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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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It's Friday and it's been another great week at BookEnds. To celebrate I'm going to share the recipe for one of my favorite drinks . The Moscow Mule. I discovered this quite a number of years ago and it's my go-to. I've also managed to make it a favorite for a number of friends.
The Moscow Mule
1 oz vodka--whatever your favorite brand works
1/2 oz lime juice--I always recommend fresh squeezed
Ginger Beer--for those who don't know this amazing drink, ginger beer is not in fact a beer but a soda. More along the lines of root beer. Depending on what brand you buy it can be very tangy and spicy. You might want to try a few different brands to find your favorite. We prefer Fever Tree.
Traditionally the Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug. We use rocks glasses. Add all the ingredients over ice, stir, finish off with a lime wedge and enjoy. I think you'll like this one.
I just learned about vision boards. I'm assuming I'm far behind on this trend, but I'm excited about it nonetheless
A vision board is just that, a board with pictures, phrases and bits of inspiration. Your vision for what you want to achieve in life, in your career or just personally. I have my vision board on the wall behind my desk. It's really just a giant cork board that I've hung some things that inspire me. Of course it also includes other things like pub dates and book lists, but ultimately when I find a bit of inspiration, a picture or something that shows what I'm seeking I clip it out or print it out and hang it on my board.
My vision board is pretty rough. I've seen people create some wonderful collages and artwork for their vision. I'd love to do that, but that seems like it would take a lot of time. However you want to create your board (on your wall, in a notebook, post-its around your computer, on Pinterest....) I think it's a great way to remind you of what your striving for or inspiration when you're feeling down.
A peek of some of what's on my vision board. Thanks Dr. Seuss!
So yesterday I wrote a post about Kathleen Hale and I got hit pretty hard. Most of the focus seemed to be on the fact that I said Kathleen Hale was brave for writing the article. It also seems a number of people think I was defending Kathleen Hale for stalking her reviewer. Let me make one thing clear. I would never, ever, ever encourage or defend anyone who hurts another person and by hurt I mean physically, psychologically, or use any sort of scare tactics.
I also strongly encourage all writers not to react to reviews or reviewers. I often think the best thing we can do is walk away and stay silent. I do think I said that a number of times in my post.
Like many other agents I have experienced threats. I've never been physically attacked, thank goodness, but I've been frightened enough to not open the office door and frightened enough to advise reporting an email or letter to the police and frightened enough to leave a conference early.
My article yesterday was based entirely on her piece in The Guardian, an article that stated that names had been changed. For obvious reasons I assumed that meant the reviewer she was talking about. I've since learned that's not the case which does make me doubt her reasons for writing the piece. That being said, I stated very clearly in the beginning of my post that I was basing it on The Guardian exclusively. What I said was not meant as a defense of Kathleen Hale. It was an explanation of how I understand how a review can get inside an author's head. I wasn't standing behind her, but I was relating to the many authors out there who found themselves obsessed with the negativity of a review or reviews. Thankfully most never go so far as to track down their reviewer.
Someone who commented on my post had a cover photo promoting free speech. Thank goodness we live in a place where we are allowed to put ourselves out there and express our opinions and thank goodness we live in a place where people can give their opinions on our opinions. Part of that freedom should include safety. We should be allowed to safely say what we mean.
The thing about free speech, and writing, is that no matter how much we love what we do, putting ourselves out there, through our writing, as authors, as bloggers, as reviewers, is terrifying. It is terrifying to wait and see what people say. It should never be terrifying enough that we fear for ourselves or those around us.
The part of my post that seemed to get the most criticism was the part where I said Kathleen Hale was brave. Before you stop reading to comment please hear me out. She was not brave for stalking someone. My reasoning for saying that was my own interpretation that she was confessing to her misdeeds and maybe admitting her mistake. That's the problem with writing we all interpret things differently, no matter how hard the author tries to make it clear to everyone. I did not intend for people to think I was defending her actions and for that I'm definitely sorry. I'm mostly sorry that anyone thinks that I would encourage stalking or scare tactics.
On Friday author Kathleen Hale wrote an article for The Guardian about her experience being catfished. On Monday Twitter, and a number of blogs, got quite excited about this topic and lots of people had lots of opinions. I came upon the article when Jessica Alvarez mentioned it to me and before reading anything about it I went to The Guardian article. I wanted to base any opinion I had on what Kathleen Hale had to say rather than read the opinions of others first.
Even without reading what others thought I know that some people feel that Kathleen Hale was catfished, others feel she crossed a line herself and was not the victim or the only victim and still others wonder if the entire post was made up. After reading just Kathleen Hale's post I do stand behind her in some respects. Not all, but some.
I've been in this business long enough to know the impact a review can have on an author. I've seen smart, successful authors completely lose all self-confidence because of one review or one comment on a writing loop or in a blog. In most cases authors who reacted this way were not the stereotypical "neurotic" or introverted authors. They are almost always people who are successful in various different aspects of their lives. They deal with high stress jobs, families and seem to juggle an entire life on top of a writing life. In other words, these are people who have faced adversity before and wore it well.
