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View Full Version : Agent Kristin Nelson expresses her frustration with the industry



Toothpaste
10-28-2009, 09:33 PM
A very interesting blog post that is sparking some interesting debate in the comments section over at Pub Rants:

http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/10/just-dont-see-how-i-can-break-this-out.html

An excerpt:

"If editors don’t see something as a big book, they are passing. Or my other recent favorite, if it doesn’t fit into a very narrowly prescribed genre of what has worked for them (oh let’s say something like dark YA angsty romance), then they are also passing.

Okay…. Hollywood does this too until the next big hit comes out of “nowhere” because it’s nothing like any movie currently out. I know it’s tough, editors, but I’d love a little vision."


And on twitter today, maybe even sparked by this post, many agents are seconding the feeling. Colleen Lindsay at Fine Print (and also an occasional visitor here) tweeted: Books that would have sold in about two weeks last year are being lovingly rejected right and left.

So what are your thoughts?

For me I understand that the economy is tough right now, and that nothing that really happens in the next couple years in the industry should be looked at as a new norm. However I am concerned and agree with their concerns. Furthermore, I have never ever understood why publishers don't realise that the next big thing ALWAYS comes out of left field. Post Harry Potter everyone wanted the next Harry Potter, and bam, Twilight happens. A book about teenage vampires, totally and completely opposite from HP.

With films you've got something like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. Disney execs were terrified of his acting choices and costume/hair/makeup choices. They kept telling him, the director, everyone to change it. Fortunately the director stood up to them, and then look, we have a franchise that was one of the top grossing of all time. And why? No it wasn't Keira or Orlando. It wasn't the pirates. It was Jack Sparrow. Otherwise it would have been a fun, but ultimately forgettable film.

Taking risks is what makes the big bucks. And sure, taking a risk can fail spectacularly, but you are never going to succeed spectacularly without doing it either.

And I don't get how publishers don't see that.

So yeah. My thoughts.

Yours?

YAwriter72
10-28-2009, 09:37 PM
I've been following all this and getting more and more down. Midlist and debut authors are getting the brunt of all this it seems.

Its the nonepic, nonbig books that keep people coming back for more, and I don't quite get why publishers are putting all their eggs in one basket by only wanting megabestseller potential books. How do they even know what is going to strike the whims of readers?

Its frustrating being an author who could have potentially sold much faster only a few short years ago, to now face the possibility that my writing isn't BIG enough to garner attention.

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

Bubastes
10-28-2009, 09:44 PM
I suspect it's because the bean counters, not the editors, are driving many of the decisions right now due to the economy. And bean counters are not known for their appetite for risk. I just hope that things improve when the economy improves.

I see it in my industry too. We're cutting back on advanced research and development because our managers (and the bean counters) want guaranteed small wins, not potential blockbuster advances that could flop in a big way. When times were better, the engineers had a greater influence over the R&D decisions.

Toothpaste
10-28-2009, 09:48 PM
Oh it's definitely the bean counters. And a lot of blame rests on the bookstore buyers and the big box stores like Walmart - their influence on what gets published, on what cover a book gets etc is incredible. I have yet to meet an editor who didn't love many kinds of books and didn't have passion for them. I don't actually blame editors, they have a really tough job, turning down books they love because they know they won't be able to sell it to marketing/publicity.

katiemac
10-28-2009, 09:54 PM
I don't actually blame editors, they have a really tough job, turning down books they love because they know they won't be able to sell it to marketing/publicity.

It's not marketing/publicity's fault, either, though. It's that department's job to sell the books that come through the door--and if they have the right people they should be able to do it, no matter the book. I don't see this as a flaw in the marketing departments. But I can see it the flaw in all the higher ups who are nervous about authorizing print on something that does not have mass appeal.

YAwriter72
10-28-2009, 09:54 PM
Which is sad really,and as a reader too. Some of the best books I've read have not been the Bestselling bazillion copy books that have been made into a movie.

It feels like its not about author longevity so much as finding that next big hit and milking it for all its worth then moving on to the next one.

Toothpaste
10-28-2009, 09:58 PM
It's not marketing/publicity's fault, either, though. It's that department's job to sell the books that come through the door--and if they have the right people they should be able to do it, no matter the book. I don't see this as a flaw in the marketing departments. But I can see it the flaw in all the higher ups who are nervous about authorizing print on something that does not have mass appeal.

I don't think there's blame on one person (which is why I said it was also the bean counters, and also the book buyers, and yes of course the higher ups), but editors have to pitch a project in a meeting that involve marketing and publicity. It is often in this pitch where they decide the book just isn't marketable enough. It isn't like the editors choose the books, and then turn to m/p and say, "Here, promote this!" M/P have a HUGE say in what gets ultimately acquired. Certainly part of the reason M/P have to be so careful is because they don't have the funds to do their job probably as well as they'd like, and because they know the higher ups need those big numbers. I am sure too M/P reject books that they absolutely loved but that they just didn't think they had the means to sell them (this also comes from the higher ups needing instant gratification, if they can't think of a way to market a book so that it goes to number one the week it comes out, it seems the higher ups aren't interested - a slow climb to the top is evidently not a viable means of publishing). But M/P are hugely influential on what gets picked.

Kitty Pryde
10-28-2009, 10:03 PM
An excerpt:

"If editors don’t see something as a big book, they are passing. Or my other recent favorite, if it doesn’t fit into a very narrowly prescribed genre of what has worked for them (oh let’s say something like dark YA angsty romance), then they are also passing.

Okay…. Hollywood does this too until the next big hit comes out of “nowhere” because it’s nothing like any movie currently out. I know it’s tough, editors, but I’d love a little vision."


And on twitter today, maybe even sparked by this post, many agents are seconding the feeling. Colleen Lindsay at Fine Print (and also an occasional visitor here) tweeted: Books that would have sold in about two weeks last year are being lovingly rejected right and left.

So what are your thoughts?

For me I understand that the economy is tough right now, and that nothing that really happens in the next couple years in the industry should be looked at as a new norm. However I am concerned and agree with their concerns. Furthermore, I have never ever understood why publishers don't realise that the next big thing ALWAYS comes out of left field. Post Harry Potter everyone wanted the next Harry Potter, and bam, Twilight happens. A book about teenage vampires, totally and completely opposite from HP.

