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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.


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

How to Get Published: Land a Book Deal in 2014 — Jan. 30 Webinar With Jane Friedman

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If you want to get your book traditionally published in 2014—be it fiction, nonfiction, a children’s book, or memoir—increase your chances by knowing how to evaluate the commercial potential of your work and learning the best way to approach editors, agents, and publishers. Book publishing is undergoing a dramatic transformation as e-book sales increase and physical bookstores decrease in number. These changes affect the traditional book deals that get made—meaning that authors have to adjust their strategies to adapt to a risk-averse and uncertain industry.

This intensive and information-filled 90-minute webinar — titled “How to Get Published: Land a Book Deal in 2014″ – helps you think like an industry insider who makes decisions every day on what work merits print publication. You’ll get practical advice and tools to help you develop strong pitch letters and proposal materials for both fiction and nonfiction—plus back-door methods for networking with agents and editors. Avoid frustration—don’t embark on the submission process in 2014 without being fully educated about how the industry works, from an impartial point of view. You will better focus your time and energy, increase your chances of success, and learn to decipher the language of industry professionals. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference

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Tip #1: If you can get a pitch session with an agent/editor, do it! Agents get tons of queries every single day, and a good 90% of them come from people who haven’t worked very hard to perfect their craft. Agents know that if you go to conferences, you’re likely in the 10% who have. If you go to a conference and pitch, you’re likely a top 10% writer who has a book close to being worthy of representation. It also gives both of you a chance to meet each other, and that’s invaluable.

GIVEAWAY: Peggy 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: MikeHays won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Nadeen Gayle of Serendipity Literary Agency

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Nadeen is seeking: romance, memoir, pop culture, inspirational/religious, women’s fiction, parenting, young adult, mystery and political thrillers, and all forms of nonfiction.

About Nadeen: After representing clients in law for over 7 years, Nadeen Gayle brings her zeal for representation and championing voices to book publishing. Prior to graduating from Hofstra law school, Nadeen majored in English with a Mass Communications minor at Clark Atlanta University and was a very active participant in the English department’s annual Writers Conference. After receiving her BA in English, Nadeen taught briefly in the Atlanta public school system. Her short stint with students and parents in Atlanta shaped her focus with connecting to both children and adults after which she worked as counsel for Administration for Children Services. As a parent herself, Nadeen’s work with children and parents shapes her dual interest in both YA and Adult titles. Read more

You Still Have to Lift

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My barista and I have an ongoing conversation. Every morning, we pick up where we left off the day before, talking about writing while she pulls espresso shots. While she’s never tried to write a book, she told me one day that she’s often thought about doing NaNoWriMo, and we discussed how getting through the very first first draft is often the greatest challenge.

“If I keep telling myself I’ll do it one day, maybe that’ll work,” she joked.

I shrugged. “Hey, positive thought is an important part of the process. You have to believe you’re going to do it, right?”

“True,” she said. “But sometimes I think that’s the problem.” Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by A.B. Westrick

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1. Stop trying to find time to write. Instead, make time. When you’re in “trying-to-find” mode, you’re not giving priority to your writing. Identify the time of day when you’re the most creative, then claim that time. Show up at the page. Get up early if you have to. Lock a door if you have to. Turn off your phone and Internet. Whatever it takes for you to carve out your time—do it. Make writing happen.

GIVEAWAY: A.B. 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: leadrian won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary

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About Laura: Laura Zats graduated from Grinnell College with degrees in English and anthropology. While completing her studies, she took advantage of her love of Young Adult (YA) literature and wrote a thesis on identity formation in YA. She’s been working as an editor for several years and has held positions at companies in both the US and the UK. In 2013, Laura joined Red Sofa Literary as an Associate Agent in 2013. In her free time, Laura likes to craft, swing dance, bake, and binge on Netflix marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who.

She is seeking: Young adult and middle grade (especially contemporary for both), romance, new adult, contemporary women’s fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, and erotica. Read more

Conferencing for Introverts

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You’ve decided this is it, the year to attend a writer’s conference. Forms are filled, hotel and plane tickets are booked, and a satisfied warmth fills you at pulling the trigger on this writing milestone.

But as the day approaches, your brain buzzes. What to wear? What to bring? You look in your closet and suddenly forget what looks good together, what fits, and what shoes work with which pants. The jeans you love seem too run down. That skirt you wanted to bring is too dressy. Or is it? Maybe you could wear it to the pitch you scheduled. And then it hits: FULL BLOWN PANIC. You forgot about the pitch you booked while high on the glow of finally taking the leap. Read more

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