Friday, September 28, 2007

Here Come The Gallagher Girls!

STATUS: TGIF! I’m still troubleshooting issues from yesterday. Fingers crossed that everything will be resolved by Monday.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? FEEL SO DIFFERENT by Sinead O’Connor

Yep! You only have to wait a few more short days before you can get your next Gallagher Girls fix. Ally Carter’s long awaited sequel CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY will hit shelves next week.




After staking out, obtaining, and then being forced to give up her first boyfriend, Josh, all Cammie Morgan wants is a peaceful semester at school. But that's easier said than done when you're a CIA legacy and go to the premier school in the world...for spies.
Cammie may have a genius I.Q., but are still a lot of things she doesn’t know. Like, will her ex-boyfriend even remember she exists? And how much trouble is she really in after what happened last semester? And most of all, exactly why is her mother acting so strangely?

Despite Cammie's best intentions to be a normal student, danger seems to follow her. She and her friends learn that their school is going to play host to some mysterious guests--code name: Blackthorne. Then she’s blamed for a security breach that leaves the school's top-secret status at risk.

Soon Cammie and her friends are crawling through walls and surveilling the school to learn the truth about Blackthorne and clear Cammie’s name. Even though they have confidence in their spy skills, this time the targets are tougher (and hotter), and the stakes for Cammie's heart—and her beloved school—are higher than ever....



“The characters still succeed in keeping readers interested in the unexpected “missions” around every turn. Purchase this one for fans of the first book.”
--Sarah Krygier, School Library Journal

“If you have the security clearance, come join the Gallagher girls on their latest humorous mission, where you just might learn a little about boys, life, and spying.”
--Book Divas

Thursday, September 27, 2007

We Love BookList!

STATUS: Oi. Lot of things in crisis today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (I LOVE YOU) FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS by Nat King Cole

Wow. Take a look at this Booklist review. It makes me want to buy it and I represented the book!

This book hits shelves tomorrow, Sept. 29th.


From Booklist
Part mystery thriller, part coming-of-age story, and part civil-rights history, this gripping memoir is set at the time of the horrific Atlanta child murders and told through the eyes of a young African American teen whose mom is a cop on the task force searching for the serial killer. Just after the first two bodies are found in 1979, Kim, 13, enters a white private school in the suburbs, far from her inner-city neighborhood. Over the next two years, a total of 29 black boys are found dead. Is the killer a Klansman type? Could he be a black man? The racism at school is ugly. No one there cares about the murdered inner-city kids. So why does Kim stay in the fancy school? Is she playing white? Is she running for safety? As the climax builds, and her mom brings home more and more details of the murder investigation, Kim's personal conflicts are as intense for her as the terror outside.
--Rochman, Hazel

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Author In Distress

STATUS: Well, today couldn’t be nearly as exciting as yesterday. I mean I can’t expect an offer every single day.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MISUNDERSTANDING by Genesis

An author I have known for several years (because we’ve worked together at a couple of recent conferences) called today in obvious distress because her agent had had her proposal for three weeks now without response. What does it mean and what should she do?

Well first, I think she should take a big deep breath and a take a moment to examine her thinking. My guess is that the author has been playing a greatest hits record of all the worst-case scenarios and therefore can only imagine the worst possible outcome (and once in that mind set, it shapes all other thoughts from that moment on!).

It might be as simple as the agent not having had enough time to turn-around the proposal in a timely fashion.

Of course that’s never happened to me (ahem, coughs loudly).

So what does it mean? Possibly nothing and the agent has been time-crunched. Now it could also mean the proposal stinks, the agent now hates you, and is planning to drop you faster than a hot potato.

But I kind of doubt that.

So what should she do? Take a deep breath and then write a straight-forward and professional email that says something along the lines that she is very excited about the proposal and would like to simply check in on the status, make sure it was received, and when does the agent think he/she will be able to respond.

Then start a new project or go walk the dog or in some other way embrace life.

