Friday, September 28, 2007

Manuscripts That Disappoint

Great questions on my post on whether the publishing business is personal. You definitely know how to keep me writing.

Kris Fletcher, who always keeps me on my toes, asked which is harder to turn down, a book that I love but know isn’t marketable, or one that’s totally marketable but doesn’t sing for me. Until I wrote this post I wasn’t sure and thought it depended on the book; after finishing, though, I came up with my answer. . . .

This summer has been very, very busy for me. I’ve finally caught up on my submission reading (thanks in part to the interns) and read at least 10 full manuscript requests over the course of three months. Of those 10 I only offered on one. Some just really fell apart after the first few chapters, but two in particular stuck with me.

One was a mystery with a great hook and really fun characters. The writing was good, but not mind-blowing (which is fine). In the end, though, I had to pass since I didn’t think the mystery itself was strong enough. I was disappointed. I really feel that I could sell this book without much trouble at all, if she’s able to fix the mystery.

The second was a historical that was beautifully written. The characters were so well drawn you believed in them, the plot was interesting, and the writing, again, amazing. In the end, though, I wasn’t sure what the book was. The characters had some real flaws, things that made some of them too unlikable (characters you should have liked) and the plot never took off for me. Throughout most of the book I was left waiting for something to happen. And in the end I’m not sure where this book would have sold or who the audience would have been.

Which was the greater disappointment? The historical. I think that you can learn to plot and create characters, but voice is something that comes from within. I’m not convinced you can learn to become a beautiful writer. How do I say this? I think that beautiful people are born. We can all learn to make ourselves look really attractive, but true beauty is something you’re born with. Beauty, therefore, is a rare commodity, and when you read something that’s really written beautifully you want nothing more than the rest of the book to flow. When it doesn’t you’re naturally disappointed.

In both cases I finished the entire manuscript, even though I knew halfway through that it wasn’t going to work out, and in both cases I wrote letters explaining my decision to pass and giving suggestions on what I thought could be done to correct them. And of course I invited both authors to resubmit.

Now I’m going to turn this around to you. Which is harder to read, a book that’s amazingly written but weak on plot, or a book that has an amazing plot but the writing is weak?

Jessica

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Personal Tastes

After reading my recent post on whether the publishing business is personal, I was asked to tell a little about my own personal tastes, likes, and dislikes. Primarily, though, I was asked whether or not there are subject matters I won’t represent and what I would like to get my hands on.

The last question is the easiest to answer. I would love to get my hands on some really great romantic suspense or thriller. I don’t have much on my list now and it’s the one thing I’ve always looked for, but also one of the toughest to find. I get a lot, but not much of it is really new or different, or suspenseful enough. I think good romantic suspense needs to read like a mystery. It needs to have a lot of red herrings and a complex plot. Without that it’s just not enough.

The really tough question is what don’t I like (I think you have a good idea by now of what I like) or what subject matters I don’t represent. I honestly don’t think there’s a really easy answer to that. At this moment I can’t think of anything I will reject immediately because of the subject matter. I know some agents won’t handle books with child abduction and others have a fear of small spaces and can’t read anything in which a character might be trapped in a coffin-like area. I don’t have such issues. In fact, both of those work quite well for me because they bring the fear factor up that much more. I have a very, very difficult time reading about child abuse (as I suspect most of us do), but I think if the subject matter is handled well, and I don’t actually have to witness the abuse, I won’t object to it. Rape also makes me cringe, but again, if handled well, and primarily off-stage, I won’t object. And of course victims of any of these crimes are different than witnessing the crime itself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there isn’t a subject matter I immediately reject. I’m open to reading anything as long as it’s done tastefully, it’s done well, and it’s done within the context of the story.

Now, there are some things that I don’t like when it comes to style and types of voices I don’t like reading, but I’m not sure I can tell you through a blog what those are. I can say that typically I do not like it when the character introduces herself to the reader. “My name is . . .” Of course, again, if done in the right way this could easily work. More often than not, though, I think it’s a cop-out on the writer’s part.

I really try not to say that there are subject matters I refuse to look at because the minute it’s out of my mouth an amazing book on just that subject will cross my desk. I think that almost any subject matter can be done if done well, and that’s really the key. Often when agents say that they won’t read a certain subject it’s because they’ve seen few things on that subject that have been done really well.

But what about you? Readers have personal tastes too and I imagine there’s a subject matter or two out there that you’re reluctant to pick up.

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting the Call

Obviously any smart author wants an agent who has connections, business savvy, a good reputation, and of course the passion for your writing and your book. But when getting The Call, how can you tell the difference between an agent who loves your book and truly connects with it versus one who just thinks she can sell it?

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m the right person to answer this question, so while I will give my opinion, I’m going to open this up to my agented readers. Feel free to use your name or write anonymously, but please chime in and let us know what you’ve learned—good and bad—about how to tell whether or not an agent really loves the book.

My advice is to ask the right questions. In a quick search on the Internet you can find a million different lists of what to ask an agent before signing. In fact, you can find a post or two on this very blog. What few really hit upon though are the questions that should be most important to the author (since presumably you already know whether or not the agent is reputable before you even bothered to submit your work). Namely:

What did you like most about the work? What drew you to it?

What do think the strengths are of this book? What do you see as its weaknesses?

Will you be giving me editorial comments? Would you be willing to elaborate on what some of those might be?
(Keep in mind that some agents will keep this fairly close to the chest until you’ve signed on the dotted line. I know that I, for one, have been burned by authors who agreed to sign, got the revisions, and went elsewhere with my revisions. I know, I read the published book.)

But I throw this out to readers. What’s your advice?

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm Baaaack

Yes, I have returned from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference and a very relaxing vacation in beautiful Denver. What a great town. I really do love visiting there. I’ve been to Denver probably five or six times and I find something new each and every time.

Before I launch into a discussion about my glorious vacation I want to back up a little to discuss the conference. Really, it was great. The people were so nice and understanding and my appointments weren’t that painful. The most interesting thing about the conference was that I saw some real talent. The pitches I heard were professional and any writing I saw really was good. And let me tell you, that’s not always the case. It’s hard to tell from an agent’s perspective whether or not a conference is worth an author’s time and money, but I do think this one probably is. And I forgot to tell you, one of my favorite features was the luncheon reserved just for editors and agents. It was a great opportunity for us to touch base, catch up, and compare notes. I told a couple of other agents about some amazing critiques I heard and recommended they also request partials from those authors, and we caught up on industry gossip and shared war stories. I only hope no one was sneaking around outside.

