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  • Guide to Literary Agents

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.


Re-Vision? Easier Said Than Seen

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The most difficult aspect of revision is that the process requires seeing our own mistakes. That speck of dust in our neighbor’s eye is a lot easier to see than the log in our own. I learned most about sentence-level revision from Richard Lanham, distinguished scholar, writer, and UCLA professor, who has written a number of books, including Revising Prose, in which he develops the “Paramedic Method” (PM), a series of steps that help writers find both the sound and the sense of each sentence. Sound and sense: that’s what I like most about the PM. Aside from pushing us to see the ethics of writing, Lanham’s method reinforces the impossibility of separating structure from idea. The PM helps us see the axis of the sentence—both the actual main subject and verb, as well as the unacknowledged subject and verb. If we can see a difference between the actual and the unacknowledged in any sentence, it’s time to revise, to look again. Read more

The Gospel of Combat: How Fight Scenes Feed Your Story

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So you’re working on a story, and there comes a point where it really ought to have a fight scene. But you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m not a martial artist! I have no idea how to fight!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Fight scenes are so boring. I’d rather just skip over this and get back to the actual story.” Or something else that makes you dread writing that scene, rather than looking forward to it with anticipation.

To the first group, I say: the details of how to fight are possibly the least important component of a fight scene. The crucial components are the same ones you’re already grappling with in the rest of your writing—namely, description, pacing, characterization, and all that good stuff. To the second group, I say: it’s only boring if the author does it wrong.

GIVEAWAY: Marie is excited to give away a free copy of her e-book [mobi or epub formats] to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners can live anywhere. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: Debbie won.) Read more

“The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise that Sells — Agent One-on-One Boot Camp With Critique Starts April 11

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The idea’s the thing. If you build your story around a unique and compelling idea, your odds of selling it increase dramatically. Often, a perfectly good project will go unsold because the premise on which it is based is too predictable, commonplace, or over-published. Whether you’re writing a novel or a short story, a screenplay or a memoir, you need to find a way to set your story apart from the competition — and the competition is tougher than ever in today’s marketplace.

But in this one-of-a-kind boot camp — “The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise that Sells Boot Camp” (starting April 11) — you will learn the ins and outs of high-concept, as literary agent, author, and content strategist Paula Munier reveals how you can transform your story idea from “same old same old” to “high-concept hit.” Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

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Taylor is seeking: “I am drawn to novels with a compelling voice and grounded, relatable characters that pull me into their world from the start. My favorite books have strong emotional elements that stay with me long after I finish reading. My current interests include young adult fiction, historical fiction, and historical romance. I do not represent screenplays.” Read more

How I Sold My Supernatural Thriller, By Matt Manochio

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Every aspiring author dreams of that first book contract. I landed one in April 2010 when Dorchester Publishing bought my crime thriller, The Highwayman, for a small advance. Success! I began writing it in 2007, finished it in 2008, queried, and got the usual round of rejections. Rather than believing all of those agents and editors were crazy, I figured there must be something wrong with what I was doing.

I attended the Deadly Ink mystery writers conference in New Jersey and met panelist Chris Roerden, a manuscript editor, and I purchased her book, Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. Her panel discussion and insightful book crystallized why I was being rejected. I used boring words—in addition to using too many! I larded my manuscript with adjectives and adverbs (which have since been largely culled) to amaze my readers with my descriptive prowess. I explained stuff in bulky blocks of text that the late Elmore Leonard advises to keep to a minimum because readers tend to skip over them…

GIVEAWAY: Matt 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. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal. Also note that Matt’s novel comes out later this year, so he will mail the winner’s book once his author copies come in.) (UPDATE: Reynard won.) Read more

Literary Agent Spotlight: Jennifer Azantian Starts Her Own Agency

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Jennifer is seeking: fantasy, science-fiction, and horror that focuses on characters that feel real, the kind whose stories she can get invested in regardless of extravagance in plot or setting. She is fascinated by the basic human truths that emerge at the heart of all the greatest fantasies. These are the kind of projects that she advocates. She is actively acquiring only science fiction and fantasy (including all of their subgenres) as well as smart, psychological horror for middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult readers. Read more

Write Opening Pages that Grab Readers’ (and Agents’) Attention — April 3 Webinar (with Critique!) by Agent Victoria Marini

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Strong opening pages are essential to getting your novel noticed by an agent. First pages often dictate whether an agent requests a manuscript or rejects the query, and first chapters can mean the difference between capturing and sustaining a readers’ attention or losing it entirely. As an agent with Gelfman Schneider / ICM Partners, Victoria Marini has been selling Adult and Young Adult Fiction for years. She’ll share her first-hand knowledge of what she looks for in the opening pages of fiction, and what she lets go.

Learn how to create opening pages that capture attention, sustain interest, and ultimately compel readers to keep turning the pages. Develop authentic characters readers will care about, set pacing and plotting that will streamline your storytelling, and avoid the common mistakes that downgrade your craft. This new webinar is called “Let’s Begin: Write Captivating Opening Pages that Grab Readers’ (and Agents’) Attention,” and it all goes down at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, April 4, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. Don’t forget that several agents have signed writers after reading their work as part of a WD webinar. Read more

How I Got My Literary Agent: Maria Mutch

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Maria Mutch, author of the memoir KNOW THE NIGHT (March 2014). 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.

Maria’s literary agent is Nathaniel Jacks at Inkwell Management. Read more

Literary Agent Spotlight: Allison Hunter of Inkwell Management

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Allison is seeking: She is actively acquiring literary and commercial fiction (including romance), memoir, narrative nonfiction, cultural studies, pop culture and prescriptive titles, including cookbooks. She is always looking for funny female authors, great love stories and family epics, and for nonfiction projects that speak to the current cultural climate. Read more

An Agent’s Secrets to Selling Your First Novel – March 27 Webinar With Critique

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In this live webinar, agents Irene Goodman and Rachel Ekstrom will share both time-tested trade secrets and cutting edge ideas that will help you cross the finish line from hopeful writer to published author. You’ll be provided with an insider’s view into the publishing process, including tips and strategies for getting your book noticed by hungry young agents, experienced agents, and publishers alike. You’ll also learn how they make their decisions about which authors to work with and who to publish.

This is a chance to get a rare glimpse into the minds of two agents-one who has closed hundreds of book deals, and one who stands on the edge of the new frontier. And as part of this new webinar, titled “An Agent’s Secrets to Selling Your First Novel,” all attendees are invited to submit their manuscript’s first page for a critique from an agent instructor. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, March 27, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. Note: All proceeds from Irene’s share of the webinar will be donated to the Foundation Fighting Blindness. Also note: At least five literary agents have signed clients after seeing their work as part of a WD webinar or boot camp. Read more

15th Free “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest: Young Adult Fiction

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Welcome to the 15th (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 young adult fiction, this 15th contest is for you! (The contest is live through EOD, Wednesday, April 9, 2014.) This contest is being judged by Andrea Somberg, agent at Harvey Klinger, Inc. Read more

Happily Ever After: Romances Aren’t Meant to Be Reality TV

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Some people love reality TV. Some people hate it. Not everyone reads Romance. But there is a covenant in a Romance, a true Romance, that can never be broken: The Happily Ever After.

Did I call HEA a covenant? Yes, but also a promise. It’s the reason I began reading Romances, it’s the reason I write them. These days couples don’t have to get married. These days, three is no longer a crowd. There are no more unwritten rules. The expectations have changed. But one thing has not. The main characters have to fall in love by the end of the book.

So, then, exactly what is a Happily Ever After? Read more

“How to Find and Keep a Literary Agent” — Agent One-on-One Boot Camp With Awesome Critique Starts March 24, 2014

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How do you hook an agent right away, keep them hooked, and make the most of your new publishing relationship? In this all-new March 2014 Boot Camp, “How to Find and Keep a Literary Agent,” you’ll learn how to get a literary agent’s attention through a great submission, and also how to navigate the process of working successfully with an agent. After hearing instruction from the agents at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, you’ll also work with an agent online to review and refine your all-important query letter and the first five pages of your novel with the agents. Read more

Agent Spotlight: Caitlen Rubino Bradway of LKG Agency

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She is seeking: “I personally am looking for middle grade and young adult fiction. In teen novels, Sci-fi/fantasy is my sweet spot, but I’m open to anything as long as it doesn’t have zombies. (For a more detailed description of what I’m looking for, you can check out my blog post at our website.)

“Also, the LKG Agency [which has one other agent] is always on the lookout for nonfiction, both practical and narrative. We specialize in women’s focused how-to, such as parenting, lifestyle, health & nutrition, and beauty, but we are open to a lot of nonfiction genres. (For a full list you can check out the submission guidelines on our website.)” Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Tova Mirvis

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1) Enjoy the good days: The euphoria of a new idea! The sense that every thing around you has a place in your novel! That conversation you overhear? You know exactly what page it will go on. The dress that woman is wearing? You know which character is going to have it on tomorrow. Revel in the fact that the sentences seem to write themselves, in the fact that you are doing the job that you are meant to do. Grab hold of this moment, collect it like a perfect specimen you can pin to a board.

GIVEAWAY: Tova 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: janice666 won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Holly Lorincz of MacGregor Literary

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New agent Holly Lorincz of MacGregor Literary is seeking: “I am currently only accepting general market submissions in these areas: historical romance, literary or classic westerns, political or conspiracy thrillers, women’s fiction, or literary fiction.” Read more

Live Query-A-Thon with Literary Agents Kate McKean & Jim McCarthy: March 13 Webinar (w/ Query Critique)

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In this live webinar, literary agents Kate McKean and Jim McCarthy 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 queries will be made anonymous), 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.

It’s called “What an Agent Really Thinks While Reading Queries: A Live Query-A-Thon,” and it happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, March 13, 2014. All attendees get their query critiqued by the agent instructors. The webinar lasts 90 minutes. At least four agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD webinar. Read 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

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