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26. The Importance of Respecting Your Own Writing

Recently I received a query in which the author seemed embarrassed about the genre she was writing in. Sadly, I see this a lot and not just from querying authors, but from published authors as well. It's discouraging and disheartening.

See, I love the books I represent and I love the authors I represent. I'm proud of each one and excited to introduce them to new readers. Most importantly, I respect every author of every genre, even those I don't represent.

Sitting down to write a book in any genre, of any length is no easy task. I couldn't do it and I know many in publishing who feel the same way. It's why we aren't writers. So don't let someone else tell you that what you're writing isn't a "real book" or isn't important. It is. And if you can't be proud of your book how are you going to convince other people it's something they want to buy and read? Learn to love what you're writing now and it will show later when you're trying to build your brand.

--jhf

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27. Cover reveal for Christina Mandelski’s THE SWEETEST THING

We are so very excited for today’s cover reveal! THE SWEETEST THING by Christina Mandelski is a fantastic contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and cake, and it’s soon to be re-released on Amazon with this gorgeous new package and some yummy bonus materials.

TheSweetestThing Cover Shadow WEB

When it comes to cake, Sheridan Wells is a true artist. She’s happiest working in the back of her family’s bakery, dreaming of the day her mom will come home. But when her dad makes an announcement that threatens to change their lives, Sheridan launches a desperate plan to find her mother before it’s too late. Add to that a school art project that she can’t seem to start, a moody best friend and the fact that she may or may not have been asked out by the cutest boy in

[more]

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28. Happy Pub Day to Jessixa Bagley’s BOATS FOR PAPA!

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I’m so thrilled to wish Jessixa Bagley a very happy pub day for her debut book, BOATS FOR PAPA. I met Jessixa at SCBWI NY in 2013; that was the first conference I attended with my agent hat on after nearly ten years on the other side of the desk at Simon & Schuster. Jessixa came to my session, politely introduced herself and struck up a conversation. She was a runner-up in the Illustrator Showcase and submitted a dummy called Drift to me after the conference. I opened it and was immediately drawn into the world of Buckley, a young beaver who creates increasingly intricate boats to send to his absent and much missed Papa. And she made me cry. Tears-streaming-down-my-face cry. I sold the book to the brilliant and wonderful Neal Porter. Neal, … [more]

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29. An Agent's Thoughts on a Publisher's Restructuring

It's no longer news that there have been some dramatic changes at Berkley/NAL, changes that aren't necessarily a complete surprise, but still difficult for everyone involved.

I knew this was something I needed to, and wanted to, address on the blog, but after several starts and restarts I realized I wasn't sure what I wanted to say.

When Random House and Penguin announced the merger in 2013 everyone in publishing knew that change would be coming. At the beginning of 2015 we started to see the first effects of those changes.  Appointments were made announcing new names in new positions, contract renewals were slow to come and imprints were consolidated. While I'm not sure any of us foresaw what exactly would happen, it's hard not to look at these changes and see why it did happen. In many cases there was just too much overlap between the many imprints of the new Penguin Random House.

It's been a tough week for a lot of people, including the BookEnds team. We've been in business for over 15 years and we've worked with editors over at Berkley/NAL for 15 years. These are long-standing, trusted relationships. I'm not going to lie, when I hung up the phone with an editor who lost her job I cried. She's good at what she does and a victim of restructuring. I'm going to miss discussing everything from cover copy, to contract negotiations, to cover art, to an author's next idea with her.

While agents and editors are often seen as working on opposing sides, the truth is we work more closely than many realize. I think sometimes even more closely than we realize. Together we are part of an author's team and together we work to try to make each decision in the author's best interest. That means long discussions about the cover art, the cover copy and even the direction an author is taking with her next book or her career. An author's success means success for all of us. Seeing an editor leave, for any reason, is losing a trusted member of my team.

Well if I'm upset, you can imagine the state of many Berkley/NAL authors. The question in almost every author's mind is what's next. What can an author expect during a time of upheaval with their publisher and what should an author do? Of course each author's experience is different. For some everything is status quo and nothing should change. For most, unfortunately, change is inevitable. Even those who are lucky enough to retain the same editor, change is happening within the publisher and that will have an impact on everyone. This could be because of the change in the art department, the copy department or even buying decisions. I'm not saying it's all bad, I'm just saying there will be change.

The first thing to remember is that we can't control the actions of others. The only person you can control is yourself. Panicking isn't going to help, but coming up with a plan might.

