Listed below:  Elise Capron - Sandra Dijkstra - Wendy Keller


“...Beryl! I so appreciate you including me...we look forward to working with you on future projects!!”

20 Questions (by Beryl Hall Bray), excerpt from WOW Women On Writing.com.

Elise Capron

Elise Capron is an agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, known for establishing and guiding the careers of many fiction and nonfiction authors, including Amy Tan, Lisa See, Diane Mott Davidson, Kevin Starr, Mike Davis, and many others. The Los Angeles Times dubbed the Dijkstra Agency "the most powerful literary agency on the West Coast" and, in its 25 years, the agency has developed a reputation for discovering new talent and representing quality work with great commercial potential. She assists Sandra Dijkstra in the agency's domestic sales (nonfiction and fiction), handles first serial rights, and works with both unsolicited and solicited submissions. She is actively building her list and is especially interested in strong literary fiction, quirky/alternative fiction and short stories.

BERYL: Since you manage the agency's book sales, what is the most common mistake you see author's make, at this stage of getting their book published?

ELISE: Occasionally, I see a writer with a wonderful book idea and lots of people (agent, editor, publicity department, etc) backing their book but the writer isn't flexible or willing to work with everyone to bring the book out in the biggest way possible. This can be hugely detrimental to a book project, of course. A writer should remember that everyone wants to help the book succeed, and being cooperative,  and open to new ideas is essential.

What is one of the smartest moves you've seen an author make, resulting in a very successful book launching?

As a writer you must always be your own best advocate, no matter at what stage you are in the process. Once you have an agent and a book deal, keep up the work publicizing yourself and be sure that your agent and publisher are aware of all your contacts and any events you are doing. The better you keep everyone in the loop the better chance that others can help you and find new opportunities to create visibility for your book! If you have the funds, I would also encourage any writer to consider hiring a freelance publicist. Publishers do a wonderful job but the right freelancer can often give that extra push.

When you consider taking a client on, do you rely strictly on the manuscript or do you factor in a writer's potential?

As I mentioned, the Dijkstra Agency is always thinking about the long-term potential. The manuscript at hand is certainly important and we want to be passionate about it, but we are interested in building careers. It's useful for you to think in the long-term, too.

Each agent has an internal excitement meter, how many pages--how quickly--does the author need to register excitement in you?

I am always watching for exciting new voices-a great narrative voice will spark my passion within the first few sentences. This is why the beginning of a manuscript is SO very important! If I'm bored ten pages in it's unlikely I'll make it to page 20, 30, 80, etc.

What should an author include in a well-presented Promotional Package, giving you confidence she will work smart and very hard to sell her book?

"Platform" is key: why are you the expert on what you're writing about (even for fiction!)? Where have you published before? What impressive programs have you been involved in? What is your book doing that no other book does? How do you see it fitting into the competitive publishing market? To which books might you compare yours (and how is yours doing it better)? Is this book part of a series?
How does your personal experience contribute to your book project? What well-known writers might contribute blurbs?

Beryl's closing comments: Elise's closing comments demonstrate the reality behind her answers. The first-rate agent not only promotes but also truly cares about the author and her book. Thank you very much, Elise for not only the wisdom and knowledge shared but showing that you are involved with your authors. To the writer that pours her heart and soul into her book that counts a great deal. You've made this column informative and encouraging and we want you to know we appreciate you and your participation in this month's issue of WOW!



“Thanks Beryl! This looks great. ... Elise”  (Elise is Sandra Dijkstra’s assistant)

Interview (by Beryl Hall Bray) excerpt  from WOW Women On Writing .com

Sandra Dijkstra

If there is a directory of recurring writers' dreams, this one tops the list: Having the undivided attention of a leading agent, and having that agent reveal the secrets of success.
      Get a cup of your favorite beverage and pull your chair up close. You have before you the opportunity to realize much, if not all, of that dream by joining WOW! in conversation with
Sandy, ‘the Sandra’ of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, located in Del Mar, California
Sandy, you know writers have a real learning curve when they set out to be published. We’d like to hit on points that you know will benefit our readers. But, first let’s start with you and your agency:

BERYL: Establishing and guiding the illustrious careers of many bestselling authors in several genres are just a couple of reasons Newsweek proclaimed you "the best agent in the West." What distinguishes your agency from your well-known colleagues?

Establishing and guiding the illustrious careers of many bestselling authors in several genres are just a couple of reasons Newsweek proclaimed you "the best agent in the West." What distinguishes your agency from your well-known colleagues?

We are a full-service agency, working on the front-and back-end of each project we sell, i.e. both on the editorial part, helping the author to find and shine the gold in proposals and manuscripts we take on, and pre-pub, setting the book up to get maximum attention, (and in both cases, where possible)!
      Internationally, we have a strong presence, both at
, and all year long, being repped by excellent agents abroad, with whom we keep in constant contact. None of the above would be possible without the terrific team we have assembled at SDLA, each of whom brings her special brilliance and expertise to the forefront on behalf of our authors, who deserve the best, and, we hope, get it from us.
      We represent authors who have a special voice and brilliance in each of their realms.

