Friday, July 29, 2011

Thought for the Day

Just because friends, family, and coworkers tell you to write a book doesn't mean it's a book that should be published.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sheila Connolly on EPublishing

Sheila Connolly
Called Home
Publisher: Beyond the Page
Pub date: July 2011

(Click to Buy)

Sheila Connolly
Bitter Harvest
Publisher: Berkley
Pub date: August 2011

(Click to Buy)


I will confess to being "of a certain age," and that means that I grew up reading pages, not pixels. I learned to type (the young'uns would call that "keyboarding") in a summer school course on a manual typewriter. The room at the local middle school where we met to pound on those hulking machines wasn't air-conditioned, so it was six weeks of hell.

When I was a Ph.D. candidate in art history, I had to produce a doctoral thesis that was some two hundred double-spaced pages long (that was just the text—pictures had a volume all their own). On a non-correcting typewriter (at least it was electric). The submission guidelines stated that there could be no more than two typing errors per page, plus I had to insert footnotes manually on each page. You can bet that there was a lot of cursing and a lot of wasted paper.

As you might guess, I have embraced the electronic age. I love the ease of editing on a computer, where you can delete vast swaths of text—but save them just in case you might want them later. Where you can store your precious material on disks, flash drives, external hard drives, and off-site (or all of the above, if you're really paranoid about losing anything).

But until now I've been leery of entering the world of electronic publication. Silly, I know—I have plenty of writer friends who have taken the plunge successfully. But the transition is challenging. I have been collecting books as long as I have been reading, and I've been reading as long as I can remember. I have a copy of the children's anthology Read Me More Stories, which, according to the inscription inside, was given to me when I was three, that I "improved" with my own scribbled additions. I have full shelves honoring my science fiction phase, my women's fiction phase, and of course, my mystery phase (by far the largest group, and still growing). In fact, I have so many books that I've run out of space for them, even after donating five boxes of the overflow to our local library this week. So the time has come to face electronic reality.

I think all of us involved in the publishing industry these days—writers and publishers alike—are struggling to understand and take advantage of the possibilities of electronic publishing and distribution. We've watched the Borders chain implode, and seen too many small independent bookstores shut down. Yet people still read, and the electronic vendors make our books available to a far wider group of readers than ever before. They make it possible to acquire a book in a minute, if something catches your fancy. They make it possible to travel anywhere with a library tucked in your bag—you need never be caught without something to read. As someone who has been known to read ancient mildewed magazines stuffed into sofa cushions because I couldn't find anything else, this is an incredible boon.

Last month Beyond the Page published my first ebook, Called Home. I just wrote it; they formatted it and uploaded it to all the right places. This was something I had written a long time ago; in fact, it was the first chapter of the original version of what eventually was published as One Bad Apple. There were changes along the way, but recently I realized that the story worked well as a prequel to the rest of the Orchard Mystery series: the story takes place just after my protagonist, Meg Corey, has arrived in Granford, and she knows no one, and she certainly hasn't found any bodies yet. And yet in that single chapter I managed to lay out and solve a murder mystery.

Does epublishing mean the end of books as we know them? I don't think so. Writers still write the words, and readers still want to read them. The physical form is secondary. It may take a while for people to change their mind-set, but that was probably true when the lightbulb and the telephone were invented. Epublishing is only going to grow, and now I've got one toe in the water.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Ms. Agent Last Name,

What would you do if…

Your mother is kidnapped? You are stranded, all alone in a foreign country? A strange man with electric blue eyes threatens your life unless you turn over some key you’ve never heard of?

Oh no, you begin with one of my biggest query pet peeves: the hypothetical question. And there isn’t just one of them, there are three! You might say this is simply an unreasonable personal preference of mine, but I am not alone in this. Many agents and editors can’t stand this. Why? Well, I’m not entirely sure why. Most of the time, my answers to these questions are “I don’t care,” “That would never happen to me,” or to clench my teeth in frustration. Or perhaps because it’s a cliche, and we just see so many queries that begin like this. Also, it makes the assumption that the reader will be able to relate to your character. What if I hate my mother and wish someone would kidnap her? What if my mother had just died and I’m overcome with grief? Even worse, what if I can relate all too well, and my mother really had been kidnapped? It feels like you’re trying to force my emotional involvement in your story. But as a plus, if they hadn’t been phrased as questions, some of your plot elements might have intrigued me.

