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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.
The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise That Sells — Dec.13 Agent One-on-One Boot Camp With Critique
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, 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.” It’s all part of the all-new Agent One-on-One Boot Camp called “The High Concept Novel: How to Create a Premise That Sells” Boot Camp (with a limited number of seats!). It starts at the end of the day, Dec. 13, 2013. More details below. Don’t forget that at least 4 literary agents have signed clients after reading their work as part of a WD webinar or boot camp. Read more
This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Marion Winik, author of HIGHS IN THE LOW FIFTIES: How I Stumbled Through the Joys of Single Living) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.
GIVEAWAY: Marion 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: Tina Lincer won.) Read more
In an ideal world, you’d have many more hours to dedicate to writing.
In reality, you carve out what meager “free time” you can, sacrificing things like sleep, a social life, exercise, a clean house, and quality time with friends and family. When your laundry pile resembles a laundry mountain and you haven’t hit the gym in a month, it’s hard to justify spending extra time working on something that doesn’t pay the bills (yet!). Until you can add hours to the day, what’s the solution? Read more
He is seeking: Weber is looking for MG and YA stories with universal themes told in unique settings, which show developing and changing relationships between characters. Because of his science/math/computer science background, he is interested in realistic historical fiction using current technology and projecting technology into the future. He is also wants well-researched science fiction, with no fantasy elements where science forms the foundation of progressive societies in the future. Read more
How to Find the Right Agent for Your Book & Career — Dec. 10 Webinar by Agent Kate McKean (With Query Critique!)
From industry standard terms and commission rates, to communication guidelines and a general list of duties, this webinar by literary agent Kate McKean (Howard Morhaim Literary) will de-mystify the role a literary agent can play in your writing career. You’ll finally understand how agents are paid and what services they actually provide. You’ll get answers to questions like: How fast should I expect an agent to respond to me? Will an agent help me edit my book or brainstorm ideas? Don’t agents just go to three-martini lunches all day and cash my checks? And can an agent really make a difference for my book?
The webinar is called “How to Find the Right Agent for Your Book (and Your Career),” and it all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, and lasts 90 minutes. All attendees get a query critique from Kate. Don’t forget that at least 4 agents have signed clients after reading their work as part of a WD webinar or boot camp. Read more
1. Listen to your critique group. When I first began to write, I was fortunate to meet some wonderful writers who became fabulous friends. We met regularly to work on our manuscripts. We worked to give constructive feedback to one another and because we listened to each other, our writing got better. We listened when the group told us the funny parts weren’t really all that funny. We listened when the group thought our chapters were too long. We listened when the group couldn’t relate to our characters. Listening to the group’s honest feedback made us dig deeper into our stories, making them stronger and better. Read more
“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Sara Polsky, author of THIS IS HOW I FIND HER, and agented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary. 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: Sara 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: momiji5 won.) Read more
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, toss what doesn’t work, and start again. Professionals throw away chunks of novels and stories all the time and start again. Not every story will work, not every plot will come together or every character come to life. None of the mistakes I made were a waste of time or effort, because each one of them taught me something that made the next story better. The same is true of query letters. If the one you’ve written doesn’t get you requests, start over.
GIVEAWAY: Jaime 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: burrowswrite won.) Read more
Chelsea Lindman of Greenberger Associates is seeking: Her primary interests include playful literary fiction, upmarket crime fiction, and forward thinking or boundary-pushing nonfiction. Chelsea also represents a select list of children’s book authors whose stories have an emphasis on voice-driven narratives. Most importantly, Chelsea is interested in working with clients that are looking to build a lasting relationship. Read more
She is seeking: Clelia is very interested in the emerging New Adult genre. Having faced an early life career crisis, she really relates to characters who are confronted with the challenges of entering adulthood. She is also interested in young adult and middle grade books. She is seeking to represent writers whose protagonists have strong voices and whose plots are original. Clelia never wants to let go of her favorite characters, so she particularly loves trilogies and series that can be adapted to the screen.
