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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.


6 Rules for Writing a Medical Thriller

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So you’ve decided to write a medical thriller. Your hopes are high. If Robin Cook, Michael Palmer, and Tess Gerritsen could do it, why can’t you? The answer is: you can. Medical thrillers appeal to a wide audience, and many literary agents and editors are looking for the next fresh voice in the genre. So go for it! See if you’ve got what it takes. But first, here are six helpful rules to keep in mind…

GIVEAWAY: John is excited to give away 2 free copies of his novel to random commenters. 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: carolee1968 won.) Read more

3 Good Things About Disturbing Fiction

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I did not at any point request that my teacher refer to me as “the most happily disturbed writer” he’s ever known, nor did I request this quote be emblazoned across the top of my first book. And, yet, there it is.

I wasn’t at first comfortable with this. My wife and children don’t really think of me as a “disturbed” person, and as people who care about the world my wife and I don’t really relish the suggestion that I might be compounding the world’s troubles by adding to its many disturbing stories with even more “disturbed” stories of my own.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized being “happily disturbed” didn’t have to be the identity problem I’d first feared. The fact is, I am disturbed. The world and its many problems do disturb me. If the world didn’t disturb me, I’m not sure I would be a writer of fiction. Read more

14th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Contemporary Middle Grade Fiction

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Welcome to the 14th (free!) “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest on the GLA blog. This is a recurring online contest with agent judges and super-cool prizes. Here’s the deal: With every contest, the details are essentially the same, but the niche itself changes—meaning each contest is focused around a specific category or two. So if you’re writing contemporary middle grade fiction, this 14th contest is for you! (The contest is live through EOD, March 18, 2014.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Cate Hart of Corvisiero Literary Agency

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Cate is seeking: Cate is seeking Young Adult and Middle Grade, New Adult and Adult Romance (specifically Historical Romance), and select erotica and LGBT. She is a fan of quirky, character-driven Young Adult, and snort-out-loud Middle Grade adventure. She loves Historical and Fantasy and would like to find a steampunk that explores new settings and ideas beyond Victorian London. She is also interested in magical realism, high fantasy, mystery, and any combination of the above. Read more

Ask Not What Your Readers Can Do For You…

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I’ve been seeing a lot of posts recently, listing different ways readers can support authors. Most of them are pretty good ideas: buy their books, give them reviews, etc. I’m all about supporting authors; my book budget alone could support an army in one of those countries you’ve never heard of. (Assuming said army liked to read middle grade and YA.)

But when I read these lists, I can’t help wondering if the authors who post them spend as much time thinking about what they can do for their readers as they do about what readers can do for them. I know, I know, you spent years slaving over your manuscript. Isn’t that enough? Read more

3 Ways Military Service Has Made Me a Better Writer

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Since I first saw Ralph Bakshi’s animated Lord of the Rings, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I’m not alone in that. Lots of folks dream of getting a book deal someday. They chase the dream in a lot of ways. Reading obsessively. Going to writing conferences. Signing up for English Literature or Creative Writing MFA programs.

Me? I joined the military.

My third novel hits shelves in just two weeks, coming out from the biggest publisher in the world. I’ve got three more under contract after that. Sure, joining the military maybe wasn’t the most obvious route, but I sure am glad I did it. Here’s what it taught me… Read more

How to Write a Picture Book That Sells — Feb. 27 Webinar (with full book critique!) by Agent Jennifer De Chiara

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Are you thinking about writing a picture book and don’t know where to start? Have you written several but haven’t been able to interest agents or editors? In this new live webinar on Feb. 27, 2014 called “How to Write a Picture Book That Sells,” you’ll learn everything you need to know to not only write a picture book, but also write one that sells.

Literary Agent Jennifer De Chiara has more than fifteen years’ experience working with picture book authors – helping them create story ideas, editing their manuscripts, and selling their work to major publishers. She’ll share with you the tips and tricks of her trade to help you become a published picture book author, whether you only have a story idea you’ve always wanted to develop or a finished manuscript you don’t quite know what to do with or have had trouble selling to a publisher. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees get a full picture book critique. Don’t forget that at least 4 agents who have taught WD webinars have signed clients afterward from the event. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Elizabeth Blackwell

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Elizabeth Blackwell, author of WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT. 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. Elizabeth’s agent is Danielle Egan-Miller of Browne & Miller Literary Associates. Read more

Literary Agent Spotlight: Rena Rossner of The Deborah Harris Agency

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Rena is seeking: “I am most interested in representing Fantasy and Science Fiction in all its permutations – Adult, Middle Grade, Young Adult etc. I also look for Middle Grade and Young Adult contemporary stories and I’d be open to MG/YA mysteries and thrillers as well. I represent quite a few picture books and I’m always looking for those. In terms of adult books, I look for Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, multicultural books, and I’d also consider adult mysteries, thrillers and psychological suspense, but not cozy mysteries. I specifically look for literary work (in any genre,) and books with elements of magical realism and the fantastic. You will steal my heart for sure if it’s set in the Middle East, in Israel or if it has Jewish or Israeli themes and characters, but I’m open to all themes, settings and characters. You’ve got to have a really good reason to send me non-fiction, or cookbooks, but if you have a reason that seems to fit with who I am and what I’m looking for, I’ll take a look.” Read more

6 Steps to Seeing Your Book Published

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Step Five: Breathe. Take time to walk away from your masterpiece and breath. Get a fresh perspective from a trusted adviser. Take time to vent about your long writing journey. And take time to walk away for entire days, hell maybe a week or two. Time when you have left your thoughts on writing to the birds. Free your mind, meditate on life and it’s beauty, but what ever you do, remember that stepping away and thinking of other things can help you re-evaluate what you are putting on each digital or physical page. Read more

Stretching the Facts in Historical Fiction

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My novel GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN is based on Frances Stuart, who posed as Britannia on England’s coins three hundred years ago. As soon as I started writing, I felt a sense of responsibility to make her story as accurate as possible. Scouring sources for facts about her life revealed many unanswered questions. I ended up using as many facts as I could and just fictionalized the gaps. The first draft was done before I realized there are opposing opinions out there as to how the fact-fiction balance should be handled in this genre.

Many stress the importance of accuracy in historical fiction. Others think too many historical details sink the story. Still more believe it isn’t possible to achieve total historical accuracy in storytelling. Almost all agree that the author’s choices should be explained in an author’s note. The degree of emphasis an author places on fact versus fictionalization might be considered a matter of writing style. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by J. Kent Messum

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1. The book business is a great business: Trust me. I spent fifteen years in a really bad business: the music business (a super sleazy viper’s nest of an industry). I’m not saying the book biz doesn’t have its problems, but I’ve largely found publishing to be a well-oiled machine. Most of those employed within it are exceedingly professional and have a tremendous love of books, working tirelessly toward the success of them. Also, the book business isn’t as time-sensitive as music or film. You can get your first book published when you’re twenty-something, or forty-something, or sixty-something… Read more

How to Write a Fast-Draft Novel

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If you’ve ever tried to write a fast draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month) and been unable to complete it, you’re not alone. Plenty of people attempt to get that important first draft down on paper, so they can move to revisions with an eye for deepening characters and motivations, and finessing the plot. But more often than not, writers end their month of drafting with a partially-written draft that they’ll never look at again.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Don’t go into fast-drafting alone and without a plan. Find some camaraderie, some writer friends who will hold you accountable, and then make a solid plan for the book you’d like to not only finish, but market one day. Here are a few suggestions to help you put a plan into place before you start drafting, so you have a better chance of success…

GIVEAWAY: Denise 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: Ron Estrada won.) Read more

Author Interview: Alex Myers, Author of the Historical Novel REVOLUTIONARY

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I love interviewing debut success stories here on the GLA Blog because I believe that aspiring writers can learn from their journeys. Today’s debut author interview is with Alex Myers, whose novel, REVOLUTIONARY, came out in Jan. 2014 from Simon & Schuster. The novel has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Elle, and many other outlets.

GIVEAWAY: Alex 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: kjavic won.) Read more

How I Got My Romance Novel Published, by Julie Shackman

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Christmas 2013 was approaching fast. Tinsel and lights were everywhere but my festive cheer had taken another blow. I had just received yet another rejection for my debut contemporary romance novel “Rock My World”. I had received positive comments but ultimately, it was another “Not for us thanks.” I’d been firing it out to agents and publishers for months and although I had received some great feedback, there was no offer of representation or publication.

I remember trailing round the local supermarket the next morning, trying not to frighten small children with my glum expression. The faint strains of “Ding Dong Merrily On High” were crackling through the PA system yet I wasn’t feeling that merry. Read more

Why Agents Say No: The 20 Manuscript Mistakes That Keep You from Getting Published — Feb. 13 Webinar by Agent Kate McKean

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You are probably making a lot of mistakes in your novel — right now. But that’s OK, because many other writers are doing that, too, especially in their first drafts. But how do you know what mistakes you’re making, and how do you fix them before you show it to an editor or agent? How do you prevent your manuscript from being rejected because of common writer’s pitfalls that can be easily fixed? This live webinar will show you the 20 most common mistakes novelists of any and every genre make, whether it’s your first or 21 novel.

Is your main character sympathetic? Are you sure? Do you know if you’re using too much detail? Too little? Do you know which darlings to kill? In this webinar, you’ll learn how to assess your manuscript like an agent or editor and recognize the most common mistakes that get between a writer and publication. If you think you’re not guilty of even a few of these things, think again. Are you sure? To answer these questions, literary agent Kate McKean is teaching “Why Agents Say No: The 20 Manuscript Mistakes That Keep You from Getting Published.” It’s a new webinar that goes down at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees get a personalized critique. Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Allison Devereux of Wolf Literary Services

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She is seeking: Allison is looking for literary and upmarket commercial fiction with fresh, unique voices and tight prose. She enjoys stories set in familiar, relatable settings, with everyman characters who find themselves in unlikely, surprising, and unexpected situations. She is also passionate about magical realism (more real than magic), and idiosyncratic, picaresque characters.