With films you've got something like Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. Disney execs were terrified of his acting choices and costume/hair/makeup choices. They kept telling him, the director, everyone to change it. Fortunately the director stood up to them, and then look, we have a franchise that was one of the top grossing of all time. And why? No it wasn't Keira or Orlando. It wasn't the pirates. It was Jack Sparrow. Otherwise it would have been a fun, but ultimately forgettable film.


Yes. I agree with everything you said. And now I'm off to write my YA novel about a filthy alcoholic dreadlocked pirate sparkly cold vampire plucky wizarding student who falls in love with a personality-less doormat of a girl and then wacky antics ensue. I should be doing the backstroke in my giant swimming pool of money by 2010 :D

In seriousness, yes, it's scary that there's a trend of wanting more stuff like the old stuff, and less new sorts of stuff. This noob writer is going to keep on writing what I'm passionate and polishing it till it shines, though.

CaroGirl
10-28-2009, 10:03 PM
I'd be happier to see more books published rather than fewer. More choice helps writers find their audience and readers find the books they love. I wish the economy would improve to allow for the scenario of more books being published and the stronger sellers carrying the weaker sellers well enough to continue publishing more worthy novels, thereby letting the public decide what they want.

Cranky
10-28-2009, 10:06 PM
Oh it's definitely the bean counters. And a lot of blame rests on the bookstore buyers and the big box stores like Walmart - their influence on what gets published, on what cover a book gets etc is incredible. I have yet to meet an editor who didn't love many kinds of books and didn't have passion for them. I don't actually blame editors, they have a really tough job, turning down books they love because they know they won't be able to sell it to marketing/publicity.


Frakkin' Walmart. I go there to buy laundry soap and paper towels, not books. Their selection stinks on ice, at least for me. If I were to judge the entire book market by Walmart, it would be made up of romances, inspirational fiction, memoirs, children's books, some Oprah book club selections, and Times bestsellers only. There's a whole world of books out there they don't get any play. It's great for the authors who get picked up by them and other big chains (and I'm happy for them, really!), but what about the rest? It's depressing, and I think it drives the market in ways it probably shouldn't. At least B&N and Borders and a few others have more selections (though B&N is *super* heavy where I'm at on reprinted classics) from a wider range of genres.

Shadow_Ferret
10-28-2009, 10:08 PM
This really depresses me. Because if publishers are simply looking for what works and what is hot and if urban fantasy is hot and if my urban fantasy keeps getting rejected then the only conclusion I can draw is that my story really does suck. :(

Bubastes
10-28-2009, 10:15 PM
Whoa, I noticed a familiar name in the blog comments saying how he'd love to go through the slush pile at Random House.

ETA: Familiar sounding arguments/rants too. . . .

Shadow_Ferret
10-28-2009, 10:23 PM
Whoa, I noticed a familiar name in the blog comments saying how he'd love to go through the slush pile at Random House.

ETA: Familiar sounding arguments/rants too. . . .Who? Anonymous? :)

mscelina
10-28-2009, 10:25 PM
Between this blog post and Nathan's blog post about changes in the industry (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/10/and-then-everything-in-publishing.html), it's easy to get discouraged. I'm of the opinion that if we're looking for 'blame' in the choices editors are making about books these days, maybe the fault lies outside of the industry. Maybe it's the reading public, one who's accustomed to the big names (Rowling, King, Roberts, Brown, Meyer, etc) and isn't willing to take a risk on something new. Maybe part of the blame can go to major retailers like Walmart or grocery stores, who stock their limited shelf space with sure-fire bestsellers and nothing else. Maybe it's the link between television/movies and books--the books that have a better chance on the screen get the better opportunity in publishing. There are lots of possibilities.

But I'm thinking it's the dollar dollar bill, y'all. We're in a recession, profits are down, the industry (somewhat prematurely) may be tightening its collective belt and is less likely to take a risk on an unknown.

Saskatoonistan
10-28-2009, 10:30 PM
I suspect large publishers are doing what Hollywood and network television is doing: grinding out product that is a sure bet to be profitable. It's a formula that probably has to do with the bottom line more than anything.

mscelina
10-28-2009, 10:31 PM
Whoa, I noticed a familiar name in the blog comments saying how he'd love to go through the slush pile at Random House.

ETA: Familiar sounding arguments/rants too. . . .


*grin*

better there than here.

YAwriter72
10-28-2009, 10:32 PM
I suspect large publishers are doing what Hollywood and network television is doing: grinding out product that is a sure bet to be profitable. It's a formula that probably has to do with the bottom line more than anything.


The current trend of taking comic books or 80's tv shows and making them into movies = the current trend of taking already written classics and inserting zombies and vampires.

I don't get either of those. :Shrug:

(Totally waiting for the Miami Vice movie with Don Johnson making cameo) hehe

Saskatoonistan
10-28-2009, 10:37 PM
The current trend of taking comic books or 80's tv shows and making them into movies = the current trend of taking already written classics and inserting zombies and vampires.

I don't get either of those. :Shrug:


Demographics and profitability.

I'm 42 and I have (theoretically, at least) buying power. Presumably some big studio assumes people in my demographic will be interested in seeing a big screen version of "The Greatest American Hero" or "The A-Team" (which is currently being filmed, btw - Liam Neeson is Hannibal.)

blacbird
10-28-2009, 11:07 PM
the only conclusion I can draw is that my story really does suck. :(

Said it better (and faster) than I could. Relative to my stories, not yours, I mean. I'm long past blaming the industry for anything.

caw

bettielee
10-28-2009, 11:18 PM
Hopefully... hopefully... the economy will pick up and the editors (and beancounters) will loosen their grip...

I was at Borders the other day, and it was busy. I was so happy. For months, the place has been like a ghost town when I drive by it. You hear crickets as you browse.

(as for me, I still couldn't afford what I wanted and left empty handed. Sigh)

RainbowDragon
10-28-2009, 11:18 PM
Maybe they should print books on the insides of cereal boxes. "Tiki the Tiger and the Prismatic Puma" page 1 inside - collect all 300!

Then people would have to buy 300 boxes of specially marked Froooot Hooooops to find out how the story ends.

See? We just need a new paradigm is all. :)

C.M.C.
10-29-2009, 12:20 AM
The news doesn't depress me, because I'm too cynical for that to happen. These same sorts of things have been happening, on and off, since publishing began. The only difference is that with the spread of the internet, we know when it's going on.

