Friday, June 30, 2006

Have a Happy 4th!

We'll be closed at BookEnds Saturday through Tuesday to celebrate the 4th of July.

Have a great holiday, and we'll see you when we resume posting on July 5th.

—Jessica, Jacky, and Kim

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Rejection Road

I was snooping around the Web, spying on my clients, when I came across this great series of articles on rejection, and what some of our own mystery authors faced (and still face) on that road: http://cozychicks.blogspot.com.

—Jessica

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Stop the Scammers

Ann Crispin and Writers Beware are working hard to stop agent scammers. I recently came across this post from Ann and thought I would help get the word out.

If you have had a problem with any of the following literary agencies or related companies, all of which are owned and operated by Robert Fletcher, please send me an email. My address is: anncrispin@aol.com

The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:

Children's Literary Agency
Christian Literary Agency
New York Literary Agency
Poets Literary Agency
The Screenplay Agency
Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)
Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)

We all know AOL can be temperamental, so if by chance you get a bounce when emailing to my address, please re-send your email to Writer Beware's address, which is: beware@sfwa.org

The reason for this request is that I have some information for you that may help you out.

Thanks very much for your assistance.

Sincerely,
Ann C. Crispin
Chair, Writer Beware
anncrispin@aol.com
www.writerbeware.com

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Networking

"I'll pat your back, if you pat mine." For some reason, those words can make us cringe the tiniest bit. They sound so selfish, so self-serving. And yet a lot of times this is how good business happens. Networking is all about patting backs, shaking hands, and doing favors. There's no shame in that, is there? It's no accident that some of the more outgoing, gregarious writers are the more successful ones. Wait a second! "Outgoing" and "writer" in the same sentence? Isn't an author supposed to lead a reclusive life, sleeping next to his/her manual typewriter and twenty cats every night? That's old-fashioned thinking, people! In this day and age it's all about who you know—and not just in the corporate world. Networking is the foundation for some terrific writers' organizations, like Romance Writers of America. If you're just using your memberships with these groups to get a free magazine every so often, then you're not getting your money's worth. Don't be shy!

Without networking, I wouldn't even have this job. Lucky for me, I'd worked with both Jessica and Jacky before and we'd kept in touch over the years. That's how opportunity knocked. It's all who you know. . . . My good friend Jeff Pearlman quoted me and BookEnds author Maggie Sefton in a recent article he wrote for Newsday. Free publicity! Here's a link to the article: www.newsday.com/features/booksmags/ny-etlede4761613may29,0,7463216.story. And to "pat" him back, I'll ask you to go out and buy his book about Barry Bonds titled Love Me, Hate Me. He's one of the best writers I know . . . almost as good as our clients. ;)

—Kim

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Art of Pornography

If you've paid attention to the book market at all recently then you should know that erotica, erotic romance, romantica (whatever you wish to call it) is the hottest (yes, I know that's a pun) genre going. As an agent I feel very lucky to represent a number of amazing writers in this area. The stories are wonderfully written, passionate, exciting, and yes, they are hot. So here's my beef. Over the past few months I've heard this genre and these books repeatedly referred to as pornography, and I have to tell you, this really peaves me off.

I'm sure most of my authors, many who have been writing for years, have been dealing with this for a lot longer than I have, but I feel I need to say something and explain something. My first step in understanding where this is coming from (although I think I already have a pretty good idea) and having solid facts to back up my argument is to go to the dictionary.

pornography

1. Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.
2. The presentation or production of this material.
3. Lurid or sensational material


erotica
Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.


And therein lies my problem. Pornography is simply described as writing whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal, whereas erotica is literature or art intended to cause desire. Even the words used in the definitions make erotica sound lovely, sophisticated, and acceptable, while pornography sounds dirty and cheap. As an agent I like to think that what my authors are writing is lovely and sophisticated. They work hard to create strong stories, passionate characters, and to develop a readership who wants to come back for more. Pornographers, on the other hand (and this is my interpretation of the definition), aren't as concerned about plot or characterization. Their primary purpose is to titillate and sensationalize.

So, what I have determined (like I needed a study to figure this out) is that those who refer to this wonderful new genre as pornography are clearly offended by the work these terrific authors and artists are doing. By describing these books as pornography they make them sound dirty and sinful and are (in my mind) making an attempt to cheapen the work these authors have done.

Offended or not, I think that as writers, artists, authors, and publishing professionals we need to give everyone the respect they deserve for the hard work they do and the hard road they've climbed to get where they are. I don't agree with calling romance novels (of which erotica is considered a sub-genre) trash, and I don't agree with calling erotica pornography. Ironically, the genres that receive the most criticism and snobbery are those that are the most successful. Hmmm, could this be the cause?

Say what you will about someone else's book or the genre in which someone else writes, but the truth is that we are all in this business of publishing together, and whether or not we like what someone else has done we all should like the fact that there are still readers and book buyers out there.

Variety is the spice of life. If you don't like something, don't read it. But don't criticize what you don't know.

—Jessica

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Query Letter Critique Groups

Now that you've read the good, the bad, and the ugly of queries, I have one last suggestion . . . query critique groups.

I've made this suggestion at numerous writers' conferences and I will bet that no one has ever followed through on it (if you have, please let me know, I'm curious how it works). Just as everyone has a critique group or critique partner, every single one of you should have a query critique group. This group needs to be completely separate from the one you use to read your book and needs to be made up of people who have never read your book. The idea is that when you read each other's queries, you aren't looking as much for grammatical errors as you are to see if your letter really grabs someone and makes them want to read your book—in the same way book cover copy should grab your attention and make you want to buy the book. This is much easier to do when the person doing the critique doesn't already know the ins and outs of your book.

Having a query critique group will help you narrow down your book description to one paragraph—the one that needs to be exciting, eye-catching, and make an agent want to drop everything and read!

—Jessica

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Question of the Month

We haven't yet received any questions and are getting ready to answer our question of the month (hard without a question). Please let us know if there are any questions you have for us, and don't be shy. Is there anything you want to know about BookEnds, literary agents, publishing. . . ? We'll read all of your comments and answer one now, more later.

—Jessica

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Query Letters, Part 5—The Ugly

And yes, all of these letters really did come into this office. . . .


Author Author
phone
e-mail

July 13, 2001

BookEnds:

I am seeking an open-minded literary agent that is looking for fresh, new material.

I am an unpublished author that has written numerous books - all that are different from anything that you have read or that is on the market. My genres include humor, a romance, short-stories, & science fiction; and a children's book.

I am currently working on a mystery novel that is completely different from any mystery on the market.

Writing is my passion and I have been doing it for four years.

Should you require additional information, please call me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks,
Author Author

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hooking Them In

This week's Publishers Weekly had a very interesting piece entitled “How They Do Debbie,” an article about the success of romance author Debbie Macomber. One of the things that really struck me about this article was the mention of Debbie's book The Shop on Blossom Street. After Blossom hit the bestseller list, Harlequin commissioned a reader survey to discover why this particular book struck such a chord. Do you know what they discovered? They learned the same thing our own Maggie Sefton has learned, that people love knitting, and this particular theme (this hook) was not only attractive to Debbie's romance readers but also had appeal to the ever-growing community of knitters. It wasn't her writing or her growing romance audience alone that made her book a New York Times bestseller; it was the fact that she had written a book that appealed to a niche audience of readers who may never before have picked up her book. This audience was (and is) so dedicated to their craft that they were looking for anything that had to do with their love of knitting.

