Friday, April 30, 2010

Effective Marketing

At BookEnds, we’ve been working on updating the publicity guidelines we hand out to all of our clients. We try to give them ideas of where we feel their time and money are best spent and will hopefully result in actual book sales.

We love to give them specific examples of unique/effective marketing tools. Obviously, we’ve heard great stories from our authors over the years, but we also thought it would be great to hear directly from book buyers.

So tell us! What clever publicity tricks have led you to buy an author’s book? Was it a mention in a magazine article? A book signing? A giveaway at a conference? A blog interview? A book trailer? An author’s speaking engagement? What examples of clever, effective marketing have you seen from the authors you love?

Kim

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Author-Agent Agreements

What if a writer on her own gets offered a contract from a small or university press with little or no advance? And what if that writer wants to protect her rights by having an agent look over the contract? Would an agent then agree to taking a small fee from the writer (if the writer wasn't offered an advance)? Would an agent then also agree to represent that writer with any foreign/film/subsidiary rights?

Since there are no real “rules” when it comes to author representation, anything is possible. If you find yourself in this situation and would like an agent to represent you, I don’t think it would hurt to ask the agents you’re interested in, those who are presumably interested in your book along with the small press, if they would take a deal like this. That being said, I think you’re really selling yourself short, and your career short, by doing something like this.

This is one of those questions that reminds me how narrowly many authors see any agent’s job. When querying and submitting to agents it’s easy to focus on the next step (finding an agent so you can submit to publishers) and to forget the bigger picture. If you get an offer from a smaller press you have the opportunity to find an agent who can use that offer for bigger things. Why would you find an agent and pay a flat fee to negotiate a contract when you could offer a standard commission deal and have the agent submit that book to the major New York publishers, possibly turning that small press deal into a big press, bigger deal? Sure, it’s possible the agent won’t sell it to a bigger house, but remember, submitting your book is networking. Maybe an editor she sends it to will love your writing, and while she doesn’t feel she can offer on that book you’ve made a connection, she’s now watching your career, and, since you already have an agent, you’re ready to go with your next project, which you and your agent will already be working toward.

Getting an agent should be about a lot more than submitting your book or negotiating a contract. It should be one step toward building a career, and hopefully that’s the way you’ll want to treat it. Wouldn’t you rather sign an agent on commission to build a career than treat her like a one-book trick? By paying her a fee rather than commission you aren’t asking an agent to sign on for your career, you're simply asking her to do one task. I also think that by giving the agent an interest in your book and future sales you make her more invested in you as the author.

And last, if you’re trying to get off cheap and you’re getting little to no advance, you could actually pay the agent less by paying commission than you would by paying a “small fee.”

Jessica

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Internet and Your Career

I spent this week thinking a lot about blogging, Tweeting, and the Internet. I read this Huffington Post article by Jason Pinter and remembered when he was fired and the rumors and speculation that followed. I also thought of the backlash that all bloggers and Tweeters have received at one point or another and, most important, I thought about the careful line we all tread to be interesting and insightful and still keep our jobs.

Jason is certainly right when he talks about how much social networking has changed in just three short years. Three years ago I had just entered the world of blogging and was very careful about what I said and did. Other agents were critical of the few of us who blogged and hardly anyone was on Facebook. Now, though, it seems more and more agents blog and almost everyone Tweets. And Facebook. Well, I have 730 “friends,” few of whom I actually know personally. While I agree that publishing is embracing social networking and it’s a good thing, I’m not always sure that everyone is embracing it in a way that’s helping them.

As many of you know, I’m a very occasional Tweeter (you can find me at @BookEndsJessica), a regular blogger, and I have a public Facebook page (Jessica Faust BookEnds). With each post, Tweet, or status update I make I think carefully about my audience and how I want to be perceived. I also have a private Facebook page where I let it all hang out (without the photos) and am very careful about allowing only friends and family in as “friends.” The truth is while I don’t have a boss in the context of someone else sitting in my office whom I answer to, I still have a number of bosses in the form of my clients. I also have to answer to editors and other publishing professionals and want them to only see “work Jessica.” Not all the other Jessicas that my poor family has to see.

