Tuesday, September 4, 2007

SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER Blog Party--Literary Agent, Jessica Faust


Christine Wells writes: We are very lucky to have with us today one busy lady--literary agent extraordinaire, Jessica Faust from BookEnds Literary Agency. Jessica doesn't sleep, so combined with her business acumen and literary savvy, that makes her the perfect agent for a bandita from the southern hemisphere.*g* (I do try to refrain from calling her too often at 5am!)

Jessica Faust writes: Christine has very kindly asked me to be a guest blogger and write something motivational. Funny thing is that while I write every day on my own blog, suddenly this is very difficult. What do I say to a new audience and, truthfully, am I really the right person to be doing motivational writing?

Writing is an extremely difficult path and whether you’ve chosen it or it’s chosen you it’s guaranteed to be filled with bumps, bruises, tattered egos and lots of rewrites. Few things are more humbling than the search for an agent or publisher, but one of the things I think is so often forgotten during this path is the true joy agents and editors feel when finding that special gem. Despite what many might tell you, we aren’t in this business because we get a kick out of sending rejection letters. No, we are in this business because we absolutely love books and there is nothing more exciting than finding a book you love and being integral in bringing that book to the attention of the world.

When Christine and I first met it was a very unique situation. She was a Golden Heart finalist with an offer in hand. Needless to say this makes it pretty easy to find an agent. Christine will have to pipe in here, but my understanding (and assumption) is I was not the only agent she was considering. And I was sweating it out. There’s a belief that writers are really at the mercy of agents and editors and you’re the only one who experiences the anxiety of the wait. But that is as far from the truth as you can get. Once an agent, or an editor, makes the decision to offer representation, or a book deal, she has fallen in love. Nothing is more important in that moment than winning. She is sitting on pins and needles, hoping against hope that she’s been charming enough, that her offer is exactly what you want and yes, that you’ll choose her. Each time that phone rings she jumps and each hour that passes without word is painful. While Christine’s situation was unique, it would have been no different had she come to me without an offer in hand. Once I am committed enough to offer representation I’m all in.

I was lucky. Christine chose me and her first book, Scandal’s Daughter, releases this month. Not only do I feel lucky to be working with Christine, but I have had the privilege in already sharing in her successes. And yes, it’s true, I screamed when it was announced that she won the Golden Heart. I’m only sorry she wasn’t there to share in my excitement.

So what magical words of advice do I have for you? I don’t. I don’t have any secrets of how to find an agent, become published, maintain a long and prosperous publishing career and yes, make one, two or more bestseller lists. Because sadly, there are no secrets. Instead, there’s good old-fashioned work. Success in this business requires those bumps and bruises, rewrites and sometimes painful edits. The path is never a smooth one and rarely a straight road. And less I forgot, often the path means a little bit of luck, but if you look around you, at all of the truly great success stories out there, you’ll see that there’s a lot of luck to be had. I know I feel a little lucky with each new client I have the privilege of taking on.

Jessica will swing by the bandit lair now and again so feel free to ask questions. There's a prize for one lucky reader who comments--you guessed it! A signed copy of SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER and assorted goodies from Bandita Christine Wells.

47 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

Jessica, welcome to the Bandit lair! I hope you have a great time while you're visiting us. I'm not surprised you fell in love with Scandal's Daughter. I had the privilege of judging it in an Australian competition when I think it wasn't much more than a first chapter. Gosh, did it make me sit up and pay attention! I don't think I've ever read a contest entry that was that good. We actually 'met' because when I found out who had written this marvellous piece of work, I emailed Christine and told her how brilliant she was and how I was green with envy of her talent (now, that's a sincere compliment from a writer!).

What wonderful advice you gave us in your blog. Definitely motivating!

By the way, I bet Christine has gone all shy and self-deprecating while she's reading this comment!

Caren Crane said...

Jessica, welcome! We are very excited to have you with us today. We are also glad you fell in love with Scandal's Daughter. Christine is a wonderful writer and lovely person. Having her and the book come to you with an offer in hand must have been like getting a birthday present! *g*

We are having Anna C. twist Christine's arm (hard) so she will come to San Francisco. Hopefully you will get to see her there. The rest of us hope to see her too! So far, we've only gotten to adore her from afar.

Thank you for representing Christine so we can all get her books in our hot little hands!

Buffie said...

Hey Jessica!!! So, you never, ever sleep . . . Sorry, just had to comment on that -- as a mother of two boys I try to sleep whenever possible :)

It is great to get a sense of how an agent feels when pursuing an author. And I think it is so great that you screamed when Christine won!!

