:  Was Caroline Waterlow tearing up in the background during Ezra Klein's acceptance speech for OJ: Made in America?  And an excellent speech; dispensed with the laundry list to focus on the actual crime that underlying the movie.

9:11 PM:  As noted in my pre-Oscar blog post, I consider OJ: Made in America to be the Best Picture, the real Best Picture.  Not just the best long form documentary.  It's worth seeing.  All eight hours of it.

9:11 PM:  One of the NY Times reporters live chatting is with me -- quietly pulling for Hidden Figures to surprise us at the end of the night.

9:05 PM:  Unintended relevance.  Bill Paxton shows up in a Titanic clip in a Rolex ad.

9:03 PM:  SInce I have never wanted to buy a car, I don't understand why there are so many ads for them.

9:02 PM:  I wonder how many Oscar pool ballots have been wrecked by having Fantastic Beasts win for Costume Design?  Was that going to be a thing?  Also, we can now say with reasonable assurance that La La Land will not be tying any records for Oscars actually won.

8:53 PM:  I said to myself before the ceremony, "please, no Verizon ads with the guy holding the mic." Anything can win the awards now, it won't be more disappointing than seeing one of these crappy Verizon ads.

8:50 PM:  I'll consider this to be the award for his role in Hidden Figures.  Because when it comes to Moonlight, there were four other performances which the clips reminded me how much I enjoyed relative to the winning one.

8:45 PM:  Not bad, unless you're Matt Damon.  Working to the host's particular strengths, and doesn't seem like a monologue four other people could have given.

8:41 PM:  "We didn't see Elle, but we absolutely loved it.". Well, see it!

8:40 PM:  Jeff Bezos and I are each "JB" yet he is at the Oscars, and I am just watching it.

8:38 PM:  "Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist."

8:37 PM:  Sadly, the 230 countries that hate us is most likely correct.

8:35 PM:  Honestly, it can only go downhill from here.

8:33 PM:  Um, no idea what this has to do with the business at hand, but I will never complain if someone wants to bring Justin Timberlake into my living room.   Maybe he could host the Oscars some year.  And the people in the audience seems to be enjoying it.

8:20 PM:  I got a devil's food cheesecake and chocolate cupcake from Juniors, a German chocolate slice from Amy's Bread, and a couple cookies from Empire Cake.  Even though I've been 2:20 on the bike and elliptical today, I should maybe try not to eat all of them?

8:12 PM:  18 minutes to go.  Oscar live blog!!

Ready, Set, Oscar!

The Oscars are a little over an hour away, and I reckon I shall do that old-fashioned live blog things again, so that my thoughts do not need to be burped out 140 words at a time.

Last year, I was passionate about the MIA Oscar for Straight Outta Compton, which was a great movie that was left looking for stray drops of wine in the discarded bottles from the Oscar party.  This year the feeling's a bit different, because I'm not a big fan of Moonlight, or at least the half of it that I endured before walking out.  And Moonlight is considered a lock to win the Adapted Screenplay award, and near to a lock for Supporting Actor. And the movie didn't do it for me. My one lasting impression is of repeated overly artsy shots of people emerging in the frame out of focus and then, belatedly, does the focus puller decide to actually start pulling the people into focus.  I wasn't engaged by the story.

Moonlight isn't along in being a critical darling that I didn't cozy up to.  I wasn't engaged by Arrival. I wasn't engaged by Silence.  I wasn't engaged by 20th Century Woman.  I wasn't engaged by Rogue One.  There are lots and lots of nominations for movies that didn't engage me.  Which isn't anything new, I guess.  Remember all the nominations for Sideways?  Mostly slept through that.

And talking about movies that didn't engage me, there's also Birth of a Nation.  I wonder what would have happened if Nate Parker hadn't had trouble digging out of the imbroglio over his acquittal on rape charges many years ago.  There's a long, long history of movies that everyone loves amidst the snowy slopes of Park City that aren't near as beloved by the time they finally make their way to movie theatres.  There's an excellent chance that a Birth of a Nation might have been another Happy Texas, a Sundance darling from some twenty years ago with a 54% viewer score on Rotten Tomatoes.  There's been so many movies on the subject that have been so much better than Birth of a Nation, including the quite recent Twelve Years a Slave.  And Roots.  What would my Twitter feed have looked like if Birth of a Nation had come and gone and faded without Nate Parker helping it along?

Also caught up in the Birth of a Nation imbroglio:  Casey Affleck, the Best Actor nominee for Manchester by the Sea, who settled civil suits about workplace sexual harrassment.  Have read articles in LA Times and elsewhere speculating if the two deserve to be treated differently.  So much about the movies to unpack that has nothing to do with the movies themselves, but hasn't it always been thus.

