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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.


Querying 101: Putting Your Best Book Forward — New Sept. 26 Webinar (With Critique) by Agent Jennifer De Chiara

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Maybe you’re the next Stephen King, maybe you’ve written a New York Times bestseller, but if you don’t know how to query, no one will ever know. Learning how to write a great query, one that will not only make an agent want to read your book but pick up the phone and call you the minute he/she reads your query, is essential if you want to be a published author.

Literary agent Jennifer De Chiara will guide you, step by step, in writing the perfect pitch for your book. She’ll offer do’s and don’ts from her 16+ years of agenting and share queries that got her attention and those that didn’t. De Chiara will also give tips on how to find the right agents to query – if you’ve written a dynamite query, it’s still worthless if you’re not sending it to the right agents. It’s all part of her new webinar: “Querying 101: Putting Your Best Book Forward.” The webinar happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees receive a query critique. Don’t forget that at least 4 agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD boot camp or webinar. Read more

Working with a Publishing House Editor

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Prior to working with Susan Swinwood, senior editor of Mira Books, my only experience with editors dated back to my college days. A short story called “ The Sand Castle” was picked up for our college literary magazine. The editor said he loved my story, but added that it could use “a spot of editing.” I didn’t really know what editing entailed, but was amazed at how changes he made to my story altered the flavor completely, not wholly to my liking. For example, he replaced a simple sentence like “He slipped out of the apartment” with “The urge in him wound itself around the door knob.” Many such robust edits later, the story still had my byline, but frankly I felt like it had been written by someone else. This unfortunate experience gave me a jaundiced view of an editor’s job, which I believed was to bully writers and mess up good writing (or at least my definition of “good.”)

GIVEAWAY: Shona 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: bendwriter won.) Read more

Literary Agent Andy Ross Seeks Clients and Queries

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Andy is seeking: “My agency represents books in a wide range of subjects including: narrative nonfiction, science, journalism, history, current events, and fiction. For nonfiction, I look for writing with a strong voice, robust arc, and books that tell a big story about culture and society by authors with the authority to write about their subject. I am also seeking works of literary, commercial, and young adult fiction. I like stories about real people in the real world. No vampires and trolls, thank you very much.” Read more

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

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1) Don’t send your manuscript out to every agent at once. I learned this by mistake. I made a list of twelve agents that I wanted to send my book to and prepared a submission pack for each one. I then realized that I only had three stamps so I sent three out and decided that I might as well wait and see how they responded before sending the rest. I’m glad I did. All three turned it down and all three mentioned that they didn’t like synopsis. I rewrote the synopsis (which, in fairness, was awful) and sent out the manuscript to the remaining seven agents on my list. Five said yes! Maybe they would have been interested anyway, who knows, but it makes sense to submit in batches to take advantage of any feedback you might get.

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

How I Got My Agent: Monica Wesolowska, Author of HOLDING SILVAN

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Monica Wesolowska, author of HOLDING SILVAN [a memoir]. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent.

GIVEAWAY: Monica 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: PGreene34 won.) Read more

6 Keys to Revising Your Fiction

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1) Make sure you’re in love. I’m not a genius, my stories are not born lovely and perfect, their language strong, their plot lean and exciting. I have to work at it—a lot. And I don’t mind, because I enjoy editing. But I know there’s a big difference between revising a story I love and revising one I’m just fond of.

Perhaps this is obvious but to me the most important factor in ensuring successful revising is to be working on a piece that has legs or emotional resonance for you. If not, you’ll probably give up long before it’s in the best shape possible. So what’s the key to knowing if it’s love or just infatuation? I once listed all of the stories, screenplays and plays I’d written—over 30—and looked at the themes, characters and plot, and I was able to see certain patterns. Not surprisingly, whenever I loved a story and its themes and characters, I ended up revising it enough that it was perfect—or as perfect as I could make it. And that story usually resonated with others. Read more

Author Interview: J.C. Carleson, Author of WORK LIKE A SPY: BUSINESS TIPS FROM A FORMER CIA OFFICER

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It’s time to meet another author who got a literary agent & book deal — so we can learn from their path to success. This interview is with J.C. Carleson, a former undercover CIA officer. She spent nine years conducting clandestine operations around the globe before trading the real world of espionage for writing about espionage. She is the author of the nonfiction book, WORK LIKE A SPY: BUSINESS TIPS FROM A FORMER CIA OFFICER (Portfolio, Feb. 2013). Success said the book will “make you more versatile, shrewd and savvy, whether you’re a job seeker, salesperson, manager or CEO.” Publishers Weekly said “This quick and enjoyable read offers plentiful nuggets of information, which can be put to good use by any career-minded reader.” Read more

Agent Advice: Carole Jelen of Waterside Productions

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This interview features Carole Jelen, vice president at Waterside Productions. As publishing agent for two decades and coauthor of Creating Your Author Platform: The New Rules, this former publishing executive and editor has worked with innovators including Steve Jobs, and is designated as a “Career Builder” literary agent. Among her slew of unique specialties and responsibilities, she also connects authors to publishers in all top series, such as the branded “For Dummies” line and build author careers with single titles and full series lines.

