Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays!

BookEnds is closed for the holidays until January 2, 2007.

Have a wonderful holiday and we'll be blogging again in the New Year.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Visit from Kim (with Apologies to Clement C. Moore)

I know it might seem a little early yet, but believe it or not, BookEnds is at our year-end. As of today we are officially closed for 2006, and what a year it’s been. We’ve seen many wonderful deals, bestseller lists, and a number of author successes in various ways—from first sales, to renewed contracts, to great ideas and so many books that we love (whether we’ve sold them yet or not).

And the blog is no exception. It’s hard to believe we’ve been at this since June. I really never thought I’d have enough content to fill all of those days. It’s been such a fabulous experience.

To wrap things up, I've composed a little year-end poem:

'Twas the night before vacation when all through BookEnds
no one was working, not even to lift their pens.
Requests for fulls were piled by the mailbox with care
in hopes that the mailman soon would be there.

With I in my slippers and Jacky her socks
we had just settled down to a large Godiva box.

When out in the road there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Well what to my weary eyes should appear
But Kim in her car with boxes of gear

She pulled out the submissions one by one

An erotica, a romance
A mystery too
Nonfiction in business
And a picture book on the zoo

There are cozies
And thrillers
And even a memoir
There’s true crime
And something that I’m really not sure

Proposals, proposals, they continue to come
So get back to work, girls, stop having so much fun.

As I heaved a big sigh and started turning around
Kim flew up the stairs, she came with a bound
She was dressed warm and cozy from her head to her foot
She even wore bells on the rim of her boot

I know Jacky laughed in spite of herself
for it was 50 degrees and Kim looked like an elf.

A pile of submissions she held in her arms
With boxes and bags and something about farms
She looked like the mailman, opening his pack
I sighed when I saw it, the huge proposal stack

But then Jacky screamed, it was a box full of gifts
A present with a proposal, orthopedic lifts.

We laughed until we cried
I thought at first Jacky had lied
Did the writer really think
A present was the link?

Soon we settled in to read and do all of our work
We read the proposals until my head bobbed with a jerk
The day was over, our year is done
It’s time to leave and go have some fun

As we sprang to our cars,
Headed out to the
well you know

We looked forward to next year
Our jobs as agents are very dear
We love what we do in spite of ourselves
and yes, sometimes we feel like jolly Christmas elves

our cars loaded to the ceiling
with plenty of reading

All heard us exclaim as we drove out of sight
Happy Holidays to All and to all a good Write.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things, Part 3

Of course, my favorite books are actually the ones I represent, but as I can't possibly pick out five of my favorites from such a good bunch, I'm picking the following out of several different categories:

One of my favorite memoirs/narrative nonfiction books is Dry by Augusten Burroughs. I just think Augusten has a great voice, wonderful humor, and touches me every time. Highly recommended. Start with Running with Scissors and move your way up. I have to add, though, that my book group read this and only two of us fell in love with it. But we decided that's because it's very hard to offend the two of us and there are some really amazingly crazy scenes. If you like Borat, you'll probably like Augusten.

Sure to Make You Cry fiction:
I just love Elizabeth Berg's Talk Before Sleep. I give it to a lot of my girl friends when I'm feeling warm and fuzzy. It's a wonderful book about friends, live, connection, and death, of course. Can't have a good weepy read without a little death thrown in there.

Pema Chodren's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times is an amazing, open-hearted and useful book about living in the modern world where fear, rage, and despair are often overwhelming around us.

Karin Slaughter's Blindsighted: I was thrilled to discover Karin Slaugher, whose dark and emotional books really appeal to me. The characters are very real, though these are very dark books. Of course, any Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child is also pretty fabulous.

Literary Fiction:
I just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, which I loved. It's on my mind so I'll pick that for today. If you haven't read it, it's really worth picking up. I love reading a book where I'm also learning something new, exposed to a culture, idea, setting I've never encountered.

There are so many amazing books and it's so hard to pick a few that really shine. I think we could do a daily blog on our favorite books and each day they'd be different. How about our favorite Christmas cookies? That's something to sink my teeth into!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things, Part 2

When Kim came up with the suggestion to do an entry on our five all-time favorite books, I knew it was going to be a struggle for me. I’ve never in my life been able to come up with favorites. Everything, every favorite I have, depends entirely on my mood. From my favorite snack to my favorite friend, it all depends what I need that day, and that goes no differently for my favorite book. Sometimes I want to settle in with a nice, slow classic, one with characters I’ve known for years, and other times I want something to zip through and keep me at the edge of my seat or remind me why love is so wonderful.

But, in an effort to give Kim’s request my all I’ve come up with a list of those books that have stuck with me over the years and/or those I’ve read over and over. I’ve excluded any I’ve ever represented or edited for obvious reasons. So here they are in no particular order, a list of only five of my favorite books, a little about why I love them and how each book might play into what I’m looking for as an agent:

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. I really love almost anything Edith Wharton writes. As someone who has lived in both New York City and Newport, RI, I’m fascinated by what these places must have been like at the turn of the century. Most importantly, though, Edith Wharton writes about women I can truly relate to and writes in a way that makes me feel the same pain and joys as they do. As an agent, I think I’m always looking for books that make me feel the same way The House of Mirth makes me feel, a little like my heart has been ripped out of my chest. A book that makes me feel so much I have to just sit and rest after that last page is turned.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Who doesn’t love this book? I’ve read it over and over and as a child I knew I wanted to be Jo. I was a tomboy who loved nothing more than telling stories. I love the strength of all the Little Women, and when I describe looking for books with strong female protagonists I think of these characters and how each of them had their own strengths, and of course their own weaknesses.

Small Vices by Robert B. Parker. I always tease my husband that Spenser is the one man I’d leave him for. I love the pacing of these books and the snappy dialogue. Unfortunately, snappy dialogue alone doesn’t sell a book anymore, but if I could find a mystery/suspense series with a new and exciting hook and the dialogue of Spenser I know I’d have a winner.

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin. As a business owner and a literary agent I find this book to be chock-full of amazing information and guidance. It’s an interesting and entertaining read and really helps me think outside the box. And it’s prescriptive nonfiction—my favorite kind.

The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sarah Foster. Okay, this says nothing about what I represent since I don’t handle cookbooks, but everything about the type of food I like to eat (and about my favorite hobby). From her Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille to the Chocolate Whopper cookies you can’t fail with this book.


Monday, December 18, 2006

BookEnds' Favorite Things

Well, who says Oprah’s the only one that can list her favorite things! (No giveaways here. Sorry.) I guess it’s no mystery that books are at the top of our list, but each of us has varied tastes and preferences. In October my client Jolie Mathis wrote an entry on the Berkley Babes blog that got me to thinking . . . What are my top five favorite books, and why are they so special to me? Obviously we couldn’t possibly pick favorite clients. They’re all our favorites. That’s no way to narrow it down! So excluding BookEnds authors, all of us came up with our top five books and we’ve created a blog series.

I get to go first!

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen—I could read this book over and over again. Probably because I was the girl who always had a crush on the snooty boy that wouldn’t pay any attention to me. Darcy proved that all of those boys were just secretly in love with me! And reading the book only got better after I could picture Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. (Drooling.)

RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris—No book has scared me so much in my entire life. I remember finishing this book in bed one night, too frightened to get up and turn off the light before I went to sleep. All serial killer books will forever be held up to this one. Genius.

INTENSITY by Dean Koontz—Well, Dean Koontz is probably my favorite author of all time. I could write an ode to him. I think what I love most is that he continues to grow as a writer, even after he’s already become so incredibly successful. So often it seems as if a writer’s just going through the motions once they’ve hit a certain level of success. Not so with Dean. He just keeps getting better. At any rate, it’s tough to pick just one of his books, but I chose INTENSITY because I read it in one sitting and it has the most amazing pacing of any book I’ve ever read. Anybody who wants to write suspense should read this book.

ENVY by Sandra Brown—I’ll admit it. I didn’t think it could be done. But somehow Sandra Brown wrote a book with a tremendously sexy hero in a wheelchair. And oh, yeah . . . I was totally into him. That’s some amazing characterization.

WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE? by Peter Hedges—If you’ve just seen the movie, you’re cheating yourself. This may very well be my favorite book of all time. I love the characters and the quirkiness. If only Peter Hedges would write more books! I hear one is coming. . . .

Sorry . . . I couldn’t narrow it down to five! My list wouldn’t be complete without including:

THE WISHBONES by Tom Perrotta—Not only is Tom one of my favorite writers of all time, he’s also a really nice guy. I had the great fortune to work with him for a while, and I’m so thrilled that I can see his name on the New York Times bestseller list now. LITTLE CHILDREN is a great book, and I hear a great movie (I’m dying to see it), but I think THE WISHBONES will always be my favorite. It’s hysterically funny, and it’s set in a Jersey town just a couple of miles from where I live.

