Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holiday Shopping

I know it might seem early, but really, I promise, the holidays are right around the corner, and I need to start thinking about my shopping. Naturally, it’s important for me to give books to as many people on my list as possible, even those who are not necessarily big readers. The trick is finding the perfect book, something they haven’t read before and that will hopefully grab their interests.

For ideas I thought I’d reach out to my blog community. After all, who better to ask but a bunch of readers.

So here’s a brief rundown of my list. Any suggestions?

Girl, age 12: I’ve gifted her A Wrinkle in Time, which she loved, and would really like to give her Hunger Games, but is she too young? That’s one thing I’ve never gotten a handle on when it comes to other people’s kids. What is age-appropriate. My other concern is that Hunger Games is so, so popular, is it ridiculous to think she hasn’t already read it? Any other thoughts?

Boy, age 15: Last year I had a hit with Into the Wild. It was an inspired find if I do say so myself, and he seemed truly interested, which I was thrilled with, especially since I don’t think he’s much of a reader. So I’m thinking nonfiction again this year. Is Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory too much?

Boy, age 10: This is my tough one. I haven’t got a clue. He loves silly things that make him laugh, but 10 is a tough age for me. What do 10-year-old boys read?

Adult male: Who has loved books like Methland.

Adult male: Who also loves nonfiction, but also thrillers. Was a fan of Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as well as Devil in a White City.

Hmmm, I know there are others, but I can’t think of them at this time. What about you? Have you started your shopping yet? What are you buying for those on your list?

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A BookEnds Rejection

By request, I’m doing something that for some reason feels a little scary. I’m going to post my standard rejection letter on the blog. I don’t know why this feels scary, like I’m revealing a big dirty secret or something, since you can find this in various writers’ forums and websites all over the Internet.

That being said, here goes:

Thank you so much for sending along your query and for giving BookEnds a chance to consider your work. While I found your query intriguing I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic to ask for more at this time.

As I’m sure you know, publishing is a subjective business and I’m sure there’s another agent out there better suited to your work.

I wish you the best of luck and the greatest success.


Now, keep in mind that this is my standard rejection. I also have a few variations of this for different circumstances. For example, if I feel your query is a complete disaster I might suggest you revamp it before sending it to other agents; if your query was really close and maybe a tweak or two would have pushed me to asking for more, I have a rejection for that. I also have responses for queries that are sent as attachments (but I won’t read), novellas (which I typically don’t do), queries for books with obvious word count issues, etc.

So, since I shared my rejection, I’m curious. If you were an agent receiving close to 100 queries a day, what kind of standard rejection would you write? Or would you even send rejections? Would you try to personalize every one?

The trick for me is writing a rejection that’s kind and encouraging, that’s vague enough so that the author doesn’t think a rewrite is necessary when I don’t know if it is, and that doesn’t sound condescending. Believe it or not, I don’t want to crush the hopes and dreams of authors.

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Small Press v. Agent

I am a faithful reader of your blog. I think I have read about similar situations, but I just can't recall one exactly like this, or maybe I just couldn't find it! I wrote a book a year and a half ago, and I queried it to a few agents. Although one or two requested partials, nothing came of that. (I never heard back from one, and the other rejected me.)

I was reading a book by a new author almost a year ago on my kindle and noticed that the editor in the credits accepted queries. I decided to try sending a partial (which they accepted with the query) to the editor, [small press here]. It's a small press, but seems reputable, and I have spoken to that author via email. She said that although the money wasn't huge from her book deal with them, it helped her land an agent who helped her sign a book deal with [big press here]. (Plus, let's face it--if it's all about money for me I should probably stick with my day job as a lawyer and quit messing around with fiction writing.)

Eight months after my original submission (two days ago) [small press] responded with some suggested edits and asked for a full manuscript once the edits were done. I agree the edits are a good idea.