Let me nitpick at your specific questions. At this point in your query, I don’t know that this is a YA project, so the second question doesn’t have the impact you want it to have. As an adult, if I were stranded in a foreign country, it would be frustrating and perhaps even frightening, but I’d deal with it. As for the “man with electric blue eyes,” you have me wondering why his eyes are relevant. Are you trying to tell me that there’s some kind of sci-fi or paranormal element? Or is this man a perfectly normal human who just happens to have striking eyes? My questions don’t get answered in the rest of your query, and they really need to be addressed.

If you’re fifteen-year-old Jim Winters and his nine-year-old sister Erica, you set off in search of your long absent father. Beating a trail from the north of England to the hills of Tuscany and hidden passageways beneath the city of Venice, the two dodge skeptical adults, fend off shadowy assailants, and uncover friends in unexpected places.

Aha! It’s a YA! But wait, in the previous paragraph, you ask what I’d do if I were all alone and here I find out that your character isn’t alone--he’s with his sister. This paragraph makes me ask another question--why don’t your characters just go to the police? I think that would be the logical reaction to one’s mother being kidnapped. I do, however, like the second sentence of this paragraph. It’s concise but gives me something to go on, and road stories frequently appeal to me. Still, I think it would be better if you elaborated some on this sentence--what type of shadowy assailants (and again, is shadowy a clue word for paranormal?) and unexpected friends?

But that’s the easy part! When a final clue leads them high into the Swiss Alps, the two siblings realize their father is not who they thought he was and are forced to make a choice that will either save their family or tear it apart forever.

I’d scratch the first sentence. If it’s easy, it’s probably not going to make for compelling reading. This paragraph raises more questions. Final clue to what--finding their father or mother? And, connected, I’m also wondering how your characters are defining family. Just the siblings and their mother? Or is the estranged father now considered part of their family? Unfortunately, at the end of your plot summary, I have so many questions that I feel like I don’t have a good grasp on your story. And while there are appealing elements, I’m not intrigued enough to ask for more.

This is the story of Paraglide, 71,000 word young-adult novel geared toward preteen and teenage girls and boys. I read your online bio with great interest and share many of the same favorites in children’s literature. I would be thrilled if you would consider representing my work.

The first sentence seems redundant to me. You could just say, “This is the story of PARAGLIDE, a 71,000 word young adult novel geared at both sexes.” Your sentence about the agent’s bio feels phony--it almost always does when someone tells me something general in my bio made them query me. Maybe I’m alone in this, but it really doesn’t matter to me why you queried me, specifically. My assumption always is that a writer is querying as many agents as possible, and you won’t have your heart set on me just because we both might happen to love American Idol or kumquats or whatever.

I am a native Minnesotan, but recently returned from three years living and traveling in Europe, tramping through the various locations visited by the characters in Paraglide. I have published essays in The Christian Science Monitor and The Arizona Republic. I have included ______________ and would be delighted to send you a copy of the entire manuscript.

Thank you very much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Author Name
Street Address
Phone Number

The last few paragraphs were fine. Just make sure that whatever material you've sent is what the agent wants to see. Don't send a synopsis or chapters unless it's specifically stated in the guidelines.

Jessica A.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Creating Genres

When I host #askagent sessions on Twitter I get a lot of questions about genre. People ask about the use of the genre term "new adult" or "romantic adventure," for example. I've also been in discussions with authors about the term "romantic thriller." Now, some agents might disagree with me, but I think using all of these is fine.

The point of genre is to find the reader. In other words, readers who read mystery want to know that a book is a mystery. That's the genre they read, so knowing ahead of time will help them place the book before seeing if it's something they'd like to buy. In addition to finding a place in the bookstore, the genre is also, more important, a description. When I say mystery you all know exactly what I'm talking about. The same holds true for romance, fantasy, paranormal romance, memoir, business book, etc. Now, technically romantic thriller isn't a genre, but I guess you could say that there's no romantic suspense section in the bookstore either. That's okay. When I hear "romantic thriller" I know exactly what you're talking about. The description works. If you tell me, however, that your book is a mystery, romance, and fantasy, I have no idea what you're talking about. Where would that go in the bookstore? It's a little of everything, which probably leads to a lot of nothing.