During my vacation I didn’t get as much reading in as I would have liked, but I did finish Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Raven Prince and LOVED it. I was even more thrilled when I returned and found The Serpent Prince on my desk. I guess I know what’s next on my list. I also read Jim Butcher’s first Dresden Files book, Storm Front. And thank you to everyone who recommended them. I really liked this too. My only request when asking for something similar is that I think I tend to gravitate toward a darker tone. And lastly I got started on The Vampire Queen’s Servant by Joey Hill. What an amazing cover. I’m only about ten pages in so can’t comment beyond the cover, but I am enjoying what I’m reading so far.

One of the highlights of my trip was a very short and brief visit to the Tattered Cover. My husband was shocked when I told him we hadn’t been there. I wish I had more time to spend, but what a cool place. It has the feel of books that are loved and you immediately want to sink into a chair and explore. One of my favorite things was the way they displayed everything. Books were face-out at every turn and they weren’t just bestsellers. Without pulling anything from a shelf you were given the opportunity to really explore new titles and authors. It was a fun trip.

I returned to about 200+ emails. Not bad, really. I expected a lot more. I think a lot of people were nice enough to leave me alone. Of those 200+ emails, 141 were queries, and to take a page from the ever-creative Nathan Bransford, I’m going to attempt to give you a breakdown of those queries. Of course, since I haven’t read through more than two of them yet, you’re going to have to wait.

So I think that’s the rundown of my time away. Now I’m off to catch up on my reading. In addition to the queries, I have clients looking for feedback and a stack of proposals that arrived in the mail. In the meantime you tell me: How did you spend the last ten days?

Jessica

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Writing to Trends

Let me preface this email by saying that I have tried repeatedly to read a Harry Potter novel . . . and couldn't . . . I know, I know . . . and just recently I picked up the third volume of Stephanie Meyer's vampire/werewolf trilogy, Eclipse . . . do I feel the page-turning need to burn through 625 pages of coming-of-age angst . . . not really . . . although I know these books are sweeping the marketplace, movie deals, bestseller lists . . . I am at odds. As an adult fiction writer should I be addressing my ideas and/or creativity and toning down my writing to attract this obviously viable market. I remember feeling so "adult" when I slipped up the hidden stairway at my local library to steal glances at adult literature when I was nine and ten years old. This felt special to me. Catch 22, Midnight Cowboy and Such Good Friends were read before the age of twelve (I know, I'm dating myself), secretively, I might add, but devoured. There was never a YA section in my library, only a children's section, which I quickly grew out of. Just curious if others are feeling the same way?

From an agent’s perspective I do think I can understand your feelings. I read the first two Harry Potter books and really enjoyed them, but I haven’t yet read the rest and they didn’t inspire me to go and search for the next J. K. Rowling (although her sales should).

I was asked by a client recently if I would represent young adult and why I don’t. My answer was that if a client approached me with a YA novel, I would be willing to take a look and let her know honestly if it was something I thought I could sell, but really, I’m not sure I would be the best agent for YA primarily because, like you, I didn’t read commercial YA. I stuck to the classics. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a constant companion and I wanted nothing more than to be Betsy from the Maud Hart Lovelace series. Anne of Green Gables was my hero (and yes, all of them were writers) and to this day I think A Wrinkle in Time is one of the best books written. I suspect that someday soon Harry Potter will join these heroines as a classic children’s book and I do embrace that, but I don’t think that because YA is so hot right now I need to jump on that bandwagon. Based on my reading preferences and what I really love, I don’t think it’s a band I belong with. This is a trend that feels really hot right now, but chasing this market is no different than chasing any other market. It’s never going to work if you don’t believe in it.

But I don’t think you really wanted to know what an agent thought with this question, so I’ll put it out to the rest of you. Does the hot Harry Potter trend make you feel like you should jump on the Hogwart train or are there other trends or other things happening in the industry that are making you question your own ideas and creativity?

Jessica

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Jean Fogle on Perseverence

Salty Dogs
Jean M. Fogle
Publisher: Wiley
Pub Date: September 2007
Agent: Jacky Sach




(Click to Buy)



Author Web site: www.jeanmfogle.com

When Molly, my Jack Russell Terrier, was six months old, I took her to the beach. From her first step in the sand till the moment I dragged her away, it was apparent that the beach was heaven on earth to my terrier. Seeing her spontaneity and joy liberated me. As she dashed headlong in to the waves, I felt the stress of the day melt away and laughter tumble from my throat. Together we met many friends and no strangers. Glancing out to sea, I noticed a surfer getting ready to put his golden retriever on his surfboard. Thrusting Molly into the arms of a new friend, I grabbed my camera and ran. Wading out as deep as I dared, I started taking pictures. As I clicked away, the surfer positioned his dog on the board and pushed him into a wave. With a huge canine grin, the golden rode the wave till it folded over him and only a nose showed through the surf. Wading back to shore I knew I had some good shots. After a full day of romping, it was time to go. After she refused to leave, I finally picked up the squirming Molly and headed for the car.

When I got the slides back, they showed how much fun dogs and owners have at the beach and the idea for Salty Dogs, a photo book of dogs at the beach, was born.

Before Molly, I worked at our garden center and did some freelance garden writing and photography. Once she squirmed her way into my heart, she inspired me to become a full-time photographer/writer, specializing in dogs. While my work appeared in calendars, magazines, and other people’s books, I continued to work on getting the images I needed to do Salty Dogs.

Fall of 2003 I went to a conference where I was able to propose Salty Dogs to several publishers. The comments always were the same: great concept, too expensive to produce. I kept plugging away, determined that Salty Dogs would become a reality.

In December of 2006, I was doing some work for the Dummies books when I thought to ask my editor if they would be interested in seeing my book proposal for Salty Dogs. She put me in touch with another department and by February I had a contract in hand. When Salty Dogs was taken to the acquisitions meeting, one of the editors remembered seeing Salty Dogs at the conference.

Moral of the story, keep trying! A proposal that was too expensive 3 years ago is now a book!

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Age Discrimination Does Exist

For some reason I get a lot of queries where the writer feels the need to share her age. Most commonly it’s people who are in their 70s or 80s and feel the need to tell me they don’t have a lot of time left, or people in their 20s or teens who are concerned that age might be an issue.

Don’t bother telling your age. As Cynthia Shapiro, the author of Corporate Confidential has said, “age discrimination does exist.” So why tempt fate? Frankly, I don’t care how old you are, but if you tell me you’re only 15 it’s going to make me immediately wonder whether or not you are ready to write a book, and that’s not fair to you. And if I tell a publisher you’re 8,5 they are going to wonder whether it’s worth making a financial investment in your career. Remember what I’ve said before . . . publishers are looking for a reason to reject a book. So why give it to them so easily?

