This Friday: #AskAgent Live Q&A with Kristina Pérez!

This Friday, Kristina Pérez will be taking part in an #AskAgent Live Q&A! Part of the Las Musas Webinar series, Kristina will be joined by Mayra Cuevas and together they will ‘share everything you need to know about literary agents’!

Th webinar — which will take place at noon EST (5pm GMT) will discuss the following topics (among any others that arise during the Q&A):

-What makes a project publishable?
-The role of an agent
-Query letters that work
-What should be in your synopsis
-Who should I query?
-How to approach agents via cold query emails and writers’ conferences.
-Agency representation agreements
-Your questions answered!

You need to register for the event, so be sure to do so ahead of time!

JB’s Worldcon Schedule…

lone1I try to get to Worldcon wherever it is. It’s always a fascinating and rewarding experience. Aside from still being very much a fan boy at heart, it’s a chance to meet and mix with clients, colleagues, industry professionals, business contacts, new writers and folks who generally like the same geeky stuff that I like.

This year’s Worldcon – LoneStarCon 3 – is in San Antonio, Texas – my first time so far south! I’ll be doing some program items and so if you’re attending, so please come along and say hi. Here’s my schedule…

Thursday Aug 29th.
2.00pm. HOW TO OBTAIN AN AGENT. With Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky.

You’ve written something. You’re pleased with it. You’re finally ready to shop it out. You think it might get published. How do you search for an agent? How do you recognize a real agent? What pitfalls do you need to avoid?

Friday Aug 30th.
2.00pm. THE ROLE OF AN AGENT. Again, with Joshua and also Eleanor Wood of Spectrum.

What does an agent do? Do you need an agent to get published?

Friday Aug 30th.

Do you have a will? No one likes to think about making a will. But one of the components of an estate is intellectual property. Literary and artistic works fall under that rubric. Digital rights also need to be considered. The panelists will have a general discussion of these issues.

Saturday Aug 31st.11.00am. KAFFEKLATCH – a chance to sit down in a small group, drink coffee and “Ask me Anything”.

Monday 2nd Sept.
11.00am. THE FRONTIER OF IMAGINATION: THE FUTURE OF SF. A discussion of where the genre is going with experts in the field. With Tom Doherty (Tor), Ginjer Buchanan (Penguin). Toni Weisskopf (Baen) and multi award winning artist John Picacio.

Hope to see you there!

Some Thoughts Ahead of Our Submissions Window…

I know, I know…. it’s been ages and ages and ages since we last opened for submission. Months. Maybe even a couple of years!

This has not been a plot or a conspiracy against authors – rather it’s simply down to manpower.  We’re small agency – like REALLY small. We’re also a busy agency – like REALLY, REALLY busy! With only so many hours in the day, running the affairs of the incumbent client list has had to take precedence over actively extending it. We’re also kept well supplied with material from our associate agencies in the US.

It’s worth noting that most reading publishing professionals do takes place in their own time. It’d be great to spend our days loafing around on sofas reading about magic and robots, but it ain’t so, alas.  That’s how we spend our evenings and weekends!

Stuff has, of course, slipped through the net, some of it we’ve even taken on (and sold!)  – but anything that has come to our attention has done so via personal recommendation and serendipity. I’ve been to a number of conventions over the last few years – Worldcon, World Fantasy, Eastercon, Fantasycon, and one of the reasons I attend is to make myself available to writers even when we’re closed for formal approaches. This pays dividends for both agent and prospective client, so if there are conventions or gatherings you can get to where industry pros go, it can be worth your while making the effort. And they’re fun too!

We’re looking to open in mid-June (how long we’ll remain open we’ve yet to confirm). We’ll mainly be focussing on genre fiction – SF/F/H and all the permutations thereof – and mainly on the more commercial end.  We’ll offer up further refined detail on our requirements in the coming days and weeks.

One super-important thing – please, please, please read our guidelines. Actually, let me say that a bit louder – READ OUR GUIDELINES!! This is not something we say because we’re being superior or over-fussy. Rather it’s to help you give your submission the very best chance of being considered properly. There’ll be a lot of competition for our attention during that open window. Subs that ignore the guidelines will not be as high on the priority list as those that follow them to the letter.