The term "new adult" keeps popping up over and over. I hear it from writers a lot. Oddly I haven't heard it from any of the editors I've been talking to. That being said, it is a term that's being tossed around so you're unlikely to shoot yourself in the foot by using it. Unless of course it becomes a trendy term like "chick lit" and one day it's in, the next is out and you've missed the day it left.

So when thinking genre think description, just make sure it's a description that makes sense and, with anything, if you doubt the term you're using, then don't use it.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Thought for the Day

Before you get smug or cocky or just plain rude in your reply to a rejection, think twice.

All BookEnds agents have a policy to reply to each of our own queries. That being said, I will frequently pass along a query to Kim or Jessica after I've replied with a rejection. This means I'm not requiring them to reply, because I already did, but I am giving them the chance to request if they want. If you follow up with a nasty response, I'm going to send that along to Kim or Jessica as well. And trust me, we don't like working with smug or nasty people.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Your Book Needs Editing

I will reject any query that tells me your book needs editing and I suspect most agents will agree that this is a red flag. But why? Don't all books need editing? Why is this a red flag?

For me this shows that you're not ready to query and that your book isn't complete; that you're not sending me a query because you feel your book is ready for editors and readers to see, but because you've done all you can, hit a wall, and want someone else to help you fix the problems. That's not an agent's job; in fact, it's not an editor's job.

Sure, every book needs editing and an author needs to be willing to edit, but an agent's job or editor's job is to help you reach deeper than you've ever reached before to find ways to take what's already a great book and make it phenomenal. When submitting to an agent you need to look at it, sit back in your chair, and say, "Yes, edits are done. It's ready." Not, "Well, it still needs work, but I'll query anyway."


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

March 7, 2011

Silly, I know, but there's no need to place a date at the top of an email since email dates itself.

Dear Agent,

As always, we prefer an actual name if possible.

An ancient oak box revealing the truth about a millennium old secret of druids living in the modern times changes the life of Caitlyn Brady forever.

I believe this is meant as a tagline, which we don't need in queries or for novels, but it really doesn't work for me. It feels somehow incomplete and like I'm missing something. A tagline is meant to grab the attention of the reader and there's nothing about this that grabs my attention or feels different from other novels. Most important, though, it's not a very well-crafted sentence and makes me immediately question your writing abilities.

Caitlyn, a fifteen year-old from Southern Arizona discovers that her parents have been keeping a secret for over four hundred years revealing that they come from an ancient clan of druids who have assimilated into the modern world. She, too, is a druid who must now learn how to manipulate earth via her druid blessing of Emergence. At her new school, Keridwen, she befriends Druids of all three blessings (Rejuvenation, Emergence, and Shape shifting) all learning how to adjust into the “real world” in a special way. All is well until she discovers that she is not your typical one blessing Druid, but rather an oddity – she has two blessings, which has only happened once before in Druid history, and that was with the only druid twins ever born. She must now assist in the protection of the Druid world’s most prized possession – a scroll that holds a piece of the soul of Genevieve, the headmistress of Keridwen, and the recipe to release Genevieve’s evil twin, Arawyn. Now Caitlyn must face the possibility that her past may not be what it seems and her future may bring incredible danger forcing her to act 200 times her age.

I think you bog things down with details that don't matter. There's no need to mention that she's from southern Arizona and, again, the first sentence doesn't feel as well crafted as I would like. You also say that her parents have been keeping the secret for over four hundred years, which implies that the daughter is four hundred years old, or maybe the parents are? I'm confused by this.

I don't understand the Druid culture. What is this blessing of Emergence and have all of these Druids been living there all along? Is there some connection or reason for that or are Druids simply part of the world. I guess I'm having difficulty understanding the world you've created. You mention a "new school," but I didn't get a sense that there was an old school.

Ultimately, I had a difficult time understanding this story and the world you've created, but also it doesn't feel that special to me. I don't have a sense that the story you've created is all that different from others I see all the time. It seems like you're trying to jam too much into one paragraph without really telling me what the story is about.

KERIDWEN is a young adult novel, complete at 82,000 words.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is all good.


One thing this author did which is smart is ended with a signature that included name, address, phone and email address.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Red Flags

Red flags are sort of like pet peeves. Every agent, every editor, and every author has them. In the case of pet peeves they are things that drive us nuts. In the case of red flags they are things an author tells us that immediately convince us the book is probably not working.

