It’s been a quiet week for me here at BookEnds, and by that I mean I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off staring at 150 fresh emails and 8 new voice mails. No, I actually feel on top of things this week. I’ve gotten to all of my clients proposals, they’ve gotten their feedback and are busy at work. I’ve gone through my handy little notebook and made notes on where all my clients are with their projects and followed up with editors and clients where necessary. I’ve reviewed and negotiated contracts, I’ve touched base with a number of editors I haven’t talked to in a while, and I even read some queries and proposals.
And I hate it. I hate peace and quiet and I hate having time to do things. I suppose some would say that makes me a type A personality. I have no idea what personality type I am, but I do know that I thrive on at least a little bit of chaos. I like to have things hanging over my head. I like to feel needed and wanted and I like to be running around like a chicken with at least half my head severed (sorry).
When I have downtime, though, it makes me think. It makes me think that right now, at this very moment, I’m looking for something. I want something fresh and new to add to my client list, something that will keep me up all night reading and make me pop open the computer at 3 a.m. to let the author know I need to talk to her asap. Obviously that something has to be different, it has to be well-written. and it has to grab me by the throat. But beyond that. what else am I looking for? What do I want to add to my 2008 client list? Here’s a rundown in no particular order. . . .
Thrillers: I really want a good thriller. I want a tough but soft character. Someone I want to be or be around. I’ve been reading Karin Slaughter and Barry Eisler. I really love Barry Eisler. I would love to see something that hasn’t been done before. One of the things I love about Barry Eisler is his ability to make a seemingly unsympathetic character sympathetic, but of course I love more traditional forensic or criminal investigation-type books as well. I like the darkness of a thriller, and of course I love that thrillers are thrilling. If comparing books to TV, I love The Closer, Criminal Minds, and Cold Case. I especially love Cold Case. Brilliant!
Romantic Suspense: I’ve always been a huge fan of romantic suspense, so it’s surprising I have so few on my list. I think part of it is that I’m incredibly picky; I don’t think it’s an easy genre to write. I do want to add more romantic suspense to my list, though. I want the huge sexy men and I love the women-in-jeopardy stories. There are few things more exciting to me than stalkers and serial killers, but I also like the team approach, the man and woman who can work together to save the day, and keep me at the edge of my seat while doing it. And I refer above to some of my favorite TV shows, which are also great romantic suspense ideas—especially Criminal Minds. Just plain creepy.
Contemporary Romance: Lately I’ve been reading a good deal more contemporary romance and I’ve been surprised (I don’t know why) by how difficult it is to find these days. With the glut of paranormals, it seems that this is the latest genre to be neglected. The trick with contemporary romance is that it still has to have some sort of hook to make it stand out. I’m on the hunt, though. I believe it’s not going to be long before editors are begging me for a good contemporary romance, and I plan to be ready.
Historical Romance: I like big, lofty, sexy historicals. Of course I like any historical. I’ve been doing well with my historical romances lately, or I suppose I should say my authors are doing well, and I’m enjoying reading them, so I’m always looking for something new. As you might know, Elizabeth Hoyt was one of my new favorites of last season, but I also discovered Samantha James and loved her. I like historicals with an interesting hook, and I tend to think a high level of sensuality plays well in the historical market, so I like that too.
Commercial Women’s Fiction: I tend not to be a reader of much “literary fiction.” I like more commercial stories, books that I’ve heard a lot of writers refer to as mainstream. Often there’s a romance involved, but not always. I love stories of friendship and I love stories of a woman overcoming hardship. I’m always a fan of the abused woman who is able to escape, the abandoned woman who is able to discover that she can, in fact, survive on her own, and I love stories about the mother-daughter relationship. I love TV shows like Brothers and Sisters and Army Wives, and these are the types of stories I would like translated into women’s fiction (not literally, of course).
Nonfiction: It’s been a while since I’ve taken on a new nonfiction author, and I think it’s time for something fresh. Of course the author is going to need to have a platform, both personally and with the subject she is writing about. I’m most interested these days in career, health, parenting, and current events titles. But wow me. I’d love to see some truly funny humor (we just sold a hilarious pop culture humor book), some brilliant business book, or a self-help book that really stands out.