Now to my question. Do I just send them my edited manuscript once I complete it? Or do I begin the query process all over again with agents first, hoping to find an agent who will handle a small contract? Do you think agents who have previously turned me down might be interested to know if a publisher is now interested, or should I only query agents who haven't already turned me down before? (Even if they are my dream agents.)

Hope this isn't too complicated/specific a question!


I loved the author’s tone and voice in this email, which is why I included the entire thing.

Here’s my advice. Finish the edited manuscript, send it to the editor and start querying agents at the same time. Let them know you’ve received a request from [small press] and, yes, if you want to requery agents do so, but only those who have not yet read the partial.

If you still don’t have an agent when the publisher’s offer comes in (always think positively), contact everyone who has yet to respond to see if you can turn that offer into an agent contract as well.

Jessica

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Working Social Media

I am no expert in social media, not by a long stretch. There are so many great people out there who are, people writing blogs and books, that if you want expertise that’s where you should go. That being said, I am frequently asked what specifically authors can do and should do to help create the often-discussed buzz. Sure, you’re supposed to get a Twitter account, blog, and Facebook account, but once you have those, what works and what doesn’t?

Here’s what I think.

You should only do what works for you.
I enjoy my blog, which is why I do it. It wouldn’t work if I didn’t enjoy it. When I signed up for Twitter I wasn’t sure it was for me. It felt like more work and I just didn’t get it. I remember having conversations with Kim that I might quit. But I persevered. I gave it time and now I actually enjoy it. I use Twitter to check in on industry news and as a break. When I finish a big project I often celebrate via Twitter, and when I’m sitting down to start something it’s sometimes nice to share. It’s not just about spreading the news, but it actually helps motivate me in some weird way.

It’s not all about you.
Updating your status and Tweeting about what you’re eating for lunch has led us to believe that we live in a world where people actually care. They really don’t. Make sure when using your social media that you are talking about more than just yourself. Retweet posts or articles of interest, and most definitely engage with others. No one wants to be Facebook friends with someone who never responds to things written on their wall or ignores what everyone else is up to, but expects accolades for their own status.

Post often, but not too often.
I’ll admit that I’ve “unfollowed” Twitter pals who seem to overtake my inbox, those who have a new Tweet every five minutes or even every hour. I think one Tweet a day is fine, maybe five, but 25! That’s a little extreme and, to some extent, goes back to my second point about the fact that it can’t be all about you. No one wants to check their account only to see that you’ve been so busy none of their other friends have room to show up.

Time management
There are so many social media organizing programs out there. Use them. Most of my blog posts are written days or weeks in advance and certain Tweets are even written days, weeks or months in advance. If I know that something exciting is going to happen on a certain day, something I’ll want to Tweet about (which also links to my Facebook status by the way, so I only have to update one), I write the Tweet and set the schedule. That way if I’m busy that day the job is already done.

Make it personal
Just as you shouldn’t always make it about you, you should sometimes make it about you. I recently “unfollowed” a Tweeter because of constant article retweeting, but nothing about her. It was tiresome and boring. I do want to know something personal about the people I’m following, sometimes I do want to know what you’re making for dinner, or that the dog just jumped in your lap and deleted your writing. That’s the fun stuff that allows people to connect with you.

Not too personal
While I do enjoy learning some personal items about those I follow (for business), I also don’t need to know what kind of underwear you wear, I don’t need to hear a political rant, and I don’t think bashing others is appropriate. Again, if it’s with friends, fine, but if this is an attempt to get buzz to sell books, I’m not sure it’s the right forum.

Those are my thoughts off the cuff. What about you? Who are you following or friending and why? Who are you unfollowing or defriending and why?

Jessica

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Perfecting the Opening Paragraph

A topic I need help with is opening paragraphs. This is such an important area that so many authors struggle. I wrote and rewrote mine more times than I can count. I understand that the opening paragraphs will make or break an author's chance of becoming published. You only get one chance to capture the attention of an agent or publisher.

