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1. The Power of Reviews

On Friday author Kathleen Hale wrote an article for The Guardian about her experience being catfished. On Monday Twitter, and a number of blogs, got quite excited about this topic and lots of people had lots of opinions. I came upon the article when Jessica Alvarez mentioned it to me and before reading anything about it I went to The Guardian article. I wanted to base any opinion I had on what Kathleen Hale had to say rather than read the opinions of others first.

Even without reading what others thought I know that some people feel that Kathleen Hale was catfished, others feel she crossed a line herself and was not the victim or the only victim and still others wonder if the entire post was made up. After reading just Kathleen Hale's post I do stand behind her in some respects. Not all, but some.

I've been in this business long enough to know the impact a review can have on an author. I've seen smart, successful authors completely lose all self-confidence because of one review or one comment on a writing loop or in a blog. In most cases authors who reacted this way were not the stereotypical "neurotic" or introverted authors. They are almost always people who are successful in various different aspects of their lives. They deal with high stress jobs, families and seem to juggle an entire life on top of a writing life. In other words, these are people who have faced adversity before and wore it well.

In fact, while I'm not an author, I've been one of those people. After six years of blogging about what I really thought it was bound to happen. And happen it did. Time and time again. There were times when the comments on the blog got so contentious I would stop sleeping. I panicked that I had alienated my clients, editors or ruined it for all of us. There were times I would have to shut down the computer and walk away for the day. But each and every time it happened walking away was always the best answer for me.

In Kathleen Hale's case the only story we know is hers. As of yet, to the best of my knowledge, we haven't heard from the reviewer she's charging with catfishing. A term by the way I had never heard until reading her article. Whether or not she was catfished, in my mind, doesn't really matter.  Fro a variety of reasons reviewers and bloggers act anonymously. In some ways it's one of the great things about the Internet. It's also one of worst things. Being anonymous allows us to really say what we want to say and what we think. Something a lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing under their own name or couldn't do (it might hurt a career or their own reputation in some way). True confession here, before starting the blog I used to comment anonymously all the time on writing forums. I acknowledged that I was an agent, but I was uncomfortable giving my real name. I didn't want what I said to bite a new agency in the butt. Was I catfishing? I don't think so, I was just giving an opinion. And certainly there have been a ton of anonymous publishing bloggers and Tweeters, people who just want to say what they believe without facing repercussions.

Did Kathleen Hale go to far? Probably. Personally I think any time you start tracking down someone in person you are probably going to far. But I get how someone can go there. Putting yourself out there, whether its by writing a book, an opinion piece in a magazine, or a blog, is a scary, scary thing. Sure you feel great about saying what you believe or finding others to read your work, but at the same time you know you're going to face a backlash. That reviewers will hate what you write and have an opinion about it that differs from your own and you know they're not going to be afraid to say something. Especially because they have the right to remain anonymous in any way they see fit. And when we or our opinion or our writing is attacked it's hard. It often impacts our psyche in a big way.

Personally I've never gone to the lengths Kathleen Hale did to discover the truth about her naysayer, but I get it. Sort of. When someone says something really awful about you or your work you want a chance to discuss it with them. You want a chance to defend yourself without sounding defensive (which is often what happens when you start that discussion on comments). And probably you want the chance to discredit that person. To say, you are wrong and how would you know anyway because.... When someone posts anonymously she knows a whole lot about us, but we know nothing about her. It takes all the power away from us and gives it to her.

There were times when I have been attacked on this blog. Right or wrong, people came out to do whatever they could to discredit me and attack me and my professional integrity. I was scared, I was angry and I Googled. What I learned early on however, and what Kathleen Hale admits to learning in the long run, is that the best answer is to just sit quietly and, as they say, this too shall pass. Let the topic speak for itself or let the other readers comment and take care of it. Sometimes the biggest mistake we can make is saying something at all. What we're doing in that case is exactly what the naysayer wants. We're giving her attention. It's sort of like when Buford grabs my slipper and runs around the office with it. I have the option to chase him, call him and feed him treats. To give him the attention he wants. Or I can sit and work and watch him slowly drop the slipper, confused about why he's not getting the attention he wants.

I'm actually pretty impressed that Kathleen Hale wrote the article at all. Maybe she did it to finally get back at the reviewer, or maybe she just decided to put it out there and get rid of her moment of weakness once and for all. Either way it took bravery. Once again she's getting hit with a lot of opinions from a lot of people who don't know her. Sure its a choice she's making, but as writers I think we all know how difficult it is to face the opinions of others.


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2. Creaks and Freaks

Your house always had that spooky charm, what with the old chandeliers, cobwebs everywhere and the occasional knock no one could identify. Well that all came crashing back into your head as you looked down the dark hallway and heard something shuffling towards you in the darkness. Oh and it’s picking up speed. What do you do? What do you see?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

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3. Query Question: Agents moving agencies mid query

Some months ago I received a full request from Agent A at the Good Literary Agency. A few weeks after that I received a full request from Agent B at the AlsoGood Literary Agency. No problem so far.

ThenAgent B left the AlsoGood Literary Agency and joined the Good Literary Agency. I believe she took her earlier full requests with her, which means two agents at the same agency now have my manuscript. I haven't alerted them to this fact because I don't want to jeopardize my chances with either one of them. Is it my responsibility to bring this up, or should I take a "wait and see" attitude?

First, huzzahs for two requests for full manuscripts. Let's not forget that happy fact as you sort out what to do here.

This kind of thing happens a lot these days. Sometimes agents will email writers with updates on this, sometimes not. What we don't know here is whether B did take those full requests with her. That's NOT a given that she did.

Here's what you do: You email Agent B. You congratulate her on her new position. You mention that Agent A also requested the full and you want her to know to avoid any bumps in the road here at her new job.

