Thursday, November 30, 2006

Organization

I recently spent almost two weeks trying to figure out the best way to get organized. As I'm sure many of you know it doesn't take much for old ways of organization to become outdated. In this case, the level of work that I'm doing has changed so much that my previous methods just weren't enough. In addition to keeping track of submissions, payments, and contracts, I need to be able to keep track of daily phone calls and the status of each of my authors—including publicity, work in progress, submissions, and of course contracts and payments. So coming up with a system that I could rely on and that would really work for me took a little bit of time. I thought about a database, white boards, desk calendars of all shapes and sizes, and reviving my old Filofax. In the end, though (and really, this took more time than it should have), what I reverted to was plain old pen and paper. I now have an alphabetical binder with a page for each author. That way when we're on the phone, discussing
what's next or where we are at, I can quickly look to that page and refer to previous conversations and a list I have of the status of almost everything on behalf of this author. I can also look to that page to refer to previous conversations with the editor, the head of contracts, or even the publicist. But of course one book isn't enough. I have another notebook dedicated to things like phone calls and emails. This tells me the status of phone calls I've made and shows me who isn't calling me back and who I need to call back. When something is complete I simply cross it off. That way I can refer back to previous dates to see who I left a message for and whether or not that editor, author, or contract person returned my call. I can easily see how long it's been and when I should harass her again.

In addition to these two systems I also have a database for contracts and payments and another for submissions I'm making. And of course I have a log of submissions I'm receiving. And don't get me started on my calendar. It can take me an hour just to figure out who I need to be calling that day and for what reason.

I've often wondered how people who are disorganized manage in this business. How do they stay on top of all that needs to be stayed on top of, or do they? And what do authors do? How many of you looking for an agent keep track of who you're submitting to, and when and how do you track this? If you're published, what, besides your deadlines, do you need to track and how do you do it?

—Jessica

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thank-You Notes

This has little to do with publishing, but I’m guessing we can all use a break from work now and then and this really is an issue that’s been bugging me lately.

Whatever happened to thank-you notes?

I work in a business where it’s expected of me to send a response, albeit via SASE, for correspondence (re: submissions) you send to me. It seems, however, that we are a rare breed. Recently BookEnds was interviewing candidates for an office assistant opening and it was astonishing to me how few sent a thank-you note after the interview, and those who did didn’t even take the time to send it via snail mail, but sent a very informal email instead. When talking to others about this phenomenon, I was shocked to learn that many companies will now interview candidates and never again contact them—not even a form postcard, not even an email, not even a return phone call. After an interview! After the potential job candidate took the time to travel to the job, dress in her best interview clothes, and spend a boring hour, sometimes two, trying to charm the interviewers. How does she find out she didn’t get the job? She just never hears from them again.

I don’t think I’m a prude and usually I don’t even think I’m that old-fashioned, but are thank-you notes really prudish and old-fashioned? What has happened in our world that it’s more common to send a letter of complaint than it is a letter of thanks?

I’d like to think that technology and busy lives have not completely eroded good sense and good etiquette, and luckily I am reminded of this periodically when I get a thank-you note for a rejection letter, conference meeting, or just a brief email exchange. I want to thank all of you for my file of thank-yous (right next to the author beware file) for reminding me that there are actually more authors I want to work with than those I’d like to beware of.

—Jessica

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You Can't Always Get What You Want . . .

Jacky, Jessica, and I were having a conversation the other day about how life has a wondrous way of balancing itself. Every time we find ourselves needing to buy a new roof, shelling out cash for taxes, or buying a new engine for our car, we often land some kind of windfall that is just enough to take care of it. And just as predictably, any time we find ourselves the grateful recipients of some sort of monetary gift or lottery, we immediately come up with all sorts of fun shopping we can do, but some kind of bad luck befalls us and sucks that dough right out of our hands. We may not always get that cute little pair of red boots at Bloomingdale's that we wanted, but we always seem to get what we need.

Humming a little Rolling Stones to myself, I got to thinking how often this is the case in the publishing industry. Authors and agents have a LOT of expectations for the books they submit out into the wild blue yonder. Most professional authors think they have a clear idea of the best way to market their book, the type of cover it will get and the way it will be placed on a publishing house’s schedule. In fact, it’s important that our clients do strategize this way, because the publishing industry is a business first and foremost, so it’s important to approach it as a businessperson, not just artistically. Still, with all of the thought we and our clients put into this stuff, circumstances change. We land the windfall—a contract—and we have all sorts of ideas about how the finished book should turn out. But the longer I’m working on this side of the business, the more I’m seeing that there can be some unexpected turns. While we may not welcome them at first, they usually turn out for the best in the end.

For instance, one of my clients thought she’d written a quiet, slightly controversial literary novel that would have a modest hardcover printing and garner some nice reviews. Instead, Bantam is publishing the book next summer at the top of their list as mass-market women’s fiction. The author’s brain had to do a 180-degree turn, but she knows that she’ll reach a lot more readers this way and it’s the best possible opportunity for launching her writing career. The change was jarring, but completely thrilling, too.

Another client published her first book a few months ago, and unfortunately the numbers aren’t what we’d hoped. We’re finding the romance audience just isn’t large enough for the particular time period and setting that the novel covered. Now she’s hard at work on something that’s quite different from that first book, and I’m super excited about it. I have a feeling this will reinvigorate her writing and push her to a whole new level. We don’t know what the payoff will be yet, but I’m confident this turn will grow her career.

And this sort of stuff happens in many aspects of my job. Another agent may have snapped up an author I was interested in, before I could. But the next week, I come across a submission I connect with even more and I sign the author right away. So any time you think a disappointment’s come your way, just cue up the ITunes and hum along with Mick, because it’s all going to work out for the best.

—Kim

Monday, November 27, 2006

Reading for Pleasure

I get asked all the time whether or not I read for pleasure and the answer is of course I do . . . and I don’t. I do read for pleasure all the time and people are amazed that I would want to read after spending a day working with books. But why would I be in this business if books weren’t my greatest pleasure? Of course, I don’t really read strictly for pleasure since every time I pick up a book it’s also work. It’s research to see what the competition is doing, to remind myself of what makes a good submission and therefore a good book, and to keep up on trends.

So what have I been reading lately (outside of the work my clients are writing) and how did I come to those books? Here’s a list of roughly the last five books I’ve read for pleasure:

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris—An editor I had just sold a new mystery series to gave me this book during a recent lunch.

The Southern Devil by Diane Whiteside—I picked this up in the airport for my flight home from California. Kate Douglas has always spoken highly of Diane’s work, and since I’d never read her I thought I’d give it a look.

I’ll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane—A book I received at the NJ RWA conference luncheon.

A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming—I’ve received a number of submissions referencing her work and have heard a great deal about her books so I thought I’d better check them out and see what it was all about.

The Fyre Mirror (Elizabeth I Mysteries) by Karen Harper—I’d never read Karen’s work before but was intrigued by the setting of this series.

—Jessica

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

BookEnds will be closed today through Sunday for the holiday.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and we'll see you again on Monday.

—Jessica, Jacky, and Kim

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Dream Conference

As many of you know, we attend a number of conferences and speak to a number of writer’s groups each year. So if we were to plan the conference, what would our dream conference be like?

1. A huge goody bag upon arrival that includes snacks (good chocolate, water, wine, and fruit), a few books from some of the published authors in the group, neat local gift items, pen, paper, and some surprises.

2. No more than one hour of appointments with only the most talented unpublished (or published looking for a new agent) authors whose work is so inspiring I can’t help but request a full manuscript.

3. An amazing hotel with a big fluffy bed and pillows and a great health club/fitness center.

4. Meals with no speakers or awards, just the time to get to know the other attendees at the table, chat about publishing, the area, and life in general.

5. Really good food at those meals.

6. Free time. Not necessarily a ton, but enough to explore the area, go to my room to relax, or take a dip in the hotel pool.

7. Location, location, location. An amazing area I’ve never visited before or a place where I have friends and family to visit while I’m there. I love the opportunity to turn a conference into a vacation. Europe would be fabulous.

8. A host. Someone assigned to me who makes sure I have my goody bag, the schedule for my weekend, a ride to and from the airport, and a cocktail or cup of coffee when I need it.

9. Water. It’s amazing how thirsty you get during appointments or a panel. A fresh bottle or glass of water is constantly needed.

10. Optional excursions. I love it when conference organizers take the time to plan and organize a free trip to a local tourist site. It’s always fun to see something new and different.

11. Wine served at panelist table while we’re speaking.

12. Direct flights to and from the conference.

13. Laid-back, comfortable attendees who aren’t too intimidated to just chat with us and hang out at the bar. Trust me—we’re not an intimidating lot.

Ah, it’s always fun to dream. What would your dream conference be like?

—Jessica

Monday, November 20, 2006

If I Did It

For anyone who has been living under a rock, I might have to point out that O. J. Simpson has written a book entitled If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened. Published by Judith Regan of Regan Books, the book and the publisher have come under a firestorm of controversy from the media, consumers, and industry professionals alike, and the more Judith Regan tries to defend herself the murkier the situation seems to get.

Rather than rehash the entire story (you can read more on almost any publishing or news-related Web site), I want to give my own murky opinion of the situation. The truth is, I really don’t know what to think.

As an editor, a great number of the decisions I made about what to buy, as well as the decisions I now make as an agent about what to represent, are personal. The first question always was and still is whether or not I like something. The second is whether it will make me money. The question then becomes: If I don’t like something, or don’t agree with it, but know it will still make me money, would I consider it? The answer is, I’m not sure.

On the one hand, I’m disgusted and stunned by the arrogance and greed it must take to come out and do something like this. While O. J. is obviously denying it’s a confession, I have to wonder whether or not an innocent person, convicted of a crime, would truly come out publicly with what would have been a better plan for murder. I’m also wondering why you wouldn’t just lay it to rest. I have to think that if my husband were brutally murdered and I had to stand trial for the crime, I would just want it all to go away.

On the other hand, publishing is a business, and in any business the goal is to make money. So where does a business draw the line between personal feelings and the needs and desires of the shareholders? If Regan Books chose not to buy the project, would it have been a poor business decision since another publisher would have grabbed it? The truth is that these books are selling. It isn’t even officially out yet and has already reached #24 on the Amazon list. So who’s at fault? Judith Regan for publishing the book or the public for so obviously wanting to read it?

My personal feelings and my business sense are torn on this topic, and more important, I’m just baffled by the entire thing. Can anyone else make any more sense out of it than I’ve done?

—Jessica

Friday, November 17, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Deb Baker

Deb Baker
Book: Dolled Up for Murder
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach


Deb Baker is the author of two debut novels this year—Murder Passes the Buck, a Michigan Yooper mystery featuring local amateur sleuth Gertie Johnson, and Dolled Up for Murder, the first in the Dolls To Die For series with Gretchen Birch, a Phoenix doll restoration artist.

Author Web site: www.debbakerbooks.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Deb: A message clutched in the fist of a doll collector found dead near a Phoenix mountain implicates Gretchen Birch’s mother. All evidence points to her as the killer, but Gretchen knows she’s innocent. The problem is, her mother has disappeared—and she’s left an urgent warning that Gretchen is in danger, too. . . .

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Deb: Dolled Up for Murder is a traditional cozy in many ways—miniature purse dogs, a three-legged cat, and a family of very snoopy females. But the subject matter distinguishes it from others of this genre. The Dolls To Die For series is the very first mystery series to feature dolls. And since doll collecting is the second largest hobby in the country (after stamp collecting), that makes it unique.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Deb: The research! Climbing Camelback Mountain and looking out over Phoenix, sipping margaritas (um . . . so I know how they taste), and slurping chile stew. Visiting doll shows is the most fun. Doll people are very friendly and have supported me throughout the writing process, answering all my questions and telling me stories. My collection has begun to grow from a few childhood dolls to . . . well, who knows where it’ll go from here. I’ll be in Arizona in early November visiting bookstores and doll shops. Check my appearance page if you live close by. I’d love to meet you.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Deb: Next up is Murder Grins and Bears It, coming out May 1, 2007. Then another doll collecting mystery, Goodbye Dolly, in September. I’m writing like crazy.

BookEnds: What has been your most successful marketing campaign?
Deb: The Internet is a wonderful thing. I contacted doll show promoters across the country and offered to send postcards for their shows’ flyer tables. The response was overwhelming. I’ve sent out 5,000 postcards to shows.

BookEnds: Besides making your first sale, what has been the most fun thing to happen to your writing career?
Deb: The reviews have been awesome for both books. It’s such a thrill when others enjoy my work. Doll magazine featured me in its current issue and devoted an entire colored page to my collection of dolls. That was the best.

To learn more about Deb Baker, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Max McCoy

Max McCoy
Book: A Breed Apart: A Novel of Wild Bill Hickok
Publisher: NAL
Pub date: November 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti


Max McCoy is an award-winning author, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. He is Journalist in Residence at Emporia State University at Emporia, Kansas.

Awards: Spur Award, best first novel; Western Writers of America (for The Sixth Rider, Doubleday); Oxbow Award for Short Fiction (“Spoils of War”); many other awards, mostly for journalism.

Author Web site: www.maxmccoy.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Max: History remembers him as Wild Bill, but he was born James Butler Hickok, a young man who forged his future as a scout on the plains, and as a Union spy during the Civil War. But it was on one afternoon in Springfield, Missouri, that Hickok found his true calling—with a revolver in his hand.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Max: First, I never considered myself as writing for a genre—to me, the books have always been novels, period. The publishers label some of my novels as westerns, of course, but that’s a marketing decision. As for A Breed Apart, it’s the story of Wild Bill Hickok facing his greatest enemy—himself—and losing. Hickok is a fascinating character, and while everybody knows he was shot dead by Jack McCall at the Number 10 saloon in Deadwood while holding a poker hand of aces and eights, not a lot of attention has been paid to his early days, which I find more intriguing. How did this fellow who was plagued with self-doubt become an icon of the American west? While A Breed Apart is of course fiction, I have attempted to remain truthful to Hickok’s character and what is known of his life and have endeavored to steer clear of the clich├ęs created by the dime novels of his time and by Hollywood of ours.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Max: It’s hard to choose just one favorite thing. It’s set in the Ozarks, it takes place during the Civil War, and the lead character is Wild Bill Hickok—what’s not to like?

BookEnds: How did you come to write this book?
Max: When I mentioned to Brent Howard, my (terrific) editor at New American Library, that I was a fan of HBO’s Deadwood, he suggested a novel on Wild Bill Hickok. After some research, I realized that Hickok’s early years, on the Kansas and Nebraska border, and later in the Ozarks during the Civil War, would make a good story. The novel ends with the famous shootout with Dave Tutt on the Springfield, Missouri, square—a shootout that launched Hickok’s reputation as a pistoleer. The fight may be the only truly “classic” gunfight in the history of the west, with the combatants facing each other and drawing at the same time. Hickok put a ball through Tutt’s chest, at a distance of 70 yards . . . a spectacular shot with a pistol. Tutt was Hickok’s best friend, the fight was ostensibly over a trifling debt and a pocket watch, and there was the suggestion of a woman as well. And there you have everything a novelist needs to spin a tale.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Max: It’s called Hellfire Canyon and will be released in February 2007 by Kensington. But I hate the title, and I’ll tell you why. The book features real-life Civil War serial killer Alf Bolin, who ambushed people on the coach road a few miles from what is now Branson, Missouri. His hideout was a massive rock formation known (after his depredations) as Murder Rocks. So, the original title of the book was Murder Rock. I dropped the "s" for stylistic reasons. Anyway, my editor at Kensington, Gary Goldstein, told me that somebody—the publisher, buyers, Wal-Mart, maybe—didn’t think Murder Rock sounded like a western. So they changed the title to Hellfire Canyon, which has to be one of the worst titles ever, especially when you consider that the story takes place in the Ozarks—we have hills and hollers, draws and valleys, but no canyons. That’s a Southwestern word. So, the only way I could live with myself and actually write a book with such a horrible title was to poke some fun at it, so I invented a terrible 1930s movie called Hellfire Canyon, which premieres at Joplin, Missouri, and one of those who attend is Jacob Gamble, who was a boy during the Civil War and who narrates much of the story. I had some fun making up a history for the movie—it was filmed on location, for example, and starred Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, was directed by John Huston, and the only print was lost when a shed on the MGM lot was destroyed during the burning-of-Atlanta scene for Gone With the Wind. It is difficult for me to judge my own books, but I am particularly fond of Jacob Gamble. He was the narrator for a story called “Spoils of War,” which I wrote some years ago for Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, and I brought him back so that he could tell the rest of his story, which ends at Murder Rock in Taney County, Missouri. I’m still frosted over the title, even though Gary Goldstein is one of the good guys and has long been a friend of mine (but then, he’s probably frosted with me for being, well, difficult in a hundred ways). I’m thinking about providing an alternative cover on my Web site so readers can download it and paste it over the awful Hellfire Canyon title. To me, the novel will always be Murder Rock.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Max: I put a lot of myself into my characters. Certainly I’m Richard Dahlgren, the cave diver and underwater investigator from The Moon Pool. But there’s a lot of me in Hickok in A Breed Apart and Jacob Gamble in Hellfire Canyon as well. There’s just something about loners, outlaws, and outsiders that I identify with.

BookEnds:Bonus Question: Is there anything we missed or anything you would like to add?
Max: Let’s see. Yeah, I’d like to acknowledge my debt to Don Coldsmith, who introduced me to Doubleday editor Greg Tobin at the Tallgrass Writing Conference in Emporia, Kansas. That meeting launched my book publishing career. I’d like to remember Fred Bean, a writer friend of mine in Austin who died a few years ago. Everybody misses the hell out of him. And I’d like to thank my agent, Kimberly Lionetti of Bookends, who came to Eureka Springs and gave a terrific talk at the Ozark Creative Writers conference a couple of weeks ago.


To learn more about Max McCoy, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yummy Proposals

I got a huge proposal package in the mail recently. One marked perishable. You know what that means? That means a yummy bribe. Someone out there has decided that the best way to charm and win me over is to send an amazing box of chocolates along with the proposal. Well I, like almost everyone else, love a good box of chocolate and I always love a gift. But let me tell you, other than making me feel a twinge of guilt, this gift isn't going to do much of anything for you. When evaluating the proposal it's all about the proposal—the writing, the marketability, and whether or not I can sell it. While gifts are always nice, don't waste your money. Instead spend your time and energy making your proposal the best it can be.

And by the way, I prefer all dark chocolate since it's the only kind of chocolate we'll eat at my house ;)

—Jessica

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Giving Up

I was thrilled with the response my post Coping with Rejection got. I felt such a shared sense of comaraderie and enjoyed reading how others deal with this necessary evil. One comment asked the question:

At what point does the agent who's been getting rejections on a manuscript give up on it? And what happens to that book—is it shelved away forever or do you wait a few years and see if new editors at the old publishing houses are more receptive?

The first answer is my cop-out (but true) answer. It depends. When does an agent give up? It depends on the agent (some are more tenacious than others) and it depends on the book (some grab hold of you and never let go, and for some reason you refuse to stop.) It’s like smoking, you keep saying, “just one more.” And it depends on the rejections. If each and every rejection is saying the same thing and that “thing” starts ringing true to me, I will usually suggest to the author that we find something fresh to send around. If, however, I think all of the rejections are filled with nonsense and each and every one is completely different I will continue to plug away at it.

What happens to a book after we quit submitting also depends. Sometimes you’ll find out, months later, that an editor is looking for exactly what you’ve got. Sometimes editors have come back after rejecting something. The market has changed and suddenly she has a place for it and sometimes the market does a complete 180 and you’ve got the hottest thing going. And sometimes we’re lucky and the first editor I submitted to leaves and I can try someone fresh at an old house.

Even if I have moved on to a new project I’m always keeping those old ones in the back of my mind. You never know when you’ll get a call that you have the perfect book for.

—Jessica

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why I Became an Agent

One of the most frequently asked questions when I attend conferences or talk with authors is why I became an agent. And really my answer comes down to one simple thing: I don’t like rules.

For those who don’t know, I started my career, like many others, as an editorial assistant for Carrie Feron (now with Avon) and Melinda Metz (an editor who later created the Roswell book series and TV show) at Berkley. Later I was transferred to Ginjer Buchanan (still at Berkley/Ace), whom I worked under for four years. And I loved it. I loved everything about working at a publishing house. I loved editorial meetings, where we discussed possibilities and read new and exciting books. I loved acquiring books, calling authors and agents to offer representation, and negotiating contracts. In fact, I loved it so much that when asked whether I’d ever want to be an agent the answer was always a resounding no. And then, five years into my life at Berkley I decided it was time to further my career and move on.

In 1998 I made the move to Macmillan, then the publisher of the Complete Idiot’s Guide series. And I did well, very, very well. Within a year’s time I was promoted from editor to senior editor (I had left Berkley an associate editor) and handling some of their biggest titles and biggest-name authors. Again, I was doing a job I loved. While I was working entirely on one book series, I got to come up with creative ideas for new books and find talented authors to write them. Granted, some did phenomenally well, and others . . . not so much. But I still loved it.

And then it was time for a change. While I loved working at both places and with the varied authors and books, the one problem both houses had (and any house has) is too many rules. I couldn’t work on just any book because I had to always consider the strengths of the house. Berkley, for example, is a terrific commercial paperback publisher. That means they do romance, mystery, SF, and some nonfiction fabulously. They are not, however, the publisher you would go to with a high-end business book or a literary fiction original (meaning it hasn’t been published anywhere else before). And working with Macmillan was obviously working on nothing but Complete Idiot’s Guides.

I wanted more. I wanted to try things publishers wouldn’t let me buy. I wanted the ability to take a chance on something just because I loved it. I wanted to make my own rules. And that’s why I love being an agent and love having BookEnds. Sure, I’ve taken on projects I haven’t been able to sell, but at least I had the opportunity to try. I’ve also taken on projects knowing they might not sell and sold them. I’ve been able to take risks. Some I’ve won and some I’ve lost. But all I’ve enjoyed.

—Jessica

Friday, November 10, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Julia Templeton

Julia Templeton
Book: The Bargain
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: November 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti


Julia Templeton has loved romance novels since reading her first historical romance over twenty years ago. She says it’s such a thrill for her to see her books on the shelf. She loves research, and when she's not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband of over twenty years and their grown children.

Author Web site: www.juliatempleton.com

Awards:The Bargain won First Place, Spicy category, of the Smoky Writers Sweet, Spicy, Spooky Contest, 2004; Masquerade (Ellora’s Cave) was the winner of the Ecataromance Reviewers choice award for best Ebook 2006; and Now & Forever (Ellora’s Cave) was among Romance Reviews Today "PERFECT 10" in 2003.

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Julia: Saxon princess Aleysia Cawdor will do whatever she has to in order to save her twin brother after he is taken prisoner by the merciless Norman knight Renaud de Wulf. Aleysia enters into a sensual bargain with the wickedly handsome Norman, offering her body in return for her brother’s safety.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Julia: My favorite thing about The Bargain is the transformation my hero, Renaud de Wulf, goes through. Renaud is a tough, ruthless warrior who has worked his entire life to gain the impressive fief of Braemere. And yet after he achieves this success, he learns that it’s not about what you have or the riches you gain, but rather who we love and how empty our lives would be without that one person in it. He kept surprising me with each page.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Julia: I’ve always admired Virginia Henley and Brenda Joyce for writing such wonderful sensual historical romance. They’re both brilliant at prolonging sexual tension. I also admire Karen Marie Moning and Susan Johnson for their wonderfully wicked alpha male heroes, and Angela Knight and Emma Holly for writing such fabulous sex scenes.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Julia: I usually start with a character and start asking a lot of questions. I’m a fan of the character sheet, which means I interview my characters until I get a good idea of who they are. From there I research the setting and time period. A lot of authors dislike research, but I love it. I have an entire bookcase devoted to research books, and each shelf is broken down by time period and geographic location. Next I start writing a rough outline and then start writing the book.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Julia: I love historical romance. In fact, I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong time. After reading Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna, I was hooked, so when I started writing, historical romance was my natural choice.

