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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Well, on balance, 2010 was a pretty danged amazing year for Brillig, and the Business of Being Brillig.

On the dollar-and-cents scorecard, I've told people I think 2010 was the best year I had, and ever will have, and then I have to listen to all of these people saying "oh, you can't know that." Maybe I am selling myself short, but... 2010 was the year we were getting royalties for the second half of 2009, which was when there were 9 Sookie Stackhouse books on the NY Times list at once (8 on paperback list linked, 9th on hardcover), a feat for an author that is unprecedented in the annals of publishing. I'd prefer to be pleasantly surprised if that can ever be equalled or surpassed by some other event or combination of events. Charlaine returned to Earth in the US in 2010, she was "just" an incredibly successful author, and the hardcover sales first week for DEAD IN THE FAMILY were "only" twice the first week sales of DEAD AND GONE the year before. Even if CBS picks up a series based on Charlaine's Harper Connellly books, that series has only four books in it and won't duplicate the 9-on-a-list Sookies. Even if Paul W.S. Anderson starts filming his Painted Man movie tomorrow, that series has only two books so far. Now, there are multiple foreign markets where we haven't yet seen the Charlaine Harris business peak. She's hit the French bestseller lists, True Blood goes on a better German network in 2011, lots of things are happening. But I like to be on the conservative side of realistic in my planning, and if you're the next person I'm telling that 2010 is the year of peak oil, JABberwocky style, humor me on that.

JABberwocky is not a one-legged stool.

The Sookie Stackhouse books were bestsellers even before True Blood. In 2010, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy was selling well beyond what the first three Sookie books ever came close to doing even as that series was climbing the charts pre-True Blood. Well beyond. The Stormlight Archive is, with The Way of Kings, off to an amazing start. The success is deserved. The Mistborn trilogy is one of the towering achievements in the fantasy genre in the past five years, and The Stormlight Archive will be all that and more in the next ten years.

As successful as Charlaine and Brandon are, Peter V. Brett has accomplished things with just two books under his belt that go well beyond either at equivalent points in their career. #35 NY Times, #16 Der Spiegel, #9 Sunday Times of London with THE DESERT SPEAR.

I don't want to turn this post into a Christmas letter where I mention every single client, but I could. Elizabeth Moon's OATH OF FEALTY is making many best of year lists, Tim Akers is doing so for a 2nd year running, Jack Campbell's "Lost Fleet" books got to #10 on the NY Times paperback list and are moving into hardcover, Simon R. Green turned in his 40th novel in 2010, Eddie's author Jon Sprunk has had the kind of early foreign success Peter V. Brett and Brandon Sanderson enjoyed.

It was a really good year.

One shadow was having Kat Richardson depart our company, probably the most important client to part ways with JABberwocky. Maybe it was inevitable. Kat had been discovered by my first full-time employee Steve Mancino in our slush pile during his very first week on the job, and Steve took very good care of Kat's. I don't know if I ever saw him happier during his time at JABberwocky than when he did a great deal with Roc for her 4th thru 6th Greywalker novels. His decision to head back to his family in Philadelphia and later to depart the agency was a blow, and I wasn't able, as the writing of those three books played out, to match that kind of first author/agent special thing that the two of them had.

But we also had our best year ever in 2010 for placing first novels.

Eddie did a great job getting multiple editors excited about Janci Patterson's SKIPPED, and then of doing the heavy lifting for an eight-month process of negotiating new boilerplate with the publisher that ended up buying. I was able to sell Myke Cole's LATENT after many years and many drafts. Interestingly, I first had extensive face-time with Myke at the same Philcon in 2003 where I first had extensive face-time with Peter V. Brett, so that was definitely a good weekend to be at the Philadelphia Marriott. We didn't entirely sell Bryce Moore's VODNIK to the new Tu Books imprint, but we were thrilled when he came to us with the offer. I first met Bryce at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison in 2005, had read and given notes on an earlier draft of the book along with some others along the way, and feel we did something more than pick up the phone when it rang. And interestingly enough, I also first met Tim Akers at that same World Fantasy, so that was definitely a good weekend to be hanging out in Wisconsin. The person who introduced me to Brandon Sanderson at the 2000 Nebula Awards in NYC recently tweeted that he had finished a novel and was starting in to revise, who knows maybe we can make a two-fer on that convention, too! And at the very end of the year, Eddie got an offer for FAIR COIN by Eugene Myers, more details to come.

We launched our e-book program. I did hope it would be a little further along by the end of 2010. We ended up taking more months than weeks to ponder exactly how big a program we wanted to have and what overall approach we wanted to take, which I think is time well spent. We also ended up underestimating all the little things that would come up to be sure we were setting up our vendor relationships the right way, which is just annoying time to have to spend that I'd like to make go away. But we do have six Simon Green titles up for Kindle, sales are in line with expectations, Kobo should follow very soon, and a lot of horror anthologies not long after, some possibly on Kobo before they show up elsewhere.