Now if the agent doesn’t respond to that email in 3 weeks, that might be cause to start worrying. The agent should at least reply to a status inquiry email.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It’s Good To Eat Humble Pie

STATUS: What a day! Got a film offer for a project that I’ve been shopping for three years. Kid you not. I made the author sit down before I revealed the details.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? OPERATOR by Jim Croce

Sometimes I need to laugh at myself. When I first started my own agency back in 2002, I think I was more surprised when an author said they would come on board than when they said they wouldn’t. After all, I was pretty unknown back then and hadn’t established nearly the track record I have now. It made sense to me that if it were a choice between me and a more established agent, I’d lose.

But here’s where I get to eat humble pie. As most of you may or may not know, I take on only 3 or 4 new clients a year—if that. (I’m not a take-on-everything-and-see-what-sells kind of agent.) I don’t offer representation often and when I do, most authors are ready to say “yes” because they have already done their research and would know if they really wanted me as an agent or not. It’s not to say they don’t ask questions or don’t contemplate other agent offers seriously. They do and I have lost possible clients to some mighty fine fellow agents (and you know who you are!) But as of late, I’ve always known that I was a serious contender.

But it’s been a while since I’ve gotten a flat-out NO from an author.

And I was so surprised. And then I had to laugh at myself because goodness, why should I be surprised? I’m not the be-all, end-all. If I think so, that means I’m getting too big for my britches!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Agents, Agents, Agents!

STATUS: Rainy days and Mondays. Kind of sums it up.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BIG LOG by Robert Plant

Kind of reads like Girls, Girls, Girls! on an Adult entertainment site billboard.

But seriously, if you want to attend a conference with a serious agent list, take a look at this line up for Backspace’s Agent-Author Conference on Nov. 6 & 7 in New York City.

There are a couple of mighty fine editors thrown in there for good measure but Agents, Agents, Agents! just sounded better.

I’m just sorry I won't be there. I imagine you could ask about any question your heart desires at this conference and then you wouldn’t need to read my blog anymore. Look at this program!

Speaking of reading my blog, boy did I cause some consternation on Friday.

And y'all are so smart. You figured out right away it wasn’t about me since I only do submissions electronically (and can you tell that to all those folks who keep snail mailing me stuff). Next year we are going to have to stop responding. It’s eating up to much letterhead and time. I hate to just recycle without replying but desperate measures may call for desperate action.

But back to Friday’s post.

The problem was not with the request to email it. Some agents might not be fine with that but then they’ll simply tell you so and then you can choose whether to snail mail it or not.

The problem was not in letting this agent know that the full manuscript was out with other agents. To me, that’s just professional.

The problem was in detailing that 30 other agents (or pick some other high number) had already requested the full by email.

Why? Because of the subtext of what is implied. Look at me agent. My manuscript is hot. You’d better get on board and let me email it to you because so many other agents have asked to see it right away and I’ve emailed it to them. (By the way, this author could be lying. It’s happened before…)

Yuck. I’m not sure I care how good this manuscript might be and the reason why I shared this story is that many of the agents I knew felt the same.

Unreasonable? Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just telling it like it is and if it’s helpful, great. If not, it’s not.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Success That Hurts More Than Helps?

STATUS: Finished a deal for a current client today. Perfect timing because she can spend the weekend celebrating.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WATCHING THE WHEELS by John Lennon

We’ve all heard the adage that common sense isn’t so common, right? Some days I really have to wonder.

Let’s say for example that you are an author who has received several requests for your full manuscript. This is great, right?

But let’s say the agent requesting the manuscript is old-fashioned and has asked that you snail mail it to him/her.

I’m thinking it’s not the best idea to the email the new requesting agent and brag about X number of agents who have already asked you to email it to them and can you do the same for this request.

I’m thinking disclosing that you are widely popular with the agents might hurt more than help. I’m thinking that the agent who made the latest request is changing his/her mind about giving your work a look.

Not that this is based on a true story or anything.

Now I think it’s perfectly okay to ask if you can email it instead, but I don’t think I would mention that 30 other agents (or pick a number) have already requested it.

Seems like common sense but that’s just me.

TGIF folks!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't Worry, Agent Unhappy

STATUS: I’m making headway in my client reading. It really is strange how clients all seem to submit stuff within days of each other. How do they do it?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BLACK COFFEE IN BED by Squeeze

All agents will tell you that our time is valuable but here’s what is interesting. It’s not valuable in the way that most writers probably think.

