Why I Love Being An Intern

My name is Maria and I am an intern.

Internships have been under a lot of scrutiny lately. I can’t begin to count the number of recent articles that argue against the value of internships. Interns are overworked. Interns are underpaid (or not paid at all). Interns are given meaningless tasks.

All of these things may be true. People have lived through real-life nightmares as they try to complete an internship. Some interns do spend their days purchasing coffee and photocopying paper. However, the stigma attached to interning is somewhat unnecessary. Not every position is a waste of time and energy.

While some industries have internship positions that are quite useless (I’ll refrain from mentioning names or fields), others choose to go the internship route for a very specific reason: it’s truly the only way to learn.

I love my internships. I am an intern for two wonderful literary agencies and I work closely with some incredible agents. Completing internship assignments are often the best parts of my day. You may think I’m a nerd, but receiving an email with a new project makes me giddy. Without going through the trials of interning, I wouldn’t know for sure that I want to work in publishing – and I certainly wouldn’t have the skills to do so.

An internship takes time. They are mostly unpaid, so you need to weigh the positives and the negatives of having very little money for an undetermined amount of time (depending on how long you’re willing to be an intern). If you live in a major city with publishing houses and literary agencies, certainly apply to work in an office. I would love to be able to go to an office every day and see my bosses (better thought of as mentors) in action. Unfortunately for me (and, truthfully, for most people in North America), that isn’t an option. You’ll be happy to know that there are remote internships and these positions are actually quite common in the publishing industry. You’re wrong if you think a remote internship isn’t worth your time and effort.

I am still learning, regardless of the fact that I complete my internships from the comfort of my own home (I love having the ability to wear my Super Mario Bros pajamas while responding to emails or reading manuscripts in bed). As I mentioned, I work with some lovely people. I’m given assignments that force me to learn new skills and explore behind-the-scenes of the industry. You can also make wonderful connections. Not only do I work with specific agents, but I also get the chance to stalk editors (only online – if you’re an editor, I will not be creeping outside of your office window) and interact with the writing community (I have no idea how writers do it, but I sure am glad that they do). Not to mention the amazing manuscripts and proposals I get to read before anyone else.

I didn’t have many expectations when I started my internships.  Upon reflection, I am so happy that I gave it a shot. (Even if my bank account is less than enthused.) My brain is crawling with knowledge (does that phrase gross out anyone else?) and I’m excited to discover what else my training has in store.

I highly recommend completing an internship if you want to get a job in any realm of publishing. While it is hard work (and the fun stuff probably won’t happen until you’ve proven yourself), the hard work pays off. You will learn. You will make connections. You will have fun.

Please leave a comment, send me an email (maria at mariavicente dot com), or pester me on Twitter if you have any questions about publishing internships (or if you want to simply say hello).

A Plotting Tool (With Good News for Your Query and Synopsis): Pixar Rule #4

I’m blogging my way through Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling as compiled by Emma Coates, Pixar storyboard artist.  It’s been a ton of fun so far and is really exercising my blogging muscles! If you didn’t see my interview with author Mindee Arnett from yesterday, check it out in the right sidebar, because she’s brilliant and so is her book.

Here’s the 4th rule of storytelling from Pixar and Emma Coates:

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

This one is a bit different. It’s actually a formula for the spine of your story, and it’s a great one. Filling this out before you start writing your draft will help you think through where you want to go with your concept. The first two blanks establish character and situation. The 3rd is the initial conflict- bam, your protagonist has a problem. This problem intensifies and the stakes leap higher with 4 and 5. One of those should probably even be a twist we didn’t see coming. Finally, the main characters hit the do-or-die moment. Of course, you still need to fill in your resolution.

This kind of 6-sentence synopsis is a great writing tool. Fill it out before you start writing- just one sentence for each step.  (To follow my own advice, I’m going to sit down and fill this out for THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL today, so why not do it with me?) Then revise it as you draft the first half, and revise again when you finish. Not only will this help the plot stay focused, avoid tangents, and progress at a good pace, but when you’re done, you will have your synopsis basically written. This is a fantastic starting point for both your synopsis and your query. Turn each sentence into a paragraph for the synopsis, and that’s a great start. Use the establishing and main conflict sections of the 6-sentence outline plus a few killer developing details, and you’ll have the bones of a query!

If you want to see a great article that expands each of these 6 ideas and adds in the resolution, go here.

Don’t forget to check out the posts from my blogging friends who are doing this challenge with me!

