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BookEnds, LLC, is an innovative and energetic literary agency. We represent a diversity of authors, from spirituality, self-help and business writers to mystery, romance and literary novelists. BookEnds works with authors and publishers to produce the books we all want to see on our shelves.
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1. Get to Know Moe Ferrara

We are so excited to have Moe join BookEnds. It's always great to have fresh ideas come into a team, and Moe has already made some wonderful changes. At this point, you probably all know that Moe is looking for adult, young adult and middle grade submissions, especially in Science Fiction and Fantasy. She's also looking for romance and LBGBTQ characters. However, there's more to Moe than just her submission guidelines and I wanted to give her the floor to let you get to know her a little better.

Oh, and don't forget to follow Moe on Twitter: @inthesestones 



Tagline: I’m not really a coffee addict, I just play one on TV.

What Excites You About Being an Agent: I honestly cannot wait to dive into my submissions inbox. HINT: this totally means that if you are writing in the genres I represent, you should be flooding my inbox to the point I’m quoting JAWS and asking for a bigger boat. (please say I haven’t just dated myself here…)

Book Concepts You Never Want to See in Your Query Box: No vampires. Please. No vampires. I will look at literally ANY other paranormal creature… save vampires.

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s half full or half empty. What matters is that there’s still room for more coffee or more wine. My ideal glass is the one that will hold an entire bottle of wine… but I digress.

Starbucks Drink of Choice: Back in another life I worked at Starbucks, so I’ve lost the taste for it after making one too many caramel macchiatos. However, I have two drinks I absolutely adore — one is on the menu and one is something we baristas came up with. On the menu, when I need a caffeine jolt (are we seeing a trend here?) would be a grande sugar-free cinnamon dolce Americano. For those playing along at home, that is the proper way to “call” a drink. Some habits never die. However, if you want a fantastic drink in the fall/winter, ask for a “Chaider.” Order a caramel apple spice and ask for a bit of chai in it. Trust me — tastes exactly like mulled cider.

eReader or Print book: It really depends on the type of book I’m reading. If it’s submissions, I tend to read them on my iPad because it puts me in the frame of mind to read critically. My Kindle is stocked with about 90% erotic romance and the books I utterly adore and want them close to hand if I want to re-visit an old love. Otherwise… as the friends who have helped me move can attest… I own far too many print books. So the not-so-short answer is “both.”

Morning person or Evening person: Well, since it’s currently 1:38 AM as I’m answering these questions, I leave it to you to decide if I’m a morning or an evening person.

Working soundtrack: I oscillate between Broadway and film soundtracks depending on what I’m working on at any given point in time. Right now, I’m staring at Spotify waiting for the Something Rotten! soundtrack to drop so I can play it obsessively.

If You Could Move Your Office Anywhere in the world where would you go: I say this without hesitation: London. I lived abroad for five months during law school and it’s one of the few places that just feels like home to me. If money weren’t an object, I’d base my office near Earl’s Court or Kensington.

Any other questions for Moe? Now's the time to ask.



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2. Query Critique: YA Thriller

Jessica-

Thank you so much for offering to critique queries on your blog. I don't mind brutal honesty a bit. I understand that you will receive many query letters and that mine might not get picked. 

Best regards,

[redacted]



"I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog."

Dear Ms. Agent,
When [I think it would be helpful to include her age here so we know right off the top it's YA] Sasha’s [could you just say Sasha and Raj's so we can tighten?] jewel-thief father dies before completing the greatest heist of his career, she and her brother, Raj, they vow to steal a  the priceless sapphire for him in his memory. Her father had meticulously planned the heist to every detail. As long as they stick to his notes, nothing should go wrong . . . but of course everything does.  I think it's obvious everything is going to go wrong, but keep us hanging on that a little. It builds suspense and I'll want that in the book too.
Sasha and Raj discover the safe open and the sapphire already gone. Even worse, the owner’s teenage daughter lies unconscious in a pool of blood. Moments later the police arrive, and Raj believes he and Sasha have been set-up. They manage to escape, but not before being spotted by guests at a party next door. When the theft hits the news, Sasha learns her father’s darkest secret.
He stole more than jewels. He stole Sasha as well. And here's where you lose me. Suddenly this feels like two different books. I was super intrigued by two kids who were completing their dad's jewel heist. I pictured a YA Italian Job in my head. And then all of a sudden it becomes a story about an abducted child which interests me as well, but doesn't feel like it's necessarily the same book.
The girl accused of the crime, Avery, is a sister Sasha can’t remember. The newspapers tell a startling tale of Avery’s past: her identical twin was abducted from a playground in London. Since the party guests are certain they saw Avery flee the apartment building on the night in question, Sasha must unravel the tangled knots of their father’s past to win her sister’s freedom. If she can find the link between the missing jewel and whoever set them up, then perhaps she can find the sapphire and clear her sister’s name. And, most important of all, reunite with the twin she hasn’t seen in fourteen years. You start to lose me here too. Why would Sasha suddenly care about Avery? And why is Avery accused? Suddenly your query has me asking a lot of questions about the book and to me it feels like the book itself isn't working. I'm not saying that both aspects can't be in the book, I'm just saying that to me it doesn't feel like they're working. They don't feel cohesive.
My YA Thriller VANISHED is complete at 78,000 words. I envision this title as the first in a two-book series. I am working on the second book now.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear Ally Carter, author of the HEIST SOCIETY books, speak at a local library on her book tour. She mentioned that most of her readers are Middle School students. I believe VANISHED will appeal to readers who devoured Ms. Carter’s books in Middle School and are looking for something geared to a slightly older audience.  I'm not sure you need this. It's sort of interesting so it can't hurt, but most agents/editors will know who the YA audience is and will hope you know it too.
In your interview with Kirkus Review you mentioned an interest in YA novels about siblings. I hope you will enjoy meeting Sasha and Raj. Below is the first ten pages of VANISHED. This is good. Show that you've done your research. Obviously you can't do this for every agent you query, but it does help when you can.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[redacted]
[phone number redacted]
@[redacted]
[redacted]@yahoo.com

