icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Agents and Book Proposals
(The Art of the Pitch)

About agents
• How to find and choose (and woo) a literary agent
• What if you get an offer before you get an agent?
• Changing role of the literary agent (and some problems)
• Q&As with agents
• Agent fees
• How to write a query letter for a book (to land an agent)
• The art of the pitch
• How to pitch a novel (or a memoir)
• How to pitch a magazine story

How to write a synopsis
• Beta readers: How, why and when to use them
• How not to behave with/around agents
• How to protect yourself against not-so-good agents
• The author-agent agreement (contract)
• Blogs, newsletters, and podcasts about the book business

The Book Proposal
• How to write a book proposal
• Developing a 'selling' book title
• How to land a book deal (helpful articles about)
• What's the right word count? (aka length)
• How long should a chapter be?
• Books on how to write a book proposal
• Should you, the writer, hire an editor?


Terms of the Book Contract

• Advances and royalties
• Understanding subsidiary rights

     Audio, electronic (ebooks), film/dramatic/tv (plus ancillary rights), foreign, 1st and 2nd serial, reprint, performance and merchandising, etc.


Pitching short works to magazines and journals 

Queries for short works rarely go through agents. There's not enough $ involved.
• How to pitch a magazine or newspaper piece        (aka how to query)
• Where to pitch the idea for a magazine or newspaper piece

• Pitch wars and pitch slams
• How to sell and re-sell a parenting magazine piece
• Systems for managing pitches (submissions of short works)

Submission fees


 Writer's Digest has changed owners. I am not deleting WD entries but waiting to see what stays in print under the new owners.

The same tables of contents combined and in alphabetical order

• Advances and royalties for books
• Agent fees
• The art of the pitch
• The author-agent agreement (contract)
• Beta readers: How, why and when to use them
• Blogs, newsletters, and podcasts about the book business
• Books on how to write a book proposal
• Changing role of the literary agent
• Developing a 'selling' book title
• How not to behave with/around agents
• How to find and choose (and woo) a literary agent
• How to land a book deal (helpful articles about)
• How to pitch a magazine or newspaper piece

        (aka how to query)
• How to pitch a novel (or a memoir)
• How to protect yourself against not-so-good agents
• How to sell and re-sell a parenting magazine piece
• How to write a book proposal
• How to write a query letter (to land an agent for a book)
• How to write a query letter to a magazine or newspaper

How to write a synopsis
• Pitch wars and pitch slams
• Q&As with agents
• Should you, the writer, hire an editor?
• Submissions of short works

Submission fees, generally
• Understanding subsidiary rights (foreign, film, audio, etc.)
• What if you get an offer before you get an agent?
• What's the right word count? (aka length)
• How long should a chapter be?
• Where to pitch the idea for a magazine or newspaper piece

The Art of the Pitch
Advice on various types of pitches.

Advice on various types of pitches. Bottom line: Pitch stories, not topics. Don't take rejection personally.

See also
How to pitch a magazine or newspaper story/piece
How to pitch a novel (or memoir)
Making the most of a pitch slam/pitch war

“Time-Bombing-the-Future” (Rebecca Altman, Pitch Database, The Open Notebook). Anatomy of a pitch letter. Story published as Time-bombing the future (Aeon, 1-2-19) "Synthetics created in the 20th century have become an evolutionary force, altering human biology and the web of life." See many more pitches in The Open Notebook's Pitch Database (The Open Notebook), The story behind the best science stories). Each pitch links to the published story. Don't take rejection personally. It's not about you.
Successful Pitches shows freelancers the way (Stephanie Russell-Kraft, CJR, 8-17-20) In an essay on pitching, she recommends Successful Pitches, food writer Naomi Tomky's database of pitches that have successfully led to stories at a variety of publications (@SuccessfulPitch). Tomky says she was inspired by Who Pays Writers?, an anonymous, crowdsourced list of rates searchable by publication title.
How (and Where!) To Pitch Your Writing (Ann Friedman, 5-2-17) Lots of useful links.
3 things every writer needs to know about where to pitch (Susan Shain, Healthy Rich, 2-15-21). Good advice and lots of useful links, including Where to Pitch (Shain's search engine and her Where to Pitch newsletter. See also How to Pitch a Story: 9 Insider Tips for Contacting the Right Editor (Susan Shain, The Write Life, 9-22-22)
Where to pitch, based on data from the website, Who Pays Writers? (Kevin McElwee, Columbia Journalism Review, 2-8-19)
Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience by Stephanie Palmer. Scroll down and read chapter 1 free. The reason the pitching secrets of the most successful writers and directors are relevant is that these people have evolved an advanced method for selling ideas, and selling ideas isn't easy.
Opportunities of the Week Newsletter Sonia Weiser's 2xper week newsletter,compiling all the calls for pitches she finds each week.
The Pitch podcast Listen to real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors—for real money.
How To Get Published in Five Weeks A virtual conversation with Susan Shapiro (video-recorded by Science Writers of New York, SWINY, 11-1-21) Practical tips about making pitches and landing story assignments. More about short pieces than about books.
Publications to Pitch (And They Pay!) (Stella J. McKenna, The Writing Cooperative, 1-29-18) Good places to pitch essays.

[Back to Top]

Literary Speed Dating: How Not to Find an Agent for Your Book (Karen Dionne, Daily Finance, 2-13-11) "Pitch sessions are a staple at most writers conferences, offering authors the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with a literary agents to talk about their projects. Some conferences pair writers and agents for ten minutes of one-on-one time, often for an additional fee. At one popular event, authors can book up to three such sessions for an extra $40 each.
        "Other conferences use the "pitch-slam," or "speed-dating" format to connect authors with agents. Several dozen literary agents are seated in a large room, while authors stand in line for the chance to make a 3-minute pitch to one agent before moving on to the next." Several of my author friends have pitched articles and books successfully at the pitch sessions at ASJA's annual conferences. They may not make the final sale, but they get the invitation to send the pitch and/or proposal. That's your sign that they are interested in the concept. Then you have to deliver the goods.

         Novelists and fiction writers generally have to have a finished product to offer for consideration (though they may entice with a sample). Generally nonfiction authors have to have a proposal, a sample chapter or two, and an outline. (And the finished book may end up fairly different from the proposal--because until you have done the research and interviews you can't really know what you will discover.)
The New York Pitch Conference focuses on "the art of the novel pitch as the best method not only for communicating your work, but for having you and your work taken seriously by industry professionals." The Pitch is also explored "as a diagnostic method for workshopping the plot, premise, and other elements of the story to determine quality and marketability" prior to finalizing the pitch. Or as one participant put it, "NYPC is a very intense day of "prep" to learn to pitch--which includes honing in on the essence of your novel--and then actually pitching to editors and agents."

     At the December 2020 New York Pitch, held online via video conferencing, upwards of 25 projects were chosen for professional consideration by NY Pitch faculty for both book and TV/film markets." Emphasis on "commercial fiction," the kind that sells to a wide market. This and Writing Day workshops (held around the country, with traditional pitching sessions) are examples of workshops at which authors have a chance to pitch their work to literary agents. The American Society of Journalists & Authors and other organizations also hold pitch sessions, but for writers of nonfiction.
The Pitch podcast Listen to real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors—for real money. This podcast takes you into the world of startups: how people sell their ideas, what makes investors tick, and how these initial conversations can bloom into business deals—or die on the vine.
How Will We Know When She Is Dead? (by Ann Buscho). I love this pitch on Ann Buscho's website for her completed book manuscript How Will We Know When She Is Dead? -- "a memoir written by two sisters who, abandoned, survive the storms and secrets of their brilliant, unstable mother. Think of it as Mommie Dearest meets Life of Pi."
How to pitch/submit to Undark.
The Pitch: Jason Fagone on Landing “The Willy Wonka of Pot” in Grantland (Jason Fagone, Nieman Storyboard, 10-10-17). The launch piece in a Storyboard series about the mystical art of pitching longform stories, annotated. “If you can’t sell it in a couple of paragraphs, you can’t sell it at all. My rule of thumb is: Have three paragraphs, and they should be short.” See The Pitch (more great examples from Nieman Storyboard, in its Annotation Tuesday column)

[Back to Top]

Wired’s exec editor seeks stories that reveal all faces of technology (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 3-5-19) Rejections aren't personal: “70 percent of why pitches don't work has nothing to do with the writer” “We get a lot of pitches on topics, but they don’t have characters who will drive the narrative. Scenes are really important to meet the reader where they are and help them relate to the story. For Wired specifically, the story has to be about something that is shaping the future and is driven by technology or science.” --Maria Streshinsky, executive editor of Wired, who annotates the pitch Eva Holland submitted to sell the story that became "Saving Baby Boy Green."
Making First Contact with Editors (Abdullahi Tsanni, Open Notebook, 9-21-21) Finding the right editor, making a good first impression, selling yourself and your idea, connecting and building relationships.
Annotation Tuesday (Nieman Storyboard) Grab a drink and plan to spend a little time reading these annotated stories about good pitches and good journalism and storytelling.
Pitching Errors: How Not to Pitch (Laura Helmuth, Open Notebook, 1-4-12) A roundtable of editors from seven publications. Most common mistake—pitching a topic, rather than a story.
The Basic Pitch Formula for Novelists (Jane Friedman, 7-30-11) Good advice she got from an agent panel at the Midwest Writers Workshop. Among other things, "Think of your query letter to the agent/editor as the first step in the SEDUCTION process."
7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference (Peggy Eddleman, Writer's Digest, 6-1-15, on Chuck Sambuchino's site)
What Is Speed Dating? A common feature now at writers conferences, where attendees can spend 8 to 10 minutes, typically, meeting an agent or editor and pitching an article or book idea. (San Francisco Writers Conference)
The new author pitch: Show, don’t sell (Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal, 1-16-12) "Three new developments — the etiquette of the softer sell, online connectivity and independent self-publishing — have revolutionized pitching. These have opened up a whole new world of alternative ways to craft different types of pitches, depending on your specific book and what it needs. The new pitch may be delivered or written directly to potential readers, reviewers, book bloggers, feature writers, interviewers – and it may be in person or online." In short, you may pitch directly to readers on your website or blog, you may pitch to a social network, you may pitch to retailers (can you guarantee a crowd of friends?), you may pitch to the media, you may videotape talks and put them on YouTube.
The “New Author Platform” – What you need to know (Rinzler, 7-25-11) "The New Author Platform requires a focus on developing an unobstructed back and forth between authors and their readers, with the authors — not the publishers — controlling the flow. Now it’s the author, not a publicist, who inspires readers to buy the book. The New Author Platform allows not only well-established authors, but unknown, first-time beginners to do an end run around the conservative gate-keepers and reach readers directly."
The Art of the Pitch (Alan Rinzler's insider tips for preparing and delivering a winning pitch to an agent or editor at a writer's conference, The Book Deal, 3-29-10)

[Back to Top]

Secrets of a Great Pitch (agent Rachelle Gardner)
The Art of the Pitch (Authors Guild)
Constructing a Pitch--Dramatic Structure, Part 1: Looking for the Hook, Dramatically (Merilee D Karr, Science writing as theater, 10-7-15) Then, Part 2: Play Doctoring (10-11-15, on building a cast of characters). And Part 3. Dramatic Structure. Constructing a Pitch for Building Science. Part 4: Science to the Rescue (How do science-as-protagonist stories work? 10-31-15)
Pitch with Confidence and Think Like an Editor (Meighan O'Toole)
Creatively Pitching Your Project (agent Rachelle Gardner)
Blog Pitch Workshop, Part III (one of several excellent analyses of what makes a pitch work, by agent Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants, 10-27-07). Check out links to three sections of pitch archives along the right.
Making the Perfect Pitch: How To Catch a Literary Agent's Eye by Katharine Sands.
Why Writers Conferences Are Rethinking Pitch Sessions (Karen Dionne, Huff Post, 2-3-11) More writers conferences are changing to the no-pitch format. Authors who invest the time and money to attend a writers conference deserve better than a few stressful minutes with a bored, exhausted agent.
What's a pain letter? (Liz Ryan, Human Workplace, 8-28-14) "There are four parts to a Pain Letter: the Hook, the Pain Hypothesis, the Dragon-Slaying Story and the Closing." In this letter to a potential employer, show that you know in what parts of the business they might need help and suggest how you might be the person to provide it.
How to pitch reporters (Harry McCracken, Time magazine's editor-at-large, discusses good and bad pitches in a podcast, 2-22-13. PR pros, turn your listening ears on.
Power up your Pitches: 13 Fully-Critiqued Queries to Help your Freelance Success (Kelly James-Enger, Dollars and Deadlines, 8-4-13)
5 Steps to Writing a Killer Elevator Pitch for Your Book (Jennie Nash, BookBub Partners Blog, 5-28-15) Being able to succinctly summarize your book in a very short space is a skill every writer must master. If it's fiction or memoir, try to capture what the story is about; if it's nonfiction "(business, self-help, inspiration, how-to), try to capture what the reader will learn and what your main point is." What world or philosophical mindset they will be immersed in.
The Elevator Pitch (Chris Van Dusen, excellent 44-minute talk at UC Irvine on how to present your story in the most effective manner). What you offer that no one else does, presented succinctly, honed to what's in it for the person you're pitching to, what problem you provide a solution for--as an opener for a conversation (and be sure to get THEIR business card).
How to Craft a Killer Elevator Pitch that Will Land You Big Business (Dumb Little Man)

Writers: How to Pitch Your Stories to an Editor (Paula Neal Mooney, Yahoo! Voices, 8-31-06)
How to Pitch an Editor and Win the Gig (Susan Finch, Men with Pens, 4-18-11, on getting an article assigned)
Speed-dating for agents

[Back to Top]

Should you, the writer, hire an editor?

Should I Hire an Editor to Help Cut My Manuscript? (Lisa Cooper Ellison on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-17-22) It’s best to take your manuscript as far as you can on your own before hiring an editor.
Do agents prefer manuscripts that have been reviewed by a professional editor? (Maggie Lynch, Writers and Editors, 11-22-22) "Though agents and publishers want a "clean" manuscript, what they want most is a great story. A story that will get readers to buy even from an unknown author. A story that is so well put together, organized and sequenced to make sense, and keeps the reader wanting to turn the page and stay with the book--even if it means missing sleep."

      When you are looking for a critique, it's important to ask people who can analyze where and how a manuscript does or doesn't hold together, and how maybe to fix it, because the vast majority of friends, family, and other writers are not good at providing useful feedback. And beta readers are helpful but aren't usually skilled enough to provide the kind of feedback you can get from a good editor. Do read her full post, especially if you write fiction.

Q&A Thursday: Ask For What You Want Edition Kate McKean, Agents and Books, 6-29-23) "Trust your gut about what you think you need to work on and see if that lines up with your readers’ comments. If you’re worried about dialog, ask them to pay attention to the dialog." Don't ask "Is this good?"

Should you, the writer, hire an editor? Writer Beware's excellent links, including some of these:
---Should You Pay Someone to Edit Your Work? (Nathan Bransform, agent-turned-author, 10-5-09)
---Evaluating an agent's website (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 4-4-06)
---Should I Hire a Freelance Editor? (agent Rachelle Gardner, 3-25-10)
---Should You Hire a Professional Editor? (Jane Friedman, Writer Unboxed, 3-19-10)
---What Editors Do
---The Doctor Will See You Now (book doctor Lisa Rojany-Buccieri on what book doctors can and cannot do)
---What to Expect from a Professional Critique (Margot Finke)
---The Importance of Self-Editing (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware)
---7 Common Myths About Hiring a Freelance Editor for Your Book (Nancy Peske) If you must skim, catch the points in bold.
---See more such pieces on Writer Beware links.

[Back to Top]


How, when, and why to use beta readers

(or to be one)

Beta readers review a book from the reader's perspective.

Critique partners review it "with a writer’s eye — paying close attention to any craft issues."



Beta readers offer feedback on your story, not line editing.

They may help you see weaknesses or problems, but not tell you how to fix them.

Use beta readers before you hire a developmental or copy editor.


See also Critiquing and Fact-checking.



Beta Readers: Who, When, Why, and So What? (Barbara Linn Probst on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-20-19) Excellent overview and practical insights. Rather than thinking of beta readers as a single group, or of beta reading as a single event, many people use different groups of readers (fellow writers and nonwriters, for example) at different points in their writing (early draft, revision stage, final version), and for different reasons. Read the comments, also.
Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read ((Alexandra Alter and Karl Russell, NY Times, 3-14-16) An analysis by Jellybooks of how readers read e-books found that once most people make it past the first 50 to 100 pages they usually finish the book. But not everybody gets that far. Jellybooks has run tests on nearly 200 books for seven publishers. "On average, fewer than half of the books tested were finished by a majority of readers. Most readers typically give up on a book in the early chapters. Women tend to quit after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50. Only 5 percent of the books Jellybooks tested were completed by more than 75 percent of readers."
The Way We Read (Jellybooks) What books do we get lost in? Which books do we finish? How often do we read?

To Set Beta Reader Expectations, Have an Honest Conversation (Lisa Cooper Ellison on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-24-23) Highlights of a useful post:

"There are three primary types of beta readers.
1. Readers from your target audience who enjoy stories about specific topics or from specific genres.
2. Sensitivity readers and subject-matter experts who as skilled readers are always paid for their work.
3. The writing friend.
The relationship between author and reader often varies based on what role the reader is playing in the manuscript’s development. Once you know what kind of reader you are, have a conversation with the author to see if you're a good match."
Looking for a Beta Reader? Flip That Question Around. (Kris Spisak on Jane Frfiedman's blog, 6-7-22) How can you be an awesome beta reader? Where can you find writers in your genre looking for a beta reader?
What Is a Beta Reader and How to Find One (Fanni Sütő, PublishDrive, 2-15-18)
What is a beta reader and what do I use them for? (Editorial.ie)
What is a beta reader and why do I need one? (Belinda Pollard, Small Blue Dog) and How to find a beta reader.
How to Find and Work with Beta Readers to Improve Your Book (Kristen Kieffer on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-18-16) Excellent, specific, concrete advice on how to get (and give) comments on both the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript.

[Back to Top]

What You Need to Know About Working With Beta Readers (NY Book Editors) This is advice for editors (which writers can learn from). They also recommend eleven writing support groups.
Writers: Get the Right Kind of Feedback! (Molly Greene on what to look for in an editor or beta reader, at various stages -- development, redevelopment, consolidation). Excellent advice from writers' viewpoint.
What Are Beta Readers and Sensitivity Readers? An author's guide (Reedsy, 1-18-19) "In the software industry, programmers release “beta” versions of new programs that they get a select group of users to test. This way, any kinks can be worked out before it becomes available to the public." Beta readers in publishing are testing books. "If authors are not sure which aspects of their book are working (if any!), this is a chance to find out...." A beta reader is the opposite of an alpha reader ("the first person who reads and provides feedback on your manuscript, usually while it’s still a first draft," from the reader's perspective), a critique partner (reading with a writer's eye, pay attention to craft issues), or a fact checker (checking facts), or a sensitivity reader (reviewing "unpublished manuscripts with the express purpose of spotting cultural inaccuracies, representation issues, bias’, stereotypes, or problematic language").
The Importance of Finding Trusted Readers (Sheila Heti, LitHub, 11-16-2020) "It’s always important to show a work in progress to more than one person at a time, so that nobody’s opinion is too influential."
The Five Best Ways to Find Beta Readers (BetaBooks blog) Frank practical advice, including where to look for beta readers and what to expect. Plus: "Don't take things personally. This will be very important online. People will be mean. Sometimes by accident, or because they're just mean. Sometimes because they're telling you the truth and it sucks. You have to deal with it either way."
Goodreads Beta Reader Group ( the "granddaddy of them all")
Professional Beta Readers (a Facebook group)
Scribophile(another place to find beta readers).
Critters (aka Critique.org) is home to several online critique groups
How to find a beta reader (Belinda Pollard, Write, Edit & Publish Like a Pro, Small Blue Dog Publishing)
15 Places to Find Your Next Beta Reader (K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors, 3-4-16) Where can you find a beta reader or critique partner, seven things to look for in a beta reader, and links to "top recommended beta reader and critique groups for writers". Apparently you can also find beta readers for $5 an hour on Fiverr (if you specify that price).

[Back to Top]

Briefing a Beta Reader: The Approach (Belinda Pollard, Write, Edit & Publish Like a Pro, Small Blue Dog Publishing) and Briefing a Beta Reader: Practical details
Complete Guide to Beta Readers: How to Find and Work with Early Reviewers to Improve Your Writing (Jason Brick, TCK Publishing)
Why, When and How to Beta Your Book.(The Writing Cooperative, 4-25-18) How to get the most out of beta readers.
How to Avoid Burning Out Beta Readers(Kevin T. Johns)
• You can read about features of several Beta Management Services for Authors in an article in The Hot Sheet< (paid subscription), which describes the features, pros, and cons of several services that help authors manage beta readers. It concludes that a "small cadre of loyal readers invested in helping you succeed may work better than a vast network of strangers." (And yes, I find The Hot Sheet worth the $$.)
Why Beta Readers Lead You to Getting Paid for Your Writing (Jessica Conoley on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-20-23) Building up courage to own your identity as a writer starts when you realize you need to ask someone for an objective opinion on your work.
Do beta traders charge for their services? (Beta Reader Group discussion on Goodreads.com)

What You Need to Know About Working With Beta Readers (NY Book Editors)<



Critiquing groups (and critiquing) for fiction

Sensitivity reading.


[Back to Top]

How to Find and Choose
(and Woo) the Right Literary Agent

and other Q's and A's about agents
and where and how to submit queries, proposals, or manuscripts

Agents vary on many counts, including how much and how well they help you shape your proposal, how aggressive they are in finding you a publisher, how well they know how many publishers and how much clout they have with them, and how reliable they will be about protecting your interests after the book is published. So finding one through another writer friend is perhaps the best way, especially if the friend can also recommend you. This much is true: For the big traditional publishers, your chief way of getting your foot in the door is through an agent, as agents screen out the 95 percent of manuscripts that are not even close to viable for most traditional publishers (those who sell through bookstores and libraries and to the big national book clubs, etc.).

        Traditional advice about finding an agent: Look at the Acknowledgments page in books you admire or like the one you are writing and see what they say about their agent, who is often thanked. Check sources below to make sure any agent you approach is interested in the genre you are writing in--fiction writers, be specific about which genre you write in--and what their special areas of interest are (an agent who specializes in food and entertainment is unlikely to be interested in your military history). Ask writers you know if there is an agent they recommend for a particular type of book (the kind you are writing or want to write); ask those with agents or who know agents if they would refer you to their agent (if you're a likely match). Attend conferences with pitch slams--which are popular, if not de rigueur, at writers conference.