Clelia also has a special spot in her heart for picture books. She especially loves ones that are funny or quirky, ones that feature minority and multicultural characters, and ones parents won’t mind reading over and over again to their children. Read more
Agent One-on-One Boot Camp: How to Write and Sell New Adult Fiction — Starts Dec. 4, and Has Agents Critiquing Your Work
New Adult fiction (novels featuring protagonists ages 18-25) has swiftly become the hottest thing in both self-publishing and traditional publishing. New authors are making astonishing strides in this category and making great deals with the big traditional houses. Recent success stories include Molly McAdams, whose new adult book Taking Chances has sold more than 200,000 copies so far. And then there’s Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, a new adult novel that caught the attention of Warner Brothers and had its film rights optioned. Other bestselling NA novelists include Coleen Hoover, Cora Carmack and Tamara Webber.
The agents at Foreword Literary will help you understand New Adult fully from all aspects of the business. Whether you need to know the rules of the category, how to pitch it to agents, or how authors are hitting the bestselling lists with modern marketing techniques, Foreword has the answers for you. It’s all part of a brand new Agent One-on-One Boot Camp: “How to Write and Sell New Adult Fiction” that starts on Dec. 4, 2013. All attendees get their work critiqued (see below for details). There are a limited number of seats available. Read more
Should Sex Be in Your Novel? If you write romance or erotica, then, of course, the answer is yes. For children books, it’s a definite no and questionable in Y.A. and religious books. But what about the other genres like historical fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, fantasy, science fiction, and even memoir? The fact is that no truer words were spoken than “sex sells.” A look at the longest running best sellers is proof. Fifty Shades of Gray didn’t make the list for the terrific writing, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while a great thriller, the readers talked about the violent rape and victim’s revenge that sent them in droves to buy the book. Read more
Like all writers, my methods for building characters are a mix of mishmash and melting pot, drawn from both personal experience and academic study. Below is a short list of the ideas I’d like to cover.
1. A Character Who Refuses to Die
2. Know Your Archetype
3. The Great Man/Woman Theory
4. What MUST the Character Do (and What Does the Character Think He/She Must Do?
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: Clae won.) Read more
I write like a girl. More precisely, I write as a girl. My novel, Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery, features a main character/narrator who is a woman. A young woman. And a smart, resourceful, pretty young woman at that.
Ellie Stone is a self-described “modern girl” in 1960′s New York. In the days before feminism, she plays like a man, but make no mistake: she’s all woman. A Barnard graduate from a cultured family, she’s determined to have a career that doesn’t involve fetching coffee for a boss who pats her rear end when she’s done a good job. Or even when she hasn’t… 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 65th installment in this series is with agent Adriann Ranta (Wolf Literary) for Mindy McGinnis’s young adult novel, NOT A DROP TO DRINK (Sept. 2013, Katharine Tegen Books), a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent. Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian.
GIVEAWAY: Mindy 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: cotidiano won.) Read more
1. There is no formula for success. I’ve been writing for ten years. I’ve self-published and I’ve traditionally published. When success finally hit, it was a combination of persistence, timing, and luck. The only thing a writer can do to influence their success is write a good story. The audience will find it. Sometimes that’s overnight and sometimes that’s after several years.
2. Reviews are the best promotion. In my personal experience, the most effective promotion for a book is a review. Even a bad review is beneficial because at least people are talking about your book. As of this writing, Fifty Shades of Grey has 5,875 one-star reviews on Amazon. So what. That’s five thousand people talking about the book. Conversation is crucial to the success of a book. Any conversation is better than silence.
GIVEAWAY: Elene is excited to give away a free e-book 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: frj4833 won.) Read more
She is seeking: With enthusiasm, Rachael is growing her client list with both fiction and nonfiction authors, with a keen interest in unique literary voices, women’s fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, and comedy. She hopes to build long-term relationships with clients who are passionate about developing their craft and career. Read more
“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Josh Levine. 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.
