Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Friday, May 9, 2014

Positioned for Success

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting experience. My former agent (well, not my agent -- she quit the biz -- but her partner) contacted me to let me know there was "INTEREST IN YOUR BOOK FROM JAPAN!" Well, that sounded familiar, and sure enough it's my Japanese agent from another part of my publishing life, only she's interested in the Mantra for Murder series. Cool. So it takes forever working with Japan, and I'm in no hurry. But a couple of weeks later I get a mailing from my agent -- no explanation, nothing, just a request to sign and return the enclosed papers ASAP. So I sign them. And then I take a moment to actually look at what I'm signing, and it is an amendment to my contract with the American publisher to hand over all my world rights (minus the Japanese rights).

The author hereby grants the Publisher during the full term of copyright, and any renewals, continuations and extensions thereof the exclusive right to license the Work, in whole or in part, for publication throughout the world in all languages (excluding the Japanese translations rights, which are hereby reserved to the Author) other than English.

I puzzle over this for a bit.

Amending the agreement... As in our original contract?

Wait. Do they HAVE my world rights? Now I'm confused. I'm confused about who has my world rights -- I kinda thought it was me -- and yes it's an amendment, so yes, I must be right about that. But then I'm also confused as to why we would be retroactively handing back my world rights (especially since they don't pertain to this Japanese deal) when everyone in the world (literally) is fighting to hang onto translation rights, given that translation is one of the biggest areas for possible career expansion in the new publishing paradigm. Translation and audio.

And again, no explanation or hint from the agent as to why this would be a good thing to do.

So anyway, emails flew back and forth. Let me cut to the chase. I didn't hand my translation rights over. And I am even less popular with my former agent-who-wasn't-my-agent than before.

I won't deny that I was actually a little shocked by the whole exchange. But maybe I'm being naive. Maybe this is a typical agent move? I don't know as I never replaced my original agent. She was a good agent -- and I liked her a LOT -- but my career went in such a direction that an agent wasn't really...well, it wouldn't have made sense for either of us. It turned out to be a very good move for me, but that did take a little while.

Now days when in doubt about a contact, I send it to the Author's Guild to have them take a look-see. I probably have reached the point where I do need an agent again, but the whole Japanese thing is so dismaying I don't quite know what to think. Am I being paranoid? Maybe I've been in the indie sector so long I don't remember how it works in mainstream?

I'm not worried about the Japanese deal. It goes through or it doesn't. Meanwhile, I've listed the books on Babelcube.com because I am curious and adventurous and that's how come I earn what I do and can take my sisters on week-long vacations to Catalina every year, etc.

I’m having the Mantra for Murder series put into audio as well as the Poetic Death books. I’ve found that ESL readers really do appreciate audio, especially when Amazon links the ebooks to the audio books. They can listen and read along. I mean, obviously lots of people love audio, but I’ve been surprised and touched by how many readers for whom English is a second language have spoken up about their gratitude for putting books into audio. That almost makes it worth it right there!

 Anyway, I got curious and started poking around the web, and lo! There are a number of yoga mysteries, even yoga series out there now. I bought a copy of Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber and Neal Pollack’s Downward-Facing Death. I haven’t read either, naturally. Since I have about two minutes of reading time every night before I plunge into unconsciousness. There was also Anne Blackmore’s self-pubbed Dead Men Don’t Pose and Glen Ebisch’s The Hero Pose, and finally another self-pubbed entry The Yogi Made Me Do It. (Ouch.)

Anyway, I’m not sure I bought the Pollack and Weber books to read, really. Basically I felt a tiresome surge of competitiveness and thought I should probably write that fifth yoga book. Especially with the translations and the audio and so forth.

My problem was -- and is -- I found the mix of yoga and murder uncomfortable. I loved writing Corpse Pose, but -- and maybe this comes back to my preference for standalones over series -- I really didn’t feel much need to return to the characters. Well, other than having committed to a three-book contract! They were fun characters, definitely. But all the big questions and concerns had been answered. Oh, there was still more possible exploration of all the wacky neighbors and locals, I know, but then…murder…and yoga. I kept coming back to that. 

And yoga is tricky in that you have readers who -- as I was saying in an earlier post -- just don’t like the idea of yoga. Nothing personal. And then you have readers who do, but who have very definite ideas of how yoga should be handled. For them the yoga is going to be the most important aspect of the book -- which does not make for good mystery fiction. I suppose the fruit-canning mystery writers also get their share of As a fruit-canning practitioner of X many years…reviews that make you want to shoot yourself.

 Amazon is working very hard to drum up interest in the Pollack series though. And Tracy looks like she’s working herself to her sit bones, so good luck to them both. With all those millions of yoga practitioner and mystery readers out there, in theory the books should do really well. I'll be watching with great interest.

It just keeps getting back to the choices we make in our publishing career. And our lives...


  1. Hey, Diana! Tracy Weber here, and thanks for mentioning MURDER STRIKES A POSE in your blog! I'm so flattered that you bought my first book! I DO hope you read it someday. I had the idea for a yoga mystery series before I knew yours existed, bud I did read all of your Mantra for Murder series and loved them! If you ever read it, please let me know what you think. It would be an honor to hear from you. Yes, I'm working myself well beyond my sits bones, but I'm having a FANTASTIC time.

    Yoga, dogs, and murder....What could be more fun!

    1. Hey there, Tracy! Congratulations on the book. It looks like a lot of fun -- and I do have every intention of reading it one of these days. And yes, the combo of dogs and yoga and murder definitely has an audience!

  2. I'll be thrilled to hear what you think of it. And if you end up writing your 5th, I'll be first in line to buy it!

  3. That's very sweet of you. In all honesty...probably no fifth book. At least not any time soon. I did start the 5th but ended up having to cancel the contract. It just felt too forced. But thank you for asking!

  4. Well, whatever you choose to write, do it because you love it. Living your life with passion is what it's all about.

  5. OMG, PLEASE write more Mantra for Murder. I loved each book. I am just starting Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber. I have read both of Neal Pollack's books and loved them but they are not cozies at all. I think yoga and murder go pretty well together actually. I have had a couple of skinny yoga divas I like to see six feet under. How's that for Yoga PC.

  6. I just wanted to chime in and say I hope you love MURDERS STRIKES A POSE. And yoga, like any subculture, has people who, shall we say, are less worthy of ahimsa than others. ;-)

  7. OOOH...and Ms. Library (I just can't bring myself to call you Ms. Hag) ;-) Please let me know what you think of MSAP when you finish it. You can always e-mail me directly at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com.

  8. As a former yoga teacher turned librarian, I enjoy the melding of mystery and yoga. Much of yoga is a mystery isn't it?