Wednesday, August 31, 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 Jessica

The ideal time to meet the love your life is probably not when you’re stalking your ex. Unless the love of your life is also stalking your ex that is...


I think this is a strong and interesting opening. My only hesitation would be that it sounds a little chick lit, but I'll hold judgement at this point. I'd also delete "that is"; I think it weakens the point.


Josie Stephenson is not just accident-prone - she's so intimate with disaster that she could probably have its baby and no one would ask questions. Thankfully she's still a virgin, so that's one thing she doesn't have to worry about. That just leaves her glamorous career at the mortuary, owing her godmother eleven new gnomes, and her fiance leaving her for another woman.

I'm totally thrown by this paragraph. It has nothing to do with the preceding paragraph and now I feel like you're tossing a lot of information of me, but none of it fits into a story, at least from my perspective.


All she wants to do is survive her heartbreak - and maybe get a new job, a new place to stay, and a dinosaur bone for her dog. Instead she finds herself falling for (in front of, on top of, and over) the mysterious new guy. But is he going to be the best thing she’s stumbled upon since shin pads? Or will he convince her that the only safe men are dead ones?

I think this could be a strong paragraph if I understood what the book was about. Honestly, if feels like you've brushed the hook away and you've definitely downplayed it. I assume, given the title, that the gnomes play some significant part of the book and are quite possibly a paranormal element, and yet I have absolutely no sense that this is paranormal. Or maybe it's not since you call it contemporary romance. See, I'm confused.

What exactly is this book about, what's the hook, what's the chief storyline. That's what I need to know, not fragments of who the character is.


Naughty Gnomes is a finished, contemporary romance of 83,000 words, set in a large rural town in Australia. Please find the first chapter and synopsis below.

Unless the gnomes are playing a large part in your book, and presumably the query, this title doesn't work. If you can show me in your query why the title would be "Naughty Gnomes" it would make sense.

And lastly, I miss that you didn't give me an bio. I assume (from your address actually) that you are from Australia, but I'd like to know a little about you, a tidbit of who you are.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely





Jessica

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why I Do What I Do

I just wanted to thank you. A while back, you had a post about querying agents at the same agency. Previously, this was something I would never have considered doing, but after reading your post, I decided to take my chances and send to an agent I felt might be interested in my novel in spite of the fact that another agent there had already rejected me.

Well, I received a request for the full manuscript almost immediately, and I recently signed with said agent. I never would have queried him had I not read your blog post, and I would have lost an amazing opportunity in the process. Thank you for your post and for giving me the courage to take a chance.





Jessica

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Monday, August 29, 2011

An Agent Leaves

I'm hoping you can help me understand something. I see mentioned occasionally that an agent is moving from one literary agency to another. From what I've been able to tell, this can mean transitioning their clients to someone else in the old agency and acquiring new ones with the new group.

Is that common? A writer spends so much time looking for the right literary agent; someone they click with and get along with who is passionate about their work. So is the writer signing with an agent or with the agency when they finally make that connection? I realize it's different when an agent just takes another career path, but while they're still in the business, how does the managing of clients work under these circumstances?



An agent leaving an agency can mean a ton of different things depending on the contract the agent has with the agency. The clients could go along for the ride or stay with the original agency. Sometimes the contracts the agent negotiated stay with the agency, but the clients themselves, and their new clients, would go along with the agent. I don't know that it's common for agents to leave agencies unless they are starting their own. I guess I've never thought about how often it does or does not happen.

The only way to know what would happen with you in that situation is to ask the agent when an offer of representation is received what would happen if that agent chooses to leave the agency.


Jessica

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Christie Craig: Three Why Questions; Three Writing Tips

Christie Craig
Don't Mess With Texas
Publisher: Forever Books
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Kim Lionetti


(Click to Buy)



I get a lot of questions tossed my way. For today’s guest blog, I decided to answer three of them, along with three connecting snippets of writing advice.


Why do you set all your books in fictional Texas towns?

Most people are surprised to learn that I’m not a native Texan. However, I was only here a few weeks when I knew this was where I’d hang my hat. Texas and Texans are just . . . well, unique. I mean, where else is it illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow, shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel, or own more than six dildos? Yup, those are real laws in this fine state; I know because I checked when I decided to live here. (Not that I’m into graffitiing cows, shooting buffaloes, or stockpiling dildos. I just like to know the laws of the land, so I can poke fun at them in my books.) So I guess what drives me to base my books in Texas is that this place is one of a kind. And since I try to write one-of-a-kind books, it fits. And for what drives me to use fictional towns, that’s easy. I don’t want to worry about getting geographical facts incorrect. Okay, I’m lazy and hate research.

Writing tip #1: Using fictional towns equals less research and less hassle. You won’t get readers emailing you notes like: There isn’t a fifty-foot-high bridge in Spring, Texas, like you used in your book.


Why do you add suspense and humor to your romance novels?

Years ago, I published a sweet Silhouette Romance. Unable to sell a second book, I focused on my freelance career. I wrote words to feed knowledge-hungry individuals. I wrote about China, calligraphy, window fashions, tomato horn worms, and ugly shoes.