It’s truly impossible to narrow them all down. I have a new favorite book every month! What would you put on your own list?


Friday, December 15, 2006

A Publishing Slow-Down

We always hear that in publishing nothing happens in the months of August and December. If that’s truly the case I’m terrified (and excited) to see what’s going to happen in January.

Thanksgiving came and went and I haven’t been able to take a breath since. I just finished negotiating contracts for two different cozy mystery series, both were bidding wars, and two nonfiction books. A total of 11 books in just two weeks (watch Publishers Marketplace for the official announcements).

Whew! This has been the most fun I’ve had in months!

Now if only I could sit and relax. Instead I have contracts to review, checks to cut, submissions to read (from clients and hopeful clients) and Christmas cookies to bake (and I make a mean cookie).

Whatever you do, don’t believe the hype. No matter what they say there is no such thing as a slow month in publishing, at least where BookEnds is concerned.

And a little tip for those querying agents. Stop. December might not be all that slow when it comes to sales, but agents are looking to wind down the year and might not be as eager as you would like them to be to read new submissions. If I were you I’d wait until February 1. Let everyone else inundate them in January, when they are too busy opening the mail to actually read it, and you can hit them in February when they finally feel caught up and might be able to actually sit and read the letters as they open them.

Have a Happy December! I know I am.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Business Plans

Another year is coming to a close, and with the coming New Year it’s time for BookEnds to evaluate how the old year has gone and to make our plans for 2007.

When BookEnds first began in 1999 we started with something every business should have, a plan. Together Jacky and I sat down to take a look at what we wanted to do with BookEnds and our plan for how to make it work. And each year we pull out that business plan to see how things are going and what needs to change, because every year something needs to change. I imagine that BookEnds isn’t the only business spending a day in December evaluating a business plan and, if you haven’t caught my subtle hints yet, writers, whether published or not, are a business and every one of you should have a plan. Whether you treat it as formally as BookEnds does is up to you, but a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference between success and failure.

So for those of you without a plan, or who never thought to have one, why should you have one and how do you start? Unless you are looking for financing I don’t think a business plan needs to be that complicated; in other words, you don’t need to go and buy a book on how to formally write one, but I do think there are some key points that every plan should have:

1. Objectives—what are your goals for the year? Do you want to submit to agents? Finish two books? Earn a certain advance? Your objectives can include everything from career goals to buying a new computer or making more time to write. Think about all of your goals for the next year and write them down. Putting things on paper makes it all more real.

2. Long-Term Objectives—What are your ultimate goals? To be a New York Times bestseller? To win a RITA? To earn enough so you can quit your day job? Whatever they are, putting these on paper is a wonderful way to remind you of what you can achieve, one year at a time.

3. A Mission Statement—What are your goals as a writer? How do you want to distinguish yourself from others? To give an example, here is last year’s BookEnds mission statement (I already see where some changes might be made): To represent authors who write fiction and nonfiction books for an adult mass market audience. To stand out from other agencies for our hands-on editing and our friendly approach to authors, as well as our willingness to develop projects with authors and help authors develop their writing. To build a name for BookEnds in both the romance and mystery communities as well as in nonfiction as a powerful agency with strong connections, a discerning eye, and the ability to negotiate tough and fair contracts. Focus in nonfiction will be on books with an edge, new innovations in business, health, exercise, animal care, parenting, spirituality, women’s issues, self-help, and general lifestyle. Fiction will be single title and series titles in romance, mystery, literary fiction, women’s fiction, and suspense/thriller.

4. Keys to Success—While not necessary, I think this section can really help you during those times when you start to wonder if you’re good enough, smart enough, or even capable. We all have those moments. What is it about you and your writing that will help you succeed in this business? Are you persistent? Do you have a wonderful knack for dialogue? And what can you do to help ensure success? Remain active in writing groups? Stay on top of market trends? What do you think you need to do to succeed?

5. Financial Plan—probably one of the most important and yet one of the most ignored pieces of the puzzle. Trying to get published and stay published is expensive, so make a plan. What are your financial goals—how much do you want to make next year? How will you make that money? Selling books, writing articles, or working at Target? How will your money be spent? Postage to agents? Internet access? Printing costs, publicity, promotion (you might want to break this down even further), phone, travel, conferences, research, dues/fees, etc? Take a look at this year after year and reevaluate. What is the best way to spend your money and how can you streamline.

So I’m off to meet with Jacky and discuss our business plan for 2007 and I’m excited. There’s nothing more thrilling than looking over last year’s plan to see how we met or exceeded goals and to challenge ourselves in the upcoming year. I hope you all take a day to write your own business plan. I’m looking forward to hearing what some of your objectives are for 2007.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Your Professional Blog

In a continuation of yesterday’s post about making the decision to start a blog, I wanted to take from a number of discussions I’ve had lately, both live and online, about what a blog should be, especially those belonging to professionals. Having a blog has been an interesting experience, and while I think a number of writers enjoy the inside look at an agent’s world, I know there are just as many who feel that the inside peek into an agent’s world and, sometimes, an agent’s head, leans toward the unprofessional.

So what should your blog be? That depends entirely on what you decide to use it for. Is it a family blog that you’ll use just as a way to share family news, photos, and events? Or do you intend for your blog to be another way for you to market your work? And by the way, if you are an author who is writing a blog under your pen name, you should assume that’s nothing less than a professional blog. As an author your name is your profession.

If you decide that your blog (and your blog name) is meant for professional purposes, then is it really appropriate to discuss your children, the state of your underwear, or whether or not you’ve cleaned the house? Since this is a very, very new medium it’s still being tested, and what’s right and what works can only be proven by the reader. My belief is that a professional blog is a way for people interested in you, your work, and your business to get to know you better: it is a little peek into your soul. There’s a fine line though. I think that the blog needs to remain professional, and that means that you should only post the same sorts of conversations you are willing to have when pitching your work to agents and editors or talking with booksellers or fans. In my case, it should only be information that I would be willing to discuss with my clients or talk about in front of a room full of aspiring authors and colleagues. In other words, is this group really interested in your laundry pile or would you be better served discussing your writing?

When making the decision to blog you need to always keep in mind why you made that decision and who your audience is. I really don’t think visitors to the BookEnds blog would be interested in hearing about my efforts to create the greatest chocolate chip cookie ever. No, if I want to write about that I should probably start a food blog. My assumption is that readers of the BookEnds blog are interested in hearing about Jessica Faust the agent, not Jessica Faust the cook, the mother, the dog owner, or the traveler.

So, when starting a professional blog, bear in mind who your readers are and why they are there. What do you really want to know about literary agents, editors, or your favorite author? Is it her day as Girl Scout leader, soccer coach and mom, or is it her day as a writer with maybe a little mom thrown in?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Decision to Start a Blog

The proliferation of blogs is amazing. From agents to editors to almost every published author it seems new blogs are popping up daily. So it’s not surprising to note that lately I’ve been having regular discussions with my clients about the necessity of a blog and what it means to start one.

A blog is a commitment, and it can be a big one. Therefore it’s not surprising that the decision to start a BookEnds blog was not taken lightly and was something we carefully discussed in numerous meetings for at least two months. I was, obviously, the biggest advocate of a blog and pushed for it the hardest. Because of that, I’m really the one responsible for keeping it going.

Among the many things we considered in our discussions, and things I think everyone should consider before committing to a blog, especially one meant to further a fan base and build a career, were:

Whether or not we had the time to post daily. For a blog to work it needs to be kept up. Readers have short attention spans and won’t continue checking in when there’s nothing to check in for.

Whether or not there was any purpose to a blog. Would people really read it? Do people really care what we have to say and do they really have the time to become regular readers?

Whether we had enough to say. A blog is a huge commitment, and is it really possible for me to come up with content every day, year after year? At this point I still have no idea and know that I’ve already regurgitated material, and will continue to do so. I only hope that at least 80 percent of what I’m writing is fresh.

While I’m still not sure I have the answers to all of these questions, in the end my desire to enter this world won out. My argument to start a blog is twofold. The first reason is that I’m not committing to nearly as many conferences as I have in the past, yet I still want to be able to give writers the information I think they can benefit from. By writing the blog I can hopefully provide that behind-the-scenes look that will help writers in their careers. The second reason is that it’s a promotional tool for BookEnds and our clients. Hopefully you are getting to know me a little better and the submissions I receive will reflect that. I also hope that by posting author interviews you can see what some of our clients have been through to get where they are and maybe even pick up a new book or two.

Tune in tomorrow for a discussion on what a blog should be once you’ve made the decision to have one.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Is My Agent Holding Me Back?

Here's another good reader question that came from our recent request:

I'd like your opinion on agent/writer relationships. I love my agent but she has very definite ideas about the career path I should be on. I write in a variety of sub-genres but my agent really only likes when I write my erotic paranormals. She wants me to focus on that. I'll do whatever I can to break in, but my historical romances are doing well in contests and have gotten several requests from editors. My agent doesn't want to submit my historical romances, though, because she says the market isn't as good as it is for erotic paranormals. **screams in frustration** I see her point, but if editors are asking for the fulls on my historicals, why aren't we following up on that?

And in a related post, another reader asked:

A lot of agents have said they want writers to concentrate on one thing/genre only, but if we have the time and inclination, isn't it good for us to broaden our bases?

While it’s difficult to make judgments without full knowledge of your situations, I can certainly fill you in on some general rules of thumb.

Agents almost always prefer that their clients focus on a particular genre or subgenre while trying to build their careers. This is a struggle for a lot of our authors. I think that as creative people, writers like to always challenge themselves by writing different things. But once you decide to enter the publishing world, you need to start thinking less like an artist and more like a businessperson. It’s easier for an author to gain recognition with editors (and later with readers) by focusing on and perfecting one particular kind of book. It’s all about branding, people. I can capture an editor’s attention a lot faster by saying, “I’ve got this really great erotic paranormal writer,” than by saying, “I’ve got this great writer who’s writing a paranormal, a historical, and a mystery series.” Once your book is bought, that publisher is going to be looking for you to build a fan base. Until you become the next John Grisham or Nora Roberts, most readers are going to first find you based on the type of book you write. If they like the first one, they’re going to want to see something along the same lines for your next book, and so on.

As far as choosing the direction your writing should take, you have to think about what’s selling right now. Erotic paranormals are selling like gangbusters and historicals are seeing a decline (albeit a temporary decline, in my opinion). If I had an author who had an equal talent for both, I would certainly encourage her to focus on the paranormals and put the historicals on the back burner for the time being. Contest wins are great. But Jacky, Kim, and I have judged a lot of contests. While every now and then we’ve come across something we thought we’d like to represent, there were plenty of other situations where we enjoyed the winner’s voice but just didn’t think the story was marketable.

As far as the editor requests go, you have to think about your agent’s strategy. It’s not a good idea to have a variety of manuscripts by the same author out to multiple editors at the same time. It causes all sorts of havoc. First off, if you have one manuscript at one house, but not at another, you’ll have a hard time getting competing bids. Not only that, but you could piss off an editor by sending them one book while they would’ve preferred to see the project you’ve already sold to another house. It’s much better business to send out one proposal/manuscript that you’re excited about to multiple publishers at once, and then sit back and watch them fight over it. :)

So, from what you’ve told me, I think your agent’s right on target.


Friday, December 08, 2006

BookEnds Talks to J. Lee Butts

Jimmy (J. Lee) Butts
Book: Ambushed
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: December 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti

Author Web site: See J. Lee Butts's bio and more at

Awards: 2005 Western Writers of America Spur Award Nominee

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Jimmy: Ambushed is the fourth in a series of stories about the life of Deputy U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden. Told from the p.o.v. of Tilden as an old man, and based on actual events, this tale concerns the brutal atrocities committed by the murderous Dawson Gang in the Indian Nations of the late 1870s.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Jimmy: Most westerns tend to deal with western myth. My books are gritty, as realistic as I can make them through detailed research, and they’re beautifully written.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Jimmy: My work has been heavily influenced by Elmore Leonard, Stephen Harrigan, Douglas C. Jones, Alan W. Eckert, and Dee Brown.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Jimmy: I’ve never been sure how anyone else works. I start with lots of reading and research, then come up with a title and the story develops on its own from there. No plotting, no planning, everything happens as spontaneously to me as it does to my characters. Makes writing lots of fun.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Jimmy: I fell into writing westerns purely by accident. Never meant to be a writer of westerns. Started out writing coming-of-age stories about the pain and pleasure of growing up blissfully ignorant during the '40s, '50s, and '60s.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Jimmy: I see myself in all my characters. How can it be otherwise? These are phantoms I create from parts of me and other people I’ve known over my entire life.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Jimmy: Can’t really relate to those kinds of stories. Didn’t get rejected much. But one I remember came back from an agent with a hand-scrawled message (in pencil) across my cover sheet that read, "Not for me!"

BookEnds: Do you have a manuscript that you’ll never let anyone else read? Tell us a little about it.
Jimmy: No, but like most authors I have one I’d love to see published. In fact, I’d trade the nine books I have out now and the five waiting in the pipe if Dianna's Rules could get between covers. It’s a damned fine book. Best thing I’ve written and that’s not simply my opinion.

BookEnds: What do you see as some of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make?
Jimmy: Single biggest mistake of beginning writers is their inclination to sound "writerly." They have misconceived ideas as to how a well-written book sounds and without fail they’re misguided in the extreme. The results are sad and depressing.

BookEnds: What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions of the publishing world?
Jimmy: (1) That writers make a lot of money, and (2) that the publisher will help you in your efforts to sell your books.

BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Jimmy: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, Ned Christie's War by Robert Conley, Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spenser.

BookEnds: Do you have a job outside of writing?
Jimmy: Yes, I am a semi-professional loafer and lay-about.

BookEnds: What are your other hobbies or interests?
Jimmy: Guns and golf clubs.

To learn more about J. Lee Butts, see Our Books at

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reasons to Hate Exclusives

Yesterday I posted my thoughts on how to handle a request for an exclusive, and since I’m slow at coming down off my soapbox, I wanted to give you my top five reasons for why writers should avoid offering exclusives at all costs.

1. Offering an exclusive limits you to the possibility of working with only one agent. If that agent offers representation you have no other alternatives since no one else is reading your work. Therefore, you might find yourself stuck with an agent who isn’t the right agent for you or your work.

2. Exclusives greatly limit the number of submissions you can make. If every exclusive averages 3-6 weeks, you are limiting yourself to roughly 12 agents a year. At that rate it could easily take you 10 years to find one agent (of course it might take that long anyway).

3. If an agent isn’t aggressive enough to compete for your work with other agents, how aggressive will she be selling your work?

4. An agent with an exclusive is in no rush. She doesn’t have to worry about getting to your work since no one else is doing it. Therefore she can take her own sweet time and you’re stuck with nothing to do but wait.

5. Agents who ask for exclusives still have a 99% rejection rate—they just have it exclusively.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Handling Exclusive Requests

We got so many great questions in response to a recent request to readers. Here’s just one of many I’m going to address:

What would you recommend in this scenario?

An author queries twenty agents or so. Half a dozen respond with requests for partials or fulls. One agent requests an exclusive for three weeks, but the author has already sent out some requested fulls. What does the author do?

A) Wait for responses from agents who already have the full manuscript, at which point author would be able to grant an exclusive (of course, by that point, said agent may have lost interest);

B) Regretfully decline, because it's not possible to provide an exclusive; or

C) Send the manuscript anyway with an explanation that it has already been sent out but that author will not make a decision or send out any more fulls during the requested three-week period?

Can you shed some light on what an author should do in this case? Many thanks.

If you haven’t seen me there before, here’s a chance to watch me climb up on my soapbox. I HATE exclusives. I think they are unfair to the author and lazy on the part of the agent. I have heard agents defend exclusives by saying that they ask for them because they don’t want to compete with other agents or, frankly, think they can’t. And yes, I have heard agents say those exact words. If you can’t compete, don’t play the game.

Except in the case of an option clause, publishers don’t demand exclusives from agents and therefore I don’t think agents should ask any differently from authors. In fact, right now I’m in the middle of a bidding war with four different publishers over a book. Can you imagine how unfair it would have been to the author had the lowest-bidding publisher demanded an exclusive? It certainly wouldn’t have done much for the contract, or the final advance numbers.

So what’s my suggestion? C. If the agent is interested enough in you and your work to make it worth your while, she’ll read it whether or not other agents are also reviewing it. Be honest. Send it out and let her know that while you can’t grant an exclusive you will certainly let her know if any other agent makes an offer and give her a chance to also offer. If she won’t read it then she’s probably not that excited about your work in the first place.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Been There Done That

Here's another question that came in when we asked readers to post questions to us about BookEnds, the publishing industry, or anything else they might be wondering. Gradually we’re working to get through those questions and answer them as thoroughly as possible.

I am an African-American woman working on a culinary themed cosy mystery. I worry when querying agents that they will take one look at it and give a whole "Been there done that" response to it. Any advice to me as to how I can get mine to stand out?

Truthfully it would be difficult for me not to say “been there done that.” As you obviously know already there are a lot of culinary mysteries out there, so my question to you is what is different about your book? Since you are asking my advice I would guess not much. My suggestion is that if you really want to write a culinary mystery, you don’t make the culinary theme your hook, but instead find another hook that hasn’t been done yet and then somehow incorporate the culinary into it. I’m afraid that another cozy cooking mystery is going to be a very, very tough sell.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Query Turnaround Time

Recently we asked readers to post questions to us about BookEnds, the publishing industry, or anything else they might be wondering. Gradually we’re working to get through those questions and answer them as thoroughly as possible.

