Friday, February 27, 2015

Paige Shelton's Cozy Reading Corner

This is the reading chair. It’s huge and we all - husband, son, and I take turns reading or napping in it. It’s in a strange location though - a corner of the kitchen. We like the sun that comes in during the day but the lamp is good for night. It’s a good place to either read in while you’re preparing dinner or hang out with whoever is. 

Paige Shelton

Thursday, February 26, 2015

7 Things You Didn't Know About Jessica

So Kim tagged me in a post on Facebook. Apparently I'm supposed to share 7 things you don't know about me. Since I don't make it to Facebook as often as I would like I thought I'd share my things here, even though I find it hard to believe that there's anything left for longtime readers to learn. 

  1. One of the first cars I ever learned to drive was my grandfather's canary yellow 1967 Mustang convertible. My dad still has that car and I still love that car.
  2. I played both volleyball and softball in high school. Badly. Okay, I sat on the bench.
  3. Pitbulls are my dog breed of choice. I believe strongly in shelter dogs and will pick a pit or pit mix over anything else any day.
  4. My first pair of designer jeans were Gloria Vanderbilts with bright blue stitching. I sort of wish I still had them. 
  5. I prefer extreme temperatures. Give me hot or cold any day. It's the mild temperatures I can't stand.
  6. One of my dreams is to stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden.
  7. My absolute favorite thing to do at Disney World is drink at Cava del Tequila in Mexico. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More on Editing

Yesterday's post sparked a few new questions and you know how much I love it when blog post take on a life of its own.

Carolynnwith2Ns asked:

I have a question. When you begin the editing process are your notes and revision-suggestions based on a first read?
I'm thinking that if you have not read the entire book at least once you may make note of, or question something, which happens later on.
Copy edits pretty much jump right off the page but the other stuff, like plot holes filled, questions answered, twists and surprises may be further down the line because that's what the writer is intends, even though as a reader you may feel a little lost as the story builds.
Great post. I love learning how you guys actually do your job.

Typically my revisions are based on the first read. There is one exception and that's if the client is brand new and I just took her on. In that case, I read the manuscript first just to see if I love it and after the client agrees to become a client I read it for revisions.

Your question about what happens if later on I discover the author has done what I wanted is valid and it is definitely something that happens. However, in some cases I might think that it should have happened earlier. For example, if on page 25 I note that the heroine should have kissed the hero right here, but she does so on page 27 I might say, "ah, I see she does it here. That works." or I might say, "this works too, but I really do feel like you might want to consider moving this up a bit."

My feeling when making revisions/edits is that I want the author to see my thought process while I'm reading. If something seems off to me, tedious, over-written or lacking I want her to know. Maybe she cleared it up later or maybe she disagrees, but I think she'd rather hear it from me than reviewers later. Or at least I hope so.

If the writer intends for twists and turns to happen down the road that's fine, but if the reader feels lost as the story builds that's not a good thing. You never want your reader to feel lost because you only, typically, lose a reader once.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Editing Process

Just as writers often discuss the process they have when writing, agents and editors often discuss the processes they have when editing. I think part of this discussion is the hope that we'll come up with an easier way, but in the end we're all using the process that works best for us.

The way I edit is not only different from the way other agents or editors edit, but its even different from author to author or book to book. And sometimes I don't even know how I'm going to edit something until I start doing it. 

With some books I can sit down with my Kindle and a notebook. I read the manuscript in the same way I read a book, but with an editorial eye. Anytime something seems off to me or doesn't feel right I make a note in my notebook and when I'm done I work all of my notes into a revision letter. This kind of editing is usually done with books that need more general global changes. Things like, soften the heroine or more red herrings.

For other books I need to sit in front of my computer. I open the document, turn on track changes and leave the notes as I read. This means edits, cuts, word choice changes and, usually, a lot of sidebar comments. This kind of editing is usually done for those books where a global letter might not really convey what I mean, but leaving comments throughout can help shape the book in the same bigger way. So instead of saying soften the heroine I can say, "the heroine feels really nasty and unlikeable here" or "delete this line."

The thing about the editing process that I think most authors forget is that it takes a long time. Not as long as it does to write a book certainly, but a lot longer than it takes to read one. For an editor to give a good solid edit she needs to have a  little space and freedom to do so. In other words, trying to do it the week royalties are due or when there are five other things to be read won't work. Sort of like a speed edit or speedy revisions won't usually work for an author.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Kim's 2015 Wish List

Every January we have a meeting at BookEnds discussing our goals for the coming year and reviewing our performance over the previous one.  We talk about how many books we sold, how many new clients we brought on, and how we can grow even more in the near future.  These meetings always get me motivated, and make me stop and think about just what I want to see on my client list and how I can make it happen.