Basically, if an editor would pay for it, I wrote it. After an eight-year sabbatical from fiction, I was desperate to return to writing novels. I announced my intentions to my family, my friends, and to the innocent bystander at the post office: I, Christie Craig, was going to publish another book even if I had to kill somebody to accomplish it.

What I didn’t realize was that’s exactly what it would take. When I whacked my first person, guilt sat on my shoulders like a fat gorilla. But as soon as I washed the imaginary blood off my hands and reread my deadly scene, I had an epiphany: Nothing can liven up a party or a plot like a dead body.

Since then, mystery and murder are prevalent in my work. Yes, there’s other stuff like romance, but I’m not sure I can write a story without having one person kick the bucket. Or at least having someone try to kick someone else’s bucket. Death or someone facing death excites me, and that comes across in my writing.

As for the humor? A writer needs to stay true to their writing voice, and my voice is humorous. When I first started writing my funny suspense novels someone warned me that murder wasn’t funny. They’re right, but how people respond to it under duress can be a real belly-roller.

Take Nikki Hunt’s situation in Don’t Mess With Texas: Nikki thought her night couldn’t get worse when her no-good cheating ex ditched her at dinner, sticking her with the expensive bill. Furious, she tells anyone who will listen to her that she’s gonna kill that man. Then she found his body stuffed in the trunk of her car and lost her two-hundred-dollar meal all over his three–thousand-dollar suit. Now not only is Nikki nearly broke, she’s a murder suspect. See, that’s kind of funny.

Writing tip #2: Find what excites you, what sparks your emotions, and stay true to your writing voice. Be prepared to ignore well-meaning pieces of writing advice when your gut says it’s not right.


Why did I choose Kim Lionetti as my agent and why I’m still with her?

I’d heard some good things about BookEnds, and I liked the fact Kim had been an editor. I submitted, not knowing of her upcoming maternity leave. Months later, one of Kim’s clients judged my work in a contest and recommended me. Kim recognized my name as someone from her post-pregnancy slush pile. And the rest is history.

Why I stay with Kim is another matter. Contrary to what Kim probably believes, it’s not her wit or sparkling personality. This is a marriage. And it holds a lot of similarities with regular marriages. There’s a honeymoon stage where everything is blissful: i.e., I love her because I’m sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher; she loves me because she’s sure she’s going to sell me to some big rich publisher.

Ahh, but the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Revisions are requested—rejections come in, and the initial bliss wanes. (Kim and I were together for a year before I sold.)

Just like in regular marriages you learn your partner doesn’t lower the toilet seat lid and they stop telling you they love you every day. Now, I’m not accusing Kim of not putting the toilet seat down and I’m not sure she’s ever told me she loves me. My point is that you start learning how you and your agent are really going to get along, how you communicate—or don’t communicate—and how you will have to compromise to make the marriage work.

This is actually the most important stage in an agent-author relationship. If you can’t learn to respect, communicate, or compromise you’re likely headed for the Big D. It may even be after you’ve sold several books. Over seventy-five percent of published authors who divorce their agents do so due to a lack of one of the above elements. Sometimes the personalities never meshed, and sometimes it was a breakdown in communication on the side of one or both parties.

So exactly why am I still with Kim after six years? Two reasons. One, agents wear many hats. A good agent will wear different hats for different clients. And Kim Lionetti wears all the hats I need her to wear: editor, adviser, cheerleader, contract negotiator, big bad agent who fights in my corner. All good agents in some instances wear these hats, but if you get an agent who prefers wearing the editor hat more than you want them to wear that hat, then you may not be a good fit. If they excel at wearing that adviser hat but you’d like them to wear the cheerleader hat more often, this can cause friction. Kim’s preferences for the hats match all my needs.

The second reason goes back to the respect, communication, and compromise issue. She respects what I want to achieve in my career. I respect her knowledge of the business. Her style of communication and mine fit well; neither of us are intimidated by the other, and when we don’t agree on something (and that’s not that uncommon) we debate until one or the other changes the other's mind, or we compromise.

And much to Kim’s dismay, this doesn’t mean she’s the perfect agent, any more than I’m the perfect client. I don’t think those birds exist. Again, it goes back to the whole marriage thing. I’ve been married to my hubby for over twenty-five years. Some of you couldn’t live with that man for twenty-five minutes. But our personalities work and we’re almost perfect for each other. And the same goes for Kim and me.

Writing tip #3: Before you sign on the dotted line for any agent, ask enough questions to know if your personalities will fit together and be prepared to communicate and compromise. Know what type of hats the agent is mostly likely to wear and compare it to what you need them to wear.

Thank you, BookEnds, for having me and a huge thank-you to the readers for letting me share a few of my Why answers. I hope something I’ve said is helpful, and if it falls into that category of not matching what your gut says, then toss it out like last week's leftovers.

Have a great day.

CC

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Only the Righteous

So here's the story . . .

I receive a message through my LinkedIn account. Honestly, I'm not sure why I have a LinkedIn account. Occasionally I've looked for clients for nonfiction projects through LinkedIn, but rarely has anything ever come of it. Truthfully, the most success I've had in social networking comes through Twitter.

Anyway, a message came through LinkedIn from someone I've never met, I'm not even sure we're connected, asking for assistance in "partnering with a literary agent." This person was a fellow alum from Marquette University and proceeded to tell me about their book. The author ended by telling me there was a book proposal ready. My response, as is my response to all queries sent through social networks (if I respond at all), was that I don't accept queries through social networks, but the author should feel free to query following the guidelines on our website.

The author, apparently because we attended the same school, felt that she was exempt from following my guidelines and was apparently put off by my response, "I'm afraid I do not accept queries via social networking sites. To query me and BookEnds you should review the guidelines on our website."

Well, not that you're surprised, that set off a sh**storm. One that I can now honestly say amuses me and I'm sharing for your entertainment only. The author corrected me to explain how, after rereading the original message, there was nothing in it to indicate this was a query and that not only was my response disappointing, but indicated I have a "lack of belief in Marquette Ideals." What?! What?! Because I stick to a company policy I am now apparently morally corrupt?

And then after explaining that LinkedIn is a professional networking site and not Facebook and that I use it to solely seek to benefit from others the author said, "While I realize you cannot instill decency into people, it disturbs me to have Marquette's name to continue to be represented in such a poor manner."

And there you have it. I am nothing but a money-grubbing, self-absorbed, indecent human misusing my alma mater. Dang, I'm a jerk.


Jessica

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Wednesday, August 24, 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.


Before I get into the critique I want to say that I think this is a really good letter. Sure, there's always something to critique, but for the most part I think this query could go out to agents as is and I do think the author will have some success with it.

Dear Ms. Faust,

I am seeking representation for my 98,000 word mainstream novel, Doubting River.


This is just fine. My only comment is that I think you could come up with a better title. I don't see how this title ties into the book and I suspect you could come up with something a little more striking.


Former runaway, Charm Freeman, returns to his old life after his sister's husband is killed in a car accident. Initially planning to fulfill his brotherly obligation and then disappear for another twenty years, Charm reluctantly agrees to stay and help with his sister's injured son, but they clash over how to best help the ten year old deal with the death of his father.

I have to admit, maybe I read too many romance novels, but my first thought was that Charm was the husband's brother and that the two were going to fall in love. My second thought was that since it doesn't come into play in the query at all, do you even need to mention that he's a former runaway? Honestly, this makes the book sound like it's about Charm, but later I sense that the book is really about the boy and Charm. I think you could switch the focus and make it more about the boy and what Charm needs to do to help his nephew.


Before the accident, the boy and his father were training a neighbor's retriever for a field trial. The boy desperately wants to fulfill his father's dream, but his mother believes anything to do with the dog is a setup for heartache. The past belongs in the past; the way forward is forward. Against his sister's wishes, Charm and the boy join together to turn an injured retriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that tore them apart only to find salvation in the past they tried to forget.

My only concern with this is it lacks a little voice to me. It feels a little lifeless. If the dog is injured I think you should mention that from the beginning. The first time you mention it you say it's a neighbor's retriever. So are they training the same dog or are you talking about two different dogs? I also think you don't focus on the conflict enough. Since I assume this is women's fiction and there's a high level of emotion in this story, I want to get a sense of that emotion in the query since that is what will draw readers to the story.


An excerpt of this novel, Doubting River, won the mainstream category of the 2010 Sandy literary contest. I am a former dog trainer and the author of Click for Joy, the winner of the 2003 "Best Training/Behavior Book" award presented by the Dog Writers of America. I am also the owner of the 7000-member ClickerSolutions (dog training) mailing list, and I have published numerous articles in the magazine "Teaching Dogs."

This is all good.


My contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,





Jessica



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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life as Seen Through Queries

If life were like queries:

  • All children would be orphans
  • All husbands are keeping a marriage-destroying secret from their wives
  • Small towns would have an impossibly high murder rate
  • At the age of 16, 17, or 18 we would all learn the secret our parents have been keeping from us (and it's always some super-cool paranormal power)
  • Returning home always means falling in love with the hunky man (or gorgeous gal) we left behind

Jessica

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Monday, August 22, 2011

How Many Clients Do You Have

Anytime I offer representation I'm asked how many clients I have. It's a fair question and I get why authors ask. The problem is that there is no right answer. The other problem is that I refuse to count up my clients. I don't want to know. I don't need to know.

The problem with this question of how many is too many has so many variables that it really doesn't matter.

For example, what is the agent like? I've known some agents who are superagents. They can seemingly jump giant publishing conglomerates in a single bound while juggling hardcover tomes, reading a novel, and editing a masterpiece. I've known others who can barely get their pants on in the morning without help. How organized an agent is can make a big difference in how many clients she can handle.

What are the clients like? I have clients I literally haven't heard from in years. I still consider them clients, but at this point they are either busy with other things or quietly working on their next books. I have clients (especially nonfiction) who have written one or two books, and while they're still clients and we're still seeing money and working on foreign sales, I don't hear much from them either. I have clients who call or email almost daily. I have clients I edit for and those I don't. . . .

The answer to this question isn't about how many clients an agent has, it's about how the clients feel about the agent. Do the clients feel that the agent is too busy to answer emails or attend to their needs or do the clients consistently feel like they are the most important person on the agent's list (or up there anyway). Maybe this isn't a question you ask the agent, but instead you ask the client how the agent makes her feel and how well the agent attends to her needs.


Jessica

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Thought for the Day

I love it when people start their query with something along the lines of "I know a query should get to the point, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way," or "I know you don't accept unrequested manuscripts, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way," or "I know a mystery should really have a mystery in it, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way."

Isn't that a little like me saying, "I know I shouldn't get fall-down drunk at writers' conferences, but that's not my style and I like to do things my own way"?

Jessica

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Taking the Summer Off

In your opinion, is it better for an agent to wait till after the summer to send a novel out on submission? Is it a myth that the publishing industry basically shuts down in August? Are there any advantages in NOT waiting?


I don't think there's a universally correct answer to this. I think it depends what your agent knows about the editors she wants to submit to and your agent's own schedule. If your agent has plans to be out of town maybe it is best she hold off on submitting. I don't know that publishing "shuts down" in August. Truthfully, I had a crazy two weeks between RWA and the July 4th weekend when I had offers on the table and it was taking weeks to finalize them because of RWA, editor vacations, and the holiday. It happens. It's summer. All of that being said, we've had many years where August resulted in our largest sales month of the year, primarily because it is so quiet and so many do vacation that editors have more time to actually catch up on their reading and hopefully find something they can get excited about.

When it comes to August, like many things, there's no right or wrong. A book could easily be read quickly by an editor who finds a relaxed schedule in August or sit and fall to the bottom of big piles because an editor happens to be away for two weeks and your material arrived during that time.

Jessica

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Wednesday, August 17, 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 Ms. Faust,

I would like to submit KINDRED THREADS after learning of your interest in historical fiction through WritersMarket.com:


My first caution to this author is to check and double-check where your information is coming from. I don't represent historical fiction, although I do represent historical romance and historical mysteries. They aren't the same thing. Whenever possible, always check an agent's website. That's where you'll find the best, most up-to-date information.


There are many ways for a woman to die in 1795 and Jane Wallis has seen most of them. Sickness. Childbirth. Kitchen fires. Though Indians mostly stay put across the Ohio, outlaws still roam western Virginia. Dealing with an occasional thief is as much a part of frontier living as selling her husband's whiskey to trappers and hunters.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say in this paragraph. It gives me the sense that Jane Wallis is going to discover there's a way to die that she hasn't yet scene and yet, when I read the next paragraph, that's not the case at all. I also feel a disconnect with the sentence "Though Indians stay put..." Are you implying she hasn't seen an Indian massacre or just generally describing the area? I guess the last two sentences don't really fit to me with the huge statement that she's seen many ways for a woman to die.


Jane pays scant attention when she hears of an outlaw camp somewhere in the backcountry. She has other things on her mind: new settlers, troublesome in-laws, and a difficult pregnancy. But the outlaws become bold as winter sets in, increasing their thefts and throwing the settlement of Meadow River into turmoil. The night comes when Jane is alone with her children and thieves force their way into her home. One of them is a local girl with a grudge, giving Jane every reason to wonder if she—and her family—will survive the night.

My biggest concern with this paragraph is that it feels very contemporary, there's no historical voice in here. This is something that is hard to explain because there's no specifics to point out, but it just doesn't feel historical.

If the outlaws are throwing the settlement into turmoil, wouldn't she start paying attention? If left alone wouldn't she be warned? It doesn't ring true to me. I also don't get the "local girl with a grudge," that doesn't sound scary to me. I guess, based on the preceding two paragraphs, I'm not seeing enough of a book here. I can see where a woman trapped in a house with outlaws could be terrifying, but that's not coming through in your query at all. Is that all the book is about? Because in your next paragraph you say it tells of a year in Meadow River, which implies this just might be one of many stories.


Seen through Jane's eyes, KINDRED THREADS tells of one year in Meadow River. It is a 98,000 word historical novel depicting the feminine side of pioneer life. Woven into the fabric of KINDRED THREADS are old-time ballads, figures from Appalachian history, and tales nested within the tale.

I think this is a nicely written paragraph (and query), but I have no sense of what the story this book is telling is or, I guess, what's compelling about the story.


The success of Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter and the newly released Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks indicates there is a market for fiction set in early America. KINDRED THREADS shares with these books a female protagonist, though it moves the frontier forward in time and location.

I think this is a great paragraph. It shows you've been doing your research and know the market. The only hitch I see is that you're picking huge names in the historical fiction market, which means that a debut author is really no competition. It's like saying horror is selling (it's not) because Stephen King came out with a new book. Stephen King, like Geraldine Brooks, no longer rights in a genre. They have become brands unto themselves.


I have loved pioneer stories since discovering A Little House on the Prairie as a child, growing up to receive a BA in history from Atlanta's Emory University. My work has been published in journals and magazines.

I think this is fine, as is the rest.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,





Jessica

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Does Social Networking Work?

