Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

BookEnds is closed for the holidays until January 2, 2007.

Have a wonderful holiday and we'll be blogging again in the New Year.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Visit from Kim (with Apologies to Clement C. Moore)

I know it might seem a little early yet, but believe it or not, BookEnds is at our year-end. As of today we are officially closed for 2006, and what a year it’s been. We’ve seen many wonderful deals, bestseller lists, and a number of author successes in various ways—from first sales, to renewed contracts, to great ideas and so many books that we love (whether we’ve sold them yet or not).

And the blog is no exception. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this since June. I really never thought I’d have enough content to fill all of those days. It’s been such a fabulous experience.

To wrap things up, I've composed a little year-end poem:


'Twas the night before vacation when all through BookEnds
no one was working, not even to lift their pens.
Requests for fulls were piled by the mailbox with care
in hopes that the mailman soon would be there.

With I in my slippers and Jacky her socks
we had just settled down to a large Godiva box.

When out in the road there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Well what to my weary eyes should appear
But Kim in her car with boxes of gear

She pulled out the submissions one by one

An erotica, a romance
A mystery too
Nonfiction in business
And a picture book on the zoo

There are cozies
And thrillers
And even a memoir
There’s true crime
And something that I’m really not sure

Proposals, proposals, they continue to come
So get back to work, girls, stop having so much fun.

As I heaved a big sigh and started turning around
Kim flew up the stairs, she came with a bound
She was dressed warm and cozy from her head to her foot
She even wore bells on the rim of her boot

I know Jacky laughed in spite of herself
for it was 50 degrees and Kim looked like an elf.

A pile of submissions she held in her arms
With boxes and bags and something about farms
She looked like the mailman, opening his pack
I sighed when I saw it, the huge proposal stack

But then Jacky screamed, it was a box full of gifts
A present with a proposal, orthopedic lifts.

We laughed until we cried
I thought at first Jacky had lied
Did the writer really think
A present was the link?

Soon we settled in to read and do all of our work
We read the proposals until my head bobbed with a jerk
The day was over, our year is done
It’s time to leave and go have some fun

As we sprang to our cars,
Headed out to the
well you know

We looked forward to next year
Our jobs as agents are very dear
We love what we do in spite of ourselves
and yes, sometimes we feel like jolly Christmas elves

our cars loaded to the ceiling
with plenty of reading

All heard us exclaim as we drove out of sight
Happy Holidays to All and to all a good Write.


—Jessica

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things, Part 3

Of course, my favorite books are actually the ones I represent, but as I can't possibly pick out five of my favorites from such a good bunch, I'm picking the following out of several different categories:

Memoir:
One of my favorite memoirs/narrative nonfiction books is Dry by Augusten Burroughs. I just think Augusten has a great voice, wonderful humor, and touches me every time. Highly recommended. Start with Running with Scissors and move your way up. I have to add, though, that my book group read this and only two of us fell in love with it. But we decided that's because it's very hard to offend the two of us and there are some really amazingly crazy scenes. If you like Borat, you'll probably like Augusten.

Sure to Make You Cry fiction:
I just love Elizabeth Berg's Talk Before Sleep. I give it to a lot of my girl friends when I'm feeling warm and fuzzy. It's a wonderful book about friends, live, connection, and death, of course. Can't have a good weepy read without a little death thrown in there.

Spirituality:
Pema Chodren's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times is an amazing, open-hearted and useful book about living in the modern world where fear, rage, and despair are often overwhelming around us.

Mystery:
Karin Slaughter's Blindsighted: I was thrilled to discover Karin Slaugher, whose dark and emotional books really appeal to me. The characters are very real, though these are very dark books. Of course, any Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child is also pretty fabulous.

Literary Fiction:
I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which I loved. It's on my mind so I'll pick that for today. If you haven't read it, it's really worth picking up. I love reading a book where I'm also learning something new, exposed to a culture, idea, setting I've never encountered.

There are so many amazing books and it's so hard to pick a few that really shine. I think we could do a daily blog on our favorite books and each day they'd be different. How about our favorite Christmas cookies? That's something to sink my teeth into!

