Thursday, May 28, 2015

BookEnds Takes on #BEA15

In the back of my mind I've been obsessively debating which shoes to wear to BEA. Certainly BEA is a lot more than shoes, but if you've ever been to the Javits Center I think you'll understand my obsession. Hard floors, giant spaces and tons and tons of walking. Not to mention that its as far West as you can get in New York City so just getting there is a hike of its own.

Although BEA started on Wednesday, Bookends will be attending Thursday and Friday and while the free galleys and new books will be tempting (and snatched up), we're there primarily to network. At BEA we'll be meeting with various co-agents to discuss the possibility of foreign and performance rights for our books, as well as audio and anything else that we can do to promote and sell more rights for our authors and their books.

Moe has stepped into her new position with a vengeance and she and Beth have been working on updating, revising and reformatting our rights lists for the past month. They are wonderful. Somehow they make our already sparkly books shine even more.

And this year, like many years, we'll have a special guest. Our new intern James starts on Thursday. just in time to be inaugurated into BEA meetings, book lugging, and all of publishing in one giant room. I can't wait to hear his thoughts.

A few tips I've learned over the years at BEA:


  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You'll be walking and walking and some more walking so be prepared.
  2. Dress for the heat. The Javits is always hot so cool and comfortable are good.
  3. Pack lightly. You're going to want to grab book so pack your smallest purse and go. You don't want to be weighted down more than you already will be.
  4. Pick galleys sparingly. You don't want to be the one lugging five canvas bags full of books that you'll later wonder why you even grabbed them (they are just not your style). Trust me. I've been there. At BookEnds we make an effort to pick one galley for the team. Unless its something we all plan to read immediately we can usually share. We have also gotten picky. I'm not afraid to take a moment to read the cover copy and put the book back down if I don't think I'll read it. I mean, I still have galleys from last year I haven't read.
  5. Stop and chat with people. The whole point of BEA is to network and meet people. Stop and booths to say hello and take a moment to introduce yourself and pass out a card. And follow-up later!
And lastly, check out #BookEnds on Twitter and @Bookends_Literary on Instagram where we'll be Tweeting and Instagramming all the fun things we see and do.

--jhf



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Ways to Annoy Agents

Maybe I was just in a bad mood, but I recently received a request that set my teeth on edge. I mean this really irritated me.

Not too long ago I received an email from a writer I've never heard of with a request that, frankly, I was astonished by. While I'm not quoting her email verbatim to protect her identity it was basically this:

Dear Ms Faust, I hope you don't mind me writing to you like this. My debut novel is a romantic comedy with a strong 'career girl' angle. It was released as an e-book by [redacted] Publishing recently. It would be a huge boost, were you to do me the kindness of a tweet of the link below. [title of book and description redacted]. Very sincerely, [author name redacted].

#TitleRedacted  [links redacted] via @[AuthorTwitterAccount Redacted]

I've never heard of this author, to the best of my knowledge we've never met, she never queried me and I definitely do not represent her.

This is one of those instances where someone has lost sight of how best to publicize and promote a book. Requesting that people you don't know Tweet about your book is offensive and ridiculous. It's equally annoying to receive email (I receive a lot) announcing your book when, again, I don't know you. This is all called spam people. Don't be a spammer.

--jhf

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 Rules For Getting Your Query Read

There is so much information about how to write the perfect query and what it needs to include. In all this advice the one thing everyone focuses on is how many queries agents get, the one thing they fail to focus on is how much email agents get.

Whether its a query, emails from editors, authors or spam, agents, like everyone else, receive hundreds and hundreds of email every day. Let's face it, it gets tiring and a lot of the time what we really want to do is just hit delete. So how can you ensure that your query has what it takes to avoid the delete button and, even better, has what it takes to get the agent to read it right away?

1. Who? Make it personal. No Dear Agent, To Whom It May Concern or avoiding an address. If you want an agent to think you're serious about your book and hiring an agent you need to show that you've done your due diligence. A Dear Ms. Faust or even Dear Jessica Faust is all you need.

2. What? Show the agent what you're offering right off the bat. That means in the subject and in the first line.

If you know what the agent is actively looking for via #MSWL or elsewhere that's perfect in the subject: #MSWL Historic Mystery set in New York City or if you know the agent's tastes and clients she represents: Funny Contemporary Romance like Christie Craig I know that in my case a subject that tells me this query is going to be exactly what I'm looking for will probably get me to open it almost immediately.

