Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reader Question: New Publishing Lines

What do you think of publishing companies who open a new line—examples might be the Flux line or the new Carolrhoda YA line—is this a good thing, in your experience, for new authors? Or can it stall their career if the line itself doesn't take off?

It's always a good thing when publishers decide to begin a new line. It usually means that they've had success with a type of book (mysteries, erotica, or YA) that they are currently publishing elsewhere and have made a decision to give this genre more credence and a bigger presence. It's also exciting for authors because it means that the publishers are looking for new, fresh voices to launch this line and will probably put some real promotion dollars behind the launch (the first few months the books are published).

Can a failed line stall an author's career? Yes. But a failed book can stall an author's career. So can a long illness, an editor leaving for a new job, or a book that for whatever reason just doesn't take off. In other words, we can't predict or sometime protect ourselves from what might eventually stall our careers. If there's a new line opening with a reputable publishing house, by all means jump on the bandwagon if you're invited.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Writer's Block

I got an upsetting email from a client not too long ago. She was suffering from writer's block and asked if I knew of anything that might help or if I had ever had other clients experience something like this. Unfortunately, while I'm sure I've had many clients experience writer's block, I didn't feel I had any really good advice to offer. Since I knew some of her personal interests I gave a few writing assignments that I thought might appeal to her, but I wasn't too sure my advice was anything different from what she'd already tried. So now I'm going to ask you for help. The next time a client calls with a similar problem, I want to know that I actually have some good advice. So, what do you do when your writing has hit the wall or you feel you have nothing left to say?


Monday, January 29, 2007

The Dream Client

So often I'm asked who my dream client would be, as if by knowing the answer it would be that much easier to get an agent or get published. The truth is that my dream client is the one who writes books I love and makes me a lot of money. But I know that's not the answer you're looking for. So who is the dream client and what can you do to ensure that status with me and other agents?

* Understand that this is a business. Know that the sale of your first book does not give you the right to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruit of your labor. Instead the dream client understands that that first contract is just the beginning and there's a lot of work still to be done.

* Communicate. I would so prefer the client who feels the need to call or email daily just to stay in touch than the one I never hear from. I can't be effective at my job if I don't know what your expectations are or even what you need in that moment.

* Publicize. I don't expect you to spend your entire advance on publicity and marketing, but I do hope that you are willing to get out there as much as possible to sell your book.

* Listen and learn, but not passively. Presumably you've hired me for a number of reasons, but the most important is to work with you to build a career. Therefore when you ask my opinion about what to write next, what we should be submitting or who we should be submitting to, I hope that you'll listen with an open mind. That does not mean that I expect you to sit quietly and do whatever I say, but I do hope that you'll give me credit for actually knowing what I'm talking about and that we can discuss any disagreements we might have and come to a middle ground. I also hope that you'll give me a chance to explain the reason for my decisions.

* Understand that I work for you, and not against you. Remember that the more successful you are, the more successful I am, so if I suggest that we not send out another book proposal right now or try to sell a fourth series, I'm not trying to hold you back. On the contrary, I'm trying to ensure that you have success with what you're doing and that you're able to focus on your current career. My job is to help you manage your career, and some of my responses might not be what you want to hear, but I'm also not the kind of agent who feels the need to pacify my clients just to make them happy. That's not in your best interest or mine.

* Move forward. I see this a lot. An author gets an agent or signs with a publisher and suddenly feels that everything she's ever written is publishable. Not true. My dream client isn't stuck in past, no matter how much she likes those stories, but is willing to let them all go and move on. That doesn't mean we can't discuss them or I can't read them. It just means that if I don't feel they are as strong as your current work, then you are willing to hear that. There is a reason I took you on or sold your current work and not the five stuck under your bed. Success moves forward, not backward.

And now it's your turn. What is your dream agent like?


Friday, January 26, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Belle Andre

Bella Andre
Book: Tempt Me, Taste Me, Touch Me
Publisher: Pocket
Pub date: January 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Before writing romance, Bella Andre got a BA in Economics at Stanford University, worked as a marketing director, and strutted hundreds of stages as a rock star. She is also a Feng Shui consultant and gives the popular workshop “Feng Shui for Writers” both online and at RWA chapter meetings. She lives in Northern California with her fabulous husband, children, and dog.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Bella: California wine country is a world of sensual delights—the tantalizing kiss of sunlight . . . the luscious decadence of gourmet cuisine . . . the slow burn of wine that warms from within . . . and sinfully sexy men. For three women hungering for more, it's a destination for pleasuring both body and soul. . . .

BookEnds: How did you come to write this book?
Bella: I lived in the Northern California wine country for nearly a decade and loved every minute. It was lush and beautiful and breathtaking. But I never thought about setting a book in Napa Valley until I saw the movie Sideways, which is about two guys who go road-tripping through the Santa Barbara (mid-California) wine country before one of them gets married a week later. I couldn't help but wonder—what if three girl friends go on a road trip to Napa Valley and meet three gorgeous locals? A winery owner, a hot chef, and a gorgeous painter steal the women's hearts over the course of a very sensual weekend.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Bella: Do you mean before kids, or after kids? I prefer to sit down and write 10, 15, or 20 pages without a road map. I love watching where the story takes me, and I find there's so much magic in the voyage of story discovery. The past couple of years have been a bit of a change—writing as much as I can when I can. And because I'm stealing chunks of the day to write, I've found a fairly detailed synopsis to be helpful. But I still feel that my best work comes when I can carve out full, uninterrupted days to just let it flow, without overthinking it ahead of time. That's what I'll be doing in 2007, courtesy of my parents and mother-in-law, who have very graciously offered to watch the kids once a week for me so that I can write in bigger chunks on a daily basis.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Bella: Pocket will release Red-Hot Romance in March! I’m thrilled that the books are being published so close together. In Red-Hot Romance, the last time Jason Roberts saw Emma Holden, she was crushing his heart. Now it’s ten years later, and if living well is the best revenge, Jason has done so in spades—he’s a gorgeous celebrity chef with a hit TV show and women at every turn. But at their college reunion, payback for Emma’s betrayal is all Jason is cooking up, and he plans to tease her with desperate desire, taunt her with the best sex of her life—and then watch her fall. But Emma has an agenda of her own—where teasing and temptation are just what she’s hungry for. The good girl Jason once knew is now a daring, sensual woman willing to raise the sexual stakes beyond anything they shared in the past, and she’s hot for the most wildly erotic adventures he can dish out. Now who’s turning the tables on whom?

