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I'd add that there's an association just for this kind of work (a close friend is president): "International Association of Media Tie-In Writers." (https://iamtw.org) Although they're not really a source for gigs, they have a wealth of info, it's good for networking, and they maintain an active Facebook group as well.

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Eric Smith wrote a helpful blog post about IP a couple weeks ago, if folks want to read more on this: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/blog/2023/3/9/a-beginners-guide-to-writing-ip-intellectual-property-in-publishing

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Thanks so much for this! Sigh. I guess I shall just keep putting my next generation Buffy vibes out into the ether and hope for the best

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“here is a Star War” 😂😂 I so wish it was that easy! Thanks for talking about this topic from the agent perspective.

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Love this, as always! A type of IP I keep seeing more and more of lately in deal reports is book packagers. Cake Creative seems like a major heavy hitter lately, and they are now listed as a creator on the New Leaf Literary website! Do you have any thoughts, opinions, or insights on book packagers you'd be up for sharing in another newsletter sometime? The surface level info I know and see tends to be: packager has an idea, they pay an author a flat fee (often quite low) and then turn around and sell the book for six figures. I know this is not always how that goes and that having the marketing support of a packager behind a book can be a HUGE win for an author, particularly a new author, but I've yet to see many industry professionals really weigh in on whether this is a growing trend or just something that is becoming more visible.

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Mar 30, 2023·edited Mar 30, 2023

Hi Clare,

I've just posted on how I got my first book contract via a packager - 1986. I'm sure times and contracts change, and will keep changing, and won't all be the same.

The packager I dealt with knew that Australian publisher Allen and Unwin (large and independent— meaning not part of a conglomerate—released Harry Potter in the country) wanted a calligraphy book. Or maybe the packager was asked to find someone...and to arrange printing and delivery.

After the packager contacted me, I supplied three sample chapters and proposed table of contents. The publisher, Allen and Unwin, arranged for them to be checked by an expert.

The publisher liked it and asked for a longer book—a bible on the subject.

I didn't have an agent, and this was my first book...I said 'Yes' to everything. 'Longer.' ...'Sure!' 'Can you write all 200+ pages by hand in calligraphy, no extra fee?' ...'Of course.'

The contract came from Allen and Unwin - their name and mine are on the cover. I was paid $X for the first print run, and $Y per copy printed in each reprint. (Never had another payment structure like it.) Fortunately it went to about four or five reprints (as far as I remember). It was worth doing BUT the contract would have been different if an agent was involved. Between signing and going to press, 'someone' sold the rights to an imprint of HarperCollins in the UK...who had their page copies printed as part of the first print run—'Just keep the press rolling, and we'll give it a different title.' So no extra payment to me. Sigh! I imagine the packager arranged this, seeing they were involved in all printing matters (they're no longer in business).

The packager chased progress, their representative personally collected the completed A1 sized sheets from me and nursed them on a plane to the printer in Hong Kong. The time schedule was tight: edited text back to me from A&U after Easter, all 200 handwritten pages and illustrations ready by the end of June. Four pages a day became eight pages a day at the end. The printed book had to be available for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October and on shelves for the Christmas trade.

I'd want an agent looking after my interests before signing anything...or if necessary, pay an agent to at least check the contract—preferably negotiate, too.

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Over the years, I’ve discovered several publishers with wish lists, and benefitted from being ‘out and about’. I think there are most opportunities for non-fiction writers.

I live in Australia. A book packager/producer entered my friend’s shop and saw calligraphy on the wall. He knew Allen and Unwin wanted a calligraphy book written, and asked the owner if she could do it. She put my name forward, and after supplying three sample chapters, the contract was signed. It was also sold to an imprint of HarperCollins UK. No agent.

I didn’t think about writing more books for ten years, until 2000. After doing a correspondence course and contributing articles to an online magazine (no payment), I asked an editor I didn’t know for social media friendship. I guess she may have read something of mine because along with acceptance, she asked if I’d be interested in writing a third of a MG book of 101 things to do before you grow up. No agent. I chose the science and survival sections. In the process, I sent sketches by snail-mail, addressing the envelope calligraphically.

“Oh,” they said, “we’ve been talking about getting a calligraphy book written, would you...” I asked an agent if she’d negotiate the contract, and we partnered. But it would have been much easier for all of us if she’d been in on the deal from the start—and a better deal for the agent and me. The publisher has used chapters to create new books in twelve spin-off products (craft sets).

I endorse that ideally, it’s far far better to already have an agent before approaching publishers. This agent has retired and I’ll wait for new representation before submitting more work. But it certainly is possible to get deals without an agent, and gain a reputation.

