...  Publishing New Writers

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 July, 2004


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The Next Step: Finding an Agent

by Sandy Tritt


Well, we’ve finally done it. We’ve written our novel, we’ve struggled through the synopsis, we’ve figured out the query letter – now, who do we send it to? It is time to make some decisions. Your first decision: do you want to self-publish or traditionally publish? If you self-publish, you pay for all the costs of bringing your book to print, and you do all of your own marketing and sales. You also keep all of the proceeds. If you publish in the traditional sense, you give the rights (or some of the rights) to your manuscript to a publisher. In exchange, you may (or may not) receive an advance (a “down-payment” towards future sales) and you may (or may not) receive royalties (a portion of the sale of each book), depending on whether or not your book sells well. If you decide to self-publish, see our discussion following this one. However, if you choose to publish your book traditionally, you must decide if you want to represent yourself or if you want to hire a Literary Agent to represent you. Many of the larger publishing houses do not accept unagented manuscripts, which is one good reason for getting an agent. Another is that your agent can often strike a much better bargain for you than you could by yourself. In return, you “pay” your agent ten to twenty percent of your royalties.

Respectable agents do not charge fees. Nor do they recommend a particular editor or refer you anywhere where you will be charged fees. They are paid solely from commissions of sales. The Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR) is a voluntary professional organization whose members agree to follow a certain standard of ethics. Membership in this organization is a good sign. I believe that fiction writers who want to be published by a major publisher will do better with an agent than without one.

So where do you find an agent? Start with any one of the several comprehensive listings of agents in such books as Writer’s Market (Writer’s Digest Books), Guide to Literary Agents edited by Rachel Vater (Writer’s Digest Books), Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, 2003-2004: Who They Are! What They Want! and How to Win Them Over by Jeff Herman (Prima Publishing), and Literary Agents: What They Do, How They Do It, and How to Find and Work with the Right One for You by Michael Larsen (John Wiley and Sons). In these listings, agents are usually first divided by fee-charging and non-fee-charging (go for the non-fee-charging), then in alphabetical order. Some agents only handle fiction, some only nonfiction, some both. Some agents do not accept queries from non-published writers. Some only represent certain genres. This is the time to do your homework. Do not waste your time, postage and paper on an agent who is not interested in your work. Also, pay attention to what the agent wants: query only, query and first three chapters, and so forth. Then, send exactly what is requested. (However: when an agent says “query only,” I still include the one or two page synopsis).

Also take the time to read the “insider advice” that comes in each of these books. They tell you what to expect and give you several suggestions.

Once you’ve found a list of agents who seem compatible with you and your work, address a query letter to that particular agent, include a synopsis, and, if requested, the first three chapters (or first fifty pages). Remember to include a self-addressed stamped envelope and be polite. Do not telephone the agent and do not write a nasty follow-up if you don’t hear from him within a reasonable amount of time. Try to send out ten to twenty queries a month. It is always okay to query more than one agent at a time.

Some agents are now accepting email queries. This is fine, just be sure to read carefully their exact requirements. If they request that the query be in the text of an email and not an attachment, send it as such. And be sure to follow the guidelines for a professional query letter—just because email is a less formal approach does not mean that you should be less formal in soliciting an agent. Professionalism is always appreciated.

Finding an agent is not an easy thing to do. Neither is finding a spouse. But somewhere in this world is the perfect agent for you. So look, watch, listen, and keep your mind open. Your agent needs you as much as you need him.

(from Section 5, Workbook)

Want more great tips and techniques? Our Inspiration for Writers Tips and Techniques Workbook is now available. Expanded tips, more topics, reproducible worksheets, exercises to practice what you learn and much more--check it out! Free shipping anywhere in the United States.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. September be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at tritt@wvadventures.net for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt

Inspiration for Writers tritt@wvadventures.net























Readers' Pet Peeves

by Lynette Rees

I thought it might be a good idea to talk about overused phrases in novels and short stories, this isn't just for me to have a moan and groan, but for you to think yourself if you overuse any phrases in your own writing.

We've all done it at sometime or another -- picked up a book by a well known or even not so well known author and put it down again, wondering if it is worth carrying on reading it through to the end.


We've got fed up of overused phrases. I'll give you an example. Recently, I got into the writing of a popular romance novelist. Her books excited me, I couldn't put them down. After reading 3 of them, I purchased yet another, only to be very disappointed. I had the impression that this was a book she had written in haste.


She had used the same phrase over and over. She used it so much in her book that now it's my most hated phrase.

What was it?

"She rolled her eyes."

I know a lot of writers have used this phrase from time to time. I think they can get away with it if it's used very sparingly. Personally, I don't like the phrase, as to me, it conjures up visions of 2 disembodied eyes being rolled across the floor. The author had used this phrase so much, that I even found it used twice in the same sentence!
I got the impression that the book she had written, although the plot was excellent, was written in a hurry.

Another phrase I’ve noticed popping up in romance novels is the ‘Over-stuffed armchair’. To be honest, I’m not even sure what an over-stuffed armchair looks like. Is a chair like this so bad that there is polyester filling oozing from its insides? Do customers have a right to complain if they have purchased an ‘over-stuffed armchair’?