Gary
10-29-2009, 01:45 AM
I agree with Kristin, but she has been guilty of fostering the mindset that she now decries. However, I am glad to see her making waves.

I write, but I don’t consider myself a writer, since to become one requires imagination, skill, and dedication. I possess the imagination, but not the other two. However, becoming a qualified consumer of writing is easy. You only need to be able to read, and since it’s my dollar that the writer, the publisher, and the agent seek, I consider myself the world’s foremost expert in the field of my personal book consumerism.

I read dozens of books a year, but haven’t read a hardcover for decades. I also don’t read the super-sized paperbacks that currently fill the shelves in Wal-Mart and other stores, There are two reasons for my fickleness. The first is that I’m cheap, and the second is that I read while lying down, so I prefer the price and lighter weight of a standard paperback. For the same reasons, I have no interest in reading from a screen.

Those preferences severely limit what is available to read, and to make matters worse, I’m totally bored with the current zest for more-of-the-same in every story. I want more variety, but it’s not out there for me.

I admit to being one of the unwashed who is bored to tears with any writing that demands a thesaurus beside the bed, or a degree in psychiatry to understand the plot. I also have no interest in the glut of cinematic crap from Hollywood or most of the drivel available on DirecTV, so I read to be entertained. That means that my world of entertainment is small and growing smaller.

So, what would I like to see that would separate me from my moldy Federal Reserve notes? Well, I wish I could get on line, read a back cover blurb and a couple of chapters from those unpublished stories, and then order a custom printed paperback. Sort of like a Netflix for readers. Modern printing technology should be able to accommodate something like that while still keeping the price competitive with those currently found on bookstore shelves.

Let me be my own editor. If I find too many typos, or if I don’t like the writing style, I won’t order the book. If the story is interesting enough to want to read it, I’m not going to get upset over a few too many adverbs, or an info dump that might have been deleted. I recently read a self-published story that had not been edited professionally, and it showed, but it was one of the most entertaining stories I’ve read in years. It was like getting a personal letter that left me laughing, crying, and completely enthralled with the story she was telling. The few technical errors didn’t matter…it was the story that wouldn’t let me put the book down.

swvaughn
10-29-2009, 01:55 AM
From my own experience - the initial foray with my agent into the wonderful world of being on submission - yeah, they all want something that's going to break out. At least one of the rejections on that first book said exactly that: it's a wonderful story, great characters, blah blah etc, heaps of glowing praise... but we don't think this is the right book for the author to break out with.

And I kinda went: Huh?!

But my agent sold the second book I sent her, in a two-book deal, so eventually I got one that was "good enough" (which, of course, was the 12th or 13th novel I'd written, so *sigh* there).

Sad post from Kristin, but true.

TrixieLox
10-29-2009, 02:06 AM
I just keep thinking 'why'd the hell did I wait until now, during the most dire economic shambles in recent history, to write my first novel?'

*sigh*

the addster
10-29-2009, 02:10 AM
Demographics and profitability.

I'm 42 and I have (theoretically, at least) buying power. Presumably some big studio assumes people in my demographic will be interested in seeing a big screen version of "The Greatest American Hero" or "The A-Team" (which is currently being filmed, btw - Liam Neeson is Hannibal.)


Oh for god's sake. Talk about suckage. Is Hannibal the guy with the battery on his shoulder?

Anyway, that's not quite how they see it. They actually think that you'll want to take your kid, that you only see on weekends, to see the A-Team movie.

I hate to tell you this, but at 42, you are not being marketed to. Unless you count Home Depot commercials.

Inky
10-29-2009, 02:12 AM
Several years ago, when seeking rep for my dark fantasy romance, I received several rejection letters that all said the same thing: They were looking for the next The English Patient, and/or Harry Potter styled books.

Um, okay, because that's what EVERYONE wants to read.

As much as we would all enjoy those mega paychecks as well, I think something is being truly missed by passing over fresh voices. Then again, Paris Hilton's dog isn't quite the fresh voice I had in mind.

Puma
10-29-2009, 02:26 AM
Several people have touched on what I consider one of the primary issues here - but no one has mentioned it specifically - and that's the price of books, especially during this economic turndown. There's not as much disposable income, but for me, I don't see myself disposing of what I could afford on very many of the books the market is now offering. They don't appeal to me - especially with the price tags they're carrying. So if I do visit a bookstore, I'm much more likely to walk out with something non-fiction, figuring I may get closer to my money's worth that way. Puma

ishtar'sgate
10-29-2009, 02:59 AM
I suspect large publishers are doing what Hollywood and network television is doing: grinding out product that is a sure bet to be profitable.
Yes, I think so too and isn't that determined by readership? Don't publishers base their decisions on what they think readers will buy and buy in volume? Especially in this economy.

Kathleen42
10-29-2009, 03:02 AM
Several people have touched on what I consider one of the primary issues here - but no one has mentioned it specifically - and that's the price of books, especially during this economic turndown. There's not as much disposable income, but for me, I don't see myself disposing of what I could afford on very many of the books the market is now offering. They don't appeal to me - especially with the price tags they're carrying. So if I do visit a bookstore, I'm much more likely to walk out with something non-fiction, figuring I may get closer to my money's worth that way. Puma

As a consumer, I'm more likely to take a risk on a $10 paperback than on a $20 softcover or a $30 hardcover. And, sadly, I spend more money on books than most of my friends and acquaintances.

I also think the current price war between Wal-Mart and Amazon is more likely to hurt the industry than increase book sales.

Saskatoonistan
10-29-2009, 04:29 AM
Yes, I think so too and isn't that determined by readership? Don't publishers base their decisions on what they think readers will buy and buy in volume? Especially in this economy.


Yeah probably - that and they're looking to publish a "sure thing", so from a business perspective, it's safer to invest in an established brand than someone who is just developing their brand.

Perks
10-29-2009, 05:10 AM
I just want to say how much I hate this thread and how much I hate Toothpaste for starting it.

I haven't talked much about it, because I hate having to un-announce things if it all goes wrong, but I'm just on submission right now and I want this so bad my teeth hurt constantly and there's nothing I can do about the trend that's being hashed over here.

So I hate you all. But carry on, because I love you for understanding my pain.

brokenfingers
10-29-2009, 05:28 AM
I heard they're only considering submissions from the west coast now.

