Draft Day For Authors ;-)

Draft Day for AuthorsAs I write and post this, it’s Draft Day for the US National Football League (NFL). That’s the day when all of the NFL teams make their choices of new talent, and it’s a very exciting, important day. Representatives from the teams gather and select players, and the announcements are made by the NFL’s Commissioner. There’s a lot of tension, too, as players and their agents wait to learn whether they’ll be first round (top) choices, whether they’ll be picked later in the process, or whether they won’t be chosen at all. The whole process has got me thinking about the way publishers choose authors. What if the process were the same? What would it be like?

Before we go on, please do not bring your disbelief into this blog post. It’ll be much happier playing elsewhere for a bit. Ready? Here’s my look at…


Draft Day For Authors


Announcer 1: Good afternoon. I’m Mark Mason.

Announcer 2: And I’m Tara Turner. Welcome to Draft Day 2015.

Mark: It’s going to be a great draft this year. We’ve got some terrific talent, so we should see some exciting choices.

Tara: That’s right Mark. I think the publishers are going to do really well this year.

Mark: Now, of course, all the talk lately has been about Brenda Brownstone. Her historical novel has gotten her a lot of attention. She could very well be the first pick.

Tara: But can she be consistent? That’s the question, Mark. When she’s at the top of her game, no one can come close, but she’s also had her off times.

Mark: Yes, she has, Tara. But the word is, EverLine Publishers is counting on her settling out. And they need some historical writers.

Tara: Writing Commissioner Stephen Styles is coming up to the podium now. Looks like we’re ready to start. Let’s listen.

Commissioner Styles: Welcome to the 2015 Author Draft. I’d like to thank everyone for being here. Without further ado, let’s get started. EverLine Publishers starts the draft for this year. For the first round, EverLine chooses… [Reads card] Brenda Brownstone, New Orleans, historical novelist.


Mark: Well, that’s pretty much what we expected. And you can see how excited she and her agent are. I think she’ll be a good fit.

Tara: I do too, Mark. Now, in just a few minutes, we’ll hear from Fairwinds Publications.

[A few moments later]

Commissioner Styles: For the second pick of the first round, Fairwinds Publications selects [reads card] Carl Cameron, Edinburgh, crime writer.

Mark: Well now, that is a surprising choice. Fairwinds is already deep when it comes to crime fiction. You’d have thought they would have gone for romance writer Nicki Knowles. They need a good romance writer.

Tara: That’s true, Mark, and you can see that the fans are not happy at all about this choice. [Sounds of boos and ‘No!’ in the background]  It’s not clear why Fairwinds would have gone in that direction.

Mark [Shaking his head]: Well, they may be proved right in the end, but it’s not the choice a lot of people would have made. Let’s get ready for the next pick.

Commissioner Styles: For the third pick of this first round…Eagle Feather Press has traded its first round draft pick to Camblethorne Books. Camblethorne Books chooses [Looks at card]…Shayna Shilmer, Melbourne, thriller writer.

Tara: Now that’s a smart trade by Eagle Feather, Mark. They’re going to pick up Camblethorne’s choice in the next round, and that actually works for them, since they’re trying to build up their science fiction section.

Mark: That’s a good point, Tara, although I will say, I’m not sure whether it’ll pay off. Peter Prentiss is one of the strongest science fiction writers out there, and he may very well go in this first round. Marsdon Books has their eye on him, and they’re up at fifteenth pick.

Tara: True, Mark. We’ll just have to see what Marsdon does.

[Several hours go by]

Mark: So far, it’s been a really exciting first round, hasn’t it, Tara?

Tara: It sure has, Mark. Lots of terrific picks and some interesting deals and trades, too. It’s shaping up to be a great publishing season! And now we’re down to the last three picks of the first round. It’s Random House’s turn now, and my feeling is that they’re going to go for a literary fiction writer. And my guess is that they’ll probably pick Edward Eddison. He’s got the atmospheric talent they’ve been looking for, and before the broadcast, his agent told me she was really optimistic for him.