We’ve talked a great deal about building your brand as a published author and what you want others to see and know about you and what you probably should or shouldn’t post on these pages. What we haven’t often talked about is who you allow in as your friends. The other day I logged into Jessica Faust BookEnds to see a very political status on one of my “friend’s” pages. It was the kind of status that was sure to provoke some heavy debate and the kind of status that contained information I probably don’t want to know about clients or potential clients. I think a lot of unpublished writers out there forget that seeking publication is a job search, and like any job search you probably want to be careful about what potential future employers (I’m thinking publishers here) know about you. Do you really want every tirade, every sick day, or every political rant cataloged for the world to see?

I’m happy to have lots of “friends” on my Facebook page, but I wonder, if you’re going to be my “friend,” would you better serve yourself to also have a public and private page for the two yous? Do you really want your future agent, for example, to see your spring break photos, your daughter’s first trip to the potty, or hear about your rather extreme political views?

Jessica

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Query Rejections

After reading a batch of e-queries, I tracked some of the biggest reasons they received a rejection.

I think the number-one reason is that the query just didn’t interest me. The book was in one of my genres, but the story didn’t feel different or special enough. For example, it was a mystery that didn’t have a hook or felt very similar to every other mystery on the market or a romance that felt like something I’d already read before.

There were also a number of queries that felt either like pre-queries or felt very incomplete. They were queries that told me nothing about the book, often times going on and on about the author’s credentials in a completely different field, or they were queries that simply fell short.

As always there were a number of queries for books that just aren’t for me at all. Sometimes I think they are queries that would be better for Jacky, but since she’s no longer in the business, the author decided to simply send it to me instead. Examples of books like this would be nonfiction spirituality or new age titles. These are areas that Jacky previously handled that neither Kim nor I represent. Now that Jacky has left I get a number of queries for books like this and they are automatic rejections. I also received queries for screenplays and children’s books, neither of which anyone at BookEnds has ever handled.

Believe it or not I get a number of queries that I just do not understand. I think the biggest problem with queries like this is that the author is too much in her own head. She knows the story so well that she forgets she’s talking to an audience who knows nothing. It’s either that or the query has been edited so much that the author left in only her favorite lines and they don’t necessarily match or make sense.

Jessica

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Query Recap

I sat down early one Saturday morning (before six a.m.) to do some queries and decided I would track them and recount what I found to you. So while reading queries one day, here’s what I came across:

Total E-mails Read: 43

Total Rejected: 36
In four instances I gave advice to the querier. The advice could have been to do further research on agents before querying (if the query was for something far outside of my interests; children’s books, for example) or it could have been a suggestion to spend some time learning how to write a proper query before contacting any more agents.

In one instance the query was an attachment. I didn’t bother opening or reading the attachment, but instead explained that most agents will not accept unrequested attachments.

Total Proposals Requested: 1

E-mails Following Up with More Information: 2
Emails like this happen frequently. They can be anything from more information after a query was sent to more information after a proposal was sent. It’s information the author wants to include, but failed to do so in the first submission.

Fiction Queries: 32
Nonfiction Queries: 6

Thank-yous: 3
One thank-you e-mail was really terrific. In a previous rejection to the author I had suggested she spend some time researching how to properly write a query letter. She thanked me for this advice, said she had followed it, and that she had since received positive feedback on her new query.

The total time spent answering these queries was about one hour, and at the time of writing I still had over 300 in my in-box.

Jessica

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Kim's Submission Status

Jessica mentioned that she’s received a few blog comments expressing confusion on my submission status.

I’m currently not accepting any new queries and I’ve responded to all of those I received prior to closing them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I’m completely caught up on submissions. I apologize to anyone who is still awaiting a response on requested material. The past few months have been a very busy time for my clients, which is great for them, great for BookEnds, but not so great for anyone waiting to hear from me.