Not pleasant to hear, I know, but these are the hard truths of any business, not just publishing. Listen, it’s hard enough to get published, so why set yourself up for possible rejection when you don’t have to? If it’s unlawful to ask a question in an interview, don’t give the answer voluntarily. The same holds true for query letters. I don’t need to know your age, marital status, or any health issues you might have. When sending me your query, stick to what is really important, and that’s your book. And only your book. I care only about what makes your book different from anything else ever written, and if the only thing you can come up with is that you’re 14, that’s not going to be enough.

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Proper Submission Etiquette

It seems like a never-ending blog post, but clearly it never hurts to remind people. I got an email today from someone that had so many things wrong with it I don’t know where to begin.

First of all, she tells me that she sent an email query to Jacky, but since Jacky was on vacation she thought she’d send it to me instead. Patience, people. An out-of-office email doesn’t mean we’re not getting your email, it just means it might take a day, week, or even two weeks to get back to you. And it certainly doesn’t mean you should take that as a rejection and immediately query everyone else in the office. Now what are you going to do if both agents request the material? And then what if both agents like it and want to represent you? You’ve already created animosity for yourself and your name in-house, and I’ll tell you that the agency isn’t going to leave it up to you to pick who you like best. In fact, to avoid trouble in-house some agencies might make the “life’s too short” decision. Life’s too short to fight over an author who can’t follow the rules, therefore we’ll just reject her.

Then she tells me that I already have a partial of hers (in fact I know I just received it a few weeks ago) but thought that since Jacky represents more of the particular genre of her new book she would send it to her. Well, she’s wrong. If she had reviewed our Web site she would see that this is, in fact, a genre Jacky doesn’t represent and I do. So where she’s getting her information is interesting. In addition, why would you want to start building a relationship with one agent and then switch in the middle? Don’t do this. Don’t burn your bridges within one agency. Once you’ve committed, try to continue submitting to the same agent. If, for some reason, you decide you would do better with someone else within the agency, you’ll have to wait until all of your proposals are read before making that switch.

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I'm Reading Now

I know Jessica took a stack of books to read on her trip, and I’m looking forward to hearing her reviews when she gets back. In the meantime, I thought I’d give you an update on the books I’m reading right now.

I don’t often do this, but I’m currently reading several books at once. I’m halfway through Dean Koontz's THE GOOD GUY and Anne Tyler's LADDER OF YEARS. They’re both quite good, but I guess I’ve been in a romantic mood lately, because I just read through a few historical romances and a romantic suspense while taking a break from them. I absolutely loved, loved, loved Samantha James's THE SECRET PASSION OF SIMON BLACKWELL. It reminded me of one of my old favorites, REBECCA, but with decidedly more heat. After devouring THE RAVEN PRINCE by Elizabeth Hoyt a while back, I knew I had to pick up THE LEOPARD PRINCE. Another terrific read, but I think RAVEN is still my favorite. And I’m a big Lisa Jackson fan, but it’s been too long since I’ve had a chance to pick up one of her books. I read ALMOST DEAD in one sitting. She’s such a master at suspense. And the book followed characters first introduced in IF ONLY SHE KNEW, which is one of my absolute favorites!

In the meantime, I also finished A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS by Khaled Hosseini for my book club. This one will be hard to beat for my favorite book of the year. I already filled you in on how that book just made me weep and weep. It really touched my heart. Our next club selection up for discussion is SUITE FRANCAISE. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m looking forward to delving in. Plus, I just made an expensive trip to the bookstore, so I’m sure I’ll have much more to talk about soon.

What are you reading now? Any recommendations?

Kim

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Self-Publishing

It appears that it will be impossible to get a good agent like yourself, even though some knowledgeable people have told me that my story is definitely worth a book. I was wondering, therefore, if you would recommend that I self publish through someone like iUniverse?

I guess before making the decision to self-publish you need to decide why you want to publish. Do you want your book available in a bound format for friends and family or do you really hope to break into the marketplace and begin a publishing career? If your plan is for the latter, then self-publishing will not help get you there.

Typically I do not recommend self-publishing. It’s not the way to begin a publishing career and not recognized by publishers, editors, and agents as a reputable beginning. However, if your thought is that you want to publish your book to be read primarily by family and friends or to use as a tool for your business, then go ahead. Just be aware of the restrictions that self-publishing can have. You won’t get mass distribution into bookstores across the country, you likely won’t get foreign or other subsidiary rights sales, and it’s very unlikely that you’ll get publicity beyond very local sources.

All of that being said, there have obviously been success stories now and then of self-published books that have done well. However, if you take a close look at those stories you might realize why. Typically they were nonfiction books for which the author had an amazing platform and/or was able to sell enough through workshops or seminars that brought publishers to the book. And when I mean sell enough I mean selling thousands and thousands of copies. In the case of fiction it is typically books that the author worked very, very hard to get into the limelight and probably spent a good deal of money and time to promote and get the book into stores.

And yes, I’m sure you’ll all come up with an exception to the rule, but I’m going to stick to the rule on this one. While it can’t hurt your career in the very long run to self-publish, I think it’s best to be aware of what you’re up against. If agents and publishers aren’t jumping all over your book, you have to consider that maybe this is not the book that’s ready to be published.

Jessica

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Monday, September 17, 2007

BookEnds: The Inside Scoop

Isn’t that what I’ve been giving you all along? An inside look into the world of BookEnds? How we think? Why we make the decisions we do and how you can get your foot in the door? Well, yes, but today I want to give you some details on how BookEnds works. What really goes on behind these closed doors and how we make the decisions we make.

While we call ourselves the BookEnds team and rely very heavily on teamwork and the knowledge and opinions of each other, we also work incredibly independently. BookEnds agents are never required to get “permission” to take on a new author or submit a new project. On the contrary, we can act as recklessly as we want. If one of us discovers something that she absolutely loves and must have, then she is free to make that offer of representation without even telling anyone else. However, more often than not we share information and let everyone know what we’re doing or thinking as it’s happening and, more often than not, we discuss hooks, authors, and the potential marketability of a project before making that offer. And yes, every once in a while we’ll ask one of the other agents (or everyone) to read a proposal or manuscript to hear what they think.