More anon…

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Following last year’s experiment, we are once again opening submissions specifically for folks who will be attending Renovation, this year’s Worldcon being held in Reno, Nevada from the 17th to the 21st August, 2011.

John Berlyne will be attending and will also be appearing on a number of panels. Here are the relevant and *very specific criteria* for submitting. If you can’t tick ALL  these boxes, unfortunately we will not be able to to consider your work…

  • This submissions window is open *ONLY* for people who are attending Renovation. Please include your membership number in your covering email. If we don’t find you on the membership list, we won’t be able to consider your work. Telling us that you are ‘intending to attend’ won’t cut it – sorry!
  • Please follow our submission guidelines. If you are unable to follow the guidelines, we will be unable to consider your work.
  • We’re looking for all shades of  commercial genre fiction – be it SF, Fantasy or Horror or any such permutations thereof (there are many). That said,  the most important factors for us are the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.
  • You should submit ONLY if you have a finished novel-length manuscript to send, should we wish to see it. We’re not interested in reviewing your work-in-progress or the novel you’ve written a bit of.
  • Note that we reserve the right not to ask to see your work should your pitch email not appeal.

Good luck! See you in Reno!

News From Planet Eastercon…

Zeno clients triumphed at the BSFA awards, which were held at this year’s Eastercon, at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham over the Easter weekend.

First up was Aliette de Bodard, who was on hand to collect the award for Best Short Fiction for her story The Shipmaker, which appeared in Interzone issue #231. I managed to snap this pic of her being dwarfed by David Weber, who was on hand the present the award. (The homeless man to the rear is Paul Cornell prior to the removal of his comedy charity beard – for which he raised an impressive amount of money for, ironically, Shelter!)

No sooner had the applause for Aliette died down than our own Ian McDonald took to the stage to accept for the award for Best Novel for THE DERVISH HOUSE (not ‘The Dervish Nights’ as the convention newsletter later reported!), his 2010 novel published by Gollancz in the UK and by Pyr in the US.

A further layer of coolness was added to these wins when we later learned that both Ian and Aliette have been nominated for this year’s Hugo Awards – this news adding to Aliette’s previously reported Nebula nomination for the same story, and Ian’s Arthur C. Clarke Award nomination.

Huge congratulations to both authors.

There were lots of other Zeno authors at Eastercon – I got to meet our latest clients Anne Lyle and David Tallerman, albeit all too briefly, and the mass signing of Angry Robot authors at Waterstones in the centre of Birmingham was almost a mini ‘Zenocon’ of its own. Present were Aliette, Colin Harvey, John Meaney – or was it Thomas Blackthorn? – and, in a rare UK appearance, one Lavie Tidhar (pictured here next to a banner proclaiming his novels in all their steampunky glory.)

Elsewhere at the con, at readings, on panels and if truth must be told, in the bar, one could find Freda Warrington, Susan Boulton, Michael Cobley and last but by no means least Ian R. MacLeod.

I did a panel called ‘Writing 102: Finding an Agent‘, which was well attended and along with Gollancz Editorial Director Gillian Redfearn, Gollancz author Stephen Deas and author Martin Owton, we fielded a number of excellent questions from the audience. Hope those who were there found it helpful.

Lavie Tidhar Signs…

CAMERA OBSCURA, the new novel by Lavie Tidhar is published next month by Angry Robot, and the author, rumoured by some  to be nothing more than a shadowy internet presence,  makes a rare visit to the UK to promote the release and will be attending – in person! – this year’s Eastercon in Birmingham, where he will appear on a number of panels. Whilst he’s in town, Lavie will be doing a number of events and signings, and so if you want to meet the man that LOCUS call an ’emerging master’, citing five of his projects on their 2010 Recommended Reading List ( Count them, folks! No other author had more listings!), here’s where you’ll find him…

  • Sunday 17th April :  12.00pm  – Waterstones, The Bentalls Centre, 9 Wood Street, Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey
  • Tuesday 19th April :  18:00 –  Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue,London, WC2H 8JR

And if you want to get a taste of Lavie’s new book, here’s a neat bit of code courtesy of the folks at Angry Robot

And We’re Back In The Room…

I’m over the worst of the jet-lag now and am only falling asleep in the middle of poor submissions… no change there then!