"Dear Sir:

The armchair I purchased from your store last week looks decidedly over-stuffed. If you do not send someone around to remove some of the stuffing, then I shall be forced to contact the ‘Armchair Police’, who will investigate the case.


Mrs. Couch Potato.

Other readers have their say:

* How did she manage that?

Ami Weaver says the phrase she dislikes is: "She schooled her features..." Ami goes on to say: "How do you school your features? This one is perhaps not overly common, but there is one author in the category romance arena that uses it constantly. And it makes me cringe."

* How ridiculous!

Heather Truett says: "I recently read Queenmaker by India Edghill, and she ended almost every chapter with "She thought she knew, but she was wrong." Now, I notice that kind of phrase everywhere. Every character always thinks they know..."

* Over-active head movements

Amie Cleghorn says: "I read this book one time where 'She tossed her head' all the time. When she wasn't tossing her head, she was shrugging her shoulders. And, yes, she could speak!"
What over-used phrases do you dislike when reading a novel or short story? If you have any, send them to me at:

Well I'll just get back to my over-stuffed armchair, sit down for a read, toss my head and roll my eyes, thus schooling my features. Hopefully, I won't have to step over any moist panties en route!


Critiquing Special

  • Limited time special, one cent per word.  Just mention Publishing New Writers  Newsletter (July, 2004).

    Critiques by Sandy Tritt

  • Unlike most editors, I consider my role to be a mentor or a coach. Instead of just telling you what is wrong, I explain how to correct the problem, and I work with you to teach you how to write effective prose. More than 50% of my business is repeat business, and I relish establishing long-term relationships with other writers.

  • Treat you with respect and compassion. All criticism will be of the "constructive" sort. My purpose is to improve your writing, not to destroy your confidence.

  • Mark your manuscript, correcting grammatical and spelling errors and suggesting alternative wording where appropriate, line-by-line.

  • Highlight areas that are especially well-written, so you will know where your strengths are.

  • Where appropriate, offer suggestions for plot development, character development or other areas that could be strengthened.

  • Return a two-to-four page written analysis of your work. This will include evaluation of: plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, special effects (flash forwards, flashbacks, etc.), voice, point of view and any other areas particular to your work.

  • If appropriate, recommend reading or resources to strengthen your areas of weakness.

  • Answer any questions you  have via email.

  • Provide my telephone number for a personal follow-up, if you desire.

For Sandy's success stories, see http://tritt.wirefire.com/Manuscript_Critique.html

Write Sandy at tritt@wvadventures.net

(See Sandy's article above.)

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Publishing New Writers,

July, 2004 (no. 507)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions /comments  cookcomm@gte.net.

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Writer? Editor? Publisher? Where are you?

by Bruce Cook

Writer? Editor? Publisher? Where are you?

Level 1 – Grammar and Mechanics. At this initial level, critiquers have to behave like English comp teachers, correcting spelling, grmmar, and word usage, etc. If the new writer is vulnerable to these criticisms, it is necessary to overcome these problems. (Forget the tempting notion that the substance of your writing is so strong that you can skip the grammar. Or that people will understand you without grammar correctness. Or that you just cannot learn, don’t have time to learn, etc. Please… get real. You can’t skip this step.)

Level 2 – Content. Once you have graduated from Level 1, as a writer or as an editor, you will enjoy a higher level of analysis. An aesthetic one: (1) subjective analysis - does your content match well with external standards of reality – for example, history?  (2) Objective analysis – how does your work stand up as a work – for example, balance, unity, and variety?

Level 3 – Strategic. Given that your work contains appealing content, how will it stand up in the marketplace? For example, if you’ve written the best medical novel ever, will it hold a candle to books by Harold Robbins? If not, you need to write about something else, or find a new slant that will interest publishers. (Rest homes? Traditional medicine?)

Level 4 – Publisher. Finally, if you have a backlist or magazine, etc., you need to select manuscripts which satisfy items 1, 2, and 3 above. The publisher asks this question: If I spend the money to buy this manuscript, can it make enough money to justify my expense? (Sorry - POD writers have to avoid this question for now.) It’s like a piece of bubble gum. If the publisher throws it against the wall, will it stick?

Of these four, Level 4 is the hardest to understand. So please consider a “case study” which relates.

The publisher is considering a fiction manuscript about the bleachers at a baseball field. Other than reminding the publisher about some antique jokes about books with titles starting with “Under the Bleachers by…”, how could a publisher take any interest at all in a novel about bleachers. Case closed. A real bomb!  Send the rejection slip.

But let John Grisham write about bleachers. Now the book becomes a hot product. And, as a distinct plus, it develops a home town setting and, more importantly, the subject of forgiveness. In short, the book may become a classic. But it was only a book about bleachers. It’s up to the publisher to recognize the nugget in the stream.

Keep these four levels in view as you develop your skills or expand your writing from a hobby to craft or even a career. It’s always best to have a broad perspective.

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God Created You: A Guide to Temperament Therapy

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From chapter 2... "How a person behaves is a combination of temperament, living in the strengths and/or weaknesses of their temperament environment, decisions they have made or not made, conclusions they have drawn about right and wrong, their relationship with God or the lack thereof..."


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