Monday, February 28, 2011

Switching Genres

There’s always a lot of talk, especially among unpublished authors, about switching genres. Many of you are writing in multiple genres and want to continue doing so after you are published. Which inspired this question . . .

Is switching genres with each book a bad thing?

I currently have a Fantasy book finished (final re-editing, working on query perfection, etc.), but I started writing a chick-lit in the first half of the year. I also have some good ideas penned down for a sci-fi and a crime thriller. So, based on your post, should I be focusing on just one genre or continue with my whole "branch out and conquer the world" process? I am not working on all of these things at the same time, but still keeping the ideas for the future.

To some degree, yes, I think it’s a bad thing. Remember, once you decide to get published you are building a writing career and not just writing anymore, which means your goal is to find an audience. While you might find it fun to switch things up from book to book, most readers are fairly loyal to what they read. In other words, few fantasy readers will happily jump to chick lit with enthusiasm. Let’s face it, most readers read within a few specific genres. If your fantasy readers love your first book and look for your second, they might be very disappointed to discover how different it is. Most important, it might turn them off from picking up your third.

Most publishers want you publishing at least 9 months apart, so if you can have two different names and publish each name 9 months apart (writing a book every 4 to 5 months), then you can easily write in two genres. If, however, it takes you 9 months to write a book, you might want to stick with one genre, at least until you’re established.

As for writing prior to publication, I think it’s great to write in various genres and explore your strengths.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Author Speed Date

The idea of speed dating is that you get 10 minutes to sit down with a prospective date and get to know them. In that spirit, we present Author Speed Date. A quick 10 minutes for you to get to know some of our clients. Today we'd like you to meet Elizabeth Lynn Casey.

BookEnds Author Speed Date
Name (the one you’re published under): Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Speed date Bio (one or two lines): Elizabeth Lynn Casey is the author of the Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series with Berkley Prime Crime.

Web Link:

Next Book, pub date: Deadly Notions, April 2011

Agent: Jessica Faust

About Me

Real Name or Pseudonym: Actually, Elizabeth Lynn Casey is a pseudonym for mystery-writing me. I also write under Laura Bradford (real name) for romance.

Currently Reading: Summer Hideaway by Susan Wiggs

Next on Your Reading List: While I have a sky-high pile next to my bed, I’m eyeballing the calendar for Emily Giffin’s next release date (LOVE her).

Facebook or Twitter (include account name): Both. I have a fan page on Facebook (Elizabeth Lynn Casey) and I tweet under ElizabethLCasey.

Three authors living or dead you would want to have dinner with: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Mary Higgins Clark, Emily Giffin

Jet-setter or armchair traveler: Jet-setter (although my “jet-setting” hasn’t taken me out of the country yet—one day).

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: ½ full. It’s either that or never leave my bed.

Tea or Coffee: Um, can I request a third choice? Hot chocolate, perhaps?

Live to write or Write to live: Live to write and, as a result, I write to live.

About My Writing

When (time of day) I write: Morning.

Writing soundtrack: These days? Silence.

Character Inspirations: The voices in my head decide.

Plot Inspirations: The quick little newsbites on the radio.

Setting Inspirations: Places I’ve been, even if briefly.

Plotter (carefully plot books) or Pantser (write from the seat of my pants): Primarily a Pantser.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Working with an Editor

I am currently working on my first erotic novel (first novel of any kind). I have a question regarding an editor. Once I have finished it is it truly necessary to find an editor? If so, should I be specific in finding someone who deals in erotic editing? If so, any suggestions as to a good editor? I live in Australia, but editor anywhere is no problem.

It’s never “required” to get an editor, unless you feel that your work needs a good edit. There are a number of ways you can have your book edited. You can hire someone, or work with a writing partner or a critique group. If you do choose to hire an editor, I would suggest you find someone knowledgeable in your genre.