Certainly all red flags are different, but here are just a few of mine.

“When I originally wrote this it was 325,000 words. Realizing that was much too long I split it into a trilogy...”

You know, a well-written book cannot simply be divided. That means that somewhere in the middle of your book the story ended and another, completely different story took hold. Either that or you simply cut the book in thirds, and I’m going to have to read three books to be able to actually finish one. The author often makes this sound so simple, like you just split a book. Even if that’s what you did, ultimately you would have had to rewrite all three books to make it work. At least that’s what I think when I hear that. So even if you did split a book to make it into a trilogy and you feel it was successful, no need to tell me.


"I love reading [name your genre] novels, but never find anything that I think is really good, which is why I decided to write this book..."

I think it's pretty obvious here that the author probably doesn't have enough of an understanding of the market or the genre to be able to write the book. Now of course I could be wrong, but do I really want to represent an author who doesn't respect the genre she's writing in?


"My book still needs editing..."

Almost every book I offer representation on needs some editing. A tweak here or there at the least. If you think your book needs editing, at a time when you should think it's ready to be published, imagine what I'll think?


"I've attached chapter [any chapter other than chapter 1] since this is when I really feel the book gets started."

Why wouldn't your book start at the beginning?


"I wrote this book in three weeks."

I know people do it. I know they can, but I have to question how a book could have been written, edited, and revised in three weeks. And I'm talking a full-length 80,000-word novel here.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Random Questions

I've been going through, not kidding, years of blog questions submitted by readers. I go through them regularly and pick and choose those I want to answer. Some I store away because I don't know how to answer, others wait because the answer is more complicated, and so many wait because I feel I've touched on the subject before. That being said, there are a lot of questions in there that are important, but don't get enough of an answer for a full blog post. The answers are short and sweet. Here are some of those.

I have a quick question, if that's all right. So many different agencies state that they are not excepting "science fiction", but fantasy is often classified with Science Fiction. If I've written a fantasy novel and I'm looking for an agent, should I assume that the agent won't accept my genre simply because they don't accept science fiction, or vise versa?

Fantasy and Science Fiction, while often shelved in the same place in bookstores, are two different genres. Therefore, an agent could easily represent one and not the other.

My novel just happens to be christian fantasy, but is that considered a cross-over genre? Because there are those out there who want fantasy but not christian, or christian but not fantasy . . . or who will except either but not if the two are combined. It gets really confusing.

It can get confusing, but don't overthink it. Submit to both Christian and Fantasy agents, especially those who do both. Some might feel it's too Christian, others too Fantasy, but you won't know, and won't find the right agent, until you try.

Are published authors required to make public appearances and give interviews or is that optional or does it vary per publisher?

It is typically in the publisher's contract that the author will be available when needed. If there's a specific reason you can't or won't, that should be negotiated up front.

A lot of agents prefer to receive email queries (definitely easier). I've
noticed that some agents will tell you to mail in your query, synopsis and
first 3 chapters with SASE. Then they will tell you that if you prefer to
e-query to just send the query. My question is which is better? Do I want
to package and mail out the hard copy (they are asking for more that way) or
is it better to just do the e-query and let that be all they see?

I guess what's better depends on the agent. I think that anytime you can get your work in front of an agent, your actual writing, that's better. That being said, sending a query via email is definitely cheaper, and if the agent isn't interested in your genre you haven't wasted the postage.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Thought for the Day

There are many reasons I reject a query, but in all rejections I acknowledge that publishing is subjective and therefore others might feel differently. Your reply that subjectivity means that only works of "poor quality" are published because publishers are "too lazy" to look at quality and "genius" is a tad ridiculous.


Thursday, July 14, 2011


I believe the standard for e-queries is to place the word Query in the subject line of the e-mail. But what if you are contacting the agent for a second time. An agent passed on my manuscript and was kind enough to tell me exactly what wasn’t working for her. She also mentioned she saw promise in me as a writer and would be open to future projects.

I rewrote, and my manuscript is stronger because of her feedback (it also has a new title). I would like to resubmit and notate her feedback in the body of the e-mail. But what is the best subject line for this kind of query: Re-query, re-submission, submission follow-up, feedback follow up, or am I fretting over the wrong thing? I'm concerned that with the hundreds of other new queries she will be receiving, mine will be placed at the bottom without a subject line that makes reference to a previous connection.