I know it varies for every agency; what is BookEnds' average turnaround time for queries?

Actually it varies from agent to agent. Our posted turnaround time is 10-12 weeks, but truthfully this number is ever-changing. Things like illness, maternity leave, RWA, and the activity level of our current clients can change the time it takes us to get to submissions. On the flipside, slow times like summer and the holidays often allow us to catch up on our reading. The best I can say is if you haven’t heard anything from the agent you submitted to after 12 weeks, don’t hesitate to email and ask for a status update. A little kick in the pants never hurt anyone.


Friday, December 01, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Carolyn Hammond

Carolyn Hammond
Book: 1000 Best Wine Secrets
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach

Carolyn Hammond is an internationally recognised wine writer and seasoned journalist who has written for a number of major newspapers and magazines. She is a qualified sommelier and active member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. Her writing and tasting notes appear on her website at

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Carolyn: Publishers Weekly says the book “offers a massive number of breezy oeneophile tips in a compact package. [It] begins simply, covering basics such as reading labels, food pairings and . . . ordering wine in a restaurant. The bulk of the book is devoted to regional styles, and there it really excels. The format lends itself to reading in small doses, and the . . . result is an insightful guide to . . .wine. . . .”

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Carolyn: My favorite thing about 1000 Best Wine Secrets is its broad appeal, usability, and versatility. It’s not only a great gift or holiday stocking stuffer for anyone who drinks wine because it’s small and handy, but it makes an excellent housewarming, wedding, shower, or hostess gift.

BookEnds: Who do you consider the audience for your book?
Carolyn: 1000 Best Wine Secrets is the ultimate reference for the budding wine enthusiast and the seasoned expert. Each of the secrets contained in this book can instantly help every wine drinker drink better wine, which does not always mean more expensive bottles.

BookEnds: How do you think your book is important to readers?
Carolyn: Most people do not have the time or determination to devote to becoming a sommelier, but they still want to enjoy a good bottle of wine. 1000 Best Wine Secrets is designed to help readers get the most pleasure from every bottle. It contains secrets to make novice drinkers and serious enthusiasts alike feel comfortable in every wine shop, restaurant, and vineyard.

1000 Best Wine Secrets includes tips on:

• Selecting the perfect bottle
• Knowing how to read the label
• Pairing food and wine
• Tasting and serving wine
• Aging and storing wine
• And talking the talk

The book also names the better producers in every region of the world, points out which bottles deliver the best value for your money, and lists the top 50 wines under $20 complete with tasting notes.

BookEnds: If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?
Carolyn: The best way to buy great wine is to know what you’re looking for, and to be able to put it into words—whether you’re talking with a merchant or a sommelier. It’s easier to find an unoaked crisp white wine with restrained flavors of green apple than a fabulous dry white. The latter means a dozen different things to a dozen people, so the odds of being perfectly pleased are slim.

I cannot stress enough the importance of personal taste when choosing wine. If readers only take away one thing from my book, it would be a very clear sense of the styles of wine they like best.

BookEnds: What are your hobbies or outside interests?
Carolyn: Other than wine, my hobbies include skiing, gastronomy and travel.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I recently spent almost two weeks trying to figure out the best way to get organized. As I'm sure many of you know it doesn't take much for old ways of organization to become outdated. In this case, the level of work that I'm doing has changed so much that my previous methods just weren't enough. In addition to keeping track of submissions, payments, and contracts, I need to be able to keep track of daily phone calls and the status of each of my authors—including publicity, work in progress, submissions, and of course contracts and payments. So coming up with a system that I could rely on and that would really work for me took a little bit of time. I thought about a database, white boards, desk calendars of all shapes and sizes, and reviving my old Filofax. In the end, though (and really, this took more time than it should have), what I reverted to was plain old pen and paper. I now have an alphabetical binder with a page for each author. That way when we're on the phone, discussing
what's next or where we are at, I can quickly look to that page and refer to previous conversations and a list I have of the status of almost everything on behalf of this author. I can also look to that page to refer to previous conversations with the editor, the head of contracts, or even the publicist. But of course one book isn't enough. I have another notebook dedicated to things like phone calls and emails. This tells me the status of phone calls I've made and shows me who isn't calling me back and who I need to call back. When something is complete I simply cross it off. That way I can refer back to previous dates to see who I left a message for and whether or not that editor, author, or contract person returned my call. I can easily see how long it's been and when I should harass her again.

In addition to these two systems I also have a database for contracts and payments and another for submissions I'm making. And of course I have a log of submissions I'm receiving. And don't get me started on my calendar. It can take me an hour just to figure out who I need to be calling that day and for what reason.

I've often wondered how people who are disorganized manage in this business. How do they stay on top of all that needs to be stayed on top of, or do they? And what do authors do? How many of you looking for an agent keep track of who you're submitting to, and when and how do you track this? If you're published, what, besides your deadlines, do you need to track and how do you do it?


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thank-You Notes

This has little to do with publishing, but I’m guessing we can all use a break from work now and then and this really is an issue that’s been bugging me lately.

Whatever happened to thank-you notes?

I work in a business where it’s expected of me to send a response, albeit via SASE, for correspondence (re: submissions) you send to me. It seems, however, that we are a rare breed. Recently BookEnds was interviewing candidates for an office assistant opening and it was astonishing to me how few sent a thank-you note after the interview, and those who did didn’t even take the time to send it via snail mail, but sent a very informal email instead. When talking to others about this phenomenon, I was shocked to learn that many companies will now interview candidates and never again contact them—not even a form postcard, not even an email, not even a return phone call. After an interview! After the potential job candidate took the time to travel to the job, dress in her best interview clothes, and spend a boring hour, sometimes two, trying to charm the interviewers. How does she find out she didn’t get the job? She just never hears from them again.

I don’t think I’m a prude and usually I don’t even think I’m that old-fashioned, but are thank-you notes really prudish and old-fashioned? What has happened in our world that it’s more common to send a letter of complaint than it is a letter of thanks?

I’d like to think that technology and busy lives have not completely eroded good sense and good etiquette, and luckily I am reminded of this periodically when I get a thank-you note for a rejection letter, conference meeting, or just a brief email exchange. I want to thank all of you for my file of thank-yous (right next to the author beware file) for reminding me that there are actually more authors I want to work with than those I’d like to beware of.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

You Can't Always Get What You Want . . .

Jacky, Jessica, and I were having a conversation the other day about how life has a wondrous way of balancing itself. Every time we find ourselves needing to buy a new roof, shelling out cash for taxes, or buying a new engine for our car, we often land some kind of windfall that is just enough to take care of it. And just as predictably, any time we find ourselves the grateful recipients of some sort of monetary gift or lottery, we immediately come up with all sorts of fun shopping we can do, but some kind of bad luck befalls us and sucks that dough right out of our hands. We may not always get that cute little pair of red boots at Bloomingdale's that we wanted, but we always seem to get what we need.

Humming a little Rolling Stones to myself, I got to thinking how often this is the case in the publishing industry. Authors and agents have a LOT of expectations for the books they submit out into the wild blue yonder. Most professional authors think they have a clear idea of the best way to market their book, the type of cover it will get and the way it will be placed on a publishing house’s schedule. In fact, it’s important that our clients do strategize this way, because the publishing industry is a business first and foremost, so it’s important to approach it as a businessperson, not just artistically. Still, with all of the thought we and our clients put into this stuff, circumstances change. We land the windfall—a contract—and we have all sorts of ideas about how the finished book should turn out. But the longer I’m working on this side of the business, the more I’m seeing that there can be some unexpected turns. While we may not welcome them at first, they usually turn out for the best in the end.

For instance, one of my clients thought she’d written a quiet, slightly controversial literary novel that would have a modest hardcover printing and garner some nice reviews. Instead, Bantam is publishing the book next summer at the top of their list as mass-market women’s fiction. The author’s brain had to do a 180-degree turn, but she knows that she’ll reach a lot more readers this way and it’s the best possible opportunity for launching her writing career. The change was jarring, but completely thrilling, too.

Another client published her first book a few months ago, and unfortunately the numbers aren’t what we’d hoped. We’re finding the romance audience just isn’t large enough for the particular time period and setting that the novel covered. Now she’s hard at work on something that’s quite different from that first book, and I’m super excited about it. I have a feeling this will reinvigorate her writing and push her to a whole new level. We don’t know what the payoff will be yet, but I’m confident this turn will grow her career.

And this sort of stuff happens in many aspects of my job. Another agent may have snapped up an author I was interested in, before I could. But the next week, I come across a submission I connect with even more and I sign the author right away. So any time you think a disappointment’s come your way, just cue up the ITunes and hum along with Mick, because it’s all going to work out for the best.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Reading for Pleasure

I get asked all the time whether or not I read for pleasure and the answer is of course I do . . . and I don’t. I do read for pleasure all the time and people are amazed that I would want to read after spending a day working with books. But why would I be in this business if books weren’t my greatest pleasure? Of course, I don’t really read strictly for pleasure since every time I pick up a book it’s also work. It’s research to see what the competition is doing, to remind myself of what makes a good submission and therefore a good book, and to keep up on trends.