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3. Meet Moe Ferrara, The Newest BookEnds Agent


I have been waiting and waiting to announce this news, not necessarily patiently, and here it is. I am thrilled to announce the addition of Moe Ferrara to BookEnds.


The very first time I talked with Moe I knew she was someone I wanted to have a beer with and, therefore, the perfect fit for our team. Before even officially starting at BookEnds she's proven herself to be smart, creative, passionate, motivated and a real go-getter. I feel very lucky that she's chosen to continue following her publishing dreams with BookEnds.

Moe is looking to acquire adult, young adult and middle grade fiction in science fiction, fantasy and romance. She's also actively looking for projects with LGBTQ characters. Queries can be sent to Moe at MFsubmissions@bookends-inc.com.

Moe joins Kim Lionetti, Jessica Alvarez and Beth Campbell at BookEnds. I couldn't be prouder of this team and everything they do. 

More information on all the BookEnds agents, who they are and what they are acquiring can be found on our website.

Today is a great day to celebrate at BookEnds. Please spread the word and help me welcome Moe.

--jhf

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4. The Time to Edit

We talk a lot about the writing process and how each writer has her way of doing things.Believe it or not, editing isn't much different. Each editor has a different editing process and, like writing, it tends to be as creative as it is technical.

Most of the editing an agent does, or at least most of the editing I do, is for content. I'm not a copyeditor and therefore that's not my primary concern. My concern is helping the author create the strongest story possible to either sell it to the publisher or, in some cases, sell it to the reader.

A common misconception is that editing shouldn't take much longer than reading. I think you'd be surprised how often I'll get a book on a Monday with a request to have it edited and returned by Friday. That can only be done if I shut down everything else I have scheduled for the week and edit.

On the quick end an edit is more or less reading the book and taking notes as you go. This can be done about twice as long as it takes you to read a book. If however the book needs more work it can take a whole lot longer. Recently I edited a book and timed myself. It took me two-three hours to get 50 pages done. That means with a 400 page book I spent roughly 8-12 hours editing. And editing, like writing, cannot typically be done all in one sitting. I get sloppy, I get tired and I can't focus. So in this case I was breaking it up into 1-2 hour time slots. I still had other work to do after all.

It still took me most of the week go get finished.

My suggestion to authors looking to get an edit from their agent before sending to an editor is to give it to your agent at least 4-6 weeks prior to your due date. Your agent needs time to edit, but you also need the time to revise or incorporate those edits. I would also suggest planning this time well-ahead with your agent. Make sure you get on her schedule and she's aware it's coming. The worst thing that can happen is that you spring it on her, expect it in a week, and she's facing one of the busiest weeks of her year. That's probably not going to make anyone happy.

--jhf

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5. Let the Main Character Drive the Bus

A special thank you to author Rebecca Petruck. I read her article in the March/April edition of the SCBWI magazine (originally published on the blog Nerdy Chicks Write) and was inspired. My original plan was to write my own version, but after reading hers about three times I realized there was no way I could do it better. This breakdown of Hunger Games is absolutely brilliant. So instead I went to the source and she was kind enough to allow me to reprint her original version. I think its valuable advice for writers of all fiction, especially those of suspense of any kind.

Let the Main Character Drive the Bus, by Rebecca Petruck

You know how “Show Don’t Tell” is both true and kind of meaningless these days? I think the same about “Start with Action.” That advice drives me crazy because it’s incomplete: “Start with an Action that Reveals the MC’s Character.”

Imagine if The Hunger Games opened with Katniss volunteering. It would be dramatic, and we’d think her brave for taking her sister’s place. But would we be invested in the decision? A lot of people are surprised when I lay out the actual opening of The Hunger Games:
·       Katniss wakes up alone—Prim isn’t there (motivating fear);
·       Katniss sneaks across the perimeter to hunt (not afraid to break what she considers senseless rules; demonstrates a skill);
·       talks with Gale (establishes rules of world; her focus on survival blinds her to his feelings);
·       stops by the market and to see the mayor’s daughter to trade (confidence in navigating her world);
·       prepares for the reaping (Katniss’ soft side revealed in her care for Prim);
·       at the reaping (Katniss’ view of the world).
Laid out like that, the scenes don’t sound very exciting do they? And, they take up twenty pages of space. Yet, the opening of The Hunger Games is deeply compelling because of the sense of dread hanging over every moment and because we are getting to know a fascinating and contrary character. On the surface, Suzanne Collins didn’t start with action that seems particularly interesting, but she started with the right action to reveal her MC’s character.

