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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.


How to Start a New Novel in 22 Easy Steps

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1. Open a new Word document.
2. Save it as tentative book title.
3. Wonder if any other books have this title
4. Check Twitter.
5. Google tentative book title.
6. Feel relieved that you’re somewhat original… Read more

Agent Advice: Brian J. Wood of Brian J. Wood Literary Agency

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Based in Vancouver, Canada, agent Brian J. Wood of the Brian J. Wood Literary Agency enjoys bringing compelling sports stories to the marketplace. He is dedicated, passionate and has worked with Canada’s top sports television personalities.

He represents: nonfiction, specializing in sports titles. He represents both Canadian writers and American writers. Read more

Win Free Tickets to “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham on Broadway — Free NYC Giveaway

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We have a very special new contest going down right now on the GLA Blog. Here’s the deal. On Broadway right now, there is an awesome play adapted from John Grisham’s novel, A Time to Kill. It features a huge cast, including some amazing veteran actors you’ve seen in a bunch of movies — such as Tom Skerritt of Alien, Top Gun and MASH. It was adapted to the stage by Tony® Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes, and Grisham himself says the result is amazing. We’re giving away tickets on this blog. Keep reading if you want to win a pair! (UPDATE: Barrm and Nadre11 won.) Read more

If You Build It, They Will Come: Letting Agents Come to You

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I didn’t get my agent the traditional way. I found agent Michelle Brower of Folio Literary through a different route.

I tried the traditional way, of course. I sent queries, I sent chapters, I sent samples and stories and clever letters, but they didn’t work. In the end, an agent approached me. You could say this was an accident or a gift of chance, but you’d be wrong. The fact is, I concentrated on getting my work published in smaller markets, and it got noticed. You can make this work for you, too.

Here’s how I made the “getting published in smaller markets” part happen… Read more

How I Got My Agent: Richard Ellis Preston, Author of ROMULUS BUCKLE

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“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Richard Ellis Preston, author of ROMULUS BUCKLE & THE CITY OF FOUNDERS. 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: Richard 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: DanielJayBerg won.) Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Adam Muhlig of McIntosh & Otis

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About Adam: He was formerly Director of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. Muhlig has been active as an independent appraiser of literary materials, including books, original manuscripts, letters, and other archival materials, for over fifteen years. His clients include authors, composers, performers, libraries, archives, and other private and public educational institutions throughout the United States.

He is seeking: authors of books offering new analysis and fresh perspectives by or about mavericks in the field of music – from jazz to classical to punk – as well as texts focusing on natural history, travel, adventure and sports. Read more

Write Great Openings for Young Adult or Middle Grade Novels: Oct. 3 Webinar (With Critique!) by Agent Carlie Webber

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The opening of your novel sets the stage for everything you want to accomplish. You only have one chance to establish a memorable voice and get readers to follow your characters into your story. Writing YA or MG presents the additional challenge of an audience of discriminating, impatient readers who won’t wait until page 40 for your book to get good.

That’s why we have literary agent Carlie Webber (CK Webber Literary) teaching the new webinar, “Writing Great Openings for Young Adult or Middle Grade Novels” at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. It lasts 90 minutes. After sharing her own best practices, Carlie will use opening pages from published books to show you the dos and don’ts of opening your YA or MG novel (including: never start with your main character getting out of bed), and the common mistakes that stop agents from reading beyond your first page.

Don’t forget that multiple agents have signed writers after critiquing their work as part of a WD webinar. Also, all attendees receive a critique from Carlie. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jeanne Matthews

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1. Keep your manuscript, not your head, in the clouds. I used to be casual and nonchalant about saving my writing to a remote server – until a heartless perp broke down my front door, rampaged through my house, and stole my computer containing my manuscripts and research notes, pictures, blogs in progress, and all of my contact information. Even so, I was lucky. I had sent my most recent novel to the publisher just a few days before. I had a hard copy of an earlier draft, but the thought that I might have had to recreate all of the edits from memory made my blood run cold. As the saying goes, “Experience is a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” I now send everything to that mysterious, digital Cloud in the sky on a daily basis. Read more

5 Easy Steps to Conquer the Heartache of Rejection

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There is no writer, no matter how famous and fabulous, who doesn’t deal with rejection. One might say that the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that one of them was persistent in the face of rejection and the other one simply folded. I say, don’t let rejection bury you! Instead, take these simple steps that will lead you gracefully and quickly out of the boggy-bottomed swamp of rejection-based self-pity.

1. Accept the simple fact that rejection is part of your writing life. Accept that you will not get special treatment. Ever. The bigger your ego, the bigger the self-image explosion will be when those first few rejections start appearing in your inbox or mailbox. Each time you are rejected, be sure to look out at the night sky and recognize your insignificance. Let that idea of insignificance keep your ego in check.

GIVEAWAY: Jessica 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: Alison D won.) Read more

Author Interview: Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, Authors of HAPPY MONEY: THE SCIENCE OF SMARTER SPENDING

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It’s with great pleasure that I share this most recent author interview on the GLA Blog. That’s because I happen to be reading their book right now! It’s a nonfiction guide called HAPPY MONEY: THE SCIENCE OF SMARTER SPENDING (S&S, May 2013), a resource on what purchases give people the most satisfaction. Publishers Weekly said, “Readers cannot help but be charmed by this funny, warm guide to creating the good life from scratch.” Read on to meet authors Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. Read 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

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