In fact, while I'm not an author, I've been one of those people. After six years of blogging about what I really thought it was bound to happen. And happen it did. Time and time again. There were times when the comments on the blog got so contentious I would stop sleeping. I panicked that I had alienated my clients, editors or ruined it for all of us. There were times I would have to shut down the computer and walk away for the day. But each and every time it happened walking away was always the best answer for me.
In Kathleen Hale's case the only story we know is hers. As of yet, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from the reviewer she's charging with catfishing. A term by the way I had never heard until reading her article. Whether or not she was catfished, in my mind, doesn't really matter. Fro a variety of reasons reviewers and bloggers act anonymously. In some ways it's one of the great things about the Internet. It's also one of worst things. Being anonymous allows us to really say what we want to say and what we think. Something a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing under their own name or couldn't do (it might hurt a career or their own reputation in some way). True confession here, before starting the blog I used to comment anonymously all the time on writing forums. I acknowledged that I was an agent, but I was uncomfortable giving my real name. I didn't want what I said to bite a new agency in the butt. Was I catfishing? I don't think so, I was just giving an opinion. And certainly there have been a ton of anonymous publishing bloggers and Tweeters, people who just want to say what they believe without facing repercussions.
Did Kathleen Hale go to far? Probably. Personally I think any time you start tracking down someone in person you are probably going to far. But I get how someone can go there. Putting yourself out there, whether its by writing a book, an opinion piece in a magazine, or a blog, is a scary, scary thing. Sure you feel great about saying what you believe or finding others to read your work, but at the same time you know you're going to face a backlash. That reviewers will hate what you write and have an opinion about it that differs from your own and you know they're not going to be afraid to say something. Especially because they have the right to remain anonymous in any way they see fit. And when we or our opinion or our writing is attacked it's hard. It often impacts our psyche in a big way.
Personally I've never gone to the lengths Kathleen Hale did to discover the truth about her naysayer, but I get it. Sort of. When someone says something really awful about you or your work you want a chance to discuss it with them. You want a chance to defend yourself without sounding defensive (which is often what happens when you start that discussion on comments). And probably you want the chance to discredit that person. To say, you are wrong and how would you know anyway because.... When someone posts anonymously she knows a whole lot about us, but we know nothing about her. It takes all the power away from us and gives it to her.
There were times when I have been attacked on this blog. Right or wrong, people came out to do whatever they could to discredit me and attack me and my professional integrity. I was scared, I was angry and I Googled. What I learned early on however, and what Kathleen Hale admits to learning in the long run, is that the best answer is to just sit quietly and, as they say, this too shall pass. Let the topic speak for itself or let the other readers comment and take care of it. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is saying something at all. What we're doing in that case is exactly what the naysayer wants. We're giving her attention. It's sort of like when Buford grabs my slipper and runs around the office with it. I have the option to chase him, call him and feed him treats. To give him the attention he wants. Or I can sit and work and watch him slowly drop the slipper, confused about why he's not getting the attention he wants.
I'm actually pretty impressed that Kathleen Hale wrote the article at all. Maybe she did it to finally get back at the reviewer, or maybe she just decided to put it out there and get rid of her moment of weakness once and for all. Either way it took bravery. Once again she's getting hit with a lot of opinions from a lot of people who don't know her. Sure its a choice she's making, but as writers I think we all know how difficult it is to face the opinions of others.
A few weeks ago I posted my review for Gone Girl to GoodReads and boy did I get some flack. Keep in mind that I usually write short reviews on GoodReads. I don't have a lot of time or energy to write out everything I'm thinking and with Gone Girl that was especially the case.
There will be no spoilers in this post so if you haven't yet read the book or seen the movie you are safe.
Gone Girl was the kind of book that left me really thinking, maybe even reeling, and yet I only gave it three stars. I guess I'm not sure I loved it or maybe I just didn't love the way it made me feel? I felt the beginning was long and it was difficult for me to want to continue going back for more since I really did not like the characters. I don't know that I liked any of them. Okay, maybe one.
I would say it easily took me six months to read the book and I would say I easily read six books in between chapters of Gone Girl.
And finally I got to the twist. At that point I could totally see what everyone was quacking about. Crazy good! Now I'm reading like a demon. But the end. The end just didn't do it for me. I wonder if I'm too much of a romantic and I want an ending that's wrapped up differently or if I just felt it was a little too contrived. Frankly, I'm not really sure.
So here's my take on Gone Girl for those who were horrified by my GoodReads review. I think it probably deserves more than three stars for the simple fact that I'm still thinking about it. Or is that because Ben Affleck is in the movie and I get to see his lovely face every time I turn on the tv? No matter what star rating I give it though I do think it's a book worth reading for everyone. It's one of the few times I wished I was in a book club because it's a book I'd love to sit around and discuss with others. It's a book worth talking about.
The last in a five-part series introducing the BookEnds team.
Tagline: I'm a big-headed beast with an even bigger heart.
How long have you been at BookEnds? since June 2014
Do you have a favorite book?
I don't read, but when I first came into the office I immediately grabbed Sally MacKenzie
's Loving Lord Ash
and carried it away with me. I think it was the adorable little dog on the cover that got me.
