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Query Letters / Re: Sample Query Letter to Literary Agents #1
« Last post by jkknauss on October 28, 2013, 12:46:34 pm »
Very compelling letter!

Can you help with my query? I've had it vetted many times, but of fifty submissions, I've only had one partial request. Something's obviously still not right. Thank you for any pointers you can provide.

Dear Agent:

Please consider working with me to secure publication for my historical novel, THE SEVEN NOBLE KNIGHTS OF LARA. It combines the readable style of an author like Tracy Chevalier with the action and excitement only medieval Spain can provide.

When courageous but hotheaded young knight Gonzalo accidentally kills Lambra
Interview with the Authors / RJ Keller Interview
« Last post by Stacey Cochran on October 26, 2013, 03:28:17 pm »

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Your novel WAITING FOR SPRING was originally self-published. It did so well that Amazon Encore approached you to acquire the rights to re-publish it. What is the story about?

RJ KELLER: WAITING FOR SPRING is about a troubled woman (Tess Dyer) who moves from one small, Maine town to an even smaller one after a painful divorce to escape her demons. (Figuratively speaking, of course. It’s not a supernatural tale.) Unfortunately, her demons follow her, as they tend to do, and she brings them into her new relationship with Brian, a local carpenter with problems of his own. The book is chock full of angst and sex and drugs and humor, but it’s basically a story about modern rural life as seen through the eyes of an intelligent, but under-educated, woman.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: How long did it take to write? And tell us about your decision process to self-publish it initially.

RJ KELLER: It took me around a year to write WAITING FOR SPRING and another six months to edit (with the help of two very dear editor friends), then I queried it to over a hundred agents. I had several requests for the partial manuscript, and even a few requests for the entire thing, but was turned down by all of them. The general refrain was that it was a good book, but not particularly marketable.

I understood where they were coming from. It’s kind of a huge book and isn’t easily pinned down into a genre. It’s got a love story, but isn’t a romance novel and it’s much too gritty for ‘chick lit.’ But all the same, I was irritated that no one was willing to take a shot at it. I was confident that there was an audience for it, so I made like the Little Red Hen, went out and found that audience myself.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: For folks unfamiliar with Amazon Publishing (most people think of Amazon as an online retail store), how does their self-publishing and traditional publishing process work? How are the two separate?

RJ KELLER: They are separate. Amazon’s various self-publishing platforms are available for anyone to use. Amazon Publishing, which has several imprints, works like any other publishing house, only—in my experience—better royalties.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What advice would you give to a writer who has just finished her first novel and wants to publish it? Should she get a literary agent, self publish her book, or find a small press that she might approach on her own with her book?

RJ KELLER: It really depends on how much research and work she’s willing to do on her own. Self-publishing the right way (with proper editing, formatting, marketing, etc) is a lot of work. You’re basically running a business and if you’re not willing or able to put in the work, or can’t afford to pay someone else to do some of the work for you, then you’re not going to be successful. It also depends on what a writer’s goals are. Although the stigma surrounding self-publishing is lessening, it’s still there and if that’s a big deal to you, then you should probably take the more traditional route.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What are you currently on? What timeline do you have for publishing your next novel?

RJ KELLER: I’m currently hard at work on a novel called THE WENDY HOUSE. It follows a man Rick during the course of one day as he prepares to kill the man who killed his daughter, all while having semi-drunken, hallucinatory conversations with his long-dead wife. There’s no timeline for publication at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s nearly finished. It’s only taken me five years…