Talynn Lynn, a writer, editorial intern for Entranced Publishing, and writing assistant extraordinaire,

Mary Pat, a writer, fellow teacher, and fantastic blogger,

Alex Yuschik, a writer, grad student, and also an intern to a literary agent,

and Regina Castillo, a dedicated reader, writer, and blogger.

As always, thanks for reading!

Why I’d Rather Be Broke

I’m now just a few days shy of a month since I quit working full-time.

I’ve taught for three years. During that first year of teaching, I got my first solid idea for a novel and started writing seriously. It took me several months to figure out how to find time in my day for serious writing, but I worked at it, and I read books on craft, but I mostly ignored whatever might happen after finishing my novel. I simply read and wrote.

The second year of teaching, I started feeling the strain of working full-time and serious writing. I’d hit 50k several times in my novel due to starting over multiple times, cut and rewrote enough pages it would have taken a forest to print them all, and continued to read books on craft. My progress picked up significantly- I had a real novel taking shape, not just a wandering mess of words. I started looking a bit further into the future and made some connections in the book world. I branched out in what I was reading, discovered what a query letter was, used my vacation days to stay home and write, started this blog, and FINISHED my first novel. Yes, it took me two years. I still love it. It’s the first of a series– a huge story with a huge cast, tons of historical detail, and a complicated backstory. I don’t regret taking it on as my first for-real novel (I won’t tell you about my high school and college novels. Oh, the trauma), but I must have been crazy to do so. I sent it off to beta readers and started writing the ever-dreadful synopsis and crying over draft after draft of query letters. My friends and family will tell you, I had very few spare minutes in 2011. (I’m still not fully back to the social butterfly I was in the pre-writer era.)

2012 marked a big change for me. I barely knew anything (still working on that), but I knew how to find out the basics. I revised and revised from my beta notes, sent that first traumatic round of queries (go read the archives here- fun stuff), revised more, sent further rounds of queries, received requests (astonishingly enough)and started reading new books. I’ve always loved classics, and of course I read the big hits. But I as I learned about the book world, I discovered some pretty fantastic writers. Somewhere in between reading THE NAME OF THE WIND and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, subtext, voice, and internal conflict started making a bit more sense to me. In August, I started working for my fabulous boss editor at Entangled Publishing- the same month I wrote my 6-week first draft of MOON RIVER. Two years for the first draft of my first novel, six week for the first draft of my second. The scope is smaller, it’s not the first of a series, and the backstory isn’t nearly so complicated, but I love it just as much. Writing and polishing MOON RIVER kept me distracted while I queried SILENCE- I’d taken a break with it for the summer while I did YET MORE revisions on it.

Thanks for sticking with me here. I promise there’s a point.

The summer of 2012 saw me completely overwhelmed but unable to quit anything I was doing. To be published, I had to write. To live, I had to work full-time. My internship with Entangled was teaching me valuable skills that dramatically increased my knowledge of the industry and writing in general. Reading new, brilliant fiction and books on craft kept me sane and were also necessary for learning to write well. But I simply didn’t have enough time to do it all. Knowing MOON RIVER was a notch above SILENCE in writing quality made me desperate to finish it and get it out in the world; querying and revising SILENCE was incredibly time consuming; reading anything for pleasure made me feel guilty because I needed to be making progress on my internship and adding to MOON RIVER’s word count and sending queries, but it was necessary for staying sharp. My husband and I started talking about what would need to happen for me to work part-time. It was just a dream, but looking at it as an option helped me keep going.

The fall of 2012, all these things I’d buried myself in started snowballing. I finished MOON RIVER. Beta notes on it came back that made me grin instead of cringe. My internship with Entangled was going really well. The writing community on Twitter pulled me in, and every day, I love chatting with the writers, readers, agents, and editors there. I’m learning so much from having them on my Twitter feed. I read, read, read. CODE NAME VERITY, SHADOW AND BONE, and WHAT ALICE FORGOT helped a number of things click for me. Reading made me a better writer and helped me to keep loving books.  Teaching forced me to prioritize and value my free time. Interning made me a better writer and querier. Participating in the online writing community made me a better reader and writer. I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved all this work- stressful and demanding as it was (and still is).

But I just didn’t have the time to do justice to the tasks I was undertaking. I was dabbling in six things, mastering none, and needing each day to have 50 hours. Teaching, as much as I loved it, wasn’t making me a better writer. I couldn’t really drop anything but the areas I was investing in were only creeping forward. All my stress and effort for very little return. I’d burn out before I made it.