You do NOT take a "wait and see" attitude here. Even if it means one of the agents has to drop out of consideration, you will have acted with honesty and integrity and that's going to serve you well in your entire career.

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4. Gogyohka: Poetic Form

If only a poetic form existed that could be both concise and free. Oh wait a second, there’s gogyohka!

Gogyohka was a form developed by Enta Kusakabe in Japan and translates literally to “five-line poem.” An off-shoot of the tanka form, the gogyohka has very simple rules: The poem is comprised of five lines with one phrase per line. That’s it.


Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.


What constitutes a phrase in gogyohka?

From the examples I’ve seen of the form, the definition of phrase is in the eye of the beholder. A compound or complex sentence is probably too long, but I’ve seen phrases as short as one word and others more than five words.

So it’s a little loose, which is kind of the theory behind gogyohka. It’s meant to be concise (five lines) but free (variable line length with each phrase). No special seasonal or cutting words. No subject matter constraints. Just five lines of poetic phrases.

Here’s my attempt at a Gogyohka:


Ghosts hang
from the willow
as the children run
from one door
to the next.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He is building a haunted house in his two-car garage with the assistance of his little poets, who are also spooky little creatives when it comes to Halloween decorating.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic treats here:

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5. Thinking of Gone Girl

A few weeks ago I posted my review for Gone Girl to GoodReads and boy did I get some flack. Keep in mind that I usually write short reviews on GoodReads. I don't have a lot of time or energy to write out everything I'm thinking and with Gone Girl that was especially the case.

There will be no spoilers in this post so if you haven't yet read the book or seen the movie you are safe.

Gone Girl was the kind of book that left me really thinking, maybe even reeling, and yet I only gave it three stars. I guess I'm not sure I loved it or maybe I just didn't love the way it made me feel? I felt the beginning was long and it was difficult for me to want to continue going back for more since I really did not like the characters. I don't know that I liked any of them. Okay, maybe one.

I would say it easily took me six months to read the book and I would say I easily read six books in between chapters of Gone Girl.

And finally I got to the twist. At that point I could totally see what everyone was quacking about. Crazy good! Now I'm reading like a demon. But the end. The end just didn't do it for me. I wonder if I'm too much of a romantic and I want an ending that's wrapped up differently or if I just felt it was a little too contrived. Frankly, I'm not really sure.

So here's my take on Gone Girl for those who were horrified by my GoodReads review. I think it probably deserves more than three stars for the simple fact that I'm still thinking about it. Or is that because Ben Affleck is in the movie and I get to see his lovely face every time I turn on the tv? No matter what star rating I give it though I do think it's a book worth reading for everyone. It's one of the few times I wished I was in a book club because it's a book I'd love to sit around and discuss with others. It's a book worth talking about.


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6. You have to ask the right question

Recently, I've gotten several voice mail messages from a writer asking me to call her back to tell her if "I'm accepting new clients."

I'm not going to call her back (now, or ever) because it's clear from the question that she doesn't understand how this query process works, and I don't want to spend 20 minutes on the phone doing Query 101, or worse Publishing 101.

She's asking "Are you accepting new clients" much like you'd contact a physician or dentist to ask if they are accepting new patients.

That presumes there are a certain number of slots and the next person to ask gets the one that's not filled.

That's NOT how querying works at all.

Even if I'm not eagerly searching out new clients, I'm always willing to read your query.  Frankly most agents are. We're always on the hunt for good projects.

So, the right question to ask YOURSELF is "how do I query this agent?"  To answer that you look at his/her website.

You don't call to ask.
You don't email to ask.

You just send the query.
I reply.

It's so splendidly easy and simple that it's mind boggling, I know.

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7. New Literary Agent Alert: Alec Shane of Writers House

Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Alec Shane of Writers House) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.




About Alec: Alec majored in English at Brown University, a degree he put to immediate use by moving to Los Angeles after graduation to become a professional stunt man. Realizing that he prefers books to breakaway glass, he moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue a career in publishing. Alec quickly found a home at Writers House Literary Agency, where he worked under Jodi Reamer and Amy Berkower on a large number of YA and Adult titles. Twitter handle: @alecdshane.

(Writing a synopsis for your novel? Here are 5 tips.)

He is seeking: Alec is now aggressively building his own list. On the nonfiction side, Alec would love to see humor, biography, history (particularly military history), true crime, “guy” reads, and all things sports. “What I’m looking for in fiction: mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, historical fiction, literary fiction, and books geared toward young male readers (both YA and MG). What I’m not looking for: Romance (paranormal or otherwise), straight sci-fi, high fantasy, picture books, self-help, women’s fiction, food, travel memoir.”

Submission guidelines:  I accept e-mail and snail-mail queries (although email is preferable), and will usually respond within 4-5 weeks. Please send the first 10 pages of your manuscript, along with your query letter, to ashane [at] writershouse.com with “Query for Alec Shane: TITLE” as your subject heading – no attachments please! If sending via regular mail, please include a SASE with proper postage.

(When building your writer platform and online media, how much growth is enough?)


2015-GLA-smallThe biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.


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8. Traveling Bennies

One of the small pleasures I treat myself to is visiting the book stores of every town I visit in my travels if possible.  I figure I’m ‘working’, right?   I was able to visit two on the Outer Banks NC last weekend while visiting and saying goodbye to summer.

One is the sweetest tiny bookstore in Buxton NC…lower part of Outer Banks, very near the Hatteras Light House Point we love so much… good fishing normally and the best beaches! (skunked this year….)  Buxton book store2 (2)

and the second I revisited was the Corolla Light Bookstore in the northern part of the Outer Banks.  (Do visit the Sanderling Resort and Spa if ever near there!)

Corolla Light Book Store

They are so adorably old fashioned..and yet very modern and up to date too.  Just a pleasure all around and remind me how LUCKY I am to love reading as I do and have children’s books be my livelihood !  Work, Work, Work, …..

