Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Obsolete Career

I was recently at an event where I was told, rather snidely, that I'd better be out looking for another job since it won't be long before literary agents are obsolete. This isn't the first time in the past few years I've heard a statement like this. It's also ironic since BookEnds has been growing and growing with each coming year.

I'm not a fan of a black and white world. I feel blessed that I can see the blue in the sky and the green in the leaves. I like to look at the world that way as well. There's a lot more than just do it this way or do it that way. There are a lot of other colors to consider.

There are a lot of authors who are having great success self-publishing. I'm thrilled for them and I commend them for the work they're doing because, who are we kidding, it's a hell of a lot of work to self-publish successfully.

There is no doubt in my mind that agents have and will face challenges brought on by the changing face of publishing. That we'll all experience a moment when an author decides that she no longer needs us. Heck, that happened well before self-publishing anyway. That being said, there are just as many authors out there who really don't want to be business owners. That's also why people outside of publishing continue to go to work for corporations. Not everyone wants to deal with all of the details that owning a business entails. Some people just want to crunch numbers or write the book and let someone else deal with payroll, IRS census forms, hiring, firing, and banking.

I feel pretty confident that I'm going to be around for a long time, at this desk, selling these books. Authors will come and go, agents will come and go, publishers will come and go, but in the end we're all shooting for the same goal. We want great books to be read. So let's stop predicting the end of everyone else's career and instead applaud each other for whichever path we've chosen to take.

--jhf

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fan Girl Confessional

This Tweet from John Green the other day made my day:


Taylor Swift reblogged me on tumblr and called me her favorite author. Trying not to freak out.

I absolutely LOVE that someone with 3+ million followers still has fan boy moments. I mean how amazing is it to see that someone you would totally fan freakout over fan freakouts over someone else?

I'm a Top Chef junky and tend to freakout over chefs. If that's not weird I don't know what is. A few years ago I tweeted something about being in GA and missing a trip to FlipBurger, one of Richard Blais's restaurants. Richard Blais himself Tweeted me back and I'm not kidding when I tell you I thought I was going to pass out. I really did start to get light-headed it was so exciting.

There's no accounting for why we become a fan girl of someone, but I think it's important that we have those little freakout moments in life. I mean, they're fun.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Out of the Office

I wanted to let you all know that I'll be out of the office today. I have an appointment to have my ta-ta's checked.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, not that I probably need to tell you that, and coincidentally it's also the month for my annual mammogram. This is not normally something I'd share with my readers, but it's important. Really important.

If you're not getting exams or doing exams please add it to what I'm sure is already a very busy list of things you need to do. Make sure your mother, your daughter, your best friend, your wife, and your neighbor are getting them. Ask them. And men, this isn't just a woman's disease. Ask your doctor about breast cancer too.

We can save lives by getting an exam. Let's do it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Life is Short, Celebrate


I'm a big believer in celebrating life. The good, the bad and the ugly. I'm also a big believer in celebrating the many successes we're lucky enough to have at BookEnds. It's one of the things we do really well (successes and celebrations).

Just recently I took my team out to celebrate 15 years as an agency. I also took them for a spa day because we had a damn good month. Occasionally I'll order cupcakes from one of our favorite cupcake bakeries or bring coffee from Starbucks. And when we have another book hit the New York Times list you're going to bet that I'm popping some sort of cork.

Too often we get caught up in the minutia of life and start to think that things like a new contract, hitting a bestseller list, the release of another book, or even finishing a new book are things that just happen or are supposed to happen. We forget how hard we fought to get here. Remember when you were struggling to find an agent and dreaming of getting published? Just because it's your fifth contract doesn't mean it's anything less than your first. In fact, continuing to be published is something to celebrate in and of itself. Sometimes it deserves a bigger celebration than that first contract.

There's a lot in this business worth celebrating and not just for published authors. Have you finished another book? Did an agent request material? Did you just get another rejection, but this one with some really great feedback? Celebrate it all! 