Once you've taken a few deep breaths here are some suggestions:

1. Penguin Random House just introduced this wonderful Author Portal where you can see sales, royalty reports and get hints and tips to how to build your brand as an author. Spend some time there and really look things over. Take notes if you need to. Get some perspective on what more you might be able to do to build sales and, most importantly, get perspective on how your brand is doing. A good CEO always has an idea of how well the company is doing at any given moment. As the CEO of your brand you should do the same. Check out your book sales. Are they going up? Going down? Do they seem to be holding strong?

2. Talk with your agent. Once you have an idea of what your numbers look like, give your agent a call to discuss them with her. What concerns do you have and are they valid? Should you continue on the same path or is coming up with something new a good idea? Knowing how to proceed is always smart, plus, as one author once said to me, "it's always good to have something in your back pocket."

3. Ignore the gossip. I can only imagine what the writing loops and discussion boards look like right now. In fact, I think I'd prefer not to imagine it. Watch out for the doom and gloomers, the Chicken Littles with the falling skies. This sucks. It sucks for a lot of people, but as in any good Dystopian YA, those who are prepared to fight and accept change will win. Those who want to sit in a hole and refuse to accept change, will die (probably in some horribly gruesome death). If you are concerned about some of what you're hearing please call your agent. Many times she has an insider's perspective that can be very helpful.

4. And here is the same advice I give in any situation. Keep writing and make your next book even better than the last.

Change is always a frightening thing and it's not going to be an easy road for some people, but those who are willing to pull up their boots and keep walking (love that song) will always see the light at the other side.

--jhf


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30. Jessica A’s Favorite Reading Spot


I love the beach. The sound of waves crashing, the smell of salt air, the warm sun on my sunscreen-lathered skin. It’s all perfect for reading, except I really hate getting sand in my books. Luckily, my father’s beach house has plenty of comfy seating with a great view of the ocean. I’m fortunate that I’ll be able to spend plenty of time there this summer with a book in one hand and an umbrella drink in the other.




---Jessica Alvarez

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31. Why You Don't Need to Worry About Protecting Your Idea

Last week I posted this Tweet:

BookEndsJessica
#MSWL a book based on this crazy story: http://www.nj.com/union/index.ssf/2015/06/lawsuit_bring_me_young_blood_stalker_told_westfiel.html#incart_2box_nj-homepage-featured
6/19/15, 12:16 PM

If you haven't read the article you absolutely must. It's the creepiest thing I've heard in a long time. Since reading it I've thought and thought about what kind of book I'd like to see and then I thought about all of the different types of books that someone could create from this crazy story.

Which is why I think writers sometimes worry a little too much about protecting an idea. The idea in this case is a book based on this particular true story, but what any one writer does with that idea will likely be completely different from what another writer will create.

A YA author might create a story about a young girl who moves with her family into the house and is either possessed by a demon or lives in terror of what is in the walls. Maybe she has supernatural powers, maybe she doesn't.

A suspense or mystery author might create the story of a killer who used live in the house and buried bodies in the walls, or a killer who killed as a child and is now trying to get back in the house because he needs to be there to start killing again.

A romance writer might write the story of a woman who inherits the house and moves in only to be terrorized by these letters, stalked even, when the hero comes to investigate and saves the day, and they fall in love.

A SFF writer could write the story of an alien abduction that happened in or around the house...

Or, even if all of the writers who take my idea and run with it write in the same genre, the possibilities are endless. What's really going to be important isn't the idea (although that's a terrific first step), but the execution. How the idea or the story plays out, who the characters are and the author's voice.

--jhf

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32. Why Jessica F Loves Instagram and Other Thoughts on Social Media

I've been known to tell writers that they don't have to involve themselves in social networking if they don't want to. It's a statement that makes agents cringe, editors blanche and writers cheer.

I've always been fairly active on Twitter. I Tweet in fits and starts as the mood takes me and Beth does a terrific job managing the BookEnds Facebook page. Recently though BookEnds has signed up on Instagram and I'm absolutely loving it. I love taking pictures and I think it might be the perfect place for someone who wants to be involved in social media, but doesn't want to do a whole ton of work. In other words, with Instagram you can post and go if you want.

As Jessica A said, it was a great time to launch our Instagram account. We had BEA and I traveled to California for a conference. I saw a lot of terrific Instragramable things and I posted them, all the other BookEnds agents have done the same. Instagram is fun for me. It allows me to explore another venue of creativity and its quick. A great photo and a few tags can be done in about five minutes. A lot quicker than a blog post.

I don't think any body or any author needs to have their hand in every bit of social media. There's just too much. If anything, find the one that best feeds your soul. What do you need as well as what can you give? Instagram gives me a fun break from words and allows me to paint pretty pictures in a different way.