I’m not going to give specific editor recommendations, but if any of my readers have any, please feel free to promote them in the comments.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

Well we're no Query Shark, but we're going to take a stab at this query workshop thing anyway. So far we've received over 200 entries. We are choosing at random so if you're still interested in participating please read the guidelines in our original post.

Dear Agent,

I toiled endlessly to formulate my "form query letter" before realizing neither my manuscript, nor me as an author, fit any sort of mold. So, it is only fitting that I submit my query in a format as unique as the writing itself.

Do you know what I absolutely hate about this opening? I hate that you say "form query letter" in quotes, as if you are so much better than the other authors who are simply writing to some sort of formula. That kind of thing always sits wrong with me. I've said over and over that there is no formula for queries, there are only guidelines. I think you'll also see through the course of this workshop that the best queries are those with their own voice and can be completely different from one another.

Another red flag about this opening statement is the phrase "neither my manuscript, nor me as an author, fit any sort of mold." What that says to me is that you haven't done your research. You've made the assumption that you are so unique that there's nothing else out there like your book, which, frankly, is rarely the case. And if it is the case, then my first question to you is who is your audience? Where are they going to find your book? If it's shelved in the bookstore, which shelf is it going to be on? If an online retailer wants to sell readers on your book, what list are they going to put it on when they email readers with, "Since you bought this you might also be interested in . . ."

Don't try to pitch me on your book by telling me it is so great or so different it doesn't fit anywhere. That leads me to believe there is nowhere for me to sell it. It also makes me think you just don't know your market.


My name is Kate Windsor. I've been a vampire for a hundred years. And like countless others before me, I have fallen for my prey. Little did I know that he was infinitely more rare than even I, and posed more of a danger to me than either of us could have ever imagined.

The irony of this first line is that it doesn't at all match your opening paragraph. In other words, it really doesn't sound like something that doesn't fit any sort of mold. It sounds like a fairly typical vampire book. Keep in mind that's not necessarily a bad thing, unless you open your query by implying that your book is revolutionary.

I thought that my biggest problem was deciding whether or not to Turn him. I was wrong.

To complicate matters further, my powers - inevitable but unwanted - decide to show up at the worst time. They're volatile and unpredictable. But if I don't get a handle on them, they could kill me. Not something an immortal typically worries about.

It takes a lot to unnerve a vampire. I've survived tragedy, witnessed the horrific, seen the impossible. But nothing could've prepared me for Lucas Wilde. Nothing.

You hint at a lot in these opening paragraphs, but I have a feeling the really fun and different things about your book are what's missing. I don't mind telling the story from the character's point of view in a query. I think this can work, as long as I am getting an idea of what the real hook of your query is.


My name is Lucas Wilde. A simple guy from Wyoming. I came to Hidden Pines to escape the misery of a recent family tragedy. And I found my literal light in the darkness: Kate. She was sexy, smart, beautiful. Oh, and did I forget to mention, a vampire?

But not just any vampire. Her father - ahem, Maker - is, for all intents and purposes, the king of every vampire in the country. He is none too pleased about me. Not that I blame him. Parents are always trying to get their kids to stop playing with their food.

But you know what? That's not even the HALF of it.

Because not only is the world I believed in nothing like I thought it was . . . neither am I.

I think there are some things here, some elements, that might get requests for you. I would be on the fence. Kate's version doesn't sound that different to me, but I sort of like Lucas's voice. I'm intrigued by some of the more humorous things he says, especially about children playing with their food. That made me laugh. The problem is that I don't know anything about your story or the hook of your story. What about this vampire romance makes it different from the dozens out there on the shelves? What makes it stand out?

The overall format of this query could work if you punch it up a little bit more. My gut feeling, though, is that it's an interesting idea, but it's just not there yet. I would probably pass.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you set me up to be really wowed and you didn't follow through. If you're going to open your query by telling me it's so different from anything else out there that it doesn't fit into a mold, then you better deliver and send me a pitch that sounds mind-blowingly different. This doesn't. It sounds like a typical vampire love story.