—Jacky

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things, Part 2

When Kim came up with the suggestion to do an entry on our five all-time favorite books, I knew it was going to be a struggle for me. I’ve never in my life been able to come up with favorites. Everything, every favorite I have, depends entirely on my mood. From my favorite snack to my favorite friend, it all depends what I need that day, and that goes no differently for my favorite book. Sometimes I want to settle in with a nice, slow classic, one with characters I’ve known for years, and other times I want something to zip through and keep me at the edge of my seat or remind me why love is so wonderful.

But, in an effort to give Kim’s request my all I’ve come up with a list of those books that have stuck with me over the years and/or those I’ve read over and over. I’ve excluded any I’ve ever represented or edited for obvious reasons. So here they are in no particular order, a list of only five of my favorite books, a little about why I love them and how each book might play into what I’m looking for as an agent:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I really love almost anything Edith Wharton writes. As someone who has lived in both New York City and Newport, RI, I’m fascinated by what these places must have been like at the turn of the century. Most importantly, though, Edith Wharton writes about women I can truly relate to and writes in a way that makes me feel the same pain and joys as they do. As an agent, I think I’m always looking for books that make me feel the same way The House of Mirth makes me feel, a little like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. A book that makes me feel so much I have to just sit and rest after that last page is turned.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Who doesn’t love this book? I’ve read it over and over and as a child I knew I wanted to be Jo. I was a tomboy who loved nothing more than telling stories. I love the strength of all the Little Women, and when I describe looking for books with strong female protagonists I think of these characters and how each of them had their own strengths, and of course their own weaknesses.

Small Vices by Robert B. Parker. I always tease my husband that Spenser is the one man I’d leave him for. I love the pacing of these books and the snappy dialogue. Unfortunately, snappy dialogue alone doesn’t sell a book anymore, but if I could find a mystery/suspense series with a new and exciting hook and the dialogue of Spenser I know I’d have a winner.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin. As a business owner and a literary agent I find this book to be chock-full of amazing information and guidance. It’s an interesting and entertaining read and really helps me think outside the box. And it’s prescriptive nonfiction—my favorite kind.

The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sarah Foster. Okay, this says nothing about what I represent since I don’t handle cookbooks, but everything about the type of food I like to eat (and about my favorite hobby). From her Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille to the Chocolate Whopper cookies you can’t fail with this book.

—Jessica

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Monday, December 18, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things

Well, who says Oprah’s the only one that can list her favorite things! (No giveaways here. Sorry.) I guess it’s no mystery that books are at the top of our list, but each of us has varied tastes and preferences. In October my client Jolie Mathis wrote an entry on the Berkley Babes blog that got me to thinking . . . What are my top five favorite books, and why are they so special to me? Obviously we couldn’t possibly pick favorite clients. They’re all our favorites. That’s no way to narrow it down! So excluding BookEnds authors, all of us came up with our top five books and we’ve created a blog series.

I get to go first!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen—I could read this book over and over again. Probably because I was the girl who always had a crush on the snooty boy that wouldn’t pay any attention to me. Darcy proved that all of those boys were just secretly in love with me! And reading the book only got better after I could picture Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. (Drooling.)

RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris—No book has scared me so much in my entire life. I remember finishing this book in bed one night, too frightened to get up and turn off the light before I went to sleep. All serial killer books will forever be held up to this one. Genius.

INTENSITY by Dean Koontz—Well, Dean Koontz is probably my favorite author of all time. I could write an ode to him. I think what I love most is that he continues to grow as a writer, even after he’s already become so incredibly successful. So often it seems as if a writer’s just going through the motions once they’ve hit a certain level of success. Not so with Dean. He just keeps getting better. At any rate, it’s tough to pick just one of his books, but I chose INTENSITY because I read it in one sitting and it has the most amazing pacing of any book I’ve ever read. Anybody who wants to write suspense should read this book.

ENVY by Sandra Brown—I’ll admit it. I didn’t think it could be done. But somehow Sandra Brown wrote a book with a tremendously sexy hero in a wheelchair. And oh, yeah . . . I was totally into him. That’s some amazing characterization.

WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE? by Peter Hedges—If you’ve just seen the movie, you’re cheating yourself. This may very well be my favorite book of all time. I love the characters and the quirkiness. If only Peter Hedges would write more books! I hear one is coming. . . .

