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.



Kate Douglas said...

Excellent post (as usual) today, Jessica, and one I'll be passing around. You've answered the questions I probably hear more than any other when folks are discussing agents and who to send what to!

Maria said...

Thanks, great post!

elysabeth said...

Yep, excellent post. Now Jessica, here I go tooting my friend's book again - her Out of ... series sounds like what you are looking for exactly down to the word in a paranormal romance mystery (her main character, Devon, is an ex-punk rocker, now turned yard artist (builds creations from old scrap metal and sells them) who lives in England but is from the US but family conflict made him leave. His friend from the area (NY is a psychic who meets and falls for a time traveling 18th century man) has her friend housesit, who doesn't know she has psychic powers, but they aren't predict the future type things, more like visions of things that happened, dream sequences, et cetera - the dead woman comes to her in weird places and shows her things that happened that led to her demise - really good series - so far two are finished and the first has been sent to you --

She also writes erotica and if I can ever get her to edit her erotica story I'd love to see her get that out there - she is working on the third or fourth book in the Out of... series right now during NaNo -so working on anything else is out of the question at least until December or January - so anyway - you have someone who is working on a paranormal romance mystery series and who seems to fit your bill - hope she gets representation soon - I have to check her calendar so she can send out five more queries in a few weeks (allowing several weeks to hear back from the five she has sent to recently) -

anyway - I do really like your website and you blog - it is very informative and I thank you all for everything you offer to us up and coming authors and those helpers of up and coming authors (she keeps saying she is going to hire me as her research assistant and promoter, et cetera - lol) - I have blogged you on my blog just in case someone comes to my blog and need to find an agent or anything - E :)

Anonymous said...

Great insight. Truly helps when one wonders what's in the mind of an agent regarding submission. Thanks for taking the time.
This reveals your depth of compassion for the work authors go through too.



Chrissie said...

Just wanted you to know I am becoming addicted to your blog. I rush home from most days to see what info I can glean for my own writing and have not been disappointed yet. I hope you realise how much we unpublished writers appreciate you. Thank you. Keep it coming!

Devon Ellington said...

I always look at finding the right agent or editor for a project as searching for the project's "soul mate" -- you have to "date around" a bit, and you might not find the right match first time out.

The writers need to do their homework and really research, so they're submitting the kind of work the agent wants.

And a post such as yours, with genuine depth as to what you love and you're looking for, is a big help.

There are so many terrific people with terrific projects and interests on both sides of the table -- sometimes it takes a bit of time to hook them up properly!