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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.


Finding Your “Write Reasons” — An Inspirational Post For Writers

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How do you truly know what’s right and wrong when it comes to storytelling?

How do you know if your twist is right?

How do you know if the ending makes sense and if the plot is strong enough?

In my opinion, you can’t know these things with any level of certainty; but, if you let them, the story and characters will lead you to logical places that feel right. You have to trust your instincts. And, it helps to have a good editor—one to whom you entrust your baby. Read more

Close Encounters with David Sedaris: My Experience of Meeting a Famous Author

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I first met David Sedaris at a midtown Sacramento book store, around 1998. He had just finished reading from his essay collection Naked and I stood in line to get the book signed. He didn’t make eye contact. He just stared at my black and green plaid skirt with its oversized safety pin, and asked, “Is that a kilt?”

“Uh, no,” I said. “It’s a skirt. I bought it at Express.”

He signed my book and I walked away. What a weirdo. Are all authors freaks? I will never attend another book signing again! Yet, fifteen years later, on May 9, 2013, I’m standing in line to get my books signed right after “An Evening with David Sedaris,” here in Colorado. He was hilarious, as usual. And humble. And gracious. He rocked the Q and A. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Susan Spann, Author of the Mystery CLAWS OF THE CAT

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Today’s debut author spotlight is with Susan Spann, author of the July 2013 historical mystery, CLAWS OF THE CAT. Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of Death in the Floating City, said of Susan’s book: “Susan Spann skillfully transports the reader to Samurai Japan and serves up a feast of intrigue and suspense in a well-drawn exotic and unforgettable world. Claws of the Cat is a delicious adventure and a remarkable debut.” Read more

7 Ways a Writing Career is Like a Theme Park

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1. You will spend most of your time in line. Go to any amusement park across this great nation. You will see loads of people willingly lined up in very long queues to board rides which only last around five minutes. Writing is kind of like that. The period leading up to my debut’s release was a very long wait, with not very much happening. My actual release month was like the time on the ride—I could barely catch my breath. Also, when I was first starting out, I thought that at some point things would move faster. I know for a few folks, sometimes things do move very quickly (if you manage to snag a VIP pass, you can skip the line). But for the vast majority of writers, there are long periods of waiting in between thrill rides. Write something else in the meantime. You’ve got time.

GIVEAWAY: JJ 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: KarenLange won.) Read more

The Elements of a Successful Book Trailer

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Before I decided to purse a career in writing, most of my ideas of the profession came from television and movies. Once I’d penned my masterpiece, I expected entire PR departments at big publishing houses to handle all facets of advertising. In my world, the writer wrote, then awkwardly cute girls in glasses took care of the rest: they set up the tours, booked the flights and hotel rooms, placed full-page ads in all the dailies. The press contacted you for reviews. And that does still happen. For the Stephen Kings and Stephanie Meyerses of the world. For the rest of us fledgling writers down here in the trenches, getting the word out is squarely on our shoulders.

But there is some good news. This new digital age presents myriad, affordable avenues to help promote one’s work. While live readings and tours are still essential and help put a name with the face, the Internet provides options that simply weren’t available twenty years ago. And the latest indie craze seems to be the book trailer. Read more

Create Characters That Take Your Novel to the Bestseller List: July 18 Webinar with Critique by Agent Andrea Hurst

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What makes a character jump off the page and keep an agent, publisher, or reader hooked to the end of the book? The most effective and successful novels create characters who continuously deepen in personality through internal and external conflict, characters who reveal themselves through dialogue and action, and characters who genuinely and naturally transform by the end of the book.

Because characters are so important, we’ve enlisted a pair of writing instructors — agent Andrea Hurst and writer Terry Persun — to teach “Create Characters That Take Your Novel to the Bestseller List.” This all-new webinar happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, July 18, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees are guaranteed a personalized critique of their writing (details below). Don’t forget that multiple literary agents have signed writers after critiquing their work through a WD webinar; you could be next! Read more

How I Got My Agent: Lori Roy

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Lori Roy, author of BENT ROAD and UNTIL SHE COMES AROUND. 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.

Lori Roy is an award-winning novelist who signed with literary agent Jenny Bent of Bent Literary. Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Peter Knapp of Park Literary Group

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About Peter: Peter Knapp joined the Park Literary Group in July 2011. He provides support for all of the agency’s initiatives, and is building his client list. Prior to joining Park Literary, he was the story editor at Floren Shieh Productions, where he consulted on book-to-film adaptations for Los Angeles-based film and TV entities. He graduated from New York University with a B.A. in art history.

He is seeking: He is building his client list with a focus on middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as suspense and thrillers for all ages. He does not represent picture books or nonfiction. Read more

WD’s Tunesday: Volume 3 — Name That Tune and Win Awesome Writing Stuff

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Enjoy a little piano music from time to time? Who doesn’t? Well I’m trying something fun today as a pick-me-up to try and get your week going. It’s my own crazy variation of NAME THAT TUNE and I’m calling it WD’S TUNESDAY. This is Volume 3. It runs until July 28, 2013.