And then MOON RIVER was all but ready to query and the Carol Mann Agency offered me an internship.

To jump, or not to jump?

I couldn’t add two more things to my day. Literally could not. One serious “will we die of starvation?” talk with my husband later, I gave my notice at work and the school graciously offered me a part-time position similar to a teacher’s assistant. I couldn’t do what I’m doing now without this job, so I’m very thankful for it. I know so many writers who would give their right arm to stop working full-time and devote themselves to writing, and I feel a bit guilty that it’s me doing it and not them.

We’re broke. There’s a real possibility we’ll be living in a cardboard box next month (or showing up on my sister’s porch). But I’m doing what I love. I’ve been working part-time for a month now, and every day is a blessing.  Stressful and demanding, filled to the brim with deadlines and to-do lists, but still a blessing. MOON RIVER has ventured out into agents’ inboxes, I’m getting to work with some fabulous writers for Entangled and CMA, and I’ve started my next novel- I can’t wait for it to be living and breathing on the page.

I’m fine with being broke to make that happen. I’ll eat rice for a year, forget what restaurants are, and start pricing gasoline not by the gallon but by the drip, if I have to.

Maybe I jumped off a cliff and I’ll regret it when I hit the bottom. Right now, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Here’s hoping my optimism makes the landing softer.

3 Ways to Set Yourself Apart in the Slush

I’ve been considering writing a post for a while on common issues I see in submissions, and I’m seeing enough of the same things coming up that I think that might make a great topic. If you’ve been reading agent blogs or following writers on Twitter, you probably know to avoid super common openings in your novel- alarm clocks ringing, the main character waking up, an action scene before we’ve been given a reason to care, etc. Beyond those things, there are several elements of writing itself that makes me question the submission and occasionally stop reading.

1) Lack of contractions. I see this a lot in SF/F/paranormal writing. More formal phrasing is often the first route writers take when they want to make an angel/vampire/immortal of any kind sound as if s/he is from another culture. This idea might have worked for the first few who did it, and it still might work if done extraordinarily well, but it’s such a common device now that I expect it, so it isn’t interesting anymore. Plus, and here’s the kicker, it makes the writing stilted. Even if your character is from another culture, unless she’s the Dowager Countess, it doesn’t work. Try saying the lines out loud yourself; if it sounds weird, it reads weird. It pulls me out of the story and makes it that much harder to catch my attention.

2) Modifier overload. This has to be one of the most common things I write in reader reports. Adjectives and adverbs stand out; be choosy. An author friend of mine told me her agent says she gets ten adverbs per novel. That’s how choosy you should be. Now, if you’re that choosy, maybe you can do more than ten. The point is, I get the distinct feeling a lot of writers aren’t actually aware of how many they’re using. And you have to be. If using words is going to be your career, you have to be aware. Take just your first page and highlight how many adverbs and adjectives are on that page. I frequently see 15+ modifiers on the first page. Of course, the commonly advised solution is to delete the modifier and use stronger nouns and verbs- “china” instead of “plate”, or “hurtle” instead of “run.” I like to keep in mind the principle of “detail that matters.” If it doesn’t matter that the flowers are pink, don’t tell me. They’ll show up as a color in my imagination even if you don’t supply one. But if the tangle of the stems and the withered leaves matter as insight about the protagonist, then by all means, use it. Just be aware, and be intentional.

3) Common phrasing. This is a little more abstract of a concept, but it’s easy to identify in a manuscript. When I read about bright sunny days, fear creeping over someone, half-smiles turning up a corner of someone’s mouth, etc., I get bored because I’ve seen all these things too many times. Cliches might be a part of this, but it’s more just ordinary words being used in an unimaginative way. When I read, I want to see a new perspective on something. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is an excellent example of breaking away from the ordinary in showing the main character’s thoughts. Not everyone should go so far as to strike out portions of the text, but I do at least want to think, “hey, this writer sees that man’s shoes a little differently than most people would” or “I’d never thought of describing a street like that.” So, I want to see more language that shows unique thought.

When I see a writer who doesn’t have these struggles, I know he is both aware and intentional with his writing. That fact alone helps the submission grab my attention.

New Adult Round-up: Definition, Hurdles, and a Suggestion

If you’ve been following the blogs of agents and authors recently, you’ve probably seen the term “new adult” come up. It’s an interesting development in the world of books, and it’s generating some even more interesting discussion among writers, agents, and editors. The idea of new adult fiction is coming up against some tough obstacles, but it’s also developing a loyal following.