Maggie Sefton has learned this firsthand with her Knitting Mystery series. Maggie, like the rest of the mystery world, knows the importance of a hook. Dan Brown had the Da Vinci Code and our own mystery authors have everything from gardening, scuba diving, and wine to collecting, baking, and dolls (just to name a few). When selling books to publishers, readers, and even friends and family, we aren't describing the mystery or the romance (since they are all basically the same story); we are describing the hook. It's that one special thing that brings us to the book.

To build on the success of The Shop on Blossom Street, Harlequin and Debbie Macomber did what any smart publishing team would do: they established a major publicity campaign around knitting—not around book readers. Not only did they market the book to knitters, but they created an entire series of romances surrounding this hook.

When selling your book to an agent, publisher, or reader, you need to capitalize on your hook. You need to focus on that one big thing that makes your book not only different from everything else but marketable as well. Maggie Sefton has had great success with her Knitting Mystery series by meeting with knitting shop owners, knitting circles, and knitters all over the country. Debbie Macomber did the same. So what is your hook? And how are you, the author, going to market your book outside of the natural audience, beyond just romance or mystery readers?

—Jessica

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Query Letters, Part 4—The Bad

I hope this letter speaks for itself, and tune in tomorrow because, believe it or not, it gets worse. . . .


July 13, 2001

Since I was a child my dream was to be a writer. Finally at 55, the kids have grown and gone and I have had the time to pursue that dream. Never have I wanted anything so badly as to be able to walk into a bookstore and see my name among so many others.

With great pride I send you a book filled with my blood, sweat and tears. Family and friends who have read it have been duly impressed and see no reason why it won’t be published.

My phone number is 555-555-5555. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Query Letters, Part 3—The Good

Nyree Belleville (writing as Bella Andre) not only sold me based on this letter, but I used this (almost verbatim) to sell her book to Pocket. Mine, All Mine (the title in the letter) was published last year as Take Me. Since then, Bella has gone on to sell two more books to Pocket, both publishing in 2007.

While Bella certainly had a lot to sell herself on—a hot (pun intended) market and great reviews, her letter still covers all the information I routinely ask for.


Ms. Jessica Faust
BookEnds, LLC
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933

February 12, 2004

Dear Ms. Faust:

Thank you for responding to my e-mail query so quickly! Here are the first five chapters and synopsis for Mine, All Mine, a single title erotic romance that is a perfect fit for Kensington Brava. I believe your agency would be ideal for representing the project.

Mine, All Mine is the erotic story of desire, passion and unrequited love in San Francisco and the rolling hills of Tuscany. Lily Ellis has been deeply in lust with Travis Carson for well over a decade. But since Travis likes his women bold and sassy, not meek and size 14, she knows her feelings will never be anything more than bathtub fantasies with Travis’s name on her lips as she comes. But all it takes is one special night at a fashion show in San Francisco, one very special dress, and the wonders of Tuscany to change Travis’s feelings for Lily forever.

My first novel, Authors in Ecstasy (published by Ellora’s Cave under the pseudonym Bella Andre), received a 4.5-star revew in the March 2004 edition of Romantic Times magazine.

“Andre writes a wonderful story filled with lovable characters and steamy sex. Anyone looking for a funny and intelligently written read should definitely give this book a try!” (Romantic Times 4½ stars Authors in Ecstasy).

“Fall-off-the-chair funny in places, very sexy, and well written . . . a novel readers will not want to end.” (Romance Reviews Today, Authors in Ecstasy).

“Wonderful and so very hot that it will melt your screen.” (The Romance Studio, 4½ hearts, Authors in Ecstasy)

“This is my first story by Bella Andre and all I have to say is damn! This is a wonderful and funny story. Not to mention hot! I very much anticipate Bella Andre’s next story. 2 thumbs up!” (Just Erotic Reviews, 5 stars, "Candy Store" novella, Passionate Hearts anthology)

My publishing experience also includes several novellas with Ellora’s Cave and two nonfiction books on the music business. I am a member of RWA and graduate of Stanford University.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Nyree Belleville
street, city, state, phone, e-mail

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Query Letters, Part 2—The Good

Karen MacInerney’s letter to me was so impressive that I immediately read her materials and subsequently offered representation. I’m thrilled to say that Karen’s first book (the one from this letter), Murder on the Rocks, was published this year by Midnight Ink, and we just signed a deal with Ballantine for A Wolf in Chic Clothing.

If you read my previous post you’ll see how Karen so deftly followed all the rules; you should also see how this letter clearly captured my attention. She has a hook (bed-and-breakfast with recipes), an interesting plot, a contest win, she’s obviously involved in mystery groups, and she included a phone number and e-mail address.


Karen Swartz MacInerney
Street, town, phone, email

Jessica Faust
BookEnds, LLC
136 Long Hill Rd.
Gillette, NJ 07933

June 14, 2004

Dear Ms. Faust,

I enjoyed meeting you at the conference in Austin this past weekend. As I mentioned, I have had my eye on BookEnds for quite some time; when I discovered you would be at the conference, I knew I had to attend. We met during the final pitch session and discussed how the series I am working on might fit in with your current line of mystery series. Per your request, I have enclosed a synopsis and first three chapters of Murder on the Rocks, and 80,000-word cozy mystery that was a finalist in this year’s Writers’ League of Texas manuscript contest and includes several bed-and-breakfast recipes.

Thirty-eight-year-old Natalie Barnes has quit her job, sold her house and gambled everything she has on the Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine. But she’s barely fired up the stove when portly developer Bernard Katz rolls into town and starts mowing through her morning glory muffins. Natalie needs the booking, but Katz is hard to stomach—especially when he unveils his plan to build an oversized golf resort on top of the endangered tern colony next door. When the town board approves the new development, not only do the terns face extinction, but Natalie’s Inn might just follow along. Just when Natalie thinks she can’t face more trouble, she discovers Katz’s body at the base of the cliff and becomes the number-one suspect in the police’s search for a murderer. If Natalie doesn’t find the killer fast she stands to lose everything—maybe even her life.

I am a former pubic relations writer, a graduate of Rice University, a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, and founder of the Austin Mystery Writers critique group. I have spent many summers in fishing communities in Maine and Newfoundland, and escape to Maine as often as possible. The second Gray Whale Inn mystery, Dead and Berried, is currently in the computer.

If you would like to see the manuscript, I can be reached at (phone number). Thank you for your time and attention; I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,
Karen Swartz MacInerney

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Query Letters, Part 1—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tune in for my five-part series on what makes a query letter and what doesn't. Throughout the week I promise to present the good, the bad, and the ugly of queries. . . .

It just makes me crazy. I'm sitting here going through my mail (the pile is officially up to my knee), and no matter how many times I say it, I get some of the worst query letters imaginable (and when I say query, I mean the letter that should be included in every bit of correspondence you have with an agent—letter, e-mail, proposal package, etc.).

