Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

BookEnds is closed for Thanksgiving. We will be taking this time to enjoy ourselves with family and friends and celebrating all we have to be thankful for in our personal as well as our business lives (which are often intertwined).

We hope only the best for all of you and thank you for continuing to come back to the blog and participate.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Characters I am Thankful For

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the US so of course I had to come up with a list of things I'm thankful for. Instead of the usual list of my clients, my BookEnds team or all of the blog readers, writers and editors who make me better at my job (see how I slipped that in) I thought I'd put together a list of characters who helped shape the me I am today.

Like anyone in the publishing business I spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book. I went to bed reading, falling asleep with the light on, and spent Saturday mornings curled up under a blanket reading a book from beginning to end. I'd actually hide in the corner so my parents wouldn't notice me and force me to go outside. During those years there were so many characters who shaped me and who I wanted to be like, characters who refuse to leave my head and in many ways have become my role models. People (because that's how I think of them) I still think of today.

Anne Shirley, that tenacious, spunky redhead who wanted to be a writer. I loved Anne of Green Gables and really, really wanted to be her. Well, honestly, I think I wanted to be all of these characters. Anne always said what she believed and despite so many obstacles that would make many sad, Anne was optimistic and confident. She was also determined and wanted to be a writer. Who wouldn't be inspired by that?

Jo March, if you read this blog you'll see Jo's name (or at least Little Women) come up again and again. In some weird way I feel like Jo is a good friend, someone I haven't seen in a while and miss dearly. Jo, like Anne, was spunky, tenacious, brave and determined to be the woman she wanted to be and not the woman everyone thought she should be. It broke my heart when Jo said no to Laurie, but part of me cheered her on. It was a shocking bit of bravery for anyone who dreamed of romance (which I did).

Betsy. I know Betsy has a last name, but I swear I have no idea what it is. Betsy was very similar to Anne and Jo. She wanted to be a writer, she spoke her mind and she stood up for what she believed. Betsy also had a thrilling imagination that often got her and her best friend Tacy, and later Tib, in loads of trouble. It reminded me a lot of me and my own best friend growing up. In the end though Betsy excelled and achieved her dreams. If you're unfamiliar with the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace please check it out.

Meg Murry is a little different from my other characters. Meg didn't want to be a writer, she wanted, if I remember correctly, to be a scientist. At least that's what her parents were in A Wrinkle in Time. Meg was one of the bravest characters I have ever known and everything she did she did for the love of her family. She was an adventurer, an explorer and such a cool nerd. Who wouldn't want to be Meg?

I'd love to hear who you're thankful for.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Submitting to Agents: What Not to Do

Or maybe this post would be better titled, What to Do Proofread and, if necessary, hire a copyeditor.

I've already been very honest about my shortcomings when it comes to grammar and punctuation so when I come across a query where I can see tons of grammar and punctuation problems I know there are problems.

Your query reflects your manuscript in every way and if its riddled with errors I'm going to be fairly certain your manuscript looks the same. Think of your query as the first page of your manuscript. You wouldn't send the book out until its shiny and perfect. Your query is no different.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Knowing Your Brand

I came across this on Pinterest one day and it struck a chord with me because it speaks to a blog post I've been wanting to write for a while.

Before we ever write a book or put ourselves out there as authors, agents and editors we're creating a brand. When we're in any public forum where we present as an author, an agent, an editor or whatever it is we are professionally, we need to think of that brand. 

What does it say about you and your brand if you show up at an appointment in jeans? What about a suit? I think most of us choose something in between. What does it say to you about an agent who shows up to an appointment in jeans or a baseball hat versus the one that wears a suit versus the one who wears a skirt and simple top? 

How we present ourselves is the first impression an agent or editor gets not just about us, but about our books. If you show up to an appointment in a baseball hat and yoga pants I'm going to wonder if you've bothered to polish your book or if you're really serious about your career. And I imagine if I showed up in workout clothes you're going to wonder where my priorities as an agent are.