It has nothing to do with ego—as in “I’m such a big shot agent you'd better not waste my time.” (Although I imagine some agents might feel that way!)

When I say my time is valuable, I mean it in the sense that there is never enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done to be a good literary agent. There are only so many hours in the day to give clients good service, to respond to queries and sample pages promptly, to address contract or royalty statement issues, or to simply negotiate a new deal with an editor, or to ______ And then fill in the blank with a hundred different possibilities.

Nope. There’s never enough—even when I find myself working 12 or 13-hour days (not unusual by the way).

So when I say my time is valuable, that’s what I mean. And I’ll tell you what agents appreciate. If I have your full manuscript and you’ve decided (or are about to decide) to sign with somebody else, please tell me right away.

I can either read immediately or if the decision has already been made, I can wish you Godspeed and a quick sale.

But if I read quickly, and let’s say I took the weekend to do so, because I don’t know that your decision has already been made and I find out on Monday that I took 6 hours to read your full but you’ve already signed with someone else…

Hum…I don’t have happy feelings because of the problem with time; there is never enough. All I can think about is what I could have gotten accomplished in those 6 hours (or whatever) that I spent reading a-no-longer-available manuscript.

Let’s just say it doesn’t have me whistling “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Editor Letter for HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET

STATUS: I need a quiet day to read. And just read.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION by Paul Simon

As promised, the general bones of my letter to the editors regarding Jamie Ford’s project. Jane von Mehren at Random House won the auction so I put her name in the salutation.

I actually had a meeting with Jane earlier this summer where I mentioned this project. She was great about emailing me every few weeks just to get an update on when I was submitting it.

She loves this novel, and we are thrilled to work with her on it.

Hello Jane,

This novel my book club needs to read right now—who cares about publication. I started HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET at 9 p.m. on a Monday night. I thought I would give it a quick look because I knew the author already had an agent offer on the table. I figured I would know within the first 50 pages whether it was right for me. Well, after 10 pages, I realized that I had to tell myself to breathe. There were sections that literally had my heart racing and I needed to skip to end of the chapter just to discover what happens. Then I would go back and read what I had missed, my heart still pounding.

And if you don’t feel this same way as the story unfolds, you’ll know this manuscript is not the right one for you.

HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is the story of Henry Lee, a Chinese boy in Seattle who falls in love (although it is forbidden) with a Japanese girl named Keiko right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is also the story of Henry Lee as a middle-aged man forty years later who, when passing by Seattle’s old Japantown’s Panama Hotel, stumbles into a news conference on the hotel steps where the new owner has discovered in the basement the untouched belongings of thirty interned Japanese families. When the owner unfolds, for the news cameras, a Japanese bamboo parasol with a bright orange koi painted on it, Henry instantly recognizes it as Keiko’s. In that moment, he can no longer suppress his familiar and never forgotten longing and he must confront the memories and the choices he did or did not make all those years ago.

Growing up near Seattle’s Chinatown, the author Jamie Ford was called “Ja Mei” by his Chinese relatives—which quickly became “Jamie” to the rest of the world. He is also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and a survivor of Orson Scott Card's Literary Bootcamp. In 2006 he took First Place in the Clarity of Night “Twin Lights” Fiction Contest, and his short-story, “I am Chinese” was a Top 25 Finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2006 Short-Story Award for New Writers. He is currently an advertising creative director and HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET is his debut novel.

This is an unforgettable story about fathers and sons. About love and the choices we make that can forever change our lives.

I can’t wait to have someone else to talk to about this novel.

All Best,
Kristin

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mitchell and Webb - Write this..or that..or maybe

Mitchell and Webb - Write this..or that..or maybe

STATUS: I have to leave here before 5 p.m. I've finished two contracts, reviewed royalty statements, and then started negotiating a new deal for a current client. Way better than yesterday!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? IT HAPPENS EVERYDAY by Carly Simon

I just had to share this youtube video. I've literally sent this to all my authors, all my agent friends, and to all my favorite editors. We strive not to do this when we give feedback. I don't think we are always successful...

Serious beverage alert but it is work safe so enjoy.

I promise I'll be back tomorrow with my letter to the editor about Jamie Ford.