Robert Schultz Interview

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Tell us about your book Autobiography of a Baby Boomer. What is the story about?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: ABB is the story of a post-modernist baby boomer from Father Knows Best middle class Fair Lawn, New Jersey to the hippy trail through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The overland journey, in search of something more than he could find at Cornell University Medical College, covers four years during a time when “dropping out”, “turning on”, and “free love” were the gospel. Through his travels, drugs, seances, very far-out “road people”, and his parents’ unremitting love, the young man comes to truly appreciate the American way of life. In an admittedly unconventional way, he discovers the rather conventional joy of having a family and the awesome responsibility that comes with it.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What similarities do you reflect on regarding life at medical school and life in a Third World country?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: While there are as many dissimilarities (to the very sheltered, safe life in an Ivy League medical school), both “worlds” exposed me to raw human suffering in the most dramatic ways. Some were at my own expense (jail, fear of dying, loneliness) while most were at the expense of those around me: squatters in the Philippines living off massive garbage dumps; burn victims in The New York Hospital Burn Unit requiring multiple skin grafting operations just to provide a barrier to fluid loss and infection.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: How does your family feel about your book? What was it like to represent people you know and love in your book?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: It was family (and friends) who knew some of my story that encouraged me to write ABB in the first place. The stories I told my kids at bedtime of far off lands and death defying circumstances begged to be written. Of course, my veracity about events was a concern to me (both how my wife would feel about things that occurred before we met and how my children would process escapades of my youth). But once they read the entire book, appreciated my heartfelt search for self-awareness, and saw my evolution to physician and family man they absolutely fell in love with it (thank God). I have received a similar reaction from those who recognize themselves in the book.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Lots of folks have questions about how to structure a memoir. How did you organize your story? How many years does it follow? What are the central themes that hold the story together?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: For the 99% of readers who do not know me, entertainment is the key to ABB. Therefore I chose to center the story around two main events that are powerful and extraordinary: being in prison in Afghanistan and the tragedy of 9/11. The stars of the story are the sexy era of the 1960s and the mystique of the medical world. As the narrator I use my point of view to project the ethos of the times and pathos of a very gripping profession. We journey from 1947 through 2010 at an entertaining clip that makes getting to the next page exciting.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What is the purpose of your story? Who do you see as its audience?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: Entertainment is the main purpose of ABB. History (for those interested in a most remarkable time in our culture) and nostalgia (for those who lived it) are important byproducts that seem to appeal to those of all ages although baby boomers were obviously my main audience in the beginning. When I began to get enthusiastic feedback from twenty-somethings (my kids’ friends interested in classic rock who learned that I knew Jimi Hendrix, for instance) I realized the wider appeal of ABB. There are a host of other well know celebrities (Al and Tipper Gore, Tommy Lee Jones—just to name drop a few) encountered in the book as well.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Tell us about your publishing experience. What advice would you give to someone regarding whether to self-publish or to find a small publisher to work with them?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: Finding a literary agent is awfully difficult. Each person in an agency has their specialty genre and peddles about four books per year to publishers. So they are extremely selective and the timing must be perfect. Ask anyone who has sent out hundreds of well written query letters how far they have gotten and what they think of the process. Today self-publishing is easy and affordable. My publisher, LightMessages, found me when they saw the original edition of ABB (put together in ePub form by a friend) when it was with one of the major distributors (Amazon, ITunes, Kindle). Even with a publisher it is still up to the author to get out and promote the piece you believe in and worked so hard to produce. This website is the epitome of the right place to start!

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What are some of the ways you’re helping to market the book and to make readers aware of it?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: I’ve learned that you cannot be skittish about promoting your work. You were inspired to write and put time, energy, heart and soul into it. Doubt is miraculously erased with the first good review…even if from a friend. If fortunate enough to have a publisher, some marketing will be done for you, but (as I was told by LightMessages early on) nothing is more poignant than the author him/herself pounding the pavement. Even Bill O’Reilly (with his recent historical best-selling books success) never misses an opportunity to peddle his work.

I go to book fairs, signings, meet-ups, and local book stores (requesting that they carry ABB). I talk with people and hand out “business” cards (given to me by my publisher) with the book cover, title, author’s page address (on front) and a compelling synopsis (on back). I do the same with friends, at the gym, at work, and on the golf course. If sincere and proud you will not sound obnoxious.
I have both a personal and an ABB Facebook page which I tend to daily and keep active. My author’s page has a short video promotion trailer crafted by my publisher from photos I provided. Through some effort I have been fortunate to do some blog interviews and am thrilled to do this one for   

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Are you currently working on a new book or have plans to write another book?

ROBERT SCHULTZ: I completed Malpractice, my first novel (developed from a screenplay I wrote some time ago with a co-writer) and a children’s book called Something’s Weird With Barney. I am presently working on I See You, a thriller taking place in an ICU. In the planning stage is a nonfiction book about the Doctor-Patient Relationship that may well be becoming ancient history.
Query Letters / Sample Query Letter to Literary Agents #1
« Last post by Stacey Cochran on October 22, 2013, 03:47:49 pm »
Sample Query Letter to Literary Agents #1
Below you'll see a copy and pasted version of a query letter to literary agents. When I sent this letter out to 20 agents in 2008, I received 18 positive responses asking to see either a partial or the full manuscript of the novel.

