Friday, January 05, 2007

Folio's Kleinman Discusses
Finn, First Impressions

It’s impossible to get that first novel published.

At least, it seems that way. Of course, some how, some way, a select few manage to get it done. Elizabeth Kostova broke records when her debut novel, The Historian, was picked up by Little, Brown. A few posts back on this very blog, I interviewed Jon Clinch, whose first novel, Finn, will come out with Random House in February.

Clinch’s agent is Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, so I decided to touch base with Mr. Kleinman to see what first attracted him to Clinch’s novel and to garner some advice for first-time authors on how to overcome the obstacles.

While Folio is just about a year old, Kleinman and his founding partners, Paige Wheeler and Scott Hoffman, are all veterans of the publishing industry. Kleinman was with the Graybill and English Literary Agency before starting Folio.

While putting together the Finn post, I visited Folio’s website at The site contains a step-by-step guide to getting published here: I encourage everyone to check it out. As part of the guide, Folio encourages novelists to seek recognition for their work prior to submitting it. Now, they’re really talking about getting short stories published in magazines and submitting for awards that recognize unpublished work, might racking up some awards and some sales via a Print-On-Demand effort help establish an author’s track record as well? I decided to ask:

Step 1B for fiction says "Publish! Win awards, grants. Try to give the appearance of a writer whose career is really taking off. Bottom line, though: the book, and the writing, must stand on its own. If the book's fabulous enough, you don't need any further credentials."

I assume you’re talking about publishing short stories in literary magazines and the like, but does an award-winning (IPPYs, Foreword magazine for instance) POD book fit into this category as well?

It may, but the problem with POD and self-publishing is that it hasn't been validated by a third-party. So "award-winning" is great, as are great sales figures. You need to give the impression that *other* people are as excited about your work as you are.

My partner, Paige, gets a number of newly published authors who have written smaller books and are looking to ramp up their career. Some of these books have won awards. Also, a number of genres sponsor awards for unpublished authors and we look at those as well--it shows the author is really committed to writing, learning the craft and getting publicity.

What is your impression if an author first publishes his or her work with a POD company (iUniverse, Booksurge, Authorhouse, Lulu)?
If you self-publish your book, then you'll get your own ISBN - which will allow everyone to track how the book is selling. This may make selling the book to a traditional publisher more difficult if the book doesn't do that well; and the sales of that first book may reflect on the publishing chances for subsequent books. So if you publish the book yourself, then you may need to demonstrate that you have the wherewithal to market and sell the book successfully, too - which can be an uphill battle.

Then again, if the book is truly *terrific*, agents and editors will certainly fight for the chance to work on it - so on some level it always boils down to the book itself.

Do you get a lot of queries from self-published authors? Have you ever agreed to represent one and, if so, what type of success did you have with it?
I do get a lot - probably 20 or 30 a week. I've never represented one, though, although other people at my agency did, and did great with them - so it certainly *can* work.

My partner, Scott Hoffman, told me, "I'd say that the majority of queries we get from people whose books have been printed have worked with POD publishers, rather than self-publishing. The only authors I've signed who self-published were John Baur and Mark Summers, the authors of PIRATTITUDE: So You Want to Be a Pirate? Here's How! The book is doing fabulously, and is in its 5th printing since publication last September. I'd say maybe 3-5% of the queries I get are from authors whose books have been in print before. Occasionally, publishers have to see that there's a real market for a book before they'll take a chance on it themselves."

Paige has taken on a few – she handles a lot of genre books, and many genre authors decide to go the self-publishing route as they learn their craft. She represented Kate Wendleton, for example, and sold a five book "career series" for her.

Do sales figures for a self-published book carry any weight as far as whether you would represent it or not?
Yes, to some extent, see above. But we’re all really looking for great writing and are willing to try to get around poor sales figures if we fall in love with an author's work. Conversely, if an author has terrific sales numbers, that will definitely grab our attention.

What impact, if any, has POD made on your business?
I think POD has had virtually no effect on our business, but it's been successful for authors whose books are commercial, but appeal to a fairly limited or specialized audience.