Sorry . . . I couldn’t narrow it down to five! My list wouldn’t be complete without including:

THE WISHBONES by Tom Perrotta—Not only is Tom one of my favorite writers of all time, he’s also a really nice guy. I had the great fortune to work with him for a while, and I’m so thrilled that I can see his name on the New York Times bestseller list now. LITTLE CHILDREN is a great book, and I hear a great movie (I’m dying to see it), but I think THE WISHBONES will always be my favorite. It’s hysterically funny, and it’s set in a Jersey town just a couple of miles from where I live.

It’s truly impossible to narrow them all down. I have a new favorite book every month! What would you put on your own list?

—Kim

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Friday, December 15, 2006

A Publishing Slow-Down

We always hear that in publishing nothing happens in the months of August and December. If that’s truly the case I’m terrified (and excited) to see what’s going to happen in January.

Thanksgiving came and went and I haven’t been able to take a breath since. I just finished negotiating contracts for two different cozy mystery series, both were bidding wars, and two nonfiction books. A total of 11 books in just two weeks (watch Publishers Marketplace for the official announcements).

Whew! This has been the most fun I’ve had in months!

Now if only I could sit and relax. Instead I have contracts to review, checks to cut, submissions to read (from clients and hopeful clients) and Christmas cookies to bake (and I make a mean cookie).

Whatever you do, don’t believe the hype. No matter what they say there is no such thing as a slow month in publishing, at least where BookEnds is concerned.

And a little tip for those querying agents. Stop. December might not be all that slow when it comes to sales, but agents are looking to wind down the year and might not be as eager as you would like them to be to read new submissions. If I were you I’d wait until February 1. Let everyone else inundate them in January, when they are too busy opening the mail to actually read it, and you can hit them in February when they finally feel caught up and might be able to actually sit and read the letters as they open them.

Have a Happy December! I know I am.

—Jessica

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Business Plans

Another year is coming to a close, and with the coming New Year it’s time for BookEnds to evaluate how the old year has gone and to make our plans for 2007.

When BookEnds first began in 1999 we started with something every business should have, a plan. Together Jacky and I sat down to take a look at what we wanted to do with BookEnds and our plan for how to make it work. And each year we pull out that business plan to see how things are going and what needs to change, because every year something needs to change. I imagine that BookEnds isn’t the only business spending a day in December evaluating a business plan and, if you haven’t caught my subtle hints yet, writers, whether published or not, are a business and every one of you should have a plan. Whether you treat it as formally as BookEnds does is up to you, but a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference between success and failure.

So for those of you without a plan, or who never thought to have one, why should you have one and how do you start? Unless you are looking for financing I don’t think a business plan needs to be that complicated; in other words, you don’t need to go and buy a book on how to formally write one, but I do think there are some key points that every plan should have:

1. Objectives—what are your goals for the year? Do you want to submit to agents? Finish two books? Earn a certain advance? Your objectives can include everything from career goals to buying a new computer or making more time to write. Think about all of your goals for the next year and write them down. Putting things on paper makes it all more real.

2. Long-Term Objectives—What are your ultimate goals? To be a New York Times bestseller? To win a RITA? To earn enough so you can quit your day job? Whatever they are, putting these on paper is a wonderful way to remind you of what you can achieve, one year at a time.

3. A Mission Statement—What are your goals as a writer? How do you want to distinguish yourself from others? To give an example, here is last year’s BookEnds mission statement (I already see where some changes might be made): To represent authors who write fiction and nonfiction books for an adult mass market audience. To stand out from other agencies for our hands-on editing and our friendly approach to authors, as well as our willingness to develop projects with authors and help authors develop their writing. To build a name for BookEnds in both the romance and mystery communities as well as in nonfiction as a powerful agency with strong connections, a discerning eye, and the ability to negotiate tough and fair contracts. Focus in nonfiction will be on books with an edge, new innovations in business, health, exercise, animal care, parenting, spirituality, women’s issues, self-help, and general lifestyle. Fiction will be single title and series titles in romance, mystery, literary fiction, women’s fiction, and suspense/thriller.

4. Keys to Success—While not necessary, I think this section can really help you during those times when you start to wonder if you’re good enough, smart enough, or even capable. We all have those moments. What is it about you and your writing that will help you succeed in this business? Are you persistent? Do you have a wonderful knack for dialogue? And what can you do to help ensure success? Remain active in writing groups? Stay on top of market trends? What do you think you need to do to succeed?