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9. Have a an absolutly beatific day!

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10. Publishing career question: what do I need to get started?

Dear Your Royal Sharkiness,

I'm a college student and, like most of college students, I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life. I've been exploring various careers that might interest me, and a visit to your blog made me start thinking about becoming an agent or editor.

After a lot of introspection and sobbing, I think I know myself well enough to say that I'd be pretty well-suited for a job as either an agent or an editor. However, I realized shortly thereafter that I don't have any idea what is required to get one of those jobs. I recall you mentioning having interns and assistants around the office, which seems like the sort of job someone would take on their path to becoming an almighty shark like yourself, but are there other requirements that I'm not aware of? Are there steps I should be taking now for preparation?

To become an intern here, which is the first step toward a paid job in publishing, you have to be in college,  or be graduating soon.  Generally you'll need a degree. It doesn't have to be in the obvious field, English, but you will have to know how to write cogently and clearly.

And you'll need to be well-read. That's the biggest thing you can do to prepare for a job in publishing: know what's being published NOW.

We still laugh when recalling the intern applicant who told us her favorite book was Beowulf. It's ok to love Beowulf, but editors aren't looking for Beowul, and agents aren't selling it. You need to read the books being sold and published TODAY.

So, make a reading plan depending on your interests.  If  you love literary fiction, you'll read the finalists for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Booker Prize. 

If you love crime fiction you'll read the short lists for the Edgar Award, the ITW Thriller Award, the Anthonys, Macavitys and Agathas.  You'll read as much of the Soho Press list as you can.

You get the idea.

And one of the very very best ways to learn a lot about a genre quickly is to read anthologies.  Best American Short Stories, Best American Crime Stories, the Sisters in Crime Anthologies, the ITW anothologies.

You'll learn the names of well-known writers and start seeing the names of up and coming writers.

Reading is the key to a job in publishing.
Writing well is the second.

And don't skip math class. A good portion of my day is spent using math, and if you think a calculator will solve your problems you're wrong. YOU have to know which numbers to put where. All the calculator does is tell you if your sums are correct.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars          Reasons Why Everyone Should Read Poetry October 5, 2014 By Teacher, Reader, and Reviewer Format:Kindle Edition Joe Sottile's poetry that I've read is uplifting and inspiring. It brightens the sometimes dreary world. Now, Joe has written a book titled WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET. In this book he gives reasons why even non-poetry lovers should read poetry, valid reasons that make you stop and think, at least they did me.

Joe is a former teacher and from what I can tell, not knowing him personally, he was a good one. When students got angry he'd have them write their anger on paper. This helped them learn to deal with their anger. He offers many other ideas of how parents and teachers can help children and red flags to watch out for.

WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET would be a great book for teachers, counselors, and everyone that works with children and teens. If I were still teaching I'd want a copy for my classroom. Let me leave you with a quote from Joe: "...you have to see with your heart, your passion ... and sooner or later your mind will follow."

I was provided with a copy of this book for my honest review.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A different book about poetry October 16, 2014 By Amazon Customer Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I was not expecting to find such a witty, smart and constructive book when I actually got the book - I was expecting some nice poems that I can read and potentially some interpretation of those. But inside I found a revolutionary approach of poetry - why and how can poetry influence in a positive fashion our lives - the author had the courage to express his view in writing. And his view turned out to be a very interesting read that I enjoyed from the first page to the last.

5.0 out of 5 stars Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance October 16, 2014 By Jill Alcorn Format:Kindle Edition Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance, Why Poetry can Save the Planet. Every page is filled with story after story that is sure to give pause to all readers, even those who don't read poetry. He will always be Joe "Silly" Sottile, but in this book, we are granted more serious narratives, and they make every bit as great a story.

Incredible value for the book, honestly. This is a book you'll be sure to read again and again.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher/Counselor/Therapist Must-Read October 7, 2014 By J. Mctaggart Format:Kindle Edition Although I am not a poetry lover (or anywhere close), I have been using Sottile's poems with students for a great many years. I choose to use his work because he "gets" kids, and he speaks TO them - not above them. In "Poetry Can Save the Planet" Sottile, speaking to the adults who work with children, presents a powerful case for what he believes to be true. And who knows? He just might be right.

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book October 7, 2014 By R. Humbert Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I loved this book! I never really gave much thought to poetry at all. I started reading and couldn't stop! My favorite part is his story about his mom and how he used poetry to help him through such a difficult time. Very inspiring! Lisa Humbert

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12. How I Got My Literary Agent: Rebecca Brooks

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Rebecca Brooks, author of the erotic romance, ABOVE ALL. 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. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Rebecca 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. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).


Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 1.13.07 PM Rebecca Brooks has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by
cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves
in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma. Her first
novel, ABOVE ALL, (Ellora’s Cave, July 2014) has been called “a beautifully
powerful story,” “SEXellent,” and “a thinking woman’s romance.” Her books
are about independent women who leave their old lives behind to try something
new. Find her on Facebook, Twitter @BeccaBooks, and Goodreads.




The First Query

When I finished my contemporary erotic romance, Above All, I knew I didn’t want to send a million queries only to realize after a million rejections that there was more I could to do my opening pages and pitch. So I did my research and picked 10 agents that I thought were really top notch. When the first agent I contacted wrote back immediately requesting the full, I thought for sure I was on my way.

I decided to also submit the manuscript directly to 3 romance publishers that accept unagented submissions. There are different schools of thought about this. If a publisher rejects the book, an agent can’t pitch it to them later. But I wanted to explore all my options. What did I have to lose?

(How many agents should you contact at one time?)

One agent I especially had my eye on was Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger. She has a great track record and works in a variety of genres. Above All is steamy, but it also has a strong story component. As more of a crossover between romance and women’s fiction, it seemed like a great fit for her. I waited anxiously for her response. The first agent had been so enthusiastic. Why wasn’t my inbox filled with requests?