I can't wait to get my own copy of Scandal's Daughter.

Christine Wells said...

Self-deprecating? MOI?

But I am blushing a little at all of this attention. Thanks, Jessica! You are a wonderful person to have in my corner. I thought it was fantastic that you screamed when I won the Golden Heart.

Foanna, what can I say? We've been through quite a lot together in the past couple of years. Your support and friendship (as well as the Pen of Death) have meant an enormous amount to me. Thank you! And bring on more Regency Noirrrr. I can't wait for the next Anna Campbell.

Caren, you're a sweetheart! No arm-twisting necessary (even though I could take Foanna any day*g*). I will be in San Fran with bells (and Bandita buttons) on!

Christine Wells said...

Hey, Buffie, great to see you!

I also am a mother of 2 boys. I can't remember when I last had a full night's sleep. I think I had one in 2002...

Stacy S said...

That's so great. Looking forward to getting Scandal's Daughter.

Annie West said...

Jessica, thanks for popping in and especially thank you for giving us your agent's perspective on the wait to find out if you've made a match with an author. We're so used to hearing about the long nerve-wracking wait, and experiencing it, from the author's perspective. It's great to hear about your excitement for and commitment to a project and a new author.

It sounds like you and Christine are working marvellously together. Congratulations to you both!

Annie
Who is waiting with bated breath for her copy of 'Scandal's Daughter' to arrive.

Christine Wells said...

Hi Stacy S! Thanks for commenting. Hope you enjoy Scandal's Daughter!

Big waves, Annie! You're so right--we don't expect that an agent or an editor might be as excited as we are when they sign us. I always think writing is a business, but you can't be successful in it unless you really love books. Thanks for joining us! I can't wait to get my Annie West fix once I finish this book!

Donna MacMeans said...

Jessica - Thanks for joining us. Thank you as well for your perspective. After all those years of writing in pursuit of agents and editors, I never considered that they might be in pursuit of me as well :)

You truly found a gem in Christine. SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER is destined to be only a first in a long line of successes.

Donna

beverley said...

Oh, I definitely want a copy of Scandal's Daughter (should I be so lucky!).

I read your blog faithfully every day Jessica, but I'm happy you posted about the Bandit lair because I've never been here.

I know for me, it will be an exciting day when a) I get an offer for representation.
b) I get an offer for my book and c) When it actually comes out in the stores.

Boy, I wonder how long I'll have to wait for the above three to happen.

AndreaW said...

Congrats on your release, Christine!! I can't wait to read SCANDAL'S DAUGHTER! ;)

And everyone needs to check out Christine's website. It is one of the loveliest sites I've ever seen!

Kirsten said...

Hi Jessica and Christine! I just picked up SD yesterday and didn't have a chance to open it up. Hmph. Darn kids. Darn job. Why don't they realize I have more important things to do?!

Jessica, I appreciate hearing things from your side of the table! One thing I'm curious about--do you factor in how you think you'll work with the author when you offer representation, or how professional you think the author might be about deadlines, contracts, etc?

Thanks for swinging around the Lair this morning!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Jessica! Welcome to the Lair! Its great to have you with us. I'm bummed because my local B&N is also sticking to the release date on SD, but I can go TODAY! Yeah! I'll have camera in hand, Christine.) Jessica, it was great to see Christine's book up on the front page of the BookEnds Website. Loved your post for today as well. BTW, Buffie, Christine and I are all the sleepless moms of boys. Yikes. We've got to have coffee and sleep whenever possible, and not necessarily in that order. Ha!
Very cool guest Mdme. Christine - Thanks!

jenna said...

Congrats Christine on Scandal's Daughter. It looks wonderful and I have been enjoying your attractive website. I look forward to reading your new release.

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome to the Bandit's lair, Jessica - waving to you from northern NJ! Thanks for joining us and giving us the agent's perspective. It's comforting to know we're not the only one biting our nails waiting for that important phone call.

Hi Christine - as you know I got my copies of SD over the weekend in Manhattan (and did a little fixture adjustment so SD was face out *grin*). DH and I braved the store security people to get a pic or two as well!

Jessica - can you tell us about some of the interesting trends in the marktplace you're seeing as an agent. We hear so much about what's hot and what's not that it would help to hear it from someone who's job it is to sell our work to the publishers. Thanks.

Kate Carlisle said...

Jessica, welcome and thanks for visiting today! It's so great to hear that the wait is just as nerve-wracking on your side as it is on ours!