Typically we all work in fairly solitary environments in our own offices. Chatting throughout the day via phone, IM, or in person. Each Wednesday morning we meet for a breakfast meeting. This is where the true cooperative work happens. We discuss submissions that have come in that we’re excited about or questioning. We’ll ask whether others think the hook is strong enough or hear other opinions on second reads (asking someone else to give you another read on something). At these meetings we also discuss market news, trends, interesting information, and lately we’ve been doing a full contract postmortem. In other words, we are reviewing all of our boilerplate contracts to discuss points that need to be changed, altered, or renegotiated, as well as highlighting issues of concerns with various publisher contracts. And yes, there is a different issue of concern with almost every contract.

In talking with other agents through the years I feel very lucky that BookEnds does in fact have a team. I know there are a lot of agents out there who started on their own and I marvel at that. I have depended so much on Jacky and Kim over the years for their advice and guidance on everything from giving a second read to helping mull over questions or concerns I might have on everything from a manuscript to a contract to an author or editor relationship. So while I am very independent in many ways, having the backing of terrific coworkers helps give me the knowledge and strength to be continually better at what I do.

Jessica

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference

It's early, early Saturday morning and I'm in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer's Conference. I've actually been here since Thursday and apologize for my delayed update.

So far I've been very pleased with my stay. Thursday night was a smallish mixer at one of the Writer's homes. The food was great and the location was beautiful. I think though, having flown in that day, that most of the agents and editors were on the tired side so I know I bailed out earlier than I would have liked.

Yesterday morning I had a wonderful breakfast meeting with a client. We ate well and brainstormed even better. We talked about the book she's writing as well as the next book in her contract and some open-ended thoughts for how she can keep the excitement up as the series continues. I know I've said it before, but I really do love brainstorming with clients. It's so much fun for me and helps me keep my own creative sparks alive. I think the challenge is always knowing the author's characters, stories, and style so that the ideas I give suit what she's writing and actually help rather than hurt. And as I always say, I don't care if you use any of my suggestions, the purpose is just to help you start thinking of new ideas for your work.

Yesterday afternoon I had a critique workshop. I had been sent the first 10-pages and a one page synopsis for eight different books and yesterday I had an hour and a half to sit with all of the writers together (they also received the material) to critique and discuss. I've never done a critique workshop before, although I have done one-on-one critiques and I was a little unsure about how it would go. You know what? I was really impressed. I thought all of the authors were professional and had interesting comments and I thought every piece of material I read was well done and had some real possibility. In fact, I requested that one author send me her material and I know at least another two, with some revisions, will find publishers at some point. I think the key here is that all of these people were ready to sit down and really listen to what I had to say. They took notes on our discussion, asked questions and really seemed to want to learn. Like my morning brainstorming session it was a lot fo fun. I will say though that this time I was a little better prepared and warned the group upfront that I am not a warm and fuzzy person (this comes directly from my clients) and that you may hear more criticism than praise at times. I also made sure they knew that it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my attempts to make their writing stronger and more publishable. I was told later that I wasn't that tough.

I had an hour break for coffee after critiques before I was ushered in to the coldest room in the hotel. I'm not kidding. I think my lips were blue and I was visibly shaking by the time we could escape. Anyway, I was sent to the coldest room for an agent panel with five other agents--Doris Booth of Authorlink, Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim, Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency, Natanya (what a cool name) Wheeler of the Lowenstein-Yost Agency, and Anne Hawkins of John Hawkins and Associates. I'd met a couple of these agents before and a couple are new acquaintances. The panel went well I thought. The most interesting thing for me was the number of times we disagreed on something. I love when that happens on an agent panel because I think it really gives authors the sense that there are no set rules in this business. Every agent does things differently. I also hope it makes you all realize that you can't please everyone all the time. The best advice (and this was oft repeated yesterday) is to be professional. That will always win out over trying to figure out every little rule that every agent has.

My favorite dissention was over exclusives. Anne Hawkins talked about her desire for a one month exclusive on any full manuscripts she requests and Doris Booth agreed. I think Kate McKean and I almost gave ourselves headaches for all the head shaking we were doing. Needless to say, Kate and I both agreed that exclusives are unfair to the author and never request them. For newer readers you can refer to previous posts I've written on the subject for more information. Of course Kate and I both stressed the need for an author to treat agents respectfully when an offer does come in...of course I've written about all of this before.

Today I have appointments from 8:30 to 4:30. Yes, it's true. For all of my preaching they've done it again. I have at least 30 author appointments today and I feel sorry for anyone schedule to meet with me after lunch. There's just no way I'm going to be coherent by then. Sigh.

And then. Vacation! I'll be out all week relaxing in the Denver sun and enjoying books for pleasure. Don't worry though. I've written some posts for you all to read while I'm gone and since I'm a workaholic I'm sure I'll be checking in to see what you're saying.

Have a great weekend and a great week. I'm off in search of coffee.

--Jessica

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Are Editors Easier to Nab?

I was asked recently whether it’s easier for unpublished authors to nab an editor than an agent. I would say since it’s not necessarily easier for even published authors to nab an editor, the answer is decidedly no. Think about how many agented authors have difficulty finding a home. Also think about how many agents there are in your genre as opposed to publishing houses—not necessarily editors. The odds are against getting an editor faster.

If the reason you’re asking is because you think it would be easier to go directly to publishers, first I would warn against it. Unless your work has been requested by an editor through pitch appointments or contest wins (or you are targeting Harlequin/Silhouette) I would strongly, strongly recommend against blindly sending out to editors. One of the many reasons to have an agent is because she knows editors intimately and knows not only what specifically within a genre editors are looking for, but also who’s too busy to receive submissions, who is hungry for more work, and who happens to love interplanetary battles.

If you’re asking because you want to find the secret door, it doesn’t exist. There’s no easy or easier way about this business. To get in that door it takes hard work, good writing, a fabulous story, and lots and lots of perseverance. If you’re continually striking out with agents and feel that editors might be your next best bet, don’t. Please don’t. Stop submitting and start writing and honing your skills. If you’ve hit every agent out there and received nothing but rejections it’s very, very unlikely an editor is going to feel much differently.

Jessica

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Contracts 101: Delivery and Acceptance

The dreaded and very important delivery and acceptance clause. Did you know that you don’t get paid until your work is delivered and accepted? While everyone seems to know this in theory, few seem to understand what that really means until they are hungry for a check, or just plain hungry and need a check.

This means that if it takes your editor six months to actually read your manuscript you could be waiting six months, or more, to get your check. Even though you delivered on time and even though you are already hard at work on your next project. Frustrating, isn’t it? What actually deems acceptance depends on the publisher. Some won’t officially accept the book until they are through what they call author review. That means the book is edited, copyedited, and the author has reviewed and accepted all edits. Others will want to make sure revisions have been completed by the author and accepted by the editor. Some publishers will not allow a d&a (delivery and acceptance) check to go through until the manuscript is in the copyeditor’s hands, and others will gladly put it through the minute the material is delivered. What you end up with really depends on your publisher and on your editor. It can also be dependent on your relationship with your editor.

