Friday, May 30, 2008

Mugging for the Camera

Mugging for the Camera: An Album of Odd Poetry Snapshots by R. J. Clarken (Virtual Bookworm / 1-602-64160-9 / 978-1-602-64160-0 / April 2008 / 148 pages / $12.95)

Reviewed by Dianne K. Salerni for PODBRAM

Mugging for the Camera is a collection of light verse and wit by poet, photographer, and graphic artist R. J. Clarken. Described as “An Album of Odd Poetry Snapshots,” this slim novel will surprise and delight you with its quirky, upbeat perspective on life, love, language, and totally bizarre news stories. Many of Ms. Clarken’s poems have been previously published in The Daily Haiku, Sol Magazine, Asinine Poetry, and Trellis Magazine, and this collection brings them together for the first time. Mugging for the Camera is divided into twelve sections devoted to such topics as urban (and suburban) life, weird news, famous dead people, literary parodies, and word play.

Apparently, Ms. Clarken never met a word she couldn’t write a poem about, and readers should prepare to have their vocabulary expanded—or at least poked and prodded. Can you say sialoquent without spitting? Do you know which recent politician caused a scandal with an episode of esquivalience? Can you find even one rhyme for Ytterbium, let alone describe its rare earth metal properties in iambic pentameter?

But Ms. Clarken does not spend all her energy bending the English language. The world news proves to be a source of inspiration for her sublime and ridiculous “snapshots.” In Holland, thrill-seekers pay top euro for live entombment at “Fun Burials,” and in Spain, an energetic couple’s lovemaking sends them through the ceiling (of the hotel room below them). In both cases, this quirky poet-journalist wittily captures the moment for us. Literature takes a hit, too, as she reduces Hamlet, Jane Eyre, and The Wizard of Oz to haiku length. Makes you wonder why Baum, Bronte, and Shakespeare had to be so wordy! (If it even was Shakespeare—and Ms. Clarken doesn’t neglect to summarize that little controversy as well!) My personal favorite, however, is a work-related doggerel entitled Cover Your Ass inspired by a quote from comedian Mike Binder (“Never moon a werewolf”). If you don’t have a werewolf as your boss, you surely have one in the family or the neighborhood and can appreciate the wisdom of, as Ms. Clarken puts it, “keeping your buttocks dressed.”

Overall, Mugging for the Camera is a delightful little book that highlights the silly and ridiculous in our lives. Highly recommended for lovers of word play and haiku and readers who just want a good chuckle.

See Also: Dianne Salerni's B&N Review
R. J. Clarken's Assinine Poetry page
Another review of Mugging for the Camera by Dianne

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


"H" by Barbara Dinerman
(iUniverse / 0-595-40930-X / 978-0-595-40930-3 / August 2007 / 126 pages / $10.95)

An experienced writer of numerous magazine articles about various interior decorating issues has released her first novel, and yes, it is about herpes. More accurately, it is a morality play surrounding the office politics of a Fort Lauderdale advertising agency in The Eighties at a time when real estate in South Florida was booming and herpes was a new dirty word. The story follows thirty-something Joan Halprin as she deals with an obnoxious boss at a new job after a European dalliance has left her with a bug in her drawers.

Let's cut directly to the source of the itch, shall we? There is actually very little serious content about herpes in "H", although the book is featured on a website for herpes sufferers. The bug does play a key role in the storyline, but this book is strictly light satire, and is not a self-help reference in any way. If "H" is autobiographical, the author makes no firm implication in that direction, either. Although it would seem that "H" belongs on the same shelf with Tim Phelan's Romance, Riches, and Restrooms, this is true only in the reference of both to embarrassing personal subject matter. Ms. Dinerman's first novel shares more in common with Linda Gould's Secretarial Wars and J. J. Lair's Dream Dancing. It is highly likely that if you enjoyed the three mentioned books previously reviewed here at PODBRAM, you will like "H" for many of the same reasons. All are slice-of-life stories with professional production and adult themes.

Behind the appropriately Eighties-seductive cover lies a book with only one glaring shortcoming: it's just plain too short. The storyline, editing, proofreading, and compositional style are all of a high caliber. The weakness is that the plotline virtually begs for more gut-wrenching, soul-searching, scruple-challenging detail. Although the reader can easily visualize the Technicolor characterizations, there is precious little depth of detail in the storyline. Barbara Dinerman is an established professional writer and this fact is aptly conveyed in the presentation of the package. "H" is easily a four-star effort, but to receive five stars from the head curmudgeon, this morality play should be three times as long with equivalent levels of depth and ambivalence.

