Archive for the 'Agent and Editor Insights' Category

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writing Communities, F&W Media, Inc.

Jane Friedman

By Lori Russell

Writers must keep up to date with trends in the publishing industry to know how to best market their work to agents, editors and readers. In this interview, editor, publisher & editorial director Jane Friedman shares what writers need to know-and do-to advance their careers in this time of change. Ms. Friedman is publisher & editorial director at Writer’s Digest Books in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the editor of the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book and has a blog, There Are No Rules.

What does it mean that magazine and book publishers are becoming businesses based on content rather than print?

Consumers (or readers) should be able to access content in a way that is most convenient, makes the most sense, or is most cost effective for their needs.

Media companies-to stay viable-have to deliver content in a variety of ways, beyond a one-time print use. A piece of content might become an audiobook or podcast, a promotional download, a daily message sent to a cell phone or an email address (see DailyLit), a blog post, etc.

The question to ask (whether you’re an author or a publisher): What value does a certain format or package deliver to a consumer? Does a print (physical) form deliver the best value? Does it make the most sense given the nature of the content?

To really hit this home, consider that editors will become “content strategists” and writers will become “content providers.”

How do the trends toward digitization, social networks and customization affect writers?

Digitization is driving the change we’re seeing in media. There’s also an increased consumer desire for instant gratification and personalized, customizable experiences or content. In book publishing, you can see this particularly in educational markets. If a publisher has all of their content digitized and accessible in a content management system for anyone to manipulate/edit/aggregate, then that can allow teachers to select only the material they need, as well as add their own unique materials.

Social networks help everyone not only stay in close touch with friends and family, but also create very specific networks of people that have never before existed. So it’s very possible today to channel your communication and content to a very focused group of people, for a relatively low cost.

Writers must be involved with online life and expect to provide online content, and have an online presence. I’d say your career will come to an abrupt halt in a few years if you’re not willing to participate, market, promote, or engage in online activities and audiences.

Writers have to stop perceiving their work as a one-time effort, sold to publishers, that is then released into the world grandly, in print form. They also have to stop seeing the print book as the end-all-be-all of their efforts. As Seth Godin says, the book will become the souvenir, a by-product of all your other efforts. What will become valuable in the future is not necessarily a physical object (which is tangible and can be copied, in some respect), but the intangible things you offer (your time, your authority, your network/community, your expertise).

What do writers need to know-and do-to advance their careers during this time of transition?

This could be a book in itself, so I’ll give a quick-and-dirty list:

  1. If you’re not yet comfortable with all things digital, get comfortable. I’m not saying lose your life to the Internet and buy every last gadget, but be savvy about the scene. Editors and agents are seeking-and will demand-writers who know this stuff.
  2. If you don’t already have a website, build one. This may or may not include a blog.
  3. Build your social and professional network, both offline and online. This includes participation on relevant social networks or being connected to your audience. It is essential you know and continue to grow your potential readership and/or client base.
  4. Things are changing fast. This interview will probably be out of date in six months. Keep up with change by reading blogs by thought leaders: the O’Reilly Tools of Change blog, (an expert in social media), PersonaNonData, and BookSquare.
  5. Strengthen (and sell) your knowledge of various media, your knowledge of your audience and your reach to your audience/readership. Focus on how you can craft content or feed communities with your special expertise and know-how.

Lori RussellLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

Agent and Editor Spotlight: Cassie Murdoch, Assistant Editor at Workman Publishing

By Cindy Hudson

Workman Publishing is a mid-sized publisher, turning out about 40 books a year from its office in New York City. Cassie Murdoch, assistant editor at Workman, says while that’s not a lot of books by some standards, the company puts a lot of energy into each title. And Peter Workman is still very much involved in what makes it to bookstore shelves with the Workman imprint. Here’s Murdoch’s advice to writers who would like to pitch their non-fiction book ideas to her company as well as to other publishers.

As an assistant editor, do you have titles you acquire on your own?
The assistants at Workman are more involved than at other houses, and we are very much hands on. We also come up with a lot of ideas in-house.

Do you accept proposals from authors directly or do you only work with agents?
We definitely take unsolicited submissions. Occasionally something comes along that we really like and we go for it. We also work directly with authors we’ve published successfully in the past as well as agents.

