Gnome Attack Roundup: Analysis of the First Six Months (Part 1)

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Almost six months ago, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack was released into the wild. It has been an interesting, and sometimes incredible, six months. It's my intention to do a series of posts of behind-the-scenes stuff relating to the book's sale and release, in an effort to illuminate what you can expect when it happens to you. This is Part 1.

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How did my agent pitch the book to editors?

She pitched a bunch of houses at once. Slowly, over the course of several weeks, responses trickled in. The responses were 50/50 between: 1) No; and 2) I like it and I have to show it more people. For a book to get bought, it has to be approved by everyone on every level—editorial, marketing, etc. So when someone liked the book, it wasn’t a yes; it was simply not a no, and the next person in line at the house would review our proposal. This process takes months.

How did it end up with Ten Speed Press?

As several houses considered my book, one house—Ten Speed Press —started conversations with my agent on how they thought the book should be done. In other words, they had a vision for the book. Two weeks later, my agent said Ten Speed wanted to buy Gnomes in a pre-empt.

What is a pre-empt?

It’s when a publisher beats everyone else to the punch and purchases your book before other offers are made and an auction forms. Ten Speed wanted it bad, so they offered to buy it now for a reasonable sum rather than have us wait to see how the proposal played out with other houses.

Why did we like Ten Speed Press and accept their offer?

At that point in the process, no one matched their level of enthusiasm. Also, my agent had worked with Ten Speed before; she knew they would deliver a fine book. Plus, there was no telling whether waiting would net us a better deal; after all, this was a guaranteed offer.

How did we negotiate with Ten Speed?

My agent negotiated deal points with Ten Speed. Deal points are the major points of a contract, such as upfront money (an advance), back-end money (royalties), subsidiary rights (film rights, foreign rights), and such. Once my agent and editor came to an agreement on deal points, my agent called me in October 2009 and said, “Pop the champagne.”

How does payment work?

Deals vary, but typically writers get an advance, like I did. An advance is a lump sum of money paid to you upfront for you to keep no matter what. Advances, sadly, are typically paid in 3-4 installments, over the course of more than a year. (I'll explain how royalties work in a later installment.)

Do I receive the payment checks or does my agent?

She receives the checks. Then she mails me a new check (from her) to me, as my payment. Other agents' MOs may differ.

How did I meet my editor at Ten Speed?

I never met her in person, and this turned out to work just find. Just after the deal points were finalized, we spoke over the phone for an hour and she explained everything she wanted to see in the book in terms of tone. She told me that Ten Speed would be handling all the photography for the book (thank god), but I would have to provide all the garden gnomes for the photographs.

How long did I have to finish the book?

It was due Jan. 15, 2010 -- meaning less than three months. Ten Speed wanted to release the book in Sept. 2010, which, in publishing terms, is lightning. Unlike a novel or memoir, nonfiction books are not complete when you propose them to editors. Only sample chapters are written.

(More coming soon. If you have specific questions about the publishing process, leave them in the comments section and I may be able to answer them in a future installment.)

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Media requests & interviews: If you would like a free review copy of Gnomes
for an interview or roundup or any kind of mention, please contact me
at literaryagent(at)fwmedia.com(dot)com and I will send your information
to my publicist. Thanks!

More Gnome news: To see all the news & reviews & coverage of my book, click on "My Writing Life" at the end of this post.

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