How is it that you spend days, weeks, months, or even years writing and revising your manuscript and think that the query doesn't matter? This is my first impression of you, and if you can't get it right I'm probably not going to even bother reading your material. Your letter is the one thing that determines whether or not you are going to get read, so why wouldn't you spend just as much time writing and revising that as you do your manuscript?

For those of you who can't seem to remember, or find it too difficult to review an agent's Web site before submitting, please take a look at our previous posts on pet peeves (Jacky's in particular) as well as our Web site for a reminder of what every letter you ever send to an agent should include.

—Jessica

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Author Beware—Submission Requirements

Over the years, as an editor and agent, I have built a pretty good-sized author beware file. This file is made up of interesting and usually angry letters and e-mails from authors. Often they are in response to rejections or other correspondence we've had. No matter what the situation, the letters always give me insight into the personality and professionalism of the author, letting me know that this is not someone I want to work with. From time to time I'm going to dig out one of those letters and post some of what was said. And, of course, I'm going to comment.

It amazes me when authors, looking to grab an agent, balk at submission requirements, especially ours. BookEnds is one of the few agencies that still allows authors to submit a full 50 pages unsolicited. Of course it isn't required, but as an author isn't your goal to get read? If that's the case, don't you want to send an agent all the material you can? Apparently not everyone feels that way, and this recent e-mail explains (or doesn't) why. . . .

. . . you want 3 chapters, which makes me wonder why you need a query and a synopsis and all the other schlock. If you can't make a decision with 3 chapters, you're perspicaciousness is obviously losing its edge.

Oh, the irony. So many authors submit their material and then complain that agents don't read the entire thing, while this author is complaining that I want to read too much. So why does an agent want all of this material? Or more specifically, why do I?

While it's true that I can make a decision about whether or not to reject on three chapters (or in this case, one e-mail), I can't necessarily make a decision about whether or not to offer representation, or even ask to see the rest of the manuscript on three chapters alone. For this I rely on the synopsis. If I like your three chapters—the story is strong and interesting, the characters are well drawn, and the writing is good and works for the genre you are targeting—then often I'll take a quick look at the synopsis before asking to see the rest of your manuscript. The synopsis is primarily used as a way to make sure your story continues on the same path you started. For example, if I'm reading your chapters for a cozy mystery series, I'm going to want the rest of the book to continue in that vein. If, when reading your synopsis, I discover that somewhere around chapter 15 aliens come down and sweep your protagonist away to a secret alien community where she is named queen, I probably will not request the rest of the manuscript—and will save both you and me time and money.

So what about the query letter? This is the most mind-boggling to me. And while I know we've covered this before, we learn through repetition (and obviously it needs to be covered again). Your letter is very important each and every time you send material (the initial query, chapters, and the full manuscript). It's the suit you wear to a job interview or the cover letter you attach to your resume. Would you ever send a resume without a cover letter highlighting your strong points or show up to a job interview wearing shorts and a dirty T-shirt? I assume you wouldn't, so why would you send a submission of any kind without including a cover letter? The query letter outlines who you are, what about this book is interesting and makes it better and different from the 50 other submissions I opened that day, and tells me what's so special about this submission that I should read it first. It is the one thing I use to determine in 5 seconds what shelf you'll go on—the one that goes home with me that night, the one I hope to read in the next few weeks, or the one that will sit around for months until I have time to get to it.

Remember, better safe than sorry. Send as much information as an agent allows you to send, and always, always include the strongest letter you can write.

Oh, one last thing . . . luckily for me this particular author decided to "reject" me first and didn't bother submitting.

—Jessica

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

An Author's Thoughts on Self-Promotion

The following comment from Michele Scott (a response to a comment left by Deb Baker) contained so many good ideas and good suggestions that we thought it deserved to be highlighted for anyone who may have missed it. Read on for some great ways to spread the word about your books. . . .

Hi Deb,

I appreciate the kind words. I actually ran the ad in RT. I set aside a budget specifically for publicity. I have found that with the mysteries I write, placing an ad in RT has had benefit for me, and that's because my mysteries have romantic elements to them. But you have to take a step back and see where your dollar is going to be best spent.

With the contest, I called around and had the various sponsors donate the items. I just wasn't afraid to receive rejection. I figured eventually somoene would say yes. (Kind of sound familiar with the writing world?).

There are things you can do that won't cost money, just time, and that in itself can be costly because we all need to be writing. One thing I try and do is log on to various chat rooms dealing with wines and other ones with horses. It's a good way to do a subtle intro to what you're writing and typically I see spikes on my site when I log on to chats.

I also volunteer to do workshops, talk to writers, attend local book clubs, and I even go so far as to call up or walk into my local radio or TV stations and pitch them. Last week I Googled wine + radio and several wine-related radio shows popped up. I e-mailed them, and have already done one of the shows and am scheduled to do two more.

It takes time, commitment, and drive, plus I love writing. The marketing ideas are fun to come up with, but I can't wait for the day when I don't have to come up with them, and can focus most of my time on my writing.

Thank you again for the kind words. I enjoyed meeting you at Malice!

Michele

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Writer Beware

Recently a client of ours alerted us to the fact that the BookEnds Web site was listed in the April 4, 2006, posting on the Writer Beware blog (by Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin, http://accrispin.blogspot.com/) as one of four exemplary agent sites. Needless to say we are thrilled and very honored to be recognized.

As many of you probably know, Jacky and I officially launched BookEnds as a book packaging company in 1999. It wasn't long before we knew we wanted more out of the business and that our real calling was agenting. When making the switch in 2001 we very carefully studied the AAR canon of ethics, as well as Writer Beware. It was important to us to start out right. That meant stopping some of the editorial work we were doing as packagers and making sure that we not only acted ethically but were perceived by the outside public (authors and publishers) as an ethical and respectable agency.

There are so many horrible scam artists in the world, and publishing is hardly immune. In fact, at times I think that publishing might have more than our fair share, and I think I speak for all ethical agents when I say that nothing makes me angrier than stories of authors getting burned.

Why do I think there are so many scammers in publishing and why do I think they continue to thrive? Unfortunately, they are given the power to do so. Despite the vast amount of information that is so easily accessible to authors—through books, writers' organizations, conferences, and the Internet—many people still feel that any agent is better than no agent at all.

If we really want to stop these people, then we, as a community, have to make the effort to do so. That means educating all writers and ourselves. You don't have to know who the scam artists are to identify them. In fact, new scammers pop up every day, so relying solely on a list of who's who in the world of publishing scammers isn't enough. Instead, you need to educate yourself on the signs of a scammer, which, truthfully, isn't hard to do.

Simple things that should make you run (paraphrased from Writer Beware) include the following:

Upfront fees—reading or evaluation fees, retainers, marketing or submission fees, or publishers who require you to buy a certain number of your books and pay up front. **What is acceptable: reasonable expense fees with a cap—to be paid out of your advance.

Editorial services—agents or publishers should never recommend that you use an editorial service linked to them that requires extensive payment by you. **What is acceptable: a general recommendation that you might want to consider an editor, and, if asked, a list of reputable editors that do not give kickbacks to any agent.

Outrageous contract terms—no agent should claim financial interest in all of your future work unless she sells it. In fact, the only way an agent has financial interest in your work is if she sells it.

Mass submissions—sending out a form query telling editors about your work or "submitting" solely through a posting on Publisher’s Marketplace. A reputable agent will have contacts and know which editors, not just which houses, she wants to submit to.

Lack of sales—any agent who's been in business for a year should at least have one sale to a reputable publisher.

Poor qualifications—watch out for an agent who sets up business without any sort of publishing background. While some people have succeeded, more have failed.

Failure to boast—an agent with good clients and reputable sales will love telling you about them. Watch out for any agent who keeps this information confidential. In all likelihood it doesn’t exist.

Remember, a bad agent is not better than no agent at all. A bad agent can be damaging to your career, and while it probably won't be permanent damage, why waste your time and money dealing with someone who is going to get you nowhere?

I applaud Victoria and Ann for the work they do, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, it's the first place you should go when thinking of finding an agent. In addition to a blog, Victoria and Ann host Writer Beware (www.sfwa.org/beware/), a volunteer Web site dedicated to ending fraud in publishing.

—Jessica

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Deb Eldredge, DVM

Deb M. Eldredge, DVM
Book: Pills for Pets
Publisher: Citadel
Pub date: April 2003





Debra Eldredge, DVM, is a graduate of Cornell Veterinary College, the first recipient of The Gentle Doctor Award, and an award-winning writer in CWA & DWAA.

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Deb:A guide to medications and care for pet owners from cats to dogs to house bunnies, birds and reptiles.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from other similar books?
Deb: It is easy to read, full of advice that the average pet owner can understand and follow.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Deb: Before it was published, a friend's husband was left caring for her dogs while she was out of town. One came down with hives, so he called our house to find out if he could give an antihistamine. I was away, but my husband searched the files, found the info, and was able to help!

BookEnds: If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?
Deb: The most important thing is that you must customize your health care for each pet as an individual.

BookEnds: How have people responded to your book?
Deb: I receive e-mails from people who tell me how my book helped them in caring for their pet or in their work at shelters.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Deb: Cancer and Your Pet is out now through Capitol, and Head of the Class is just out from Howell Books.


To learn more about Debra Eldredge, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

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The Business of Writing

Seven years ago Jacky and I were sitting in her apartment in Brooklyn discussing what it would be like to own our own business and what we would do. Our lives were changing in significant ways (we were both making moves to New Jersey and getting married), so why not make the change full-circle and uproot our careers as well? A mere six months later we did it. We quit our jobs and started BookEnds, LLC.

Starting a new business is very much like seeking publication, and because of that I can identify with much of the angst our clients feel. Am I good enough, smart enough, strong enough to compete? All of these questions and more crossed our minds many times over the years—just as they cross the minds of every writer who's ever decided to seek publication.

So how do you get from a conversation over tea and moving boxes to multi-book deals, bestselling clients, and a successful business? The same way an author goes from tapping at the keyboard late into the night to a publishing deal, bestselling books, and a successful business—you take the plunge.

Jacky and I still laugh at how quickly BookEnds began and how easy it seemed—at least in hindsight. At the time, though, we worked hard. We did what any potential business owner should do. We took all of the knowledge we had about publishing and used it for the basis of our business plan. We then went out to learn more. We read books on agenting, business, and finances. We met with other business owners, agents, and experts to seek advice on what we would need to get started successfully, and we took risks and made mistakes. Mostly, though, we laid awake at night wondering what we had gotten ourselves into and obsessing over the book we couldn't sell and why we couldn't sell it (we still do that).

Every writer has, or should have, that one book that you submitted to agents years ago and that now makes you laugh at your naïveté. Remember when you thought that was the greatest thing you'd ever written or would ever write? Jacky and I laugh today at some of the ideas we had and some of the subjects we pursued, thinking it would be the next Da Vinci Code or South Beach Diet. Oh, we had so much to learn. And learn we did.

Today I feel much more confident about what we do—success can do that for you, as can knowledge. To really win at the game of business you need to seek knowledge, take risks, and revel in all of your successes. Have you gone from form rejections to personal feedback? Success! Did you get an article published in your local newspaper? Success! Have you seen a definite improvement in your own writing? Success!

Revel in all of those, continue to take risks, and allow yourself to evolve. BookEnds started out as a packaging company and we realized early on that packaging isn't our forte—we were meant to be agents. Are you writing mysteries when really you should be writing romance? Or nonfiction when your fingers itch to type about alien wars?

Success of any kind takes a lot of work and perseverance. Don’t be afraid of it and don't be afraid to take the steps that can get you there. Achieving the success you dream of may take a very different path from the one you envision (I know it did for us), but allowing yourself to follow that path can give you more satisfaction than you ever dreamed.

—Jessica

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Resources

The feedback from our recent radio show was tremendous: Thank you for listening. On Thursday, June 8, Jacky and Jessica were guests of Helen Coronato on her show, A Novel Idea: Books to Motivate Your Muse (www.homegrownradionj.com). The show (episode: “The Write Way”) was a focused discussion on the business of publishing from our perspective, featuring tips on writers’ conferences, books to read, organizations to check out, and suggestions for developing platforms, with an emphasis on the essentials of marketing. Following is a list of some of the books, Web sites, and organizations we discussed during the show.

Suggested books . . .

For reading on the craft of writing and writing inspiration:
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Natlaie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Besty Lerner, The Forest for the Trees
Stephen King, On Writing

For learning more about what literary agents do:
Richard Curtis, How to Be Your Own Literary Agent (Though we recommend against being your own literary agent, this is a terrific resource for educating yourself as to what to expect from your literary agent)

For finding a literary agent:
Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents (updated yearly)

For marketing and publicity:
Jacqueline Deval, Publicize Your Book!

For fun:
Dee Power and Brian Hill, The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories from Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them


Suggested Web sites:

www.publishersmarketplace.com
An essential Web site for tracking deals, sales, reviews, agents, editors, and publishing news

www.mediabistro.com
Filled with great information on careers and community for media professionals

www.shawguides.com
Wonderful for finding writers’ conferences


BookEnds is a member of the following writing organizations, which are all well worth checking out:

www.aar-online.org/mc/page.do
A not-for-profit organization of independent literary and dramatic agents, featuring
a database of member agents

/www.mysterywriters.org
Mystery Writers of America

www.rwanational.org
Romance Writers of America

www.sistersincrime.org
Sisters in Crime


This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources for writers, but merely a few of the resources we were able to cover in an hour-long show. If you know of a valuable resource you’d like to recommend, please feel free to send us an e-mail and we’ll check it out too.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Authors as Publicists

As agents we feel very lucky to have so many great authors on our list, but even luckier that most of them really understand what it means to be published. That you can't just sit back and enjoy the attention. Once your book is published you need to get out there and sell it. You need to let the world know that it exists and get everyone you meet to buy at least one copy.

