Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Querying a Collaboration

I am getting ready to start the query process on my novel. The story has been written by me with collaboration and historical input by another.

On the book, I have put the title, then -- a novel by L H with EH

I have the query written as if it is seeking representation for both of us. Is this how it is done when there is collaboration on the story? We consider it a joint venture. Does this cause a problem for the agent?

I guess my real question is, should I be querying for just me, the prime writer of the story, mentioning the collaboration, or leave it as the two of us?

If the agent liked the manuscript, would he/she offer representation to the both of us or just the main writer of the story?

Should I query like this or just query for myself for now?


You should be doing exactly as you’re doing. With some collaborations authors choose to have separate agents (often they already have agents for other projects). Most of the time, however, one agent will represent the author team on the book. Since you see this as a collaborative effort it only makes sense that the agent would want to represent the author, which in this case happens to be two people.

Jessica

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

BookEnds will be closed today through Monday in observance of Memorial Day.

Have a great and safe holiday and enjoy the unofficial start of summer, and we'll be back Tuesday with a new post.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agents Have Questions Too

If I respond to a query with a request for more material, how long should I wait before hearing back from the author? How long should I wait before following up?

If I respond to a proposal with a request to see the full manuscript, how long should I wait before hearing back from the author? How long should I wait before following up?

See, and you thought agents were always calm, cool, and collected.

Jessica

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Per your guidelines, I am querying you about representation for Grand Theft Dog. It is the first story in a series featuring over-the-top dog lovers told from a cat person’s perspective. The manuscript is a completed 90,000 word cozy mystery set in Barrkview, CA where dogs are considered citizens and cats is a four letter word. That’s according to Catalina (Cat) Wright, the local TV reporter/producer at KDOG, who’s WDI Scale (Wright Dog Insanity Scale) must be revamped after she investigates why three champion Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s are doggnapped and the Mayor’s wife murdered.

This is lame (what I'm going to say), and I don't know why it bugs me, but I do not like indented paragraphs in queries, or letter correspondence for that matter. It seems to me that letters should be single-spaced, not indented, and double-spaced between paragraphs. I know, this really doesn't matter in the grand scheme, but if I'm critiquing I'm going to point out every little detail, details I might not even necessarily notice while simply reading queries.

Cute title. The title clearly says "cozy mystery" to me and that's what you want from a good title, a clear definition of the genre.

An interesting idea. I'm intrigued. My only thought is whether a book about dog lovers from a cat person's perspective is really enough of a hook. I like the KDOG and dognapping, but the fact that your heroine is named "Cat" starts to feel a little much to me.


Concerned that her Cavalier will be the next target, Cat’s eccentric Aunt Charlotte convinces her to dog sit. A prissy canine underfoot turns Cat’s life, not to mention her investigation, into a circus. Overwhelming evidence pointing to her aunt’s guilt can’t possibly be right, but who would frame her? Aunt Char doesn’t have enemies, but Cat does—dangerous men who swore vengeance a dog’s life ago.

This works. It's a well-written paragraph. From a content perspective, though, I don't think a dognapping is enough to sustain a mystery. Typically mystery readers, especially those of cozy mysteries, are looking for murder. Murder gives a book a different level of urgency. ***What's interesting is that I was rereading my comments and noticed in the first paragraph that there is a murder, it just isn't played up enough. I would think there would be more concern that someone was murdered and not as much about the dognapping. Maybe that's part of the satire, but it didn't work for me.

I also have a few concerns that this paragraph is disconnected. She's dog-sitting, her aunt might be framed, but it might be because of Cat? I would streamline this. What is the true motivation? If it's because Aunt Char is the chief suspect, that's enough to focus on.


Armed with the help of an in-your-face Cavalier, an allergy challenged FBI agent, and a town focused on protecting their internationally publicized dog show, Cat’s walk with the leash-lovers is a humorous look at the extent people will go to for their pets. Throw in a stick of romance and you have a light-hearted romp that forces a dogged woman to face her past, proving once and for all that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

The FBI agent really throws it for me. Why would an FBI agent investigate a dognapping? Most important, though, this is a stretch for cozy. It's taking the book out of a typical cozy realm. Typically FBI agents are not part of cozies. I do think you did a great job of not just telling me that this is humorous, but showing me. One concern I have is that it seems like you're writing a tongue-in-cheek look/satire of pet lovers, and I don't think that works for the cozy market. Pet lovers tend to buy cozies with a pet hook because they truly love their pets that much, and I'm not sure they think it's humorous.

While I am concerned that the puns get to be a little too much here, overall I think this is a great paragraph.


Grand Theft Dog was inspired by my father’s champion Cavalier, who ruled his household with a royal touch. I was a Romance Writer of America’s Golden Heart finalist. I won the Windy City’s Four Seasons Contest. In addition, I finished second in the Laurie, Beacon, and Stepping Stone contests. I also placed in the Gotcha, Marlene, Great Expectations, Golden Rose and Jasmine writing contests.

Very impressive credentials and writing credits. This is great. I also like how you made it just a tad personal with one line about your inspiration, but didn't take it over the top.


In a business where creativity must be tempered with the reality of consumer sales, finding the right agent and forging long-term partnerships is essential to an author. Your reputation in the field and recommendations from numerous authors has led me to you. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

This is good. Again, a personal touch, but not over the top.

This query is very strong for a query's sake and I think you'll notice that most of my feedback is about the story and not the query. In other words, for the most part I wouldn't reject this query because there's anything wrong with the query. If I did reject this it would be because I have concerns, based on the query, about whether the book is right for the market, and that makes this a fantastic query. The book is clearly described enough to allow the agent to get a real feel for it.


Sincerely,




Jessica

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Handling Critiques

I submitted my story to a few online critique groups in hopes of getting it polished up for submission. I've been a bit paranoid about submitting since I found all these publishing and agent blogs online. But after getting my critiques back, no one could agree, on anything. And it was pretty split down the middle on who liked and didn't like it as a whole. I'm just curious, that if I'm getting such a wide range of comments, could it mean that this story is lost cause? Or do I need to seek out some other readers?

This might be a better question for my readers. Without reading your book I can’t tell you whether or not it’s a lost cause. That’s a tough one. What I can ask you is what do you think? Do you think every single critique you received was right on the mark or are there some that seemed off, like they are from readers who just might not have understood the story?

As for liking or not liking the story, that’s subjective, and very different from finding the story problematic or not problematic. That’s what you should be worried about from a critique, not so much people liking it.

All that being said, it seems like you’re looking for a magic answer, someone to come up with the magic words to “fix” your book. I’m not sure you need help from other readers at this point, I think instead you need to take a look at the book yourself and figure out what you think it needs.

Jessica

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Sending Ideas to Clients

When you have seen what could be a good idea for one of your authors, have you ever sent that idea, at the same time, to more than one writer?

I have, but never without letting the authors know. Occasionally I will have a publisher approach me with an idea for a book they would like to publish. This could be a new fiction series or a nonfiction title. Typically they are looking for a certain type of author, either an author with a specific platform or specific writing style. In those instances I will often send out an email to multiple authors at once to see who might be interested. I always, always let them know I'm talking to multiple people and will send over all who are interested and leave the final decision to the publisher.

There are other times, however, when I know that one of my clients would be perfect for the project and will approach only her. If she turns it down I will then talk to others.

Jessica

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Thought for the Day

Major tragic events have an impact on us for years to come. Events like the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, or the recent earthquake in Haiti will be things we never forget and that have changed many forever. However, that doesn't mean they work as a hook for your book. Because of the vast media attention these types of events receive it takes roughly two weeks before we all have fatigue surrounding these events, therefore buying a book in which the primary hook is something we're fatigued over is the last thing many will want to do.


When it comes to fiction, it's okay to make these events part of the story or the character's background, just make sure it isn't the only hook you have.

Jessica

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Social Networking Tip

When it comes to Twitter, one of the most powerful tools is the hashtag, or number sign, for those not familiar with Twitter. In other words: #

If you really want to use Twitter to connect with others, don't be afraid of the hashtag. It's not something that's written down somewhere, it's something you create. For example, let's say you want to take a poll to see which title might be strongest for your next book. Instead of simply polling your followers, poll all of Twitter. By allowing others to retweet and adding a hashtag, like #Fausttitle, you'll be able to see the chain of anyone who has an opinion on the title, even if they don't use your name in the Tweet.


Jessica

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


Dear Bookends Blog,

Jason is dead. To Bri MacBride, nothing else matters.

It doesn’t matter that his death is just one in a string of murders. It doesn’t matter that Bri is Suspect Numero Uno. As long as the police are investigating her, they will never find the real killer, so Bri takes on that job herself. Finding answers is her only priority.

That is, until she starts finding answers.

When the people in your life are targeted by a serial killer, you’ve got the makings of some pretty hefty shrink bills. When that serial killer is also a powerful sorcerer, your problems are just a little more serious than that.


This is all a bit wordy. I like that the voice is coming through in the query, but it could have cut to the chase much sooner. The way this query is introduced, this book sounds like straight suspense. I think it's in the writer's best interest to make it clear that this book has paranormal elements much sooner.


Bri isn’t a total stranger to magic. She is one of the fae, belonging half to the faerie world, half to the human world, but not quite to either. She plays music as a day job, but when money gets low – or when life gets boring – she has a few extracurricular activities. Like scaling buildings, disabling alarm systems, and stealing valuable jewels, for instance. When your talents include the ability to manipulate energy, fry electronics, and make yourself unnoticeable, the real crime would be letting your skills go to waste.

Now here's the interesting stuff. This paragraph is what sets the book apart from a typical serial killer novel. This information should be introduced as close to the beginning of the query as possible. At the same time, though, it was a red flag for me. The tone has taken a turn. Those two introductory paragraphs sound very dark and serious. First we're talking about how "nothing else matters" to Bri other than finding Jason's killer. Now there's breezy talk of her "extracurricular activities." If it's a dark book, there's still a way of describing her abilities that isn't quite so casual. If not, then the writer might want to find a different way to open the query.


But all of Bri’s abilities won’t be enough to stop a sorcerer like this one – and if she is out of her depth, what chance do the cops have?

As Bri tries to put the pieces together, she discovers that she has more than one enemy to contend with. It’s hard enough just to evade the police, but she also has to escape goblin mercenaries, and survive attacks from mysterious faerie assassins. All this, while trying to hunt down a sorcerer who can kill her with a wave of a pinky finger. She must also bargain with her estranged mother, a faerie Queen who may not have Bri’s best interests at heart. Then she has to figure out what all the pieces add up to, and the answer to that may change her life forever.


I sort of feel like we've forgotten all about Jason. He seemed so important at the beginning, but as the description goes on, I'm starting to think that the heart of the book is really in this last paragraph. Jason was a launching point, but not really the book's focus.

This whole description could've been much shorter and more concise. If the writer had spent less time talking about Jason and setting it up like a suspense novel, we would've gotten to the meat of the book much sooner. I'd still like this last paragraph to be a bit more specific about the conflict. It raises some interesting elements, but they're all a bit vague. All in all, though, it's much more interesting to me than the beginning of the query.


OBSIDIAN BLADE is a completed urban fantasy novel of 100,000 words. This is the first novel I am submitting for publication, but I have been writing fantasy novels for fun ever since I was twelve years old. OBSIDIAN BLADE is stand-alone, but it has series potential, and I am already at work on a sequel.

Scrap the second sentence. Let the book speak for itself. Don't tell me that it's the first book you've submitted. That second sentence makes it sound as if writing is more of a hobby for you, not a serious career that you're pursuing.


I would be happy to send you an excerpt or the complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
X




Kim

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Someone Else's Idea

This question actually came in some time ago, but since I just did an interview with a student on business ethics, I thought it was an interesting time to answer.

Have you ever read a badly written query, plucked out the interesting idea or concept and given it to one of your clients for execution?

I have not. I do brainstorm ideas with my clients all the time. Sometimes they come to me with ideas and other times I bring ideas to them. That being said, I feel it would be unethical to send an idea to a client when it came from another writer, even though ideas can't be copyrighted. In other words, while it's not illegal, I don't think it's ethical.

Now, that being said, you might be surprised by how often the same idea shows up again and again. I think all authors think they have the most original idea and protect it carefully, but the truth is while the idea is very important, it's the execution that really matters. Frequently I will receive a query for an idea a client is already working on, we're in the process of selling, or we've just sold. I also receive queries with ideas for books that we've already published.

Jessica

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Random Questions

I receive a lot of questions from readers. Thank you. By sending questions you definitely help keep the blog going. At times there are questions that aren’t big enough (for lack of a better term) to warrant an entire post, so I collect them and post them together under the heading “Random Questions.” Here are just a few of those.

I have a quick question regarding a story I wrote. I started a series and wrote the first book, but after it got rejected, I reworked it and realized that the plot would be better as one of the later books in the series, and not the first one. I've since written a new first book using a plotline I think will better introduce the characters and world (it's fantasy). The only things that are the same from the last time I queried are the characters and the world - nothing else, not how they meet or the plot or anything. When I query this book, can I think of it like a new novel, or should I consider it a second submission of the same book and therefore should avoid double-querying agents who rejected the first one?

It sounds like a new book, therefore I would query as if it’s a new book.


Do you think it's worthwhile to include a link to my blog in a query letter? Do agents look at blogs at all during the querying phase, or would that be something you would look at later on, like requested material? I have been including a link to my blog thinking that it can't hurt. But the blog isn't heavily followed at this point, could that count against me?

I think it can’t hurt. If you’re writing fiction the number of readers won’t really count against you. It can if you are writing self-help nonfiction and the publisher or agent is looking to your blog to get a feel for your platform.


As my book has been shopped to 7 editors by a previous agent, does that mean there is no chance of a new agent picking up the book and continuing to shop it? Is it best for me to approach agents with a different book?

“No chance” is extreme, but I would say you have very little chance. I think it’s time to move on to the next book.


I am currently doing my degree in Singapore and I was wondering what are my chances of finding a job in a Literary Agency or Publishing House in the USA? Given that I am not a United State citizen, am I still able to apply for jobs or internships with a company like yours? What are the chances of getting said job or internship?

You'll probably need to move to the U.S., and probably New York, first. Getting a job in the U.S. while still living in Singapore is going to be pretty difficult.


Jessica

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Agent Speed Date

The idea of speed dating is that you get 10 minutes to sit down with a prospective date and get to know them. Since we're asking our clients to speed date with you, we thought it only fair that we participate too. In that spirit, we present Agent Speed Date. A quick 10 minutes for you to get to know us. Today we'd like you to meet Jessica Alvarez.

BookEnds Agent Speed Date


Name: Jessica Alvarez

Speed date Bio: A former Harlequin editor, Jessica joined BookEnds in April 2011. She’s actively looking for women’s fiction and romance submissions.

About Me

Real Name or Pseudonym: Jessica Alvarez

Currently Reading: Lots and lots of submissions

Next on Your Reading List: J. R. Ward’s Lover Unleashed

Facebook or Twitter: twitter.com/AgentJessicaA

Three authors living or dead you would want to have dinner with: Anthony Bourdain, preferably somewhere in southeast Asia. Edgar Allan Poe. Tina Fey.

Three characters you would want to have dinner with: Bridget Jones--as long as she’s not cooking. Stephanie Plum. Mrs. Dalloway

Jetsetter or armchair traveler: Armchair traveler, but only because flying with a four-year-old is no fun

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: ½ full

Tea or Coffee: Coffee

Ereader or Print book: Depends on the mood

Morning person or Evening person: Evening

Working soundtrack: Silence


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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


Dear Query Shark,

Obviously this is addressed to the wrong agent. In the grand scheme of things I don't care about this and am sometimes amused and interested to see who else is receiving the query.


Sam Collins believed from an early age he was destined for something great -- to fulfill a mission in life bigger than himself.

Which is why he wants to die.


This is a very intriguing opening. These first two sentences grab my attention and make me want to read more.


Dear BookEnds,

Oops. Looks to me like maybe you were in the middle of a draft and hit send. Again. It happens. I will keep reading, but make sure you proofread before sending queries. In fact, write the query without a name in the "to" section, and then when it's sat for a bit, send after rereading a few times.


Up until now, Sam's life has been anything but great. His father abandoned him when he was 10, his wife was killed in a car accident, and now the only thing he has to show for his life is a lousy newspaper reporter job and an addiction to alcohol and painkillers.

Good. I get an idea of who Sam is. I like this so far.


But that all changes when Sam investigates a seemingly random murder just outside of Seattle. What he discovers begins to unravel a secret society dating back centuries and spanning the globe. What comes next will change Sam's life forever -- and perhaps help him fulfill his untold destiny.

I think this is very interesting. I think you've written a good query and I like your voice. One big tip, though: I don't think you brought it home. I think you'll get a few requests based on this, but they are going to be few and far between. To bring this home you need to first bring it back to the beginning. You've stressed earlier that Sam felt he was destined for greatness, but his life has not been great. Now Sam finally has that chance. Spell that out in the query.

Second, you hint at the secret society and how it will change Sam's life forever and that's your hook, and that's what this query is missing. One or two more sentences expanding on that will bring this home. I was thinking of it in terms of the Da Vinci Code, because your book made me think of the Da Vinci Code (Don't mention that in your query, though). It wouldn't bring you to the book to say that Robert Langdon got a call about a secret society that was going to change his life forever. That makes the book sound rather, eh. Instead you want to bring it home. Symbologist Robert Langdon discovers the murdered body of the curator of the Louvre and near him, a baffling cipher. While working to solve the riddle, Langdon discovers it leads to a trail of clues that could unveil the Holy Grail. In a race through Paris, London and Rome, Langdon matches wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate his every move. Unless he can solve the puzzle in time, the Holy Grail could be lost forever.

(FYI--I heavily stole from the cover flap for that, and not very well, but I'm hoping it gives you an idea of what I mean by bringing it home.)


THE GIFTER is a 70,000 word mystery/thriller novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,


The last few sentences and sign-off are fine. Great job.


Jessica

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Word Count

My query was just recently rejected by Ms. Faust, and part of her rejection mentioned my word count being too high (230,000 words). I mentioned in the query that the work is divided into four parts, and I debated with myself to promote the first part (51,000 words, which is the shortest) or the whole work.

My question is, do agents prefer to see a small number of words over the larger picture of the entire set? I'm afraid to add more to the first part, since that may make it seem watered down or padded somehow, but I also don't want to lower my chances of getting a request for a partial or a synopsis.



This email is a little confusing, and I think what’s confusing is “parts.” Are you saying your book is divided into four parts like chapters? Or are you calling each book a part and this is really a four-book series?

In all honesty, some of this is going to depend on your genre, but typically 230,000 words is too high and 51,000 words is a little too low, for a novel. It’s the rare author who is allowed the opportunity to write and publish (traditionally, that is) a serial novel. Stephen King has done it, but not many others. What this means is that the novel was published in different parts, with readers required to buy each part as they were reading. A debut novelist, however, doesn’t have that kind of audience, so it’s better just to write a book.

Agents prefer to know the word count of the book you are pitching them. If this is planned as one published novel, then you would need to use the entire word count. Parts in a book are a great way to break up the book for readers, but they are unlikely to be published as individual books.

Jessica

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Monday, May 09, 2011

Following Up on Submissions

At what point, and how many times, should I follow up on the agents who haven't responded to my full submission? One of the two requested the full four months ago, and I was thinking I should follow up with him soon. However, the real question mark is the agent who requested a full six months ago. Two months ago I sent her a follow-up email asking for a status update. In that follow-up email, I hit reply to her confirmation that she'd received the full and I included the title and elevator pitch in the email, so that she could easily see which project I was referring to. I still haven't heard anything back from her.

Is it ok to email her again for a status update? At what point do I simply shrug and move on?



The first thing you should do when making the decision to follow up is check the agent's website. Does the agent have a time frame for which they plan to get back to authors? If so, use that as your guideline when following up. If not, here's what I think:

Queries: If an agent, like BookEnds, guarantees response to all queries, don't send a follow-up to see if the query was received, but after about 10 weeks simply resend the query. Note that you are resending because you never received a reply, but simply resend. That way the agent can simply respond and you don't need to have a dialogue of wasted emails.

