Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Agents Doing You a Disservice

It would be great if writers had the power in deciding the agent/writer relationship. Some writers do. Most don't. Agents will tell writers, "It only takes one yes." But if that one yes is all a writer gets, options are limited. While Jessica is, commendably, afraid of doing a disservice to a writer she's not 100% behind, which is worse to the writer's mind: a disservice or no service at all? If options are running low, I'll take the disservice any day.

And I agree with you . . . to a point. I suspect it is very rare that an author gets the benefit of having multiple agents vie for her attention, or more important, her contract. I think that most of the time the author gets one agent interested and that’s the one and only person who offers representation. That being said, it does not mean that a bad agent is better than no agent. An agent who does you a disservice could damage your career. Having no agent just means it’s going to take you longer to find someone willing and able to work with you successfully.

I think that many readers can easily share (anonymously of course) stories of when they thought exactly as you do (and I hope they do). Grabbing that agent was the most important thing, no matter who the agent was. In the end, though, I think many can tell you they would have been better served to wait a little longer for someone who could actually do the job right.

Jessica

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Agents Agonize

We hear all the time about the pressure authors are under. The stress of finding an agent and the agony of waiting when you have requested material out there. But rarely do you have to hear about the agony and stress you can put agents under. So here’s my story. . . .

On Monday I received an e-query from an author. Typically e-queries get dropped immediately into a folder for me to read when I have a few spare moments (I always try to get to them in two weeks). This author, however, did something that few actually do. She included her title in the subject line and it wasn’t just any title. It was a really amazing, eye-catching title. The kind that would make anyone pick up the book just out of curiosity. Naturally I opened the email and read the really great letter. I emailed back immediately to request that the partial be snail-mailed to me.

On Tuesday the author emailed me back to say that she had received an offer from a publisher and asked if I would like to see the full manuscript. Of course I did. I immediately responded and asked her to email it out, promising to read it overnight. Tuesday night, through dinner and during the rest of the evening, I read, frequently shouting out funny lines to my husband. I was reading and loving the book and continuing to read because I wanted to. Always a good sign.

Wednesday morning I finished the book and Wednesday afternoon I emailed the author (I didn’t have a phone number for her) to offer representation. We finally got in touch via phone and had a really great conversation. She knew a few of my clients so had some perspective already on the way I work, and of course she had done her research before submitting so knew I was reputable. I explained my vision for the book, asked her some questions about her career, and overall I think we had a good conversation. Of course she was waiting to hear from a few other agents and promised to get back to me soon because the editor was hoping for an answer quickly.

Thursday I waited. And waited. And stressed. I thought about it all through my lunch with an editor. And obsessed over what the author was thinking or what more I should have said.

Friday I panicked. Why hadn’t I heard? Why hadn’t she called me back yet? What was going on!?!?! Before heading home for the day I sent a quick follow-up email. I don’t want to nag, but I wanted to let her know that she should feel free to get in touch if she had any more questions or concerns. I heard back almost immediately and we talked again on the phone. She explained that on Wednesday she was a little nervous, but had since talked to other agents and wanted to ask a few more questions. We chatted some more and again I felt the conversation went well.

Saturday and Sunday I let it go. I had to. The decision was in the author’s hands and all I could do was hope she made the best decision for her. Whether or not that included me I wouldn’t know until I heard from her. It was, really, a very nice weekend.

Monday the phone rang. Whooo-hoo! She had received five offers of representation and had been, not surprisingly, overwhelmed. It’s a big decision and she wanted to make sure she made the right one for her.

The relief was so great I had to leave work early to celebrate. Okay, I didn’t do that. The minute we agreed to work together I went to work to get the book in front of as many editors as possible and negotiate a deal that I think we’re both very happy with.

So when you’re feeling that anxiety that we agents cause, remember, you cause it too.

Jessica

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Pitch Critiques Round 1

On October 25 I did a workshop of sorts on Perfecting Your Pitch, and if I do say so myself it was a bit of a success. Thank you to everyone brave enough to participate. Over the course of the next several weeks I will go through pitch-by-pitch and give my critique. Feel free to comment and give your own critiques, ask further questions, or just tell us what you thought. This was a lot of fun for me and I might, just might, do it again sometime (if I ever get through this pile).

I also want to give a quick shout-out to reader Mark Terry. Mark did what I think was an amazing blog post about this blog “contest” and really broke down what makes a successful pitch in a way few agents are sometimes able to do. Check it out.

1. diana
My book is a romantic comedy about a big-city girl and a small-town auctioneer who become entangled in a 130-year-old case of murder, identity theft and bodies buried in the wrong graves.

Unfortunately, while intriguing (I like cold cases), not intriguing enough. Essentially your pitch tells me nothing. What is the conflict? Is it that they are solving a mystery? What exactly is the mystery? What makes this book stand out from other romantic comedies or mysteries (your genre choice and description confuse me a little). This might not fit your book at all, but what about something more along the lines of . . . ”Cold Case meets Sex in the City when 'Julie' teams up with a small-town auctioneer (is this even important to the story?) to . . .” or “Unearthing a 130-year-old body seems gruesome, but not deadly. Julie is about to find out differently when she becomes entangled in a case of murder.” Does that make more sense? I need to know the why more than the who. Why are they solving this case? What’s their motivation? What’s the threat? And lastly I’m concerned that the tone of your pitch doesn’t at all convey the tone of the book. At least I hope it doesn’t or you have a real problem with telling instead of showing.

2. anon (David Weisman)
If you've ever wondered why being part of a hive mind should cause people to dress in black, act asexual, and talk in stilted phrases, this book is for you. Major Brett Johnson struggles to satisfy both duty and honor, and learn if the overmind on the planet Oceania is a deadly seductive trap that may snare humanity, or a tool to extend human lifespans and enrich our experience of the human condition.

(I'll only send this to agents who handle science fiction, and assume they've heard of the Borg!)


I’m at a huge disadvantage here since I have no idea what the Borg is. Anyone? My first comment, though, is change your first sentence entirely; “this book is for you” is not going to grab an agent’s attention and you might limit yourself if you submit to an agent who really has never wondered why being part of a hive mind would do those things. It sounds like your book is probably a SF thriller. That doesn’t come through in the pitch. I would delete the first sentence altogether. It doesn’t add to your pitch and, in fact, probably detracts. Instead I would simply work on strengthening sentence number two and keeping that as your entire pitch. I’m hoping you can do a better job than I can (since you know the story), but what about something along the lines of, “Major Brett Johnson is in a struggle for his life, and the lives of all inhabitants of the planet Oceania, while he battles to learn if the overmind is a deadly seductive trap set to ensnare humanity, or a tool to extend human lifespans and enrich the human condition”? I still think though that you need more. From this I don’t have a clear understanding of what the story is about. What I see here is something that’s similar to every other book. What makes your book different? What else about the conflict makes this stand out?

