Wednesday, May 6, 2020


As a literary agent, I receive anywhere from 400 to 500 submissions each month. In every case, these hopeful writers want me to see potential in their work and help them bring it to market. What they probably don’t know, is that they might be setting themselves up to fail at a very early stage.

Most agents, and most publishers, want to see a query at first contact. That is, a one-page letter that describes both the book and the author. There is no single proper way to write a query, but the right information must be there: Author name, book title, genre, word count, synopsis, target audience, and something about you.

Friday, September 6, 2019


By Ruth Hutson

I’m usually the “silent” partner for WordWise Media. But today, I’m the guest blogger. My job normally includes helping our fiction clients polish their novels before Steve works his magic pitching them to publishers. However, I’m also a gatekeeper. While Steve always gets the email submissions first (please don’t send them to me; I’ll just forward them to Steve or put them in the virtual round file), he sends interesting fiction to me for further evaluation. Unfortunately, most of those end up getting a thumbs down. Sometimes two thumbs down. There are a lot of reasons for this, but there are some issues I see over and over. Avoiding them will help aspiring writers get past the gatekeeper, whether it is at an agency or publisher.

The most basic thing to remember is that publishing is a business. And like any business, there are rules and standards that you’ll need to follow in order to succeed. You may have written the next Great American Novel; but if you think you don’t have to make sure your manuscript is polished or if you’re not willing to follow submission guidelines, it’s very unlikely your book will ever be read. You need to appear professional. This is the only way to convince someone to take a chance, put up a large amount of money  (or in the case of an agent, a great deal of time) to publish your book and risk not making a profit—or even making back the investment. And that means putting in the work to educate yourself, by avoiding things such as:

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


At around the age of eight, I learned to swim at a boys’ club in Hollywood. Then at 16, I enrolled in a course with the American Red Cross and got myself certified as a WSI (Water Safety Instructor). With this credential I could secure gainful employment as a teacher, a lifeguard, or a coach, anywhere in the country. I worked a couple of summers as a lifeguard, and I loved it. I looked forward to a long, rewarding career in or near the water. Or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney: No shoes, no shirt, no problem.

Then I did a bit of research, and got gobsmacked with a hard dose of reality: The career path for a WSI was very uncertain. By far the majority of these jobs were both part-time and seasonal. The pay rate was lousy. Beach duty paid more, and Baywatch made it look sexy and glamorous; but the work in the hot sun was grueling. After considering all of these factors, the good and the bad, I reached a decision: The job wasn’t for me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Imagine that you go in to work on Monday, and your boss tells you that you're getting a raise. Your pay will be doubled. Great!

On Tuesday, you get a letter from your landlord. Beginning next month, your rent will be doubled.

On Wednesday, you go shopping and discover that a loaf of bread costs twice what it did last week.

On Thursday, you go to buy gas. Turns out, the price at the Shell station is double what it was before. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


By Michelle Lazurek

Have you ever seen the show Shark Tank? This reality show features five billionaires that hear pitches from entrepreneurs looking to get their big break and have their product released to the masses. It is one of my favorite reality shows, but I have one confession to make:

Their choices often baffle me.

Mr. Wonderful claims there’s nothing proprietary about the product, yet Lori declares the product is a “hero.” Robert chides them on a lack of sales, yet Mark makes an offer, then pressures the entrepreneurs to make a decision fast because “the shot clock is running.”

All the while I scratch my head in disbelief, screaming at the TV: “why are you investing in that?”

Monday, April 23, 2018


This past weekend, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It’s by far the biggest book fair in the country, showcasing the works of wordsmiths from around the USA and the world. For two days each spring, it overtakes the entire campus of the University of Southern California. As a literary agent, I enjoy the networking opportunities there.

This year, for the first time, I also attended the annual book prizes ceremony that takes place the night before. Recent years have seen a growing demand for diversity in our business, and I was delighted at what I found: The field of nominees, and of winners, was about as diverse as anyone could ask: They were male and female, young and old, gay and straight. White, black, Latino, Chinese, and Pakistani. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and probably more.

Monday, March 5, 2018


So. You’ve been working on that book for ten years now. You’ve submitted it to dozens or hundreds of agents and publishers, without success. Sometimes they say no, but often they say nothing at all. Or even worse: They ask to read your full manuscript (yippee!!), and then return with a brutal critique and rejection. I know the struggle, the sting, the existential wound.

For the calendar year 2017, the American book industry produced about a million titles. That’s right: ONE MILLION! That’s an all-time high, which means that the market is more competitive than it has ever been. And you need to work harder than ever, to score that coveted publishing contract

Where do you go from here? How do you stay motivated? If you want to turn those lemons into lemonade, you can gain a fresh perspective by starting here: