Friday, April 24, 2015

Why You Should Resist Giving Agents Exclusives


I can't even begin to think about the number of times I've written on this subject. One search of exclusives on the blog will probably bring up a ton of posts. And yet, I still get emails like this:

I'm sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to check in with you on the status of my romance novel, SECOND CHANCES. I first submitted the book eight weeks ago and I'd like to know if I should continue to wait or start querying other agents. Thanks again for this opportunity. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

Why, oh why are you waiting for me to respond before querying? I never, ever, ever asked for an exclusive and I don't think I've ever asked for an exclusive. There are very few agents who will ask for an exclusive these days and if they do, ignore it and send your queries out anyway.

Your search for an agent is about finding the best partner for your career. Waiting months for a response from one person at a time is never going to help you kick that career off the ground. So query and submit widely, talk to as many agents as possible and choose the one who is the absolute best fit for your work.

--jhf

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Query Critique: Fade to the Edge

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog. 


Dear Query Queen:
           
Tracy Allen wakes to find DJ, her seven-year-old son, missing. With a custody hearing just days away, this could be her soon-to-be ex’s way of show how unfit a mother she really is.**this sentence feels awkward to me. Would it be cleaner to say her soon-be-be ex's way of showing that she is an unfit mother? An awkward sentence like this can completely ruin it for the reader. My thought is that if the first sentence is this awkward, what does the manuscript look like? Another concern: if the ex took the kid wouldn't he be the one who would look bad? I'm unclear about how this works which is a red flag for the plotting. But when the police locate DJ’s suitcase and the clothing inside covered with blood**this also feels awkward. I get what you're trying to say, but it doesn't read clearly, she knows this is more than a mere “get even” scheme. And once Tracy realizes she’s the mains**yet another typo suspect, she is determined to locate DJ, whatever it takes. But how can you save the one person who relies on you most when those closest to you are the ones you should trust the least?**I think this is generally a good hook overall, although nothing special, but I guess I haven't seen in the previous paragraphs who is closest to her that she trusts the least. If you're going to make a statement like this at any time you need to make sure you show it before making the statement.

I am writing in the hope you will be interested in reading my completed suspense book, Fade to the Edge. It is approximately 73,000 words in length.  

My current releases are as follows: 
  1. My award winning inspirational romantic suspense, Breathless (first place Royal Palm Literary Award), and it sequels, Catch Your Breath (Third Place in the Heart of Excellence Contest), both published with Pelican Book Group in 2012; Also the third in the series One Last Breath, self-published December 2014;
  2. Suspense short The Visitor, self-published September 2014;
  3. Game of Hearts, a humorous novella published with Astraea Press, released in March 2012;
  4. A humorous mystery, Knight & Day published by Write Words, Inc. in 2013; and
  5. Beautiful Imperfection, inspirational romantic suspense, was published through Pelican Book Group on September 29, 2013. It was also the winner of Best Inspirational Cover for 2013 in the “Show Me Your Covers Contest.”  
I was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from January 2010 – December 2011, and am currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. I am co-chairing the September 2015 Ancient City Romance Conference. I have spoken at several writers’ events including the 2014 Florida Writers Association Conference.

I am also a Florida Certified Paralegal and work for an estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely yours,
  

[redacted]
www.[redacted].com
Writing Clean Fiction with an Edge!

I'm always intrigued by missing child suspense novels. I'm afraid though that I probably would not request this. Setting aside the problem with the awkward sentences and errors, this just didn't feel special to me. A boy is missing and his bloody suitcase is found. That doesn't make the book stand out for me. What makes this book special? What makes it different from any other book about a mom trying to find her child?

Does the case link to an old case from her childhood? Is there a clue left behind that links to a past she's been running from? Is her ex a big muckity-muck in town and not really the boy's father? In other words...what's your hook?

The biggest mistake this makes is that it's bland. It's a common mistake, but one that equals rejection.

As for other parts of the query. I'm fine with your list of current releases, but I do feel like they are lacking information. I'm not sure they need to be a bulleted list as much as a paragraph with the publisher's name in parenthesis after.

your final paragraph about yourself is fine. You can probably skip the sentence about being a paralegal. It just isn't necessary.

I hope this helps. By focusing more on your hook I thin you'd have a strong query. If you have focused on your hook you might want to go back and rework the book itself to make it bigger.