Monday, September 17, 2007

Jamie Ford’s Query for HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET

STATUS: I’m not sure what I think about my day. I’m still here at the office going on 7 p.m., which is never the desired thing. I guess I’ll leave it at that.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DREAMING by Blondie

As promised and with Jamie’s permission, here is the query he sent me for his manuscript which was originally entitled THE PANAMA HOTEL.

For me, that title didn’t really capture the essence of the manuscript so we spent a lot of time kicking around alternatives before we went out on submission. It was quite a process but after sharing several forerunner titles with a variety of reliable sources, we agreed to HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.

One of the fun things about this submission is that many editors loved the title and couldn’t imagine the novel being called anything else.

That means we did a good job. Random House hasn’t mentioned changing it so as far as we know, this will be the title for the book.

Dear Ms. Nelson:

I must admit I hate Asian stereotypes. You know the ones. Good at math. Hardworking. We all look alike. Come to think of it, that last one might hold water. After all, my father once wore a button that read “I am Chinese,” while growing up in Seattle’s Chinatown during WWII. It was the only thing that separated him from the Japanese, at least in the eyes of his Caucasian neighbors.

Sad, but true. Which is probably why my novel has a little to do with that particular piece of history.

I was really caught by his personal connection to the history he plans to explore. I've never heard of the "I am Chinese" buttons, which is kind of fascinating.

Anyway, the working title is The Panama Hotel, and when people ask me what the heck it’s all about I usually tell them this:
“It’s the story of the Japanese internment in Seattle, seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old Chinese boy, who is sent to an all-white private school, where he falls in love with a 12-year-old Japanese girl.”

I've never seen a novel about a Chinese boy falling in love with a Japanese girl during such a volatile time period. I have to say that I was pretty much hooked by this story concept. Simple but there's a lot of weight behind it. I did happen to know that the Chinese and the Japanese had long been at war before the advent of WWII so I knew of the general animosity between the countries--but I knew nothing of how that might have played out on American soil.

But it’s more complicated than that. It’s a bittersweet tale about racism, commitment and enduring hope––a noble romantic journey set in 1942, and later in 1986 when the belongings of 37 Japanese families were discovered in the basement of a condemned hotel.

At this point, I knew I was going to ask for sample pages but I have to admit that this paragraph made me pause. Dual narratives are tricky and extremely hard to pull off. I would only know if the author succeeded by asking for sample pages. I was struck by the belongings being discovered in an old hotel. This ends up being a true story and was part of what sparked Jamie to write the novel. I didn't find out this info until later and I must say that if included, it could have added power to the query letter.

This historical fiction novel is based on my Glimmer Train story, I Am Chinese, which was a Top 25 Finalist in their Fall 2006 Short-Story Competition For New Writers. An excerpt was also published in the Picolata Review.

Nice. It always helps to know there has been some previous recognition.

Think Amy Tan, but with a sweeter aftertaste. I was already thinking Amy Tan but a male version...

Thank you for your consideration and time,
Jamie Ford

The Panama Hotel
Historical Fiction 86,000 words / 353 pages

About the author: James “Jamie” Ford grew up near Seattle’s Chinatown and is busy writing his next novel, Rabbit Years. In addition to his Glimmer Train accolades, he took 1st Place in the 2006 Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest. Jamie is also an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.

Nice. Some more literary creds. I would have asked for sample pages without the mention though.

He hangs out at www.jamieford.com and has been known to eat jellyfish, sea cucumber and chicken feet on occasion.

This made me smile and that's never a bad thing.

Now here's what's interesting. As I mentioned on a previous blog, an agent friend of mine received the same query and it didn't spark his interest at all. Now he freely admits that he was in a time crunch at the time he received it. That can change our response. If he hadn't been, he might have paid a little closer attention but for the most part, this query didn't float his boat much.

And that just highlights the subjective tastes of agents.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement—Part Ten

STATUS: TGIF and it’s a half day for me as I head up into the mountains to attend a wedding this weekend.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY CHERIE AMOUR by Stevie Wonder

And now we have reached the exciting conclusion of agency agreements. I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seats.

That last two clauses officially wrap it up.