She is seeking: Her top-selling specialty areas include technology, business and self-help. Read more

11 Ways to Write More Authentic Historical Novels, by A. Historian

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As a historical fiction writer, you will, of course, read up on your chosen era in textbooks, encyclopedias, and other basic sources. That alone, however, will not bring authenticity to your work. Please allow me to offer 11 ideas for your consideration.

1. Watch out for anachronistic words and phrases. The best place to find out when and how a word was first used is the massive Oxford English Dictionary, available at university libraries. Easier to find (or buy a copy!) is Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, which sometimes gives dates as well. English Through the Ages by William Brohaugh organizes words by decade. Check a good slang dictionary (Jonathon Green’s is my favorite) before allowing your colonial character to indulge in phrases like “don’t flip your wig,” a quip dating from the 1950s. Read more

Live Query-a-Thon With Agents Kate McKean & Jim McCarthy: Sept. 17 Webinar With Query Critique

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In this live webinar, literary agents Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary) and Jim McCarthy (Dystel & Goderich) invite you to peek behind the curtain and watch exactly what happens when an agent considers your query. Working from the submissions they receive (all names on queries will be removed), participants will have the chance to read along with them as they decide whether to stop reading or carry on. You’ll see the exact moment in query letters that each perks up or passes. Think of it like AMERICAN IDOL: QUERY EDITION. Along the way, you’ll garner helpful tips on what to avoid as you write your own query, how to stand out from the pack (in a good way), and what goes on in an agent’s mind as they consider your material.

We’re calling this webinar “What an Agent Really Thinks While Reading Queries: A Live Query-A-Thon.” It happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees will get a query critique from the literary agent instructors. Don’t forget that multiple literary agents have signed writers after reading their work as part of a WD webinar! Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Literary

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About Claire: Claire Anderson-Wheeler is the newest agent to join the team at Regal Literary Management. Prior to that she worked at Anderson Literary Management in New York, and at Christine Green Authors’ Agent in London, UK. She holds an LLB from Trinity College, Dublin, and a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK. Claire is Irish, was born in DC, and grew up in Dublin, Geneva, and Brussels. For more on Claire’s tastes, you can read an online interview here.

She is seeking: YA with a strong voice (realistic or high-concept), works of narrative non-fiction and pop culture/pop psychology, literary fiction, and commercial women’s fiction driven by strong contemporary issues. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Tricia Goyer

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3. Relationships with other writers are the most valuable resource in a writer’s toolbox. I attended my first writers conference in 1994. I was 22-years-old and pregnant with my third baby. I was the most unlikely person there to become a published author, and while the knowledge I learned about writing has benefited me over the years, the people I’ve met changed everything. I met a multi-published author who became a good friend. She also introduced me (and recommended me) to my agent, who I’ve worked with since 1997. I met other new authors who I connect with for support and critique. They are still my friends, and all of us have found publishing success. So many times at conferences writers stalk the agents and authors. Just as important are those sitting at the lunch table with you. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Rachel Coker

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring RACHEL COKER, author of the novel 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: Rachel 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: sarahgene618 won.) Read more

Successful Queries: Agent Julia Kenny and “Sure Signs of Crazy”

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This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letter examples that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting these query letter samples, we will also get to hear thoughts from the writer’s literary agent as to why the letter worked.

The 64th installment in this series is with agent Julia Kenny (Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary) for Karen Harrington’s debut middle-grade novel, SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY (August 2013, Little Brown Books for Young Readers) which received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist and School Library Journal.

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: Rosi won.) Read more

Balancing Act: How to Live Life as a Wife, Mother & Writer

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I wear many hats. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher, an editor, a writer and a friend. How do I achieve success? Through a careful balance of discipline, prioritizing, self-motivation and mercy. I have 24 in a day and usually allocate eight for sleeping. In order to take care of myself, my family, and my career I must consciously discipline myself by 1) Being a boss—As a boss, I set schedules for myself. These include how many pages I will edit or write in a day and what chores I must accomplish that day…

GIVEAWAY: Jaimie 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: GSMarlene won.) Read more

The 2014 Guide to Literary Agents is Out! Here are 44 Reasons to Buy It (and a Giveaway Contest!)

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The new 2014 edition of the Guide to Literary Agents is out, all updated and packed with info. I realize there are other places you can turn to for information on agents, but the Guide to Literary Agents has always prided itself as being the biggest (we list almost every agent) and the most thorough (guidelines, sales, agent by agent breakdowns, etc.). That’s why it’s been around for 23 years and that’s why it’s sold more than 300,000 copies. It works—and if you keep reading, I’ll prove it to you with testimonials from 44 awesome writers.