I’ve recently started making some headway on those requested partials and manuscripts. But until I’ve given those writers the consideration they’re due—and until I feel I have the time to attend to my clients AND actively search for new ones—I won’t be re-opening to queries.

In the meantime, thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Happy writing!

Kim

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Treat Each Query as Your First

I’ve been receiving a lot of queries lately that are far too informal and personal, queries in which the querier obviously had interactions with me before and assumed I would remember who she is. Frankly, it’s just confusing.

The queries often go something like this:

Jessica:

I know you’re busy, but I wanted to let you know that Joe Schmoo has requested my manuscript for [Book Not To Be Named] and seems very excited about it. I fully intend to revise and make my characters more likeable. Would you like to take a second look? After all, we know the book will appeal to everyone.

Now that my divorce is final and I’ve got my life back I’m really ready to devote my time to writing. I’m so excited about the opportunities I have and since I love your blog I would hate for you to regret passing on my book.

Thanks!

Jenny


Let me tell you: I have no idea who Jenny is, no recollection of what this book could be, and, frankly, no interest since I don’t know what she’s talking about.

Don’t ever assume an agent remembers you (unless she’s your agent). Always query professionally and provide as much information as possible.

Jessica

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thoughts on Memoirs

This morning I was catching up on my magazine reading when I came across this article in Newsweek.

The article discusses whether or not publishing a memoir is really as therapeutic as we all presume it to be. I don’t represent memoir primarily because I feel I would have very limited interests. I also don’t read a lot of memoirs, not enough to feel I can sell the genre, but one of the things I have always thought about the many memoir queries I receive is that while it might be therapeutic, it’s not always publishable.

What I never really thought about is whether or not the therapy ends once it’s published. I receive a lot of memoirs revolving around the death of a loved one and I always think how therapeutic it must be for people to write those, but once it’s published, once you hear from the people you’re writing about (friends, family members, your kids' teachers) is it still going to be therapeutic? Are you ready to hear their criticisms on your grief or your experience? Are you ready for the anger that’s bound to come from someone who is either not happy with the way you’ve portrayed her or not happy that she wasn’t included? Are you ready to put yourself, your feelings, and your private experience out there for all the world to read?

Food for thought.

Jessica

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have I Been Rejected

Back in July of 2009, an agent made a full request for my manuscript. I sent it promptly. After not hearing anything for several months, I sent a polite request (with a copy of my original query attached) for a status update. No answer. Eight months later, I sent another polite request. Nothing, again. Being reasonably new to the querying process, I'm just wondering what I should do at this point. The obvious assumption would be that she has no interest in representing me; although, at this stage, I would think she'd at least let me know that. Or would she? I've been querying other agents during this period, so I'm not hinging everything on her, but it would be nice to know where I stand. Is this a usual way for an agent to respond (or, rather, to not respond)? Should I, in fact, consider this a rejection and give up on her?

This is probably one of the biggest frustrations writers have with the submission process. If an agent doesn’t answer, at what point do you give up and move on? I think the answer to that question depends on the writer. Some writers have the ability to let a submission go the minute it’s sent. They figure it’s out of their hands and they move on to the next thing. Certainly they’ll check up, but they are less dependent on an answer. More writers, however, wait and wait and question whether or not to assume something is a rejection.

I think you have to do what’s best for your sanity. You’ve sent two requests for updates. You’ve received no answers. I would, for your own sanity, assume you’re not going to get an answer and move on. You never know, you could still hear something, but moving forward, as you have been, is the best course of action at this point.

As for whether or not this is usual, I guess that depends on who you talk to. I don’t think it’s usual. I think that when requesting material, most agents respond, but there are always those who don’t and there are always those situations in which things fall through the cracks.

Jessica

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Post-Publication Thank-Yous

Recently, I came across a rejection I had received from an agency for a book that I subsequently sold and will be published.

I thought about e-mailing her my thanks for her advice. I don't feel a need to "rub it in" so it isn't that. It's that she took the time to make some notes on the standard rejection form that were accurate (actually, several agents suggested the same thing, and they were right). I thought she might like to know she had a positive effect on me.

