Saturday, May 24, 2008


Jon and I will be doing a workshop at the Garden City Library just outside of Boise, Idaho on Thursday, June 19. I'm not sure of the time yet. It will be early evening. As soon as I have definite information I'll post it here. Meanwhile, here's a quick description:


A 1-hour workshop designed for writers of fiction and nonfiction books.

Presented by:
Jon & Kae Tienstra
KT Public Relations & Literary Services
Fogelsville, PA

· What can a literary agent do for me?
· Should I try to query publishers without an agent?
· Are emailed or hard-copy queries best?
· Should I include a synopsis and sample chapters with my initial query?
· Should my fiction book be complete before I query an agent?
· Should my nonfiction book be complete before I query an agent?
· How long do I have to wait for an answer when an agent has requested a partial or manuscript?

· What can I expect from a publisher and agent after my book is under contract?

These are just some of the questions that will be covered in this informal and informative workshop presented by Jon and Kae Tienstra, book publicists and literary agents. The agents will present a brief program followed by a question and answer session. Interested authors can sign up in advance for a 5-minute “interview” with the agents after the program.

Please come see us if you live in Boise or will be in the area. We'd love to meet you!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


We spent a day in New York City last week visiting editors and cementing a new relationship with a Dutch publisher for whom we'll do publicity work.

Because we are not based in New York City, it's imperative that we regularly visit the publishers there to find out what they are looking for and how they prefer to work with agents. Simply stated, it's important to meet editors face-to-face.

Familiarizing oneself with a huge publisher like Random House could become a full-time occupation. Personally, I love the ambiance of the place. The lobby is a book-lover's dream with floor to ceiling glass-fronted book shelves lining the walls. The shelves are stocked with Random House "first editions." Actually, I don't think they are the real thing. An editor told us a couple of years ago that the original first editions are archived "off-campus" in a place friendly to aging paper and bindings. It doesn't matter if the books in the lobby are real or not. It feels wonderful to be surrounded by the classics that bookend our world. Jon advises every writer or would-be writer or anyone who loves books to step into the lobby, take a few deep breaths and spend time scanning the shelves. It's like visiting old friends in a museum of the written word.

We visited three Random editors. Here are a few things we learned:
  • Nonfiction is "the way to go" for new agents. A Crown editor advised us to concentrate on this genre. "Fiction is a hard-sell," he said. Editors must defend their choices at editorial meetings and fiction is often extremely difficult to champion. It's a hard business fact and it's why we and other agents scour the queries for the gems that can survive the editorial trials.
  • In nonfiction, superlatives sell--the best, the biggest, the greatest.
  • Platform is everything. He advised us to look for journalists and hot bloggers for new book ideas.
  • REAL GOOD WRITING is still the gold standard. (But we all know that, don't we?)
  • Another editor is looking for "fiction that is believable as nonfiction and nonfiction that reads like fiction."
  • Steampunk is still alive and well. (Yea! We have THE steampunk novel in the re-writing stage.)
It was a great day, complete with two hours at the Museum of Modern Art and lunch at the Carnegie Deli where the waitress kept interrupting our meeting with the Dutch publisher to talk about my bracelet! Gotta love New York.

Monday, May 12, 2008

EXCUSE THE TYPO.... the post above. (..those, that time). Seems our blog isn't letting us edit this morning. Now you know that we know the mistake is there and won't let us change it. Sigh!


I spent two hours this morning reading email queries. Jon spent an hour doing the same thing. We broke up those that time with a couple of phone calls, coffee breaks and other quick duties, such as brushing Norton the office cat.

We did not count the number of queries we each read, but I'd estimate that I burned through 20 to 25; Jon says he read 5 or 6, plus a few more snail mail queries. That's more than enough for one morning. The problem is that they all begin to blur and when that happens it's time to stop. It's simply not fair to those at the end of the reading session.

Of the 25 queries, I passed 4 or 5 to Jon who is more enthusiastic about military thrillers and science fiction than I am. I rejected the rest, with the exception of one commercial fiction / suspense novel.

"So, what the heck are you looking for, anyway?" you might well ask. And, it's a question we ask ourselves every day. The simple answer is "good writing." After that, here's what I'd love to see:

A contemporary fantasy with a strong female protagonist.

A really, really good love story that hasn't been done to death.

Good women's fiction with characters I like. (Think Jane Porter)

Jon is looking for:

Innovative science fiction.

A solid military thriller with a complicated protagonist.