BookEnds: Who are your favorite characters and why?
Bella: I really love all three of the women in Tempt Me, Taste Me, Touch Me, for different reasons. Carrie is tall, blonde, and beautiful—but she's also terribly confused. Her rich society man just asked her to marry him . . . and she blurted out no instead of yes! For her, the weekend is a voyage of personal and sensual discovery. Rose has beautiful curves, but her last boyfriend was such a jerk, she's convinced she needs to go on the spa diet all weekend. Instead she wins a weekend of cooking lessons with the newest hot chef on the scene. Vanessa can—and does—get any man she wants. Which has frankly become totally boring. She needs a challenge and she finds him working in his gallery. He wants to paint her, but he's got a hands-off policy with his models. Carrie is nice, Rose is soft, and Vanessa is all hard edges.

I suppose there is a part of me in all of them. And I love the way they play off of each other. They really do need each other as friends. Their scenes together were a lot of fun to write.

BookEnds: If you could invite five other authors to dinner, who would you ask and why?
Bella: I love this question, mainly because I think lunching (or dinner-ing) with other authors is one of the very best things us writers can do for our careers. My favorite ladies to lunch with (their writing pedigrees will make you swoon) are Barbara Freethy (romantic suspense), Candice Hern (Regency historical), Carol Grace (YA and Harlequin romance), Tracy Grant (historical), Penelope Williamson (has moved across genres), Jami Alden (contemp/romantic suspense), Karin Tabke (romantic suspense), Josie Brown (contemp “Hollywood”), and Monica McCarty (Scottish historical).

To be honest, I not only learn so much from each of these ladies over our frequent lunches—plotting sessions, pep talks, etc.—but they are now some of my very best friends. I really love this business and the women who make it all happen!

To learn more about Bella Andre, see Our Books at

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Writing Technique

Contrary to popular belief, all agents are not simply frustrated writers, at least I'm not. Sure I write the blog and I've penned fabulous query letters and marketing statements, but I don't think I will ever have the ability (and I don't really want to) to sit down and write a 400-page book. Which is why I'm always fascinated, and never question, an author's techniques when it comes to writing. Some of you work with a strict outline, while others allow your characters to speak to you and are never sure how the story will end until it does. Some write and write and write and literally spill the book on the page and then go back to edit, while others edit each word as it comes out and have a nearly perfect copy once the book is complete.

How you write is truly personal, which is why I'm often amazed, and sometimes frightened, by the number of workshops authors will attend on how to write. Or the number of conversations I have with my own clients (people obviously having success with what they're doing) on how they can do it differently. Why fix it if it's not broken? Sure you can always find new techniques that might work for you, but let me tell you this, you are never going to be able to do it the way someone else does. How one person writes is not necessarily the best way for you.

My advice: constantly look at the way you're writing and see if there are new techniques that might work for you, but stop comparing yourself to others. Not everyone can write three books at once, edit as they go, or hear their characters telling the story . . . and not everyone is meant to.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bringing Back Older Work

What is your advice about bringing back the first book (both books are romantic suspense) if I'm getting "good rejections" on the second, and it's been a couple of years since book #1 was out there? Since there has been good response to the writing but not the story, do you think bringing back the first to try sounds like a plan?

As I'm sure many of my clients will attest, I think that every writer needs to have at least one manuscript under her bed, and it needs to stay there.

You mention you're getting good rejections on the second book, but don't mention getting good rejections on the first. There's probably a reason for that. The first probably isn't as good. Do not think that because you sell a book or are getting positive feedback that everything you've ever written is now publishable. I think it's a mistake many authors make and one that could potentially be costly.

Writing is a process and hopefully with each book you are learning more and more about that process and improving as time goes on. Instead of sending those same people a book that's not as good as the one they obviously liked, why don't you work on book #3, a work that takes the strengths, but not the weaknesses, of books #1 and #2?


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pitch Lines That Don't Work

When going through a stack of query letters I received an inordinate number of pitch lines that I’m sure the authors thought were clever, but for some very obvious reasons they didn’t strike me the right way. So below I’m going to share some of the pitch lines and the thoughts I had when reading them. Keep in mind, these lines are just a small part of a greater letter and using one of these doesn’t necessarily mean automatic rejection.

...has all the ingredients necessary to make it a best seller and a blockbuster smash.
Does that mean you used the word “code” in the title and included an erotic love scene? I can bake a cake with all the ingredients necessary to make it delicious, but if I don’t put them together correctly it isn’t going to taste good.

A novel based on a true story
I honestly believe that every novel has a bit of truth in it. I would rather not hear that it was based on a true story, but hope instead that you’ve taken an experience, an idea, or a story and created something wonderfully fictional about it.

On a dare, I wrote a romance novel for some friends (not my usual cup of tea) . . .
Wow! On a dare I represent authors even though reading books isn’t my usual cup of tea. Seriously, I don’t have time to work with people who are only writing things on a dare, and don’t have the respect for their work (or mine) that’s required to make it in this business.

As for my novel, I won’t go into story details . . .
So what exactly are you going to talk to me about?

the book is a really rough edit so far. when i land the money deal i can move forward to make it complete
Again, please at least give me the courtesy of taking my job seriously.