I don’t often give writing advice, primarily because I’m not a writer, but also because unless I read the material it’s hard for me to really have an opinion. Your opening paragraphs are important, as is every paragraph that follows. I have no idea what type of revisions and editing you’re doing, but I will tell you that spending so much time on just the opening paragraph isn’t going to help if the rest of the manuscript isn’t looked at with the same type of care. I also think that a lot of time is spent on the mechanics of the opening paragraphs, or the book in general, when what really grabs an agent is the voice of those first lines.

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do Political Beliefs Impact Representation

[reader’s name deleted to protect identity] comment prompted me to check his web page, which turns out to be little more than political screed full of hatred and vile language.

We all know agents (like prospective employers) check out potential clients online. I don't mean to pick on [reader]. Rather, this is an earnest question:

When a prospective client's blog or website is full of political ranting (from the left or right), does this affect your decision to represent them, either negatively or positively?


Wouldn’t it be nice if I could say, “No, absolutely not,” but let’s be honest. It will or could, in the same way any political thoughts or rantings I might share on this blog would impact whether or not you might want me to represent you.

Now, certainly you’ll have people who might reject you because your beliefs are different from theirs. In fact, a few years ago I shared a story with you about an editor who rejected a project I was pitching because of his political beliefs. They didn’t align with those of the project, which, granted, was a current affairs/political project. But something I don’t want you to forget is that you might also have people who would not want to represent you because although they might agree with your opinions, they might not like the fact that you’re ranting. Your style of expressing those opinions might be a turn-off.

Ultimately, if the project is great enough, many agents will overlook “rantings”; that being said, ranting can say a lot more about you as a person than simply what your political beliefs are. How you present yourself might say to an agent that you’re difficult to work with, or would be a handful, and even a great project might not be worth that because, as an old boss of mine used to say, “life is too short.”

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Careers in Publishing, an Interview

Frequently I receive requests for interviews from writers, newsletters, and students working on papers for class, and I do make an effort to answer as many as I have time for. Luckily, many of the questions are the same from interview to interview, so I can reuse material. Recently, though, I did an interview and wondered why I wasn’t sharing this same information with my blog readers. So from time to time I’m going to post the interviews I’ve been doing here on the blog.

The first is a request I received from a student at Eastern Michigan University. The student was doing a class project on careers and was interested in literary agents and publishing, so here’s what I shared . . .


What's a typical day like for you? I don’t think there is a typical day for me, which is one of the things I love about my job. I don’t think I would do well in a job that was even the least bit predictable.

Each day takes shape depending on the emails and phone calls I need to make or receive. For example, if I get a call from a publisher offering a contract on a book, my entire day, and all my plans, will likely be placed on the back burner as I communicate with the author and editors about the book and begin contract negotiations.

If I receive a panicked email or phone call from a client I could spend the rest of the day working with that client to smooth out the wrinkles in her manuscript or work on revisions.

If I hear from an author who has an offer of representation or a contract offer from another agent or a publisher and I want to get in the game, I will likely have to drop everything to read that material and consider it for representation.

If things go smoothly and I am receiving few emails or phone calls, I could actually spend my day answering interviews like this, reading queries, or catching up on proposals.

Typically, though, I start the day by reading email, checking up on industry news through various different formats like Publishers Weekly, Publishers Marketplace, blogs and Twitter, and then base the rest of the day on what I find there.

What kind of writing do you do as part of your job? I honestly don’t think I do that much writing, but keep in mind I work with writers. It’s hard to say you write when you work with people who write thousands of words a day.

I do keep an almost daily blog, I send emails, I write revision letters to clients and, most important, I write pitch letters to editors to sell the books I represent. These pitch letters, or query letters, are really marketing pieces and can sometimes take hours to craft.

What kind of information do you typically look for on resumes and is there a specific format you prefer candidates to use? I look for experience first. I think one of the biggest mistakes candidates make is assuming their education is the most important thing they’ve done. If you’ve done internships of any kind I would put that at the top of the page; experience shows me that you’re different and more ambitious than anyone else I’m interviewing.