Since it’s such a new and intriguing development, I’ve been doing some research on the topic, and here’s what I’ve discovered, as well as an idea I think might actually solve some of the obstacles NA is encountering.

What is New Adult?

St. Martin’s Press coined the term “new adult” back in 2009 with the launch of a contest for manuscripts with protagonists slightly older than YA range with stories that could appeal to an adult audience.

The current idea is that NA is a category of fiction about a collection of experiences particular to “new adults”- moving out on their own, going to college, maintaining that first adult romantic relationship, buying a car and paying bills, landing and keeping a place in the professional workforce. Kristan Hoffman’s article for Writer’s Digest goes a bit more in-depth on what NA is and could be in the future, and author Sharon Bayliss wrote a great post on the what and why of new adult, so read those if you would like a bit deeper explanation.

Why do we want NA?

New adult currently revolves around the themes and situations common to YA fiction, but takes those ideas further. Becoming independent as a teenager in high school looks different than becoming independent as you move out of your parents’ home and begin your own life. This particular slice of life is rare in adult fiction, and the YA category doesn’t allow for those experiences, either (with a few rare exceptions). YA protagonists are almost always 18 or younger, and 18 can even be difficult to sell. Usually, if the protagonists aren’t teenagers/high school aged, it can’t be marketed as YA. Now this does look different for situations where no high school is involved (say, dystopian or fantasy genres), but the perspective of becoming an adult stays the same. See my post over at YA Stands for a discussion of the unique perspective of YA fiction and what elements make a work YA.

In an interview (here) shortly after that St. Martin’s Press contest, S. Jae-Jones, an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s, talked with Georgia McBride about the gap between YA and adult fiction, and how NA can help fill that gap.  J.J says, “Just as YA is about discovering who you are as a person, I think NA is fiction about building your own life.” I agree; there is a gap between the experiences of adult and YA fiction. Writers who still want to explore the themes of becoming independent and taking on the world, but want to do so beyond high school experiences, might find themselves fighting the current. I haven’t yet heard of a great way to market that kind of work, and I do think there is a readership for it.

In fact, Dahlia Adler, a YA writer represented by Andrea Somberg, argues in her post “Whose ‘Failure’ is New Adult?” a market for NA  exists, and it’s a market authors will reach with or without the support of the publishing industry. She lists some great deals of NA works originally self-published and then bought by publishing houses–proof readers are willing to vote with their money for NA stories.

In September The Guardian asked readers what they thought about NA, and if they would be more likely to buy NA vs. YA works, and then posted some of the responses. Those responses are excellent for reading some new perspectives on the issue, so I definitely recommend taking a look.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s not all problems and obstacles. New adult IS enjoying some success, which is great. The word is spreading, the group blog NA Alley is gaining a wide readership, and NA works are occasionally being published.

Tammara Webber, a new adult author, discusses her recent deal here and PR Newswire has also reported Atria’s deal with Coleen Hoover for SLAMMED and POINT OF RETREAT, both NA titles.

Part of the difficulty NA fiction is encountering is that many people in the publishing world believe it’s not really a thing yet. A few agents represent NA, some NA works have been sold and are doing well, some small presses accept NA works, and involved readers are starting to recognize the term. But just barely. Most of my friends, even voracious readers, hadn’t heard of NA when I asked. Many agents and editors insist it isn’t a separate category. NA is still early in its development, and wide-spread recognition still has to be fought for.

One of the biggest problems NA is facing is where to put those books in stores. Currently, a NA section doesn’t exist on shelves. Publishers can’t convince booksellers to purchase books they don’t have a shelf for. Booksellers aren’t going to create a whole new space for something with only a few recognized works. Most agents and editors aren’t going to take on projects facing this kind of issue. NA simply lacks a defined place in the current market, though recognition is spreading little by little. Canadian actor and writer Adrienne Cress wrote a blog post, “Why New Adult Interests Me”, addressing this problem with NA.  She quite appropriately points out the cross-over appeal of upper YA, as some have called NA, but also discusses why it’s hard to sell.

Agent Kristin Nelson discusses another hurdle in her blog post on NA. She says the target audience wouldn’t know where to find these books, even if they were to go looking for them. Would they look for them in the teen section or in general fiction? Creating space for them in a book store would take a shift in process and marketing.

