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Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog

Chuck Sambuchino is an editor and published author who runs the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, one of the biggest blogs in publishing. His site has instruction and information on literary agents, literary agencies, query letters, submissions, publishing, author platform, book marketing, and more.


Outlining Your Novel: Create a Roadmap to Storytelling Success — Nov 7 Webinar With Critique by K.M. Weiland

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Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. Won’t outlines limit your creativity and rob the joy of discovery from your first draft? Why spend all that time preparing for a story when you could be writing it? But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. K.M. Weiland, author of Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, will help you learn how to choose the right type of outline for you, brainstorm plot ideas, and discover your characters.

Outlines ensure cohesion and balance in the finished story. They prevent wasted time pursuing dead-end ideas, allow you to craft resonant foreshadowing, and, most importantly of all, provide you a foundation of confidence and motivation. K.M.’s new webinar is called “Outlining Your Novel: Create a Roadmap to Storytelling Success.” It all happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

Literary Agents Explain Why They Attend Conferences (and It’s Not What You Think)

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Every week literary agents receive hundreds of query letters from aspiring writers who are hoping to interest the agent in their project. Why then, would agents take time from their busy schedules to go to a writers conference and meet yet more writers in person?

I’ve worked with over a hundred literary agents during the 9 years I’ve been organizing the Backspace Writers Conferences held twice-annually in New York City, as well as the newly minted Salt Cay Writers Retreat taking place this October on a private island in the Bahamas. So I asked a few of my favorite agents why they attend writers conferences. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Michael Logan, Author of APOCALYPSE COW

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2. You may have to compromise to gain commercial success. As an artist working in a commercially driven industry, you could face an uncomfortable choice. Your agent and publisher will usually look at your labour of love with an eye on what is right for the market, not what is right for your vision. Publishing is an industry, and industries want to make money (although kudos and credibility in the form of prizes or critical acclaim from the intelligentsia form a lesser part of the equation). It is up to you whether you refuse to compromise your vision, and thus run the risk of your career facing a potentially fatal setback, or accede to their requests. Just make sure you can live with the consequences of your decision.

GIVEAWAY: Michael is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: spacehg won.) Read more

How I Got My Agent: S. Jane Gari

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring S. Jane Gari, author of the memoir LOSING THE DOLLHOUSE. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent.

S. Jane Gari lives in Elgin, South Carolina with her husband and daughter. Three adapted chapters from her memoir, LOSING THE DOLLHOUSE, have been published, and all three were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has also co-written Flush This Book, a collection of humorous essays. Read more

What Happens When Your Agent Doesn’t Like Your Newest Book?

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“I love it!” That’s what I hoped my agent (let’s call her Agent A) would say when she read the manuscript of what is now my book, LOYALTY. After all, I’d spent a year writing the manuscript based on her feedback of the first fifty pages. I loved Fina Ludlow, the Boston private investigator I’d created, and felt confident it was the best thing I’d ever written. But Agent A didn’t love it. In fact, she told me, “I can’t sell this.”

A couple of years earlier, I’d signed with Agent A based on an amateur sleuth series I’d written. She loved that protagonist and worked hard to sell the manuscript, but publishers weren’t biting. When it became clear to me that that the series was going nowhere fast, I decided to flex my writing muscles and create a new character; Fina Ludlow and her family of ambulance chasing attorneys were born. So what happens when you love the work, but your agent doesn’t? I faced a dilemma that writers and other creative types encounter routinely. How do you decide which advice to incorporate into your writing and which to relegate to the “thanks, but no thanks” folder? Read more

10 Dos & Don’ts For the Aspiring Novelist

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1. DO Start small. Writing short stories is a great way to do that. Many novelists have started this way, including me. Writing a good short story forces you to create and develop a character and take a plot from beginning to end in a limited number of pages. It also prepares you for writing a novel, because each chapter is basically a short story. Writing a short story is also much less intimidating than writing a novel.

GIVEAWAY: Mary is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: emilyjjs won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Beth Phelan of Bent Literary

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About Beth: “After graduating from New York University, I found my footing as an intern with the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. Since then, I’ve held positions at Waxman Leavell Literary and Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.”

She is seeking: Beth Phelan represents fiction for young adults and middle grade readers, select commercial and literary adult fiction, and nonfiction by way of lifestyle, cooking/food writing, humor, pop culture, LGBT and pets/animals. For adult fiction, she leans toward new adult, suspense, thriller, and mystery. Read more

Get an Agent For Your Middle Grade Novel: Secrets for Query Letters & First Pages Revealed — Oct. 31 Webinar with Critique

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It might seem as though getting a children’s book published is easy—just look at JK Rowling! In reality, however, children’s books (and middle grade books in particular) are among the most challenging works of literature to craft. Nailing the narrative voice of middle grade, and finding the right balance of character, heart, and plot to keep child (and adult!) readers invested in your work is an art. And then you have to boil all that down into a cover letter for an agent or a publisher to read.