If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice? I've never been inside an actual Starbucks (although I have lounged around on the patio), but I would probably say anything with peanut butter, cheese or bacon.
Name five things on your
desk bed right now: a bone, remnants from a bone, a stuffed animal, remnants from a stuffed animal and peanut butter smears Where did you live before coming to BookEnds?
for a while I lived in Newark, NJ in the shelter there until some nice people from St. Hubert's
came to get me and find me a Forever Home. I was there for just a few weeks before the Fausts came and snapped me. I have to say. It's not bad here.
Literary Agent, BookEnds
Tagline: Whipping novels into submission.*
If your dream submission were to arrive in your inbox today what would it be? I have to admit, my tastes are fickle. Today’s dream submission could be different than tomorrow’s. I have an eclectic list, and that variety is really what makes me love my job so much. Right this very second, I’d love to find some sexy, funny contemporary romances with great hooks and great writing. It should be so funny that it would be dangerous for me to drink and read at the same time.
Book Concepts you never really want to see in your inbox: I’m typically turned off by sports-themed books, books with protagonists in the performing arts (musicians, actors, ballerinas), and those with chefs. But I should never say never. I’ve sold books I love that contain all of those. Andrea Laurence’s FACING THE MUSIC has a rock star heroine. Melissa Cutler got me twice with a chef heroine in THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS and a trio of hockey playing heroes in her Bomb Squad series.
What was the last book you read and what did you think of it? ONE KICK by Chelsea Cain. I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of tough, kick-ass heroines who are complicated and damaged, and Chelsea delivered that for me. The heroine has a slightly shady romantic interest, and I’m also attracted to books that have morally ambiguous characters. Minerva Koenig’s NINE DAYS is a perfect example from my list of a book that has all those elements.
If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice? Oooh, a toffee nut latte with a drizzle of caramel and sea salt. And whipped cream. Just writing those words is making me want one...
If you could move your office anywhere in the world where would you like to work from? It’s a tie between a villa in Tuscany with a view of an olive grove out my office window, or the beach. I’m lucky that I get to work on books that could be beach reads all year round, so why not have my environment match the work?
Literary Agent, BookEnds
Tagline: Puts the “chic” in book geek and the “bestseller” in storyteller…
What book characters would you want to have as your love interest, best friend and arch nemesis?
Love interest — Darcy is too easy an answer, so i’m going with Julian McCabe from Phyllis Whitney’s SNOWFIRE, because he’s dark, enigmatic and damaged, just like I like all of my heroes. Plus he’s got a cool house with a tower.
Best friend — Cassie Sullivan from Rick Yancey’s THE 5TH WAVE, because she’s kinda insecure but still kickass and would totally come in handy in an alien apocalypse.
Arch nemesis — Tracy Flick from Tom Perrotta’s ELECTION. There’s nothing I hate more than stuck-up know-it-alls, so I’d love to be the one to take her down a notch. But then again I’d probably eventually feel sorry for her and take her under my wing.
What movie could you watch a thousand times and never get sick of? Hey Girl, I could never get too much of Ryan Gosling in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”
What’s the number one thing that jumps out at you in a submission that you’re loving? Dynamic characters. When an author can make me believe that the darkest most tortured hero or the funniest, most outrageous heroine or the quirkiest, most lovable sidekick is real, they have me hooked.
What genre of books/movies is your cup of tea? I’m not sure I have one. I have eclectic tastes, but generally, I like anything that makes me feel. If I laugh my butt off, cry my eyes out or jump out of my skin, then I am a fan.
What books/movies do you stay away from? Personally, I’m not a fan of anything that screams “Look at me! I’m clever, clever!” I’m turned off by any form of entertainment that makes me feel as if it was created more for self-interest than for an audience. That’s pretty much why I hated “Being John Malkovich” and “Inception."
The first in a five part series introducing the BookEnds team.
President & Founder, BookEnds Literary Agency
Tagline: I'm part Vampire, part Beast, all professional pain in the ass.
**credit to Janet Reid and Kim Lionetti for helping create this tagline.
Book Concepts you can't resist: dark, creepy and different serial killers, magical realism ala Sarah Addison Allen, a never-seen-before cozy hook
Book Concepts you never really want to see in your inbox: anything to do with the mob/mafia, vampires, rockstar/muscian/actor heroes (or heroines)
If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice? Definitely a decaf venti, 2 pump salted caramel mocha with whipped cream (iced if it's warm out) and since calories don't count I'd probably go for a cinnamon roll, chocolate croissant or, when in season, a cranberry bliss bar. Just reading this over gives me a stomach ache.
Name five things on your desk right now: royalty statements, a pint glass of water, L'Occitane hand cream, Publisher's Weekly, and my purple Montblanc pen.
If you could move your office anywhere in the world where would you like to work from? I love Sweden and Southern California and could happily live in both, but I think my dream office/home would be a cabin on a lake in Minnesota. I'm a Nice Viking Girl at heart.
