Agent Savant

The musings of literary agent Laurie McLean

Most of my posts are at

Written By: laurie - Sep• 09•19

Hi everyone:

I seem to be blogging regularly on the news page at

So while I shall update occasionally, you will find most of my news and views at the agency’s website.

2019 Publishing Predictions

Written By: laurie - Jan• 01•19

The past year has seen a maturation of many of the trends that were sparked by the revolution in publishing that began a decade ago. Indie publishing. Social media marketing. The birth of Author-preneurs. Smart phones as reading devices. Digital diversity. The democratization of publishing.

While a lot of these trends will continue to deepen and extend, there are a few speed bumps or even large potholes ahead that you’ll have to watch out for.

Here are my predictions for 2019. (All opinions are my own.)

Diversity Continues its Dominance

One of the unforeseen yet marvelous results of the democratization of publishing is the emergence of #ownvoices authors and the increasing desire for marginalized voices to be heard and read. Top Ten and Best Books of the Year lists are crammed with nearly unpronounceable author names and stories about people and places foreign to most readers. Publishing is slowly becoming more reflective of our society as a whole and that is a very good thing. We Need Diverse Books. In 2017 only 9% of children’s books featured African or African-America characters. We obviously have a large upside to explore. Editors and agents are hungry for well-written books written by non-Caucasian authors. And I think that trend will accelerate in 2019.

Resurgence of Indie Bookstores as Destinations

When Borders Books went bankrupt and consumers began buying more and more of their books (and everything) from Amazon, things looked bleak for publishing’s beloved retail channel. But something wonderful has happened. Indie bookstores, whose demise has often been predicted but has not happened, began to flourish. They added complementary items to their stores. They added cafes or partnered with good ones. Some added the capability to print books instantly through technology. But the heart of indie bookstores was what really saved them. They are filled with book lovers as staff who can help you find the exact book you want for yourself or as a gift. Bookstores, with their bestselling author visits, workshops and conferences, classes, parties and other events, have finally become the destination book lovers craved. Through smart expense management, good solid marketing, and really knowing their customers, indie bookstores are thriving across America. Let’s hope this trend continues (and it will if you buy books there!)

The Rise of Smart Phones as e-Readers

With the rising percentage of people using mobile phones as an extension of themselves, it makes sense that books would find a home on them alongside texts, games, music, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and all those other handy apps. I would love to predict that in 2019 savvy authors will really study this small, portable reading format and create a new kind of book perfectly suited to the screen size and shortened reading times. Of course I’m still waiting for ebooks v2.0, so we may not see a spark of something new on iPhones or Galaxies for a while yet.

Audiobooks and Podcasts are More Popular Than Ever

The sales numbers continue to accelerate. More people are listening to podcasts and books in commute traffic, at home while relaxing, pretty much anywhere they have a mobile phone or mp3 audio system. And it doesn’t look like they’re going to put the brakes on anytime soon. Because they’re so popular (and profitable) audiobooks have joined ebooks and print books as “must have” rights traditional publishers won’t do a deal without. Audible continues to innovate in this space with subscription-based services, original audio stories, and “all you can absorb” genre titles (romance for now) for a monthly fee. Podcasts are getting more and more professional and interesting. If you haven’t listened to a podcast ever, there’s a new year’s resolution you’ll be happy you made.

Nonfiction Will be King For a While Longer

If you look at the runaway mega bestsellers for 2018, most of them were Trump-related political nonfiction. Fire and Fury. Becoming. Unhinged. Fear. A Higher Loyalty. It seemed like every week there was some political expose that made bestsellers out of midlist or debut authors who had dirt on the President. I expect this to accelerate in 2019 as Trump’s politics continue to dominate the news cycle and we approach the 2020 election cycle. (It’s okay to let out a groan or huge sigh right about now. I feel your pain.) I don’t see a mega bestseller in fiction emerging in 2019, but I can’t rule one coming out of left field either. It is probably a consequence of readers not buying as much fiction because they’re buying Trump nonfiction instead. There was only one novel that sold more than a million copies in 2018: The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. I rest my case.

We’re in Love with RomCom

A micro-trend I see happening in 2019 is that editors are starting to buy a lot of romantic comedy titles (YA and adult). I think it’s a reaction to the gruesome or disturbing news we’re greeted with every moment of the day. Maybe when this trend wanes it will be an indication that the insanity of our world has calmed down and readers will once again want to engage with the real world instead of retreating into fantasy. But who knows when that will occur.

And speaking of gruesome news, there are some negative trends to watch out for in 2019…

Financial Meltdown on the Horizon

The world has been in a bull market for more than a decade and most financial pundits are calling for an end to that upward trend in 2019. In fact, the way the stock market was tanking in December could mean it is already starting to happen. While a financial downturn, or even a collapse, affects all industries, publishing, with its microscopic margins, could be hit hard. Advances will get smaller. Marketing budgets will shrink further. Even the number of books bought by traditional publishers will go down. Might this be the year where Amazon changes the KDP percentages it offers to authors? 70/30 (or 60/40) if you are Amazon-exclusive via Kindle Select and 50/50 for authors who want to have their books on all platforms? Time will tell. But it would not surprise me at all that Amazon will react to financial pressure in every way available to it.

People Are Spending Less Time Reading Books

It should be a surprise to none of you that people of all ages, sexes, races and socio-economic levels have split their entertainment hours into a myriad of activities. Gaming. Social Media interaction. Streaming and binge watching. Outdoor activities. Sports. Dining. Watching CNN or Fox obsessively. And, oh yeah, reading books. The statistics are abysmal. More than one-quarter of U.S. adults read no books last year. Of the 74% who did read a book, many did not finish. The number of people who read has been steadily decreasing since the early 1980s. And the reading portion of leisure activities is continuing to decline. I see an opportunity for cross-pollination here. Books based on videogame characters. Books that accompany favorite TV shows. Even nonfiction that can accompany sports or après-sports time. We cannot deny this long-term trend. But we can capitalize on it. Especially with digital content.

It’s An Ecosystem. Support it All!