Complete at 125,000 words, LUST is a dark and romantic fantasy with series potential. It is my debut novel. The manuscript is available upon request.

This works for me and, believe it or not, I'm not at all scared off by the word count, which I bet surprises a lot of my readers.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Agent's Edits

I have a question. I submitted my full ms. to an agent approx 3 months ago, who wrote back that she loved it and would like to show it to a colleague of hers. I told her yes, as I was yet to sign with any other agents. Since this time she has spent significant time editing the ms. and we have spoken on the phone a couple of times. About a month into the process I asked her if she was planning to sign me as her client, and she replied that she would like to represent my ms. but she wanted to get the ms. to a point we were both happy with before signing anything.

Is this usual? I can't see that I have anything to lose, since I haven't had any other offers of representation. From her viewpoint though, it seems like an odd move. Technically I could sign with another agent and she will have wasted a lot of time and effort on her edits (I have no intention of doing so, but still). Can you advise the "normal" process of signing a client (if there is such thing as normal)?

I feel like I need to say this a thousand times over. There is no such thing as “normal” in this business. Each agent is an individual and works very differently. Is it possible that an agent will work with an author before signing. Absolutely. The agent will only offer representation on what she feels she can sell, and if she doesn’t feel she can sell this she won’t offer. That being said, she feels there’s real potential here and is seeing if, by working together, it’s something the two of you can make into a salable product.

Yes, technically you could sign with another agent, and I suspect every agent out there has a story of the author who thanked them profusely for their feedback or edits because it helped secure another agent. So unbelievably frustrating when this happens. Which is why we always ask that if an agent helps you out you consider giving her another look.

A lot of this business is based on faith and trust. We don’t always require you to sign something, we just hope and have faith that the work you’re doing will make you realize that she’s the right agent for you.


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Reminder to Always Follow Up

When it comes to finding an agent, I think that authors erroneously feel that they have no power, that they need to capitulate to the agent in order to find one. Most dangerous, though, is how authors will feel this even after an offer of representation comes in, a time when you truly do have all the power and need to use every bit of it to make an important career decision.

I’ve often written about the importance of interviewing as many agents as possible when an offer comes in. You never know how an agent will work for you until you’ve had the chance to talk with a number of agents and get a real feel for how you’ll work together. Which is why, when an offer comes in, you should give any agents who interest you the chance to offer.

On December 17, after we had closed for the year, I received an email from an author who wanted to tell me that she had received an offer of representation from another agent. I had not yet responded to her query, and yet she got in touch anyway. It turns out her query had been lost in my crash, but after looking at it I knew it was a book I would have requested. I immediately asked for the manuscript, read, loved, and offered. On December 22, at 10:30 p.m., I signed my last client for 2010.

I think all too often authors feel that an offer should only be shopped to those agents who have requested material. Let me tell you, it should be shopped to anyone who is on your “A” list, unless of course it’s an agent who has already read and rejected the material.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Author Speed Date

The idea of speed dating is that you get 10 minutes to sit down with a prospective date and get to know them. In that spirit, we present Author Speed Date. A quick 10 minutes for you to get to know some of our clients. Today we'd like you to meet Kate Douglas.

BookEnds Author Speed Date
Name (the one you’re published under): Kate Douglas

Speed date Bio (one or two lines): It took me twenty years to get published in NY, so I’m having a ball making up for lost time.

Web Link:

Next Book, pub date:
April 2011—StarFire/DemonSlayers mass market series
July 2011—Wolf Tales 12/final book in the series/Aphrodisia trade paperback

Agent: Jessica Faust

About Me
Real Name or Pseudonym: Kate Douglas

Currently Reading: 8 category romances I’m judging for the RITAs (Romance Writers of America published author contest)

Next on Your Reading List: Master of Smoke by Angela Knight

Facebook or Twitter (include account name):

Three authors living or dead you would want to have dinner with: Only three? Jayne Ann Krentz, Stella Cameron, Susan Andersen