So this is my wish list for 2015.    Help me make it happen!

1)   I’d like to start attending more conferences again.  I backed off on them quite a bit while my kids were young, but now I’m ready to dive back in.  I’m specifically interested in attending conferences with romance, mystery and YA writers, and speaking at RWA chapter meetings.  Contact me at if you are looking for faculty for an upcoming conference.
 2)   I’m hungry for some emotional women’s fiction with a strong romantic element.   Something along the lines of JoJo Moyes.  I love her books because they’re unputdownable, but also very affecting.
 3)   Similarly, I’d like to see more intense, emotional YA and NA.  I’ve been seeing a lot of great NA lately with electric romantic chemistry (that doesn’t necessarily mean super explicit, but I’m okay with steamy).  Chemistry isn’t always the easiest thing to convey on the page, so when it’s done right, I can’t stop reading!  I especially like angsty characters.
 4)   Historical Romance.  It breaks my heart that historicals are a tougher sell these days, but they’re still my first love.  I’m not giving up on them.  It’s the first thing I want to pick up when I’m reading for pleasure.  When I have some screen time, I’m usually rewatching “Outlander”, “The Tudors”, or any one of the BBC Jane Austen productions.  And I’ve watched every “Jane Eyre” production at least 3 times.  I continue to look for strong new voices in historical romance.  I’m particularly interested in Regencies, Victorians and Scottish.  I just know that more readers will come back to them.
 5)   I’d like to grow my social media platform.  I’ve been very inconsistent on Twitter and Facebook.  My presence is sporadic.  I’m really going to work on contributing more regularly.  That said, I want my tweets/statuses to be meaningful and relevant.  I’m too busy working with my clients to tweet my every move.  What kind of agent tweets would you like to see more of?

Look forward to hearing from you!  I’ll keep you posted on how I do with my wish list!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Melissa Cutler's Cozy Reading Corner

My favorite place to read is also my favorite place to work longhand on my books: the beach. And not just any beach. I’m lucky enough to call San Diego, California, my home, with nearly a hundred miles of coastline to choose from for a cozy reading place. What makes a great reading beach for me? No crowds, easy parking, and a daily buffet of surfers to watch. Ahem.

Anyhow, I found just such a spot at the literal southwest corner of the USA—the southernmost beach in San Diego, where I can look to my left and see details down to the individual windows in the charming Mexican beach resort across the Tijuana river mouth, it’s so close. I like to chill at this beach at least once a week, so I always keep a beach chair in the trunk of my car, along with a beach bag filled with sunscreen, a notepad, pens, and a water bottle. Toss in my Kindle and I’m ready to go!


Melissa Cutler knows she has the best job in the world writing sexy contemporary romances and romantic suspense. Her latest release is UNDEFEATED, a contemporary romance featuring a hockey-playing ex-soldier and a yoga teacher. You can learn more about UNDEFEATED at Melissa’s website

Melissa was struck at an early age by an unrelenting travel bug and is probably planning her next vacation as you read this. When she's not globetrotting, she's enjoying Southern California's flip-flop wearing weather and wrangling two rambunctious kids. She loves hearing from readers at, or on Facebook and Twitter. Visit to learn more about Melissa and her books and don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Publishing Job Search

I was emailing with a former intern recently and she was asking for some advice on finding a job in publishing. It's a conversation we have almost every year with our interns, at least with the ones who are smart and ambitious.

The one tip I gave her about the search for a publishing job is that the trick is knowing what genre the editor/agent specializes in. For example, if you're interviewing for a job with a romance editor that editor/agent is going to want an assistant who has a love for romance, or at least reads it. The applicant who says the last books she read were for school or only YA is probably not the right person for that job.

On my first job interview, 400 years ago, I was about 9 months out of college and had spent my summer reading everything I could buy off the drugstore rack. It was the summer of The Bridges of Madison County, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton and I was devouring them all. When I interviewed for my job, the editor seemed noticeably impressed when I told her what I had been reading (I was applying at Berkley after all) and we had a long discussion about Bridges of Madison County. I got the job.

So for anyone looking to find a job in publishing read what you read and apply for every job you can, but remember that when talking with the editor knowing your stuff as it relates to her stuff will take you far.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Short and Sweet on Queries

A Blurb might be painful and I think every author would prefer she could skip the blurb and just get the agent, editor and reader to read her writing. But that blurb is the only way you're going to get people to read your writing. It's not just agents who need the blurb. It's editors, and it's readers.