I think that it's too easy to focus on the negative or the long-term and we lose what's happening now. We forget that now is what will get us there. No matter what it is you're proud of take some time to celebrate. Buy yourself a coffee, treat yourself to flowers or eat that pint of ice cream that's been calling your name.

Or, if you're like me, keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge at all times and pop it open whenever you deserve that pat on the back. This is a tough career and each step is a milestone worthy of a celebration.

--jhf

Friday, October 24, 2014

TGIF

It's Friday and it's been another great week at BookEnds. To celebrate I'm going to share the recipe for one of my favorite drinks . The Moscow Mule. I discovered this quite a number of years ago and it's my go-to. I've also managed to make it a favorite for a number of friends.

The Moscow Mule

1 oz vodka--whatever your favorite brand works
1/2 oz lime juice--I always recommend fresh squeezed
Ginger Beer--for those who don't know this amazing drink, ginger beer is not in fact a beer but a soda. More along the lines of root beer. Depending on what brand you buy it can be very tangy and spicy. You might want to try a few different brands to find your favorite. We prefer Fever Tree.

Traditionally the Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug. We use rocks glasses. Add all the ingredients over ice, stir, finish off with a lime wedge and enjoy. I think you'll like this one.

Skol!

--jhf

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Creating a Vision Board


I just learned about vision boards. I'm assuming I'm far behind on this trend, but I'm excited about it nonetheless

A vision board is just that, a board with pictures, phrases and bits of inspiration. Your vision for what you want to achieve in life, in your career or just personally. I have my vision board on the wall behind my desk. It's really just a giant cork board that I've hung some things that inspire me. Of course it also includes other things like pub dates and book lists, but ultimately when I find a bit of inspiration, a picture or something that shows what I'm seeking I clip it out or print it out and hang it on my board.

My vision board is pretty rough. I've seen people create some wonderful collages and artwork for their vision. I'd love to do that, but that seems like it would take a lot of time. However you want to create your board (on your wall, in a notebook, post-its around your computer, on Pinterest....) I think it's a great way to remind you of what your striving for or inspiration when you're feeling down.

A peek of some of what's on my vision board. Thanks Dr. Seuss!

--jhf

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kathleen Hale continued...

So yesterday I wrote a post about Kathleen Hale and I got hit pretty hard. Most of the focus seemed to be on the fact that I said Kathleen Hale was brave for writing the article. It also seems a number of people think I was defending Kathleen Hale for stalking her reviewer. Let me make one thing clear. I would never, ever, ever encourage or defend anyone who hurts another person and by hurt I mean physically, psychologically, or use any sort of scare tactics.

I also strongly encourage all writers not to react to reviews or reviewers. I often think the best thing we can do is walk away and stay silent. I do think I said that a number of times in my post.

Like many other agents I have experienced threats. I've never been physically attacked, thank goodness, but I've been frightened enough to not open the office door and frightened enough to advise reporting an email or letter to the police and frightened enough to leave a conference early.

My article yesterday was based entirely on her piece in The Guardian, an article that stated that names had been changed. For obvious reasons I assumed that meant the reviewer she was talking about. I've since learned that's not the case which does make me doubt her reasons for writing the piece. That being said, I stated very clearly in the beginning of my post that I was basing it on The Guardian exclusively. What I said was not meant as a defense of Kathleen Hale. It was an explanation of how I understand how a review can get inside an author's head. I wasn't standing behind her, but I was relating to the many authors out there who found themselves obsessed with the negativity of a review or reviews. Thankfully most never go so far as to track down their reviewer.

Someone who commented on my post had a cover photo promoting free speech. Thank goodness we live in a place where we are allowed to put ourselves out there and express our opinions and thank goodness we live in a place where people can give their opinions on our opinions. Part of that freedom should include safety. We should be allowed to safely say what we mean.