I am interested in writing a fiction novel and I wanted to speak to you about the idea
I am interested in selling your novel only when you have a proposal.

I think what really gets to me about most of these lines is the casual manner in which they are presented and their lack of sincerity. This is a business, one I work very very hard at, and if you can’t respect that and respect the work that all authors do to get published, then don’t waste my time.


Monday, January 22, 2007

First Line Contest

Author Karen Tabke runs a very interesting, and fun, First Line contest on her blog Contest entrants start by posting the first line of their book, and when those are whittled down, authors still in the running can add the second line.

When I heard about this contest I was definitely intrigued, because while the first line can be fun and important, I’m sure we all know that it takes more than one good first line to make a book. That being said, however, I’m hooked. There are some amazing first lines in this contest and I’m really interested to see where the judges take it from there and what the second lines look like. I’m also watching closely to see which second lines might keep me intrigued enough to make a request or two because there are at least two first lines on there that I’m dying to read more of.

And, if that doesn’t make you check Karen’s contest out, then you should also know that there are some first lines that are so strong that I know I’ve actually seen them cross my desk before.

For those of you tempted to enter, I'm sorry to report that the contest closed for new entries on January 16, but it's definitely worth checking out.

Maybe one day BookEnds will run a contest. We’ll have to decide what would be as fun and exciting as this.


Friday, January 19, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Kimberly Dean

Kimberly Dean
Book: Taming Him (an anthology including her story “Fever”)
Publisher: Pocket, in conjunction with Ellora’s Cave
Pub date: January 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Kimberly Dean is an author of erotica and erotic romance. She’s written for Avon Red, Ellora’s Cave, Red Sage, and Black Lace. Taming Him is her first release with Pocket.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kimberly: A raging fever has Delia in its grip. Delirium has set in, reducing her to her most basic wants and needs. When a man comes to care for her, there’s only one way to douse the flames. Imagine Delia’s surprise when the fever breaks and things are hotter than ever.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Kimberly: I call this the little story that could. When I first wrote it, I thought I had something special. It was a very steamy romance, but the connection between the characters was touching (no pun intended). Ellora’s Cave loved it when I submitted it to them, and they published it as an e-book. This e-book went on to gain the attention of an editor at Avon Red. She asked me to write something for them, and that led to my story “Unrequited” in the If This Bed Could Talk anthology. As if that weren’t a dream come true, Pocket then proceeded to pick up the print rights to “Fever.” I’m now working on something new for them. So my favorite thing about “Fever” is how many doors it has opened for me. I love this story!

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Kimberly: I just turned in the first draft of an erotic romance about an unknowing witch and her sandman. I’m calling it Dream Wreaker, but I’ll have to wait and see if Pocket decides to stick with that title. I don’t have a publishing date yet, but I’ll post it on my web site once I know.

BookEnds: Besides making your first sale, what has been the most fun thing to happen to your writing career?
Kimberly: It was my first signing at the Romance Writers of America’s national conference. Things were pretty slow for me, but the authors sitting next to me were getting a steady stream of people. I sat there wishing longingly that I had fans. Well, honey, did I get a visit from a FAN. She was loud, she was effusive, and she loved my books. Apparently so did a shipload of Navy sailors! She’d sent one of my books of erotica to them, and it turned out to be quite popular. LOL. That wasn’t quite my target audience, but hey, I’ll help out any way I can. I laughed so hard with her, I nearly cried. Suddenly, other people became intrigued and started dropping by. Now that was fun!

BookEnds: What do you see as some of the biggest mistakes beginning writers make?
Kimberly: It sounds counterintuitive, but too many new erotic romance writers concentrate too much on the sex scenes. There’s got to be a plot. There has to be character development. Remember the romance in “erotic romance.” There needs to be a connection between the characters. Build that tension until the reader just can’t stand it anymore. Then get on with the hot stuff. I guarantee if you follow that premise, you’ll have a better story overall.

BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Kimberly: Through a Crimson Veil by Patti O’Shea and Bad Boys Ahoy! by Sylvia Day.

To learn more about Kimberly Dean, see Our Books at

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reader Questions: Response Times

In a blog a while back, I think I read something about response time, in that it may not be a good sign if you don't hear something back quickly.

I'm just wondering how quick do you know a work is something you'd like to represent?

For instance, do you know the second you read the query letter that you aren't interested, or do you sometimes take a little time to think it over before making a decision?

Well, that depends entirely on the query. Honestly? Yes, there are times I know without even reading the full query that it's something I'm going to reject. And then there are times when I read the entire manuscript and am still unsure about what I'm going to do. So there's no real answer to that question. Other than, as always, it depends.

I guess some of us (ok, ME) are just curious to know the breakdown for the response time. (For example, could a letter sit unopened for a couple weeks, then sit around in a "NO THANKS" pile until the rejection letter can be mailed? Or, could someone be taking the time to think about it?)

A letter could sit around for weeks before being tossed in the "no thanks" pile. A letter could be rejected immediately, but sit around for weeks before we get around to sending the "no thanks," and a letter can sit around for weeks (even months) before a request for more is made.

I know that you are all sitting at home trying to figure out what it means. Well stop. A quick response can mean we thought it was crap and didn't bother reading it, it is so wrong for us that the title made us reject it, or that it was so intriguing that we dropped everything to read it. A slow response could mean that it went into our quick read pile that we're now backed up months on, it ended up in our slow read pile because the letter didn't jump out at us, it got placed in the wrong pile altogether, or it's just sitting there waiting for a letter to be sent. In other words, there is no easy way to analyze any of this.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Option Clauses

Option clauses are always a matter of great discussion, and my last two posts elicited some more great questions, questions that were worthy of another post and not just answers in the comments sections. So to continue our discussion . . .

A number of you asked about the timing of an option clause. Some of you had concerns about when an option actually begins if it says something like “once current work is accepted,” while others wanted to know what to do in the case of an option clause that didn’t specify a time period at all.

To explain to those who might not have seen an option clause, most will say something along the lines of, “The Publisher shall be entitled to a period of 6 weeks after submission of option material, which period shall not commence until acceptance of final Work covered in this Agreement, within which to notify Author of its decision.”

First let me say that most option clauses, especially those at a large house, will specify a time period. The thing you should be most aware of is when that time period begins. Ideally it should begin from the time your manuscript is delivered, although most publishers are going to try to make it from the time the last book on the contract is published. Certainly not an ideal. Keep in mind, though, that whatever the option clause says in terms of time period, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t exercise their option (review your option material) before the time period begins, it just means they don’t have to.

So, if your option begins 6 weeks after acceptance, then that means whenever the publisher deems your work acceptable (at which time they usually pay you). That does not necessarily mean when the book is ready to go to the printer. On the contrary, acceptance of the book is usually made when the manuscript goes to the copy editor or when you finish revisions and your editor gives the okay. Of course, this is different for every publisher. If you have any concerns about when your publisher deems the work acceptable, simply send an e-mail, or have your agent send an e-mail, to your editor asking her if the work has been accepted or asking her to notify you when it’s been accepted. Her return e-mail, with the date, will be your answer, and the beginning of your option time period.

For those of you without a time period this can be tough. That means the publisher has as long as they want to make a decision about your option material. Your goal is to get them that material as quickly as possible and bug the heck out of them until they make a decision, letting you know that either you have a new contract or are free to go your merry way. Truthfully, most publishers will want to make a decision quickly and don’t want to hold up your career, so if you don’t have a time period in your contract, don’t worry that you’ve ruined everything. You’ll just have to be a little more vigilant to get your publisher to answer.

Definition of Next Work
Every option clause should be narrowed to your “next” work. Be wary of any that say something along the lines of "Publisher has the first right of refusal on any Work or all Works." You never want to give a publisher an option on more than one book.

So, if you are under option, does that mean you can’t submit to another publisher until your option is fulfilled? Yes and no. It means you can’t submit your next work to another publisher under the constraints of the option clause. So, what is your option clause for? If it says the publisher has the option on the next work in the series, then you can’t send any other works in that series to another publisher without giving your publisher the first look. However, if you have an idea for a fresh new series, then you can send it to anyone you want, whether it’s your next work or not. Of course, you are only under option until your publisher “exercises their option,” which means reads and makes a decision about your “next work.”

That being said, it is always possible to offer a publisher your “next work” and then submit like crazy to other houses. As I mentioned before, an option clause is easy for a saavy agent to get around, and there are a lot of ways to do it. If your option is well negotiated and narrow enough, then you can certainly submit other books that fall outside of the option anywhere you want at any time. The trick though is why do you want to do this? Is it simply because you feel that you need to be published by more than one house, or there’s a cache to multiple houses that you want? Because sneaking around an option clause could definitely affect your relationship with your current house, and if you’re happy with your editor, the money you’re making, and the way the house is publishing you, then why would you want to do that? On the other hand, if you are writing a series or a type of book for one house and want to try your hand at something completely different, then certainly, why not send it around. Give your current editor a look while taking it to other houses. Presumably you aren’t under option for this other type of work.

Negotiating and Option Clause
How does an option clause affect your (or my) ability to negotiate a contract? Well, to a certain degree it doesn’t affect me at all. Of course in other ways it affects me a great deal. I can still negotiate the contract, and will still negotiate the contract, in the same way I would if it were the author’s first time out. The one big restriction, however, is that an option clause removes the ability to pit two or more houses against each other, which is what the publisher wants. That being said, I continually talk to editors about my authors, even those under option, and we have regular conversations about those clients they might be interested in “stealing.” If a negotiation is not going my way, or I’m not at all happy with it, I certainly know what my “options” are. Just because we’re under an option doesn’t mean we need to agree to the terms. If I know my author and her career well and I’m not happy with the way the negotiation is going, I’m certainly not going to just sit back and accept an offer. It’s always our right to simply walk away. And yes, walking away frees an offer from all further obligations to that publisher, or should according to your option clause.

For those of you who asked very specific questions, I may not have been able to answer them without reading your actual option clause. For example, I’m not sure if your clause is specific to your pen name or broad enough to cover whatever you’re writing under whatever name you’re writing it.

Whatever you do, don’t worry too much about an option clause. There are always ways around them, and a good agent can find every loophole possible. A poorly negotiated option clause can always be changed with the next contract or worked around. But now that you know more about them, you know what to look for.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Ideal Option Clause

Wouldn't it be great to sign a contract without an option clause? So that every time you go to a new contract you could go anywhere you wanted? Well, to a certain degree you can . . . and you can't.

***An aside for those who might not be entirely clear on what an option clause is. An option clause is the clause in your publisher's contract that gives them the first right of refusal on your next book. This means that you cannot submit your next book to any other publisher until your current publisher has either let the option period lapse, made an offer, or passed on the book. An option clause is standard in nearly every publishing contract you will ever see.***

Option clauses are a pain in the butt, but they are also something you're going to have to deal with in every publishing contract you sign. It's pretty rare that you are going to get a publisher to agree to eliminate it entirely, although that can happen.

So, what can you do to make sure that you get a fair option? Limit it as much as possible.

Publisher: Wants the option on your next works
You: Want to make sure the option is specific to one next book and specific to what that book should be—the next work in the series, or in that very specific genre—next paranormal erotic romance, or next Civil War–era historical novel.

Publisher: Wants you to submit a full manuscript for option considering
You: Want to make sure that you only need to submit a proposal. At the most that should be a synopsis and three chapters.

Publisher: Wants the option period to begin after the publication of the last book in the contract and last for 90 days
You: Want to make sure it begins no later (and earlier if possible) than at the time you submit the last book in the contract and lasts for 30 days, or even less if possible.