Today, for lack of any really official date, BookEnds is celebrating 15 years. While I never doubted we'd make it this far and this long, I can't believe it's already here. It feels like just last week I was riding the subway in Brooklyn hashing a scheme to get out of the rat race and do things the way I wanted to do them. Thankfully Jacky Sach was a big enough sucker to think I had a good idea.
When we first dreamed up BookEnds we had the idea to start a packager. In many ways it was what I was already doing as an editor for The Complete Idiot's Guides series. I was dreaming up ideas, finding authors and selling the book to the Publisher. By starting BookEnds I would be able to do that on my own with a bigger canvas.
BookEnds was first conceived on that subway ride in May 1999, but it wasn't until October that I officially walked out of a publishing house office for the last time (as an employee). I have to confess, never once was I afraid. Never once did I doubt that we'd have success.
It was in the Spring of 2001 that we decided that packaging wasn't enough for us. We felt confined by what we could do and frankly, really missed working closely with authors and their ideas. It was at that time that we transitioned our business model to an agency and never once did we look back. I can still remember a mailbox stuffed full of partials and manuscripts. In fact, I can still remember receiving the manuscript for some of our first clients, many who we're still working with today.
I always say that my best team members bamboozled me into a job. Kim Lionetti was the first. She had heard through the grapevine that I was vaguely considering hiring another agent, so wise woman that she is she called me up to "schedule a lunch date" where we talked business and she very slyly asked if we would ever consider expanding. In 2005 Kim joined BookEnds.
2010 was a time of big transition for BookEnds. It was the year Jacky Sach officially stepped down to forge another path for herself. It was a bittersweet ending. Certainly I was sad to see my partner in business and crime go, but I was also thrilled that she was moving on to do something she was truly passionate about. I'm a big believer in following your passions. I am not sure I could have started BookEnds without Jacky by my side and, yes, we are still very close to this day.
Jessica Alvarez, sensing that I would never advertise a position, sent a very flattering email out of the blue (we had never met before). She must have been reading the blog and knew what a sucker I am for flattery. After putting her through a tortuous series of interviews (I have a rule that since we're a very close team everyone has input into any hiring), Jessica joined the team in 2011.
And actually, I'm not sure Beth knows this, but I give Jessica most of the credit for Beth Campbell's hiring in 2012. Beth was one of the smartest interns we've ever had. She also made it a point to "check in" with us regularly, filling us in on her job search and just checking to see how we were doing. Naturally when it came to hiring a new assistant Beth was the first on our list (well on Jessica's list).
Tonight I will be taking my team out and toasting them. It is because they have stuck by me, called me crazy, and went along with my madcap ideas that I've gotten this company where it is today. There's no way I could have done it without them.
I'll also toast the authors who put their faith in me when I was fledging agency and now that we're established, who have taught me so much about writing, editing and myself.
Thank you to all. Here's to many, many more years!
I've seen a lot of agents write blogs on the problem with giving feedback on rejections, or the answer to why they don't give feedback. Primarily it's a consideration for time with most agents. One I completely understand.
That being said, I do make an effort to give some sort of feedback on every partial or manuscript that I've requested and am subsequently rejecting. The problem with that is that the feedback I'm giving is usually not going to be nearly as comprehensive as what you need.
I've got a few form letters I use when giving feedback. I tend to tweak them to fit each manuscript so that what I'm saying still fits each manuscript personally. My concern with that, always, is that I think too often the feedback comes across as simplistic, giving the author the misunderstanding that it's an easy fix and therefore the road to an easy agent.
Usually an agent's feedback is the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be changed. In other words, you're going to have to read between the lines a bit to see what the agent is saying specifically and what that could mean globally to your manuscript. And, of course, before you ever make any changes you need to make sure that what the agent is saying actually resonates with you because I guarantee you won't be able to successfully revise your book unless you believe, in your heart, in the changes.
I suck at grammar and punctuation.
There you have it.
I said it.
Grammar rules are like algebra to me. I get the basic concepts, but for whatever reason I can't really grasp them. I'm so bad in fact, that an old high school teacher of mine once cornered me at a cocktail party (I actually think it might have been my own bridal shower) to ask how I could possibly have success in publishing if my grades in HS grammar were always so poor. Sigh.
I'm not a copyeditor, I've never pretended to be. When I look at books I look at the larger picture. Does this book grab me, is it compelling and will it sell? I'll leave the details to the experts.
So I ask you to be kind when reading the blog. I don't have an editor and sometimes I only have time to skim each post before it runs. There will be errors, probably a lot. If it's really bothersome, you might just want to stop reading.
There. Phew. I got that out. I'm not proud of it, but I've come to accept it.
I think the best thing about the blog for me is the taste I've gotten of what it must be like to be an author. Coming back to the blog only accentuated that feeling.
After Monday I can now say that I have a clear understanding of what it must be like to be an author who has taken a hiatus. The one who, for whatever reason, decided to take some time off after having a reasonably successful publishing career. In the blog world I think I'm that author.