Would it be wrong to let her know?


This is tricky. Not only because it might appear that you are rubbing it in, but I would also ask if you ever re-queried or resubmitted after making the changes that so greatly helped your novel. Because, in truth, that would probably have been the ultimate thank-you.

That being said, we can’t always worry about how our actions might be perceived by others, only because we can’t always control how others act or the baggage they come to our email with. If you honestly want to thank an agent for the advice she gave you and you know, in your heart, that you’re not rubbing it in, then go ahead and thank her. I’ve received many emails over the years from authors who have thanked me for helping them on their road to publication. I’ve also had many others who have come up to me in person at conferences to thank me. There is definitely a different feel between those who are rubbing it in and those who are truly thankful.

If you are truly thankful, I think it can never hurt to let others know how they’ve helped. If they see it as “rubbing it in” and that was not your intention, then it’s really their loss. Do what you feel it’s in your heart to do.

Jessica

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Friday, April 16, 2010

This Week

Things I did this week that I loved . . .

  • Called a client to tell her we got an offer
  • Negotiated that offer
  • Called another editor to say we were accepting an offer I negotiated last week
  • Called an author to offer representation
  • Signed that author
  • Read a client’s manuscript and sent revisions
  • Read a client’s proposal and sent revisions
  • Submitted a new project
  • Posted three or four new covers on our Web site
  • Celebrated it all with chocolate chip cookies and a glass (or two) of wine

And that’s why I love my job.

Jessica

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

An Agent's Confession

I have a confession to make. The minute the final published book from a client lands on my desk, the second thing I do (after oohing and aahing over the cover) is check the acknowledgment section. It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but I’m always curious about what the author has to say. And, let’s face it, I want to know if she credited me in any way. It’s not that I feel I need to be acknowledged, it’s just that I want to know if I am and, if I am, what the author said.

Well, the other day I got Paige Shelton’s debut novel, Farm Fresh Murder. A book that I am very excited about. I spent a little more time than usual oohing and aahing over the cover because I absolutely adore it. Once I was done showing it around, I flipped it open and read the acknowledgments. She did a fabulous job of thanking all the people who helped her, including the many people at her publisher who guided her through the process. Nothing about me though. That’s fine. I was a little disappointed, but really, the important thing is the book is out, and since I just did a brand-new deal for Paige for an entirely new mystery series, I have nothing to complain about. But then I had a thought. I didn’t really believe she would do it, but I checked the dedication page anyway. And there it was. She had dedicated her debut novel to me. I was so touched I teared up. I can only think of one or two other authors who have dedicated their books to me and I wish I could find the right words to express how much this means to me. I feel honored, thrilled, and truly undeserving. I’m proud of every book I sell and I don’t need an acknowledgment or a dedication, but man, when it comes, I really feel humbled.


Jessica

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Making Money

It’s not uncommon, when witnessing a tirade by a frustrated author, that you hear the complaint that the only thing agents want are books that will make them money. This is usually some thinly veiled criticism (I use that word loosely) of the books agents are representing.

Well, once and for all I’d like to put this point to rest because it’s true. The only books I want to represent are books that make money. See, I’m in the business of selling books for my clients to make us all money. I agent because it’s my career. Sure, it has the added bonus of being something I love, but I also need to feed myself and keep a roof over my head. So criticize all you want, but the truth is that good agents will only represent books they think will make them money. That’s called a job.

Jessica

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting Reviews

If you have a book coming out soon (yay!) and you want to make sure it gets reviewed, how do you make sure the reviewers get it? Do you buy a copy and send it? Do you send a PDF of it to them? How do they get them? Pretty much, how, what, when, where, who help!!!!

First, let me congratulate you on the upcoming publication of your book.

The first thing you do when it comes to publicity is talk to your publisher about where they intend to send your book for reviews. Typically, at least with newspapers and magazines, a review copy of your book should be sent six months prior to publication. Blogs and web sites obviously have much, much shorter lead times, and waiting until you have final books will work just as well.