Requested Partials or Fulls: Keep in mind I'm basing this on my own response times, but if an agent has requested something I think it's fair to give them 8-12 weeks to read, but given how sometimes getting the response out can take longer or how often an author will follow up the day I'm writing my response, I would say check in after 13 weeks. If you hear nothing, not a peep, check again every 4 weeks or so. If you keep hearing nothing, I guess I would check about three times and then let it go and move on.

Keep in mind these timelines are approximate, but since this is a question that comes up a lot I think an approximate answer is a good start. In the end, though, do what you think works for you. Some people will check in earlier, some will give more time. Some will try three times, some will figure that if the agent can't bother to respond they'll write the agent off. Do what is best for you.

And keep in mind the agent's guidelines. For example, we ask that you put "query" or "submission" in the subject header. This is what (almost) guarantees you get through our spam filters. Without this I can't promise I'll even get your email.


Jessica

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Author Speed Date

The idea of speed dating is that you get 10 minutes to sit down with a prospective date and get to know them. In that spirit, we present Author Speed Date. A quick 10 minutes for you to get to know some of our clients. Today we'd like you to meet Avery Aames.

BookEnds Author Speed Date


Name (the one you’re published under): Avery Aames

Speed date Bio (one or two lines): Avery Aames is the national bestselling author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. Avery likes to read, cook, garden, and do amateur photography.

Web Link: You can visit Avery at www.averyaames.com. She also blogs at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, a blog for foodies who love mysteries, as well as at Killer Characters, a blog overtaken by cozy authors’ characters.

Next Book, pub date: Lost and Fondue, May 3, 2011

Agent: Kim Lionetti

About Me

Real Name or Pseudonym: Daryl Wood Gerber, aka Avery Aames

Currently Reading: Buffalo West Wing by Julie Hyzy

Next on Your Reading List: A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Bartlett

Facebook or Twitter (include account name): Twitter: @AveryAames as well as @DarylWoodGerber.

Facebook: There's a page for Avery Aames as well as Daryl Wood Gerber.


Three authors living or dead you would want to have dinner with: Lisa Gardner, Agatha Christie, Robert Crais

Jet-setter or armchair traveler: A little of both. ☺ I’ve hitchhiked by myself around Ireland. Not sure if that’s a jet-setter, but it’s a risk-taker. I’ve also jumped out of a perfectly good airplane.

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: Half full always.

Tea or Coffee: Decaf coffee; way too much energy zipping through my bloodstream on a regular basis. A little wine with my cheese, too. Say cheese!

Live to write or Write to live: Live to write. I love crafting stories. I always have. I also act, so I hear voices in my head. Please don’t tell more than five of your closest friends.

About My Writing

When (time of day) I write: Morning is best. But I’ll squeeze in writing any time I can. Love coffee shops.

Writing soundtrack: I listen to instrumental Latin and classical music.

Character Inspirations: Those darned voices. They keep knocking at the inside of my brain and telling me what they want to do and say.

Plot Inspirations: Newspaper and Internet real-life stories make me think outside the box.

Setting Inspirations: Where I’ve lived. Where I’d like to live. Where I believe the story should be set. I wrote four stories set in Lake Tahoe. I believe I nailed the last one, a suspense novel. Right now, I write about Ohio because The Cheese Shop is set there and the pastoral, fictional tourism-driven town of Providence fits in the location.

Plotter (carefully plot books) or Pantser (write from the seat of my pants): I like to plot. I like to have road maps when I drive, as well. However, I like to take detours, so if one of my characters (the voices) starts taking another route (circuitous most often), I’ll follow for a while. And if I get jazzed by some outside-the-box idea, then the plot can morph. I’ll fix the outline, however, before I go too far. I always like knowing who did it and why. That’s very important to me.


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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Social Networking: Twitter v. Facebook

As you know, I’ve been thinking a lot about social networking and how authors can best use it for promotion, and one of the things I have been dwelling on is Twitter v. Facebook and which is really the more powerful when it comes to building a readership because, let’s be honest, that’s our ultimate goal.

As many of you know I’m on both Twitter and Facebook. I Tweet fairly frequently, especially in the wee hours of the morning and, of course, depending on how busy my schedule is. All of my Tweets are connected to Facebook and automatically update my Facebook status. My blog is also connected to Facebook, so each new blog post appears on my profile page. I have about 5,500 Twitter followers and roughly 1,700 Facebook friends. I think it’s pretty obvious where I’m going to create the most buzz.

Beyond the number of followers, though, is the ability to find followers. On Facebook you either have to request friendships or search someone out. In other words, most of the people who will find you on Facebook are already fans. Don’t get me wrong, fans are your most important marketing tool. When you announce on Facebook that a new book is available for pre-order, they are the people ordering and spreading the word to others about how much they love your work. However, it’s unlikely that these fans are going to make that news known to all of their Facebook friends. That’s not typically the way Facebook works. Twitter, however, is all about spreading the word. The infamous retweet is how you find new readers and a new audience, and it’s not just about announcing the release of your new book, it’s about telling your followers that this other person you’re following is incredibly clever, informative, and worth following.

In Twitter people might find your books because they loved your tweets first. In Facebook they are likely to find your books first.

If you ask me, Twitter is the place to be right now, the place where you’re likely to create the most buzz. Facebook is the place you want to be when honing and building those already established relationships. Both are important, but both will do very different things for you.


Jessica

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.


I know that for the workshop some will be using different methods of sending the query, but I am still going to remind you to use a greeting and the agent's name whenever possible.

Forty-eight hours into their Moroccan vacation, Julie’s best friend walks out of their hotel room and disappears, leaving only a terse note apologizing for, but not explaining, her behavior. Exhausted and furious, but habitually dependent on her friend, Julie waits as requested.

Indentations are not necessary in paragraphs if you are using extra lines between paragraphs. In other words, there's no need to indent here. [Though the indents do not appear here, they appeared in the original query.]

I like this opening. It definitely grabbed my attention.



Several days pass and Fay doesn’t return. Julie’s anger turns to worry; worry turns to fear when Julie realizes she is being followed. Then, a vicious attack meant for Julie kills an innocent woman. Julie bolts.

Still good. I'm still reading.



She has learned enough snooping through Fay’s luggage to guess her destination is a remote village called Taghabene. Convinced that Fay is heading into danger and fueled by the adrenalin rush of fleeing her attackers, Julie hurries south.

And still good. I'm still reading.



Fay has, however, already left Taghabene for a settlement in the desert. Julie hesitates. A heart defect keeps her dependent on regular medication and she’s unaccustomed to strenuous exercise, but no one else knows where Fay has gone. Only Julie can warn her. She has to risk her health or know she has failed her best friend. So Julie follows her into the black desert.


I think you need to explain first that Julie arrives in Taghabene only to discover that Fay has already left, and show a bit of her investigation as well as the atmosphere of the novel. How does she find out? How does she get to Taghabene? What's it like there for her? I know it sounds like I'm asking for a lot, but I honestly think it's a matter of reworking one sentence: "After a hot and dusty journey in the back of a jeep, Julie arrives in the small village of Taghabene, only to learn that Fay is gone. The room where she was staying has been abandoned and the only thing left behind is a map that shows..." See what a difference that makes? We get a sense of atmosphere and a bit about what Julie is doing and it doesn't add that much more to the query.

The heart defect is where you start to lose me. For some reason this feels like a stretch to me, like you've tossed something into the story because you realized you need additional conflict. What kind of strenuous exercise is she getting and what happens to make Julie feel she needs to warn her? Why does she think Fay is in danger? Is it just the one attack? This is one of those incidents where I feel like I missed a paragraph or two that was supposed to take me to this point.

I also have a hard time buying that Julie has to warn her or risk her life when Fay has clearly abandoned Julie. Again, I'm not quite understanding what has these two young women traveling alone through the desert. And how did Julie figure out where Fay went when you said earlier that no one knew?



The rough terrain and extreme temperatures weaken her. She becomes disoriented and blunders into a military patrol on the Algerian border. Julie is locked up – along with Fay and three Moroccans. Too late she learns Fay’s objective. Her resentment at Fay’s betrayal, her sprained ankle, even transfer to a secret prison deep in the Sahara becomes inconsequential: Julie has only twenty-one pills, twenty-one days until her heart will beat out of control. All that matters is escape. Pooling their meager possessions, the captives pit their wits against the Moroccan army and the black desert in a fight for their lives.