There is an arbitration clause—that states if there is an issue we both agree to have it settled by arbitration and last but not least, the entire agreement and assignment clause.

This clause states that this is our entire agreement (hence why it’s at the end). There is also an assignment clause, which both parties would need to get written permission to do--except in the event that my agency merges with another agency and then the assignment simply happens.

Then it’s time for signatures etc. and the final form that all clients have to fill out in lieu of a W9 (which we have to have on file by law).

That’s all folks.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement—Part Nine

STATUS: It’s been a busy day and now I have drinks with a client who is in town and then later with an editor from New York who is also in town. I like to think they come all the way just to see me.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? ROXANNE by The Police

We are pretty close to tackling all the clauses--in my agreement anyway.

The next clause is Risk In All Negotiations. Basically, I say I can’t guarantee that I can sell the book or get the client an acceptable offer and a client can’t sue me for it.

I’m an agent, not a miracle worker and although it doesn’t happen often, I sometimes can’t sell a project. Shocked gasps I know. There is no agent on this planet who sells 100% of what he/she takes on.

The next clause talks about governing law. Since my agency is based in Denver, then the agreement adheres to the laws of Colorado.

The last two clauses tomorrow and then on to Jamie Ford’s query.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Anatomy Of An Agency Agreement—Part Eight

STATUS: Oops. I almost forgot to blog today. Seriously, I was all proud of getting just about everything done that I had hoped to. It slipped my mind until now.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE CRYING GAME by Culture Club

We haven’t talked about agency agreements in a while so let me jump back in with clause 10 which is entitled Term of Agreement.

I’m not one to have a client stay with me if they aren’t happy with the representation (and vice versa) so in my agency agreement, either party can terminate the relationship with a thirty day written notice.

However, the clause also states that my agency remains the agency of record for all contracts negotiated while the agreement was in force. We also get to continue to pursue any secondary rights sales for material on which we sold the primary rights (for the life of that primary agreement.)

I also have a clause that doesn’t allow a client to do a bait and switch by having me do all the work to land a publishing contract only to have a client terminate the agreement (yet accept the publishing contract) so as not to pay my 15% commission. Not cool. So there is language in this clause to protect the agency from unethical authors.

And yes, folks, unethical authors do exist. I have many stories I could share on that score but I won’t. I may rant but I do try to stay mostly positive.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Demon’s Lexicon: Letter To the Editor

STATUS: I lied yesterday. Today I’m finishing that contract if it’s the last thing I do…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? (I JUST) DIED IN YOUR ARMS by Cutting Crew

Now that we’ve had a chance to look at the query letter that Sarah sent to me, I thought it might be interesting to see the submission letter I emailed to editors for THE DEMON’S LEXICON. [Note: this is the main bones of the letter since I often tailor it to a specific editors etc.] Since Karen Wojtyla won the auction at S&S, I’ll use her name in the salutation.

Before I share the letter, here are some interesting tidbits about this manuscript and its submission.

1. This novel sold to an editor I had never worked with before. In fact, Karen didn’t know me as an agent at all. I had to ring her up and introduce myself so she wouldn’t think I was some lunatic who wanted to send her something. Now Karen is delighted I made that phone call. We are having lunch next time I’m in New York and that will be the first time we will meet in person.

My point? Agents don’t know every editor on the planet. Now we know a good majority but not all.

2. Here’s another fun tidbit. I knew the minute an editor had finished reading the manuscript because they just had to talk to me immediately about the ending. I received some late night emails and phone calls because of that. Editors couldn’t believe that they hadn’t seen it coming (even though I had warned them in the submission letter). It’s also the only submission I’ve done where I think every editor who loved it, read it twice before the auction unfolded. They had to see for themselves that all the clues were there and they could have figured it out.

And so without further ado, the letter:

Hello Karen,

Let me tell you why I love this novel. First, it’s a story of two brothers—Alan and Nick. Think for a minute. When’s the last time you read a YA urban fantasy that was about two brothers? I certainly haven’t seen one in a long time. But it’s also the story of a brother and sister—Jamie and Mae who get caught in the events unfolding around the Ryves brothers. In fact, their interconnecting lives become absolutely essential to the outcome. Here’s the other reason I love this novel, right at the minute I think I’m brilliant and I have the novel figured out, the author turns the whole story on its head. To say there is a twist would be an understatement. But if you go back and reread, you’ll see that all the subtle clues are there.

