Friday, January 30, 2015

Elizabeth Buzzelli's Cozy Reading Corner


As you can see by the photo, I've got to find a new favorite reading place pretty quick.  Another blizzard coming today so it's a great time to read.  Maybe the cat's chair will do.  




SNOOP TO NUTS, the second in the Nut House Series from Berkley is just out so I'm doing Blog Tours, but looking fondly at the Christmas stack of books.  SNOOP TO NUTS is written under my pen name: Elizabeth Lee.  The next book in the series comes out the end of 2015.  

You can find me on Facebook
My Website
Twitter  

--Elizabeth Buzzelli

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Art and Death of the Thank You

This is really more of a personal rant than a business post, but it's my blog so, hey, why not.

What happened to thank you notes? Is it just me or are they getting more and more rare, almost nonexistent?

I tend to really like the written or snail mailed thank you. Sometimes I take the effort to hand write a note, other times I use an app service like Postagram to mail a postcard thank you with a photo and personal message. It's rare that I'll write an email or social media thank you, but that does happen as well. Now I'm not saying I'm perfect. Sure there are times I've forgotten or neglected to send a thank you, but I think I get it done more often than not.

I don't expect anyone to be as nuts about thank you notes as me, but there are certain times I do, in no uncertain terms, expect a thank you. Recently I sent gifts for the following occasions and received no acknowledgment; a wedding, a baby shower, and birthday parties in which the gifts were shuttled to another room and opened after the guests left. In all of those cases I took the time and spent the money to choose a gift I thought the recipient would like. Don't I deserve a thank you?

Anyway, I think it's common courtesy to send a thank you of some sort, even if it's a message in my Facebook inbox, and I'm a little annoyed by those who don't make the effort, mostly in the case of the events I listed above. But maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.

--jhf




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Making the Most of Publicity


Once an author gets published there is so much she needs to learn and do. Besides trying to understand the publishing process and what can be expected from the publisher, she needs to suddenly become a publicist and marketer, in addition to being an author.

Now, even if you have the resources to hire a full-time publicist to do a lot of this work for you, its imperative that you have a basic understanding of what is needed. The more you know, the more successful you'll be.

So while I'm not going to get into every detail here, I am going to give you a short checklist of things to include whenever you have a publicity opportunity and by opportunity I mean blog tour, article, interview, conference workshop, Facebook post, GoodReads account, etc, etc. Remember, anytime you do anything that others will read, see or look into its a publicity opportunity.

  • Become your pen name. If you write under a pen name make sure that in everything you do that's the name you work under. It's your name tag badge, your introduction, your everything. So choose wisely.
  • Include a bio. Always let readers know who you are. It doesn't have to be long, but a bio gives some insight into you and, you never know, someone might grab your book simply because they too are from Ohio.
  • Make it interesting. Have an Instagram account that you're using for publicity? Make the pictures worthwhile and interesting. Use the filters and make them pretty. In other words, whatever you're doing make it something worth sharing, a picture, a Tweet, a quote that others will helpfully pass along to others.
  • Put in the effort. Take some time to come up with creative answers (not just a cut and paste from your last interview).
  • Plug your books. Big! Don't just include the title after your name, give a one or two sentence description, include the name of the series (if there is one) and send a copy of the cover of your next (or your last) book. Give them a visual to go with your title. Make yourself unforgettable.
  • Show them where to find you. If readers like what you have to say they'll want to learn more. Don't just include your website, but give them everything you've got--Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, GoodReads. Go big or go home they say.
Publicity can be a lot of fun. I know I rarely mind doing an interview and I've done a ton. However, if I'm doing the work, and taking the time out of my other work to do it, I really want to make sure that's it's going to have the potential impact I want it to. Just throwing up my name and book title isn't going to necessarily grab the readers like I hope. Providing them with a real peek at who I am and what my books are about will.

--jhf

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How Jessica A Reads Queries


When it comes to how I approach my queries and submissions, I don’t have any firm rules.  Sometimes I start at the top of my inbox, sometimes I start at the bottom.  Sometimes I pick a submission in a genre that I’m in the mood to read or that I know an editor is looking for.  And sometimes I pick a submission that I think might be a pass so I can deal with it quickly and make my inbox less crowded.  By the way, I love it when I’m wrong about those submissions.  It’s great when I go into something thinking it’ll be a fast pass, and it ends up hooking me instead.  I love being surprised that way. 

I tend to answer queries quickly. When I want to procrastinate on another task, I answer queries.  When I’m watching tv at night and there’s a commercial break, sometimes I open up my queries. If things are slow, sometimes I answer queries as soon as they pop up in my email.  But sometimes things get busy and a week or two goes by without me even looking at my submissions box. 

I generally go with my gut reaction on queries. Is this something I want to read or not?  Is it marketable or not? Are there significant publishing credits in the author’s bio?  Is the writing great, just average, or terrible?  Is the query professional or does it feel amateurish?  Honestly, it probably takes me less than a minute to reach a decision on most queries. Sometimes I’ll put aside certain queries to think about more, but generally I go on my initial reaction.

I’ll admit, I’m slow with requested material.  I like to read requested material when I have a nice big chunk of time to devote to it.  I don’t like to read manuscripts in bits and pieces.  It makes it harder for me to keep my thoughts straight that way.  It’s rare I get to read a manuscript in one sitting, but I aim to at least get through 50-100 pages at a time. 

Also, as much as I try, I can’t get into the knack of reading submissions on my Kindle.  Back in the old days of hard copy submissions, I would cover the margins with Post-It notes of my thoughts.  And now, I can’t live without Track Changes and Comments in Word.  I’d probably be faster if I read on my Kindle but it just doesn’t gel with the way I like to take notes. 

With submissions, there’s still a bit of reacting on gut instinct but I also like to mull things over.  After reading something enjoyable, I like to put it aside for a day or two and think about it.  Do I still remember it clearly in two days?  Am I still as excited about it?  Is it something that I want to talk to my colleagues about and get second reads on?  Do I sit down at the dinner table at night and tell my husband all about the great story I read?  How would I pitch it to editors?  Then again, if I’m mulling over the project for too long and something is holding me back from offering quickly, I want to analyze why I’m hesitating. Sometimes it’s a problem that can be fixed with revisions, or a question of whether I want to take a risk on something that might not be super marketable at the moment, but sometimes it shows me that I’m not as enthusiastic about a project as I should be.  And, really, that’s what every decision comes down to: do I love this book enough to read it over and over again, and read anything and everything else the author writes? 

—Jessica A

Monday, January 26, 2015

Are You Getting What You Pay For

At the beginning of every year, and usually another time mid-year, I spend some time going through all of the things I pay for (cable, internet, lawn service, accountant, etc) to make sure that I'm really getting what I pay for. In some cases it's a matter of looking at what I have and changing to less expensive alternatives (dropping some of the cable channels I pay for, but have never heard of), in other cases it's a matter of looking at how I use the item and seeing if I should be doing more with it (asking the accountant to review my books bimonthly instead of quarterly).

The same should go for your relationship with your agent. Now, I'm definitely not advocating for dumping your agent (do you think I'm insane!), but I am suggesting that since you pay your agent you take a look at how much you're actually utilizing her.

I have some clients who are terrific at using me when they need me. We brainstorm ideas for new books, titles, editorial suggestions. We discuss and help resolve emotional breakdowns, deadlines and editorial conflicts. They keep me posted and updated on marketing and career plans in general so that I can help guide, direct, or even keep them in mind when something new pops up.

There are other clients however who seem very fearful of bothering me. Usually it's because things are going along smoothly, they have a great relationship with their editor and they are great at managing it all on their own. And that's great. Until it's not. The client who is used to doing it all herself will often also put out all fires herself but, let's face it, even the best firefighter can't do the job on her own.

An agent gets paid a 15% commission and that job should entail more than just selling the book and negotiating a contract. It should be about building a career and all that goes with it. If, for example, your cover stinks but no one bothers to show your agent until it's final she can't go to the publisher and insist on changes. If the cover stinks and the book doesn't sell. Well, it's hard to build a career if your books don't sell. That's just one example, but I think you can see where I'm going.

Your agent is your business partner and if you're running a business with a partner hopefully you aren't making all of the decisions on your own. Use your business partner as much as possible. They say two heads are better than one.

--jhf


Friday, January 23, 2015

Kate Douglas's Cozy Reading Corner


Inspired by a Mashable piece about cozy reading spots, BookEnds will feature our own favorite reading corners. Here is author Kate Douglas's:

My favorite spot is the old recliner in my office where I write. Rufus beside me, a soft chair under my butt and books all around. It just doesn’t get any better.