--jhf


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33. Cover Reveal for THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT by Andrew Brumbach

We’re oh-so-excited for the cover reveal of Andrew Brumbach‘s spectacular debut middle grade adventure novel, THE EYE OF MIDNIGHT (Delacorte, 2016). Hop on over to the good folks at Middle Grade Minded for the big reveal and an interview with Andrew.

 … [more]

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34. What Jessica A. Is Reading

Like a lot of people, summer is the time I get to do the most reading for pure fun. Beach vacations offer plenty of opportunity. Also, I’m an admitted tv addict and, once those season finales air, I start to fill my nights with more reading. So, what have I been reading besides submissions?

I snatched up The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins once Jessica F finished reading it. Oddly, I, too, ended up reading a lot of it on a train. And I, too, really liked the book. The heroine was unreliable yet sympathetic, and I was eager for her to unravel the mystery. I will admit, I was hoping the plot would have a few more twists and turns than it did, but it was still definitely worth the read.

Next up was Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta. I’d picked it out last year as a gift for my father and really wanted to read it but only now got a chance to borrow it back from him. This wilderness thriller had me flipping the pages late into the night as I needed to know if a teenage boy managed to escape a pair of truly creepy and sadistic assassins. This book had several unexpected twists and I was so emotionally invested in the characters that I actually cried at the end. That never happens to me with thrillers. I highly recommend the read. It was the first book of Koryta’s that I’d read but it certainly won’t be the last. In fact, I may go buy another one right now to be my next read…

--Jessica Alvarez



                                            

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35. DARK METROPOLIS and GLITTERING SHADOWS by Jaclyn Dolamore


I can't tell you how proud I am of these chilling, beautifully written and thoroughly wonderful fantasies from Jaclyn Dolamore, DARK METROPOLIS and GLITTERING SHADOWS.

The books are set in a Cabaret-esque world that is lush and corrupt and darkly shimmering, and feature things like Dangerous Magic! Awesome Lesbians! Political Intrigue! Creepy Necromancers! And basically every other fun thing to read about. If you haven't read book one, it is now available in paperback... and today, the sequel arrives in stores. WOOHOO!

BOOK ONE: THE DARK METROPOLIS (now available in paperback - check out the new cover!):

People are disappearing.

Sixteen-year-old Thea Holder hears the rumors, but she can barely make ends meet, let alone worry about strangers who've gone missing. Her mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. Thea must make a living for both of them in this sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.

Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club, attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets -- even as he hides secrets of his own.

Together, they discover a new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. Soon, Thea and Freddy begin to realize nightmarish truths about the city's dark underbelly, and that time is running out for Nan. And if they're not careful, the masterminds behind the disappearances will be after them, too.

BOOK TWO: GLITTERING SHADOWS  (out today!):

The revolution is here.

Bodies line the streets of Urobrun; a great pyre burns in Republic Square. The rebels grow anxious behind closed doors while Marlis watches as the politicians search for answers-and excuses-inside the Chancellery.

Thea, Freddy, Nan, and Sigi are caught in the crossfire, taking refuge with a vibrant, young revolutionary and a mysterious healer. As the battle lines are drawn, a greater threat casts a dark shadow over the land. Magic might be lost . . . forever.

This action-packed sequel to DARK METROPOLIS weaves political intrigue, haunting magic, and heartbreaking romance into an unforgettable narrative. Dolamore's lyrical writing and masterfully crafted plot deliver a powerful conclusion.

BUY THE BOOKS: Powells, IndieBound, Oblong, Book Depository, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

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36. Tess Gerritsen Medical Thrillers are #MSWL by Jessica Alvarez


ER, House, Gray’s Anatomy, Boston Med, Hopkins, Doogie Howser. I devoured them all. On screen or page, I love a good medical mystery or hospital setting. That’s what drew me to my client Lara Lacombe. Lara writes romantic suspense with a science angle. Check out her (http://laralacombe.blogspot.com) books! But long before I found Lara, and back before Tess Gerritsen began the Rizzoli & Isles series, she wrote a number of medical thrillers that I read and re-read, and, lately, I’ve been hoping to find something similar in my submission pile. Though I am not at all scientifically inclined, I am fascinated by details of viruses, and so on. Give me a submission like that right now and you’ll move to the top of my reading list. Please!


-Jessica Alvarez

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37. Erin Byers Murray wins M.F.K. Fisher Award

logoWe are pleased to announce that Upstart Crow client Erin Byers Murray has won the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing. The award, presented by Les Dames d’Escoffier, is for Erin’s essay “Sense of Self”, which appeared in FoodThinkers in 2014.