So what is THE DEMON’S LEXICON? It’s a story set in modern-day London. It’s about two brothers who are on the run with their mother because she was once the lover of a powerful magician and when she left him, she took an important charm amulet with her. When the eldest son gets marked by the magician’s demon, the family must stand and fight and only the strong yet mysterious bond between the brothers can save them.

The author, Sarah Rees Brennan, is Irish and currently lives in London. For a short stint, she lived in New York and became involved with a wide circle of writers and publishers who encouraged and supported her, including New York Times bestselling authors [Name removed] and [Name removed] (both have already agreed to read the advanced copy for a blurb) and Anna Genoese, a former editor at Tor. She has developed a wide audience through her popular blog, http://mistful.livejournal.com/
, where she writes movie parodies, book reviews and some stories, and has around four thousand registered readers (she was also recently interviewed about her blog in The Washington Post). She participates in http://community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey --an adult and YA urban fantasy writers’ community started by Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely). Currently, Sarah is completing a Creative Writing M.A. with her dissertation tutor Liz Jensen (shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize for her book Ark Baby).

I’m super excited to share this novel with you, and I can’t wait to talk about the ending. So call or email me when you are finished and then I can gush all I want.

All Best,
Kristin

Monday, September 10, 2007

Query Talk: Demon’s Lexicon

STATUS: I’m finishing my review of this contract if it’s the last thing I do today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? COME MONDAY by Jimmy Buffett

I have to say I found the discussion about this query very interesting. I have to remember that most of my blog readers don’t spend hundreds of hours reading thousands of query letters. (If you ever get the chance to intern at an agency, I think it would be a real eye-opening learning experience).

So let’s talk about this query and queries in general some more.

1. It’s more important for a query concept to be original than for a query to be perfect.

Sarah’s query for DL is far from perfect. I didn’t post in my blog as an example of that. I’ve read hundreds of “perfect” queries that didn’t have an original story to offer (at least as presented in the query).

Now, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t spend your time getting a query letter critiqued and perfecting it to the best of your ability. I do think that helps the cause but for the most part, agents aren’t looking for perfection. We are looking for a story spark—something we haven’t seen before—and this is so hard to define because often we won’t know it until we see it. Then it’s compounded by the whole subjectivity issue. When I talk about Jamie’s query, I’ll go into a little more depth on that. His query worked for me but Jamie also sent that same query to an agent friend and it didn’t float his boat at all. Purely subjective.

But back to Sarah’s DL query. Do you know what in that letter caught my attention? It was her outline of the family dynamics unfolding (albeit set in a fantasy world). Seriously, that’s what snagged my interest. So often I get these really distant, lacking-in-emotion fantasy query letters about three folks who end up on a quest but there’s no sense (in the query) of any real, interpersonal relationship dynamics which forms the heart of any story—regardless of genre.

Nick’s mom had an affair with a dark magician and because of her, Nick and his brother have to spend their lives on the run, and Nick is embarrassed that his mother had the affair to begin with.

That strikes me as pretty accurate as to how a 16-year old would feel about it. That alone caught my attention. I actually didn’t care what the rest of the query letter said. Now I did keep reading to get more details (and the possible romantic triangle caught my eye as well) but ultimately I knew I was going to ask for sample pages because I had NEVER BEFORE SEEN this scenario in a fantasy query letter—despite the thousands I receive.

That’s it. Simple. No need to analyze whether the grammar was perfect. Heck, I make enough snafus on my own blog that I’m not one to judge. I’m pretty flexible because grammar errors can be easily fixed. Everything else about writing such as voice? Not so easy. In my mind, the author had captured that sense of teen angst about all relationships which feels authentic. If she manages to capture the same in the manuscript itself, then I know I’m in for a good read, which leads me to point two…

2. You can have the most perfect and original query letter in the world and if you can’t back that up with good sample pages, it doesn’t really matter how great the query letter is. Sarah's query letter is just fine--not spectacular--but the sample pages were unputdownable from page one.