So what have I been reading lately (outside of the work my clients are writing) and how did I come to those books? Here’s a list of roughly the last five books I’ve read for pleasure:

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris—An editor I had just sold a new mystery series to gave me this book during a recent lunch.

The Southern Devil by Diane Whiteside—I picked this up in the airport for my flight home from California. Kate Douglas has always spoken highly of Diane’s work, and since I’d never read her I thought I’d give it a look.

I’ll Be Watching You by Andrea Kane—A book I received at the NJ RWA conference luncheon.

A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming—I’ve received a number of submissions referencing her work and have heard a great deal about her books so I thought I’d better check them out and see what it was all about.

The Fyre Mirror (Elizabeth I Mysteries) by Karen Harper—I’d never read Karen’s work before but was intrigued by the setting of this series.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

BookEnds will be closed today through Sunday for the holiday.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and we'll see you again on Monday.

—Jessica, Jacky, and Kim

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Dream Conference

As many of you know, we attend a number of conferences and speak to a number of writer’s groups each year. So if we were to plan the conference, what would our dream conference be like?

1. A huge goody bag upon arrival that includes snacks (good chocolate, water, wine, and fruit), a few books from some of the published authors in the group, neat local gift items, pen, paper, and some surprises.

2. No more than one hour of appointments with only the most talented unpublished (or published looking for a new agent) authors whose work is so inspiring I can’t help but request a full manuscript.

3. An amazing hotel with a big fluffy bed and pillows and a great health club/fitness center.

4. Meals with no speakers or awards, just the time to get to know the other attendees at the table, chat about publishing, the area, and life in general.

5. Really good food at those meals.

6. Free time. Not necessarily a ton, but enough to explore the area, go to my room to relax, or take a dip in the hotel pool.

7. Location, location, location. An amazing area I’ve never visited before or a place where I have friends and family to visit while I’m there. I love the opportunity to turn a conference into a vacation. Europe would be fabulous.

8. A host. Someone assigned to me who makes sure I have my goody bag, the schedule for my weekend, a ride to and from the airport, and a cocktail or cup of coffee when I need it.

9. Water. It’s amazing how thirsty you get during appointments or a panel. A fresh bottle or glass of water is constantly needed.

10. Optional excursions. I love it when conference organizers take the time to plan and organize a free trip to a local tourist site. It’s always fun to see something new and different.

11. Wine served at panelist table while we’re speaking.

12. Direct flights to and from the conference.

13. Laid-back, comfortable attendees who aren’t too intimidated to just chat with us and hang out at the bar. Trust me—we’re not an intimidating lot.

Ah, it’s always fun to dream. What would your dream conference be like?


Monday, November 20, 2006

If I Did It

For anyone who has been living under a rock, I might have to point out that O. J. Simpson has written a book entitled If I Did It, Here’s How it Happened. Published by Judith Regan of Regan Books, the book and the publisher have come under a firestorm of controversy from the media, consumers, and industry professionals alike, and the more Judith Regan tries to defend herself the murkier the situation seems to get.

Rather than rehash the entire story (you can read more on almost any publishing or news-related Web site), I want to give my own murky opinion of the situation. The truth is, I really don’t know what to think.

As an editor, a great number of the decisions I made about what to buy, as well as the decisions I now make as an agent about what to represent, are personal. The first question always was and still is whether or not I like something. The second is whether it will make me money. The question then becomes: If I don’t like something, or don’t agree with it, but know it will still make me money, would I consider it? The answer is, I’m not sure.

On the one hand, I’m disgusted and stunned by the arrogance and greed it must take to come out and do something like this. While O. J. is obviously denying it’s a confession, I have to wonder whether or not an innocent person, convicted of a crime, would truly come out publicly with what would have been a better plan for murder. I’m also wondering why you wouldn’t just lay it to rest. I have to think that if my husband were brutally murdered and I had to stand trial for the crime, I would just want it all to go away.

On the other hand, publishing is a business, and in any business the goal is to make money. So where does a business draw the line between personal feelings and the needs and desires of the shareholders? If Regan Books chose not to buy the project, would it have been a poor business decision since another publisher would have grabbed it? The truth is that these books are selling. It isn’t even officially out yet and has already reached #24 on the Amazon list. So who’s at fault? Judith Regan for publishing the book or the public for so obviously wanting to read it?

My personal feelings and my business sense are torn on this topic, and more important, I’m just baffled by the entire thing. Can anyone else make any more sense out of it than I’ve done?


Friday, November 17, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Deb Baker

Deb Baker
Book: Dolled Up for Murder
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach

Deb Baker is the author of two debut novels this year—Murder Passes the Buck, a Michigan Yooper mystery featuring local amateur sleuth Gertie Johnson, and Dolled Up for Murder, the first in the Dolls To Die For series with Gretchen Birch, a Phoenix doll restoration artist.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Deb: A message clutched in the fist of a doll collector found dead near a Phoenix mountain implicates Gretchen Birch’s mother. All evidence points to her as the killer, but Gretchen knows she’s innocent. The problem is, her mother has disappeared—and she’s left an urgent warning that Gretchen is in danger, too. . . .

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Deb: Dolled Up for Murder is a traditional cozy in many ways—miniature purse dogs, a three-legged cat, and a family of very snoopy females. But the subject matter distinguishes it from others of this genre. The Dolls To Die For series is the very first mystery series to feature dolls. And since doll collecting is the second largest hobby in the country (after stamp collecting), that makes it unique.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Deb: The research! Climbing Camelback Mountain and looking out over Phoenix, sipping margaritas (um . . . so I know how they taste), and slurping chile stew. Visiting doll shows is the most fun. Doll people are very friendly and have supported me throughout the writing process, answering all my questions and telling me stories. My collection has begun to grow from a few childhood dolls to . . . well, who knows where it’ll go from here. I’ll be in Arizona in early November visiting bookstores and doll shops. Check my appearance page if you live close by. I’d love to meet you.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Deb: Next up is Murder Grins and Bears It, coming out May 1, 2007. Then another doll collecting mystery, Goodbye Dolly, in September. I’m writing like crazy.

BookEnds: What has been your most successful marketing campaign?
Deb: The Internet is a wonderful thing. I contacted doll show promoters across the country and offered to send postcards for their shows’ flyer tables. The response was overwhelming. I’ve sent out 5,000 postcards to shows.

BookEnds: Besides making your first sale, what has been the most fun thing to happen to your writing career?
Deb: The reviews have been awesome for both books. It’s such a thrill when others enjoy my work. Doll magazine featured me in its current issue and devoted an entire colored page to my collection of dolls. That was the best.

To learn more about Deb Baker, see Our Books at

Thursday, November 16, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Max McCoy

Max McCoy
Book: A Breed Apart: A Novel of Wild Bill Hickok
Publisher: NAL
Pub date: November 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti

Max McCoy is an award-winning author, investigative reporter, and screenwriter. He is Journalist in Residence at Emporia State University at Emporia, Kansas.

Awards: Spur Award, best first novel; Western Writers of America (for The Sixth Rider, Doubleday); Oxbow Award for Short Fiction (“Spoils of War”); many other awards, mostly for journalism.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Max: History remembers him as Wild Bill, but he was born James Butler Hickok, a young man who forged his future as a scout on the plains, and as a Union spy during the Civil War. But it was on one afternoon in Springfield, Missouri, that Hickok found his true calling—with a revolver in his hand.

BookEnds: What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other authors of this genre?
Max: First, I never considered myself as writing for a genre—to me, the books have always been novels, period. The publishers label some of my novels as westerns, of course, but that’s a marketing decision. As for A Breed Apart, it’s the story of Wild Bill Hickok facing his greatest enemy—himself—and losing. Hickok is a fascinating character, and while everybody knows he was shot dead by Jack McCall at the Number 10 saloon in Deadwood while holding a poker hand of aces and eights, not a lot of attention has been paid to his early days, which I find more intriguing. How did this fellow who was plagued with self-doubt become an icon of the American west? While A Breed Apart is of course fiction, I have attempted to remain truthful to Hickok’s character and what is known of his life and have endeavored to steer clear of the clich├ęs created by the dime novels of his time and by Hollywood of ours.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Max: It’s hard to choose just one favorite thing. It’s set in the Ozarks, it takes place during the Civil War, and the lead character is Wild Bill Hickok—what’s not to like?

