May/June 2014 Issue
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Workshops Starting May 1st
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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.
I scare children for a living.
As the author of a middle grade horror series, my job is to deliver stories that frighten and thrill my readers. Those readers tend to range in age from ten to fourteen, which makes delivering on that task more difficult than you might imagine. My readership is growing up in the age when video games are rife with monsters and violence, when YouTube offers limitless access to scary independent films and, of course, when “The Walking Dead” is the number one show on television. So, if I want to inspire some good old fashioned fright in my fans, I need to do more than yell “Boo!” Here, then, are seven tips for scaring the pants off of young readers:
GIVEAWAY: Ty 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. Read more
Agent Michelle Richter is seeking: Michelle is primarily seeking fiction, specifically book club reads, literary fiction, well-crafted women’s commercial fiction, thrillers, and mysteries. For nonfiction, she’s interested in fashion, film, television, science, medicine, sociology/social trends, and economics for trade audiences. Read more
Recently I gave the keynote speech at the 2014 Northern Colorado Writers Conference. The whole event was an amazing blast. The NCWC is based in Fort Collins, CO, an amazing city to visit. It’s filled with college students, fun people, indie shops, microbreweries, and the like. I have pasted some fun pictures from the event below in the post. If you like anywhere in the area of Fort Collins, check out this event in years to come. It’s hosted in the spring (usually March or April) and has great people, agent pitching, sessions, gatherings, critiques, and more. It’s my second time teaching (after 2008) and I’m glad I went again. Read more
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 66th installment in this series is with agent Sara Megibow (Nelson Literary) for Stefanie Gaither’s young adult novel, FALLS THE SHADOW (Sept 2014, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Kristi Helvig, author of BURN OUT, said of the book: “[It's] a smart, futuristic thriller that grabs you and doesn’t let go until the very last page. This is a fantastic debut.” Read more
I am speaking at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR, on May 3, 2014. It’s the Arkansas Writers MFA Spring Publishing Conference. The university was nice enough to invite me down to speak for a day. It’s a quick, simple day of sessions that can help writers, and includes my talks on:
1) How to Get Published: What Writers Can Do For Their Career Right Now
2) Everything You Need to Know About Literary Agents and Query Letters
3) Book Publishing Options Today: Your Paths Explained Read more
Genre Preferences: Rebecca Podos of Rees Literary Agency is primarily interested in Young Adult fiction of all kinds, including contemporary, emotionally driven stories, mystery, romance, urban and historical fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. Occasionally, she also considers literary and commercial adult fiction, new adult, and narrative nonfiction. Read more
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
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. Read more
“The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise that Sells — Agent One-on-One Boot Camp With Critique Starts April 11
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
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
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.) Read more
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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)
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
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
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