Everyone is inundated with too much email and too much to do. If you want to grab an agent's attention you need to do so immediately. That means, you have your subject and the first one or two lines before an agent decides whether she'll read more or just reject. Make sure what you give her in those lines is exactly what's going to make her want to read more.

Don't clutter the first line of your query with nonsense. Get to the point. Give her an amazing title, the genre (if you haven't already) and tell her about the book. I don't want to know that you've spent 15 years writing it or that it's based on a true story. You can tell me that later. Hook me and give me what I want. I want a really great book that's going to sell to millions.

3. Why? Why should I want to read your book? This is probably one of the key things an agent looks for in a query. Why should this book be any different from others in the same genre? This is the place to tell me how your book stands out in what is guaranteed to be a crowded genre (they all are) and why I should take it on. What's the hook? How is that different from every other mystery/romance/fantasy/YA out there? If you can't answer this question easily you might need to take another look at the book itself.

4. Where? Place can tell a lot about a book so tell agents where your book is set. A book set in the back woods of Mississippi has a very different feel than a book set in Portland, OR. It also helps give the agent a visual for the book. This includes time period as well.

5. How? How you write that query will make a difference. Check, double-check and recheck for typos. Send it to a couple of people in your critique group to see how it will look in an agent's inbox and, very, very important, keep it short. No one wants to spend more than a minute or two reading a query so keep it as concise as possible and give only the most important facts.

--jhf

Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!

Our offices are closed to celebrate Memorial Day. 



We wish you a great day.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Get to Know Moe Ferrara

We are so excited to have Moe join BookEnds. It's always great to have fresh ideas come into a team, and Moe has already made some wonderful changes. At this point, you probably all know that Moe is looking for adult, young adult and middle grade submissions, especially in Science Fiction and Fantasy. She's also looking for romance and LBGBTQ characters. However, there's more to Moe than just her submission guidelines and I wanted to give her the floor to let you get to know her a little better.

Oh, and don't forget to follow Moe on Twitter: @inthesestones 



Tagline: I’m not really a coffee addict, I just play one on TV.

What Excites You About Being an Agent: I honestly cannot wait to dive into my submissions inbox. HINT: this totally means that if you are writing in the genres I represent, you should be flooding my inbox to the point I’m quoting JAWS and asking for a bigger boat. (please say I haven’t just dated myself here…)

Book Concepts You Never Want to See in Your Query Box: No vampires. Please. No vampires. I will look at literally ANY other paranormal creature… save vampires.

Glass ½ full or ½ empty: Actually, it doesn’t matter if it’s half full or half empty. What matters is that there’s still room for more coffee or more wine. My ideal glass is the one that will hold an entire bottle of wine… but I digress.

Starbucks Drink of Choice: Back in another life I worked at Starbucks, so I’ve lost the taste for it after making one too many caramel macchiatos. However, I have two drinks I absolutely adore — one is on the menu and one is something we baristas came up with. On the menu, when I need a caffeine jolt (are we seeing a trend here?) would be a grande sugar-free cinnamon dolce Americano. For those playing along at home, that is the proper way to “call” a drink. Some habits never die. However, if you want a fantastic drink in the fall/winter, ask for a “Chaider.” Order a caramel apple spice and ask for a bit of chai in it. Trust me — tastes exactly like mulled cider.

eReader or Print book: It really depends on the type of book I’m reading. If it’s submissions, I tend to read them on my iPad because it puts me in the frame of mind to read critically. My Kindle is stocked with about 90% erotic romance and the books I utterly adore and want them close to hand if I want to re-visit an old love. Otherwise… as the friends who have helped me move can attest… I own far too many print books. So the not-so-short answer is “both.”

Morning person or Evening person: Well, since it’s currently 1:38 AM as I’m answering these questions, I leave it to you to decide if I’m a morning or an evening person.

Working soundtrack: I oscillate between Broadway and film soundtracks depending on what I’m working on at any given point in time. Right now, I’m staring at Spotify waiting for the Something Rotten! soundtrack to drop so I can play it obsessively.

