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Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2008 22:31:56 +0000
Subject: The Whole World

The book’s genre, in case you didn’t know, is “literary/mystery” (or, in
the UK, “literary/crime”). I’ve got a new capsule description finished.
Here goes:

“American students Polly and Liv are giddy over the accents and
architecture of Cambridge University. They both fall for the same
charming graduate student.

Then he disappears.

Told through six narrators whose personal obsessions limit what each of
them sees, The Whole World is the story of the desperation and malice
that take them by surprise while they’re all looking elsewhere.”

The sale to *Bantam Dell* (Random House) was exciting! The editor, *Kate
Miciak*, talked to me early in the morning (New York time) to feel me
out, and by the close of business that day the deal was done. That’s
*very* fast for an offer. The main points are that it’s a two-book deal,
for hardcover, with a planned pub date of summer 2009 (and summer 2010
for the next book).

Kate’s a very senior editor, and it’s an honor that she’ll be editing
The Whole World personally, rather than handing it off to an assistant.
She launched Elizabeth George’s career way back when, and has even
worked with Ruth Rendell!

Here is the general Bantam Dell link:
(nothing specific about me there, just a chance to look around and see
what else they publish)

The announcement in Publishers Weekly is here:
(scroll down to “debut pre-empts”)

The announcement in Publishers Marketplace is here:
(look under “recent sales for Cameron Mcclure”)

The actual contract will be signed in April or May. But the deal is
considered done once all points that will be in the contract have been
verbally agreed. That was back on February 28th. Then I had to wait 11
days, for the announcement in Publishers Weekly, before I could run
around telling everyone 🙂


Many of you have already visited my *website*:
It has a short excerpt and some nice Cambridge photos.

There’s not much I can add until I get cover art, reviews, etc. But I’d
love to know what you as a visitor wish it would have. Any comments
about it are welcome.

Also, please let me know if it looks weird and, if so, what browser
you’re using.


My agent, Cameron McClure (at Donald Maass) used to be a sub-rights
specialist, which is great since she’s now aggressively pursuing
*foreign rights* for The Whole World. What that means is that Bantam has
bought the rights to North America; everything else we can still sell.
At this time it’s on submission with about half a dozen UK publishers
and about half a dozen German publishers. Here’s hoping!

(Selling sub-rights is a delicate stage, and Cameron has asked that the
kind of info I’m sharing here not be posted on the web, by the way.)


Speaking of my lovely agent, this is their website:

*Donald Maass*, the head of the agency, is a real legend in New York
publishing. He’s a bit like Simon Cowell: blunt, direct, and the person
who’s opinion you respect most when the others are being too gentle.
He’s written two wonderful “how to” books: The Career Novelist and
Writing the Breakout Novel. You can find them on Amazon if you’re

My agent is *Cameron McClure*. An interview about how I got her for my
agent is here:

I got to have lunch with her in New York, shortly after I signed with
the agency. She took me to what was supposed to be an unpretentious,
almost casual restaurant, but gosh it was gorgeous! The sink in the
ladies room was filled with smooth, beautiful river stones. We got
appetizers *and* dessert on top of lunch, and I felt very decadent.


I’ll get the chance to feel decadent again in early April, at the
*London Book Fair*.

I get to have lunch with Cameron (my US agent) and Kate (my Bantam
editor), and dinner with Cameron and Meg (Meg is my UK agent). I’ve
already bought new clothes, and scheduled a haircut and manicure. (My
plan is to have Gavin take some pictures of me before I hop on the
train–I need a good author photo for publicity. Unfortunately, I’m
still wearing braces! So no open-mouth smiles for me, not until end of


That’s pretty much it for the moment. When Kate tells me what
*revisions* she’d like (we’ve discussed this broadly, but she needs to
get specific), they will immediately become top priority. My book
doesn’t get officially on Bantam’s schedule until those revisions are
handed in and accepted. (No, they don’t have the option of canceling the
deal or anything–they just want it to be perfectly ready before
launching it, as do I!)

Meanwhile, the *second book* is always on my mind. I’m a quarter-way
through the first draft, and have paused to do some more outlining. I’m
really happy with it so far, and my plan is to have it completely
finished by Christmas, well ahead of my deadline of October next year.




PS–I was asked some good questions after my announcement, so here is a
detailed description of the process so far, *for the curious*. (By the
way, please don’t post any of the info in this email onto the web. My
agent and editor prefer such details to be opaque while foreign rights
are being negotiated.)