What catches your attention when a proposal lands on your desk?
I look for a great idea I haven’t seen before, or a new spin on an old topic. I have to think, “I want to read that, and I know five other people who would want to read it.” Workman’s books depend on authors who are authoritative in their field, or someone who has a great, unique voice. If I’m reading and I feel like anybody could have written the book, it doesn’t appeal to me as much as something more authentic.

What else do you look for?
Does the author have some kind of platform? They don’t have to be the pre-eminent expert in their field, but if they have expertise we couldn’t find in anyone else or if they have developed something no one else has thought of, that works too. They also have to be willing to work hard for their book. I think some people have the perception that they worked really hard to write it, and then they’re done. A commitment to the idea they’re working on and a strong interest in the subject are important.

Also an online presence is a plus. The author doesn’t necessarily have to have a blog with a million readers, but if this person is part of a community the idea feels more tested. The flip side of that is there may be nothing new for the book. Ideally, an author will still have a lot more content to give.

What turns you off immediately in a proposal?
When it’s clear the person hasn’t done their research. We don’t publish fiction for instance, so if I get a fiction proposal I know this person is just throwing it at everyone and hoping somebody takes it. I like to know someone has taken the time to find out not only what house is good for a project, but in some cases what editor may have worked on projects similar to their book. Also, I won’t publish something that’s going to compete directly with what we’ve already put out there.

What’s a good place for authors to do this research?
I always recommend that you find books that connect or relate to your book and see who publishes them. You can often find out who edited a book by reading the acknowledgments page. Keep in mind I’m talking about complementary titles, not competing ones.

How far in advance do you acquire titles, and what happens with a proposal you like?
Right now (September 2008) I’m mostly looking at Fall 2009 and beyond. When we get a proposal, we often will go back and forth with the author to clarify what they’re going to write. Once we’ve bought the book, we like to agree on where we’re heading and what the time frame is. When we get the manuscript, it’s a very collaborative process that goes on sometimes for a couple of weeks, sometimes for a couple of months. It depends on the length of the book. We work hard to make things happen quickly, but it is really important to us that we don’t rush so much that we lose the standards we have for ourselves.

How long does an author spend writing after you agree?
On average maybe six to nine months.

How does your publicity department work with the author?
We have a very involved publicity department. Depending on the project, the publicists may decide to put together a regular tour, or a radio/satellite tour, or sometimes a blog tour. They are really good at finding non-traditional ways to promote our books and making sure we reach the right audience. We also highly value an author who works to promote their book.

Murdoch encourages anyone wishing to submit a proposal to Workman to read the company’s submission guidelines before sending something in.

Cindy HudsonCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

In the Spotlight: Marilyn Allen, Agent with the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency

How does a writer find the right agent for his or her book project? What’s the difference between a query and a pitch? This month, literary agent Marilyn Allen demystifies the what, where and how of author representation.

A partner at the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency in Connecticut, Ms. Allen is an advocate for innovation in the marketing and selling of books. In her 25-year tenure at publishing houses, she directed sales and marketing teams for Penguin Books, Simon & Schuster, and Avon Books before becoming Associate Publisher and Senior Vice President of Marketing for Harper Collins.

The Allen O’Shea Literary Agency is an author-centered boutique agency that works closely with its clients throughout the publication process from developing proposals and manuscript materials to creating marketing and publicity campaigns.

With so many agents working in the industry, what suggestions do you have to help writers to find the right agent for their project and their career?

They should ask other writers for suggestions. Reference books like Literary Marketplace and Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents are a great way to find those working in their fields. (Literary Marketplace can be found at most public libraries or online at Writers’ conferences can also be a wonderful place to find and interview agents.

How many of the authors you represent are referred by other writers or colleagues in the industry? Contacts made at conferences? The result of a query letter without a referral?

About 85% of the authors I represent are referred by other writers and colleagues; I meet about 10% at conferences. Only 5% are the result of a query letter without a referral.

Many conferences offer writers the opportunity to pitch a book concept to agents face to face. What are the elements of a successful pitch?

A successful pitch includes the ability to provide a great keynote for the project and quick highlights of a smart marketing campaign, a competitive analysis and potential audience. Pitch with passion and then LISTEN to the agent.

Is the information in a pitch different from that of a query letter?

I think they are basically the same.

What is an average response time after sending a proposal that an agent has requested? If the agent has not responded in that time, is it okay to contact him/her or should one assume the agent is not interested?

We get hundreds of submissions. Wait four to six weeks and then a polite email is appreciated.

What are you currently looking for?

