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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.

Agent Kate McKean’s Feb. 28 Webinar With Synopsis Critique: “Find, Fix, and Finesse Your Plot into a Winning Idea”


Plot and structure are so important to a story. Heck, that’s the key word to all this: story. A plot and structure is essentially your story’s framework. Many whole books have been written on plot because it’s such a tricky complicated thing. How can you keep people turning the pages? How can you affect their emotions and get them to continue reading? Plot factors in huge.

Luckily for us, we’ve got literary agent and instructor extraordinaire Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim Literary to teach “Find, Fix and Finesse Your Plot into a Winning Idea” — a brand new webinar at 1 p.m., Thursday, Fe. 28, 2013. It lasts 90 minutes and comes with an awesome critique of your entire synopsis! Read more

How Far Should Writers Go to Sell Themselves?


Recently, I put on an event called The Literary Gong Show at an infamous watering hole in Portland, Oregon called Dante’s Inferno. I was the host of the event, and had dressed myself in a tuxedo and a floppy-collared, bright yellow, pleated tuxedo shirt that I unbuttoned to the navel. This was intended as an impersonation of Chuck Barris, the host who fronted the 70s TV program “The Gong Show,” but I think I just looked like an aging writer in a cheap, untailored tuxedo who didn’t know how to button his shirt and couldn’t afford a bowtie.

The Gong Show event was the end of a string of such events. In a bookstore in Portland, I orchestrated a doughnut ring toss. In San Francisco, I ran a game of Jeopardy. In Santa Fe, I reenacted a scene from my book. Sometimes I simply read, but at odd venues: cafes, bars, even a high school. At one point I found myself on top of a safe, sandwiched between an Elvira pinball machine and a vintage photo booth, reading to a crowd of people turned the other direction, as they waited to order pastries… Read more

Author Interview: Susan Goodman, Author of IT’S A DOG’S LIFE


This interview is with Susan E. Goodman, author of the nonfiction children’s book IT’S A DOG’S LIFE: HOW MAN’S BEST FRIENDS SEES, HEARS AND SMELLS THE WORLD (July 2012, Flash Point). Of the book, Kirkus said “Children will be barking up the right tree with this enjoyable read.”

GIVEAWAY: Susan 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: vrundell won.) Read more

Winners Announced: The 13th “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest (For Young Adult and Sci-Fi)


In January 2013, I ran the most recent (the 13th edition) of my “Dear Lucky Agent” contests. This one was for writers of either science fiction or young adult. The response was overwhelming. Thank you to all who submitted work in the contest.

Well, the weeks of review have gone by and our judge, literary agent Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, has chosen her 3 winners. According to her, this judging was incredibly difficult — so much so that she has chosen several runners-up. See all winners after the break! Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Jordan Jacobs


7) There’s absolutely nothing the matter with kids today (at least nothing that wasn’t wrong with kids yesterday or the day before). The foxtrot did not destroy the greatest generation, MAD Magazine did not dissolve the moral fiber of our parents, and the PS3 will not rob our children of their souls. Every school I’ve visited on my book tour–public, private, rich, and poor–has shown me that kids are still the critical, curious, contemplative creatures they’ve always been. And they also still love to read. Read more

Is Your Book Your Baby?


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard how a book is the writer’s baby, I wonder if it would take the sting out of having written for all these years for nothing but hope and heartburn? Probably not. But no matter, the question is: is it true? Is each story a spawn?

In a word, or three – not at all. Not for me, at any rate.

This has less do to with what I think of my writing than it does with how I think of my children. From the moment I knew they were there, they were never mine. Even earlier than that, before I had any symptoms and before I realized that everything was about to change, the DNA had already merged; the match was in the tinder.

GIVEAWAY: Jamie 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: Laura won.) Read more

“Get Your Nonfiction Book Published” Boot Camp Runs From Feb. 22-24, 2013. Get Professional Advice and Critiques From Editors!

