Tag Archives: noah lukeman

Landing a Literary Agent

Achievement Unlocked! I have finished reading my first book on the Kindle Fire!

While David Weber’s The Honor of the Queen waits for me to have a little more free time, I thought I’d talk about what I learned from the book I just finished, Noah Lukeman’s How To Land (and keep) A Literary Agent.

Lukeman writes concisely, without filler, and speaks frankly from his experience as an agent for over 13 years. I appreciate the short length of the book (~200 pages), especially when compared to some of the other How-To tomes out there (I’ve been reading a Guide to Self-Publishing that could use to be about half as long). Crammed into those 200 pages are lots of practical, useful advice as well as encouragement.

What I knew about literary agents before reading this book:

  1. Most publishers will not consider unsolicited fiction unless it is represented by a literary agent.
  2. Literary Agents are used by publishers as a way of sorting through the muck to find decent material.
  3. If I want to get published by a major publisher (or even most small publishing houses), I’ll need an agent.

While true, this information isn’t particularly motivating. As some of you know, I’ve been trying to figure out whether I need an agent, or whether I should just take the plunge and self-publish and I read Lukeman’s book as part of my research in helping me make a decision.

I’ve learned a lot in the last month:

1. Subscribe to industry newsletters – One of Lukeman’s most helpful suggestions was to subscribe to publishing newsletters as a way of learning about the industry. We’re living in a particularly interesting moment, with a third of all American households owning a tablet or e-reader, libraries trying to move to digital lending, and new book publishing capabilities from Apple. The two newsletters I’ve found the most useful are:

2. Submit to lots of agents – Lukeman recommends submitting to at least 50 agents, and cites examples of famous authors who submitted to hundreds of publishers and agents before being picked up.  He particularly emphasizes doing your research though, and submitting to agents who are truly right for your book, and not just a blanket list.

3. Agents want a relationship with an author – I have been thinking about an agent as a sort of amorphous concept, without really thinking about the person involved. If I find the right person, it will be someone who is as excited and passionate about my work as I am, and will hard to make sure it is placed before the correct editors. It could be a relationship that lasts for many years and many books.

4. Being rejected by 50 agents does not mean you have been rejected by the entire publishing industry – It means you have been rejected by those 50 agents or those 50 editors. This is helpful because even though I am a fairly stubborn individual, I know that being rejected will be a blow at first. It helps to be reminded how subjective the industry is, and the book could still be good it just may not have arrived at the right moment.

5. I need to pitch my book to an agent who has sold a book like it – I haven’t really done a lot of thinking about what authors are out there that have published work that is similar to mine, but I know I need to start, and be thinking about it for the book I’m revising as well. If an agent can equate my work to a book that has worked for them in the past, then I stand a better chance of landing a contract.

6. I need to build my bio – Probably the biggest change to my writing plan has to be increase my emphasis on writing and reading short stories, and becoming familiar with the magazines that would be the best fit for my work. While I can pitch my novel to an agent without having a bio, I will probably stand a better chance of not getting rejected if I’ve convinced someone else to buy my work first.  (Note: This is something my wife has encouraged me to do for a while. I like working on longer projects and so I haven’t spent much time honing my craft in short fiction, but is definitely something that is on my radar now).

7. I need to think of this as a writing career and not just one book – Whatever happens with this particular mystery, whether self-published or agented fiction, the important thing is to always be working on something new. While it would be a bad idea for me to pitch more than one idea at a time to the same agent, it is a good idea for me to diversify my efforts, keep honing my craft, and continue exploring all of the potential channels for my work. Lukeman’s main message is that if you are persistent, and keep working at it, in the long run you will be published.

What books have you read lately that have helped to shape your current goals? What are you reading for fun?

Additional Note: The Kindle edition of this also includes Lukeman’s ASK A LITERARY AGENT – YEAR ONE and HOW TO WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER. If you don’t own a Kindle you can get these two books for free here.