BookEnds: Has being published changed you or your writing?
Julia: It’s changed my writing. I’ve realized along the way that I have to write from an outline. That’s not to say I don’t stray from that outline, but it keeps me focused on the main points of the story. I have a certain amount of time to finish a manuscript, so I need to stay focused, and sticking to the outline helps me do that.


To learn more about Julia Templeton, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guarantees of Representation

In response to my post on Using Referrals and Requests, a reader asked:

So basically—if you have requested more material, no guarantee that this is a representation request? I'm really enjoying your posts more and more and I feel you have some very helpful information. I have met quite a few authors who have Jacky as their agent and I have even recommended a friend of mine query you all (and she did finally, to Jessica)—I thank you all for the service you have here.

So back to the double-edged sword—if you have a 98% rejection rate (which I can understand that there are a lot of writers out there trying to get their mss sold) and you have requested more, you basically are wanting to add more on your plate but not necessarily making an offer to represent that author? I'm a bit confused on this—but I'm sure it will clear up with more postings - E :)


When you put it that way, it does seem odd, doesn’t it? Why would people who are clearly too busy to even read query letters ask to read more? Because we are looking to add new and talented clients to our list and because there was very obviously something about your work that resonated with us. We probably liked the idea, found your voice intriguing, and connected with your characters. We liked those first three chapters enough that we were hungry for more. And yes, we liked them enough that we were willing to add more to our plates.

As for representation, the only thing that guarantees an offer of representation is the offer itself.

—Jessica

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When to Say When

In response to my post on Using Referrals and Requests, a reader asked:

I have a general question: let's say you've requested three different partials from one author (over time, clearly); two of those became full requests. If you pass on all three, should the author continue to query you on the next project, or is she/he wasting your time by doing so?

(I'm in the situation—or could be soon. The agent has my full right now, but I haven't heard back either way. I really like the agency, and I'd be thrilled to be repped by them, but I wonder when they want to read more but it doesn't seem to fit. . . .)


My advice is that if you really feel this is an agent you want to work with and strongly believe you would be a good fit, then keep it coming. Requests for fulls mean that she probably likes your voice and style, now it’s just finding a plot that fits. I wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, but if it’s meant to be I believe it will.

—Jessica

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Reaction to Rejection

Last week I had a bad day. It probably wasn’t much different from any other day, but for some reason it felt worse. Two editors, both whom I respect and trust, rejected two different projects, both of which I love.

Just as rejection is part of every author’s life, it is part of every agent’s day, and as part of my job I need to get up, brush myself off, and start fresh. Most important, though, I need to find a way to boost the confidence of my authors and remind them why I took them on in the first place—I love their work, love their writing, love their voices, and, most important, have confidence that they have what it takes.

So what does an agent feel when getting rejected? I imagine most of you know very well what it feels like for an author, but how do agents take it? Obviously I can’t speak for anyone but myself. However, I imagine that all agents have had a similar experience. When I answered my email and picked up the voice mail, both came in at once, which should really be outlawed: my stomach knotted up and my heart felt heavy. It actually, physically hurt. I knew I had to make those phone calls and disappoint my clients, and you know what? It just plain sucks (excuse my language). I’m disappointed and angry. Why can’t these editors see what I see? I’m frustrated. We’re so close. In one case the book had been read by most of the editorial staff, and while the editor I submitted to really liked it and had nothing but extremely positive things to say about the author’s writing and voice, ultimately she couldn’t get the support she needed.

I’m also kicking myself. I feel that in some way I have let down my authors. By being excited about their work, by telling them how much I love it (which I truly do), did I set them up for a fall? After all, it’s my job to sell these books and I have yet to do so. I have, thus far, failed at my job. I know in the end both of these authors will see success. They are much too talented not to. But for today I wallow in my own feelings on the rejections, and tomorrow I will get up, brush myself off, and start fresh. I will send out more submissions, brainstorm new and better ideas, and dang it, I will sell these two authors . . . and many, many others.

—Jessica

Monday, November 06, 2006

Books We'd Like to See

Recently I participated in a Backspace (bksp.org) forum discussion where I was asked a number of terrific questions—some of which I’ll elaborate on here.

The BookEnds website says: "BookEnds works with authors and publishers to produce the books we all want to see on our shelves." I wondered if you could elaborate on that statement for us.

It’s always interesting when someone puts your own words in front of you and asks you to explain them. This was a statement Jacky and I made when we first started the company seven years ago and one we still strongly believe in, despite how its meaning has evolved along with the company.