You can guess where this is going. I got form rejections or radio silence from every other agent. The one interested agent passed. Andrea didn’t even want to see the full.

I could have continued to query—10 isn’t a very large sampling—but I decided to put the manuscript aside for a while. I hoped that if I came back to it in a few months, I’d be able to see what was missing. I truly believed in Above All, but I needed some distance before deciding what to do next.

The Book Deal

Five months passed and I was hard at work on my second romance, How to Fall. Out of nowhere one evening I got an email from Ellora’s Cave, one of the publishers I’d submitted to and the last I had to hear from. I admit that I barely bothered to read the email. When I saw “Thank you for your submission,” I thought, Oh well. It was worth a try.

But then the next line said “Congratulations.” I was so confused. It took a few more readings for it to sink in. Ellora’s Cave had accepted my novel. I’d completely skipped the agent stage. I was going to be published.

(See a list of literary agents who seek romance.)

The Second Query

I didn’t need an agent anymore. I had an editor at Ellora’s Cave who was great. I’d also connected with another agent who agreed to negotiate the contract even if she didn’t represent me. But I still wanted an agent. I wanted someone to help me build my career and navigate the publishing world beyond my first novel. So I set out to query again.

What a different experience. Thirty minutes after I pressed send, Andrea requested the full. Three days later, she sent me an email that made me cry. (Admittedly I’d been pretty stressed out, but still. It was a really nice email.) Not only did she love Above All, but she really got what my writing is about. I contacted other agents who had the manuscript to let them know, but after two long phone conversations with Andrea, it was an easy decision.

I’m not saying that if you’re looking for an agent, go snag a book deal first. Nor is the idea to bombard the same agents with repeat queries because surely they’ll like the book if they only sit down and read it. My point is that the process from book to agent to publisher—or from book to publisher to agent—can be roundabout, slow, and full of surprises. I can’t say exactly what led Andrea to decline to read Above All the first time around. But I’m glad I tried her again. I like to think she’s happy that she gave it a second look, too.

GIVEAWAY: Rebecca 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. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).


How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir discusses
how to slowly release a novel online to generate
interest in your writing and work.


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:


Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more.
Order the book from WD at a discount.


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13. Meet Buford

The last in a five-part series introducing the BookEnds team.

BookEnds Hound

Tagline: I'm a big-headed beast with an even bigger heart.

How long have you been at BookEnds? since June 2014

Do you have a favorite book? I don't read, but when I first came into the office I immediately grabbed Sally MacKenzie's Loving Lord Ash and carried it away with me. I think it was the adorable little dog on the cover that got me.

If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice? I've never been inside an actual Starbucks (although I have lounged around on the patio), but I would probably say anything with peanut butter, cheese or bacon.

Name five things on your desk bed right now: a bone, remnants from a bone, a stuffed animal, remnants from a stuffed animal and peanut butter smears

Where did you live before coming to BookEnds? for a while I lived in Newark, NJ in the shelter there until some nice people from St. Hubert's came to get me and find me a Forever Home. I was there for just a few weeks before the Fausts came and snapped me. I have to say. It's not bad here.

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14. Query Question: No, I want the other one

I attended a conference where I found an agent from a very respectable agency*** had an open pitch time slot. My pitch got a request for a full. My research after the conference showed that the agent had no sales in my genre. I did not send my manuscript, and many months have passed since the conference. I would like to query another agent at the agency who represents many authors writing in my genre.

What to do? Do agents keep track of conference requests? The agency website says nothing regarding querying multiple agents. Is querying the second agent acceptable? If so, should I mention the first agent in my query to the second?

That odd sound you hear if you tilt your head to the left is me tapping you none-too-gently on the noggin  with a clue-by-four.

Let's see how you got to that point:

(1) You pitched an agent you didn't know. 

(2) You assumed that because you could not find any sales in your genre, there weren't any.

(3) You didn't sent the manuscript.

(4) and now, you want to know if it's ok to query another agent at the same agency and mention s/he asked for the full but you declined to send it to them.

You've behaved rudely here. You've made some assumptions that have prompted you to act that way, and I hope you'll stop doing that.

For starters, not all deals are reported.  My Publishers Marketplace deal listings are sadly out of date, and not just cause I'm lying around eating bonbons and watching telenovellas. Some deals aren't announced till foreign sales are made. I'm waiting to announce one now cause I want to use the correct title, and I know the publisher is changing it. Never assume you know how many deals an agent has done, or not.

Second, you didn't write to the agent and say thanks and withdraw the manuscript.  When I get those emails, I don't ask why (I don't particularly care.) It does mean that I don't email the author and ask what happened.  I ALWAYS do that if a requested full doesn't show up because it's easy for mail with
attachments to go astray.

Third, you're assuming the agent with lots of clients is a better fit.  And taking new clients.

And you're counting on the agents not talking to each other. Here's where that gets tricky:

Agent B: thanks for your query. This sounds terrific, but my list is pretty full.  I've passed this along to my colleague Agent A who is actively looking for projects in this genre.

Agent A: whoa, I recognize this. Didn't I ask for this at that writing conference? How come B has it a year later?

I can absolutely tell you that if you'd dissed any of my younger agents this way, and queried me, I'd have said no thanks pretty quickly.  I think my younger agents are often a better match for new writers than some of the rest of us: they're young, hungry, fresh, and eager. And they don't have "many clients" to torment daily.

You've screwed up royally here.  There's nothing to prevent you from querying Agent Two but you'd be very foolish to mention you've already talked to Agent One and decided s/he wasn't worthy.

***and what is a "respectable" agency? Do you mean reputable? I can assure you the best agents I know are very rarely respectable ladies with white gloves and delicate little handbags.

available here

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15. The Short Leap from Fiction to Copywriting

Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc. www.awaionline.com.