What I really like about this quote is the part on trademark. It's something I've often thought about, but never put words to. I hear stories all the time about agents who are nasty or harsh or scary or snobby or sweet or funny or charming.... What about authors? Are you kind and thoughtful? What kind of trademark are you presenting to other authors, readers, agents and editors? Are you too busy to stop and chat, are you kind and present even if the conversation is boring you to tears? All of this is part of your Author Brand and all of it needs to be considered beyond just the hook, title and writing.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Have We Learned Nothing

Have we learned nothing from the recent news about authors trying to get rights back from their publishers? Authors who signed contracts without an agent, a lawyer or anyone paid to protect the author's rights?

As I'm sure some of you have heard I'm not always that fast on queries or partials. I can be really good at times, but throw in a week off, an influx of queries or clients who need me to read their works and I lose ground fast. Recently I heard from an author whose manuscript I had (for about 4-6 weeks). The author had received a contract from a publisher and, in her words, "didn't need an agent's help."

I'm an agent. Of course I'm going to tell you that you need an agent, but I'm telling you that not because I'm dying to get my 15% of what can often be very little, but because I've seen too many authors make career mistakes because they wanted to save that 15%.

These are the authors who find their books trapped with a publisher because they signed a contract without any sort of rights reversion or out of print clauses. I've seen authors who signed contracts which basically calls anything else they could write in their professional expertise competition. In other words, they can only write the one book they wrote. I've seen authors sign away copyright without even realizing it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I see why you might want to hold on to that 15%, I have a sneaking suspicion that in the long run you're going to end up paying far more by not giving up 15%. If that makes sense.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Selfishly, Rudely Running Late....Or Not?

I've always been the type of person who obsesses over being on time. I think in 15 minute increments which means even if I know it will only take me 20 minutes to get somewhere I leave 30 minutes before. I'd always rather, in fact prefer, to be 10 minutes early. If I arrive and the other person is waiting I always feel like I'm late, even if we're both early.

Now I'm not perfect and I think its gotten harder for me to be regularly on time as my life has gotten busier, but I'm still pretty determined to do my best. It's why this article, You're Not Running Late, You're Rude and Selfish  really rang true for me.

The one thing I've always thought about people who are perpetually late is that it's just rude and inconsiderate. Like you, I could have used an extra 20 minutes in the office, or 10 minutes getting ready, but I was on a schedule, a schedule to meet you and I had to get out of there.

Which is why the issue of agent response times has always been a stickler to me. As we say on our website, we work really hard to respond in a timely manner, but our clients have to be our first priority and that sometimes (often) means that submissions and queries get placed on the back burner. Our clients are the people we promise arrival times to and those are the times we need to make (and let's face it, even that doesn't always happen).

Being on time, with submissions, reading for clients, phone calls, and appointments is something I'm always working harder on and beating myself up over. But I'm curious, what do you think about submission response times? Our website reads this:

BookEnds agents do reply to all submissions and queries and hope to do so in a timely manner. Our response time goals are 6 weeks for queries and 12 weeks on requested partials and fulls. Unfortunately, at times circumstances mean we fall behind in our responses. We do try to post status updates through Twitter and Facebook. For updates on where we are with queries and submissions, as well as what we're most actively looking for, please check out our Facebook page:

As you can see we used a lot of disclaimers, but if we're far later than 6 or 12 weeks do you see this as an agent missing an appointment? or do you hope it means that the agent is making all other appointments, especially those you hope to have at some point?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thrillers v. Suspense

You would think that after 20+ years in this business I would have all the answers. Well there are days when I definitely still feel like I have more questions than answers. One of those questions is how do you define the difference between thrillers and suspense. I tend to think that I like suspense more than I like thrillers and I think I know what the difference is, but when asked by writers to define them I'm not sure I know exactly how to do that. I guess I'm not sure the answer is always cut and dry.