Don’t lose sight of that.

And here’s my last point of the day. I often think that writers want the holy grail of query letter writing. That if I do X (and just tell me exactly what X is) in the query letter, then I’ll get an agent and a book sale.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s an aligning of several factors and then having that all come together because the query caught the agent’s attention, the agent loved the sample pages, then the manuscript was strong, and then editors loved it and then once published, the readers loved it and then…

It’s magic.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Query For Demon's Lexicon That Landed Me As The Agent

STATUS: TGIF and might get out of here before 6 p.m. …

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SAVE A PRAYER by Duran Duran

Since I just announced my two recent auctions, I thought it might be fun to share the original query letters with my blog readers.

First up is Sarah Rees Brennan and with her permission, the original query letter that was sent by email and that made us request 30 sample pages.

Dear Ms. Nelson and Ms. Megibow:

I am a big fan of Ms Nelson's blog and the dedication and positive attitude obvious in every post. I would like you to consider THE DEMON'S LEXICON, my YA urban fantasy set in modern-day England. The manuscript is complete at 75, 000 words.

What can I say, I'm a sucker for flattery! Seriously, it's a very straightforward introduction. All the necessary information is given.

What would be the first word to come to mind about the runaway romance between a beautiful, headstrong woman and a darkly fascinating magician?

For Nick, it's 'embarrassing', since said beautiful, headstrong woman was his mum. 16 year old Nick has been brought up on the run from the darkly fascinating magician after things really didn't work out between him and Nick's mother. He resents his mother for the predicament they're in, and he was mostly raised by his older brother, Alan.

The answer wasn't what I expected, and I love how she taps into exactly what a 16 year old would think about his mother and a romance. She has my full attention.

Nick has also been brought up knowing that there are certain people who have limited magical abilities. Some of them, the magicians, increase these magical abilities by summoning demons who give them more power - in return for the magicians giving them people to possess. The other magically gifted people have considerably less power and rely on magical trinkets and information, exchanged every month at a 'goblin market.' As the only people who know about the magicians and their victims, they do try to control things, but it's an endeavour that is not going well.

This is a quick explanation of the world she has created. Notice it doesn't take pages and pages. One brief paragraph. I expect the next paragraph to give me more of the conflict that is going to unfold with the character of Nick that she has introduced.

Nick, who can summon demons and is pretty handy with a sword, is mostly concerned with just getting by, but his life is greatly complicated by the advent of his brother's latest crush. Not only is she a little too attractive for Nick's peace of mind, but she has a boy in tow who bears the marks of demon possession. Added to that the fact that Nick has started to suspect that Alan, the only person in his life who he trusts, has been lying to him about a few very serious things, and not only Nick, but everybody else, are in for some surprises.

And here's the conflict. I'm intrigued. Two brothers on the run. One is lying. Hum... I think I need to see more.

I have a popular online blog, some contacts in the writing and publishing world. I want to move ahead on this with an agent, and I also want an agent for the long term, for negotiation and guidance - in fact, everything it says on the tin - that is to say, your website.

I'm still wondering what a "tin" is and if it's a Irish/British saying... but what the heck, I'm interested enough to read sample pages.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours,
Sarah Rees Brennan

On Monday, I'll share with you the letter I wrote to the editors that started all the excitement about this very special novel. Until then...

I'm out.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What Not To Write About

STATUS: It’s almost 6:30 p.m. and I’m shaking my head as to why I didn’t accomplish more during the work day…

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EVERY MORNING by Sugar Ray

Media Bistro is a fountain of good stories lately. Despite the gory nature of this news clip, I just had to laugh. If you are a writer and you commit a crime, don’t write about it in your “novel.”

I mean, duh. This doesn’t even qualify as a decent rant because really, how stupid can some people be?

Polish Writer Convicted of Murder He Described in Novel (AP)Fishermen dragged the dead man's body — hands bound behind his back and tied to a noose around his neck — from the cold waters of the Oder River in Poland in December 2000. Police struggled to dig up any clues until a tip five years later led them to a novel with an eerily similar murder — and its author, Krystian Bala, who suspected the victim of having an affair with his estranged wife.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spam Me Baby One More Time

STATUS: Still working on a contract and reading some new client proposals. Fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEATS SO LONELY by Charlie Sexton

Must be the day for the spam kings. I read about this Blogger issue at Media Bistro.