Perks
10-29-2009, 05:29 AM
And I hate you more than usual, BF.

Inky
10-29-2009, 05:53 AM
I am NOT feeling the love!

raburrell
10-29-2009, 06:25 AM
Kristin's post makes me go :scared: and :e2cry: and :censored .
Unfortunately, it doesn't really surprise me all that much.

Maybe I'll hold off on querying until oh, 2011 or so :e2faint:

Inky
10-29-2009, 07:08 AM
Just make sure ta' do it before 2012..yanno...the world ending and all that...

Serious Desi
10-29-2009, 12:21 PM
I've been ignoring this thread and any mention of hard times for the publishing industry. ( Ignorance is bliss)

This is really dismal.
I've just finished my first book and I want to get it published before I can drink.
The economy isn't getting better, but it's not getting worse.

I am going to go under the belief that there is one publisher out there who is willing to take a risk ( maybe a last hoorah:e2bike2:)

And if not now, later. I have written this book and I have decided that it is going to be published by a publisher and it will. If it takes till I'm old and wearing diapers, then it shall. :e2woo:

Mac H.
10-29-2009, 02:45 PM
But is this any different from what all of us are doing?

You have two possible subjects to write about. You think that one of them has the potential to be a HUGE success for you.

The other you think has the potential to be a small success.

Which one would you put the resources into ?

Why would we expect a publisher to make a different decision?

Mac

YAwriter72
10-29-2009, 04:45 PM
Several people have touched on what I consider one of the primary issues here - but no one has mentioned it specifically - and that's the price of books, especially during this economic turndown. There's not as much disposable income, but for me, I don't see myself disposing of what I could afford on very many of the books the market is now offering. They don't appeal to me - especially with the price tags they're carrying. So if I do visit a bookstore, I'm much more likely to walk out with something non-fiction, figuring I may get closer to my money's worth that way. Puma


Actually I think that this is exactly why the publishers are putting a huge amount of time and money into the "Big" books. If someone has a limited amount of money to spend on books in this economy, publishers want them to buy the one that they have been seeing advertised in every newspaper, talked about on tv and Oprah, etc. Ya know. Its almost like they control the direction of consumer spending by the amount of money they spend to promote it.

You go into a bookstore not sure what you want to buy, and there are huge displays set up with dozens of a book, big end displays, etc. and you look at the title and go, "Oh, I heard about this one." vs the book that is shoved away on a shelf with the end sticking out and nothing that distinguishes it from the hundreds of others around it.

Phaeal
10-29-2009, 06:01 PM
Well, if the trend continues, it may be time to make the Internet and eBooks really work for the vast majority of writers.

My own reaction to the books heaped up at the entrance to the store is suspicion, not instant attraction. I'm a contrarian, after all. ;)

Kathleen42
10-29-2009, 06:11 PM
Well, if the trend continues, it may be time to make the Internet and eBooks really work for the vast majority of writers.

My own reaction to the books heaped up at the entrance to the store is suspicion, not instant attraction. I'm a contrarian, after all. ;)

Same here. Took people ages to convince me to read The Road.

MarkEsq
10-29-2009, 10:13 PM
Actually I think that this is exactly why the publishers are putting a huge amount of time and money into the "Big" books.

But someone explain this to me: what the hell is this "Big Book" people are talking about? A mystery? Thriller? Vampire book? The fact that no one will be able to definitively answer this question means that "they" shouldn't be waiting for it.

Right?

So, "they" need to quit fussing and give us all deals on our novels.

Right?

aruna
10-29-2009, 10:15 PM
But someone explain this to me: what the hell is this "Big Book" people are talking about? A mystery? Thriller? Vampire book? The fact that no one will be able to definitively answer this question means that "they" shouldn't be waiting for it.

Right?

So, "they" need to quit fussing and give us all deals on our novels.

Right?


A Big Book can only be defined in retrospect. It means, a book with Big Sales.
N. B.: A Big Book cannot be recognised in advance.

Perks
10-29-2009, 10:16 PM
But someone explain this to me: what the hell is this "Big Book" people are talking about? A mystery? Thriller? Vampire book? The fact that no one will be able to definitively answer this question means that "they" shouldn't be waiting for it.

Right?

So, "they" need to quit fussing and give us all deals on our novels.

Right?
This is key. The power of the publishing houses is that it is within their whim to inform the public what's hot.

If they say. "This is the next big thing you need to read." Well, there you go.

So this whole problem has a strong tail-chasing element that frustrates me.

aruna
10-29-2009, 10:17 PM
Perks, there you go, stalking me again!

willietheshakes
10-29-2009, 10:19 PM
This is key. The power of the publishing houses is that it is within their whim to inform the public what's hot.

If they say. "This is the next big thing you need to read." Well, there you go.



This is only true to a VERY limited degree -- readers read what they want to read, and there's only a very limited way that publishers can act to shape that. Thus the disappointing sales for Audrey Niffenegger's new one, despite the huge advance and the bookstore omni-presence.

Publishers, at this point, respond to the vagaries of the public taste much more than they shape it.

Perks
10-29-2009, 10:26 PM
This is only true to a VERY limited degree -- readers read what they want to read, and there's only a very limited way that publishers can act to shape that. Thus the disappointing sales for Audrey Niffenegger's new one, despite the huge advance and the bookstore omni-presence.

Publishers, at this point, respond to the vagaries of the public taste much more than they shape it.Yeah, I guess that's what I meant about the tail-chasing.

Sometimes it's surprising the model has lasted as long as it has. So much of it seems irrational.

Bubastes
10-29-2009, 10:28 PM
Any industry that relies on public taste will be irrational to some extent because taste itself is unpredictable and fickle.

CaroGirl
10-29-2009, 10:31 PM
This is key. The power of the publishing houses is that it is within their whim to inform the public what's hot.

If they say. "This is the next big thing you need to read." Well, there you go.

So this whole problem has a strong tail-chasing element that frustrates me.
Yes and no. Maybe I'm naive, but reviewers aren't in the back pocket of publishing houses (are they?!?!). I'd like to think that even a book that's presented with crazy amounts of hype will falter when and if critics and readers realize it's actually poorly written and full of plot holes. Books that aren't critical successes, like those of Dan Brown, do well because the public love them anyway. If they can't get the public or critics to love it, it shouldn't matter how much they tell us we should like it.