Of course, that whole Kobo thing... In the US, Kobo is pretty well tied to Borders, who knows where Borders will be in a couple of months but it looks grim, and then what is the Kobo store in the US? However, Kobo is very well established in Canada and Australia, to name a few other markets, and probably will be a player in the e-book space at some level no matter what befalls its major US partner. Well, with the e-book revolution happening by the day and the Borders scenario to play out, 2011 will be interesting for the business. Enough publishers had bad experiences in Borders in 2008 especially that I think most will manage to muddle through even if Borders does go into bankruptcy, but it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see some smller publishers go into bankruptcy if Borders does.

After years of pretty much sleeping in the office, I finally gained some distance between work and play in 2010. I hate to commute to work after all these years, but I like not sleeping in the office. But the last stage of decorating new apartment to allow old apartment with home office to be spruced up a bit (bedroom there hasn't been painted in over 19 years!) is becoming one of those typically long-winded fix-up stories.

I saw just under 80 movies, which is pretty typical for recent years. I used to see more like 120 movies, however, and there are always a half dozen or so of the missed movies that I wish I'd seen.

I was shocked to see just how little theatre I'd done in NYC in 2010, but am trying to catch some things before they close. I reviewed two of those shows here and here. I think I'm going to try harder to make time for going to shows during 2011. Why live in NYC otherwise, and if Myke Cole follows through on plans to move to New York, I can't drag him with me to see things sometimes when I do "missed it in NYC, last chance DC" theatre trips.

The iPad is amazing. I think the best technological device that I've ever had, and it pretty much goes everywhere with me. I read on it, I tweet, I surf, I correspond, I find efficient walking routes on Google Maps, and imagine if I started to really load it with apps.

The one thing I don't have now that I had a year ago is Len Horowitz. Len was a man, around 70, who was a regular at my Scrabble club. And however these things happen because I can't really explain why it did, we became good friends. We'd walk up 7th Ave and talk after Scrabble, the summer holidays when we had a bbq at someone's house we'd play an extra game or two at a local pizza dive after or head to where we could watch the fireworks on the 4th. Len kept a lot to himself, we didn't talk much if at all about his family as an example, but we could talk about movies at length even if we often didn't agree, and he was genuinely interested in what I was doing and happy for the success I was having in recent years. At the start of 2010, Len stopped showing up at Scrabble without any word, and I ended up stopping by his apartment building in March to see what was up. He'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor, he was in rehab, didn't really want visitors. In retrospect you could look at some of the little things, the eye problems he'd been having or the way the Boggle words were getting more fanciful (Len always thought it was better to create words when you couldn't find many real ones), but only in retrospect. I sent a healthy number of greeting cards, got one e-mail from him that didn't sound very good because he said he was dealing now with pneumonia on top of everything else, and we all know that's not a good thing in situations like these, not a good thing at all. He ended up passing away while I was away at London Book Fair. No funeral, I was told. Maybe there'd be a memorial service. There really wasn't any family to speak of to bother sending a card to, a cousin or nephew or something helping to sort through his affairs. I was really looking forward to having him over to play Scrabble in my new apartment, he'd have actually ventured forth from Manhattan for that. When those of us in the Scrabble club play Boggle, we'll always know what it means when we say somebody's written down a "Len word." It's fifteen years now that my Uncle Matthew passed away, and I still feel that on occasion. In fifteen years, when I'm starting at an awful Boggle board with one vowel and no words and putting things down just because that I'll still see Len there, guiding my hand as I write down my very own Len words.

He was in his early 70s. How do people live to be 50? Let alone into their 80s and 56+ years together like my parents. There are days when my hair is looking its most grey, my knees feeling their creakiest, this week when I've been sitting around with an icky cold, when I wonder just what the pleasures of a ripe old age are supposed to be. But you know, we sold four first novels this year, and I'm quite eager to see what people think of them. Sookie has a choice to make between Eric and Bill. I'm not yet entirely sure if The Warded Man or Jardir is the Deliverer, if the bad Verrakai can be defeated once and for all, whether the Knights Radiant can be re-formed, if Black Jack can discover what makes those mysterious aliens tick. The Gale family has yet to bake me a pie on my birthday, maybe John Taylor can find my Latent magic, and the Mets and Blue Jays will finally meet in the World Series. All of these are things worth waiting for.


Myke said...

Never been happier to be a statistic in my life. And you can't drag a willing participant to an event. We'll just have to go to shows in NYC (on the cheap).

Jessica Strider said...

Sounds like you had a pretty amazing year. And I've learned that things don't have to be better as long as they're different and memorable.

So, ask not for 'better' years, but memorable ones.

Hope the new year treats you and JABberwocky well.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat surprised to see you are not going to publish ebooks through B&N as well. From what I am hearing they are now a solid number 2 behind Amazon in sales in the USA. Or am I just misunderstanding?

The Brillig Blogger said...

Nook is coming. But they are far harder to work with.

Maria said...

Happy New Year and congrats on all the milestones. May there be many more because "you can't know that."


My condolences concerning your friend.

Very glad you decided to go the ebook route--it's an amazing thing to see someone with lots of experience and years of knowledge go FORWARD rather than sit and whine about how it used to be--it's a great sign that though your knees be creaking, your heart and mind are young! Kudos and good luck to you and your authors.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the success at JABberwocky!

brycemoore said...

Congrats on the success. Do you perchance use Words With Friends, Scrabble, or Boggle on your iPad? Because I'm always looking for a friendly game . . .