Just last Tuesday marked the beginning of an amazing sweepstakes put together by Michele Scott, the author of Murder by the Glass, the second book in the Wine Lover's Mystery Series. Michele blew me away with her hustle when she put together a sweepstakes package that includes not one but two vacation getaways in Napa Valley (http://us.penguingroup.com/static/html/enter/enter-14.html).

While I am in awe of the work all of my authors do, Michele takes the cake with this one. After getting all of the prizes together she got in touch with her publisher, who, not surprisingly, was more than happy to jump on board and do the promotion necessary to get the word out.

All it takes is a little hustle, a little charm, and lots of hard work and you too can do some amazing promotion on your own. One of my mantras is, It never hurts to ask, and Michele proves that point.

For those of you not yet ready to market your books, get out there and check the Web sites of all your favorite authors. Many of them run regular giveaways, and you never know when you might win that sneak peak of your favorite author's next book.

—Jessica

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Question of the Month, Part 3

What are your pet peeves?

All writers have heard it before. Publishing professionals get a lot of submissions. Agents and editors get about as much mail every day as Santa Claus does every December. As the esteemed agency representative who gets to open all of her own mail as well as all packages addressed to BookEnds, each swipe of the letter opener makes this peeve cut a little deeper. I get really annoyed when submitters don't do their homework. I'd say at least 40% of the submissions we receive are completely unrelated to the type of work we represent. It's simple enough to find out what we're looking for. Just go to our Web site (www.BookEnds-Inc.com). There's even a list of what we handle and what we don't under "Submissions." Nevertheless, I still get picture books about Harvey the pig's day at the farm, haiku collections and detailed textbooks on mathematical formulas I'll never understand (I majored in English for a reason, people). Believe it or not, the reason BookEnds doesn't represent children's books, science fiction, academic material, poetry, short story collections, etc., is not to vex writers. These are areas of publishing we just don't know enough about. In many cases, it's a whole different set of publishers and editors with whom we've never had any contact. So ultimately sending these projects to BookEnds is a waste of the author's time (and postage). I think the next time I get one, I'm going to send back a lump of coal!

—Kim

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

BookEnds on the Radio

Don't miss BookEnds on the radio!

Jessica, Jacky, and Kim are appearing today on A Novel Idea: Books to Meditate Your Muse, a roundtable book(s)-of-the-month talk show with talk show host Helen Coronato from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

BookEnds agents will discuss the business of writing, share their writing and publishing experience, and offer essential suggestions and tips for new as well as experienced writers. Tune in! www.homegrownradionj.com.

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Question of the Month, Part 2

What are your pet peeves?

We're very fortunate to be very busy agents. And as agents, one of the reasons we're so busy is that we read thousands of queries looking for a great book we think we can sell. I read e-mail queries, snail-mail letters, snail-mail proposals, and full manuscripts. I read as much as I need to in order to make a decision on whether or not a query sounds right for our agency and our considerable editorial contacts.

Occasionally I come across a terrific, well-written e-mail query (see below for our commentary on terrific, well-written queries). My heart does a little happy dance and I immediately request a full or partial to investigate the matter further. Shortly thereafter (a few days, a week later . . .), I sit down with a big pile of mail, with 50–100 packages and letters, and start to go through my submissions. And here's where my pet peeve comes in . . . I open a package containing 50 or so pages of a novel and a Post-It that says: "Here's the material you requested. —Ms. X."

Between the time you (Ms. X) originally e-mailed me your query and the delivery of your submission, I have most likely received upwards of another 100 submissions and another 100 e-mail queries. Now I'm a pretty smart person, but I am not blessed with a photographic memory. To be honest, I'm not blessed with much of a memory at all. So I have no idea what your (Ms. X's) query is about, why my heart did a happy little dance, or, in fact (this really does cross my mind), if you're not even perhaps trying to get one over on me (knowing as you do that I have a somewhat impaired memory).

When I open a submission and have no idea what the submission is about, whom it is from or why I might have requested it, I feel impatient and frustrated. Reading time for new queries is hard to come by. Our daily professional life is filled with phone calls, reviewing and editing our clients' new books and proposals, negotiating and reviewing contracts, keeping up with periodicals, current events, meeting with editors, clients, and potential clients, keeping track of editor movement within the industry, handling client careers and client emergencies, subrights and subagents, selling movie rights, foreign rights, audio, etc., writing revision letters, rejection letters, acceptance letters, looking for new high trends, new enterprises, licensing deals, etc. Finding the time to sit down with new proposals usually means taking work home for nighttime or weekend reading. So when I grab for something to take home to read I want to know what I'm getting into up front. If I know instantly what your proposal is about, it has a much better chance of finding its way into my bag for the night

When you send in your requested material, please include all of the information you had in your original query. If it's easiest, please just print out the e-mail and send it along. I don't need my e-mail to you (I know what I have to say), but I do need your e-mail to me. Now we're all happy and I know who you are. And I'm not frustrated, suspicious, and slightly worried about my brain function.

It's simple, really: Every time you have any contact with an agent, be it a phone call, e-mail, letter, etc., remind the agent who you are. Include your original query or a substantial part of it, reminding us why we requested the material in the first place. If you meet me at a conference, please jog my memory in every correspondence. "I am Pat, we met at Sleuthfest, where I pitched you my cozy mystery novel about . . ." Please do not assume we will remember who you are, even if we've spoken on the phone recently. We interact with hundreds of people every week, and while we try our best to keep our brains straight, it does start to get crowded in there. Anything you can do to help us along will only work in your own best interests. And please check our submission guidelines on our Web site (Submissions) for current turnaround times. Refrain from checking up on your query after one week. We put a great deal of effort into our Web site so you have accurate information. If the turnaround time states on average of 8 weeks to hear from us, please do not check in beforehand. Ah, but that's another peeve altogether!

We are writing about our pet peeves here. And while we do have a few (who doesn't?), we're actually very optimistic, enthusiastic, and hardworking agents. . . . We love writers . . . we just love professional writers more.

What does a professional, terrific query letter look like?

THE QUERY LETTER

Elements
1. Contact information

Name
Address
Phone numbers
E-mail
Web site, if applicable

For example:
Jacky Sach
BookEnds LLC
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933
908 362 0090
jsach@bookends-inc.com
www.bookends-inc.com

2. Addressee

Always address to a specific agent or editor. Make sure you spell names correctly!

3. Opening line.

Include the following pieces of information:
a. word count or page length
b. category
c. title

Example:
Weeding Out Murder is a 75,000-word novel, the first in a proposed series of cozy mysteries, featuring an Ann Arbor horticulturist.

4. Brief Overview of Novel/Topic

5. About the Author

6. Relevant History (omit most personal information)

Includes:
Published material (usually doesn't include self-published unless high sales back it)
Conferences attended
Contest wins
Relevant professional information

7. Mention you have included an SASE.

ALWAYS include an SASE.

—Jacky


Check in tomorrow for Kim's pet peeve.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

BookEnds on the Radio

Don't miss BookEnds on the radio!

Jessica, Jacky, and Kim will be appearing on A Novel Idea: Books to Meditate Your Muse, a roundtable book(s)-of-the-month talk show with talk show host Helen Coronato on June 8 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

BookEnds agents will discuss the business of writing, share their writing and publishing experience, and offer essential suggestions and tips for new as well as experienced writers. Tune in! www.homegrownradionj.com.