I also look for candidates with an interest in commercial fiction. I think that for many students there’s a prejudice against commercial fiction or genre fiction. You’ve been engrossed in reading literary books or classics for years, which are great, but as an agent who represents commercial fiction I need someone who loves romance and mystery, young adult and anything that’s new and different.

What is your favorite part of the job? Brainstorming with my clients. There’s nothing I love more than helping shape an idea and create a book.

How did you become interested in this field? The love of words. I studied journalism in college and worked on the college newspaper all four years. I really thought I wanted to be a reporter, but by the time I graduated I knew the newspaper business wasn’t for me, but I wasn’t sure where I belonged. I tried magazines briefly (for a few short months as a freelancer) after graduation, but didn’t like that either, and that’s when I realized that my true love was books. I didn’t really read newspapers or magazines, but I loved books and could never get enough. So it was really the idea of helping to create what I loved that got me into publishing.

Jessica

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Query Auto-Response

Because of requests/comments from those on the blog, I have added an auto-response to all queries I receive. The response says the following:

Thank you so much for querying BookEnds. Your query has been received and I look forward to reading it.

Please note that I do reply to every query and make an attempt to do so within 4 weeks of receiving it.

If you haven't received my response in 6 weeks please assume that either your query or my reply was lost and feel free to re-query.

Thanks again.

Jessica Faust
BookEnds, LLC
http://www.bookends-inc.com


I’ve always been skeptical of doing something like this and I have no idea why. I guess part of me feared that it would only result in a ton of responses that say something like, “Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.” Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. One author Tweeted to tell me how much she appreciated it, but other than that, nothing. No extra work for me, and hopefully this will help calm frazzled nerves.

So thank you, blog readers.

Jessica

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Things Learned from Twitter

As many of you know by now I get up early and when I do I often check Twitter to see what's going on the world, especially the publishing world. For those of you who aren't up quite as early or haven't yet joined Twitter, let me share some of what I learned today...


I recently read a review of ROOM and really wanted to read it, but am nervous. It looks so dark that I'm not sure I want to put myself through it. That being said @JasonPinter has convinced me with this Tweet Ok, ok, you've all convinced me. I'm going to have to read ROOM by Emma Donoghue. Isn't that what you wanted???

Just what I've been looking for from @PublishersWkly: The Daily Beast has a list of 10 Smart YA Books, for those who've finished #HungerGames and are looking for more http://bit.ly/9DpvKU

I have added this to my wish list and now I have to decide whether I wait patiently for my wish to be granted or grant it myself. From @eatingfreely Got my copy of the "Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef" cookbook today! Gorgeous. Beautiful to read, beautiful to look... http://fb.me/IedBOr80

Depressing, but not surprising news from @Pimpmynovel (great blog by the way) Fun fact: each member of the cast of Jersey Shore currently makes more money per episode than most publishing assistants do in a year.

And with that I wish you all a glorious weekend. My plans? To read manuscripts by Kate Douglas, Grace Carroll, and Angie Fox. Uff, I better get moving.

--Jessica

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

You Can't Make This Up

Okay, you’re all writers, so maybe you can make this up, but I don’t think there’s any way I can.

Within days of opening for queries I had roughly 350 queries sitting in my inbox, so Saturday morning I decided to sit down and read a few. I’ll admit, as per my previous posts, I didn’t get to many. Really only about 15 before it was time to get to work on other things, but with just 15 rejections (yes, I rejected them all) I managed to upset someone enough that I received an email tirade in response.

Kim thought the entire thing was hilarious (and she was right) and wanted to know if I was going to respond. Sometimes I do. With this one I didn’t. Sometimes I feel I might be able to explain myself further and hopefully prevent the author from making future mistakes by explaining the business better. Based on what this author said, however, I didn’t think any explanation would make a difference. Instead I’m going to tell you.