For nonfiction, Allison is interested in narrative nonfiction, compelling memoir, and books on popular and contemporary culture with a strong, original premise. She is looking for illustrated/graphic books for adults (both fiction and non), as well as blog-to-book projects. She also loves a good humor book. Read more

3 Things to Set You on the Path to Publishing Success

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There are a lot of items that mark a successful entry into the publishing world. As a long-time book editor, and now a writer, I’ve encountered most of them. Here are two must-do’s, as well as one should-do to keep momentum going.

1. WRITE WHAT YOU WANT, NOT WHAT YOU KNOW. Unless they are one and the same. If you’ve got the itch to write, you’re going to have at least a vague subject in mind. If not initially, then eventually. It may be what you know or not. But whatever the case, focus on what you’re passionate about. That takes priority. If it’s a topic with which you are already conversant, then dive right in. If not, learn what you need to know, then take the plunge. Better yet, jump in first and learn as you go.

GIVEAWAY: Barry 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: sharonminer won.) Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Sam Zuppardi

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5. Keep drawing and writing for yourself. While you’re working on projects that involve collaboration or a need to respond to and incorporate feedback, make sure you keep some creative time or space for just doing whatever the heck you like, for making things that are ‘just yours.’ Doing that can help diffuse any creative tension that may arise when you feel you’re having to negotiate with other agendas. Getting something published is a collaborative process involving compromise and negotiation: keep yourself some creative space where you can continue to be entirely selfish.

GIVEAWAY: Sam is excited to give away a free copy of His book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks. Since Sam is based in the UK, he is happy to open the contest to writers there, as well as writers in Canada/US. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal). (UPDATE: Casey James won.) Read more

“Plot Your Book Scene by Scene” — Feb. 6 Webinar (With Critique) by Jordan Rosenfeld

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Over-plotter, under-plotter? Struggles with plot are common among writers at all levels. This live webinar, “Plot Your Book: Scene by Scene,” will take the guess-work out of plotting by teaching you the key scenes that build your plot backbone, providing a refresher on the elements of a scene, and breaking down the specific kinds of scenes you’ll need at each of the three key Acts of a novel. Plots, after all, are simply stories comprised of well-placed and stylized scenes.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld brings over a decade of experience in teaching students how to use scenes to transform writing. She believes that scenes are fiction’s “magic ingredient” – activating writing so that your readers are drawn palpably into the experience of your character’s story, versus the flat habits of summarizing and expository writing. A former freelance journalist, she can help you to learn the difference between passive “telling” of a story and powerful, active demonstrating of a fantastic plot. All attendees get an individualized critique. Read more

Method Writing for Historical Fiction Writers

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When I was in high school drama, I was intrigued by method actors. I thought they were a little reckless, a bit more edgy than the average actor. I was impressed by their dedication, by their ability to fully embrace the life of their character. While I didn’t end up being an actress, I satisfied that desire—of inhabiting an entirely different life and set of experiences (with the added bonus of time travel)—with writing (and reading). When I started working on my historical novel I Shall Be Near To You, about a young woman who disguises herself as a man and follows her new husband into the Union Army, I found that merely looking at pictures of soldiers and battlefields or reading descriptions of life on farms and or in the ranks just wasn’t enough for me. I needed to feel like I was truly bringing my characters to life.

GIVEAWAY: Erin 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: lionetravail won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Christopher Rhodes of James Fitzgerald Agency

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He is seeking: Christopher accepts queries in the following areas: fiction; connected stories/essays; memoir; young adult; creative/narrative nonfiction; economics; social activism; inspirational; self-help; history (last 200 years); entrepreneurship; art & design; health & beauty. Read more

Conference Spotlight: The Northern Colorado Writers Conference — Fort Collins, March 28-29, 2014

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Coming up fast is a great writing event in Fort Collins, CO — The Northern Colorado Writers Conference, happening March 28-29, 2014. I will be speaking at this event, which features sessions, agents, and more. The theme this year is “2014 Writing Odyssey: To Publishing and Beyond.” Because the conference serves to give the most personal attention to all attendees, the event is limited to 130 attendees, so don’t waste time checking out the 2014 NCWC. All levels/genres of writer are welcome. Read more

The Best Piece of Writing Advice I Ever Got — And The Worst

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One of the surprises, for me, of finishing a first novel was discovering just how many of the most hackneyed pieces of writing advice actually turn out to be true. For example: Nearly every interview with every writer will include some reference to how important it is to just sit your butt in the chair—meaning, the best way to get writing done is simply to get it done. This is true.

And then there’s the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Spoiler alert: You’ve probably heard it before. Here goes: Write the book you want to read.

GIVEAWAY: Adam 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

Don’t Give Up Until You’ve Queried 80 Agents or More

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The other day, a writer friend asked for my advice in dealing with all pesky rejections in the query stage. I asked how many agents she had queried. “Forty,” she said.

“Well, then you’re halfway there.”

I wasn’t trying to be flippant, but if you are serious about getting published, then don’t even think about giving up until you’ve queried at least one hundred agents. Really. But there are a lot of caveats attached to that advice… Read more

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