So today I'm asking you. How do you define the two?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Tax Man Cometh

As the year comes to a close agents and publishers are preparing to send out 1099 forms. As per IRS guidelines those need to be mailed by January 30. If you've moved or changed your name anytime in the past year I would strongly recommend you get that information to your agent now so come February 1 you aren't freaking out that your 1099 is missing.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Inside an Agent's Head

It's amazing how much a new submission can mess with an agent's head.

We take on a new project from a new client or we finally get that fresh manuscript from a client whose books we're always excited to read. And as we're reading we're getting more and more excited about how amazing this book is and how we can't wait to sell it. And then the panic sets in. Just as the excitement rises, so does the doubt. But what if it doesn't sell, what if I'm jinxing it with my excitement? Oh crap, I just told my colleagues how amazing it is, I'm sure to have jinxed it now.

So the next time you worry that you're bugging your agent or too neurotic to talk to her don't.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Reader Question: On Self-Publishing

Hello! I have a long, rather wordy question for you about self-publishing.

Say I've written a book, polished it up and gotten it as close to publishable as I think possible. Following preliminary letters to agents who would accept my genre, I send the requested portion of the manuscript out to all the agents with all the requested additions (synopsis, cover letter, etc). Perhaps some of them even request the full manuscript afterwards. But say I've done all of that and in the end I'm rejected by all of them, despite comments such as "well-written", "readable", "clearly talented" (things I dearly, dearly hope are honest and not just being said to ease the blow of rejection). I can't resubmit, of course, because that's not how things are done.
Would I be foolish, then, to NOT self-publish that work?

I've got many, many ideas for many different fantasy books, each quite different from the last, and once I've finished and polished up one book, I submit it to several appropriate agencies and move right on to my next idea, writing a brand new piece. I'm certainly not lingering on one book and afraid to move onto the next, so I'm hoping that something will peak the interest of an agent enough in the end to take a chance on me, so I'm wondering, if a book has been rejected and is not likely to be reconsidered, would self-publishing it do future book submissions good?

I've read several of your posts about self-publishing, and what I'd really like is as definitive an answer as I can get about whether it's smart to do it or not, though I am fully aware that every case is different, with varying results. In general, would it help or hinder my efforts?
Thanks for your time, and have a great day!

Kim x

I never think you'd be foolish to self-publish a book. As long as you have a plan and the decision to self-publish fits into your career goals (which, by the way, will be constantly changing). 

There are a ton of different ways to go about building a career in publishing and one of the many ways is by self-publishing. If your true desire is to be traditionally published, but you have that one book that just hasn't made it, I see nothing wrong in testing the market by self-publishing. However, the one thing to keep in mind, is that self-publishing that book may very well make it more difficult to find a traditional publisher for that particular book (not necessarily for anything else though).

So, here are my thoughts to your very specific questions....

Would self-publishing do future submissions good? Not necessarily. If you have absolutely amazing numbers it might push an agent's or editor's hand to read more or even offer if she is on the fence. And of course hopefully your readers will cross-over. But we are talking the need for amazing numbers. Thousands and thousands of sales at a competitive price point before a traditional publisher will really be impressed.

Would it hurt you? I don't think so. Not in today's market. Sure, I suppose there is still the editor that might be turned off, but they are few and far between these days.

So, if you're asking my opinion based upon this question alone, go ahead and self-publish that book. It sounds like you've given it a huge effort and have a very strong belief that it's time to move forward, but you don't want to put this under the bed. So go for it. Self-publish that one book and move on to continue writing and querying your other books.

There is no linear career path when it comes to publishing, well when it comes to any business really. You have to follow your heart and trust your own instincts. You're going to take some hits, you're going to have failure and you're also going to have success. The key is to keep going and trust in yourself.


**If you have a question for the BookEnds blog you can email us at and we'll answer as soon as we can.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reader Question: When to Say When

This actually came up as a comment on a blog post I wrote about Cutting the Apron Strings.