While I suspect all agents want to work on books that they want to see on their shelves, I’m going to break down what this statement means more specifically for BookEnds agents. Ultimately all agents, and all editors, work on books that they love (which means that statement so often put into rejection letters is true), which usually means books they want to read. In the case of BookEnds that tends to mean commercial fiction and nonfiction: mysteries, romance, women’s fiction, and self-help nonfiction. While all three of us have areas of interest that cross over (we all do cozy mysteries, for example), we also each have areas of expertise that the others don’t handle.

For example, I represent cozy mysteries with a hook, mystery and suspense, romance, erotica or erotic romance, business, career books, finance, parenting/childcare, women’s fiction, and general self-help nonfiction. Right now, I would love to see anything involving the paranormal, forensics (or better yet, a paranormal forensic novel or series), nonfiction authors with a large platform, or romantic suspense that’s different and exciting. And of course I’m always looking for a cozy mystery series with a fresh and exciting hook (think of what popular hobbies your friends and family participate in or a character with a career that’s intriguing and different), erotic romance that makes me sweat, historical mysteries or suspense that feature actual historical figures. I would also love to see women’s fiction that makes real life fun—I want to laugh at motherhood and menopause or see an abused woman face life in a new way. And romance—give me something that makes me laugh and cry, give me a romantic suspense that goes beyond the cop and the female victim and give me characters that jump off the page. In nonfiction I am always on the lookout for new books for women in business, marketing, entrepreneurs, and a new look at your career. The author, though, must have the platform to back what she’s writing. I’d also love self-help parenting books that haven’t yet been done (try to find that).

A few of my most recent deals should give you an idea of what I’m looking for: Corporate Confidential for Job Seekers, a follow-up book to the successful Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro, False Impressions: A Rubberstamping Mystery, a three-book deal by Terri Micene, A Parents’ Guide to Vaccinations, a follow-up to Natural Baby and Childcare by Lauren Feder, MD, Dream Wreaker, a two-book paranormal romance deal by Kimberly Dean, Scandal’s Daughter, a two-book historical romance deal by Golden Heart winner Christine Wells, and A Wolf in Chic Clothing, Charlaine Harris meets Mary Janice Davidson in this three-book deal by Karen MacInerney. Of course there are many other fabulous books and authors on my list, and if you’re ever wondering who at BookEnds represents a certain author, feel free to email and ask at editor@bookends-inc.com.



When I asked Jacky what she wanted, here’s what she said:

I am looking for terrific new books in both nonfiction and fiction. Please see our website for the kinds of books we DON'T represent. In general, I am looking for mysteries of all kinds, suspense of all kinds (especially women's romantic suspense), women's fiction of all shapes and sizes, and practical, how-to nonfiction in the following areas: business, health (both mainstream and alternative, and especially a mix of the two), spirituality, pets, puzzles, fun gift books (but not coffee table books), relationship books, and lifestyle. With nonfiction it is especially important that the author have a substantial platform relevant to the work, and be able to deliver a solid marketing plan.

I love to read about new subjects and learn something from my reading experience. Therefore, I am especially drawn to fiction that has a setting or subject matter that is unusual. For example, mysteries featuring a caver, or women's fiction set in the conservation corps. Competition for fiction is fierce so anything that gives a story a leg up on that competition is welcome. I believe that unusual and foreign settings, jobs, interests, and plot lines add a great deal to a story. And naturally the writing must be top-notch as well. In order to stand out in any field today professionals need to specialize. I find this to be true in fiction as well, so a novel that focuses on a character with an unusual job, hobby, or location is a plus. I am always looking for cozies with a strong and different hook (and it amazes me that they still keep coming in: Wonderful!), erotica with a new and different twist, women's fiction with a powerful emotional element as well as an unusual and engaging setting. I would love to see a few forensic thrillers, or a character with an unsual twist; I'd love to see some new paranormal mysteries and some terrific suburban suspense. Soccer mom novels are always welcome, especially with a little darkness invovled. Of course, I'm always looking for the I-just-can't-put-it-down novel, but aren't we all?

With nonfiction I'd like to see the same kind of specialization, which has a built-in market. If you have a great idea, feel free to email me first at jsach@bookends-inc.com.

And finally Kim’s request:

On the fiction side, Kim represents mysteries, westerns, women’s fiction, and all areas of romance, but she’s specifically interested in romantic suspense, paranormal and historical romances. On the nonfiction side, she handles true crime, pop culture, and pop science projects.

At present, Kim is hungry to read a great emotional women’s fiction novel with a lot of depth and complex, meaty characters. In addition, she’d love to see a historical paranormal romance that feels fresh and not like all of the many other paranormals that are already out there. Finally, she’s always looking for experienced journalists to cover gripping true-crime stories that can appeal to a national audience.