In an ideal d&a clause you will have wording that gives the publisher a limited time to read and accept your work. In other words, ideally the publisher will need to respond in about 45 days. Of course not all publishers will agree to this, and even if it’s in there it doesn’t always mean editors will make the dates. You should also have some sort of description as to what is to be delivered. Is it expected that your book will be 80,000 words, but what else will you need to supply? Are you also required to include photos, maps, or an author bio? As much as possible you want the delivery and acceptance clause in your contract to tell you, and the publisher, what exactly is required to deem the material acceptable. You also want information in there that provides for what happens should the publisher deem the material unacceptable. Usually this means a time frame as to how long you have to revise the material and make it acceptable.

The most important advice I can give to writers when it comes to your d&a clause is to make sure the delivery date is actually attainable for you. Don’t feel pressure to submit quickly just because you’re afraid the publisher will lose interest. They wouldn’t have bought the book if they thought they might lose interest. Pick a date that not only works with your schedule but, most important, that you can reach while writing the best book possible. And second, make sure when reviewing your d&a clause that there are no surprises. If you expect to deliver maps, that’s fine, but if your d&a clause states that maps are required and you had no intention of providing maps, you might be getting yourself into a situation that’s going to cause nothing but headaches down the road.

As with anything, on all contracts, if there is something in the clause that looks wrong or out of place to you, call your agent. You never know what might be standard and non-negotiable in certain contracts or what she negotiated on your behalf.

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Maya Reynolds

Maya Reynolds
Bad Girl
Publisher: NAL Heat
Pub Date: September 2007
Agent: Jacky Sach



(Click to Buy)


Maya Reynolds has had a varied career path on her way to becoming an author. She trained to be a teacher and later became a stockbroker, but quit after ten years to return to graduate school. She became a psychiatric social worker and eventually took charge of operations for the public mental health system of Dallas.

Maya called upon her experiences to write her first novel—a contemporary erotic thriller titled Bad Girl.

Author blog: http://mayareynoldswriter.blogspot.com.

Bad Girl: Sandy Davis told herself that her hobby of spying on neighbors in the high-rise across the street was just a game; it didn’t hurt anyone. No one knew. Until the night the phone call came . . .

“You’ve been a bad girl.”

He calls himself Justice. He has a pastime, too. Watching Sandy watch others. He has the photos to prove it. Now it’s his turn to play—by making Sandy pay the price in exchange for holding on to her naughty little secret.

As the sensual dance between two strangers begins, so does Sandy’s fear that she’s moving closer to the edge of extreme desire—and inescapable danger.

BookEnds: Where did the idea for this story come from?
Maya: I’ve always loved edgy thrillers, and I was looking for a storyline that would combine a hot romance and a suspenseful plot. Sandy’s peeping begins after her boyfriend dumps her, leaving her feeling vulnerable. Now she’s caught up in a situation spiraling out of her control.

Writing the novel offered me the opportunity to explore the boundaries of passion and intimacy with a likeable heroine and the man who both excites and terrifies her.

BookEnds: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Maya: Begin early to think of yourself as a professional. When you do that, you make different decisions than you do when you think of writing as your hobby. You begin to set regular times aside to write, and you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by friends, email, and phone calls. During my writing time, I don’t answer the phone or read emails. I’m on the job, and I respect that time.

BookEnds: What else did you do right on your way to being published?
Maya: I started my list of possible agents very early—while I was still writing my first manuscript. By the time I was ready to query, I had a list of agents I’d researched and whom I knew could do a great job of representing me.

Another thing I did right was to research the publishing industry. I learned who the publishers were, how to avoid getting scammed, and the terms that the professionals used to describe the business.

BookEnds: Did you make any mistakes?
Maya: I can think of a couple: First, I waited too long to join professional organizations like RWA and Sisters-in-Crime. The workshops and networking opportunities are invaluable. And, second, I waited until I finished my first manuscript to look for critique partners. The time to find critique partners is while you’re writing your manuscript, not after you’ve finished it.

Feel free to ask Maya questions in the comments section. She’ll pop in during the day to answer them.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Talent or Learning: What Makes a Writer an Author

I was scrolling through the Absolute Write message boards recently (a great Web site by the way) when I came across a very interesting discussion on whether or not writing is an innate talent or something that can be learned. Like many posters I have to agree that it’s a little of both...and it’s a little more.

I think anyone can learn to write. Like one poster said, it can be compared to throwing a football. Anyone can learn to do it and with practice and perseverance anyone can become reasonably good at it. But talent is what I think sets authors apart, just like it sets football players apart. While everyone on the field works hard to learn the game, not everyone walks onto the field with an innate talent to shine. Peyton and Eli Manning are good example of this. Presumably both have the same background, the same training and were taught the same skills. In fact, you could even argue that Eli, as the younger brother, might have had a little more training since the kinks were worked out with Peyton. Why then is Peyton so clearly the better player? Talent. Something that can’t be taught or learned. Peyton just has more of a natural ability for the game (in my humble opinion).

But I think there’s a third element we’re missing and that’s finesse.

I have a friend who is a professional skateboarder and during a recent discussion about many of the young up-and-coming skateboarders he mentioned that while a lot of them have skills, not a lot of them necessarily have the finesse that makes a really successful skateboarder stand out. I think the same can be said of authors. When you read a really amazing author, one that takes your breath away, it’s not the talent and it’s not the learned skills that wow you. It’s that author’s finesse. His or her ability to string words together in such a way that actually make you want to stop and read again.

Let’s go back to football. As a Minnesota Vikings fan I’ve been watching Randy Moss’s career from the beginning. Why is Randy Moss such star? Especially since he’s never even been to a Super Bowl (except as a fan) and he’s never really stood up to all the hype. Simple. Finesse. While many will argue that he might be one of the biggest jerks in football. Okay, maybe behind Michael Vick, none can argue that watching him play is like watching a ballet. That guy has style and when he makes one of those catches it will actually take your breath away. He has talent, he definitely has finesse, and now he just needs to spend a little more time learning the game and yes, you will have a true star on your hands (if he doesn’t get too old first).

Writing skills can be learned. You can learn to plot, you can learn to create characters and you can learn to string words together, but some of us have a talent for it. Some of us have an innate ability to string words together and don’t need to think about characters or plot because building both come naturally. And beyond that, there are a lucky few with real finesse. An amazing ability to wow just about anyone with their writing. And let me clarify, they aren’t necessarily literary authors. Finesse can come in many forms and in many genres.