See Also: The B&N Review
The Author's Website
The Herpes Website

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our Newest Reviewer

Dianne K. Salerni is an elementary school teacher with a Masters in Education and eighteen years experience in the classroom. She is a native of Delaware who has spent her professional life in the Philadelphia metro area. She traditionally published three short books in the educational field with McDonald Publishing Company in 1997 and 1998, and her first novel, High Spirits, has been receiving accolades from many respected sources. Most recently, her seminal ideas on an Amazon discussion board for historical fiction novelists spawned the creation of the Independent Authors Guild. Along with several others, she has been instrumental in developing the growth of IAG through her blog and their Yahoo Group. She has been publishing book reviews, featuring mostly IAG authors, on her website, and now we welcome her to our PODBRAM family of book reviewers. Although Dianne will soon be reviewing the first poetry book to be featured on this site, her specialty is historical fiction.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nothing Worth Much

Few things of real value are easily obtained, and this applies to book reviews, too. From observing how much hoopla has been generated recently over the context of what have been called bad book reviews, the time has come for a little discussion of the subject. A lot has changed over the past decade since POD publishing was born, and we all know that the single most significant fact is that any Cocker Spaniel with a typewriter can now publish a book, and that fact alone has changed everything!

The standards for what used to be called a published book have been lowered into the depths of self-absorbed mediocrity. Now everybody and his dog are published authors. What kind of self-centered kids are helicopter moms raising? What are kids learning in school these days, other than layer upon layer of political correctness? Manners good; PC bad. Why is the USA falling off the deep end of mediocrity these days? We never talk about the true source of problems or how to correct them.

There are thousands of inexperienced new authors out there with brains full of PC and hot air. They have not published a POD book to compete in the big leagues with traditionally published authors. They just want to be a cog in the wheel of the new Internet publishing vanguard. They want to get rich and famous. They want to show the world what geniuses they are because they had the funds to pay a POD publisher. They want to market their books so everyone else will see how successful they are. They want to read glowing reviews and see high sales numbers at Amazon. Of course we all want the same thing. The difference is that some of us want it because we worked hard enough to deserve it, but others just want it regardless of how it was obtained.

Probably the single most negative effect of the Internet has been the way it has opened the door for endless slap-fighting, generally bad manners, and an effusive mediocrity. Few arenas have exposed these weaknesses in our behavior more obviously than the advent of POD. Whole mini-industries have popped up to feed the monster, and most disgustingly to me at least, are the paid review sites. These truly represent the Payday Loan Department of the POD industry! Just like the payday loan companies, these prey on the stupid, desperate, and misinformed. They offer a short-term fix for the egotistical fame junkies among us. Do you really think they give a rat's ass about the customers who purchase your books? We all know that any new Wally-World in town shuts out local businesses in the area. For only $75, you, too, can lower the value of all book reviews, as well as that of your book, down into the pit of nothingness.

Of course there are bad reviewers out there. They are just more of the same tacky little turds that like to see their opinions reach beyond the second grade playground. It is unfortunate that Amazon, Blogspot, and Wordpress offer these jackasses a forum, but would you rather live in a police state? Nobody wants their ten-year-old watching porn, but without Playboy, I doubt that I would ever have become so fascinated by in-depth interviews or serious political topics. Shall we throw out the baby with the bathwater, the Playboy Interview with Debbie Does Dallas, or the legitimate book reviewers with the grade-school bloggers and paid sleazebuckets?

The book reviews on this site are intended to be read by both authors and readers. What most of the horde of shallow POD authors actually desire are not reviews, but superfluous blurbs of congratulation. Any author who is truly serious about his craft wants to attract readers who read his book solely because of the quality of his craftsmanship, not because the buyer was suckered by the advertising. Do not kid yourself: paid reviews are a form of advertising, not critique.

You may have noticed that we are no longer officially iUBR. Now we are PODBRAM! Whoopee! The URL remains the same for now so others can still find us. We still offer only legitimate book reviews for both authors and readers. There may sometimes be a tricky, narrow path to walk in order to try to positively affect both sides, but we at PODBRAM work diligently to avoid joining the ranks of the slap-fighter generation raised by helicopter moms. Accurate, unbiased reviewing is a tough business, but we at the all-free, all-the-time PODBRAM are not driven by monetary gains. We are driven by unadulterated dedication to our craft.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Rock Star's Homecoming

The Rock Star's Homecoming
by Linda Gould
(iUniverse / 978-0-595-46283-4 / 0-595-46283-9 / December 2007 / 260 pages / $16.95)

Let me begin by saying that Linda Gould is one of my favorite of the authors featured on this site. She is the exact sort of author that I seek out to feature and display. I knew after reading her first book, Secretarial Wars, that the error count would be exceptionally low and trivial in nature. I knew that the language might be literary enough to send me to the dictionary, but never stilted or boring. I expected the editing to be taut, the characters and plotline fully developed, and the overall presentation of the product to be professional. I was not at all disappointed.