3. k.r. stewart
Completed fantasy novel "Omn's Tears"

Captain Ryon Addothun is a renegade soldier who refuses to blindly follow orders like he once did.

Kain is a ruthless dragon hunter who cares for no one but himself.

When Ryon and Kain discover an angelic woman from a realm of myth--stripped of her otherworldly powers and held captive by Ryon’s superiors--they learn that the Emperor has unwittingly unleashed a disastrous magic that may eventually unravel all of creation. The only way to save the mortal world and the heavenly realm is for the trio to join forces and seek out the mythical remnant of the Creator’s power, Omn's Tears.


Too long. Sure it’s not going to kill you to write your pitch at this length, it’s also not doing you any favors. Remember, you have about two sentences to grab an agent in a query letter and about two minutes in a verbal pitch session. While I suspect you can read this in less than two minutes you lose me pretty quickly. Your most interesting pieces are that you have a renegade soldier and dragon hunter, but after that it’s lost. If you’re going to mention those things then I would imagine they are both part of the conflict; if not, they probably aren’t worth mentioning. Here’s the deal. I don’t know what this book is really about enough to excite me. I think your real pitch comes after your last sentence. What happens next? That’s what I want to know in your pitch. What do they have to go through to save the mortal world? The first sentence of your last paragraph can be cut completely. Do not tell backstory in a pitch. Get to the point from the beginning.

4. Solidus
(One sentence.)
A crippled composer, her overprotective father and an idealistic pharmacologist struggle for several kinds of freedom for themselves and the embittered lunar colonies.

(One paragraph; three sentences.)
Elizabeth Barton has been protected by her father but, when the lunar colonies rebel against corporate domination, reality breaks in. She falls in love with pharmacologist Robert Brown, who is drawn to the power of her music as well as to her personal fragility, but her father believes Robert to be arrogant and reckless, and forbids their relationship. When Greater China sends in the troops to retake the colonies, Elizabeth and her father must work with Robert to prevent the slaughter.


Neither tell me anything about the story and neither sound exciting or different. Do I really care that he’s a pharmacologist? Is that why readers might buy the book? What about the fact that she’s a crippled composer? I doubt people would pick up the book for that reason alone. It might be what endears them to her and keeps them reading more, but it’s not your hook or your pitch. I suspect your hook is what they are all risking by preventing the slaughter and what they go through to get there. The rest is backstory.

5. Leatherdykeuk
Dead Line
Harold Waterman hates corpses and finding three of them in his garden spells the beginning of a bad day. Being assassinated in his pyjamas was the very worst evening he could think of until he discovers that there are worse places to go than Heaven and Hell. It’s lucky for him that his best friend is a demon who can pull some strings, if he can only stop being so sarcastic to God.


I like the tone of this and I think it’s almost there. The problem is that it’s confusing. First of all, who doesn’t hate corpses? That seems pretty obvious to me. I also don’t get how the assassination connects with the corpses. Are they one and the same? Is it the same day? I think your last line though is terrific. Totally grabbed me, and that would probably push me over the edge to ask to see more. I would suggest though that you tighten your first two sentences some. Could you say something along the lines of, “When Harold Waterman found three corpses buried in his garden he didn’t think his day could get any worse, that was until he was assassinated in his pyjamas and learned there are worse places to go than Heaven and Hell...”?

6. Anon 7:19 am
(A paranormal romance)
When Adrianna was young, she cut out her heart and hid it from Death. Three thousand years later, she's forgotten where she put it. She can't die. But she can't love, either.


I’m going to use a lovely sing-songy voice here to say BRILLIANT! This is the best pitch so far (okay it’s only the sixth, but it’s really brilliant). There is no doubt I would request this without even reading the rest of the letter. Why? It gets to the heart (I know, he-he) of the problem. We have a heroine who has lost her heart and is searching for it, and not in the traditional way of, My heart turned to ice because of some loser I was once married to. No, she physically lost her heart. How cool is that? I get that it’s paranormal without you even telling me and I know what your character’s conflict is. In fact, I think I even have a feeling for who your character is based on. Really, really good. I hope the partial is headed my way. . . .

And that’s it for today. Great work to the first six brave enough to enter. Keep an eye out for the next group.


Jessica

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Friday, October 26, 2007

The Power of Platform

There’s a new debate raging in publishing and one that I find more than just a little interesting. It concerns two books that give advice on getting kids to eat their vegetables (and other foods). The first book, The Sneaky Chef, was published in April and written by Missy Chase Lapine, the former publisher of Eating Well magazine. The second book, Deceptively Delicious, was written by Jessica Seinfeld, the wife of Jerry Seinfeld and published on October 5. The debate, according to the New York Times, concerns whether or not material was stolen from the Lapine book to publish the Seinfeld title. I’ll let you read the story yourself because that’s not really what I find interesting about this whole thing. What I find interesting is Oprah.

On October 8 Jessica Seinfeld appeared on Oprah to pitch her new book and of course sell millions of copies (which she seems to be doing, according to the Wall Street Journal). Why? Other than being the wife of Jerry Seinfeld, who is Jessica Seinfeld? What really makes her qualified to write a cookbook guiding us to feed our kids better? As far as I can tell, nothing. According to the bio on her Web site, Jessica Seinfeld has no cooking experience (beyond what I have anyway), no nutrition experience, and no expertise in the food industry. She’s a mom. That’s fabulous, but I see book proposals from moms all the time. I turn them down all the time. Why? Platform. Missy Chase Lapine (according to her bio), on the other hand, has years of experience as publisher of Eating Well magazine. So why is it that Seinfeld is getting all of the media attention and selling the books? Duh! She’s Jerry’s wife.

I’m flabbergasted! I’m astonished that this has happened on such a large scale, and of course I’m not surprised at all. Unlike speculation in the media and on message boards, I do not think Harper or Seinfeld stole anything from Lapine’s proposal. I don’t even think they stole the idea. Almost every day I get a proposal similar to something I received the day before. Remember, few ideas are original, it’s the execution (or the platform in this case) that makes the difference. What I’m flabbergasted by (but shouldn’t be) is the celebrity sucking-up that the media does so obviously and that the public follows along with. Let’s be honest. If you are looking for a better way to feed your child vegetables, would you go to a comedian’s wife or someone with a food background? I would go with the food background. However, it seems I’m not on par with most of America. Most of America is going to go with whomever Oprah suggests they go with.

Clearly I’m ranting now and probably making little sense. So what is my point besides that I’m disgusted with Oprah and the entire media world? This is why platform is so dang important and, when it comes to nonfiction, why platform is critical. Why it’s often the very first thing an editor looks at and asks for. Media is crucial. Media sells books. Platform equals media. If you have any sort of connections that are guaranteed to get you in Oprah’s door, a publisher is going to snag you, no matter how small your credentials may be. The truth of the matter is that it does make a difference. Before you start ranting on the stupidity of agents and editors, remember, you can only blame us so much. It’s our job to buy and sell books that sell and it’s the public who makes the final decision as to what book sells and what doesn’t.