For years many have tried to position the publishing “wars” as ebook versus print books and indie authors versus traditional authors. I’ve always felt these were wrongheaded comparisons. We operate in a publishing ecosystem that contains all these components with more emerging every year. Readers want stories everywhere on all devices (even hardcover books whose demise has been predicted by others over the years). They want to start reading a book on a Kindle, switch to a laptop, and finish on their Samsung Note. Hey, when VR really catches on, I hope we’ll see immersive versions of books! But what I hope does go by the wayside in 2019 is the spurious fighting between print/ebooks and indie/traditional books. At Fuse Literary I have a lot of successful hybrid authors who have successful careers in many different ways. It’s an ecosystem. That means buying books in multiple places to protect the fullness of the ecosystem. I mean, buy at Amazon, sure. But buy at Barnes & Noble and your corner bookstore too. Let’s create the world we want to be available to us when we publish books ourselves.

So there you have it. My 2019 predictions. What do you see on the horizon for publishing?

Happy New Year!

Written By: laurie - Jan• 01•19

Writers Digest Novel Writing Conference

Written By: laurie - Oct• 23•18

Hey, come see me Halloween weekend at the Writers Digest Novel Writing Conference in Pasadena, CA. Small conference. Expert faculty. Fun costume party. If you’re writing a novel, learn all the ins and outs in one weekend. And if you’re planning on doing NaNoWriMo the following week? Get a head start on structure, plot, pacing, characters, dialogue, and much, much more.


Publishing Predictions for 2018

Written By: laurie - Mar• 16•18

My crystal ball is telling me that not a lot in the publishing industry is going to change from 2017 to 2018. I think publishing was mesmerized by Washington politics in 2017 and were slow to make any forward progress of any sort. Not a lot of new ideas. No new imprints that take advantage of the power of digital publishing and promotion. No exploration of sales innovations that come along with a cheap digital distribution system. Nada.

Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of traditional publishers believe that the ebook revolution has been settled (?), print books rule, and they can slow down on innovation and concentrate on making the new initiatives that they put in place since 2010 work.

That makes me shake my head.

I cut my teeth in the Silicon Valley and I’ve got to admit: I love change. But I love the change going on in publishing the most because for once authors and creators are becoming empowered and that’s good for everyone. Sadly, any change I see on the horizon for publishing in 2018 is incremental and not necessarily positive.

Let’s dive in to specifics.


A few weeks ago, Book World announced that it was closing its 45 brick and mortar stores. Barnes and Noble’s stock slid 13.8% to a 52-week low because their 9-week holiday sales (in an otherwise brisk holiday market) were down 6.4% and the company decreased its sales projections for 2018. It’s also closing big stores and going smaller. Juxtapose this against Amazon’s exponential rise in sales for the same holiday period and you can see where this trend is heading in 2018. If I made a bold prediction that B&N would slide into bankruptcy in 2018, many industry pundits would agree with me. The only spark of hope for getting your physical books placed in bookstores will occur at the indie bookstore level where wise handselling, community space, and personal interactions draw in loyal customers. As retail brick and mortar stores across all industries face major challenges from online shopping, I can only see this trend deepening in 2018. Chain bookstores will continue to contract and indie bookstores will hold their ground or grow a tiny amount in the coming year.


Just as eBooks in 2008-2013 kept traditional publishing afloat, accounting for most of the profitability of publishers small and large, audiobook profitability has hit the stratosphere. This is great for authors who have always wanted their publisher to create audiobooks of their work. But here’s what’s happening behind the scenes. There are two types of rights that an author can license to a publisher: primary and secondary (usually called subsidiary). It started out that print rights were primary and everything else was negotiable by an author or agent. Then in 2010, ebooks slid over to primary rights, meaning a deal was non-negotiable if the publisher could not license at least ebook and print rights. In the latter half of 2017, publishers began classifying audiobook rights as primary rights. It was a subtle transformation. It was not heralded. It began one Big Five publisher at a time. But by the end of 2017, all Big Five publishers demanded audiobook rights be part of the deal. Many medium and small publishers jumped on that bandwagon too.

Now, Audible, the largest distributor of audiobooks and an audiobook producer itself, is a division of Amazon. Audible was not about to take this shift lying down. They started offering mega deals to their biggest authors (genre fiction authors made out like bandits) to pre-emptively license audio rights to Audible. I personally sold a $100,000 and $230,000 deal for two of my client Brian D. Anderson’s fantasy trilogies last year. My usual audiobook deals were south of $25,000. So, you can see the appeal. Brian is a hybrid author and indie-publishes most of his fantasy novels. But this way, he knew he could take the time to craft amazing stories because the true purpose of an advance, to give the author enough money so he or she could concentrate on writing, not working another job to eat and keep a roof over his or her head, was being met by Audible’s advance.

I expect this gold rush of audiobook fame and fortune to continue to grow mightily in 2018 as more and more readers/listeners enjoy listening to audiobooks during commute time, workout time, relaxation time, etc. And I expect the tug of war between traditional publishers (many of whom have in-house recording studios now) and audiobook producers to escalate dramatically.


As I mentioned in my lead-in, I am perplexed and disappointed at the stagnation I experience daily in traditional publishing. The average response time to my manuscript submissions among editors last year was NINE MONTHS! The decades prior to last year, the average response time was 2 months, so I’m hoping this was a temporary reaction to the horror of what is playing out in our political jungle, but I can’t count on it. If this is becoming the new norm, publishers asking for more rights, paying smaller advances, taking forever to make a decision on buying a manuscript, and delivering less marketing and promotion then expecting authors/agents to pick up the slack, I’m not sure how I’m going to keep convincing my hybrid authors to stay the course with traditional publishers when they are making more money self-publishing. Traditional publishing needs to keep pushing innovation instead of stifling it. They need to support debut authors further than their first series if it is not a blockbuster. They need to explore the ebook format for variations in length, audience, age group, extensions, and other media. Why can’t we have a version of the ebook that is the same as the print book, but also a kid’s version, an easy reader version, an author’s cut (similar to a director’s cut on a DVD), a version filled with bonus extras. The possibilities are endless. But right now, we’re stuck on ebook v.1: ebook=print book.