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Filed under Internal Debate 42, Writing Goals

Kindle Fire (A Few Months In)

I don’t like product reviews based on using a device a couple of days or maybe a week.  Some people will post a review almost immediately after they buy a device before they’ve really had a chance to live with it, to see what the device does for them, and where it is truly lacking.

I’ve been guilty of this myself. When I bought my Asus EEE netbook I was worried the keyboard would be too small for my big fingers, so much so that I actually went out and bought a USB keyboard before the netbook even arrived.

I’ve typed more than 250K words on that netbook. I returned the keyboard in less than a week.

I’ve been using our Kindle Fire for about two months now, which my wife nicknamed “Buffy” (video buffering and vampire slayer joke all rolled into one). I really like the device, and thought I would talk about some of the ways I use it to aid in this project of becoming a “professional writer”.

What I Like:

1) Writer’s Market Guides – I purchased the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, and Guide To Literary Agents for a little over $20 and have already gotten more than my money’s. I can flip through and mark the literary agents and magazines I want to contact, then sync my notes with my netbook. I can go to websites just by clicking the link within the book and then flip right back to the entry easily.

I used to use the Writer’s Market website but I like this better. The website required I be online all of the time and didn’t have a good way for exporting my lists to another format. I can read the eBook versions of these guides on or offline, only needing to go online when I want to sync my notes. With the Documents To Go app I can transfer my list spreadsheets to the device so I can easily refer to them.

2) Cheap/Free Books – There are a surprising amount of free or very cheap writer’s aides out there, some of which are limited time offers and some that run all the time. A few of my favorites are from Noah Lukeman, particularly How To Land (And Keep) A Literary Agent. This cost me $2.99 and includes his free guide to writing a query letter, as well as blog entries from his first year writing the Ask A Literary Agent blog. This book alone has helped me to refine some of my writing goals for the near and long term and has spurred some great ideas. (The Query Letter Guide is Available for Free separately here).

3) Seeing my book in print – With the help of Calibre, I can transfer copies of my current drafts to the Fire and read them in MOBI format. This is a great way of reading my book without carrying around the thick binder of pages, and as a quick way of referring back to earlier sections. It also is a healthy dose of instant gratification (it’s amazing what a little formatting can do), and is a nice reward for the months of hard work I’ve already put in, and the ones that are to come.

4) Magazines – My brother-in-law Craig asked me what I liked about the fire and I said “It’s rekindled my love of magazines!”. This actually is true. I was annoyed a number of years back when PC Magazine went only digital, but I’ve enjoyed getting back into it now on the Fire. I also subscribe to a number of SciFi magazines (Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, Fantasy & Science Fiction) that would take up a lot of physical real-estate if I subscribed to their print editions. Most magazines are pretty cheap, anywhere from $0.99 – $2.99 a month.

5) Comment Replies – While I don’t generally like the keyboard, it is good for replying to comments or e-mails. The Fire also gives me an idea what the blog looks like on tablet devices of all shapes and sizes.

6) Anthologies – Goes along with the magazine comment. Reading a lot of short stories right now, and it’s nice to have all of the thick books condensed onto a single thin device. The Fire also is good for switching between books when I get tired of one, rather than being stuck with what’s in my bag.

What I Don’t Like:

1) The power button – My wife contends this is “operator error” but the power button is on the bottom of the device, right next to the charger and USB port and I accidently hit this button a lot. When I read, I actually turn the Kindle upside-down so as to avoid accidently turning it off while I’m resting it on my chest.

2) No expansion slot – I use the Fire primarily for books and so I don’t have much of a space problem, but it would be nice to have some extra space (but not at the price increase of the Nook Tablet).

3) Customer Service – Enough for its own blog post, maybe later.

4) Case Expense – Most cases and covers cost at least $25 – $40. Even a protector sheet is north of $12. For a device I paid $199 I wouldn’t expect to pay nearly 20% of it’s cost just to put it in a nice case.

5) The Keyboard – Aside from short e-mails or comment replies, it’s too small to actually write anything of length (including a blog post). I also have learned the meaning of “damn you auto-correct!”

What devices have helped changed the way you write/read?

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Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing