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Jessica Faust on How She Got Her Clients

I love the suggestion we received from a reader to tell our story on how we got a client or clients. One of the stories I tell most often is an old one. It’s how Ellery Adams first became a BookEnds client.

Ellery Adams first queried me back in the day when everything was sent snail mail and we accepted unsolicited proposals. The agency was very new. I didn’t have many clients and spent most of my days hunting for someone new and wonderful. The hardest part of the job at that time was that we didn’t get a lot of super great submissions. We were brand new, barely anyone knew us, and there’s no way we were at the top of anyone’s submission list.

Luckily, Ellery took a chance. I read her proposal and loved it so used her SASE (that’s self-addressed stamped envelope for you young’uns) to request the full manuscript. It’s really hard to imagine that we rarely emailed back then. When the full arrived, probably a week or so later I immediately read it. It was rough and since Ellery was a new author I wasn’t sure if it was quite there yet so I used her newest SASE to send a revision letter. About a week later I got the full manuscript back from her, revisions and all. I was amazed at how fast she turned it around and, I’ll admit, a bit skeptical that she could have received my letter, done the revisions and snail mailed it back in such a short period of time. But she did, and she nailed it. This time I called to offer representation. That first book was published as A Killer Collection under the name J.B. Stanley.

I like to tell that story because I think it shows how far we’ve come in only 15 years. When I hear authors complain about how long it takes agents to respond or how much work submitting is for them I think back to the day when they had to print out each proposal (50+ pages), pack it in an envelope, stress over rubber bands v. folders v. binder clips, take it to the post office, mail it and then wait for the return of a SASE.

I was going to continue this post with tales of more recent clients, but I’m going to leave it as is. I sort of like the old school nature of it.

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4 comments

  1. When a few agents first started accepting email queries, I was skeptical. It somehow felt wrong. Only agents who still accepted hard copy were at the top of my list.

    Now, I doubt I would even query an agent who didn’t take email and electronic submissions. Times have definitely changed.

  2. I love this story. Reminds me of mine! I will never forget your phone call offering representation. I had given up on ever finding an agent, and then to have one who actually seemed to “get” me was such an amazing plus! And then, the very first phone call that you had an offer for a series? Wow! I don’t think I quit grinning for at least a week…or more. You’ve been my agent for over fourteen years, thirty-eight NY publishing contracts, not to mention the help with all my indie-pubbed stuff, and there have been more changes in the publishing industry than I ever could have imagined. Best of all, it’s still fun.

  3. My opinion? Ellery Adams’ Olivia Limoges is one of the best female characters in seaside cozy mysteries. Her backstory is compelling and the other characters complement her story extremely well! Interesting to hear how it all began.

    Yes, we have come far in 15 years and I want to ask a question about the outer limits of book submission. I have a self-published book, “What A Kiss Can Do,” women’s fiction with a romantic twist. I’m curious how you feel about working with an author to publish a “selfie” as it were, in mainstream publishing. BTW, “Kiss” features a person of short stature, a dwarf, as a major character and romantic interest. Don’t discount “Derek” until you meet him! Looking forward to your response.

  4. It’s hard to imagine a time when we weren’t all electronically connected. But my very first query, which was submitted electronically, came back snail mail (a request for partial) – right on the cusp of everything going fully digital.

    I missed this post (somehow) but I’m really enjoying reading about the call from an agent’s perspective. Plus, any call story is inspirational!! Thanks, Bookends team.

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