Is this the year that Amazon changes the 70/30 ratio of author royalties to Amazon royalties? Earlier in January a bunch of pundits reported that a new choice of 50% royalties popped up on some Kindle author dashboards. Many are speculating that soon Amazon will be only offering their 70% royalty rate if a book is exclusive to Amazon via KDP Select. If you want to reach non-Kindle readers, you’d only get a 50% royalty rate. If this is true, I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop for years. And indie authors should not be surprised. Amazon is a business, not a friend. Jeff Bezos just became the richest man in the world. He didn’t do that by being nice. So, indie publishing is getting tougher.

Another huge boulder in the indie publishing path is the way some unscrupulous authors are gaming the system in promoting and selling their books. Activities such as review purchasing, bonus-stuffing, title-keyword-stuffing, click here inducements and click farming are steering unsuspecting buyers to poorly-written books (sometimes just collections of words) because of a perceived bargain. Kindle Unlimited (Amazon’s book subscription service) pays by the page read, not the book bought, so by stuffing other books into the back of a book to make it more desirable or having the author click a link to the back of the book for an incentive, thus counting all the skipped pages as if they were read, these predators get a bigger piece of the Kindle Unlimited pie each month and authors who are playing by the intended rules get less.

As with any maturing market, indie publishing is going through growing pains. And indie authors need to be aware of this.


But there is good in indie publishing as well, especially in innovative marketing techniques that readers are responding to. This includes Kindle Countdown deals, BookBub CPM ads, perma-free books, Book Funnel, Facebook carousel ads, iBook “First Free in a Series” promos, Kobo promos, Book Barbarian deals, cross promotions among authors, and more to come, I’m sure. Where traditional publishers are content with how the revolution has stalled (in their eyes), indie publishers and authors continue to create new ways to thrive.

So, more of the same from traditional publishing, some hurdles to overcome for indie publishers, audiobooks soaring, and bookstores contracting in 2018. What do you see in your crystal balls for the coming year?

Brian D. Anderson Becomes the First Indie Author to Get a $100K audio subrights deal!

Written By: laurie - May• 31•17

Brian D. Anderson has a lot to celebrate as he is now the first self-published author to secure a six-figure advance for an audiobook-only deal. The indie fantasy author was offered six figures by Audible, Inc. for the license to produce audiobooks for books seven and eight in his best-selling Godling Chronicles series. The author will continue to self-publish the ebook and print book versions.

“A deal of this magnitude proves once and for all that indie authors are on par with Big Five authors,” Anderson said. “If anyone in publishing still has any doubts about the strength and quality of independently published books, this should go a long way to shatter that belief.”

Brian D. Anderson and son

Anderson’s literary agent, Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary, described the deal for these books as a fierce battle among audiobook producers similar to the plots of her client’s books.

“Audible was the hero of the day, swooping in and winning Brian’s books over some major competition,” McLean said, tongue in cheek. She added that the impressive sales numbers for the first six books of The Godling Chronicles series in both audiobook and ebook formats, and their sustained sales over the past four years, convinced Audible that even a six-figure advance was not much of a risk.


The Godling Chronicles recounts the adventures of Gewey Stedding as he fights against the Dark Knight and his minions who have stolen The Sword of Truth from the gods, trapping them in heaven and bringing darkness to the world. With the Sword, the Reborn King can reshape the world and bring death to all who oppose him. It is epic fantasy at its best with elves, monsters, gods, and a hero who must reach far beyond himself to save the world.


Brian D. Anderson is the best-selling indie author of three fantasy series: The Godling Chronicles, Dragonvein, and Akiri (co-written with Steven Savile). His books have sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide. Brian lives in Fairhope, Alabama with his wife and son. For more information about Brian, visit his author page at Amazon.

Fuse Literary is a new type of hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional book publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, social media, and technology. The company has offices in California, New York, North Dakota, Vancouver, Dallas, and Chicago. Founding partners Laurie McLean and Gordon Warnock are joined by agents Connor Goldsmith, Emily Keyes, Michelle Richter, Jennifer Chen Tran, Tricia Skinner, Margaret Bail and Carlie Webber. For more, visit or follow us on Twitter @FuseLiterary.

Publishing Predictions for 2017

Written By: laurie - Jan• 13•17

Free-Fortune-Telling-OnlineWow. 2016 sucked. In so many ways. I was never happier to kick a year to the curb than 2016. From David Bowie in January to Carrie Fisher in December, it seemed that each week brought a fresh tragedy to our lives. And all the while the nastiest election ever roared in the background. At times I just wanted to hide my head in a good book. Thank goodness I’m in the publishing industry!

But it’s a new year now and things have to be better. Right?

However, before I move on to my 2017 predictions, let’s see how I did with my 2016 predictions last year.

I said that ebook sales are not stagnating, and that is definitely true. What you hear are erroneous statistics from an industry that has not kept up with the growth of non-ISBN self-published ebooks, and did not allow for the short-lived fad of adult coloring books, which can only exist in print in their numbers. I’ll talk more about this in regards to 2017 because this meme is not going away.

I said that physical bookstores will continue to decline and I believe I was wrong on this one. I see a renaissance in indie bookstores as they expand and localize their offerings.

I predicted that Kindle Unlimited will become a larger part of self-published authors’ revenue and this seemed to play out, albeit in a minor way.

I thought that ebook lending in libraries would increase and according to an informal survey of librarians I know, this is a big growth area for libraries.

I said that more midlist authors would self-publish and alas this is true. Most have been pushed out of the traditional publishing model, unless they are writing work for hire projects (more on that in 2017 predictions). But they are still creating wonderful books for their fan base and earning more money by self-publishing.

I felt that the Hollywood Blockbuster model would continue in traditional publishing and it did. I predicted that Apple’s iBookstore might make a run for market share against Amazon and it didn’t. I imagined that geographic boundaries for translated ebooks would disappear and that has not happened. Yet. I also felt that “lost” novels would resurface, and some did. I predicted that a breakout novel would be created specifically for the mobile environment and there was a modest success story called The Creature’s Cookbook, on mobile publisher Tapas Media’s app that quickly became their best selling franchise (it’s from one of my clients, so I feel obligated to mention that). So I’ll give myself a win on that one.

The last three predictions, that adult coloring books would expand, that traditional ebook royalties would escalate, and that indie authors would take market share from traditional authors, all proved true to some degree. Adult coloring books rose higher in the beginning of 2016, then tanked towards the end of the year. Ebook royalties saw some escalation tied to sales figures (like a rise to 30% after 10,000 ebooks were sold and such). And indie authors continued to rise marginally over traditional author sales, but it had slowed way down from the heyday in 2009-2014.

