Looking For A Literary Agent?

imageslx3suvh1When you are ready to submit your work, who are you going to send it to? Have you done your research? Do you know which literary agents are accepting manuscripts? Do you know which agents work within your genre? How long have they been agents? Who are their clients? Are there any outstanding complaints about them? Are they legitimate, or are they scammers that reel you in and try to take your money?

Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about the agents you are soliciting for business. Just like any other occupation, some are great at what they do and others are not.

New literary agents shouldn’t be written off for lack of experience. Remember they all started somewhere, and just because they are new, doesn’t mean they can’t get you that big advance with the iron-clad contract.

Resources to help you in this endeavor are as follows:

QueryTracker-A searchable database of literary agents and publishers, including tools for tracking query letters and viewing statistics about agent’s response time, preferences, and history. This is a free site! You can pay $25 for more advanced tools, but that’s up to you, and even without upgrading, you are going to find so much valuable information.

Association of Authors’ Representatives-A not-for-profit organization of independent literary and dramatic agents. The AAR or literary agents guild has some of the worlds most famous literary agents as members. It is a free resource and provides information to help you find that agent that would be the perfect fit for you.(This addition to the list actually came from a fellow blogger-Sheryl- who read my blog and offered this site as another great resource to include in the hunt.)

Literary Agency Websites/Agent Websites-You already have a couple agents in mind. Then go to their sites and the agency website they work for. Learn as much about them as you can. Are they new? Who do they represent? What types of work are they seeking? Don’t waste your time or theirs by sending in an inspirational romance, when they are looking for fantasy.

Predators & Editors-has been a great resource in the past. The site highlighted troubled agencies and agents to avoid. It is currently down for updating. Not sure if it will be revived or not.

Writer’s Digest’s New Agency Alerts-WD highlights a new literary agent every week.

Publisher’s Weekly-Is another great free resource that shares all of the latest news in the publishing world.

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents-At one time, this gigantic book was the best way to find an agent. It is still available and updated annually.  You can purchase your own copy for around $25.00. Of course, all of the information it provides is now online for free. But still, there may be people out there who prefer a hard copy with all the information pulled together. I actually own this book 🙂

Remember choosing an agent will be one of the most important things you do to further your career. Get it right!

-Jan R


Looking For A Literary Agent?

Writing Dialogue Is More Than Just Words/Why Can’t I Get The Punctuation Right?

images8qwh4j5gWhat’s the deal with direct quotes? Why can’t I get the punctuation right? You would think after five years, I would know what I was doing.

The novel I’m revising has a lot of dialogue, which results in the use of quotation marks and commas following tags(I think).

I’m sure this is elementary to many of my readers, but I base most of my writing on concepts that I’m struggling with. I like to think that I’m not the only person who hesitates and second guesses when it comes to something as simple as writing dialogue.

During my research on this subject, something jumped out at me that I never really thought about before. The lights came on.

What was my biggest problem with quotes and the use of punctuation? I was treating quotes with tags and quotes without tags the same. I also wasn’t sure what to do when a quote ended with punctuation other than a comma.

When a quote ends in a comma and is followed by a dialogue tag, you use a comma.

“I can’t go with you,” she said, wishing he would just leave.

“I can’t go with you,” she said, “but I want to.” **The second part of the quote did not begin with capitalization because it follows a comma and is a continuation of the first quote.

When a quote ends with an exclamation point or question mark, the dialogue tag that follows ends with a period.

“I can’t go with you!” she said. She wished he would just leave.

“Who are you kidding?” he asked. “You can’t run.”

If the quote ends in an action/verbal phrase, it is not a dialogue tag and should not be treated as such. This was a concept I failed to grasp, and I would struggle trying to figure out were to put the comma.

“I can’t go with you.” She pushed past him and headed toward the door.

You have to focus when writing dialogue. You not only have to concentrate on the wording, to ensure it is moving your story forward, you also have to get the punctuation right. Slow down and take your time. Dialogue is complicated and can’t be rushed.

-Jan R






Writing Dialogue Is More Than Just Words/Why Can’t I Get The Punctuation Right?

How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?

1426616739108I’m almost finished with revising my manuscript and plan to get a few well qualified friends to give it a final read through. Their job will be to make sure it is believable, there are no plot holes, and of course, it’s an interesting-grab you by the seat of your pants-type of book.

So like many of you, I’ve been surfing the web looking for information on how to get an agent’s attention. With all of the queries they receive, what can I do to make my manuscript stand out?

Remember it’s not personal:

  • Agents know there is a lot of emotions tied to the time and effort you put into finishing your manuscript. You have to be able to separate the emotion when submitting your work and see it for what it is-a business transaction.
  • Don’t be funny or try to do something cute-like writing from your main characters POV. Remember this is business. Let your great writing blow them away.
  • A query letter is a business letter. Think of it as a cover letter when applying for a job.