5. Financial Plan—probably one of the most important and yet one of the most ignored pieces of the puzzle. Trying to get published and stay published is expensive, so make a plan. What are your financial goals—how much do you want to make next year? How will you make that money? Selling books, writing articles, or working at Target? How will your money be spent? Postage to agents? Internet access? Printing costs, publicity, promotion (you might want to break this down even further), phone, travel, conferences, research, dues/fees, etc? Take a look at this year after year and reevaluate. What is the best way to spend your money and how can you streamline.

So I’m off to meet with Jacky and discuss our business plan for 2007 and I’m excited. There’s nothing more thrilling than looking over last year’s plan to see how we met or exceeded goals and to challenge ourselves in the upcoming year. I hope you all take a day to write your own business plan. I’m looking forward to hearing what some of your objectives are for 2007.

—Jessica

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Your Professional Blog

In a continuation of yesterday’s post about making the decision to start a blog, I wanted to take from a number of discussions I’ve had lately, both live and online, about what a blog should be, especially those belonging to professionals. Having a blog has been an interesting experience, and while I think a number of writers enjoy the inside look at an agent’s world, I know there are just as many who feel that the inside peek into an agent’s world and, sometimes, an agent’s head, leans toward the unprofessional.

So what should your blog be? That depends entirely on what you decide to use it for. Is it a family blog that you’ll use just as a way to share family news, photos, and events? Or do you intend for your blog to be another way for you to market your work? And by the way, if you are an author who is writing a blog under your pen name, you should assume that’s nothing less than a professional blog. As an author your name is your profession.

If you decide that your blog (and your blog name) is meant for professional purposes, then is it really appropriate to discuss your children, the state of your underwear, or whether or not you’ve cleaned the house? Since this is a very, very new medium it’s still being tested, and what’s right and what works can only be proven by the reader. My belief is that a professional blog is a way for people interested in you, your work, and your business to get to know you better: it is a little peek into your soul. There’s a fine line though. I think that the blog needs to remain professional, and that means that you should only post the same sorts of conversations you are willing to have when pitching your work to agents and editors or talking with booksellers or fans. In my case, it should only be information that I would be willing to discuss with my clients or talk about in front of a room full of aspiring authors and colleagues. In other words, is this group really interested in your laundry pile or would you be better served discussing your writing?

When making the decision to blog you need to always keep in mind why you made that decision and who your audience is. I really don’t think visitors to the BookEnds blog would be interested in hearing about my efforts to create the greatest chocolate chip cookie ever. No, if I want to write about that I should probably start a food blog. My assumption is that readers of the BookEnds blog are interested in hearing about Jessica Faust the agent, not Jessica Faust the cook, the mother, the dog owner, or the traveler.

So, when starting a professional blog, bear in mind who your readers are and why they are there. What do you really want to know about literary agents, editors, or your favorite author? Is it her day as Girl Scout leader, soccer coach and mom, or is it her day as a writer with maybe a little mom thrown in?

—Jessica

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Decision to Start a Blog

The proliferation of blogs is amazing. From agents to editors to almost every published author it seems new blogs are popping up daily. So it’s not surprising to note that lately I’ve been having regular discussions with my clients about the necessity of a blog and what it means to start one.

A blog is a commitment, and it can be a big one. Therefore it’s not surprising that the decision to start a BookEnds blog was not taken lightly and was something we carefully discussed in numerous meetings for at least two months. I was, obviously, the biggest advocate of a blog and pushed for it the hardest. Because of that, I’m really the one responsible for keeping it going.

Among the many things we considered in our discussions, and things I think everyone should consider before committing to a blog, especially one meant to further a fan base and build a career, were:


Whether or not we had the time to post daily. For a blog to work it needs to be kept up. Readers have short attention spans and won’t continue checking in when there’s nothing to check in for.

Whether or not there was any purpose to a blog. Would people really read it? Do people really care what we have to say and do they really have the time to become regular readers?

Whether we had enough to say. A blog is a huge commitment, and is it really possible for me to come up with content every day, year after year? At this point I still have no idea and know that I’ve already regurgitated material, and will continue to do so. I only hope that at least 80 percent of what I’m writing is fresh.

While I’m still not sure I have the answers to all of these questions, in the end my desire to enter this world won out. My argument to start a blog is twofold. The first reason is that I’m not committing to nearly as many conferences as I have in the past, yet I still want to be able to give writers the information I think they can benefit from. By writing the blog I can hopefully provide that behind-the-scenes look that will help writers in their careers. The second reason is that it’s a promotional tool for BookEnds and our clients. Hopefully you are getting to know me a little better and the submissions I receive will reflect that. I also hope that by posting author interviews you can see what some of our clients have been through to get where they are and maybe even pick up a new book or two.