So what are you thoughts? Is writing a talent or a learned skill?

--Jessica

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Parting Ways . . . An Author's Decision

If you’ve been following the blog I’m sure many of you remember the story of the agent who fired bestselling author Jennifer Cruisie. But what happens when a published author feels that she needs to make the decision to fire her agent? How does the author make that very scary change? What happens to the author’s work, whether it’s sitting on an editor’s desk or the agent’s, and what does said published author need to woo a new agent?

As for how an author makes that decision, I think I’ll have to leave it up to the authors to tell me. Granted it’s not easy, deciding that your agent isn’t right for you, firing her, and suddenly flying solo (at least until you can find someone new), but making the switch is usually a lot wiser than sticking with someone simply out of fear. Remember how the agent search is like dating? Well, having that relationship is like marriage, and certainly no one expects or plans to have to be out there again and start “dating.” But just like some marriages, some author/agent relationships aren’t meant to last forever.

What happens next really depends on the author, the agents, and each and every individual experience. Typically, though, if you are planning to continue in the same vein of what you’ve already been writing successfully, you won’t need a proposal to find a new agent. You’ll simply need to set up some interview times. When I’ve been approached by authors looking for new representation I’ll always ask for a copy of a proposal or manuscript if part of the reason you’re switching is to go out in new and different directions. If not, I’ll only ask to see a copy or two of some of your published works. Even if I’ve read you before I might want to refresh my memory and make sure that I feel I can represent your work. After all, reading for pleasure is a lot different than reading for representation.

Most important, though, I’ll ask what your goals are, what direction you’re hoping to take your career in, and what exactly you’re looking for in an agent. I don’t need you to give me all of the dirt and tell me how horrible your previous agent was, but it does help to know why you’re leaving her. I need to know whether or not I think your goals are realistic for me. In other words, whether I think I can do what you didn’t feel your previous agent was doing for you.

The biggest question asked was what happens to the author’s previous work—those handled by the now-fired agent? Obviously anything that was contracted will remain under representation by your previous agent. In other words, she’ll still be the agent of record for those projects. As for what happens to submissions that she made and that might still be sitting on an editor’s desk, that depends on your contract with the agent. In the BookEnds contract we ask that you give us four months from the time you’ve fired us to finish any outstanding projects. In other words, we certainly will not continue submitting, but we would handle deals from outstanding submissions that come in within that four-month time frame. Of course, there are ways to circumvent this, and if you really felt that the relationship had deteriorated so much that you can’t imagine another minute with said agent, you could certainly have a discussion about transferring all of those materials to the new agent.

If you don’t have a contract clause that stipulates how long the agent has to finish up projects after the relationship is dissolved, you could give her a fair amount of time and then ask that all submissions be pulled. I would definitely try to work that out with her once you’ve let her know you’re dissolving the relationship. Not only is it important for peace of mind, but your new agent also needs to know that she’s the only one working for you.

Whether or not a new agent would take on these outstanding projects depends on a variety of things, including the direction you want to take your career, whether or not the new agent feels that outstanding work is your strongest, etc. This would have to be something you’d discuss when offered representation by a new agent.

Parting ways with your agent is a daunting and scary task no matter the circumstances. My best advice is to first have a discussion with your agent about any concerns you have with your relationship. She might not even know that you’re unhappy, let alone why, and a serious and frank discussion may make all the difference. If you’ve had that conversation, or tried with no response, and have come to the decision that you are left with no other choice, then it’s time to make the cut. Remember to keep it professional and everything will go smoothly.

Jessica

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Monday, September 10, 2007

What Is a Packager?

I knew the time would come when eventually someone would ask me to explain what exactly a book packager is because, yes, when Jacky and I originally started BookEnds we began as packagers, and so many of you let it slide for so long that I guess it’s time I explain what that means.

Book packaging—sometimes referred to as book producing—has been an integral part of publishing almost since the beginning of publishing time. Just like writers need agents, publishers need packagers. Packagers essentially make a very complicated book project easy for a publisher to take on.

In some ways a book packager is a mini publisher: they do everything a publisher does with a book except distribute, sell, market, and publicize. A packager’s primary job is to make complicated books easy for a publisher to publish. In other words, the packager takes on the responsibility of editing, designing, hiring writers, getting approvals, and finding artwork for a book. While many packagers deliver books to publishers only when they are printer-ready, others work to put the project together but still rely on the publisher for final editing and design. Obviously how much a publisher pays for a book will determine how much work the packager is required to do.

One perfect example of a packaged product is New York Public Library Desk Reference. Just one of the many reasons why this is a prime example is that it’s a licensed book. In other words, because you’re putting someone else’s name on the book you’re going to be required to get approvals and permissions throughout the process. A royal pain for anyone, and especially a publisher, but something packagers do very well. While I don’t know the intricacies of how this particular book was packaged, what I can surmise is that when Stonesong Press packaged this book for Macmillan Publishing they took on all of the responsibility for hiring authors (in this case contributing editors), designing and editing the book, obtaining necessary artwork, and getting all permissions and approvals from the New York Public Library.

Most projects sold by a packager are sold on proposal alone. An agreement has already been reached between the packager and the licensor and a proposal is put together by the packager’s editorial team. Writers and illustrators are only hired after a publisher’s contract is in hand. Once a deal is made the packager will know exactly how much money (based on the advance they received) they have to hire the team necessary to create a great book. Rarely do authors writing for packagers receive royalties. Usually the advance is divvied out, almost in totality, to writers, illustrators, and designers, and royalties are reserved for the packager and licensor.

To learn more about packaging you can go to the American Book Producers Association web site, and for some interesting tidbits on packaged books . . . many R. L. Stine titles, The Pill Book, a series of books based on the television show Charmed, almost any desk reference you run across, and Backyard Bird Song.

Jessica

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday's random thoughts

It's Friday and I've had a busy week so I wanted to share some random thoughts with you. First off let me tell you what a bang my week started off with. On Tuesday I concluded an auction that moved one of my authors to a new house. All last week I was taking bids and negotiating with editors. It was a terrific way to end my summer and a fun new way for the author and I to start the fall.

In other client news, in the last two weeks I've received emails from more than one client sharing ideas they have for new projects. I have to say, I'm very, very excited. There are some cool ideas out there and I think my clients are grabbing on to them. And last night I read a partial from another client. I had read this partial previously and rejected it. The idea was sound, but the execution needed work. The author and I talked extensively and she spent a good portion of her summer rewriting and working on it. And can I say brilliant?! It's absolutely amazing and for those of you hoping that I'll venture more into fantasy it looks like we're starting to head in that direction. I'm so excited to talk with the author more about it and get it into the hands of editors.