If You Could Move Your Office Anywhere in the world where would you go: I say this without hesitation: London. I lived abroad for five months during law school and it’s one of the few places that just feels like home to me. If money weren’t an object, I’d base my office near Earl’s Court or Kensington.

Any other questions for Moe? Now's the time to ask.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Query Critique: YA Thriller

Jessica-

Thank you so much for offering to critique queries on your blog. I don't mind brutal honesty a bit. I understand that you will receive many query letters and that mine might not get picked. 

Best regards,

[redacted]



"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 Ms. Agent,
When [I think it would be helpful to include her age here so we know right off the top it's YA] Sasha’s [could you just say Sasha and Raj's so we can tighten?] jewel-thief father dies before completing the greatest heist of his career, she and her brother, Raj, they vow to steal a  the priceless sapphire for him in his memory. Her father had meticulously planned the heist to every detail. As long as they stick to his notes, nothing should go wrong . . . but of course everything does.  I think it's obvious everything is going to go wrong, but keep us hanging on that a little. It builds suspense and I'll want that in the book too.
Sasha and Raj discover the safe open and the sapphire already gone. Even worse, the owner’s teenage daughter lies unconscious in a pool of blood. Moments later the police arrive, and Raj believes he and Sasha have been set-up. They manage to escape, but not before being spotted by guests at a party next door. When the theft hits the news, Sasha learns her father’s darkest secret.
He stole more than jewels. He stole Sasha as well. And here's where you lose me. Suddenly this feels like two different books. I was super intrigued by two kids who were completing their dad's jewel heist. I pictured a YA Italian Job in my head. And then all of a sudden it becomes a story about an abducted child which interests me as well, but doesn't feel like it's necessarily the same book.
The girl accused of the crime, Avery, is a sister Sasha can’t remember. The newspapers tell a startling tale of Avery’s past: her identical twin was abducted from a playground in London. Since the party guests are certain they saw Avery flee the apartment building on the night in question, Sasha must unravel the tangled knots of their father’s past to win her sister’s freedom. If she can find the link between the missing jewel and whoever set them up, then perhaps she can find the sapphire and clear her sister’s name. And, most important of all, reunite with the twin she hasn’t seen in fourteen years. You start to lose me here too. Why would Sasha suddenly care about Avery? And why is Avery accused? Suddenly your query has me asking a lot of questions about the book and to me it feels like the book itself isn't working. I'm not saying that both aspects can't be in the book, I'm just saying that to me it doesn't feel like they're working. They don't feel cohesive.
My YA Thriller VANISHED is complete at 78,000 words. I envision this title as the first in a two-book series. I am working on the second book now.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear Ally Carter, author of the HEIST SOCIETY books, speak at a local library on her book tour. She mentioned that most of her readers are Middle School students. I believe VANISHED will appeal to readers who devoured Ms. Carter’s books in Middle School and are looking for something geared to a slightly older audience.  I'm not sure you need this. It's sort of interesting so it can't hurt, but most agents/editors will know who the YA audience is and will hope you know it too.
In your interview with Kirkus Review you mentioned an interest in YA novels about siblings. I hope you will enjoy meeting Sasha and Raj. Below is the first ten pages of VANISHED. This is good. Show that you've done your research. Obviously you can't do this for every agent you query, but it does help when you can.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[redacted]
[phone number redacted]
@[redacted]
[redacted]@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Meet Moe Ferrara, The Newest BookEnds Agent


I have been waiting and waiting to announce this news, not necessarily patiently, and here it is. I am thrilled to announce the addition of Moe Ferrara to BookEnds.

The very first time I talked with Moe I knew she was someone I wanted to have a beer with and, therefore, the perfect fit for our team. Before even officially starting at BookEnds she's proven herself to be smart, creative, passionate, motivated and a real go-getter. I feel very lucky that she's chosen to continue following her publishing dreams with BookEnds.

Moe is looking to acquire adult, young adult and middle grade fiction in science fiction, fantasy and romance. She's also actively looking for projects with LGBTQ characters. Queries can be sent to Moe at MFsubmissions@bookends-inc.com.

Moe joins Kim Lionetti, Jessica Alvarez and Beth Campbell at BookEnds. I couldn't be prouder of this team and everything they do. 

More information on all the BookEnds agents, who they are and what they are acquiring can be found on our website.

Today is a great day to celebrate at BookEnds. Please spread the word and help me welcome Moe.