--jhf

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Shout-Out to Beth Campbell

It's administrative assistant week and I want to take a moment to send a shout-out to Beth Campbell. Not only is Beth the assistant for the entire BookEnds team, but she is also actively building her own list and has had some wonderful successes. In fact, just this month we celebrated three sales for Beth.

I'm not going overboard on Administrative Assistant Day for Beth. She can blame my old boss for this. I was "raised" in publishing to believe that I wasn't an assistant to be honored on this day. I was a fledgling editor who was learning my trade and growing in my profession. Instead of handing over flowers on Administrative Assistant Day, my boss celebrated my successes as an editor any time I had them.

So while I want Beth to know how much I appreciate all the work she does as an assistant, I want to use this day/week to let all of you know what a great new agent Beth is becoming. She's actively building a list in urban fantasy, science fiction, YA, suspense, romantic suspense and mystery and if you're writing in her areas of expertise I think you'd be a smart writer and query her. And fast, before she's too busy to add anyone else.

--jhf


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Might Be Getting Soft in My Old Age

I've been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks and was finally pushed into it when this comment was left on a six-year-old blog post:


Gourgandise said...
I understand that agents are swamped by queries but really, if I knew that my future agent was getting annoyed by tiny little things like an e-mail attachment or the "it's not addressed to me personally", sorry but red flag, this agent 1)has an ego that I won't be able to deal with 2) sounds rather lazy and opted for comfort a long time ago. So I'll be glad to be sent to the recycling bin actually, nobody will have wasted the time of the other. If I have to go on a business adventure with somebody I might as well pick a lovely person. I'm sorry, you might be lovely in real life, but you sure don't sound like it in this post. (Before somebody says anything, English is not my first language and I don't write in English. I was just passing by, checking what happens on the other side of the fence.)


The power of the blog. Where a post never goes away and you'll be skewered for something you wrote when you were, frankly, a different person.

This particular comment was left on the post I Stop Reading When.

As I'm reading queries these days I'm sort of amazed at how much I'll forgive. Am I getting soft? Am I getting old? or do I just care less about the minute details of life? I'm not sure there's a precise answer, but I am sure that I've become far more forgiving when it comes to queries.

These days I reply to almost everything. I reply to queries that you send to the wrong address, I reply to queries that are addressed to me, Kim, Jessica, Beth and every other agent and even their mothers. I reply when there are clear typos and I even reply when it's not really a query at all, but something that simply says, "read my book." I've established a system that makes it a lot easier for me to reply to all of these things and sometimes it's just as easy to hit delete.

Of course, just because I'm getting soft doesn't mean everyone else (or anyone else) is. I'm pretty sure The Shark will never soften on us and that's ok, a good thing even. We all need to be held to higher standards and pushed to be the best we can be. Query and submission guidelines should be part of that push.

You should also know that while I'm getting soft and answering all of you rule breakers, it doesn't mean you're getting the answer you want. Most of them are rejections.

--jhf


Monday, April 20, 2015

The Perfect Agent by Colin Smith

I asked permission to repost this from the comments on my Your Dream Agent post. I thought it was so much fun that everyone should have a chance to read it.

Thank you for sharing!

The Perfect Agent

Wanted an agent for one adorable writer! :)

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Fair critiques, no snark!
Play nice, don't bark.

You must be kind, and it helps to be witty
Tell me I'm great when I'm feeling s**ty
Read my novel, say it rocks
Say it's rad and it knocks off socks

Never be quiet too long
Never say I'm right when I am wrong
Love my writing more than I do
And never lie so I won't fire you

If you are diligent with submissions
I will never fail to send revisions
I can send you chocolates to make you smile
You can send me checks every once in a while

Hurry agent!
I say with
Sincerity,

Writer, Colin Smith. :)

For those who don't get the reference.:


Friday, April 17, 2015

Celebrating Jenn McKinlay & Sofie Kelly

It's Friday and we're ending the week by celebrating two hardworking and well-deserving authors.

Congratulations Jenn McKinlay and Sofie Kelly for their appearance on this week's New York Times  bestseller list!



Sk Öl

--jhf

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reading for Pleasure


I hate that term. It implies that the reading I do for work, reading my client's work, is not pleasurable, which is not the case. If reading my client's work wasn't pleasurable they never would have become my clients in the first place. That being said, Reading for Pleasure, is what I do when I don't have to think about the book at all. I'm never going to have to edit it, think about what an editor might say, or worry about reviewers. I can just mindlessly read.