I would also work with your publisher to come up with a list. If you have places you’d like to see review your book, places your publisher might not consider, you should definitely let them know. There’s a good chance they’ll send the books for you. I think some of the best reviews are not those that are necessarily geared toward books. A lot of our cozy mystery authors, for example, have had great success with their books because they got the word out to those crafters who might be interested in what they’re writing about outside of the mystery.

Sending out copies for review is similar to querying agents. You send them whatever they want. Some might be happy with PDF files, while others will probably prefer hard copies. Either way, in addition to the galley, you’ll also want to send along a cover flat or copy of your cover as well as information on you and any marketing the publisher is putting behind the book.

Jessica

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Monday, April 12, 2010

An Agent's Workload

I believe I may soon be getting an offer of representation. This agent is new, having just started representing her own clients in the past few months. I know that she has just signed two new clients three weeks ago. If I sign with her, that is three clients that she will be going on submission with around the same time. Is that a reasonable workload? How many clients does the average agent have on submission at one time?

Truthfully, there is no answer to this question. Agents all operate differently and, like the rest of you, all have a different definition for “reasonable workload.”

You say that this agent just signed two new clients and “will be going on submission around the same time.” Not necessarily true. Sure, presumably she’ll be submitting everyone at the same time, but that’s presuming that everyone is ready to submit. For all you know, she’ll be asking two of the three people to do major revisions, while the third feels ready to submit. She might go two or three rounds of revisions with one of you, while the other two are out on submission.

I don’t think there’s any one answer to this question. Some agents, just like some people, can easily handle multiple tasks at the same time, while others are better off handling only one client at a time.

I don’t think the number of clients this agent has recently taken on should impact your decision of how she might work for you. Instead, you should talk to the agent and decide if she’s the right agent for you.


Jessica

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Friday, April 09, 2010

T.G.I.F.

The last few weeks have been busy, busy, busy and of course I love every minute of it. I've been catching up on a lot of reading, unfortunately for those who have sent me submissions most of it has been for clients. I've been brainstorming with clients, spending literally hours on the phone to come up with new ideas or help take current ideas to that next level, and I've been negotiating contracts (yippee!!).

So where do I stand on submissions? Here's the count:

Queries: Unfortunately I've fallen very far behind I again. A few weeks ago I actually reached the 300 mark, fewer then 300 sitting in my inbox. That is such a faint memory. While I've made it my goal to read at least one day's worth of queries each day, I still can't seem to keep up. At this moment I have 584 queries in my inbox. By the time you read this I'm sure the number will have grown. I have read every query submitted up to and through March 20. If you submitted before March 20 and haven't received a reply I haven't received your query.

Requested Proposals and Fulls: I have been requesting fewer, but, thanks to my intern, I'm also getting through them faster. I do believe I have fewer then 25 waiting to be read and responded to and, unless I'm missing something, I have responded to everything sent to me in 2009.

I've loved the Summer-like weather this week and am hoping to find time today to finish one client's proposal, another client's manuscript and maybe, just maybe, I'll find time this weekend to finish House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Rumor has it though that I should be expecting more client submissions in the next week.

Have a great weekend!

--Jessica

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

I Never Get Tired of This

I got an email last week from a teenage relative. She had recently bought The Homework Helper Guide to Chemistry, opened the book, and saw my name in the acknowledgment section. She wanted me to know that she thought that was pretty cool because she knows me.

I love the books I represent, but will always be surprised and thrilled when I hear from someone I know that they’ve randomly picked up a book I’ve worked on. It is really, really cool to know that the books I love are being read by thousands of others, even cooler when one or two of those thousands are people I care about.

I will never get tired of hearing stories like that. I will never, ever get tired of seeing “my books” in bookstores, and one of the biggest thrills of all? Walking through an airport or riding on a subway and seeing someone enjoying one of “my books.”

Jessica

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Submission Guidelines

I printed out most of your guidelines for a submission. I printed out one page. Now i need a bit more. where do i find them please.