Tune in tomorrow for a discussion on what a blog should be once you’ve made the decision to have one.

—Jessica

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Is My Agent Holding Me Back?

Here's another good reader question that came from our recent request:

I'd like your opinion on agent/writer relationships. I love my agent but she has very definite ideas about the career path I should be on. I write in a variety of sub-genres but my agent really only likes when I write my erotic paranormals. She wants me to focus on that. I'll do whatever I can to break in, but my historical romances are doing well in contests and have gotten several requests from editors. My agent doesn't want to submit my historical romances, though, because she says the market isn't as good as it is for erotic paranormals. **screams in frustration** I see her point, but if editors are asking for the fulls on my historicals, why aren't we following up on that?

And in a related post, another reader asked:

A lot of agents have said they want writers to concentrate on one thing/genre only, but if we have the time and inclination, isn't it good for us to broaden our bases?

While it’s difficult to make judgments without full knowledge of your situations, I can certainly fill you in on some general rules of thumb.

Agents almost always prefer that their clients focus on a particular genre or subgenre while trying to build their careers. This is a struggle for a lot of our authors. I think that as creative people, writers like to always challenge themselves by writing different things. But once you decide to enter the publishing world, you need to start thinking less like an artist and more like a businessperson. It’s easier for an author to gain recognition with editors (and later with readers) by focusing on and perfecting one particular kind of book. It’s all about branding, people. I can capture an editor’s attention a lot faster by saying, “I’ve got this really great erotic paranormal writer,” than by saying, “I’ve got this great writer who’s writing a paranormal, a historical, and a mystery series.” Once your book is bought, that publisher is going to be looking for you to build a fan base. Until you become the next John Grisham or Nora Roberts, most readers are going to first find you based on the type of book you write. If they like the first one, they’re going to want to see something along the same lines for your next book, and so on.

As far as choosing the direction your writing should take, you have to think about what’s selling right now. Erotic paranormals are selling like gangbusters and historicals are seeing a decline (albeit a temporary decline, in my opinion). If I had an author who had an equal talent for both, I would certainly encourage her to focus on the paranormals and put the historicals on the back burner for the time being. Contest wins are great. But Jacky, Kim, and I have judged a lot of contests. While every now and then we’ve come across something we thought we’d like to represent, there were plenty of other situations where we enjoyed the winner’s voice but just didn’t think the story was marketable.

As far as the editor requests go, you have to think about your agent’s strategy. It’s not a good idea to have a variety of manuscripts by the same author out to multiple editors at the same time. It causes all sorts of havoc. First off, if you have one manuscript at one house, but not at another, you’ll have a hard time getting competing bids. Not only that, but you could piss off an editor by sending them one book while they would’ve preferred to see the project you’ve already sold to another house. It’s much better business to send out one proposal/manuscript that you’re excited about to multiple publishers at once, and then sit back and watch them fight over it. :)

So, from what you’ve told me, I think your agent’s right on target.

—Jessica

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Friday, December 08, 2006

BookEnds Talks to J. Lee Butts

Jimmy (J. Lee) Butts
Book: Ambushed
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: December 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti


Author Web site: See J. Lee Butts's bio and more at www.jleebutts.com.

Awards: 2005 Western Writers of America Spur Award Nominee

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Jimmy: Ambushed is the fourth in a series of stories about the life of Deputy U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden. Told from the p.o.v. of Tilden as an old man, and based on actual events, this tale concerns the brutal atrocities committed by the murderous Dawson Gang in the Indian Nations of the late 1870s.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Jimmy: Most westerns tend to deal with western myth. My books are gritty, as realistic as I can make them through detailed research, and they’re beautifully written.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Jimmy: My work has been heavily influenced by Elmore Leonard, Stephen Harrigan, Douglas C. Jones, Alan W. Eckert, and Dee Brown.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Jimmy: I’ve never been sure how anyone else works. I start with lots of reading and research, then come up with a title and the story develops on its own from there. No plotting, no planning, everything happens as spontaneously to me as it does to my characters. Makes writing lots of fun.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Jimmy: I fell into writing westerns purely by accident. Never meant to be a writer of westerns. Started out writing coming-of-age stories about the pain and pleasure of growing up blissfully ignorant during the '40s, '50s, and '60s.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Jimmy: I see myself in all my characters. How can it be otherwise? These are phantoms I create from parts of me and other people I’ve known over my entire life.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Jimmy: Can’t really relate to those kinds of stories. Didn’t get rejected much. But one I remember came back from an agent with a hand-scrawled message (in pencil) across my cover sheet that read, "Not for me!"