I am always looking for talented nonfiction writers who are experts in their fields. We keep a lot of resumes on file and frequently pair writers and experts together on projects.
I am looking for health writers, especially MD/experts on healthy world cultures, cancer nutrition, aging benchmarks experts and basic practical health topics. I also am looking for fashion biography writers and someone to write an introduction to sociology. I like to do business, cooking and pop culture titles, too. We don’t handle fiction, science fiction or children’s books.

When looking through your slush pile, what do you wish you would see more of?

Narrative nonfiction and intelligent history proposals.

Best piece of advice on something we haven’t discussed?

Be professional in all your work and communications. Remember writing and publishing are different.

For more information on the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency, go to:

Lori RussellLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

In the Spotlight: An Interview with Jenna Glatzer, Author & Founder of Absolute Write

Jenna GlatzerBy Cindy Hudson

In her 11 years as a freelance writer, Jenna Glatzer has achieved the kind of success that most writers dream of. In addition to the seventeen books and hundreds of magazine articles she’s authored, Glatzer has also ghost written books, as well as penned greeting cards and slogans for bumper stickers and magnets. She founded and is former editor-in-chief of Absolute Write a popular, free online magazine for writers. Glatzer has written three books for writers: Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen (The Lyons Press, 2003), Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer (Nomad Press, 2004), and The Street-Smart Writer (Nomad Press, 2006).

Here Glatzer talks about some of the secrets of her success and shares ideas for writers of all types.

How did you get started freelance writing?

I became a freelance writer because I was agoraphobic, and I had to figure out something I could do from home. I was fresh out of college, so I decided to go with what I knew and I queried college-focused magazines, like College Bound and Link (which no longer publishes). For my first real credit I profiled some friends who had started up a web hosting company. From there I built up slowly and started writing for more and more magazines and websites.

How long was it before you made a living as a freelance writer?
For me it took two years but it varies a lot depending on how much work you put into it.

What’s a good way to get clips when you’re just starting out?
Getting those initial clips was more important than anything for me, and as long as it was a respectable publication I didn’t really care about the pay. You just never know where something is going to lead. I’d write this article for some low-paying magazine and some larger editor would find it and hire me to write something better down the line. I also recommend looking at local freebie magazines, like the ones you’ll find at delis and grocery stores. They are often looking for writers who can do local stories.

What other venues do you recommend?

I’ve written greeting cards and slogans for bumper stickers and magnets. And of course there are newspapers, websites, books and screenplays, and copywriting for businesses.

Is it easier to break into writing greeting cards and slogans?
It probably is easier, because there’s a lot of it and not a lot of people who know about those markets.

How do you find out about those markets?

I did a ton of research on my own. Some of the companies are listed in Writer’s Market every year. I wrote to every company I could find to ask if they use freelance material and I put together an ebook about it that has all the markets I could find. It’s a little bit out of date now, but it is available on It’s called, Sell the Fun Stuff.

How important is it for writers to market themselves?

Very important, especially in the beginning. For the first couple of years I wrote more query letters than actual articles. I also wrote lots of articles for low-paying magazines. Once I broke into the national, grocery-store-type magazines, things began to snowball. Now editors come to me with assignments, so for the last six or seven years I’ve had to send out very few query letters. In the early years I also sent out general letters saying, “Hi, here’s who I am and I’m interested in assignments if you have anything available.” Sometimes I got calls years after I sent in samples and wound up with assignments.

Can you make much money selling reprints of articles?

Definitely. There’s one article that was rejected by Family Circle, which is where I wanted to place it. So I decided to try some of the local parenting magazines. Then I realized I didn’t have to stick to my own local parenting magazine, so I queried parenting magazines in other states. I wound up reselling it 18 times to different parenting magazines all across the country, making more in the end than I would have if I had just sold it to Family Circle in the first place. There’s also a market for re-slants. If you think about different angles for the same topic that you’ve already learned about, you can re-slant the article and you’re not starting from ground zero each time. You can use the same interviews and the same research you started with.

Tell me about your books for writers.

When I started in 1999, I would hear from writers all the time wanting to know how I became a freelance writer. To give them a step-by-step on what made me successful I had to write a book. Maybe the most important book I’ve ever written is The Street Smart Writer. I got scammed a couple of times at the beginning of my writing career by literary agents who weren’t real literary agents. They took my money and didn’t do anything with my work and didn’t have the ability to sell it. So I wrote this book because I don’t want to see other writers taken like that. It’s now free online at Search for it, and you can read it for free.