Suddenly this story has taken a 180-degree turn for me. Originally it was about Fay mysteriously leaving and suddenly now it's about Julie. I think you need to define Fay's objective earlier. The sprained ankle kind of made me laugh. Really? She's trekked through the desert alone, she's been attacked, she's seen a woman killed, she might potentially die, and yet she's upset over a sprained ankle? I would also suspect that they are in danger of dying because they're being held hostage, not just because her pills might run out, but maybe I'm wrong. I feel like you're scratching the surface here, but I'm missing the real depth of the story.

Overall I think you started off well, but it just didn't carry through for me. The query left me with more questions than answers and made me feel that there are a lot of plot points in your book that aren't really working. I also didn't get any real sense of your characters, and in women's fiction especially it's about character and the personal journey she's going through. Julie comes across to me as someone I don't get. You briefly mention that she's dependent on Fay, but to me she just seems kind of ridiculous. I guess I don't see enough of a reason for her to be tracking Fay or looking for her; I don't see what leads to each new decision.

I also felt that this went from a woman's journey to a military book, which took it in an entirely different direction for me. It might work if I had some sense of it coming, but as it's written here each new step, the medication, the military, just feels like plot points are dropping in from nowhere and not really connecting.



THE BLACK DESERT is a 95,000-word work of women’s commercial fiction.

This is fine, although I don't love your title. It doesn't say women's fiction to me.


Jessica

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It's About More Than the Book

In a comment to a thought of the day, one reader said:

Frankly, I don't understand why you would necessarily reject the next blockbuster just because an author has an ego problem ('all other books suck' etc), or because someone says their book 'needs an edit.' You know very well they all do.

Because no one knows that your book is going to be the next big blockbuster. Heck, I don't even know if your book is going to sell. Every agent has taken on a project confident that it would sell and become a success, only to find neither was true. Every single agent has had what she deemed a "sure thing," only to find it surely wasn't. Why would I reject a book based on the negative things an author says in a query letter? Because I'm going to have to work with this author for the long haul. I'm intending to work with the author through revisions and rewrites, rejections and offers, negotiations, next books, career planning, career moves, market lows and market highs. Because I'm expecting that we're going to be together for a long, long time and that it's not always going to be pretty, and I want to know as much as possible that the author is ready for all of that, is ready to work hard and, more important, that we can work together.

In addition to that, if you're telling me that your book isn't its best, then isn't that telling me that reading it is a waste of my time? I'm looking for fabulous books that are ready to be sold to the market. Sure, I might need a tweak or revision or two, but if you, the author, are telling me up front that you don't even think your book is ready to be seen, then isn't that reason enough for me to know it's not ready to be seen?

And just to be fair to the reader, I wanted to share the last statement of the comment: These sorts of poorly thought out rejection lists harm an agent's credibility.

And say that I'm sorry if telling the truth harms my credibility. I thought it might actually help you write a stronger query.

Jessica

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Interviews

Is it just me or do others feel this way? I hate this new trend in journalism of the emailed interview. I get asked to do interviews regularly, from students writing papers for class to bloggers, magazines, and newsletters, and 99% of all interviewers now email their questions for me to answer. And I absolutely hate it. Honestly, I feel it takes me more time to answer in an email than a phone call would take; I feel it completely removes any personality from the interview; and, as a former journalist, I just feel it's plain lazy.

Frankly, I'm doing fewer and fewer interviews because emailing my answers takes longer and more work on my part, more work than it takes the journalist honestly. The journalist is throwing five questions on a page and sending them to me. I'm spending an hour answering those questions so they can be used in a simple cut and paste, and, honestly, as I'm typing this I'm becoming more and more annoyed by the process.

I'm happy to do interviews. I'm happy to teach people what I know about publishing and to talk about publishing. In fact, I LOVE talking about publishing, but I love a discussion, and emailing your questions is not a discussion. It does not allow for follow-up questions and it's not a true interview. So I have a new policy. If you want to interview me and if I feel I have the time to participate I will, but I will only give interviews over the phone.

Jessica

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