BookEnds: Do you have a manuscript that you’ll never let anyone else read? Tell us a little about it.
Jimmy: No, but like most authors I have one I’d love to see published. In fact, I’d trade the nine books I have out now and the five waiting in the pipe if Dianna's Rules could get between covers. It’s a damned fine book. Best thing I’ve written and that’s not simply my opinion.

BookEnds: What do you see as some of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make?
Jimmy: Single biggest mistake of beginning writers is their inclination to sound "writerly." They have misconceived ideas as to how a well-written book sounds and without fail they’re misguided in the extreme. The results are sad and depressing.

BookEnds: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions of the publishing world?
Jimmy: (1) That writers make a lot of money, and (2) that the publisher will help you in your efforts to sell your books.

BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Jimmy: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, Ned Christie's War by Robert Conley, Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spenser.

BookEnds: Do you have a job outside of writing?
Jimmy: Yes, I am a semi-professional loafer and lay-about.

BookEnds: What are your other hobbies or interests?
Jimmy: Guns and golf clubs.

To learn more about J. Lee Butts, see Our Books at www.BookEnds-Inc.com.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reasons to Hate Exclusives

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on how to handle a request for an exclusive, and since I’m slow at coming down off my soapbox, I wanted to give you my top five reasons for why writers should avoid offering exclusives at all costs.

1. Offering an exclusive limits you to the possibility of working with only one agent. If that agent offers representation you have no other alternatives since no one else is reading your work. Therefore, you might find yourself stuck with an agent who isn’t the right agent for you or your work.

2. Exclusives greatly limit the number of submissions you can make. If every exclusive averages 3-6 weeks, you are limiting yourself to roughly 12 agents a year. At that rate it could easily take you 10 years to find one agent (of course it might take that long anyway).

3. If an agent isn’t aggressive enough to compete for your work with other agents, how aggressive will she be selling your work?

4. An agent with an exclusive is in no rush. She doesn’t have to worry about getting to your work since no one else is doing it. Therefore she can take her own sweet time and you’re stuck with nothing to do but wait.

5. Agents who ask for exclusives still have a 99% rejection rate—they just have it exclusively.

—Jessica

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Handling Exclusive Requests

We got so many great questions in response to a recent request to readers. Here’s just one of many I’m going to address:

What would you recommend in this scenario?

An author queries twenty agents or so. Half a dozen respond with requests for partials or fulls. One agent requests an exclusive for three weeks, but the author has already sent out some requested fulls. What does the author do?

A) Wait for responses from agents who already have the full manuscript, at which point author would be able to grant an exclusive (of course, by that point, said agent may have lost interest);

B) Regretfully decline, because it's not possible to provide an exclusive; or

C) Send the manuscript anyway with an explanation that it has already been sent out but that author will not make a decision or send out any more fulls during the requested three-week period?

Can you shed some light on what an author should do in this case? Many thanks.


If you haven’t seen me there before, here’s a chance to watch me climb up on my soapbox. I HATE exclusives. I think they are unfair to the author and lazy on the part of the agent. I have heard agents defend exclusives by saying that they ask for them because they don’t want to compete with other agents or, frankly, think they can’t. And yes, I have heard agents say those exact words. If you can’t compete, don’t play the game.

Except in the case of an option clause, publishers don’t demand exclusives from agents and therefore I don’t think agents should ask any differently from authors. In fact, right now I’m in the middle of a bidding war with four different publishers over a book. Can you imagine how unfair it would have been to the author had the lowest-bidding publisher demanded an exclusive? It certainly wouldn’t have done much for the contract, or the final advance numbers.

So what’s my suggestion? C. If the agent is interested enough in you and your work to make it worth your while, she’ll read it whether or not other agents are also reviewing it. Be honest. Send it out and let her know that while you can’t grant an exclusive you will certainly let her know if any other agent makes an offer and give her a chance to also offer. If she won’t read it then she’s probably not that excited about your work in the first place.