Some people in the publishing industry believe these divisions aren’t necessary. Michael Stearns, founder of Upstart Crow Literary, argues here that dividing fiction up this much may become a slippery slope. He points out that in his own early 20’s, specifically because he was becoming an adult and figuring out his own tastes, would have reacted against the idea of a category of books developed especially for people in his age group. He didn’t want to be told what he should be reading at that age.

Another problem is that some people argue NA isn’t different enough from YA. NA is about the perspective of transition. But YA is about that too- the transition between adolescence and adulthood. This is, I suspect, one of the biggest hurdles for NA. I can see how NA is a different point in that transition from adolescence to adulthood, but I’m not sure the difference is distinct enough to change the industry. Different experiences, yes- high school is very different from college. Dorms and apartments are distinctly different from living at home with your parents. But that’s not what categories in fiction really deal with.

An important idea here is that categories are different from genres. Many people mistakenly refer to NA or YA or MG as genres, but they aren’t. Genres are divisions like science fiction, contemporary, horror, romance, etc. Genres are primarily about experiences and structural elements that follow similar patterns- water rights disputes, lone wolf cowboys, and girls who refuse to ride side saddle are common elements of westerns, for example.

Categories are basic divisions that separate fiction (and even nonfiction) into works targeted for picture book, middle grade, young adult, and adult readers. Of course, young adult is enjoying tremendous crossover appeal, with as many adults reading the category as teens. So it’s not just the targeted audience that makes something YA, MG, or adult. It’s the perspective, the lens through which the protagonist(s) view the world. In MG, the protagonist has an experience that may teach them more about himself or the world, but in the end still views the world like a child- which is a great thing. That age was a distinct point in my life, and it’s wonderful to be able to go back and remember it through MG works. In YA, the protagonist meets a challenge that changes how they view the world- they go from viewing the world as an adolescent to viewing it more or less as an adult. S. Jae-Jones (JJ) develops the difference between adult and young adult perspective more here.

Do certain experiences tend to gather around these perspectives? Of course. Perspective influences the events of the story and certain experiences gather around the age category. But those experiences are a mark of genre, not a defining element of category.

So here is my own personal suggestion: NA might meet with fewer obstacles and solve some of the issues it’s facing if it were treated as a genre instead of a category. Many of the experiences and structure elements unique to NA could easily be seen as genre elements, and NA could gain its distinctness and place in the market just like other new genres- steampunk and the genre mashup. Many elements of NA stories aren’t currently marketable as YA, but could NA become a genre of adult fiction? That’s what I wonder.

Truthfully, it’s hard to say what NA is or isn’t, since it’s still developing. To book people who believe the difference in perspective is significant, keep advocating for NA as a category, and keep showing readers how different that perspective is. I’d like to see that more clearly, and I’ll cheer on any NA success I see.

My closing thought, however, is that NA might do well as a genre, instead of a category. Could this genre still have fun being part of a mashup- say, NA paranormal, NA thriller? Sure. But some of the objections I’m hearing from agents and editors to new adult as a category might be solved if it were shaped into a genre.

For those of you who write new adult, Vickie Motter, Lauren Hammond, and Sara Megibow all represent NA. In fact, Vickie Motter wrote some advice on querying NA works.

From NA Alley, here is a list of NA books and films (though some were marketed and sold as either YA or adult):

For those of you who don’t write and don’t work in the publishing industry, but still love books and are wondering why in the world I’m talking about this tiny difference, what you need to know is this: whether NA is a category or genre makes a huge difference in who writers can submit those manuscripts to, how their chances of selling that book sit, and what the future NA as a whole looks like. Those first-time-as-an-adult experiences are dear to a lot of people, so go check out a NA book. You might like it!

Publishing Terms and Abbreviations

 

Below is a list of common terms and abbreviations you might see as you read my posts or other publishing blogs.

Agent: Literary agents are professionals who represent an author’s career. The most well-known tasks an agent performs are selling the writer’s MS to a publishing house and negotiating the contract. Agents do much more than this, however.

CP: critique partner. Writers who critique each other’s work. These can be great relationships to establish because of the encouragement, resources, and support writers receive from each other.

Crit: critique. An evaluation that aims for showing both the strong and weak elements of a MS. Critiques from other writers, especially authors and agents, can be a great way for writers to improve their writing.

Editor: Editors acquire books for their house to publish and help polish the work before publication. Like agents, they do much more than this as well.