For example, take a look at Alice Sebold much-hyped novel The Almost Moon. The publishers hyped the hell out of it because of the success of The Lovely Bones but it took all of 5 minutes for critics and readers alike to realize it was not a good book.

ETA: I take too long to post and look who comes along and says exactly the same thing, only more eloquently. *shakes fist at willie*

James81
10-29-2009, 10:32 PM
I think it's the music industry all over again.

What happened there? The music industry failed to adapt to changing technology, and now they are left in the dust crying and scrambling to get their feet back in again and to stop piracy.

Same thing. Editors are failing to realize that we are increasingly moving towards a paperless world, and only taking on the "big" stories is going to hurt them in the long run.

Why? Because writer's write. Readers read. And nothing is going to stop or slow that. So if the paper/traditional medium starts slowing/failing, readers are going to turn elsewhere and publishers are going to be hurting when writers start seeking other avenues for publication.

James81
10-29-2009, 10:34 PM
To add to my last post...

Yeah, the economy is bad, but that doesn't mean they need to publish less. It means they need to find ways to publish FOR less, so that they can offer their medium in cheaper ways. It means that they need to consider the other avenues out there and adapt their businesses or they are going to get left behind.

Roger J Carlson
10-29-2009, 10:34 PM
Me: I have a wonderful book, but agents only want Big Books.

Agent: I've read some wonderful books I'd like to represent, but editors only want Big Books.

Editor: I've had a lot of good books submitted, but the Editorial Board only wants Big Books.

Editorial Board: We'd love to publish some books from our midlist writers, but Marketing only wants Big Books.

Marketing: Corporate keeps pushing us for Bigger Sales and that means Big Books.

Corporate: The Board of Directors is only interested in the Bottom Line and Big Books drive the bottom line.

Board of Directors: Investors are screaming for higher returns, that means Big Books.

Investors...

Hey, I'm an investor.

Perks
10-29-2009, 10:40 PM
Roger, you're making me cry.

stormie
10-29-2009, 10:45 PM
Yeah, the economy is bad, but that doesn't mean they need to publish less. It means they need to find ways to publish FOR less, so that they can offer their medium in cheaper ways. It means that they need to consider the other avenues out there and adapt their businesses or they are going to get left behind.
QFT

.

RG570
10-29-2009, 11:06 PM
There are still small presses. Believe it or not, they do sell books and people do read them. Sometimes they turn big. And they might be the ones to bring interesting stories back to the forefront, because unless the public's taste turns really really bad, people will find these stories and they will like them and they will talk about them, and eventually somebody will notice.

Roger J Carlson
10-29-2009, 11:25 PM
Roger, you're making me cry.Sorry. I didn't mean to. It's just that this thread set me on a train of thought.

We hear a lot on AW about how hard it is to get an agent because they only want proven winners. Now Kristen is complaining about editors and how they only want Big Books. At a writer's conference last month, I hear an editor on a panel explain how he has to justify a book he loves to the Editoral Panel and sometimes they don't approve it.

I began to imagine the rest of the chain, which comes back eventually to you and me, the consumer.

There's been a lot of talk here about what "they" (publishers) are doing and should do. But the fact is that "they" are not a monolithic block. "They" are individuals, all of whom have to justify their jobs to their bosses. When times get tough and jobs are being cut, you go with sure things.

Just as when times are tough for you and me, we don't like to risk $10 on an unknown author when we can go with one we know we like. It's really no different.

CACTUSWENDY
10-29-2009, 11:34 PM
I've said this several other times on the AW and will say it again. The reason Hollywood has such junk each year is because they keep doing the same junk.

The reason the book market has so much junk on it is because the publishing companies keep publishing the same junk each year for the same reason. No insight. No thrill. No punch.

It's like the cutting edge has evaporated from the industry. What few jewels make it though does not seem to faze the said industry. Cookie cutter stories are not worth more than a dime a dozen. Oh to find a publisher that wants to be different.......sigh.

<<<<<<<<mumbles and stumbles away......

willietheshakes
10-30-2009, 12:14 AM
Yes and no. Maybe I'm naive, but reviewers aren't in the back pocket of publishing houses (are they?!?!).

Fuck no.


ETA: I take too long to post and look who comes along and says exactly the same thing, only more eloquently. *shakes fist at willie*

Heh.

popmuze
10-30-2009, 12:54 AM
From the gist of this thread, you'd think the only books getting published are so-called "big" ones. Then how come, when I go into my local Borders (since I just did a book signing there, I'm never going into any other store) even on the front tables of hottest fiction and non-fiction, all I see are books I've never heard of, that I doubt anyone in their right mind would have thought ever could have been "big."
The average book still sells 3-5000 copies and you only have a couple of dozen "big" books every year anyway. So since many more than a couple of dozen books are published every year, either publishers are completely deluded and 99% wrong in predicting what's "big" or something else goes into the decision making process.
Am I making any sense?
I'm just saying, if someone likes your book enough they'll publish it, either thinking it has a chance to be "big" or realizing that no one really knows anything.
(Which doesn't mean I can't take comfort in the fact that two or three or ten years ago my latest novel would have been snapped up in a matter of weeks).

Bubastes
10-30-2009, 01:06 AM
Popmuze, yes, you make sense, and I've seen the same thing on the front tables.

In the end, I can't worry about what the industry is doing or not doing. It's too stressful. All I can do is work on writing a damn good story.

5bcarnies
10-30-2009, 01:50 AM
From the gist of this thread, you'd think the only books getting published are so-called "big" ones. Then how come, when I go into my local Borders (since I just did a book signing there, I'm never going into any other store) even on the front tables of hottest fiction and non-fiction, all I see are books I've never heard of, that I doubt anyone in their right mind would have thought ever could have been "big."
The average book still sells 3-5000 copies and you only have a couple of dozen "big" books every year anyway. So since many more than a couple of dozen books are published every year, either publishers are completely deluded and 99% wrong in predicting what's "big" or something else goes into the decision making process.
Am I making any sense?
I'm just saying, if someone likes your book enough they'll publish it, either thinking it has a chance to be "big" or realizing that no one really knows anything.
(Which doesn't mean I can't take comfort in the fact that two or three or ten years ago my latest novel would have been snapped up in a matter of weeks).

The brand new books that are hitting stores now were bought by publishers one to two years ago and are just now making it out. The publishing business is just that slow. Sad but true.