The thing about free speech, and writing, is that no matter how much we love what we do, putting ourselves out there, through our writing, as authors, as bloggers, as reviewers, is terrifying. It is terrifying to wait and see what people say. It should never be terrifying enough that we fear for ourselves or those around us.

The part of my post that seemed to get the most criticism was the part where I said Kathleen Hale was brave. Before you stop reading to comment please hear me out. She was not brave for stalking someone. My reasoning for saying that was my own interpretation that she was confessing to her misdeeds and maybe admitting her mistake. That's the problem with writing we all interpret things differently, no matter how hard the author tries to make it clear to everyone. I did not intend for people to think I was defending her actions and for that I'm definitely sorry.  I'm mostly sorry that anyone thinks that I would encourage stalking or scare tactics.

--jhf


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Power of Reviews

On Friday author Kathleen Hale wrote an article for The Guardian about her experience being catfished. On Monday Twitter, and a number of blogs, got quite excited about this topic and lots of people had lots of opinions. I came upon the article when Jessica Alvarez mentioned it to me and before reading anything about it I went to The Guardian article. I wanted to base any opinion I had on what Kathleen Hale had to say rather than read the opinions of others first.

Even without reading what others thought I know that some people feel that Kathleen Hale was catfished, others feel she crossed a line herself and was not the victim or the only victim and still others wonder if the entire post was made up. After reading just Kathleen Hale's post I do stand behind her in some respects. Not all, but some.

I've been in this business long enough to know the impact a review can have on an author. I've seen smart, successful authors completely lose all self-confidence because of one review or one comment on a writing loop or in a blog. In most cases authors who reacted this way were not the stereotypical "neurotic" or introverted authors. They are almost always people who are successful in various different aspects of their lives. They deal with high stress jobs, families and seem to juggle an entire life on top of a writing life. In other words, these are people who have faced adversity before and wore it well.

In fact, while I'm not an author, I've been one of those people. After six years of blogging about what I really thought it was bound to happen. And happen it did. Time and time again. There were times when the comments on the blog got so contentious I would stop sleeping. I panicked that I had alienated my clients, editors or ruined it for all of us. There were times I would have to shut down the computer and walk away for the day. But each and every time it happened walking away was always the best answer for me.

In Kathleen Hale's case the only story we know is hers. As of yet, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from the reviewer she's charging with catfishing. A term by the way I had never heard until reading her article. Whether or not she was catfished, in my mind, doesn't really matter.  Fro a variety of reasons reviewers and bloggers act anonymously. In some ways it's one of the great things about the Internet. It's also one of worst things. Being anonymous allows us to really say what we want to say and what we think. Something a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing under their own name or couldn't do (it might hurt a career or their own reputation in some way). True confession here, before starting the blog I used to comment anonymously all the time on writing forums. I acknowledged that I was an agent, but I was uncomfortable giving my real name. I didn't want what I said to bite a new agency in the butt. Was I catfishing? I don't think so, I was just giving an opinion. And certainly there have been a ton of anonymous publishing bloggers and Tweeters, people who just want to say what they believe without facing repercussions.

Did Kathleen Hale go to far? Probably. Personally I think any time you start tracking down someone in person you are probably going to far. But I get how someone can go there. Putting yourself out there, whether its by writing a book, an opinion piece in a magazine, or a blog, is a scary, scary thing. Sure you feel great about saying what you believe or finding others to read your work, but at the same time you know you're going to face a backlash. That reviewers will hate what you write and have an opinion about it that differs from your own and you know they're not going to be afraid to say something. Especially because they have the right to remain anonymous in any way they see fit. And when we or our opinion or our writing is attacked it's hard. It often impacts our psyche in a big way.