Every agent handles their queries differently so it's hard to know exactly what this particular agent might do. Here's what I do:

All queries need to have either the word "query" or "submission" in the subject line. I have cleared those words from my spam filter and set up a rule in my email program to ensure that not only do they end up in a query folder, but that you receive an automatic reply telling you your query has been received.

I skim through my query folder almost daily just to see what's there. If you are re-querying me I will eventually get to your query, so putting "query" or "submission" is probably the best thing to do. If you want to note that you made revisions, put something like "query for requested revisions" so that your book will stand out, but still clear the spam filters.

What if you get an offer? Most people will email me with the subject line "offer of representation," and honestly, I think most of these clear the filters. By not putting "query" or "submission" those "offer of representation" emails end up in my regular email inbox and stand out a little better. The problem is those pesky spam filters. An email like that could still get stuck, so if you haven't heard from the agent in a day or two after notifying her of an offer, email again with "query offer of representation" in the subject so that you guarantee clearing the spam filters.

Now, all that being said, I don't think that many emails really end up in the spam filters. On the occasion I take the time to look through them, what I typically find is spam. Lots and lots of spam. Rarely do I find a stray email from a client, editor, or author.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Ms. Faust:

When her father is murdered by Union soldiers in 1862 Kentucky, nineteen-year-old Julienne Dalton is left an orphan with a heart for vengeance. She joins a ring of Confederate informants bent on ousting Union forces. Her daring forays slake her thirst for revenge, but her main concern is keeping her family’s fabled horse farm from ruin.

This paragraph is really interesting at first. I thought I was reading a query about an amazing young woman who stands up against a restrictive and patriarchal society to avenge the wrongful death of her father. But, judging from the rest of your query, this does not describe your book at all. Now I feel misled. For the story the rest of your query describes, the only thing I need to know from this paragraph is Julienne’s age and the period in which she lives. The rest is just backstory.

Julienne is smitten when she meets charming British expatriate Alexander Caulfield. But unbeknownst to her, Alex is in the employ of the Union War Department, charged with ferreting out Rebel spies. Julienne tries to deny her growing feelings for him, and is shocked when he professes his love for her. They marry after a whirlwind courtship, but Julienne's happiness is cut short when she discovers Alex's treacherous double life. Convinced that he never loved her, she flees the country and settles in a small English village.

Halfway through your query and I still don’t know the conflict. You should cut right to the chase and delete the first two paragraphs.

Julienne meets Lord Richard Ashby, and with his help she begins to assemble a stable of fine horses with hopes of returning to her family’s farm. Their friendship turns to romance, and Julienne is torn by thoughts of loving anyone other than her husband. When Alex unexpectedly arrives in the village, he incites a battle for Julienne’s affections. She must make a choice between the two men—and the loser will turn up dead.

Why will the loser turn up dead? That makes it sound like there are some pretty high stakes, but what are they? I’m not sure I see where the conflict in this story is. You’ve spent half the query on backstory, so I can’t help but wonder if half the book will be spent on backstory.

The Enemy Within is a 110,000 word historical fiction. I minored in history at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina and work for the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. I appreciate your time and consideration.

It might be just me, but knowing your minor and not your major in college makes me wonder why you chose to tell me only half of your background. Also, the phrase “work for the...” is very vague, so I wonder what your job title is. You could be the director and know every last thing about the Civil War, or you could be a janitor and know nothing. The funny thing is, the inverse could be true, and it doesn't matter anyway, so this paragraph does nothing for me but make me wonder why you were so vague.

I would have rejected this because I don’t know what your book is or what drives it.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hiding Won't Help

Almost every author, at one time or another, struggles with getting her book in on time. It happens, but the absolute worst thing you can do is hide. When trouble arises you need communication more than ever. The minute you know you're facing a missed deadline or having trouble of any kind, let your agent know. For some reason, too many authors go underground and refuse to answer email or phone from agents or editors. I think they get tunnel vision and decide if they work frantically to get things done no one will notice. Not true. When we don't hear anything, and we know things are late, panic sets in and that only makes matters worse.