Do sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking avenues do anything for you or your career? I guess that depends on how you use it. Three of my most recent clients came to me through just those avenues.

In one case I contacted a client of mine to ask if she had any interest in writing a nonfiction book I had a request for. She didn't have the time in her schedule, but put the word out on my behalf to a professional group she belongs to online. I found at least one new client that way.

In another case I put the word out on Twitter that I was looking for a very specific type of book, fiction, based on a conversation I had with an editor. Surprisingly only three people responded. I read the work of one, loved her voice, and so did the editor.

In a third case, through an #askagent session I held on Twitter, an author asked a question about the genre she was writing. In my answer I suggested she explore another author. She did, queried me on the work, and within a week or so (maybe longer) I had a new client.

And a fourth case, a bonus case, involved yet another nonfiction author. In this case I put the word out through Twitter, which also connects to my Linkedin and Facebook profiles, about an expert I was seeking for a book project an editor was looking for. Within days we had a deal.

While obviously these sites might not net you an agent, I think they can go very far in helping you gain an understanding of the industry and network, which in today's business world is critically important for everyone.


Jessica

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Feeling Powerless

Last year, I signed with an agent who is a great fit for me on paper: she has sold multiple book series in my genre to great editors for great deals. Very exciting. In the beginning, we spoke several times a week, and her rounds of feedback came quickly.

It’s been nine months, though, and we’ve gone through seven rounds of revisions on my MS. I’ve written two separate outlines and had her sign off on both of them… only to question things later. Since August, I’ve only heard from her a handful of times – always with a positive tone (i.e., “we’re almost there!”) but noticeably less frequently. The plan was for her to start submitting in September, but that clearly hasn’t happened.

I don’t know how many more rounds of edits I can quietly endure. It feels like she’s never going to submit my book. Every time she says “we’re almost there”, I get another six-page document of revisions. Am I just being impatient? How many rounds of edits do most writers go through pre-submission? When is it okay to say ‘enough’? I know she has a plan to pitch the book and editors ‘primed’ to read it… but the promise that is her ‘plan’ is starting to feel like a carrot to keep me revising endlessly.



Uff. This is frustrating. I think you are being very patient. Yes, it's quite possible for a manuscript to go many, many rounds of revisions. Ask some of my clients ;) so that's not my biggest concern. My concern is the fact that you had a target submission date of September, many months have passed and you're not hearing much. I think it's time for an in-depth conversation with your agent. You need to find out what her real concerns are, why it's not being submitted and ask point-blank if she's still as passionate about this book as she once was. Because it sounds to me like your real fear is that she just doesn't love it like she used to. Let's face it, that happens. It stinks, but it happens.

The truth is, it sounds to me like maybe you just don't love her like you used to either.

Here's the most important question, however: Do you love the book like you used to? I imagine you're a little tired of it, but do you still feel strongly about it? Actually, what I should be asking, is do you feel that this book is bigger and better from when you started? Seven rounds of revisions is a lot at this stage in the game, and at some point someone has to say: Enough. It's time to send it out, I can't do anything more. This is a great book. Someone has to put a foot down. It would be nice if it was both of you.

The good thing is that your agent clearly feels enough passion to go seven rounds. She's working hard to try to find you a publisher, and this is the first step in that process. I don't think this is a case of an agent not doing her job. I think it's a case of an agent and client who need to get on the phone together and really have a discussion to see where they are both at now. This is a discussion agent and client should have frequently throughout the years. How are you feeling about things right now and what is our plan? Let's make a plan and stick to it. I think that phone call will make all the difference.

Jessica

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Thought for the Day

The problem with querying every book at once (either in the same query or three or four queries in a row) is that after reading and rejecting one I tend to feel I'm not the right agent for your work and automatically reject the others. If you query different books over time I will assume your writing has evolved and you've moved on from the books I've previously rejected.

Jessica

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Real-Life Advice

I'm trying to figure out how to write this blog without offending a whole lot of people, which is ridiculous really because if I've leaned anything from this blog it's that I have no idea what's really going to offend a whole lot of people.

We've talked a lot about how there's bad advice everywhere, and while I'm talking publishing I think we can all agree this is true of everything. We blogging agents work hard to try to dispel the bad advice as much as possible, even going so far as to politely correct other agents on Twitter and even their blogs when we feel they are giving bad advice, or advice that's not quite in agreement with what we're doing. It might not be bad, but we have a very different opinion from our very different experiences. Our hope is that if you hear enough good advice it won't be long before you're able to make your own conclusions based on all the knowledge you now have.

There's one group of people though who I hear incorrect advice from regularly and, granted, not all of them give incorrect advice (it would be ridiculous to even think that), and certainly not everything they say is wrong. However, it's come up on Twitter and in the comments on the blog and, more important, it's come across my desk. When it comes to giving real-world advice on publishing I find that professors and college-level academic employees, namely those teaching publishing programs who have never themselves worked in publishing, often give advice that is so far afield or worse, so old-fashioned, I just cringe.

