Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This just in-the draft of back jacket copy for our recent sale to Berkley, Town in a Blueberry Jam:

In the quaint seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine, Candy Holliday has a mostly idyllic life, tending to the Blueberry Acres farm she runs with her father, and occasionally stepping in to solve a murder or two…

Candy is just as shocked as the rest of the locals when two murders occur back to back. First, an aging playboy takes a midnight nosedive off a seaside cliff. Then gossip columnist—and recently crowned town Blueberry Queen—Sapphire Vine stops the business end of a hammer with her head, right in her own home.

When her friend, a local handyman, is accused of the murder, Candy investigates to clear his name. Was the gossip columnist moonlighting as a blackmailer? Was the playboy playing around with the wrong person? But as Candy sorts through the town’s juicy secrets, things start to get very sticky indeed…


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I often whine and boast about our dealings with authors and queries, partials and manuscripts. I seldom discuss "the other side" of our job as agents, our outreach and business with editors at publishing houses.

If you're fond of analogies, I guess you could say that agents are to editors as authors are to agents. In other words, if you are an author wooing a literary agent you want to play by the rules, you want to put your best foot forward, you don't want to goof up by sending a sci-fi query to an agent who hates that genre. In short, you polish your shoes, iron your shirt, brush your teeth and put on lots of hair goo before you query an agent.

We're in the same boat when we pitch an editor. We normally call editors we've never met to discuss a project we think will be of interest. Sometimes we talk to the editor; sometimes we talk to the editor's assistant. It makes us nervous. We plan carefully before we make these calls. Our hands sweat and we take a deep breath before we dial the number. We don't want to waste their time or pitch a book that is not of interest. We brush, floss and sit up straight and usually the editors are very nice and tell us to send our projects in. We feel very good after these calls. (It's even more nerve-wracking when we meet editors in person for the first time.)

But, maybe we can increase our outreach. That's why I'm writing today. This blog has always been dedicated to authors. We write it to keep you informed about our business and to make sure you know just what we are looking for. You seem to appreciate this information and your comments and suggestions are much appreciated.

As you know if you read this blog, I am now Twittering and find that publishers are beginning to follow my Tweets. I hope they will follow me back to the blog. I'm thinking of writing about the books our agency is trying to sell to editors, reporting on what we're working on and how we're approaching publishers.

Here's the big question: Would you, the authors who read this blog, find this information interesting? Or would you feel I'm straying from the basics of author-agent relationships? Let me know what you think?


Friday, April 24, 2009


Debra Schubert expresses this opinion about self-publishing:

I almost self-published my first book through LuLu, who were great to work with btw. I had gotten to the point where I was working on the cover art, but my heart wasn't into it. I've always wanted to go the traditional publishing route, so I stopped in the middle of the process. I left that book and LuLu behind, and I'm glad I did. For some people, I'm sure the self-publishing route is the way to go. It just didn't feel right for me.


My last post dealt with the new self-publishing expo. I asked readers to share their experiences in self-publishing. Here's what our client Patrice Sarath, author of the Gordath Wood series (Berkley Publishing / Ace) has to say:

"A couple of years ago, before Kae and John sold my Gordath Wood series, I edited a self-published anthology called Tales From the Secret City. This was a collection of stories by my writer's group.We did this for a couple of reasons; it was a good way to get our name out there at conventions. It was fun. We were able to showcase our work in a professional, polished manner. We could have a launch party and invite all of our friends and family and sell a few copies. We gave away copies to reviewers and famous authors, and even got a few good reviews.We did not expect this to: launch our careers as writers. Make money. Bring us fame. Substitute in any way for legitimate publishing. We also were very careful in another respect. Only our top work was published even though it meant that first rights were used up. In my case and the case of two other authors, that meant we published stories that had first been printed elsewhere. Overall, the experience was good, only because we went in with our eyes open and treated it as something separate from traditional publishing.The anthology is called Tales From the Secret City, and it's available on Amazon or through Lulu."

Anyone else have a story to share?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Self-publishing is not going away.

Two publishing veterans announced recently that they are going to hold a Self-Publishing Book Expo:

The time has come to have an exhibition where the spotlight is solely on self-published books and authors. The first annual Self-Publishing Book Expo—or the SPBE as we’ve begun to affectionately call it--will bring national focus and attention to the fastest-growing segment of today’s publishing industry. Unlike any other book exhibit, the Self-Publishing Book Expo will be the only event of its kind to highlight the books of self-publishing companies and their authors, and give them the prominence and prestige they deserve.The SPBE will bring together many of the key players who make this universe the thriving area it has become, while simultaneously exposing both the houses and the authors to a greater audience of other publishing professionals, booksellers, media, and consumers.

