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  • Guide to Literary Agents

Nonfiction

Peer Reviews: Seek Quality in Your Beta Readers, Not Quantity

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No one agrees on anything. As a journalist, I became adept at self-editing and even more convinced of the uselessness of outside criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some great editors and they have done a stellar job in helping to craft my stories. But I have also witnessed what happens when a story is edited by several different editors, each of them determined to leave their mark. I have had one editor remove a section only to have another put it back in. I have read stories so thick with markings that I once again lost track of what I was originally trying to say. I developed strategies to avoid multiple editors, turning work in close to the deadline so there was less time for it to be passed around. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Noelle Sterne

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1. After all the time, send-outs, get-backs, and hard work, the ecstasy of acceptance is fabulous and tear-filled. Let yourself scream, cry, feel the nervous soaring rise in your chest. If you can share it with someone, all the better.

GIVEAWAY: Noelle is excited to give away a free copy of her book 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: leeannniazi won.) Read more

Author Interview: Adam Brownlee, Author of “Building a Small Business That Warren Buffet Would Love”

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Along with plenty of agent interviews on this blog, I’m hoping to do more interviews of up-and-coming writers (especially debuts as well as up-and-coming authors) that I like or I think you should know. Today please enjoy an interview with author Adam Brownlee, who I met at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in 2011. Adam is the author of Building a Small Business That Warren Buffet Would Love (March 12, 2012, Wiley).

GIVEAWAY: Adam is excited to give away a free copy of his book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; 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: ManiacMom won.) Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Howard Yoon of Ross Yoon Literary

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This installment features Howard Yoon of Ross Yoon Literary. Starting in 1992 as Gail Ross’s literary assistant, Howard worked his way up to literary agent and principal of the Ross Yoon Agency as an editorial director, ghostwriter, foreign rights manager, book consultant and editor. He is also the co-author of, Begging for Change (HarperCollins), which won the Terry McAdams prize for best book on the nonprofit sector.

He is seeking: nonfiction in the areas of narrative nonfiction, memoir, current events, history, science, cookbooks, and popular culture. Read more

How I Came to Write ”The Floor of Heaven”

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The more I read, and the more I thought about all that I was reading, I became fixated not so much on the taming of the American West as I was by what happened after the West was won. Like my childhood “West” that came to an abrupt end at the hands of the developers, I became intrigued by an Wild West that had suddenly grown civilized. In the 1890s the vanquished Indian tribes had settled with dour resignation on government reservations, the wheels of steam engines now clicked and clacked against the metal tracks stretching across the plains where short generations ago herds of buffalo had thundered, and homesteaders pounded sturdy fence posts and plowed the rich brown earth. Read more

A Book’s Timeline: How My Nonfiction Project Came to Life

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You need a clear understanding of the scope of your inquiry, how you’ll access the material you need—archives, letters, libraries, interviews, firsthand reporting—and how much time, money and travel this will require. Once you’ve defined your trajectory, and can describe your book in a sentence, all you have to do is write it! Here’s how my second nonfiction book, Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, took shape. Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency

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This installment features Russell Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency. Russell is a graduate of Brandeis University. He started within days as an apprentice to “the most colorful and successful agent of his era,” Scott Meredith, and he made his first sale within a month.

He is seeking: In fiction, his passion lies within novels that stretch the bounds of reality. A novel needs to take him some place you can’t get to in a car, whether it be the past, the future, a fantasy world, an alternate historical track, a world in which our world touches another that is hidden or rarely seen, or one which has been changed by some new technology, event, or idea. In nonfiction, he seeks strong, serious books on almost any subject—as long as they teach him something. He’s interested in science, history, journalism, biography, business, memoir, nature, politics, sports, contemporary culture, literary nonfiction, etc.
Read more

How I Got My Agent: Robert Weintraub

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Robert Weintraub wrote The House That Ruth Built (April 2011, Little Brown), a book that examines the 1923 Yankees; it’s a story Library Journal said all baseball lovers would enjoy. Robert is also a sports columnist for Slate and has written for ESPN.com, Play, the Guardian, Football Outsiders, and many other publications. Read more

3 Laws of Writing on Wildlife

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1. All animals all the time. I’ve had a dedicated and passionate interest in wild animals and wild places since I was 8 years old. Reason? Walt Disney. It was Disney’s early short films on wildlife that sucked me in. He showed animals in their natural habitat and lots of them. One of those first films was on seals. The biologist who did the footage telegrammed Walt to ask what to do next. Disney sent a three-word answer: “Shoot more seals.” He was right then and he is still right. The First Law is: Wildlife is your subject. Read more

The 5 Keys to Selling Your Nonfiction Book or Memoir — Webinar, April 21, 2011

Selling nonfiction (and memoir) requires a different mindset. You have to step out of your writer shoes and step into business shoes. That means drafting a nonfiction book proposal with a breakdown … Read more

New Agent Alert: Dana Newman of Dana Newman Literary

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Reminder: Newer agents are golden opportunities for new writers because they’re likely building their client list; however, always make sure your work is as perfect as it can be before submitting, and only query agencies that are a great fit for your work. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and postage.