Which is why when I work with critique partners, the thing I often get most passionate about is plot. Plot is the action the MC takes to reach her external goal, and that action ultimately must reveal not only her true, internal goal but also her soul, the “Why” of everything she does. That’s a lot to ask of an action which is why a well-conceived plot is essential. I don’t care what happens next; I care how what happens next affects the MC.

In Wired for Story,* Lisa Cron discusses the action-reaction-decision triad of effective scene-making, which I interpret as plot-character-character. Plot is the speeding bus your MC can’t get off. How she reacts to her situation and the things she decides to do because of it is what your story is about. In itself, plot is fairly passive—it’s a bus. The driver is the reason we care.**

Once you know your MC well, certain decisions become inevitable, which means key elements of plot become inevitable, too. That doesn’t mean your plot becomes predictable. It’s that the logic that guides your MC’s decisions means certain actions must follow. Plot unveils that logic and reveals a compelling and unpredictable character. Often, because your MC’s worldview is skewed by some conditioning event, not only can’t the reader predict how the MC will react and what she will decide, but also the MC is frequently surprised, too. This cycle reveals the MC not only to the reader but to herself, and forces her to react and make more decisions that lead to the internal change she may not be aware she needs and actively resists.

In that sense, don’t look at plot as “What Happens Next.” Look at plot as the cattle prod that forces the MC to make decisions that reveal her strengths, weaknesses, professed goals, and secret goals, often unacknowledged even to herself. Plot is what lays bare your MC, peeling back layer after layer of flesh until we finally glimpse the beating heart. I like the way Cron decribes this, “…the heart of the story doesn’t lie in what happens; it beats in what those events meanto the protagonist.”

What does this mean in the practical sense of putting words on the page? Try out your MC in a variety of scenarios, looking for actions that she will resist the most, that will draw the strongest reactions, and force the most difficult decisions. Dig past your first two, three, four ideas and see what happens when you get down to the fifth or sixth. Once you’ve collected a number of actions your MC will particularly detest, check out Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s an effective tool for organizing those actions into a plot. (You may download a Beat Sheet here: http://www.savethecat.com/category/beat-sheet.)

In short, seeking the answer to a question your characters want answered should lead them to the question they actually need answered. Seeking requires movement. Plot creates that movement and in doing so reveals your characters’ true selves.


*I <3 i="" style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Wired for Story
. Seriously, it took extreme willpower to not quote half the book and call this post done.
**Did I torture that metaphor? I really wanted to use Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, so I had to shoehorn in the driving metaphor somewhere. Also, Speed, because that movie should not be so damned watchable.


Rebecca Petruck is a Minnesota girl, though she also has lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, England, Connecticut and, currently, North Carolina. A former member of 4-H, she was also a Girl Scout, a cheerleader, and competed in MathCounts. She reads National Geographic cover to cover. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from UNC Wilmington, and is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary. 

Her debut STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is a Blue Ribbon winner as a Best Book of 2014 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB), an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce New Voices selection, as well as a Kids Indie Next List title. Vanity Fair's Hollywood dubbed it a "book we'd like to see made into a film," the L.A. Times included STEERING TOWARD NORMAL in its Summer Books Preview, Christian Science Monitor named it one of 25 Best New Middle Grade Novels, it is part of the International Reading Association's list "Books Can Be a Tool of Peace," in the 2014 ABC Best Books for Children catalog, and an American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Recommended Publication. The BCCB gave it a starred review.
 

STEERING TOWARD NORMAL was released by Abrams/Amulet May 2014. You may visit her online at www.rebeccapetruck.com.

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6. Prioritizing Your Submission List

This question came from a reader:

I was wondering your thoughts about prioritising agents for querying? I've got a list of agents who represent my genre. Based on the authors they represent and what I've read about them I have 6 of those agents at the top of my list. How should you query to give you the best chance of landing a top-of-list (TOL) agent:
  • Send to your top agents first and work down?
  • Send to the other agents first so you can edit your query based on the outcome of those queries before sending to your TOL agent?
  • Send a mix to TOL and other agents?


I think the best people to answer this question are probably other authors. Since my submission pool (editors and publishing houses) is a lot smaller than an author's my process is a little different. That being said, I have some thoughts.

I think you should make a list of Tier I, II and III agents. That doesn't necessarily mean the agents themselves are better or worse than each other, but make the list based on how you think the agent will suit you. What kind of books does she represent, have you ever met her and what was your rapport like, what have you heard from others about the agent.

And then I would divide them up. If you have 15 agents on each list I would take five from each for your first round of submissions, five from each for your second round, and so on. That allows you the possibility of editing while still reaching your Tier I agents, but also gives you the opportunity to explore agents who might end up quickly moving to that Tier I slot.

I also think you set a timeline for that next round. Don't wait until every agent from your first round responds, instead give them about 2-3 months (whatever works for you) and then send your next round. There are agents who don't respond, those you'll never hear from and those who are just slow. You can't let them dictate how quickly you move.

--jhf

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7. An Agent's Definition of "A Lot of Work"

In response to last Friday's post on Thoughts on Sending Rejection Letters there was a great comment from a reader that I thought would be better addressed if I broke it up and posted it for the audience at large.