In the comments the reader asked, "Is there a point where you should give up on querying a book?" 

I think the logical answer to this question is yes, but then I think back to the story I shared about client Shelley Coriell and some of our own submission stories about books we wouldn't give up on. Do you know that I once had a proposal sit on an editor's desk for two years before I got an offer?

There are two answers to this question for me. The first is that you stop querying when you know it's time. People often say, "you'll know" about a lot of different things in life. Usually unpleasant things. Although it's cliche, I do think it's true. We usually know when enough is enough with something. The real struggle is admitting it.

The second answer is when you start querying your next book. The minute you start querying you've put that book away and have started work on the next book. If you haven't, you better. This means you're busy doing two things at once. Sending out queries, and maybe reworking that query letter a few times, and writing the next book. You are NOT rewriting the book you are querying. Once you start querying it's too late for that. If you haven't received an offer by the time the second book is ready to go out it's time to put the first book to rest.

Presumably you've learned a lot from the query process and your own writing so it would be a shame to continue to query the weaker of what are now your two books.


**If you have a question for the BookEnds Blog feel free to email us at and we'll answer as soon as we can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Senseless Queries

Recently I had a rash of queries that I couldn't make any sense of. It was so bad that I started to wonder if maybe I hadn't had enough caffeine and it was me and not the authors.

When writing anything--your book, your query, this blog--we sometimes know exactly what we're thinking and what we're going to say and forget that we need to step outside of our own heads to make sure that what we're saying is going to make sense to the reader. In this case, the queries were difficult to follow and I didn't get a good sense of the story.

Let me see if I can give you an example:

Frani Franks and her best friend Frankie have no idea that opening the ice cream shoppe, Ice n' Delicious will lead to a murder that's most definitely not vanilla and that seems related to the cocoa beans they love in their chocolate.

The victim loves to eat pistachio ice cream every day and once came in a stole an entire gallon from the shoppe. But vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and the shoppe's brand new table and chairs are all linked to the mayor of the town and Frani had no idea that her new shoppe could be her last hurrah.

The killer's enthusiasm to eat ice cream leads Frani to the mayor's house where they find that it's more than ice cream that they're after, that the entire town might be in danger because of a giant land development project....

And yes, I do get queries that are this confusing.

If you're struggling to write the query read some back cover copy to see how books do it and then review some of the queries I have on this blog and some of the critiques Janet Reid has done on her blog. Because, honestly, any agent who receives a query like this is going to reject the book simply because we assume the book is just as confusing.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dissecting the Query

I feel like I've written so much on queries over the years that there isn't anything more I could possibly say. In some ways I feel like the subject is old news. I hope you're here to tell me I'm wrong.

For those who don't already know this, agents write queries too. At times we will verbally pitch manuscripts to editors, but even if we call every editor to pitch a new project we still need some sort of cover letter to include when sending the material. Hence, the query.

Just before sitting down to write this post I sent along some thoughts on a query one of my BookEnds team members is working on. We don't always share our queries with each other, but every once in a while we come across a book that's particularly challenging to describe and need the help of everyone else.

While reading the query I had some thoughts or tips on what we all can and need to look at when writing our own queries.

  • Keep it short. Not just the query letter, but your descriptions. Try not to get overly descriptive in your query. If you can cut a word or two you absolutely should. Remember, a query is meant to grab the reader's attention and too many words often loses someone. An example of this would be in a recent query about an apocalypse. The letter writer had said, "a near-future version of our world." My feeling is that an apocalypse in a SF book is likely always a near-future version of our world so that line could be dumped. Short, tight and to the point
  • When in doubt start fresh. Sometimes the biggest struggle we have when writing anything is that we're trying too hard to rewrite. Don't. Instead sit back, think about the story and just start writing. Maybe you'll end up using some of the same material you've already been working on or maybe you've just written the perfect query.
  • Use others, especially those who haven't read your book. In this case I was the perfect sounding board for the query because I really had no idea what the book was about therefore I could look at the query and think about what would entice me to want to read more.