As for the optimisim: I'm right there with you. If I weren't I wouldn't be sending out my queries.

The way I combine to two truths into a realistic plan of action is by breaking down the basics. (Mind you this is hypothetical. And IF it really happens this way exactly I would be the happiest woman in the world) If I send out my query today to an agent. In say a month I get asked for a partial, great. Then, adjusting time for the holidays, I get asked for a full come February, great. Come April 1st I get THE CALL. After asking if this call is a cruel joke I would jump for joy. The agent and I then work to get the ms out to the appropriate publishers. Lets say 6-9 months later my work gets bought. Next comes edits, copyedits, the cover art, marketing strategy, etc, etc...After all is said and done and the book is finally put into a shiney package and shipped out to arrive at some bookstore a year after the publishing company bought it. By then, hopefully, the economy is in an upswing.

That's how I logically keep myself going. Yes, right now sucks for everybody, everywhere. Which means the only way left to go is up. And in about a year to two it will be. That is where I believe people, whether agents, editors, investorrs, marketing personel and especially us writers need to plan for. There is no point in worrying about the now. It's here. We deal with it. We move on. We need to live and write for the future.

Uzumaki
10-30-2009, 09:24 AM
Furthermore, I have never ever understood why publishers don't realise that the next big thing ALWAYS comes out of left field. Post Harry Potter everyone wanted the next Harry Potter, and bam, Twilight happens. A book about teenage vampires, totally and completely opposite from HP.
Except HP and Twilight are really similar. Young adults in a supernatural fantasy world.

Do we need another topic about how difficult it is to break into the industry, when most of us have already experienced it?

blacbird
10-30-2009, 10:23 AM
Do we need another topic about how difficult it is to break into the industry, when most of us have already experienced it?

Experienced what? Breaking into the industry, or the difficulty of doing so? I've experienced one of those. But I think I know why, and it has nothing to do with the industry.

caw

SPMiller
10-30-2009, 11:04 AM
As far as I can tell, the publishing industry has only wanted breakout hits for a long time now. Say, several decades. That the recession has pushed them to rejecting more borderline material isn't a difference in kind; it's a difference in magnitude, and not a big one at that. Capitalism, folks.

Clair Dickson
10-30-2009, 11:57 AM
I'm gonna stand over in the "blame the readers" camp. Too many of the "avid readers" I know personally only read the big names and the recent ones. They love mysteries, but they've never read anyone that wasn't a bestseller in the last five-ten years. They're clearly not as picky as I am about plausibility or word choice or other niggly things. But they're the ones driving the market. These are the same people who are watching enough Survivor 27 and American Idol to keep the shows coming back.

Now I'm all for the occaisional brainless entertainment, but few of these readers ever browse a bookstore. They just grab the bestselling authors. They don't even know what they're missing.

Here's an example from my lovely students. The Saw franchise is coming out with the 6th installment. Most of my studnets said it looked stupid, BUT they'd go see it anyway. And yeah, they'd report back that it was stupid. Hollywood already got the sales. Enough, I'm sure to put out another, and the franchise will bring the people back just to see. And on and on. The only way to change it is to get people to change their habits... which I see as about as likely as the end of reality TV in 2010.

aruna
10-30-2009, 12:25 PM
I don't want to reopen the celebrity-writer topic, but I read somewhere recently that one big publisher told all of its aquisitioning editors to go out and buy two celebrity books each. The trouble is: the buyers of celebrity books aren't readers or book-lovers.

Look at this photo (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1222807/Katie-Price-appears-book-signing-Alex-Reid-moves-mums-house.html) and judge for yourself. That Ladies and Gentlemen, is the kind of reaction publishers love from readers. Never mind the trashed books. That is one Big Book.

aruna
10-30-2009, 01:06 PM
I just found an agent blogpost (http://dglm.blogspot.com/) (Dystel and Goderich) which says some encouraging things. The post is over halfway way down, October 8th.



Anyone else getting tired of hearing about how the book business is in a slump? I have a cold, summer’s over, and the health care battle wages on in Congress. Sure, the Yanks are in the playoffs, but aside from that, there isn’t a whole lot out there that makes me feel optimistic. Except, that our agency is having a good year. A really good year. We’re selling books faster than we can turn contracts around, we’re seeing authors whose careers we’ve helped build show up regularly on the bestseller lists, and we continue to be engaged in developing the myriad ideas that cross our desks every day.

Saskatoonistan
10-30-2009, 02:39 PM
I think it's just common sense for publishers to stick to what is profitable. Established brands are profitable. There's no risk to them.

It sucks for authors who are trying to break into the market or those who are trying very hard (like me) to establish their brand, but what are you going to do? Sometimes I think the industry is hyper focused on finding "the next big thing". I mean, in the last decade and a half, there were two authors whose books created a curious phenomenon of massive lineups at the big box bookstores where readers dressed up in costume, etc, etc. I've been reading all my life and I'd never seen anything like that before Harry Potter and yeah, I'm gonna say it, the sparkly vampire teen angst series by an author who has been fairly pilloried (even on AW) for the quality of her writing. (Though I suspect it has more to do with a very human inclination to throw rocks at whoever is on top of the heap. I'm in Canada and we chuck things at Celine Dion all the time and she has more money than the Vatican.)

It's also possible there's a helluva lot of similar sounding manuscripts rolling across the desks of editors at big publishing houses. If all the material you are reading sounds and looks and feels the same as something you've got on the bestseller lists, is it worth the investment? Aren't you flooding the market with the same darned product?

jst5150
10-30-2009, 02:49 PM
Entertainment distributors are sticking to things that make them money. This is especially true in the film industry which is entering into a robust era of remaking films -- Footloose, among others, will soon be 'reimagined' and brought back to us. Not that there is anything new under the sun. Simply put, there are less dollars to go around for making films and studios are more cautious about what they dipp 100 or 200 million dollars into to make.

Print publishers can't be too far off of that mark either, esp. since the digital domain is closing in on print fast. So, to do a print run and take a chance when people simply aren't blowing their disposable income on entertainment like they were three years ago is iffy at best. Still, there's enough evidence to suggest that if your writing is very good, regardless of barriers, if you follow much of what the sages on AW advise, you'll get published.