BookEnds: How did you come to write this book?
Max: When I mentioned to Brent Howard, my (terrific) editor at New American Library, that I was a fan of HBO’s Deadwood, he suggested a novel on Wild Bill Hickok. After some research, I realized that Hickok’s early years, on the Kansas and Nebraska border, and later in the Ozarks during the Civil War, would make a good story. The novel ends with the famous shootout with Dave Tutt on the Springfield, Missouri, square—a shootout that launched Hickok’s reputation as a pistoleer. The fight may be the only truly “classic” gunfight in the history of the west, with the combatants facing each other and drawing at the same time. Hickok put a ball through Tutt’s chest, at a distance of 70 yards . . . a spectacular shot with a pistol. Tutt was Hickok’s best friend, the fight was ostensibly over a trifling debt and a pocket watch, and there was the suggestion of a woman as well. And there you have everything a novelist needs to spin a tale.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Max: It’s called Hellfire Canyon and will be released in February 2007 by Kensington. But I hate the title, and I’ll tell you why. The book features real-life Civil War serial killer Alf Bolin, who ambushed people on the coach road a few miles from what is now Branson, Missouri. His hideout was a massive rock formation known (after his depredations) as Murder Rocks. So, the original title of the book was Murder Rock. I dropped the "s" for stylistic reasons. Anyway, my editor at Kensington, Gary Goldstein, told me that somebody—the publisher, buyers, Wal-Mart, maybe—didn’t think Murder Rock sounded like a western. So they changed the title to Hellfire Canyon, which has to be one of the worst titles ever, especially when you consider that the story takes place in the Ozarks—we have hills and hollers, draws and valleys, but no canyons. That’s a Southwestern word. So, the only way I could live with myself and actually write a book with such a horrible title was to poke some fun at it, so I invented a terrible 1930s movie called Hellfire Canyon, which premieres at Joplin, Missouri, and one of those who attend is Jacob Gamble, who was a boy during the Civil War and who narrates much of the story. I had some fun making up a history for the movie—it was filmed on location, for example, and starred Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda, was directed by John Huston, and the only print was lost when a shed on the MGM lot was destroyed during the burning-of-Atlanta scene for Gone With the Wind. It is difficult for me to judge my own books, but I am particularly fond of Jacob Gamble. He was the narrator for a story called “Spoils of War,” which I wrote some years ago for Louis L’Amour Western Magazine, and I brought him back so that he could tell the rest of his story, which ends at Murder Rock in Taney County, Missouri. I’m still frosted over the title, even though Gary Goldstein is one of the good guys and has long been a friend of mine (but then, he’s probably frosted with me for being, well, difficult in a hundred ways). I’m thinking about providing an alternative cover on my Web site so readers can download it and paste it over the awful Hellfire Canyon title. To me, the novel will always be Murder Rock.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Max: I put a lot of myself into my characters. Certainly I’m Richard Dahlgren, the cave diver and underwater investigator from The Moon Pool. But there’s a lot of me in Hickok in A Breed Apart and Jacob Gamble in Hellfire Canyon as well. There’s just something about loners, outlaws, and outsiders that I identify with.

BookEnds:Bonus Question: Is there anything we missed or anything you would like to add?
Max: Let’s see. Yeah, I’d like to acknowledge my debt to Don Coldsmith, who introduced me to Doubleday editor Greg Tobin at the Tallgrass Writing Conference in Emporia, Kansas. That meeting launched my book publishing career. I’d like to remember Fred Bean, a writer friend of mine in Austin who died a few years ago. Everybody misses the hell out of him. And I’d like to thank my agent, Kimberly Lionetti of Bookends, who came to Eureka Springs and gave a terrific talk at the Ozark Creative Writers conference a couple of weeks ago.

To learn more about Max McCoy, see Our Books at

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yummy Proposals

I got a huge proposal package in the mail recently. One marked perishable. You know what that means? That means a yummy bribe. Someone out there has decided that the best way to charm and win me over is to send an amazing box of chocolates along with the proposal. Well I, like almost everyone else, love a good box of chocolate and I always love a gift. But let me tell you, other than making me feel a twinge of guilt, this gift isn't going to do much of anything for you. When evaluating the proposal it's all about the proposal—the writing, the marketability, and whether or not I can sell it. While gifts are always nice, don't waste your money. Instead spend your time and energy making your proposal the best it can be.

And by the way, I prefer all dark chocolate since it's the only kind of chocolate we'll eat at my house ;)


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Giving Up

I was thrilled with the response my post Coping with Rejection got. I felt such a shared sense of comaraderie and enjoyed reading how others deal with this necessary evil. One comment asked the question:

At what point does the agent who's been getting rejections on a manuscript give up on it? And what happens to that book—is it shelved away forever or do you wait a few years and see if new editors at the old publishing houses are more receptive?

The first answer is my cop-out (but true) answer. It depends. When does an agent give up? It depends on the agent (some are more tenacious than others) and it depends on the book (some grab hold of you and never let go, and for some reason you refuse to stop.) It’s like smoking, you keep saying, “just one more.” And it depends on the rejections. If each and every rejection is saying the same thing and that “thing” starts ringing true to me, I will usually suggest to the author that we find something fresh to send around. If, however, I think all of the rejections are filled with nonsense and each and every one is completely different I will continue to plug away at it.

What happens to a book after we quit submitting also depends. Sometimes you’ll find out, months later, that an editor is looking for exactly what you’ve got. Sometimes editors have come back after rejecting something. The market has changed and suddenly she has a place for it and sometimes the market does a complete 180 and you’ve got the hottest thing going. And sometimes we’re lucky and the first editor I submitted to leaves and I can try someone fresh at an old house.

Even if I have moved on to a new project I’m always keeping those old ones in the back of my mind. You never know when you’ll get a call that you have the perfect book for.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Why I Became an Agent

One of the most frequently asked questions when I attend conferences or talk with authors is why I became an agent. And really my answer comes down to one simple thing: I don’t like rules.

For those who don’t know, I started my career, like many others, as an editorial assistant for Carrie Feron (now with Avon) and Melinda Metz (an editor who later created the Roswell book series and TV show) at Berkley. Later I was transferred to Ginjer Buchanan (still at Berkley/Ace), whom I worked under for four years. And I loved it. I loved everything about working at a publishing house. I loved editorial meetings, where we discussed possibilities and read new and exciting books. I loved acquiring books, calling authors and agents to offer representation, and negotiating contracts. In fact, I loved it so much that when asked whether I’d ever want to be an agent the answer was always a resounding no. And then, five years into my life at Berkley I decided it was time to further my career and move on.

In 1998 I made the move to Macmillan, then the publisher of the Complete Idiot’s Guide series. And I did well, very, very well. Within a year’s time I was promoted from editor to senior editor (I had left Berkley an associate editor) and handling some of their biggest titles and biggest-name authors. Again, I was doing a job I loved. While I was working entirely on one book series, I got to come up with creative ideas for new books and find talented authors to write them. Granted, some did phenomenally well, and others . . . not so much. But I still loved it.

And then it was time for a change. While I loved working at both places and with the varied authors and books, the one problem both houses had (and any house has) is too many rules. I couldn’t work on just any book because I had to always consider the strengths of the house. Berkley, for example, is a terrific commercial paperback publisher. That means they do romance, mystery, SF, and some nonfiction fabulously. They are not, however, the publisher you would go to with a high-end business book or a literary fiction original (meaning it hasn’t been published anywhere else before). And working with Macmillan was obviously working on nothing but Complete Idiot’s Guides.

I wanted more. I wanted to try things publishers wouldn’t let me buy. I wanted the ability to take a chance on something just because I loved it. I wanted to make my own rules. And that’s why I love being an agent and love having BookEnds. Sure, I’ve taken on projects I haven’t been able to sell, but at least I had the opportunity to try. I’ve also taken on projects knowing they might not sell and sold them. I’ve been able to take risks. Some I’ve won and some I’ve lost. But all I’ve enjoyed.


Friday, November 10, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Julia Templeton

Julia Templeton
Book: The Bargain
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: November 2006
Agent: Kim Lionetti

Julia Templeton has loved romance novels since reading her first historical romance over twenty years ago. She says it’s such a thrill for her to see her books on the shelf. She loves research, and when she's not writing she enjoys spending time with her husband of over twenty years and their grown children.

Author Web site:

Awards:The Bargain won First Place, Spicy category, of the Smoky Writers Sweet, Spicy, Spooky Contest, 2004; Masquerade (Ellora’s Cave) was the winner of the Ecataromance Reviewers choice award for best Ebook 2006; and Now & Forever (Ellora’s Cave) was among Romance Reviews Today "PERFECT 10" in 2003.

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Julia: Saxon princess Aleysia Cawdor will do whatever she has to in order to save her twin brother after he is taken prisoner by the merciless Norman knight Renaud de Wulf. Aleysia enters into a sensual bargain with the wickedly handsome Norman, offering her body in return for her brother’s safety.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Julia: My favorite thing about The Bargain is the transformation my hero, Renaud de Wulf, goes through. Renaud is a tough, ruthless warrior who has worked his entire life to gain the impressive fief of Braemere. And yet after he achieves this success, he learns that it’s not about what you have or the riches you gain, but rather who we love and how empty our lives would be without that one person in it. He kept surprising me with each page.

BookEnds: What other authors do you find inspiration from?
Julia: I’ve always admired Virginia Henley and Brenda Joyce for writing such wonderful sensual historical romance. They’re both brilliant at prolonging sexual tension. I also admire Karen Marie Moning and Susan Johnson for their wonderfully wicked alpha male heroes, and Angela Knight and Emma Holly for writing such fabulous sex scenes.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Julia: I usually start with a character and start asking a lot of questions. I’m a fan of the character sheet, which means I interview my characters until I get a good idea of who they are. From there I research the setting and time period. A lot of authors dislike research, but I love it. I have an entire bookcase devoted to research books, and each shelf is broken down by time period and geographic location. Next I start writing a rough outline and then start writing the book.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Julia: I love historical romance. In fact, I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong time. After reading Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna, I was hooked, so when I started writing, historical romance was my natural choice.

BookEnds: Has being published changed you or your writing?
Julia: It’s changed my writing. I’ve realized along the way that I have to write from an outline. That’s not to say I don’t stray from that outline, but it keeps me focused on the main points of the story. I have a certain amount of time to finish a manuscript, so I need to stay focused, and sticking to the outline helps me do that.

To learn more about Julia Templeton, see Our Books at

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Guarantees of Representation

In response to my post on Using Referrals and Requests, a reader asked:

So basically—if you have requested more material, no guarantee that this is a representation request? I'm really enjoying your posts more and more and I feel you have some very helpful information. I have met quite a few authors who have Jacky as their agent and I have even recommended a friend of mine query you all (and she did finally, to Jessica)—I thank you all for the service you have here.

So back to the double-edged sword—if you have a 98% rejection rate (which I can understand that there are a lot of writers out there trying to get their mss sold) and you have requested more, you basically are wanting to add more on your plate but not necessarily making an offer to represent that author? I'm a bit confused on this—but I'm sure it will clear up with more postings - E :)

When you put it that way, it does seem odd, doesn’t it? Why would people who are clearly too busy to even read query letters ask to read more? Because we are looking to add new and talented clients to our list and because there was very obviously something about your work that resonated with us. We probably liked the idea, found your voice intriguing, and connected with your characters. We liked those first three chapters enough that we were hungry for more. And yes, we liked them enough that we were willing to add more to our plates.

As for representation, the only thing that guarantees an offer of representation is the offer itself.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

When to Say When

In response to my post on Using Referrals and Requests, a reader asked:

I have a general question: let's say you've requested three different partials from one author (over time, clearly); two of those became full requests. If you pass on all three, should the author continue to query you on the next project, or is she/he wasting your time by doing so?

(I'm in the situation—or could be soon. The agent has my full right now, but I haven't heard back either way. I really like the agency, and I'd be thrilled to be repped by them, but I wonder when they want to read more but it doesn't seem to fit. . . .)

My advice is that if you really feel this is an agent you want to work with and strongly believe you would be a good fit, then keep it coming. Requests for fulls mean that she probably likes your voice and style, now it’s just finding a plot that fits. I wouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, but if it’s meant to be I believe it will.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Reaction to Rejection

Last week I had a bad day. It probably wasn’t much different from any other day, but for some reason it felt worse. Two editors, both whom I respect and trust, rejected two different projects, both of which I love.

Just as rejection is part of every author’s life, it is part of every agent’s day, and as part of my job I need to get up, brush myself off, and start fresh. Most important, though, I need to find a way to boost the confidence of my authors and remind them why I took them on in the first place—I love their work, love their writing, love their voices, and, most important, have confidence that they have what it takes.

So what does an agent feel when getting rejected? I imagine most of you know very well what it feels like for an author, but how do agents take it? Obviously I can’t speak for anyone but myself. However, I imagine that all agents have had a similar experience. When I answered my email and picked up the voice mail, both came in at once, which should really be outlawed: my stomach knotted up and my heart felt heavy. It actually, physically hurt. I knew I had to make those phone calls and disappoint my clients, and you know what? It just plain sucks (excuse my language). I’m disappointed and angry. Why can’t these editors see what I see? I’m frustrated. We’re so close. In one case the book had been read by most of the editorial staff, and while the editor I submitted to really liked it and had nothing but extremely positive things to say about the author’s writing and voice, ultimately she couldn’t get the support she needed.

I’m also kicking myself. I feel that in some way I have let down my authors. By being excited about their work, by telling them how much I love it (which I truly do), did I set them up for a fall? After all, it’s my job to sell these books and I have yet to do so. I have, thus far, failed at my job. I know in the end both of these authors will see success. They are much too talented not to. But for today I wallow in my own feelings on the rejections, and tomorrow I will get up, brush myself off, and start fresh. I will send out more submissions, brainstorm new and better ideas, and dang it, I will sell these two authors . . . and many, many others.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Books We'd Like to See

Recently I participated in a Backspace ( forum discussion where I was asked a number of terrific questions—some of which I’ll elaborate on here.

The BookEnds website says: "BookEnds works with authors and publishers to produce the books we all want to see on our shelves." I wondered if you could elaborate on that statement for us.

It’s always interesting when someone puts your own words in front of you and asks you to explain them. This was a statement Jacky and I made when we first started the company seven years ago and one we still strongly believe in, despite how its meaning has evolved along with the company.

While I suspect all agents want to work on books that they want to see on their shelves, I’m going to break down what this statement means more specifically for BookEnds agents. Ultimately all agents, and all editors, work on books that they love (which means that statement so often put into rejection letters is true), which usually means books they want to read. In the case of BookEnds that tends to mean commercial fiction and nonfiction: mysteries, romance, women’s fiction, and self-help nonfiction. While all three of us have areas of interest that cross over (we all do cozy mysteries, for example), we also each have areas of expertise that the others don’t handle.

For example, I represent cozy mysteries with a hook, mystery and suspense, romance, erotica or erotic romance, business, career books, finance, parenting/childcare, women’s fiction, and general self-help nonfiction. Right now, I would love to see anything involving the paranormal, forensics (or better yet, a paranormal forensic novel or series), nonfiction authors with a large platform, or romantic suspense that’s different and exciting. And of course I’m always looking for a cozy mystery series with a fresh and exciting hook (think of what popular hobbies your friends and family participate in or a character with a career that’s intriguing and different), erotic romance that makes me sweat, historical mysteries or suspense that feature actual historical figures. I would also love to see women’s fiction that makes real life fun—I want to laugh at motherhood and menopause or see an abused woman face life in a new way. And romance—give me something that makes me laugh and cry, give me a romantic suspense that goes beyond the cop and the female victim and give me characters that jump off the page. In nonfiction I am always on the lookout for new books for women in business, marketing, entrepreneurs, and a new look at your career. The author, though, must have the platform to back what she’s writing. I’d also love self-help parenting books that haven’t yet been done (try to find that).

A few of my most recent deals should give you an idea of what I’m looking for: Corporate Confidential for Job Seekers, a follow-up book to the successful Corporate Confidential by Cynthia Shapiro, False Impressions: A Rubberstamping Mystery, a three-book deal by Terri Micene, A Parents’ Guide to Vaccinations, a follow-up to Natural Baby and Childcare by Lauren Feder, MD, Dream Wreaker, a two-book paranormal romance deal by Kimberly Dean, Scandal’s Daughter, a two-book historical romance deal by Golden Heart winner Christine Wells, and A Wolf in Chic Clothing, Charlaine Harris meets Mary Janice Davidson in this three-book deal by Karen MacInerney. Of course there are many other fabulous books and authors on my list, and if you’re ever wondering who at BookEnds represents a certain author, feel free to email and ask at

When I asked Jacky what she wanted, here’s what she said:

I am looking for terrific new books in both nonfiction and fiction. Please see our website for the kinds of books we DON'T represent. In general, I am looking for mysteries of all kinds, suspense of all kinds (especially women's romantic suspense), women's fiction of all shapes and sizes, and practical, how-to nonfiction in the following areas: business, health (both mainstream and alternative, and especially a mix of the two), spirituality, pets, puzzles, fun gift books (but not coffee table books), relationship books, and lifestyle. With nonfiction it is especially important that the author have a substantial platform relevant to the work, and be able to deliver a solid marketing plan.

I love to read about new subjects and learn something from my reading experience. Therefore, I am especially drawn to fiction that has a setting or subject matter that is unusual. For example, mysteries featuring a caver, or women's fiction set in the conservation corps. Competition for fiction is fierce so anything that gives a story a leg up on that competition is welcome. I believe that unusual and foreign settings, jobs, interests, and plot lines add a great deal to a story. And naturally the writing must be top-notch as well. In order to stand out in any field today professionals need to specialize. I find this to be true in fiction as well, so a novel that focuses on a character with an unusual job, hobby, or location is a plus. I am always looking for cozies with a strong and different hook (and it amazes me that they still keep coming in: Wonderful!), erotica with a new and different twist, women's fiction with a powerful emotional element as well as an unusual and engaging setting. I would love to see a few forensic thrillers, or a character with an unsual twist; I'd love to see some new paranormal mysteries and some terrific suburban suspense. Soccer mom novels are always welcome, especially with a little darkness invovled. Of course, I'm always looking for the I-just-can't-put-it-down novel, but aren't we all?