So seven predictions panned out, three did not, and three were kind of maybes. In my book, that’s pretty good.


Now on to my thoughts for the coming year!

  1. DIVERSITY WILL BE HUGE. The trend towards publishing books by ethnically diverse, LGBTQ+, physically challenged, and “other” voices will accelerate in 2017. Especially with the social media backlash against our new president’s conservative viewpoints, you will see the publishing industry double down on their selection of books by and about people of color, the LGBTQ community, and others whose voices and stories we have not heard much from the straight white publishing world. Sure, there will still be plenty of books by straight white authors. But the books causing most of the conversation in publishing will be by “other voices.”
  1. AUDIOBOOKS WILL RISE DRAMATICALLY. Oh, my goodness. Audiobook growth is out of this world. We’re talking nearly 30% increase in digital downloadable audiobooks (mp3s) in 2016, which is really where most of the growth is occurring as physical CD media sales plummet. A lot of this is attributable to the rise of smart phones and the ease of listening to audiobooks as you commute, exercise, or just have some downtime. Add to that the fact that Audible has seen its monthly subscription membership grow at a rate of 40% each year for the past three years and you can easily see that audiobook sales are skyrocketing. I don’t see any decrease in this growth for 2017. In fact, I see it accelerating as pricing becomes even more desirable.
  1. PRINT VERSUS EBOOKS? THEY WILL BOTH GROW! I was really hoping that we’d be moving beyond the “us versus them” mentality of this print versus ebooks debate by now, but I think it will continue into 2017 with a slight decline in vehemence. By this I mean more and more pundits will be saying that both print and ebook versions of a book are growing. The vitriol is silly at this point. An author can make money by selling either or both versions of a book. And as I mentioned earlier in this post, the companies like Bowker and Nielsen do not do a good job accurately measuring the digital portion of our industry. Look to Author Earnings and Data Guy for a more full-fleshed analysis of digital book growth in both traditional and self-publishing. My agency specializes in hybrid authors, authors who have some works traditionally published and some self-published or with small e-book first presses, so we tend to see more of the new ways authors are telling their stories. And this is why I can tell you that self-publishers are getting more knowledgeable about the business aspects of publishing and the traditional publishers are getting cagier about digital opportunities. Both are growing as where, when and how you “read” become mobile, interactive, expansive, and desirable over other forms of entertainment and education.

NOTE: Adult coloring books as a fad have petered out, finally. Last Christmas (2015) all of the top ten bestselling titles were adult coloring books. This year at Christmas (2016) only two bestsellers were adult coloring books, and those were at the number 8 and 10 positions. Adult coloring books were a huge part of the print resurgence everyone in publishing was talking about in late 2015, early 2016.

  1. INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL THRIVE AS THEY EVOLVE. Well, perhaps thrive is the wrong verb. In 2017 small bookstores will continue to live on the bleeding edge of profitability, but we’ll see a lot of innovation at the retail level with localization, personalization, subscription models, author events, group events, community building, product line expansion and just plain fun at the bookstore. In San Francisco, where Fuse Literary is headquartered, a law was just passed where non-food retail businesses can provide alcoholic beverages to their customers. Bingo! Browsing through bookstores can now become an even more enjoyable experience. Casinos have long understood that the more you enjoy your experience, the more money you spend. So how about buying a Moleskin journal to go with that new thriller or romance novel. Heck, buy all three. As hand-selling recommendations from your trusted bookseller become more and more important to readers, and the shopping experience transforms into bliss, watch for a renaissance in local bookstores across the nation.
  1. ADULT FICTION WILL MOVE TO BECOME A MAINLY DIGITAL MARKET. Okay, this is a bold prediction, but think about it. How many hardcover first editions did you plunk down $35 or $40 for in 2016? I’ll go first. As a reader. One. And I regret that I did not buy the ebook version for $15.99 instead. Most adult fiction I read is genre fiction and it is like candy. I love the storytelling, the writing, the action and the characters. Oh, my. But I love the stories just as much in ebooks as hardcovers. And my pocketbook loves the financial savings of an ebook over a hardcover all day long. Plus, I can take my Kindle with me anywhere in my purse and read whatever/whenever I like, where the portability of a hardcover is not so great. So I’m going to predict that in 2017 we’ll see the rapid decline of adult fiction hardcovers except among the perennial bestsellers. This decline will be replaced many times over by the expansion of adult fiction ebooks. In both quantity of books and in relation to print sales. And adult fiction will become mainly a digital market.
  1. IP FROM PUBLISHERS WILL INCREASE. IP, or intellectual property in this context, are the titles that are conceived and published by traditional publishers based on ideas by their staff. The only difference is that they are written as “work for hire” projects by contracted authors who may or may not see their names on the cover. I have seen a marked increase in these types of opportunities for authors over the past year and I expect that to increase in 2017. Authors usually get a modest advance, and sometimes, but not always, they also get a modest royalty rate (1-3%). IP are usually series titles that are conceived by editors and publishers based on what book buyers are telling them are selling well. If John Green-type contemporary realistic books are trending down in the YA category, and supernatural witch-based modern fantasy is trending up sharply, HarperCollins may come up with a “bible” of plot, character sketches, setting, etc. and ask a few select authors to provide a chapter, effectively competing to see which one will be allowed to write the story (or in some cases the series) in a compressed timeframe. This is like the old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books that were written by a parade of authors under the pseudonyms Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon respectively. IP gives a debut author a leg up into traditional publishing. And for a mid-list author it may give you a way back in if the book or series is successful.
  1. MEDIUM-SIZED PUBLISHERS WILL DISAPPEAR. This trend is alarming in its pace, but predictable given the changes in publishing. Mid-sized publishers are finding it increasingly difficult to make a profit, meaning only large conglomerates and small publishers with a razor-sharp focus will eventually remain viable. So be careful when offered a contract from a medium-sized publisher. You might want to make sure that the bankruptcy clause reversion of rights process is spelled out specifically and the length of the contract is for a certain number of years instead of the term of copyright (70 years after the author’s death). Medium-sized publishers are increasingly having a tough go because they lack the cost-efficiency of the large conglomerate as well as the market focus and penetration of the tiny publisher. I predict this trend is going to accelerate massively in 2017.
  1. AMAZON WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE AND GROW THEIR MARKET SHARE IN PUBLISHING. I guess this one is not too much of a prediction. It’s become a fact. No other publisher or distributor is stepping up to challenge Amazon and they are running away with the market. But unlike other historical dominant players in a particular industry, Amazon treats itself like a tech start up in some respects and keeps innovating at a phenomenal pace, so I do not believe they will topple from their own weight. It has been estimated that Amazon already sells 70% of the ebooks and 50% of the print books in the U.S. I expect those numbers to rise. Also, with Amazon’s new brick and mortar stores, I expect their own imprints to do a better job of selling print books.
  1. CHINESE INFLUENCE. This is just starting to pick up steam. It began with movies and television shows over the past few years. When you see those opening movie credits, the producers (aka the financiers) are more frequently Chinese corporations and partnerships. I just learned over the holidays that a Chinese company owns the AMC movie theater chain. My prediction is that as Chinese companies and entrepreneurs see huge profitability in the American entertainment industry, it is only a matter of time until Chinese publishing begins to take a more active role in American book publishing. Four out of the Big Five publishers are multi-national conglomerates with headquarters in other countries (Bertelsmann in Germany and Pearson in the UK own Penguin Random House, NewsCorp in Australia owns HarperCollins, Hachette Livre in France owns Hachette USA, and Holtzbrink in Germany owns Macmillan. Only Simon & Schuster, owned by CBS, is a US-owned company.) Watch for Chinese involvement either directly, as in creating a Big Six publisher, or more likely indirectly, by financing imprints within Big Five publishers. This could be a major opportunity if you have content that Chinese audiences crave (and that the government approves of.)
  1. EXPORT SALES ARE BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT TO US PUBLISHERS. This may be a bit more esoteric for some of you, but it is very important to agents. When a publisher asks for World Rights to your book, it used to mean that their rights department would attempt to interest foreign publishers in translating your book into their native languages. For English speaking countries such as the UK and Australia, it meant making deals with publishers in those countries as well. But more often now US publishers are using the Export subsidiary right to publish the US version in English-speaking foreign countries. A digital file is transmitted to a printer in London or Sydney, or even a foreign country that sells English-language books, and they print/distribute the book from there. Export sales are usually at half the royalty you’d be getting from a foreign publisher so be aware of this trend.