       "Finding an agent is a long and involved process," advises Maggie Lynch, a much-published cross-genre author. "Finding an agent is a long and involved process. Many people take a year to do that and still aren't successful. Depending on the book and how ready it is for the commercial market, it may be that sending it out to agents right now isn't a good idea. Have you had a professional editor read it and provide feedback? Have you put together a pitch package? Until you understand what kind of book you have and if it is the kind of a book an agent will want to represent (e.g., one they can make money on and sell commercially), you might waste your time sending it out. Assuming you are 100% ready and your book is amazing and you know exactly how it fits in the market, it may also be that your best route is to go direct to small traditional publishers."

        For a small press, you might not need an agent, but, advises novelist Pamela Kelley, "if there is potential for an auction, where multiple publishers are interested, an agent is essential in first knowing which editors to submit to and in managing the logistics of an auction." In other words, agents know the market.

To find an agent without leaving home, consider the following:
---Publishers Marketplace, a fee-based subscription website ($25 a month, and you can quit any time) which tracks (and you can search) book deals in depth (by $$ size, genre, category, and/or keyword), with agents listed (showing who they rep, what type of work they focus on and have represented,what their deals were, and what publishing houses and editors they have connected with). Provides a wealth of information, including a contact database, who an author's agent is, hosted web pages, rights postings, a book review index, a book tracker.

       "It's the best resource I used when I was on the agent hunt," says novelist Pamela Kelley. "Nothing else is as comprehensive or gives as much detail about deals--seeing what they actually sold in my niche. You can clearly see what they are selling and to who, which gives you quite a lot of information about the agency. If there's a specific agent you are interested in you can ask in reader groups or authors you already know what their experience has been like." Maggie Lynch provides a guide to how to use PM here. Scroll down to "OKAY, I’m in. What are the Steps?" for a guide with screenshots. The same people put out PublishersLunch, a separate entity. As one author puts it, "My first action each morning as an author seeking an agent is to check the latest sales at Publishers Marketplace."
---The Association of Authors' Representatives (AARonline.org) to see if a particular agent is a member. You want them to be--agents are going to be handling and managing your money and it will help if they belong to an association that would kick them out if they aren't good at it and honest! In the UK, the equivalent agency is Association of Authors’ Agents (AAA).

---Manuscript WishList also known as MS WishList (#MSWL) Friendly interface, searchable by genre. Editors and literary agents indicate "what I want in my inbox" (so you get a sense of what they are looking for). You can do a search for (for example) Children's picture books, or ecology, or romance, or some combination of elements.

---Agent Query (a search engine with filters, so you can find agents specializing in your genre--about 1000 agents listed)  Enter the genre of the manuscript you wish to submit and a list of agents actively seeking submissions in that genre will pop up, with a link to their website.
---Query Tracker (another search engine, with about 200 publishers listed and 1000 agents) You can also find the names of agents specializing in your genre/field by looking at the acknowledgments page in books broadly similar to yours.
---FirstWriter Search site/database for Literary agents, Magazines, Publishers, Writing competitions
---Resources for Latinx writers (Authors Guild links to agents who handle, and editors and publishers interested in, Latinx writers

You can also find contact information for agents in
---Reedsy's list of literary agents seeking submissions (Reedsy) Filtered by genre. Helpful information.
---Literary Marketplace This, alas, appears no longer to be as helpful as it was in the past. Am I wrong? In the past it was invaluable.
---The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). Downloadable free to SCBWI members. Contains much info about agents.
---Guide to Literary Agents An annually revised Writer's Digest reference work, which contains much useful information about the process--read the reviews, to spot quirks, such as poor formatting in the ebook version.
---AgentMatch (this new-to-me UK service lists 1000 agents in UK and US)
---Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Agents. He describes the tastes and track records of the agents and editors listed therein.
---How to Get a Literary Agent by Michael Larsen may be useful on the process but it's old, it's not updated regularly, and agents do move around.
---Publishers Lunch (a free e-letter mailed daily to thousands of publishing people), a free sampler version of the more comprehensive premium Lunch Deluxe ($25 a month), useful for keeping up to date on recent deals. "Each Publishers Lunch Deluxe subscription includes full access to our searchable multi-year archive of industry news, a nightly email reporting 10 to 50 deal transactions, and our database of industry contacts, scripts, and posting privileges."
---Duotrope (not really about agents, but about where to submit: a subscription-based service for writers and artists that offers an extensive, searchable database of markets for writers (fiction and nonfiction), poets, and artists/photographers (visual art), with a robust search function.
---Absolute Write's water cooler forum on agents and publishers (one place to spot positive and negative comments about a particular agent)
---Who Represents? (Database of Talent Representatives, a subscription site--provides contact information for a wide range of artists and athletes via their professional representatives)
---IMDbPro (information about agents for actors, not always up to date). If the actor you are looking for is a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, try SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists merged in 2012).
---Rachelle Burk's website Resources for Children's Writers is targeted to that specialty, with links to just about everything you need, including lists of publishers and agents who specialize in books for the young.
---Guide to Literary Agents blog (Writer's Digest)
---Thumbs Down Agency List Write Beware's online list (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and additional cautions about bad-apple agents (agents who are dishonest, amateur, marginal, incompetent, etc.).

[Back to Top]

How to Find a Literary Agent for Your Book (Jane Friedman, a great resource, 12-5-17) Knowledgeable answers to key questions: Do you need a literary agent? How do you find one? What you should submit to an agent, how to choose one that's right for you, what to expect from an agent, and are all agents equally good?
Should you find a literary agent, find a small publisher, or self publish your novel? (David G Brown, Darling Axe, 9-15-22) Explains the benefits and drawbacks of the three main publication paths a writer might take for book publication:
1) finding a literary agent to represent a manuscript to the major publishers,
2) finding a smaller publisher directly, without the help of an agent, and
3) self-publishing.
What If It Takes 12 Years to Get an Agent? (Catherine Baab-Muguira on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-29-21) What keeps many writers from a book deal isn’t a polished manuscript or proposal. It’s a sense of the publishing landscape as it really is.
The Case for Pursuing a Traditional Publishing Deal Without an Agent (Amy L. Bernstein on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-13-24) Scores of traditional small presses operating professionally and ethically in North America (and the UK, Australia, and elsewhere) are open to reviewing manuscripts year-round or seasonally without charging a fee. With the emergence of AI-assisted search tools, it is easier than ever to generate lists of “publishers accepting manuscripts without an agent.” And she provides a list of five places to find them.
Agents & Books (Kate McKean's blog, with free and paid subcriptions. The page linked to shows links to many essential pieces of information about the query and proposal process. New feature for paid subscribers: The Fifty Queries Club
A Definition of Author Platform (Jane Friedman, 7-25-16) New authors often wonder what platform is, and Friedman's explanation is as good as any. It's "an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach," she writes. Publishers and agents "seek writers with credentials and authority, who are visible to their target audience as an expert, thought leader, or professional," and she explains visibility and target audience. Platform isn't what you hire a publicist to do -- it's what you've done over time to build a career, a network, and a body of work, plus it's your story/message and strengths.
How to Lose an Agent in Ten Seconds (Katherine DeGilio, Authors Publish) Several things would-be book authors do that will count as "negative" to an agent. And why.
Michelle Brower's Twitter thread on how agents and book editors are swamped with many submissions a day. So be patient! They're on overload and maybe burnt out. (Clearly you need to do something to stand out from that crowd.) Thursdays are the worst.
How to Find a Literary Agent: The Ultimate 6-Step Strategy (Tiffany Hawk)
Targeting Agents,” by agent Ethan Ellenberg, offers savvy, thoughtful advice.
How to Choose an Agent Amid Competing Offers (Barbara Poelle on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-16-2020) "No two publishing paths are the same. When choosing an agent, find someone you can stand strong with, whether lashed to the mast or gliding in calm waters." From Poelle's new book Funny You Should Ask: Mostly Serious Answers to Mostly Serious Questions About the Book Publishing Industry
WHAT MAKES A GOOD AGENT? This series by agent Kristin Nelson and Karen Dionne (co-founder of Backspace) is packed with useful advice about agents:
---Backspace Perspective: Agent As Savvy Business Manager (Karen Dionne, Pub Rants, 2-6-15)
---Commanding Authority: An Agent’s Negotiation Edge (Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants, 3-6-15) Explains why she insists on separate accounting for multiple books by one author, instead of joint accounting.
---Fearless Negotiation: An Agent’s Most Important Role for an Author (Nelson, 4-6-15) If your agent is turning contracts around quickly, s/he may not be negotiating terms thoroughly enough.
---Negotiation Tactics of Good Agents (Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants, 5-8-15) Do your homework.
--- Good Agents Audit Royalty Statements (Kristin Nelson, Pub Rans). Over the past decade, careful auditing by Nelson's agency has recovered over $600,000 for her clients. “Even now, nary an accounting period goes by that we don’t recover at least $500 to $3,000 owed to a client.”
---Authors – Are You Auditing Your Royalty Statements? (Karen Dionne, HuffPost, 6-5-15) Includes "How to Audit Your Own Royalty Statements" by Angie Hodapp
Switching Literary Agents: Two Agents Offer Advice (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-28-18) Mehta interviews agents John Cusick and Holly Root. If you’re a writer, how do you know if it’s worth the risk of leaving your current agent? Does past representation impede your ability to find a new agent?
Frequently Asked Questions About Agents (Association of Authors' Representatives). Helpful information, including a list of questions to ask an agent you're considering or approaching.

[Back to Top]

Agency directories (about which, read Victoria Strauss on literary agency directories (Writers Beware)
~~Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc. (AAR). Search their database of members by genre or name.

~~AgentQuery.com (agent listings)
~~QueryTracker (publisher listings and agent listings)
~~AbsoluteWrite forum on agents (with links to agencies)
~~Preditors & Editors (listings of agents by Karen Dionne and other representation)
~~Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents
---1000 Literary Agents
---First Writer
Agents’ Roundtable: Three Agents Reveal What They’re Really Looking for from Authors (Authors Guild, 6-22-16). Interview conducted by e-mail after panel conversation held at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia, on March 19, 2016. Agents Eric Myers, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management; Regina Ryan; David Forrer, Inkwell Management.

[Back to Top]

5 On: Ian Thomas Healy (Kristen Tsetsi's interview with Healy, a prolific author and publisher in speculative genres. "A good agent is a partner, a co-conspirator, and an advisor....A bad agent wants you to change your story, drastically perhaps, to make it more attractive to prospective buyers."
How to find a literary agent (Jericho Writers) An excellent overview of how to get an agent (and how to improve your submission), from an editing firm.
How to Find, Research and Evaluate Literary Agents (Reedsy, 1-30-18)
“A Right Fit”: Navigating the World of Literary Agents (Michael Bourne, The Millions, 8-15-12) "If it sounds like I’m saying, “It’s all about who you know,” that’s because that is exactly what I’m saying. You can rail about how unfair that is, and how it makes publishing into an incestuous little club, and to a degree you would be right. But that’s the way the machine is built, people." "Mainstream publishing is a Rube Goldberg machine of perverse economic incentives, in which large numbers of mostly idiotic self-help guides, diet books, and airport thrillers subsidize an ever-shrinking number of mostly money-losing literary novels and books of poetry. But just because publishing operates on a crazy economic model doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. There is a market, however tiny, for good books, and there are a small number of smart, hard-working people who live for the thrill of finding a talented author. If you are one of those talented authors, then it is your job to stop whining and figure out how to make it easy for them to find you."
What Happened After I Lost My Agent—Twice (Rachel Pieh Jones on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-12-19) Know your nitch. "Know your story. Knowing what happens chronologically is one thing but being able to describe what it means is another. The ‘what happens’ keeps a reader reading, but the ‘what is it about’ compels a reader to feel connected to a story, and this is what will eventually sell the book to an agent or publisher, and your reader."
Negotiation Tactics of Good Agents (Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants, 5-8-15) See many posts on agenting under two articles series: a) What Makes a Good Agent and b) Agenting 101. Check out the pitch workshops, too.
Inside Traditional Publishing: A Tale of Two Authors (A Cautionary Story) (Karen Dionne, Huff Post, 5-9-15). Be sure to read the items any good agent will negotiate.
Some consider it a conflict of interest if an agent offers to refer you to an editorial service--some agents run editorial businesses on the side, or get a referral fee for referring you to one. It might not be the best way to find a good editor or book doctor. (Similarly, many consider it a conflict of interest that agents are beginning to act as publishers, since agents are supposed to represent authors' interests with publishers--but that's another whole ball of wax.)
• "When longtime London literary agent Andrew Lownie weighed in on the issue at Publishing Perspectives, his main message was that precious few sales—he puts it at fewer than 15 percent—made in the UK will result in the best royalty rates for writers. Discounts and special sales to large retailers and wholesalers reduce the basis on which royalties are calculated. And he points out that benefits to the publisher of such arrangements—larger, more cost-effective print runs, for example—don't help the author." HELP! I saw this useful observation and copied it but failed to note where I saw it.

• Chuck Palahniuk 'close to broke' as agent's accountant faces fraud charges (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 5-30-18) Fight Club author says his income has dwindled, as Darin Webb, an accountant at Donadio and Olson in New York, is charged with embezzling $3.4m from his literary agency. Webb's alleged activities emerged when an unnamed author did not receive an expected payment of $200,000, and repeatedly asked him where it was. 

[Back to Top]

Why you might want an agent: Small publishers will often accept submissions directly from authors, but the big five major publishing groups generally require submissions through an agent--partly because agents filter out some of the worst material, screening authors and mss. for acceptability. A good agent will know how to orchestrate a book contract in the author's best interest--will know where the publisher might bend or be known for never accepting certain terms. (Not to mention that the whole process of negotiating contracts is odious to most authors, who tend not to understand the implications of various contract terms, to know that they can ask for alternatives, and to know which ones might be deal breakers.) Agents know which terms and rights are essential and which are unacceptable.  Agents should know the minimum acceptable royalty rates and what's standard for ascending rates as total sales grow--and the publishers' production costs get recouped by sales. Even if you have an agent, it may pay to join the Authors Guild and get its book explaining book contract terms--so you know how to talk to your agent.


Not surprisingly, many first-time authors are so excited to find a publisher that they accept the contract the publisher sends them, not even daring to ask questions. Don't give up rights that will put you in limbo if the book goes out of print (which is highly likely). An agent is expected to be tough and in theory at least can protect your long-term interests. Some do that better than others, and experience helps, which is one reason I'd think twice about using novices.

There's one agent (BD we'll call him) who routinely sends out calls for writers for projects that require a good deal of research on often complex topics. His requests typically end with "This will be a work for hire for a low four figure advance; no royalties; with a 15% commission deducted by the agent." He may find authors, but this is an atrocious deal on every possible basis (rights, lowball $, no royalties). Work for hire means you will get nothing but the money you sign for up front and you don't own the rights, among other things (read about Work for Hire). This is not an agent you want representing you.

[Back to Top]

How to find an agent

How To Find A Literary Agent (Nathan Bransford, and do read Publishing Essentials, links to which are along left side)
The Safest Way to Search for an Agent (Victoria Strauss)
From Medium to Book Deal in 12 Months (Sarah Cooper, The Cooper Review, 9-19-16) How a Google employee turned blogger wrote one article that went viral, proposed to turn that article into a book, and got a three-book book deal. "It’s important to have a real connection with your agent. He or she is going to be your champion, fighting for you and your work every step of the way. You don’t want someone who’s lukewarm about you. You need someone who wants to be your partner for this book and beyond."
The Hurdles of Finding an Agent (Kate Seldman, Publishers Weekly, 8-6-21) A useful account of strategizing.
Literary Agents Assess the Middle Grade Landscape (Shannon Maughan, PW, 9-3-21) A handful of agents reveal some of the middle grade trends they are observing.
How to Get a Literary Agent and Publisher (Jim Brown interviews Mark Malatesta, founder of Literary Agent Undercover)
How To Find A Literary Agent (When You’ve Self-Published) (Laura Cross, author of The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent, guest-blogging on The Savvy Book Marketer, shares tips for self-published authors seeking agent representation)

[Back to Top]

Everything you wanted to know about literary agents... (Neil Gaiman, 1-11-05)
How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent (agent Noah Lukeman). See also Ask a Literary Agent (Lukeman answers aspiring authors' questions about writing and getting published).
The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
Finding an Agent by the late Sarah Wernick (part of So, You Want to Write a Book!
Yes Virginia, There Is No Agent Fairy (Bob Saenz, Bob's Take, 12-15-15) "Agents and Managers are looking for writers who will have careers, not one trick ponies....You get [screenwriting] jobs by being great in a room, having what the people who you meet with want, and impressing the hell out of them with your personality and talent. If you can do this, then you get to keep your agent or manager to go out and do it again, keeping in mind that the person waiting in the outer office when you finish is there to do the same thing."
Taleflick (a searchable library of published books, short stories and other written works that are available as adaptable materials for film, TV and other media). See 'Marjorie Prime' Producer, Former Netflix Exec Launch Book Database TaleFlick . 'There is a $88 fee to submit materials to TaleFlick. The content is available for one year on the website, with authors retaining all rights to their books but giving TaleFlick the chance to bid on their dramatic rights and present the stories to studios and production companies. TaleFlick was started as a response to the industry's demands for original intellectual property...“By applying the right balance of technology and human experience, TaleFlick can find those stories that are the ‘needles in the haystack,' both efficiently and at scale.”'
Publishing Secrets: Battle of the “UNs”--Unagented/Unsolicited Submissions (Jeff Herman, Publishing Secrets) "Most major publishing houses claim to have policies that prevent them from even considering unagented/unsolicited submissions. “Unagented” means that a literary agent did not make the submission.“Unsolicited” means that no one at the publisher asked for the submission....Having an agent greatly increases the likelihood that you will be published."
6 Benefits of Having an Agent in Today's Publishing World (Jody Hedlund, 6-29-11)
Top Literary Agents Reveal How To Get a Deal With a Major Publisher (PDF, Steve Harrison's Million Dollar Author Club). Transcript of comments by agents Marilyn Allen, Jeff Herman, John Willig, and Kelly Skillen and Justin Branch from Greenleaf Book Group, a book distributor.
Guide to Literary Agents (editor Chuck Sambuchino's blog -- with many helpful posts)
MS WishList (manuscript wishlist, what specific agents are looking for -- what's "hot" for them now). Or follow #MSWL on Twitter.
Agents who handle children's books (PDF, SCBWI Agent Directory, ed. Aaron Hartzler & Kim Turrisi, 2009-10 SCBWI Publications Guide, Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Researching an Agent's Track Record (Victoria Strauss).
(a Writer's Digest blog, with entries about new agents.
Agent & Publisher Research (Grad Student Freelancers--hire one to find what you need if you just can't do the research yourself)

[Back to Top]

Questions to ask a prospective literary agent
Rachelle Gardner, on Books & Such
Agent Rachelle Gardner (8-9-10)
10 Questions to Ask When Offered Representation by a Literary Agent (agent Mary Kole)
Really, You Don’t Have to Ask (Tamela Hancock Murray for Steve Laube Agency) You should be able to find answers to these questions by doing your homework.
Literary Agent Offers: Don’t Settle! (Sarah Ockler on what to look at/for, not what questions to ask)
The next set of questions to ask prospective agents (Janet Reid, 9-28-09)
Questions to Ask Your Prospective Literary Agent (Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware, 2-26-14)
What Form Rejection Means to Me (an essay by Sarah W, Earful of Cider, 7-23-10)

[Back to Top]

How to Write a Query Letter for a Book

Query letters to help you land an agent are different from the query letters you send a magazine or newspaper editor. The emphasis in this section is on landing an agent to represent your book(s).
"A query letter should be like a skirt:
long enough to cover the subject and short enough to keep it interesting."
~ Anon., quoted by Michael Larsen

See below for tips on writing a synopsis.

***How to Write a Query Letter: Nonfiction and Memoir (Jane Friedman, 1-9-22) A query letter for a nonfiction book isn’t all that different from a fiction query: you’re still trying to get an agent or editor interested in looking at your work, but that may mean a book proposal and sample chapters, rather than the full manuscript. (Nonfiction is often sold on the basis of a proposal.) Friedman outlines the query letter elements needed for narrative-driven nonfiction, information-driven nonfiction, for a "narrative-driven hook that's not a tired storyline," what to include in first paragraph, and much more.
The Complete Guide to Query Letters (Jane Friedman, 5-10-22) "This post focuses on query letters for novels, although the same advice applies to memoirists, because both novelists and memoirists are selling a story."
Sample Query Letters That Worked (Gumbo Writers.com) And to explore a broader range of related articles go to KTA (Kolstein Talent Agency
The Scriptorium Basic information and great links for writers starting out. 
What I Learned From 90 Queries (Eva Langston on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-14-22) Agents are not reading your query like a regular reader. They are reading to see if it’s something they can sell. They’re looking for what will make your book stand out in a crowded market. Don’t be afraid to give away the good stuff. Lessons learned from a one-on-one Manuscript Academy meeting with agent Fiona Kenshole.
3 Common Pitfalls in Memoir Queries (Jane Friedman, 6-23-22) The three biggest pitfalls she's seen in memoir queries, regardless of pitching strategy:
---Listing events rather than telling a story (providing someone to care about, a problem to explore).
---Going heavy on theme or abstraction.
---Focusing on backstory--starting at the very beginning. Better "to start in medias res, in the middle of things, and fill in the gaps as we go."
Query Letters: The Hook, the Book & the Cook (Michael Larsen, San Francisco Writers Conference, 10-19-10)

The hook: whatever will best justify publishing your book (a selling quote, the reason you're writing the agent, whatever will excite agents).

The book: the essence of your book (the title and a handle, a one-sentence overview, the book's biggest market, its actual or estimated length, the length of your proposal and sample ms. plus optional items.

And the cook: Why you’re the right person to write the book (what you'll do to market the book, and your platform: the most important things you have done and are doing to give yourself continuing visibility with potential readers).
Does it matter how many agents you send this query letter to? You can certainly send more than one query, as the query is an invitation to ask for the full proposal, not the proposal itself. But it may be worth sending only two or three queries at a time, because sometimes agents will respond that they like a query but suggest where it fell short, or how it might be strengthened or explain why they are declining -- all of which can help you improve the query and sometimes the proposal itself.

Finding Your Agent: 7 Steps to a Successful Query Letter (YouTube video, Authors Guild Boot Camp) Agent Saritza Hernandez of Andrea Brown Literary Agency and her client, author Mayra Cuevas, discuss the seven-step magic of writing a query letter that gets you noticed—and what common mistakes will get you instantly rejected. Saritza shars real-life examples of query letters that resulted in representation contracts. Mayra gives insights into her successful query process and how to survive (200+) rejections. Good explanation of how to get from hook or logline to a compelling paragraph about what your book will be about.
9 tips for the effective query letter (agent Andy Ross, 11-28-10) Item 5: "Answer the key questions: What? Why? Who? What is the genre? What is the book about? Why does it need to be published? Who am I to have the authority to write it? And remember that in this day and age 'platform' is everything in commercial publishing, so most agents will look for your qualifications first."