If you have a chance to stop by and chat some more, I'd be interested to hear how the cozy mystery market is doing these days. Thanks!

Christine, today's the day, woohoo!!! I've got my camera and I'm heading for Borders at lunch to *finally* snag my copy of Scandal's Daughter!!

Christine Wells said...

Hi all, just checking in. As many of you know, I've been in the deadline cave, so I haven't been able to comment as much as I'd like. It seems Jessica must have been tied up this morning (and not by us Banditas, ha!) but she'll try to make it when she can.

Thanks so much to all the banditas for commenting and running out to buy Scandal's Daughter. I owe you more than words can say.

Big waves to AndreaW. I'll get your copy of Scandal's Daughter to you pronto!

Beverley, welcome to the lair. Jessica's blog is fantastic, isn't it? I read it religiously.

Jenna, thanks so much for the compliment about my website:)

Sally MacKenzie said...

Congrats on release day, Christine!Wow, it's finally here. I'll have to scamper out to my Borders or B&N and get my copy. I got the chance to read the manuscript, so I know it's good, but it's still exciting to see it as a "real" book.

And for you moms of boys, enjoy every minute of them while they're young. My "baby"--my 4th son--just went off to college, sigh. (Ok, I admit I'm a little happy not to have him out driving the car late at night.)

And a wave to Jessica. She's my agent, too!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Jessica, welcome to the Bandita Blog. I appreciated your comments about the feelings of agents. We writers sometimes think we're the only ones with anxiety issues LOL.

A question: You imply that you want to really love the author's work before you offer representation. Do you ever feel luke-warm toward the writing or maybe the genre, perhaps because of your personal preferences, but offer representation because you're confident the market is looking for this type of book?

If not, do you think other agents do?

Cassondra said...

Hi Jessica,

Thanks so much for joining the Banditas to celebrate Christine's release. I uh, (cough cough) was probably the first Bandita to get to read this wonderful book. The B&N in my town didn't notice, I think, that there was a release date oh, about three weeks LATER than my pre-ordered book arrived. Read it two weeks ago and have no doubt why you fell in love with it.

I am interested in what, if there are particular things, make YOU as an agent fall in love with a writer's work. And how you see your role in helping a new author to develop. I know that's a standard question agents get asked a lot, but it's so interesting to hear different people answer this question. Helps me remember that you are all, truly, individuals, and nice PEOPLE--first, and "agents" second.

Thanks again for being our guest!

Christine Wells said...

Sally, thanks so much for dropping by! And of course you don't have to buy the book. I'm sending you one, which is the least I can do after you gave me that great quote.

And I agree about the boys, even my 4 year old has grown up too quickly. I'm enjoying my second a lot more, now that I sort of know what I'm doing!

BookEnds, LLC said...

Thanks everyone for the great comments. To answer your question Kirsten, I definitely build a plan, at least a rough one, before offering representation. Obviously I can't build a career plan, but I will start to formulate how I might sell a book, who I might submit to and consider previous conversations with editors. For example, I just had lunch with an editor who asked specifically for historical erotica and strong historica ala Elizabeth Hoyt. At this point if I come across something like that she'll be at the top of my list.

Thanks everyone for the great comments. To answer your question Kirsten, I definitely build a plan, at least a rough one, before offering representation. Obviously I can't build a career plan, but I will start to formulate how I might sell a book, who I might submit to, and consider previous conversations with editors. For example, I just had lunch with an editor who asked specifically for historical erotica and strong historical ala Elizabeth Hoyt. At this point if I come across something like that she'll be at the top of my list.

Unless I've heard rumors or experiences that other agents or editors have had with an author it's rare when I'm reading something that I think too closely about how professional an author might be. Maybe naively I assume that an author has the ability to write another book as good or better than her first and can meet deadlines. That being said, I have rejected things without reading them simply because I realized early on that the author was going to be too much work—signs were when she continued to revise and submit before waiting for a response or sent 5-10 emails about how to submit, what to submit, asking whether or not a submission was received, checked in well before I'd had it for even four weeks, and then criticized any feedback I had given, etc. My feeling is that if someone is this high maintenance before a contract, what will happen later.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

Anna S. Great question and one I plan on posting about on my own blog this week (you'll get a sneak preview here).

I've had a busy few weeks selling some great new romances and I find that selling books gives me the best opportunity for really finding out what editors are looking for.

Funny paranormal romances are out. There's been a huge glut of them and publishers are starting to see a decline in sales. So if you're writing the next Mary Janice Davidson you might want to consider finding a way to make it a little darker (or turning it into something for the mystery market).