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In this new February 2013 nonfiction boot camp, the acquisition team from Adams Media, Inc., publisher of such national bestsellers as Please Stop Laughing at Me, The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, Dude You’re Gonna Be a Dad, The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need, and dozens of others, will teach you exactly what they – and other editors – are looking for when it comes to acquiring projects that are most likely to find an audience, perform well, and make money. All attendees will be able to turn in some nonfiction book proposal materials and get a critique from their editor instructors. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Dennis Mahoney


“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Dennis Mahoney, author of the 2013 literary novel FELLOW MORTALS. 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 with literary agents. Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Marisa Cleveland of The Seymour Agency


She is seeking: Marisa is accepting queries for middle grade fiction. Need more details? She is searching for a middle school novel she can’t put down until the last page and can’t stop discussing. Voice is definitely key for her. If she’s going to sign (and sell) someone or recommend someone, then the writer’s voice has to speak to her. She has to be able to listen (vocally and on the page) to that writer through revisions and edits and book after book. She wants to find characters she’d want as her best friends and partners in crime long after the story ends, whether it’s in this world or an alternate universe… and middle grade means the content where issues are age-appropriate and not based solely on lexile levels. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Miriam Forster, Author of the Young Adult Novel, CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS


Meet author Miriam Forster. Miriam’s debut novel is young adult story, CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS (Feb. 2012, HarperTeen). Miriam sat down with Guide to Literary Agents to discuss how she came to sign with her agent, Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary, and how DOLLS came to be published.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said of the book: “Set in a magically isolated Empire, Forster’s well-crafted story and confident prose are rich, packed with small details that immerse readers in her sumptuously imagined world.” Author Miriam Forster wrote her first story at seven and has been playing with words ever since. She is obsessed with anthropology, British television, and stories of all kinds.

GIVEAWAY: Miriam 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: CC Dowling won.) Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Kimberley Cameron of Kimberley Cameron & Associates


She is seeking: literary and commercial fiction, science fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction, mystery, horror and thrillers. For nonfiction, she accepts biography, memoir, food & lifestyle, science, technology, medical, health & fitness, how-to, religion & spirituality, dating & relationships, pop culture, entertainment, travel, history and military. Read more

How to Write While Managing a Full-Time Job: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Time

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2. Take advantage of small moments. Let’s be realistic. If you work a full-time job and have any kind of life, sometimes small moments are all you’re going to get out of a day. If you’re in the doctor’s office (okay, that may be a large moment), or waiting for your kid to finish his/her oboe lesson, or chilling during halftime of your NFL team’s latest victory, you have time to write. Remember: It’s like eating an elephant. Case in point: I’m writing this in the lobby of the high school where my son is trying out for the mid-state orchestra. Read more

How to Bring Subjects to Life in Your Nonfiction Writing


When you write nonfiction characters, you have to be vigilant and observant (this leads to good fiction writing, as well). People consist, for other people, of four things:

1.what they look like
2. where they are
3. what they say
4. and what they do.

Ask any actor. It’s all about: costume; setting; dialogue, and movement or action. It’s also about “business,” as actors call it. Business is the daily buzz and thrum of a person’s activity, the little things a character does: picks up a bottle, drums a finger, turns on a light, fiddles with the phone, slides her shoe on and off. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Elizabeth Richards

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4. Buy lots of swag. You’re going to need it! Bloggers, readers, bookstores, other authors, book groups, librarians and schools will all want some, so you better make sure you’ve got plenty to go around. If you want to keep costs low (and I do!), I highly recommend you just order bookmarks, as they’re cheap to produce, they look awesome, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg to mail (and trust me, it all adds up, especially if you’re posting internationally).

GIVEAWAY: Elizabeth 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: Rebecca Harwell won.) Read more

Agent Mary Kole Teaches “Picture Book Craft Intensive for Selling in Today’s Market” — Feb. 21, 2013 Webinar


If you are writing and/or illustrating picture books for kids, then this updated webinar with literary agent Mary Kole is for you. This updated webinar (one of our most popular of all time!) teaches writers winning practices for composing books, explains how to pitch your work to agents/editors, and reveals where many submissions go wrong. Mary will also devote a portion of this session to answering attendees’ candid questions in a Town Hall-style format! The event happens at 1 p.m. EST, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. Read more

Originality Isn’t Everything: Write What You Know

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My Tips: 1. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about what you enjoy writing. 2. If what you love is genre, learn more. Study the origins, read criticism, read books about it. 3. Take the pressure off, and just practice. You don’t always have to be original.