Curious how you go from writing fiction to writing copy?

Meet Pat McCord …

A successful published fiction writer who successfully made the leap to well-paid freelance copywriter – and back again!



Pat Mccord

I knew I wanted to write fiction by the time I was twelve. I’d sit out back with my older sister and craft “novels” divided into real chapters, reading each page to her as it came off the end of my yellow pencil. She seemed to love every word I wrote, and that didn’t change when years later I mailed her my first published books.

The assumption that I’d one day make a living as a writer was a given in my family. What they didn’t know, and I didn’t know at the time either, was that the road to that obvious outcome could involve detours when contracts were delayed, ideas shelved, or books went out of print.

I tried working in the corporate world, but that left me almost no time for my fiction. So mid-career I added copywriting to my bank of money-making skills. As a copywriter, I figured I’d be able to fill in the gaps in my income,

but I have to admit I was a little worried. Writing ad copy seemed so different at first. I wondered if I’d have to betray my art to make a living?

But, funniest thing, I’ve found more similarities between fiction writing and copywriting than I ever imagined. In fact, my background in creating fiction helped me make the leap, astonishingly fast, from novice to a well-paid copywriter with plenty of time to focus on my fiction.

With ad copy, nothing sells like a good story, especially if it has an emotional hook. Consider the dog trapped under storm rubble, rescued by The Humane Society. Or the woman who quits smoking for her worried kids by taking Chantix. People who feel the message are much more likely to say yes to a product or service.

By definition, writing stories comes naturally to us fiction writers. We know how to build suspense in a sentence or two, how to create memorable characters with just a few well-chosen details, and how to illicit emotion without relying on flat words like ‘afraid’ or ‘happy.’   The major difference is that with copywriting, the stories are not manufactured, they are true.

I also learned that effective copywriting uses a conversational tone–writing as if the reader is a friend sitting next to us, like chatting but more succinct. In other words dialog, what fiction writers produce every day. In fact, we think in dialog. Not everyone does.

Also, when we write fiction, we may not realize we’re selling, but in fact we are. We must create locations vivid enough that readers can believe they are orbiting Jupiter or in 1865 Appomadox. That’s selling. And we have to sell our characters as good guys, bad guys or something in between.

So the feared betrayal has never happened. In fact, one skill enhances the other, and that recently included producing the rough draft of a mystery novel in 84 days—quick, to the point, with an economy of words. . . like any good copywriter.

To your writing success,

Pat McCord



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16. Four Tips for Writing for the Romance Market

After writing literary short fiction and then six contemporary novels, my then-agent told me to go henceforth and write a romance. A romance? I thought. Really?

After more discussion, I thought what a lark! What a gas! How fun and surely, how easy. I was under the assumption that I could write a romance in my sleep, no matter I hadn’t read one since 1978, the last being the classic The Flame and the Flower. Yes, of course, I could do that. And wasn’t Jane Austen my favorite writer? And wasn’t Pride and Prejudice just a romance at its core?

howtobake-5_5x8_5 Jessica-authorphotoThis guest post is by Jessica Barksdale Inclán, author of the new novel, How to Bake a Man (Ghostwood Books/October 2014) as well as twelve critically acclaimed books, including the best-selling Her Daughter’s Eyes (YALSA Award Nominee), The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. Her work had been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Czech. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Compose, Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Storyacious, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is the recipient of Californian Arts Council Fellowship in Literature and a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. For more info, visit www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

Yes, dear reader, you can already sense the conflict in my tale. Writing a romance (just like writing anything other than emails to friends) isn’t easy. In fact, I had to read every romance in my local library, sitting at the tables or slumped in the stacks. During my impromptu self-paced class, I learned a lot about plot and story from the romance writers. While I’m not writing romance these days, the lesson of action, conflict, climax (and then some) are lessons I use to this day.

After discarding my false notions about writing romance, I realized that many writers have assumptions about genres they haven’t even tried to write. Once a romance writer I met at a conference told me, nose up, that she never read literary fiction. “Nothing ever happens,” she said.

At a recent workshop, two literary writers compared romance novel excerpts to literary fiction and nonfiction selections. “How can you compare apples and watermelons?” I asked them. “These writers are doing something else!”

Frankly, I was appalled by all three writers. Literary or romantic, all writing has something to teach us. So when I decided to try my hand at “chick lit,” I knew I would bring all my lessons with me. But then I added to the list. Here’s what I know after finishing How to Bake a Man.

[Here's a great article on how to structure a killer novel ending.]

1. Don’t write down to your audience.

While I might have had about a week’s worth of “romance is so easy,” I was wrong. All audiences are savvy in their preferred genre, and it’s not a good idea to insult them. Take as much time and care as you would with any writing project. Don’t decide that now you can use all the adverbs you want. Now is not the time to slip in your, “Meanwhile, across towns” and “Little did she knows.” Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back isn’t all there is to a love story of any kind. We all respond to good writing, regardless of genre.


2. Everything that you are embarrassed about–your failures, your social fax pas–are what we, the audience, want to read about. We relate.

There’s something endearing about main characters who are down-and-out, unlucky in love and life, struggling to figure out how to just keep going. The shame of not succeeding, of having very bad internet dating experiences, of fighting with parents and siblings, of getting fired, again, is what we also know and understand. Don’t bemoan writing what you know if you know all this. We do, too. And we thank you for putting it out there.


3. Don’t write expecting your mother to approve (I know, Mom. I know). We’ve all tried to get our mothers to approve of us and that hasn’t worked. Write as if Mom is on an extended vacation.