The next Robert Parker. ; )

Please, oh, please says Jon--NO MORE DA VINCI CODE WANNABEES!! He gets at least 5 of these things per week.

Now it's on to partials and manuscripts. We have slipped another two weeks behind.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Jon grew up in suburban Chicago when times were slower and simpler. One hot summer day when he was about 12 or 13, he decided that what he really needed was a horseshoe court. He'd seen one at a family picnic earlier and decided that his dull back yard would be an ideal spot to create one for himself. The spot he chose was out by the garage, right where a pile of junk and lumber now sat. He figured all he'd need was a couple of lengths of pipe and some horseshoes and he'd be in business. Cheap. Easy.

So, on that hot day in July he approached his dad. "Can I build a horseshoe court out by the garage?"

His dad looked at the spot and scratched his head. "I guess so. You'll have to move that lumber and other junk to the back lot before you do anything though."

Jon began moving the lumber. It was heavy. The day was hot as hell. It was really awful. He stopped for a bottle of pop (remember this is Chicago). He looked at the pile of lumber which was still huge. He sat under a tree and thought about his horseshoe court; then he went back to work.

There was still a lot of lumber left by suppertime. Jon worked until dark and then started again the next day. Eventually, by the end of the day he (and his dad) had moved all the lumber and other junk out to the back lot. Finally, Jon thought, the place was ready for the horseshoe court.

"Not so fast," said his dad. "You've got to cut all these weeds and then move those cinder piles left over from the coal stove. Jon realized that the job was far from over. He got to work again. He cut the weeds, a backbreaking job in itself. But moving the cinders was worse than the junk moving. The piles of cinders defied him and he figured it simply wasn't worth the effort any more. When his dad told him he'd need to dig and frame out the court, Jon gave up and went swimming.

To this day in our family, the term "Horseshoe Court" is used to describe the job you undertake only to find that there are a gazillion little jobs that must be accomplished before you can even get to Job One.

Jon relived his Horseshoe Court this afternoon. It's gorgeous today and when we broke for lunch we decided to eat on the back patio just outside our office. During lunch Jon noticed the hummingbird feeder hanger which needed to be moved to another location. "I'll do it after lunch," he told me. "It'll only take a few minutes.

He went into the utility room downstairs and retrieved a screwdriver. Back outside he quickly unscrewed the hanger and took it over to the new fence where it was to hang. He realized that he'd need to make new holes in the fence and went back inside to find a gimlet. He looked in both tool kits, to no avail. He went upstairs, got the garage key and opened the garage. He looked in his tool chest out there--no gimlet. He locked the garage, put the key away and came back downstairs. He took his drill out of its case and was about to assemble it when he decided to look in his tool kit one more time. Voila! He found the gimlet. He put the drill away.

Back outside he made two holes in the new fence and went to screw in the hanger. He was tightening the first screw when it gave way and the head stripped off. Back inside, he looked in his tool kits for brass screws--no luck. Back upstairs, he retrieved the garage key, unlocked the garage, found two brass screws after 10 minutes of searching. He locked the garage, went back inside, down the stairs, and out to the back again. He screwed the hanger into the fence.

Job One done--it took almost an hour. He could have read two partials in that time. Damn Horseshoe Court!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Pretty good day for a Saturday. I spent the morning with my friend Carol tread milling and steaming at the gym. When I got home I checked my inbox and discovered a FLAMING email from an angry author. I rejected his science fiction query and he was royally outraged that I did so.

Angry Author (AA) told me I wouldn't know talent if I stepped on it. Actually, he said "You wouldn't now talent if it PAID YOU to publish." Huh?

AA said I didn't know what my agency needed. Then he listed all his books, just to make me sorry I'd passed. To quote AA again: "Here's what you miss forom actulayy working with a literate professional." What's that you say? Literate. Well, AA did spell literate correctly.

All of this information was dispensed in nasty, angry verbiage, which is this author's right. But, it's actulayy very stupid. AA and I will never work together, but agents do talk and they do blog. We don't enjoy rejecting your queries and we usually have good reasons for the rejections. Responding as AA did demonstrates that he really hasn't a clue about how this business works.

Jon and I are very fortunate because we seldom get responses like this. In fact, we seldom get any response from authors whose queries we've rejected. And that's just fine. Once in awhile, an author thanks us for our time which is very thoughtful.

So, Angry Author, I hope it made you feel better to get it off your chest. And I want to thank you for giving me a good blog topic!