E.L. Wagner said...
I've heard these kinds of comments before, and as someone who is out in the trenches querying a novel, of course, it's hard not to get discouraged when an agent says they liked your book but it wasn't quite what they need for their list at the moment, but they're sure someone will end up repping it.
Out of curiosity, why would an agent feel that they personally couldn't sell a well-written and marketable novel (or get it a deal that does it justice), but another agent might be able to? It may seem like a naive question, but it's one that I've wondered about.
I get the "this is promising but it needs a lot of work yet" rejections some people get. All else being equal, who wouldn't prefer to take on a manuscript that needs a minimum amount of polishing before shopping it to publishers? But all else being equal, what makes an agent think they personally can't sell a given manuscript when someone else might be able to?



In yesterday's post I discussed why an agent might think another agent could better sell a book. Today I want to address why an agent doesn't seem willing to work with an author editorially.

Why if, "this is promising but it needs a lot of work yet" won't an agent take on the job. If this is the rejection you're getting it means that it doesn't need a minimum amount of polishing. It means that book still needs good, intense revisions, and possibly a couple of rounds of them.

I'm working with a new client right now. She just completed a very intense round of revisions for me. When I offered representation I thought the book was in great shape and of course I absolutely loved it. I did have some concerns and I addressed them with the author when I first offered, so I thought we both knew what we were getting ourselves into, but as what often happens, once I sat down to read with my editor's cap on I found a lot that was going to need revising. And let me tell you something, when an editor or agent tells you a lot needs to be changed, you better expect to move mountains. I always tell authors that "minor revisions" to an editor or agent mean something completely different (and usually much bigger) to an author.

She dove in, but I will tell you right now that book is, in some ways, a completely different book. And we might go another round or two before I'm ready to submit. And that's a minimum amount of polishing.

If an agent is telling you you have a good idea, but it still needs work you need to take a close look at the manuscript because it probably needs a good rewrite or two (or something close to that).

--jhf

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8. The Many Reasons an Agent Rejects a Book

In response to last Friday's post on Thoughts on Sending Rejection Letters there was a great comment from a reader that I thought would be better addressed in a post to the audience at large.

E.L. Wagner said...
I've heard these kinds of comments before, and as someone who is out in the trenches querying a novel, of course, it's hard not to get discouraged when an agent says they liked your book but it wasn't quite what they need for their list at the moment, but they're sure someone will end up repping it.
Out of curiosity, why would an agent feel that they personally couldn't sell a well-written and marketable novel (or get it a deal that does it justice), but another agent might be able to? It may seem like a naive question, but it's one that I've wondered about.
I get the "this is promising but it needs a lot of work yet" rejections some people get. All else being equal, who wouldn't prefer to take on a manuscript that needs a minimum amount of polishing before shopping it to publishers? But all else being equal, what makes an agent think they personally can't sell a given manuscript when someone else might be able to?


I can imagine that as a querying author there is always so much to get discouraged about. I know I feel it myself when I'm submitting my client's work and get those second reads that don't pan out or an enthusiastic editor that can't get the support of the rest of her team. That being said, I also know that finding someone who has some level of enthusiasm is another positive step in the right direction. It means there is something there and that the author and I are on the right path. I'm also painfully optimistic that good things are always around the corner.

There are a ton of reasons an agent might personally feel she couldn't sell something. It could be that she likes it, but doesn't have the vision for it (I think I'll talk more about this tomorrow), it could mean that she sees the potential marketability in it, but also worried it's not quite there yet and doesn't have the time or enough enthusiasm to take the risk.

Different agents have different specialties and strengths. One might love editing and working on revisions while another feels she's better at selling and working with the author on the back end of things. Both might do mysteries, but one might feel her strength is historical while the other is a female protagonist. It could be a connection with the voice or a certain knowledge of just two editors who happen to be looking for this thing. Or, it could just come down to level of enthusiasm and how full an agent's list is.

There are so many different things that come into play when an agent rejects a work and its rare an author will ever know them all which is why it's best to take the good news when you can and run with it.

--jhf

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9. Thoughts on Sending Rejection Letters


I'm not going to lie to you. More often than not I send a rejection letter without even thinking twice. In fact, sometimes I send a rejection with some relief. Relief that there's one less email for me to attend to.


Last week however the great authors in the universe got revenge on me by handing me two manuscripts that I felt I had to reject, but did so with much regret. Now to be fair, both of these manuscripts had been sitting on my Kindle for quite some time and in both cases I'd read a good chunk, but had put them down for one reason or another.

In the end, the fact that I had put them down and not rushed to get back to them, or thought about them since, was a huge factor in why I decided to reject these works. There were also some other issues/concerns I had with each book, but I don't need to get into those details here.

Rejecting a book isn't always easy. There are plenty of times an agent feels that a book needs more work than she's ready to take on or can clearly see why she wouldn't be able to sell the book despite the fact that she loved the writing, was riveted by the voice and maybe even finished it well after she knew she was rejecting. 

In both of these cases I won't be at all surprised if some other agent jumps on board and sells the book. Proof that I just wasn't the right agent for either of them.

--jhf


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10. Query Critique: Contemporary YA

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog.

Dear Query Queen,

A text message leads seventeen-year-old Shaun Daley to question what everyone else has taken at face value—that his gifted twin committed suicide.
 
Torn apart already by grief and his parents’ crumbling marriage, Shaun turns to his brother’s best friend—nerdy, introverted Mira Patel—to help decipher the message.
 
Mira has her own problems, struggling between unrealistic parental expectations and a sister who breaks every rule in their traditional Indian household. But she helps Shaun track down the ex-classmate who sent the text, only to witness the guy’s death in a freak hit-and-run. Then her sister dies of a drug overdose.
 