The Expo will be held in NYC on November 9. Who will attend? You can certainly expect to see self-publishing companies like Author Solutions (owners of iUniverse, Author House and Xlibris) and perhaps others. Whenever something new like this crops up it's always wise to "follow the money" and these are the folks who stand to profit from this event. The fee for the day is $15.00, so many frustrated authors will probably attend too.

[NOTE: Author Solutions will have revenue of $100 million this year according the The Wall Street Journal.]

Is this a good thing? Well, I'm for any venue that brings writers and book lovers together. I would caution authors to take it all in, but not to get carried away. Self-publishing is an evolving art and fraught with monetary and emotional pitfalls. "Buyer beware" is an apt warning to he or she who wants to self-publish. When you sign on with a publisher who asks you to pay for the process only one of you is assured of a profit, and it's not the author.

I'll keep track of this event and may even attend myself just because I'm curious. I'll keep you posted.

Do any of you have good or bad self-publishing experiences to relate?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I've spent the past two mornings elbow-deep in emailed queries. As usual, I'm feeling both exhilarated and depressed.

I'm exhilarated because there are so many creative writers, wearing their hearts on their sleeves and doing their level best to find someone who agrees that they have talent. They read our blog, they read our profiles in Jeff Herman's book and on various writers' websites. They work hard to craft their queries and they don't waste our time with meaningless drivel.

I'm depressed because, like most agents, we have to turn down most of the queries. Some of the queries we turn down are just great--problem is they simply don't resonate with either of us. Some of the turn downs are rejected because they too closely match projects we are already representing. When I reject these I feel bad because they are truly worthy. My hope is that other agents will snap these up.

But what REALLY is depressing is that there are so many people out there who still don't get it. They don't know what we want, they don't know the business, they are clueless! Even worse, the art of writing eludes these folks; the queries are so awful, I can't imagine what their "books" are. So, please bear with me while I vent about this category of queries. After all, it is my blog and I can vent if I want to!

Vent number 1--The person who flatters us with false information. "I am so impressed with your vast list of formidable clients." Huh? Last time I checked our "list of clients" was nice, certainly not vast. Formidable? Oh, please!

Vent number 2--Clueless in California. "My project is an 89,000 word fictional novel." Really? No nonfiction novels? IF IT'S A NOVEL IT'S FICTION.

Vent number 3--Stooping to consider our services. "You may be fit for my completed 91,000 word middle-grade urban fantasy." Sorry, I checked our fitness quotient. We failed.

Vent number 4--Get with the program. "My work is a 48,500 word supernatural horror story." Story is right. More words, please. Bare minimum is 60,000; our preference is 100,000.

AND Vent number 5--THE PRIZE WINNER. "An abused woman is the greatest composer who ever lived....." I have gotten this query and rejected it at least a dozen times--so has Jon. Sometimes it's from different writers. What's going on here? Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks for bearing with me today. I'm really in a good mood. Really!

Monday, April 20, 2009


We are delighted to announce that Town in a Blueberry Jam: A Candy Holliday Mystery by B. B. Haywood will be published by Prime Crime / Berkley Publishing Group next summer. The book was acquired by editor Leis Pederson. Two more books in the series will follow.

Town in a Blueberry Jam charmed us from the beginning. Set in a coastal town in Maine with the blueberry farm of Doc and Candy Holliday as a backdrop, the book has everything a good "cozy" mystery needs--a likable and interesting protagonist whose curiosity gets her in and out of trouble and whose intelligence solves crimes; a set of quirky and amusing minor characters; crimes that puzzle and defy the experts; a simmering love interest; a conclusion that leaves readers wanting more.

The cozy mystery genre is one that continues to thrive. People just can't seem to get enough. From Agatha Christie's Miss Marple to television's "Murder She Wrote" to The Cat Who.... series, to Town in a Blueberry Jam, cozies are here to stay (at least for now). We have another on the back burner that features a remarkable new writer--hoping to sell that one soon!

Are you a cozy writer? If so, send us your query!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I spent Tuesday in New York City, learning more about "the new media" and how it's affecting all of us. The monthly meeting of The Women's Media Group was devoted to the topic. The Women's Media Group is a New York-based nonprofit association of women who have achieved prominence in the many fields of media, and they are all nervous. What is going to happen to newspapers? Will Kindle replace the physical book? Will Twitter and Facebook take the place of face-to-face discourse? What will happen to our jobs?

The speaker for the meeting whose name I did not get (and will report in the next post) told everyone to calm down. She said that the STORY is still all important. It doesn't matter what the format, the STORY will live on. Her words resonated with me. And they should with you too. After all, you write the stories--you need to know that there will be a place for them, new media or old.