Historical romance is in. Everyone is looking for erotic historical romances and everyone is looking for a strong historical voiced historical romance (moving away from the more contemporary voiced historicals we've been seeing). The trick here I think is an idea or hook that really grabs editors. Something like a great title or a great idea with a new twist.

Rumors are that paranormals are going to start to see a decline. We haven't seen it yet, but I do think editors are becoming more cautious. When we are selling paranormal don't be afraid to make it dark, sexy and even a little fantasy-like.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

Kate:

How the cozy market is doing depends on who you talk to. If you're familiar with BookEnds you probably know that we have come close to mastering the cozy mystery. We have a number of really fabulous authors on our list and we manage to keep them all very busy. In truth though I think we are a bit of anomaly. There are only three or four publishers these days who are really looking for cozy mysteries and we have a philosophy that if one of those publishers already has a series with a particular hook we will not take on that particular project.

Once you've mastered the art of writing the cozy the real challenge is coming up with a hook. If your hook is strong enough I can pretty much sell anything (she says modestly). When coming up with that hook though you need to think of not only something that hasn't been done, but also something that appeals best to cozy readers. One of our most successful cozies is the knitting mystery series--a fun crafty hook that also appeals to all generations. Cozies are branching out though into paranormal and of course historical. Remember, the key is the hook.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

Jo:

This is a great question and one I might have to take over to my own blog for a later post. Let me answer from the bottom up. Yes, I do think other agents take on authors because they think there's a market for a book and not necessarily because they love a book. I think this happens a lot in fact, especially when a market becomes hot (like erotica recently did) and when an author, like Christine's experience, comes to an agent with an offer in hand.

Do I do this? I really, really try not to. And I don't think I do. See, my thought is that I'm taking on an author for her career and if I don't love the writing and the author's voice then I'm going to spend years reading books that I don't really like. And that just scares me. When I take on an author it's because I know I want to continue reading everything she's ever written.

I also honestly believe that I will be a lot more successful if I do what I know and do what I love. I don't love inspirational romances therefore I don't represent them even though I know there's a market for them.

--jhf

BookEnds, LLC said...

Cassondra:

Sadly I don't think there's any one thing. Obviously it's voice first and the irony of that is if you read the works of my clients I think you'll see they all have very different voices and styles. Needless to say I fell in love with each of them.

When I read something though it's a feeling I get. I actually feel like I'm going to be a little sick. I've found something so amazing that my heart starts to race and I panic a little. I think I'm a little scared that I actually found something so amazing and now I need to set out and do it justice and really excited that I found something and now I get to set out and do it justice. And yes, I have anxiety that there's another agent out there who is moving a half day faster.

--jhf

Beth said...

Thanks so much for being here, Jessica! Great blog - I love hearing how things work from an agent's point of view *g*

I'm yet another Bandita who is heading to the store today to find my very own copy of Scandal's Daughter :-)

Bonnie Ferguson said...

That's wonderful news about historicals! :)

Christie Kelley said...

I love to hear that historicals are making such a strong comeback. I've been waiting years for this to happen!

ChristyJan said...

Congrats on the release of Scandal's Daughter. I love historical romances and I look forward to reading this one.

Aunty Cindy said...

Jessica, THANX A BUNCH for hanging out with us today! How nice to hear that those mythical beasts known as 'agents' are really just human beings after all! :-)

I'd like to ask your opinion of stories that blend elements from several sub-genres (like my just finished paranormal romantic suspense). Does this help or hurt the story in terms of marketing/selling it? Best of both worlds or neither fish nor fowl?

Appreciate all your comments and insights!
AC

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Jessica, for your fresh and insightful responses to our Bandita questions! jo

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, Jessica, for answering all our questions so fully. You've been great as an honorary Bandita!

Christine Wells said...

Apologies for dropping back late, I've been asleep (well, 2.30am to 5.30am is all anyone needs, right, Jessica?)

Thanks everyone for your great questions and Jessica, your answers were superb. So glad historicals are making a comeback!

Thanks everyone who has congratulated me and joined in to celebrate!

BookEnds, LLC said...

Aunty Cindy:

Mixing genres is a fabulous way to make your book marketable these days. I'm seeing a mix of everything. Paranormal historicals or mysteries, erotic historicals or paranormals or even a blend of erotic paranormal historical. Don't be afraid to mix things up. It's working for a lot of people.

elyssany said...

Thanks Jessica - your responses helped me a lot, especially for an aspiring writer.

What type of hook grabs your interest the most?

And I'm looking forward to reading Christine's book!