Jessica

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Perfecting Your Pitch

Back in May I offered a Query Critique Workshop. I received over 40 entries and critiqued 10 queries. (See Query Critiques 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10—or enter "query critique" in the search box at the top left and see all the critiques on one page.) I received some flack, but hopefully I also offered some sound advice. Well, I must be crazy, because I’m doing it again, sort of.

After doing a workshop at the NJ RWA conference on Perfecting Your Pitch I decided it would be something that could easily translate to the blog. Whether you're published, unpublished, have a pitch appointment or are pitching through an equery, every author needs to be able to summarize his or her book in as little as five words, but no more than three sentences (or so). In other words, you need to capture an agent's, editor's, or reader's attention quickly.

To participate, here's what you need to do. Submit through the comments section your pitch—that one sentence or one paragraph in your query letter that you're using to grab an agent's attention. I'm going to randomly pick and choose and critique as many as I can. As I critique the pitches I’ll post them on the site for all to read and make comments on.

So, brave readers, here’s your chance. A free critique from me. Post them in the comments section and I’ll start my critique as soon as the first one is up (note that the critiques will be posted in future blog posts).

Jessica

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Author Beware: Nothing But Cheap Editorialism

As many of you know I have a thick stack of “author beware letters.” These are letters and emails I’ve received over the years from authors clearly unhappy with comments they’ve received from me or work I’ve done for them. This one might be one of my all-time favorites and is in response to our quarterly newsletter.

Dear BookEnds:

After receiving a letter from Jessica Faust I would like to be taken of your newsletter list. I was completely appalled and dismayed. Instead of using my SASE she simply used the same envelope I had sent my letter in, the one with a cancelled stamp. This was unprofessional, cheap and illegal--she was cheating the Post Office. Could it be possible that your company is steaming the stamps off of envelopes for your own use? Horrifying!
I am thrilled that you did not accept my work. I would not want to be associated with such a company and thought Ms. Faust's comments were nothing but cheap editorialism, despite the fact that what she said did have some merit.
Can you imagine!?

Jessica

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Literary Horror

I was asked by a reader to define literary horror. She had seen the term used on a few agency Web sites and was asking what makes something literary horror as opposed to just horror. I’ll be honest with you, we weren’t quite sure what the answer to this was. Since we don’t represent a lot of horror we certainly aren’t experts in that area, but after a little research here's what we came up with. . . .

The most obvious definition is that the writing has to be very literate and beautiful, a general explanation whenever the word "literary" is used. Authors that came up when talking literary horror are Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Piccirilli, or Kafka (and keep in mind I’ve never read any of these). I think, though, that ultimately agents are using this term to try and weed out authors who submit books that only contain slashers, and other gruesome events. They are alerting authors to the fact that they are looking for an amazingly written book first, horror second. In other words, blood and guts don’t make horror, it's an emotional reaction that's created by the author.

I hope that helps.

Jessica

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Monday, October 22, 2007

More on Exclusives

I would like to know why agents would like to know whether they are seeing your manuscript exclusively. Does it make a difference in making their decision about your work?

It does not make a difference in an agent’s overall decision, but letting an agent know she has an exclusive gives her breathing room. If in fact you have given an exclusive (even voluntarily), she now knows there’s not a huge rush to get to it. In other words, it can easily go to the bottom of her reading pile since there’s no real competition. She also assumes that if she offers there’s not going to be any worry about whether or not you’ll accept. Of course you’ll accept because, again, there’s no competition.

It’s also a matter of curiosity. I know that if I find out that other agents, or editors, have also requested a full manuscript, the material has already received some sort of stamp of approval and might pique my interest more.

Jessica

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Friday, October 19, 2007

The Branded Author

We talk about subsidiary rights fairly often, and most of the time what we focus on are foreign rights and movie/performance rights. But this question reminded me that there’s a lot more to sub rights than we often talk about with the author.

I have an agented, illustrated non-fiction book out to several big houses. My book could easily spawn a line of other merchandise–greeting cards, calendars, coffee mugs, etc. I see it as eventually being a "brand." What control, if any, will the publisher have over my venturing into other merchandising with the book? How would/could my agent fit into this plan?

Any agent worth her salt will retain what are called merchandising rights, especially with nonfiction. These are the rights to make your book into calendars, greeting cards, and other merchandise that are not books. How much control the publisher has depends on how much you give them. As to how an agent can fit into this plan, I am right now actively submitting calendar rights for at least one book project.

Jessica

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Different Agents for Different Projects

I received this question recently, and coincidentally I had a phone call not too long ago with someone in this very predicament. Not a bad position to be in. . . .

I am in the middle of writing a YA science fantasy, but have also been approached by a gentleman with platform to ghostwrite his nonfiction project. I see the nonfiction as bringing in the daily bread, and I know I will enjoy the process, but my passion is firmly in the fiction field. How should I go about my agent search? I’d prefer to have one agent if at all possible, but the pool of agents who handle nonfiction plus science fiction and fantasy plus YA is a short one. Should I let the "name" on the nonfiction project pursue an agent on his own, and sign agreements that way, or should I be the one on the hunt? If the latter, do I just concentrate on the nonfiction proposal, or is it okay to mention my diversity in the query letter? Note: I already know not to actually pitch multiple projects in one query; I’m thinking just a brief mention of my fiction interests.

There is a lot of advice I could give here and all of it depends on where things stand. I think you are a little ahead of yourself on all fronts here, so let’s approach things one at a time.

YA project first . . . since you are only in the middle of the project you’re not ready to query on this yet. Therefore it’s a moot point (or as Joey from Friends would say, “a moo point.”) You can only plan for your future so much, and planning for something that may or may not happen months down the road can stifle someone and eventually hurt her career. For example, who knows what decisions I would have made ten years ago had I known I was going to start BookEnds. No, sometimes the best laid plans are those that are unexpected.

I guess what I’m saying is that you need to look at the most pressing possibility first, and since you have nothing yet to submit on the YA I would simply hold off on worrying about that or even including it in your equation. In an ideal world you would find one agent to handle everything, but we all know that publishing is far from an ideal world.

As for the nonfiction project, I’m assuming you have worked with this expert and have some sort of proposal to send around. You will need to have something, even something short, to send to agents before someone is going to represent you. Before working on anything, though, I would also suggest that you put an agreement in writing. This should stipulate, among other things, how much you each expect to get paid (you could always say that this will be determined at the time of the offer), whether or not you are getting author credit or simply ghostwriting, and what happens if things don’t work out and/or the platformed author decides to find a new ghostwriter. You should of course be compensated for your time. Any time you are coauthoring or ghostwriting with or for someone, you need an agreement. I have one I use for my authors and would suggest you check out freelance Web sites (maybe someone can suggest some) for guidance on writing up your own.