The basic plotline of The Rock Star's Homecoming reminds me of the silly, early-'60's movie, Bye Bye Birdie, but the similarity quickly ends as the reader delves into the '80's-modern reality of this story about a group of coeds in Clemens Dorm. The story is mostly told from the prospectives of Imogene and her roommate Sara Murphy, who is the little sister of legendary rocker Jake Murphy. Imogene wants to write her thesis on the political psychodrama and literary merit of Jake's band, Sunburst, who played in the dormitories at Glendary College back in 1973. Sara has promised the campus administration that she can reunite a splintered group of uncontrollable egos to play for the Homecoming Dance. Most of the action takes place among the girls in Clemens Hall as they act out their fantasies toward the band members and the current football team while trying to retain control of their deeply internalized jealousies toward each other. Sunburst has spent the intervening years between their campus shenanigans and the present time developing their sound, creating a studio, and generally becoming a very famous group of musicians in New York City. The only portion of the story not set in the small college town is the timeframe in which Sara and Imogene travel to NYC to round up the errant musicians.

I must confess that the storyline of Linda Gould's second novel is right up my alley, even if it is a bit of chicklit for the most part. I grew up on the campus of a small, isolated college town, and I was a rock concert promoter in that locale for a while in the early '70's, so I am not only familiar with the territory, but I enjoyed wallowing in the nostalgia of it all, too. I also must confess that I have a weak spot for most of the Elvis and beach movies of the '60's, too, including Bye Bye Birdie. Some readers may not get quite the buzz I do from reading this book for precisely these reasons; however, I still commend Ms. Gould highly for the professionalism of her product, regardless of the obvious nostalgia factor.

Each chapter is introduced with approximately one page of mental rumination by one of the key characters in the story. The author deliberately lets the reader figure out exactly who is doing the thinking during each of these chapter openings, without once mentioning the character's name. I found this little conceit to be both clever and entertaining, and I never once had any difficulty identifying each character. Linda has told me that she based the turbulent interactions of the two lead members of Starburst on Lennon and Dylan. I cannot say that I had exactly that imagery as I read the story, but those two idols are close enough, especially since I have yet to think of a more accurate alternative. The Rock Star's Homecoming is a dose of chicklit with its cadre of young coeds leading the parade, but there is enough period nostalgia to take the storyline somewhat beyond that point. Linda Gould's second novel is clearly one of the best books I have reviewed for this site.

See Also: The B&N Review
Interview with the Author
The Author's Den Review

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Writer's Blogroll

I have been mulling over the presentation of this post for a long time. As you may imagine, my bookmarks folder has been overflowing with links to writers' sites. There are so many that I have never before now organized them into a coherent arrangement. Let's just begin the link posting and clicking, shall we? I plan to release this post now with however many links I add before I get bored, and I shall add to the list periodically. Dive in!

Holt Uncensored - Patricia Holt's blog was the first one I discovered that interested me. Although she is now retired, Ms. Holt was a legitimate, traditional journalist offering a fount of information for a fledgling author, as I was back in 2000.
Buzz, Balls & Hype - M. J. Rose has been around a long time, and she is very experienced in the world of self-publishing.
How To Do It Frugally - Carolyn Howard-Johnson is one of those key pioneers in the marketing of self-published books.
The Rejecter - This person of indeterminate sex has been blogging as a slushpile administrator for a very long time.
The Writers Life - Dorothy Thompson is someone who has been around awhile in the self-publishing world.
Pub Rants - This lady is a literary agent who has a lot to say about the industry.
Publishing Basics - This blog is in the form of a monthly newsletter format for self-publishers.
1 Writeway - Marie Ann Bailey's blog for writers, about writing.
Writers Readers - This is essentually a business website, but there is a lot of useful free info, too.
Preditors & Editors - I assume that most everyone who is reading this is aware of this extensive site, but here is the link anyway.
Absolute Write - This is a huge site full of information for POD and self-published authors. Be sure to visit the forums, where the message boards are divided into groups and sub-groups.
Sales Rank Express - In case your book sales numbers are not scary enough, you can sign up for this free service and watch your book sit like a dead rock at Amazon in Japan!
Mrs. Giggles - This lady reviews POD books from her home in Malaysia. Due to her involvement in the erotic romance genre, she gets a lot of hits, but her reviews can be quite harsh. Yes, she's often meaner than I am.
Miss Snark - This currently extinct blog by a literary agent was never one of my favorites, but you may wish to read through some of the posts anyway, especially since this used to be a very popular blog.Writer Beware - I'm sure most of you are familiar with the blog of A. C. Crispin and Victoria Srauss. I recommend that you read with a grain of salt any post by an author who established her credentials writing books for Star Wars nerds and other obsessors, using famous characters created by someone else, but the posts by Ms. Strauss are informative and generally fair to POD authors.