[Back to Top]

Writing the Query Letter: Dos & Don’ts (Heather Webb, Writer Unboxed, 9-26-19) The query letter to send to elicit an invitation to submit your novel manuscript.
Winner of the 2020 QueryLetter.com Writing Contest (QueryLetter.com) The competition was simple: Write a blurb about a completely made-up, nonexistent book that would make people want to read the story. Write and submit a back cover blurb of 100 words or fewer that sets the stage for a novel, establishes the characters, and raises the stakes in a way that makes readers want to find out more. Best blurb won $500. Read the best blurbs and smile.
• Figure out what writing genre (within fiction or within nonfiction) your proposed work falls into (see fiction genres and sub-genres) so you can articulate that, which will help a prospective publisher know at a glance whether your manuscript is likely to fit with their list.
Second Draft Critique Service: 1 Page Query Letter. Get a critique of your best draft (so far).
How To Write Query Letters ... or, really, how to revise query letters so they actually work (Query Shark, 9-4-16) Good "before-and-after-edits examples to show you what not to do). Spend a little time on this site's archives, studying how queries get rewritten and improved. Offer your query for revision, study the revisions offered to others, scroll down the left column toward the bottom and studies revisions on "Queries that got to yes." Here's a good example (#224)
9 Tips on Writing Query Letters to Publishers and Literary Agents (Robert Lee Brewer, Writer's Digest, 6-24-2020) Tips from publishing professionals on writing successful query letters to publishers and literary agents.
5 Query Letter Tips (Jane Friedman, Writer's Digest, 3-19-10) 'Give us something with voice. Agent Dan Lazar once said it like this. 'Instead of saying "Jane Smith is tall, blonde, pretty and lives in New York," try "Manhattanite Jane Smith turns heads wherever she goes and hasn't paid for a drink since high school."' Both sentences are essentially saying the same thing, but the second version 1) paints a picture, and 2) establishes voice in the query.'

[Back to Top]

Successful Queries: Agent Janet Reid and "Numb" One of several "Successful Queries" pieces Chuck Sambuchino has published in Writer's Digest, all of them linked to on this page. Janet Reid: "One of the things I see a lot in queries is character soup (too many names) and too many events (rather than important plot points)."
Current Trends in Traditional Book Publishing (Jane Friedman, 10-18-19) A 'great hook is critical to marketing....regardless of how great the writing is, “It remains as important as ever to still have a pitch around it. It doesn’t have to be that extreme high-concept pitch, but looking at A Gentleman in Moscow, you can pitch it. … There’s still a way to talk about it: ‘Right after the Russian revolution, an unabashed aristocrat is sentenced to life imprisonment in the fanciest hotel in Russia.’ There’s still a hook."
38 Query Letters Tips from Literary Agents (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest). For example: "hooks are your best friend. Tell an agent about your MC's quirks and odd plot points. Typical is the enemy." and "When sending your ms, send it in one doc (unless the agent specifically requests otherwise). No one wants to open 50 attachments."
•  When Your Query Reveals a Story-Level Problem (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-6-19)  When novelists struggle to pitch their work, it may have more to do with the book itself than the query letter. Why to consider using a developmental editor to help with story structure and why intuition alone is probably not enough.
How Much Should You Personalize a Query Letter? (Jane Friedman, 5-23-17) Personalizing your query letter "shows you’ve done your homework and you’re selecting the recipient with some care." But don't go too far.
The 10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter (Brian Clems, Writer's Digest, 1-30-13) "Don't waste the opening paragraph of your query letter introducing yourself. Save that for later. Much like a book, you want to hook that agent with your first sentence. The best way to do that is to introduce the hook of your manuscript right away."
How to Write a Query Letter (AgentQuery.com) “A query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book....[It] has three concise paragraphs: the hook, the mini-synopsis, and your writer’s biography. Don’t stray from this format. You won’t catch an agent’s attention by inventing a creative new query format. You’ll just alienate your chances of being taken seriously as a professional writer. A query letter is meant to elicit an invitation to send sample chapters or even the whole manuscript to the agent.” See the sample "hooks" AgentQuery provides.
How to Write a Book Proposal (Jane Friedman, 5-28-17) Be sure to have read this as you begin your query letter, as many of the same principles will apply.

[Back to Top]

The Conflicting Advice You’ll Receive on Query Letters (Jane Friedman, 11-1-17) At its core, a query letter is a sales document, and so it’s meant to sell. But opinions differ on the best possible sales approach in a query. "Always remember: brevity is your friend in a query. The shorter the query, the less trouble you’re likely to get in. Plus, you don’t want agents lingering over your query; you want them to be reading the manuscript or proposal. You need to hit on the most salable aspects of your work, and avoid a book report..." This is worth reading partly for what not to do.
Miss Snark's Ironclad Rule in response to "how many should I send out before giving up on agents?":  "You can quit at 100. Not before."
What's wrong with my query letter? (Jessi Rita Hoffman) Mistake #1: There’s too much story summary. Mistake #3: The most important part is at the bottom. And other common flaws. Advice from an editor.

[Back to Top]

How to Write a Darn Good Query Letter (NY Book Editors)
How to Write a Query Letter (agent Rachelle Gardner's advice is different from AgentQuery's--give them what they want!)
Three Agents Reveal What They’re Really Looking for from Authors (Agents' Roundtable, Authors Guild, 6-22-16) What makes for a good query letter (the query before the full-length proposal); what else can authors do to make themselves appealing to an agent; how do agents shape their strategies for marketing a book and how actively involved and informed is the author; what makes for a successful pitch to a publisher; what does the agent look for in a publisher; what are publishers currently looking for in books; how the industry has changed.
Slushpile Hell (Tumblr, One grumpy literary agent and a sea of query fails)
Successful Query Letters for Agents (Jason Boog, Media Bistro, with 23 agent query letters that actually worked, 12-18-12)
How to Write a Query Letter (free 15-part guide on Mark Malatesta's website) See also the Query Letter Blog (a series about agent queries that worked). On the same site, a Literary Agencies: The Directory of Literary Agents--with a pitch also for List of Literary Agents.
Successful Queries: Agent Jenny Bent and "Oh My Gods" (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 10/4/11)
Successful Queries (on this page are links to many in a series of query letters that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents).
How to Write a Successful Query (Moira Allen, Writing-World.com, on query letters for magazine articles)
9 Frequently Asked Questions about Query Letters (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer Unboxed, 9-24-12)
Queries and Synopses and Proposals (Writer's Digest)
Anatomy of a winning query (agent Rachelle Gardner, 4-28-09)
My Tweets from QueryDay (Rachelle Gardner)
The biggest mistake writers make when querying literary agents (jm tohline), followed by The best query letters do...what?
The best and worst times to send an agent a query (Wendy Lawton)

[Back to Top]

How to Write Irresistible Query Letters by Lisa Collier Cool
How to Write a Great Query Letter: Insider Tips and Techniques for Success by Noah Lukeman
Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time by Bill McGowan
QueryFail. In March 2009 literary agents Lauren E. MacLeod and Colleen Lindsay hosted “QueryFail” on Twitter, an exchange of rants in which agents and editors shared worst query lines from their slush piles (unsolicited manuscripts). Tara Lazar did a roundup of lessons learned (without the quoted lines) on JacketFlap.com, which you can read at the entry called QueryFail: How Not to Land an Agent. Literary agent Janet Reid brought up the prospect of a parallel "AgentFail" in her blog column The agent bubble (incidentally, she says that one of the few places agents get to hear what writers think is AbsoluteWrite), and the BookEnds Literary Agency hosted a forum for writers: Agentfail Right Here.
          In essence, here are some lessons for authors submitting to agents: Do your research on the agent, follow their submission guidelines, address your query to the right agent (and spell their name right), and copyedit your query so it contains no grammatical or spelling errors. That alone will bring your query to the top. As for agents: Be sure the guidelines on your website are up to date. Respond! Everyone: be courteous and remember, we're all human. One side effect of this exercise was that some agents came across as "Mean Girl."

[Back to Top]

How to write a synopsis

How to Write a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman, 5-1-2020) Applies also to memoir and narrative nonfiction. The synopsis "must convey a book’s entire narrative arc. It shows what happens and who changes, and it has to reveal the ending." It's not marketing copy. Why its important, what it should accomplish, tips and common pitfalls.
How to Write a Book Synopsis (Carly Watters, 11-4-13) Take time to set up the premise, focus on conflict and plot, outline the character’s growth arc, tell the ending. What not to do, plus: Have a 1 and 3 page synopsis ready (different agents want different lengths).
Writing a Synopsis (A.C. Crispin, Writer Beware) Write the synopsis (aka "outline") in present tense, single-spaced to stand out from ms., in about as much detail as if you told a friend about a movie (not so much that you spoil the read). Confine to main plot (no details).
How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel (Glen C. Strathy, How to Write a Book Now) Plot basics, character arc, impact character, major relationships, etc.
How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis (Sooz, Pub Crawl, 4-17-12)
The Anatomy of a SHORT Synopsis (Christine Fonseca, 7-21-10) A quick list of each of the stages and plot turns in a typical story.
The synopsis: what it is, what it isn’t, how to write it (Caro Clarke)


Somewhat off-topic (or off-spirit) yet relevant:
The Anatomy of an Amazon 6-pager (Jesse Freeman, Writing Cooperative, 7-16-20) A deep dive into writing detailed planning docs from one of the most successful companies in the world.


[Back to Top]

Pitch Slams and Pitch Wars

Pitch Wars An all-volunteer mentoring program (about 150-odd mentors) including published/agented authors, editors in publishing, or industry interns, choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions on how to make the manuscript shine for an agent showcase. The agent showcase is what draws most applicants, but the real value, says one volunteer, is probably having experienced volunteers "go through your work for free, twice, providing developmental and/or copy-edits." There is no fee, but there is an application and selection process, which is very competitive. The volunteer process involves a big commitment. When you are mentored you become part of the community.
Interview with Brenda Drake of Pitch Wars (Christine Van Zandt, Kite Tales, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1-13-16) Drake, founder of Pitch Wars, explains the difference between Pitch Wars, Pitch Madness, and #PitMad, and provides a little history.

#PitMad (occurs quarterly) is the original twitter pitch event, where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch. Every unagented writer is welcome to pitch. All genres/categories are welcome.
---How to Research Literary Agents and Publishers Before Sending Materials
---Twitter Pitch: How an Author Hashtagged Her Way to Discovery by an Agent Seth Dellon, Foreword Reviews, on how Claribel Ortega successfully pitched her book in a follow-the-hashtag event on Twitter.
---The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests (Literary Agent Carly Watters, Writers in the Storm, 9-3-14) Example:The Three Little Pigs.  Brothers devoured by a killer known as Big Bad Wolf, third pig fights for his life with a pile of bricks between him & death #PitMad #A

---More such links: Pitchwars and #Pitmad Resources.
How to Prep for Pitch Slam (Bob Eckstein, Writer's Digest, 7-26-18)
How to Pitch Agents at a Writers Conference (Jane Friedman, 7-23-17)
Pitch Slam - Screenwriters World Conference (2014)
Pitch Slam! (Writer's Digest, 2018)
Shannon Brescher Shea: Growing Sustainable Together (Advance Copy, 2020) Shannon found an agent through Pitch Madness (a pitch war)
Pitch Contests and Queries (Fuse Literary, 10-27-14) One of the great things for writers about social media and blogs is the proliferation of pitch contests. You can get involved in a blog-based pitch contest like Pitch Slam, Pitch Wars, or Query Kombat and have agents compete over your query and manuscript, with the added bonus in some of these contests of having other writers mentor you. But what happens if your dream agent is checking out the contest in which you are participating and they do not indicate interest in your project?

[Back to Top]

How to pitch a novel

and some of this applies to memoirs, too

The point of a pitch for a novel is to catch the agent's or editor's attention so you have a longer conversation. Be sure you get the genre right (not just literary vs. commercial fiction--but the sub-genre and sub-sub-genre), as that may affect whether the agent is interested. And if you've published successfully, be sure to indicate that, too--as agents make their money as a percentage of sales. If they know you've sold before, they know that chances are you'll sell again. An agent is unlikely to try to sell a novel based on a short story or a partial novel. They'll probably want a full novel, so they can be confident they can sell you to a publisher, says a thrice-published novelist. Do not submit an early draft.

      "Agents want three things from a novel: a unique and well-structured story, excellent writing, and the potential of a large number of sales," wrote Dinah Forbes on Ask a Book Editor (a Facebook group).

     The same principles apply to memoirs. Most publishers want the full ms., not just a proposal and sample chapters (as required for other nonfiction). The publisher wants to know how compelling a story the memoirist tells, how good the writing is, whether the ms. is likely to draw a big enough audience of people willing to pay for a book, and so on.
How to Format a Novel for Submission (Carol Saller, CMOS ShopTalk, 1-12-21) Chicago Manual of Style is the style used by most US trade book publishers.
What Your First 50 Pages Reveal (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-19-2020) To gauge your manuscript’s pitch-readiness, turn a critical eye to the query letter, synopsis, and first fifty pages. If the synopsis doesn't make sense, there may be issues with the plot/storyline or the character arc. One of the best pieces on this topic I've read. What agents and editors look for in exposition and backstory, the promise, pacing, narrative tension.
Book Genre Finder Handy site for finding fiction, nonfiction, and children's-book genres and subgenres. See also Genre fiction and fiction genres and subgenres
• Finding comparable authors: Try Read-Alikes at BookBrowse or Literature Map (part of GNOD, Global Network of Discovery). Plug in the name of an author (X) you want to find "comparable" authors for. Or, as one librarian-turned-author Marie Monteagudo suggests

--- Search on Google Advanced Search, which returns shorter, more specific results than plain Google
--- Search on Amazon for X's titles & page down to "You May Also Like?"
--- Call your library and ask the adult librarian for "Read Alikes?" They subscribe to a database that will search similar titles/genres for Reader's Advisory questions.
--- Search Worldcat for an X title and look for its subject headings. Then use Worldcat's Advanced Search for similar titles.
The Complete Guide to Query Letters (Jane Friedman, 1-17-2020 update) The query letter's purpose is to seduce the agent or editor into wanting to read your work. First you send the query. Then, if invited, you send the manuscript. This post is a mini-bible on writing a query letter for your novel.  The query letter may be the most important thing you write, so make it compelling.
What to know before you submit your writing to agents and editors. (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 12-28-16). Part 1 of a three-part series of great tips from literary agents. See also tips on writing a good query letter and literary agents' pet peeves.
How will we know when she is dead? Ann Buscho's enticing website "pitch" for a book that combines the writing of two sisters, one of them dead.

Finally working on that novel as you self-isolate? You're not alone (David Barnett, The Guardian, 3-26-2020) There’s been a rapid rise in submissions from would-be authors since the coronavirus outbreak. Here are some things to keep in mind.
When Your Query Reveals a Story-Level Problem (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 3-6-19) "...sometimes a novel cannot be boiled down to a few essential elements because the story itself lacks coherence....A novel that can’t meet the standards for a query letter generally will not meet the standards of the marketplace for fiction. Agents and editors know this; that’s why they require pitches that adhere to this form." That's why you get developmental editing before you get line editing. Story structure is important.
Query Letters That Worked (Liz Dawson Associates) Draft your query letter as if it’s publishers' catalogue copy. First sentence: the hook or handle (the elevator pitch). Second paragraph: the story itself. Third: the book’s competition. Fourth: the author and her credentials.
A Debut Middle-Grade Author's Life-Changing Tweet A simple Twitter post helped debut author B.B. Alston land a three-book deal and a film option at Universal Pictures for his middle grade fantasy series, including Amari and the Night Brothers. Five literary agents reached out to Alston after his Twitter pitch on #DVPit-- a pitch event for un-agented creators of historically marginalized communities.
Querying a complicated book: Dissecting the elephant (Victoria Lee, VictoriaLeeWrites.com, 1-11-18) First, make sure you've got the following: "An interesting character in an interesting world with an interesting problem." a query is supposed to get an agent to read your pages. The query Lee shares got a "near-perfect full request rate" from agents. She writes:
       "THE FEVER KING is complicated. It’s a character-driven literary fantasy, with a couple subplots that tie in so closely to the main plot that they were impossible to leave out of any summary. Plus, I had to take care to make sure my setting didn’t come across as too dystopian (the book is not, in fact, dystopian, but it’s hard for it not to sound that way in limited space), and to tease out what made my magic system and the magic-training-program elements of TFK fresh."
How To Pitch A Literary Agent in 5 Easy Steps (Tomi Adeyemi, 1-29-16) You have to boil your manuscript down to the essentials. That means stripping your story of all of its frills and addressing its basic elements: genre, setting, character, conflict, and stakes.
The Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters (Lynn Flewelling, SFWA, Jan 2005) The query letter that sold several agents on Luck and ultimately led to a two-book contract with Bantam. "Dissected and examined critically, the query letter is an elegantly concise piece of promotional writing. You have exactly one page to introduce yourself and your novel-just four or five clean, tight paragraphs, each with its own specific purpose."
Writing a Query Letter (romance writer Charlotte Dillon's excellent page of tips and links to more advice about query letters, and samples of winning query letters for romance and erotic novels
The Basic Pitch Formula for Novelists (Jane Friedman, 7-3-11)
Anatomy of a Query Letter: A Step-By-Step Guide (Writer's Relief staff, Huffpost, 1-9-13) "One common mistake writers make is to neglect the query letter process in favor of their sample pages. But literary agents do not have the time to read every set of sample pages they receive; agents use query letters to determine which query packet will be read and which will be tossed. In fact, some literary agents accept only query letters and request sample pages only from writers who present a strong query letter."
Agent Colleen Lindsay Gives Query Letter Tips (mainly for certain specific types of fiction).
Is Your Work Commercially Viable? (Jane Friedman, 4-20-12)
Agent Colleen Lindsay on some reasons she rejects queries
25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction (Chuck Wendig, Terrible Minds, 6-4-13) "Young Adult is not a genre designation....Young Adult can be whatever you want. It can be epic fantasy. It can be space opera. It can be (and often is) dystopia. It can be elf romance. It can be funny cancer. It can be ghosts and fast cars and serial killers and Nazi Germany and one might even say that it operates best when it karate-slaps all your genre conventions in the face..."

[To Top]


How to pitch a magazine story

Queries for magazines and newspapers are different from queries for books. But magazine credits are often important for pitching a book, so understand how to do them both!


Is This a Story? How to Evaluate Your Ideas Before You Pitch (Mallory Pickett, The Open Notebook, or TON, 5-1-18)
Picking a Publication to Pitch (Celia Ford, TON, 11-15-22) If you’re new to science writing and don’t have existing professional relationships to lean on, there's a staggering range of options out there, picking the right publication to pitch boosts your chances of landing an assignment. Scroll down for the Journalist-Curated Publication Lists and Pitch Callouts and further for Pitching guidelines for more than two dozen media outlets that publish science stories. Sometimes a pitch is simply rejected. When this happens (and it will), don’t take it personally.
Pitching ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network: Focus on sources and impact (Carly Stern, Nieman Storyboard, 8-17-21) "Why does this story need to be told here, in this community? And why does this story need to be told now?" says ProPublica’s managing editor for local reporting.
Study Hall Knowledge, community, and opportunity for freelancers and media workers. See Study Hall, the gossipy media site for freelancers, sees Gawker as its editorial north star (Luke Winky, Nieman Lab, 8-31-20) For $10 a month (basic) you get access to notices of freelance opportunities and job listings in the Study Hall Marketplace and newsletter, as well as weekly newsletters, paywalled content, media criticism, and educational resources. One fan likes it for "the slack channel, listserv, and a weekly email with pitch calls and job opportunities. They also have a massive list full of editors from various publications—contact info, pay rate, etc." See pricing for additional benefits.
ASJA's Paycheck Database (American Society of Journalists & Authors) ASJA's Paycheck reports "capture the full array of freelance writing intel in today’s media environment" and have been doing so for decades (for members only).

[Back to Top]

Pitch Database (The Open Notebook) To tell a compelling story to readers, you first need to sell your idea to an editor. This pitch database contains 292 successful story pitches to a wide range of publications. Each pitch is accompanied by a link to the resulting published story. Improve your pitching from what you learn from the tips and examples -- so your pitch doesn't end up in File 13.
#1 rule of pitching: Study the publication (Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Storyboard, 9-25-2020) Researching the basics of the site you're pitching to — story length, purpose and tone — reveals respect for the work of reporting.
#2 rule of pitching: Respect submission protocols (Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Storyboard, 10-9-2020) Following form doesn't have to limit creativity, and shows you are a professional
How to Pitch an Article to a Magazine (Master Class, 8-19-21) If you cannot craft a successful pitch to win an editor’s interest, you simply won’t get many publishing opportunities, no matter how good your research or writing is.
How a Reprint and a Long Held Story Got Published (Nancy Julien Kopp, Authors Publish, 5-25-23) Sometimes the "yes" or "maybe" comes more than a year later.
#3 rule of pitching: Flyspeck your copy (Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Storyboard, 11-20-2020) In story pitches, first impressions count.
Pitching the IWMF: Focus on undercovered issues, think big and dare to stretch(Carly Stern, Five Questions, Nieman Storyboard, 10-22-2020) For 30 years, the International Women's Media Fund has helped fund women journalists and ambitious projects around the world. Read this annotation of a successful project pitch to the IWMF The project pitch that won funding from the International Women’s Media Foundation (Stern, 10-23-2020) "Don't start from the grant; start from the story," says reporter Ylenia Gostoli.
More stories about pitches (Nieman Storyboard)
7 Fatal Flaws of Story Pitches (Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Storyboard, 9-3-2020) How to identify common mistakes that get in the way of landing that big idea
Delivering the Bad News: How to Reject Pitches Well (Kate Schimel, The Open Notebook, 4-2-19) For editors who primarily work with freelancers, pitches that don’t land right are often just the beginning of a conversation about what might work instead. See box on 'How Writers Can Make Sure Their Pitches Get Seen' and 'Do Editors Steal Freelancers’ Ideas?' and 'Explaining the Reasons for Rejecting a Pitch.' (For various types of reader!)
I Banished Professional Jealousy from My Life (Yi Shun Lai, Forge, 7-13-21) "For me, doing away with professional jealousy also meant I had to let go of the concept of idea scarcity. It meant I had to, ultimately, gain confidence in the uniqueness of my voice and the way I tell a story; but also, I had to really believe in my capacity to generate ever more ideas—and, further, angles on those ideas."