Darcy Burke said...

Jessica, what an awesome post (yes, you were motivational!) and a truly informative series of answers. As a writer of sexy historicals, it's great to see editors are looking for that. I appreciate you taking time to blog here today. And thanks Banditas for bagging her!

And congratulations Christine. Scandal's Daughter is on my TBR list!

tetewa said...

Glad to have you here today, I'm lookingforward to reading Scandal's Daughter.

Kate Carlisle said...

Jessica, thank you so much for coming by today! And many thanks for all your helpful answers and insights.

Denise Rossetti said...

Jessica, thanks for your frankness. It hadn't dawned on me that agents and editors have times when their insides feel like baked custard! I thought that was just for nervy writers like me.

Your post makes it easy to see what creates a good agent/author relationship - shared passion! Which is as it should be, seeing as we're in the romance business here.

I just sat here grinning when I read how you simply fell in love with Christine's work. I did too. As Christine's critique partner, I get to preen about being associated with the beginning of such a great career.

I'm so looking forward to singing a chorus of "I told you so!" with you and the Banditas. All together now...

BookEnds, LLC said...

Elyssany:

I had a wonderful reply prepared and Blogger ate it. Drat! What I was trying to say is that there isn't anything that I can really put into words to describe exactly the type of hook I would look for. It depends on a lot of things. Is it a mystery, thriller, or romance? Is it historical or contemporary, etc? Ultimately though I'm looking for a hook that is unique and interesting. Something that hasn't been done before, but is similar to something that's already being done successfully. And most importantly the hook has to be great, but the execution has to be brilliant.

I wish I could simply assign three or four or more hooks and let the projects just come in the door, but I think that many times, for a great hook to work, it has to come from the author. She has to really feel it and love it. From there it all follows naturally.

--jhf

Christine Wells said...

Jessica, that's so true that the hook, the execution, everything has to come from the author. It took me a long time to realize that--call me Mr Thickie!--but when I started I really wanted an editor to tell me what to write so I could get that fast track to publication.

A lot of writers seem to think editors and agents really do know what they want, they're just not telling. The truth is that the author is the artist and the creation has to come from her/him.

I think we all appreciate your frankness in the answers you've given here today. Btw, everyone should be aware that Jessica has her own blog at http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/ so if there's a question you'd like to ask that Jessica hasn't answered today, please trot over there and chat to her.

Thanks again, Jessica, for helping me celebrate a special day!

Keira Soleore said...

Yay! It's a scandalous day today! Woo hoo!!

Jessica, welcome to the Banditas, from a not-really-Bandita. Before I get into your blog, I have to confess, I have scarf envy. What a gorgeous color! The drape! The length! Ooooh. Foanna, did you see that it matches your CtC cover perfectly?

Sending a rejection letter to a writer has got to be so much harder than receiving one--especially since, many writers are apt to take it personally, rather than attributing it to the dozen reasons that may have nothing whatsoever to do with the project or the writer.

Thanks for replying forthrightly to all the hard questions. I have a couple for you, too: Other than the cute comedic books, is there a sub-sub genre that isn't selling? Do you see a return of the medievals? (I hope so!!) Thanks.

Anna Campbell said...

Keira, you're right about Jessica's scarf! Isn't it gorgeous? And such a nice match for my blue monster!

Jessica, your answers to the barrage of questions have been fantastic. Thanks so much for putting so much thought and expertise into helping all our proto banditas! It's been a great day. I hope you'll come back and see us again (um, maybe we should book you a secretary for the day or something!).

Christine, again, huge congratulations on the book hitting the stands. People are just going to love it! And thanks for letting us share the party with you.

Joan said...

Agents pursue writers?

Hmmm....

Let me slow down a bit :-)

Another Bandita chiming in late to say thanks for coming to the lair and sharing your insights.

Joan who is going tomorrow to get Scandal's Daughter Hooray

Caffey said...

Christine, I did want to ask you a fun question.

If you were having a dinner at your home and you could invite 3 (or more) authors, living or from the past, that have made an influence on you with your writing or any other way, who would the 3 be? What would you like to ask them? And lastly, what would be your favorite dish to serve them?
Thanks! :)
Cathie
tbranxiety@yahoo.com

Helen said...

Great post I am really looking forward to reading this book. Jessica you must have a full and exciting life with all the stories you are asked to read from people from lots of different countries obviously loss of sleep is one drawback with different time lines. I love to hear about different asspects of writing books and your job is another side to my favourite pastime reading. Thanks Jessica
Have Fun
Helen