From page to screen, more ways than one

I have a few books I’m working on book-to-film deals at the moment, and for several years before I became an agent I worked in NYC in film and tv development. Which means I looked for books to be adapted into movies. So I guess you can say I got my start in books by reading to see what might translate to film. I still find I read this way, and relate to books that I can visualize as movies.

So I’ve been taking note of several recent book-to-film deals that have sort of interesting stories behind them. I’m fascinated that The Martian by Andy Weir, which was initially self-pubbed. This article from talks about its path from publication to big screen. It’s nothing short of amazing! He had no luck attracting an agent or publisher so he self-published the book and it started to gain some momentum. Eventually, publishers and film companies started approaching him and very lucrative deals were signed. He has a deep fear of flying so never met any of the people he was doing business with. The way he describes it, it was all so surreal he actually thought it was a scam.

Then I saw another piece about a bestselling YA book, 13 Reasons Why, that is now going to be turned into a tv series for Netflix starring Selena Gomez. That’s interesting because the book was initially published back in 2007 and then became a bestseller in paperback in 2011. It’s taken years to get it from page to screen!

Finally, there’s the much hyped adaptation of the bestseller Room, which was adapted by the book author. She drafted the screenplay even before she knew it was going to be optioned and made for film. An interview from Publisher’s Weekly about that process you can find here.

To me they all have interesting back stories and histories and the takeaway is that you never really know what’s going to happen with your book, or when. In each of these cases you have examples where a book property started life as something else and then went on to become not only a published book, but a film or tv show after the fact, in the case of 13 Reasons Why, years after the fact. Keep on writing and working toward success in your endeavors. You never know when someone will find your book and turn it into something else. If you have any other fun book-to-film stories, please share them with us!


Subway Reading

When I get on the subway, most times I read an e-book on my phone or a print copy. Other times, I people watch and get excited when I see people with books in their hands. I eagerly look around wondering if I’ll spot one of ours, a title I’ve read before, or one that looks interesting. I’ve never ventured to ask anyone about the book they are reading and what they think of it; instead, I try to look for signs on their faces (I can’t read without making a face: aghast, anxious, stupid grin….the whole roller-coaster thing), which does not help me at all. Sometimes, I get off at my stop and wrack my brain to try and remember the title of a book I thought looked good. It’s gotten to the point where I have the notepad on my phone ready to jot these things down!

Luckily, not too long ago I found a brilliant Instagram account to follow called Subway Book Review. It was started by Uli Beutter Cohen, who unlike me, talks to her fellow subway riders about the books they are reading and then posts the review on Instagram/ Facebook with a lovely picture of the book and the reviewer. The genres and titles differ greatly, just like the people that come in and out of the subways everyday.

Thanks to this amazing account, I am now inspired to start talking to people with books who might be standing or sitting close to me. What can it hurt? It’s the go-to conversation starter in our business. It’s also a great way to meet people and more importantly, practice pitching your book to agents/editors. I encourage you all to give it a try if you are like me and haven’t done so already. I would be glad to post a follow-up on the person I talked to and a review of the book they were reading!



Poetry becoming popular?

A while ago I mentioned the different ways in which authors have been using social media to tell stories. And apparently the same goes for poetry. Check out this extremely interesting piece from the NYT.

I love the description of a best-selling celebrity poet as the literary equivalent of a unicorn. Instagram and Tumblr are pretty perfect for poetry if you think about it. Perfect length. Perfect example of form-function-storytelling harmony. I have the emotional maturity of a six-year-old, and as such, don’t really understand poetry, but I’d love to hear from our readers.

What do you think of poetry in this medium? Do you follow any Instapoets? Any ideas why it’s so popular?


Amazon is entering the real (vs. virtual) world

Amazon StoreSo the news last week was that Amazon has opened its first brick and mortar bookstore—this one is in Seattle where the company has its headquarters.  Twenty years after Amazon began as a website selling books (and before they were pushing lawnmowers and groceries), this could be an exciting beginning for those who love to browse in actual bookstores.

Evidently, most of the books in this new store are displayed cover out which could be seductive to consumers because titles will be easier to find.  The other thing that is interesting here is that it was announced that the books will be the same retail price in the store as they are online (where merchandise is usually discounted).

Given the fact that Borders went out several years ago leaving a huge gap in the print bookstore business and that Barnes & Noble seems to be floundering, this is very good news—for consumers and  for publishers.  Hopefully, this new venture will be so successful that Amazon which, after all, began in the book business will expand their  bookstores  to other cities in the years ahead.  One can only hope.