Having just returned from Spring Break, I was thrilled at how much Pleasure Reading I got in. I mean thrilled. I'm constantly asked if I still enjoy reading for pleasure and the answer is always a resounding yes. It's so rare I have the time to just sit and read that I appreciate every moment I get when I get it.

During this trip I read 4.5 books (my iPad died during the 5th so I'm working to get that one finished too). 

Here's a taste of my Spring Break, in the order it all happened.


This book isn't yet published and was passed on by a colleague. I was surprised and thrilled that she thought of me and couldn't wait to get to it. It's always fun when someone just sends you something because they think you'll enjoy it. I think fans of Gone Girl will really like this psychological suspense.

This is a book I picked up at BEA last year. Yes, I'm very slow to get to my books. This is a suspense set in Ireland with all the elements I love in a good mystery/suspense, a dark and damaged hero/cop protagonist, a grizzly murder and strong female characters. I've never read Stuart Neville before, but I would again.

Another book I first discovered at BEA, but since I didn't get the galley for it I bought it for my Nook. This one is YA, but a mystery/suspense YA. It had a great plot: Girl lost in the wilderness with murderer/kidnapper. Who wouldn't love that kind of story?

The Fifth Wave was a huge hit in our office. I think we all read it in a day and couldn't wait for #2. As far as I was concerned Rick Yancey delivered again. My only suggestion is that if you haven't yet started this series wait until they are all out. I found this book difficult to follow since I waited a year between books.

A great recommendation from Shelley Coriell. I'm not sure if this is officially categorized as YA or adult, but I think it could go either way. This is the book I haven't yet finished, but am planning to do so asap. I'm really enjoying it. It's the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of the seat.

It's rare that I'm ever going to be able to share a list this big again, but I will try to keep you updated on my reading more frequently.

--jhf



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day

Is there such a thing as Happy Tax Day?

My taxes are done and I'm happy about that. I'm never happy about taxes, but I'm always happy they're done. I know however that a lot of you are scrambling today to finish up those taxes. How do I know? Because I can guarantee we're going to receive a number of panicked and angry phone calls from people who didn't receive a 1099. You know, the tax paperwork we sent out mid-January.

Today is a good day to remind all authors to update your agent with any name change, change of address or other change you might have made with the IRS well before April 15. Even if you haven't heard from your agent in years, if you still have a book that's actively selling, you need to keep her updated with your address. You never know when a royalty check might one in or a contract amendment might show up.

I hope your tax day is fruitful or, at the very least, not painful.

--jhf




Monday, April 13, 2015

Errors are What Create Perfection

None of us is perfect. We hear this all the time and of course it's true. I make mistakes on a regular basis. Some of them are small, like adding orange juice instead of milk to my coffee. Some of them very public, like writing a blog post that was rightly misinterpreted. Some of them are simple to fix like turning my shirt right side out, some of them not so simple like applying the wrong paint to my walls.

In the end though, imperfections are what make the world perfect. If we were all perfect life would be boring and we would be boring and, frankly, I don't think anyone expects us to be perfect, anyone but us of course.

The same goes for your book and your submission. Every submission I've ever read and every book I've ever read has errors. There are typos, printers errors, grammar mistakes or even the occasional page that was put in upside down. It happens. Shit happens. Let it go.

When you're submitting your work, or once your work has gone through all the various editing rounds at a publisher, it's time to let it go. You've gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. Your beta readers, critique group, editors and agents have all gone through it. And you know what? There are still going to be mistakes. It's only the rare reader who will call those mistakes out. You know, the one who thinks she's perfect. Don't worry about her.

Embrace your faults and move on to write a better book. Because, shit happens.

--jhf


Friday, April 10, 2015

Lorrie Thomson's Cozy Reading Corner (or her husband's)


During the summer, my husband, Bill, loves to read while floating in our pool, but I’ve always been too worried. What if a precious page gets wet? Worse, what if the entire book slips from my hands? I think I’ve found a solution!







Nearing the end of What’s Left Behind, Abby Stone journeys through swamplands and darkness to Seawall Beach, a pristine stretch of Maine coast with glowing white sands and raging surf, and a virtual hill she’s yet to summit. There, she dares to finally let loose and face her greatest fear.

Nothing’s cozier than reading that scene while relaxing on Maine’s Seawall Beach in July. (Pictured: author’s husband, Bill.)



--Lorrie Thomson
Learn more about Lorrie on her Website. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook and Twitter.