Erin is the author of Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm (St. Martin’s Press 2010) and a co-author of The James Beard nominated cookbook The New England Kitchen (Rizzoli 2014). Erin is an enormously talented writer and she has many more exciting projects cooking for the future. Congratulations, Erin!… [more]

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38. #CCWC and Other Terrific Writers Conferences

I read something recently in which the author said that agents should not give advice on how to find an agent because they don't know what they are talking about. While I disagree with that, I suppose the same could be said about agents giving advice on conferences. That being said, I'm going to throw out my opinion on writers conferences anyway.

Earlier this month I attended and spoke at the California Crime Writers Conference in not-as-sunny-as-I-would-like-it California. Now, before you dismiss my post because you're not a crime writer I think you need to know that I was so impressed by this conference that I think anyone who wants to become (or is) a professional writer should read this.

#CCWC was one of the best run conferences I've attended in a long time. It was organized beautifully with an impressive staff of volunteers and speakers. Some of the best of the best.

So what is it about #CCWC that made me love it so much? First and foremost was that there were very limited appointments (I had three). I've always thought there was too much emphasis on appointments at writers conferences and never understood why a conference would spend the money to pay the expenses of agents and editors only to lock them in a room for a day or two for appointments. I hear often that this is what writers want, but I can tell you right now it's not what writers need. Ten minutes one-on-one with an agent will not give the writer the same sort of experience as 60 minutes listening to a panel of agents debate the state of the industry, how to write a strong query or what makes a manuscript really tick for them. Think about it, 60 minutes asking questions of four different editors and agents versus 10 minutes of you talking at one editor about your book. The same agent or editor you could simply query because you shook her hand during breakfast or shared a drink during the conference cocktail hour.

#CCWC also broke the conference into different tracks. You had the option (and could switch depending on your mood) to attend marketing, career, or writing panels. They covered topics like the fear of writing, how to write a strong query letter, forensic investigations and marketing strategies. There was definitely something for everyone.

Most importantly though, #CCWC was well-run, extremely well organized, had great speakers, panelists and events that made it fun (move night anyone?). The people were open and friendly and I think everyone who attended felt it was well worth the money they spent.

Check this one out. It only comes around every two years so there's time to save your money.

--jhf

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39. Why Agents Don't Go That Extra Mile

You've heard a million times that agents won't give feedback on submissions, even if they requested the full, or reject queries (no reply means no). You've also heard that you should never, ever, ever respond to a rejection. Once its rejected you move on.

Recently I was reminded why agents have all of these rules.

I am the agent who will sometimes reply if an author asks me a question after I reject her material. Don't ask me how far I read though because the truth is that really doesn't matter. That doesn't necessarily mean that's the point where your book fell apart. It just means that's how far I read.

Recently I had a small exchange with an author. She had some questions, because I had expressed some concerns that she had self-published and it would be difficult to find a publisher who wanted to take something that was already published. In the end the author felt that because I hadn't given her the answer she wanted, or because she hadn't changed my mind, I was, "lame."

Fair enough, but she asked me.

--jhf

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40. Best Sources When Searching for an Agent

I'm often asked where an author can find out the information she needs when querying agents. Who are the best agents in her genre? What are they looking for now? What are the submission guidelines and how to know if they're reputable?

I usually tell them that a subscription to Publishers Marketplace is worth its weight in gold and that you can't go wrong with websites like AbsoluteWrite and QueryTracker, both of which rely on the reporting of other authors. A great way to learn the nitty-gritty of what agents are doing. Beyond that however, I was feeling a little out of touch. Where were authors going these days to find agents. So I asked Twitter. My source in all things (okay, most things).


nickipaupreto
@BookEndsJessica Agent Spotlight by @Casey_McCormick is an incredible resource! http://www.literaryrambles.com/2009/03/introducingagent-spotlight.html
5/27/15, 11:19 AM


Agreed! You weren't kidding. The information on this website is exhaustive and some of the best of the best are on that list. I would recommend the site for those querying even beyond children's books. Some of those agents crossover. It's also a great way to get a feel for different agents, their tastes, and their thoughts on publishing and, maybe, life.



nelizadrew
@BookEndsJessica I just used Google. A lot of Google. A lot of poking around on agency websites. #thehardway
5/27/15, 11:20 AM
I actually don't think you went about it the hard way at all. I think you should have tagged this #thesmartway. Sure it wasn't someone else's easy to find list, but you ensured that the information you were getting was always the most reliable and, hopefully, the most updated. No matter where you're getting your information always, always back up what you have by going to the agent's website. It should be your final stop.