And speaking of "new media," I also had a great meeting with Laura Nixon Dawson, a digital strategy consultant who has launched a new service called AuthorWeb. Laura and her colleagues do the "technology scutwork for small-press/independent authors--getting them set up with Google Book Search, making their titles available for the Kindle and other ebook readers, enhancing their listings on B&N and Amazon, getting them the right identifiers from Bowker, and working with Filedby and other author services." For all the services they don't do, they use a referral bank of PR reps, website developers, and tech folks who can step in when needed. [Note: I have not used her services and can't vouch for her, but I enjoyed meeting her and think it's exciting that the new media is creating new opportunities such as this.]

A scary time for publishing? ABSOLUTELY! But, with the scary time come many new opportunities. Keep your eyes open and keep writing.

Friday, April 10, 2009


At the midpoint of our morning walk today Jon remarked that it was "quiet, too quiet." Our favorite dogs, Annie and Mazie were not outside to greet us, the school buses were absent, no kids on the corner, no crazed commuters. Duh! For most of the world this is a holiday. For us, it's business as usual, but the down time does give us an opportunity to try to catch up.

To complicate things this week--we are breaking in a new email system. Our old system, Lotus Notes, has been great, but it's time to move on. So our friends/clients Rob and Jane Kirkland spent all day last Sunday installing the new Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager on to our computers. Notes is still there as well until we get all the kinks worked out. Jon's Outlook seems to be working like charm; mine is not, so things are moving much slower than usual. Rob and Jane will be here again this weekend to work out the glitches and finish the installation. Watching those two work, one on one computer, one on the other is awe-inspiring. They are both IBM/computer geniuses and I swear, for them it's a competition to see who can correct the glitches first. (I hear strains of "Dueling Banjos" in the background when they work.)

We'll feed Rob and Jane a nice Easter dinner and celebrate Rob's birthday when they finish their work and we should be up and running full-speed next week.

For those of you who have queried, your queries will be answered. Jon is afraid that he's missed a batch of queries in the transition and encourages you to query again if you've not recieved an answer. We usually answer queries within a month. And for those of you who've been good enough to send requested partials and manuscripts, we thank you for your patience. We are moving forward and we will someday get to the bottom of the piles!

We wish you all a lovely holiday weekend!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I'm in the mood today to talk about the kinds of books that make us all gooey inside. I'm not talking, necessarily, about the books we love to read as much as those we think we can sell. Most often the two intersect, but not always.

Our agency, as you readers know by now, is interested in all kinds of fiction. Lately we've become more attuned to YA books as well as books for adults. The only kind of fiction I'm not keen on (from an agency perspective--not a personal one) are sword and dragon (S&D) fantasy books. Contemporary fantasy is just fine, however. Jon is still looking at the S&Ds and he likes detective, action, police procedural, military, spy and end-of-the-world thrillers and science fiction of all kinds. He likes to read these books and he hopes to sell them.

I am taking a new liking to nonfiction of all kinds. I don't, as a rule, read health books. But I am interested in representing them. Here's what I'd like to see: books about one disease or syndrome written by a doctor, a nurse or other health professional, or even a patient who happens to have a beautiful writing style and unique perspective. Like all nonfiction, it helps if the author has credentials, is a noted blogger or expert. If you or someone you know fits that description, let me know.

Jon was reading this over my shoulder and pointed out that I just wrote a query! Oh, geesh, that's a lot of pressure!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Ever hear of a VOOK?

Check out the "Bright Ideas" column in Sunday's New York Times. A mad scientist named Bradley Inman is "...starting Vook, a platform for e-books that will combine text, video and social networking."

The mind reels! (Special note here: I've been listening to P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster series in the car for the past few weeks and am really into English prep school terms.)

I may be betraying my age and station, but this one is, as Bertie Wooster says, "A bit thick!" I'm trying to figure out how this is going to work. Let's take a popular book we all know and love and turn it into a vook:

Title: Angela's Ashes

OK, we're enjoying the adventures of this downtrodden Irish family when we get to the part about them staying overnight in a stone hovel that is absolutely teeming with lice. (Insert video here of family jumping around whacking at lice, and screaming and scratching wildly.) Now it's time to visit our "social network" to comment on this scene.

Kae says: Eeeeww! How gross!

Jon says: For god's sake, grow up! This is a tense piece of literary stuff here!

Ellen says: Well, I agree with Kae, it IS gross. Why don't they just f***ing leave?

Kae says: Those poor children! (Video close-up of lice crawling on mattress)

Jon says: I'm outta here!

Ellen says: Oh, yuck. IMO, this is lame. Later.

Kae goes back to reading? Watching more lice video? Looking for more folks on the social network to commiserate with about lice-borne diseases?

Forgive me, but I can't get my head around it yet!

The nice part is, if vook takes off, they'll still need stories. They'll still need authors and they'll still need agents!