You'll also see an attachment at the bottom of the page, which contains a Word version of this letter with annotations explaining what each paragraph does.

June 12, 2008

John Q. Agent
Six-Figure Agency, Inc.
1001 Broadway
New York, New York 10001
Dear Agent:

When forensic psychologist Dr. Roman Phoenix and his wife Gabby move to North Carolina, they are ready to rebuild their lives. Six months earlier, Roman and Gabby lost their six-year-old daughter, and Roman has accepted his first teaching position since graduating from Nebraska’s forensic psychology and law program. But fate has other plans for Roman and Gabby.

Soon after arriving in North Carolina, two FBI agents deliver news that they may be involved in a serial killer’s twisted plans. The killer—known as the Highwayman—begins contacting Roman because of his research area (road rage), and Roman’s criminal-profiling skill is put to the ultimate test when, in a shocking turn of events, the Highwayman abducts Gabby. Roman’s largely untested expertise must advance from textbook knowledge to practical wisdom that can guide him in a cat-and-mouse battle of wits with the Highwayman. Crime and romance come together with emotional depth in my crime-suspense thriller The Profiler’s Wife, for which I am seeking representation.

In July 2008, I signed contracts with Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press to publish a textbook. I currently teach at NC State, and I host and produce an author-interview TV show on Time/Warner that reaches 90,000 viewers and has connected me with many New York Times bestselling authors and publicists at Harper-Collins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and other major publishers. In 2008, I worked with Borders Books Senior Management on a series of workshops they asked me to lead around the country, and this fall I’ll be working as an independent contractor for Bedford/St. Martin’s.

I would like to work with an agent who shares my passion and focus. I believe The Profiler’s Wife has the potential to break out commercially from the Crime and Mystery Community. I am currently serving as chair of Bouchercon 2015, the World Mystery Writers’ Convention. The emphasis is on suspense and crime, but the story develops an emotional depth that will have readers invested in Roman and Gabby at the end. Furthermore, the concept underlying the novel (i.e., road rage) is one of the most universally experienced forms of aggression in the world. Motorists in Tokyo, Tel Aviv, London, and New York City have all been affected by aggressive drivers and so can further relate to the novel.

Would you like to read the manuscript?


Jane Writer
Literary Agents / Jason Yarn Literary Agent
« Last post by Stacey Cochran on October 19, 2013, 03:51:43 am »

Jason Yarn, Literary Agent

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: You completed Brooklyn Law School in 2010, studying entertainment law. What are some of the ways that prepares you for a career as a literary agent? Also, in a broader sense, how does it prepare you for a career in the entertainment industry?

JASON YARN: I’ll actually complete BLS this year – I’ve been taking part-time law classes over the last several years while working full time as a literary agent. That might sound crazy – and it is – because of the huge amount of reading, but it ended up balancing out nicely: an hour of manuscripts and queries, then an hour of law, and then back again. Good change up going from vampires to Dred Scott.

So much of a lit agent’s job in a changing publishing landscape is to find new areas that your clients can take advantage of, with ebooks being the current example, but there are always new distribution models cropping up. The other side of course is being able to deal with the new copyright and contract changes that publishers are proposing. You certainly don’t have to be a lawyer to know how to deal with all that (obviously), but I’ve found it’s definitely a help, especially as publishers have their own in-house counsel to protect their interests.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What were one or two courses that were particularly helpful in a pragmatic sense? Did you do any internships?

JASON YARN: Copyright and Internet Law were probably the most on point for my day-to-day work, as my professors were very interested in helping us explore the current issues in each of these fields and how the law is so in flux. Going over the Google Books issue was quite illuminating.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: How did the job at Paradigm come to you?

JASON YARN: I started as a floater at a company called Writers and Artists and quickly ended up on the desk of Lydia Wills, the new head of the book department there. Then WA was acquired by Paradigm in 2004. I made the move with Lydia to the new company and eventually transitioned off her desk and into a junior agent/contracts monkey for the book division. In the last few years, I gradually became a full agent, though there was no particular dividing line. Paradigm and Lydia have always been incredibly encouraging and given me the opportunity to pursue the projects I am interested in and feel will succeed.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Paradigm is a robust agency, representing a full-range of niches in the entertainment industry from books, to movies, television, theater, and music with offices in Los Angeles, Monterey, Nashville, and New York. Tell us a little bit about the agency. Who founded it? How has it grown over the years? And what is the agency’s mission?