Now, before I get into specifics, I want to make it clear that of the 350 queriers this will likely be the only one who responds in anger. While we agents like to share the “horror” stories, the truth is that they are few and far between. It’s just not as much fun to tell you about the good stories. You know, the people who act professionally.

Before telling you about the specifics of the email, I want to let you know that in this case the email (the response) was well written. Clearly the author had put some thought into it, and while it did have a few typos (I assume made from rage), overall it seemed well done.

The anger this person had seemed to come primarily from the “impersonal” and “sterile” nature of my rejection. Well, I can’t argue with that. My rejections are, for the most part, impersonal and sterile. It’s a way for me to streamline the process and, typically, avoid emails like this. If it makes you feel any better, my requests for more material are equally sterile and impersonal.

What really confounded me is that the author felt that my use of the wording “not sufficiently enthusiastic” and “at this time” were disparaging to his book simply because it was “male-oriented.” I have no idea where that came from. I mean really? Am I not reading into those words the way some writers might? Frankly, if my email was so “sterile” and “impersonal,” how could you become insulted? And, to top it off, it’s truthful. Your query did not make me enthusiastic enough to request more at this time. Maybe if you resubmitted later? Who knows.

The author also took umbrage with the fact that I didn’t use any salutation in my email. This particular writer would have liked something along the lines of “dear sir,” which sounds awfully sterile and impersonal to me. It was also suggested that I consider “to the no-talent hack whom this concerns." That really doesn’t sound like me for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s just mean, and the second that it’s untrue. Having read only your query, I really don’t know if you have talent or not and I certainly don’t think anyone who takes the time to write, edit, and revise a book and then put it out there for the world to judge is a “hack.”

And for any other agents reading this, please be aware that wishing authors “the best of luck” is now the biggest insult of all. According to this author it no longer has any meaning in publishing. I’ll admit, I suspect we all use this phrase or something similar, and I suppose that does dilute its meaning somewhat, but I also believe that we do sincerely wish authors luck. This is a tough business and we love books and authors. We would love to see all of you published.

Anyway, I was told to be more professional next time. The author was incensed that I responded too quickly as well. The author had submitted while I was closed and resubmitted (as per my first response) after September 6, so receiving “this kind of disparagement” only five days later apparently showed my arrogance and unprofessionalism.

There is one shining light in all of this. The author made it very clear that she would never submit anything again to me or anyone at BookEnds. Not a bad idea. I have a feeling we wouldn’t work well together.

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back to Accepting Queries

As most of you know by now, I was closed to queries for roughly six weeks in July and August. It was a wonderful six weeks. I got caught up on all queries and almost all proposals. When I reopened I had only four requested proposals left to read and one full I had just requested. I swear, I haven’t been this caught up for ten years.

Once I reopened, though, it was like opening the floodgates. By 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning (the day I opened) I already had 50 queries. By the time I returned from vacation on Thursday morning and opened email (at 5 a.m.) I had 260+. Now, granted, some of those might not officially be queries, so the first thing I did was skim through the box to see what could instantly be deleted. Here’s what I came up with . . .

A notification from a writer’s server that my email was low priority and I might not receive any notification that it was received. This was in response to an automatic reply I’ve set up to queries letting writer’s know that the email was received.

A notification from a server letting me know that I needed to ask to be on the recipient’s guest list. Please do that for me in the future.

A thank-you to my automated response. Please don’t thank me for letting you know the query was received. I know it’s hard not to, but this is one of the reasons agents don’t use automated responses. It just clogs our inbox further.

At least one pre-query asking if a query can be sent and how. FYI—I do respond to these with our submission guidelines.

Query letter sent as attachment. For the record, I don’t accept these, but will respond telling you I don’t accept these.