Monday, July 11, 2011

You Have an Offer

I've always said that when you get an offer of representation, or from a publisher, for that matter, you need to use that offer as leverage to find the agent who is best for you and your work. What that means is that when you get an offer you should contact every other agent who has your work, let them know of the offer, and give them a time by which they need to respond to you. I'm here today to make some amendments to that original treatise.

I still think one of the most important things an author can do when getting an offer of representation is consider the offer carefully and interview as many other agents as possible. Remember, the agent who is right for your mother, best friend, bestselling author, or sister's husband's uncle's half-brother is not necessarily the agent that's right for you. However, I also think when talking to other agents and leveraging your offer you need to do it in a way that makes sense and that is productive.

Previously I said contact every other agent "who has your work." My amendment to that is that you should contact "every other agent you haven't heard from yet," which includes those who still have queries. Agents read at different paces. Some read faster, or some might go through a spurt this week of query reading while others were planning to do that next week. If an agent hasn't yet requested material it doesn't mean she's not going to, it could mean she hasn't gotten to your query. Therefore, don't be afraid to contact her to let her know of your offer. In the past six months I offered on three different books when the authors notified me, and I hadn't even gotten to their queries yet. In fact, in some cases they sent a query with the offer because they wanted to hear from me.

Previously I said contact "every other agent," which I'm amending to "every other agent who you are interested in having as your agent." There have been times when I've gotten the distinct feeling that authors with offers were letting every agent know of the offer, asking every agent to spend time reading the manuscript, when in actuality they already knew exactly what decision they were going to make. I think the saying goes "don't waste my time and I won't waste yours." I do think it's important that you contact agents to leverage the offer and get to know, by talking to them, if they would be right for your work, and I realize that you might contact people, get an offer, and go with the first one anyway. That's okay, but if you have an offer from Agent A and proposals out with Agent B and Agent C and queries with Agent D and Agent F (you've already been rejected by Agent E), you should definitely contact them all. Unless you already know that although Agent C is a heavy hitter, you've met her and really didn't click. Then why bother Agent C? Let her off the hook now and simply pull your submission from consideration. Don't make things harder on yourself by wasting your own time, either. If Agent C does offer now you'll need to talk to her on the phone and hold an interview, when you've already decided she's not your speed.

A couple of years ago I made an offer to an author I was really excited about. Stupid thing to say really because I'm always "really excited" about every author I offer to. Anyway, she too was excited, but had the proposal with a couple of other agents and wanted to give them time to consider. Of course I thought that was a smart plan and told her I would wait. The next day she called me back to tell me she was an idiot (which she's not). I was her dream agent and talking with me only cemented that further. Rather than waste anyone else's time she had simply contacted the other agents to let them know she had accepted another offer. Yay for me! Now, in cases like this, when a submission is pulled, agents always get a little annoyed, but I think truthfully we actually feel left out (like we didn't get invited to the party), but you know what? I'd rather not get invited than be invited only because your mom made you invite me when I could have been at the mall with my real friends instead. Bad analogy, but I think you get what I'm saying.

And last, I'm sure I have said this before, but even if you only have a query out, contact the agent to let her know that you've accepted the offer and pull the query (if you don't want her to play). That way she won't get mad when she takes the time to read the query and request material, only to be told you accepted an offer a week ago. This way she's impressed with your professionalism, reads the query anyway, gets bummed that she missed out, and buys your book when it hits stores. Now you've made a professional contact, and we could all use more of those.


Friday, July 08, 2011

Thought for the Day

Once, a very long time ago, a client said to me, "I have dreams that you and I will get really old together." I think that was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me, and it's the truth. It's my dream too.


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Forget Everyone Else

Me: "I don't know. Anytime I think I'm writing something that's going to cause a stir, it doesn't."

Husband: "And then you write about unicorns and you get slammed."

Ain't that the truth.

When writing, we don't know what everyone else is going to say about the book. We don't really know what agents will think or offer on or what editors will buy or reject, so stop worrying about them. Stop worrying about the elusive agents and editors. Write what you want to write, learn the guidelines, hone your voice, understand the market, and then write. The minute you start worrying about what's going to cause a stir or what's not going to cause a stir, the minute you start writing something simply because you think that's what those "others" want to see, you start to edit yourself for everyone else and not for the good of the book. And you lose.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Workshop Wednesday

By repeated request we've started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we'll just have to see. We've received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don't be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that's great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I'm leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don't make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never "met" Query Shark, get over there and do that. She's the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Before I get started, I want to tell you how excited I was to get this query for the workshop. I'm pretty sure it's the first nonfiction query we've received, and while I suspect our audience consists primarily of fiction authors, that doesn't mean everyone is writing fiction.