Form rejection: A copy-pasted rejection from an agent to a writer who queried. Most of the time this is what writers will receive. Most agents receive 100+ queries a week (I’ve seen some agents report 800+), so personal responses are often impossible.

MG: middle grade. Writing written for middle grade readers and adhering to certain age group conventions.

MS: manuscript. An unpublished work of fiction or nonfiction.

MSS: plural of MS.

NA: new adult. Characters and plotlines revolve around situations common to the 19-early twenties age group. This category of fiction is just getting started and most agents and editors don’t recognize it yet because booksellers don’t have a system in place to sell NA works. A good-sized community is advocating for NA to become established, however.

Personalized rejection: A rejection from an agent to a writer who queried, but some element of the letter is personal. A line or two complimenting the work but explaining why it’s not right for the agent may be included. This is an encouraging compliment from the agent, and is actually a good thing to receive.

Pitch: A brief description of a manuscript highlighting the main elements in a way that makes others want to read more. Contests sometimes ask for a 1, 2, or 3-sentence pitch. Writers should have one ready for contests and conferences.

Query letter: A letter, often a professional email, that writers send to agents asking them to consider them for representation. The letter includes specific details about the MS the author has written and relevant credentials the writer may have. Some agents want 5 or 10 pages and/or a synopsis included as well. Conventions for queries are very particular.

R&R(or R/R) Revise and resubmit. The request from an agent or editor to have the writer make certain changes to the manuscript and then resubmit the work for consideration. These are common, and don’t necessarily mean the writing was poor. The agent’s current list of titles, market trends, and the writing itself may be reasons for R&Rs.

Request: An agent (or sometimes editor) requests to see a certain number of pages of a writer’s manuscript. These can be “partials”-generally 30, 50, or 100 pages- or else “fulls”- the entire manuscript. Usually agents request a partial first and then request a full if they are considering representing the writer. A request is a BIG deal, particularly if it’s a full.

Synopsis: A 1-2 page summary that reveals the main elements of the MS.

Twitter pitch: A pitch designed for Twitter contests. 140 characters or less.

WIP: work in progress. The manuscript an author is currently writing.

YA: young adult. Writing intended for a teenage audience, but with tremendous crossover appeal to adults. Publishers Weekly reported this month that 55% of all YA books are purchased by adult buyers, and 78% of the time, those books are for themselves.

Have you heard any other terms you’d like to know more about? Ask in the comments- I’ll answer!

Writing Contests

I’ve discovered a whole string of worthy contests of late, and so I’m sharing the love and posting them below. If you’re a writer, check them out. Some end tonight or tomorrow! If you’re a reader, stalk the contests.  Reading the pitches for as-yet unpublished books is fascinating, and you never know- you might see the book on the shelves next year.

Share the Lobov Critique Giveaway from Karen Akins

Pitch Slam 2 from YALITCHAT

Operation Awesome Mystery Agent from Katrina Lantz and the rest of the wonderful writers over at the Operation Awesome blog. This one is run monthly!

Crits for Water by Kat Brauer- contests/auctions for charity here until the end of June

Three Two One Pitch contest from Dorothy Dreyer

Tons of Giveaways for writers and readers- closing midnight tonight!

Miss Snark’s First Victim regularly runs writing contests- sometimes weekly! Keep an eye on the blog.

Cupid’s Literary Connection– contests run here regularly as well.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) – The fabulous “An Agent’s Inbox” is run here monthly. Don’t miss it!

Watch Monica B.W.’s blog Love YA  and Brenda Drake’s blog Brenda Drake Writes for contests, giveaways, and more valuable info for writers and readers. These ladies are fabulous and recently hosted a major contest with Mother.Write.(Repeat.) and Cupid’s Literary Connection.

If you’re not familiar with these kinds of contests, go here for a great post on the topic and some worthwhile tips.

Like my posts? Follow my blog, and follow me on Twitter!

Giveaway Winner Announcement

Hello again readers- the drawing  has closed and the winners have been chosen. Random.org decided the results. I’ll definitely be hosting more contests and giveaways in the future, since this one was so much fun. A huge “thank you” goes to Ms. Melander for generously giving out a copy of her book.

Here are our winners!

Winner of a signed copy of Rochelle Melander’s Write-a-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days  is….Crystal Rupp!

Congratulations, Crystal! Please direct message Ms. Melander on Twitter with a way to send you her book. We definitely hope you love it!

Winner of an ebook copy of Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from the Gotham Writers Workshop is… Jessa Russo!