In looking at my analytics I see that even though the blog has been closed for over two years we have still had close to 500 visitors or page views daily. That's amazing to me. However, now that I'm back writing, like an author returned from hiatus, I have to accept that those 500 page views, a lot lower than the 1500 hundred I used to get daily, might be all I get. There's no guarantee that my once faithful readers will return. There lives have changed too. Maybe they no longer have time for blogs, maybe they quit writing, or maybe their tastes have changed and my voice is no longer one they want to read. Whatever the reason, I can't count on those past "sales" as any indication of what the future will be. Too much time has passed.
For me, yesterday was like starting over, as if I'd never been here. I need to go out and convince a new audience that I'm worth visiting 3-5 times a week and that they're going to like what they read. Or at least have a strong opinion about what they read.
I also need to convince my once faithful readers that the new me is as good as what they once thought of the old me. We'll see how that goes.
So as I climb back up that ladder on my return, know that I do pretend to have an understanding of what it must be like for all of you.
This is probably harder for me to believe than it is for you, but after more than two years and lots and lots of thinking I've made the decision to come back. Well I've made the decision to test the waters a bit and see if coming back to blogging is something I really want to do.
First let me start by thanking all of you who have read, are reading, who have come back to read the blog. I especially want to thank those who have stopped me over the years to tell me how much you loved and missed the blog. I can't even begin to tell you how much it has meant to me. As writers yourselves I imagine you have some idea of what it feels like to have a reader express appreciation for the work you do.
A lot has changed in the publishing world in the last two years, a lot was changing when I left. I have no doubt that because of this changing world my posts are going to be a lot different from what I wrote about 8, 5 or even 2 years ago. I'll probably write less on query letters and more on industry news. Maybe. I don't know.
In other words, I really don't have any idea what I'll be writing about or how often I'll be writing. What I can guarantee is that whatever I write about it will be the same me you've gotten to know over the years. I'll say it the only way I know how, truthfully and directly, and I'll probably get myself in trouble a time or two.
So let's get the ball rolling. Welcome to all of you who are here and please, in the comments, let me know what you'd like to hear about or what you'd like to hear me rant, rave, or generally drone on about.
It's good to be back!
--Jessica Faust (JHF)
In 2006 I had the idea to start a blog. Not a lot of thought went into this idea other than the fact that blogs were the hot new medium for marketing and it could help not only build our agency but our clients as well. At the same time I was cutting back on my conference speaking schedule and missed the interaction with authors and the ability to teach what I know. The blog seemed the perfect way to continue this.
It's been five years and a terrific ride, but after much thought and deliberation I've decided that it's time to say good-bye to the blog (obviously my work with BookEnds and the agency will continue). And while I can't promise I'll stay away forever (watch for the occasional blog post to pop up) I also can't promise those posts will pop up.
It doesn't seem like blogs have as much "power" as they used to, especially with the ease and speed of sources like Twitter and Facebook. Most important, however, I don't have the passion for the blog that I once did. While I will surely miss hearing from the authors I've learned so much from, I think I will find other ways to interact.
The blog and all posts will remain up indefinitely for those who are still learning or want to refer to previous posts and you can always fine all of the BookEnds agents on Twitter if you have questions or want to know what we're up to.
I can't thank you enough for all I've learned from you. Because of feedback and comments I've grown as an agent and changed a number of BookEnds policies. Because of you I've stayed connected with the writers and, hopefully, gained a better understanding of what this business is like from your end.
I'm going to miss the blog and all of you. I feel like I should have something grand and profound to say, but all I can come up with is a slight bow, a wave, and a heartfelt thank-you for joining me in this journey.
We've heard so often the complaint that publishers never take risks, that agents never take risks, and of course there are some who will say those are the reasons we're seeing the "downfall of publishing" today. I don't necessarily believe that. I think given how many new authors are published each year and how many of those succeed as well as how many fail shows that publishers take risks every day. Every book is a risk, whether it's a debut or not. No matter how much experience we all have we're never quite sure what's going to grab the attention of the reader.
That being said, recently when I heard that lament it made me think back to a publisher I once worked for, and by publisher I mean the individual, not the company. This particular publisher was a dreamer and a believer in all the good ways. The publisher loved the business and was enthusiastic about all the things about it, especially the books. One of the things this publisher charged was that each editor was allowed to buy one "book of the heart" each year. What that meant was that even if everyone in-house had doubts about whether the book would sell or could sell, the editor was given the ability to make a modest go of it, meaning the editor couldn't spend a million dollars for a book no one thought the house could do justice, but the editor could take a chance on something everyone else felt a little on the fence about.
For a young editor like me this was a really exciting opportunity, and while I never was able to buy my "book of the heart" before the publisher went another way, I held that feeling of excitement and carry it with me as an agent today.
I can't begin to tell you how often I've offered representation to an author for a book that I honestly thought would be a challenge to sell, but one I was excited about. And before all of my clients get worried, upon making the offer I've always been up front with the author about my belief that the book might be a long shot, but one that I thought was worth the risk. Some have sold, others have not, but either way I've never regretted taking the chance.
