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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.


    Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels: Nov. 14 Webinar by Cheryl Klein (of Harry Potter Editing Fame)

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    Readers may buy novels for their storylines—the facts that they can learn from the flap copy or an Internet blurb. But readers love books for their characters, because compelling characters bring feeling and meaning to what would otherwise be a mere list of events (also known as the plot). And if you’re trying to hook an agent or editor, nothing will make your opening chapters stand out more than truly distinctive characters: fictional people, whom you have made real, who compel that agent or editor to want to find out what happens next.

    In this live webinar — titled “Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels” – Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic executive editor Cheryl Klein will teach you multiple strategies for getting readers interested and invested in your characters. She’ll draw on examples from popular middle-grade and YA novels to show you how successful authors work their magic, and provide a solid, actionable list of techniques that can be applied singly or in combination to strengthen your characterizations, from your protagonist and villain down to your supporting cast. By the end of the webinar, you’ll be well equipped to create characters who make agents and editors want to read more of your work, and eventually keep all readers turning the pages. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, and lasts for 90 minutes. Read more

    7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Helene Wicker

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    1. Write everything down. I’m in the grocery store, staring vaguely at the produce, when the heavens open up and a great writing idea lands in my brain. I know I should stop and write it down. But isn’t that a little weird, to pull out my notebook in the middle of the Safeway? I’ll look like a moody Goth kid scribbling in her diary. Besides, this is such a great idea, there’s no way will I forget it. And then, guess what? I forget it.

    GIVEAWAY: Helene 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: SammySammo won.) Read more

    My Adventures in … Los Angeles and Writer’s Digest Conference West 2013

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    I know it was 6 weeks ago, but I still wanted to post some great photos of our latest Writer’s Digest Conference — this one in Los Angeles in late September 2013. It’s always great to meet west coast writers. I know our agents who attended the Pitch Slam and met writers commented that the talent pool at the event was quite high. That’s exciting to hear, and likely means we’ll add to our large growing list of WD conference success stories. Our next WD conference will be sometime in 2014 in New York City — either in the summer or fall of 2014. See you there! Read more

    How I Learned to Kill My Darlings

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    William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” When I first heard that from my mentor, the late Andre Dubus Jr., I knew what he meant. Don’t show off! It’s about the story, not about you, the author. But this was easier said than done.

    I’ve always been a pretty good story teller, the sort of person who can hold the attention of a group of people at a dinner table for four or five minutes spinning out one of my favorite tales. Perhaps that’s what led me to believe I could be a writer — the belief that all I had to do was to get these stories down on paper. But I quickly learned it isn’t as simple as that. First of all, good stories told to a group of friends don’t always hold up well as a standalone piece someone might read at bedtime or riding on the commuter train. Sometimes it’s the spirit of the gathering that makes these stories work best, a few bottles of wine and the inflected voice of the storyteller. By the same token, the story may be a stand-alone piece that falls flat or becomes an abstraction if it’s put into a the larger context of a novel. Let me give you an example… Read more

    Agent Emily Keyes Moves to Foreword Literary — Seeks Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-Fi and More

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    She is seeking: Emily is a particular lover of all types of young adult and middle grade books. She wants to represent the kind of stories that will resonate with kids for the rest of their lives. She loves strong voices and unique characters, not knock-offs or trend chasers. Some of her favorite authors include Deb Caletti, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gary D. Schmidt, and Megan Whalen Turner. She thinks books are best when they make you laugh and cry.

    Emily is also looking for a select list of commercial fiction which includes fantasy & science fiction, women’s fiction, new adult fiction, along with pop culture and humor titles. She is not looking for poetry, short stories, picture books or anything that is “publishable” and not amazing. Read more

    Pitch Clinic With Agent Critiques: How to Shape an Excellent Pitch to Hook Editors & Agents — Nov. 12 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp

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    If your query isn’t getting many requests from agents and editors for more, chances are your pitch is to blame. The query pitch — where you explain what your book is about in several sentences — is the crucial, most important part of the query. Your pitch must be clear, concise, interesting, and possess a flavor of the manuscript’s voice. So if you’re struggling with your pitch, we have an opportunity that allow you to get not only instruction on pitching, but also a critique of your pitch from not one but two established literary agents.

    This all-new Pitch Clinic Agent One-on-One Boot Camp (starts Nov. 12, 2013) will show you how to best present your book to literary agents and editors. In this intensive boot camp, 5 literary agents will personally help you compose and shape your book’s pitch – so you will have an excellent chance of hooking agents with a description of your story. As with all WD boot camps, seats are limited, so sign up for before the class reaches its maximum size and is closed. Read more

    How I Got My Agent: M.V. Freeman, Author of INCANDESCENT

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    “How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring M.V. Freeman, author of INCANDESCENT, represented by Aponte Literary Agency. 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: M.V. is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in the US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: burrowswrite won.) Read more

    Voluntary Masochism: Writing with Emotion

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    Readers expect emotion. Oh, they love humor as well but they expect and really want characters they can identify with deeply, who go through pain and learn and heal and come out on the other side changed and triumphant!

    Writer Sharon Sala teaches a workshop on how to express emotion. Her advice sounded easy but opened a new world to me: to convey the emotions your characters feel, dig deep inside yourself, find those emotions you may not have allowed yourself to show before. Remember the time you were saddest or deeply devastated or very happy and imbue your characters with what you felt.

    GIVEAWAY: Jane 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: writeandtravel won.) Read more

    New Literary Agent Alert: Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary Agency

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    Maria is seeking: Maria is looking for literary and commercial fiction, new adult, young adult, middle grade, high-concept picture books, and nonfiction proposals in the pop culture, pop psychology, design, and lifestyle categories. She has a particular interest in magical realism, fiction with visual components, and nonfiction inspired by online culture. Read 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

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