Okay, that’s what I found in two minutes of scanning. There’s obviously a lot more to scan. For the most part, though, it seems like the other 255 or so are legitimate queries and, in addition to getting to those, the requested proposals and manuscript, I also have at least four client proposals to read. Which means I better get busy.

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Day in the Life

I’m often asked what an agent’s day is like, and I thought of a million different ways to write this blog post up, but in the end I couldn’t do it, because no two days are the same. There are days that are so busy with phone calls that my ear starts to hurt, and there are others when the phone hardly rings but I’m spending all my time answering emails. There are days and weeks when I can’t even think about my query in-box and others when I have an hour here or there to read through a few.

While I like a certain amount of routine in my life, I love the unpredictability of this job. I like that each day isn’t exactly like the next.

That being said, I did track my doings on one day and here’s what happened . . .

I tend to wake up really early in the morning. My goal is usually to get to the gym, but that doesn’t always happen. Whether I get to the gym or not though, I always check my email first thing. So after flipping on the news and pouring a hot cup of coffee, I settle into the couch to see what my email looks like. After about 30 to 45 minutes I’ve weeded out the spam, deleted things like news alerts, and scanned emails from clients and editors. I’ll answer those that are easy to answer and leave the more complicated emails for later in the day. Any queries or submissions are automatically relegated to a query folder. I’ll look through those later.

From my email I hop over to HootSuite, the program I use to manage my social networking. Here I can see what publishing news I missed while I (gasp) slept. I can also check the status of my clients. I can find out who has finally finished the proposal to send my way, who is struggling with the next book and who is baking cookies I hope are sent my way. Some Tweets will be retweeted, some will require an email (to check in on the struggling client), and others can be ignored (most really). This Twitter check takes about 15 minutes, more if there are a number of news articles (publishing or otherwise) that I feel I want to read.

Morning is often the time, when it’s quiet, that I’m inspired to write a blog post. If I’m inspired I’ll spend 15 to 30 minutes writing one up. Only if I’m inspired, though.

Once my emails are sorted I enter the real world and do the things I need to do to get ready for the day. You know, things like brush my hair, feed the dog, wrestle kids and drink lots and lots of coffee. To give you perspective, this is usually around 6 a.m.

The family is organized, my hair is brushed, and I’m on my fourth cup of coffee. That usually means it’s time to get into the office. This could mean it’s 8 a.m., it could be 9 a.m., and it could be 10 a.m. It really depends. The “luxury” of being an agent is that my hours are flexible. Of course, that means the job is also round-the-clock.

Once I get to the office I start fresh. First I check emails, and inevitably I’ve received a number since early in the morning, and yes, many are from editors. I then move to focus on those I hadn’t yet answered to get them answered. This can take 15 minutes, it can take a couple of hours. It really depends on how many there were and how complicated the answers are.

I’ll sort through the piles left on my desk from the day before. These could include snail mail from organizations, trade magazines like Publishers Weekly, contracts, etc. Again, I answer those that are easy and will deal with the rest later.

On this particular day I spent two hours updating banking records and checking to see which payments needed to be followed up on. Typically this is something I do two to three times a week. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes three or four. Emails go out to editors at this point to find out why we haven’t yet been paid or when we can expect a check. How firm the email is depends on how long we’ve been waiting for the check. This can actually take some time since I have to remember which author is with which editor, who the emails need to go to, and what books I’m requesting payment for.

Royalty statements are a constant in our office, which of course we love. On this day I had two that I needed to review. That took about 30 minutes.

My intern had reviewed all the links on our website and blog and put together a list of those that no longer seemed active. I reviewed that list, approved changes and deletions, and sent that back to my intern. That took about 20 minutes.

