Friday, April 17, 2015

Celebrating Jenn McKinlay & Sofie Kelly

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

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



Sk Öl

--jhf

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reading for Pleasure


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

--jhf



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day

Is there such a thing as Happy Tax Day?

My taxes are done and I'm happy about that. I'm never happy about taxes, but I'm always happy they're done. I know however that a lot of you are scrambling today to finish up those taxes. How do I know? Because I can guarantee we're going to receive a number of panicked and angry phone calls from people who didn't receive a 1099. You know, the tax paperwork we sent out mid-January.

Today is a good day to remind all authors to update your agent with any name change, change of address or other change you might have made with the IRS well before April 15. Even if you haven't heard from your agent in years, if you still have a book that's actively selling, you need to keep her updated with your address. You never know when a royalty check might one in or a contract amendment might show up.

I hope your tax day is fruitful or, at the very least, not painful.

--jhf




Monday, April 13, 2015

Errors are What Create Perfection

None of us is perfect. We hear this all the time and of course it's true. I make mistakes on a regular basis. Some of them are small, like adding orange juice instead of milk to my coffee. Some of them very public, like writing a blog post that was rightly misinterpreted. Some of them are simple to fix like turning my shirt right side out, some of them not so simple like applying the wrong paint to my walls.

In the end though, imperfections are what make the world perfect. If we were all perfect life would be boring and we would be boring and, frankly, I don't think anyone expects us to be perfect, anyone but us of course.

The same goes for your book and your submission. Every submission I've ever read and every book I've ever read has errors. There are typos, printers errors, grammar mistakes or even the occasional page that was put in upside down. It happens. Shit happens. Let it go.

When you're submitting your work, or once your work has gone through all the various editing rounds at a publisher, it's time to let it go. You've gone through it with a fine-tooth comb. Your beta readers, critique group, editors and agents have all gone through it. And you know what? There are still going to be mistakes. It's only the rare reader who will call those mistakes out. You know, the one who thinks she's perfect. Don't worry about her.

Embrace your faults and move on to write a better book. Because, shit happens.

--jhf


Friday, April 10, 2015

Lorrie Thomson's Cozy Reading Corner (or her husband's)


During the summer, my husband, Bill, loves to read while floating in our pool, but I’ve always been too worried. What if a precious page gets wet? Worse, what if the entire book slips from my hands? I think I’ve found a solution!







Nearing the end of What’s Left Behind, Abby Stone journeys through swamplands and darkness to Seawall Beach, a pristine stretch of Maine coast with glowing white sands and raging surf, and a virtual hill she’s yet to summit. There, she dares to finally let loose and face her greatest fear.

Nothing’s cozier than reading that scene while relaxing on Maine’s Seawall Beach in July. (Pictured: author’s husband, Bill.)



--Lorrie Thomson
Learn more about Lorrie on her Website. Connect with Lorrie on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Reading Edits without Making it Personal

Looking back on my younger self I would say one of my most cringe-worthy character flaws was my struggle inability to admit I was wrong. I'd like to think this isn't uncommon in the young, that part of growing up is learning that its okay to be wrong, but I also suspect I had a pretty bad case of "the rights."

I find sometimes that the biggest struggle authors (some not all) have with revisions isn't that they necessarily disagree with the editor, but that revisions somehow make them feel like they were wrong or somehow failed.

There's never an easy answer to how to handle feelings or insecurities. Let's face it, when you're feeling anxious someone telling you to not worry makes you want to beat her, it doesn't make you calmer.

My best advice in a situation like this is always to try to step back and evaluate what you're feeling and why you're resistant to something. It's also to remember what I'm telling you. Revisions are never, ever, ever about you. No editor, or agent, reads revisions and thinks of the author. What they think about is the book, the characters and the market.

When editing I'm usually so wrapped up in the book and what can be done to take it from shiny to glowing that I rarely think of the author's feelings (still a character flaw of mine). I just want to make this the absolute best book I've ever read and it is my job to help you make that happen. Key word, "help."

--jhf

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Your Dream Agent

In almost every interview I do I'm asked what my dream client is like. I'm sure I've answered this different throughout the years, but ultimately I think my dream client is someone who knows that writing can be a hobby, but publishing is a business and is willing to take on the challenge of being a business partner with me.

Oh, and there are a lot of other things to:

1. A good communicator, someone who is willing to tell me about her concerns before they become major problems.

2. Someone who is open to revisions, edits and guidance, but not necessarily willing to just do something because someone suggests it.

And while I think it's interesting to read about an agent's dream client, I think what's far more important is what is your dream agent? Before heading out to search for agents and meet with agents I think authors need to have their own list.

Do you want someone who is good at hand holding in those times when you might need your hand held?

Do you need someone who is willing to work with you and do edits?

Are you looking for someone who might also be a friend?