Author Josh Levine is co-author on a biography about the legendary music executive Neil Scott Bogart titled, The Rise and Fall of the Disco King: The Neil Bogart Story. His agent is Andy Paulson of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary. Read more
Summer, 2008 at the Highlights Children’s Writers Conference in Chautauqua, Ohio, I was at a low point. I’d been writing and pursuing publication for ten+ years and had little to show for it except a handful of published short stories. Also, four unpublished “finished” novels, too many rejections to count, and a growing sense of despair that maybe this conference was it for me, a last ditch shot at following my dream.
GIVEAWAY: Jody 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: kimkvp won.) Read more
My friends who know me, I mean really know me, keep asking where I got the idea to start writing picture books. “Where did you get the idea for a monster needing a costume?” They would ask. In a bit of a condescending way I might add, which I kind of deserve. Like I said they really know me. And I would tell them; I stole it.
It’s true. From the mouths of babes, like candy from a baby, I plagiarized my 4 yr old daughter. Plagiarized might actually be a bit strong she can barely write her own name. But to be honest the idea came from my daughter.
GIVEAWAY: Paul is excited to give away a free copy of his 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: nrtomasheski won.) Read more
Write a Page Turner: An Agent’s Secrets to Creating Stories that Readers Can’t Put Down — One-on-One Nov. 15 Boot Camp (With 2,000-Word Critque)
As I write this, there are only 27 seats left (out of 60 total) for the forthcoming Agent One-on-One Boot Camp that starts this Friday, November 15, 2013. So I’ll get right to the point. Literary agents Paula Munier and Rachael Dugas (of Talcott Notch Literary) are teaching a brand new boot camp called “Write a Page Turner: An Agent’s Secrets to Creating Stories that Readers Can’t Put Down.” You have to sign up by 6 p.m., EST, Nov. 15.
First attendees will receive a recorded webinar on how to create exciting fiction. Then there is an open Blackboard time frame where you can ask your agent teacher/critiquer questions. And then all attendees turn in 2,000 words for a critique from the agents! The Talcott Notch agents have signed clients before after reading their work as part of a WD Boot Camp. Sign up for the boot camp here before it sells out. Read more
Hope is a powerful word. It’s also a dangerous one. When it comes to the aspiring writer community a premium is put on positivity, the old pat on the back with kind words of encouragement, keep your chin up, stay the course, that sort of thing. This support system has merits, and undoubtedly aids you in many ways, but what most could truly benefit from is a hard kick in the ass. Tough love, it hurts like hell and can help you more than anything.
I’ll be straight with you. I’m the kind of guy who learns best by getting punched in the gut. Hit me hard, or enough times, and I’ll stop fighting and get the point. Tiptoe around a subject and it will take me longer to understand what you’re trying to say. As writers, getting to the point is imperative. If we don’t, we end up getting lost. Read more
Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency is seeking: She represents authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult fiction, and select nonfiction. With respect to fiction: she is drawn to fresh voices, compelling characters, and crisp prose. For nonfiction: she is interested in memoirists with exceptional stories to tell, as well as authors with a strong platform in current affairs, history, education, or law. Read more
Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels: Nov. 14 Webinar by Cheryl Klein (of Harry Potter Editing Fame)
Readers may buy novels for their storylines—the facts that they can learn from the flap copy or an Internet blurb. But readers love books for their characters, because compelling characters bring feeling and meaning to what would otherwise be a mere list of events (also known as the plot). And if you’re trying to hook an agent or editor, nothing will make your opening chapters stand out more than truly distinctive characters: fictional people, whom you have made real, who compel that agent or editor to want to find out what happens next.
In this live webinar — titled “Create Characters Agents & Editors Love For Middle Grade and YA Novels” – Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic executive editor Cheryl Klein will teach you multiple strategies for getting readers interested and invested in your characters. She’ll draw on examples from popular middle-grade and YA novels to show you how successful authors work their magic, and provide a solid, actionable list of techniques that can be applied singly or in combination to strengthen your characterizations, from your protagonist and villain down to your supporting cast. By the end of the webinar, you’ll be well equipped to create characters who make agents and editors want to read more of your work, and eventually keep all readers turning the pages. It all happens at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, and lasts for 90 minutes. Read more