Have a unique story:

There are no new stories, just different ways to tell them. What have you done to change your story and make it stand out?

  • You need a book that’s more than just well-written. You could string perfect sentences with zero grammatical errors, which is a good start, but it had better have a unique twist.
  • No one wants to read a book they have read before. You may have changed the names and locations, but unless you added that unique twist and shook some things up, an agent won’t be interested in your work.
  • Find a unique take on a formula that works.

The hook, The book, and the cook:

Barbara Poelle uses this line to describe the ingredients of a great query letter.  The hook is one sentence that describes what your story is about. Yes, you did read that right. I said one sentence. You can check out Publishers Lunch for examples of great loglines. The book is four or five sentences that provide more detail about your story. The cook is you. Just as in any job interview, the agent wants to know about the person they are considering as a potential client.

It has to be love:

Would you want to marry someone who is kind of in love with you, or who is head over heels crazy about you? I thought this was a great analogy for literary agents and your book.

  • If a literary agent is going to represent your work to a publisher, then they have to love it.
  • Don’t be discouraged with a rejection, remember agents are people too, and their likes and dislikes may be different from yours. They are doing you a favor by rejecting you. It’s hard to give 100% to something you aren’t fully sold on.
  • Query literary agents who represent the authors of the books you love to read. Chances are, they will love your style of writing as well.

Remember to be professional, and don’t be discouraged if you receive a rejection. Remind yourself you are waiting for someone who loves your work as much as you do.

There is so much information on query letters and finding an agent. I plan to continue this discussion in my next blog.

I would love to hear from you. If you have any suggestions, or better yet, something that has worked for you in the past, please share.

-Jan R





How Do I Get An Agent’s Attention?

Grammar! It’s Important!

The Adventures of Grammar ManI was reading a book on ‘How to Write Best-Selling Fiction’ this past week when a chapter jumped out at me, and I couldn’t help but smile. It was totally me. I’m ashamed to admit my naivety, but it was like I was reading my story.

Dean Koontz, the author, tells a story about an unpublished author. He had agreed to look at the man’s manuscript and got a little more than he bargained for. For the purpose of his story, he decided to call the man Bubba.

Bubba was very excited about his work, and said writing was the easiest thing he had ever done. All he had to do was sit down and type. The story just flowed off the top of his head. He wondered why everyone wasn’t doing it.

Well Bubba did give him a manuscript, but it was nowhere near publishable. In fact, according to Koontz, “In the first chapter of that novel, Bubba commits virtually every grammatical error known to English-speaking people.”

Like Bubba, I finished my first novel and was eager to put it out there. It was a great story. I knew I had a best seller. I sent it out to literary agents and waited for my offer. One never got back with me. Three said it wasn’t what they were looking for. One very gracious agent took the time to review at least a portion of my work, and provided me with a list of reasons why my novel wasn’t ready.

Grammatical and Structural errors were at the top of the list. Dean Koontz calls these the unforgivable sins. New writers may need pointers on pacing, transitions, POV, backstory… but if you’re calling yourself a writer, you should know and follow the basic rules of grammar.

There you go. I’m a sinner, but I have worked hard to redeem myself 🙂

One of the myths that I fell into, was that it didn’t matter if my grammar was perfect or even approaching perfect. The publishers had editors that would go through and correct all of my mistakes. Right?

I could have given up, the novel obviously wasn’t publishable. I had spent a year writing it. I spent countless hours revising and making sure everything was flowing, and the story made sense. I couldn’t believe it was being rejected because of grammatical and structural errors.

Of course there were other issues, but that was the one that stopped the agent in her tracks. She was kind and did praise the actual premise itself.

She encouraged me to go back and learn how to write, apply what I learned to the novel I was writing, and resubmit.

I took her advice after some time off to lick my wounds. The novel I am currently preparing for submission is a much improved version of the original manuscript.


-Jan R




Grammar! It’s Important!

Fact Or Fiction?

_shannon-wheeler-stop-fact-checking-my-story-new-yorker-cartoon-2If your hero is drinking sake in Tokyo you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be any palm trees-Dean R. Koontz

You can’t get away with faking background information. If you fabricate a lot of facts on a wide variety of subjects, your readers will catch on.  I know it’s your story, and it’s fiction, but unless you are writing science fiction that involves creating your own world, you better stick to the facts when it comes to background.

Every time a reader knows that you are faking a bit of background information, your credibility slips a notch. When your credibility slips two, three, or four notches, you will lose that reader.