And that’s it for 2017. Publishing is healthy. The chaos of the revolution is slowing down, but still expanding in many directions at once, so keep an eye out for opportunities you could benefit from (especially storytelling in multiple media, which I am especially interested in). Happy New Year.

Laurie McLean, Fuse Literary

Laurie McLean, Partner


Laurie McLean spent 20 years as the CEO of a PR agency and 8 years as an agent before co-founding Fuse Literary in March 2013 with her partner Gordon Warnock. Fuse now has 8 agents in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Vancouver and Sacramento. Laurie specializes in adult genre fiction plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books, but is currently closed to new submissions. Find out more at, subscribe to the newsletter, read the blog, and follow the agency on Twitter @FuseLiterary and Laurie @AgentSavant.


Indie Authors: Make Your Book Work Harder!

Written By: laurie - Sep• 14•16

Some smart literary agent is going to start a business one day that simply sells subsidiary rights for the millions of indie (aka self-published) authors out there and make a bundle.

If you’re an indie author, maybe you didn’t realize that you’re leaving a pile of money on the virtual table by just selling your book in ebook and maybe print format. All the secondary rights outside of print and ebook rights, are yours to use or license to another entity to publish.

What are your subsidiary rights? Well, the most obvious one is audiobook rights. You can produce your own audiobook with yourself as the voice talent, and sell it from your website in mp3 format. Cheap, but not very professional. Consider it a very long podcast. As a step up, you can hire professional voice talent or find one on, Amazon’s self-published audiobook platform. This way your audiobook sounds more professional and Audible distributes the final product, paying you between 25% to 40% based on choices you make for production and distribution.

You also own all the foreign language translation rights to your book. Think about it. Your English language book does not reach all its potential readers who do not prefer to read books in English. And here’s another area that is ripe for change. If there was an exchange like ACX that paired foreign language translators with authors it would be a game changer. Are you listening Amazon? But since that is not yet available, you can find translators yourself, scan to find the foreign publishers who have licensed translation rights to books similar in genre or category to yours and contact them, or hire an agency for this purpose. You’ll have a more difficult time finding an agent who will just license these rights for you, nothing else, but they also will emerge over time.

The number one subsidiary right that every author dreams about is dramatic right licensing: movies, television, stage productions, readings, etc. Every author knows that their book would make a great movie. But so few authors ever have that happy event take place. Even creating a script yourself or hiring a screenwriter to write a script will not give you a leg up in Hollywood. But you can field emails and phone calls from studios and producers, send them your book, and follow up. Who knows? A miracle can happen!

The last of the major subsidiary rights is commercial/merchandise. This is when you see a children’s book in a cereal box or a toy at a fast food chain. One way to find the companies that turn your characters into merchandise is to attend conventions in your book’s genre, like Comic-Con, World Fantasy Con, DragonCon, etc. Head to the dealer room (or the main floor if it’s a huge convention) and examine the merchandise booths there. If your efforts start to turn into a big deal, then hire an agent to help you through the contract process and plan for future merchandise deals. But you can get a jeweler to make jewelry based on your book, aprons for your cookbook, a bottle of wine named for your mystery novel. Carefully think about the opportunities hidden inside your book before you reach out to these very busy merchandising companies. Also realize that often movie studios want to keep these rights in case the movie or TV show hits big so they can sell them. So don’t give them away lightly.

Short Fuse Guide to PUblishing Rights by Laurie McLean

There are a lot more subsidiary rights than I can fit into one blog post. But I wrote a small ebook about them and you can pick up a copy of my SHORT FUSE GUIDE TO BOOK PUBLISHING RIGHTS at Smashwords by clicking here. It’s only 99 cents and will give you a great overview about the subject. Have fun finding the hidden money inside your book!