Jet-setter or armchair traveler: Motorhome camper

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: ALWAYS half full

Tea or Coffee: LOTS of coffee

Live to write or Write to live: At the moment both, but always live to write

About My Writing

When (time of day) I write: All, with occasional breaks—start early, end late, almost every day

Writing soundtrack: None, though sometimes Ancient Visions (native American album)

Character Inspirations: People in general

Plot Inspirations: Life and fantasy

Setting Inspirations: Places we’ve traveled or want to see

Plotter (carefully plot books) or Pantser (write from the seat of my pants): Pantser all the way. I feel trapped by pre-set plots

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Power of Social Networking

There’s always a lot of talk about Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites. We discuss whether you need to join and how to best use them to build an audience for your books. Well, I have a really cool story about the power of social networking.

BookEnds technically closed December 17 for the holidays and for the year, but that doesn’t mean I fully disappear. As I said to one of my authors, I’m really just in hiding. Just to make sure I’m not going to be too overwhelmed when I return, I still check email and answer those I can answer. And, as a frequent social networker, I also tend to stay active on both my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

On December 23, just before I started a day of cooking, I logged on to Facebook and saw this adorable status by Elizabeth Lynn Casey: “I think I'm finally losing it. I just found myself wondering what the ladies of Sweet Briar are doing for this year's Christmas...” My first thought was that’s a good status. That’s something readers will love.

Apparently Elizabeth’s editor saw the same status, and her first thought was that we should all be thinking about those ladies of Sweet Briar. Within hours of posting the status, Elizabeth’s editor called with an offer for a Christmas book about those ladies of Sweet Briar. So between grating potatoes for latkes and melting chocolate for cookies I was interrupting Elizabeth’s Christmas shopping to negotiate with one of the few editors who was actually still in the office.

And who says nothing happens over the holidays?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Old-Fashioned Way

This blog post over the holiday about our own “agent to the stars” Kim Lionetti made me want to write about my own thoughts on things like Christmas cards.

When it comes to certain things I’m a bit of an old-fashioned gal. I believe in the power of the Christmas card. I love getting them and I love sending them. Okay, I love when they’re sent. Like Jeff, it drives me crazy that we’ve become a world of the assembly-line Christmas card. I get that you’re busy. We’re all busy. But if it’s the one time of year when I hear from you, do you think you could pull out a pen and write a simple “Merry Christmas” on my card?

I remember as a kid being in awe of those families that sent out cards signed by everyone. Old and young all signed their own names. Now it seems I’m in awe of anyone who writes a simple message. I miss the days when people took the time to tell a little about themselves and their year or to just connect on a personal level. Does that mean I’d rather have either a hand-written card or no card at all? No, but I will admit to feeling a little more special when I get a note.

Want to know what other things I do the old-fashioned way? I write and mail thank-you notes, with stamps. I always make a phone call to offer representation, and I send birthday cards, in the mail, with a stamp, to all friends and family.

That’s just me. An old-fashioned girl.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Query Workshop

I've had numerous requests for another query contest, something we haven't done in quite a long time. Since these contests typically take time and a lot of work on our part, I've been trying to come up with a way to host them that gives you the guidance you seek without creating too much more work for us.

So here's how it works:

1. Each week (as long as we have time that week) we will post a fully critiqued query on our blog.

2. Queries will be picked at random from those submitted to us on the blog (address below). We will pick those that are good, bad, and ugly to give you an idea not only of what an agent's in-box looks like, but also to really help you all learn what it takes to write a strong query. If your query isn't picked, don't take it personally. We simply ran out of time.

3. No queries submitted to the workshop will be considered queries submitted for consideration. In other words, if you want to query BookEnds, follow our submission guidelines. If you want your query workshopped, follow the workshop guidelines. If you want to submit to both, go right ahead.

4. All authors submitting their query to the query workshop are giving BookEnds permission to post the query, in its entirety, to our blog for critique. We will delete all personal information (name and contact information) if you haven't already.