Congratulations, Jessa! Please direct message me on Twitter with an email address to which I can send the book. I loved this one, and hopefully you will too.

And now, for all the rest of you. I promised a surprise for everyone, and here it is.

As of April 2012, Noah Lukeman has made three of his books free to writers. Mr. Lukeman is a top New York literary agent and president of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd. He has represented winners of major awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award. How to Land (and Keep) A Literary Agent, How to Write a Great Query Letter, and Ask a Literary Agent are all now free and downloadable in the same ebook. I highly recommend all three of these. Go here to get your copy!

Excerpts of Mr. Lukeman’s other works, such as The First Five Pages and The Plot Thickens, can be read here!

Thank you all for participating! Have a great weekend, and enjoy your new reading.

List of Agent Blogs and Interviews

A writer’s job is to read, read, read. Read fiction. Read nonfiction for research and nonfiction on your craft. Read your manscript aloud. Read publishing industry news. Read more fiction- bestsellers, books in your genre, and books nothing like your own. Read until your eyes cross. Read, read, read.

One of the most important things for aspiring authors to read is agent blogs. Whether you are querying agents, trying to break into the publishing business, or simply learning more about the world of books, agent blogs are an absolutely necessary source of information. During my plunge into querying agents, I’ve painstakingly divested the internet of its most valuable resource (don’t argue with me on that descriptor): agent blogs.

Blog posts from industry professionals contain the personal details you need to make your queries stand out, the contests that will give you a leg up, and the industry knowledge that will help jump start your writing career.

Actively Maintained Agent Blogs

Thoughts from a Literary Agent: blog from Marisa Corvisiero.

The New Literary Agents– blog of Kae Tienstra and her business partner, Jon.

Chip’s Blog: Blog of MacGregor Literary.

Ask a Literary Agent: Blog from Noah Lukeman, president of Lukeman Literary and author of multiple books on writing queries and fiction.

Carly Watters: Blog of literary agent Carly Watters. Great post from July 12 on making your query stand out in the slush pile.

Bookalicious– blog of agent and top YA book blogger Pam van Hylckama Vlieg.

Mandy Hubbard: author and agent with D4EO Literary.

LaVie en Prose: blog of Meredith Barnes, ex-literary agent now working in digital marketing for Soho Press.

Rapid-Progressive: The blog of Victoria Marini, agent with Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency.

New Leaf Literary: The blog of a brand-new agency headed by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

This Literary Life: The stylish and thought-provoking blog of Bree Ogden, agent with D4EO Literary Agency.

Magical Words: Featuring posts on helpful topics by several literary agents and published authors.

Confessions: Posts by agent Suzie Townsend.

Janet Reid, Literary Agent: Posts by agent Janet Reid of FinePrint Literary Management. This blog in particular contains a wealth of information and blunt advice for writers. Janet has also been known to host contests.

Query Shark: Janet Reid, master shark of the query waters, also maintains this blog where she dices queries to bits. Enter yours, if you dare! Reading the archives is one of the most entertaining and alarming things you’ll do as a writer.

Pub Rants: Maintained by agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency. Personal, informative posts about all things literary.

Rachelle Gardner: Posts by Rachelle with Books and Such Literary Agency. Many of these posts contain enormously helpful information on the daily life of a successful author- taxes, social media, and the changing publishing landscape are all covered.

Coffee. Tea. And Literary: Blog of the Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.  Contests are occasionally run here as well.

Kathleen Ortiz: Agent with Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation.

Glass Cases: Blog of the fabulous agent Sarah LaPolla with Curtis Brown, Ltd., featuring short stories, flash fiction, and memoir and novel excerpts from readers.

dhs liter show + tell: The wide-ranging blog of DHS Literary/Inkwell Management.

DGLM: Blog maintained by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management. Frequent posts revealing the world of publishing and writing in valuable detail.

Full Circle Literary: Blog of Full Circle Literary, with archives going back to 2006.

Et in arcaedia, ego. Blog of Jennifer Jackson, powerhouse agent and Vice President of Donald Maass Literary Agency. Frequent “query wars” reports  and contests. Archives back to 2003.

The Knight Agency: Blog of The Knight Agency- fantastic recent post on preparing your manuscript for submission.

Lucienne Diver’s Drivel: News, advice, and entertainment from author, agent, and superhero Lucienne Diver.

Agent Savant: “publishing morsels from Laurie McLean.”