The Creature’s Cookbook Rebecca Interview

Written By: laurie - May• 12•16

The Creature’s Cookbook debuted yesterday on the Tapas app (the app is free to download at Apple or Android app stores), and fans ate it up. So we thought it might be fun to interview author/monster Simon Alkenmayer’s first human friend, Rebecca (no last names please), about the chef.

The Creature's Cookbook

So, Rebecca, you seem like a nice, quiet woman. How did you become friends with a monster like Simon?

That’s a pretty easy question. I went out one night to get a bagel, and there was this gross dude looking through all the shop windows. I saw him go into this corner store, and used the opportunity to escape. I didn’t want him to see me walk home, so I went around the back of the building and walked up the service drive. There’s these warehouses all linked, and I thought I was being pretty clever, because unless he looked down every alley, he wouldn’t see me. I guess I wasn’t really being clever. It didn’t occur to me that the guy might have been waiting for me to leave and to see where I went.

Anyway, he grabbed me from behind and put a knife to my throat. He said he was going to kill me if I didn’t do what he said. He pushed me really hard, and I fell behind some trashcans. I cut myself on some glass, and got scraped up pretty badly. I was sure I was going to die, or worse, when he started hitting me. Then all of a sudden, there’s this noise, like when a car reeves its engine, and the dude is laying about ten feet away with this thing— I don’t know, like, sitting on top of him. There was all this blood. I wasn’t really paying attention. I was looking for the knife.

When I picked it up, everything was quiet, and there was Simon, covered in goo, but watching me. After a while, I realized what was going on, and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. That he was like, waiting for me to say something. Being polite, you know?

It was overwhelming. I didn’t really have any time to sort through how I felt, because he saved my life! He killed the bad guy, and was super nice about it, but duh, he’s got sharp teeth and says he’s a monster. What could I do with that?

I guess, that’s when we became friends.

Are you afraid he’ll eat you when he gets hungry?

Life with Simon is kind of a balancing act. You have to learn to read his face and know what things will worry or upset him, because whenever he goes through emotions, he gets really hungry. Like his brain needs more calories, or something. If he spends any time with you, then he can smell you. I guess he retains like, a memory of people’s smells? Kind of how we remember what a person looks like. When he zones out, you know, like when he gets so hungry he can’t control himself, then you have to worry. That’s when he reverts back to what he remembers and tracks down what he knows. It’s never happened to any of us, but it’s something he’s always warning us against.

There have been a couple times where I thought he was about to pounce on me, but he really has self-control down to a science.

It probably seems weird that any person would put up with that kind of danger, but not to me. I grew up in a broken home. I’ve been in abusive relationships. What it’s taught me is that anyone can hurt you, really badly. Anyone can hide who they really are and then turn into an animal. Simon is so much better than that. He doesn’t lie about it. At least, not to me. I knew from the beginning that he doesn’t want anything from me, he wants to protect me.

I guess I kind of think of his hangry side as like, a mental illness, and it’s just my job to help him through it.

Is it difficult keeping this part of your life a secret?

It’s not as bad as you might think. I’m not the only one who knows. It’s kind of like a club. We get together over cocktails and dish. I guess the only time it bothers me is when I go to therapy. I really can’t talk about it with my therapist. I don’t think she’d call the cops or anything. I just think she’d assume I was losing my mind.

I guess that’s kind of what Simon feels when he tries to tell people he’s really a monster, and they don’t believe him. It has to be hard on his self-esteem. That’s probably one of the reasons he started coming out on the internet, you know?

There are times I want to explain why he is behaving weirdly, but I can’t. So instead, I just have to feel embarrassed and look out for him. You know, like if we are out together and he suddenly gets hungry. He does this thing where he goes all still and closes his eyes, like all of a sudden he’s meditating. Except his face is all scrunched up. I can tell he’s concentrating really hard. I know now that I have to get him something to eat that has proteinv in it, before his nose starts to wiggle, or he won’t be him anymore.

Like one time it happened at a grocery store, because there was this fight that broke out, and I guess Simon hadn’t eaten properly. Anyway, I had to — right then and there — open a package of beef jerky and just shove it in his face. And people were like, “What’s wrong with that woman? Is she going to pay for that?” And they stared at us.

But whatever. I don’t mind. It’s worth it. Simon is worth it.

How do you feel about being featured in Simon’s writings? Were you worried about being interviewed?

Well, on the one hand it’s a little flattering but awkward, having my private life put out on the internet. Sometimes I worry my ex will see it, or that some mistake I make will come back to bite me in the ass. Then on the other hand, no one knows that me, this Rebecca, is the Rebecca. Like Simon is always saying, no one believes it, so even if my boss read the book, he’d probably just assume it was a coincidence.

I think it’s pretty telling that none of Simon’s friends care about his obsession with chronicling his life. It says how much we enjoy being his friends. Not just because it’s cool to know something that no one else does, or know a monster who can get rid of your dickhead coworker if you ask. But because he makes our lives better. We’re all kind of messed up in our way, and he just patches us up. He’s very good at fixing things.

As for this interview — I’ve never done one before, and I’m a little embarrassed that anyone would ask me questions, but at the same time, I believe in what Simon is doing. If I can help him make his point, I’ll do it.

What do you actually want from Simon? I mean, it’s easier to have normal human friends, yes?

Not really. See, that’s what I’m saying. Humans are way harder. People lie and have all these weird issues, where they’re all jockeying for position. It’s like one big competition reality show. They friend you on Facebook, and suddenly you get to see all their opinions on everything. They expect you to help them move, care about their head cold, or coo at their kids.

Simon doesn’t care what I do. I can walk into his house, walk right up to his fridge, eat an entire plate of brownies, take a shower, and then pass out in his bed, and he’ll just be like, “Hello, my dear. Would you like me to fetch you another blanket?”

And I know what you’re thinking. You think I just want a butler, or like, a gay best friend, or whatever. No! That’s not it. I mean it’s nice that he takes care of me and stuff, but that’s not why. He respects me. I don’t think a lot of people, women especially, know what that word really means. He finds me interesting. He listens to me speak and thinks about what I say. He is like, the walking, talking epitome of the phrase “water off a duck’s back”, and I just think that’s so refreshing.