The other part of this question involved the word “produce.” Originally BookEnds started as a book packaging company (which I’ll explain later), but after much thought we decided that truly we wanted to be literary agents and use our editorial skills to make our agency unique. You see, all three of us began our publishing careers as editors and have carried those skills over to BookEnds, which means that we feel very strongly about working with our authors to help create those books. How closely we work with an author depends a great deal on the author and how closely she wants us to work. With some authors I have brainstormed from conception to create an idea from the ground up (for both fiction and nonfiction authors), and with others I simply work to come up with a submission plan.

There are some authors I’ve spent time on the phone with and together we’ve taken what was a germ of an idea and created a fabulous mystery series or romance trilogy. Other authors have come to me with the idea and I’ve worked with them to massage and mold it into a fantastic book. Beyond just the work, though, I work with my authors to create and build a career. We negotiate with the publisher for more marketing and publicity and I come up with tips and tricks for wowing editors and getting into the good graces of the sales department.

So BookEnds does truly work with our authors, and together, as a team, we are creating and have created a shelf of books that I’m very proud to say I’ve been a part of.

—Jessica

Friday, November 03, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Allyson Bright Meyer

Allyson Bright Meyer
Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects Illustrated
Publisher: Alpha Books
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach


Allyson Bright Meyer is a nationally recognized scrapbook artist who has published layouts in magazines, including Memory Makers and Scrapbook Trends. Allyson teaches workshops regularly at a local scrapbooking store, and her work was recently featured on PBS television. She holds a BA in English from the University of Iowa.

Author Web site: www.allysonbrightmeyer.com

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Allyson: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects Illustrated is an all-inclusive scrapbooking guide. The book features step-by-step instructions and ideas perfect for the beginning or experienced scrapbooker. Hundreds of color photographs of pages and albums will inspire readers of any level to create scrapbooks and keepsakes to last a lifetime.

BookEnds: If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?
Allyson: That anyone can create beautiful scrapbooks for their favorite photographs. Many people believe that in order to create a scrapbook they have to be an experienced crafter with a lot of available free time. That’s simply not true! The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects will help readers create beautiful albums in a short amount of time. Scrapbooking is a hobby that all people can enjoy, regardless of age, gender, or artistic ability.

BookEnds: What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
Allyson: When I decided to write this book, I knew immediately that I wanted to enlist the talent of other scrapbook artists in order to have a variety of scrapbook styles represented in the book. Over 5,000 scrapbook pages were submitted for me to review. While the selection process was difficult, I loved looking at all of the beautiful art submitted and reading each individual’s story. Some pages made me laugh, and others made me cry. I was reminded of what I love most about scrapbooking—its ability to bring people together to record their own history for future generations and really connect with others during the process.

BookEnds: What was your road to published author like?
Allyson: After earning my BA in English at the University of Iowa, I had always wanted to pursue writing. Since I love scrapbooking, combining my two passions seemed like the perfect fit. I began writing short articles for Scrapjazz.com, one of the scrapbooking industry’s premier Internet destinations. Shortly after that, I was presented with the opportunity to write The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects, and I jumped on it. I have loved the opportunity to teach people the fun of experimenting with new techniques and theme ideas, all while creating fantastic scrapbooks they can enjoy for years to come.

BookEnds: What was most surprising to you about writing a book?
Allyson: I really loved the editing process, and I was really surprised by this. I guess I had a preconceived notion that working with an editor would be a difficult and frustrating process, but it was really the opposite. The development editor for my book knew exactly how to help me make my book even better, which was a real treat.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Allyson: My second book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Altered Art Illustrated, will be released on April 3, 2007. It’s great for scrapbookers and anyone else looking to get crafty. It guides the reader through the process of taking ordinary, throwaway objects (such as old books and tins) and altering them to give the object new life and artistic meaning. Plus, most of the projects are just plain fun.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Submission Race

I got a letter today from an author pulling her work from submission. Apparently she had found other representation, and hopefully it is someone she loves and feels truly connected to. Most important, though, I hope it is an agent she trusts, values, and can work well with. I wish her nothing but the best and continued success. Believe it or not, I wish that of all writers.

However, I’m kicking myself. I wish I were magic and could read things faster. I wish Kim, Jacky, and Donniee (our assistant) had nothing better to do than read all week so we could stay on top of these things. Does it mean I would have offered myself? Not necessarily, but at least I would have played (as we say in the biz).

I don’t want to get into another discussion about hiring readers and how agents should read faster, blah, blah, blah. I’m bored with that. All agents and all editors face this sort of rejection regularly. When doing anything in life we have to prioritize, and in this case I prioritized another author’s submission over this one. Did I lose? Not necessarily, but I’m happy to hear that this author won.

—Jessica

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reader Questions

Besides the basic rants and raves about being a literary agent, and the comments they generate, I like to make sure we are giving you, the readers, what you want. So, 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. . . ? Or even anything more specific? A situation you are in that you would like some feedback on? We'll read all of your comments and answer some soon, some later.

—Jessica