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BookEnds Talks to Sue Owens Wright

Sue Owens Wright
Book: What's Your Dog's IQ?
Publisher: Adams Media
Pub date: May 2006





Sue Owens Wright is the author of the mystery novel series The Beanie and Cruiser Dog Lover's Mystery Series, the first book of which, Howling Bloody Murder, was nominated in 2002 for a Maxwell Award by the Dog Writer's Association of America. She and her husband happily reside in Sacramento, California, with their two basset hounds.

Author Web site: www.beanieandcruiser.com


BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Sue: Deep down, you probably think your dog is smarter than most other dogs. Not to mention most other people. But how do you know? With What's Your Dog's IQ?, you can prove it (or not) with tests! Find out if Fido is bow-lingual. If Toto has total recall. If Prince is ready for Princeton. The perfect gift for the dog lover in your life!


BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Sue: What I like most about the book and what I think readers will enjoy is the humor. It makes the book a fun, fast read. If a nonfiction book can be called a page-turner, then I think that What's Your Dog's IQ? definitely qualifies.


BookEnds: What was your road to published author like?
Sue: I've been writing professionally for twenty years, gradually building up my writer's resume. It has been a long, arduous process, and I finally understand what it means when people say they were an "overnight success." Things didn't really start to happen for me until after the publication of my first novel in 2001. Since then, many wonderful opportunities and blessings have come my way.

Like the basset hounds that I write so much about in my books and stories, any success I've attained has been through dogged determination and persistence. My bassets have taught me the most important lessons about attaining your goals: Keep your nose to the ground, stay on track, and follow the path where it leads you. Enjoy the journey, and leave your mark along the way.


BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Sue: I've just completed my second nonfiction book about dogs, titled Bow Wow! 150 Ways to Keep Your Bored Dog Active. It is scheduled for release in spring 2007 from Adams Media. It will be available online, in bookstores, and in pet stores.

I'm currently editing the third book in the Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series for dog lovers, entitled Embarking on Murder. I'm also writing the fourth book in the series, Waddling to Murder.


BookEnds: What was your most successful marketing campaign?
Sue: My most successful marketing has been through donations of my books to basset hound rescue groups and other nationwide animal rescue organizations. I've received many requests for autographed books, which I'm always happy to provide. Since my novels feature a basset hound, it seems fitting that I would spend a lot of time selling my books at basset hound rescue fund-raisers like basset waddles, slobberfests, and droolapaloozas. In 2001, I was invited to appear at the Illinois Basset Waddle, one of the largest such events in the country. I had a great time, and I sold a lot of books!


BookEnds: What are your hobbies or outside interests?
Sue: I often say that my life has gone to the dogs, and I wouldn't have it any other way. When I'm not writing about dogs, I'm painting them. I enjoy painting pastels of my own dogs and other dogs, which I donate to rescue organizations and sell through my Web site. They can be seen at www.beanieandcruiser.com/dogart.html


To learn more about Sue Owens Wright, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Question of the Month, Part 1

Each month BookEnds agents will answer one of the many questions we often get from writers. To start things off we decided to focus on pet peeves—a subject writers never seem to tire of hearing about.

To have your question considered, please feel free to ask it in the comments section.


What are your pet peeves?

There are so many pet peeves to talk about. The one that I'm going to focus on can be summed up in three words: lack of professionalism. Typically, writing is something most of us do as a hobby. It's even listed as a hobby on those warranty cards you should all be filling out for your new computers and iPods. Unfortunately, though, publishing is a business. Therefore, while you tell your warranty holders, friends, and family that your favorite hobby is writing, once you decide it's time to get an agent or try to publish your work, you have entered into the business world, and it's imperative that you not only know that, but act like it, which means acting professionally.

While there's a whole slew of unprofessional acts (some of which Jacky and Kim are addressing), the one that I'm going to focus on is what to do once you actually get that call—the one from an agent, not a publisher—and how authors screw it up. To do this I'm going to need to start out talking about the exclusive (because that's a pet peeve that ties into all of this).

Exclusives are when an agent asks to read your material on an exclusive basis, meaning that for the time you grant the exclusive (6 weeks, 6 months, whatever), you cannot submit to anyone else. (Keep in mind that while we would sometimes like to, BookEnds agents will never ask for an exclusive). Do you want to know what's irritating? When you receive an e-query and respond within a day, asking to see the material, only to be told it's out on exclusive submission. You're assured, however, that if the author is rejected she'll send it your way. First of all, if it's already been rejected, what makes you think I want to see it? If another agent thinks it's crap, why do you think I want your crap? And secondly, why did you just waste my time? Sure, you probably don't think it takes a lot of time to read a letter, but when I have 50 other e-queries in my inbox from that day only, you have wasted my time.

My own self-absorbed reasons aside, I hate exclusives because they are unfair to the author (and here is where it starts to tie into my original pet peeve about professionalism). If you grant an exclusive and get an offer, what are you going to do? As far as I can see, you have two choices—the first is to take the offer no matter what you feel about the agent or how she feels about your project, because it really is the only offer you have. The second is to reject the offer and hope and pray that someone you like better (an agent, presumably) will take you on. Kind of puts you in a tight spot. Do you know that getting an offer is your first chance at having an upper hand over agents—it's your first chance to actually do the rejecting? Why would you miss out on that? Why wouldn't you send your material to as many agents as possible and then, when an offer comes in, why wouldn't you use it to your advantage? Why wouldn't you act in the same professional manner as agents when it comes to your submission? Aaaah, professional. Here we go. . . .

When an agent submits material she most likely submits to as many publishers as possible (and yes, they do know that), and when an offer comes in she calls all those other publishers in order to get the best deal possible. Well, guess what? Any professional author can do the same. When you get that call it's perfectly professional to call every other agent reviewing your material (or at least the agents you think you really want to work with) to let them know you have an offer and give them a timeframe to get back to you by. Just be professional, don't let things drag for weeks and weeks. Everyone's time is limited. If you told the first agent you would get back to her by Friday, then by all means do so.

Sometimes, though, you're really lucky. You get that first call from an agent you know is perfect. You've read her blog, you've met her clients, and you just know from one short phone call that she's the gal for you. So now you sign on the dotted line and sit back and relax, right? No! You unprofessional schmuck! You get on that phone or behind that keyboard and let every other agent who is reviewing your material—whether it's a short proposal or the entire manuscript—know that you've signed with another agent. Don't brag, don't stick your tongue out and taunt them for being slow. Simply thank them all for their time and move on. Publishing is a strange business and you never know when you'll be back on the streets begging for the attention of another agent, so don't burn your bridges by acting unprofessionally. Build up your safety nets and make friends. It's certainly a lot easier to go back to an agent, query letter in hand, if you haven't ended up in her "author beware" file (and yes, I have one).

Now I know a few of you are going to ask me why you need to be so nice to someone who has been sitting on your material for six months. Well, let me tell you. Because you are a smart cookie and you know that this business is small and names are remembered. Wouldn't you rather be remembered for being the one that got away rather than the one who's manuscript I spent all night reading only to be told on the phone the next day that the work has been under contract for three weeks? And keep in mind, whether or not you are ever looking for an agent again, you never know who might end up being your editor one day. . . .