Before a reader will even consider opening the book to read the writing they are going to read the back cover blurb. Often the back cover blurb is taking directly from the author’s initial query.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Co-Authoring Agreements

In a recent email a writer asked for advice on finding a publishing lawyer. She and a friend have been in the process of writing a project that's under contract with a small publisher. Her concern is that the project is, in her words, "far from a normal co-authorship" and they've never had a formal contract between them.

First let me clarify that there is no such thing as a normal co-authorship. In fact, I'm always willing to tell you that there are few things in publishing, or life for that matter, that are "normal". How an arrangement is made between co-authors is many and varied. I've seen all sorts of things, and I've seen no actual real arrangement. It's the latter that scares me.

If you ever make the decision to enter into a co-authorship with anyone (friend, critique partner, lover, spouse, child...) my first bit of advice, before anything else is written, is that you write up some sort of contract. If you have an agent it's something your agent can help you with. If you don't, feel free to get a lawyer, or write up something yourself, but something you can both agree to. The agreement should include, among other things, how to handle due dates, the split of ownership of the property as well as money, what happens if one person wants to quit writing and what happens if one of the partners dies.

Writing a book together is a business arrangement from the start. When Jacky Sach and I first made the decision to start BookEnds we immediately met with business advisors and other agents for their advice. And we made a business plan and a partnership agreement. We wanted to know, should anything horrible happen, that we could not only protect ourselves, but protect our friendship. I think it worked. Fifteen years later and a dissolved partnership and we're still friends. Having things in writing from the beginning made it easier to know how things would end, without hurt feelings.

The tricky piece of this writer's email is that they probably have some of these terms defined. If they have a contract with the publisher the contract is in either one name or in both which would mean either one author owns the material and the rights (as defined by that publishing contract) or everything is split 50/50.

I hope this duo is able to firm up an agreement quickly. I hope that anyone else starting such an arrangement does the same immediately.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Susan Furlong & Lucy Arlington's Cozy Reading Corner

At our house, we call this the Reading Chair. I've spent a lot of time here with children snuggled close while they listen to their favorite books. They're all too big for that now, but it's still my go-to spot for a little time out with a good book and a cup of tea.

Played by the Book - releasing Feb. 3rd

Also watch for the Georgia Peach Mysteries - 7/2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Many Hats of Being an Author

Occasionally I'll reject a query with a little extra advice to the writer. Recently I was really vacillating
between requesting more material and rejecting. In the end I decided to reject. The query letter was just missing something and if the blurb was missing something often the book is too.

The writer responded to my rejection with a thank you, but also added: 

I wish my writing could speak for itself rather than trying to pitch it like a used car salesman, but I guess that's how it's done. 

Let me clarify. The writer was super kind and thankful. She saw my point and agreed that her query needed some work. She was not at all acting defensively or arguing. But I think this line says volumes about how discouraged she must be feeling and I would bet almost every writer who has ever queried has felt this way at some time or another.

But here's the thing about the query blurb. It is a different style of writing from fiction writing (something else the author said), but it's also something you all need to learn. Writing the query is a part of honing your craft.

In any job we all get to do the things we love, and need to learn how to be better at the things that might be a struggle for us. An agent doesn't just read submissions and send them to her buddies. She also needs to learn to write a compelling blurb, she needs to sharpen her negotiation skills, learn how to edit and revise, and occasionally hold a hand along the way. Not all of these are going to be an agent's favorite task, but she needs to learn to do each of them well.

The job of an author has a number of similar tasks. It's not just writing a great story, but also learning basic grammar, how to sell that story (to agents and readers alike), master social media (or hire someone who will do it for you), and how to sell yourself as the author.

So hate the query all you want, but spend some time learning how to perfect it.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Setting Boundaries

I was talking to an author recently who was complaining that she could never get anything done at home (in regards to her writing). She was telling me how if she goes to the library she can get a ton done in a very short time, but if she tries to write at home she's constantly pestered and bothered by someone needing something. Unfortunately, she can't necessarily commit to going to the library daily.

So being the kind and sympathetic person I am I told her that was her own fault.

Somewhere along the way she never set boundaries with those around her and with herself. She never made them see her writing as a job and a priority. In truth, she never treated it as a job and priority herself.

If you really want to get serious about your writing, to make it your job, then you need to treat every aspect of it that way. If you are lucky enough to find a place in your home that can serve as an office then make it that way. It means when you are in your office, the door is closed and you are at work. Unless there's blood and a 911 call involved no one can bother you. Not should bother you, they are not allowed to bother you.