LauraRueckert
@BookEndsJessica Literary Rambles, Query Tracker, Publisher's Marketplace, acknowledgements of similar books
5/27/15, 11:24 AM

Score #2 for Literary Rambles. However, what grabbed me here was the acknowledgements. It's something I've often suggested to writers and it's a great idea. Start your list now. Whenever you read a book check the acknowledgements (its actually the first thing I always do) and write down the names of the agents. It's a great starting point.



ChristineRnold
@BookEndsJessica Query Tracker + agency websites & stalking #MSWL ;-)
5/27/15, 11:36 AM
Oh my goodness! How did I forget #MSWL? I love #MSWL and it's one of the first things I told Moe to do when she started at BookEnds. Get on that I said. For those unfamiliar with Twitter this is a hashtag used when editors and agents post the kinds of manuscripts they'd like to see. There's also a handy #MSWL website for those who aren't Tweeters.




betty_days
@BookEndsJessica @MandyHubbard Twitter's recommendations of who I should follow. I click on the profile and check out the agency from there.
5/27/15, 11:54 AM

betty_days
@BookEndsJessica @MandyHubbard It's a slow process. I do 20-30min of research/day. That way, when my MS is ready, I'm good to query,
5/27/15, 12:01 PM
Betty_Days had some of the most interesting ideas. I think checking out Twitter recommendations is a great start, but please remember that there are a lot of agents who aren't on Twitter, or any social media. What I liked most is her comment about it being a slow process. It is and it should be. Part of your job of being an author is this research and waiting until you've written the book to start researching is going to make it a long and arduous process. Instead commit some time each day to stay in touch with the business. Research, make lists, make charts, and then, when it's time to submit, do a quick check and send those queries out.

Other great suggestions including organizations like RWA, MWA or SCBWI. But if you're just starting to think about agents this is a great place to go.

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41. Confidence is a Key Component of Success

When starting a business of any kind, whether its a literary agency, a law firm, a retail store, a coffee shop, a bakery, mechanic garage or a publishing career confidence is one of the keys to success. I strongly believe that you'll never make it if you don't believe in your work and in yourself.

That's why emails like this turn me off and almost always result in a rejection:


Thank you so much for letting me submit to you I know that you are very busy and probably don't really have the time to look at my manuscript. I understand if you decide to pass.
And yep, I actually receive emails like this all the time.

I get how stressful submitting is. I get that you worry that it's not good enough and that the agent might be too big for you or have a client list that's too big for you. But you also need to remind yourself that you are a contender too. If you want other people to treat your book like it has real potential and is worthy of publication than you need to treat it that way as well.

Stand by what you've written and if you can't, maybe you need to rewrite it.

--jhf

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42. Happy Minnow Bly Day!


Happy book birthday to Stephanie Oakes and her debut novel THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY. . . basically, I am obsessed with it and I hope you will be, too.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.
And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of if she's willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's "If You Find Me" and Nova Ren Suma's "The Walls Around Us," as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black."

From the STARRED Publishers Weekly review: "[S]uspense, dread, and hope intermingle in Oakes’s charged, page-turning debut." 

From the STARRED Booklist review: "[H]er story unfolds in a disaffected, yet bone-chillingly beautiful, first-person narrative."

Ask for THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY from your library, or buy a copy at your local indie bookstore. You can also find it at Oblong, Powells, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

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43. The Alienist: #MSWL by Jessica Faust

As a young editorial assistant I was lucky enough to get my hands on The Alienist by Caleb Carr. It was a book I never forgot and one that inspired the types of books I knew I wanted to buy. In fact, it was a book that inspired buying the first in the Gaslight Mystery series by Victoria Thompson.

This past year I’ve been keeping you updated on what I’ve been reading. It’s been a fun exercise for me and hopefully will give you some insights into the types of books I’m hot on lately. Unfortunately, knowing what book someone has read does not necessarily give you insights into why she read it or what she most loved about it. And that’s the type of information that can become crucial when considering whether an agent might be right for your work. The more you know, the more power you have.

When I think back to reading The Alienist, 20 years ago when it was first published, there are certain elements that really grabbed me. I loved the time period. I loved learning about and seeing New York at the turn of the century and I loved the atmosphere Carr had created.

Not only is New York a city rich in history, but it's a city I personally love and have always been fascinated by. Carr wrote a book that kept me riveted and gave me a history lesson all at the same time. He took a real-life city and made it as much a character of the book as the characters themselves. He also included real-life people into his fictional story, something I think makes historical fiction even stronger.