—Jessica

Check in Thursday for Jacky's pet peeve.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Jolie Mathis

Jolie Mathis
Book: The Sea King
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Pub date: June 2006





Jolie Mathis lives in Texas with her husband and two young children. The daughter of a confirmed bibliophile mother, Jolie's earliest memories are of visits to local libraries and bookstores. She enjoys reading, cooking (and eating), flea markets, and any activity involving family and friends.

Awards: The Sea King was a first place winner in the Romance Through the Ages Contest. The story also finaled in numerous other Romance Writers of America chapter contests.

Author Web site: www.joliemathis.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Jolie: Princess Isabel of Norsex owes Kol Thorlekkson her life, but since the day he came to her rescue she has been taught to hate the barbarian. When the dark Norseman returns to force her brother from his throne, she finds herself torn between her sworn allegiance and her traitorous heart.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Jolie: Does the cover count? No? All right, then—I'd have to say my favorite thing about the book is Kol, the hero (who Nathan Kamp portrays very nicely on the cover). Kol is completely confident within the world of war and men. However, love and the emotional exposure that comes along with it are unfamiliar to him. He's very much prepared to pass on from this world without ever having experienced the love of a woman. Along those lines, while in the process of writing The Sea King, I did a word-association exercise for each of the characters. For Kol, I kept coming back to the phrase "Brokenhearted Savior," like the Big Head Todd song. I thought the phrase fit him perfectly, at least in the first half of the book. His issues are compelling, and unique.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Jolie: Judith Ivory and Laura Kinsale. Other influences include Edith Wharton, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston. There are many, many more, but I'd better stop there.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Jolie: Excruciating! Don't get me wrong. I love to write, but I write lots and lots of pages, only to tear them apart through revision, rearrangement, and, yes, deletion.

BookEnds: Where do you get your ideas?
Jolie: Usually I find inspiration in artwork or a song. For example, The Sea King was inspired by a piece of artwork, The Kiss, by Gustav Klimt. It's not really the specifics of the artwork or song, but rather the emotions they evoke. I also really enjoy historical research. I am always stumbling across some intriguing bit of information.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Jolie: I write romance because I love "the dance" that occurs between a man and a woman when they discover one another and begin to fall in love.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Michele Scott

Michele Scott
Book: Murder by the Glass
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: June 2006





Michele Scott has been writing stories since she was nine years old. It’s been a long haul to publication, but her love for writing and her determination have paid off. Michele is the author of The Wine Lover’s Mystery Series, and The Horse Mystery Series, coming out in December.

Author Web site: www.michelescott.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Michele: Nikki Sands, a manager at the impressive Malveaux Winery and amateur sleuth, is a guest at a wedding where the grim reaper elopes with the socialite bride. All eyes turn to the jilted ex-lover of the groom and Nikki’s best friend, Isabella Fernandez, as the prime murder suspect.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Michele: My favorite thing about this book is the humor. I loved writing it and laughed out loud several times during the process at my heroine and her pals.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Michele: I start with character bios and move on from there to character journals, where I write from the first person. My books are written in the third person, so this process really helps me to find each character’s unique voice. After that I do an extensive outline, which I don’t always follow, but I do always know my ending, and it’s nice to have that road map to fall back on, in case I get off track. After that I jump in and write the book, which goes through about three drafts before I send it off.

BookEnds: Where do you get your ideas?
Michele: Where don’t I get ideas? I find ideas everywhere. I’m a people watcher and I listen. It might only be a word or a look I see a stranger give someone else that starts me in with a “what if?” Not all my ideas go anywhere. But some do, and those are the ones that simply won’t leave me alone until I write them.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Michele: Nikki Sands, who is the heroine in my wine series, is my alter ego. She says and does things that I only wish I had the nerve to do or say. If I was single and gutsy, I’d like to think I’d be like Nikki. I suppose we do have the same sense of humor, which not everyone gets. I definitely see quite a bit of myself in Michaela Bancroft (can’t believe I’m revealing this), who is my amateur sleuth in the horse mysteries. Michaela is very family oriented, kind of reserved (compared to Nikki), and a bit of a caretaker. She has some personal issues to work through, and readers will see that happen for her during the series. That does not mean I have personal issues to work through. LOL.

BookEnds: How do you spend your time when not writing?
Michele: I’m a publicist, a taxi driver, a short-order cook, and a maid. Not really. Well, sort of. I spend a lot of time marketing the books. Just last night I stayed up to do a radio show that aired at 2:00 a.m. on the East Coast. All I kept thinking while drinking my green tea to stay awake was, “Is anyone buying books at two in the morning?”

I have three kids, so I do spend time outside of writing, typically getting one to tennis, another to football or whatever sport he’s into at the time, and another one to guitar lessons. Then I make dinner or whatever meal needs to be cooked, and try to keep the house picked up, which is a joke. No, but really, spending time with my family is important to me and it’s what I love doing outside of writing. I did just recently decide to start doing something for myself, because at the end of a writing day my shoulders are really tight, so I am now going to my local yoga studio and trying hot yoga—talk about feeling your butt melt away. But I have to admit that it does feel pretty good, and I’m sleeping better, too.

To learn more about the Wine Lover's Mystery Series, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome

A BookEnds blog. After much discussion about whether or not a BookEnds blog would actually be useful or read, we have finally decided to give it a chance. Not wanting to do yet another blog on the rants of literary agents (although I imagine there will be plenty of ranting), we are going to try to use this space primarily as a look at who BookEnds is. BookEnds Literary Agency is not just made up of the three agents who work here. Instead, we are comprised of three agents and many talented authors—our clients. Together we have all made BookEnds a success and together we hope to share our expertise, thoughts, and insights on publishing, our books, writing, and agenting.

In addition to the occasional posts by us (Jessica, Jacky, and Kim), we also hope to include useful advice to aspiring authors, interviews with our clients, bits of information from our books, and . . . well, we'll see what else we can come up with.

So, welcome to the BookEnds blog. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. And, if you don’t yet know what BookEnds is, take a moment to check out our Web site at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

—Jessica

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BookEnds Talks to Kathy Brandt

Kathy Brandt
Book: Under Pressure
Publisher: Signet
Pub date: June 2006




Kathy Brandt is the author of the Underwater Investigation series. The most recent book is Under Pressure. The Caribbean setting was a natural for Kathy—she has been sailing and scuba diving in the islands for eighteen years. She taught writing at the University of Colorado before deciding to write full-time. Her articles have appeared in Cruising World, Sailing, Yachting, Diver, and many other publications.

Author Web site: www.ksbrandt.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kathy: Under Pressure begins when an airplane plunges into the sea. Only moments later, police diver Hannah Sampson is sixty feet below the surface, vying with reef sharks for any survivors. With her relationship floundering, a hurricane bearing down, a nine-year-old survivor thrust into her care, and a body found tangled in the mangroves, Hannah must find the answers to the crash. As evidence accumulates and threats become deadly, Hannah finds herself fighting for more than simple justice and in too deep. . . .