--jhf

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Time to Edit

We talk a lot about the writing process and how each writer has her way of doing things.Believe it or not, editing isn't much different. Each editor has a different editing process and, like writing, it tends to be as creative as it is technical.

Most of the editing an agent does, or at least most of the editing I do, is for content. I'm not a copyeditor and therefore that's not my primary concern. My concern is helping the author create the strongest story possible to either sell it to the publisher or, in some cases, sell it to the reader.

A common misconception is that editing shouldn't take much longer than reading. I think you'd be surprised how often I'll get a book on a Monday with a request to have it edited and returned by Friday. That can only be done if I shut down everything else I have scheduled for the week and edit.

On the quick end an edit is more or less reading the book and taking notes as you go. This can be done about twice as long as it takes you to read a book. If however the book needs more work it can take a whole lot longer. Recently I edited a book and timed myself. It took me two-three hours to get 50 pages done. That means with a 400 page book I spent roughly 8-12 hours editing. And editing, like writing, cannot typically be done all in one sitting. I get sloppy, I get tired and I can't focus. So in this case I was breaking it up into 1-2 hour time slots. I still had other work to do after all.

It still took me most of the week go get finished.

My suggestion to authors looking to get an edit from their agent before sending to an editor is to give it to your agent at least 4-6 weeks prior to your due date. Your agent needs time to edit, but you also need the time to revise or incorporate those edits. I would also suggest planning this time well-ahead with your agent. Make sure you get on her schedule and she's aware it's coming. The worst thing that can happen is that you spring it on her, expect it in a week, and she's facing one of the busiest weeks of her year. That's probably not going to make anyone happy.

--jhf

Monday, May 18, 2015

Let the Main Character Drive the Bus

A special thank you to author Rebecca Petruck. I read her article in the March/April edition of the SCBWI magazine (originally published on the blog Nerdy Chicks Write) and was inspired. My original plan was to write my own version, but after reading hers about three times I realized there was no way I could do it better. This breakdown of Hunger Games is absolutely brilliant. So instead I went to the source and she was kind enough to allow me to reprint her original version. I think its valuable advice for writers of all fiction, especially those of suspense of any kind.

Let the Main Character Drive the Bus, by Rebecca Petruck

You know how “Show Don’t Tell” is both true and kind of meaningless these days? I think the same about “Start with Action.” That advice drives me crazy because it’s incomplete: “Start with an Action that Reveals the MC’s Character.”

Imagine if The Hunger Games opened with Katniss volunteering. It would be dramatic, and we’d think her brave for taking her sister’s place. But would we be invested in the decision? A lot of people are surprised when I lay out the actual opening of The Hunger Games:
·       Katniss wakes up alone—Prim isn’t there (motivating fear);
·       Katniss sneaks across the perimeter to hunt (not afraid to break what she considers senseless rules; demonstrates a skill);
·       talks with Gale (establishes rules of world; her focus on survival blinds her to his feelings);
·       stops by the market and to see the mayor’s daughter to trade (confidence in navigating her world);
·       prepares for the reaping (Katniss’ soft side revealed in her care for Prim);
·       at the reaping (Katniss’ view of the world).
Laid out like that, the scenes don’t sound very exciting do they? And, they take up twenty pages of space. Yet, the opening of The Hunger Games is deeply compelling because of the sense of dread hanging over every moment and because we are getting to know a fascinating and contrary character. On the surface, Suzanne Collins didn’t start with action that seems particularly interesting, but she started with the right action to reveal her MC’s character.

Which is why when I work with critique partners, the thing I often get most passionate about is plot. Plot is the action the MC takes to reach her external goal, and that action ultimately must reveal not only her true, internal goal but also her soul, the “Why” of everything she does. That’s a lot to ask of an action which is why a well-conceived plot is essential. I don’t care what happens next; I care how what happens next affects the MC.

