Jessica Faust: You originally signed with Jacky Sach at BookEnds and have seen a lot of changes in your career and at BookEnds. You’ve switched agents, you’ve switched editors and you’ve switched houses. I think it’s fair to say that in the course of your career you’ve survived and overcome many of an author’s biggest fears.
Let’s talk first about BookEnds. So often an author wonders what happens when her agent leaves. In this case, Jacky left to forge her way into a new career and you and your career were placed into my hands. I’d love to hear your impressions and insights into that transition. The thoughts and fears you had and overall how it worked.
Krista Davis: Jacky was my third agent but the first to sell my work. I knew that she was selling books like crazy and was very good at what she did. If Jacky had told me to wear a cowboy hat while writing, I would have done it. In fact, Jacky was the one who suggested I write cozies.
I was very relieved that you adopted me! But I think everyone in that situation would be a little bit worried. You weren’t the person who originally read my manuscript or took me on as a client. In my years of writing, it seems as though the agent or editor who takes on a book or a series usually feels invested in it. The person who inherits it doesn’t always push for success as much as the original agent or editor might.
But I got lucky! Writers always hear about agents who avoid email from authors, who don’t stay in touch, who aren’t interested in the author’s career. I’d like to think that most agents aren’t that way and maybe we hear more about them because nobody’s complaining about the great agents. I didn’t know what to expect from you. But I hit the jackpot. You phone me regularly. You’re always thinking ahead and keeping your clients in mind as things change in the industry. In addition, I think we’ve grown very close. You know all kinds of things about me and my life that I don’t share with everyone. I know you’ve got my back. Recent years have posed personal challenges for me, but you have been terrific in helping me cope with my personal life while still managing my professional life.
JF: You also experienced your editor leaving after a round of lay-offs during the Penguin Random House merger. Can you talk a little about how that was for you both personally and professionally? I also understand that you and Sandy are still close. I think readers would love to hear about that.
KD: My first editor, Sandy, and I hit it off very well. The lay-offs and changes due to the merger were the worst thing I have experienced as a writer. So many rumors. So much uncertainly. I was sure that Sandy’s job was safe, and then whammo—she was gone. Losing my wonderful editor was a big blow. On top of that, I was hearing from friends whose series would not be continued. It was a nightmare when our comfortable world at Berkley Prime Crime was turned upside down. Every day brought terrible news. People with whom I usually email were suddenly phoning as we all tried to figure it out. For at least two years, all my writing friends and I were on edge as we tried to make sense of what had happened.
Once again, I was very lucky. Penguin had just renewed two of my series, which gave me a couple of years of breathing room. I bounced through editors as everyone was shuffled around. The remaining editors were swamped! I recall three different editors being involved on one of my books! It worked out fine, but the road was definitely bumpy. I shudder to imagine how chaotic it must have been for the remaining editors.
Fortunately, I also had you looking out for me. We shifted a series to Kensington, which turned out to have been a very wise choice. Sandy and I are still in touch and I love hearing from her. She landed on her feet, as I expected, and is very happy today.
A lot of people thought the changes at Berkley meant that cozies were no longer selling. Clearly, that was never the case. They’re still doing very well. But the experience led many of us to consider what else we might write. With your help, I know which way I’m headed if I ever stop writing cozies. And yes, I will still be writing mysteries.
I think it’s human nature to feel comfortable and form an allegiance to a company when things are going well. Berkley Prime Crime was great to its authors. A lot of us were friends and teamed up to promote our books. So when the merger and lay-offs took place, it was like losing our cozy home. As I look back on it, what I take away is the knowledge that everything can change in the blink of an eye. I’m very pleased that I now have two publishing houses—the new Berkley and Kensington Publishing. I don’t feel quite as vulnerable any more. My greatest fear at the time was waking up one morning to learn I no longer had any series and that I would have to start over. That was the case for many of my friends (though I have to note that Penguin did honor its contracts to the end).
I was fortunate that you stayed on top of the situation and wisely moved the Domestic Diva mysteries to Kensington. I sleep better knowing that even if one series dies for reasons outside my control, I will still have another one at another publisher.
JF: Throughout all of this and other change, you’ve continued to write the Diva series and now two more series with two publishers. Dare I ask how that played out and details about the experience?
KD: I’m actually very happy to have three series. My personal life has changed enormously, which is making it more difficult to keep up with a rigorous writing schedule. Two weeks after I signed the contract for the third series, my elderly mom broke her wrist and moved in with me. Actually, that broken wrist and some of the consequences ended up in Color Me Murder! (Watch what you do around writers!) But caregiving was new to me. Even now, I’m learning on the fly. As soon as I think I have things under control, something major changes.
The upshot was that I didn’t have as much time for writing or promotion. I had to drop some things. Social media was the first to go. I still try to log on about twice a week, but I can’t manage much more than that. I cut way back on blogs and hired people to help me with things that I used to do. I still write my books, of course, but all too often, my plans for the day, and sometimes the entire week, are just shot. I’m thrilled that I can take care of my mom at home but there’s no question that it’s difficult juggling everything, especially when deadlines loom. And that’s where you come in, paving the way for me when my personal life interferes with my writing life. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.
Being with two publishers is fascinating. I have lovely editors and everyone at both companies has been great. The basics are fairly similar. The biggest difference that I see is in marketing and publicity. They handle it quite differently, which has been an eye-opener for me.
Congratulations on your 20thAnniversary! I’m so impressed with the way BookEnds has grown and with your extraordinary management and vision. I’m pleased to have been with you for many of those years and I hope to be part of the BookEnds family for many years to come!
JF: Thank you so much. All I can say is: ❤️
It’s a pleasure and an honor to consider you a colleague and a friend.