Since you are the ghostwriter on this project and have no real credentials yourself it’s going to be tough to get an agent to represent you separately. I would suggest you work as a team to find an agent that can suit both of your needs as nonfiction authors. Primarily, though, you want an agent with expertise in the subject you’re selling, not someone who necessarily has expertise in YA Fantasy. Remember, your goal is to sell the book. If you need to find a second agent to sell your YA Fantasy, that’s certainly better than having one agent who can really sell neither. The smart author finds the very best agent for each individual project, especially since the nonfiction agent is really representing the book (and platformed author), you’re just a bonus in the package.

Presumably the nonfiction agent will represent both of your interests fairly and honestly. However, if you find that she expresses favoritism to the platformed author and doesn’t seem to be representing your interests at that point, when you have a deal in hand, you could always ask that someone else be brought in to represent your side fairly. In most cases, though (when I’ve done similar projects), it’s worked out pretty well.

To sum up, focus on one project at a time.

Jessica

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To Write Erotic or Not to Write Erotic

I received this very interesting question recently, and like many of the questions I receive it’s one I think the author has to answer herself. . . .

I wrote this as an erotic romance because it's what I know. I read erotic romances, I edit them, I critique them - it's what I know. However, I grew up on tamer romances (Julie Garwood, Judith McNaught, Sandra Brown), and recently I've felt the need to make my own MS HOT, but not erotic, as I'd love my mother, my sister who's a minister, and possible future daughters to read it without cringing, lol. I read Kresley Cole's Highlander series and Carly Phillips's Hot and Simply series, and they made me realize that I CAN do hot without erotic. But should I, when I'm already halfway through the book?

Do you have any recommendations to stay erotic or tone it down? Are you seeing one or another selling really well? I'm noticing more erotic romances on the shelves, but do you think they have staying power over books with less explicit language? Do you find higher sales with one?


Like we’ve discussed in other posts, I think you need to write what you feel passionate about and not what sells or what will have staying power. Because nothing really has staying power and everything does. When historical romances slowed down you still saw authors hit the New York Times list again and again with their historicals, and when erotica slows down you’ll have many authors gathering in the unemployment line and many others hitting lists and selling more copies than the last.

I think you need to write a book you love and that you’re proud of. I think rather than focus on the level of sexual intensity you need to worry about writing a great story with compelling characters. At this point it’s too early to tell what has staying power, and even if I could that wouldn’t be a reason for you to make your decision. It sounds to me like you would rather write hot than erotic, that somewhere along the way you’ve become unhappy with the direction your book is taking, and that’s reason enough to make a change.

What really interests me about this question is the idea of changing your book halfway through. Of discovering that somewhere along the way your book has taken a life of its own and that you’re not writing what you originally thought you were. I am sure many of my readers can relate to this experience and have much better advice than I do.

Jessica

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Agent Referrals

A reputable agent read my full manuscript and sent me a personalized rejection letter, saying that it was close, but he couldn't rep the project. But he was kind enough to give me two other agents' names and contact/query information and suggested that I try them. Let's call them Agents #1 and 2. Here's the problem. I've queried them already a couple of months ago.

Agent #1 rejected the query.

Agent #2's assistant rejected the query, and I doubt that Agent #2 saw the query himself.

Neither of them read the partial.

Should I send another query to Agents #1 & 2, mentioning the referral?


No, I’m afraid a rejection is a rejection. When agents give referrals it doesn’t necessarily mean that they know another agent will take on your project. It’s simply that they know another agent might be better for what you are writing. When I get referrals from other agents I have to admit it makes me a little reticent (unless I know that agent doesn’t represent a particular genre). After all, if it’s an agent I respect and she’s already rejected the work herself, then why would I want to take it on?

It was very kind of the agent to give you referrals, but even if you had a referral when going to other agents it’s likely you would have been rejected. A referral is not going to change anyone’s mind that much.

Jessica

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Kate Douglas kindly notified me that today is Blog Action Day, a day when as many blogs as possible will be writing and talking about the environment in their own way. My plan is not to talk on a grand scale about the environment, but to talk about those things that we can do and maybe should be doing in an industry that cuts down so many trees. Okay, we don't actually cut down trees, but we do use a whole lot of paper.

BookEnds has already made some strides this year in going green by changing our submission policy, but is there more we can do? Yes. I'll admit it. I have a really bad habit of not turning off all of my machines before I leave the office for the day. So I'm making a sign. A nice, pretty sign that reminds me to not just shut down everything and turn off the printer, etc., but to flip the switch at the source. I'm going to shut down the entire surge protector at the end of each day. It's so easy, so simple, and yes, it will save energy. I've also been gradually changing to energy-saving lightbulbs. You know. Those lovely fluorescents. While they don't do much for my skin tone they are saving the world one step at a time, and heck, they save me money too. What a bonus!

But back to that paper. Is there more we can do? I think the publishing world as a whole could make more of an effort to green up. In other words, more editing can and should be done on the computer, if possible. Some houses do this already—all of the Dummies and Idiot's Guides are edited onscreen. But that's it. Almost everyone else still uses the old-fashioned manuscript, and you know what? I don't blame them. It's going to be a hard change to make for everyone because, honestly, I read things differently onscreen and definitely catch more things when it's written on paper. Recycling helps. Most publishers actively recycle paper (and we do too of course), but using recycled paper in books would help a lot.

I think that major strides toward saving the environment can be done if we all start small. So my call to you is let's start simply by turning off our machines. Make sure your computer goes to sleep when you're away and make sure everything is shut down when you're not there at all. Once we have that mastered we can all try to figure out how we can save more paper.

Jessica

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Friday, October 12, 2007

More to Life Than Books?

Book talk. Day in, day out. Sometimes even us publishing professionals get tired of it. So when we stop jawing about the deals we’re negotiating or the article we read in PW, we veer into giggle sessions on Dwight Schrute’s recent antics to get ahead at The Office or debates on the practicality of Justin Bobby’s combat boots at a clambake on The Hills. (I’m sure Nathan Bransford could make an enthusiastic argument on this one.)

One of my roommates once told me that I sucked all of the fun out of television shows and movies. I tend to dissect their stories like I would a manuscript. Quite frankly, Rose and Jack didn’t have enough depth for me to care that they were submerged in Titanic. But hey—the special effects were cool! And I love all of the forensic stuff on C.S.I., but I stopped watching regularly when I realized that everyone on the team felt like a cardboard cut-out to me.

Every now and then there’s a show with characters that surprise me. In fact, sometimes I almost feel more invested in their lives than in those of my own family members or neighbors. Shhhhhh . . . don’t tell! It just so happens that the same show has hooked both Jessica and I with its deft characterization (and we’ll make Jacky a cheerleader by the end of the season, too!).