She is seeking: prescriptive and narrative nonfiction books in the areas of lifestyle and wellness (health, mind-body-spirit, and fitness), memoir, parenting, business, technology, and popular culture. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Debra Ann Pawlak

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Debra Ann Pawlak is the author of Bringing Up Oscar: The Men and Women Who Founded the Academy (Jan. 2011). She writes from southeastern Michigan and has authored a children’s book detailing the life of Bruce Lee. Her work has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Writer, Aviation History and
Michigan History Magazine. Read more

Jane Friedman is Teaching a Webinar: ''3 Secrets for Selling Your Nonfiction Book''

Jane Friedman, the former publisher of WD and all-around nonfiction & platform guru, is teaching a great webinar for writers of nonfiction: “3 Secrets for Selling Your Nonfiction Book” (link updated). This … Read more

Agent Cricket Freeman On: Nonfiction Credentials in a Book Proposal

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No matter what type of nonfiction book you’ve written, if you’re proposing your book for publication you must show you’re prepared. Imagine an editor is considering two book proposals by first-time writers. Both books are equally clever in concept, suited for his house, and he’d be proud publishing either. But he only has budget for one. Reviewing one he sees a tight synopsis, a descriptive table of contents, and a short author bio. Promising.

Cricket Freeman is a literary agent with The August Agency. Read more

Rachelle Gardner On: 5 Reasons Nonfiction Writers Need a Book Proposal

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If you have a completed manuscript, you may be tempted to think that’s enough. It’s not. You still need a proposal. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Publishers usually don’t look at nonfiction manuscripts. The proposal itself provides information publishers need in order to make a purchasing decision. Before they even want to read sample chapters, they will review elements such as the author’s platform, how the book fits into the marketplace, and what titles already exist on your topic.

Guest column by literary agent Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary. Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Laurie Abkemeier of DeFiore and Company

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This installment features Laurie Abkemeier of DeFiore and Company. Originally from northern California, Laurie cut her teeth as an editor at Hyperion, where she was responsible for five New York Times best-sellers, including Brain Droppings by George Carlin. In 2003, Laurie became a literary agent, exclusively representing nonfiction.

She is seeking: funny memoirs and entertaining approaches to serious subjects. She is currently most interested in accessible narrative nonfiction and investigative journalism in the areas of science, nature, history, pop culture, and sociology–and legal and medical investigations in particular.
Read more

Hearing Voices: 6 Steps I Used for Creating an Anthology

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1. Find A Unique Theme
After two positive experiences of contributing to anthologies about education, I was ready to work on my own. But what voice needed to be heard and hadn’t been heard before? A life-changing experience answered these questions when my son was deployed to war. The seldom-heard voices of mothers sending their sons and daughters to war needed to be heard. This Chorus would narrate their stories telling of the sacrifice our children make every day.

2. Set Goals For Your Anthology
My son made it home, defying death several times. I could breathe again. I wanted this to be a book where military mothers could all breathe a little easier, narrating our stories and sharing our burdens. Read more

The 8 Elements of a Nonfiction Book Proposal

Writing a strong nonfiction book proposal can seem a daunting task at first. However, once you understand the elements required, you can create a proposal that compels agents and editors to want … Read more

Agent Sharlene Martin is Teaching ''10 Secrets to a Winning Book Proposal''

More very cool news: Literary agent Sharlene Martin—a nonfiction book expert whose clients have been featured on the “Today” show,” “Oprah,” The View,” and just about everything else—is teaching a webinar on … Read more

Agent Advice: Regina Ryan of Regina Ryan Publishing Enterprises

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This installment features Regina Ryan of Regina Ryan Publishing Enterprises.

She is seeking: Regina primarily represents adult nonfiction. She is particularly interested in projects having to do with architecture, history, business, natural history (especially birds), science, the environment, women’s issues, parenting, cooking, psychology, health, fitness, sports, travel, gardening and well-written narrative nonfiction. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Judy Winter

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the GLA blog. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

Judy Winter is a national speaker, advocate, and the author of Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations. Read more

Agent Advice: Kate Epstein of The Epstein Literary Agency

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This installment features Kate Epstein of The Epstein Literary Agency. Kate founded her agency in 2005, after four years’ acquisitions experience at Adams Media. Kate Epstein holds a B.A. with Highest Honors in English from the University of Michigan.

She is seeking: The only fiction she accepts is YA. On the nonfiction side, she likes Crafts, Fashion, Health, Humor, Inspiration. Journalism, Lifestyles, Memoir. Nonfiction Narrative, Parenting, Pets, Popular Culture, Reference, Relationships, Self-Help, Travel, and Women’s Interest. Read more

New Agent Alert: Jennifer Unter of The Unter Agency

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Reminder: Newer agents are golden opportunities for new writers because they’re likely building their client list; however, always make sure your work is as perfect as it can be before submitting, and only query agencies that are a great fit for your work. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and postage.

She is seeking: quality fiction and general nonfiction, with a particular interest in memoir, food/cooking, nature/environment, biography, pop culture, travel/adventure, true crime, politics and health/fitness. She also represents all types of children’s literature (picture books, middle grade, and young adult). Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jody M. Roy

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This is a new recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from writer Jody M. Roy.

Jody M. Roy, Ph.D., serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere. One of her books include Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story. Read more

New Agent Alert: Jennifer Lawler at The Salkind Agency

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Editor’s Note: As of December 2010, Jennifer no longer appears on the agency website. Do not query her.

Reminder: Newer agents are golden opportunities for new writers because they’re likely building their client list; however, always make sure your work is as perfect as it can be before submitting, and only query agencies that are a great fit for your work. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time and postage. Read more

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