Other aspects of my day included:

25 minutes: put finishing touches on a pitch letter for a client’s newest proposal
20 minutes: review submission list for said proposal and submit my pitch
30 minutes: respond to a smattering of equeries
30 minutes: grab a quick lunch of fresh mozzarella and tomato. Brown Butter Raspberry tart for dessert
15 minutes: respond to emails requesting the partial for previously submitted proposal. Submit proposal
45 minutes: phone call with client to discuss career concerns
15 minutes: respond to client emails
35 minutes: phone call with new client to discuss contract concerns
10 minutes: prepare contract for new client and send out
45 minutes: put finishing touches on publicity guidelines we’ve been working on for our clients. This has been a work in progress for the past month, so I’m pleased to see it completed
30 minutes: work on tax issues for a client

I’m sure there were many other things I did. More answering emails, quick phone calls, a chat with Kim or Katelynn about pretty much anything, a quick check to make sure the blog hasn’t gotten out of hand, another quick check on Twitter to make sure the world hasn’t imploded, etc.

Jessica

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Make Your Readers Work for You

I’m a business owner so I regularly follow business blogs, read magazines, and watch business news. I assume since you are all business owners (as authors you are the owner of your brand) you are doing much of the same. If not, you might want to consider looking into it.

One of the things my recent business reading made me think about was authors and their marketing. Specifically, whether or not your marketing is effective and, even more specifically, if you’re getting your readers to work for you. I’ve often talked about the fact that the best marketing is buzz. It’s not shoving your book down someone’s throat, but getting the buzz going. Readers buy books because someone tells them to. That’s buzz.

So the question is, are you counting on only you to get the news out about your book, or are you creating buzz or, a better way to say that, are you getting your readers to do the work for you and sell your book for you?

Jessica

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Status Update

My Twitter followers will have seen this already, but for those who haven't, let me quickly update you on where things stand in my inbox.


I closed for queries for roughly six weeks, from mid-July through the first week of September. When I opened this Tuesday I had 50 queries by 9am. At the moment I am writing this I have 325 in my inbox. Because I've also recently returned from vacation these queries will have to sit untouched for a few more days while I focus solely on my clients.

During my time off I was not only able to read a number of published books, but I also read most of the proposals I had requested. At this point I still have four proposals to read and one requested full, a request I made just a week or two ago. The partials I have yet to read were sent in late July and August.

My goal includes reading through the partials my clients have sent in the last week or two, catching up on emails, doing general follow-up work for clients and then I'm excited to get to the full (a Steampunk for those who are wondering), the last four partials and finally, I'll get to the queries.

And by the way, for these keeping track, this blog post took less than 5 minutes to write (hence any grammatical errors).

--Jessica

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

LOL

The author who hits reply instead of forward after receiving your response to her query. It doesn’t really matter what she says, but it’s always fascinating to be the fly on the wall, even if it’s for a brief moment. And for those of you who are embarrassed because you’re convinced I’m talking about you, don’t worry. This happens at least a couple of times a month.

I called a client to let her know we had interest in her book from a publisher. She was way ahead of me. Apparently she had seen hits on her website from that publisher’s URL.

When I was closed to queries I had an automatic reply to any email that used “query” in the subject. I noticed by accident that my automatic reply got an automatic reply that the querier was out of the office. I assume then that since “query” was still in the subject that my automatic reply replied. I’m just curious. How long do you think that went on for?

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Am I More Important Than Twitter?

Q: As a potential client am I more important than an agent's twitter account? Should I be?

I'm talking about agents who've requested partials or fulls. I've got a ms with an agent right now. She said I'd get a response in X number of weeks. It's been way more than that. I've sent a polite heads up and still have no response. Yet this agent is on twitter. A lot. Sometimes every fifteen minutes, all day long. At this point even if she loved the book, I'd be skeptical of her work ethic.

I know social media is fun and relieves stress, but if I have something I've got to do, I turn off social media and do it, because work comes first. Am I wrong to place this bias on a potential agent?


Thanks for asking this question, because I think it’s an important issue for all of us, not just agents. All of us have some sort of digital life or, frankly, should. Whether we blog, Facebook, or Tweet, it’s important that we embrace this new world in some way. That being said, as someone with a very public digital life, I’ve often wondered how my clients or potential clients interpret what I’m doing.