THE GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post and just say anything nice about any element of Writer’s Digest you enjoy — from a blog post to a class or a book or anything else. In two weeks (Sept. 25, 2013), I will pick 3 winners randomly to win a copy of the book! It’s that easy. (UPDATE: cvanderpool, Jenxian and Justin Z. won.) Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Ben Stroud

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1. Writing Routines Are Only So Valuable. I used to be a stickler for routine. My desk needed to be just so. I needed the room (and preferably the apartment) to myself. I needed non-vocal music (classical or soundtracks). Then I moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Germany. I couldn’t get a good radio station—this surprised me. The only option for a desk in my furnished apartment was a slatted folding table not much larger than one square foot that I had to stick in the corner of the living room. Gone were all the little things I depended on. But I worked that year, every day, and learned that all that other stuff was unnecessary. I needed only the desk.

GIVEAWAY: Ben is excited to give away a free copy of his collection 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

How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir – Sept. 12, 2013 Webinar (With Critique) by Agent Regina Brooks

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Writing a memoir or your life story? Get it published! Instructor Regina Brooks is a literary agent as well as the author of You Should Really Write A Book: Write, Sell And Market Your Memoir. On Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, at 1 p.m. EST, she is teaching her signature webinar called “Write & Sell Your Memoir.” It’s an intensive all about memoir writing and publishing, and lasts 90 minutes.

All attendees get an awesome critique — a review of their proposal! Don’t forget that agents Louise Fury, Barbara Poelle and Kathleen Ortiz have all signed writers after reviewing their work as part of a WD webinar. Ortiz recently sold that client’s first 2 books! Read more

How I Got My Agent: Brian McClellan

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Brian McClellan, author of PROMISE OF BLOOD: Book One of the Powder Mage Trilogy. 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: Brian 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: burrowswrite won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alerts: Jodell Sadler and Loretta Caravette of Sadler-Caravette Children’s Literary

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Jodell is seeking: Jodell is interested in YA, MG (especially funny) , fiction and nonfiction, book proposals, and picture books. She will also coach writers wanting to self publish. She simply loves a well-paced story that moves her between joy and tears.

Loretta is seeking: Loretta specializes in MG fiction and early readers, and will focus on film rights management. Her academic article, Portrait of the Reader as a Young Child, was published in Children & Libraries: the Journal of the Association for Library Services to Children. Read more

How to Write and Sell Great Children’s Books: Sept. 9 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp with Awesome Critique for Attendees

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WD’s September 2013 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp is shaping up to be an awesome opportunity for writers of children’s books. The new topic is “How to Write and Sell Great Children’s Books: From Toddler to Teen,” and this boot camp is for writers of picture books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels.

It all starts on September 9, 2013, and features the amazing agents at Full Circle Literary offering instruction and critiques to all attendees. Picture book writers get their entire book critiqued while MG & YA writers get a query critique and five-page critique. This is a great opportunity to get a professional’s thoughts on your work, and possibly attract the attention of an agent at the same time. There is a limited number of seats for this event, and WD Boot Camps frequently sell out, so sign up quickly. Read more

Need Ideas or a Writing Boost? Read Your Newspaper’s Obituaries

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For an author, obituaries provide a wealth of story material. I’ve gotten character names from reading obituaries and story ideas. I’ve learned things I didn’t know and came across connections I would have never made otherwise. Try these on for size:

– Donald Doutrich raced against Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.
– Jeanne Recht loved to drive, too. She liked getting lost. She’d choose a road she had never been down and keep making turns to see where she’d end up. Sometimes, she’d drive for days. Alone.
– George Wise’s favorite pastime was sitting on his backyard swing, and Edward Etzweiler loved to boogie board at the shore with his granddaughters, their families said. Read more

How to Write Historical Fiction: 7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity

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2. Let the characters engage with the historical details. This goes along with that “show don’t tell” truism writers are told all the time. Rather than just dumping a bunch of facts on the poor reader, let your characters interact with these details with all these senses. Let them smell the offal dumped onto the cobblestone streets. Let them squint in the fading light of the tallow candles. Let them feel the tingling sensation as the physician places a leech on their bare skin. Read more

WD’s Tunesday: Volume 4 — 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 4. It runs until September 20, 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 8 correctly, you automatically get entered into a drawing to a win a free WD book! Read more

Tunesday: Volume 3 Answers Revealed — and Meet the Winner, Writer Jessica Hoefer

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Today, Friday, I’ve posting a double shot of fun musical blog posts. First, in this column find the answers to the third volume of Tunesday (the first piano edition). But before that, you will meet the winner of the third contest, Jessica Hoefer, a writer like you.

Secondly, make sure to check out the 4th volume of Tunesday, which went live today (Sept. 6, 2013) and lasts for 2 weeks. There are awesome writing prizes, and it’s free to enter. It’s essentially just “Name That Tune,” so if you like music and like writing prizes, check it out. Read more

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