Cindy HudsonCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

In the Spotlight: Deborah Schneider, Public Programming Coordinator, King Country Library System

Deborah Schneider

Interview by Lori Russell

After writing and publishing a book, an author’s attention turns to promotion. One key to creating a successful author event is matching a particular book to the right community, says Deborah Schneider, public programming coordinator for the King County Library System in Washington State. With 43 libraries and a circulation of over 19 million items per year, King County is the second busiest library system in the country. It hosts about 100 events annually for local and touring authors. Here, Schneider explains how authors can benefit by including library events in their list of promotional activities and shares her tips for creating a memorable program.

How is a reading at a library or other venue similar to or different from reading and signing books in a bookstore?

There is actually very little difference in my opinion. We work with booksellers and have an author’s book for sale at all of our events. Part of the attraction to an author program is the opportunity to have a book inscribed to you. We have great meeting rooms and can provide audio-visual equipment, such as LCD projectors for presentations.

What is the most engaging author performance you have seen and why?

Charlie Williams, aka The Noiseguy, had a book release party for his children’s book, Flush: An Ode to Toilets in one of our meeting rooms a few years ago. He and his wife decorated the room with toilet plungers, toilet paper, and even toilets with plants. They had refreshments, including a punch “bowl” ice sculpture that was a toilet. He performed two shows, and we had over 100 people. A television reporter for a local show came. They even TP’d a librarian! It was all hilarious fun. He was interviewed on the radio and that segment from Evening Magazine has been shown at least three times. It was great publicity for the book.

What are the most effective promotional strategies for inviting people to an author event?

While having a big name author with lots of holds on their books is a sure-fire way to have a successful event, not every author is on The New York Times best seller list. It takes more energy to promote an unknown author. One of the mistakes authors make is to look around a room and only count “noses” to measure the success of the event. Even the big name authors who travel the country know it’s about the publicity, not the number of books sold. Book tours are created to generate “buzz” – publicity and talk about the book and author.

There are several factors that can benefit an author in creating a successful event. Put the event on your website. Have a great publicity packet with good photos, a JPEG image of your book cover and basic publicity materials like the blurb. You can’t rely upon your publisher to do this. They can give you the cover art, and you need to make it available for promoting your program.

What should authors keep in mind if they want to engage their audience at an event?

Start by not calling it a “reading.” Most people get an image of an author standing and reading to an audience for an hour. How exciting does that sound? Instead you need to find a topic you’d like to talk about (that relates to your book), and create a program around it. If your novel is set in a specific time, you can use that as a topic of interest and draw readers because they love those kinds of books. If you take the time to develop a program, you have more to offer. You can read from your book, but find a way to set the scene and leave the audience craving more from you.

How can authors find out about events at libraries in their region and whom should they contact if they want to participate?

Libraries love having author events, but the publishers don’t often consider sending an author to a library when they are on tour. Many don’t understand that books can be sold at the event, and quite honestly, they don’t know how many millions of dollars libraries spend purchasing books every year. You can easily discover what kinds of author events your local library is offering by visiting its website. You will find our author events listed on the front page at A great resource for those who want to plan successful author events is The Author Event Primer: How to Plan, Execute and Enjoy Author Events by Chapple Langemack.

Deborah Schneider can be contacted at dschneid (at) kcls (dot) org


Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.


In the Spotlight: Colleen Sell, Editor of A Cup of Comfort Series from Adams Media

Interview By Cindy Hudson

When Colleen Sell is not editing one of the many books in the popular A Cup of Comfort book series (published by Adams Media), this freelance editor spends her time writing for magazines as well as editing and ghost writing for other clients. Plus, she always has an idea for a project or two she would love to develop if she had more time. With over 25 books under her belt in the A Cup of Comfort series and more on the way, there’s precious little free time in Sell’s life these days. She took a moment out of her busy schedule recently to talk about what she strives to create with A Cup of Comfort and to give readers of Writers on the Rise tips for submitting their personal essays.

When you first started as editor of A Cup of Comfort, what did you want to bring to the series?

One of the things that was important to me is that the stories we included were not homogenized to have the same tone and the same voice. I wanted variety and I wanted to allow as much literary influence as possible. I wanted the stories to read like fiction; but I wanted them to be absolutely true. I wanted the stories to capture readers and pull them in.

How many submissions do you usually get for each book?

