Blog Post/Article Roundup

Some blog posts and articles that piqued my interest over the past few weeks.

Inspired by a silly piece by writer Jeff Rivera on GalleyCat, in which he, the owner of a self-publishing service, and an anonymous author question the usefulness of literary agents, agent Miriam Goderich of Dystel & Goderich provides an eloquent rebuttal: Who Needs an Agent? You Do.

From agent Holly Root: why not to sweat the small stuff. “There’s a ton of ink spilled online over do’s and don’ts for writers, and while I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and all, too much information can be paralyzing, and some of us on this side of the desk are guilty of making it seem much harder than it already is. If you really read and adhered to every.single.thing. every agent said online you would never finish a book or a query letter and if you did it would probably be a bland groupthinked mess, which actually will get you rejections.”

Agent Jennifer Jackson provides some helpful advice on query letters, including this explanation of what your query letter may say about you and your book (query-hating writers, pay heed): “Now, I’m not going to say that it’s not hard to sum up the book that the writer has spent months, or even years, producing in a way that will make someone want to read it. I think it’s a challenge. And you should definitely give it your best shot. Because, yes, the query is an important part of the initial submission. It sets the stage for reading the synopsis and sample pages. It can reveal things such as the writer’s background, whether their approach is professional, how they see their novel, and other intangible gut feeling responses.”

A pair of really informative posts from agent Rachelle Gardner: How Book Royalties Work and Is Your Book Worth It? (covers what commercial publishers spend on book production).

For writers who, like me, are not enamored of the relentless pressure to self-promote, this New Yorker parody of a marketing plan may make you laugh–or cry.

From writer Caroline Hagood, a short essay on writer’s block that I totally relate to. (For me, actually, what Ms. Hagood describes isn’t true block–it’s more the getting stuckness that I think all writers experience from time to time [and I experience a lot]. True block–the absolute dearth not just of ideas, but of words–is something else again.)

Speaking of being stuck: from Colson Whitehead and the New York Times, some not-exactly-serious ideas for what to write next.


  1. Love the New Yorker's marketing plan. Think there's a comic novel in there somewhere if I could keep a straight face (metaphorically speaking) long enough to get it on paper.

  2. Of course Jeff Rivera doesn't want you to have an agent (unless it's one he charges you $500 to query for you, if he's still running that little side business). He wants you to pay him to self-publish/market/edit/whatever his current "service" is.

  3. I agree with what you say about writers block. To use stephen Fry's analogy about the two types of manic depressive disorders –

    IMO there is Writers Block (which is what i'm currently experiencing – words aren't working

    and then there is writers block 'light' which is what is described in the article.

    or at least thats how i see it

  4. "The world will have peace when the last literary agent chokes on the last query letter and the last publisher is strangled by the last thirty pages of double spaced manuscript."

    "Whenever I see a literary agent sitting in a restaurant with that smug little look of omnipotence as he fussily picks at his food, I just feel an urge to run up to his table and belt him in the face."

    These are things I've found myself saying a lot in recent months, especially in the wake of the little competition set up by agents to poke fun at writers and openly share what they considered to be awful queries, publicly humiliating their potential clients.

    I've retracted from these positions a bit now, but really it has to be said that agents need to do a lot to improve their image and move away from the all powerful "make you or break you" types that many of us see them as.

    We hear so often about the hard working agent, etc, etc. And yet there is so much animosity towards them. I think many of us feel that the agents acts as a kind of Steve Rubell standing outside 54, picking and choosing who is worthy of his attention. Of course, a lot of this is frustration on the part of the writer, but agents could do a lot to improve their image.

    My thoughts…

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