I'm a sucker for non-traditional characters and the alienist was a definitely that. I loved that he wasn’t law enforcement, but had a career that made him a natural for solving crimes. In many ways he was the first profiler (a career I’m fascinated by).

For me a strong female protagonist is almost a must. It’s not that I won’t enjoy or read books featuring great male characters, but I like a character that I can imagine being and its rare I can imagine being a man. In this case our female character wasn’t the alienist, but she was essential to everything that happened.

And, in my mind, the darker the killer the better. I have long had a fascination for serial killers (in real life and in fiction) and a historical serial killer thrilled me. I was scared, sat on the edge of my seat, and read the book as fast as I could.

I wrote this post without looking back on the book. The Alienist is a book that stuck with me and I wanted to write what I loved about the book by memory. These are the things that stick out to me even years later and things I'm looking for in new submissions.

The Alienist is definitely the type of book that's on my #MSWL list.

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--jhf

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44. A Writers' Guide to Dressing for Success by Diane Vallere

I'm guessing we've all heard the advice to start building your brand the second you decide you want to write for profit. Many of us started a website before we finished the first draft of our first draft. Our online presences are carefully constructed works of art: the photo we chose after bypassing thousands we didn't like, the bio that hints at our platform and our voice, and the blurbs that tease better than a high class call girl. But what happens when we have to turn on the lights and step in front of the very people we've been asking to leave the price of an ebook on our bedside table?

You already know not to write the boring parts of a story. Now it's time to apply the same thought process to your conference wardrobe. A conference lets you become a hyper-version of you. You are a walking representation of your brand. How you conduct yourself—and how you look—are important elements to your success. You want to get noticed, but not for the wrong reasons. Here are a few tips how:

Red light district or blue light special?  
Color can be your best friend. Are you promoting a book? If so, is there a predominant color palette to the cover? Consider your ARC or your personal copy to be an accessory to your outfit and dress to match it. If your book is purple, make purple your signature color for the conference. Maybe a purple dress on day one, purple scarf day two, purple shoes day three. People will notice you the first day. They'll come talk to you on day two and three.

Rely on the kindness of strangers. 
You might have the most awesome network of close, personal friends who want nothing more than to see you succeed, but they might not know how to tell you they always thought your obsession with beige was unhealthy. Shopping with a friend rarely works. Why not? You see each other the way you've always seen each other. While this is one of the most awesome things about friendship, it's not so good when it comes to trying something new. You might never try on the perfect dress because it looks like nothing on the hanger and your friend tells you not to try it. These are the kinds of things professionals are there for, and the best thing is that you get their advice for free.

Learn to trust pins and needles. 
If your clothes are too tight, too baggy, too short, or too long, people will notice. Check how your clothes look from the front and the back. If your skirt rides up in the back, it's not the right skirt for you. If your pants are so tight they're on the brink of bursting at the seams, consider how it would look if they did burst at the seams. In front of your dream agent. Right after you gave a fantastic pitch. Ask yourself what they'll remember: your pitch or your pooch? That's right. Most dry cleaners will do alterations for you for a low cost, and most can easily tell what needs to be done simply by seeing you in the clothes. Getting your clothes to fit right is well worth the money.

It's what's on the inside that counts.  
You probably know if you are a woman, you need a bra. But that's not the only undergarment you should think about. Panty lines and excessive jiggle are not good. There's a reason the inventor of Spanx is now on the Forbes Rich List. Her unmentionables make clothes look better on without forcing you to trade your diet of cupcakes for celery stalks.

Comfort is best left for ice cream and stuffed animals. 
There's not a person among us who isn't more comfortable in stretchy pants and a soft T-shirt, but going to a writer's convention is not about comfort. While I'm not suggesting you get yourself strapped into a corset for the event, I do think it's a good idea to think about structure. A blazer, twinset, or cardigan is going to look better than a sweatshirt with cats on the front, even if you write cat-fiction. You can change into your cat sweatshirt when it's time to retire to your room. Unless you have a roommate.

Don't mistake "appropriate" for "boring" 
I convinced you to leave your cat sweatshirt in a drawer at home, but that doesn't mean you should abandon your sense of whimsy in the drawer with it. Me? I’m all about whimsy. Find what represents YOU and make it part of your conference look. Maybe you love chandelier earrings. Maybe you love shoes. Make that one category your signature for the conference. "Great earrings!" you'll hear on day one. "Another pair of great earrings!" you might hear on day two. And guess what people will be thinking about on day three? "I wonder what kind of earrings she'll have on today?"