That’s why we have literary agent Brooks Sherman (FinePrint Literary) teaching a new webinar, “Querying Middle Grade: How to Grab an Agent’s Attention and Keep It,” at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. It lasts 90 minutes. All attendees get a critique of their manuscript’s first 2 pages. And don’t forget that at least 4 literary agents have signed writers after reading their work as part of a WD webinar or boot camp. Read more

8 Rules For Writing in Bed

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4. Turn on the light to get down your thoughts. I’ve often grabbed my clipboard and pen in the dark, cavalier and overconfident, brimming with creative bounty, and started writing like mad. In the morning, I look and the words, completely unintelligible, are splattered over the page like a drunken sonnet.

5. Sit up to write. An effort, I know. Sometimes, fatigue creeping back, I’ve compromised by reclining. I scribble like a demon and, sated, slide down again. Next day’s result: see #4. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Steph Cha, Author of FOLLOW HER HOME

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Steph Cha, author of FOLLOW HER HOME, a mystery. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings.

This column is written by Steph Cha, author of the 2013 mystery debut FOLLOW HER HOME (Minotaur). Steph’s agent is Ethan Bassoff of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. Read more

Tunesday: Volume 4 — Answers Revealed!

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A little while back, I hosted the fourth edition of my musical blog contest called “Tunesday,” which is essentially just Name That Tune with me playing riffs on the guitar and piano for writers to guess. We had a winner to the contest, and the winner’s interview answers are finally in, so it’s time to reveal the answers to Volume 4 and meet J.D. Abbas, the writer who won the latest contest. To revisit the 4th edition of Tunesday, click on this video in the blog post and watch it again. Or skip below to meet winner J.D. and see the 17 correct answers. Read more

Agent Mollie Glick Seeks Adult Fiction Submissions Now

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If you read my blog, you know that, once a week, I post a New Agent Alert about a new/newer agent seeking submissions now. But every now and again, an established agent comes to me to put out a call for submissions. Such call-outs are exciting opportunities for writers, because these are agents who have a long track record of sales. Today I want you to meet Mollie Glick, agent at Foundry Literary + Media, who is putting out a call for quality adult fiction submissions [mostly mainstream and literary]. Read below to learn more. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned so Far, by Laura Krughoff

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3. Fix the end by fixing the middle. I routinely tell my students that if they’re struggling with the ending of a story, it is probably because they haven’t quite worked out the conflict. I spent a long time struggling with how to end my novel, and I rewrote the final chapter many times before it occurred to me to take my own advice. A difficult but essential scene was missing, and once I had that in place, I finally understood how to bring the novel to a satisfying conclusion. I could have rewritten that ending until the cows came home, but it was only by addressing a problem much earlier in the novel that I was able to get the ending right. Read more

The Writer’s Promise: How to Craft a Book’s Pitch

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I was in the ad biz back in the post-Mad Men days and rather than quaffing martinis and playing office politics, we spent a lot of time focusing on the “promise” of a product: it’s emotional payoff rather than its efficacy. Sure, Spongy paper towels absorb liquids just as fast as its competitors at half the cost, but how does that make the housekeeper feel? It’s the difference between mere description and going beyond it to add an emotional dimension… Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Monica Odom of Liza Dawson Associates

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She is seeking: Monica is building her client list with a focus on literary fiction, women’s fiction and voice-driven memoir, as well as a focus on nonfiction in the areas of pop culture, food and cooking, history, politics, and current affairs. Monica is looking for writers with big ideas who push the boundaries of storytelling and its traditional forms. She is especially interested in writers with strong social media platforms who have something original to say. Read more

Author Interview: Nancy Grossman, Author of A WORLD AWAY

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It’s time to meet another debut author and learn from their successful publishing journey. Today we meet Nancy Grossman, author of the 2012 young adult debut, A WORLD AWAY (Disney-Hyperion, out in paperback in 2013), a story about an Amish girl who visits the outside world.

After meeting an Amish teenager during a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, author Nancy Grossman imagined what it would be like to take the girl home with her. Eventually those imaginings became her first novel, A World Away, which was named to Kirkus Reviews’ list of the Best Teen Books of 2012. Read more

Agent John Cusick Moves to Greenhouse Literary — and Seeks Children’s Book Queries

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Literary agent John Cusick recently switched agencies. He left his position at Scott Treimel Literary and is now with Greenhouse Literary. When I heard he moved, I asked him if he had time to answer a few questions so writers could catch up with him. Here’s what he had to say. Read on to learn if John is a good fit for your work! (Also, I should mention that John is also an author, and he just had a book released in Sept. 2013: CHERRY MONEY BABY, a young adult novel from Candlewick that got a starred review in Publishers Weekly.) Read more

Ripple Grove Press Seeks Picture Book Submissions

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Meet Ripple Grove Press, they’re a publishing house actively seeking picture book submissions. Check them out and see if they’re a good fit for your work.