[Back to Top]

How to write for National Geographic
The Pitch: The story ideas Mother Jones’ managing editor wants to see (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 4-17-18) The magazine is known for its hard-hitting investigations, but Ian Gordon says, “We write so much about bad actors that we're always looking for people to bring some levity to leaven the mix."
21 Experts Share How to Write or Get Featured in Top Publications Such as Forbes, Entrepreneur or Inc.com (Christina D. Warner, Thrive Global, 2-24-19--Arianna Huffington's new venture) Be authentic. Engage with your readers (link to others and create relationships). Less is more. (For experts: Check out HARO, Help a Reporter Out). Start small. Send pitches, not articles--to an associate editor, on a lower-than-top rung. Present invaluable information. Stick to what you know. Don't send canned emails. Be discoverable. Write about evergreen topics that appeal to a broad base. Have something to say. (And that's just a sampler!)
7 Fatal Flaws of Story Pitches (Jacqui Banaszynski, Nieman Storyboard, 9-3-20) How to identify common mistakes that get in the way of landing that big idea.
Teach Grad Students How to Make a Living (Susan Shapiro, Wall Street Journal, 8-30-18) As a teacher of journalism, Shapiro was discouraged from "helping students get bylines, jobs, literary agents or teaching gigs.... “We don’t care about publication or payments,” one said. “We’re not a trade school.” Her opinion: "Learning to write succinct three-page essays, strong opinionated arguments and concise emails can be useful in any field. In all of my classes and seminars, I assign short cover letters, too. Every year it astounds me that top colleges neglect this simple art. An expensive university education should at least arm students with the skills they’ll need to pay for it." To compensate, she wrote and published The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks.
The Pitch: At the Guardian’s Long Read, no rigid formula or geographic limits (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 6-5-18) The editor's advice: Study what's been published before. Be authoritative, fresh and "arresting." Dare to send a (good) cold pitch. "Cold pitches are relatively rare, and we'd love to get more of them."
The Pitch: Jason Fagone on Landing “The Willy Wonka of Pot” in Grantland (Jason Fagone, Nieman Storyboard, 10-10-17). The launch piece in a Storyboard series about the mystical art of pitching longform stories, annotated. “If you can’t sell it in a couple of paragraphs, you can’t sell it at all. My rule of thumb is: Have three paragraphs, and they should be short.”

[Back to Top]

Science Journalism Master Classes (The Open Notebook). How to Find an Angle for Any Science Story. How to Pitch Science Stories That Sell. How to Spot Scientific Hype and Misinformation. How to Ace the Study Story. How to Center People in Science Stories. How to Own a Science Beat.
Gender Differences in Pitching: Results from the TON Pitching Habits Survey (Jane C. Hu, The Open Notebook, 2-14-17) Some editors say that in their experience, women are less likely to pitch a story after an initial rejection, whereas men get right back on the horse. Men were more likely than women to pitch one editor again, even if their previous work together did not go smoothly. But women cold-approach editors more readily than men do, among other findings from this survey of 224 science journalists.
How to Pitch Editors With Story Ideas to Get Assignments (Rachel Deahl, The Balance, 1-23-19) A pitch is a writer's description of a potential story (and why it should matter) to an editor.
The Pitch: a veteran freelancer on pitching The New York Times Magazine and more (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 12-19-17) Reporter (and editor) Paul Tullis has been on both sides of the pitching process; here, he annotates his "Into the Wildfires" proposal.
The Pitch: Pacific Standard’s executive editor shares some do’s and don’ts (Katia Savchuk, Nieman Storyboard, 3-6-18) Jennifer Sahn also mounts a defense of the overwhelmed editor, and why you might not hear back right away when you email.

The Pitch: How to break into The California Sunday Magazine (Katia Savchuk interviews editor Douglas McGray, Annotation Tuesday, Nieman Storyboard, 2-20-18) “With us, erring on the side of too long rather than too short is a good policy. But I think pitches are like stories: They should be as long as they should be and no longer than that.” Odds are better on pitches for "shorts," short profiles and interviews and dispatches between 800 and 1,500 words long.
Annotation Tuesday (excellent pieces on how to pitch a story to a national magazine)
The Pitch: How to get the attention of a senior editor at Smithsonian Magazine (Katia Savchuk interviews editor Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, Nieman Storyboard, 11-14-17) Gritz says of story pitches she accepts: "There has to be something surprising and narratively interesting there." “You don’t always need to have a character driving the pitch. It could just be an interesting juxtaposition of ideas or a really cool technology.” She annotates a cold pitch she got from journalist Ben Crair that ended up running in the April 2017 issue; online it was called “The Biggest Tree Canopy on the Planet Stretches Across Nearly Five Acres.”

[Back to Top]

Pitching Errors: How Not to Pitch (Laura Helmuth, TheOpenNotebook, 1-4-12) Cold calls a no-no. Robin Lloyd, Scientific American Online: "Most common mistake—pitching a topic, rather than a story." Others: Not doing your homework and familiarizing yourself with the publication. "Just forwarding a press release." Pitching after an embargo is lifted. Etc. Plus "worst pitches ever."
How (Not) to Pitch (Garance Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic, 8-30-13) A guide for freelance writers.
Sample Magazine Query or Pitch Letter (Alena Tapia, The Balance, 2-4-17)
How to Pitch Magazine Editors (Adrianna, New York PR Girls, 4-15-13) and How to Pitch Online Magazine Editors (4-22-13)
Escape the Slush Pile: A Self-Editing Checklist for Short Story Writers (Brandon Taylor, Authors Guild, Nov. 2017) A list of common problems he sees in stories from “the slush pile” (an unkind industry term for unsolicited submissions), that prevent promising stories from getting past the form rejection.

Why You Should Aim for 100 Rejections a Year (Kim Liao , Literary Hub, 6-28-16) "In the book Art & Fear, authors David Bales and Ted Orland describe a ceramics class in which half of the students were asked to focus only on producing a high quantity of work while the other half was tasked with producing work of high quality. For a grade at the end of the term, the “quantity” group’s pottery would be weighed, and fifty pounds of pots would automatically get an A, whereas the “quality” group only needed to turn in one—albeit perfect—piece. Surprisingly, the works of highest quality came from the group being graded on quantity, because they had continually practiced, churned out tons of work, and learned from their mistakes. The other half of the class spent most of the semester paralyzed by theorizing about perfection, which sounded disconcertingly familiar to me—like all my cases of writer’s block."

Pitching Errors: How Not to Pitch (Laura Helmuth and six other magazine editors, The Open Notebook, 1-4-12)
The Psychology Behind Writing a Great Pitch (Andrea Lehr, Convince& Convert). "As a promotions associate, I spend a fair amount of time crafting pitches. What is the best way to connect with this editor? What are the most interesting points of the data? Should I use bullet points or just a few short paragraphs? And once I’ve finally crafted the perfect pitch, I wonder whether or not the editor will even see it—some editors receive more than 100 pitches a day. So what causes an editor to show interest?" Interesting article and infographic.
6 Ways to Track Down a Magazine Editor (Kristen Fischer, MediaBistro, 2-2-16) Harness your sleuthing skills to get your pitch into the right hands
The Science (Not Art) of the Magazine Pitch (Kathryn Roethel, The Future of Freelancing, Stanford)
How to Pitch a Story to an Editor in the Media (Mandy, XO Jane, 1-12-14)
How to Pitch a Story: 9 Insider Tips for Contacting the Right Editor (Susan Shain, The Write Life, 6-26-15)
3 Mistakes That Make Editors Throw Your Pitch in the Trash (Melanie Brooks, The Muse)
Why won’t an editor reply to my pitch? (Monya Baker, Science Writers' Handbook, 4-17-13)
How To Write the Best Cover Letter to Submit With Personal Essays for Publication in Literary Journals (Writer's Relief, 6-27-19) "Hint: Short nonfiction pieces submitted to literary journals are referred to as personal essays, not memoirs. A memoir is a book-length work of creative nonfiction. And most literary journals don't require a query letter asking in advance if you should send the piece you want to submit.
What Editors Want in Your Personal Essay (Brittany Taylor, MediaBistro, 8-3-16) Include these essentials in your first-person story
How to Write the Perfect Article Pitch (Freelance Writing)
How Much Time Should I Spend Preparing a Pitch? (TON Editors, Ask TON, The Open Notebook, 11-10-15)
How Soon to Repitch an Editor? (TON Editors, The Open Notebook, 1-21-14)
Repitching Killed Stories (TON Editors, Ask TON, The Open Notebook, 8-29-12)

[Back to Top]

Where to pitch an idea for a magazine story

If you don't have a current copy of the magazine and want to know who to pitch your story idea to, try doing a search on the publisher + submissions (or + contact us). (H/T John F.)
How (and Where!) To Pitch Your Writing (Ann Friedman's list of some top markets)
Business Writing: 14 E-Commerce Markets That Pay Freelancers (Christin Nielsen, Make a Living Writing)
Freelance market guide for health care journalists (AHCJ Freelance Center) with More freelance market guides for health care stories to help you prepare for Pitchfest at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Austen at the end of April 2022.
Monster List of Markets: 135 Places to Find Freelance Writing Jobs (Evan Jensen, Make a Living Writing) See more such lists
Opportunities for Historically Underrepresented Writers (Emily Harstone, Authors Publish)

Writing Sites That Pay $30 to $50: 21 Niche Markets for Freelancers (where a beginner may get a start)
16 Markets for Personal Essays
14 Publications That Pay — And Prioritize Responding to Pitches from Writers (The Write Life)

[Back to Top]

How to sell and re-sell articles to parenting magazines

How to Get Published (and Paid!) Writing About Your Kids: The Ultimate Guide for Selling Your Stories to Parenting Magazines by Kerrie McLoughlin. The secret:  sell both original and reprint rights to local, regional, national, and online parenting markets (with info about regional parenting magazines). She has written articles for over 140 regional parenting magazines. Be well organized and collect money each month for re-selling those evergreen parenting pieces. An earlier, much slimmer edition: Make Money to Write About Your Kids: Get Published in Regional, National & Online Parenting & Family Magazines
The Published Parent (Kerrie McLoughlin's website and blog).
What is a Regional Parenting Magazine or Publication and Why Do They Want Your Reprints? (Kerry McLoughlin, The Published Parent, 5-10-21) Check out her Parenting Journalists Conference and Do You Need a Website as a Freelance Writer or Author?.
Why Most Parenting Advice Is Wrong (Yuko Munakata,TEDxCU, 5-6-19) See also her TED talk (and transcript) on The science behind how parents affect child development
Parenting Media Association (PMA) A national trade association of regional parenting media companies with magazines, websites, e-newsletters and events all across America.
Parenting Journalists Conference (March 2021)
Parenting Magazine Writers Facebook Group
Parenting Special Needs Magazine support group A private Facebook group.
26 Parenting Blogs and Magazines That Pay Freelance Writers (Brianna Bell and Carson Kohler, The Write Life, 3-9-21)
29 Publishers that Pay for Parenting Articles, Essays, & Stories (Freedom with Writing)
My First Story on Medium Went Viral (Stephanie Gruner Buckley, Medium, 12-19-20) The story: My daughter was a creative genius, and then we bought her an iPhone (Stephanie Gruner Buckley, Medium, 11-3-20)

[Back to Top]

What if you get an offer before you get an agent?

What to do when you receive an offer before you have an agent (Rachel Kent, Books & Such Literary Management, 10-17-12)  Many comments. "In your followup email, make sure that your subject line states that you have an offer from PUBLISHING HOUSE NAME. That way your email will stand out in the inbox full of queries."

You Have an Offer From a Publisher… (Rachelle Gardner, Gardner Literary, 11-1-10)  "When talking with the editor who made the offer, do not accept the offer. If you indicate that you’ve accepted the offer, then once you do get an agent, the agent will not be able to negotiate the offer. Instead, tell them you’d like some time, and ask them if it’s okay to delay your response pending your getting an agent.

     "These days, most publishers prefer to work through an agent, both for the protection of the author, and to make their lives easier. They don’t want to be negotiating a complicated publishing contract with their author who typically has no idea what most of the contract clauses actually mean. They want to keep the author/editor relationship focused on the book—not on business matters." 

What Happens If The Offer Comes Before the Agent? Do you even need an agent then? (Kate McKean, Agents and Books, 1-26-21)

"If this happens to you, know that this is not unusual, that agents and editors do this routinely, that you are in the driver’s seat, and that there’s no reason to rush or panic....

     "What do you need the agent for? All the things you don’t know about the publishing process, from standard paperback royalty rates, to what your out of print clause should say to if you should fight to keep foreign rights to having someone there to advocate for you if you hate your cover. Agents do more than just get you a book deal."

What If You Get a Book Deal on Your Own and Then Want an Agent? (Steve Laube Agency, 10-12-20)   A ready-made deal will get an agent’s attention, especially from a traditional publisher, less so from an indie publisher. "Never agree to terms with a publisher if you want to have an agent become involved. If you do, the agent is handcuffed in their ability to adjust certain rights and terms to your benefit."
Getting a Publishing Deal and THEN an Agent (Mary Kole, KidLit) 'I’d advise you to take the time — once you receive a firm offer — to find an agent. IMPORTANT: Tell the editor “Thank you so much for your offer. Before I get back to you, I’m going to try and partner with a literary agent.” ...but it’s tougher to attract an agent with a picture book than with a fiction manuscript, that’s true. And more realistic advice about agents and children's picture books.

[Back to Top]

Q&As with agents (and a couple of editors)

Should You Publish Your Book with a Small Press? Two Literary Agents Advise (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-16-21) Literary agents Michelle Brower of Aetivas Literary Management and Jennifer Chen Tran of Bradford Literary talk frankly. You may or may not need a literary agent to pitch a smaller press, pitch first to large presses and then to smaller presses, small presses will take on projects that might seem too risky or on the “fringe” for Big Five publishers, smaller presses may not have the same marketing and publicity bandwidth that bigger publishers do, and "make sure to vet your contract! There is no standard small press contract, and they can vary wildly; make sure you are not signing away something valuable."
Agents & Editors: The Complete Series (Jofie Ferrari-Adler and Michael Szczerban, Poets & Writers). Many excellent profiles/Q&As. When they say "do your homework" they mean among other things to find out what each agent or editor prefers, and other practical background information.
What To Know Before You Submit: 28 Great Tips from Literary Agents (Writer's Digest). For example, "Don't query something as a YA/MG project. Two different categories, shelved in different parts of bookstore."
How to Establish a Long-Term Writing Career: Insight From Two Literary Agents (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog interviews two agents: Sarah LaPolla and Kim Lionetti, 8-8-19) For some authors, a single book deal is validation enough. For others, it's the beginning of a lifelong journey through en ever-changing landscape. Sarah L: "The truth is, not many authors get the chance to grow with their career over time. If the first few books don’t do well, or are perceived as mediocre on a writing level, it makes it harder to convince publishers to keep giving you chances....The second book is the hardest." Kim L: "I think becoming a professional author takes a special kind of drive. If you have that kind of motivation, you can make it happen at any stage of life."

[Back to Top]

What Does It Mean to Be A Full-Time Author? (Sangeeta Mehta Q&A with agents Jim McCarthy of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret and Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary, 1-7-2020)
Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Agent Lynn Nesbit by Jofie Ferrari-Adler (Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2008). With more than forty years of experience in the business, agent Lynn Nesbit discusses how she signed some of her biggest clients, how a writer can get an agent’s attention, and what’s wrong with the publishing industry.
Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Agent Molly Friedrich by Jofie Ferrari-Adler (Poets & Writers, Sept-/Oct 2008)
Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Agent Georges Borchardt (Poets & Writers)
How a Literary Agent Views Academic Books (Rachel Toor interviews Susan Rabiner for Chronicle of Higher Education, 7-14-19). Rabiner is co-author of Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction – and Get It Published, which explores how to think through a serious nonfiction book (and to understand an editor). "Their book lays out in blunt, unvarnished prose how to write a proposal that will win over editors and shows why 'because it's interesting' is never reason enough to get someone to buy a book."
I believe writing is an act of resistance (the personal is political) (5 On: Amy Tipton, interviewed by Kristen Tsetsi, on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-15-18) In a Q&A about young adult and middle grade fiction, the "unlikable female character, and her personal editing style, freelance editor and former literary agent Amy Tipton offers practical insights into how agents work and whether those who don't want a manuscript will be likely to pass it along to an agent friend, among other things. Must-read for authors of YA and middle grade fiction.
Agents & Editors: A Q&A With Agent Nat Sobel (Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Poets & Writers 5-08)
Beyond Good Writing: Two Literary Agents Discuss What Matters Most (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 4-16-19) Mehta, a former acquiring editor of children’s books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster, does Q&A with literary agents Linda Camacho and Jennifer March Soloway, answering questions such as "Most agents say that platform doesn’t matter when it comes to fiction writers. But those who have one—staff writers at major media outlets, YouTube influencers, those with connections to the film industry—seem to land book deals more easily than others. Does this mean that the bar is higher for fiction writers who don’t have a platform?" How do agents decide which authors to rep? 

[Back to Top]

A Q&A With Agent Lynn Nesbit by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2008)
A Q&A With Agent Georges Borchardt by Jofie Ferrari-Adler (Poets & Writers, Sept/Oct 2009) (Authors Guild, 10-5-17)
A Q&A With Four Young Literary Agents (by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, interviewing Julie Barer, Jeff Kleinman, Renee Zuckerbrot, and Daniel Lazar, Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2009)
A Q&A With Agent Molly Friedrich (by Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Poets & Writers, Sept/Oct 2008)
Q&A With an Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore & Company (Authors Guild, 4-19-18) Be " as clear as possible about one’s own intentionality when it comes to the story one is telling, and why. That kind of clear thinking and intention comes through in queries and makes certain writers and projects stand out more than others. There’s nothing more compelling to me than a writer who already knows how to talk about his or her work."
Agents’ Roundtable: Three Agents Reveal What They’re Really Looking for from Authors (Authors Guild, 6-22-16) Eric Myers, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management ( YA and Middle Grade fiction, adult suspense thrillers, and adult non-fiction), Regina Ryan, Regina Ryan Books (books of significant nonfiction that bring something new to the table, mainly adult titles, and a select group of juvenile nonfiction), and David Forrer, Inkwell Management (fiction, from very commercial to very literary, and non-fiction, including narrative, memoir, biography, and humor). EM: "For a non-fiction writer, a solid platform is essential these days, as is previously-recognized expertise in that particular subject." RR: "I look for a fresh idea, good writing, a strong sales hook and a market that is clearly defined and reachable." DF: "For a novel, a good query letter should have a one-line opening hook (the Hook), one paragraph summarizing the plot (the Book), and a few lines about the author and what they bring to the table in terms of promotion (the Cook). For non-fiction, the most important thing is for the author to establish him/herself as the best person to write the book, and I want to be able to “see” the book in my head."

[Back to Top]

Algonkian Agent Interviews (interviews with Betsy Amster, Lisa Bankoff, Elise Capton, Robert Gottlieb, Deborah Grosvenor, Jeff Kleinman, Ellen Levine, Noah Lukeman, Donald Maass, and Erin Reel)
Lynn Chu: Agent Unplugged, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's informative interview with this principal of Writers' Representatives LLC, appears in the public part of the January 2010 issue of ASJA Monthly (the confidential section goes to members only). This is as helpful an analysis of what authors should know about their rights in the new electronic world as you are likely to read. It starts on pp. 6-7 of this PDF file,then jumps to p. 13. Print those pages out and highlight them! Her most valuable comments are on book publishers trying to becoming licensing agents for e-rights while taking a print publishers' share of income and without doing what a licensing agent ought to do, and since authors will very quickly learn how much they can do without the publishers, they are playing a dangerous game. Authors: there IS no standard on e-publishing terms, so do your homework. At a minimum, read this article.
Q&A: Jill Corcoran of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency (Kirkus, 9-6-17) "Discoverability is a huge obstacle, so the more marketing hooks publishers can use to help readers find your book, the better....There is a growing demand for 'own voices': the words, dreams, thoughts, and experiences of creators who have historically been marginalized and ignored....readers need to see themselves, and people different from themselves, in books."

[Back to Top]

How to write a book proposal

If you don't have experience in book publishing, it is important to understand the process of getting a book published. Although the process has changed (and the option of self-publishing is now a more realistic alternative), certain things are still true for getting the imprimatur of a major publisher.

---You will almost certainly need an agent to place a book, for example, especially if you're a new writer. (To get an agent, send a one-page query first to see if they are interested in receiving your book proposal.)

---If you're seeking a publisher for a novel you'll probably have to write the whole novel first (to show that you can pull it off) but even then you may start with a proposal and sample chapters.

---If you're writing nonfiction, you won't normally write the whole thing first, but will sell the concept from a book proposal (a sales piece for the proposed book)--to find out if publishers see a potential market for a book on a particular topic and think you have the chops to pull it off and can also attract a big enough audience for the book.

---Indeed, you will probably need to sell the book from a book proposal even if you have already written the book, because the acquiring editor needs something to share with colleagues in the editorial meeting where decisions are often made about whether to commission a book and to bid against other publishers for it.

Among other things, what publishers are interested in are:
• The title (some books have sold on the title alone; if yours isn't great, the publisher is likely to change it--and sometimes changing the title gets you a second look)
• How good an idea you have (in the proposal overview you must grab the editor's attention)
How well you can develop it (for a nonfiction book, you'll show this in a descriptive table of contents--with chapter titles and brief summaries of what each chapter is about) -- indeed, can you write a whole book? Some writers are great at articles but cannot pull off book-length projects (or do not instill confidence in a publisher that they can do so).
• Your "brand" (how recognizable your name is)
• Your voice (an intangible but crucial component, that should come across in your sample chapter(s), if not the proposal itself)
• The quality of your writing (which you demonstrate in both the proposal and sample chapters--try to end on a hook that leaves them wanting more). As agent-author Andy Ross says, "As an agent, I can't tell on a first page whether a book will work, but I can usually tell in the first paragraph whether the author has the talent to make it work."
• Your track record (sales on previous books)
• Your platform (the size of your fan base, or potential fan base, and how --and how easily -- you can expand it for this book). In short, how many books can you sell because of "who you are or who you can reach" (see Jane Friedman's definition of platform. Where does your work appear? How many followers do you have on social media. This is more important for nonfiction, where there is more expectation that you have a platform. More than 2/3rds of books are sold online, says author/editor Lenore Hart, fiction editor at Northampton House Press"and we've learned over the years that an author who is invisible there will have poor to no sales."See You Don’t Need a Platform If You Can Find an Audience (Catherine Baab-Muguira on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-16-22)
• Your competition and comparables. Basically, where do you fit in the marketplace. Is there a market for your book? How well have comparable books done in the past? How is your book different, and similar? Where would it be placed in a bookstore? What is your main competition and what unique advantage do you have? Access to unique sources? Personal involvement? Time passed since an earlier book on the subject has been done? for a novel, identify what genre you are writing in (and mention comparable titles in that genre). Fresh material? Ask your local librarian what they would do with such a book. See

---Let’s Talk About Comp Titles (Tumblr)

---All About Comps (Jennifer Laughran, Best of Ask the Agent, 2-10-20) "Comps (or ‘comparative’ titles) are usually two or three books LIKE yours that you might mention in a query letter to give the agent reading it a general idea of the tone of your book, where it might go in the bookstore, and who might enjoy it. Comps are also useful when agents are submitting to editors. People ask about them quite a lot." Comps should be RECENT, ACCURATE, TASTEFUL and SPECIFIC ( think R.A.T.S.).

