Monday, October 20, 2014

Thinking of Gone Girl

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.

--jhf


Friday, October 17, 2014

Meet Buford


The last in a five-part series introducing the BookEnds team.

Buford
BookEnds Hound

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meet Jessica Alvarez


Jessica Alvarez
Literary Agent, BookEnds





Tagline:  Whipping novels into submission.*
*Special thanks to Peter Senftleben for coming up with the tag line

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?



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet Kim Lionetti



Kim Lionetti
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."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet Jessica Faust

The first in a five part series introducing the BookEnds team.


Jessica Faust
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.


Friday, October 10, 2014

15 Years


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!

--JHF

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Problem with Feedback on Rejections


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.

--jhf

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Saying It Loud, But Not Proud

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.

--JHF

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Getting a Taste of the Writing Life

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.

--jhf

Monday, October 06, 2014

I'm Baaaaaack!

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)