Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Start of Something New

I always get excited at the start of a new year. A new year is a time for new beginnings. Not so much resolutions, but a time to shake off the bad habits, bad energy, or bad luck from an old year and start fresh.

I’m not usually one for concrete resolutions. Oh, sure, I’m vowing to get healthier this year, exercise more than I have been, and, of course, I always vow to sell bigger books with bigger deals. Nothing different from the last year really. I’m excited about 2008 though. There are a lot of wonderful things in my future.

I’ve got a number of authors with debut novels this year and I’m always anxious to see how a new author or a new series will be received. I also have a number of clients working on projects that I’m hoping will be ready to submit in 2008. Projects that sound fun and of course fabulous. And obviously I have a client list that continues to grow, as do the careers of my clients, and I can’t wait to see the directions they take.

Primarily, though, at the beginning of a new year I like to look back and see how far I’ve come. A long way from the small-town Minnesota girl arriving in the big city in an overly large “interview suit” and overwhelmed by the people, noises, and the size of New York. Determined, however, to make it. Can you hear the theme to Mary Tyler Moore cuing now?

At the beginning of a new year I also like to look back at how far BookEnds has come and how far 2008 is from that long-ago conversation Jacky and I had in her Brooklyn apartment in 1999. I was really reminded of that recently by an author query. This writer started out by telling the story of our first “meeting.” Upon hearing about BookEnds literary agency back in the day (2000), she sent off her partial. While I didn’t ask to see more of her material and I didn’t offer representation, I did send a detailed rejection letter outlining the problems I saw in her material. Sadly, that was something I had more time to do in the early days of BookEnds.

Excited by the effort I had put into my letter and confident that she could make the changes I asked for, she brought the letter to her critique group only to be dismissed summarily and criticized for querying an agent “no one” had never heard of and who therefore couldn’t be any good. They advised her to only contact agents recommended by RWA, as many suggest only submitting to agents recommended by AAR or other groups.

Well, in this new year I want to thank that author and the many others who were willing to give a new agency a chance. New beginnings are scary, whether you’re starting a business, a new book, the submission process, switching publishers, or just switching computers. It’s important to remember as we all move into the new year and our new beginnings, that it really takes the support of others to make them work. You can’t succeed at a diet if your friends are constantly buying you cake, and you can’t succeed at your writing if your friends are constantly belittling your “hobby.” Success comes through group effort and the support of others. I was happy to see that this author didn’t take the criticism of others and run with her tail between her legs. She found other groups, classes, and areas of support and now, seven years later, she’s submitting again and I’m thrilled to be on her list.

So in your list of resolutions I ask that we all remember what we can do for others as we’re doing for ourselves.

Happy New Year!



Cocaine Princess said...

Hello and Happy New Year,

I stumbled across your blog and I'm glad I did. I went to your website: BookEnds and I am so happy that you represent unpublished writers. I will be sending you my query shortly.

Take care and nothing but best wishes to you in 2008.
Cocaine Princess

ORION said...

Please have a successful 2008. I too think you do a terrific service for writers!
Much aloha
My resolution is to get everyone to buy a LOTTERY ticket...LOL

Reid said...

I'll be doing as Cocaine Princess said above. Except sans cocaine, of course.

The final day of the year also makes me retrospective. The last page of the calendar makes me think about the last year and what I've accomplished, and what remains undone. More often than not, it's frustrating. Looking at the year as a whole, you can get caught up in the complete time frame and lose the little moments that stand out, and were well wasting time on when they happened.

Happy New Year, Jessica! I hope our paths cross very soon.


whimper1823 said...

I have always felt you were a good person, full of compassion empathy for us unknown artists. After reading your latest blog posting and finding out you came from M I N N E S O T A, pronouncing it like only a true Minnesotan can, my feelings are cemented. AFter all, we are the Good Neighbor State, well, that is what we call ourselves up here.

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and wether I submit something this year or not, I enjoy reading your ideas and suggestions.

Please keep pushing forward, without you, publishing would be a little darker.

P.S. I wonder if you still have your accent after all these years. My sister in law, an avid MN, loves the Vikes and Twins spent 18 years in Baton Rouge, not a whisper of her once northern accent. Replaced by the southern draw and twang.

Aimlesswriter said...

Great post-this is why Bookends stays on the top of my submission list. Real people who care about their writers. Did you hear Nathan Bransford nominated you for sainthood???
---Just let us know where we can get one of those detailed rejection letters. :) Any writer with a brain would kill for one of those.
Here's to a successful 2008.
Happy New Beginnings!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year

It's a very arbitrary thing, so I'm not all that into it. But I do appreciate some of the things you said in noting what it takes to be your best.

Life is a group effort. Achievement is not only easier with a group, it's generally more fun. The biggest problem with writing, as it's defined now, is that it is a solitary profession most of the time. You can help out authors far more by being supportive than anything else. I can see that you appreciate this.