You all have had me thinking too. In my post on market updates someone asked whether or not there was romantic suspense that didn't include law enforcement or the military. While I knew there was, I had to think a little.. The answer is of course, yes. The newest Lisa Jackson contains neither and I know there are others, but I'm going to turn to you. Any titles or suggestions for someone looking for romantic suspense without a military or law enforcement hero?

And lastly, I just read that author Madeleine L'Engle passed away last night and I have to admit this was sad for me. A piece of my childhood has passed on. If you've never read Madeleine L'Engle do so now. I only remember reading her A Wrinkle in Time Trilogy, but remember them as if I read them yesterday. Meg is an amazing character and the books literally bring you to new worlds.

Have a great weekend everyone!

--Jessica

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Understanding Bestseller Lists

If you’re published it’s guaranteed that at least once each week you check Amazon and B&N.com for your rankings and Bookscan for your title. Right? But do you really know what you’re looking at or how these numbers relate to one another or your sales?

They don’t. At least not really. Every list from the New York Times to Publishers Weekly to Bookscan to whatever other list you’re looking at uses its own system to generate rankings, and keeps its own list of reporting bookstores a closely guarded secret, for obvious reasons. If you knew, for example, that the New York Times list was based on the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, Beatrice’s Books on the Upper West Side, and Joe’s All American Books in SoHo, your method of publicity would be to have all of your friends and family go to those three bookstores on the day your book releases and not only buy them out but also order 50 copies each to be shipped when they arrive. Imagine. Voila! Instant list. How great would that be?!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Rankings aren’t generally based on how many copies sold (although that can be a factor), but on rate of sale. Meaning how many copies your book is selling each day. For example, selling 50 books on Monday but none the rest of the week isn’t going to rank you as high on the list as selling 8 copies a day every day for the rest of the week. For obvious reasons your rating helps these list makers to determine your future success as well as current successes. This is why you so often hear publishers talk about how a book is rating versus how many copies a book has sold. I would much rather have a book rating steadily than a book that once sold 75,000 copies. Remember that tortoise? Slow and steady wins the race.

In addition to ratings the list will also look at predictive algorithms that I can’t even begin to understand. These algorithms will not only take into account your rating, but also previous successes. For example, an author who has been consistently selling well for many years will likely get a higher ranking than one who jumped on the scene just last week. Based on previous performance, list makers can make some prediction of how Longtime Author might do. How exactly these numbers are finally determined is something that’s endlessly speculated over, and I’m sure you can do a Google search to find a vast number of theories.

So how can you judge how your book is doing based on rankings? I’ve found that Bookscan numbers and online Barnes and Noble can give you a pretty good idea. If you’re ranking below 1000 on B&N.com you’re selling very well. Amazon, however, is an entirely different story. No one gets how they determine their numbers, but it seems that it’s based on immediate sales and not necessarily ratings. Therefore one purchase of 50 copies could easily give your book a jump from a 100,000 ranking to 10,000. It’s unlikely that 40,000 other people bought your book at that exact moment.

In the end, how does all of this affect your career? In other words, do publishers even care? Yes and no. Publishers do care about the official Barnes and Noble lists, and major lists like USA Today or the New York Times (because you have to sell a lot of books to hit those), but when it comes to your ranking on B&N.com or Amazon they really don’t pay any attention at all. In the end the only thing a publisher cares about is your overall rating and sell-through. In other words, how much of your print runs have you been able to sell through.

This information came from my own experiences as well as conversations I’ve had over the years with other publishing professionals. I’m sure you have your own information and/or theories and I’d love to hear more about what you might know about these mysterious rankings.

Jessica

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Julia Templeton on Her Path to Publication

Julia Templeton
Return to Me
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Pub date: August 2007
Agent: Kim Lionetti



(Click to Buy)

Author Web site: www.juliatempleton.com

I just blogged over at the Idea Boutique (http://ideaboutique.blogspot.com) about my new release, Return to Me, an erotic vampire historical, so rather than repeat myself here, I thought I’d talk about my long, hard path to publication instead.

My path to publication started when I tried my hand at writing a time-travel/ghost story set in Regency England. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I enjoyed the process. It took me almost a year to finish the book and it was quickly rejected by every New York publishing house.

I discovered RWA shortly thereafter, and went to a workshop given by Linda Lael Miller. Linda mentioned she started out writing short contemporary stories for publications like True Love magazine, in order to build her publishing resume. Although I wanted to write historical romance, I figured I’d give first-person contemporary short stories a try. I finished the first story a few weeks later, and sent it out. Imagine my surprise when weeks later I received an acceptance letter. I was over the moon. Motivated by my success, I ended up writing a total of six stories for the same publication before I tried my hand at writing another historical romance.

Unfortunately, before I could finish that second historical, I became deathly ill with a chronic bowel disease, had a radical surgery, and basically lost all desire to write. It was the darkest time of my life, and it would take many months before I finally sat down at my computer and wrote a dark Regency historical romance. Six weeks later I sent it out to Kensington, and I received a call shortly after from an editor who said she loved it and wanted to buy it for their new Precious Gems line. I’ll never forget the exhilaration I felt at that moment, and I can honestly say I thought I was well on my way. However, every proposal I submitted to my editor from then on was rejected, and soon I started to lose confidence, but I never stopped writing.

Looking back, I should have been spending time trying to land an agent, but I think my lack of confidence got the best of me. I continued to submit stories on my own, but with little results. I also finished the second historical romance I had put aside during my illness, and eventually sold it to Hard Shell Publishing.

About this time, a good friend of mine told me about a new company called Ellora’s Cave, who was publishing spicy stories. Since I wrote sensual stories, EC seemed like the perfect publisher for me. My friend and I decided to cowrite a Regency historical romance and submit it under a pen name, and we were thrilled when it sold. We went on to write another book together, but also submitted and sold our solo work as well. My publishing credits with EC helped me land my first agent. We got along famously, but I didn’t receive a lot of feedback from her, and because I was getting rejected from some of the NY publishing houses, I felt I needed something more. Though it was extremely difficult, I decided to let her go. I took my time researching agents, and asking a lot of authors about their agents. Kim Lionetti’s name came up and I decided to query her.