In Wired for Story,* Lisa Cron discusses the action-reaction-decision triad of effective scene-making, which I interpret as plot-character-character. Plot is the speeding bus your MC can’t get off. How she reacts to her situation and the things she decides to do because of it is what your story is about. In itself, plot is fairly passive—it’s a bus. The driver is the reason we care.**

Once you know your MC well, certain decisions become inevitable, which means key elements of plot become inevitable, too. That doesn’t mean your plot becomes predictable. It’s that the logic that guides your MC’s decisions means certain actions must follow. Plot unveils that logic and reveals a compelling and unpredictable character. Often, because your MC’s worldview is skewed by some conditioning event, not only can’t the reader predict how the MC will react and what she will decide, but also the MC is frequently surprised, too. This cycle reveals the MC not only to the reader but to herself, and forces her to react and make more decisions that lead to the internal change she may not be aware she needs and actively resists.

In that sense, don’t look at plot as “What Happens Next.” Look at plot as the cattle prod that forces the MC to make decisions that reveal her strengths, weaknesses, professed goals, and secret goals, often unacknowledged even to herself. Plot is what lays bare your MC, peeling back layer after layer of flesh until we finally glimpse the beating heart. I like the way Cron decribes this, “…the heart of the story doesn’t lie in what happens; it beats in what those events mean to the protagonist.”

What does this mean in the practical sense of putting words on the page? Try out your MC in a variety of scenarios, looking for actions that she will resist the most, that will draw the strongest reactions, and force the most difficult decisions. Dig past your first two, three, four ideas and see what happens when you get down to the fifth or sixth. Once you’ve collected a number of actions your MC will particularly detest, check out Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s an effective tool for organizing those actions into a plot. (You may download a Beat Sheet here: http://www.savethecat.com/category/beat-sheet.)

In short, seeking the answer to a question your characters want answered should lead them to the question they actually need answered. Seeking requires movement. Plot creates that movement and in doing so reveals your characters’ true selves.


*I <3 i="" style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Wired for Story
. Seriously, it took extreme willpower to not quote half the book and call this post done.
**Did I torture that metaphor? I really wanted to use Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, so I had to shoehorn in the driving metaphor somewhere. Also, Speed, because that movie should not be so damned watchable.


Rebecca Petruck is a Minnesota girl, though she also has lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, England, Connecticut and, currently, North Carolina. A former member of 4-H, she was also a Girl Scout, a cheerleader, and competed in MathCounts. She reads National Geographic cover to cover. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, from UNC Wilmington, and is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary. 

Her debut STEERING TOWARD NORMAL is a Blue Ribbon winner as a Best Book of 2014 by the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB), an American Booksellers Association Indies Introduce New Voices selection, as well as a Kids Indie Next List title. Vanity Fair's Hollywood dubbed it a "book we'd like to see made into a film," the L.A. Times included STEERING TOWARD NORMAL in its Summer Books Preview, Christian Science Monitor named it one of 25 Best New Middle Grade Novels, it is part of the International Reading Association's list "Books Can Be a Tool of Peace," in the 2014 ABC Best Books for Children catalog, and an American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture Recommended Publication. The BCCB gave it a starred review.
 

STEERING TOWARD NORMAL was released by Abrams/Amulet May 2014. You may visit her online at www.rebeccapetruck.com.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Prioritizing Your Submission List

This question came from a reader:

I was wondering your thoughts about prioritising agents for querying? I've got a list of agents who represent my genre. Based on the authors they represent and what I've read about them I have 6 of those agents at the top of my list. How should you query to give you the best chance of landing a top-of-list (TOL) agent:
  • Send to your top agents first and work down?
  • Send to the other agents first so you can edit your query based on the outcome of those queries before sending to your TOL agent?
  • Send a mix to TOL and other agents?


I think the best people to answer this question are probably other authors. Since my submission pool (editors and publishing houses) is a lot smaller than an author's my process is a little different. That being said, I have some thoughts.

I think you should make a list of Tier I, II and III agents. That doesn't necessarily mean the agents themselves are better or worse than each other, but make the list based on how you think the agent will suit you. What kind of books does she represent, have you ever met her and what was your rapport like, what have you heard from others about the agent.

And then I would divide them up. If you have 15 agents on each list I would take five from each for your first round of submissions, five from each for your second round, and so on. That allows you the possibility of editing while still reaching your Tier I agents, but also gives you the opportunity to explore agents who might end up quickly moving to that Tier I slot.

I also think you set a timeline for that next round. Don't wait until every agent from your first round responds, instead give them about 2-3 months (whatever works for you) and then send your next round. There are agents who don't respond, those you'll never hear from and those who are just slow. You can't let them dictate how quickly you move.

--jhf