The Secret to Becoming a Better Writer


Everyone wants to be a better writer. Even if you’ve crossed that finish line and become a bestselling author, there’s still room for growth. 


As agents, we want writers that care about craft. Your writing matters - the voice, the style…even the punctuation. And while we might not grade you too harshly on that last one, you must show us you care about craft too. 


That’s why we want to share with you the secret to becoming a better writer. 


It’s not a magic trick or a style guide, though the last one will help you. 


It’s not a course or a lecture or a YouTube video. 


It’s like most secrets: It’s very simple. 


The secret to becoming a better writer is to become a reader. 


That’s it. 


Great writers read. They read widely, across genres. We wouldn’t say it’s impossible to be a writer without being a reader, but it sure does make it a lot harder. 


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How to Query an Agent

Ah yes, the query letter. Feared and dreaded by every writer, it’s the magical key to unlocking the door that leads you to a literary agent. There’s a lot of information available on how to query a literary agent, and most of it is useful. Today, we’re going to look at a few pro tips for how to query an agent and unlock that door. 


First, only submit a query letter to an agent you’ve done some research on
. Know their name and use it in your letter. Mention a previous book that the agent worked on that you enjoyed, too. Here’s an example: “I enjoyed Jon Acuff's Soundtracks. I saw your name in the acknowledgments section at the back of the book.” Mentioning past projects is a small thing that goes a long way with agents, and it lets us know you’ve done your homework. 


A query letter should do two things really well: be brief and specific. It needs to be no more than a page long. You’ve only got a couple of...

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How NOT to Connect to an Agent

Literary agents want to discover you. It’s true. You may not believe it, you may be jaded from the umpteenth unanswered query, but we really ARE looking for you.  


As we’ve said before, your success is our success. That's why we want to tell you how NOT to connect with an agent. 


If you don’t want to connect with an agent, send us a query to read your manuscript that’s outside of the genre we work in. That means you haven’t researched what we, as literary agents, are looking for. It’s okay to do a little stalking or research, whichever word you prefer. Every agent has a specific taste for a genre of books.  Sending a literary agent something they aren’t looking for is a great way NOT to connect. 


Here’s another way to NOT connect with a literary agent: Send us an “I’d love to pick your brain” email. Literary agents are busy. We’ve got a full inbox of requests. When it...

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Know Rejections


"No"
 is a one-word sentence. The time-management and relationship gurus of the world often lean on this sentence to convey the power you have in the choices you make. But as writers, we are often on the receiving end of that sentence. 


"No, we are not interested in publishing you."


"No, we are not interested in representing you."


"No, we are not interested in working with you."


One of the biggest differences between amateurs and pros is their relationship with the word NO. A pro knows that a NO isn’t the end of the road - it’s a simple detour in another direction. For the amateur, they let those NOs hold them back from their publishing dreams. 


Writers fear that two-letter word. And with good reason: Rejection plays a big part in publishing. It’s fear of rejection that often keeps us from writing the books we dream of. It’s never submitting our work because we don’t want to receive that NO. 


But what if the problem isn’t...

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Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 4, Issue 7

Audiobooks Continue Their Hot Streak


The Audio Publishers Association reported sales numbers for 2022 at approximately $1.8 billion – a 10% jump over 2021. That was the 11th consecutive year of double-digit growth for the audio segment—the current belle of the publishing industry ball. That followed a blistering 25% jump in 2021 over 2020. The group’s survey of Americans 18 and older showed that 53% of American adults have listened to an audiobook, up from 45% last year. That’s some incredible saturation.  


So Much for the Sunny Side of the Street


According to the good people at BookScan (I still can’t remember how to spell their new moniker), unit sales for the first half of 2023 finished down 2.7% to 353.5 million.  After a flat Q1 2023 (helped by a one-time prince), Q2 tipped us into the negative – and that’s compared to the first half of 2022 which fell 6.6% below the pandemically inflated first 6 months of 2021. By way of...