Here’s the thing: No matter what I tell you about how little time it takes to Tweet or how I handle my digital life, you’re all going to interpret it in your own way. I’m not convinced that Tweeting is the problem with the agent who hasn’t gotten back to you. Many agents work from their homes or in very quiet offices with only one or two other people. That means that the time many office workers spend in what I call water cooler conversation is done publicly through Twitter or another forum. That being said, if you feel that this agent’s Twitter habits will infringe on the time she should be spending with you, then you’ll probably always feel that and it’s not a good fit.

One thing to keep in mind is that how an agent works with her clients can be very different from time she gives to submissions. For me, clients always come first, and if there’s any reason why submissions don’t get read it’s because I’m caught up in what my clients are sending me, not Twitter. Another thing to consider is that each of us has a very different working style. Every single client I have has a different writing process, just as all agents have a different working process, so while it’s important for you to turn off the computer and social networking to get work done, some use it as a way to step away, think through things, clear our heads, and then go back to what we were doing.

It’s a tricky thing, navigating social networking and keeping a public digital life while trying to build a career, but what I can tell you is that what you see publicly is never a complete picture. If that were the case, based on my Tweets and my blog you would think I do nothing else but read queries.

Jessica

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I Went on Vacation

Gasp! I did it. Sadly, I think August is the one time of year I go on vacation and actually stay on vacation. It’s August so it helps that pretty much everyone else in publishing is away too. For 10 blissful days I stayed away from email, submissions, or proposals of any sort. Okay. I lie. I did my best to stay away, but it’s almost impossible.

Before telling you a little about my August, I want to apologize to Sally MacKenzie, because while I fully intended to get to her proposal during that time, it did take me an extra week. I’m afraid I just couldn’t get out of vacation head long enough to give it a fair read, so I waited.

Since I was closed to queries in August I had a lot of extra time to actually read books. Such joy. Here’s what I read:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m not kidding when I say that agent Ginger Clark told me I had to read this a year ago. I finally got to it and am glad I did.

Hunger Games. The book Kim handed off and I dropped everything to finish, then immediately read Catching Fire and waited impatiently for Mockingjay, which I read.

Wicked Lovely, which I enjoyed, but after reading Hunger Games had trouble truly dropping the world for, which is what I wanted.

I started a few more, but didn’t finish them yet. Still working on them.

Jessica

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

The BookEnds offices will be closed today through Monday in observance of Labor Day. Have a great weekend, and we'll return on Tuesday with a new post.

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

What Makes a Classic

Kim and I both just finished reading Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Okay, I take that back. Kim and I both devoured the book, immediately bought the second on our Kindles, and followed that by reading the third (which just released). It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that so engrossed me. I actually dreamed about these books.

During one of the many hundreds of conversations Kim and I had about the book, Kim asked if I thought it would become a classic, and I didn’t have to hesitate. Absolutely, I said. It has all of the makings of the great classic YA books, at least in my mind. It has a strong, adventurous heroine, a great story, a good vs. evil plot, and a lot more that I’m afraid to talk about for fear it might give away too much. It reminded me of all of my favorite YA books rolled into one, as well as some adult classics.

But what really makes a classic? Have you read anything lately that you thought, yes, this will be the book that English teachers will be assigning years from now or that I’ll be passing down to my children or my children’s children?

Jessica

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Upscale Fiction

I was wondering if you could address on your (very helpful) blog the difference between literary and upscale fiction. "Upscale" is a term I can't quite get a grasp on, and I'm hoping you'll be able to enlighten me!

Frankly, I have no idea. It sounds to me like a term that was created by someone who thinks of genre fiction as “lowbrow,” but that’s just me guessing. I would have to say that I suspect there’s no difference between literary and upscale fiction. If, however, someone else knows differently, I’d love to hear it.

Jessica

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