---NoveList Tutorial: Searching for Read-alikes (EBSCO Connect) Search for a book then look at the list of recommendations created by our book experts. Or search for more like your favorite, using the story elements that you like the most. (H/T Marie Monteagudo, who adds:) Ask the Reference Desk at your library for suggestions. 'Librarians are trained to offer readers "readalikes," library jargon for comps. Virtually, check your library's online databases for Novelist. This link has a "how-to" to help you out.'

• How timely the topic is (for nonfiction) and how easy to sell in 25 words or less--the space on a book cover
• How you plan to promote the book (including how promotable you are, which includes how you come across personally). If you have a video of yourself giving a dynamic talk, you might include that, or a link to it or part of it.)

• Read the publishers' submissions instructions, because some want electronic submissions, some don't. Find out what they prefer, to increase your chances of being considered.
How can you accurately estimate the time it will take to complete a writing project? (LinkedIn)

[Back to Top]

Some articles and talks on how to write a book proposal:
How to Write a Book Proposal (Jane Friedman, 5-10-22) "Your business case may matter more than the writing People don’t like to hear this, but for many nonfiction books, the artfulness of the writing doesn’t matter as much as the marketability of the book or the author. (You can see this played out in the rejections received by award-winner Rebecca Skloot.) If your book’s purpose is to impart useful information or to benefit readers’ lives, then you’re selling it based on the marketability of your expertise, your platform, and your concept. The book proposal persuades agents/editors that readers will pay $20 or more for the benefit that your book provides. ...Some types of nonfiction can be credibly pitched by anyone with proven journalistic or storytelling skills. (Think of a narrative nonfiction book, such as Seabiscuit.) If your book must succeed based on its ability to artfully weave a story, then your strength as a writer becomes more and more important. It’s still necessary to prove there’s a market for that story, but you won’t be successful in your pitch if you can’t deliver on the writing." Also, read what Jane writes on six key book publishing paths (there is an info-chart, but also scroll down and read the straight prose explanation).

Biography International's virtual workshop on Proposal Writing and Promotion (video during the pandemic,12-4-20) In this lively, helpful discussion, biographers Gretchen Gerzina, Carla Kaplan, and Anne Boyd Rioux, joined by moderator Marlene Trestman, answer questions about proposal writing and promotion. Does it immediately engage reader's interest? Does the book sound interesting? What's the story? How are you going to tell it? Who will buy it? Do you write a proposal differently for academic presses?Above all, read other people's excellent proposals. Take notes!
•  What Four Top Editors Look for in a Book Proposal (Dona Munker, Biographer's Craft, Aug.2018) Dona report what panelists from Norton, Crown/Penguin Random House, St. Martin's Press, and Doubleday said about what's important in a book proposal, including new information or a new angle on a popular figure, an interesting life (not just achievements), a reasonable length (shorter is better), reasonable $$ expectations.
BIO Virtual Workshop: Proposal Writing and Promotion (YouTube, Biographers International, 12-4-20) Biographers Gretchen Gerzina, Carla Kaplan, and Anne Boyd Rioux, joined by moderator Marlene Trestman, answer questions about proposal writing and promotion.
Advance Copy Backstories on books by members of the National Association of Science Writers, Lynne Lamberg's brainchild, and great material when you're writing that book proposal. In this column, Lynne asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.
I Write Like (Coding Robots) Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.
How to Get Your Book Published (Jane Friedman, 10-13-15). You have to understand the process!
How to Define and Describe Your Readership: A Confusing Issue for Nonfiction Book Proposals (Jane Friedman, 12-4-18) At some point, an editor or agent will expect you to describe the readership your book is intended for--that you need to know to market your book properly. "Being in lock-step with your audience is critical to knowing what to include and what not to include—as well as what language to use. It gives your approach definition." Where to start your pitch and a few mistakes to avoid. Memoir writers: Be sure to read the final section on pitching a memoir.  A practical dash of reality.
To Nail Your Book Proposal: Think in Synergies, Not Sections (Lisa Cooper Ellison on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-23-22) A successful nonfiction book proposal addresses market demand and cements the writer’s authority throughout the entire document.The best proposals use the About the Author section to lay out your current reach then follows up with a Target Audience section that reveals how your audience includes your readers.
The Secret to a Stronger Nonfiction Book Proposal (Nina Amir, Writer's Digest, 7-16-15) Knowing what’s already on bookshelves may just be the single most effective (and most overlooked) way to convince an agent where your idea fits in. Amir, author of The Author Training Manual: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Books That Sell, writes about how your Competitive Analysis can be your secret weapon. Compared with your competitors, does your book tell a fresh story, offer a new perspective or angle, present a compelling new argument or different or newer information, or "take readers on a singular journey"?
The Secret to Coming Up With Ideas People Can Get Excited About (Eric Nelson, LinkedIn, 9-19-17) People know the world is full of hard problems, and those hard problems are governed by dials. The right answer is almost always doing a little more or a little less of something. But all the most contagious ideas are switches. A switch forces people to take a side. You either believe it should be on, or it should be off. Not every problem has a switch. In fact, almost no problems do. Don’t be the writer adding to an existing strategy or body of knowledge. Be the writer turning a piece of it upside down.
• As for figuring out how well a book is selling, it helps to be able to interpret the little information that is available. On Amazon, for example, explains one popular novelist, If a book is in the in the mid six figures or seven figures in rank on Amazon, for a recent release that could mean it's not selling well, but if a book published in 2017 is in the 300,000 rank, that is not necessarily bad. "It just hasn't had any love in all that time. I see MANY Big 5 publisher books on Amazon that are also not selling well even a couple months after release. Some of those books where I know the author, I know the author is making good money even though their Amazon ranking is 350K or 500K. That is because their money is in library sales, school or academic bookstore sales, or they are doing decently from the publisher's website or another vendor that doesn't often get reviews or rankings, like Apple, Kobo, or B&N."

      "A final thing I do is to check Publishers Marketplace to see if anything is listed and how many sales there were in the past year or two. It's only $25 per month to have access to the database and you can stop at any time. Some authors just to $25 for one month. They do all their research during the month and then stop their subscription." Check out one review of Publishers Marketplace.

[Back to Top]

5 Research Steps Before You Write Your Book Proposal (Jane Friedman, 5-31-17) She explains why and how you explore competing titles, research the digital media landscape, study authors and influencers in your field, pinpoint your audience, analyze how you reach readers.
The Reality of Writing a Good Book Proposal (Rachel Toor, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2-11-13) A "book proposal contains an invitation, a seduction, and an unromantic assessment of where you stand relative to others. You have to work to get the editor interested in you, and then outline exactly who will buy the book once you've written it." And you have to answer several specific questions, persuasively.

Women in White Coats and the Path to Publishing a Nonfiction Book (YouTube video) Lynne Lamberg leads Johns Hopkins Science Writing Program's discussion with Olivia Campbell (JHU Science Writing 2014), author of the new book Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine.
Get a publishing deal by avoiding these seven common book proposal mistakes (Jenna Glatzer, BuildBookBuzz, 10-3-18) Jenna teaches a course on how to write a nonfiction book proposal called “Your BIG Book Deal: How to Sell Your Book to a Major Publisher.”
Writing an Irresistible Book Proposal (PDF, Michael Larsen, Writers Digest)
How to Write a Book Proposal (agent Rachelle Gardner, short and to the point).
Which sample chapters should you send to agents? (Writer's Digest)
How to Find Compelling Comps for Your Book (Star Wuerdemann on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-10-21) Identifying comparable titles helps agents and publishers understand where your book fits in the market (where it would be shelved in a store)and who your most likely readers are.
How many sample chapters should you send? (Writer's Digest)
How to Format a Book (Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur.com)
What are the guidelines for formatting a manuscript? (Writer's Digest)

[Back to Top]


Books on how to write a book proposal

Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction – and Get It Published, by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato, explores how to think through a serious nonfiction book (and to understand an editor). "Their book lays out in blunt, unvarnished prose how to write a proposal that will win over editors and shows why 'because it's interesting' is never reason enough to get someone to buy a book."~ Rachel Toor, who interviews Rabiner in "How a Literary Agent Views Academic Books"

Lessons Learned From ‘Shark Tank’ on Writing Book Proposals (Rachel Toor, Chronicle of Higher Education, 4-15-19) "Here, now, are some of the lessons of Shark Tank that might improve the odds that a publisher will want your book. Don’t send it before you have the goods. You must have a good elevator pitch. Anticipate the questions that will be asked and know the answers. And two more (with explanations and examples). See also The Reality of Writing a Good Book Proposal (2-11-13) In which she describes the six main elements of a book proposal: overview, competition, market, author description, table of contents, and sample chapter, focusing especially on how to figure out the market for your book. Then How to Write a Good Book Proposal, the Sequel (10-8-13), focusing especially on the overview, "the hardest part of the book proposal to write for most academics." The overview is "your chance to get personal with the editor and make her want you...and yes, even for academic books, or maybe, especially for academic books, there has to be passion. In the overview, relate your own intellectual history with your topic by posing a question someone would really want an answer to...Often, the overview section of a proposal can form the basis for an excellent introduction to the book."
The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers, by Betsy Lerner, is good on the whole process of publishing.
The Fast Track Course on How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal by Stephen Blake Mettee (short, to the point --what to do and what not to do-- from a seasoned editor and publisher)
The Book Proposal Book: A Guide for Scholarly Authors (Laura Portwood-Stacer, Princeton UP's Skills for Scholars series). "The scholarly book proposal may be academia's most mysterious genre. You have to write one to get published, but most scholars receive no training on how to do so―and you may have never even seen a proposal before you're expected to produce your own."
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write: How to Get a Contract and Advance Before Writing Your Book by Elizabeth Lyon, offers a template, a step-by-step process, for writing the proposal, good for authors who need hand-holding.
Building your author platform
Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, by Jeff Herman and Deborah M. Adams, shows and tells (but many disagree with some of his suggestions)
The Art of the Book Proposal, by Eric Maisel (Kindle edition), developing the idea.
Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books by William Germano (for publications in academia). See also these proposal guidelines for Harvard University Press
Nonfiction Book Proposal Outline (an excellent and succinct guide, from Ted Weinstein Literary Management)
How do you write a non-fiction book proposal? Here’s one in full (about teeth). (Michael Hingston, Medium, 5-17-17) Here's another book proposal, in full. (This one's about hockey.) (Michael Hingston, 9-6-17) Neither sold, but they are well written.
The Ten Most Common Reasons Book Proposals are Rejected — and What These Reasons Really Mean (Marcia Yudkin, Marketing for Introverts and Other Under-Appreciated People and Companies -- No-Hype Marketing)

Check out the late Sarah Wernick's excellent old advice on the process of finding a publisher (now decades old): So you want to write a book (her guide to basics). See also Caitlin's Guide to Choosing Precise Comparables (Caitlin Alexander, AuthorSalon.com, 4-30-12) "My book X will thrill fans of Y and Z." "Comps aren't as much about what your specific story is as about who the audience is--what specific readers your book can be effectively sold to."

[Back to Top]

What's the right word count?

(the most reliable way to indicate a book's length)


Do not say your book manuscript is 150 pages long as length will vary depending on the size of type, whether the script is single- or double-spaced, and how wide the margins are. A more reliable measure is word count. With some exceptions for writers with a strong following, publishers generally expect certain kinds of book to be more or less a certain word length (particularly within the norm for their genre, with fiction). Here are some examples, followed by articles on the subject, but if the publisher to whom you are sending the manuscript specifies a preferred range, heed their preferences. Part of the publisher's reason to limit the length of manuscripts is to limit the cost of production, but reader's expectations are also a factor.


Some rough suggested ranges for 'trade' books:

---Regular nonfiction: 55,000 to 80,000 words.
---A regular novel: 80,000 to 90,000 words.

---Middle grade fiction: 20,000 to 55,000 words.

---Young adult fiction: 50,000 to 80,000 words (longer if science fiction or fantasy)
---Mainstream romance: 70,000 to 100,000 words.
---Subgenre romance: 40,000 to 100,000 words.
---Chick lit: 70,000 to 75,000 words.
---Science fiction / fantasy: 90,000 to 115,000 words (need room for descriptions and world building)*

---Science fiction/fantasy epic or saga: 120,000 words and over
---Historical fiction: 80,000–100,000 words
---Thrillers / Horror / Mysteries / Crime: 70,000–90,000 words

---Children's picture books: 500 to 600 words.


Most academic books are between 70,000 and 110,000 words in length, according to The Academic Book of the Future and the Need to Break Boundaries


*Those are ranges mentioned by others, but I am puzzled because the Nebula Awards for science fiction are awarded in categories: a short story is under 7,500 words; a novella is 17,500 to 39,999 words; a novel is 40,000 words or more. If possible, check with the agency or publisher or magazine to which you are submitting.
The Word Count of Children’s Books (Jared Dees) The word count for children's chapter books (ages 6-9), middle-grade books (9-12), young teen books (12-15), and young adult books (14-adult), with plenty of examples of famous books and their word count. In fact, a good shopping list of gift books for children.
Word Count A simple and free text and webpage word counter
---Word Count Tool (with additional features: a word frequency counter, Flesch Reading Scores, Word Count Per Page Converter, etc.
---WordCounter app
A Word Count Guide for 18 Book Genres, Including Fiction and Non-Fiction (Blake Atwood, The Write Life, 8-5-19)
Eight Questions About the Novella, Answered (Fred Meyer, Writers.com, 1-14-2020) "What distinguishes a novella from a novel or any other form is, fundamentally, word count. Word count for a novella is generally 20,000 to 50,000 words, although you can’t be exact about that. Here are some rough word length guidelines:
      7,500 words or fewer is a short story.
      7,500 words to 20,000 words is a novelette.
    20,000 to 50,000 words is a novella.
    50,000 to 80,000 words is a short novel.
    80,000 to 100,000 words or more is a full-length novel."
On word counts and novel length (Colleen Lindsay, The Swivet, 9-19-10) Suggested range of word lengths for various genres and readers' age groups, in fiction.
Length Matters: A Word Count Guide by Genre (Dana Isaacson, Career Authors, 5-14-18)
Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 10-24-16) "Between 80,000 and 89,999 words is a good range you should be aiming for. This is a 100% safe range for literary, mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller and horror. Anything in this word count won’t scare off any agent anywhere....When it dips below 80K, it might be perceived as too short—not giving the reader enough. It seems as though going over 100K is all right, but not by much."
Where Should You List Your Manuscript's Word Count? (Brian A. Klems, Writer's Digest, 2-27-14) 'When submitting to agents or editors, always include a rough word count on the cover page of your manuscript (and by “rough word count,” I mean round up to the nearest thousand). It should appear in the upper right-hand corner of your cover page, across from your name and contact information, and should read About 92,000 words (or whatever your magic number is).' Also include your manuscript’s word count in your query letter, in the paragraph that introduces your title.

How Long Should Your Nonfiction Book Be? (Karin Wiberg, Clearsight Books, 6-7-17) Choosing an effective book length depends not only on your content but on your goals, your strategy, your audience, your publishing route, and your book format.
How Short Can Your Book Be? (Karin Wiberg, Clearsight Books, 4-25-19) Long enough to tell the story but short enough to consistently hold the reader’s interest. With fiction, your genre will likely dictate your word count. Lists typical word counts by genre.

How long should a chapter be?

Ask the Editor: Chapter Length (Betty Kelly Sargent, Publishers Weekly, 8-24-18) "The important thing is to concentrate on making your chapters fit your story, not on making your story fit your chapters.
"Many novelists these days prefer chapters that are between 1,500 words—or six book pages— and 8,000 words, or 32 book pages. But, there are hundreds of famous exceptions....Chapter length helps create the rhythm of your book. Do you want your novel to feel fast paced and breathless? Then you should try to keep chapters on the short side."
How Long Should Book Chapters Be? (What Authors Need To Know) (ScribeMedia) How many chapters should a nonfiction book have? There are no “rules” for book chapters. The length of your chapters should be determined by the number of words it takes to present that idea, step, or argument fully, without over explaining it. The chapter should be "Short enough to hold a reader’s interest" and "Long enough to give that reader what they need." Shorter is better than longer.
How Long Should a Chapter Be? Rules by Genre (Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur) Specifically, how long a chapter should be. Average novel chapter lengths fall in the 3,000- to 4,000-word range. But there are plenty of wildly successful books that have longer and shorter chapters. Nonfiction chapters often fall around the 4,000-word mark, but this is highly dependent on subject matter.
How Long Should A Chapter Be? (Harry Bingham, Jericho Writers, advice for novels). Useful discussion, with examples from popular books.
What is the ideal chapter length? (Kat Brown, Penguin, 3-23) Whether it's shortened for today's distracted reader, or written long, the chapter's 2000-year history is full of variations, trends, and surprises. Trends in chapter length over time.

[Back to Top]

Systems for managing pitches

Preparing and managing submissions of short works: articles, poems, and short stories, etc.

See About submission fees below.

Create a system for keeping track of your submissions.  I'll link to a few suggested systems below, but what you want to do is track what version of what document you have sent to whom (name and publication) on what date, with what result or comments (if and when they responded, yes or no, or whatever--maybe "it needs work but I'd like to see it again"), money paid, date published. Do not assume you will remember these details (it is not the best use of your brain). You need a system to make sure you don't submit the same manuscript twice to a publisher, and a record of how they responded. Years later you will appreciate having recorded this all in one place.
---If you create a database yourself, make columns for publisher's name, agent's or editor's name, email address, type of material preferred, date submitted, what you submitted (letter, sample, whole ms.), final response (with date), date sold, date rejected (with final response), etc. You might have a separate database for competitions entered.


Whether you keep this data in a handy notebook, on your computer, in an Excel spreadsheet, on Google Drive (in the cloud), in a Word document, or on someone else's system, have a system. Some of the systems available, if you don't want to use your own:

Systems for managing pitches
---Submittable is a popular cloud-based platform and form of software for managing submissions. You do not need to sign up for a Submittable subscription to make a submission, says Submittable. "Instead, if you submit to an organization that uses Submittable, you'll be asked to create a free Submittable account on the organization's submissions page. See How do I submit?
---Submittable 85 percent cheaper for members of CLMP (John Maher, Publishers Weekly, 12-9-19) The Community of Literary Magazines and Presses has negotiated a unique pricing plan for the use of Submittable by CLMP members. The plan, which costs $29/month or $290/year for up to 500 submissions per month, is priced at an 85% discount from Submittable's standard pricing.
--- Duotrope Tracks submissions of short fiction, poetry, etc., to literary journals. Does a good job of tracking submissions, rejections, acceptances, and provides a search tool to find publishers, agents, magazines and writing contests. (See Duotrope Review – Is It Worth the Cost?  $50 (Nathaniel Tower's frank review.) The relative value of Duotrope's three main strengths: submissions tracker, market listings, and response statistics. 
--- Writers Database tracker
--- Query Tracker An easy-to-manage system for tracking queries to agents--a free version and a paid version. With the paid version you also get data about agents, such as types of genres they've signed recently, comments from others about agents they've queried on Query Tracker--a 'wealth of information.' 
---Query Manager (for querying agents and publishers) Advice from experienced authors: Give publishers and agents exactly what they ask for. Instructions for QM aren't always clear. One author pulls the bio from her query and puts it in QM's Bio box (another leaves it in both places), and for the synopsis puts a short blurb version in the query letter and the one-page synopsis in the Synopsis box. Follow the specific instructions of those you're submitting to.
--- Sonar for managing article or short-story ms. submissions.
---The Submission Grinder (Diabolical Plots) A little humor at the end of the day.

Suggestions from other writers:
--- Here’s a System and Template for Tracking Your Submissions (Bonus: It Reduces the Sting of Rejection) (Emma Lombard on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-22-2020) You can't control rejections, but you can control your next steps. Staying organized and focused helps isolate and minimize the impact of any one rejection.
--- A Better Way to Track Stories and Submissions (Writing Cooperative) Keep separate track of contest submissions and submissions to publishers.
--- How do you keep track of your submissions? (Sarah Lecky on keeping track of stories submitted for contests).
--- Annie Neugebauer "Organized Writer" charts ("Because organization is just a framework for creativity.") See, for example, her downloadable Poetry Submission Chart.
---Poets & Writers has a superb set of full databases for literary magazines, small presses, literary places, literary agents, grants and awards, MFA programs, writers retreats, review outlets.



Submission fees? Why?

Apparently submission fees (aka "reading fees") are fairly common these days for short fiction and poetry submissions to journals and for entries to award competitions. Small presses that accept submissions through Submittable have to pay a small fee ($3), and they need to recoup at least that cost.
Should Literary Journals Charge Writers Just to Read Their Work? (Joy Lanzendorfer, The Atlantic, 10-25-15)
Markets & Jobs for Writers Erika Dreifus's weekly batch of no-fee, paying competitions, contests, and calls for submissions—plus jobs for those of us who write (especially those of us who write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction)
Poets & Writers Writing Contests, Grants & Awards database includes a column for "fees." H/T to Anca Szilagyi for these first three links on AG forum.  See also Fake Poetry Contests below.
Literary Journals, “Reading” Fees, And You (Writer's Relief, 9-19-13) A pretty solid argument: why small journals have at least four good reason to charge these "administration fees" -- among others, it discourages people who oversubmit.
Why I Refuse to Charge Writers Submission Fees (Marc Berley, Publishers Weekly, 3-31-17) The editor of a new literary magazine, LitMag, explains why he eschews fees"The submission fee started not so long ago. First it was a few magazines, an outgrowth of online submissions technology. But soon enough they became ubiquitous. Three bucks usually, though there are some extremes—venues that charge $18 or $20....There’s something ugly about the fees when the acceptance rates are so low. Duotrope, a writer’s resource, lists the top 25 most challenging literary magazines as accepting between 0.09% and 0.65% of the submissions they receive—just a few out of every thousand."
Should You Pay Writing Contest Entry Fees? (C. Hope Clark, BookBaby, 12-6-17) Consider the operating costs of the contest provider. "A tiny minority of writing contests out there do not charge a fee. Why? Perhaps they have a major sponsorship or the financial means to operate without having to ask for fees. Most contests simply do not have that luxury."
Paying to Play: On Submission Fees in Poetry Publishing (Rachel Mennies, The Millions, 1-3-18) "If a sizable majority of poets must spend money to secure publication for their books (and, ever increasingly, to submit to journals), and it’s uncertain whether or not those costs will be recouped upon publication, is the submission-fee model equitable for poets? By equitable, I mean accessible across, here, class: can a poorer or working-class poet submit her manuscript as often as a wealthy or institutionally supported poet? The data is unequivocal: no....However, the data are equally decisive about the large-looming role of submission fees in keeping many journals and poetry presses solvent." That's quoting from one part of a fuller discussion.
Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Enter a Writing Contest (Writer's Relief, 2-6-12) 1. Is this contest reputable? First things first: Don’t enter shady contests (such as fake poetry contests). There are a number of websites out there that are “writing contest factories.”
Legitimate poetry contests vs. contest scams (Writers and Editors)
Seduction of Fake Poetry Contests (Writer's Relief)
Contest and awards scams and competitions to be wary about (Writers and Editors)
Scams, bad deals, and other ways to lose money (Writers and Editors) Subsidy publishing and presses and author mills.