With nonfiction I'd like to see the same kind of specialization, which has a built-in market. If you have a great idea, feel free to email me first at

And finally Kim’s request:

On the fiction side, Kim represents mysteries, westerns, women’s fiction, and all areas of romance, but she’s specifically interested in romantic suspense, paranormal and historical romances. On the nonfiction side, she handles true crime, pop culture, and pop science projects.

At present, Kim is hungry to read a great emotional women’s fiction novel with a lot of depth and complex, meaty characters. In addition, she’d love to see a historical paranormal romance that feels fresh and not like all of the many other paranormals that are already out there. Finally, she’s always looking for experienced journalists to cover gripping true-crime stories that can appeal to a national audience.

The other part of this question involved the word “produce.” Originally BookEnds started as a book packaging company (which I’ll explain later), but after much thought we decided that truly we wanted to be literary agents and use our editorial skills to make our agency unique. You see, all three of us began our publishing careers as editors and have carried those skills over to BookEnds, which means that we feel very strongly about working with our authors to help create those books. How closely we work with an author depends a great deal on the author and how closely she wants us to work. With some authors I have brainstormed from conception to create an idea from the ground up (for both fiction and nonfiction authors), and with others I simply work to come up with a submission plan.

There are some authors I’ve spent time on the phone with and together we’ve taken what was a germ of an idea and created a fabulous mystery series or romance trilogy. Other authors have come to me with the idea and I’ve worked with them to massage and mold it into a fantastic book. Beyond just the work, though, I work with my authors to create and build a career. We negotiate with the publisher for more marketing and publicity and I come up with tips and tricks for wowing editors and getting into the good graces of the sales department.

So BookEnds does truly work with our authors, and together, as a team, we are creating and have created a shelf of books that I’m very proud to say I’ve been a part of.


Friday, November 03, 2006

BookEnds Talks to Allyson Bright Meyer

Allyson Bright Meyer
Book: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects Illustrated
Publisher: Alpha Books
Pub date: October 2006
Agent: Jacky Sach

Allyson Bright Meyer is a nationally recognized scrapbook artist who has published layouts in magazines, including Memory Makers and Scrapbook Trends. Allyson teaches workshops regularly at a local scrapbooking store, and her work was recently featured on PBS television. She holds a BA in English from the University of Iowa.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Allyson: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects Illustrated is an all-inclusive scrapbooking guide. The book features step-by-step instructions and ideas perfect for the beginning or experienced scrapbooker. Hundreds of color photographs of pages and albums will inspire readers of any level to create scrapbooks and keepsakes to last a lifetime.

BookEnds: If readers only take away one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?
Allyson: That anyone can create beautiful scrapbooks for their favorite photographs. Many people believe that in order to create a scrapbook they have to be an experienced crafter with a lot of available free time. That’s simply not true! The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects will help readers create beautiful albums in a short amount of time. Scrapbooking is a hobby that all people can enjoy, regardless of age, gender, or artistic ability.

BookEnds: What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
Allyson: When I decided to write this book, I knew immediately that I wanted to enlist the talent of other scrapbook artists in order to have a variety of scrapbook styles represented in the book. Over 5,000 scrapbook pages were submitted for me to review. While the selection process was difficult, I loved looking at all of the beautiful art submitted and reading each individual’s story. Some pages made me laugh, and others made me cry. I was reminded of what I love most about scrapbooking—its ability to bring people together to record their own history for future generations and really connect with others during the process.

BookEnds: What was your road to published author like?
Allyson: After earning my BA in English at the University of Iowa, I had always wanted to pursue writing. Since I love scrapbooking, combining my two passions seemed like the perfect fit. I began writing short articles for, one of the scrapbooking industry’s premier Internet destinations. Shortly after that, I was presented with the opportunity to write The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scrapbook Projects, and I jumped on it. I have loved the opportunity to teach people the fun of experimenting with new techniques and theme ideas, all while creating fantastic scrapbooks they can enjoy for years to come.

BookEnds: What was most surprising to you about writing a book?
Allyson: I really loved the editing process, and I was really surprised by this. I guess I had a preconceived notion that working with an editor would be a difficult and frustrating process, but it was really the opposite. The development editor for my book knew exactly how to help me make my book even better, which was a real treat.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Allyson: My second book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Altered Art Illustrated, will be released on April 3, 2007. It’s great for scrapbookers and anyone else looking to get crafty. It guides the reader through the process of taking ordinary, throwaway objects (such as old books and tins) and altering them to give the object new life and artistic meaning. Plus, most of the projects are just plain fun.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Submission Race

I got a letter today from an author pulling her work from submission. Apparently she had found other representation, and hopefully it is someone she loves and feels truly connected to. Most important, though, I hope it is an agent she trusts, values, and can work well with. I wish her nothing but the best and continued success. Believe it or not, I wish that of all writers.

However, I’m kicking myself. I wish I were magic and could read things faster. I wish Kim, Jacky, and Donniee (our assistant) had nothing better to do than read all week so we could stay on top of these things. Does it mean I would have offered myself? Not necessarily, but at least I would have played (as we say in the biz).

I don’t want to get into another discussion about hiring readers and how agents should read faster, blah, blah, blah. I’m bored with that. All agents and all editors face this sort of rejection regularly. When doing anything in life we have to prioritize, and in this case I prioritized another author’s submission over this one. Did I lose? Not necessarily, but I’m happy to hear that this author won.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reader Questions

Besides the basic rants and raves about being a literary agent, and the comments they generate, I like to make sure we are giving you, the readers, what you want. So, please let us know if there are any questions you have for us, and don't be shy. Is there anything you want to know about BookEnds, literary agents, publishing. . . ? Or even anything more specific? A situation you are in that you would like some feedback on? We'll read all of your comments and answer some soon, some later.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat

I love Halloween. I’m a decorator and any excuse to deck out my house and yard is a good one. So as a special Halloween Trick and Treat I want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to check out the International Independent Literary Agents Association list of Publishing Myths at (click "Enter" then "Publishing Myths"). I promise that it’s guaranteed to both give you a treat and scare you all at the same time. Sadly, it might also trick a few unsuspecting authors.

For those not interested in linking to the site, here are my thoughts on the IILAA list of Publishing Myths:

Myth #1: Writers don’t need an agent—they are a luxury and not a necessity.

I agree, more or less, that this is a myth. It’s true that in this day and age an agent is more and more important to your publishing career. However, I do know a lot of very successful writers who don’t have an agent or went quite some time without one. The little treat in this myth isn’t the myth itself, but the answer. IILAA actually believes that computers are to blame for agents and that because agents are necessary to sell to publishers, retainer fees are necessary as well. Please! So now we are, in a sense, blaming computers for agents who charge fees. Those dang computers! Clearly they are to blame for all the crooks in the world.

Myth #2: Fee-charging agents are scam artists.

So here’s your trick. IILAA is actually trying to convince you that because advances are so small it’s necessary to pay an agent upfront and help cover marketing expenses. Hello! If the advance is so small that your agency can’t live on commission alone, maybe you need to sell more books or work on your negotiating skills.

Myth #3: Your agent needs to be based in NYC.

Okay, here again I can agree that this is a myth. Obviously you don’t need to be in NYC anymore to be an effective and successful agent. However, it’s not because publishers have imprints all over the country (another myth created by IILAA). It’s because email, fax, and phones make it possible to work closely with editors without needing to be in their backyards.

Myth #4: Anything posted on one or more Web sites must be true.

Another instance where I can agree that it’s a myth, but with this one for exactly the opposite reason that IILAA has it posted. As far as I’m concerned you need to be careful about the many scam agents out there who would lead you to believe that charging retainer fees and reading fees is ethical. And one or all of them are happy to put up a Web site and post on message boards their version of how an agent does business.

Myth #5: That Preditors and Editors, SFWA, and Writer Beware, among others, are working for the author.

Certainly not a myth. These are some of the hardest working groups in the business. They have made it their mission to stop scam agents and have been very effective in more than one case. You would do yourself a lot of good to pay attention to what these sites say. IILAA also says that these sites are not trying to protect the author, but destroy independent agents. Another myth. BookEnds is an independent agency and has received nothing but support from these people; it’s bound to happen when you run a fair and ethical agency.

So take a look at the Web site and have yourself a good treat, but do not be tricked by what IILAA is trying to tell you. A good, reputable agency does not charge reading or retainer fees (reasonable expenses are fairly common though).

Happy Halloween! I’m dressing as a witch.