Worldcon was eventful and certainly useful and occasionally a lot of fun too! It was great to meet all that Aussie talent (there’s a lot of it), spend some time with clients I rarely get to see, if ever! and also to get ‘face time’ with a number of  professional contacts too. I did some panels (some of which have been blogged about – see here and here (check out the photo here!) and managed to catch a cold. Why did nobody tell me it would be so cold and wet in Melbourne!

The next Zeno convention appearance will be at this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

For now… back to the grind.

JB’s Worldcon Schedule…

I’ll be doing six (six???, yes six!!!) panels at the Melbourne Worldcon. Do come along if you’re at the con, but please, only ask questions that I know the answers to!

Saturday, September 4th…

The Steampunk Playground – Saturday 1000 Room 213

If Tolkien defined epic fantasy, and Howard defined heroic fantasy, who defined steampunk? What are the seminal steampunk texts, if any, and how have they influenced the genre? How does a genre change without landmark texts to guide it?
Richard Harland, John Berlyne, Jay Lake

Pitching The Novel – Saturday 1200 Room 203
How does an aspiring writer go about pitching their first novel? Who do you approach, and how? Do you need an agent? How much should you submit? Do you need to write the whole book before approaching a publisher, or just the first few chapters – or nothing at all? A handy road-map to getting your novel in front of the right person, at the right time, and (most importantly)
the right way.
John Berlyne, Simon Spanton, Rowena Cory Daniells, Ginjer Buchanan

The Writer and the Audience: Online Interaction and Public Personae – Saturday 1500 Room 204
The Internet has brought with it a vast array of tools and opportunities for authors to promote their own work, and to interact directly with their readers. The question is: should they? Should ever author have a website, Twitter feed, Facebook account or Myspace? Should authors create and employ a brand? How should an author interact with his or her fans online? A look at the benefits, as well as where things can go horribly wrong.
Cory Doctorow, John Berlyne, Peter V. Brett, Mur Lafferty

Sunday, September 5th…

How to Review – Sunday 1300 Room 219
Reviewing a book seems easy enough from the outside – but what’s actually involved?  What responsibility does the reviewer have to his or her readers, the author of the book and its publisher? What should a reviewer aim to cover in a review, and how should one approach  a book if it’s particularly bad – or particularly good?
John Clute, John Berlyne, Crisetta MacLeod, Dirk Flinthart

The Secret Life of Literary Agents – Sunday 1500 Room 203
Every aspiring author is told he or she needs to find an agent – but how exactly do you do that? How do you approach an agent: what do you need to provide, should you telephone or e-mail? How do you know which agent is the right one for you? What is the benefit of having an agent? What should you expect from one? What will the agent expect from you in return? Is it possible to sustain a professional career without one? There are a lot of questions – we hope to provide some answers.
John Berlyne, Garth Nix, Ian Irvine

Taking it on the Chin: Authors and Reviews – Sunday 1700 Room 204
Sooner or later, every author is going to receive a bad review. Bad reviews hurt, and it’s often hard not to take them personally. How should authors react to negative reviews? How can  you tell the difference between a review that’s negative one that’s actually unfair – and what  can or should you do about it if it is?
John Berlyne, Jean Johnson, Karen Miller, John Scalzi

Submissions For Worldcon Folks Now Closed

Thanks to all the Worldcon attendees who sent their stuff in during the recent submissions window. There was an interesting mix of fantasy, SF and horror, along with a smattering of YA material thrown in for good measure and it was really great to get acquainted with all the current trends in the Aussie genre scene.

I’m really grateful to everyone who contacted us and will be happy to chat through my comments if you come and say “Hi” in Melbourne. Do note though, that we received lots of submissions and so don’t be insulted if I ask you to remind me which one was yours!

I don’t yet have a confirmed schedule of my programme commitments, but all being well they’ll be posted on here before I leave for Australia, so you’ll know where to find me at the con.

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Are you going to be at the Melbourne Worldcon in September? Are you an unagented author based in either Australia or New Zealand who will be attending? Are you an unagented author from somewhere else, but somehow independently wealthy enough to be going to the con? In either case, are you any good??

