Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Third Publishing Type--Traditional

by Kaye George

I've blogged a bit on small-press publication and on self-publishing. I'm pumped that I can also, as of very recently, blog with some knowledge of traditional publishing.

I have the great good fortune to call Kim Lionetti, of BookEnds Literary, my agent. Kim and this agency have a long, successful track record in the field of cozy mysteries, many of them with Berkley Prime Crime. There's more than one study saying that most mystery readers are women over fifty or so. Whatever the demographic, Berkley has it nailed and there are thousands of loyal cozy readers who snap up dozens of the books as soon as they hit the book shelf, or the Amazon screen.

It's possible I'll do a mystery or two or three through Kim that will be my own idea and written under my own name. For now, however, I have a deal (not actually a signed and counter-signed contract, because that world moves very slowly) to write three books as a Work For Hire.

If you're unfamiliar with that term, you're not alone. Many, but not all, cozies are written under this arrangement. With a WFH, I am given a file, called a bible, that gives me the main part of an idea for a series thought up by a Berkley editor. This bible file contains 4 or 5 main characters, their names and roles, and maybe a brief description. I'm also given the beginning of the plot, but by no means the whole synopsis. Included are very brief sketches of ideas for books 2 and 3 in the series.

(In case you're thinking WFH is easy to get, be assured you must have a completed manuscript to snag the agent first, then audition for a WFH with a proposal, as below, for a project that will probably not get published. That process took me over ten years.)

After I was given the bible (this was before I nailed the deal), I wrote a proposal, which was the first three chapters and a detailed synopsis for the idea. I'll tell you briefly that the series will be the FAT CAT mystery series and will feature Quincy, an adorable but pudgy cat on a diet. Seeking to fill his little tummy, he gets loose from his mistress, Chase Oliver, who is part owner of Bar None, a dessert bar shop in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis. In his travels he uncovers dead bodies and clues, putting Chase in danger of being arrested. (I was given Minneapolis, and chose Dinkytown for the setting.)

To be decided are the book titles and my name, as the author (hence the unfinished contract at this point). The publisher will own all the rights, including plot, characters, and author name. There used to be a restriction on revealing who the WFH author really was, but that's removed and everyone will know it's me.

This is a great way to get a foot inside the door of traditional, agented authorship. I didn't have to think up an idea the publisher might like--the idea is already there. I just had to write something they liked and want to publish. It takes half the doubt away. I'm looking forward to this whole process and seeing how the big kids do it.


Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Congratulation, Kaye. I have written some nonfiction WFH books, and it can be a good option, depending on what a writer (and publisher) wants to get out of the experience. Write on!

Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Great post, Kaye. Fascinating process. What you didn't explain was how this whole process with the agent started.

What I'm curious about is how this all even came about with the agent. Did you approach her with the idea of a WFH? With the concept?

Morgan Mandel said...

Goes to show that no matter what you do, an author's life isn't all roses. It takes work and perseverance.

Morgan Mandel

Kaye George said...

Sorry to be so late responding--I was stuck in Travel Hell, took 24 hours for two shorts flights. Ugh.

Thanks, Sheila and Morgan. Sylvia, the whole process has been going on for a few years. I've been submitting stuff to BookEnds and occasionally getting good feedback, but no contract. As I said, you must begin by submitting completed manuscripts to the agents there. If they like what they see they will eventually give you the opportunity to write a proposal which they may or may not accept. That can lead to an opportunity to audition on their behalf for a WFH project from a publisher. Years, lots of writing, and persistence--that's the process. A WFH concept always comes from the publisher, but I've submitted several of my own ideas to try getting my foot inside this very narrow door.

Earl Staggs said...

Kaye, sounds like a great opportunity to move to a higher rung on the ladder. I wish you all the best.

Kaye George said...

I'm hoping for some cred from this, Earl--thanks! Also, the Fat Cat series is very fun so far!