Plus, he knows a lot of stuff, tells me all these stories about his lives. He’s a great cook. He enjoys spending time with me, with nothing but that as his reward. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a friend like that. I don’t know if it’s possible for a human to be a friend like that. Simon has forever, he doesn’t need anything…well, except to eat people.

About the only bad thing about being his friend is finding body parts.

Do you find Simon sexy?

He’s going to read this, isn’t he? Oh man, I’m in for a huge lecture on “the perils of survival landscapes”. Oh well.

So first of all, Simon is weird looking. Like, reads Mary Shelly at a coffee shop on a rainy day, works swing shift at a morgue, leans out from dark corners in the dead of night, kind of weird. His eyes are like, wide and staring, and his nose is funny. Well, you know, you’ve seen him. Point is, he’s not what people would think of as being attractive. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. When he dresses like a woman, he’s pretty hot. Make-up suits him and he’s a master at costumes.

But that’s not important. What is, is that he has a way about him. Like, always courteous, always kind. He’ll be walking along, and suddenly he’s staring into space with this little smile on his face, and I just know he’s remembering something from a long-ass time ago and thinking profound thoughts about the human race, or whatever. He almost never interrupts people when they talk. He can be snarky, sure, but seldom out loud. He even bows. Who does that?

The first time I read his website and saw all the stuff he was actually thinking, it made me laugh, because it’s so different from how quiet he seems.

Anyway, Simon is also ridiculously protective. I feel really safe with him, in a way I guess I can’t feel with men. I know that if he’s within hearing distance, if I make one tiny sound of unhappiness, he’ll be there in a flash. And I know what he’ll do.

So yeah, in that way, he’s pretty sexy.

Have you ever eaten human?

Oh my god, I hope not! *gag*

We figured out, pretty quick that if I was always going to be coming over to spend time with him, there’d have to be a system. So we went to every department store in the county and bought all these Tupperware containers. Anything that has people parts in it goes into a red container. Anything that is Rebecca-safe, goes into a blue. And because he’s really organized (borderline OCD, if monsters can be OCD), he even uses separate cookware and whatnot. There’s a whole human-compatible cupboard of stuff with color-coded handles.

But I have to admit, it still freaks me out when I open the fridge and there’s like a bowl of brains, or like fingers just sitting in mustard. I mean, he’s pretty good at keeping stuff like that hidden, but I’m kind of always in his business, so I see things I shouldn’t. I try to just ignore it, or tell myself it’s fake, which he’ll probably also lecture me about.

If I found out I’d accidentally eaten human…I don’t know. I’d probably throw up.

Tell us about your life before Simon.

Boring. And not so great. I grew up in a small town. Lots of cows, dirt, fields. My dad was a complete asshole. Sick. Drank a lot. Not a nice person. I met a guy in high school and moved out of my house as soon as I could, but then it turned out that I went from one bad situation to another. He was abusive and had a drug problem. I got to the point where I knew that if I didn’t leave, I was going to die. Something just clicked. I put all my stuff in my car, emptied my bank account, and drove. When I got here, I sold my car. I went to a local support group, where I met my friend Lisa, and she helped me get a job. Then I got an apartment. Right across the street from a monster.

I would make a joke about my luck, but it turns out, my luck is pretty good.

13 Predictions for Publishing in 2016

Written By: laurie - Jan• 25•16


(Regardless of what you’ve heard)

Fortune Teller 2

From the title of this post, you can tell I’m at odds with the notion that the digital publishing revolution is now over, ebooks are slipping in popularity, print is once again king of the world, indie bookstores are back on a steady footing, and adult coloring books are saving the world. Well, except for that last one. I agree with traditional publishing that adult coloring books are propping up print book sales big time. But as far as the other “facts” go, I say hogwash.

That’s a lot to digest, so let me bullet point these 13 predictions for ease of digestion…and hopefully inspiration…for 2016!


  1. Ebook sales are NOT stagnating. I’ve always been a firm believer that you can make numbers and statistics dance to any beat you play and I believe the Big Five are skewing these numbers with their newly won agency pricing models. Last year I saw several of my clients’ debut novels come out with an ebook price that was higher than the print book price. Check it out on Amazon. I’m not kidding. That’s part of the “decline” scenario, because honestly who would not buy a hardcover print book if it was cheaper than a digital book. Most people would make that choice. And because of this, ebook sales from traditional publishers large and small seem to be declining. Once you add Amazon ebook sales into the calculation, however, it all falls apart. Unfortunately that is not what most reports have done. They only concentrated on traditional retail sales numbers from their usual cast of publishers. So you’re getting fed false numbers. Ebooks are healthy and should continue to be healthy throughout 2016 and beyond. They are here to stay. Once ebook pricing stabilizes, because while I’m sure the traditional booksellers and publishers are trying to help their physical retail partners (aka bookstores) by increasing print sales, they will see that they went too far and the smart ones will adjust. At least that is my opinion.
  2. Physical bookstore sales will continue to decline. Amazon already sells the vast majority of print and digital books. They are a healthy company. Heck, they signed up 3 million new Prime members at $99 a pop during the third week of December alone! So I’m betting that they will continue to discount books, support indie authors through KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, and the local bookstores and chains will simply not be able to keep up. I’ll talk about Google and Apple as possible white knights a bit later, but for now I’m predicting that Amazon is just going to keep growing and taking market share from bookstores in 2016.
  3. Kindle Unlimited will continue to become a larger part of KDP Select author revenues. Amazon is always fine-tuning the customer experience. It’s their obsession. And with KDP, authors are their customers too. When Kindle Unlimited disproportionately rewarded short-story-size books, causing a proliferation of 14 page erotic fiction and episodic novels where 14 books should really be counted as one, Amazon adjusted things. Now they pay per page read and this upset a lot of writers who were trying to game the system. But my hybrid client-authors have seen a steady increase over time in their Kindle Unlimited subscription revenue and I believe this is going to keep growing.
  4. Library lending of ebooks will increase. I have several author-clients who are librarians as well, and they unanimously inform me that the ebook lending side of the library business is booming. As indie authors recognize this missing link in their distribution plans, more libraries will flock to them as sources of inexpensive books (especially when it is so expensive to buy those bestsellers in print and ebook formats). Sure, Smashwords, Overdrive and others allow libraries access to indie published ebooks, but it is a cumbersome system. Libraries and publishers will eventually figure out the user interface and back office processes, and once they do library ebook lending will accelerate in popularity. Especially for all those lucky readers who received a $49 Kindle Fire for the holidays!
  5. Midlist authors will be pushed to self-publish. This is not really a prediction since it’s been going on for years now. But if you’re a debut author it’s worth noting that if your debut trilogy or series or even a stand alone book does not reach a high altitude in sales within the first 6 months (and I’m being generous), you’re probably going to see your advances dwindle, your future contracted books put out in digital only, or canceled altogether, and you had better be building your author platform with social media and some self-published material to be ready for the inevitable slide. I’m not being an alarmist. I’m just trying to get you prepared in case it happens, as it is happening more often these days and I believe that trend will continue.
  6. The Hollywood Blockbuster mentality will continue with the Big Five. Just like the Hollywood “tent pole” blockbuster, the bestseller is still the Holy Grail for traditional publishing. They’re willing to roll the dice on debut authors because they might become bestselling authors, but generally all their marketing dollars go to support their established bestselling books and authors. That’s the way it’s been in the past, and it has become more and more prevalent now. That’s where all the big advance money goes. That’s where all the innovative social media marketing and book tour money goes. Hey, it works for Hollywood, it stands to reason it’s a good model for New York publishing too. Indie books, like indie movies, will fill the void.


Okay. Those are the easy ones. I could predict those without a crystal ball. But let’s have some fun and I’ll share what might happen in publishing in 2016. These are riskier predictions, but they might come to pass.


  1. Apple’s iBookstore will make a run for market share against Amazon. I’m not sure about this one, but if anyone can take aim at reducing Amazon’s market share in books, it would be either Apple or Google. Google Play is not getting any traction, so I don’t see Google busting through. But Apple got serious with its operating system finally and included iBooks as a stand alone app instead of making the reader jump through hoops on iTunes (where half of them probably bought the new Adele song instead!) If Apple could just swallow their ginormous pride for one second and make an Android app for iBooks, imagine what could happen. Apple…are you listening?
  2. Geographic boundaries for translated ebooks will disappear. This is already a thought in Amazon’s mind with English-language books. You can select a myriad of countries where your ebook can be sold through Amazon France or Germany or India or Brazil, etc. Now if they can only figure out how to do that with translated ebooks, we’re in for a revolution of another sort. Maybe some enterprising company (Apple? Google? Amazon?) will create a peer-to-peer ADX type of exchange for translations, where authors can pair up with translator talent and get those books distributed in other languages themselves. Audiobooks too. Why not? That would certainly shake up contracts from the Big Five. Oh, man. Can’t wait. More upheaval is good for everybody.
  3. More “lost” novels will resurface. We saw how wildly popular Go Set a Watchman from Harper Lee was last year…and it was basically a rougher draft of To Kill a Mockingbird! A lot of descendants of famous authors are going to be rooting through attics, storage lockers and safe deposit boxes, looking for their ancestors’ long lost, unfinished works. Could be good. Probably not. But it will be lucrative.
  4. There will be a breakout novel created specifically for the mobile environment. I have long believed that a shorter, episodic story, filled with cliffhangers, is perfect for the millennial generation of readers. You can read a quick bit while waiting in line for your latte or Frappuccino at Starbucks. Or when you’re on the light rail to work. Or if you’re bored with your lunch companions. I know of one company, Tapas Media, that will launch this spring, that is combining a sexy gaming interface with what they’re calling “bite-size” content. For authors this might mean you want to start imagining what a story could look like if it were optimized for this new environment. Charles Dickens would be pleased!
  5. Adult coloring books will expand. These things were such a huge success, and as I mentioned previously, single-handedly boosting print book publishing last year, that publishers will expand them in number as well as branch out to other formerly youthful books. One of our authors, Helen Wrath, just debuted Drawing with a Vengeance, which is Cards Against Humanity with doodles. I expect there to be a huge variety of doodling, coloring, structure-building and other relaxation books for adults. I hope so anyway. I’m kind of tired of crayons and mandalas.
  6. Traditional ebook royalties will escalate. This is a fight that agents have been waging since 2008. Today’s standard 25% royalty rate for ebooks is simply too low. Publisher overhead had already been figured into the original 6%-12.5% royalty rates for print books eons ago. So for a publisher to take 75% of the revenues from ebooks with very little if any additional overhead is unfair. In fact, ebooks have no printing/binding/distribution costs, and near zero return expenses, plus the marketing dollars they spend are format agnostic, so they are even more profitable to publishers. I am going to go out on a limb and say that in 2016 we’ll see royalties for ebooks begin to escalate commensurate with increases in sales. It might not get to the totally fair 50-50 split that agents have been screaming for, but even 40% would make my day.
  7. Indie authors will continue to take market share from traditionally published authors. If you’re a fan of Hugh Howey and Data Guy and their Author Earnings report (and I am!), you already know that the statistics being handed to us by publishers and traditional organizations like Pew, BookScan, and BISG are way skewed towards the old publishing paradigms. Indie authors ARE grabbing market share from traditionally published authors and I believe that trend will continue. In fact I think there is a schism in the reading marketplace developing between those readers who will not blink an eye spending $35 for a hardcover first edition book from their favorite author and those who regularly balk at paying more than 99 cents for an indie author ebook—or even a multi-author anthology! This is especially true in genres like romance, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, thrillers and graphic novels/comics. The traditional book market is shrinking while the indie market is growing. It’s not difficult to see where the growth is coming from Indie books are eating away at big book publishers. This should become indisputably obvious this year.


But also remember…books and reading are only one facet of the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry. It will be interesting to see how the publishing industry continues to evolve as it not only fights for profitability against books published outside of its purview, but also against movies, videogames, network television, streaming shows, and all the other entertainment items literally at consumer fingertips.


So there you have it. My 13 predictions for the coming year? I’d love to hear your predictions for anything I’ve missed. Or if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve presented. I have an agent’s viewpoint, which is pretty much in the eye of the storm at all times. But I welcome viewpoints from authors, publishers, pundits and anyone who loves books as much as I do!

**This article originally appeared on Anne R. Allen’s blog.