When you first establish this rule it's going to be tough. It's likely your kids will bother you because they can't get the top off the milk or your husband will need help remembering his Facebook password or the dog will need to go out. Again. If you help them, they'll keep coming. If you adamantly state that you're working and they will have to wait until you're done they will eventually get the picture. Better yet, don't respond. You are in your office, you can't hear them. You've stated the guidelines so ignoring is probably the best response. It will take some adjusting for everyone, but once those boundaries are set you will be able to get writing done.

One of the things I also mentioned to this author is for this to really work she also needs to respect the boundaries of her family and others around her. In other words, if she has established "office hours" than she needs to respect the time that are "unoffice hours". In other words, that means if you're ignoring everyone while you're in the office, then you need to pay attention to them when you're not. It means you can't decide that today you're going to work at the dining room table, with everyone running around, and get annoyed when they are asking for a glass of water or the wireless login information. You need to need to take that time to be present. It will make it a heck of a lot easier when you ask them to leave you alone.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cozy Mysteries v. Traditional Mysteries v. Amateur Sleuths

Recently the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime asked me to participate in an interview for their newsletter. The question they asked me, and a few other agents was: 

Is there, in your opinion and the publishing world in general, a substantive difference between cozy, traditional, and amateur sleuth mysteries? If so, what are the defining features of each of these categories?

Since my answer ran a bit long I thought I would share it with my blog readers in full.

Just as your readers have not found this to be an easy question to answer neither do I. One of the reasons, for me, is that I tend not to try to lump all cozies together in a neat little box. I do think there can easily be a simplicity and formula to a cozy, but I find that the most successful cozy authors, as with the most successful authors in any genre, tend to push those boundaries a little bit.
I think cozy mysteries can best be defined by the word used to describe them. They are cozy and everything that word conjures in your mind. Think of warm tea, comfy chairs, cuddly pets, a soft newly knitted blanket and warm, freshly baked pastries. That’s a cozy. When you read one you feel like you’re being embraced by a world you want to be in. You’ve found new friends and maybe a protagonist who inspires you or who could easily be your best friend. A cozy is almost always (there’s always an exception to any rule) an amateur sleuth, but an amateur sleuth isn’t always cozy.For example, Jane Steward, the protagonist in Ellery Adam’s Book Retreat Mystery Murder in the Mystery Suite is just one perfect example of a cozy sleuth. She’s the manager of a storybook resort where readers can spend days in the comfort of books (see how cozy this is). Jane is not typically the kind of person to get into trouble, but she does love a good mystery and when one shows up at her door she’s just nosy enough to need to investigate. The book itself doesn’t move too fast, there tends not to be a lot of blood, usually no more than one body, and no matter how much trouble the sleuth gets in to, the reader never has reason to really be afraid or even feel the need to sit on the edge of her seat.Julia Kalas, the unconventional heroine of Minerva Koenig’s NINE DAYS, is an amateur sleuth, but as she’s described by Booklist as a “five-foot Sherman tank of criminal intentions,” we can see she’s definitely not cozy. She’s a rough and tough construction worker/career criminal who is short, fat, pushing forty, and stoically dealing with being forced into the witness protection program after her husband’s murder by gang members.  Her new life in a small Texas town bores her (while it would probably comfort a cozy sleuth) but when someone she’s come to care about is accused of a murder, Julia decides to find the real killer (the hallmark of any good amateur sleuth). Traditional mysteries probably have the broadest definition. They can be amateur sleuths or official investigators, they can be a little darker or light and funny. What they aren’t is suspense or cozy. They tend to fall somewhere in between. Typically an amateur sleuth who is not cozy will fall into the area of traditional mystery. Most publishers would just identify this type of book as just mystery. The Minerva Koenig example I gave would fall into that area. So would DE Johnson’s The Detroit Electric Scheme, a book (series really) that features an amateur sleuth, but has more action and twists and turns than your cozy and, of course, the subject matter itself is not at all cozy. In a traditional mystery you’ll also see a faster pace and maybe a little more blood and guts, but nothing that would compare to what a suspense might offer.


Monday, February 09, 2015

The Reading Blues

Last month I was on a roll (it helped that I had a long plane flight to and from California). I read a bunch of books that had nothing to do with work (I hate saying "for pleasure" because it implies what I read as part of the job is not pleasurable) and I couldn't stop. This month though has been a book drought.