The first step was to write and revise the book. A novel has to be
completely finished and polished before querying any agents. I did this
from about September 2006 through June 2007.

Then came querying agents. While there are some small publishers who
accept manuscripts direct from writers, most big houses don’t. So you
have to get an agent first, who will then submit your manuscript for you.

Getting an agent is very hard. It’s not enough to have a good book; you
have to have a good book that happens to really connect with an agent.
It’s a very personal decision for an agent to take on a book and its
author. Good books get rejected. Think of yourself browsing in a
bookstore. There are plenty of books you turn down, not because you
think they’re “bad,” but because you’re not in the mood for that sort of
thing. It just isn’t for you. Well, it’s the same with agents. (And
later, with publishers.)

I started querying in July. A query is a letter with a short description
of your book. A query also includes pages, sometimes just a few,
sometimes as many as three chapters! Every agent has their own special
way they like their queries, so a lot of research is involved. I
queried, I think, about fifteen agents. I collected rejections. In
August, Cameron asked for my full manuscript. In September, she emailed
asking to schedule a phone call. That would be “the” phone call, to
offer representation. I was in Berlin at the time, with a phone that
couldn’t dial out, so I had to wait two weeks to talk to her!

After signing, I did a little bit of revision work. She had good ideas,
and I was thrilled with how well she understood the book. Then she
started sending it out. She phoned up carefully-chosen editors and
pitched the book, comparing it to Ruth Rendell and The Secret History
(both comparisons make me swoon!). Then she sent the full manuscript to
each editor. As with agents, some rejections came in. But it’s not just
the editor one has to convince. One lovely editor wanted the book quite
badly, but, despite pushing very hard, couldn’t get the publishing house
to back it. That’s why Kate’s offer coming to pass in a single day is a
big deal.

As to getting an advance, yes I got one and I’m very happy with it 🙂 I
won’t be specific, but I will say that it’s a good number for
positioning: enough that they should pay attention to marketing the
book, but not so large that “earning out” is intimidating.

(Quick glossary: “Royalties” are a small percentage from the sale of
each book. An “advance” is royalties paid, well, in advance. After that
is “earned out”, you collect further royalties. For mathematical
simplicity, let’s say your royalty rate was such that you were going to
receive 2 dollars from every book sold. If you were given an advance of
$2000, you wouldn’t receive any further money until after you’ve sold a
thousand books. That’s “earning out”, selling the number of books it
would take to earn the royalties that you were paid in advance. Earning
out is the definition of success in-house. Someone with a small advance
who earns out by selling 10,000 books is more successful than someone
with a large advance who sells twice as many books but fails to earn
out. Failing to earn out can badly damage a career.)

As to why there’s more than a year between making the deal and seeing
the book on shelves:

First, there are revisions, worked out between me and Kate. It’s all
about making the book just right. My deadline for the book being
ready-to-go is October, and I hope to have it ready well before then.
Then it will be time for: cover art, blurb gathering (blurbs are
compliments from other authors that can be slathered all over the book
jacket :-), and developing a marketing plan. If the marketing department
is excited about the book, you can get things like co-op, which is
placement at the front of the chain bookstores. Yes, publishers pay for
those front-table spots. Getting that is a very big deal. I have no idea
if I will or not, but it’s something to hope for.

Then ARCs are printed. These “Advance Reader Copies” are bound paperback
copies of the book sent in advance to reviewers and booksellers. All
this has to happen months in advance so that the launch is coordinated
with reviews and big bookstore orders. The first few weeks of a book’s
life are crucial, so this perfect storm of being well in stock and
well-reviewed should happen coincident with launch. Setting all that up
is much of what the timeframe is all about.

Why a summer release? Because people buy lots of books in summer. They
also buy lots of books in fall, but that’s when most of the returning
blockbuster authors launch their latests–it’s easy for a debut book to
get lost then!

Will I do a book tour? I have no idea. That’s a marketing decision that
I won’t know until maybe this time next year. Fewer and fewer authors
are being toured nowadays; things like co-op are MUCH more important to
selling books. So, not getting a tour doesn’t necessarily mean that
marketing doesn’t love me. It’s just not happening as much as it used
to. Still, I plan to tour myself to bookstores in my old hometowns, or
anywhere that particularly wants me.

There! Now you know most of what I know about publishing 🙂 If you have
any more questions, just ask!


From “Envoy” by Billy Collins, a message to his just-published book:

"stay out as late as you like,
don't bother to call or write,
and talk to as many strangers as you can."