Friday Night Lights is not a show about football. Trust this football widow . . . I get about all of the huddles and interceptions I can handle in my living room from September to January. FNL is about a community that just comes alive on the screen. Coach Taylor is the loving husband that wants to do right by his family, but often gets it wrong. Tami Taylor is the mother who’s scared, but manages to say all the right things we wish we could say to our teenagers (and every one of her heart-to-hearts makes me cry like a baby). Matt Saracen is the boy you hope your daughter will bring home someday and Tim Riggins is the bad boy who makes you wish you were eighteen again. Every character is sympathetic, but flawed. Each one is brilliantly written and acted. These are the types of characters I look for in the submission pile.

It’s on tonight at 9:00 on NBC. Give it a shot. They could use the ratings, and maybe you’ll feel inspired afterward!

Don’t touch that dial. I’ll be back in a later post to discuss the show I watch for incredible ingenuity. . . . In the meantime, let me know what television show you think demonstrates great characterization!

Kim

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Art of Editing

I was directed recently to this post on Salon and it made me think of an experience I had while I was still an editor with Berkley.

As I’m sure many of you can relate to, whenever I visit family back in Minnesota, I find myself led around from event to event so parents and grandparents can show off who they’ve been talking about for so long. Yes, it’s a little like being a show pony, but it keeps the troops happy, and let’s face it, that’s what it’s all about. Well, at one of these events I ran into one of my high school’s English teachers. While I had never personally had a class with Ms. X, I had been referred to her my sophomore year (I think) for help with my previously confessed horrendous grammar skills. Let me just clarify that it’s not that I can’t speak and it’s not that I can’t write. I think I do both quite sufficiently. It’s that I can’t diagram a sentence, I don’t have the first clue when it comes to direct objects, and when forced to think about grammar while writing, I’m guaranteed to make a mess of things.

Anyway, back to my story. Ms. X was very excited to see me and wanted to pick my brain because, not surprisingly, “she’s always wanted to write a book.” So she took me to a quiet corner to talk about my job, at which point she said something along the lines of, “it’s amazing to me that you can become an editor when you don’t know anything about grammar.”

Nice.

When it comes to publishing there are people who have the job of making sure your grammar is in tip top shape (your copyeditors) and then there are editors.

What I said to Ms. X was that my job wasn’t about grammar and punctuation, but about what makes a really good book and what can make that book shine. And then came the zinger. I couldn’t help myself. I said, “Truthfully, I think schools spend far too much time teaching things like how to diagram a sentence and not nearly enough time teaching kids how to actually write.”

At least I shut her up.

Like the author of the Salon article, I have the utmost respect for editors, both copyeditors and acquisition editors, but it’s the acquisition editors who really are amazing people. With one read of a manuscript they can pinpoint exactly what you’ve been struggling with for months and give you a boatload of ideas on how to fix it. A really good author/editor relationship is a true collaboration. The editor has the ability to take your book, an already great book, and make it truly amazing. She’s not at all worried about commas (that’s someone else’s job) but wants to make sure that your characters are true to themselves, your plotting is strong and tight, and that this book is even better than your last.

When asked how I got my job I always say that I don’t think editing is something that you can be taught. Certainly it's like any talent you can learn and improve, but good editors also have an instinct. They know in their guts what a good book is and they get a niggling in their stomach when something is wrong.

So what exactly do editors do? They make books shine.

Jessica

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bundling Advances for Revised Editions

My friend "Bob" wrote a book for a publisher that earned out his substantial advance and eventually sold tens of thousands of copies. After two years of sales, the book needed to be updated; the subject matter was topical and recent events meant that the first edition was no longer current. The publisher offered a significant advance, a fifth of the original advance, for a new chapter and touch work that would constitute a revised second edition. He agreed and finished the work in just less than a month.

Their original agreement stated that "Bob" would be paid royalties in January for books sold the previous January-June. He did his re-writes for the second edition in September. When his January royalties payment came, he discovered that his "advance" for the revised edition had been subtracted from the royalties he had earned January to June. In effect, his advance was not an advance against future earnings but an advance taken from money he was already owed. His net gain for a month's effort was being paid in late September rather than in January.

Bob was furious. His agent told him this was "standard industry practice." Is Bob silly for being angry with publisher and agent?


I think Bob is silly for not having paid attention to the contract for the revised edition when he signed it. But what’s done is done. Yes, it is “standard industry practice” to bundle together a revised edition with the original. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s essentially the same book. However, “standard industry practice” can always be changed. I have negotiated a number of revised editions and in some cases, with some publishers, I have been able to get them separately accounted from the original edition, essentially accounting them as if they were two different books. With other publishers, however, I wasn’t so lucky. They were adamant that the books be accounted jointly.

What Bob should also be aware of, and what is probably of a greater concern than the advance being deducted from royalties of the original, is that it is very likely his royalties, if he had an escalating royalty schedule, will start again from the beginning. This is the most frustrating issue for me and my authors. Just when you finally reach that break and are earning a higher royalty percentage, the publisher asks for a revision (usually needed) and the royalties start over again at zero (zero copies, not dollars).

Essentially, though, Bob has not lost any money, he just didn’t gain like he thought he would. Remember, the advance is just that, an advance against royalties. So while Bob saw a decrease in his most recent royalty statement it’s not like he didn’t get the money anyway. And sadly, I think Bob is silly for being angry at his publisher and agent. I assume the agent negotiated to the best of her ability and the publisher is not out to benefit the author, the publisher is only working to benefit itself. Bob should be angry at himself for not carefully reading contracts before he signs them.

Jessica

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shop 'til You Drop

When I was in junior high school a friend gave me an atrocious T-shirt (I thought it was very cool at the time) that said “shop 'til you drop” and I loved it. Why wouldn’t I? I loved to shop. And I still do, but not in the way many of you are thinking. Now my shopping is almost purely for business (and shoes of course).

When I say I’m shopping something these days it’s usually a book that I’m shopping around to publishers. And hopefully they’re the ones spending the money and not me. When I'm asked how agents shop books, the question that most frequently comes up is how many publishers should an author expect her agent to submit to. The answer is that there is no answer.

Every agent works differently and every book should be treated differently. Recently I had two very unique experiences. One book was shopped extensively to nine different publishers, some within the same conglomerates—Bantam and Ballantine for example (both divisions/houses of Random House). For the other book I narrowed my list to just five publishers and did not shop it to any houses within the same conglomerate. Why? I felt the second book had a very distinct market and feel and that it needed to be seen by only a few elite editors. Places that I felt really wanted this kind of book would pay a lot for it, and had a knack for publishing similar titles successfully.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, Houses Divided, often when you submit to two houses in the same conglomerate only one will be able to join in the auction. And often this does play into how I submit to those houses. If I think one is better suited for an author or book I will often submit to that house first, leaving the other out. This way I can have a little bit of a say in who might be publishing the book and how it might be published.