Let me stress, it's not the writing advice I'm talking about, it's the how-to-get-published advice and, frankly, even the career guidance. Many times I've been asked to look at the resumes of my interns and I'm always more than happy to do so. Every single time I advise them to make changes, primarily to place the focus on their work (i.e., intern) experience, I'm told that's not the way their career departments told them to do that. Well, who's doing the hiring here? Do you want to work in publishing or in the career placement office? I'm actually shocked by this. It feels so old school. In a time when we have so many struggling to find jobs, why would you place the focus, your education, on top of the resume unless you're seeking a job in education? For the most part, everyone you're competing with has a similar level of education, so it doesn't make you stand out, not when a potential employer is looking at hundreds of resumes.

It's not just resumes though. I've been amazed at the how-to-get-published advice people come up with, advice they learned in classes at school. Again, typically the query letters will stress academic background over the book and conflict with a lot of the networking, query advice many of us give on our blogs.

I don't think anyone is doing this on purpose. In fact I know they're not. I also don't think any of the advice they're giving is going to kill a career or ruin someone's chances of getting published, but when a professor or someone with an academic background gives us advice we tend to really listen to it. I know I did. When I was in school I had a lot of amazing teachers. I looked to them for advice on everything, and if they said it I believed it must be true.

The academic world is very different from the professional world. I know this from discussions with friends working for colleges and universities. I respect everyone who works as a professor or teacher. I tried it. It's a really difficult job and not something that just anyone can do. It's not something I feel I can do, or do well anyway. I only wish that when giving advice on how to work in the professional world more people in the academic world would take the time to consult with those of us in the trenches to ask our advice. I know that if someone asked me how to successfully apply for a grad program or as a professor I would refer them to someone in those trenches because, frankly, I've never been there and don't have a clue.

Jessica

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Wednesday, August 10, 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 Ms. Faust,

I respectfully request your review of my query for the Bookends Workshop Wednesday. I hope that my writing does not get in the way of this story. I appreciate your efforts on my behalf.


If you think your writing isn't strong enough I'm unlikely to think it's strong enough. Never start a query, never start a pitch of any kind (for a job, for a book, for a marriage proposal) by telling your flaws. The truth is that your writing will get in the way. A great story is necessary for publication, yes, so is good writing. You really do need the total package.


It will never be the same. Jesse was looking for adventure, but this is too much. Ordinarily ordinary, she is a fifteen year-old girl from Boiling Springs. She did all of the right things to collect friends, please her teachers and make summer plans. Being nice and doing what she was told is no longer enough. Who knew that signing up for an exchange student program would put her in a trajectory for a collision smack dab with everything she knew about herself. She came up short. The wreck changed her life in a moment’s decision. She did not offer help when someone needed her, then she lied about it. A priority of fitting in with friends jeopardized everything she knew about human decency and being truthful.

This doesn't feel like a paragraph to me, it feels like a collection of thoughts, like a rough draft, and yes, based on this, your writing will get in the way. It's important to remember that your query is a representation of how your book is written, and based on this it feels like your book is going to be choppy and without much connection. In all honesty, there's something interesting about this idea, about the fact that someone on a foreign exchange program makes one decision that will change her life forever, but why be so vague? Why won't you simply tell me exactly what's going to happen and what that decision is.

I'm not sure if this is entirely about poor writing or just an author trying to be too clever. Based on the last sentence in your first paragraph I'm apt to think poor writing, which is too bad because the idea is somewhat intriguing, but I can't represent poor writing.


This is Jesse’s story. She was a nice person. She became a bad person. LEFT SIDE OF THE TRUTH, a Young Adult novel complete at 52,000 words, is the account of what she did about it.

This feels like you're going to tell me the story instead of show me the story. I also have a problem with "became a bad person." I'm not sure anyone wants to read the story where the character's growth, the protagonist's growth, actually makes them less desirable.


This is a debut novel. The right side of a lie is not to tell one. The left side is what I will tell you now.

I have no idea what you're saying here, and that pretty much clinches a rejection for me.


Sincerely,






Jessica

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Building a Career

As an entrepreneur I'm frequently asked for advice about starting a new business, and there's one thing I always say, "Give it five years." A new business is a tough thing to start. It takes time, commitment, energy, and frequently lots of work for little to no pay. Guess what? Starting up a writing career is no different. In fact, starting a writing career is the same thing. It's starting a new business, and to truly succeed you need to give it time.

Before I go any further I want to clarify that this post is for the contracted writer. In other words, while you technically start your career with your first query letter, I believe the five-year mark starts with that first publishing contract.

When I first started BookEnds we did really well for a new agency, but we worked hard and did a lot of work outside of what we wanted to be doing. In other words, while our goal was to agent for a living, we weren't yet making a living at agenting so we needed to find other ways to pay the bills. In addition to reading submissions, networking with authors, editors, and other agents, and trying to sell books, I was freelance editing for publishers. Freelancing a couple of manuscripts a week just to keep some sort of regular income.