It varies on the topic but between 1,500 and 3,000. I select about 50 for each book, but I will not take a lesser story over a better story just to get that number. For me, the quality of the book is always the most important thing.

Does each A Cup of Comfort volume have its own personality?

Yes, definitely. There’s commonality with each volume, but each of the books I’ve worked on has a very distinctive personality as well.

What do you look for when you’re selecting stories to include in a particular A Cup of Comfort volume?

Authenticity is really important to me. It’s been said that there are no new stories. But your perception of what happened in your life and how it affected you is unique. And there’s always something that’s unusual, that’s specific to your life and your situation that’s different from everybody else’s and that’s what I want to see in stories. I also think the best stories have a universal truth. Something in that story needs to resonate with just about everyone who reads it. And it needs to have a nugget of truth, that thing that makes us human coming through in the story without actually saying it. When a story lets readers come to that conclusion themselves, that is an excellent essay.

If you choose an essay from a writer for one volume will you consider something else they’ve written for another?

I consider the essays individually every time. And we have published more than one essay from a writer in the same volume. People can submit as many stories as they want for as many volumes as they want. Our policy says that I cannot publish more than three stories from any author in any single book. It’s usually better for the reader if there’s variety. But sometimes the very best stories that provide the most variety and flavor and different points of view are by the same author.

Do you choose essays from people who haven’t been published before?

About 25 percent of the essays in each book are by people who have not been published before. If I see a good story, even if it needs a little work, I’m going to grab it.

Do the authors participate in the promotion of the books?

They do, but it’s not required. Many of the contributors set up signings at bookstores. We also have authors who participate in local art fairs that feature local authors, library events and charitable events.

When submitting to A Cup of Comfort, what can authors do to make their writing stand out?

I’m a firm believer that you’re going to write the best story if you write what you know and write from your gut and not think too much about what we want. A lot of the stories deal with challenging and painful events in life. Write honestly about that, but for our purposes it’s about comfort, hope and inspiration. So keep that in mind. No matter what you write about it has to resonate with a large audience, it has to have some kind of insight or redemption quality or something that’s uplifting.

What kinds of stylistic and submission no-no’s should people avoid?

One of the common tendencies in writers is to overwrite, to say too much. Make sure every word counts. Also, preachiness doesn’t work for A Cup of Comfort. And, believe it or not, I get submissions with no contact information, no name. So if I want to publish the story I don’t know how to contact the author.

It’s not a good idea to submit something, revise it and submit it again. Sometimes people submit something because they’re excited and then after a couple of days they think, “Oh shoot, I have a mistake in there so I’m going to resubmit it.” It happens a lot with new writers. Sit on it a couple of days and make sure you want to submit what you submit. And if you find something you’d like to change after you submit, don’t worry. Editors don’t expect every submission to be perfect. We can tell if a story is close to what we need, and we’re accustomed to fixing things later.
Cindy HudsonCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

In the Spotlight: Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books

Chuck SambuchinoInterview by Lori Russell

Writers Digest Books, an imprint of F+W Publications, publishes yearly market directories for writers as well as trade books that examine the craft and business of writing. Chuck Sambuchino is the editor of the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents, the founding editor of Screenwriter’s and Playwright’s Market (to be released in December 2008) and the assistant editor of Writer’s Market. He is also a produced playwright, a freelance editor and an award-winning journalist. Here, he discusses what writers need to know about finding an agent in the current marketplace.

How is finding an agent different today than in the past?

Thanks to the Internet, plenty of agencies have websites where they detail what they’re looking for, how to submit, etc. The ability to submit queries through email has sped up the reply process. You also have plenty of agent-related blogs, where you can learn all about proposals, queries, genres, synopses and everything else.

The bad news is that scammers are online looking for prey. Legitimate literary agencies charge no upfront fees. Look for agents who are part of the AAR; look for sales; look for individuals who have a history in the publishing world. If you’re hesitant, Google the agent. Chances are, you’ll find message boards and forums discussing the agent.

Do fiction and nonfiction writers need an agent?

Books that are small in scope-with relatively low expected sales-can indeed get published without the help of an agent, but most fiction needs an agent. Agents play an important role in negotiating contracts, dealing with payments, working with foreign agents, and so on. Publishers don’t have time to sift through all the bad writing; they need agents to find the gems for them.

A lot of nonfiction is sold directly to publishers-especially smaller houses. If your ultimate goal is to sell a huge diet book, business book or celebrity biography to Random House, you’ll need an agent to negotiate that deal.