Obviously you won't always get exactly what you want, but if you can narrow the option clause to as least come close to some of these points, you'll be in pretty good shape.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Reader Question: Option Clauses

I have a question about contracts etc. Say I've sold a book and signed an option clause. Now I get an agent (please!). What would you do about the option clause, especially if this is a small publisher who's been extremely unprofessional and rude, so the author is not interested in dealing with them again? (And I'm not being a diva here. I'm not the only author with problems—anyone with their ear on the ground these days probably knows exactly who I'm talking about and how unhappy their authors are.) Anyway, what do you do? Submit, then turn down their offer? Is this even a question you feel comfortable answering?

I think option clauses are an important topic for discussion and one I'm very comfortable talking about. As I'm sure you know, option clauses are the bane of every writer's and agent's contract negotiation. No matter how well we negotiate the contract and the option clause, it's almost impossible to get it as narrow as we would like. In rare cases I can get it removed, but that's the rare instance. Usually my job is to make it as narrow as possible so that it's easy to get around if necessary.

If an author comes to me with an option from a small publisher there are a couple of things we can do. If the option is specific—next erotica or next paranormal romance—it might be possible to get around by simply not writing that type of book. We could instead submit your book as erotic romance or fantasy.

If, however, your next work is exactly what the option specifies, or the option is general and simply says "your next work," then yes, I might consider sending them the book and letting it sit not one day later than the option time requires, and turning down an offer when and if it comes. This is especially true if it's a house you don't mind walking away from forever. The downside of this of course is that you take the risk of not selling the work at all, and you need to be sure that you are fine walking away from what might be the only opportunity to publish this particular book.

Another possibility is sending them "your next work" and submitting the work that you would write after that to other houses. After all, who can really prove what "your next work" will be.

Those are just a few ways around an option clause. Agents have a lot of tricks up their sleeves when it comes to getting authors out of contracts and/or option clauses, so don't worry about it. When you do find an agent she'll take care of it.


Friday, January 12, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Sharon Page

Sharon Page
Book: Blood Red
Publisher: Kensington Aphrodisia
Pub date: January 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Sharon Page has always loved to write (tapping out a first novel at 14), and juggles managing an R&D program with writing her six erotic romances contracted with Kensington Aphrodisia. The first, Sin, was a September ’06 release. Sharon will be an erotica panelist at the 2007 Romantic Times convention.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Sharon: Regency miss Althea Yates has defied society’s dictates to become a vampire slayer. Adept with the stake and crossbow, Althea is fearless. But now she must destroy the ultimate evil and she must turn to twin vampires—the seductive Earl of Brookshire and his sensual, rebellious brother Bastien—for help.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Sharon: I love three things dearly about Blood Red. The first was the challenge of writing a romance with a heroine and two heroes. Blood Red is my first menage story and I quickly discovered that I had three romances to build—the two relationships between the heroine and both heroes, and the romance of the three together. Each sub-story had to be emotionally compelling. Each character had to experience growth. Balancing the two heroes added a complexity that I really enjoyed. My heroes had to be strong enough that a reader could fall in love with both men, even if she secretly had a favorite. In the back of my mind, I was thinking of the fantastic way Janet Evanovich handles her two heroes in her Stephanie Plum series.

I also loved writing about twin heroes. Yannick is the responsible but sensual older brother, who inherited the title and wealth; Sebastien is the younger rebellious brother who loves wild erotic games and hungers for love. Since the younger brother loses out on being a wealthy earl by a matter of minutes, yet feels a strong bond for his twin, I felt this was an incredible conflict. This is the way my hero sees it: “Bastien had been the one on top in the bloody womb and what did it get him? Out second and always second.” (from Blood Red)

Finally, since I love writing about the Regency period, I’d yearned to write a historical vampire story. Dracula inspired the concept of Blood Red—I wanted to have a female vampire hunter fighting for recognition in a paternalistic society of vampire slayers, so the Regency era was the perfect setting. It was fun for my heroine to be torn between life as a Regency lady, vampire hunting, and a dangerous forbidden love for two vampires.

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Sharon: I was recently discussing this at the last meeting of my Romance Writers of America chapter. We were talking about goal setting and how to get motivated to write. My process is basically F.O.G. Fear of God. I have deadlines and I meet them, but actually my motivator is much stronger than mere deadlines. I want to make a career out of writing, and to do that I have to make a name for myself and sell. Which means that I write every day (which I also really enjoy).

Many people advise that you set up a writing nook—a workspace where you can write—but I can’t do that. With two little kids, I have to be portable with my writing, and that helps me accomplish a lot.

To set up a book, I start with a “high” concept: for example, “And Then There were None meets a Regency era orgy” was the premise of my September ’06 Aphrodisia release, Sin. Sometimes it is an aspect of character that intrigues me. Black Silk, my Dec ’07 book, currently under way, was inspired by a true story I read about a boy whose father repeatedly attempted to murder him. It was so horrible to think of a young boy who could never feel safe, and I wanted that feeling to shape my dark hero.

Once I have the preliminary idea, I write a short synopsis, and then start writing. I write linearly, unless I think up an inspired scene. Then I’ll jump ahead to capture that scene. It’s usually dialogue that comes to me that way. When I have a mystery in my story, I spend more time up front setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of suspects, etc. Since my process is still a work in progress, I believe every writer needs to experiment until she/he finds a process that works.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Sharon: Stories with a gothic feel have always appealed to me. I loved Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. And there’s nothing more gothic than historical vampires. Blood Red combines all the genres I love—it’s historical vampire erotic romance—which made it so much fun to write. Since Blood Red is paranormal, the stakes are high and intense. Life or death. Losing one’s soul. Vampire legends are erotic to begin with, and the eroticism of Blood Red deepens the conflict for my heroine. As a vampire slayer, not only does Althea have to defy her father to change her views of good and evil, she must also defy the moral dictates of her society to follow her desires and her heart.

