Wednesday, May 24, 2006

TWL Author Talks - Jessica Faust - Day 2

As soon as Jessica Faust leaves the TWL Author Talks group, I'll get back to my utterly mundane life experiences, but there are a few points she made today that I really want to keep track of and for those who read this blog, they might help you, too, if ever you decide to write a book and decide you'd like a literary agent to represent you. Which I do and which I'd give up my 2.5 children for. PSYCHE! Now, don't get your danders up. I seriously love my 2.5 children, and this is simply how determined I am to get one. Let's deal...children...hard toss-up.

As you know, Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency has graced my group, TWL Author Talks, with her presence and incredible wisdom on the world of being a literary agent.

I know her work is hard. I can't imagine the power of sitting behind a desk and giving the nod or the Miss Snark curse on every single manuscript that comes into her office. Can you imagine the power? I experienced this power when I was compiling my anthology, Romancing the Soul, and I have to tell you, it was very very very hard to email some of the writers and tell them it didn't fit. I'm not a Miss Snark at all. But, in some cases, you have to be and that makes the job of a literary agent even harder.

So, having Jessica come into my group despite all the manuscripts she has to read, and give her incredible wisdom on different aspects of the literary agent submission process, I feel I owe her my utmost respects.

With that said, let's get into a question I asked in the group.

It's a really interesting question and is concerning how important it is for an author, when submitting to an agent or publisher, to prove they have the right stuff in the promotion department. I mean, what about those writers who don't have any experience in that area? Is it the kiss of death?

Well, here's my question:

"Jessica, honestly, how important is it to you, as the agent, to find
someone who is great at promoting? Say for example, there are thousands of
manuscripts coming to your desk every day...all of them equal as far as being
the next best thing...would you tend to go with those who have a track record
for promoting? I mean, do you actually go, "Wow...this author has done a
tremendous job at promoting his or her articles/other books/etc., I'm going to
give him/her a chance" as opposed to someone else who had a manuscript that was
just as good but didn't have a track record in promoting?"

Her answer reaffirmed my suspicions...

"When it comes to fiction the promotion helps, but it really is about the
work--the writing, characters, plot, etc. With non-narrative nonfiction however
the promotion is at least 60% of what sells the book and is very, very
important. "

So, if you are a fiction author, then it helps, but is not as important as it would be with the non-fiction non-narrative author. In my case, I'm both, but the one book I am seriously seeking representation is a non-narrative non-fiction about relationships, the soul mate relationship in particular. If you will remember, yesterday she said that they were still hot as long as they were fun, had a good hook and was something very different.

Now, I've learned that with this particular book, promotion is over half of what sells the book. I'm figuring that in my query if I include the fact that I have been featured on certain radio programs and I do write a relationship column focusing on soul mates, plus I have an e-class where I teach people about the soul mate relationship, and the fact that I offer a free advice service for anyone who wish to ask me a question about the soul mate relationship, then this will help?

Who knows, but it's really a viable option when I revamp my query. Actually, I do mention the radio gigs and that I use this to promote my books, but maybe I should also include the e-class (which is rather new) and the advice columns/service. Hadn't thought of that.

Oh, another interesting thing she said was that in your query, make it sound like the back cover of the book instead of a formal letter.

This is interesting because I tried something different when querying my hen lit. I honestly did write the query just like I imagined the back cover to be. With the exception of one agent, all the rest of the agents requested a partial. I knew I was on to something when this happened.

However, after I sent the partials, and they turned me down, I tried to rethink the whole process and started rewriting the book, not once, not twice, but five separate versions until I got to the point where I didn't know which one I liked better, so I set it aside and started on another book. However, the mistake I made was revamping my query letter to make it sound more formal and guess what. The agents I queried with this query letter turned me down flat.

Is there a lesson to be learned here?

Sure, there is. And I'm learning every day. As I'm thoroughly enjoying this new book I'm in the middle of writing - a paranormal comedy - it's hard to stop, but I'm going to find the time to turn the query back into the original query and start anew.

Writing is tough. Submitting to agents and publishers is even tougher, but when we finally find out what it is we're supposed to do, maybe then we can achieve success. Thanks to Jessica, and the other agents who are going to grace us with their presence, too, in the upcoming months, writers can now learn what is expected of them, do it and find out getting that contract really isn't as hard as they think if they use a little common sense, stick to their guns, persevere, and not give up on the dream.


  1. It's weird. I want the dream but the fact that I'm not particularly chasing it right now tells me something.

    I know I'm not ready, nor good enough. I know my 'inner me' wouldn't be comfortable with the various demands and deadlines. I know my inner me would baulk at deadlines (a stubborn trait I've always had - 'Don't you tell ME what to do! I'll do it when I'm ready!') so until I'm wiser in that department I think I'll stick to ebook publications.

    Going out there when my inner voice isn't comfortable with it would be a disaster. I want my experience with agents to be a good one and if I'm not quite all there with it, I might make a mess of it - mess up my only chance.

    A big fan of 'listen to that little voice'. It's never been wrong in the past.

    Good luck with your agent queries in the future!


  2. I had never thought about what an aspiring author must go through to get their first book published. I guess come the second one it would be either easier or not happen, depending on how well received by the reading public the first book was as there would be a track record then. Good luck to you as it really sounds a bit like there is some of that involved, too.

    I guess most of we bloggers have at least some interest in writing although for many different purposes.

  3. M.E., do you self-publish? I know what you're saying, though. There is a lot involved, but I think I'm ready. I think...ack...are we ever ready? You just jump in and stay afloat the best you can.

  4. Hi Dick, I don't know when it's ever easier, to tell you the truth. I do think that the more you do it, the easier it becomes, but then you always have a new set of obstacles. Getting published, unless you go with a subsidy, WHICH I REFUSE, it's going to be an uphill battle but just imagine how you'll feel when you're at the top? I know that has to be the most amazing feeling. Like winning a Nobel Peace Prize or something.


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