I have three amazing (or so I've been told) books sitting on my table waiting for me to read them. They are by authors I love and they are books I've been dying to get my hands on. A shout out to the editors who have been supplying them to me. But for whatever reason I just can't get myself to pick them up and get started.

Have you ever had that happen? Maybe you enjoyed the last book so much that you fear the next won't live up? Sometimes for me I think it's that I don't have the dedicated time to just sit and read, and read and read. I know that when I start reading I'll only get about a half hour again before I'll have 40 other things to do and what I want to do is read. And read. And read.

This week I'm going to make a concerted effort to shake the reading blues off, pick up a book, and sit down to read.


Friday, February 06, 2015

Sheila Connolly's Reading Corner(s)

I had to wade through a lot of pictures and eliminate the ones of cats and food, but I found four from Italy where I would love to settle with a good book for, oh, a couple of years. (Actually my first choice was the Trinity College Library in Dublin, but I don't have any personal pictures of that.)

The weight of history in Italy makes you slow down and enjoy the moment--and smell the roses. The food and wine may also have something to do with that.

Capitignano in Tuscany

Grape arbor at one of the many Medici villas in Tuscany

View from my patio at the Buranco vineyard, looking down at Monterosso, 
one of the Cinque Terre on the Gold Coast

Another view, with roses

--Sheila Connolly
An Early Wake (most recent book as of 2/3/15); but as you know, these pictures (or this trip to Italy) are linked to Reunion with Death

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Tip on Revisions

I do a lot of revisions with my authors. Not necessarily a lot with every author, but before sending out a proposal or submission of any kind I want to make sure it's the strongest it can be and that will often mean revisions.

A quick tip to any author doing revisions. Keep track changes on. This is especially helpful in remembering what I wanted the author to do, but if we're getting to the end and doing more line editing than revisions it can make my response time faster. Sometimes, if we've gone a couple of rounds, I don't need to read the entire book again, but can skim for just those pieces that need to be strengthened.

In my mind it isn't until we submit that we need to turn those off.


Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Is Self-Publishing for You?

This has been a question under endless debate for the last few years. There are many who stridently stand on one side or another and a few who balance that line. I tend to be among those who balance the line. I think choosing self-publishing versus choosing to work with a publisher is a very personal decision, sort of like choosing to run a restaurant owned by someone versus owning your own restaurant. There are pros and cons to both and the decision you make has to be one that's based on what you're looking for and what your strengths are.

Author Claire Cook wrote a very informative post for the Bookbub Blog. Now I think it's worth pointing out that since this post was for Bookbub it's not surprising that it leans toward pro self-publishing. That being said, what I liked about it is that it's an author who is effectively looking at both sides rather than touting how one is so much greater than the other.

The beauty of publishing in today's world is there are so many different options. No matter what you decide to choose you need to know that choosing what's best for you is the right decision, no matter what anyone else says. It's also important to know that if you choose one route now it doesn't mean that you can't change course. As evidenced by the history of BookEnds, I'm a big believer in exploration and a change of course. It's probably why my GPS broke. Way too much "recalculating".


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Having Rejector's Remorse

I'm usually incredibly well organized, at least that's what I tell myself. But even the organized lose things now and then.

Well not long ago (okay it was probably last Fall or earlier) I read this mystery I really liked. I even called and talked with the author about it. At least I called in my head, maybe I only emailed. Anyway, I asked the author to keep me in mind for revisions or any other books. That damn book has been haunting me. I want to read it again. To reconsider. I want to see it again.

I can't find it. I've checked my "Authors to Track" file. I've checked my deleted files. I've searched and searched and I can't find it anywhere. I'm sad.

That's today's Rejector's Remorse.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Making It Up

I've said before that writing the query letter, or at least the blurb for the query, should be the first step you take when writing the book. The hardest part of writing the query is that sometimes you don't really have enough of a hook, or enough of a book, to write about. So if you start with your query, often you'll define your book before you start writing it (which will save you a TON of time).

The other day I was working on my pitch to editors and I started writing the query. This was taking days. I was struggling and struggling until I realized what the book really needed or really needed to be and I just wrote that. I told my team that I was, "just making shit up." And I kind of was, because my pitch didn't exactly match the story the author had written. What it did though was give me exactly what I needed as an editor to go back to the author and make sure it was the story that it needed to be.

Now I didn't make any huge changes to the story, and I didn't ask the author to rewrite. What I did though was I found what the story was missing to give it that extra oomph. From now on, when doing edits, I think I'm going to start writing my pitch. It was a huge help.