One caveat to all of this is that, as a writer, if you have an agent or publisher taking a chance on your book you still want to make sure it's a place that has some knowledge of where they're taking the chance to. In other words, you probably don't want me to take a chance on your illustrated children's book since that's so outside of my knowledge base that it just wouldn't be a smart move. I wouldn't even begin to know where to sell it to. You probably wouldn't want a business publisher taking a chance on your romance novel. Again, do they have the sales force available to even talk to the right buyers?
There's been a lot of discussion in small business circles about whether or not interns need to be paid for the work they are doing. The concern is that companies are "hiring" unpaid interns to do work that should be done by paid assistants. That an unpaid internship should be a learning experience. And I agree. I agree with much of what's being said. What I have concerns about, however, is what's defined as "learning."
When one gets a job in publishing you usually start out as an assistant of some kind, whether an agent assistant, an editorial assistant, publicity, etc. As an assistant you aren't expected to know the ins and outs of publishing, although some knowledge can be to your credit, but you are expected to do a whole bunch of menial tasks. As an editorial assistant I was in charge of all the filing. Lots and lots of filing, and my boss didn't check the files. It was my job to find a paper for her whenever she needed it, and quickly. I was also in charge of the Science Fiction library, which meant lugging boxes of books in and out of a small windowless room every month to stack, sort and rearrange, to make sure we had enough copies of each author and to find the space for them on the ever-crowded shelves. I spent a great deal of time faxing, collecting faxes, making photocopies, fixing the copy machine and sometimes, yes sometimes, I had to do things like run out for a cup of coffee or clean out the disgusting office refrigerator. Was it glamorous? No. Was it a job I loved? Absolutely. I also got to read and edit yet-to-be published books, meet famous authors, get autographed books for Christmas presents, and I got to read and discover new authors. It was my dream job, or would be once I jumped through the hoops.
These are exactly the kinds of jobs (minus running for coffee and cleaning out the fridge) I ask both my assistant and my interns to do. Because what I've sadly discovered is that learning how to file is something that a lot of interns need. I'm amazed at the number of people who have come through the BookEnds doors who don't seem to have a basic grasp of how to file or how to fax (or figure out for themselves how to fax) or even how to mail a package. I wonder if doing these tasks would be considered learning, because in my mind they should be.
I remember Kim telling me once about her own internship at Berkley and how one of her tasks was cleaning out and reorganizing all of the files of a huge NYT bestselling author. She said she loved it. She got to read revision letters and contracts and correspondence between the author and her editor. She learned a ton about the process of publishing. And that's something I've noticed with my interns. Filing is a huge part of this job and some of them will pull up a chair and spend the day filing and reading the files and papers and, yes, learning. Others just seem to chuck the files in any folder (and yes, this has caused us many a headache) and not bothered to use the experience to learn.
Another job I often give the interns is reading. We ask the interns to do a great deal of reading and write readers reports, and I think all of us make an effort to give feedback on the reports and show the intern how to write a stronger and better report (something they'll need to do when applying for any editorial job). What they do with that is up to them. They can learn from the feedback we give them or ignore it. Again, I'm amazed by how many ignore it.
I also ask interns to review contracts for me. These are typically contracts I've already reviewed and negotiated, but now I want a second set of eyes to compare it to the one I negotiated and make sure every "i" is dotted, "t" is crossed, and comma is in its place. Let's face it, for any of you who have ever read a publishing contract, there is a lot of "stuff" in that stack of papers, and yet I'm amazed by how few interns have ever asked me questions about the contract, even when I ask if they have any questions. Isn't this a huge opportunity to learn?
Those of you who follow us on Twitter have probably seen the news already. All BookEnds agents have new email addresses that should be used for future submissions and queries.
All changes have been made accordingly to our website Submissions and About Us pages. And, in addition to telling you about our email addresses, we thought we'd use this opportunity to let you know what we're looking for these days.
Jessica is currently accepting queries via referral only. There is an office rumor that she might open for a month or so at a time later in the year. If that occurs she'll be looking for cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, historical romance, steampunk (romance and otherwise), and a very limited amount of paranormal romance. She's also looking for women's fiction. In nonfiction Jessica is looking for business books only.
Kim is currently closed to submissions. Please check the Submissions page of the BookEnds website periodically for an announcement about when she's open to queries again.
Not too much has changed in what I’m looking for since this post in September. I still have a fairly narrow focus—romance, women’s fiction, and female-focused erotica—but I’ve decided to add cozy mysteries to the mix. In terms of romance, I’m looking for all types of adult romance (in other words, not YA). I had some success in 2011 with historical and inspirational romance, and would like plenty more of those, but I’d like to see contemporaries and books with high sensuality too. With my editorial background at Harlequin, I am open to category romance submissions. I will warn you now that I have been very tough on my romantic suspense and paranormal submissions. I’m still looking for books in both areas, but they have to be phenomenal to keep my attention. Please note that I’m not looking for fantasy, sci-fi, YA, novellas, or nonfiction.
In fiction, Lauren is looking for: romance—all genres; literary fiction; commercial fiction, especially up-market urban fantasy with romantic elements; middle-grade—all subgenres; young adult—all subgenres; mystery, with a strong focus on cozies; women's fiction on the literary side; and smart chick lit, a la The Devil Wears Prada. On the nonfiction side, she's looking for memoir, parenting and family, relationships, food and lifestyle, business, popular science, popular culture, and popular psychology.