I understand if you haven’t explained to your mother the vagaries of dating. The slightly seedy one-night stands. Being stood up at Starbucks and spending a half-hour talking to the homeless veteran on crutches (Yes, me. And I used this situation in a short story). But those experiences transformed to fiction can lead you deeper into your character and plot. Maybe not to your mother’s heart. But she really doesn’t have to know about it.

[Understanding Book Contracts: Learn what’s negotiable and what’s not.]

4. Small ideas (baking cookies, for instance) can lead to bigger ideas.

On Facebook recently, I was playing around with wild, blown up, ridiculous plot synopses. Here’s a bit of one of them:

Young vampire with leftist leanings searches for hope in the underworld. Little does he know, across town in heaven, a werewolf vixen with a penchant for blood pins her hopes on him after a chance sighting in the ether.

Wow. Where to even begin with that one? So start small. I started How to Bake a Man with cookies. My great-grandmother’s recipe, in fact. I thought about all I learned from my mother and what she learned from my grandmother. I thought about all that female power in the act of rolling out dough, just as women have been rolling out door for generations. Then I imagined a young woman just ripe and ready to change her life. Cookies. That was the thing.

So you don’t have to have the topic du jour, the platform of perfection, the weirdest of weird. Try with what is around you and see what happens next.

Writing in many genres has helped me fill my toolbox. Poetry, short stories, fiction of all kinds. I feel lucky to know enough to pull out a metaphor when I need to and a sex scene when necessary. I hope my list helps you, no matter what you’re writing.

On Writing RomanceIn This Book You’ll Learn:

— Detailed descriptions of more than 20 subcategories within the romance genre
— Tips for avoiding clichés
— How to create the perfect romantic couple
— Guidelines for drafting those all-important love scenes
— Submission information for breaking into the genre




Thanks for visiting The Writer’s Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


brian-klems-2013Brian A. Klems is the online editor of Writer’s Digest and author of the popular gift book Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian’s free Writer’s Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter


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17. 15 Oscar Wilde Quotes About Reading, Writing and Books

IH001260Poet, playwright and novelist Oscar Wilde was born October 16, 1854 in Dublin. While his most famous works, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, live on, Wilde is most frequently remembered for his wit. Here are 15 of his best quotes for writers, readers and artists in honor of his 160th birthday.


1. All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.

2. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.

3. If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.

4. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written.

5. The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.

6. An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

7. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

8. I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.

9. A poet can survive everything but a misprint.

10. Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless.

11. In old days books were written by men of letters and read by the public. Nowadays books are written by the public and read by nobody.

12. I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

13. With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?

14. The imagination imitates. It is the critical spirit that creates.

15. A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.

If yours isn’t listed, share your favorite Wilde bon mot in the comments!

headshotWDAdrienne Crezo is the managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Follow her on Twitter @a_crezo.



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18. Sky Diving

The last thing you remember hearing before your friend thrust you out of the plane was: “Don’t forget your parachute!” That would be nice, though, instead of falling, you immediately begin hurtling upwards. With the stratosphere slowly approaching and your air running out, what do you do?

writing-promptsWant more creative writing prompts?

Pick up a copy of A Year of Writing Prompts: 365 Story Ideas for Honing Your Craft and Eliminating Writer’s Block. There’s a prompt for every day of the year and you can start on any day.

Order now from our shop.






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19. Happy Book Birthday to STITCHING SNOW!

My author R.C.Lewis first described STITCHING SNOW to me as "Snow White in space... if Snow were a cage-fighting tech-head with daddy issues." How could I not want to read that? And now YOU can, too, as STITCHING SNOW officially hits shelves today!

Seventeen-year-old Essie can take care of herself. She knows how to stitch up robotic drones so the men in the mining settlement remember she's worth keeping around. She knows how to use her fists to make sure they keep their hands off her. But all her self-preservation skills don't tell her how to deal with Dane, a boy who's depending on her to get his crashed shuttle off the icy ground of her desolate planet and flying again.

Dane's polite, chivalrous, even a little charming, and he gives Essie the kind of attention she's never had. She begins to trust him, which is a new (and terrifying!) feeling for her. But then he discovers her secret. She's a Princess who has been missing for years, and there will be a rich reward for returning her to her kingdom. One betrayal later, he's taking her home whether she likes it or not, to exchange for captives held by Essie's father the King. What Dane doesn't know is Essie wasn't kidnapped all those years ago... she ran away. And bringing her back home just might kill her.

STITCHING SNOW is fast-paced, voicey debut YA that will appeal to both SF fans and "people who don't think they like Science Fiction" - and Essie is a brilliant, tough little sweetheart of a character you won't soon forget.

Buy the book at your local independent bookstore via IndieBound, or at Oblong, Powells, Book Depository, B+N or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

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20. Correction: October 2014 Issue, “Find Your Agent Match”

In the annual agent roundup (October 2014 issue), John Willig of Literary Services Inc. was incorrectly listed as accepting a variety of fiction. Willig specializes in nonfiction. His full and accurate listing is as below.

John Willig
Literary Services, Inc.

He is seeking: He works primarily in nonfiction (narrative and prescriptive): business, finance, personal growth, health, history, science and technology, psychology, politics and current events are of particular interest but certainly open to fresh presentations in other topic zones. He is also beginning to represent historical fiction—literary and crime/thriller.

How to submit: Send a concise e-mail that addresses two questions: 1) What is going to motivate a buyer/reader to spend $20-25 on your new book given all of their information choices? And by choices, address not just competing/related books but also think WebMD, HBR, HuffPo, blogs etc. This is especially relevant today for prescriptive nonfiction. 2) What is it about yourself and all of your professional activities and network that is going to convince an editor/publisher (and their marketing/PR group) that you will be an active promotion partner helping to reach potential buyers and extend the word of mouth buzz about your book in a very crowded and noisy global marketplace?