[Back to Top]

Developing a 'selling' book title

Much good advice here, and remember: The title alone can sell the book, so don't look for one that is especially meaningful to you but won't necessarily grab most readers. And when you have a good title, run it by a few people to market test it. Even better, get others to help you find a title. I spent two years interviewing people for a history of the department of psychiatry at the University of Maryland, and then invited everyone interviewed or in the department to suggest potential titles and subtitles. Reviewing the suggestions helped the department chair, Tony Lehman, come up with a great title: CHANGING TIMES, CHANGING MINDS: 100 Years of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine . You can see the cover here (with cover art by Linda Sibio).
• "The title is the sizzle. The subtitle tells the potential reader what the book is about. Usually but not always you need both."~ Judy Katz, Katz Creative Books and Media

      Or, as Mark Herschberg put it in the same Authors Guild discussion, the "hook" and the "reel," the hook catching a reader's attention and the reel making them want to know more.


The following articles may help you develop a great title:

Four Writers Tell All About Titles ( Matthew Gallaway, The Awl, 6-21-11) Extremely helpful stories and advice, from four authors describing the process of choosing their particular great book titles. Enjoy these fabulously written short pieces by Laurie Frankel ("The Atlas of Love'), Suzanne Morrison ("Yoga Bitch: One Woman's Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment"), Richard Rushfield ("Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost" and "American Idol: The Untold Story" with the front-cover blurb "The rivalries, the meltdowns, and the departures, The battle of the Simons, The Truth behind the voting, and The stars in their own words."), and Urban Waite ("The Terror of Living, A Novel"). Don't get too attached to your working title; expect pushback from the publisher's marketing or editorial department; work with your editor; appreciate the value of group brainstorming; don't stick with a title that requires explanation; and other valuable advice.
The Weirdly Specific Trend That Has Taken Over Women’s Fiction (Heather Schwedel, Slate, 6-8-22) The Protagonist Does a Thing formula has been around at least since Mr Smith Goes to Washington. But lately it's a fad, which apparently sells books: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Evvie Drake Starts Over, Eliza Starts a Rumor, Florence Adler Swims Forever, Delphine Jones Takes a Chance and so on.
How to Title a Book: 13 Steps to Choosing a Title That Sells (Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur) Haldeman was a writer and publisher in the early 1900s who ran a tight publishing company. If a book didn’t sell at least 10,000 copies a year, he’d send it to his “hospital,” where he would brainstorm new ideas for the right title until it performed well. Here are his documented change, results, and reasoning. "A good title is part Art and part Marketing." Chesson discovers such factors in title success as intrigue factor, title discoverability, genre mesh, and being informative. Check out the Kindle and Amazon Keyword Search
What is the worst book title ever written? (David Kudler, Quora) First he explains what book titles should do, and then why two titles absolutely don't do that.
Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick by Alexandra Watkins. Brands are different from book titles, but some of the same principles apply. .
The truth about choosing book titles (Scott Berkun) Among several gems: Make your title short, memorable, provocative, easy and fast to say, something you won't get sick of saying, organic (pulled from the book itself) so readers like it even better after they've read the book (e.g., "The Perfect Storm."
What We Talk About When We Talk About Book Titles (Kate McKean, Catapult, 9-6-22) When a writing project has a good title, everyone can feel it. But getting there can be a struggle—for both the author and the publishing team, if your project happens to be a book. It’s important to note that the author, the publisher, and the reader all think about book titles in different ways.
On Changing Book Titles And Covers: My Own Experience And How You Can Do It Too (Joanne Penn, Creative Penn, 4-28-15)
21 Ideas for Finding the Just-Right Title (scroll down to find this handy one-pager by Marion Calabro)
Secrets of successful book covers and titles (Writers and Editors)
A lot of great writers suck at titles and this is what they taught me about writing… (Linda Caroll, Write Before Lunch, 11-14-18)
The power of awful (offal) first drafts (Roy Peter Clark, Poynter, 1-31-18) Scroll halfway down for two useful paragraphs on titles.)
Secrets to Developing the Best Title for Your Nonfiction Book (Jody Rein & Michael Larsen, Jane Friedman's site, 9-5-17) Excellent advice. If you're pitching your book to agents or editors, the perfect title for your book will define your subject and grab their positive attention. It should be a label they can confidently share with colleagues in editorial board meetings and use to convince the powers-that-be to release money to acquire your book. The authors provide good examples of titles plus subtitles to emulate if you are writing a prescriptive or platform-driven book or if you are writing narrative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, memoirs, or biographies.
A book by any other name: why does the US change so many titles? (Terena Bell, The Guardian, 9-13-18) Hordes of books have had their titles changed in America. Disproportionately, they are mysteries.
Title Generator (Aabashenya, Fanfiction Primer, Fiction Alley)
Why do academics choose useless titles for articles and chapters? Four steps to getting a better title. (Patrick Dunleavy, London School of Economics, 2-5-14) Avoid cutesy, clever chapter titles."The really useless title must be as similar as possible to a thousand others, or so obscure that its meaning completely evades readers. It could also miscue or mis-direct readers, for instance, appearing as if it is about a completely different topic, or undertaken in a completely different discipline. Including a high quotient of words that no one else is ever likely to use (or search for) can be especially helpful for a useless title."
How to Choose Your Novel’s Title: Let Me Count 5 Ways (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest, 4-4-15)
5 proven ways to create a bestselling book title (Rob Eager, Tools of Change for Publishing, 1-29-13) Very different angles on finding a "killer title": Is the title easy to remember a week later? Would a reader feel cool if someone saw them reading a book with that title? Is there an implied promise or an answer to the reader’s ultimate question, “What’s in it for me?”
How To Pick a Title For Your Book (Saul Bottcher, IndieBookLauncher, emphasizing fiction titles). Simple formula: (essence of your book) + (a twist) = your title. With tips on how to find the right elements.
Best book titles (Goodreads)
4 Steps to Choosing Your Book Title (iUniverse)
The Evolution of a Book Title (Kathy Ide, author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, writes about how PUGS became Proofreading Secrets.

[Back to Top]

Fees charged by literary agents

A Brief History of Fees (Victoria Strauss, The Truth About Literary Agents' Fees, Writer Beware, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SFWA)   Variety"
Fees in Their Infinite Variety(Victoria Strauss, The Truth About Literary Agents' Fees, Writer Beware, SFWA)
Thumbs-Down Agencies List (Writer Beware, SFWA)
Literary Agents and Upfront Fees (Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturdays, 3-4-17)
The Case Against Reading Fees (Ann Crispin, Writer Beware, 6-28-10)
How Literary Agents Get Paid: Standard Commission Practices And Payments For Literary Agents (Writer's Relief, 2-26-14)

[Back to Top]

Author-agent agreements (contracts)

Should you sign a contract? A clear written contract protects both the author and the agent. The contract should spell out what happens to the representation and commission should the relationship end. And do you want your agent agreement to last for the life of your book?
'Doesn't believe in contracts': Literary agent sues bestselling author (Angus Thompson, Sydney Morning Herald, 8-14-18) What happens when an agent doesn’t sign a contract with an author? Lawsuits. Bestselling Australian author Kate Morton is being sued by her former agent for breach of contract, even though a physical copy of this contract never existed. The agent asserts they came to a payment agreement over the phone, and thus that agreement must be upheld for the life of her current novels. H/T Authors Guild.
An Author’s Guide to Agency Agreements (Authors Guild)
Author-Agent Contracts (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 2-5-06)
Literary agent ordered to pay $500,000 to Australian author Kate Morton after lawsuit loss (Australian Associated Press, 12-9-18) Internationally bestselling Australian author Kate Morton has fended off a lawsuit by her former literary agent, Selwa Anthony, who had sued the bestselling writer, claiming she was entitled to 15% commission on all royalties (based on an oral agreement before Morton had written the first of several books). Instead, the agent has to pay the writer more than $500,000.
SFWA Model Author-Agent Contract (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America)
What to Look for in an Agent’s Contract (Janet Kobobel Grant, on Books&Such, 7-9-12)
Agency agreement (Wikipedia definition)
Literary Agent Contract (Literary Agent Undercover, series of eight articles)
What's an Author-Agent Agreement (agent Rachelle Gardner)
Guide to the National Writers Union Preferred Literary Agent Agreement: Understanding the Author-Agent Relationship (pdf, NWU)
The Agent Clause (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Deal Breakers 2012, The Business Rusch, 8-8-12).
How to Read a Book Contract – Somebody’s Gonna Die (Passive Guy, 10-12-19) What happens when your "agent" in a literary agency dies?
How to Read a Book Contract – 'Agency Coupled with an Interest' (Passive Gy, 10-12-19) This term has rightly caused concern among many authors. Done right, an agency coupled with an interest could well give an agent a piece of the copyright to the author’s book or books and could make the agency agreement irrevocable. We learn three things that one New York judge in one court believes about Agency Clauses.
John Steinbeck's Family Files Complaint Against L.A. Agent ( Alex Ben Block, Hollywood Reporter, 10-10-14) The latest move in a 14-year legal battle over rights to control the works of the late author of 'Grapes of Wrath,' 'East of Eden' and other literary gems.
Switching Literary Agents: Two Agents Offer Advice ( Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-18-23)
Am I Allowed to Break Up with My Book Agent? (Ruoxi Chen, Electric Literature, 10-18-19)
Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have? (Sangeeta Mehta on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-30-17) By definition, literary agents are writers' representatives...
How to Fire Your Agent (Rachelle Gardner, agent)
The Agent Clause (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 8-8-12). The agent clause is the clause in a book publishing contract that says payments come to author through the agent. So what happens if you and your agent fall out? Rusch provides a roadmap to pitfalls common in this clause. Do your homework!
Signing With a Literary Agent? Here’s What Should Be In Your Contract (Kathryn Goldman, The Write Life, 1-17-2020)
7 Dangers to Avoid in a Literary Agency Contract (Writer's Relief, 12-13-14)

[Back to Top]

Changing role of the literary agent

and some problems

From the publisher's viewpoint, an agent is an essential "gatekeeper, screening the vast quantity of unsolicited manuscripts" for manuscripts good enough to submit to publishers). An "agented manuscript" is unlikely to be in poor shape. Some agents are better at coming up with (or helping shape) strong manuscripts than others, and some have more clout than others. (In the old days, when Correcting Selectrics were new, publishers had their own slush piles, read slowly if at all by in-house or freelance readers who would recommend a rare few to be read by house's editors.)


From the writer's viewpoint, the agent's role is to help you shape and polish your manuscript to the point that it is marketable, to get publishers to read your manuscript and make an offer, to negotiate the best possible book deal and contract (which requires understanding the value of clauses meaningless to most authors), and to fight for the writer's interests over the years, while maintaining a good relationship with the publisher. Some agents specialize in selling foreign rights and some in selling film and TV rights--two areas that require special knowledge of markets and practices. With more and more books being self-published, the agent's role may be changing somewhat. Writers do not pay agents for their services. Agents work on commission: If your book doesn't make money, neither do they, and it's in their interests for you to make a lot of money.

Days of The Jackal: how Andrew Wylie turned serious literature into big business (Alex Blasdel, The Guardian,11-9-23) Andrew Wylie is agent to an extraordinary number of the planet’s biggest authors. The Wylie Agency hunts for undervalued literary talent the way a private equity firm might trawl for underperforming companies that it can turn into major profit centres after firing the current management. Georges Simenon is in many ways a classic Wylie target: the estate of an internationally popular author with a highly exploitable backlist who nevertheless has the requisite literary value. (“With Ian Fleming, it’s all surface,” Wylie told me. “Simenon has the psychology.”)
What recent publishing controversies say about the industry (author, editor, and former literary agent Nathan Bransford, 5-15-23) It was shocking when a prominent literary agency parted ways with a significant number of clients very abruptly by email over one weekend without giving them help to land with new agents. Bransford takes a look at some of the structural forces at play in the industry. “One of the most exhausting things about being a literary agent, however, is being a vessel for authors to take out their frustrations that their dreams aren’t coming true. I never really got used to being a constant bearer of bad news or for the vitriol that came my way when I was just trying my best to do my job. I don’t want to diminish the very real frustration and anguish authors have experienced …. [But] some knocks and bruises and false dawns are an inevitable part of the process. If you choose to walk down this path, you gotta be tough. I don’t really know anyone who has had a totally smooth path to publication. Virtually all of my writer friends have had more than one agent. Rejection is baked in. Nothing is going to progress in a straight line.” [H/T Jane Friedman]

Jeff Hecht, Lasers, Death Rays, Quest for Ultimate Weapon (Jeff Hecht, Advance Copy, National Association of Science Writers) The story here is about how an agent persuaded the author to shift from a topic-oriented to a narrative-oriented book. A good agent is also smart about what works.
Alternative paths to publishing proliferate but the path for authors most likely to be lucrative is still the oldest one (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files, 2-23-15) "But even an exponential increase in the number of self-publishing successes or, now, in the number of authors going directly to publishers without an agent, doesn’t change the realities of book publishing. The big money almost always goes to the agented author whose work is sold to a big house. The rest of it is, from an overall industry perspective, still a sideshow."
Literary agents: heroes no more? (Bonie Santos, Publishing Insight, 10-18-12) John Saddler’s Masterclass at Kingston University aimed "to ‘illuminate dark corners’ of the work of a literary agent and to discuss the role of agents in today’s changing publishing landscape." Using an excellent infographic showing agents' changing role over time, he explained that "Agents appeared in this chain at the end of the 19th century, representing a major change in the way authors approached publishers. The agent became a sort of ‘hero’, preventing authors from being exploited by publishers, helping them to protect their copyrights and receive appropriate royalties, dealing with contracts and talking to publishers on their behalf. Ultimately these heroes acted as the buffer between authors and editors whenever there was a conflict." And in the digital age their role may be changing.
The Changing Agent-Author Relationship (Jane Friedman, Digital Book World, 2-2-10)
Jane Friedman on how literary agents are adapting to survive (Jungle Red Writers, 9-3-10)
The Evolution of the Literary Agent (Jane Friedman, Writer's Digest, 8-31-10) Agents Wendy Keller, Paige Wheeler, Richard Curtis, and Scott Waxman talk about how major changes in publishing, in particular the growth of self-publishing, are changing the agent-author relationship.
All the Answers I Wish I Had. (agent Kate McKean, 5-16-23) I'd Give Them to You If I Had Them. There are no magic one-size-fits-all answers to your questions about how to get published. We can't control what happens in publishing.
How do I Know if My Agent is the Problem? (agent Kate McKean,5-18-23) "What problem is that? Could be anything: editors not getting back to your submission, no book deals, low advances, slow career trajectory. It will vary. How many different ways can a relationship, a book, a deal go south?...What’s normal? isn’t the right question. There isn’t one normal. There is no rule that says agents must answer every email in 48 hours and every submission in 2 weeks."
The evolving role of agents (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files, 6-29-09) "When the book agent’s job, most of the time, was to find the biggest possible up-front payment for an author’s work, a straight commission deal made complete sense. With writer-pays options becoming not only more common and accessible, but more sensible as a commercial choice and, indeed, becoming part of the step-ladder to commercial success, it increasingly will not."...Arrangements "where the agent actually charges a fee for helping an author manage self-publishing options, are going to have to become more common in the future."
Agents Discuss the State of the Publishing Industry (Biographers International virtual workshop, 90-minute YouTube video, 7-28-20) Agents Faith Childs, Katherine Flynn, and Gail Ross discuss the state of the publishing industry during the pandemic, particularly for biography and related nonfiction, as well as the agent-author relationship.

[Back to Top]

Understanding subsidiary rights

Subsidiary rights allow traditional publishers to license your work to third parties to create audio books, foreign editions, movies, and other forms of a particular book. There are reprint rights; first and second serial rights; book club rights; foreign rights; electronic (e-book) rights; audio rights; film, dramatic, and/or TV rights; permissions to use selections from a work; performance and merchandising rights. These rights spelled out in a book contract are important potential sources of extra income from a book. Read up before you commit to a particular agent's or publisher's contract.

        First serial rights are the right to publish excerpts or condensed versions of your manuscript or book in magazines and newspapers before the book is published. 

        Second serial rights are the right to publish excerpts, condensed or serialized versions of your manuscript in magazines or newspapers after your book is published (important for promoting your book).

        Generally a major publishing house or literary agency will have separate departments to handle (1) foreign rights (selling rights to publish in other countries or parts of the world), (2) film, dramatic, and/or TV rights, and (3) permissions (licensing the use of photographs or excerpts from an authors work or merchandising rights to it). The author's book contract will specify how income from licensing of such subsidiary rights will be split between publisher and author. Make yourself savvy about these rights before you sign that contract. In the past, authors had more control over whether and how to license subsidiary rights; in the current market, publishers try to grab more rights. They are not always set up to market them, and writers often let their literary agents handle negotation of who's in control of which rights, and then to negotiate as good a share for their clients as possible (while also keeping the publisher happy).


Subsidiary Rights (Section 6 of the Authors Guild's Model Book Contract) Spells out the traditional split between author and publisher on licensing of various rights (e.g., 10/90 on first serial rights, 10% going to publisher, 90% to author; 50/50 on licensing for many rights; 20/75 on foreign rights.
A Short Primer on Subsidiary Rights (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 1-26-19) Subsidiary rights are the rights the author grants the publisher to "sub-license" from his or her book ("the work") for various formats and adaptations in addition to the primary format. Your book contract specifies the rights being granted by the agreement and outlines the percentage of the sub-license fees received by the publisher (from the third-party licensor) that will go to the author. Read this!
Managing Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry (World Intellectual Property Organization) Booklet No. 1 on Creative Industries. Part of a WIPO series on creative industries, useful for its insights both to publishers and authors.
Negotiating Author’s Subsidiary Rights (Jeffrey Poston, former literary agent and founder of WritersToolbag.com, WritersWeekly.com, 9-3-03) He breaks subsidiary rights into three groups:

---Rights publishers ALWAYS control: Reprint, first and second serial, and book club

---Rights authors should always control: Performance and merchandising (usually you will get an "option," not a movie deal).

---Negotiable rights: Foreign language, British, electronic and audio rights.

Mind you, as Mindy Klasky explains: "Simply put, subsidiary rights permit your publisher to license other businesses to publish different editions or adaptations of your work. Authors receive contract-defined percentages of all money earned by the exploitation of subsidiary rights. For example, a typical contract dictates that the publisher holds the subsidiary right to distribute a novel to book clubs. In exchange for making the book club arrangement, the publisher collects 50% of the money paid by the book club, and the author gets 50% of the money."

A Contract Primer: Subsidiary Rights (Mindy Klasky, Originally published in the magazine Romance Writers Report, January 2011.) Excellent once-over-lightly of rights for fiction, with a long list of subsidiary rights culled from contracts from various publishers. Do a search on particular terms to find stories and examples.
How a Book's Dramatic Rights Get Sold (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 12-16-18) Books are often the source material for movies, television shows, and stage plays and, like all subsidiary rights sales, film and TV rights sales represent additional income and exposure for the book they are based upon.
The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors blog) Links to and explanations of issues AG is fighting for, including Delete the Non-Compete, End the Discount Double-Cross, Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books, Option Clauses Shouldn't Hold Authors Hostage, A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever, etc.

Selling foreign rights

• Author Joyce Yarrow on selling foreign rights to self-published books: "I have sold foreign rights to Zahara and the Lost Books of Light through the Matchmaking App available from the Frankfurt Book Fair You can register on their website (https://services.buchmesse.de/register) at no charge and then download the free App to your phone. After that, sign into the app, create a profile and look through the companies that are listed in the matchmaking section. Some are buying and some are selling so it's a little labor intensive. When you find a likely prospect, send them a contact request/ pitch at the bottom of their profile
Foreign Rights: Should You Work with an Agent? (Victoria Sutherland, publisher of Foreword Reviews, on IBPA, 10-17) Geared to indie publishers, but starts with an anecdote suggesting why you want someone savvy handling foreign rights (because if you send the wrong thing to the wrong person you can open yourself up to book piracy). Also explains: "Foreign rights can refer to a number of different things. The selling of translation rights occurs when a foreign publisher translates, publishes, and proceeds to sell your book in their country. Reprint rights means a foreign publisher buys the right to reprint your book in English and sell it in their country. Foreign distribution deals are similar to the arrangements you’d make with a distributor or wholesaler in the US. Co-publishing is when you organize simultaneous publication of a title in more than one languages/countries (often done for expensive, four-color art books)." You may want a professional to help you negotiate your options.
Foreign Rights: What You Can Expect from International Trade Shows (Victoria Sutherland, Publisher, Foreword Reviews magazine, on IBPA, Aug. 2017)
Selling Foreign Rights – It is easier than you think! Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturday, 11-11-17)
Lifecycle of a Book in Translation (Publishing Trendsetter, 2014) Excellent infographic shows the process by which a book published in one country is then published in another.
Literary Agents Discuss Foreign Rights and the International Book Market a Q&A by Sangeeta Mehta (@sangeeta_editor), a former acquiring editor of children’s books at Little, Brown and Simon & Schuster, with literary agents Priya Doraswamy of Lotus Lane Literary and Carly Watters of P.S. Literary, on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-24-2020) They discuss foreign rights, translation logistics, what determines if a book being published in the US can find an audience abroad, how foreign advances compare with U.S. advances, what publications to read to educate yourself about the complexities and intricacies of breaking into the international market.
The Indie Authors Rights Program (ALLi, Alliance of Independent Authors) An extension of the book How Authors Sell Publishing Rights: Sell Your Book to Film, TV, Translation, and Other Rights Buyers
What Are Ancillary Rights in Film and Why Are They Important? (#TeamBeverlyBoy) Ancillary rights represent film-related rights. Such as merchandising, multimedia rights, television rights. And the rights to things like soundtracks, music publishing, stage play rights, and the rights to video games or other interactive experiences that are based on the film. Also, sequels and spin-offs--including live events, movies, and series.
Foreign Rights: What Is It All About? (intern Brita Lundberg, for 2 Seas Agency, May 2014). Typically the agency selling foreign rights gets a 15 percent commission.
What Rights Does a Publisher Really Need? (Susan Spann, Writers in the Storm, 2-12-16). Part 1 of a three-part series. See also Part 2: Subsidiary Rights and Negotiate Like a Pro (Part 3: The Negotiation). Plus Sometimes, Two Rights… Make a Wrong (11-14-14)
A Primer on Audio Rights (agent Liz Dawson)
Life Cycle of a Book in Translation(Publishing Trendsetter) Study this excellent infographic.
About Literary Film Agents (Liz Dawson) The three good times for an agent to get your books into the hands of literary film agents.
Authors' Rights (and Publishers' Rights Grabs) (elsewhere on Writers and Editors). Be aware of the distinction between rights and copyright. Read up on all the rights covered here, which authors often don't understand, including reversion of rights and termination rights.
Clearing rights and finding rights holders (in visual arts, for music and sound, for books, scripts, screenplays.
Selling your work to Hollywood
Rights and royalties management, info, and issues (and problems with authors' and artists' estates)
Rights and contracts for academic authors (an area in which authors are often taken advantage of because of the "publish or perish" imperative).