I’m not sure what more you would need. Our submission guidelines are fairly simple and easy to find. They should also be self-explanatory. However, all that being said, if you are still having trouble, here is what we ask for. A query letter. That’s it. That’s the only submission guideline you need to know to get started.

However, in case you still aren’t clear.

Our submission guidelines are listed on our web site.

For information on query letters and proposals (only if requested) you can go to the FAQ section of our web site. You can also spend time reading through the blog. Since you queried the blog I assume you know how to find the blog. Check out the Must-Read Posts at the side of this page. You’ll find a ton of helpful query examples there.

And that’s the last of the research I’m doing for you. I think we’ve worked hard to guide readers through the submission process. Do some research and you’ll find what you need.

Jessica

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Paige Shelton on Getting Published

Paige Shelton
Farm Fresh Murder
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: April 2010
Agent: Jessica Faust


(Click to Buy)


How to Do Almost Everything Wrong and Still Get Published . . . Someday

I think I still have the notebook with the psychedelic design on its cover. I pasted comical cigarette stickers all over the back of it. It was 1971 after all, and I was only seven years old. Inside, on the first page, I wrote a poem titled "My Kite." As I finished the four-line masterpiece, I realized that I was destined to be a writer. Surely, the magnificent feeling that creating the poem gave me meant destiny was speaking – determining my future.

If only it had spoken a little more clearly.

I continued to write for my own enjoyment, but between 1971 and 1997 lots of other great stuff happened, like friendships, school, marriage, motherhood, jobs that weren’t always soul-sucking. In 1997 I decided it was time to turn this writing dream into a reality. I decreed I would be published by 1999, just in case all that Y2K stuff came true.

Though I was an avid mystery reader, the only local writing group I could find was the Utah Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I should point out that I looked the number up in the phonebook – the Internet wasn’t as grown-up as it is now. Anyway, they were (and still are, by the way) a great group of women (and some men) who taught me so much, but it was a huge mistake for me to think that I could write romance when, at the time, I hadn’t read even one. I started reading and writing, but I reached December 31, 1999, with only a bunch of poorly written love scenes and way too many euphemisms for sex.

I’ll summarize the next number of years by saying they were full of rejection – some constructive, some downright vicious. Honestly, when I hear about writers who dream (while sleeping) something that they turn into an immediate bestseller, I want to beat my head against my desk. I don’t begrudge anyone their success; I just wish it was that easy for the rest of us. I still dream about missing the all-important Psychology 101 final. I never dream bestselling stories.

Then somewhere along the way, the Internet did grow up. Suddenly, information became so . . . available. There are some amazing editors and agents out there who were kind enough to start these things called “Blogs.” Suddenly, I learned so much. So, that’s what a query letter is supposed to sound like! I’m not supposed to call editors? I need an agent? Really? Well, okay then, let me work on that.

With a few more manuscripts under my belt, more rejection followed until one day an agent said she actually wanted to represent me. Of course, I was stunned and excited beyond belief – and believe it or not, this was another huge mistake. The entire time I talked to her during our first phone call, something in my gut told me that she and I wouldn’t be a good fit. Something told me that I should politely tell her that I didn’t think it would work, but I didn’t. Instead, I spent the next two years trying to reach her – by email, phone or snail mail. The only time she responded was when she was in a hurry to something else and didn’t have much time to talk. I have no idea if she submitted my manuscript to the people she said she submitted it to.

But, I also spent those two years working on a mystery – this was my fifth completed manuscript. I won’t say the writing was easy, but it was almost a relief. I’ve probably read thousands of mysteries. I loved the plotting, I loved planting the red herrings, I loved . . . well, I loved the mystery. In fact, though I’ve always loved writing, writing this story was more satisfying than even the masterpiece poem I wrote when I was seven.

And I certainly wasn’t going to give it to my agent. I fired her – too politely probably – and set out to find another agent, a good one this time.

I’m not sure I can remember the exact sequence of events, but a few months into querying, two agents – two really good agents – were suddenly interested in my work. One had had the manuscript for a while. One hadn’t responded to my first query, so I sent her another one – finally, I did something right. The second one, the one who hadn’t responded at first, was Jessica Faust.