Within three years (thank goodness, because I couldn't have made it another two) I was doing well enough as an agent that I could give up the freelancing. Truthfully, I had to give up the freelancing. Spending time freelancing might have brought me fairly quick money, but it wasn't going to bring me as much as agenting and it was cutting into the time I needed to spend working with my clients. It meant another small pay cut until I could build up more clients, but that's what business is, it's constantly reworking and rebuilding in an effort to grow. When they say, "You need to spend money to make money," they don't always mean "spend" in the literal sense, especially if you truly believe time is money.

So why do I say five years? Because in five years' time I believe you have some sense of whether or not you've made it. You might not be able to buy that house in the Hamptons yet, but you can see that your business is solid and growing and that you've come a long way from where you started. You might even be able to pay the bills regularly and put some away for that house in the Hamptons. You have enough experience at five years to know that this career is not going to be easy, but nothing you really desire ever is. You do know, however, that you can do this, that you can make a living out of it, or almost a living.

While I think many of you dream of a career writing novels, you also need to be realistic about what it takes to start this career. You need to know that that first publishing contract is not likely to put you on easy street and that in addition to those novels you might need to find other things to do to keep you afloat while you build this business of yours. But give it five years. If you're still selling books and writing and getting published you're going to start to see some real growth in that business and you'll know at that point whether or not this is a career for you.

Jessica

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Publishing Logic 101

You say in your query, "all published books today are crap."

I represent a number of published books.

Therefore you are telling me that I only represent crap.

So, if you want me to represent your book for publication, your book must be crap.


Jessica

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Rita Henuber's Publishing Path

Rita Henuber
Under Fire
Publisher: Carina Press
Pub date: August 2011
Agent: Jessica Faust



Author Web/Blog links: http://ritahenuber.com;
www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com


Recently Jessica negotiated the sale of my first book, Under Fire, to Carina Press. I'm asked how long I've been writing. What my path to being published was. What advice do I have. Here's my story.

To get over a series of shattering events, I lost myself in reading. Two and three books a week, sometimes more. In one of those flash-bang-aha moments, I thought I'd just sit down and write a book. It can't be that hard. After all, those people living in my head in that parallel world will certainly have a lot to say.

By chance, I saw a Beginning Romance Writing online class. Fate for sure, so I enrolled. The class instructor strongly suggested I join RWA. I did and went to work writing my first manuscript. In my obnoxious enthusiasm, I made a plan:

  • Finish book.
  • Enter contests for feedback.
  • Enter RWA's Golden Heart.
  • Get an agent to represent me.
  • Sign a contract in two years.
  • Snap. Snap. Easy. Easy.

I finished the manuscript.

Eight months after starting the book I began entering contests. My budget allowed me to enter six chapter contests and RWA's Golden Heart. My goal was to final in two of the contests and the Golden Heart. Under Fire finaled in three chapter contests with mixed feedback.

For two months I researched agents. In February 2009 the great agent quest began. March 25, 2009, I was notified my entry was a Golden Heart finalist. Feet didn't touch the floor for three days.

Four months and thirty-nine "No thanks, not for me" letters (more commonly called rejections) later, I signed with Jessica. Insert big smile and happy face here. This is when publishing started to shift and I was forced to change the time line for signing a contract to three years.

Three years and eleven days after I started that romance writing class and writing my book, Jessica called to say Carina Press made an offer.

I'm happy to say I'm very pleased and impressed with the professionalism and support of the Carina family.

Advice? Set your goals and be realistic. Face it, if you are a single parent of five children and the only caregiver of infirmed grandparents, saying you will write five thousand words a day is not going to work, unless you're a superhero.

Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your goals. The very best part of being a Golden Heart finalist is meeting and making friends with other authors who are on the same path. We've formed a close supportive bond and blog together on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood to assist other writers.

Be mindful of getting stuck in one place of your process. I understand it's comfortable. But if you have entered a gazillion contests and finaled and/or won in each of them and have half a gazillion requests from agents and editors and haven't sent a single one out, you are stuck. Get the courage to move to that next level.

"Learn to embrace rejection," says the deep voice from beyond the curtain. It will come at every level of this business. No one escapes it. Not saying you shouldn't get upset, but don't let it wipe the floor with you. Find a way to deal. Pity party, my personal favorite. Champagne. Wait, that may be my favorite. Chocolate, oh, what the heck, they're all my favorite and all at once is even better.

No one can teach you to be a storyteller. That's already inside you, in your heart and mind.

If, like me, you had no idea what the romance genre required, learn the writing basics. Look to your favorite authors for advice. Many successful authors offer free writing tips on their web pages. If your dream is to write like them, study every book they've written. What works, what doesn't.

Listen to industry professionals. Follow agents and editors on their blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to stay current. Don't rely on how it was done last year or even last month. Things in this business seem to change at light speed. Keep an eye on the future.

If you don't want to blog, don't. If you don't want a web page until you've sold, don't have one. Work on marketing when your book is finished. Don't worry about what is selling and what isn't.

The absolute, single most important thing is write a good book.

Writing is journey. You learn who you are and who you want to be. There is no one way to do this. Seek and find your own path. If you see me on the way, wave.

Happy writing.
Rita

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Life Doesn't Just Happen to Us

When writing your book and later your query, it's important to remember that a successful book, and therefore a successful query, isn't just about life happening to the character. To make a book, and query, work, you need to have your character be an active participant in life.