Recent sales: Speaking Politics: Decoding the Language of Washington, by Chuck McCutheon and David Mark, Speaking (University Press of New England, nonfiction); A Winner’s Guide to Negotiating, by Molly Fletcher (McGraw-Hill, nonfiction); Self-Care for Therapists, by Ashley Bush Davis (Norton, nonfiction).

Tip for writers: “I note at many writers’ conferences that I’m not just evaluating talent, potential and content but also character. Who I am working with and how they conduct themselves is critical and most experienced editors feel the same way. That being said, I always respect a writer who has done their homework—really focusing on what makes their work unique to a target audience vs. just stating that their book will be of broad appeal and is going to sell as well as all the bestsellers.”

Our sincerest apologies to Mr. Willig, our subscribers and readers. Please visit literaryservicesinc.com for more information.

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21. Query question: writing with style versus writing "right"

Some time ago, I saw a fascinating article on Writer's Digest online site, called something like "The Difference Between Writing with Style and Writing Incorrectly." Sadly, I didn't get the chance to read it and now I can't find it.

We've all heard of the Old West style battles between editors and writers, and it got me thinking. Is there really a difference between writing incorrectly and writing with style? The great Stephen King once said, "You must know the rules of writing so you can effectively break them." What's your perspective on writing with style vs. writing correctly? Is there a difference, and what is it? Example(s)?

This reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon. An elderly grammar puritan has helpfully corrected Elvis lyrics: "You are nothing but an old hound dog."

Elvis had style, Grammar Lady was "correct."
Which do you prefer?

Sometime back I was proofing a client's manuscript and came across some truly dreadful grammar. Knowing my client was meticulous, I flagged it and asked. Sure enough, the "wrong" was on purpose. Not all characters speak in perfectly organized sentences and use all the right words.

Dern tootin', they don't.

You won't catch too many gun slinging moonshiners in the hollers of Kentucky asking for whom the bell tolls.

I tried to find further examples for this, but I couldn't. I'll bet the comment column will scare up some though.

And it's not so much editors who engage in fisticuffs on this topic, it's copyeditors. They've had style trained right out of them, and that's ok with me. Someone needs to know that a double Axel isn't the same thing as a double axle.

Dern tootin.

The trick is, as Stephen King points out, doing this on purpose. If it's on purpose, it fits. If it's by mistake, it's often very jarring. 

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22. Meet Jessica Alvarez

Jessica Alvarez
Literary Agent, BookEnds

Tagline:  Whipping novels into submission.*
*Special thanks to Peter Senftleben for coming up with the tag line

If your dream submission were to arrive in your inbox today what would it be? I have to admit, my tastes are fickle. Today’s dream submission could be different than tomorrow’s.  I have an eclectic list, and that variety is really what makes me love my job so much.  Right this very second, I’d love to find some sexy, funny contemporary romances with great hooks and great writing.  It should be so funny that it would be dangerous for me to drink and read at the same time.  

Book Concepts you never really want to see in your inbox: I’m typically turned off by sports-themed books, books with protagonists in the performing arts (musicians, actors, ballerinas), and those with chefs.  But I should never say never.  I’ve sold books I love that contain all of those.  Andrea Laurence’s FACING THE MUSIC has a rock star heroine.  Melissa Cutler got me twice with a chef heroine in THE TROUBLE WITH COWBOYS and a trio of hockey playing heroes in her Bomb Squad series. 

What was the last book you read and what did you think of it?  ONE KICK by Chelsea Cain.  I really enjoyed it. I’m a fan of tough, kick-ass heroines who are complicated and damaged, and Chelsea delivered that for me.  The heroine has a slightly shady romantic interest, and I’m also attracted to books that have morally ambiguous characters.  Minerva Koenig’s NINE DAYS is a perfect example from my list of a book that has all those elements.

If you're going all out, calories don't count, what's your Starbucks treat of choice?  Oooh, a toffee nut latte with a drizzle of caramel and sea salt. And whipped cream.  Just writing those words is making me want one...

If you could move your office anywhere in the world where would you like to work from?  It’s a tie between a villa in Tuscany with a view of an olive grove out my office window, or the beach.  I’m lucky that I get to work on books that could be beach reads all year round, so why not have my environment match the work?

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23. Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 284

Before we get into today’s prompt, two things:

  1. I need to get a hold of Alana Sherman and Cameron Steele for their bios in the Poem Your Heart Out anthology/prompt/workbook. If you know how to contact them (or if you are them), please send me an e-mail at robert.brewer@fwcommunity.com. Thanks!
  2. Walter J. Wojtanik (a former Poetic Asides Poet Laureate and currently awesome poet) just released a collection of poems: Dead Poet… Once Removed. Click here to learn more and grab a copy of your very own.

For today’s prompt, write a pick up poem. In the poem, you could write about picking stuff up–like operating a crane or cleaning a bedroom. Or it could be about picking up someone at a bar. Or picking up the pace. Or whatever else you happen to pick up…on. Have fun!


Write a poem for a chance at $1,000!

Writer’s Digest is offering a contest strictly for poets with a top prize of $1,000, publication in Writer’s Digest magazine, and a copy of the 2015 Poet’s Market. There are cash prizes for Second ($250) and Third ($100) Prizes, as well as prizes for the Top 25 poems.

The deadline is October 31.

Click here to learn more.


Here’s my attempt at a Pick Up Poem:

“Disco Dracula”

Hey, baby, what’s your blood type?
You may be type O negative,
but you look type A to me.

Sorry, I don’t get out much
and when I do I have to
watch the time like Cinderella.

I do like walks in the park,
especially after dark,
but I’m not into watching

the sun rise. Or even set,
though that’s usually when I get
up and do my groove thing.

Yes, burn, baby, burn, that’s
why I avoid sunlight–
so that I can survive

off the village people
who hang near the YMCA
down in the funky town.

I agree; I’m a super freak
who can’t get enough of
your love, babe, please

don’t leave me this way.


roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53).

He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly WritersMarket.com newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He is sometimes a little more slap happy than your typical poet and reads his poems in the voice of Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula (just because).

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic goodies here:

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24. 10 Tips for Fiction Writers from the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market

9781599638416_5inch_300dpiThe 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, now in its 34th year, is hot off the presses, and today I’m sharing ten pieces of advice from the contributors to this year’s edition. NSSWM features articles on fiction craft, getting published, and marketing and promotion, as well as more than 400 pages of listings for novel and short story writers, including literary agents, book publishers, magazines, and contests that are interested in your work. This year’s edition also features access to an exclusive webinar from best-selling author Cheryl St.John, on exploring emotional high points in fiction.

To celebrate the release of the 2015 NSSWM, I’m giving away two copies to two lucky winners who comment in the post below! I’ll announce the winners on October 22. 


1. On writing an exceptional short story:

“Outline, even if it’s the most rudimentary way. It leads to inspired deviations. … [Don’t] think too hard about ticking off [your] boxes in advance. A good story—long or short—will provide them by virtue of its being good.” —Andrew Pyper, in Jennifer D. Foster’s article “Anatomy of a Successful Short Story”

2. On writing dialogue within a scene: 

“Rich dialogue can animate and drive a scene. But good dialogue doesn’t act in isolation. The point of view of the stakeholders in the matter at hand must be provocative or interesting in some way. There must be conflict—conflict important enough to make the reader care. And then, driven by this conflict, the characters must come alive, revealing their needs, desires, flaws—their basic humanity. The dialogue itself must be distinctive and original. When it’s not working, it tends to sound clunky and artificial.” —Jack Smith, “Writing Strong Scenes”

3. On finding ideas for magic realism: 

“Ever since I began writing, I’ve been a collector. Not of things—shells, stamps, figurines, stuffed monkeys, autographs, etc.—but of possibilities. Odd happenings and images from around the world and in my dreams that could—and often do—make their way into my writing. While many might be considered mundane observances, paired with the right character in the right situation, I know they’ll make terrifically fantastic occurrences. —Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, “Making Magic”

4. On getting through the mid-draft slump: 

“A mid-draft slump is a symptom, which calls for a diagnosis before you can effectively treat it. Believing you can write your way out of this mess, that you can rescue the middle with a strong closing act, is a seductive trap, because your reader may never make it that far. When that reader is an agent or an editor, this assumption becomes a fatal one.” —Larry Brooks, “Stuck in the Middle”

5. On developing a distinct point of view and voice: 

“Practice makes perfect, and the best way to practice is by writing short stories. Flash fiction (telling a full story in 1,000 words or less) is a great training tool.” —J.T. Ellison, in Janice Gable Bashman’s interview “Capturing Readers’ Interest”

6. On Twitter “pitch parties”: 

“As informal as social media can be, Brenda Drake emphasizes that writers need to treat pitch parties as professionally as any other submission. ‘Your manuscript should be completely polished. It has to have been through your beta readers and critique partners, and you should have revised it a few times,’ she says.” —Diane Shipley, “It Started With a Hashtag”

7. On what impresses literary journal editors: 

“I’m impressed by a writer who takes our theme, shakes it around, and throws it back at us in a way we were not expecting. Catching us off guard with good writing is rewarding. We all know what we want, but when we come across something we didn’t expect, something that cuts in a new and exciting way, that is a great way to attract attention.” —Todd Simmons, in James Duncan’s roundtable “What Literary Journals Really Look For”

8. On how to choose a small press to submit to: 

“Evaluate the content. If a small press is consistently putting out quality writing, chances are it has a solid editorial team. The amount of time it’s been in existence and its general reputation are helpful indicators, too.” —Robert Lee Brewer, “Sizing Up Small Presses”

9. On hybrid publishing: 

“Diversity means survival. That’s true in agriculture. It’s true in our stock portfolios. It’s true on our dinner plates. And it’s true in publishing. Survival as a writer means embracing diversity from the beginning. And that means thinking of yourself as a “hybrid” author. … The hybrid author takes a varied approach, utilizing the traditional system of publishing and acting as an author-publisher (a term I prefer to self-publisher because it signals the dual nature of the role you now inhabit).”  —Chuck Wendig, “Best of Both Worlds”

10. On organizing a virtual book tour: 

“You may find it helpful to assemble an ‘online media kit,’ a section of your website where you can provide photos and other relevant information, such as a video trailer and press release, in one location. This way, you can give your hosts a single link instead of inundating them with attachments … .” —Erika Dreifus, “10 Tips for Your Virtual Book Tour”

You can find the articles these tips came from, as well as hundreds of listings for book publishers, literary agents, magazines, contests, and writing conferences, inside the 2015 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.

To celebrate the release of the 2015 NSSWM, I’m giving away two copies to two lucky winners who comment in the post below! I’ll announce the winners on October 22. 

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25. Query Question: I also have this other project

Dear Duchess of Sharkington,

I'm currently querying a thriller, but I'm also working on a collection of dystopian sci-fi short stories. I can't imagine one agent being interested in both, so if I nab an agent with the thriller, how will she feel about me self-publishing the short stories? Is that taboo? 

I'm not sure why you are assuming an agent who likes thrillers will not be an agent who likes dystopian sci-fi short stories.

In fact, on my list you'll find:

and you'll also find

I don't think that kind of diversity is the exception these days.

When an agent is interested in your work, you'll mention the other project. Some agents are quite ok with their clients self-pubbing things, others not so much.  You'll want to work with one who is.  But never assume that your work can't be sold either. 

When I sign a client, I sign them for all their work. Sometimes that means calling in a co-agent. Sometimes it means getting help from friends. Sometimes it means things don't work out and the client needs a new agent.  All of these things have happened.  Cross the bridge when you get there.

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