—Jessica

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Been There Done That

Here's another question that came in when we asked readers to post questions to us about BookEnds, the publishing industry, or anything else they might be wondering. Gradually we’re working to get through those questions and answer them as thoroughly as possible.

I am an African-American woman working on a culinary themed cosy mystery. I worry when querying agents that they will take one look at it and give a whole "Been there done that" response to it. Any advice to me as to how I can get mine to stand out?

Truthfully it would be difficult for me not to say “been there done that.” As you obviously know already there are a lot of culinary mysteries out there, so my question to you is what is different about your book? Since you are asking my advice I would guess not much. My suggestion is that if you really want to write a culinary mystery, you don’t make the culinary theme your hook, but instead find another hook that hasn’t been done yet and then somehow incorporate the culinary into it. I’m afraid that another cozy cooking mystery is going to be a very, very tough sell.

—Jessica

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Query Turnaround Time

Recently we asked readers to post questions to us about BookEnds, the publishing industry, or anything else they might be wondering. Gradually we’re working to get through those questions and answer them as thoroughly as possible.

I know it varies for every agency; what is BookEnds' average turnaround time for queries?

Actually it varies from agent to agent. Our posted turnaround time is 10-12 weeks, but truthfully this number is ever-changing. Things like illness, maternity leave, RWA, and the activity level of our current clients can change the time it takes us to get to submissions. On the flipside, slow times like summer and the holidays often allow us to catch up on our reading. The best I can say is if you haven’t heard anything from the agent you submitted to after 12 weeks, don’t hesitate to email and ask for a status update. A little kick in the pants never hurt anyone.

—Jessica

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Friday, December 01, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Carolyn Hammond

Carolyn Hammond
Book: 1000 Best Wine Secrets
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach


Carolyn Hammond is an internationally recognised wine writer and seasoned journalist who has written for a number of major newspapers and magazines. She is a qualified sommelier and active member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Her writing and tasting notes appear on her website at www.wine-tribune.com.

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Carolyn: Publishers Weekly says the book “offers a massive number of breezy oeneophile tips in a compact package. [It] begins simply, covering basics such as reading labels, food pairings and . . . ordering wine in a restaurant. The bulk of the book is devoted to regional styles, and there it really excels. The format lends itself to reading in small doses, and the . . . result is an insightful guide to . . .wine. . . .”

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Carolyn: My favorite thing about 1000 Best Wine Secrets is its broad appeal, usability, and versatility. It’s not only a great gift or holiday stocking stuffer for anyone who drinks wine because it’s small and handy, but it makes an excellent housewarming, wedding, shower, or hostess gift.

BookEnds: Who do you consider the audience for your book?
Carolyn: 1000 Best Wine Secrets is the ultimate reference for the budding wine enthusiast and the seasoned expert. Each of the secrets contained in this book can instantly help every wine drinker drink better wine, which does not always mean more expensive bottles.

BookEnds: How do you think your book is important to readers?
Carolyn: Most people do not have the time or determination to devote to becoming a sommelier, but they still want to enjoy a good bottle of wine. 1000 Best Wine Secrets is designed to help readers get the most pleasure from every bottle. It contains secrets to make novice drinkers and serious enthusiasts alike feel comfortable in every wine shop, restaurant, and vineyard.

1000 Best Wine Secrets includes tips on:

• Selecting the perfect bottle
• Knowing how to read the label
• Pairing food and wine
• Tasting and serving wine
• Aging and storing wine
• And talking the talk

The book also names the better producers in every region of the world, points out which bottles deliver the best value for your money, and lists the top 50 wines under $20 complete with tasting notes.

BookEnds: If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?
Carolyn: The best way to buy great wine is to know what you’re looking for, and to be able to put it into words—whether you’re talking with a merchant or a sommelier. It’s easier to find an unoaked crisp white wine with restrained flavors of green apple than a fabulous dry white. The latter means a dozen different things to a dozen people, so the odds of being perfectly pleased are slim.

I cannot stress enough the importance of personal taste when choosing wine. If readers only take away one thing from my book, it would be a very clear sense of the styles of wine they like best.

BookEnds: What are your hobbies or outside interests?
Carolyn: Other than wine, my hobbies include skiing, gastronomy and travel.

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