However, this does point to a specialization that all markets are going to as a result of convergence and the rise of the information age -- television, film and print. More and more digital publishers are popping up to specialize in the genres that major book print publishers figure won't make any real money for them. Further, I'd suspect that major book publishers think and react much like movie and television producers -- what's going to bring the most sales and, further, bring in advertisers (via product placement within the books and so on). There's also the idea that the more vanilla a book is (or, in this case, the more specific to genre that's alreayd locked in as a revenue stream), the better chance you'll have to get published.

Uncle Jim said something like the above somewhere on this board: find a publisher in your genre and write to the genre. Aim your crosshairs on that.

And, as I'll always maintain, if you want to be published, you can do that right now. If you want to make money, then you need to follow the rules of the jungle. :)

smcc360
10-30-2009, 04:56 PM
It's always been the worst time ever to write a new book.

JJ Cooper
10-30-2009, 05:13 PM
Because of the GFC, those still employed at publishing houses have watched their fellow employees be given notice in recent times. Who could blame any of them for not wanting to take a risk with something different or a debut. It's a crappy situation for everyone, but we can't say we didn't expect it to happen this way.

Good news is it'll all turn around soon enough. Look out for the next 'big thing' to drag the book industry out of the slums (I'm banking on it being a thriller).

JJ

WendyNYC
10-30-2009, 05:46 PM
Entertainment distributors are sticking to things that make them money. This is especially true in the film industry which is entering into a robust era of remaking films -- Footloose, among others, will soon be 'reimagined' and brought back to us. Not that there is anything new under the sun. Simply put, there are less dollars to go around for making films and studios are more cautious about what they dipp 100 or 200 million dollars into to make.


That's true--it's the same on Broadway. Lots of rehashing of old classics because they make money. Most of the "new" stuff is just a twist on the familiar (The Wizard of Oz, but with the Wicked Witch! Hair bands of the 80s!) with a built-in audience. I can't blame them. (Says the woman who is seeing both Ragtime and West Side Story in upcoming weeks.)

mscelina
10-30-2009, 05:57 PM
That's true--it's the same on Broadway. Lots of rehashing of old classics because they make money. Most of the "new" stuff is just a twist on the familiar (The Wizard of Oz, but with the Wicked Witch! Hair bands of the 80s!) with a built-in audience. I can't blame them. (Says the woman who is seeing both Ragtime and West Side Story in upcoming weeks.)

*gnashes teeth*

And man do I hate that about Broadway. AND we have to wait until next fall to see the Phantom sequel, which had better darn well not suck. AND-

Oops. Sorry. I never pass up the opportunity for a good theater rant.

Back on topic. Mea Culpa.

BTW--I ignore most of the industry doomsayers. If this novel sitting on 8 agents' desks right now doesn't sell, then I'll send out the next one prepared for submission until someone finally offers me a contract, while I'm writing another. Eventually, I'll hit someone on the right day and I'll have an impressive backlog of manuscripts ready to be worked on and prepared for publisher submissions.

Sorry. It's the only way I know how to work. :)

jst5150
10-30-2009, 06:07 PM
Entertainment is market of expansion and contraction. Breathing in and out. So, this is a contraction. And it will expand again. Keep writing. :)

Toothpaste
10-30-2009, 06:25 PM
Except HP and Twilight are really similar. Young adults in a supernatural fantasy world.

Do we need another topic about how difficult it is to break into the industry, when most of us have already experienced it?

I would say aside from the fantastical element, they are totally unlike each other. And when people were looking for HP clones, they weren't looking for stories about angsty vampires.

And I'm sorry I brought up the topic that is so distasteful to you, here's a thought, don't read the thread.

I brought it up because I have been noticing a tangible change in attitude from agents this week. So far I have seen four publicly express their frustration towards the timidity of publishing houses. That's why I brought this us up now, there is a palpable sense that the publishing houses (for whatever reason) aren't taking any risks, and that books that would have sold last year, aren't this year. And it's obviously based on the current economic situation.

I am not trying to be all doom and gloom, considering the amount of help I offer people here and advice on how to get published I offer, I think I am pretty darn supportive. But I think that the negatives can be discussed once in a while without it being fear mongering. I think they should be discussed as a matter of fact. That doesn't mean you don't keep trying.

Look my publisher doesn't want the third book in my series. My completed YA is being rejected despite what is acknowledged to be excellent writing because it is "risky". Have I given up? No, I have several other projects I am working on that might be a bit more trendy. Just because you note the negatives doesn't mean you have to indulge them.

And if you are really feeling inundated by negative news from the industry . . . here's a thought . . .stop reading about it. Are you telling me the title of this thread didn't hint at what it was going to discuss? That you couldn't have avoided it if you wanted to?

Anyway sorry for the derail folks . . . back to your regularly scheduled thread . . .

Fulk
10-30-2009, 11:27 PM
I began to imagine the rest of the chain, which comes back eventually to you and me, the consumer.

Just as when times are tough for you and me, we don't like to risk $10 on an unknown author when we can go with one we know we like. It's really no different.

I will also sit in the "blame-the-reader" camp, although I don't really mean to "blame" them. As you say, everyone is reacting to the economy as they normally would. The publishers are going to look for The Big Book, film companies are going to stick to sequels, franchises, and remakes, and the consumers are going to look for familiar names. I think the consumer habits do encourage this behavior, to a degree, but I don't think it's impossible to break.

I will also second the sentiment that this is not all doom-and-gloom. Things will get better, as they always do. The end is not nigh here.

All that being said (and with little that makes sense, more than likely), I know what I'll be getting everyone for the holidays--midlisters and unknowns.

blacbird
10-30-2009, 11:27 PM
And, as I'll always maintain, if you want to be published, you can do that right now.

Leaving aside self/vanity "publishing", please elaborate.

caw

Fulk
10-30-2009, 11:28 PM
I don't want to reopen the celebrity-writer topic, but I read somewhere recently that one big publisher told all of its aquisitioning editors to go out and buy two celebrity books each. The trouble is: the buyers of celebrity books aren't readers or book-lovers.

Look at this photo (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1222807/Katie-Price-appears-book-signing-Alex-Reid-moves-mums-house.html) and judge for yourself. That Ladies and Gentlemen, is the kind of reaction publishers love from readers. Never mind the trashed books. That is one Big Book.

Seeing all those trashed books makes me sad.