Three deaths—a hit-and-run, a suicide, and the overdose—that share a common link. And, in order to stop a killer clever enough to mask his murders as accidental, Mira and Shaun must find that link and trap him before he finishes them off, too.
 
My Young Adult contemporary, IMPERFECT LIVES, is told in dual POV and is complete at 56,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

JHF: Thank you for submitting your query. I think this this one, since it's short, I'm going to give my overall impressions.

My biggest concern is that this doesn't feel like anything special or different. The entire query feels like it falls a little short to me. I know you meant your opening line to be dramatic, but it wasn't. It's a common YA trope (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but because of that it doesn't have the in-your-face factor that I think you were looking for.

In fact, that's one of my concerns with the entire query and, therefore, the novel. It feels sort of familiar. It doesn't have the special oomph or hook that makes it really stand out. I think what this book really is about is, "a killer clever enough to mask his murders as accidental." While that's not entirely different, it feels like that's what is supposed to make this book stand out.

You label this as YA contemporary which disappointed me a little because what I was most excited about was this killer. For that reason I would want it to be suspense, which I assume its not.

--jhf

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11. Manuscript Read Times

The other day I received an email from an author checking on a manuscript that was submitted two weeks prior. Two weeks. I'm lucky if I get to the pressing things on my to-do list in two weeks, but submissions? Doubtful.

Anyone submitting to me can clearly see on our website that it takes me 12 weeks to respond to partial and full requests. I know that's a long time, but we discussed it in detail at BookEnds and decided we'd rather list the longer end of our response times to eliminate disgruntled authors after 8 weeks. That being said, as of this writing, I'm backed up on requested material to the beginning of the year. I have one or two from last year, but that's because they are going through some second reads.

I'm slow. I'm not going to lie about that. I also have an incredibly full client list, one that keeps me very busy, so when I do sit down to read and offer representation it's because I'm really, really, really excited about the book.

When submitting I can't stress enough how important it is to pay attention to reading times posted on an agent's website. Most agents will tell you, via their websites, that it takes a certain amount of time to read queries and an even longer amount of time to read requested material. Unless you have an offer of any sort there's no reason to contact the agent before that read time is up and, even then, I would suggested buffering it by a week or two.

If an agent doesn't have reading times posted I would assume 8-12 weeks for everything you send. While I suspect some agents are faster, and most are faster than me, 8-12 weeks is probably the standard rule.

--jhf


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12. Recent Reads


I've been getting a lot of reading in lately which I love. I've also been determined to stop buying new things, including books, until I use and read what I have. Which means I'm finally working through the piles of books I've been wanting to get to (some for years).


On my train ride to Malice Domestic I finally picked up Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins. Weirdly I didn't realize what I'd done until I was about to board the train.  I've read some mixed reviews about this book, but I really liked it. Of course I really like psychological suspense. I thought the main character was intriguing and the concept was brilliant. Who doesn't ride a train and wonder about the lives beyond the windows? I definitely thought this book was worthy of the hype.

On my way home from Malice Domestic I started The Anatomist's Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery) by Anna Lee Huber. I'm embarrassed by how long this has been sitting on my shelf. Obviously I'm not finished with this yet, but so far I'm really enjoying it. I love historical mysteries with a female protagonist in an untraditional role. If all goes well I suspect I'll be looking for more in this series.

And the Malice Domestic conference? It was great fun as always. There is nothing I love more than the opportunity to sit down and talk with my clients in person. I've returned home with a list of goals and tasks I need to accomplish. So I guess it's time to put the pleasure reading down and get to work.

--jhf


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13. Managing Creativity When It's Your Job

I've always talked about the job of getting published. That writing the book is great fun, but once you determine that it's time to seek out an agent, a publisher or even self-publish you've entered a new realm. Your writing is no longer a hobby, but a job, and you need to treat it as such. That means strict deadlines, focus, planning, management and all of those other things that drive business owners crazy.

I was reading a great article in Fast Company about The Secrets to Being Creative on A Deadline. In the article, Roman Mars, host and creator of the 99% Invisible podcast had this to say,

"Just sit yourself down and make yourself do it. That's the difference between being a professional and an amateur. Deadlines focus your attention and make sure you get stuff done rather than worrying about inspiration. The key is to sit and suffer through it. It comes to you when it has that pressure. I became a much better in the years after I had kids, because I didn't have the luxury of time."

For some authors the hardest change to being published is accepting that the writing has become a job. You now have set deadlines (even if you're self-publishing) and you have to meet those deadlines. Sometimes it means just keeping that butt in the chair and writing no matter what else is pulling at you. It means quitting your job as class mom, skipping your book club, turning off the game on Sunday or whatever it is you need to do, or say no to, to get that book done.

Often I hear authors complain that the creative process doesn't work that way, etc, etc, but to think accountants, lawyers. literary agents, chefs or mechanics don't need to be creative is short-sighted. Every job takes some amount of creativity and every worker needs to find a way to tap that at times when she least feels able to.

Taking breaks is an important part of any job. You wouldn't believe how much of BookEnds was founded in the shower or emails written on the drive to the gym. Getting out of the office and thinking helps build our business and is important, it also keeps us all on deadline.

--jhf

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14. Happy May Day!


I love May Day. To me its filled with flowers, special treats and the anticipation of good things to come.


When I was growing up May Day was  a celebrated holiday. Children would decorate little baskets or (really) small paper cups, fill them with candy or other treats and secretly deliver them to friends and family. 

On May Day you would sneak up to a friend's door, leave the basket, ring the doorbell and run. The idea was to get away without getting caught because if you got caught you were kissed.

May Day isn't celebrated on the East Coast, or at least where I'm living, but since I love surprises I might just have to make a few little paper cup baskets and see who I can surprise.


Photo and craft idea courtesy of The Crafty Crow

--jhf

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15. Erika Chase's Favorite Reading Spot


Like the saying goes, if you want the best seat in  the house, remove the cat. Keesha shares my feelings that this is a comfort chair, one where you can sink down and in, relax and spend some time. Of course, nothing's better than sharing that time with a cat and a book. Always good to have a TBR pile! 



--Erika Chase

Erika Chase writes the Ashton Corners Book Club Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. The fifth in the series, LAW AND AUTHOR, is due out Sept. 1, 2015, and finds the book club members helping one of their own whose granddaughter is accused of murder. How did reading mysteries turn into solving them! www.erikachase.com

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16. Author Branding through Pinterest


Authors, like all other business owners, are constantly looking for new ways to use social media, find readers and, eventually, sell books.


I was recently reading a Fast Company article in which they discussed branding through Pinterest and it made me think of authors and some of the things you could be doing to build your brand through a social networking site like Pinterest.

A number of my own clients have helped expand their brand not by talking about their books, but by talking about the things their books have that make them stand out. A group of mystery writers, for example, got together and formed the Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog where they share recipes and cooking tips. Another group of mystery writers formed The Nose for Trouble Facebook group for fans of pet related mysteries. Both of these are unique ways to take your book's hook and sell the book based on interests your readers might have, beyond the book's genre.

I'm on Pinterest primarily as a way to store all of the great things I see online. My latest pins have been motivational sayings, logo designs and shoes, because everyone loves shoes. If you're an active Pinner is there something you could do with your pins to help build a brand for yourself? What about design tips from your interior designing character? Food tips from the chef in your book or a wedding board from the character who dreams of some day finding Mr. Right? 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when building a brand on social media the trick is to find a way to go viral. I don't think you're going to do that simply by talking about your book. You might however go viral by creating something that links to your book and help potential readers find you in a completely different way.

--jhf

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17. Saying No to Exclusives


Years ago, I mean back when I was a baby agent, I sat on a conference panel with about three other agents. During the panel the question of exclusives came up. Since this has always been a (odd) passion of mine I spoke up to say how wrong I felt exclusives were. Another agent disagreed.


She spoke up and said that she always asked for an exclusive. Her reasoning was that it was a waste of time not to because if a "bigger" agent offered, writers were going to go with the bigger agent and she wasted her time. First, I was shocked that she didn't believe in herself enough to think authors would benefit from being with her and second, I was shocked that she actually justified locking authors in without any options.

So we argued. And it wasn't pretty, but I bet it was fun for the conference attendees.

Agents still ask for exclusives and authors still need to respond to that. My advice on saying no to an exclusive is you kind of don't.

When an agent asks for an exclusive I would still send the material and simply say in my letter, "I'm afraid I can't offer an exclusive since I have queries/requested material out elsewhere. However, I will gladly keep you informed should another agent come forward with an offer."

Simple and straightforward and my guess is that the agent will read your material anyway.

--jhf


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18. How Exclusives Harm Authors

Last week I wrote a blog post about exclusives and I received a lot of great comments and questions. Rather than answer in the comments I decided to use the opportunity to write another blog post, or a few blog posts. That way anyone with the same questions can see the answers and I have filled yet another day (or days) on the blog :)

For those who might not know, an exclusive is when an agent asks for you to submit material exclusively to her. That means you stop querying other agents and if you do get a request on a query that is already out you must wait to either hear from the agent with the exclusive before sending to other agents, or wait until the exclusive time period is up.

Why is this a problem?

1. We all know how long agents can take with submissions. It's not because they want to take forever, it's because other things come up. Contracts must be negotiated or reviewed, an author's manuscript needs to be read or edited, or lunches with editors must be lunched. All of these things mean the submission pile grows and before long said agent (ahem) looks at her list and realizes she has requested material from as far back as February 1 (sorry about that).

2. Giving an exclusive, even with a strict time period, means that you've already committed to this agent. You've said, "yes I want you to read my work and if you like it and offer representation I'll sign with you because I have no other options." This is the part about exclusives that tweaks me the most.

When you commit to an agent you are hiring someone to work with you. Repeat this: YOU are HIRING someone to work WITH you. Would you ever agree to have a landscaping company give you a quote only if you give them an exclusive on that? Meaning you can't ask any other landscaping company to give you a quote. I hope not. And that's just to have someone cut your lawn.

By offering an exclusive you are giving someone the opportunity to manage your career, your dream career, without the chance to interview the right person for the job. And that's a big mistake.

One more analogy. You're a business owner. You have a vision for your business and you need to bring on a partner to help make things happen. You find about 10 people you'd like to interview for the job, but one of them tells you she wants an exclusive interview, which means that you eliminate the other 9 people without even having the chance to talk to them.

Would you do it? Because I've just described exactly what an exclusive is.

Later this week I'll discuss how to handle an offer in more detail. As for Exclusives:

Just Don't Do It.