--Kate DouglasDark Refuge—Book 4 Spirit Wild or coming in May, Hot Alphas anthology with Tangled

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Much of the Book Do You Read?

I absolutely LOVED this article from The Guardian  about how ebooks can tell us how much of the book readers are actually reading.

It's a fascinating look at how some of today's bestsellers are actually not being finished. Frankly, this information doesn't surprise me at all. I haven't read many of the books mentioned in the article, but I am notorious for putting a book down when I just don't love it any longer. Life is short and if I have time to curl up and read a book it better be a good book and not just any book. By the way, good book is entirely subjective.

As an agent I would love information on how books are being read and when they're being put down. It's great sales research. As an author advocate I'm not so sure it's great for an author's sales if this kind of information becomes widely known. After all, would you buy the next big bestseller that everyone is talking about if you found out that everyone only read the first 25%?

Either way, it's definitely cool information.

-jhf


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fingers Crossed

This is how I imagine some authors look when their material has been requested by an agent. I know that this is how some agents look when we get a call from an editor.






--jhf

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Following Your Passion

I recently stumbled upon this Yellow Hammer News article from October 2014 in which Mike Rowe of the TV show "Dirty Jobs" discusses why he actually doesn't believe in advising people to follow their passion. It's something Rowe has apparently said before, but a fan wrote to him questioning his reasoning for telling people not to follow their passion.

Here is Rowe's complete response,

A few years ago, I did a special called “The Dirty Truth.” In it, I challenged the conventional wisdom of popular platitudes by offering “dirtier,” more individualistic alternatives. For my inspiration, I looked to those hackneyed bromides that hang on the walls of corporate America. The ones that extoll passersby to live up to their potential by “dreaming bigger,” “working smarter,” and being a better “team player.” In that context, I first saw “Follow Your Passion” displayed in the conference room of a telemarketing firm that employed me thirty years ago. The words appeared next to an image of a rainbow, arcing gently over a waterfall and disappearing into a field of butterflies. Thinking of it now still makes me throw up in my mouth.

Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” is routinely dispensed as though it’s wisdom were both incontrovertible and equally applicable to all. It’s not. Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it. And just because you’re determined to improve doesn’t mean that you will. Does that mean you shouldn’t pursue a thing you’re passionate about?” Of course not. The question is, for how long, and to what end? 

When it comes to earning a living and being a productive member of society – I don’t think people should limit their options to those vocations they feel passionate towards. I met a lot of people on Dirty Jobs who really loved their work. But very few of them dreamed of having the career they ultimately chose. I remember a very successful septic tank cleaner who told me his secret of success. “I looked around to see where everyone else was headed, and then I went the opposite way,” he said. “Then I got good at my work. Then I found a way to love it. Then I got rich.”
Every time I watch The Oscars, I cringe when some famous movie star – trophy in hand – starts to deconstruct the secret to happiness. It’s always the same thing, and I can never hit “mute” fast enough to escape the inevitable cliches. “Don’t give up on your dreams kids, no matter what.” “Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have what it takes.” And of course, “Always follow your passion!”
Today, we have millions looking for work, and millions of good jobs unfilled because people are simply not passionate about pursuing those particular opportunities. Do we really need Lady GaGa telling our kids that happiness and success can be theirs if only they follow their passion?

There are many examples – including those you mention – of passionate people with big dreams who stayed the course, worked hard, overcame adversity, and changed the world though sheer pluck and determination. We love stories that begin with a dream, and culminate when that dream comes true. And to your question, we would surely be worse off without the likes of Bill Gates and Thomas Edison and all the other innovators and Captains of Industry. But from my perspective, I don’t see a shortage of people who are willing to dream big. I see people struggling because their reach has exceeded their grasp. 

I’m fascinated by the beginning of American Idol. Every year, thousands of aspiring pop-stars show up with great expectations, only to learn that they don’t have anything close to the skills they thought they did. What’s amazing to me, isn’t their lack of talent – it’s their lack of awareness, and the resulting shock of being rejected. How is it that so many people are so blind to their own limitations? How did these peope get the impression they could sing in the first place? Then again, is their incredulity really so different than the surprise of a college graduate who learns on his first interview that his double major in Medieval Studies and French Literature doesn’t guarantee him the job he expected? In a world where everyone gets a trophy, encouragement trumps honesty, and realistic expectations go out the window. 