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When the opportunity for marketing through social media exploded, the first thing we all learned (either through the grapevine or by experience) was to NOT talk about our books. Twasn't easy, we found, but nothing good in life really is. We had to figure out how to make people notice us and like us for who we were and what we represented, so when they picked up our works, they’d find an extension of our online persona. Our  conference clothing can do the same thing for us.The goal? To look interesting enough that people want to know more about what we write. Don't let poor clothing choices take away from your empire. Pimp your style and let your wardrobe work for you.


After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. SUEDE TO REST, the first book in the bestselling Material Witness Cozy Mystery Series, was a Lefty/ Best Humorous Mystery nominee. CRUSHED VELVET, book two, comes out August 4. Diane is the current president of Sisters in Crime Los Angeles, and co-chair of the 2015 California Crime Writers Conference. She also writes the Mad for Mod Mysteries and the Style & Error Mystery Series. Diane started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.

Facebook: DianeVallereAuthor
Twitter: @dianevallere
Pinterest: DianeVallere






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45. Is Self-Publishing the Wrong Choice?


It's not that uncommon for a querying author to email a question concerning my rejection or something related to her career path. I'm not recommending you do that to me or any other agent, but I do tend to reply, at least in short. I'll also, probably, blog about it...


In one of those recent emails an author asked my opinion about her decision to self-publish. She'd set a time limit on how long she would query agents for (3 months) and felt that if she hadn't secured anyone in that time she was going to self-publish. She wanted to know if she was making a mistake.

In my opinion, you're never making a mistake if you know what you're getting into. Self-publishing and traditional publishing both have their pluses. They also have their negatives. Waiting to find someone to be on your team, agent and publisher, is one of the negatives of traditional publishing.

Personally, I don't think three months is enough time, but people in the querying trenches might have another opinion. It might take agents three months just to read your query and another three months to read your material. It might get done faster. That being said, if that's as long as you want to wait, then that's your deadline.

My advice about making the decision to self-publish is to make sure you alert agents that you're pulling your material. It's so frustrating when you finally get around to queries or submissions, respond and are told that not to worry because the author self-published anyway. Especially if you are requesting something.

Like anything else in life, make your decision, embrace it and go for it. No looking back because looking back doesn't get us anywhere.

--jhf

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46. Butt Out of Your Chair


They say to be successful you only need to do one thing, "butt in chair and write." While that's good advice in theory, I don't think it's always the best advice.


I've been reading obsessively about how bad sitting is for us and I've been researching standing desks for exactly that reason. I've also been paying more attention to how often I get out of my chair during the day. I haven't started tracking it yet, but from what I can tell it's a lot. Close to, or even more than, once an hour. It's easy for me to take those breaks because I'm a huge water drinker so I'm constantly up and down to refill my glass or take a bathroom break. 

Putting your butt in your chair to write is the first step, but keeping it there for hours at a time might actually be detrimental to your goals. Every time I am forced to get up from my desk to refill my water, open a window or dig my dog's head out of Beth's garbage I find myself a tad more refreshed when I get back in. I also find that sometimes taking those trips and drifting around the office for a few extra seconds or minutes helps me think. Sometimes it is that little trip that helps me find the answers to the questions I was struggling with or the perfect fix for a manuscript I'm editing. 

So get your butt in that chair, but don't forget to take it out, at least once an hour. It will be good for your health and your creativity.

--jhf

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47. Query Critique: Science Fiction

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,

As the last surviving human on Dragonworld, Speaker for the People would do almost anything to feel like she belongs, but she lacks the tail, set of mid-limbs, and claws which all her adoptive family have. Worse than that, at twenty-five, she’s terrified of responsibility.

Now the Others are returning to Dragonworld.

Speaker has been chosen by her adopted parents to protect Dragonworld from the Others, despite a betrayal she knows nothing about. She will face lies, slavery, and interstellar politics at the hands of her biological kin, and hatred and accusations of blasphemy from her adopted relatives.

And all that is before she gets to Old Earth.

In SPEAKER FOR THE PEOPLE, a 90,000 word stand-alone science fiction novel, Speaker struggles against the corruption and stagnation of an empire. The novel explores the agony of making the best choice possible when all the options are bad, as well as the ability of people (despite the skin, scales, or fur they wear) to overcome horrendous adversity.

This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I'm going to preface this by saying that science fiction is not my area of expertise. For that you'd have to talk to either Moe Ferrara or Beth Campbell at BookEnds. However, I do think that in many ways a strong or weak query is the same no matter what genre you represent. A really great query should grab the reader no matter the genre. In fact, just the other day I read a query that was amazing, but not at all a subject matter I was interested. I rejected it, but forwarded the query to everyone on the BookEnds team thinking one of them might be intrigued. I do believe another agent requested material.