Without knowing if I had an agent, I was offered a picture book contract from a manuscript appraisal at a SCBWI event.

In 2010, I visited the Bologna and London Book Fairs. On each stand I said, “I am an author looking to see if you have any books that are likely to compete with my work in progress.” They all wanted to know what might compete with their books. “And I wonder if there are any topics for which I might send a proposal and sample chapters,” I added. I came away with wanted children’s books on the sea shore; fungi; papermaking; baby animals... One publisher said they had just released a calligraphy book, but it wasn’t what they originally wanted. Their aim was a book on ‘how to draw borders’, but obviously hadn’t found anyone. And another publisher said they were desperate for a book of recipes children can cook. I thought there were plenty on shelves already, but they didn’t have one in their catalogue. The guy followed me, trying to convince me I could write it, or I could find someone.

At one stand, I pitched an idea for ‘Fun Lettering for Children’, but the UK publisher asked if I could write a book for adults instead, on calligraphy for greetings cards and scrapbooking. Yes! They already had that on a wish list. It took 18 months, and I didn’t follow up on the other leads. I wonder if the publishers still want them...

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This veers slightly off topic, but it starts on-topic.

I'd like to do ghostwriting. Preferably comedy. But I'll admit my PTSD-addled brain is struggling to find work, to find agencies, etc. Do you know of anywhere I can look?

I'm also a writing coach, with an emphasis on working with beginners to build their confidence, experience, and writer's voice/philosophy. I don't believe writing blocks exist, which puts me in a weird niche. I have considered Udemy, Patreon, and have been invited to some in-person classes which I can barely afford the train to but will be going to anyway. Can anyone recommend a good place to restart my coaching business? (had previously done a bit whilst at uni, took a break for family reasons, forgot how to be human in the meantime).

Thanks to anyone who replies, and thanks to you guys for making these posts. Love them. Substack is great.

We share a similar colour scheme here as well

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I don't think anyone has writer's block. Having nothing to say in written words isn't special, even for a writer. Accountants don't suffer accountant's block, they just don't feel like working today but can pretend to play around with a spreadsheet or approve some invoices.

As for comedy ghost writing, wouldn't that be working for a comedian, or being part of a comedy writing team?

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You’ve been watching the Accountants closely, I see. I have, too. When they’re bored or lonely they come to discuss budgets or invoices. When they’re sick of us, they shut their doors and tell everybody they’re working on CEUs but we can hear their Spotify.

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Always befriend the account if you want to know what's really happening, and always watch them closely. 😁

Your accountants have doors? That's a bit special. 🤣

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Yes I agree. I also think the main body of 'writing' has been seen by many people as the physical act of typing something out, which it isn't. That's right at the end of the process. Sometimes entire chapters will come to me in a series of dreams. Is that writing? I think so.

Yeah I've had a go at talking to comedians I know, but not had much luck. Will keep trying. Been put on first or last at a few events so I'm being noticed, the trick now is finding a way to use this to pay the bills!

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So happy for you that you are seeking avenues and getting a big toe in the door.

My thousand or so post it notes only appear from prior thought, and are not at all an end product! 😁

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Post it notes, that's a great process. I just have a group chat on instagram who I regularly torment with spoilers that I wind up changing!

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As you should!

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Games can be a way to learn about history. this https://geometrydashpc.io can be set in historical periods, and they can be a way to learn about historical events.

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The inclusion of diverse voices and https://heardleunlimited.io experiences enriches the article, providing a comprehensive understanding of the issue.

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Hi Kate, I interviewed Elizabeth Schaefer, Editorial Director of Random House Worlds, and I was going to post the interview on my newsletter soon, but I'd love to guest post on Agents and Books for your audience as a follow-up to your great piece, if you're interested. (I've written a few IPs, including DAMSEL, a collaboration with Netflix for Millie Bobby Brown's upcoming film, and Princess Private Eye, which is a MG with Disney). Let me know if you'd be interested in that guest post (I'm at evelynskye.substack.com or evelynskyebooks@gmail.com ) but otherwise, thanks for being such a great voice for emerging writers! Love your newsletter :)

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I once had a friend ask if I was interested in ghostwriting for her. I was young and proud and wanted my name on anything I wrote. Now I’d be like, “Here’s my invoice, when can we get started.” 😂

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Also laughed at "I'll have one Star War, please."

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Your authentic honesty is wonderful. You’re just the messenger and what you say is the truth. Thank you 🙏

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I got very close to ghostwriting several books over the years. Always fell through due to a bad contract. Glad I didn’t sign.

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