SPMiller
10-31-2009, 12:00 AM
Aside from what Nelson actually said, the fact that she's an agent who posted this on her blog for everyone to see is significant. I've often heard such rants should be restricted to private, lest they affect your image in what is supposedly a close-knit industry, especially when the target of your complaint is the very people you work with (in her case, editors).

jst5150
10-31-2009, 12:48 AM
Leaving aside self/vanity "publishing", please elaborate.
I'm not leaving it aside. That's the point. If someone wants to be "published," that's one route among many.

We can all go play pick-up baseball or beer league softball at the park. It's the million other hours of exercise, experience, sweat, toil, preparation and dedication that gets someone to the big leagues. Similarly, there are plenty of people in the independent film industry who are just fine working small films and motion pictures that will never crack Paramount's door step.

My point, as it always is, is that there are people who want to be published and those who want fame, power and money that comes from being published by a big publishing company.

To the agent's point, the pressure is the same felt by film producers who have to, well, produce. And the digital domain is reeping ever closer to making books nothing more than data in the same way that V'ger did to those starships at the start of the first Star Trek movie.

My bolder, underscored point is the same as a myriad others here: Write well. Pitch well. Get published.

AbsolutelyCate
10-31-2009, 12:59 AM
Yes. I agree with everything you said. And now I'm off to write my YA novel about a filthy alcoholic dreadlocked pirate sparkly cold vampire plucky wizarding student who falls in love with a personality-less doormat of a girl and then wacky antics ensue. I should be doing the backstroke in my giant swimming pool of money by 2010 :D

In seriousness, yes, it's scary that there's a trend of wanting more stuff like the old stuff, and less new sorts of stuff. This noob writer is going to keep on writing what I'm passionate and polishing it till it shines, though.


Bwahbwahbwah!!! RFLMAO. Can I beta that Sparkly Spectacular Wizardly Teen Agnst Were-shifter Book!!!!

mamaesme
10-31-2009, 12:59 AM
Throwing my two cents in. Everyone is looking for the 'next big thing' right now in any industry. The boom that Apple got from the ipod and iphone, the money Twilight and Harry Potter brought in, and all those similar situations - it doesn't matter what industry, everyone needs that boost right now.

But no one really knows what the 'next big thing' is going to be. They can test on groups, they can hype, but they really don't have a clue. Until the public either hates it or goes nuts, everyone in the business is holding their breath and praying that it works. We're a fickle group to try and predict. One year we hate the tv show Moonlight, and the next, vampire's are the hottest thing out there. The industry is playing a game and trying to predict what will bring in the money. Sometimes they fail miserably and others, they don't see coming.

Side note: The basic storyline of a kid going on a quest with fantasy characters is jumping. Many people are hoping lightning strikes twice wit the the Percy Jackson series and HP crowd. Other are hoping The Mortal Instruments trilogy is the new Twilight series. (Both series are are being made into movies right now)

RainbowDragon
10-31-2009, 01:00 AM
Look my publisher doesn't want the third book in my series. My completed YA is being rejected despite what is acknowledged to be excellent writing because it is "risky".

I am surprised and sorry to hear this. Can you shop book 3 to other publishers, too, or will they revisit it again after a period of time has passed?

Would be a shame for a series to end prematurely because of the recession.

AbsolutelyCate
10-31-2009, 01:09 AM
I just keep thinking 'why'd the hell did I wait until now, during the most dire economic shambles in recent history, to write my first novel?'

*sigh*

I hear ya.

blacbird
10-31-2009, 01:15 AM
My bolder, underscored point is the same as a myriad others here: Write well. Pitch well. Get published.

The writer can influence the first two, at least to some extent. The third remains a complete crapshoot, as far as I can tell.

caw

jst5150
10-31-2009, 01:54 AM
The writer can influence the first two, at least to some extent. The third remains a complete crapshoot, as far as I can tell.
It's a sale, like any other. Either sell it, or don't.

Phaeal
10-31-2009, 01:55 AM
I don't want to reopen the celebrity-writer topic, but I read somewhere recently that one big publisher told all of its aquisitioning editors to go out and buy two celebrity books each. The trouble is: the buyers of celebrity books aren't readers or book-lovers.

Look at this photo (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1222807/Katie-Price-appears-book-signing-Alex-Reid-moves-mums-house.html) and judge for yourself. That Ladies and Gentlemen, is the kind of reaction publishers love from readers. Never mind the trashed books. That is one Big Book.

Wow. When "my" Borders held a signing for local hero, champion boxer Vinnie Paz, the crowd was positively genteel compared to this one. Man. Sad sad sad people.

HJW
10-31-2009, 05:56 PM
Seeing all those trashed books makes me sad.

Me too. Poor books.

sydney
10-31-2009, 07:29 PM
Throwing my two cents in. Everyone is looking for the 'next big thing' right now in any industry. The boom that Apple got from the ipod and iphone, the money Twilight and Harry Potter brought in, and all those similar situations - it doesn't matter what industry, everyone needs that boost right now.

But no one really knows what the 'next big thing' is going to be. They can test on groups, they can hype, but they really don't have a clue. Until the public either hates it or goes nuts, everyone in the business is holding their breath and praying that it works. We're a fickle group to try and predict. One year we hate the tv show Moonlight, and the next, vampire's are the hottest thing out there. The industry is playing a game and trying to predict what will bring in the money. Sometimes they fail miserably and others, they don't see coming.

Side note: The basic storyline of a kid going on a quest with fantasy characters is jumping. Many people are hoping lightning strikes twice wit the the Percy Jackson series and HP crowd. Other are hoping The Mortal Instruments trilogy is the new Twilight series. (Both series are are being made into movies right now)

I think that makes sense--at any point if you can write the "next big thing," you're set. I'm not saying people should write with that mentality. I'm just saying that makes perfect sense.

Fickle people! I loved Moonlight lol

Seriously, the fantasy thing seems to be getting pretty popular. I don't really think PJ is going to do well, but that's just me. As for MI, also not seeing it get that far. Still, there's time...

Well, I think I should head back to my stalled paranormal WIP and inject some fantasy into it :D

TrixieLox
11-01-2009, 09:37 PM
Toothpaste, I just wanted to say this thread was really useful and I think you're great, always offering help on AW etc when you must be pretty busy yourself, and also providing thought-provoking discussions and posts. Mucho appreciated by many of us.

Sorry to hear about Book 3 and YA, such a shame cos you're a great writer. But lovin' your attitude. Good luck with it all...