5. To be considered for the workshop, you should email your query to and put "query workshop" in the subject line. All queries submitted to that address without that subject line will be deleted.

Happy workshopping!


Monday, February 14, 2011

A Successful Reader's Report

I’ve done blog posts before on the reader report, but lately Kim and I have been discussing them more and more and trying to figure out what really makes a great reader report.

For those of you who aren’t aware, a reader report is something every single potential editor will have to do for a job interview; it’s also something interns and assistants do for their bosses, and believe it or not, it’s something all editors do almost every week for other members of their editorial staff. Whether written or verbal, a reader report gives your analysis of a book’s potential.

What I think gets confusing for some people is where your opinion comes into play in a reader report. If you sit in on an editorial meeting at a publishing company, you’ll hear a number of editors, as part of their reports, say things like, “I didn’t like this” or “I didn’t warm to the characters” or “This was absolutely fabulous. I loved it,” which can easily make you think that a reader report is all about your personal opinion. And it is and it isn’t.

Remember, these editors have likely been around for a long time, so when they say something like, “I didn’t like this book,” other editors in the room know that they are saying that based on years of editing. That not liking something means that they don’t see it as commercially viable. And that’s the point of a reader report.

When I get a reader report from a potential new hire, an intern, my assistant, or even Kim, I only really care about your opinion if you’ve been around long enough to show me that you have experience behind your opinion. In other words, when Kim says she doesn’t like something, it’s going to have different weight than if an intern says it. When an intern or a potential new hire says she doesn’t like something, I need to know why, and “because I’m not comfortable with it” isn’t going to fly. I want to know whether or not you feel the book is commercially viable, whether you’re comfortable with it or not.

For example, you might not like that sex scene in the opening chapter, but do you not like it because you are uncomfortable with sex scenes or do you not like it because you don’t feel it works for the book. In other words, does it feel gratuitous and out of place to you. Again, not because you think it’s too abrupt for the book, but because you don’t feel it fits the story. To you it feels like the author slapped it in because she needed an exciting opening.

When interviewing for jobs in publishing, especially with agencies and in editorial, you will often be asked to write a reader report, and I will tell you from experience that a reader report can make or break any possibility of you getting that job. I could interview the sweetest candidate in the world, but if she writes a really awful report I will not offer the job. To me that report is the one thing that shows whether or not she has the editorial eye needed to propel her to a career in this business.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Author Speed Date

The idea of speed dating is that you get 10 minutes to sit down with a prospective date and get to know them. In that spirit, we present Author Speed Date. A quick 10 minutes for you to get to know some of our clients. Today we'd like you to meet Ellery Adams.

BookEnds Author Speed Date
Name (the one you’re published under): Ellery Adams

Speed date Bio (one or two lines): Likes: the ocean, animals, cupcakes with strawberry frosting, books, traveling, making things grow. Dislikes: caterpillars, ironing, Brussels sprouts, the smell of airplane cabins, discourtesy

Web Link: Stop by this month and you could win a new 3G Kindle!

Next Book, pub date: A Deadly Cliché, March 1, 2011

Agent: Uberagent Jessica Faust

About Me

Real Name or Pseudonym: Jennifer/J.B. Stanley

Currently Reading: The Likeness by Tana French

Next on Your Reading List: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Facebook or Twitter (include account name): ElleryAdams

Three authors living or dead you would want to have dinner with: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ellery Queen

Jet-setter or armchair traveler: Both

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: ½ full yet always on the lookout for the waiter

Tea or Coffee: Coffee, vats of it

Live to write or Write to live: Both

About My Writing

When (time of day) I write: original writing in the morning, editing during the afternoon

Writing soundtrack: All over the place. Beethoven one session, Lady Gaga the next, a little Keith Urban for later, and a nightcap with Josh Groban

Character Inspirations: Faulty people with complex pasts, a wry sense of humor, and a desire to see justice served

Plot Inspirations: For readers to get to the end of my books and say, “I didn’t see that coming.”