Guide to Literary Agents - This is an editor's blog about agents. I have linked to the page concerning self-published works. You can hit the home button to read the latest post.
Books by Victoria Rose - This one is included just so you can see who Kaye Trout actually is. For $25, she will reprint the blurb from the back of your book and make a short comment about it!
Bookseller Chick - This is another blog that has never been one of my favorites, but you may want to check it out anyway.
Book Giveaway - This is a strange little site that some of you may find of interest. It's a little too goody-goody, touchy-feely for me, but you never know what you might find there.
Conversations with Writers - This blog from the UK features short interviews with writers.

Okay, I'm bored, but these first twenty links should keep you busy for a while. I haven't yet decided how I shall develop the format for this ongoing post in the future. This first group consists of sites that I thought the readers might find most interesting. When all the individual authors' blogs are included, I probably have a couple hundred more, but I'm not sure yet how far I intend to develop this blogroll. How do ya'll like the new name? I have kept the URL the same for now. I don't want to lose all the internet connections I've painstakingly built up under the iUBR banner.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Interview with the Agent

Nathan Bransford is a genuine, legitimate agent employed by the San Francisco branch of Curtis Brown, Ltd., a New York literary agency. Twenty-seven-year-old Nathan has been an agent for five years. He received a BA in English at Stanford in 2002. His blog has been visited by countless authors aspiring to traditional publishing sales and success. He is here to give us the straight scoop, and we hope not poop, on how to best succeed at the game I know all of you are dying to play. I think you will find his replies to my questions articulate and directly to the point.

PODBRAM: Let’s just jump in and dispense with the monster waiting in the closet. Do you accept inquiries from iUniverse and other POD authors? What is the first thing you would like to tell those who are salivating with their monster-breath, just waiting for an opening in your gateway to success?

Nathan: Yes, I do. The main piece of advice I would give to self-published authors is to keep writing, and don’t be overly focused on trying to find an agent and publisher to pick up the book you self-published – it might be the next one that works. Although I wouldn’t advocate writing sequels – as difficult as it is to find an agent or publisher to pick up a self-published book it’s even harder to find someone to pick up the sequel to a self-published book. I’m sure there are exceptions, but it’s rare. I also have a blog post entitled Self-Publishing and Your Writing Career in which I talk about these matters more in depth.

PODBRAM: Tell us a little about an agent’s job. Do you do most of your work at home on the computer, or do you spend a lot of time traveling and attending conferences?

Nathan: We have offices in San Francisco, so I work there during the week, so typically I take care of the nuts and bolts aspects of my job during the day (submissions, answering e-mails and queries, negotiating contracts, etc.), and then I read from home at night. I haven’t attended too many conferences (I’ve been devoting more of my free time to my blog, which I think ends up reaching more people), but I have some lined up this year that I’m excited about.

PODBRAM: Approximately how many inquiries and requests for representation to you receive per day? If the math is easier, you can answer by the hour, if you wish.

Nathan: I don’t actually keep detailed stats, but based on this week I would estimate between 30-60 a day, sometimes more but rarely less than that. I’ve been receiving more queries than ever in 2008, and I’m easily on pace to receive 10,000+ for the year.

PODBRAM: What percentage of those are POD authors? How many would you say are specifically iUniverse authors?

Nathan: Tough to say, I don’t really keep track. It’s not an insignificant chunk, but I don’t think I could venture an accurate estimate.

PODBRAM: Give us a little history how you came to be an agent for authors. Did you plan to become an agent when you were working on your English degree?

Nathan: When I was in college I decided I wanted to go into publishing but I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. Luckily after I graduated I was fortunate enough to find a position as the assistant to the President of Curtis Brown, who has been an incredible mentor for me. I’ve now been with Curtis Brown over five years.

PODBRAM: Have you found any specific advantages to having your business located in San Francisco? Is there any advantage to an author selecting an agent who lives nearby?

Nathan: I really enjoy living in San Francisco because I find it helpful to be swimming in non-New York cultural waters. The publishing industry is also becoming more and more dispersed, and because of e-mail and the internet, geographical location is less relevant than ever. And yes, while I have clients from around the world, some of whom I’ve never met personally, it’s also nice to be able to have face-to-face meetings with prospective clients and I also meet authors in social settings. Since there are fewer agents out here, that’s another nice advantage.

PODBRAM: How important should it be to an author that his agent work for a major firm? Should an author expect more personal attention from an agent with a small, independent firm?

Nathan: I’d say it’s more important to find an agent who is reputable, and there are many wonderful agents who either work on their own or for small agencies. I will say that there are some definite advantages at a major agency like Curtis Brown, which has stellar film and foreign rights departments. At smaller companies these rights are often handled by subagents, but there are some real advantages that come with being able to work closely with the agents in-house, to develop strategy and draw on their expertise.

PODBRAM: Do you work more with the major New York houses or small, independent publishers? Could you compare and contrast some of the similarities and differences between working with these two types?

Nathan: I work with all different kinds of publishers, big and small, and while there are customs within the industry, everyone is different.

PODBRAM: Have you found the fact that you are not an actual New Yawk Yankee to be a problem when you are working with the major you-know-where publishers?

Nathan: No, not at all.

PODBRAM: Some of us may have heard that agents or traditional publishers are not interested in a POD book that has already been successful because its sales have already been made. How true is this statement, and how do you feel about it, especially if the author does not already have a follow-up book in the pipeline?

Nathan: I’ve heard this sentiment expressed, that when a self-published book has reached a certain level success it’s already tapped into all of the sales it’s going to, but obviously success is better than no success. Whether a self-published project can translate to mainstream publishing depends entirely on the project itself, but definitely it helps for the author to have more books in the pipeline.

PODBRAM: How many authors are you currently representing? Is that an ordinary sort of number for you? How about for agents in general?

Nathan: I represent about fifteen active clients and literary estates, I have quite a few prospective clients I’m working with on potential projects, and I am actively building my list. The number of clients varies from agent to agent – some represent a small list, some represent fifty or more.

PODBRAM: Do you get involved in movie contracts or rights for books? How about audio books, e-books, or foreign contracts? Do most agents operate the same way in this regard?

Nathan: I’m very fortunate to have our film and foreign rights departments for movie and translation rights. I’m an audio specialist within Curtis Brown, so I definitely work hard to sell audio rights. E-books are typically handled within publishing contracts, but those situations vary. Some agents focus more on subsidiary rights than others – I’d say Curtis Brown is among the most aggressive at finding a place for these rights.

PODBRAM: Are you a fan of the show-don’t-tell concept in the composition of fiction? Do you look for basic concepts such as this one when you are reading the work of a prospective client?

Nathan: When it comes to writing, if it works it works.

PODBRAM: Are you interested mostly in fiction or nonfiction? How specifically by genre do most agents narrow their fields of expertise when choosing clients?

Nathan: I represent a little bit of everything. Most agents do narrow their fields of expertise, and I think almost everyone ends up gravitating toward the things they personally like reading, not just because it makes their job more enjoyable but also because I think you tend to be a better reader for the things you like – it’s easier to spot what’s good. I like reading just about anything, hence I’m a generalist.

PODBRAM: What is the most common mistake made by new and/or POD authors submitting inquiries for your consideration?

Nathan: Focusing too heavily on the one book they’ve self-published and not considering it as a steppingstone in a larger career. I call it self-publishus myopialoma.

PODBRAM: What is the most embarrassing thing you have seen an author do to obtain representation? Did it work?

Nathan: Oh, man. I would say I’ve seen it all, but just when I think I actually have seen it all someone comes along and does something even crazier. I don’t want to single anyone out, but let’s just say that if it’s embarrassing or crazy it didn’t work.

PODBRAM: We have all heard that a new author can forget entering the door of a major publishing house without an agent. How true is this statement? What are the chances of a new author stepping into a deal with a small, independent publisher without an agent?

Nathan: Almost completely true, and becoming truer by the day. But even if it’s rare, unagented works do sell, and there are some genres where there is more flexibility than others.