Blogger Attacked by Hackers Posting Fake Entries (BBC)Google's Blogger site is being used by malicious hackers who are posting fake entries to some blogs. The fake entries contain weblinks that lead to booby-trapped downloads that could infect a Windows PC. Infected computers are being hijacked by the gang behind the attacks and either mined for saleable data or used for other attacks.

I’m almost afraid to provide the link to the full article but if you want to take that chance, here it is.

Also, I had gotten an email from a client asking me to link to her at a site called QUECHUP. Good thing I didn’t have time to do anything about it this morning because it too is a spam scam.

I was chatting via email with an industry friend who had asked me to be linked with him via LinkedIn (which is a legitimate site). He warned me about QUECHUP. It turns out that what that outfit does is simply email everyone in a registrant's address book automatically, without asking if they'd like to do that.

A quick email to the client verified that that was indeed true. And let me tell you, the email you get looks pretty real so watch out for it.

And last but not least, I have a public announcement for any LA authors who are interested in learning more about publicity etc. Several of my clients have worked with Bella Stander so I can recommend her. The line up looks pretty good as well.

BOOK PROMOTION 101
Los Angeles -- September 29 The Orlando Hotel,
West 3rd St.9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Class limited to 8
Price: $495; includes lunch at La Terza restaurant plus 1-hour follow-up phone consultation.
Registration deadline: Sept. 10

Guest Speakers:
Sally Nemeth, author of The Heights, the Depths, and Everything In Between
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
Jane Marla Robbins, reading coach, actress & author of Acting Techniques for Everyday Life
Kevin Smokler, editor of BOOKMARK NOW: Writing in Unreaderly Times; cofounder, BookTour.com

Guest Publicists:
Megan Underwood Beatie, West Coast publicity director, Goldberg McDuffie Communications
Kim Dower, Kim-from-L.A. Literary & Media Services

Bonus: Wine & cheese poolside chat with guest authors after the workshop.

TO REGISTERSend email to with subject LA Workshop. Please include the following information:
1) Your name.
2) How you heard about Book Promotion 101.
3) Your literary agent's name.
4) Book title(s), publisher, publication date (include month if published 2006-07). 5) A one-sentence description of your most recent book.

Example: OLIVER TWIST (Penguin Classics, 1998). In 19th century London, a runaway orphan boy is taken in by a gang of young pickpockets directed by a scheming miser.

I will respond with payment directions & homework assignment.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What Made Me Burn The Midnight Oil

STATUS: I’m fully recovered from jet lag! Today I offered representation to a new client (very exciting). I worked on a contract, and I handled some outstanding issues. All in a good day’s work.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEGIN THE BEGIN by R. E. M.

Do you remember when I was posting all those late night blogs about a week or so before I went on vacation? I mentioned that a lot of exciting things were happening at the agency but I couldn’t really talk about them.

Well, I can finally talk about the two auctions that happened back to back in the first weeks of August. Both were several day auctions as well and so during the work day, I did nothing but handle the bidding etc. Then I would work on everything else that should have been done (especially since vacation was approaching) until about 11 o’clock at night. Then I blogged—hence some late night entries and that midnight oil.

So here are my two exciting deals in Publishers Marketplace Deal Lunch terms.

FICTION: DEBUT
Jamie Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, a story set in Seattle and told in alternating time periods, when a Chinese boy falls in love with a Japanese girl during the Japanese internment in 1942, and later in 1986 when the belongings of Japanese families are discovered in the basement of a condemned hotel and he must confront the memories and choices he made years ago, to Jane von Mehren at Ballantine, in a good deal, at auction.

CHILDREN’S: YOUNG ADULT
Sarah Rees Brennan's debut urban fantasy trilogy starting with THE DEMON'S LEXICON, about two brothers hunted throughout England by a powerful magician's circle after their mother steals a charm and when the eldest is marked by a demon, the younger uses swords and dark arts in an effort to save him but unwittingly uncovers the darkest of secrets, to Karen Wojtyla at Margaret K. McElderry, in a major deal, at auction.