Setting Inspirations: Small towns with plenty of charm and more than a few killers at large

Plotter (carefully plot books) or Pantser (write from the seat of my pants): A blend of the two. I plot bits at a time and then often chuck the outlines out the window and just wing it. Writing is all about following one’s gut, even if it means a constant supply of coffee and cupcakes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bringing an Agent on Board

I am a two time published author and was wondering if you represented work that had all ready been signed by a Publisher. I just need help with promotions and help to get other stuff signed too, so would you be interested in doing something like that?

Once a contract has been signed an agent doesn’t legally, in the eyes of the publisher, represent those books. However, it is possible to bring an agent on board later in your career, before the next contract, to assist in career planning and in the next steps for your career, as well as future book contracts. The trick is that you will still need to have a plan to pitch to the agent.

As for promotions, an agent will typically guide you and help brainstorm ideas when it comes to publicity and promotion, but except for a few larger agencies, most agents don’t directly handle publicity or promotion; that’s something you would hire a publicist for.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A Holiday Gift List

Back in October I asked you to help me do my holiday shopping. Thank you. I did really well this year and was quite proud of myself. As always, I lost my mind in the bookstore and couldn’t stop buying, desperately trying to find books for everyone on my list. I took some of the advice you gave, buying some books for myself (oops), and I think I used some of your ideas for people on my list.

It’s only fair, now that the packages are unwrapped and the paper cleared away, to share my gift list. So here is a list of the books that I gifted this year.

15-year-old boy: Deadliest Sea by Kalee Thompson. I was really excited to find this book. He has dreams and aspirations of joining the Coast Guard and I think this is the perfect book.

12-year-old girl: I wanted to take the advice of one of my readers and buy The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. I haven’t read the book yet, which I would like to do, but it sounded terrific. After much thought though I couldn’t decide if it sounded like her (I learned after my post that she’s a fan of 39 Clues). So instead I got her The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke.

10-year-old boy: This was a tougher one for me. I’m not always sure what to get this reader. He loves to cook, but I got him a cookbook last year so that didn’t seem right. Finally I decided on The Mysterious Benedict Society #1 by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Adult male: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. I can’t believe I’ve never read this book. Do you know it’s been on my wish list for 10 years? Annoying.

Adult male: The Hunger Games trilogy. I think it’s a must-read for everyone and the box set is a guaranteed classic, plus I just really, really wanted him to read it.

Then there are three children I adore but typically do not buy gifts for. This year though I really wanted to buy the oldest girl, who has just become a reader, my favorite book, and because of that they all get books.

8-year-old girl: Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. A classic. One of my all-time favorite series as a child and I just had to get this for her.

6-year-old boy: Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big by Berkeley Breathed. This has become a favorite in our house, as have all of his books, and I thought this little boy would get a kick out of the power of one fib.

3-year-old girl: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. Kim has talked about this book a lot. It’s a favorite at her house, so when I was thinking of books I immediately called Kim to get the name and ordered it up. It looks to me like a book every child should have.

Couple: This couple specifically asked for a cookbook. She is on a gluten-free diet and they both work, so getting dinner on the table has been a struggle for them. They wanted primarily gluten-free recipes, but quick and easy so they could get home, easily choose a recipe, and cook it fast. So I did two things. I made a cookbook through Tastebook of family favorites as well as recipes pulled through the website, and I bought them Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Steward Living Magazine. The recipes are quick and every single one includes a picture, which I think is perfect for those who aren’t cooks.

For myself (from Santa of course): Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. I’ve been dying to read this so slipped it into my order when no one was looking.

For my kids: My Mommy Hung the Moon. Last year I got them Mars Needs Moms, which is one of the greatest books ever, and I wanted something similar. This isn’t quite there, but I do like Jamie Lee Curtis’s books.