You have two manuscripts to choose from, one is a well-written solid story, the other is not so well written-but the story cries out 'next best seller' ..., which gets picked up by you?

Probably the first. The writing is always primary for me, and yet, if the author doesn't know how to create a world and people it with characters about whom we care, and has no story to tell, the writing alone will not cut it. But then for me at least, the story alone, poorly told, won't cut it either, which means I may miss out on some bestsellers.

How many copies would an author have to sell for you to consider representing a self-published novelist? Or, has an author shot herself in the foot by self-publishing?

Our decision would be based upon our assessment of the book's potential outreach, as well as the number of copies sold, along with the strength of the author's platform. There is no magic number, however.

What can a new author do, when she doesn't have a remarkable bio to make you sit up and take notice? How does she get past that and get her manuscript read?

Have one of our authors or friends of the Agency recommend him or her. Write a damn good article, story, query, or writing sample and we'll chase him or her.

What is the impact on your decision if an author has submitted a terrific book, maintains a 'nice' blog-following, but shows little interest in doing much beyond web promotional work?

The author's primary job is to write an unforgettable novel, one which makes us see the world anew, if fiction is the chosen genre, and if nonfiction, to pen a book that counts, that makes the world or the reader or both better.

BERYL's closing comments: Sandy, this has been such a great time for us, and our readers, and it means even more knowing that you made a place for us in a tight schedule. You've given us a list of books to add to our library, books that we can not only enjoy but learn from. And, without a doubt, our readers know they can read your words more than once and keep learning. Thanks again from all of us.



Wendy Keller
Founder, CEO
Senior Agent of Keller Media, Inc.

20 Questions (by Beryl Hall Bray), excerpt from WOW Women On Writing.com.

W endy Keller won her first writing contest at age ten, and landed her first job as a newspaper reporter at sixteen. Her continual passion for writing and fascination with the power of the written word drove her to work for PR Newswire, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, as managing editor of Dateline magazine and to become associate publisher of Los Angeles' then-second-largest Spanish language newspaper, La Gaceta.
   In 1989, Ms. Keller envisioned ForthWrite Literary Agency, founded in integrity, honesty and compassion for the writer.
   Today, the simple literary agency has become a successful media company. ForthWrite Literary Agency has closed more than 540 rights deals worldwide for clients; Wendy Keller has taught thousands of authors her unique and efficient system for turning a simple book deal into a lucrative career. She is the author of 29 published books under 8 pseudonyms, and has been a featured guest on 47 television programs, including Dateline NBC, CBS The Early Show, Rosie, Crosstalk, Fox, ABC, Politically Incorrect and other programs. She and her books have been featured on more than 300 radio shows worldwide and has been written up in 79 magazine and newspaper articles, including The Wall Street Journal,
Arizona Republic, Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, Playboy, The Scotsman, Maxim, Parenting and the Miami Herald.

BERYL:  Your agency is founded on the premise of giving the straight story to authors and has completed over 540 deals worldwide. Your agency, ForthWrite Literary Agency proves truth and success go well together.
      You have chosen a very interesting name; would you share why you chose the name, ForthWrite?

  Although I rarely use the name “ForthWrite” anymore, since the agency was technically bought by the corporation Keller Media, Inc. in 2002, I appreciate the question. Previous to starting FWLA, I worked for another agent. I had no idea if he was ethical or productive or not since I come from journalism, not publishing. Lo and behold, one day I found it is was NOT customary to charge authors $1800 “reading and representation” fees and that the rows and rows of books he claimed to have sold were actually merely purchased from the local second hand shop. I immediately decided there MUST be a way to ethically represent people – and tell them the truth, e.g. be forthright with them. I began FWLA in 1989 with a lot more chutzpah than knowledge or contacts.

As an agent, you have focused on a certain genre. What is your area of expertise, and why did you choose it?

I focus exclusively on nonfiction, and even then within certain strict criteria. I began by selling screenplays, fiction, juvenile, Christian books, nonfiction - anything I liked and thought I could sell. I eventually decided to focus on things that met two goals: sell for good money and to honest people, which meant I had to exclude Hollywood and all Christian publishers. Strangely, I found most of the latter to be at least as nefarious as the worst people in Hollywood. So I began just selling business, self-help, popular psychology, health, inspiration/motivation, how-to and other nonfiction categories. In 2007, I plan to add "historical fiction" to my list, because it's something I read a lot for pleasure and have a developed a solid knowledge of what works and what does not. But it is still a very focused list. I always say, "Asking a nonfiction agent to look at your mystery novel is sort of like asking your podiatrist to fill your cavity. It's just a different specialty."

What part does personality play in achieving a successful outcome at the conference?

Aw, heck. Don’t tell your membership but I’d represent a goldfish if it could write and had a speaking platform. I couldn’t care less about the author’s personality except for two types I personally avoid: bombastic or timid.

Wendy's concluding thoughts:
Keep learning. The difference between writers who succeed and writers who never get published is refining your craft, your content and your personal vision.

BERYL's closing comments:

Wendy, we want to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. We appreciate you're working us into your busy schedule. In fact, if we find any talented goldfish, we'll send them your way.

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