I’d be curious, though, to know what you think of this new development.


E-mail: Don’t count it out

I had lunch last week with my friend Philip Marino, associate editor at W. W. Norton’s Liveright imprint. As so often happens in this industry, we landed on the topic of social media and platform-building. He pointed out that e-mail—recently considered a bit of an also-ran in the age of texting, Twitter, and Instagram—has regained a lot of book-marketing strength. That’s because of the newsletter, which authors are finding to be a terrific promotional tool. Yes, newsletters have been around since the beginning of the internet, but they have now made a comeback.


Marino and his team at Norton have noticed a strong correlation between the number of an author’s newsletter recipients and the resulting sales figures. “As social media platforms become oversaturated with promotions and advertising,” says Marino,  “we’ve seen a shift in the past year or two in regards to what sort of author outreach actually gets traction with readers, both new and with those who are already fans. Right now, it’s the newsletter.”


That’s good to know, as is the fact that there are also plenty of great tools available to help authors easily manage the lists for their e-mail blasts. There are also equally helpful ways to measure how effective the messaging is. Not only that, but it’s becoming easier to collect e-mail addresses through social-media outreach, your author webpage, and sign-up sheets at book events.


Writers who don’t have a newsletter yet should think about starting one. Even if there’s not a lot of news to report, and the newsletter only comes out every few months, its reach can extend beyond the e-mail list as your contacts forward it, re-tweet it, and share it on their Facebook pages.


Any suggestions to add? Please feel free to post a reply.





The Importance of Feedback

One of the things I miss from college is writing workshop classes and getting regular feedback from my classmates. It was a simultaneously an uplifting and affirming experience (people like my work! It doesn’t totally suck!) and a very humbling experience (wow, X, Y, and Z don’t work at all).

To write, I think, is to be constantly humbled in some way. If you can’t take criticism or you think you’re set to win the Pulitzer after one draft, it’s going to be a long and uphill haul for you. Writers have to grow thick skins—and so do agents for that matter! Not to sound dreary, but rejection is inevitable at some point in the game. Think of the feedback you may be getting from agents or editors as a chance to grow and look at your material with fresh eyes. They know what’s selling and what’s working in the market. It’s a delicate balance of believing wholeheartedly in your work and fighting for it, but also being humble enough to accept that you’re probably going to have to revise. And re-submit. And revise more.


Be open to having people look at your work and offer critiques or praise of what they think is working. If you can, join a writer’s workshop or community—or get other writer friends to take a peek and offer macro suggestions. Having friends offer feedback on micro changes like typos and grammar errors is also crucial. You want to make sure your writing is as close to finished as possible before submitting to an agent. Believe me, we notice.

In short, really utilize the power of feedback. Use it as a way to start a conversation that will hopefully shape your work into the best book it can be, in all stages of the writing and publishing process.

Who do you turn to for good feedback on your work? How do you think thoughtful and respectful critique has changed your work?


You’re reading WHAT?!?!

We’ve been going through a bit of a weird reading time lately in the Rudolph household. For the past few weeks, my four-year-old son George has insisted onHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for his bedtime reading, no doubt inspired by his older brother Henry, to whom I’ve been reading all seven books in sequence for about a year now. While I’d like to believe that George is brilliant, precocious, and absorbing every word, the truth is that he consistently falls asleep after 5 pages or so–and since he falls asleep so easily, we aren’t going to discourage the routine!

Meanwhile, seven-year-old Henry wants to know about war–specifically, World War II. And since Dad can’t seem to explain WWII coherently without getting into a lot of evil stuff, he asked if we have any books on it instead, or if he could get some from the library. So it seems we’ve reached that fateful Parenting Moment where we need to think about what kinds of books are appropriate for our kids.

Now, like most of my publishing colleagues, I abhor censorship. One of my proudest projects from my early days at S&S was working with Judy Blume on Places I Never Meant to Be, an anthology that supported the National Coalition Against Censorship. But when it comes to Henry and George, is it right to feel concerned about what they read? Or am I being a total hypocrite if I tell Henry to wait on the war books until he’s older?

Fortunately, Roger Sutton of The Horn Book (and an outspoken anti-censorship advocate) pointed me to this little piece on Book Riot, where the author advocates letting kids discover books without restriction. And after reading it, I realized that I benefited from a laissez-faire book policy when I was a kid, too–discovering Lou Reed’s music in ninth grade led me to William Burroughs, and while I distinctly remember my Mom wasn’t thrilled when I took my copy of Junky on the plane to visit my grandparents in Florida, to her credit she didn’t stop me.