JASON YARN: Paradigm was founded in 1992 by the CEO Sam Gores and as you hint has grown by connecting with some of the hottest other agencies in the business across the country. It’s bi-and inter-coastal, so it’s big, but we do a good job of connecting effectively with a client in all possible areas. That all comes out of Paradigm’s mission which is to occupy a unique place in all areas of media where our clients are not only well cared for, but their dream projects are also realized.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: With an agency this size, I’m curious if there is much communication between the different departments. It seems like if you had an author whose book was perfect for a film adaptation, you’d have many of the resources you need right within the agency to make that happen.

JASON YARN: Yep, that’s it exactly. I know it’s a corny word, but “synergy” is the best way to describe it. What’s really nice is the book department has the feeling of a smaller agency, meaning we can give great focus to our clients, but at the same time we have all the backing and support that being a part of a large agency gives us. So I don’t have to worry about the film rights really, because there are agents down the hall in New York and a phone call away in our LA offices who know the ins-and-outs of that side of things.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: The main agency website is quite clear about not accepting unsolicited materials. How should prospective clients contact you (or should they) if they believe you’re the perfect agent for their book and career?

JASON YARN: Ah well, this is one of the few drawbacks of being with a big agency – the unsolicited materials policy is necessary for the other departments, but you if look at the Publishing section specifically, you can see all the info on how to submit to me or my colleagues. I’m also up at the various agency websites, like Agent Query, Writers.Net and QueryTracker. (You should check out my colleague Alyssa Reuben as well.)

Very quickly: people can email me at with their query letter and the first 10 pages of their manuscript, though I do recommend they read up for more info on one of those sites.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What has your first year at Paradigm been like? What are some of the tasks you’ve done? What does a typical Monday through Friday workday look like?

JASON YARN: I won’t go back that far, but I’ve done and do just about everything: reading/answering queries, reading full manuscripts, editing, submissions/selling, negotiating contracts, drafting contracts, dramatic rights, foreign rights, tax stuff.

A typical week depends on what stages various projects are in. For example, this is an odd, but nice, week where I have four different clients all getting back to me with revisions on their projects (two novels, one non-fic, one cookbook). Today I sent edits out to another author on his novel and then started to review the revisions of the other works. In between, I dealt with some foreign tax issues for clients, reviewed and broke down a contract, and read some queries.
And also answered lots of emails, lots and lots of emails, on a range of various subjects (publicity questions, potential clients from other divisions in the agency, ideas from clients on new works, etc.). Emails can swallow up a day if you’re not careful.

The things I usually do outside the office are heavy reading, editing and query responding. I can do some of that in the office, and will input my notes and edits on my computer, but oftentimes it’s too distracting to really give a manuscript your full attention when the emails are surging in and the phone is ringing.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What types of books are you most interested in representing?

JASON YARN: It’s easier to say what I’m not interested in: Romance, Children’s Picture Books or straight-up Horror. Unless you mashed all three together…hmmm….

Beyond those genres, I’m pretty wide open to most pitches. There are areas where I am more picky (like women’s fiction) because I am just less familiar with it right now, while others (like sci-fi/fantasy) I have to work at being picky because I love so many of the ideas that people dream up.

The most important thing, as I think all writers know, is to have a solid unique voice that transports me into the story and leaves me feeling like I will die unless I keep turning the pages. That goes for both fiction and non-fiction. Even if you’re writing a proposal about migratory birds, you should endeavor to tell the best story you possibly can.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: How quickly does it take to know the difference between a good writer and a phenomenal writer, and is there any trick to recognizing the difference? Seems like the success of an agent really hinges on this distinction.

JASON YARN: That feeling of “MUST TURN THE PAGE” definitely helps. If I hit a spot and feel I can set the work down and don’t get pulled back to it later, it’s probably a sign.

In terms of how quickly, it’s usually pretty fast. The first five or ten pages give you a feel for writing style, voice, a little character, etc. A fantastic writer makes his or her presence known right from the start – a good writer may take longer. Part of the job of an agent is to see if a good writer can raise their game and make an entire book shine, not just certain parts or elements.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: What are your thoughts on eBooks? Will the traditional publishing business model sustain itself through the transition to digitally read books?

JASON YARN: I think as a practical matter, paper books will always be with us in some fashion. Baby and children’s books will continue to be hardcopies because you don’t really want to give an unsupervised two year old an iPad to play with, at least until they are only 6 bucks a pop (the iPad, not the baby). That in turn keeps kids primed for non-electronic works, up to a certain point. Eventually though, if only to help the environment, ebooks are the best bet – especially if you have the space concerns of an NYC apartment.