While I was submitting to agents, I queried a NY publishing house about an erotic historical romance I was working on. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a phone call from the editor the very next day. She told me her company was starting a new erotic romance line, and she noticed I’d been writing erotic historical romances for Ellora’s Cave, and wondered if I would be interested in writing a novella for a historical anthology. I couldn’t say yes fast enough, and I have to say Border Lord was one of the easiest books I’ve ever written.

Kim signed me shortly thereafter, and sold my medieval romance The Bargain to Berkley. I’m currently working on my third book for Berkley, and I hope it’s just the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship.

So there it is—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s been a long, bumpy, frustrating road . . . but I love writing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.


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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Market Update

It's been a while since I've posted on a market update and while I've been meaning to get to it all day it isn't until now that I've finally had a chance, when I’m sitting at home and enjoying a magnificent glass of Cantina Faccagnini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. So please excuse any and all typos.

I've been very busy the past couple of weeks. I took on an exciting new author and helped her sell her book to a great publisher--as well as let a number of other editors see her work (I promise to discuss this in more detail later). And I helped a more established client make a very successful switch to a new house, at auction nonetheless. Needless to say it's been a very exciting August and a lot of fun for me.

One of the things I like most about selling and submitting books (besides the obvious of course) is that it truly gives me an opportunity to find out what editors are actively looking for. Often I've learned that what they say is one thing, what they actually do is another and when I submit them something is when I truly discover what they want.

So what am I hearing these days? Funny paranormal romance is all but dead. Okay, maybe not dead, but really scaring editors off. Some publishers are saying they've seen a slip in orders on those types of books and, specifically, those chick lit/paranormal romance type covers (think Mary Janice Davidson's Undead series--although I know her sales haven’t slipped). What they're looking for instead? Dark, sexy, romances (and covers do and will reflect this). Does it mean you should simply shelve your funny paranormal? Not at all, but you might want to consider making it darker or even spinning it into a mystery since mystery editors are still very actively looking for this type of book.

And guess what romance lovers? Historicals are back! We've been predicting it and waiting and guess what, it's here. But it's not necessarily the historical of days gone by. No, of course not. Nothing is ever that easy. Editors (and of course agents) are looking for darker, sexier historical romances with a historical voice. While I do think the more contemporary voiced historicals are doing well, that really strong historical voice is back. Think Elizabeth Hoyt. I've mentioned her work before and editors are talking about her too. Of course they are also talking about our own Sally MacKenzie.

And in terms of romance I'm hearing it again and again. Romantic suspense. Everyone is looking for it and it's not easy to find. We're a picky lot, agents and editors, and we want dark, we want scary and we want it to be original and different. Not an easy task I know, but we are all actively seeking romantic suspense.

What to do if you're not writing in one of these areas? Don't worry. This is just what is being talked about today. Tomorrow can be entirely different. And of course this is just a small segment of book market news.

I've also been talking to a lot of nonfiction editors and green books are hot, but maybe too hot. Lists are filling up fast on this subject and already editors are starting to move cautiously. One editor compared it to the yoga craze. Every publisher jumped on board and jumped on with five different books. Almost instantly the bookshelves were overflowing and they fear the same with "green" books.

No news right now on mystery, suspense or thrillers other than to let you know that editors are looking for that something special that sings. I'll keep you posted...

--jessica

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Promises Made, but Not Kept

I was directed to this recent post on C. S. Harris’s blog, When Bad Things Happen to Good Writers, and asked to comment.

In the story C. S. Harris shared, an author was wooed over to a new publishing house and promised the world—promotion, marketing, and co-op money (money the publisher spends for special placement in bookstores). When push came to shove, however, the publisher did not follow through on its promises and the author did not see the sales she needed to earn out her advance. Needless to say, once the contract was complete the publisher bailed. An author who doesn’t earn out rarely gets a new contract.

The questions I was asked were: If a publisher promises promotion, marketing, and co-op money, why wouldn’t it be written into the contract, and what can an author do to protect herself? Should or could this be something that’s written into the contract, and how often do publishers break such promises?

Let’s start with the obvious. Rarely do such promises get written into the contract. Why? Because the publisher does not want to commit to how they are planning to spend their marketing and promotion budget one, two, or even three years in advance. And from a business perspective this is understandable. What if the market changes? What if the book you sold them is really hot now, but the market drops considerably a year from now? And from an author’s perspective, I’m not sure you would want such a commitment in writing either. What if they only commit to ads and suddenly would consider changing their mind, but don’t have to. They’ve got ads and only ads in writing. Or, what if the publisher has committed heavy promotion to three other authors pubbing at the same time as your book. While your book might now, given new market trends, be the hot new book, they don’t have the money to give you.

I’m not sure exactly how the situation C. S. Harris described played out and what was said. My experience is that publishers rarely “promise” marketing and co-op when they offer. Often what they’ll do is suggest they might go that route, but I always caution my writers that while they are saying these things now, we will have to wait and see and hit them again when we’re getting closer to the pub date. Did the author and agent call to remind the publisher they were promised these things or just assume they would happen? And were promises really made or just suggestions?

I truly doubt the lack of paid co-op and marketing were the sole reason for this author’s failed sales numbers. It’s very likely the books she had out from the other publisher started to fall off. In other words, her numbers slipped well before publisher #2 got to publication and that, probably more than anything, was the reason the promised marketing never happened.

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Reader Challenge

I was thinking recently what creatures of habit we all are. If we’re romance readers we read romance, and SF fans tend to stick to SF, but how often have you ever ventured outside of your comfort zone when it comes to reading? I tell my authors all the time that to truly be successful you need to learn to push yourself. You need to write better, scarier, sexier, more mysterious and more suspenseful books. You need to be willing to push yourself beyond your own comfort zone. While we strive to do that in our writing, do we do that in our reading?

Have you been avoiding erotica because it’s not for you or feel that you’d hate cozy mysteries because they’re too tame? Have you even read one? I never read a fantasy until I worked in publishing (okay I never read a romance either). And I’ve only read a few SF novels. And yes, gulp, I’ve never read horror. And that’s embarrassing. As members of the writing/publishing community we all need to be willing and able to push our own limits with what we read. So here’s my challenge to you. Pick up something you’ve never read before, in a genre you have yet to truly explore, and see what you think.

I was thinking I’d try some SF and I was thinking Jim Butcher might be my author of choice. Looking for suggestions? If you think you might need to read a cozy mystery, erotica, a western, or even a business book, try this terrific Web site: www.bookends-inc.com/our_books.html.

Otherwise I ask you, dear readers, to share some of your favorite books in various genres. If someone wants to explore your favorite bookshelf, what would you recommend?

On another note, check out Romance Bandits (http://romancebandits.blogspot.com/), where I'm guest blogging today.

Jessica

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