When I was 16, I wanted to follow in my grandfathers footsteps. I wanted to be a tradesman. I wanted to build things, and fix things, and make things with my own two hands. This was my passion, and I followed it for years. I took all the shop classes at school, and did all I could to absorb the knowledge and skill that came so easily to my granddad. Unfortunately, the handy gene skipped over me, and I became frustrated. But I remained determined to do whatever it took to become a tradesman.

One day, I brought home a sconce from woodshop that looked like a paramecium, and after a heavy sigh, my grandfather told me the truth. He explained that my life would be a lot more satisfying and productive if I got myself a different kind of toolbox. This was almost certainly the best advice I’ve ever received, but at the time, it was crushing. It felt contradictory to everything I knew about persistence, and the importance of “staying the course.” It felt like quitting. But here’s the “dirty truth,” Stephen. “Staying the course” only makes sense if you’re headed in a sensible direction. Because passion and persistence – while most often associated with success – are also essential ingredients of futility. 

That’s why I would never advise anyone to “follow their passion” until I understand who they are, what they want, and why they want it. Even then, I’d be cautious. Passion is too important to be without, but too fickle to be guided by. Which is why I’m more inclined to say, “Don’t Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring it With You.”

Carry On
Mike

It's an incredibly interesting response and one that really got me thinking. We live and work in a business that is a lot about passion. We preach it at conferences and in our blogs and tell people all the time to follow that dream.

Mike Rowe's thoughts on the subject actually parallel something I've thought often, but have never verbalized or put into words myself. There have been so many times when I've read query letters or manuscripts and really thought that maybe the author of the material needed to find something else to become passionate about. While she might have loved writing, it was pretty clear that it wasn't something she was probably ever going to succeed at. And while certainly it's not my job to tell the faceless writer of a query to go and find another passion, it is something I've said to others in this business.

Once, long ago, I had an assistant who was passionate about books and publishing. She loved everything about both and had dreams of working in the business, finding authors and building careers. Unfortunately, while she had passion, she didn't have two things required to be an agent. She didn't have the drive to spend her weekends and nights culling through submission piles, reading loads of material to find those one or two great things that would rock her world. And she didn't have an editorial eye. No matter how much she read, for herself and for us, she just didn't quite understand what made a book good and marketable. What made it a potential sale. It didn't mean she wasn't good at anything, it just meant she wasn't clicking with what she thought was her passion.

In a number of different meetings I encouraged her to consider other aspects of publishing, jobs I felt she would be really good at and that played to her strengths. She ended up leaving the business altogether and, hopefully, finding other things she was passionate about.

Here's the thing about passions. Hopefully we have a lot of them and hopefully we develop more as the years grow. I got into publishing in some ways by chance. I had a passion for writing and initially thought I wanted to be a reporter. I pursued that for a while. Until I discovered that I might not have been as good at it as I thought and maybe I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. I knew I loved words though. So I tried magazines, copy editing, design and, yes, writing. It wasn't for me. So I figured books must be next. I kept with my overall passion, but moved around until I found the fit that was right for me.

And what if I someday learn that my passion to be a literary agent isn't the right place for me? I bet I can easily find something else I love just as much. I love food and all things related to food. I'd love to cook, or create recipes, or blog, or.... I think you get the picture. I also love photography, fitness, dogs, and vacationing. Hmmm, a career vacationer maybe?

I think Mike Rowe has some really interesting things to say about passion. I liked what he said. It doesn't mean you should give up on what you're doing, it just means you should be willing to explore various aspects of that passion.

--jhf






















Monday, January 19, 2015

Five Books or Authors I'd Love to Represent, but I Don't


In a recent interview with the NYC Writers Network I was asked what five books or authors I'd love to represent, but don't. When I get asked these kinds of questions I've learned to simply write down the first things that pop into my head (or on the Barnes & Noble website if I'm researching). If I don't do it that way these interviews would take hours.

I gave my list, in no particular order, of writers I preorder, can't wait to get my hands on or have read or own a number of books from.

Here it is in no particular order:


5. Sarah Addison Allen
4. Chelsea Cain
3. Ina Garten
2. Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles
1. Elizabeth Hoyt

And when I think of this list and these authors I usually think that, in most cases, they are writing books that I'd like to see more of from other people (hint, hint).

Now let's see if we can get other BookEnds agents to create their own five.

--jhf