I can’t say definitively how a book should be shopped or how I shop a book. What I can tell you is that I will shop 'til I drop, and sometimes that means five houses, sometimes ten, and sometimes twenty or more. It depends on the project, it depends on the kind of feedback we’re getting, and it depends on what I know the houses are looking for and what they are actively not buying at that moment.

Jessica

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Market Update

Someone asked me recently how the contemporary romance market is doing and based on my recent trip the the NJ RWA Put Your Heart in a Book conference I'm pleased to say quite well.

According to an editor with HQN they are looking specifically for big sexy contemporary romances right now and St. Martin's is also actively looking for contemporary romances for their 2008 list. Which means they would have to be pretty near completion. An editor from Bantam is also actively seeking straight contemporary romances. The only house I spoke to on this front that says they are full with contemporaries at this time was Dorchester.

Of course my advice with contemporaries is that it still has to have a hook. You need to be able to tell your potential reader what your book is about in just a few short sentences and really grab her attention. A typical boy meets girl and falls in love is not going to cut it.

An editor at St. Martin's also told me recently that they would love to find a really great Western historical romance. Great news for lovers of this genre.

In other market news an editor at Berkley is looking for Women's Fiction. I know, I say this with every market update. She describes it best as "book club women's fiction" the kind that women's reading groups often gravitate toward. I've also heard it referred to as "Oprah light." Books that aren't as heavy as those often chosen for the Oprah Book Club, but along the same themes.

An editor buying for one of Random House's SF/Fantasy imprints is looking for urban fantasy with a slightly humorous tone. Those of you writing in that vein should think Jim Butcher of course.

A nonfiction business editor talked with me at length about books geared to women. She said that business books geared to women don't work as well as they would hope. The subject has to be something that is for women and only women. In other words a guide to starting your own business for women doesn't work because the topic isn't that different for men. However, something more psychological, like negotiating for women, that really looks at the differences between men and women, does work.

An editor with Ballantine said she is not looking for funny paranormal romances at this time, but would love to see more steamier, sexier, erotic type romances.

In addition to catching up with editors and agents I haven't seen in quite a while, I took appointments and gave one of the best workshops I think I've ever given. Perfecting Your Pitch. The group was great and many were willing to read their pitches aloud. I had a wonderful time and hope that a number of people learned from me. In fact, I had so much fun I think I’m going to try and carry it over to the blog. So keep an eye out for a new workshop.

--Jessica

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What We Represent

Despite the efforts we make to let people into the BookEnds world through our Web site and this blog, there seems to be some confusion as to what exactly we represent. To help clear things up we’ve made an even more detailed list of some of our specific interests. While reading, please note the date it was written. If you’re buzzing through the archives and come across this in 2009 you might want to try to find a newer post (or remind us to do one). As we change and the market changes so do our interests, so what we are actively seeking today we might not be actively seeking tomorrow.


Jessica:

I think that I’m most known for representing erotic romance, romance, and cozy mysteries. However, I have a number of interests outside of those three areas and a number of genres I’m open to submissions on.

Obviously I love romance of all kinds—erotic, historical, contemporary, paranormal, etc., so to give you perspective on what I’m looking for in this genre it’s probably easiest to start by telling you what I’m not looking for. I’m not actively seeking inspirational romance or chick lit. Why? I like the steaminess of the erotic romance and haven’t found much inspirational that I’ve been, well, inspired by. As for chick lit, it’s a market thing. Chick lit has taken such a dive in the market lately that you dare not even hint that your book might be called chick lit. It’s a tough sell. The rest is open. I love steamy and erotic, but it’s certainly not required. I have as many authors writing erotic romance as I have authors who aren’t. I like humor and I like more serious books. I would love to add some really strong and scary romantic suspense to my list, and when looking at paranormal I have been gravitating toward work that leans to fantasy. I’ve also noticed an upswing in the historical market and I’m very excited about that.

As many of you know, BookEnds has an incredibly strong cozy mystery list. A market that many strangely say is declining. Obviously we haven’t been too affected by this rumor. While I’m always looking for a new cozy mystery with a really exciting and different hook (yet one that would still appeal to that audience), I’m most actively looking for suspense and thrillers—books that make my heart race and my eyes widen with excitement. When I'm talking with editors and other agents, most agree this is one of the toughest things to find. A suspense or thriller from a new author that has a different enough hook to catch the eyes of readers and keep them hanging on the edge of their seats. I would love to find a fresh new voice that could be compared to Karin Slaughter, Lisa Jackson, or Barry Eisler.

Women’s fiction is probably one of the harder genres for me to break down. What do I look for in women’s fiction? I think it’s the relationship. I love Elizabeth Berg, and Jennifer Wiener for me has been hit and miss (I did like Good in Bed, but not In Her Shoes). I like characters who are obviously flawed but who we can all relate to. I love stories about friendship and women who break out of a mold. Either way I want to see the heroine grow and change throughout the book.

For those writing nonfiction the key is platform, platform, platform. If you want to write a self-help book (not narrative nonfiction, not usually my thing) you need to be not just an expert in the field, but one of the top experts. If you’re not, then you need to make sure that the direction and voice of your book stands out from what is always a very crowded market. Cynthia Shapiro did that in her book Corporate Confidential. Cynthia had the expertise, but was not a nationally recognized expert when I took her on. She had, however, written a book, in a voice that made her stand out from the pack. And guess what? Now she’s a nationally recognized expert and an international bestseller with book number two coming in 2008. When looking for nonfiction I gravitate toward parenting books, if you can find a subject that hasn’t been done yet; career books that present a new and unique perspective; and any book targeting entrepreneurs and women (again, a unique perspective is essential). I would also love to take on a sex or health expert with exciting and different ideas.

And as for YA. I don’t represent it. I believe I’ve gotten on some YA lists so there’s obvious confusion, but it isn’t something I’m actively looking for at this time.


Jacky:

I am looking for fiction with a strong hook and voice, including mysteries of all kinds, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, thrillers. A strong hook is one in which the plot covers something unusual and engaging to the reader, or even something familiar but with a wealth of new information that engages the reader beyond a story with no particular angle or hook. I am open to seeing young adult fiction that is edgy, hip, or topical. I haven’t represented any Christian fiction, science fiction, and spiritual fiction. I look for highly commercial books that will appeal to a wide market. I prefer a brief email query to see if I’d like to take a look at more. I’m attracted to fiction on the dark side; however, I represent a number of cozy mystery writers whose stories are light and often humorous. In the end it comes down to the originality and appeal of the hook, and the quality of the writing. Page-turning fiction is always welcome.

In nonfiction I am looking for health and wellness, business, psychology, parenting, career, finance, self-help. The reality of today’s publishing market requires that nonfiction authors have a strong author platform of expertise and media or audience exposure before their book will be seriously considered by a publisher. A fresh perspective and ground-breaking research are certainly elements that get a proposal immediate attention.