There is nothing technically wrong with this query. You have all the facts, bits and pieces that are required. The only thing I felt was missing was anything that made the story itself stand out. Personally I'm intrigued by Dragonworld. I know it's something that's been done a number of times, but it's a storyline that I've always been fascinated by. 

Speaker and her story feels YA to me, SF YA, but still YA. And it's not just her age. The storyline feels more suited to YA. It also feels very done. Like something I've read a thousand times before. Now of course it's possible that there's a bigger hook in there that you failed to tell me about, but my job is to make a judgement based on the query and based on the query, "likes, slavery and interstellar politics" sounds like a typical SF. What makes this different?

Personally I also really dislike queries that tell me what themes the book explores. I'm not sure anyone buys a book because it, "explores the agony of making the best choice possible when all the options re bad." That tells me nothing about the book. In many ways, that describes almost every YA ever written (slight exaggeration there).

---jhf

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48. Half Day Fridays

For as long as I've been in publishing its been the tradition to give your staff half days on Fridays. I suppose this started back when those in publishing had large trust funds and estates in the Hamptons or Newport. I was never one of those kids.


As an editorial assistant and later, assistant editor (more of the same despite the switched titles), half days usually meant I got to dress in shorts and a tshirt and spent the day sitting on the floor catching up on tasks like filing and helping my boss clean her office. The afternoons were usually spent at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. So, all in all, not a bad way to enjoy the summer.

The Friday before Memorial Day BookEnds kicked off our summer of half day Fridays by enjoying a lunch outdoors with Quinoa, Black Bean and Mango Salad for my team. I added a little avocado and, if I do say so myself, it was pretty dang good.

And then we all went back to work. I think we'll need to work on that.

For the rest of the summer, BookEnds will be enjoying half day Fridays. It's not that we won't be working, because there is always work to be done, but we'll likely be doing it in our own way. I'll sit quietly in comfortable clothes in the office, or outside with all the reading I need to do on my Kindle.

I know for writers it can often feel like its impossible to take a break, that if you're not working you're failing. Not true at all. Take some half days yourself. Go to the lake, the zoo or a walk in the park. You might be surprised by how much work you actually get done by, just simply, not working.

--jhf


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49. Sarah’s quest

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50. Moe Ferrara on Meeting Your Literary Heroes

Since I started at BookEnds, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and the books I read growing up (especially given the areas I’m representing!). I come from a very weird age group—older than “Gen X” but really not quite a “Millennial” either. I remember a time before technology, when you had to learn how to use a card catalogue in order to find a book at a library. Old enough to have listened to music first on records then cassettes then CDs and now on MP3s. I remember when macs had a 3” black & white screen and the most advanced game was seeing who died of dysentery in Oregon Trail.

There really wasn’t much in the “age appropriate” pile growing up, outside of Judy Blume (aw, yeah TALES OF A FOURTH-GRADE NOTHING) or The Baby-Sitter’s Club…there wasn’t much to read. Thus, I often read far above my age bracket. 

But there was Goosebumps. I was just about to start third grade when WELCOME TO DEAD HOUSE came out. (For the uninitiated, that was the first book in R.L Stine’s creepy-as-hell paranormal MG series). I devoured them… and I still have ALL of my books in my basement back at my folks’ house. Goosebumps gave way to the Fear Street series. Later my cousin introduced me to Christopher Pike. These were the “YA” books of my generation and I was reading toward the end of elementary school and into middle school.

This year at BEA, I had the supreme honor of getting to meet R.L. Stine. 

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I won’t lie. I turned into an utter fangirl. I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to thank him for the books that I grew up reading. The books I read with a flashlight under the covers. Ten-year-old me couldn’t even imagine being in a position where I could meet an actual author!

With the friends I have (sorry, no bragging here!), it takes a lot to get me star-struck. Through things like conventions, anyone can have the opportunity to meet their heroes—literary or otherwise. I had a chance to meet Stephen Lawhead a few years ago. I mourn the fact that Tom Clancy passed before I got the chance to thank him for the books I read all through high school. 

But you know what? It’s okay to fangirl when you meet legends like this (just don’t turn creepy and respect boundaries of course!). Because when there’s a person like that who has had such a profound effect on your life, it’s the best feeling in the world to tell someone “my life was changed because of you.” Not only that, but it means the world to them to know their words and their works have made a difference in someone else’s life.

So I pose to you guys reading — who is your “literary hero” you’d love to meet and why?

--Moe Ferrara

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