And of course don’t forget that I’m always looking for mysteries, erotic romances, paranormal romances, and fantasy romances. The only reason I didn’t go into detail on any of these particular subjects is that I’m seeing a lot of them cross my desk. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t get at least ten paranormal or fantasy queries and three cozy mysteries. The problem is that none of them have stood out. The vampires all sound the same and every cozy protagonist works in academia. I definitely want to see more of these genres, but you’ve got to push yourselves in these flooded markets to stand out. To really show me what you’re doing that hasn’t yet been thought of and to write it in such a way that your writing takes my breath away from the first sentence.
So there you go, a public admission that I am looking for new clients. A little scary on my part, maybe, but that’s what happens when your clients are all busy writing away.
Great post, Jessica. You watch the same tv shows I do. The ones you mentioned are all of my favorites. I'd be happy to be one of your new clients in 2008 since we have similar taste. So off I go to write that manuscript that takes your breath away from the first sentence.
I predict you are about to be flooded with gueries! But its great to hear you lay it out with all these details.
I have a thriller for you. The first sixty pages are at my web site - free. The next 300 I'll send you if you like the first 60. Free. I'm having a tough time getting agents and publishers to read it, but it's a fascinating read I've been told by everyone that has read it so far here in Thailand. Subject matter: Psychologist with history of being sexually abused in the past goes vigilante justice on pedophile network based in Thailand. An exciting read even if it never gets published as more than an e-book! Mike Fook www.mikefook.com
Jessica, you currently have a partial of my urban fantasy that's neither thriller or romance. Hmm... No vampires ore werewolves, though.
Um, Mike, I'm thinking one reason you might be having trouble getting people to read it is that you are going about it in a way that is against the industry norm. Of course it's "free" for Jessica (or any agent!) to read it. And it's also my understanding that agents generally don't want to go to a website to read a book--not when they have piles of partial manuscripts they requested already (and that came FREE!) based on query letters that got them interested in the first place.
But maybe you will get lucky and strike a match here today. If BookEnds reads it, great! And loves it, and sells it, wonderful!! But if not, I'd suggest researching how the business is really done, and following the rules. You'll get a better response, I'm willing to bet.
I agree with Aimless... a post like this can only lead to a few future weeks flooded with queries!
This does lead to a question I've been wondering lately: is timing everything?
I sent out a couple queries recently and all of the agents except one asked for partials (I credit this to your great pitch critiques!). The funny thing is the one that didn't want to see any further is the one agent that reps the most books like mine, who I actually expected to be my best bet. Come to find out this week that during the time I sent my query she was signing contracts for four books and under a heavy workload with those.
If you have tons of work crowding your time, are you less likely to take on new projects, and if you find yourself in a bit of a lull are you more likely to ask to see more?
I'm not disappointed... she actually wasn't my top choice anyway, and the fact that anyone asked for a partial was amazing to me, but still.... I wondered.
This was fascinating. Thanks! I especially enjoyed reading your predicitions on the contemporary romance market--maybe that's because it's one of my genres of choice, both to read and write.
Have fun wading through the flood of queries sure to come your way!
Okay, so I need to work on a fresh, new and different thrilling, romantic, contemporary suspense novel in an historical setting with a commercial women's fiction bent, not forgetting to work in some exotic, erotic and paranormal mysteries.
Boy, the 3rd rewrite of my present project is going to be a real bear.
I am thrilled that you are looking for clients. I'll have to put together a packet for you. I love those TV shows too but I can't get Criminal Minds anymore because we changed program providers.
Such a tempting invitation. Wish I had something completed, polished and ready to go.
Hurries off to write her women's fiction.
The beginning of the end started in an empty tube of Retin A.
Bear with me, it's coming.
I agree with Aimless. I predict an agent in the mood will soon be inundated with queries.
Hey, does Jacky Sach--another agent at Bookends--have a blog? Anyone know what she's up to?
It's an okay query, but the whole thing strikes me as goofy, silly, and..just sort of what's the point. It would be more fun if they were getting together every week so they could kick someone's ass in a delicicious revenge scenario.
... and let the avalanche begin. Got your life preserver handy?