It’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be attending Aussiecon 4 later in the year – volcanic ash permitting! My intention, having schlepped all that way, is to return with the pick of genre talent in my agently pocket, thus we’ve decided to open for submissions, but only for authors who will be attending the con. (Don’t try and hoodwink me – as I’ll be checking the membership roster to see if you’re on it! If you’re not going to be at Worldcon, your submission will not be considered in this window.)

What am I looking for? Well, all areas of genre fiction basically. That means SF, Fantasy and Horror and the various combinations/permutations thereof. As always, the salient factor is that of the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.

Come on Australia and NZ – let’s see what you’ve got!

World Horror and Wot I Did Learn at ‘PITCH BLACK’…

The dust is settling after what was a really quite wonderful World Horror Convention. The event was well attended (memberships were sold out weeks before) and more pointedly, it was well very attended by publishers and editors.

As well as the stalwart, energetic smaller presses, for example PS Publishing, Newcon Press, Telos, Nightjar Press, Pendragon, Atomic Fez and Ash-Tree Press amongst others who have, collectively, for many years been the only folks willing to push the horror genre, there were representatives from larger trade publishers such as Little, Brown (both Orbit and Piatkus had editorial staff present), Headline, Gollancz, Constable & Robinson, Solaris/Rebellion, Titan, Angry Robot, Quercus, and Bragelonne.

This turnout shows there’s a very real and very active interest from the trade in the horror and dark fiction fields and this is a most encouraging and tangible sign of horror’s resurgence as a going commercial concern. If this interest can translate into sales, there’s the best chance there’s been in a generation for new talent to come through.

There’s a flipside to this however that became apparent to me as I took part in the Pitch Black event on the Thursday afternoon. Set up as an opportunity for both the trading of rights and the chance for authors to pitch their work directly to agents and publishers, I likened the experience (on my side of the table at least) to being repeatedly hit in the face for five hours with a shit-covered shovel.

There is a reason for this admittedly harsh description (and it doesn’t apply to everyone I met by any means) and it comes down to simple basics. No matter how much agents and editors bang on (on panels at conventions, in interviews, in conversation or on their blogs) about the importance of doing so, many of the writers who material submit to us completely fail to consider their work within the context of the market.

Repeatedly throughout Pitch Black I asked ‘Who is the market for this novel? Who is the ideal reader? Whose readers are you looking to steal with this novel?‘ and repeatedly (and in one particular and spectacularly rude case where the person appeared incapable of grasping why the question was a fundamental one) these enquiries were met with blank looks and the scratching of heads.

Writing is by definition a solitary art – but you are not writing for yourself. Not ever. If you are then you will have a readership of one. And good luck with that.

Writing something publishable is a different kettle of fish. If you want a publisher to give you money for your work, you better be clued in to the kind of thing they publish. If your book is something entirely original, something that completely re-invents the wheel, something so new that it breaks the mould, then as an agent I can do absolutely nothing with it. If there is no market precedent then the likelihood that I can get a publisher to take a risk on your masterpiece – a masterpiece written by a complete unknown – is zero. Zilch. Nada.

Does this mean I’m looking for derivative, cloned material? Poor man’s copies of the best-sellers? Nope.

Think Dragons’ Den. Money paid to you by a publisher is an investment in your product and they expect to receive a return. It therefore needs to be something that people actually want. So, do your market research – otherwise everyone you approach will wisely say ‘I’m out’!

(Note the links I’ve provided above to the various publisher websites. That’s where your research begins – go check out what they’re up to!)

John Berlyne at the 2010 Writing Industries Conference…

John Berlyne will be attending this year’s Writing Industries Conference which takes place on Saturday 6th March 2010 at Loughborough University and is run by the University in association with Writing East Midlands.

The programe is varied and extensive and is designed to ‘bring together writers from across the East Midlands and beyond with professionals from the writing industries to share knowledge, develop skills and make new contacts. The conference is open to anyone with an interest in writing, from unpublished writers who want to learn more to bestselling novelists.’

One of a number of industry professionals in attendance, JB will be conducting a number of 1-2-1 sessions with writers, as well as participating in a panel entitled “Everything You Ever Wanted To Ask An Agent”!

Whilst you’re thinking up any number of fiendish questions, you can find out more about the conference at