With the exception of Captain Fantastic, I've seen pretty much every nominated everything. There was Moonlight, which I made a point of seeing as part of a multiplex double features, but there were few movies making it to the final ballot which I avoided seeing at all because I just knew what I'd be getting myself into.

I guess La La Land will win Best Picture.  Which I guess I won't complain about.  But sitting here thinking on it, I'd love to see Hidden Figures surprise all of us.  I liked it more than most of the other Best Picture contenders, maybe even more than La La Land.  I didn't like it as much as Manchester by the Sea, but I can't support Manchester because the use of music in the movie is appallingly bad.  And Hidden Figures is so quietly good.  So it's not 100% true, because the Kevin Costner character didn't actually exist, and there weren't segregated bathrooms for one of the lead characters in the movie to use.  But it's so quietly good that you can miss how well it's made.  Start with good casting.  Add one under-appreciated director because he gets out of the way of his good cast.  This is so totally NOT what Barry Jenkins was doing in Moonlight.  If I have to take sides in today's political climate, I'd rather root on Hidden Figures as a good movie and rebuttal to the current regime.

Best Actor is supposed to come down to Denzel Washington for Fences or Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea.  I am unreservedly in Team Affleck for this.  I like Denzel Washington a lot, but the quiet unshowy control of Affleck's performance in every frame of Manchester by the Sea, the layers upon layers of hidden story, did more for me.  Fences doesn't give enough for Denzel Washington to work with.  Everything is anticipated.  The infidelity can be seen from 1:45 away when the character is praised for being so faithful.

Isabelle Huppert?  Her performance in Elle is an acting class that can be dissected and debated and admired for many more hours than the movie itself.  The movie doesn't exist without her performance.

How do you give La La Land a dozen Oscars when even a bad movie like Silence has stunning cinematography, when there's a Jackie to contend with in Costume Design, a Fantastic Beasts for Production Design, a film like Hell or High Water that relies on editing to find its own rhythm?

I keep meaning to sit down and memorialize my own Ten Best list for 2016, but there's just the one Oscar day when I actually sit down to talk about movies.  But it's reasonably safe to say that Hacksaw Ridge, He'll or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land and Manchester by the Sea would have pretty good odds of making the list.

But of course, it's a typical Oscar year, and the Best Picture of the year may well be one that isn't in the running.

And that's OJ: Made in America.

Which I hope will win for Best Documentary.

But I think is, far and away, the best, most urgent, most relevant piece of filmmaking to come out in 2016.

So there's this really famous guy, and there are a lot of people who are going to stand by their man no matter what.  Donald Trump said, likely correctly, that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.  OJ probably did worse than shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.  OJ: Made in Amerca makes sure we know that.  Gruesome, bloody, hard-to-view pictures of the crime scene, of the blood and gore, are not lacking. If you're trying to understand Donald J. Trump, it may not be possible to do so without understanding Orenthal J. Simpson.  And if you're trying to understand Simpson, I don't think it's possible to do better than Made in America.

I could go on for such a long time talking about OJ: Made in America viewer end through the prism of a 2016 election that could never have been anticipated when Ezra Klein started in on his documentary.  But the "shoot someone in middle of 5th Avenue/brutally killed two people in Brentwood" is such a distillation that I'm not sure another 3800 words in my blog post could add to what the one comparison does to start the gears turning.  And however your gears start to turn, this brilliant near-to-eight hours of documentary filmmaking will probably anticipate and react to.

In an ideal world, perhaps there could be a tie between the Made in America and the flawed but powerful 13th from Ana DuVernay, which is kind of like the essential appendix or exhibit attached by hyperlink to Ezra Klein's movie.

So 20 minutes until the festivities begin.  Catch you at the Oscars.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Boston Me Party!

I'm always excited to be at Boskone.  I wouldn't have my current life if not for getting sample copies of OMNI Magazine in the Boskone Dealers Room in the late 1970s, which got me hooked on sf/f and ultimate led to the current version of me.

This year is even double extra super special with a Ruby Snap cookie on top, because my client Brandon Sanderson is the Guest of Honor, and we will be doing some program items together.

List of items below, with rooms, times, descriptions, and fellow panelists.  And hopefully not the email addresses for the fellow panelists.  I have one item with my client Walter Jon Williams, will be doing a demo for the Crafty Games Mistborn: House War board game, and of particular interest, will be part of the rare opportunity to hear an author, agent and editor discuss together what makes a successful writing career, as I'm joined by Brandon Sanderson and editor Moshe Feder, who made the decision to push Tor to offer on Elantris.