Dear BookEnds:

You know, you know. Use my name rather than a general title. I simply repeat this on the off chance someone pops in, reads only one query, and never returns.

When people mature, they may become more concerned about leaving a legacy for their children and future generations. They want to be remembered; they also want to give their loved ones the benefit of their experiences and advice. An excellent way to share that information is through an ethical will, or a love letter to their family.

I think this is fine, although you might want to explain a little more about what an ethical will is and, more important, are people really doing this these days or is this something you made up? More information on whether this is becoming popular or trendy would be good.

Write Your Ethical Will the Easy Way is a non-fiction how-to book with 50,000 words, including a complete ethical will workbook to simplify the writing process. While an ethical will is a non-legal, non-financial document, to a family it is priceless. The four main components are: 1) History – Past and Present, 2) Lessons from Life Experiences, 3) Personal Values and Beliefs, and 4) Hopes for the Future. By providing direction, writing guidelines, and a wealth of actual samples, this book enables the reader to easily create an ethical will that is a lifelong treasure for their families.

Is the term "ethical will" a commonly understood term? If not I would suggest you call it, and the book, something else. In my mind it's about willing something ethical, not family history, to your family. Honestly, it feels to me like this is a book about writing your family history, which then doesn't make it anything new. However, back to the query, I think you did a great job in this paragraph. You defined the parts of the book, how the book will be written, and what an ethical will is.

As a professional Personal Historian, I write life stories for people and teach them how to capture memories. A logical offshoot of that business has been teaching clients how to create ethical wills. Over the course of teaching teleclasses and writing workshops, I developed the workbook that formed the basis for the book. It explains the basic content of an ethical will; in addition, by including memory prompts and writing guidance, I enable writers to gather relevant stories that express what is important to them.

It seems to me this information in the paragraph above could have been summed up in two sentences.

The ideal audiences for Write Your Ethical Will the Easy Way are aging Baby Boomers, grandparents, parents, community leaders, and anyone who wants to share their values and life experiences. An ethical will can be created at any time of life, but is often considered before or after milestone events, such as births, deaths, marriage, divorce, graduations, major accomplishments, serious illness, and end of life.

I think you could skip this paragraph. You've definitely lost me at this point. It feels like you're repeating yourself and, frankly, it seems to me that the audience of baby boomers, etc., is a given.

Emphasis on the writer’s personal story makes this book stand out from the competition. Some books, such as Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Barry Baines, M.D. and The Wealth of Your Life; A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating Your Ethical Will by Susan B. Turnbull, nicely explain the contents of an ethical will. However, they do little to help the writer delve into their own experiences and family heritage. Write Your Ethical Will the Easy Way offers guidance for readers to truly speak from their heart to formulate a heartfelt communication to their loved ones.

I would save this information for the proposal.

Years after graduating from the University of Illinois, I studied Memoir Writing and Creative Writing at the University of Chicago. My professional writing experience includes biographies, family stories, technical and training documentation, and contributions to the Association of Personal Historians, websites, and historical or genealogical newsletters.

I would take the paragraph above about your profession and add it to this so you have one bio paragraph (or course shorten and condense).

I thoroughly enjoy sharing my message through speaking engagements, newsletters, blogs, and on my website, [redacted]. Together, they will make a strong platform to market the book. Upon your request, I am prepared to send a full proposal, including the Table of Content, fifteen chapters outlined in detail, and several full chapters and appendices.

Again, this information should be in your proposal and the website can be combined in your one bio paragraph. I don't need the details of the proposal since that's standard to what a proposal should be.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. Please write or call if you have any questions.

This is fine and good work on including both your email and phone below your signature.



Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Number One Reason for Rejection

I suspect the number one reason queries get rejected is because they're boring. Either you aren't telling me what the pivotal moment, the conflict, the most exciting thing about your book is or you just don't have one. If you want an agent to read your book, if you want readers to buy your book, you need to get them excited about it.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

The BookEnds staff wish all our readers a safe and happy 4th of July!

We'll return with a new post on Tuesday.