D. Robert Pease said...

I'm in the midst of reading a book The Company They Keep - C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer. The author's main premise is that all authors are influenced by those around them. That the idea of a "lone" author is mostly just a myth. Tolkien and Lewis were supposedly "uninfluenceable" but she shows numerous instances where their writing went a completely different direction based on comments of those around them. We are social beings, and I think anything we do, will be better or worse based on our relationships.

I know this got off the subject a bit, so let me bring it back around. Thanks Jessica for all the wisdom you post on this site on a very regular basis. I hope your new year is the best ever.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Bookends. I’m wildly excited at the beginning of this new year. Thanks to you, I’m looking at a banner year. Three books are coming out. Wild Goose Chase and Old Maid’s Puzzle from Midnight Ink, and Stamped Out from Berkley. Woo Hoo.

One of the most surprising things was how much support I’ve received from people, (friends, family, total strangers). When I tell them I’m going to be published, their eyes widen and they start to smile. Some even take a step back. Everyone loves a writer. There’s an outpouring of support that’s really unexpected and energizing.

Jessica, You really nurtured my writing career. For that, I thank you. Now let’s see if I can make a living.

Terri Thayer, whose New Year's Resolution is to figure out my Google identity.

Steven said...

This is an inspiring post. Thanks and happy New Year.

jjdebenedictis said...

Aimless Writer:
Just let us know where we can get one of those detailed rejection letters. :)

Laurie McLean is a relatively new agent with the Larsen-Pomada Literary Agency. Her rejection email was mostly a form letter, but she did include a few sentences saying specifically why she didn't think my sample pages were strong enough.

I appreciated that extra bit of personalization, so if she handles your genre, give her a try!

Cocaine Princess said...

Blogger Reid said...

I'll be doing as Cocaine Princess said above. Except sans cocaine, of course.

I don't do cocaine or any other type of drug. You need to read my blog to find out who I really am.

Cocaine Princess

Diana said...

Happy New Year!

Thank you for everything you do!

Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe with a new publisher - a "40-year run" with Farrar, Straus & Giroux - now there's a CAREER!

From Yahoo:

"Tom Wolfe is working on a new novel and will release it through a new publisher, ending a 40-year run with Farrar, Straus & Giroux and signing with Little, Brown and Co.

"The opportunity to work with the American master Tom Wolfe is the kind of thrill and challenge that people entering book publishing dream of," Little, Brown Publisher Michael Pietsch said Wednesday.

"Tom Wolfe is one of the great writers of his generation and he has been one of FSG's most significant and best-loved authors," Farrar publisher Jonathan Galassi said. "We are sorry to part company, and wish him all happiness and success in this next phase of his work..."

Anonymous said...

Wow, a president AND poet...sounds good to me:

"...When Jonathan Galassi calls, writers and agents answer. As president of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, he has published bestsellers like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. For poets, FSG is widely considered one of the finest houses, the place where books are carefully designed and treated as important objects. FSG’s roster of poets includes Nobel laureates Seamus Heaney and Derek Walcott, and Pulitzer Prize winner Louise Gl├╝ck. Galassi is also a poet in his own right (most recently North Street and Other Poems, 2001). His writing is clear-eyed, wistful. In “Girlhood,” published in Poetry, the narrator considers a young girl: “your leafy future / already starting to spread its shade above us.”

PS - I had some responses to Erik's ideas about the "new" and "new media" - and St. Paul...and midwestern bars...just haven't quite got the oomph yet to post my comments.

Linnea said...

We were discussing agent blogs at Absolute Write and when yours came up I popped in to have a look. Your discussion of the early years niggled at me. I'd submitted a manuscript to BookEnds in 2001. I dug out my paperwork and there it was, a nice personalized rejection signed by you. I've been published since then but it was fun to go back and read your letter. Have a great year.

Jeannie Ruesch said...

A very Happy New Year to you and everyone at Bookends. I discovered your blog in 2007 and it's been a joy. I think 2008 could prove a fabulous year!

David Ebright said...

Welcome back & Happy New Year - Hope you had a great break from the action. I'm also not one for resolutions - so, as usual, no 'failures' ahead. I do suggest that you & Nathan B post on alternate days during future holiday seasons - Sheesh...No posts from you guys is like a day without coffee. You can get through it, but it still feels like something's missing. Just my unsolicited 2 cents on that topic. Have a terrific '08 & thanks again for all that you do.

Kate Douglas said...

Happy New Year to everyone at BookEnds, and to those of you who regularly post on the's almost scary when avatars start to look so familiar! What I love about Jessica's post is that it fits so completely with my personal belief in paying it forward. I doubt there are many published authors who didn't reach that point without the unselfish help of other who went before them. I know I owe everything to a lot of generous souls out there, my agent included.