No one is saying that you have to limit your story to places/things that you know, but if you are going to step into unfamiliar territory, you had better do your homework.

There is so much information available, that there is no reason why you can’t write about any country you never visited, canoe making, basket weaving, the inner workings of an assault rifle, the floor pan for Biltmore house-I think you get the gist of where I’m going with this, but keep in mind that very few reference books are perfect. If you do have to research certain topics, cross-check every piece of information, using two and preferably three sources.

Firsthand knowledge of background information is always more desirable than second hand. There is no better way to learn the sound, texture, smell, and look of  a place or thing than when you experience it firsthand, but if you are diligent in your research, you can make your background come alive.

-Jan R


Fact Or Fiction?

Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?


As many of you know, I’m in the editing phase of my novel and hope to have it ready to present to literary agents by the summer. A goal I feel to be very realistic.

Like many of you I struggle with knowing when I’m done. When will all the necessary revisions be made? I mean, how is it that we can rewrite the same sentence five times, let it sit for a few days—or weeks—and find five more ways to write it? It can be total madness.

I went to an article written by one of my favorite bloggers to see what he had to say on the subject. Jerry Jenkins has been around for a long time, and I trust his judgement completely. According to him, there are two ways of knowing when you’re done:

Trust your gut– Knowing what sounds right, what reads best, is what being a writer means. You should be writing for yourself and believing there are many others out there just like you. When it reads the way that feels right to you, stop. You’re there.

Read it aloud-When you hear it, everything becomes clear—whether you’re reading it to yourself or someone else. Any phrasing that causes a hesitation or a hitch in your delivery is a clue.  You need to relook at what you wrote and tweak it.

Ask yourself, am I making it read better, clearer, more concise, or changing it altogether? If you are changing the original intent, you need to stop.

-Jan R

Editing…How Do You Know When You’re Done?

Are My Words Qualified?

untitledThis past weekend I picked up a copy of “The Elements Of Style” at a library book sale for a dollar. If you’ve never heard of the book, I would highly recommend it. It’s one of those books that every writer should own.

It is filled with tips on how to write and make every word count, or every word tell, as the authors like to put it.

One of the tips offered, that I am guilty of, is avoiding the addition of qualifiers to your words. Qualifiers are words like rather, very, pretty, big, and little. My favorite one to use, or misuse I should say,  is very 🙂 These words are described as leeches that take hold and suck the blood out of your words.

Because ‘very’ is my nemesis, I thought I would share a picture that I found on Google Images. As you can see, it provides alternatives to using ‘very’ and gets you to thinking about what you are really trying to say.  I love it, and it has been very helpful (invaluable) to me. I hope it helps you as well.


-Jan R


Are My Words Qualified?

Words, Words, and More Words

fullsizerender-1After writing Tuesday’s  blog, I got to thinking about all of the words we misuse. The one that I misuse the most is to instead of too. I know the correct one to use, but because I’m on a roll with the words flowing, I’m not always as careful as I would normally be. I have also mixed up it’s/its and pique/peak/peek.

I pulled this list together from various sites on the internet. All of these words resonated with me, and I could see how easy it would be to misuse them.

I hope this helps, or at least makes you think about the word you are about to use.