I don’t say that I write what I know, but I do say that I write what I feel, I write what I think is beautiful, and I write what I enjoy. And so should you. Read more

Debut Author Interview: Laurie Boyle Crompton, Author of BLAZE


I love introducing my blog readers to the debut author of today. I believe that showing them the paths of those writers who have found success recently is an excellent way to provide roadmaps to those looking to follow in their footsteps. Examine what people did right — and learn from them! Today’s debut author interview is with Laurie Boyle Crompton about her young adult novel, BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLAINS), out Feb. 2013 from Sourcebooks Fire. Read more

How I Got My Agent: Joanne Bischoff


Well I suppose it’s worth a shot. As a new author with a series in hand, I knew I was going to need an agent. I queried about 15 agencies for my Appalachian romance and one of those agencies was MacGregor Literary. They were definitely at the top of my wish list, but they mainly worked with established authors. I really didn’t qualify there, but hey, it was worth a shot. Read more

New Literary Agent Alert: Steve Kasdin of Curtis Brown Ltd.


He is seeking: “The most important thing I’ve learned in over twenty years in publishing is also the simplest: plot sells. And the definition of what makes a great plot is also very simple: interesting, well-drawn characters thrown into unpredictable situations. I’m looking for: commercial fiction, including Mysteries/Thrillers, Romantic Suspense (emphasis on the suspense), and Historical Fiction); Narrative Nonfiction, including Biography, History and Current Affairs; and Young Adult Fiction, particularly if it has adult crossover appeal. I am NOT interested in SF/Fantasy, Memoirs, Vampires and writers trying to capitalize on trends.” Read more

Interview: Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, Author of THE HEARTBEAT AT YOUR FEET


Meet Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, a canine psychologist and the author of The Heartbeat at Your Feet: A Practical, Compassionate New Way to Train Your Dog. Lisa is the director and principal of The International School of Canine Psychology, training dog owners and prospective dog psychologists in science-based compassionate methods. She is the founder of The Dog Helpline, which offers distance advice to dog owners and rescue shelters around the world.

GIVEAWAY: Lisa 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: vrundell won.) Read more

Harnessing Mythic Power in Your Writing: The Storytelling Masters and Their Lessons


The word adventure a student once told me after she’d studied the word’s etymology, means something that is about to happen to someone. I’ve never forgotten that definition because it means that anyone of us anywhere can experience extraordinary things. Our oldest storytellers understood this, a truth as ancient as Anglo Saxon scops singing for an audience in the meal hall, but your own call to adventure happens when you pick up the pen and hazard the blank page. Read more

“Perfect Your Query Pitch” — Feb. 14, 2013 Webinar All About Constructing a Dynamite Pitch


When you want to sell your book, you’ll need to send agents and editors a great query letter to pique their interest in your work. And the most important part of the query letter is the pitch — where you describe your novel or memoir’s story. To explain more about how to craft a dynamite pitch and get agents & editors to say YES, we’ve listed “The Book Doctors” Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry to teach “The Art of The Pitch: Perfect Your Number One Tool to Attracting Agents, Publishers, and Readers.” The webinar lasts 90 minutes and happens at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Read more

Writing Effective Grief In Fiction: 5 Ideas For Writers


Grief alone is not enough to make a novel. It can be the backdrop, sometimes the obstacle, but novels must be flavored with other focuses, obstacles, and emotions in order to draw in their readers. Here are 5 ways to use grief more effectively in fiction: 1. Make Them Care. When starting to write your book about a character’s loss, you may be tempted to dive right into their grief on page one, thinking that this is your inciting incident…

GIVEAWAY: Denise is giving away the e-book for free on the 3 days of Feb. 8-10. Read more

7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Dana Bate


1. The book chooses the writer. Write the book you are meant to write – not the book you think you should write or the one you think your friends expect you to write, but the one buried inside you, begging to come out. Don’t worry that your best friend or parents don’t read racy thrillers or chick lit or whatever it is that comes out when you start pouring words onto the page. Once you embrace the concept that the book chooses the writer, and not the other way around, the writing comes a lot more easily. Read more

Literary Agent Interview: Michelle Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency


This interview features Michelle L. Johnson of Inklings Literary Agency. She is a literary agent, the founder of Inklings Literary Agency (formerly of the Corvisiero Literary Agency), and she has a business administration background in addition to a lifetime of working with books (sales, editing, and writing) and authors (marketing, promoting, event planning). She is also a script/story consultant for an independent film under production in Halifax, NS.

She is seeking: contemporary, steamy romance, suspense, thriller, mystery, horror, fantasy, paranormal and supernatural elements in adult, new adult and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction interests include memoir and true crime. Read more

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