ABOUT RIPPLE GROVE: Ripple Grove Press is a family-owned children’s picture book publishing company started in 2013. “Our mission is to create picture books that come from life experiences, elegant imagination, and the deep down passion in our hearts. We want each Ripple Grove Press book to enlighten a child’s mind with fun and wonder. Ripple Grove Press searches for a powerful ‘timeless’ feel in each book we publish. Our stories will make you laugh or think or keep you guessing and dreaming. We hope our books find their way to the cozy spot on the floor and are the last ones read at bedtime.” Read more

Is Your Blog a Book? Agent Kate McKean Explains in Her Oct. 22 Webinar

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We’ve all see the overnight successes of blog-to-book deals. Whether it’s a traditional blog, a Twitter feed, a Tumblr blog, or something else entirely, publishers and agents are actively looking to discover new talent on the Internet. Could you be next? Luckily, to answer that question, we have literary agent Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary) to teach her webinar, “Is Your Blog a Book: When, How, Why (and Why Not) Your Social Media Could Become a Traditionally Published Book” at 1 p.m., EST, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. The webinar lasts 90 minutes.

This live webinar will cover what publishers are looking for in blog-to-book properties, what it takes to make the Internet-to-print jump, and how to know if the traffic you have is big enough to get an agent’s or editor’s attention. Agent Kate McKean has ushered dozens of blog-to-book properties into print—from the New York Times Bestselling (twice!) ICanHasCheezburger.com to Noah Scalin’s online art project Skulladay.com, to numerous Twitter and Tumblr accounts. She’ll show you what she’s looking for, and not looking for, in good writing on the web. Kate will be critiquing the query of all attendees; don’t forget that at least 4 agents have signed writers after seeing their work as part of a WD boot camp / webinar. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Tracy Solheim, Author of GAME ON

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Tracy Solheim, author of GAME ON. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. Tracy’s agent is Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency.

GIVEAWAY: Tracy is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: oldestgenxer won.) Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Karen Dietrich

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1. Write through the wait. When The Girl Factory was on submission to publishers last October, I felt like I was in limbo. There is a waiting game to play and I’m terribly impatient. The first few days, I spend a lot of time checking my inbox for emails from my agent and thinking about possible responses from publishers (even though my agent guided me through the process and assured me that responses don’t usually arrive quickly).

GIVEAWAY: Karen is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: burrowswrite won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Connor Goldsmith of Foreword Literary

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He is seeking: He is interested in a wide range of fiction, and is looking for literary fiction, speculative fiction (scifi/fantasy), and psychological thrillers. Under the umbrella of speculative fiction he is especially interested in urban fantasy, urban science fiction, and magical realism. He is particularly looking for fiction from LGBT and racial minority perspectives. In nonfiction, he is looking for books by recognized experts with broad, established platforms. Subjects of interest include cinema, television, theater, mass media, historical biography, and progressive politics. Read more

Pre-Plot & Complete Your Book in a Month: October 17 Webinar Ideal for Novelists and Memoirists

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Are you a writer who prefers to pre-plot? Or, do you simply like to jump in and begin writing without much pre-planning? Perhaps you’re just starting out and don’t know your plotting preference? Whatever kind of writer you are, you’re much more likely to finish a fast draft if you have a basic grasp of the dramatic action plot and the character emotional development plot of your stories before you begin writing. You’ll also find that if you do more pre-plotting up-front you’ll have fewer rewrites later.

Martha Alderson works with writers from all over the world. She’ll share with you a simple, visual technique to help you pre-plot your story quickly. You’ll also receive a template to help you organize your time in the actual writing phase. We guarantee you’ll finish a fast draft of your story in a month. Once you assemble the plot items on her checklist and you’ll be ready to begin your one-month writing challenge. It’ all part of her new webinar, “How to Pre-Plot & Complete a Novel or Memoir in a Month” — The Benefits of Writing a Fast Draft from Beginning to End. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

How to Maximize a Book Festival Appearance: 9 Tips

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This past weekend, I had the honor of signing books at my local (awesome) book festival: Cincinnati’s Books by the Banks Book Fair. It happens every year in the fall, and this was my third appearance. Every time I sign books at a regional fair in Ohio or Kentucky, I seem to get better at interacting with readers. If you’ll be appearing at a future book fair to promote your traditional or self-published book, here are some quick tips that may help you.

1. If possible, stand. I’ve read multiple places that you make a better first impression if you’re standing when people first meet you. So stand if your health allows it. Read more

5 Ways To Be a Good Literary Citizen

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A term I’ve heard with increasing frequency is “literary citizen.” It is usually spoken of along with an admonition to be a good one. But how exactly are we supposed to be good literary citizens, and why should we try?

Writing is often thought of as a solitary occupation, and it’s true we writers spend a lot of time alone. However, we write so people can read our writing—a writer is inherently part of a group. Yet even in graduate school, surrounded by other emerging writers, I didn’t think of myself as part of a literary community. Of course, community meant something different in the pre-social-networking nineties, but the idea that I was a writer within a larger writing community didn’t dawn on me until I was well established in New York. But if you’re writing, you’re a literary citizen, so you should make the society a nicer place to live.

GIVEAWAY: Allison is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: rmonk won.) Read more

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