The rules and the gist are simple. Watch the video below. I play 17 melodies (songs & movie themes) on the piano. You try to name as many of them as you can, and e-mail me your answers to literaryagent at fwmedia dot com. The person who names the most correct answers gets lots of cool writing prizes (see below). It’s a great excuse to call upon friends and relatives to help you ID the songs, as they are from different decades. It’s also a great excuse to blow off whatever dull work you’re doing and listen to music instead. And if you can’t name all 17 songs, feel free to enter anyway! If no one can name all 17, the closest number wins. ALSO: If you can simply name just 10 correctly, you automatically get entered into a drawing to a win a free WD book! Read more

Debut Author Interview: Peter Clines, Author of EX-HEROES and EX-PATRIOTS

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Author Peter Clines works fast. That’s probably why it’s tough to call him a debut author. His debut, EX-HEROES, came out in February 2013, and was praised by Wired.com. Ernest Cline, author of Ready Player One, said of it: “It’s The Avengers meets The Walking Dead with a large order of epic served on the side.” Clines’s second novel, EX-PATRIOTS, was released in April 2013. The third book in the series (yes, I said third book in a year!) is EX-COMMUNICATION (July 9, 2013).

His work is a mix of fantasy, science fiction and horror. Clines has published several pieces of short fiction and numerous articles on the film and television industry. He lives in Southern California. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Celeste Holloway

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5. Don’t put a time limit on your dreams. Like an idiot, I thought I’d write my book, do a few edits, and get published. In my mind, this would all go down in a year. Four years later, I signed my contract. I could’ve saved myself a lot of heartache with a more realistic goal. You should do what I didn’t do.

GIVEAWAY: Celeste is excited to give away 2 free copies 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: kstjshin won.) Read more

Debut Author Interview: Kristiana Kahakauwila, Author of THIS IS PARADISE

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It’s time to meet another awesome debut author who found success and explains how you can, too. This newest debut author interview is with Kristiana Kahakauwila, author of the literary short story collection, THIS IS PARADISE, which was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Summer 2013 selection of the Discover Great New Writers program as well as for the Target Emerging Author program.

Kristiana is a native Hawaiian, was raised in Southern California. She earned a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Princeton University. She has worked as a writer and editor for Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, and Highlights for Children magazines and taught English at Chaminade University in Honolulu. An assistant professor of creative writing at Western Washington University, Kristiana splits her time between Bellingham, WA, and Hawai`i. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of the 2013 debut novel, FOREVER, INTERRUPTED. 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.

GIVEAWAY: Taylor 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: ashbporter won.) Read more

How to Deal With Writing Rejections

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The rejection that writers must face during the submission process to agents is brutal. Even though you know it will happen to you – as it does to all writers – it feels personal and daunting. It’s hard not to take it to heart when 20 or 30 literary agents say “no,” – with cold, automated “it’s not right for me” e-mails. It’s hard to remember that many of them receive 50-100 submissions a day; they can’t possibly respond to each one in any validating sort of way. And it only takes one “yes” to set you on the path to publication. How do you find a way to keep believing in yourself, to keep marching onward when doors continue to close? For me, the antidote to carrying around all that angst was to break a plate every time I was rejected. (This guest column by author Beck McDowell.) Read more

Pitch Agents and Producers at our Writer’s Digest West Conference: Sept. 27-29, 2013 in Los Angeles

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The second annual Writer’s Digest West Conference is approaching quickly! We at WD are planning a grand event in Los Angeles from Sept. 27-29, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza. The conference is actually 3 events in one. We have a traditional awesome writers conference, a screenwriting conference, and a self-publishing conference going on at the same time. Read on to learn all details. There are ample opportunities to not only meet speakers and sit in on sessions, but also pitch lots of literary agents and film pros. (Also, early bird pricing ends July 19, so sign up early for a discounted price.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Fiona Kenshole of Transatlantic Agency

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She is seeking: “I am looking for all kidlit categories from picture book to YA. I’ve been a publisher in all these areas and my enthusiasm for all categories continues! For picture books, I’m especially interested in talented author/illustrators. In middle grade and chapter books, I like stories that make me laugh, or real children in magical circumstances (Savvy by Ingrid Law) and I love animal stories; In YA, above all else I look for a captivating and distinctive voice. I’m also happy to look at both literary and commercial fiction. I love a great piece of chick lit. I’m not looking for rhyming picture book texts, poetry, faith-based stories, or vampires, paranormal or sword-and-sorcery fantasy.” Read more

Writing a Novel in Three Months: 5 Simple Steps to a First Draft

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1) Routine. Back when my dad was trying to get me to be a more productive member of society (when I was 10 years old), he stressed the importance of doing a new action for 21 successive days. I’m sure he got this idea from some well-meaning book about how to become successful and happy and live to be 125. But there’s truth to it. Repetition breeds habit, and habit breeds routine.