So while I might try to get age-appropriate book from the library on WWII, when Henry starts digging through our own shelves and comes across Ellie Wiesel and Primo Levi, I’m not planning on stopping him. And if George keeps up with Harry Potter through the somewhat disturbing ending, I won’t be the one to stop him either (even if manages to stay awake).

But maybe I’m being unrealistic and/or dogmatic here–how do you handle reading material for your kids? Do you keep an eye on them or give them free reign on your shelves? Where do you draw the line?   


Grand Gestures

Recently Stacey shared on our blog about hosting a book club at her home…and I am an avid book clubber myself! So I was interested to read this article in PW about an author who set a personal goal of visiting 100 book clubs. And she is well on her way! Thanks to Skype, Nomi Eve was able to visit book clubs all over the country, sometimes several in one day!

My book club has never had an author visit like this, though we have a few times gone to author events for a book that we read. It’s always a lot of fun to chat with an author about their work, and I imagine even more of a thriller for readers who do not have the pleasure of working in publishing and meeting authors all the time! On the other hand, my book club has often had lively discussions when a couple of us strongly disliked a book – and that certainly can’t happen if the author is present (unless you’re a fan of awkward moments…).

But the really fascinating thing that Nomi Eve experienced was the snowball effect:

What happened was that for every book club I visited, I got invited to another. A book club member’s sister, or cousin, or neighbor, or sister-in-law heard about my book club visits and invited me to their book club. So when I had 20, I really had 40; when I had 40, I really had 80, and so on and so on.

That’s some powerful word-of-mouth when you consider that a book club visit likely means 8-10 books purchased. So 20 visits turning into 40 visits is like 200 books sold turning into 400 books sold!

If you’re in a book club, what do you think about author visits? Ever had one? Authors, would you enjoy meeting with book clubs or would you find it nerve-wracking?



My dearest, Angelica

11822302_1189555777737964_6537270592173409997_nAs you’ve likely gathered if you’ve spoken to me in the last month, I am obsessed with the musical Hamilton.  I haven’t even seen it yet (less than 4 weeks away now!), but I’ve been listening to the cast recording near constantly for weeks. There are a million small moments I adore, but the one that really sold Hamilton to the grammar pedant in me was when Angelica Schuyler inquires about the placement of a comma, hoping it’s an indication that her brother-in-law Alexander Hamilton is secretly as in love with her as she is with him. That Schuyler not only noticed Hamilton’s comma use (apparently this moment is drawn from a real letter where the reverse is true), but assumes it was a coded message of love is what pleases me most. I mean, sure, it would be a bad idea to have a secret affair with your sister’s husband or your wife’s sister, but that would be a grammar nerd love I could get behind.

So naturally when I saw this Buzzfeed list of grammar tweets in PW Daily, I clicked on over. These people are using the internet for its true purpose: bonding with their fellow nerds. Grammar pedants of Twitter, I salute you!


More All Hallows Reading

Although Erin has ably covered scary stories, I’ll chime in with another—David Mitchell’s disquieting but mesmerizing Slade House, which is as exquisitely packaged as it is unsettling to read late at night, alone, in what the older of my two sons calls a house with a lot of squeaky, freaky noises. I’m not so easily spooked, but I did find myself listening harder than usual. For what, I’m not sure…spectral footfalls, soul-sucking shades, my kids waking up and interrupting a delicious stolen moment of actual pleasure reading?

Slade House is a delightfully dark fairy tale, one that riffs off the world Mitchell built in The Bone Clocks but does not demand prior knowledge of it. There’s a stylish book trailer here. Its Edward Gorey-ish vibe makes me like it even more than the litany of praise it was designed to showcase. And indeed, no Halloween would be complete without a dose or several of Gorey. My sons and I just finished reading John Bellairs’ The House With the Clock in Its Walls; Gorey’s illustrations were the perfect complement to the tale of an evil wizard who concealed a doomsday clock in his squeaky, freaky home. Perhaps I was listening for ticking…

Generally speaking, I like a subtle, atmospheric brand of scary, the sort that steals over you, rather than overt horror, the sort that jumps out at you with chainsaw in hand. I may be the only child of the 80s who managed to avoid the Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises, and the allure of the slasher flick eludes me still. This animation of Gorey’s cryptic but compelling “The Object Lesson” by Matt McGee is more my speed:

Happy Halloween!