I sent a query, synopsis and 10 pages to a popular agent who is no reply = no. Two weeks later, I received an amazingly sweet letter in which she gave compliments, made suggestions and then told me she'd already sent an email to a colleague of hers (the VP of their agency) and really thought she'd like it so would I send it to the colleague as well, with the referring agent's name in the subject header. Firstly, wow - because this was based on the 10 pages and synopsis, which I know because she referred to plot points. That was in [6-8 weeks ago]. My first assumption is that a referral will at least garner a rejection letter, even from an agency that doesn't reply if not interested. (Is this a bad assumption?) I don't intend to nudge, since it's just a query, but I also think it was awesome for the first agent to go through the trouble and would hate to not be diligent about the opportunity she sort of created. After getting writer feedback that insists I should nudge, I thought I'd better ask an agent (I trust). :)
This is really exciting. Congratulations!
According to the dates you are giving me the agent has had the material, which I assume is a full manuscript, for 6-8 weeks. At this point you're probably on the early edge of hearing back on a full submission, even if the material was requested. My suggestion is give it about 10 weeks or so (while some agents are really fast, it's not uncommon for agents to take an average of three months to respond to full submissions), and then I would send an email to check the status.
I agree that you should definitely receive a response on requested material, but I don't have insight to this agency's exact policy either.
I currently have an agent who has a good reputation and has a decent track record. I have done all the background checks I can and when I signed felt I would be well represented by this person. However, through a series of situations and over a six month period with 0 submissions to publishing houses despite a great deal of talk about multiple submissions, I am beginning to believe that this business relationship is not a good match.
What I would like to know from you is, is it bad protocol to start feeling out the waters with other agents (querying) while still under contract? I don't want to do anything unethical or something that would tarnish my reputation as a new author, however I also would like to have an agent that is doing their job asap. And if it is okay to start querying while under contract, do I mention that I am under contract and looking for a more suitable agent?
First let me congratulate you on making the decision early on that this might not be the right relationship. Too often I see authors flounder with an agent who they don't feel is a good fit, but out of fear they won't find another. Taking control of your career from the beginning is a smart move.
I'm going to assume that you've talked with your agent about your concerns. Often I find that assumptions are made about what others are doing without really knowing the facts. For example, I'm constantly shopping books, talking to editors about the work my clients do, hounding publishers for money and contracts, etc., but I'm not always filling my clients in on every step I'm taking for them. For all you know, the agent could be talking you up to editors.
Okay, on to your question. Yes, it's bad protocol to shop for an agent while you're under contract. Honestly, it's a breach of contract and puts all parties, including the agents you're talking to, in a very uncomfortable position. What if your agent happens to be best friends with one of the other agents you're talking to? How does it make you look to other agents if they know you're the kind of author who might go behind their backs when unhappy? That being said, it does happen all the time. While certainly some agents will feel "protocol be damned," others might tell you to get back in touch after your relationship has been dissolved.
The smart and easy thing to do is quit the relationship and then query. After all, what if you're querying at about the same time your agent decides to start talking to editors about your book? Suddenly you're not going to have much of a project to talk to agents about since by that time it will have been shopped.
Reading your April 8, 2008, blog about narrative nonfiction, I wondered about the storyline for nonfiction, e.g. The Perfect Storm, In Cold Blood, Jon Krakauer's work, and other well-known stories.
Is there such a thing as "episodic" narrative nonfiction? Where the stories are short vignettes? So instead of one continuous long thread, a series of short threads that maybe by the end become a total memoir?
The reason I ask: I am a poet who also writes creative nonfiction, but they are not continuous chapters. They are episodes.
Well, I'm a believer that pretty much anything can be done if done well. Certainly there has been nonfiction published that's really a series of essays. Are you talking about something different from that? I think there's been a great deal of nonfiction published that's really a collection of stories that create a larger tale. If that makes sense.
I am revising the draft of my first novel, and part of it takes place in a school setting, where can see different inscriptions/quotes above doors and in various other places. These quotes are from works by well-known science fiction writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov (such as "Violence is the last refuse of the incompetent" from Asimov's Foundation series). I am curious whether or not I need to approach these writers' estates and ask permission to use them, or if that falls under a caveat in copyright law.
Quotes are probably okay, but don't quote me on that. Whenever you use any material from other sources--quotes, song lyrics, poems, etc.--it is your responsibility as the author to obtain permission for use in whatever format the book will be published. That means use in print, ebook, possible audio, in the U.S. and probably around the world. It is also your responsibility to pay for those permissions should any fees be required.
I can't tell you specifically which quotes you will need permission for and which you won't. I can't say that without knowing exact details and I'm not going to give advice here for fear I might be wrong. That being said, what I can tell you is that you don't need to get the permissions prior to submitting the material. The publisher will require all necessary permissions prior to publication, but for submissions you'll be fine.
What I can also say is when in doubt, ask. In other words, there are definitely copyright laws and then there is the protectiveness of an estate, which can be two separate things. If you have concerns it never hurts to contact the estate to ask.