BookEnds: What has been your most successful marketing campaign?
Sharon: As a new author, marketing plays a big part of my life. I recognize the need to promote myself, and get my name known to readers and in the industry. I’ve tried many different things to stand out and to see what works.

With Blood Red, I think I’ve found a great promo piece to mail to bookstores. At a writer’s conference, I’d heard that December and January are bad months for book releases. Blood Red is releasing in January, so I wondered how I could actually use that to my advantage. I wanted also to do an eye-catching poster and have a chapter excerpt that I could send out. I decided to do a poster with an excerpt on the back. To capitalize on the January release date, I added a calendar to the bottom. On the calendar, I could also show my other releases coming through 2007. The poster was light enough to mail easily, and I hoped the addition of an excerpt and calendar gave it some “staying power.”

I did my first book trailer for Blood Red, which has been a great tool. What is the most important aspect of book trailers? Exposure! I’d heard that just putting the trailer on my website wasn’t enough. So I was able to quickly and easily post on YouTube and MySpace. I then directed readers to it during online chats and on readers’ loops. It also has given me a reason to contact a major buyer, to inquire about using the trailer for marketing. And my publisher is excited about using it on their website.

My centerfold ad in Romantic Times BOOKreviews has also garnered a lot of interest, which to me means it has been successful. So, as a new author, my approach is to try and catch the attention of readers, buyers, and publishers.

BookEnds: What are you reading now?
Sharon: In fiction, I have a towering “To Be Read” pile and I’m reading Bertrice Small’s Forbidden Pleasures, Thea Devine’s His Little Black Book, and Renee Bernard’s A Lady’s Pleasure, and I’m looking forward to picking up Hannah Howell’s latest.

Also, I have a lot of nonfiction reading to do. I’m reading a vampire compendium called, surprisingly, The Vampire. This book is just terrific, as it includes many vampire tales from the 19th century. I’m also reading up on Celtic Britain.

Thanks so much for the opportunity to chat!

To learn more about Sharon Page, see Our Books at

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vote for BookEnds

Hey, Blog Readers, I was just told by Kate Douglas that we’ve been nominated for the Preditors & Editors Readers’ Poll as the best Writers Resource and Information Page, and you know what? I want to win. So head to the Web site below and vote for BookEnds, and while you’re there take a gander at this amazing site. Preditors & Editors does incredible work to protect authors from scammers, and anything we can do to support their work, we will.

Oh, and voting ends Sunday the 14th, so hurry! And tell your friends . . . boy I’m competitive.

And while we’re at it, I want to use this opportunity to ask you if you think there’s anything BookEnds can do to improve either our blog or Web site. Who better to ask than the reader? We already owe thanks to one saavy commenter, who suggested we add a “buy this book” link to our author interviews. A brilliant idea!

Thanks for the vote!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reader Question: SF and Fantasy Submissions

Thank you for such an informative blog! I know it's time-consuming, but it's very much appreciated!

My question: Your website states you don't accept SF or fantasy . . . but, how about fantasy romance or SF romance? They're increasingly popular, I believe. Are you accepting submissions in those sub-genres?

Thank you. It is time-consuming, but as someone who always has something to say it's been a joy.

We are absolutely accepting submissions in every sub-genre of romance. As I'm sure you've noticed, there's been a colision of genres. SF, romance, and mystery can be found in almost every genre now. So, while we aren't accepting what would be classified as straight SF or fantasy, things that could only be published in that category or shelved in that section of the bookstore, we are certainly accepting romances, mysteries, and women's fiction with a paranormal or fantasy theme.

The trick in trying to figure out what agents to submit to is to figure out what your book is first. Is it a mystery first with a touch of romance or a romance first with a mystery element? Is it a fantasy with a romance or a romance with fantastical elements?

A little secret . . . I will often submit those paranormal/fantasy romances to SF/Fantasy editors as well as romance editors.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reader Question: Resending Queries

If a query had been sent to an agent at a large (I mean LARGE) agency and no response was forthcoming for over nine months, would it be acceptable to resend a new, improved query to a more suitable agent in the same house?

Yes, I did include an SASE. Plus, upon further inspection of the agent's preferences, he may not represent the genre I sent anyway. Therefore a nudge would probably be inappropriate.

I include my thanks for your excellent advice. You soooo rock!

Yes, if you have learned that there is another agent who would be better for the type of work you're writing, I do think it's okay to resend that query. However, I would contact the first agent for a status request first and/or to let her know that you have since revised your work and are pulling your original from submission.

Whatever you do in situations involving agents, do it with courtesy and professionalism. Remember, this is the beginning of a career for you and the end of your hobby. For agents it's a day-to-day business. While I don't advise sending the same work to two agents at the same house at the same time, I do think it's acceptable to requery a different agent if you feel she's more appropriate. That being said, if an agent has rejected your work, don't retaliate by sending it to every other agent in-house hoping that there's another who might accept it. In all liklihood the other agents already know it's been rejected and might have even been included in the process. Instead keep her or them in mind for your next work.

And thank you, I like to think I'm a little bit rockstar.


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Pleasure of Reading

I was recently asked:

Does reading for work spoil your reading for pleasure? In other words, are you pickier about the books you read than you were before your publishing career?

No and yes. I think that reading for work actually increases the pleasure I get out of reading. When I read a book for pleasure I can do just that—read the book. I don’t have to edit it, evaluate it, review it later, or even give my opinion to anyone. I can just curl up and read what I hope to be a really good book. It’s really the only time that I can truly lose myself in the writing and story and not have to worry about analyzing it later.

But am I pickier? Yes. In my younger days I finished every book I read, whether I liked it or not. Now I’m not as likely to do so. In fact, there have been times that I’ve enjoyed a book (but not loved it) and still didn’t finish it. I knew basically what was going to happen and figured my time could be better spent elsewhere. While I enjoyed the writing and the book, I didn’t fall in love enough to finish it.