In addition to Christmas presents we received an invitation to a 5-year-old girl’s birthday party. After staring mindlessly at a sea of pink in the toy store I suggested to my son that maybe we buy her a “Laura and Mary” book since they’ve been his favorites. He beamed at the suggestion and told me he thought that was “a great idea,” so she got Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m not sure about the little girl, but rumor has it the mother liked it.

And you know, for some reason, I still think I didn’t buy enough books.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

It's All Subjective . . . to a Point

We talk a lot about how subjective this business is, about how an agent could be rejecting your book simply because she doesn’t like dogs and you have a dog as a sidekick, or because she doesn’t like characters named Sara. And this is true, but not to the extreme I think some of you like to think or agents like to use as examples. Certainly there are times when we reject books or queries simply because it’s not the type of thing we represent or are interested in representing. For example, I won’t even bother to read Tom Clancy-esque military thrillers because I have no interest in them. They are not my forte, so in that case it is entirely personal preference.

When reading in a genre I do represent, however, there’s more that goes into a request for more or a rejection, more than just the fact that I love dogs or am entranced with Steampunk. My subjectivity is often also based on the market or how well the concept is working for me (which of course is subjective). For example, I love all things food. Query me with a chef or restaurateur and you’ve immediately piqued my interest. That doesn’t mean that just because you’ve included a chef or restaurateur in your book I’m going to offer representation. There’s so much more to it than that, so much more to it than just my personal preference.

When judging a manuscript, whether I’m reading it for myself or for someone else, my subjectivity comes into play in how the book works for me, not that I don’t like dogs. In other words, I might not like dogs, but does the dog in your manuscript work? Does it have a role, does it feel like it belongs, is the purpose of the dog realistic? That’s the trick. A good author will make the book work for just about anyone. If it’s not working, that’s the problem, and that’s when I’ll remember that I don’t like dogs.


Monday, February 07, 2011

An Unhappy Client

1) I have an agent
2) I'm published
3) I'm unhappy with my agent due to (a) lack of communication (b) she can't stay connected with the internet or phone service because she lives in the middle of somewhere (c) updates on the four (4) new proposals she has are being treated as non-existent (d) legal issues with my publisher have been neglected
I'm at a literary standstill.
Any ideas?
Am I wrong for being professionally needy but impatient?

First of all, it doesn’t sound like you are being needy or impatient, professionally or otherwise. The fact that you are still with this agent says to me that you have already shown a great deal of patience, and as for being needy, having expectations that your business partner will do her job is not needy.

I could be wrong, but unless your agent lives in a third world nation or maybe the Canadian Wilderness, it seems to me she should be able to stay connected with phone or Internet. Are you telling me that her services go down so frequently that she never has a chance to send an email or make a phone call? C’mon! I’m not buying that. On days when my Internet goes down I still have plenty of time to write emails. They’ll just have to wait to be sent until the Internet clicks back on.

The truth is, the only excuse your agent has is, maybe, laziness. Or I guess lack of interest. Whatever it is, she’s not doing her job. She’s not communicating with you, she’s not helping you with legal issues; let me repeat, she’s not doing her job.

It’s time to cut and run. Do whatever your contract requires to get out of this agent, take control of your literary career, and find a new agent.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Email Thread

When you reply to an email you typically have the option, through your email program, to include the email thread with each reply. The email thread is the exchange of emails between you and the person you are replying to. If you don't have this turned on, please turn it on.

I don't know about you, but I rely on this email thread. With clients it helps me to see what we've been discussing, with editors the email thread can include each step of a discussion or negotiation, and with queries it helps me to see exactly what you're sending, that I really did request it, and whether or not I want to read it right this minute or if it's something that can wait until next month. If there's no thread it typically waits until next month.

Please always include the email thread in your replies to everyone.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Synopsis

Lately I’ve received a number of submissions that did not include the synopsis I requested. In some cases, the author sent the entire manuscript claiming the synopsis was too hard to write so it was skipped. In other cases the authors sent sample chapters and simply ignored my request for the synopsis.