Therefore, if you're telling me that your character's house burned down, her husband left her, her best friend died, and then her dog ran away, I'm frankly feeling your book is a little ho-hum. Clearly your book is happening around your character, to your character, but your character isn't doing anything. Maybe if her husband left her and then she shot him I might be more interested.


Jessica

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Wednesday, August 03, 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.


"Murder in Montana" is a cozy, with just enough edge to remain modern. It is complete at just over 80,000 words. Followers of Laura Child's Tea Shop Mysteries will enjoy this novel.

I wish you had more of a "dear agent" opening. Personally, I like being eased into my letters and introductions with a little bit of "small talk." Your first sentence, title included, makes me worry that you might not fully understand what a cozy is. You mention Laura Childs, which makes it sound like you know cozies, but after reading your query I question whether you've actually read Laura Childs's tea shop books or if they just happen to be a name you know.

The title is definitely not cozy and has nothing to do with your hook. In the grand scheme that's not a problem, but because you describe your book as having "just enough edge to remain modern" I worry that this isn't a cozy at all, but something you're trying to squeeze into the market. Cozies tend not to have edge, and plenty these days are modern without it.


Murder is always ugly, and it doesn't matter how much lipstick the victim is wearing.

I'm usually not a fan of taglines, but this is cute. I like it.


Pageant coach, Anne Thomas lives in a world of high heels and manufactured smiles. Corpses are not an everyday occurrence. When the state pageant director is murdered, and Anne's protégé is implicated, Anne knows that she must find the truth or forfeit her clients chances at the Miss America Pageant.

I like the first sentence in this paragraph, but the rest feels incomplete, like a collection of taglines rather than a true summary. I'd rather have you spend a little more time setting up the story, a few sentences or so that help us understand the setting and who exactly Anne is and maybe what a pageant coach is. One question, isn't Miss America copyrighted? I think, but I could be wrong, that you need to get permission to use it.


Adding to Anne's problem is the presence of Detective Andrew Cartwright. A transplant from the Los Angeles police department, Andrew is a savvy homicide detective who knows that a pageant should be Anne's last priority. Anne's biggest problem is staying alive.

This paragraph doesn't connect with me at all. Why should a pageant be her last priority if she's a pageant coach? It seems that would be her first priority.


******** has been involved in the Miss America Pageant system both as a contestant and as an executive director for seventeen years. She spent over seven of those years as a legal librarian for a private law firm. This is her first novel and she is working on her second.

This bio aside bugs me, especially with the long line of asterisks. It really feels like this query was sent as a rough draft and not a lot of thought was put into it. And, honestly, since the query is so rough and you've told me this is your first novel, I'd probably pass. My feeling is that your book is probably equally rough, if not more so, and needs a lot more work before it's ready to be seen.


Jessica

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Murphy's Law of Agenting

#1: Your rejection letter is sent the day the author's email either requesting an update or letting you know of an offer arrives in your inbox (this was more common with snail mail queries).

#2: The phone call you've been waiting for all day comes when you're on the phone with the only other call you've gotten all day.

#3: The editor is so interested in the submission you sent that she just bought something similar the week before and now can't buy yours.

#4: The blog you wrote and scheduled a month ago about a touchy situation between agent and client posts the day after you had a very similar touchy situation with a client, leading her to believe the blog was about her.

#5: The dog sleeps peacefully all day at your feet until the exact moment an editor calls with an offer, at which point he decides to start barking maniacally at a random leaf floating by the window.

Jessica

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Perception v. Reality

I have a friend who runs a retail store, and in the course of a conversation I asked what her bestselling items were. She laughed and said that until recently she would have been convinced it was the red bracelet, but after running reports just the night before she was shocked to learn that not only was she wrong, but so wrong that the biggest seller wasn't even on her radar.

The only thing she could attribute her mistake to was perception v. reality. Because she had recently sold two red bracelets and heard many other customers comment on how lovely it was, she was convinced it had to be a hot item. Thanks to inventory tracking software, however, she's always able to keep on top of the truth about her business, something that makes the difference, a big difference, in success versus failure. If she had ordered based on perception she would have a backlog of red bracelets and hardly enough yellow necklaces, her true bestseller, to meet demand.

Understanding the importance of reality is important for any business owner to be successful, and that means you too, authors. It's so easy to get caught up in the letters we receive from readers and the good reviews for our books. Those are the things that keep you writing and excited about your work, but five people writing to tell you that your series is amazing and asking for more books does not mean your series is a bona fide success. It's simply your perception of how successful the series is, or should be. The reality can only be seen in your numbers. Five people aren't going to make a book a bestseller. Heck, they aren't even going to make it worthwhile to self-publish. However, it is quite possible that five people could write to you, begging for more, and 50,000 more buy your book. Now you have numbers and numbers are reality.

Let's face it, reality is often one of the hardest things to face, but facing it head-on is what will help you achieve the success you want. Facing reality means you know what your career looks like, and knowing the truth can help you make decisions, the right decisions, about your future.

Jessica

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