GIVEAWAY: Peter 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: WagnerLisa34 won.) Read more

Conference Recaps and Photos: My 2013 Conference Gigs in Austin, Clarksville, Pittsburgh, and Middleburg, VA

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During the last three months, I have spent a lot of time meeting writers at conferences nationwide. It’s been a whirlwind teaching season, and I want to share some info about these great 2013 writing events I’ve spoken at, so you can check them out when they come around again in 2014 (because you definitely should!). Recently, I got to present at the Agents & Editors Conference in Austin, TX, the Clarksville Writers Conference in Clarksville, TN, the Hunt Country Writers Retreat in Middleburg, VA (near DC), the Kentucky Writers Conference in Bowling Green, KY, and the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. All were great events. Read more to learn when these conferences will happen again, and see some images of the 2013 happenings. (All events take place between April-July.) Read more

Travel on the Page – How to Write About a Country You’ve Never Visited

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1. Virtual Tour. Google Maps is your friend. Plot believable routes for your characters to take, find out how long their walk to school or work is, and observe local monuments and landmarks. Don’t forget to take a tour down the smaller streets to see what typical neighborhoods look like. YouTube is another great place to start. You’d be surprised how many videos you can find of people walking around local shrines, temples, or markets. While writing SHADOW, I referred to an hour-long video of the train ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station to remind myself what it’s like. I even found myself swaying in time to the train as I watched. Talk about muscle memory.

GIVEAWAY: Amanda 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: Milkfish won.). Read more

How I Got My Agent: Jolina Petersheim

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Jolina Petersheim, author of THE OUTCAST. 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.

GIVEAWAY: Jolina 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: Pulcetta won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Jessica Negron of Talcott Notch Literary

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About Jessica: “I attended University of New Haven, where I initially studied Forensic Science. After two years I came to the realization that, despite my love for titrations (and saying “phenolphthalein”), I could not possibly spend the rest of my life staring at the color pink (the most vile color in all the world) and I would much rather read The Crucible than ever have to handle one again. I made my escape to the English department, where waiting for me were a plethora of musty tomes and a comforting absence of fire. For five years I interned with various local publications in both an editorial and design capacity until finally I found a place with Talcott Notch.” You can follow Jessica on Twitter at @loladeee.

She is seeking: “I’m interested in all kinds of YA and Adult fiction, but lean toward science fiction and fantasy (and all the little sub-genres), romance (the steamier, the better), and thrillers.” Read more

Create an Author Website in 24 Hours or Less: July 2 Webinar With Jane Friedman

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If you want to find success as an author — whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing — you must make an effort to connect with other people. That’s the whole point of social sites like Twitter and Facebook — to connect with readers and writers. But fundamentally more important than social media is simply having a (free) comprehensive author website. That’s why we’ve enlisted eMedia professor and guru Jane Friedman to teach the webinar “Create an Author Website in 24 Hours or Less” at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, September 20, 2012. The intensive class lasts two hours.

Speaking from an editor’s perspective, I can tell you that having a simple, neat website is absolutely essential. You must have something show up when people Google you or try to connect with you. All webinar attendees get to ask Jane as many questions as she wants, and no question goes unanswered. The event happens at 1 p.m., EST, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far: Diana Wagman

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2. Never quit for the day without being excited about what you’re going to write next. Forget finishing the chapter or getting to a good stopping place. It is absolutely imperative to stop in the middle. I get up only when I have the next sentence or event in my mind. That way, I’m anxious to get back to it. I’ll be thinking about it as I do other things (see #1 above) and the story and my characters will be calling to me. When I don’t do that, the next time I sit down I will face a blank page and I can spend the entire day wandering and wondering and never move forward. Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Maryann Karinch of The Rudy Agency

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This installment features Maryann Karinch of The Rudy Agency. In addition to the 18 books she has written, Maryann has also ghostwritten books and done a lot of editing. She is also the founder of The Rudy Agency and serves as a literary agent in several categories. Recently, she has founded an ebook publishing company called GamePlan Press.

She is seeking: Maryann is looking for non-fiction, primarily in these categories: health/medicine, business, culture/values, history/current events, biography/memoir, science/technology, and military/intelligence. In regards to fiction, she’s particularly interested in historical, thriller, mystery/crime. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Jennifer Zobair, Author of the Novel, PAINTED HANDS

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I love interviewing debut authors on this blog. I think talking with first-time authors can help illuminate paths to publications for people who are writing their books and trying to find agents and get published. Today’s spotlight is with author Jennifer Zobair, author of the June 2013 debut PAINTED HANDS (Thomas Dunne Books).

Jennifer Zobair grew up in Iowa and attended Smith College and Georgetown Law School. She has practiced corporate and immigration law and as a convert to Islam, has been a strong advocate for Muslim women’s rights. Jennifer lives with her husband and three children outside of Boston. Read more

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