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The Art of Revision

Ernest Hemingway lied to you.


Well, sort of. If you’ve been in the writing game long enough you’ve probably read this quote by Hemingway: “Write drunk – edit sober.” And while one can appreciate the spirit (pun intended) behind this quote, it’s bad advice.


Today, let’s unpack three simple techniques for revising and editing your manuscript that don’t involve Tylenol.


A really sloppy manuscript, one that maybe took Hemingway’s advice a bit too far, is like giving yourself the freedom to show up unprepared for a job interview. You’re not taking this seriously enough. A lot of writers use this as permission to grant themselves the freedom to leave the manuscript wrinkled and untucked, creating more work down the road when you begin revising and editing your manuscript.


When you begin revising your writing, you want to give yourself the gift of starting the edits running downhill - not uphill. A clean manuscript that...

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Google is a Lousy Literary Agent

What would it be like to finally realize your dream of being a successful author?


The path to publication can be lonely. Often the only resource writers have is to Google their publishing questions. Have you ever used Google to help you solve a publishing mystery? It’s okay, everyone has. Where would we be without Google? It’s a great tool, but a lousy partner. You have questions, you want answers. What would it be like if you could sit down with a publishing professional and get all of your questions answered? No more going it alone. No more searching for answers. 


What if we told you you don’t have to go it alone on your publishing journey?


That’s why we created the
 Author Audit.


We wanted to give you real, personal advice from experienced publishing experts during a one-on-one consultation. We’ll send you a questionnaire to fill out beforehand to ensure our time is highly productive and informative. By the end, you’ll know exactly...

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What do Agents Do?

Have you ever wondered what agents actually do to help you?


Agents are a little like unicorns: surrounded by myth and difficult to find. We are being a little tongue and cheek here, but if you’ve ever searched for a literary agent, you know how daunting a task it is. Let’s talk about what exactly agents do and why finding the right one is so important.


What is the role of a literary agent?


Literary agents work for you, the author. They represent your writing by pitching your book proposal to editors, negotiating book deals, and acting as a translator between authors and publishers. They focus on the business side of publishing.


Advocacy plays a huge part in an agent's role for you. They promote your proposal to editors, cheer you on when you write the book, and help you during the promotional period after the book has been released. It is a literary agent’s job to find publishers for the writers they represent. They negotiate contracts on the writer’s behalf...

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Publishing Industry Market Update; Vol. 4, Issue 6

Not Too Shabby


In these uncertain economic times, good news seems even gooder. The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reported its Q1 2023 publishing industry results last week with an increase in total sales of 3.2% over Q1 2022. March 2023, in and of itself, shot up 6.6% in a year, with audio and ebook segments each posting double-digit gains both for the month and for the quarter.


The AAP also put out its final report on the 2022 results, with the total sales for the year slipping only 2.6% below banner 2021. That figure bested their preliminary “negative-Nancy” projection of a 6.4% drop. The early projections did not include K-12 educational publishing, which exceeded the prior year by a whopping 16.6%, and helped offset a 6.1% drop in trade sales.


As promised in last month’s issue, we now have Q1 results from Big 5 member, HarperCollins.  After some documented struggles—and some layoffs—HC appears to have stabilized. Following...

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Stop Juggling Flaming Chainsaws

 

Writing requires focus. So why is it so hard to do this one thing?


More times than not, in the midst of a book project, one of our clients will need to stop in for a pitstop. They are tired and overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done. They are juggling flaming chainsaws. And typically we are too far out from the release of the book to just say, “Keep pushing - you are almost there!”


We call this moment in the publishing journey “a time for encouragement.” The publishing process is long and arduous. It requires a lot of you. That’s why we try to remind our clients to focus on what you can control.


You don’t get to control the New York Times Bestsellers List.


You don’t get to control changes at your publishing house.


You don’t get to control the size of that other author’s platform (even though you’ve worked twice as hard as they have!).


But you do get to control
and prioritize time to write and edit.


You do...

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