I'm still a few months away from submitting, so I hope there's room for me when I flounder my way to the boat. I have two on the go - a romantic suspense and a mainstream women's fiction.
I left out the other thing that bugs me about that kickboxing query--I think it would be better if it started with the yoga and then moved to kickboxing, not the other way around,l because it's sort of anticlimactic. And oddly enough, it is while they do the yoga that "They are a group, not a community..." but when they switch to kickboxing, "what they see is this: often our most painful truths are self-inflicted wounds." So they are mean and bitchy to each other as yoga parctitioners, but when they start kickboxing, they become enlightened, and ultimately stop short of using their newfound deadly force on their common enemy because of their newly shared insights.
The way I read that query, the yoga seems to be where they become friends. I think you may have gotten it wrong. I have to say, too, that "chemotherapy" and "murderous exes" don't strike me as either "goofy" or "silly."
No comment on the query itself.
You're going to be VERY busy. LOL. Not that I'm complaining. This post has spurred me.
Thank you so much for letting us know what you're looking for.
I read these comments, and I am both fascinated and mortified... In the 2008 Writers Guide, there is a piece on good/bad query writing. I remember reading the bad ones and thinking, no...seriously people CAN'T possibly approach such an intense industry as the literary universe with absolute garble. Apparently, I was wrong, and thank (Mike) for so eloquently teaching us the ways of the Don'ts.
Being a writer is a lonely journey in many ways. We seek to find voice, to be be heard above the roar of those who grew strong first, while simultaneously learning from them what we can along the way. Writing is not so much a career choice as it is a personality. We write because we must; to turn away is like forsaking oneself. Courage and self-faith become our dearest friends, and we cling to them so as not to lose sight of the path we have chosen.
(Mike) please fill your boots on some humble pie, take your "enthusiasm" down a few notches until it resembles true form, real heart, and please, as Dean Koontz once told me, "Be as devout to your writing as a christian is to his/her religion." Simply put, there are too many of us standing in line for blantant arrogance to be considered a diamond in the rough. I may never succeed, but I'll be damned if I want to be lost in the slushpile, suffocating under that heap of nonsense.
To Jessica I say: You are an amazing agent. Finding the perfect author/agent fit is a terrifying experience, but you bring hope.
And to the anonymous who gave (Mike) the sardonic advice, I say: Thank you. Very well said!
And........ in my own moment of humble pie, may I be the first to realize and subsequently point out:
I spelled blatant incorrectly. Ugh.
Time to shut off my computer and do something else for awhile...
If you repped YA, I'd be all over this. Actually, I would've queried you months ago. Anyway, I still found this post very interesting and will point it out to my writer buddies who work in your genres.
But actually, the worst time to query an agent is during a bug spike in queries, like you see after an open call for queries such as this, or after the PM report of a big sale...you want to avoid querying immediately followinf those events, if possible. Every agent is looking for great new work all the time, so query all the time! Sheesh, it's so basic and obvious!
I am feeling remorse... My posted comment earlier was simply horrid. With the exception of a man who used to steal from the people in a writer's group I used to attend, I have NEVER uttered an unkind word to a fellow writer. There was absolutely nothing to be gained by my comment. Critisism must always benefit the recipient in some form or another; it's an unspoken rule to which I have always upheld.
"Always look both ways before crossing the line." And I crossed the line.
Having said that, to whoever you are, (Mike), everyone deserves a chance for success. Guidance is key. I can't retract what I said on a public site, but I can - and do - certainly regret it.
Best of luck on your journey...
Never fear, Jessica...
I'm working on my next proposal in my head even now, and I'm sure we'll have another twelve rewrites to work through in the coming months... ;)
I guess I should be glad I'm in the process of rewriting my manuscript (again). Maybe by the time I'm finished, the flood of queries will have subsided.
I loved the post...it clarified what you're looking for....:) And I'm sure since it's July now, that you've received several queries and are probably doing the "headless" chicken thing:)
But....I hope there's room for one more submission, and that it possibly does have something to pique your interest. I entered a Hearts of the West contest, with a twenty page submission and Bookends is one of the judges.
Here's hoping the first twenty pages caught your eye:) (Even if it doesn't place in the contest, if it did make you take a second look and you want to see more, it will have done what I hoped for:)
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