Personally I've never gone to the lengths Kathleen Hale did to discover the truth about her naysayer, but I get it. Sort of. When someone says something really awful about you or your work you want a chance to discuss it with them. You want a chance to defend yourself without sounding defensive (which is often what happens when you start that discussion on comments). And probably you want the chance to discredit that person. To say, you are wrong and how would you know anyway because.... When someone posts anonymously she knows a whole lot about us, but we know nothing about her. It takes all the power away from us and gives it to her.

There were times when I have been attacked on this blog. Right or wrong, people came out to do whatever they could to discredit me and attack me and my professional integrity. I was scared, I was angry and I Googled. What I learned early on however, and what Kathleen Hale admits to learning in the long run, is that the best answer is to just sit quietly and, as they say, this too shall pass. Let the topic speak for itself or let the other readers comment and take care of it. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is saying something at all. What we're doing in that case is exactly what the naysayer wants. We're giving her attention. It's sort of like when Buford grabs my slipper and runs around the office with it. I have the option to chase him, call him and feed him treats. To give him the attention he wants. Or I can sit and work and watch him slowly drop the slipper, confused about why he's not getting the attention he wants.

I'm actually pretty impressed that Kathleen Hale wrote the article at all. Maybe she did it to finally get back at the reviewer, or maybe she just decided to put it out there and get rid of her moment of weakness once and for all. Either way it took bravery. Once again she's getting hit with a lot of opinions from a lot of people who don't know her. Sure its a choice she's making, but as writers I think we all know how difficult it is to face the opinions of others.

--jhf


Monday, October 20, 2014

Thinking of Gone Girl

A few weeks ago I posted my review for Gone Girl to GoodReads and boy did I get some flack. Keep in mind that I usually write short reviews on GoodReads. I don't have a lot of time or energy to write out everything I'm thinking and with Gone Girl that was especially the case.

There will be no spoilers in this post so if you haven't yet read the book or seen the movie you are safe.

Gone Girl was the kind of book that left me really thinking, maybe even reeling, and yet I only gave it three stars. I guess I'm not sure I loved it or maybe I just didn't love the way it made me feel? I felt the beginning was long and it was difficult for me to want to continue going back for more since I really did not like the characters. I don't know that I liked any of them. Okay, maybe one.

I would say it easily took me six months to read the book and I would say I easily read six books in between chapters of Gone Girl.

And finally I got to the twist. At that point I could totally see what everyone was quacking about. Crazy good! Now I'm reading like a demon. But the end. The end just didn't do it for me. I wonder if I'm too much of a romantic and I want an ending that's wrapped up differently or if I just felt it was a little too contrived. Frankly, I'm not really sure.

So here's my take on Gone Girl for those who were horrified by my GoodReads review. I think it probably deserves more than three stars for the simple fact that I'm still thinking about it. Or is that because Ben Affleck is in the movie and I get to see his lovely face every time I turn on the tv? No matter what star rating I give it though I do think it's a book worth reading for everyone. It's one of the few times I wished I was in a book club because it's a book I'd love to sit around and discuss with others. It's a book worth talking about.

--jhf


Friday, October 17, 2014

Meet Buford


The last in a five-part series introducing the BookEnds team.

Buford
BookEnds Hound

Tagline: I'm a big-headed beast with an even bigger heart.

How long have you been at BookEnds? since June 2014

Do you have a favorite book? I don't read, but when I first came into the office I immediately grabbed Sally MacKenzie's Loving Lord Ash and carried it away with me. I think it was the adorable little dog on the cover that got me.

If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice? I've never been inside an actual Starbucks (although I have lounged around on the patio), but I would probably say anything with peanut butter, cheese or bacon.

Name five things on your desk bed right now: a bone, remnants from a bone, a stuffed animal, remnants from a stuffed animal and peanut butter smears

Where did you live before coming to BookEnds? for a while I lived in Newark, NJ in the shelter there until some nice people from St. Hubert's came to get me and find me a Forever Home. I was there for just a few weeks before the Fausts came and snapped me. I have to say. It's not bad here.