The Death Star

Friday 16:00 - 17:00, Marina 2 (Westin)

*Spoiler Alert!* Destroying the Death Star, in one of the most iconic battle scenes in film history, was the Rebel Alliance's main goal, and gave our story its happy ending. A single point of weakness brought down this architectural and technological giant. Join us as we discuss the Battle of Yavin, and ultimately the defeat of the Death Star. We might even weave in a little Rogue One!
40th Anniversary: Star Wars: A New Hope

Mary Kay Kare, Deirdre Crimmins, Joshua Bilmes, Julie Holderman (M) , Brendan DuBois

Indie Pub Your Backlist

Saturday 10:00 - 11:00, Marina 2 (Westin)

Do you have old stories that were published ages ago, now lingering in drawers, gathering dust — not getting read? Independent publishers can be a great resource for letting your stories see the light of day again, and drumming up interest from new readers. We'll discuss ideas on revitalizing your backlist and finding indie publishers for your unpublished early gems.

Walter Jon Williams, Joshua Bilmes (M), Richard Shealy, Juliana Spink Mills , Craig Shaw Gardner

_Mistborn: House War_ Game Demo

Saturday 11:00 - 12:00, Harbor I - Gaming (Westin)

Game on! A semi-cooperative resource-management game, Mistborn: House War is set during the events of Mistborn: The Final Empire, the first novel in the bestselling fantasy series by Boskone Guest of Honor Brandon Sanderson. Join agent Joshua Bilmes for an early look at this exciting new board game — launching this spring!

Joshua Bilmes, Brandon Sanderson

Guest of Honor Brandon Sanderson: Building a Career

Saturday 13:00 - 14:00, Harbor III (Westin)

Even a prodigiously talented author doesn't become a success alone, or overnight. Boskone 54's Guest of Honor, Brandon Sanderson; his agent, Joshua Bilmes; and his editor, Moshe Feder, discuss how they have worked together to sculpt and craft the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, "Brandon Sanderson," that we know today. All three luminaries share their stories of navigating the shoals of the publishing world as they built friendships and careers within the speculative fiction industry.

Brandon Sanderson, Joshua Bilmes, Moshe Feder

Contracts and Talking Terms

Sunday 10:00 - 11:00, Burroughs (Westin)

Literary contracts can be tricky to navigate. We'll reveal what's behind those mysterious clauses and terms hidden in plain sight. When is a deal too good to pass up — or too good to be true? Discover what's okay to publish, learn to avoid legal landmines, and ask questions about what you most want to know.

Joshua Bilmes, Victoria Sandbrook, Kenneth Schneyer, E. C. Ambrose (M), Michael Stearns

Saturday, November 5, 2016


I haven't blogged in a while, but I thought I would do a post about my Barcelona trip, rather than 58 tweets.

Why Barcelona?

I discovered two years ago when I did the Eurocon in Dublin the week after LonCon that Eurocon isn't a great professional convention.  In Dublin, so much so that I decided to just put the bill for the whole stay as a personal expense so I could enjoy Dublin guilt free.  But, Barcelona is the heart of the Spanish publishing business, so when I saw the next Eurocon would be in Barcelona, I eyed it as a chance to see Spanish publishers on their home turf with more time to talk and learn than in the 30 minute appointments that we have in endless succession at London Book Fair.  And to visit Spanish bookstores, and with our agents for the Spanish market.  Any bar-con or schmoozing that Eurocon presented would be an add-on.  And then it turned out that Eurocon dovetailed nicely with a European tour that Brandon Sanderson had on his schedule, so we worked the itinerary that Brandon could be in Barcdlona for Eurocon, an opportunity that the convention and his publishers, Ediciones B, we're happy to take advantage of. It all worked out very nicely.

Now that I have employees and an iPad, I do a lot less personal preparation for a trip like this than I used to.  Krystyna Lopez, the head of foreign rights for the agency, was joining me, so she and her assistant Rebecca took care of slotting the publishers and arranging the schedule. I just kind of show up and go where I'm told.  I ended up buying a couple guide books a few days before the trip, but hardly looked at them.

So Krystyna and I get to Barcelona at 6:30 AM, and...

For one, the US is not a very welcoming country.  Getting into the US is an ordeal even for citizens with forms and lines and a general belief everyone is a criminal.  Getting into Spain, Italy, the U.K -- much smoother.  They put out a welcome mat, we put out a "Beware of Dog" sign.  

We decided to aim for the Aerobus. It was waiting and ready, and it wasn't yet 7AM, so why pay for a cab.  Good call. The bus runs often, gets into town quickly, had good free WiFi.   In a bit, the subway will also go out to the airport, but for now, the bus is a good choice if you've packed light and aren't too far from where the bus stops downtown.

And the four days I've had in Barcelona? I had no idea what to expect, and the first four of our seven days in the city have been amazing.