Now, keep your fingers crossed that the query we just finalized grabs editors.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Submitting to Agents: What Not to Do

This is probably a post title I'll use a lot. If we're lucky.

Frequently I get submissions, queries or even just questions that I'll refer to another agent at BookEnds. I feel very lucky to work with such smart women with different tastes and as such, referring something usually means I think it has merit, but I think someone else at the agency would be a better advocate for it.

Recently I received one of the best responses to a referral yet. The author had simply sent a question asking who at the agency would be best for YA or Fantasy. Naturally I referred her to Beth. I love that we finally have an agent representing SFF. Since my assistant years were spent working for Ginjer Buchanan at Ace it's a something I've missed for a long time.

Sorry, lost in my own train of thought.

So, I referred the author to Beth. The author responded to me by attaching the submission and explaining that she was out and about running errands and didn't have time to look up Beth's email so she just sent the material my way to pass along.

When querying agents its important to remember that you are taking the first step to seek a business partner, someone you want to invest in your product. If you don't have the time to make that initial contact yourself to find your business partner I'm pretty sure that's a partner who doesn't want to take the time to read your proposal.


Friday, November 07, 2014

Don't Judge a Book, or an Agent, by her Cover

While traveling the globe (this might be a slight exaggeration) speaking at writers conferences and talking with authors I learn a lot about myself. 

One day I'll hear from a writer how I don't read Fantasy and the next day I'll hear from a writer how I'm selling a ton of Urban Fantasy. The next week I'm passionate about YA and the next I'm only looking for dark, erotic paranormal mysteries. 

Here's the thing. We agents can be fickle. One day we're only looking for historical romances and the next day we've fallen in love with Chelsea Cain and want nothing but suspense. If you've heard a rumor about what an agent is looking for, or especially what an agent is not looking for, make sure you take the time to find out for yourself. Check the agent's website, Tweet the agent or simply send the agent a query. What's the worse that can happen? A rejection. At least you tried.

There's nothing worse to an agent than the feeling we're missing out on something amazing because five years ago, at a conference in The Middle of Nowhere, USA, we mentioned that we're not a fan of Historical Urban Fantasy Children's Books and like a game of telephone we now don't like urban fantasy, historicals, or YA.


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Queries: How Long is too Long to Wait?

This is a question I've answered in my past life as a BookEnds blogger, but since this is a new life on the blog and a new world I thought I'd tackle it again.

During a recent #askagent session on Twitter I was asked how long is too long to wait on a query. I hope my answer wasn't too confusing to the Tweeter, but ultimately two minutes is too long to wait. I can see agents everywhere freaking out right now.

What I mean by that is you should never sit and wait. Once a query leaves your inbox you need to consider it gone and move on. Never sit around and wait for an agent to answer and by that I mean "sit and wait" instead move on to the next query and your next writing project. When you get an answer you can check the agent off your checklist, but until then consider your query alive, the agent well and yourself busy with something new.

These days there are too many agents who follow the "no response means no" tactic for authors to wait around. In some respects I tell authors to send off a query and consider it rejected until they hear otherwise, or until they receive an offer (then absolutely bug the agent). If the agent is one who guarantees a response than you should follow up when, and only when, the time frame as per their guidelines has passed.


Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Time to Cut the Apron Strings

One of the mantras in writing is to never give up. The persistent are the ones who achieve the most success if for any other reason because they are the ones still standing. That being said, sometimes I think there is a time to give up. Never on the writing, on the book.

All too often I hear writers talk about a book of the heart. The one no is ready to let go of, the one the author can't stop writing. One year goes by, two years go by, three years. The book is still the only book on the computer. Let it go!

We call our books our babies and whether we like it or not, babies grow up and leave the nest. Your book must also leave the nest. But how do you know? How do you know that your book is ready to go off into the great wide world with only what you've taught her? You know. Trust me, you know. Or if you don't you just have to make the decision that its time.