Agent in the Middle: posts by RT-award-winning literary agent Lori Perkins.

KT Literary: blog from “shoe-obsessed superagent Daphne Unfeasible.” Immensely informative peeks into her query pile included.

Call My Agent!: Blog from Australian “Agent Sydney.” Emailed questions will be answered in a blog post.

Writing and Rambling- A Literary Agent’s Industry Musings: posts by Nephele Tempest.

Fresh Books, Inc.: infrequent but substantial posts from Fresh Books literary agent and founder Matt Wagner.

All that’s new(s) from A to Z: posts from The Zack Company, Inc.

Ask the Agent: Posts from Andy Ross.

Kidlit: Blog from YA and children’s lit agent Mary Kole.

The Forest for the Trees: Maintained by Betsy Lerner- author, ex-editor and agent with Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency.

Between the Lines: Business Blog of Books and Such Literary Agency

Jennifer Represents: the blog of Jennifer Laughran, children’s and YA fiction agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Jill Corcoran Books: posts from Jill Corcoran, children’s book agent with Herman Agency.

Agent Incite: Posts from agent Mike Kabongo

Red Sofa Literary: Red Sofa’s agency blog. Eclectic industry news.

Babbles from Scott Eagan: posts from Scott Eagan from Greyhaus Literary Agency. Frank and unique presentations of industry news and advice.

Slush Pile Hell: “one grumpy literary agent, a sea of query fails, and other publishing nonsense.” Sometimes it helps to see what not to do in your query.

The Steve Laube Agency:  Browse it and learn from it- you’ll love it. Fantastic “News You Can Use” feature.

Upstart Crow Literary: new book announcements, advice on getting published, and more.

Navigating the Slush Pile: “Agent and book lover discovers the world of publishing one fast paced, eye opening step at a time, armed with only a handful of books and an English Lit Degree.” Posts by Vickie Motter, agent with Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

Inactive Blogs

BookEnds, LLC- A Literary Agency: Recently inactive, but chock-full of must-read posts on submissions, query letter samples, and pitch lines.

Fox Literary: Blog of Diana Fox of boutique agency Fox Literary.

Miss Snark, the literary agent: Inactive since 2007, but still a valuable resource.

Deep, Deep Thoughts: informative posts from John Jarrold of John Jarrold Literary Agency.

B.G. Literary: inactive blog of Barry Goldblatt Literary.

The Rejecter: Blog of a super-secret agent. See if you can find out who it is! Contains fantastic archives going back to 2006.

Lyons Literary LLC: “tips and quips on publishing from a literary agent,” Jonathan Lyons, formerly of Curtin Brown, Ltd., and McIntosh & Otis, Inc.

A Gent’s Outlook: inactive since 2007, but still valuable archives.

Blogs Interviewing Agents

Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog featuring new agent alerts, “How I Got Published” stories, conference/event spotlights, and author interviews.

Hunger Mountain: The VCFA journal of the arts Listed by interview type, the archives contain interviews with authors and agents.

Algonkian Writer Classes: Online Workshops and National Conferences for Agents: Great list of interviews with well-known agents.

Stacey O’Neale: Writer, Publicist, Superhero.  Most of these interviews are very recent and therefore most likely to contain accurate information.

Agent Advice: “a series of quick interviews with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.”

Literary Rambles: “spotlighting children’s book authors, agents, and publishing.” The agent spotlights are invaluable for personalizing your query letter.

Mother. Write. (Repeat.) Long list of agent interviews. Be sure to check out the main page of this blog for “how I got my agent” stories, contests, and more.

YA Highway: Writers hosting contests, introducing agents, and collecting publishing news. Fantastic resource.

Comment to let me know what you think of these! I’d love to hear any agent-related blogs you follow. I’ll add them to the list! As always, thanks for reading.

A Chat with Folio Literary Management and Brendon Burchard

In querying agents, I came across this video featuring powerhouse agent Scott Hoffman and NYT best-selling author Brendon Burchard. I strongly recommend watching it. Hoffman and Burchard deliver worthwhile content about standard book advances, working with a backlist, the author-agent relationship, and traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.  Additionally, they discuss how Burchard earned his multiple 7-figure book deals.

What are you currently doing to position, package, promote, and partner?

Which social media networks do you think are key- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads… which ones are absolutely necessary?

Do you “block time” to write?

Do you promote yourself in some way besides social media?

Comment with your professional development strategies, regardless of your field. I’d love to hear your tips!