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from other authors of this genre?
Kathy: The most obvious differences are the Caribbean setting, the focus on underwater crime scene investigation, and the environmental sub-themes. All of these elements go hand in hand in the novels. My heroine, Hannah Sampson, is an expert diver and underwater crime scene investigator. She lives in a tropical paradise where sunsets cast gold across a serene ocean and gentle morning breezes rattle palm leaves, where a look below the ocean's surface is like opening a page from Alice in Wonderland.

But for Hannah Sampson, the serene can turn violent even in paradise and danger can lurk beneath the surface. Hannah dives where many fear to swim—to the deep and often deadly ocean bottom—to find the truth. The more time Hannah spends on and under the ocean's surface, the more she comes to appreciates its delicate balance and worries about the loss of coral reefs and the creatures that flourish there. In this most recent book, Under Pressure, a hurricane is building and threatens to strike before Hannah can find a killer.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Kathy: I love being able to write about the ocean, but Hannah is what makes Under Pressure tick. The pressure on her is largely self-imposed. She is gutsy, determined, strong-willed. But driven. It's her strength, and yet her major flaw. It makes her vulnerable. She takes risks in her relentless pursuit of bad guys. A little thing like the threat of death doesn't deter her. She is uncompromising when it comes to justice. As a result, her relationships suffer. She's at odds with her boss, with her diving partner, and most important, with the man she loves, Peter O'Brien. In Under Pressure, with a hurricane bearing down, her relationship with O'Brien on the rocks, and a nine-year-old boy on her hands, she's still determined to track down the cause of an airplane's plunge into the sea. In the end, it takes that nine-year-old boy to pull Hannah back from the edge.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Kathy: It changes based on where I am in the process—researching, writing, rewriting, or scrambling to make a deadline. Basically, though, I write five days a week for at least four to six hours, unless I'm completely immersed in a project. Then it turns into eight hours a day, seven days a week, and I miss meals.

I start a project by doing some general research and plotting. I simply can't outline. It's like taking a walk into a brick wall. Instead, I do time lines and character descriptions. Quickly the need to start writing takes over. I find comfort in Anne Lamont's statement that everyone deserves the luxury of writing "shitty first drafts." Mine definitely fit that category. But it happens that I love the rewriting process. My first draft is my chance to discover meaning—what it is that I really want this book to be about. When I have a story—a beginning, a middle, and an end—I revise and revise. I move scenes, drop characters, cut, paste, add, subtract, and then I toy with prose. One day, I realize I've finished. That's when it gets scary. That's when the story is no more mine. That's when I share it with the world outside.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Kathy: Actually, there are two rejections that I was glad I didn't take to heart. One read, "I loved the story but the character's voice is too biting." While another said, "I loved the voice but found the plot wanting." I never considered spending months rewriting my character's voice or replotting the entire manuscript. Instead, I sent out more query letters.

BookEnds: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kathy: You must write. The best way to learn to write is to write. I think sometimes the fear of inadequacy leads aspiring writers to spend too much time trying to figure out how to write rather than writing. But one more class or a couple more how-to books and theory never gets translated into practice.

Once you begin, you must be disciplined. Forget about waiting for inspiration to strike. Inspiration comes when you write, and if it doesn't, well, you have to write anyway. You need to start and finish. When you believe you've written the best piece you can, then send it out. And when rejection appears in your mailbox, send the manuscript out again.

To learn more about the Underwater Investigation series, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

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BookEnds Talks to Lynn LaFleur and Kimberly Dean

Lynn LaFleur and Kimberly Dean
Book: If This Bed Could Talk, an anthology
Publisher: Avon Red
Pub date: June 2006




Lynn LaFleur grew up in a small town in Texas, southwest of Fort Worth. After living on the West Coast for 21 years, she's moved back to a town 17 miles from where she grew up. Interests include gardening, sewing, and learning new things on the computer.

Kimberly Dean first began writing erotica and erotic romance in 2001. Since then, she's gone on to publish many steamy stories about love, desire, and devotion. When not writing, she enjoys reading, movies, sports, and music. She never knows what will spark an idea for her next work!

Author Web sites: www.lynnlafleur.com and www.kimberlydean.com

BookEnds: Describe your contributions to the anthology in 50 words or less.
Lynn: In "Victim of Deception," the death of her great aunt leaves Karessa with an old Victorian that is inhabited by the ghosts of her great-great-grandparents. Enter her former lover, Max, who comes to search for a bond in the house. He never planned to fall in love with Karessa again. . . .

Kimberly: In "Unrequited," after years of secret longing for his brother's wife, Tyler rejoices when she is set free and ripe for new love—though it may take a prolonged seduction to convince wary Trista to open herself up to pleasure once more. . . .

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about your novella?
Lynn: The dual love story.

BookEnds: How did you come to write "Victim of Deception"?
Lynn: I received an e-mail from Lucia Macro of Harper-Collins, who had read one of my Ellora's Cave books. She asked me to write a story in the contemporary anthology for the new Avon Red line.

BookEnds: And "Unrequited"?
Kimberly: My participation in If This Book Could Talk was like a writer's fairy tale. One day out of the blue, I received an e-mail from an editor at Avon. She'd read my story Fever, an e-book from Ellora's Cave. She'd loved the fact that while the story was hot, the characters also had a deeply involving romance. She told me Avon was planning on getting into the erotic romance genre and would I be interested in writing something for them? It took me all of two seconds to blurt out yes! A big, respected New York publishing house. . . . A lead-off book for a new line. . . . What else would my answer be?

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Lynn: Sandra Brown, Nikki Soarde, Angela Knight.

BookEnds: Where do you get your ideas?
Kimberly: They can come from anywhere. I've had brainstorms from television shows, movies, and even the news. Music is a big one. I can directly correlate at least three stories to songs that got stuck in my head.

BookEnds: How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Lynn: Three to four months. I wish I could write faster.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in this genre?
Kimberly: I was writing traditional romance and basically getting nowhere. I was following all the "rules," but all that did was essentially muffle my writer's voice. One day after receiving yet another rejection letter, I decided to throw everything out the window. I sat down and began writing a story that would never have made it as a romance. The situation was too gritty. The setting was too dark, and the characters were too flawed. They made mistakes, said naughty words, and didn't shy away from sex. The story was Tiger Lily, a work of erotica. I finally had a writer's voice. Black Lace published the book in 2002, and I haven't looked back since.

BookEnds: Do you have a job outside of writing?
Lynn: I work at the newspaper where I live, designing display ads.

BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Kimberly: I've got two proposals floating around out there looking for homes. One is a collection of gothic erotic romance and the other is the story of identical triplets reuniting.

BookEnds: What's your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Kimberly: I have an e-book quickie called Hypnotica coming out with Ellora's Cave. It's part of their Fun in the Sun series and will be available for download on June 21, 2006. Hypnotica is the story of a woman who becomes hypnotized at a dinner show on a cruise. Afterward, whenever Copper Daniels hears the trigger word, she becomes very, very amorous. Fortunately, Nick Branson is there to take care of all her needs.

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