And of course part of picking the books I read for pleasure often relates to work. They are very often the books I should be reading to keep up with market trends, or editor recommendations.

I think that when you’re truly passionate about something, like I am about books, you can never get enough. Most publishing professionals love to read for work and pleasure, most writers love to write (many even still write letters) and chefs truly love to cook (and eat).


Friday, January 05, 2007

BookEnds Talks to Kate Douglas

Kate Douglas
Book: Wolf Tales III
Publisher: Kensington Aphrodisia
Pub date: January 2007
Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

Kate Douglas, after a lifetime of writing, has found her niche with erotic paranormal romances that take readers well beyond the usual limits of fantasy. She freely admits she’s having way more fun than your average grandmother, and is busy plotting her next sensual tale of Chanku shapeshifters.

Awards: Three Eppies for contemporary romance and romantic suspense.

Author Web site:

BookEnds: Describe your book in 50 words or less.
Kate: A Chanku shapeshifter in disgrace, a woman in peril, and a man who will change all of their lives forever . . . these three come together in the next chapter of the erotically charged Wolf Tales saga—a world where pleasure is a rite of passage and desire takes many forms.

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Kate: I’d have to say my favorite “thing” in Wolf Tales III is my hero, Jacob Trent. I had such a wonderful visual of Jake from the first moment he appeared in Wolf Tales II that I knew he would have his own book. Think “Sawyer,” the character from Lost. Strong, unbelievably cocky, yet with a soft, more vulnerable side he hates to share, Jake’s the bad boy among my Chanku, the one with a chip on his shoulder that he’s always daring someone to knock off. I knew it would take a very strong woman to balance his personality, and Shannon Murphy is exactly right for him. Both of them have secrets, and both are, in their own way, very needy, but capable of great moral strength and a very deep, emotional love.

Beyond Jake, though, is an unexpected turn about halfway through the story that I totally did NOT expect, and which changed the entire course of the plot, as well as the romance. I love it when this happens! I was literally blindsided by the appearance of a new character who pushed his way in and wouldn’t leave. I had to laugh when I realized the “surprise” character, Baylor Quinn (the hero in my current WIP), looks just like the doctor Jack from Lost! I think I need to find some new TV to watch. . . .

BookEnds: What is your writing process like?
Kate: I start with my main character and spend days just thinking about him or her. I often “interview” characters to find out the details of their lives. Do they have living family, brothers or sisters? What are their hobbies, their talents, their politics? Are there any traumas in their past that might affect who they are today? I walk at least a mile a day, and when I’m on my walk, I’m wondering how all those aspects of my character will affect my story as well as the other characters who show up.

I have an extremely generous muse, otherwise known as a warped imagination. Once I have my main character, my stories come to me, literally, as I write them. They’re definitely character driven, but to give an example, when I first wrote the original story that started the Wolf Tales series, it was not about shapeshifters at all. It was a one-thousand-word “freebie” about a woman rescued by a man on a stormy night. They have unbelievable sex all night long and yet she never sees his face. In the morning, she awakens beside her stalled car, and that’s where the story ended. When I expanded it into the series, I let the characters tell me what would come next. I didn’t realize until I was a good fifty pages into the story that my character was a shapeshifter, and only then because it suddenly occurred to me why my heroine couldn’t see the hero’s face . . . she would know he was half wolf. (At that point, I actually had to do some research on Tibetan wolves!) I find that knowing my characters leads me to my story, and I can’t get to know them well until I’ve started writing them.

Eventually, there comes a point in every one of my books where my muse seems to take over. I find myself writing nonstop for hours, and when I go back and reread what I’ve written, it’s as if I’m reading it for the first time. My only explanation is that I’m merely taking my conscious grown-up mind, the one that says “You can’t possibly write something THAT absurd” out of play, and letting my writer’s brain take over. (I’ve heard it called the “Lizard Brain,” as if it’s a primitive part of your mind—I actually think of my muse as my lizard.) I love when that happens—it’s a physical sense I relate to a “runner’s high,” that feeling of euphoria when everything is working in sync. I’m not saying writing is easy. It’s hard work and leaves me wrung out and exhausted at the end of the day, but I will always love the process, especially when the lizard is in charge.

BookEnds: Why have you chosen to write in the genre in which you write?
Kate: Ooh . . . this is an easy question—I write in this genre (Erotic Paranormal Romance) because it’s just so much fun! I get to make everything up, write about really sexy men and wonderfully powerful, self-assured women in a world where the women are in charge. My Chanku are a matriarchal society where women have total control over reproduction and everything sexually related in their lives. All the men are gorgeous and sensitive—they have to be, because they can read each other’s thoughts, and when they form a mating bond, they know literally everything about their chosen mate. Intimacy among both sexes is accepted and expected. I love writing those intimate scenes where my characters can get into each other’s heads and experience lovemaking from the other’s point of view. The only downside is that my grown kids probably hide their faces in public, and my 85-year-old mother won’t read my books. “It’s not the sex,” she says. “I just can’t read a book where a person turns into an animal.”

BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Kate: I’m currently writing Wolf Tales V, which is actually the ninth story in my series. (Wolf Tales III is out now; "Chanku Fallen," a novella in Sexy Beast II, releases in April; Wolf Tales IV—Tinker McClintock’s story—is due out in July; and Chanku Journey is coming out next fall.) Writing a series like this is a mixed blessing. I always know the basics going into each book—my mythology is well developed and many of my characters return in each successive story—but the hard part is keeping track of how all my characters have interacted in past books. I have to keep charts to keep everything straight.

Wolf Tales V has two parallel romances. One is Baylor Quinn’s story. You’ll meet him in WT III. The other is Ulrich Mason’s tale—at 64, he’s my oldest hero to date, a widower and the head of Pack Dynamics, but he’s gone to Colorado to find out if Millie West, who runs a wolf sanctuary featured in WT IV, is actually Chanku. Their romance is very hot and sweet and filled with surprises.

