Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I am often intrigued by the writing/publishing advice that I see online these days. I’ve been working in this biz for almost 12 years now, and some of this stuff seems counterintuitive. Some silly and terribly misinformed. And some just seems…well…paranoid. You see a devil behind every door and distrust anyone who tries to help. Let's get past the defensiveness and find some real answers.

According to the blogs I’ve consulted in recent weeks, these are some of the questions you should ask an agent who agrees to rep your work:

What books have you sold recently, and to what publishers?

This info is probably available on the agency website; almost every agency has one. We agents love to boast of our sales one way or another, so it's hard to miss. You’ll find deal reports in Publisher’s Weekly and Publishers Marketplace. If this is important to you, respect your own time and look it up before you call me.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


It’s official: For each of the past couple of years, the U.S. book market has surpassed one million new releases. That’s right: a million. (That’s over 2,700 new releases per day!) Further, self-published books now outnumber their traditionally published brethren by a factor of more than 2-1. Clearly, self-pub is on the march.

The latest news? Libraries and brick-and-mortar stores are warming up to self-pub books. (I refuse to call them “indie,” because it just sounds so pretentious.) Any minute now, store and library shelves will be bursting with titles from Author House, CreateSpace, Book Baby, and all the rest. The old is gone; the new has come. It’s a new day!

Monday, August 15, 2016


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

You pitched your book to traditional publishers, far and wide. You spent years chasing that brass ring, without success. After a while, you heard that self-pub was the way to go: You can retain control of your book, and keep more money for yourself. It all seemed so easy, and so promising. Sound familiar?

But after the first year, the book only sold a few dozen copies. You were stunned to learn that brick-and-mortar stores wouldn’t stock it. What went wrong? There are many reasons why bookstores don’t (generally) handle self-pub books.

Let’s consider the example of a typical 80,000-word romance novel:

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trends in Publishing

Everywhere I travel, and every time I speak, someone asks me about trends in publishing. What’s hot, and what’s not? What’s up, and what’s down? Frankly, I don’t follow such things very closely. And even if I knew the answers, I probably wouldn’t tell you. Not because I rejoice in thinking I know something you don’t know! (OK, maybe just a little), but because I wouldn’t want you to misuse the information.

Let’s say that you have a gift for writing adult thrillers, but YA fantasy is all the rage this quarter. Should you now start writing YA fantasy? This commentator votes no. Chances are that once you identify a trend, it has probably passed you by. Dozens or hundreds of titles are now in the pipeline, and the publishers are in no hurry to sign more. I say, write what you feel led to write, but be realistic about your prospects. Adult thrillers will come around again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


This morning, I received a submission from an ambitious young author. He self-published his novel last year, and now he wants to find a wider audience through a traditional publisher. Good for him. Indeed, I know how he feels. Or in the words of Maya Angelou:

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Unfortunately, his approach will probably do him more harm than good. For,
he didn’t just ignore our submission instructions entirely; and
he didn’t just NOT give the information I need, in order to give him a fair hearing; and
he didn’t send sample chapters (which, at least, agents do sometimes request).

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

You Can't Get Something For Nothing

Good news! You finally receive the email that you've been waiting for: A publisher has offered to publish your book. Then your joy turns to apprehension when you actually read that contract:

Rights, sub-rights, territories, escalation, reserve? What’s that? You don’t know the rules, the customs, even the vocabulary. Should you accept the offer?

One of the provisions that causes the greatest angst among new authors, is the so-called option clause. The publishing-advice websites are abuzz with conspiracy theories and horror stories from inexperienced authors who feel they got robbed by it. Yet most publishing contracts have one, and it generally goes something like this:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


When I was a child, my home had a 20-inch black-and-white television. We could tune in about nine channels; the signal was free, and the selection was more than enough. Today we have a 46-inch hi-def color flat screen with access to hundreds of channels, but we only watch about six of them. And I have to pay for it!

Back then, we looked forward to a future of supersonic flight. This wonderful machine, which we knew as the SST, would be able to take us anywhere on earth in just a couple of hours. But only about 20 were ever made, and the entire fleet was grounded after only 27 years of service.

Monday, January 11, 2016


As a literary agent, I receive hundreds of submissions each month. From among this number, I might sign one or two new clients. Sometimes none. Generally, this is not because I can’t handle the added workload; if a story shows promise, I will find a way. Rather, far more often than not, I just don’t catch a vision for the stories before me.

Generally, I promise to render a verdict on each project within 30 days. This is because, as a writer, I know well the angst of waiting and waiting for an answer that might never come. I take no pleasure in giving bad news, but I often find that the writers set themselves up to fail. And it’s not my job to rescue them.
Some people try to flatter me into accepting their work. Others (apparently) observed a few spiritual titles in my portfolio, so they bombard me in Jesus-speak. But I'm not here to be your BFF, and you didn’t come here to join my church; I still need to make a business decision.