Do you see your agent as a business partner or a worker?

There are a ton of agents out there and there is definitely someone for you, but I think knowing what you're looking for in an agent is helpful when the time comes and you actually have a choice.

So I'm curious. What are you looking for?

--jhf

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Rise and Fall of a Partnership

In my post about Co-Authoring Agreements I had briefly mentioned that when starting BookEnds, Jacky Sach and I had a business plan and a Partnership Agreement. One reader asked the following question:
If it's not too personal/painful I think it would be fascinating to read a blogpost about how Bookends was founded and eventually your original partnership dissolved. I think that's a behind-the-scenes story I've never heard an agent tell before. 

It's not too personal or painful at all and I have written about it in various stages before. In fact, I thought I did an entire blog post when Jacky left, but upon searching maybe I didn't.

Jacky and I met and became friends while working at Berkley Publishing and stayed friends after I left Berkley to pursue a new opportunity at Macmillan, working on The Complete Idiot's Guide series.

At first I loved the freedom I had at Macmillan to come up with new book ideas, search out the perfect authors and execute the project. After awhile however, the job started to feel repetitious and there were a lot of changes happening at Macmillan (sales to other companies, etc) that made me think I wanted something different. For whatever reason, on a subway ride back home, I came up with the idea that I wanted to start my own business, that I could do exactly what I was doing for Macmillan, but on my own. I asked Jacky to join me and she was intrigued. So the two of us jumped in, probably rather impulsively.

BookEnds was officially formed in 1999 (just a few months after that subway ride). We sought business advice from other agents and from various free business advice groups. Originally we started as packagers. Our idea was to create the projects in house and find authors to write the books. We enjoyed what we were doing, but struggled to really find our place or establish our vision. Ultimately, I think that while we knew what we wanted to do, we chose a path we weren't entirely comfortable with. So after a couple of years, and lots of soul-searching, we switched our business model from packaging to a literary agency. And for 10 years we did some truly amazing things together.

Jacky and I worked extremely well together. We were the perfect yin and yang. I'm not saying we never disagreed, because we definitely disagreed and we got mad at each other and we, sort of, argued, but at the base of everything we had built we were friends and it was really important for us to maintain that friendship.

In 2009 Jacky started to pursue some other interests. She went back to school and made the decision that it was time for her to leave BookEnds and do something different. It was sad, but I knew it was the right thing for her and, in some ways, the right thing for me. I had some ideas about growing BookEnds that didn't necessarily align with her vision so it was time for me to stand alone, or with a different team.

After agreeing to and signing all the final paperwork that goes with buying out a business partner, Jacky and I went our separate ways, in business, but not in life. We still remain very good friends, talk regularly, meet for lunch and keep each other updated on our lives.

I couldn't have started BookEnds without Jacky and I wouldn't have wanted to. I think we taught each other a lot about taking risks, slowing down, thinking things through, facing our fears and following our dreams.

--jhf








Monday, April 06, 2015

Query Critiques by the Query Queen


I debated doing this. It's a lot of work and I wasn't sure I really wanted to jump into the critique pool. But I'm running out of things to talk about and I have received requests.

So here goes. I'm offering to critique query letters. I will do so on this blog so if you're submitting be prepared for some brutal critique. I will be honest and I will be brutally honest and I can not promise how other readers will respond (although usually they are kind).

Here are the guidelines:

1. Address query to the Query Queen (not to be confused with the Shark)

2. Send only those queries you would send to agents when actually querying editors. 
No rough drafts allowed. 

3. Review the query guidelines on our website so you know exactly what your query should contain. 

4. The email subject should say, "Query Critique"

5. Include this phrase at the top of your letter, "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."

6. Submitting your query is no guarantee it will be used and I will not notify you if I do decide to use it. I would suggest you subscribe to the blog if you want to ensure you don't miss your critique.

7. Subscribe to the blog anyway. A critique on your query will be beneficial, but we learn more from reading what is said about other queries, and critiquing them ourselves, then we ever will from our own.

8. Query critiques can be sent to blog@bookends-inc.com

Good luck!

--jhf

Friday, April 03, 2015

A Mid-Afternoon Boost

Do you get that afternoon slump? Around 3:00 my energy just wanes. Sometimes I'm hungry, sometimes I'm thirsty, but mostly I'm just tired.

I'm always looking for ways to get out of that slump and recently I've come across Bulletproof Coffee. Have you tried this? I haven't yet, but you can be sure I'm going to.

Bulletproof Coffee (courtesy of the Pioneer Woman)

  • 12 ounces, hot, strong coffee (I make mine in the aeropress)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cold, unsalted butter 

Now here's the part that makes it extra delicious and something I've never heard before. Add all the ingredients to a blender and mix it up until it's rich and creamy.


What do you do for your slump (if you get one)? 

--jhf