I know a synopsis is a pain to write; I do realize that, and many times I don’t even read the synopsis. That being said, it’s still a very important piece of your submission package. There are times when I’m reading a submission and concerned that the book is heading off in the wrong direction, in a way that doesn’t make sense, and checking the synopsis can clarify that for me; it can also clarify whether or not I should continue reading. Maybe I see that the book needs extensive edits, but reading the synopsis can confirm that overall it’s going in the right direction.

If I look to a synopsis for clarification and it’s not there, often I will decide that if the book needs work it’s probably just easier to reject. A synopsis could have changed my mind. A synopsis also could have given me better understanding of the book, so if I am rejecting maybe I’ll be able to give feedback that relates more to the entire book instead of just the chapters I read.

Write the synopsis. You’re going to need it. If it’s not for me, you’ll need it for your editor, your copy writers, your cover artists, etc. You will need a synopsis.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Writing Novellas by Sally MacKenzie

An Invitation to Sin
Publisher: Kensington Zebra

Pub date: February 2011

Agent: Jessica Faust

(Click to Buy)

My second novella, “The Naked Prince,” releases today. I’m excited to be in an anthology headlined by New York Times bestseller and romance icon Jo Beverley. I’m hoping her fans—and those of the other authors, Vanessa Kelly and Kaitlin O’Riley—will enjoy my story, too, and be motivated to seek out my backlist—and to snap up my next book, The Naked King, when it comes out in June. And I’m happy to have another release out in the world, especially since I write only one book a year.

Wait a minute! Only one book a year, you say? Isn’t that sacrilege in romance land? If I can’t write two—or three—books a year, of course I should be knocking out a novella. Writing a shorter story—my novellas are 25,000 to 30,000 words, about a quarter the length of my novels—should be a snap, right?

Not exactly, at least not for me. Some writers are bristling with ideas and can write wonderful stories quickly and consistently. Sadly, I am not one of them. I agonize over every word, often to a fault. And short definitely doesn’t mean easy, IMHO. I find it quite a challenge to create three-dimensional characters, a coherent plot, humor, and a believable happily-ever-after ending in a style my core readers expect in only 100 rather than 400 manuscript pages.

How do I write a novella? My first step is choosing a suitable plot and main characters. The plot can’t be very convoluted, and the characters can’t have an elaborate backstory—or at least a backstory I feel compelled to explore in depth. Actually, I discover my novella heroes and heroines in my novels. I didn’t know Lord and Lady Kenderly’s story when they appeared in the The Naked King, but I knew they were going to be the stars of “The Naked Prince.” (This was a bit tricky, as I wrote the King first and then had to go back on copyedits and revise the novel to make it consistent with the “Prince.” Time is often a little out of sync in publishing.)

Once I have my characters and plot, I try a variety of things, probably concepts familiar to you, to tell a complete story in a relatively small amount of space. I’ve limited the setting—“The Naked Prince” happens on one country estate. I’ve limited the story’s duration—the "Prince" takes place over a couple of days. I still have a fair number of secondary characters, but I don’t spend as much time with them as I would in a novel, and I limit point of view to only the hero’s and the heroine’s. If I have any subplots, they are minor. As I say, my novellas and novels are all loosely connected; this is fun for me—and I hope fun for my readers as well—but I have to constantly guard against getting carried away with that, especially in a novella. There just isn’t room for extraneous stuff.

But no matter how long or short the tale, I want to leave my readers sighing and smiling and wishing the story wasn’t over when they reach the last page. I want to make them happy—and, of course, I want them eagerly coming back for more!

USA Today bestselling author Sally MacKenzie writes funny, hot Regency-set historicals for Kensington’s Zebra line, and her books have been translated into Czech, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian. An Invitation to Sin arrives on bookstore shelves today. A native of Washington, D.C., Sally still lives in suburban Maryland with her husband and whichever of her four sons are stopping back in the nest. To find out more about Sally and her books, visit her website at