Mark: I think that’s the way they’ll go too, Tara. They have been a little soft on literary fiction. In fact, I think that’s part of why Simon & Schuster looked so good last season. Their literary talent just dominated.

Commissioner Styles: In the thirtieth pick of the first round, Random House selects… [Looks at card] Edward Eddison, London, literary fiction writer. [Loud applause]

Mark: Looks like you nailed that one, Tara. And there’s Edward and his agent hugging. Clearly they’re delighted by the news.

[At the end of the first round]

Tara: Well, that’s it for the first round, and it’s been fantastic, hasn’t it?

Mark: One of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Tara: So what do you see coming up in the second round?

Mark: Now, that’ll be interesting, Tara. You notice that mystery writer Anna Ambliss, out of New York, didn’t go in the first round. And earlier in the year, she was looking like one of the best prospects for this season.

Tara: She certainly did look good, Mark. But of course her chances have been impacted by that liquor store incident.

Mark: Yes, we’ve all been following that story. Now, her attorney claims the whole thing was a misunderstanding. According to him, she was doing research for her next novel.

Tara: Whatever the outcome of that hearing is, it’s definitely hurt her here in the draft. She could very well fall.

Mark: She certainly could. [Turns to face camera] That’s it for our coverage of the first round of the 2015 author draft.

Tara: [Also facing camera] Make sure you catch all the second-round action tomorrow!

[Cut to advertisement]


So what do you think? Would you want publishers to choose their authors this way? Writers, would you want to be in the draft?

You may now collect your disbelief on your way out. Thank you.


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26 responses to “Draft Day For Authors ;-)

  1. I don’t think that your post is fantasy – maybe a bit – but look at what happened with Yann Martell and the ridiculous amount of dough he got on a quite mediocre book after he’d had success with Life of Pi? He was definitely treated like a superstar and it meant that there was less money to take chances on lesser known or up and coming writers. Makes me burn. Grrr….
    I’ll just go now as it is clear I’m a cranky-pants.

    • Cranky-pants or not, Jan, you have a very good point here. And Martell is a clear example. Of course publishers (like team owners) want to make money. That’s their purpose. But the problem is of course that that sometimes means some mediocre (at best) books get lots more notice and support than does the work of lesser-known writers whose work may be great. And I can tell you from experience that this attitude trickles down through the book industry (e.g. agents, bookshops, professional reviewers, etc..). On the one hand, no-one can blame the industry for wanting to make a profit. On the other, this is one of the sad consequences of that.

  2. What a novel (pun intended) way to look at the publishing industry but of course they don’t have to stick to a set number of authors, just a set pot of money I suppose? I don’t know that it would make for very enjoyable viewing though 😉 although of course your commentary made it sound incredibly realistic.

    • Thank you, Cleo :-). I’m very glad you enjoyed this. And you’re right; it’s much more a matter of the money they’re willing to spend then exactly how many authors are involved. And to be perfectly honest, thanks for your kind words about the commentary, but in truth, Draft Day doesn’t make for the most scintillating viewing at all. Each round takes about eight hours, and there are several rounds. The process goes over a number of days. What a lot of people do is, they tune in only at the times the teams they support are picking.

  3. Funny, and maybe not that far from the way things are….or might be.

  4. Fantastic! I love how your mind works. Would I want to be in the draft? Hmm, tough call. I doubt I’d do very good next to big names. But what the heck, can’t win if you don’t play! Great story, very believable. And sadly, not that far from the truth.

    • Thanks, Sue 🙂 – I’m really glad you enjoyed this. I wouldn’t have a chance against the big names either. But as you say, you can’t win if you don’t play. And I think you have a point about this being closer to reality than we may want to think…

  5. Awk! That’s terrifying. Think of the author anxiety, the publisher stress. It’s bad enough the way it is. 😀

  6. tracybham

    I loved that, Margot. You have clearly watched some of the sports drafts. You nailed it. I used to watch the NBA draft religiously back in the 1990s.