Moving away from the POD questions, how did you discover Jon Clinch and Finn? What attracted you most to the book? What do you look for from a first-time novelist?
Jon was a referral from another client of mine, who runs Backspace, a fabulous writers’ website. She emailed me and told me that the site was “buzzing” about the opening pages of Jon’s novel, which he’d posted online. I read the first few pages on my TREO phone, sitting in the middle of a conference (OK, it wasn’t that exciting a conference), and emailed him immediately, asking for the rest. He hadn’t written the rest, but he emailed me what he’d done. I read the material immediately and sent him a retainer agreement within seconds – and then sat around biting my nails waiting for him to sign it.

The novel starts out with a bang: not only a gorgeous, surprising opening, but a wonderful, unique voice and an unstoppable premise, and characters that were familiar and new all at the same time. What attracted me most about the book? No clue. I think it was all of those things, wrapped into one luscious package, that had me on pins and needles from the get-go.

From a first-time novelist I guess I’m looking for precisely what Jon delivered: great writing, fabulous premise, dazzling characters, and a wonderful, wonderful read.

What other upcoming releases are you most excited about?
Brendon Burchard's Life's Golden Ticket is going to be Harper SF's biggest new author release. It's already broken records for 1st novel advances in several territories (with sales in 16 countries), and Harper's planning a HUGE first printing and a big author tour.

Also, Brent Ghelfi's Volk's Game is going to be Holt's biggest novel of the summer, with a 10 city author tour, a big british and german sales, and lots and lots of potential for a debut novel.

Pam Jenoff's The Kommandant's Girl is also generating tons of buzz, with starred reviews all over the place.

We have a number of mystery series that have taken off--Casey Daniels’ second book, following Don of the Dead, called The Chick and the Dead will be out in March.

Kate Kingsury, who has been on the Independent Mystery Bestseller list for the month of December with Slay Bells, will have another mystery out next Christmas.

USA Today bestselling author Julianne MacLean will have her next book, Surrender to a Scoundrel, out this January and it has already garnered fabulous reviews.

Charles Shields’ New York Times bestseller Mockingbird comes out in paperback in June.

Finn expands or elaborates on an established storyline. Anything in particular that attracts you to this type of material either as an agent or as a reader?
It’s certainly an area that interests me, as a reader. I love the idea of taking a familiar setting or characters and going somewhere new and special with them – giving me a new perspective not just on the new work, but on the original work, as well.

I stumbled across this post from UK author Christopher G. Moore about how his novel, Chairs (Heaven Lake Press, 2000), received a recent sales boost when You Suck, the latest novel from Christopher Moore (my favorite author) became available for pre-order.
Makes one seriously consider choosing a pen name like Jack Evanovich or something.
Riding the coat tails of a bigger name is an excellent way to get noticed and generate sales. My very brief study of Amazon's Buy X, Get Y program led me to conclude that it will sell books, but will it be enough to cover the cost of the program? To link your book to a Top 250 seller is $750 for a month, while a book outside the Top 250 goes for $500. Here's a link from iUniverse about the program and another one from BookSurge (an Amazon company). BookSurge quotes a price of $1000 for the program, but I think that includes an administrative fee if BookSurge sets it up for one of their authors.
Bottom line—you have to sell a lot of books in a month to cover the cost of the program.

The Vampire of Venice Beach, the latest from former iUniverse author Jennifer Colt, is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The book will be released March 27, 2007.
Colt published her first two books, The Butcher of Beverly Hills and The Mangler of Malibu Canyon, with iUniverse. Those books, along with Vampire, were picked up by Broadway Books.
Colt has an interesting article on her website about how the cover design evolved from her own Microsoft Word-generated efforts that she submitted to iUniverse to the splashy neon colors of the Broadway editions.


Anonymous Sean Ferrell said...

Actually, the iUniverse page describes the pricing as $750 for a pairing with a book in the top *250*, not the top 50 as you have in your post.

January 11, 2007 at 10:24 AM  

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