In addition, I look for authors who are savvy about the publishing world and eager to learn. Membership in writing groups and professional organizations shows a desire to connect with a wider publishing community. Contest wins and placements are also helpful. Attendance at writers’ conferences is a wonderful way to learn more about the industry, so is reading blogs, and connecting with other writers. I am happy to answer brief emailed queries at any time.


Kim:


I represent a wide range of genres, including westerns, romance, women’s fiction, crime novels, cozy mysteries, true crime, and pop culture. However, the areas in which I’m currently interested in expanding are women’s fiction and romance.

I gravitate toward the more serious women’s fiction in the vein of Jodi Piccoult. Books that are both relationship- and issue-driven. If you read my blog piece a while back, you’ll remember that I love a good cry, so don’t be worried about depressing me. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate humor as well, but I prefer fun, quirky characters that are part of a larger, deeper story. I’m more a Steel Magnolias kind of girl than a Sex & the City type. I want real problems and obstacles that every woman can relate to. And if it’s Southern, all the better. I’d love to see more great Southern fiction.

I’m also in the mood for great romance. Lately, I’m hungry for more terrific historicals. I like a strong historical voice that reads authentically, but doesn’t necessarily let the period trappings get in the way of a really good story. Nothing epic, but nothing overly light, please. My non-client favorites at the moment are Samantha James and Elizabeth Hoyt. I’d love to find a great, funny contemporary romance author, but I tend to be a tough audience. Few authors can get a good chuckle out of me, but Rachel Gibson is one of them.

I, too, would love to find a great romantic suspense author. I love Lisa Jackson and Sandra Brown. I think the “ultimate” book for me would be a romantic suspense that’s reminiscent of those old gothics I loved by Phyllis Whitney, but modern enough to succeed in today’s market. Lisa Jackson’s If She Only Knew and Sandra Brown’s Envy accomplished that for me. I think it comes down to a really damaged, dark hero. I eat those up!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Houses Divided

I’ve been asked more than once lately how imprints function within publishing houses. Are they independent publishers or one entity within a house, and how should writers know at which houses and at which imprints you can submit to simultaneously?

Last things first: Luckily writers don’t need to know because it’s damn confusing and there are days when I need to call Jacky and Kim and ask for a refresher. If I submit to Crown, can I still submit to Ballantine? What about NAL Heat and Berkley Heat or Pocket and Atria? Well, it is my job to keep it all straight, and while I’m not going to give you the entire breakdown of every publishing house, I am going to explain it a little.

Before we begin, what is an imprint? An imprint is essentially the line under which a book is published. Imprints are usually formed as a way for a publishing house to distinguish the types of books published under that line. Let’s use Berkley (my first job in publishing) as an example. Berkley is a publishing house under the Penguin USA umbrella. Berkley has several imprints—Berkley, Jove, Berkley Prime Crime, Sensation, Heat, Jam, Caliber, and others that I can’t remember. Berkley and Jove are essentially top-name authors and books that will garner special attention—bestsellers or books that might not fall under the other imprints. Prime Crime is the mystery imprint, primarily cozy mysteries in Berkley’s case. Sensation is romance, Heat is erotic romance, Jam is YA, and Caliber is military oriented. If you submit to one Berkley imprint you have submitted to them all. Berkley is one house with many imprints. Penguin is the overall corporation.

However, it is possible to submit to Berkley Heat and NAL Heat at the same time. While both are houses within the Penguin conglomerate and both are under similar sounding imprints, they work separately. The trick here is that if you have submitted to two houses within the same conglomerate (whether it is Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) and get an offer from one, you need to let the other house know that the offer is from a house within their own system. It’s unlikely they will compete against each other. In other words, if Berkley Heat offers first, often NAL Heat will drop out of the auction. Not always, but usually. After all, it doesn’t make sense for the publishing conglomerate to spend money competing against itself. If they are all really excited about the book, they might actually have a discussion about which house within the conglomerate the book would be better for and allow that house to take the lead in bidding.

To summarize (and confuse you further), you cannot usually submit to multiple imprints within a publishing house, but you can submit to multiple houses within the master publishing conglomerate.

Jessica

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pitching Projects of Not-Yet-Clients

I’ve been asked and I’ve seen many message board posts on whether or not agents pitch projects before even offering representation, and the answer is yes, sort of. As an agent I can only do my very best if I know exactly what the market wants and needs, and sometimes that means calling an editor or two to feel them out first. Does that mean I know for sure whether a project can sell or will sell? No, it only means that I know the potential for the project at one or two houses.

This is not something I do with every project, but only something I do if I have concerns about marketability. For example, if I have a cozy mystery submission that I like but question whether or not the hook has been done (meaning someone has already published this brilliant “cooking with grass” cozy mystery series), I am very likely to call one of my editor contacts to see whether or not they’ve already tried this or have this concept on their list. Why would I do this? Since there are so few publishers selling cozies right now it gives the author and me both a better chance if we know what we’re up against right away. It also gives me the edge as an agent over an unagented author. Part of why an agent can be so important is that she has the ability to feel things out before you waste your time to write the book. While this is difficult for unpublished or unagented authors, it’s definitely a plus for agented authors. More times than I can count I’ve called editors to feel them out about the market in general or a particular project before I even get the author to start writing. This way we can decide better whether or not we want to spend time on it.

Keep in mind that calling an editor to feel her out about a project does not mean I’m "pitching" the project. The editor is usually very aware that this is a conversation about a potential project and never do I give out the exact title or author name. And never, ever, ever would I actually send anything to an editor without having talked to the author first. So if an editor says no, does this automatically mean I say no as well? No. In some cases I have talked to the author and explained that the hook isn’t viable, but asked if there are other ideas or ways to spin the proposal to make it more marketable. In fact I have more than one client who became a client this very way.

More important, though, does this hurt your chances of selling the book? Not at all. It only gives me an idea of how I feel about repping it. Another agent might have other contacts that are more enthusiastic about the idea or she might be braver than I. In other words, it might not matter to her that Cozy House already has that book because she’s happy to send it to Almost Cozy House and Mysteries R Us House instead. Or she might know something about Cozy House that I don’t. Maybe they want two series on “Eating Grass.”

Being an agent means having a number of resources at my fingertips and yes, some of those resources are editors.

Jessica

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Typos and Errors After Publication

I received an email question from a blog reader who had just finished reading one of her favorite authors and was dismayed by the “disastrous typos and spelling mistakes in the text, embarrassing things the author should have caught.” What she described to me were misspelled street names and store names, things anyone who is familiar with or a resident of that city would surely notice.

It reminded me of an experience I had while still an assistant editor at Berkley. Early one morning, I had just settled into my desk with a coffee and delicious Zaro’s bagel from Grand Central when my phone rang. It was an irate reader. She had just gotten off her train at Grand Central (imagine if we had been on the same train) and the entire experience was ruined for her because the book she was reading was riddled with typos and errors. She wasn’t able to finish the book, but had circled all the mistakes she had found and would be sending the book back to us. I received it the next day.