If you sign with a literary agent and have no success placing your novel over the course of a year, what are your options after the official contract runs out? Can you search for a different agent and try again after some serious re-writes and editing? Is self-publishing worth considering? Is it time to give up, even if you believe the novel has potential?
Well, that depends on the contract. We don't have a contract that automatically expires so I'm not sure I'm the best one to answer this question. Our contract, in all jest, is for the rest of your life. What I mean by that is while we have a very easy termination clause, we hope to take on a client for a career and we don't want to be limited by time, either on our behalf or yours.
So I guess what I would ask you is what does that contract say. Does the expiration date mean automatic cancellation or does the expiration date only mean that you are now allowed to terminate? Once a contract is terminated, however that happens, you are allowed to do whatever you want. You are allowed to search for another agent, self-publish, or even quit and do something different. You know, you are also allowed to take a new project to your agent and continue with that. Many of my clients were signed with one project and first sold with another. Just because you sign with a project doesn't mean that's the one you're going to sell. Signing that contract should be a commitment on both sides to venture forth and build a career together, not just sell a book.
What I would say is that if the book has already been around, and a year has passed, I would hope that you have something new and fresh to take back to your old agent or to new agents. It never does a writer any good to spend a career focusing on just one book.
I've just had a disappointing experience. I'd joined a big writers' network in my state, hoping to find some community but also because they offer a critiquing service. "The Network’s roster of critiquers is selected in accordance with the highest standards of excellence, including publication requirements and extensive mentoring and editing experience."
Well, I chose my critiquer and also began following her on Facebook. (She has an author's page.) Hours before I was going to send the manuscript to the administrator, who would then forward the Word doc. on to the critiquer, I needed a break from reading my novel for the 77th time and went on Facebook. A post from my chosen critiquer just happened to pop into my news feed: New ms for me to critique coming from the ... Writer's Network. Oh boy. My favorite job.
about an hour ago · Like · [Comment]
I did not hit "Like." That's my ms she's complaining about! Now, I know a lot of this work is f@#%ing tiresome. I'm not a professional writer, but I've taken a LOT of classes and reading bad writing is painful. But, then again, I SIGNED up for the class. If the woman, a published author, a teacher (for Gawd's sakes) doesn't want to participate in the critiquing service, why in blazes is she doing it? Why is this industry filled with so many damn bitter people? And I've read plenty of agents' and writers' blogs to know it to be true. (Not Bookends, of course.)
I guess my question, after the whinefest, is how does an unpublished author find someone to edit or critique their manuscript who will approach it with the best intentions, not already pissed off that they HAVE to read another novice's manuscript? How do we find someone who can help us improve? Who will not make us feel as though we're some stray dog showing up at the backdoor, begging for scraps.
I could sign up for another class, but, for one thing, I want my entire novel read, not just the first thirty pages. Also, I'd rather have a one-on-one with someone with skills, not, this time, participate in a big class.
I think this is one of the big problems with social networking. We all think every Tweet could be or is about us and we all read Tweets, blogs, statuses, etc., with our own anxieties in place. In other words, I can't even begin to tell you how many times a blog I've written has been misinterpreted by someone who came to it with their own experience and interpreted what I said in their own way, and in a way I never intended.
I'm sure everyone will have their own impression, but I did not read this in the same way you did. I read this as the status from someone who is enthusiastic about the critique she's about to be doing. I didn't see it as complaining at all.
I suppose it's easy to say that this industry is filled with bitter people, but I guess that also depends on how you see things. When I read the blogs, websites, Tweets and statuses of my colleagues I mostly see enthusiasm and excitement. Of course I'm in the mix too so I know that often the complaints aren't necessarily bitterness, just something to talk about since, honestly, most of us feel that about 80% of our actual day can't be talked about. I can't Tweet when I'm in the middle of contract negotiations. I can't Tweet about the specifics of phone calls I'm having daily with authors and editors, I can't Tweet about the painful revisions I just sent back to a client, etc. I think, based on the comments I see on my own blog, there's bitterness everywhere and, trust me, I know, it's easy for the negative to overpower the positive, but when I take a step back and really look at what people are saying I'll quickly realize that most people are happy and positive.
If you don't feel the person critiquing your book did a good job you can certainly look for someone new, and I suspect the best way to do that is to ask others who they've used or to form a group of your own. Honestly, I think some of the best learning experiences
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Websites for published authors are becoming more and more important, not just for your readers but for the future of your career. I can't tell you how many times I go to an author's website to check out not just the author's books and career but for quotes and reviews. Which is why it's important to keep your site updated as much as possible. If you have a section for reviews but nothing is there, it looks like you've gotten no good reviews.
I know how hard it is to keep up a website, I know that there are plenty of things I've missed when I don't update enough, which is why, over time, I've simply removed those sections from my site. If you find you can't blog regularly or haven't blogged in months, then simply take down your blog. I think it looks better not to have one than to have a neglected one. The same holds true of reviews. If you can't remember to get in there once a month and update those sections, then simply remove them.