PODBRAM: How much influence do POD sales really have in securing an agent or traditional book deal for an otherwise unknown author?

Nathan: It can really help. If I’m going to take on a self-published author, I’m going to want to see that they have been able to attract some attention to their work, that they’ve generated interest and sales, and that they have sold a non-insignificant number of copies. It’s extremely hard to do all that on your own, and I understand that, but it’s what mainstream publishers will be looking for as well.

PODBRAM: Are you impressed at all by a nice cover design created by a POD author, or is this just a stupid question? Are you sometimes impressed by an author’s scrupulous attention to the details extraneous to the text?

Nathan: I’m more interested in what’s between the covers.

PODBRAM: How important to you is it that a POD book have truly first-rate editing and/or proofreading? Does this tell you anything you want to know about the dedication or professionalism of the author?

Nathan: Typos don’t particularly bother me, that happens, but if there are repeated grammar errors that suggest the author doesn’t know better I’m definitely going to be skeptical.

PODBRAM: What can a prospective client do that will annoy you the quickest? What advice can you give us in that regard?

Nathan: I’m not quick to annoy (except when it comes to queries beginning with rhetorical questions), but there is a wealth of information about publishing and the industry and agenting out there on the Internet now, and it’s important for any prospective author to familiarize himself with the information and do his research. I’m not just saying this as a blogging agent – the publishing industry itself increasingly expects that the author will publicize his own work and will build his own personal network. In order to do that, you have to know the business, so I would encourage anyone who wants to write a book to not just spend time crafting a great work, but also dedicate yourself to understanding the industry.

PODBRAM: Do you look for more of the same genre or subject or plotline that has been successful recently, or do you seek out whatever might be riskier, but could ultimately be the next big thing? How do you think most agents view this issue?

Nathan: That’s an interesting question. I really try not to follow trends very closely, but I do keep track of what is popular, because it can help put new projects in the right frame of reference. I try to read a lot of popular books because doing so helps me understand why something was popular and what nerve it struck, but I would never want a project that was too similar to a book that’s already been published.

PODBRAM: How often do you make your decisions based on the first line, first paragraph, first page, or first chapter of a book? Have you ever made a rash decision in this manner, only to see the error of your choice later?

Nathan: I read for as long as it takes me to make a decision. Sometimes that’s the first line, first chapter, page 50, or sometimes I’ll read the whole thing and decide it’s just not for me. And no, I don’t think there is a lot of error involved. If you have to talk yourself into something it means it should be a “no”. When you know you have a great project you just know. Even if a project I passed on went on to find success it might have just meant that I wasn’t the right agent for it and it took another agent’s vision to help make it a success.

PODBRAM: What genre, subject matter, or type of book does the market least need another of? What kind of book is just waiting for a knowledgeable, enterprising author to write and sell to an enterprising agent?

Nathan: I think I’m least interested in seeing projects that are unoriginal takes on well-known tropes. So, for instance, a boy who doesn’t know he’s actually a prince lives in a kingdom full of dark magic ruled by a powerful and dangerous person, and using a talisman he makes a great journey and ultimately fulfills his destiny. I get so many queries like this. But you know what? It’s one of the oldest story tropes in humankind. We’ve been telling this story over and over and over from the beginning of recorded history, from the Romans to Beowulf to modern day versions like Star Wars and ERAGON. But it has to be an original take on this trope, not the same old thing we’ve seen before.

PODBRAM: What should a new author look for in an agent, besides, of course, one that will read his book and sign a contract?

Nathan: Trust and communication are two of the most essential ingredients in any successful author/agent relationship, and the author should feel very comfortable with his prospective agent before they enter a working relationship.

PODBRAM: Are you ever impressed enough with an author’s website, blog, or other marketing tools or skills so much that you accept a book as an agent, even though you may not be that impressed with the text itself? Can you elaborate?

Nathan: A good website can definitely make a difference. It shows that an author is serious about building his presence and (eventually) marketing their book, but it’s never a substitute for a great book or book project – that comes first.

PODBRAM: Other than obviously high sales figures, what do you think is the single most important marketing effect displayed by a POD author that might encourage you to accept his book or future books?

Nathan: I think it speaks highly if he has been able to work with his local bookstores to familiarize himself with sales reps and get his work into bookstores, to get reviewed, and generate attention.

PODBRAM: What is the single most important piece of advice you have to offer POD authors wanting to break into traditional publishing?

Nathan: Keep writing.