The mistakes she circled? Purposefully written that way by the author. It was the slang used by a 13-year-old character. All of the “mistakes” she circled were actually dialogue.

What was so interesting to me about this particular situation is that the reader was not at all upset with the author, but instead blamed the publisher for the mistakes made. Which brings me around to the first question by the blog reader. Who is ultimately responsible for typos or other errors in the book? Is it the author? Editor? Production? And what can a writer do when this happens?

Well, I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter, but I personally feel that it’s the author’s responsibility. While a good copyeditor should definitely check and double-check things like street names, it’s not a copyeditor’s job to make sure your facts are straight. The author, presumably, has done her best to turn in a manuscript that she feels is polished and ready to publish. The editor’s job is to make sure the book is strong, well written, and marketable. Through revisions it’s again the author’s job to make sure the manuscript is polished and ready to publish. It’s the copyeditor’s job to make sure the book is clean of typos, grammatical errors, and any plot inconsistencies, and, well, you know the author’s job by now.

While you certainly hope for a good strong editor and copyeditor who will do extra work to make sure every little detail is correct, you can’t always count on the fact that they’ll be the ones to “fix” things. That’s no one’s job other than the author’s. If you are one of the lucky few who end up with a terrific copyeditor, it’s always nice to send a note of thanks. They are a very talented and yet underappreciated bunch.

And yes, I am not forgetting that there are the rare times when an author’s corrections do not make it into the published book. In that case the author should definitely turn in a list of corrections to her editor. Hopefully they’ll make the fixes the next time they go to press.

Typos are inevitable, you just hope they aren’t embarrassingly noticeable.

Jessica

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Query Recap

As I mentioned in my return from vacation post last week in the spirit of Nathan Bransford I tracked all the e-queries I received while on vacation and intend to give you a statistical breakdown of what happened to them.

So here we go...

Total equeries received: 142
**keep in mind that this does not include the pile of proposals and snail mail queries that were also waiting upon my return

• Total equeries that I fished out of the spam filter: 12
• Total equeries rejected: 112
• Total equeries requested: 11
• Number of equeries where I advised the writer to seek help in writing a query letter: 5
• Total equeries from a country outside of the US or Canada: 8
• Total email thank yous from conference attendees (I was away recently at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference): 4
• Emails requested feedback on rejections (can you give me more details on why you are passing?), referrals to other agents, or status updates: 7
• Questions asked of the blog (to be answered later): 8
• Equeries sent to the wrong email address (forwarded from Jacky, Kim or our assistant Linda): 5
• Blank emails with an attached queries (returned to the sender with a note that we don’t accept attachments, but allowing them to resend): 4
• Equeries that I knew had already been rejected by another BookEnds agent: 1
• Equeries that flattered (while I’m not sure it meant I requested the work, these did get a more careful read and at times a personal note. Usually they commented on the blog, our meeting at a conference, or something similar): 7
• Number of equeries rejected primarily because of their word count (too short or too long): 6
• YA (which I don’t represent): 3
• Total equeries that used the wrong name (Janet and Jennifer are popular): 2
• Equeries that I took the time to write a personal note to: 3
• Number of equeries I passed to either Kim or Jacky: 1
• Number of equery responses that bounced back: 2
• And finally…the number of equeries that rejected me: 1 (in this case she signed with another agent before getting her material off to me)

So that's it. In ten days that was my response to 142 equeries. I've actually got a ton to do right now and have to run, but I'd like to do a future post on common reasons why I'm rejecting queries.

Enjoy!

--Jessica

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Getting No Response

In a blog comment recently it was suggested that maybe I’m not as nice as my fellow Minnesotans because I haven’t responded to a query letter.

So, Jessica, because you are so nice, should I assume that the two times I've queried you and received no response whatsoever (not even a rejection) it was because the query was caught in your spam filter, and not because you deplored my writing? Or maybe you did hate my writing, but were too nice to say so? I know a lot of agents ignore queries they aren't interested in, but I think that's rude. After all, I did a lot of research before choosing you, and worked very hard on my query letter. Being so nice and all, you would at least send an acknowledgment that it was received, or a "not for me," wouldn't you? Because I sure didn't get one.

If you have queried any BookEnds agent and not received a reply, here are the reasons:

  • The material has not been read yet.
  • It got stuck in our spam filter, and since you did not put “query” in the subject, we let it get deleted.
  • Our response was stuck in your spam filter.
  • Our response was returned for nondelivery.
  • You did not include an SASE.
  • You did not include an SASE with proper postage.
  • You sent a snail mail package that never arrived, for whatever reason.
  • We replied and the package/letter never arrived for whatever reason.
BookEnds agents always reply to queries and proposals. If for some reason you have not heard from us (roughly 2-4 weeks for email queries and 10-12 weeks for requested material), you can always check in to learn the status.

Jessica

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Monday, October 01, 2007

When to Tell Agents What

At what point do you notify agents that have partials/fulls out of a publisher's interest in your book? Should you just wait until they make an offer? I have two publishers, one small and one large, that have requested fulls of my manuscript, and both seemed very interested from the phone calls/emails. I also have about eight or nine agents that have fulls/partials of the book. If either publisher makes an offer, I hate to put them on hold while simultaneously scrambling to tell the other publisher and trying to secure representation, but it seems to be the way it is. Is it too early to notify agents? I'm a long-range planner in case you couldn't tell.

Many of you regularly enter contests and get recognition from agents and editors, which is really exciting. My thought is that this can go both ways. Notifying agents that you have interest from publishers who are currently reviewing the full manuscripts can certainly heighten an agent’s interest. After all, an editor has expressed that this is a viable project, so therefore I should take a closer look. With that in mind I would definitely let all, or at least your favorite agents, know what’s going on. It can’t hurt.

On the other hand, sometimes what will happen is that an agent will think, Hmmmm, the author already has it out with publishers, so maybe I’ll sit on it and see what happens. It takes some of the risk out of it for me, and presumably if an offer comes along she’ll get in touch with me to let me know that she has an offer and I can make my bid then. My take is that this agent probably isn’t enthusiastic enough anyway.

As for putting publishers on hold, don’t worry about it in the least. I’ve done numerous posts on this very subject, the most recent being how to handle an unagented offer from a publisher. When that happens, editors expect that you are going to use the opportunity to find yourself an agent and that the agent will use the opportunity to get the best deal possible. While it doesn’t always make them happy, it is part of the business.

My final suggestion: Go ahead and notify the agents of the interest you’re receiving. You don’t need to send out a new email every week, but a short email letting them all know that Julie at Franklin Publishing read the material in a contest and has requested the full manuscript can definitely speed things up and, let’s face it, it can’t really hurt. The worst that happens is you don’t find an agent.

Jessica

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