General impressions

Walking: it's both a great walking city and an awful one.  The awful last -- by the time you get the yellow signal as a pedestrian, you're already dead.  New York, it means most people can start at the yellow and have time to cross the street. Here, three quick flashes, time to cross one lane, and the cars are ready to bear down.  Almost all the intersections, the crosswalk is set back from the corner, which is fine if you're going on a diagonal route and awful if going in a straight line because every corner means adding time. Street signs are often hard to find, like London usually on the buildings, but with less consistency and visibility. And because most of the corners are rounded and the buildings set back in a circle, it's harder to see what's at any given corner, including the street sign.  Also, very few of the buildings have numbers on them.  And traffic moves. You can't jaywalk because it's rare to have cars backed up and not going anywhere.  So you detour to the crosswalk, and patiently wait for the light. Amd yet, it's also a city with lots of wide thoroughfares with pedestrian promenades and benches and bikeways.

Dining: Most restaurants have lunch hours that may not start before 13:00 and dinner hours that may begin at 20:00.  But there are also all sorts of cafes and patisseries and convenience stores and the like that are open. Meal hours are regimented, but you will rarely need to go far in the downtown areas to find someplace to get something to eat. And there is a variety of food today. This is the biggest thing for me in comparing with Paris. There, after a late movie in bustling Montparnasse, actual dining options were about non-existent, bistros that were open only for drinks after 9:30. My late night dining was from a train station vending machine.  And all the bistros had similar menus, the patisseries the same baked goods.  Barcelona, coming back from movie after midnight, I could find a few places still serving food and some 24 hour stores, even though I wasn't walking through the central part of downtown. There are some ubiquitous food items, but variety as well. And while there is no lack of paella, I can go not too far afield from my hotel and find Indian, Thai, Asian, Russian, Italian, and more.  Bottom line, I've had many dishes that I've never had at the fancy meals required by the business engagements, but also gone to a burger place, Indian, and had grab and go pizza.  I chose to come to Barcelona, which didn't require having one type of food for an entire week.


Day one, I walked down to the inner harbor area and Las Ramblas, the major tourist shopping thoroughfare, and then up to Parc Gaudie with views down on the city.  Wonderful dinner hosted by Ediciones B, the Spanish publishers for Brandon Sanderson.

Day two, publisher meetings during the day, and Brandon Sanderson signing at Gigamesh, a giant specialty shop for all things nerd, with 350+ people on line to meet Brandon.  I stayed til 9:30, then went to see a British film, Ken Loach's I Daniel Blake, on the large screen of an art house.  I don't consider any trip complete without seeing a movie!

Day three, another wonderful meal at lunch time, with the agent I've worked with in Spain for thirty years, dating to the start of my career at Scott Meredith. Preceded by publisher meetings, followed by a Brandon Sanderson signing at the major FNAC downtown, and then our taking Brandon out for dinner. Another excellent meal, location recommended by the editor of Planeta's Minotauro imprint. That signing had an attendance cap, and was lower key than the event at Gigamesh.

Day four, I took advantage of a free morning to walk around the parks near parliament, then along the actual beach, before heading inland for lunch with Aliette de Bodard, whose work we have in our ebook program via John Berlyne and Zeno Agency. Another nice meal. Then over to Eurocon to see two Q&A sessions with Brandon Sanderson. 

More I could say, but an early wake up call to day trip to Valencia to see our client Mark Hodder.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reserve, Rinse, Repeat

Here is a letter which I am sending today to the CEO of one of the major publishing conglomerates.  All authors and agents should feel free to copy and paste, put in appropriate specific details, and do the same.

Once upon a time, the reserve against returns was kind of necessary.  Books only sold in print.  All those print books were fully returnable.  Sometimes 70% of the copies were returned.

But now, books sell digitally, with very few returns on ebooks and downloadable audio.  Printed books are still fully returnable, but for a great many books, sales through channels that lend themselves to especially high return rates have dwindled.  I'm not saying reserves are entirely unnecessary.  I'm saying it's time to push back on doing things this way because they've always been done this way, accepting reserves in any quantity when they no longer serve their original and intended purpose.

There are too many business practices tilting against authors, and we can't continue to accept all of them.

Dear CEO:

I hate arguing about pennies, but I also don’t understand why publishers want to keep pennies from my authors for no reason, holding reserves on titles where none is necessary.

I’m attaching the summary page of the just-received royalty statement for [book by my client] by [client name], as the quintessential example of this.

Please notice the book earned $1750 in ebook royalties.

So how can you justify the 92 copy reserve on the trade paperback?

The trade paperback royalty per US copy is $1.20.  If the ebook royalties were to drop by half on [book by my client], [you] would still have $875 to credit to the author’s royalty account on the next royalty report.  That is a sufficient reserve to cover the return of 730 trade paperback copies. The actual returns on the trade paperback were 46 copies.  

This isn’t reasonable.  It’s time for your contracts to acknowledge that, and to renounce the right to hold reserves against returns when ebook income can reasonably be expected to cover print returns, as is clearly and abundantly the case on this royalty report, and on so many others.