    • Thanks, Tracy 🙂 I have indeed watched the NFL draft (well, not each broadcast!). Glad you thought this reflected it. I’ve watched a bit of the NBA draft here and there, but not as much – not by a long shot.

  7. (After 5 minutes of ads)

    “Good afternoon everyone. It’s Jim Paris, your favourite book talk show host, and I’m excited to follow Tara and Mark. What a day it’s been on book draft day or as I like to say the best booking day of the year! Now, let’s not waste time. We have Gina Agnelli from Fairwind here. Gina, how did you manage to get to draft Carl. When the day started you did not have the second draft pick”.

    Gina leans towards Jim, “Well Jim, you have to be nimble in the book business. We were to draft 30th but we knew Carl would never last that deep into the draft. We decided our priority was to get some new talent. We are in a bit of a rebuilding phase. We talked to Random House who is going for the sales championship this year and they were willing to bargain authors. In a short time we had exchanged picks and we had given rights to Random House to a couple of our authors, Barry Eisler and Leighton Gage, who, though solid in the short term, we felt their best writing was behind them.”

    Jim says, “I can certainly agree with you concerning Leighton as he is dead.”

    “That’s right Jim but in the publication game you can still write on though dead. Look at Rex Stout, John Ludlum and Robert B. Parker,” responded Gina.

    She continued, “We’re real excited about Carl. We think he could be the next Peter May from Scotland. He has a spark to his writing we love and when Margot Kinberg liked him we were sold. Her opinions are gold. What we gave up in name recognition with Eisler and Gage we gain back in reduced author costs. We love the kid.”

    Jim says, “But Carl is 50 years old”.

    Gina answers “No problem Jim. Carl is a kid at heart. What’s a calendar age in the book biz. We expect him to be another P.D. James cranking out mysteries until he’s past 90.”

    • ‘This is Scott Porter, back at the all-sport anchor desk. Thanks for that special report, Jim. You’re certainly a lucky guy to have landed an interview with Gina Agnelli! I understand Tara and Mark have trying to book her for a long time. And it sounds as though Fairwind made a better deal than it seemed like on the surface. Hopefully now that the news is out about what went on behind the scenes, the fans will stop sending out angry tweets and furious comments on news blogs. Trust Fairwind to have a good handle on what they need. I think they’re wise to take some time to rebuild. This time next year they’ll quite likely be a powerhouse – a real contender. And now they can use their picks in some of the other rounds to cultivate some of their other genres. We’ll be back after these messages. Don’t go anywhere!’

      [Fade to advertisement]

  8. Haha! Brilliant! And since I’ve just spent the evening watching all the contenders for next week’s general election pitch for our votes, I’m thinking we should extend this plan to selecting politicians too! Though maybe nobody would get picked…

    • 😆 Oh, that would be a great idea, FictionFan! Certainly a refreshing alternative! It would be interesting to see whether anyone would be picked, and who it’d be. I don’t envy you folks the pre-election inundation of speeches, advertising and the like. We’re already starting that junk, and our next big election isn’t until the end of next year!
      Glad you enjoyed this post!

  9. OK, I’ll rent the Kevin Costner movie and then get back to you Margot – I just don;t even understand the concept! Enjoiyed the post even without knowing the rules though 🙂

  10. Col

    Haha, maybe this is the future! 🙂

  11. This is brilliant, Margot. As usual you nailed it and I love your sense of humour. I’m so out of touch at the moment it’s untrue and it’s only thanks to your blog that I stay anywhere near the loop, so thank you 🙂 x

    • Thanks for the kind words, D.S. 🙂 I’m very glad you enjoyed the post, and honestly, I couldn’t think of any better reason to be out of the loop than yours. Looking after a baby is a more-than-full-time occupation.

  12. Both a scary and nervewracking idea, lol.

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