Things happened quickly at that point – this was February/March 2008. Not only did I know Jessica and I would be a good fit, but when I told the other agent who was interested (who is awesome, too, by the way) about Jessica, she only wished me luck and told me I was in great hands. She was right, and from the beginning Jessica has done exactly what she said she would do, and she has never once ignored a communication from me even if she didn’t have good news to share. These are things everyone should expect from their agent. I wish I’d known that sooner.

Anyway, Jessica set out to sell the manuscript. And, much to our disappointment, it didn’t sell. But Ms. Faust doesn’t even know the concept of “giving up.” She and I had a brainstorming session. Here’s the deal: When you have a brainstorming session with your agent and you feel like she knows you better than you even know yourself, rest assured you’ve signed on with the right person. The Farmer's Market Mystery Series idea came from that meeting.

It took some time for me to get about a hundred pages written, but in October of 2008, with those pages, Jessica sold the first three books of the series to the fabulous Michelle Vega at Berkley. The first book, Farm Fresh Murder, comes out today, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, I made lots of mistakes along the way, some stupid, some just human, but I’m sure that somehow everything has worked out the way it was supposed to. It might have taken thirty-nine years from that first poem to get published, but hey, at least it didn’t take forty.


Farm Fresh Murder is Paige Shelton’s debut novel and the first in A Farmer’s Market mystery series. She also made a recent deal for If Fried Chicken Could Fly and two other books in the Grandma’s Cooking School mystery series. Both series are published with Berkley Prime Crime. More information on Paige and her books can be found on her web site www.paigeshelton.com/.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Making Comparisons

It’s not at all uncommon for authors to compare their work to that of others. In fact, it’s not uncommon for agents to do the same thing. In a quick search of Publishers Marketplace I found the following comparisons:

pitched as in the tradition of Raymond Carver and Lorrie Moore
pitched as in the spirit of Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life or Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonders
pitched as a James Bond-meets-The Da Vinci Code political crime thriller
pitched as in the tradition of Kate DiCamillo
pitched as in the tradition of Robert Ludlum and Dan Brown
pitched as a Pete McCarthy-meets-Nick Hornby travelogue
pitched as Infinite Jest with Silence of the Lambs
pitched as Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong meets Diana Gabaldon's Outlander
pitched as Dexter meets The Silence of the Lambs for teens

Now, my guess is that while some of these samples will appeal to you, others will turn you off. Maybe you’ve never been a fan of Robert Ludlum or you despised Infinite Jest. Whatever the reason, that’s the trick with using comparisons and why I caution you to be careful when doing so. Just as a comparison can give an agent or editor a very quick and easy idea of what your book is, it can turn them off or, worse, make it more confusing.

For example, I have no idea what Twilight meets Blue’s Clues would even be. Who would be the audience and how would a book like that work? And yes, this example is based on an actual pitch I received.

If you choose to do comparisons, take a look at Publishers Marketplace to get an idea for what works. Comparisons are used to show who an audience might be and work best if you’re using bestselling names, current or recent bestselling names, and not old or obscure references. They also work best if you have some idea that they are books or authors that will appeal to the agent you’re trying to pitch.

Jessica

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Friday, April 02, 2010

World Autism Awareness Day

There is a very special little boy in my life. He is sweet, brilliant and a joy to be around. And he has been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), commonly known as Autism.

I have known this little boy since birth and he has taught me so much. I've learned to stop and watch the ants because they really are fascinating and I've learned how truly noisy a quiet house can be. I've also learned that no matter what we might label someone or how we might decide to categorize someone, the truth is that they were the same people before the label. The same wonderfully loving, charming people.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day. I'm wearing blue to show my support for the Autistic community and one little boy in particular who is near and dear to my heart.

--Jessica

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Note to All Writers

I will not return your phone call simply to give you detailed advice of why I rejected your proposal, especially when I have no idea why I rejected your proposal, because I only have a very vague recollection of said proposal at best.

So please stop calling.

Jessica

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