--jhf

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19. Reading for Pleasure


I hate that term. It implies that the reading I do for work, reading my client's work, is not pleasurable, which is not the case. If reading my client's work wasn't pleasurable they never would have become my clients in the first place. That being said, Reading for Pleasure, is what I do when I don't have to think about the book at all. I'm never going to have to edit it, think about what an editor might say, or worry about reviewers. I can just mindlessly read.


Having just returned from Spring Break, I was thrilled at how much Pleasure Reading I got in. I mean thrilled. I'm constantly asked if I still enjoy reading for pleasure and the answer is always a resounding yes. It's so rare I have the time to just sit and read that I appreciate every moment I get when I get it.

During this trip I read 4.5 books (my iPad died during the 5th so I'm working to get that one finished too). 

Here's a taste of my Spring Break, in the order it all happened.


This book isn't yet published and was passed on by a colleague. I was surprised and thrilled that she thought of me and couldn't wait to get to it. It's always fun when someone just sends you something because they think you'll enjoy it. I think fans of Gone Girl will really like this psychological suspense.

This is a book I picked up at BEA last year. Yes, I'm very slow to get to my books. This is a suspense set in Ireland with all the elements I love in a good mystery/suspense, a dark and damaged hero/cop protagonist, a grizzly murder and strong female characters. I've never read Stuart Neville before, but I would again.

Another book I first discovered at BEA, but since I didn't get the galley for it I bought it for my Nook. This one is YA, but a mystery/suspense YA. It had a great plot: Girl lost in the wilderness with murderer/kidnapper. Who wouldn't love that kind of story?

The Fifth Wave was a huge hit in our office. I think we all read it in a day and couldn't wait for #2. As far as I was concerned Rick Yancey delivered again. My only suggestion is that if you haven't yet started this series wait until they are all out. I found this book difficult to follow since I waited a year between books.

A great recommendation from Shelley Coriell. I'm not sure if this is officially categorized as YA or adult, but I think it could go either way. This is the book I haven't yet finished, but am planning to do so asap. I'm really enjoying it. It's the kind of book that keeps you on the edge of the seat.

It's rare that I'm ever going to be able to share a list this big again, but I will try to keep you updated on my reading more frequently.

--jhf



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20. Celebrating Jenn McKinlay & Sofie Kelly

It's Friday and we're ending the week by celebrating two hardworking and well-deserving authors.

Congratulations Jenn McKinlay and Sofie Kelly for their appearance on this week's New York Times  bestseller list!



Sk Öl

--jhf

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21. The Perfect Agent by Colin Smith

I asked permission to repost this from the comments on my Your Dream Agent post. I thought it was so much fun that everyone should have a chance to read it.

Thank you for sharing!

The Perfect Agent

Wanted an agent for one adorable writer! :)

If you want this choice position
Have a cheery disposition
Fair critiques, no snark!
Play nice, don't bark.

You must be kind, and it helps to be witty
Tell me I'm great when I'm feeling s**ty
Read my novel, say it rocks
Say it's rad and it knocks off socks

Never be quiet too long
Never say I'm right when I am wrong
Love my writing more than I do
And never lie so I won't fire you

If you are diligent with submissions
I will never fail to send revisions
I can send you chocolates to make you smile
You can send me checks every once in a while

Hurry agent!
I say with
Sincerity,

Writer, Colin Smith. :)

For those who don't get the reference.:


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22. I Might Be Getting Soft in My Old Age

I've been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks and was finally pushed into it when this comment was left on a six-year-old blog post:


Gourgandise said...
I understand that agents are swamped by queries but really, if I knew that my future agent was getting annoyed by tiny little things like an e-mail attachment or the "it's not addressed to me personally", sorry but red flag, this agent 1)has an ego that I won't be able to deal with 2) sounds rather lazy and opted for comfort a long time ago. So I'll be glad to be sent to the recycling bin actually, nobody will have wasted the time of the other. If I have to go on a business adventure with somebody I might as well pick a lovely person. I'm sorry, you might be lovely in real life, but you sure don't sound like it in this post. (Before somebody says anything, English is not my first language and I don't write in English. I was just passing by, checking what happens on the other side of the fence.)


The power of the blog. Where a post never goes away and you'll be skewered for something you wrote when you were, frankly, a different person.

This particular comment was left on the post I Stop Reading When.

As I'm reading queries these days I'm sort of amazed at how much I'll forgive. Am I getting soft? Am I getting old? or do I just care less about the minute details of life? I'm not sure there's a precise answer, but I am sure that I've become far more forgiving when it comes to queries.

These days I reply to almost everything. I reply to queries that you send to the wrong address, I reply to queries that are addressed to me, Kim, Jessica, Beth and every other agent and even their mothers. I reply when there are clear typos and I even reply when it's not really a query at all, but something that simply says, "read my book." I've established a system that makes it a lot easier for me to reply to all of these things and sometimes it's just as easy to hit delete.

Of course, just because I'm getting soft doesn't mean everyone else (or anyone else) is. I'm pretty sure The Shark will never soften on us and that's ok, a good thing even. We all need to be held to higher standards and pushed to be the best we can be. Query and submission guidelines should be part of that push.

You should also know that while I'm getting soft and answering all of you rule breakers, it doesn't mean you're getting the answer you want. Most of them are rejections.

--jhf


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23. A Shout-Out to Beth Campbell

It's administrative assistant week and I want to take a moment to send a shout-out to Beth Campbell. Not only is Beth the assistant for the entire BookEnds team, but she is also actively building her own list and has had some wonderful successes. In fact, just this month we celebrated three sales for Beth.

I'm not going overboard on Administrative Assistant Day for Beth. She can blame my old boss for this. I was "raised" in publishing to believe that I wasn't an assistant to be honored on this day. I was a fledgling editor who was learning my trade and growing in my profession. Instead of handing over flowers on Administrative Assistant Day, my boss celebrated my successes as an editor any time I had them.

So while I want Beth to know how much I appreciate all the work she does as an assistant, I want to use this day/week to let all of you know what a great new agent Beth is becoming. She's actively building a list in urban fantasy, science fiction, YA, suspense, romantic suspense and mystery and if you're writing in her areas of expertise I think you'd be a smart writer and query her. And fast, before she's too busy to add anyone else.

--jhf


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24. Query Critique: Fade to the Edge

I agree that the material in this email can be posted and critiqued on the BookEnds Literary Agency blog. I give permission for it to be archived for the life of the blog. 


Dear Query Queen:
           
Tracy Allen wakes to find DJ, her seven-year-old son, missing. With a custody hearing just days away, this could be her soon-to-be ex’s way of show how unfit a mother she really is.**this sentence feels awkward to me. Would it be cleaner to say her soon-be-be ex's way of showing that she is an unfit mother? An awkward sentence like this can completely ruin it for the reader. My thought is that if the first sentence is this awkward, what does the manuscript look like? Another concern: if the ex took the kid wouldn't he be the one who would look bad? I'm unclear about how this works which is a red flag for the plotting. But when the police locate DJ’s suitcase and the clothing inside covered with blood**this also feels awkward. I get what you're trying to say, but it doesn't read clearly, she knows this is more than a mere “get even” scheme. And once Tracy realizes she’s the mains**yet another typo suspect, she is determined to locate DJ, whatever it takes. But how can you save the one person who relies on you most when those closest to you are the ones you should trust the least?**I think this is generally a good hook overall, although nothing special, but I guess I haven't seen in the previous paragraphs who is closest to her that she trusts the least. If you're going to make a statement like this at any time you need to make sure you show it before making the statement.

I am writing in the hope you will be interested in reading my completed suspense book, Fade to the Edge. It is approximately 73,000 words in length.  

My current releases are as follows: 
  1. My award winning inspirational romantic suspense, Breathless (first place Royal Palm Literary Award), and it sequels, Catch Your Breath (Third Place in the Heart of Excellence Contest), both published with Pelican Book Group in 2012; Also the third in the series One Last Breath, self-published December 2014;
  2. Suspense short The Visitor, self-published September 2014;
  3. Game of Hearts, a humorous novella published with Astraea Press, released in March 2012;
  4. A humorous mystery, Knight & Day published by Write Words, Inc. in 2013; and
  5. Beautiful Imperfection, inspirational romantic suspense, was published through Pelican Book Group on September 29, 2013. It was also the winner of Best Inspirational Cover for 2013 in the “Show Me Your Covers Contest.”  
I was the President of Florida Sisters in Crime from January 2010 – December 2011, and am currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors. I am co-chairing the September 2015 Ancient City Romance Conference. I have spoken at several writers’ events including the 2014 Florida Writers Association Conference.

I am also a Florida Certified Paralegal and work for an estate planning attorney in Jacksonville, Florida.  

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Sincerely yours,
  

[redacted]
www.[redacted].com
Writing Clean Fiction with an Edge!

I'm always intrigued by missing child suspense novels. I'm afraid though that I probably would not request this. Setting aside the problem with the awkward sentences and errors, this just didn't feel special to me. A boy is missing and his bloody suitcase is found. That doesn't make the book stand out for me. What makes this book special? What makes it different from any other book about a mom trying to find her child?

Does the case link to an old case from her childhood? Is there a clue left behind that links to a past she's been running from? Is her ex a big muckity-muck in town and not really the boy's father? In other words...what's your hook?

The biggest mistake this makes is that it's bland. It's a common mistake, but one that equals rejection.

As for other parts of the query. I'm fine with your list of current releases, but I do feel like they are lacking information. I'm not sure they need to be a bulleted list as much as a paragraph with the publisher's name in parenthesis after.

your final paragraph about yourself is fine. You can probably skip the sentence about being a paralegal. It just isn't necessary.

I hope this helps. By focusing more on your hook I thin you'd have a strong query. If you have focused on your hook you might want to go back and rework the book itself to make it bigger.

--jhf

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25. Why You Should Resist Giving Agents Exclusives


I can't even begin to think about the number of times I've written on this subject. One search of exclusives on the blog will probably bring up a ton of posts. And yet, I still get emails like this:


I'm sorry for bothering you, but I wanted to check in with you on the status of my romance novel, SECOND CHANCES. I first submitted the book eight weeks ago and I'd like to know if I should continue to wait or start querying other agents. Thanks again for this opportunity. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

Why, oh why are you waiting for me to respond before querying? I never, ever, ever asked for an exclusive and I don't think I've ever asked for an exclusive. There are very few agents who will ask for an exclusive these days and if they do, ignore it and send your queries out anyway.

Your search for an agent is about finding the best partner for your career. Waiting months for a response from one person at a time is never going to help you kick that career off the ground. So query and submit widely, talk to as many agents as possible and choose the one who is the absolute best fit for your work.

--jhf

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