  1. Affect/Effect – Affect is to pretend or influence and it’s  a verb. Effect is a result and it is a noun.
  2. Your/You’re – Your shows possession. You’re is a contraction of the words you and are or you and were.
  3. It’s/Its – It’s is a contraction of the words it and is or it and has. Its shows possession and does not require an apostrophe.
  4. Literally – This one isn’t so much misspelled as it is misused by those that don’t understand the definition. If you’re not sure, literally means something that actually, truly and in all reality happened. In most cases you want to use the word figuratively.
  5. Irregardless – is technically a word…even if most English majors refuse to accept it as one. It is considered an improper word, as is ain’t and conversate. To keep from sounding uneducated, just use regardless instead.
  6. A Lot/Alot –  Alot is not a word. It is two words…a lot.
  7. e.g./i.e. – When you see e.g. think ‘eggsample’. On the other hand, in essence is represented by i.e.
  8. Insure/Ensure/Assure – Insure means to purchase or have insurance. Ensure is to make certain of something. Assure is comfort or lend confidence, as in the word reassure.
  9. Mute/Moot – Mute is to make quite or without voice. Moot means something has little to no practical value. Note which definition is used in the phrase, ‘a moot point’.
  10. Disinterested/Uninterested – Disinterested means you don’t have a stake, claim or interest in something. Uninterested is when there is no interest…as in unconcerned or unenthusiastic about something.
  11. Lay/Lie – This one is kind of tricky because lay is also the past tense of lie. Any time you move an object you lay it down. Lie means to recline. A good rule of thumb is to use sit and set. If sit will work in its place, use lie. If set could be used, go with lay.
  12. Pique/Peek/Peak – Something may pique your interest…or you might peek at a present…or reach a sort of peak.
  13. Stationary/Stationery – Stationary, with an a, refers to something immovable or fixed…like a stationary bike. Stationery, with an e, is pretty paper.
  14. Then/Than – Then refers to time.  Than is used when making a comparison: I like chocolate more than candy.
  15. Invoke/Evoke – To invoke is to call upon a higher power for aid or assistance. To evoke is to recall a memory or feeling.
  16. Continuous/Continual – Continuous is something that continues without cease. Continual happens over a long period of time.
  17. Accept/Except – To accept is to receive. Except means to exclude.
  18. Chronic/Acute – Chronic is long-term and usually debilitating. The use of acute implies a sudden on-set of symptoms. Chronic and acute are also used to classify pain. Acute would be sudden, like stubbing your toe, while anyone who’s suffered recurring back pain knows the first-hand definition of chronic.
  19. Allusion/Illusion/Elusion – Allusion is a reference to something. Illusion is a misconception and also refers to magic and illusionists. Elusion is to escape. The writer alluded to the famous illusions of Houdini, who was famous for eluding death by narrow escape.
  20. Assent/Ascent – Assent means to agree, while ascent refers to a journey upward.
  21. Borne/Born – Borne means to bare or carry, born refers to the birth of something.
  22. Canvass/Canvas – Canvass is when you spread the word about something or hand out fliers. Canvas is fabric.
  23. Complimentary/Complementary – Complimentary is something given for free (complimentary breakfast) or something said as a matter or praise, or compliment. Complementary is when things complement, or support and benefit, each other.
  24. Disburse/Disperse – Disburse usually refers to funds or money and means to pay out. Disperse is to scatter or spread over an area.
  25. Reign/Rein – Another two commonly misused words are reign and rein. To reign is to lord over. Reins are the straps you use to steer an animal.
  26. Imply/Infer – Here are another set of words that are commonly confused. To imply something is to hint at it. It isn’t said directly but there is an implied meaning. To infer is to find meaning in what was left unsaid.
  27. Set/Sit – Use set when placing an object. Use sit when you are relaxing at a picnic table or on a log…or in a reclining pool chair in the sun.
  28. Pallet/Palate/Palette – Pallets are wood shipping bases. The palate refers to your sense of taste. A palette is the board an artist uses for holding and mixing paints.
  29. Site/Sight/Cite – Site refers to an area. Use sight when seeing with your eyes or referring to vision. To cite is to refer to the work or accomplishment of another.
  30. Whether/Weather – Whether is when one thing relies on another or there is a choice. Use weather when talking about the conditions outside.
  31. Everyday/Every day – The meanings of these commonly misused words are subtly different. The difference in choosing between them will be your intention as a writer. Everyday (one word) means average or common. Every day (two words) means each day, separately. That was redundant.
  32. Won’t/Wont – Won’t is a loose contraction of the words will and not. Wont isn’t used much anymore but refers to a likelihood or accustomed behavior. When we say that someone is wont to do something, we mean that it is usual.
  33. Vain/Vein/Vane – Vain can mean concerned with one’s appearance. Veins are the blood highways in the body. Weather vanes are vanes.
  34. Pored/Poured – Here’s another subtle difference that results in misuse. When you use the word pore, you mean you carefully studied or meditated on something. When you write the word pour, there’s usually liquid involved.
  35. Suit/Suite – Obviously a suit is an article of clothing but the word can also be used to describe a legal matter, the courting of a woman, or something appropriate or beneficial. A suite on the other hand refers to a collection. A collection of rooms becomes a hotel suite. Computer programs come in collections called suites. Even a personal staff of attendants is described as a suite.
  36. There/Their/They’re – Use there to describe a place. Their is the possessive of they. They’re is a contraction of they are or they were.
  37. To/Two/Too – To is when you send a letter or give a gift. Two is how the number is spelled. Too means in excess or in addition or also.
  38. Lose/Loose – These commonly confused words are just plain similar, like chose and choose.
  39. Faze/Phase – Faze is to be affected.  Phase describes a step in a plan or development.
  40. Counsel/Council – Counsel is advice or legal assistance and can be used as both a noun and a verb.  Council is a group of people brought together to exchange ideas and make decisions and is always a noun.
  41. Who/Whom – Who is the subject of the sentence and whom is the object.
  42. Bare/Bear-Bare means naked. Bear is to carry something or a large furry animal that you want to avoid.

So what words do you mix up?

-Jan R





Words, Words, and More Words