The minute you start submitting and querying your baby you've let go. Now you have to trust that you've put everything you have into her and it's her turn to shine. For you, it's time to go back to the drawing board and start working on getting that next baby ready for the world. 

When you find yourself running in circles, constantly tweaking and editing the same chapter, the same book, it's time to walk away. Maybe your first baby will never leave the nest forever, but we all learn from our mistakes and the best way to put what we have learned into use is to start on something new.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

250 Words on Self-Promotion

I am a subscriber to Simon & Schuster's 250 Words daily posts. For those who don't know they are posts in which authors discuss what they've learned from a favorite business book (typically not their own) in 250 Words or less. As a business owner I love business tips and advice and I love it even more when I can get a great deal of new information in just 250 words.

A few weeks ago there was a post that directly referenced authors. The post, How Can We Show Off What We Know Without Being Labeled a Show-Off discusses how people respond to an author (or any person) when the author is talking about her credentials and successes. A study was done in which an author presented her own impressive list of successes and then an agent presented that same author's successes (read the post). Not surprisingly, people responded more positively to hearing about the author's successes from the agent. If you read the article I suspect you'll have that same reaction.

Well that's great for the agented author, but what about the unagented author in search of an agent. How is she supposed to talk up her great platform without looking like a braggart or like someone who is likely to become difficult?

The one thing for authors to remember is you need to talk about your platform. Especially if you're writing nonfiction. But how do you do that without making yourself sound like the kind of author no one is going to want to work with? The key is in presentation. For me the way that works the best is putting the book first. In your query you might want to mention one or two things that make you a stand out, but then you need to focus on the book. Like this:

Dear Rockstar Agent:
I have been a literary agent for 15 years during which time I ran a successful blog in which I gave readers loads of delicious advice on everything from writing query letters to making cocktails. The blog received, on average, 30 billion hits a day.
**see how I gave them some significant information, but wait, now you'll see how I've linked it all to the book so that information becomes about the book and not so much about me. 
Based on my blog I've written a book entitled Secret Agent. Secret Agent gives readers, all writers, the advice and guidance they'll need to make their book a surefire success in the market. Using the analytics from my blog I'll be able to write a book that contains only the most valuable and attractive information to readers. 
My blog has been running successfully for over 10 years. As I mentioned earlier, I receive 30 billion hits a day and will use the blog to cross-promote the book. In addition, I'm the youngest inductee into the Literary Agent Hall of Fame, I've appeared on Oprah to give my vast insights into why memoirist shouldn't lie and I've represented pretty much all of the top names in the literary world. 
I look forward to hearing whether you're interested in reading more of my book.
Jessica Faust 

The key is to give enough information that you grab the reader's attention, but not so much you turn them off. How did I do?

Fiction writers probably don't have a platform necessary to sell a book. In other words, unless you're a doctor writing a book about doctors or something comparable there is not a lot fiction writers need to write about themselves. That's perfectly acceptable.

Oh, one last thing, whatever you do say about yourself must be true. You all know there's no Literary Agent Hall of Fame right?


Monday, November 03, 2014

Stress Cures

I have one of those little squeeze balls on my desk, the kind that are supposed to help you relieve stress. This one says Squeeze a Cowboy and was a bit of swag I probably got at RWA. It was from author Rebecca Zanetti and I don't have a clue how old it is.

When I'm stressed I'll grab my ball and squeeze it. Honestly though, it doesn't seem to do me any good. It only reminds me how tense my hands feel. Or how weak they are.

Often working out will help, but its rare that I can leave the office in the middle of the day for a workout. I'd like to think wine would work, but if I'm really anxious wine actually makes things worse.

In the end I do think the best thing for stress, for me anyway, is just to walk away. Leave my desk, my house, the airport gate or whatever it is that's stressing me out. Take a break completely and come back later with, hopefully, a new perspective.

But that's just me. I'd love to hear any ideas for better handling stressful moments/days/weeks.