Baylor’s story is really different—he’s fallen in love with a woman who is physically a freak. She’s spent her life caught halfway between wolf and human without knowing what caused it. Believing she is cursed by God, Manda is desperate when Bay tells her he can help. I’m still not sure where this one is going (though since it’s over halfway done, I assume I’ll figure it out shortly), but each day is a revelation when I sit down to write, and it’s all starting to come together in some most surprising ways. One more reason why I absolutely love writing erotic paranormal romances!

BookEnds: What was your road to published author like?
Kate: Long, frustrating, and, ultimately, amazing. I started out over twenty years ago, convinced I would be published within a year. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I wrote numerous books that were rejected numerous times until I finally sold to one of the very earliest epublishers. (Three of those oft-rejected titles went on to win numerous awards.) I kept writing and submitting and learning more about my craft with each book. I signed with Jessica and BookEnds while still writing for my first epublisher. While Jessica was submitting my contemporary romances (I always said she could get me rejected in a third of the time it took me—editors actually LOOKED at my ms. before turning them down!), I discovered Ellora’s Cave and erotic romance.

I wrote a number of stories as one of their first authors. I’m not exaggerating when I tell people I started writing for EC when there were only twelve authors, and three of them were the owner (writing under numerous pseudonyms)! Not only did my StarQuest series at EC take off, the interest in erotic romances exploded across the publishing industry. At that point, Jessica was able to take my Wolf Tales manuscript to editors without fear of arrest. I’ve been very lucky to ride the erotic romance wave over the past few years, developing my writing style right along with the growth of the genre.

In retrospect, I’m glad to have taken the long way 'round. I have learned so much about the business of writing and made so many wonderful friends in this industry, that I truly believe it’s more satisfying to begin seeing some success at this point in my life rather than to have achieved many of my goals when I was younger. There’s a very deep satisfaction in knowing I’ve earned my spot in publishing, though that’s not to say I haven’t developed some wild neuroses while getting there! Thank goodness I have a very patient agent who deals with all my “author angst”!

The point being, don’t ever give up. Believe in yourself and your stories and keep writing, keep learning your craft, and keep a file of your rejection slips. They’re a physical reminder that you’re only one editor’s opinion away from success. Who’s to say, the next editor who reads your manuscript might realize you are exactly what she didn’t know she was looking for.

To learn more about Kate Douglas, see Our Books at

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Above and Beyond in Word Count

A recent call for questions elicited a number of great replies, and bear with us, we’re getting to them as quickly as we can. . . .

Miss Snark has replied to a question I sent about word counts. She says 100,000 tops for a romance. I have written a novel which has 200,000. I have divided it into 2, but to submit only the first half does not complete the story! Should I cut out so much and lose half the story line! I dont know what to do and am helplessly lost somewhere in the middle. Please advise.

Miss Snark is right. My guess is that your story probably isn’t going to work if you divide it in half. Instead you are going to have to cut it down. 200,000 words is really long. Do you really need every piece that’s in it? I know it all sounds wonderful to you now, but take a break, start writing something else, and come back to it. My guess is that you probably have spots of intense description that aren’t needed and places where, honestly, nothing happens. Every scene and every moment in your book should be moving the plot and story forward. If it’s not, it doesn’t belong.

While I know that all of you can point out instances where authors have written romances longer than 100,000 words, it’s not the norm, and when you’re starting out it’s better to stick a little closer to the norm. Editing is probably one of the toughest jobs in writing, but learning to properly edit your own work is also invaluable.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Word Count

In October we posted a request for reader questions and got some great ones . . .

I wrote a dark urban fantasy novel, which was complete at about 65,000 words. It's the first in a series. I know that it's too short and that it should be at least 80,000, but it's 356 pages, and doesn't the publisher use a different word count than the one used in Microsoft Word? Or do I need to flesh it out more. I sent out 10 queries on 10/20/06 and received a request for a partial on 10/24/06 from a major agency, so I guess there are exceptions? I'm nervously awaiting the repsonses from the others. I wanted to query you guys, but was not sure you represent what I write. I think you guys are great and I love this blog!

When doing word count I would stick to the 250 words per page method. Microsoft Word can be weird since dialogue can be short and snappy and not take a lot of words, but because a three word sentence can equal an entire line in the book it can take a lot of space. That’s why publishers usually use the 250 words per page method: it’s more reliable in terms of how many pages a book would be (really their concern over words). If you use that method your book is really closer to 89,000 words and you are right on target.

As for BookEnds, we would not be the best place for an interest in dark urban fantasy unless it’s a romance first with dark urban fantasy elements. It’s a fine line, but it makes a big difference when it comes to who we would submit to. We have a number of contacts and a lot of experience in the romance world, but not the same type of expertise in fantasy.

It sounds like you are on the right path. Good luck!


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

Happy 2007!

I'm not usually much of a resolution maker, but I've discovered that even those of us who claim not to make resolutions tend to have one or two. And my thought is maybe if I share them with the world I'll be more inclined to keep them beyond March. So here we go. . . .

1. To keep up on submissions. 2006 was a horrible year for me and I vow to make amends and finally get and stay caught up. BookEnds says we have a turnaround time of 12-16 weeks, and I truly believe that 16 weeks is long enough. I will work very hard to get to those submissions every weekend.

2. To make an effort to read more published books. I would like to make the time to read at least two a month in a variety of genres. So, if anyone has any suggestions, please share.

3. To get to the gym more often. Yes, I know this has almost nothing to do with BookEnds, but 2-3 days at the gym would really help me clear my head and be more effective at work (and I'd look better too).

And I think three is more than enough. I'm sure I'll have a hard time keeping up with those. So what are your resolutions? Whether it has to do with your writing or not, I'd love to hear more about what you're planning for 2007.