The full transition to digital is a little ways off, but publishing’s real challenge is appealing to the continually fragmenting audience. The wave of Tumblr and Twitter books is one response to this: specific sites garnering huge amounts of attention, they are the crests of the internet waves showing that while everyone can have their niche, there will still be some things that are just more popular than others.

I can’t speak to the distribution model as much, but I think the PR model is where the real fight is going on. How do you reach all these disparate people, satisfying your “base” audience while at the same time opening up new areas for people who might not know they will like your work? Most authors know they have to be their own best PR, but publishers can be better at working with and supporting them in getting their names out on the web, not just in straight advertisements, but in chats, contests, games, etc.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: At the end of the day, what is the most satisfying thing about living in New York with your whole career ahead of you?

JASON YARN: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a reader. Not just that I read a lot, but that I read at all times. In college, the other guys would make fun of me when they saw me in the dorm bathroom reading a book while I brushed my teeth. If I could read while showering, I would. So being able to help authors get their works published, to be involved with getting more great books out there, it’s just a wonderful feeling since I’ve had a long affair with books.

As far as New York goes, why would you want to live anywhere else? The city feels like a collection of different genres, like wherever you get off the subway, you’re in a different city or story (Midtown, Chinatown, Lower East Side, Harlem, etc). Tons of people on the subway are reading, and you can read the multitude of stories in their faces. Plus, my wife and I are food lovers, so NYC is definitely the place to be.

HOW TO PUBLISH A BOOK: Finally, please write a narrative paragraph describing yourself as you imagine you’ll be in five years. Feel free to write about professional or personal aspects of your life, location, level of happiness, etc. What is the picture of yourself as you see it in five years?

JASON YARN: Wait – you want me to write a story? Dear god, you’re crazy man, it would turn out all noir and filled with inerrably polite space aliens. Instead, I’ll merely talk about my hopes.

In 2016, I hope that my almost-five year old son will be as voracious a reader as I was and not already taller than me. I also hope my wife has not yet taught him all my weaknesses, but instead instilled a love of Hellboy in him.

As far as work goes, I hope that publishing still exists and people still want to read full length works, not having their attention sub-divided so much that they can only absorb 20-second snippets of Facebook News. I don’t think this will be quite this apocalyptic, but I do hope that the various major publishing houses have not contracted further, and instead that there is a continued growth and strengthening of the independent line of houses (whether one causes the other, well, I shall leave for greater minds to decide).

Personally, I hope to have more and more found that sweet spot of getting cool authors and their works recognized in this crowded marketplace (more books than ever with less readers?!). I hope the awesome writers from my personal love of comics (book, online, and web) get more and more recognition, and that I am representing some of them.

And finally, by 2016 I hope to have finished reading all the queries currently in my inbox.
How to Publish a Book / How to Publish a Book - Essential Steps
« Last post by Stacey Cochran on October 17, 2013, 03:49:20 pm »
How to Publish a Book – the Essential Steps

1) Decide whether you want to self-publish or find a traditional publisher for your book

2) If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, you may start by targeting your book to major publishers like Random House, Harper, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Putnam.

3) To get your book manuscript to an editor at a major publishing house, you will need a literary agent to represent you. Literary agents work on behalf of their client writers to pitch, negotiate, and sell the publishing rights for your book to a publisher. You can find out more about literary agents at

4) To interest a literary agent in your book, you’ll need to write a one-page query letter that describes your book, your background and experience, and why you feel this particular agent is a good fit for you, your book, and your career. Most agents will accept a one-page query letter via email.

5) If your query letter captures the attention of a literary agent, the agent will want to read your completed manuscript and speak with you by phone to discuss your book and how you might best work with your literary agent.

6) Some literary agents may ask you to sign a contract stipulating your commitment to work solely with them in the negotiating process with publishers.

7) Eventually the literary agent will begin pitching your book to editors at publishing companies. If the agent is successful in finding an interested editor, that editor will then pitch the book in-house at a meeting with other editors and the publisher. If everyone agrees the book is a good fit for the publishing company, they will begin negotiating with your literary agent.

8. If the negotiations are successful, you will sign a contract granting the publishing company rights to publish your book. At that point, you’ll be assigned an editor who will work with you to bring your book to publication.
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