[To Top]

How to protect yourself against
not-so-good agents

If you end up making a lot of money through deals they negotiate, they're going to probably be handling your money before you get it. You want an agent who is experienced, knows the ropes, and will get you what you're owed, among other things. Character counts. "Never assign your power of attorney to an agent," advises one author. "Having no agent is better than having a bad agent," advises another. Do your homework. Read up on agents, who you are partners with for the books they sell for a LONG time.


Harper Lee Sues Agent She Says Tricked Her (Authors Guild story of Harper Lee suing "her former agent, Sam Pinkus, to recover royalties from To Kill a Mockingbird dating back to 2007, when he allegedly tricked her into signing over copyright to the classic novel as she was in an assisted living facility recovering from a stroke."
What a literary agent should NOT do (Chris Robley, 10 Things Literary Agents Don’t Do for Authors, BookBaby, 8-4-12) Scroll down for what they shouldn't do, which includes 1. Ask for upfront payment. 2. Charge for editing suggestions. 3. Make editing referrals. 6. Pitch your book to a vanity press.
Thumbs Down Agency List (Writer Beware, maintained by A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss
Have You Been Affected by the Embezzlement at Donadio & Olson? Authors Guild reaching out to members who are clients of the literary agency Donadio & Olson. Accountant embezzled $3.4M from famed literary agency (Isabel Vincent, New York Post, 5-26-18) An accountant at Donadio & Olson, a literary agency that represents top writers, including Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, is accused of stealing millions in author royalties and advances and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy. See also Bookkeeper Sentenced For Stealing More Than $3M From NY Literary Agency (Bruce Haring, Deadline Hollywood, 12-23-18) Former bookkeeper Darin Webb, who embezzled millions of dollars from the agency, has been sentenced to two years in federal prison. Donadio & Olson represents authors James Hynes, Chuck Palahniuk, and Rick DeMarinis, as well as the estates of Robert Stone, Mario Puzo, Frank Conroy, Nelson Algren, Peter Matthiesen, and Studs Terkel. The New York Post reported that the thefts were discovered when an author expecting to receive a $200,000 advance from his publisher had not received the payment, and was not satisfied with Webb’s response.See Chuck Palahniuk 'close to broke' as agent's accountant faces fraud charges (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 5-3-18) and Bookkeeper Gets Two Year Sentence for Scheme that Destroyed Donadio & Olson (Andrew Albanese, PW, 12-17-18) Darin Webb, the former bookkeeper for Donadio & Olson,was sentenced to just two years in prison on December 17, despite the fact that his crime destroyed the literary agency and nearly bankrupted bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk. He stole more than $3.14 million over eight years. 'In a letter to the court, Webb explained that he was able to pull off the scheme because, over time, he came to think of himself as “running” the agency. Albanese lists which authors lost the most, in what amounts.
You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again (Betsy Lerner, 4-10-09) Taking out agents turned out to be a little more stressful than she bargained for. She surveyed some top editors around town and asked them to share their worst lunch dates ever. See also her I See The Hate In Your Eyes, Damn Them Boys Is Too Fly (Lerner, 12-16-10) and read the comments.
“But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.” (David Simon, The Audacity of Despair, 3-18-19) The writer David Simon (The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street shares his experience with the movie- and television-industry practice of agencies packaging movies and television deals--forgoing their commission from their client (David Simon, in this case) as they assemble teams of talent a studio might need for a show (in this case for his book: Homicide: Life on the Street and being paid directly by the studio. David Simon suggested Barry Levinson to produce the show, and he wrote the book, but the agency, whose fiduciary duty should be to their client Simon, instead got paid a lot of money from the studio for getting the deal for the studio--got paid a lot more than Simon did. And wanted to do the same thing for Simon's other writing product: The Wire. Read Simon's piece to get the full story and be warned: Packaging does NOT favor the author. And agents and agencies who represent writers have a fiduciary duty NOT to increase their profits at the expense of the authors they represent.)
How To Protect Yourself From Shady Literary Agents (Writer's Relief, Huffington Post, 9-19-12).
Preditors and Editors (agents and editors who are "not recommended")
Bad Agent (Jessica Faust, Bookends agency, 6-27-07).
Writer Beware on various types of agents to avoid, by category: Dishonest agents; Amateur, Marginal, and Incompetent Agents; Telling Questionable from Reputable; Agents Who Are Also Publishers; and more.
• One bad apple: She made a career out of scamming writers. These are the women of color who were her victims. (Shanon Lee, The Lily, 8-3-18) ‘I feel like I can’t trust anyone’ See also: Who is Anna March? (aka Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse, Nancy Lott) (Melissa Chadburn and Carolyn Kellogg, LA Times, 7-26-18) Scamming literary circles in Los Angeles, San Diego, Rehoboth Beach, Del., Montgomery County, MD, and nd Washington, D.C.
Bewares and Background Checks (Absolute Write's discussion group for questions, comments, and warnings about agents and publishers)
Agent Holly Root's twitter feed about "badly behaving agents". There's a difference between "bad at the job" and "bad for you." Clear boundaries and clear expectations are important. "There is no blacklist for leaving an agent who isn’t the right fit for whatever reason." (Including they couldn't sell your book.) See the Thread reader for that topic.
Literary Agents You Should Avoid: 3 Major Red Flags Writer's Relief, Huffington Post, 9-5-12)
Fake literary agents target new authors (The Fiction Desk, 9-3-08)
The Truth About Literary Agents' Fees (Writers Beware, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SFWA)
The Perils of Author Mills (Victoria Strauss) "Author mills aren’t as common as vanity publishers or amateur small presses (both of which also pose hazards for writers). But there are enough of them that writers need to be careful."

[Back to Top]

Agents as Publishers--an accelerating trend and sometimes a conflict of interest. Here you can find opinions and write-ups on the trend:
Literary agents and the changing world of trade publishing (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files, 11-14-09). If authors start self-publishing, will agents become consultants? How will e-books change the agents' role?
Why don't agents want to play? Amazon flies a bunch to Seattle to find out (Richard Curtis, eReads, 11-11-10)
Agents Who Are Also Publishers
An Argument Against Agent-Publishers (editorial by literary agent Jason Allen Ashlock, Publishing Perspectives, 9-6-11). Ashlock asks, “Can an agent act in an author’s best interests when they are also acting as their publisher?” His conclusion: “No.”
Your Agent Should Not Be Your Publisher (Peter Cox, Redhammer, 6-8-11), as discussed by Mike Shatzkin in A debate across panels is coming at our London show on June 21 (Shatzkin Files 6-8-11)
Ed Victor sets up publishing imprint (Charlotte Williams, The Bookseller 5-10-11). It's starting in the UK.
More agents to explore publishing models (Charlotte Williams, The Bookseller.com, 5-13-11) "Literary agents Curtis Brown and Blake Friedman have said they are planning to follow Ed Victor's move into publishing, after he announced an e-book and print-on-demand venture earlier this week."
How Agents Can Avoid Conflicts of Interest (Passive Guy, The Passive Voice, 5-14-11, a blog about disruptive changes and change agents in publishing). "I believe the current trend for agents to sign their clients to long-term publishing contracts with an in-house agency publisher is not a good idea for several reasons." See also Agents in Conflict
Literary Agencies as Publishers: An Accelerating Trend (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 5-17-11)
Literary agents and publishing: a conflict of interest? (Rob, The Fiction Desk, 5-14-11)

[Back to Top]

How not to behave with/around literary agents

This applies both to agents and editors: If they tell you your query letter/proposal/manuscript is full of typos and other errors, don't flare up in anger. Be grateful that they took the time, because in this age of slim, slim staffs an author whose manuscript is going to need extra editing does not make the A list unless they are brilliant.


Elizabeth Kracht, in her book The Author's Checklist, includes a list of why agents don't respond to author's queries:

   I have no interest in the subject matter (like business)

   I have a similar project on hand

   I'm handling too many projects at a given time

   I'm dealing with family or health problems (proof that agents are human)

   I haven't been successful selling a similar project

   I see red flags in the query letter (such as overselling or a negative or threatening manner)

   The author's platform isn't strong enough to promote the work

   The submission materials are poorly assembled and formatted
   The market is flooded with comparable titles I have a conflict of interest

       -- from The Author’s Checklist: An Agent’s Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript (H/T Ron Seybold)


One could make a similar list of things authors can do to annoy or repel literary agents.

Read up on how not to attract or hang on to a literary agent:

Cranky Agent Alert (Wendy Lawton, Books & Such, 10-2-12, on inappropriate query and pre-query behavior by authors--things NOT to do)
Agent Pet Peeves: Review These 34 Submission No-No’s Before You Query (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest) For example: "Don't send your sample chapters as 8 million different Word attachments. One doc! One doc!" and "Don't make digs at other agents, even if it's subtle and even if you think you're flattering us."
Top 10 Ways to Annoy Literary Agents (Writer's Relief)
Query Fail: How Not to Land a Literary Agent (Tara Lazar)
How Not to Fire Your Agent (Linda Konner, ASJA Monthly, Jue 2013)

[Back to Top]

A few general terms in book contracts

Authors Guild Issues Model Trade Book Contract (Authors Guild, news, 3-12-20) See Model Trade Book Contract (Authors Guild Legal Resources) For AG members only.
Improving Your Book Contract: Negotiation Tips for Nine Typical Clauses (Authors Guild)
Publishers Marketplace Join Publishers Lunch Deluxe for $25 a month and find out what deals publishing professionals are making. No long-term commitment required.
8 clauses an agent is likely to negotiate in a contract Rachelle Gardner)
The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts (A Crispin)
The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative Be SURE to read the contract terms on these issues:
---Half of net proceeds is the fair royalty rate for e-books A 50-50 split (not 25%) in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture and with ebooks the publisher no longer has to physically produce books.
---Advances should remain advances Advance-splitting policies ensure that authors won’t see a large portion of the “advance” until well after the book is finished, and much of it even after the book is published.
---End the discount double-cross “Special” book sales must not be at the author’s expense. So-called “deep discount” clauses let publishers offer titles to booksellers and wholesalers at big markdowns. Publishers have come up with a variety of clever methods to base royalties on the much lower net amounts they actually receive from booksellers and wholesalers.
---Publishers' payment and accounting practices need to keep up with the times; (Margo Crespin, Authors Guild)
A Second Bite of the Apple: Terminating Transfers A Guide to Terminating Transfers under Section 203

       Section 203 of the Copyright Act allows the creator of a copyrighted work, who, during her lifetime, has transferred all or some of the rights to the work on or after January 1, 1978, to terminate the transfer and regain the rights after a certain period of time — generally, at least 35 years from the date of grant or from publication." Know and follow and remember! the rules on this important right. This is when you negotiate a further advance and a better royalty arrangement, or find another publisher.

[Back to Top]


Collaboration agreements
Collaboration: Sarah Wernick answers frequently asked questions
Contract terms for book publishing (full section of links to everything from the Author's Guild's

     Improving Your Book Contract: Negotiation Tips for Nine Typical Clauses to

     8 clauses an agent is likely to negotiate in a contract to

     The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts

[Back to Top]

Book advances and royalties

How Advances and Royalties Really Work (Kate Sullivan, TCK Publishing, 2020) A full, excellent explanation.
Everything You Need to Know About Book Advances (Authors Guild). An overview. If you're smarter than me you can also sign on to watch webinar.
All About Advances: What Authors Should Expect When Negotiating with a Publisher (Authors Guild "Money Matters" webinar) Advances range from “not enough to even quit your side hustle” all the way to “you can retire on a beach,” so it's hard for authors to know what to expect. Hear from an agent, an attorney, and a former editor to get insights about what you should consider when negotiating with a potential publisher. They talk about common dollar ranges and payment structures, what happens if a book does not earn out, and more, including:
    How much to expect for an advance in a given genre or career stage.
    What is the author expected to pay out of an advance—travel for research, fact checking, liability insurance?
    If a large advance fails to earn out, does it hurt your chances for selling your next book?
What If My Book Doesn't Earn Out? (Chip MacGregor, MacGregor and Luedeke) “Is it a big deal if my book doesn’t earn back its advance? What percentage of books earn out? And does a publisher lose money if a book doesn’t earn out?” Only about 25% of books earn back their advance. "The majority of books do not earn out their advance, yet publishers stay in business...Failing to earn out” does not equal “the publisher lost money.” Explained.
Explaining royalties and advances! With real numbers! (Laura Portwood-Stacer, Manuscript Works Newsletter (for academic publishing), 5-3-23)
Good Agents Audit Royalty Statements (Kristin Nelson, literary agent, 6-5-15)    Do publishers require an author to have a large social media following or “platform” to get a large advance?  What is the author expected to pay foro ut of an advance—travel for research, fact checking, liability insurance?
About That Book Advance (Michael Meyer, NYTBR, 4-10-09) Changing realities over time. 'As a payment to be deducted from future royalties, an advance is a publisher’s estimate of risk. Figures fluctuate based on market trends, along with an author’s sales record and foreign rights potential...the current culture of blockbuster advances really took shape in the 1970s, when “hardcover publishing was becoming research and development for mass-market paperbacks,” said Peter Mayer, who started the trade paperback division at Avon Books and is now publisher of Overlook Press. “It was the hardcover houses who drove the increases by selling paperback rights.” ...Today, some publishers are experimenting with low or no advances. In exchange for low-five-figure advances, the boutique press McSweeney’s, founded by Eggers, shares profits with its authors 50-50, as does the new imprint Harper Studio, which offers sub-six-figure advances.' (This was published in 2009.)

Advances, publishing shorthand: "Nice deal" (or no adjective)=under $50k, "very nice deal" $50-$99k, "good deal" $100-$250k, "significant" $250-$499, "major" $500+.

      (H/T Jess Zimmerman)

#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning (Concepción de León and Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 6-8-2020) The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers. The hashtag encouraged black and nonblack book authors to compare their pay. For those contributing to and reading the #PublishingPaidMe discussion, the rare disclosure of writers' pay — and in some cases, how low it was considering their success — came as a surprise. Publishers pledged to improve their diversity efforts.
How Book Advances and Royalties Works (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 5-31-19)
All About Royalties (Ethan Ellenberg, agent, 2-15-21) A good explanation of the big picture, worldwide and from various viewpoints.
Ten Years to Earn Out (Kate McKean, Agents and Books, 8-24-21) If it takes ten years to earn out a $10,000 advance, is that a way to make a living? What kind of strategy does a writer need to make writing pay?
An Agent Explains the Ins and Outs of Book Deals (Kate McKean, Electric Lit, 9-20-19) How do advances work? When do you get royalties? How long until you can quit your job? A pro demystifies the money part of writing
The Biggest Book Advances of All Time (Amy Lamare, Celebrity Net Worth, 3-30-2020)
#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning Concepción de León and Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 6-8-2020) A viral hashtag encouraged black and nonblack book authors to compare their pay. Publishers pledged to improve their diversity efforts. Here's the Google spread sheet listing advances of 1200 authors (with a column for race).
Amazon Self-Publishing Costs and Royalties: Here's What You Need to Know (Reedsy) The mechanics of Amazon self-publishing royalties: how much authors get paid, when they receive payments, and of course, how much Amazon takes out of those payments for things like printing/delivery costs.
A Brief History of Seven-Figure Book Advances, From Tom Wolfe to Kristen Roupenian (Emily Temple, LitHub, 5-8-18)
Ask the Agent: What does an average first book pay? (Chip MacGregor, MacGregor and Luedeke, 4-20-16)
What Kind of Advance Should I Expect? (Alexander Field, The Bindery, 6-5-18)
Ask the Agent: What does an average first book pay?
How to Lose a Third of a Million Dollars Without Really Trying (Heather Demetrios, Forge, 8-17-19) Assume nothing. And a sumptuous advance is not something you should expect, depend on, or assume that you will get.
About That Book Advance ... (Michael Meyer, NY Times, 4-12-09) How things have changed over time.
Advice for Women with Book Advances (Alison Stine, PW, 11-15-19). Save the advance. "most of us aren’t paid enough of an advance to live off it, or at least not for very long—not in our era of sky-high rents and insurance costs."
The multimillion-dollar sums that celebrities make on books — and how they actually sell (Anjelica Oswald, Business Insider, 3-9-16) A look at six reported celebrity advances and how some of the subsequent books have sold.
How Book Advances Work - A Simple Explanation for Writers (Brian A. Klems, Writer's Digest, 3-10-14) What you need to know when signing a book contract that includes an advance, including what it means and how it works.
Book Contract: What's Negotiable and What's Not (Brian Klems, Writer's Digest, 1-11-13) A list of everything you should ask about when negotiating a publishing contract.
What Is a Standard Royalty (Jonathan Kirsch, Independent Book Pubishers Association) Definitions change, and you need to read the contract!
Model Book Contract (Authors Guild)

[Back to Top]

Landing the book deal
What draws an agent or editor to a book

or leads them to reject it.

How to Write an Email Well Enough to Land a Book Deal (Anne Trubek with Practical Advice on What Works, LitHub,7-28-2020) By the author of So You Want to Publish a Book? Concrete, witty advice and information to nonfiction authors, prospective authors, and those curious about the inner workings of the industry. Learn the differences between "Big Five" and independent presses, and how advances and royalties really work.
How I Landed a Book Deal Via Twitter—Unintentionally (Pam Mandel on Jane Friedman's blog, 12-28-2020) After many proposals sent and rejections received, she got a bite. "It’s not how many followers you have, writers, it’s who they are. Mine included the acquisitions editor who bought my book." Her book: The Same River Twice: A Memoir of Dirtbag Backpackers, Bomb Shelters, and Bad Travel. Her enticing Nerd's Eye View website.
The Business Skill I Wish I Could Grant to All Writers (Jane Friedman, 2-23-23) The skill: negotiating. Writers rarely try to negotiate; they just accept the terms/contract/pay initially offered. In an industry where writers regularly get stepped on and asked to work for free in exchange for exposure, writers might see themselves as without power or agency. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If writers do push on a book contract, it's usually for a bigger advance, but "much more valuable in the long run [are] better royalty rates and escalators (increased royalties when certain sales thresholds are met)."
Do agents prefer manuscripts that have been reviewed by a professional editor? (Maggie Lynch on Writers and Editor blog, 11-22-22)
Advice for Writers: Preparing Your E-Manuscript (Subversive Copy Editor, 7-5-10)
Guide to Agents & Books (Kate McKean, Substack, 12-30-20) McKean offers a wealth of deeply practical information. Scroll down for links to specific articles that answer questions and offer advice about agents, book publishing, and writing (some free and some available only with her paid subscription).

Author Equity: A Lesson in Publishing Success at the U.S. Book Show (Sally Wiener Grotta, 7-29-23)
---What Is Author Equity and Why Should I Care? In May 2023 Sally went to the Publisher’s Weekly U.S. Book Show in New York City to attend the program track offered by the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA). Throughout the day, she heard the buzzword “author equity” bandied about by publishers, literary agents and other industry experts as a key deciding factor in what books will be published and how much money, time, and effort they will invest in each book acquired. It isn’t enough to write a great book.  Sally took notes (Author Equity, explained) and shares them with authors, freely, at these links:
---Part A: The Math Behind a Publisher’s Decision to Acquire Your Book

Authors would be well advised to be sure their cover letter or proposal includes discussions of sales channels if appropriate for their book. For instance:
Will it sell well in stores such as Target or Walmart, i.e. in retail channels beyond Amazon and traditional bookstores?
Would it be a good book club pick or particularly appropriate for adoption for classes?
Would the book be of particular interest to certain industries and/or a candidate for volume sales to specific corporations or associations?
---Part B: Digging Deeper: What the Big Data of Book Acquisition Means to Authors

Christa Desir (Editorial Director, Bloom Books) said that agents should "look for authors who have evangelists as fans. When you can create that evangelism you've got a critical mass." It's also important to note how people are talking about the author and her books.
---Part C: PR & Marketing: Working with Your Publisher Effectively

The moment the preorder button goes live is a key moment in a book's timeline. The earlier the presales start coming in, Michelle Aielli (Hachette Book Group) said, "The more that it shapes the campaign and the publisher's plans for the book." She added, "The more preorders an author can accrue, the more we print, the greater the distribution, the more visible the book. So, call in all your favors and connect with influencers to amass preorders."
---Part D: Using Social Media to Increase Your Author Equity

Don't just "like" or "repost" others' memes and links. Comment, ask questions, and start a discussion. Become an interested and interesting member of the community. As Felicity Vallence (Director of Digital Marketing, Penguin Random House) said, "You have to be part of the community, so when you want them to celebrate you, they will be there."
---Part E: Catching the Eye of Influencers 

"Influencers are individuals who have such a large and loyal following that when they talk about a book, that book's sales numbers will have a measurable increase. Influencers can be active on almost any media, from social networks and podcasts, on up to traditional TV shows.,. Interestingly, authors can also be influencers. A lot of people are looking for a book to read, and they're hungry for recommendations. Book buyers are fascinated by authors, and as Messer said, "People want to be in the know."
---Postscript: When an Author’s Equity Doesn’t Tell the Full Story

    "Publishers and agents are fully aware that data-driven acquisition can overlook that one gem of a book that can't be easily quantified or whose author just doesn't have a public presence... we're doing a dance between data and what our hearts want."

[Back to Top]

The Ten Most Common Reasons Book Proposals Are Rejected — and What These Reasons Really Mean (Marcia Yudkin on Rejection. For each of these, she translates what the official reason is into what it means --  and offers a remedy.)1. The market is too small. 2. It doesn't fit our list. 3. This type of book doesn't sell. 4. It's not right for us. 5. It’s too narrowly focused. 6. It’s already been done. 7. It’s an article, not a book. 8. There’s too much competition. 9. It’s too costly to produce. 10. You’re not an expert in your field.
Millions of Followers? For Book Sales, ‘It’s Unreliable.’ (Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 12-7-21) Social-media fandom can help authors score book deals and bigger advances, but does it translate to how a new title will sell? Publishers are increasingly skeptical.
The Limits of ‘Lived Experience’ (Pamela Paul, Opinion, NY Times, 4-24-22) Did Dana Schutz, a white artist, have the right to paint Emmett Till? Not according to many of those who wish to regulate our culture — docents of academia, school curriculum dictators, aspiring Gen Z storytellers and, increasingly, establishment gatekeepers in Hollywood, book publishing and the arts. “Lived experience,” with its earthy suggestion of authority, says to other people: Unless you have walked in my shoes, you have no business telling my story. Only Latino authors can write novels about Latinos. Only Holocaust survivors can convey the truth of the Holocaust. Only disabled people can portray disabled people. Paul argues persuasively the limits of this argument.
Manuscript Under Male Name Gets 8x the Response (K.W. Colyard, Bustle, 8-4-15) "Yes, we absolutely should be able to find bylines, garner praise, and build careers under our own names, but the state of the industry — even though it's improving — makes it impossible for us to criticize those women who choose to write as men....The public at large labors under the delusion that men will not read books written by women, and women writers are continually snubbed for literary accolades, such as awards, reviews, and publicity."
Homme de Plume: What I Learned Sending My Novel Out Under a Male Name (Catherine Nichols, Jezebel, 8-4-15)Writer Catherine Nichols sent out the first pages of her manuscript under a male pseudonym, and as it turns out, the publishing gatekeepers think "George" is a much better writer. Eight times better, as a matter of fact.
Your Final Responsibility to Your Story: Creative Stewardship Jessica Conoley (@jaconoley) on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-18-21) Detach from your writer's role, shift to a marketer's point of view, identify your ideal reader, and choose wisely. Why Most Nonfiction Fails to Make Money< by Rob Fitzpatrick. Four things that will cripple your book's earnings:
---Signing with a publisher before you have any leverage
---Creating a book with an expiration date
---Writing broadly "about" a topic instead of making a clear promise about what the reader will get out of it
---Giving good advice that fails to cross the air gap and reach the reader.

[Back to Top]

About That Book Advance (Michael Meyer, NYTBR, 4-10-09) Changing realities over time. 'As a payment to be deducted from future royalties, an advance is a publisher’s estimate of risk. Figures fluctuate based on market trends, along with an author’s sales record and foreign rights potential...
Advances, publishing shorthand (Publishers Marketplace): “Nice deal” (or no adjective)=under $50k, “very nice deal” $50-$99k, “good deal” $100-$250k, “significant” $250-$499, “major” $500+.  (H/T Jess Zimmerman)
The Adventures of Comma Boy by Keith Cronin (a comic strip for aspiring writers, agents, publishers, and publishing fantasizers, featured in Publishers Marketplace. Comma Boy archives here.
Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks oh my! (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business Rusch, 5-4-11). Publishers give better contracts to authors with clout, lesser contracts to newbies; agents vary in how well they advocate for their authors. Be aware of what goes on.
Agents, Writers, and Editors: How does it all fit together (Inkwell Magazine)
The Art of the Pitch (Alan Rinzler's insider tips for preparing and delivering a winning pitch to an agent or editor at a writer's conference, The Book Deal, 3-29-10)
Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) , professional organization of over 400 agents who represent both book authors and playwrights
Author-Agent Agreements (What's an Author-Agent Agreement and what should it cover?) by Rachelle Gardner
The Author-Agent Business Model by novelist Laura Resnick (on Novelists Inc. blog, 2-12-10). When things are going well, she's fine without an agent, and when things are going badly, she can’t count on an agent, so Resnick uses a literary lawyer to handle contracts.
#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning (Concepción de León and Elizabeth A. Harris, NY Times, 6-8-2020) The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers. The hashtag encouraged black and nonblack book authors to compare their pay. For those contributing to and reading the #PublishingPaidMe discussion, the rare disclosure of writers' pay — and in some cases, how low it was considering their success — came as a surprise. Publishers pledged to improve their diversity efforts.

[To Top]

The Easily Overlooked Art of Agent Research (Jason Boog, GalleyCat, 9-24-08)
Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have? (Sangeeta Mehta, editor, interviews agents Mary C. Moore and DongWon Song, on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-30-17) What should writers do if they feel that an agent isn’t honoring their obligations, contractual or otherwise? What's the best way to speak up? When it comes to queries, some agents have a “no response means no” policy. But many writers feel that they deserve some sort of answer within a reasonable amount of time, especially those who have researched the agent and followed the agent’s submissions guidelines. Apparently, plenty of good agents don’t respond to all queries. Authors: Be realistic: Agents are swamped (get 12 to 15 queries a day). And if a writer gets a "revise and resubmit" R&R, how long a wait is it to get a reaction? A bit of a reality check on how swamped agents who handle fiction are. Second part of the piece talks about what happens when an agent or author (or both) want to end an agent-author relationship. See also AAR Canon of Ethics (Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc.)
Evaluating an agent's website (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 4-4-06)

[Back to Top]

Five agents talk about their business (for YA Fantasy authors)
5 Reasons Agents Don’t Explain Their Rejections (agent Rachelle Gardner, guest posting on Books & Such, 2-21=13)
Frequently asked questions
---Frequently asked questions about agents – and answers (Association of Authors' Representatives, AAR)
---Publishing Secrets: Battle of the "UNs"--Unagented, unsolicited manuscripts (Jeff Herman)
---Everything you wanted to know about literary agents (Neil Gaiman's blog entry. Sample: "If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is "get an offer." If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get."

[To Top]

Going the Unagented Route--with Fiction (Nicole O'Dell, guest posting on Rachelle Gardner site)
How to Get Happily Published (Judith Applebaum)
How to Get Your Book Published (Jane Friedman, 6-12-17). One of Jane's many helpful articles on writing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, platform building, and so on.
How to Write a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman, 9-16-15)
How to write the perfect synopsis (Tilly Bagshawe, Gingerbread, 11-2-17) Excellent tips. See also 5 Tips on How to Write a Synopsis (Courtney Carpenter, Writer's Digest, 2-12-12) "A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends....It summarizes what happens and who changes from beginning to end of the story."

Indie Bound (a community of independent bookstores)
Inside the Secret World of Literary Scouts, Part I: How Scouting Works, Emily Williams, Publishing Perspectives, 12-14-09).
--- Part II: The changes scouting is going through
---Part III: What the future might hold for scouts

• Nearly Two Decades Writing and Editing My Book. It Finally Found a Publisher. by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Elizabeth McGowan, who tweeted "Perseverance isn't just about finding the right agent or publisher--it's also about refining your work into the best version of itself." McGowan’s adventure memoir, Outpedaling “The Big C”: My Healing Cycle Across America, was released in September 2020 by Bancroft Press in Baltimore. Major publishers turned her down. "Agents and editors come off as unfeeling and rather horrible people for basically saying what amounts to, 'No one cares about your cancer story,'" Jane Friedman told her. "But they're nearly impossible to sell, and while as humans we care, we're also aware of the business reality." But she persevered.
No Thanks, Mr. Nabokov (David Oshinky's story about Knopf's rejection pile, NY Times, 9-9-07)

Publishers Lunch , a free daily sample from Publishers Marketplace
Publishers Marketplace ($25 a month, for more detailed news of book deals, and archives)
The Publishing Connection (helps writers connect with editors, agents, and publishers)
Publishing will always need its gatekeepers (Robert McCrum, The Guardian, 3-1-18) It's all very well for the writers, but where will editors and publishers fit into this brave new digital world? Yes, digital technology is transforming book publishing, but writers will "still need intermediaries: the job description will change, but the function remains broadly the same."

[Back to Top]

So you want to write a book (Sarah Wernick's excellent guide to basics)
Ten Factors to Consider When Writing Book Proposals (Dennis E. Hensley, Right-Writing.com)
The Ten Most Common Reasons Book Proposals are Rejected — and What These Reasons Really Mean (Marcia Yudkin)
Title Z ($, track book sales)
The top 5 secrets to getting a book deal (Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal,10-29-09)

Using Partnerships to Help Land a Nonfiction Book Deal (Aimee Aristotelous on Jane Friedman's blog, 2-4-2020) Sometimes your name is not enough to sell a book and you need to partner with an expert or celebrity. They may be co-author, or a contributor, or the person who writes a foreword to your book. How best to use them.
•  What It Really Takes to Break Through with Your First [Fiction] Book Deal (Susan DeFreitas on Jane Friedman's blog, 5-8-18) In many ways, it’s never been harder to get a traditional book deal. At the same time, there have never been more ways to establish a career as an author. Among the nuggets of practical wisdom for fiction writers: "Publishing credits are crucial for short story collections, and not just because they get the attention of publishers but because the process itself tends to put a high level of polish on each piece." "A serious, consistent submissions strategy is key to getting short fiction published." Read them all.
What's Your Platform? Another Way of Asking, Who's Going to Read Your Book? (Kendra Bonnett, on Telling Her Stories)
Writing a book proposal, by Sarah Wernick (So You Want to Write a Book)

[Go Top]

24 Agents Who Want Your Work (Chuck Sambuchino, Writer's Digest 11-10-09)

Twitter handles
These are a little on the old side.
Best book editors on Twitter (Jason Boog, Adweek/GalleyCat, 3-30-11)
Best literary agents on Twitter (Jason Boog, Galley Cat, 4-8-11)
24 Twitter Accounts For Readers Who Think About Books All Day, Every Day (E. Ce Miller, Bustle, 4-14-16)
Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Follow When Seeking a Literary Agent (Diana Urban, 2-6-14)
Seventy-Eight Agents to Follow on Twitter (Poets & Writers list, July/Aug. 2017)
The best literary agents on Twitter (John Kremer's list)
KidLit/YA Editors on Twitter (Debbie Ridpath Ohi's @InkyElbows public list, Children's book/YA editors (strong interest in kidlit/YA), editorial assistants)
Thumbs Down Agency List (Writer Beware's list on Science Fiction Writers of America of agencies to avoid)
Twitter for Writers: 7 Quick Tips (Belinda Pollard)
10 Twitter Lists Every Author Should Follow (Wise Ink, 4-9-12) Some of these are a little out of date, obviously.
Who Reps Whom (QueryTracker, Helping authors find literary agents)
Writer Beware (A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss blog about scams involving agents, writing contests, and the like) Other resources on Writer Beware (warnings about amateur, marginal, and incompetent agents and MANY links useful for novices)
Your Rights As an Author (Nathan Bransford)

[Back to Top]

Blogs, newsletters, and podcasts about the book business

(by agents, authors, editors, and publishing experts)

A Book Inside. How to Write and Publish a Book. Author Carol Denbow on how to write a fiction, nonfiction book or novel; find a publisher or publishing option; and market your book for free. Tips and expert advice.
Advance Copy Backstories on books by members of the National Association of Science Writers. For this column, medical writer Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors--and writes these nifty cameos about the Q&A pieces.
Agent in the Middle (Lori Perkins, specializing in novels and erotica)
AgentQuery's blog rolls (blog rolls for blogs of agents, of editors, about PR& Marketing, being in the know generally, Book Reviews & Interviews, Digital Publishing, On Writing.

[Back to Top]

Agents and Books (Kate McKean’s weekly newsletter) Answers questions about literary agents, publishing houses, etc. You might start here.
Alice's CWIM blog (from the editor of Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, now moving her blog to SCBWI)
Ask Daphne (Kate Schafer Testerman -- teen chick lit, urban fantasy and magical realism, adventure stories, and romantic comedies)
Ask the Agent: Night Thoughts About Books and Publishing (Andy Ross)
Authors Publish Sign up for free e-magazine to get info on publishers seeking short stories, poetry, essays, and books. Catch up in back issues.
Before and After the Book Deal (Courtney Maum's newsletter of publishing advice)
Between the Lines (Books & Such Agency)
Book Cannibal (Cameron McClure on fiction)
••• The Book Deal (Alan Rinzler's blog for writers and book people on the strange ways of book publishing)
••• BookEnds LLC
Book Riot hosts a slew of book newsletters
BookSquare (Kassia Krozier’s blog--dissecting the publishing industry with love and skepticism, "thinking too much about books, technology, and people")
Book Square (Kassia Krozser)
The Bookstore podcast, a book club on which former booksellers Becca and Corinne talk about the latest book they've read.
Brian O'Leary, Magellan Media (cutting edge blog with separate posts for magazine, book, and association publishing)
Brooklyn Arden (Cheryl Klein, children's books editor)
Building Books (hosted by Glenn Yeffeth of BenBella books)
Buried in the Slush Pile (an editor's blog about children's book agents and publishers)
Business Musings (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

[Back to Top]

Chip MacGregor (a Christian agent)
Dear Author (Jane Little, a romance review for readers). See post Author’s Rights When a Publisher Files Bankruptcy (6-24-07)
Deidre Knight (The Knight Agency)
Dr. Syntax (Peter Ginna of Bloomsbury Press)
Dystel & Goderich
Editorial Anonymous (blog of a children's book editor)
Editorial Ass
Et in arcaedia, ego (Jennifer Jackson)
Fine Print Literary Management
The Forest for the Trees (Betsy Lerner, author of the excellent book The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers)
Galley Cat (Media Bistro blog about books and publishing)
The Guardian Books podcast
Hartline (Joyce Hart)
JA Konrath

[Back to Top]

••• Janet Reid (about agenting and publishing)
Jennifer Laughran
Joe Wikert's Digital Content Strategies
Jonathan Lyons
KidLit.com (Mary Kole, representing children's literature)
Literary Carrie
Literary Hub (LitHub)
Manuscript Wish List Watch this site for wishlists of agents and editors who represent your genre. And listen to the Manuscript Academy podcast for tips and interviews with agents and editors.
The Manuscript Works Newsletter Book publishing advice for academic authors from consultant and developmental editor Laura Portwood-Stacer.
Miss Snark (no longer posting, but lots of good stuff in this agent's blog archives)
••• Nathan Bransford(some read this former agent daily, when he was an agent; now he works for CNet and he's still one of the best bloggers; click on and read "The Essentials")
Notes from a Small Press Anne Trubek on the world of a small publisher--signatures, paper supply and other aspects of how books get made.
On the Books (Margot Atwell's newsletter exploring the intersection of money and publishing)

[Back to Top]

The Passive Voice Lawyer David Vandagriff's popular blog. Listen to designer Joel Friedlander's interview with him about how he started his blog as an a snarky anonymous "content curator" (especially interesting about disruptions that change publishing) and his posts about contracts.
Preditors and Editors (many resources here for sci-fi writers) -- in transition!
The Profitable Publisher (Marion Gropen, on independent publishing)
POD-dy Mouth (stopped blogging in 2007 but you can read backlist)
Publishers Marketplace blogs (21 of them, on various topics)
Publishers Weekly columns and blogs
Publishing Trendsetter (top 5 stories in publishing each week, for publishing's next generation). Scan old entries to see what you missed when you were away (or focused on an important project).

[Back to Top]

••• Pub rants(Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary, based in Denver--one of the best blogs). See also her informative Agenting 101 series, which includes such entries as Deal Points, Grant of Rights, and entries about bonuses, royalties, payout, options, author warranties, royalty statements (several on this!), out of print sales threshold, term of contract, and no-compete clauses.
••• Query Shark (study great examples of how to revise a query so it works -- Janet Reid's other site)
••• Rants and Ramblings (Rachelle Gardner, good general advice; specializes in Christian/inspirational)
Redlines and Deadlines
The Rejecter (an assistant at a literary agency, who rejects bad query letters)
Richard Nash (the #1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing)
••• The Scholarly Kitchen (what's hot in academic publishing--some fascinating articles)

[Back to Top]

SHuSH (Kenneth Whyte, the official newsletter of The Sutherland House Inc., Canada) For example, Making a Killing, about  Stephen Rubin's (brash, unsophisticated) memoir about the book trade (Words and Music: Confessions of an Optimist) and his long career at Bantam, Doubleday, and Holt.
••• The Shatzkin Files (Mike Shatzkin's smart, knowledgeable, and deeply thoughtful blog about trends and issues in the publishing industry, for The Idea Logical Company)
•••Sidebar Saturdays, where the practice of law meets the profession of writing -- by a group of attorneys with a wide range of legal experience who write thrillers, mysteries, and works of nonfiction, help fellow writers by answering questions about publishing law or legal scenarios in their fiction, so they can make their fictional legal scenarios realistic.
••• The Swivet (Colleen Lindsay, an unrepentant nerd and literary agent with FinePrint Literary Management, apparently on a blogging break)
25 Twitter Accounts to Help You Get Published (Online Education Database, 11-6-12)
Upstart Crow. Check their Literary Toolbox,especially the Writer's Bookshelf (especially on book illustrations)
••• Writer Beware! Mission: to track, expose, and raise awareness of scams and other questionable activities in and around the publishing industry. Sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, but not confined to speculative fiction or the USA.


Follow on Twitter:
Seventy-Eight Agents to Follow on Twitter (Poets & Writers, July/Aug. 2017)
Best Literary Agents on Twitter (Jason Boog, GalleyCat, 4-8-11)
Networking on Twitter: How to interact with agents,writers and stand out from the crowd. (Claribel Ortega, 1-2-18) and I Got My Agent on Twitter! 10 Tips for Online Pitching Contests like #DVpit & #Pitmad (9-6-16)
How Literary Agents Find Talent on Twitter (Daniel Vahab, Mashable, 6-15-12)
Twitter Hashtags Writers Should Follow When Seeking a Literary Agent (Diana Urban, 2-6-14)

See also Book Publishing (Traditional)

[Back to Top]
A few special features:

Writing Advice Database (Nathan Bransform, agent-turned-author, with solid advice on a wide range of subjects)
Choosing a freelance editor: What you need to know (Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal)
Formatting Your Manuscript (Nathan Bransford)
How a Book Gets Published (Nathan Bransford)
What Do Literary Agents Do? (Nathan Bransford)
How to Find a Literary Agent (Nathan Bransford)
How to Write Query Letters ... or, really, how to revise query letters so they actually work (Query Shark, Janet Reid's specifically query-helpful site)
Frequently asked questions, answered by Nathan Bransford

[Back to Top]


Five agents talk about their business (for YA Fantasy authors)
5 Reasons Agents Don’t Explain Their Rejections (agent Rachelle Gardner, guest posting on Books & Such, 2-21=13)
Frequently asked questions
---Frequently asked questions about agents – and answers (Association of Authors' Representatives, AAR)
---Publishing Secrets: Battle of the "UNs"--Unagented, unsolicited manuscripts (Jeff Herman)
---Everything you wanted to know about literary agents (Neil Gaiman's blog entry. Sample: "If you're writing fiction, the True Secret Answer is "get an offer." If you've got an offer, you can get an agent. If you don't have an offer, you don't want the kind of agent you're likely to get."

[To Top]

Going the Unagented Route--with Fiction (Nicole O'Dell, guest posting on Rachelle Gardner site)

How to Get Happily Published (Judith Applebaum)

How to Get Your Book Published (Jane Friedman, 6-12-17). One of Jane's many helpful articles on writing, publishing, self-publishing, marketing, platform building, and so on.

How to Write a Novel Synopsis (Jane Friedman, 9-16-15)

Indie Bound (a community of independent bookstores)

Top Literary Agents for.... This series (compiled in 2007, by the blog Literary Agent News) is far from perfect. Caveat emptor. I'll add comments as I get them from readers: Top Literary Agents for Memoirs, for literary fiction, for true crime books ("does not include the #1 agent in the genre, Jane Dystel, or anyone at Dystel Goderich; and Wendy Keller agency says thanks, but they've never sold a true crime book"); for horror novels, for mystery novels, for science fiction novels, for fantasy novels, for young adult novels, for romance novels, for self-help books, for travel books, and for business books. Tell me if these links are, or are not, useful. For more up-to-date information, check out the sites profiles of individual agents.

An Editor (Who Helped 'The Help') and an Agent Talk About Revision. Listen to Alexandra Shelley (editor of Kathryn Stockett's "The Help") and literary agent Eleanor Jackson discussing revision, publishing, and how to know when a book is 'finished' (on She Writes Radio). Too often writers send their drafts out before they are ready to submit. Good advice.

Before You Write That Book . . . (Barbara Ehrenreich's blog, 3-19-07) Realistic advice from an interesting and worthwhile writer. (If you're like me, you'll wander through the other discussions on her blog. She writes about Real Problems and Real Life.)
Building a Memoir Writing Platform: What Is Your Message? Part 1 and Part 2 (Kendra Bonnett, 2-28-10, on Women's Memoirs). What's your message is part of figuring out who is your audience, which means who will buy your books! A very helpful discussion.
Building Your Author Platform (links to excellent advice on the subject)

Choosing a freelance editor: What you need to know (Alan Rinzler, 7-2-09). Particularly good advice.
The confessions of a semi-successful author (Jane Austen Doe, Salon, 3-22-04) About the "noir" side of publishing.

Helpful Tips from a Harvard Writer's Conference (Livia Blackburn, A Brain Scientist's Take on Writing) Her thoughts after attending Publishing Books, Memoirs, and Other Creative Nonfiction, a three day course sponsored by Harvard Medical School.
Hooks that snag great book deals (Alan Rinzler, The Book Deal, 1-17-10) "The hook — those critical initial sentences of a query letter from an author, or the opening of the book proposal itself — are the first and most important words that agents and acquiring editors read."
How a First-Time Author Got a 7-Figure Book Deal (John Romaniello, on The Tim Ferriss Show, 4-15-13, explains how a first-time author can get a 7-figure book advance.)
How to Format a Book Manuscript: 10 Tips Your Editor Wants You To Know (Blake Atwood, The Write Life, 3-20-17)
How to format your manuscript (Nathan Bransford, 2-14-17)
How to Get a Book Deal with World's Largest Publisher by Timothy Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek (not a typical book or author -- a super-self-promoter!)
How to Get Your Book Published (Jane Friedman's blog post + 300+ responses, 6-12-17) There are three paths to getting your book published; here she talks about the traditional approach. An excellent overview.
How to Write a Bestselling Book This Year — The Definitive Resource List and How-To Guide (Tim Ferriss, 2-4-14) f you want to write a bestselling book, don't reinvent the wheel.
Book Descriptions 101: Have I Got a Book for You! David Kudler walks you through how to write an effective description for a book proposal. "While not the most prominent piece of metadata attached to your book, the description is the one that does the heavy lifting. Your cover and title help draw them closer. But it will ultimately be your description that pulls them in and convinces them to buy — or pushes them away and loses the sale."
How to Write an Effective Book Description (Richard Ridley, CreateSpace 3-31-11)
How to write a nonfiction book proposal (Nathan Bransford, 5-9-18) Platform: Do you have the credibility to write this book? Do you have an audience you can draw upon to promote the book and a plan for activating it?

[To Top]

• Nearly Two Decades Writing and Editing My Book. It Finally Found a Publisher. by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Elizabeth McGowan, who tweeted "Perseverance isn't just about finding the right agent or publisher--it's also about refining your work into the best version of itself." McGowan’s adventure memoir, Outpedaling “The Big C”: My Healing Cycle Across America, was released in September 2020 by Bancroft Press in Baltimore. Major publishers turned her down. "Agents and editors come off as unfeeling and rather horrible people for basically saying what amounts to, 'No one cares about your cancer story,'" Jane Friedman told her. "But they're nearly impossible to sell, and while as humans we care, we're also aware of the business reality." But she persevered.
No Thanks, Mr. Nabokov (David Oshinky's story about Knopf's rejection pile, NY Times, 9-9-07)

Publishers Lunch , a free daily sample from Publishers Marketplace
Publishers Marketplace ($25 a month, for more detailed news of book deals, and archives)
The Publishing Connection (helps writers connect with editors, agents, and publishers)
Publishing will always need its gatekeepers (Robert McCrum, The Guardian, 3-1-18) It's all very well for the writers, but where will editors and publishers fit into this brave new digital world? Yes, digital technology is transforming book publishing, but writers will "still need intermediaries: the job description will change, but the function remains broadly the same."

[Back to Top]