Why are agents interested in a writer’s platform?

Publishing houses are very busy and don’t have the time or money to actively market most books. They need you to sell it for them. Platform is absolutely crucial if you want to sell a nonfiction book. With fiction, platform is always appreciated but not mandatory. The book will gain momentum and sell if it’s good enough.

Is the quality of one’s writing still important?

With fiction, the quality of the writing will always be important. Agents and editors read countless submissions, and the cream really does rise to the top. If a writer constructs a brilliant mystery, then the book should be an easy sell.

If a writer composes a story that’s a mix between romance, paranormal and western, then publishers have difficulty identifying who will buy the book. They’re likely to pass on the project, no matter how good the writing is.

Literary fiction writing competition has become very tough. Some very good books get published. A lot of good ones don’t.

With nonfiction, a book will sell depending on the idea/concept, its place in the market, and the writer’s platform. The quality of the writing is also important, but less so than fiction.

Why should writers purchase the 2008 Guide to Literary Agents? What will they find there?

The first 85 pages of the book contain articles that help writers learn the business of submitting a book proposal or a query letter. Everything is indexed, so if you’re looking for an agent that represents both young adult fiction and narrative nonfiction, you can find several easily enough. Every listing is verified each year by the agents themselves or a Writers Digest Books editor. We carefully screen for agents who charge fees and don’t list them. Also, the book has a huge directory of writers’ conferences. Most have agents in attendance who take pitches.

One of the most challenging things about the book is that it’s published only once a year. Thanks to the online directory at and the GLA blog, we can relay all changes and information as soon as we know them.

To sign up for Chuck Sambuchino’s new free newsletter or to read his blog, visit

Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

In the Spotlight: Andrea Hurst, Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Agency

Interview By Cindy HudsonAndrea HurstLiterary agent Andrea Hurst has been around all sides of the publishing industry. She’s a published author, has worked as a freelance consultant for writers, and has spent some time in acquisitions and development for a publishing company before deciding to open an agency of her own six years ago. Located in Sacramento near the thriving publishing community of the San Francisco Bay Area, Andrea Hurst Literary Management represents authors in both fiction and nonfiction on a variety of subjects. Here’s her advice for writers seeking agent representation.

What do you look for in a writer when you’re deciding which projects you’d like to represent?

When I sign an author, I want a wonderful writer, a great manuscript, and if they’re writing nonfiction, a really good platform. But I also want someone I can work with, because we become a team. I love working with people who are motivated, open, flexible and who meet deadlines. I love giving authors ideas for changes to their proposals and having them come back with more. I love the brainstorming, the creativity and working with someone who will respect my opinion because agents are the bridge, and through experience we know what publishers are looking for.

What do you find the most challenging about working with authors?

Lack of professionalism. It’s so frustrating to get query letters and know that the writer didn’t even take the time to learn how to write a query letter. And it’s so easy to pick up The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, which is the best book I recommend for anyone getting started. It’s a crash course that can bring writers up to speed and put them above the slush pile immediately.

What challenges do you face once you sign a writer?

I would say 99 percent of the authors I’ve signed and worked with are wonderful. One of the biggest challenges comes when they realize I was telling the truth when I said publishers don’t market the book. Authors realize just how much they have to be involved and how hard it is.

You mentioned platform earlier. How important do you think platform is to helping you decide whether or not to represent an author?

For nonfiction, on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most important, it’s 11. That’s mostly because I can sell a book to an editor, but the editor has to sell it to the marketing and sales people. That’s where platform comes in.

You also act as an agent for the Complete Idiot’s Guides is that correct?

I act as a packager agent for the Complete Idiot’s Guides and Everything Guides, which means I package a writer with an expert and then act as the agent. It’s a great way for writers to break in, and I’m always looking for both experts who can write and writers who don’t mind working with an expert.

How does a writer know if her idea might be good for a Complete Idiot’s Guide?

One of the first things is to go to the website,, and make sure the subject or anything close to it hasn’t been done. The other thing is to think about whether it’s a large enough market for Idiot’s Guides to be interested. You also have to be able to follow a template very well. I have some writers who do one after the other after the other of these because they take to it.

What else should writers know about these guides?

They don’t give you a lot of lead-time; a writer usually has anywhere from three to six months to write the guide. The Idiot’s Guides pay a royalty as well as an advance. The Everything Guides just pay an advance. Again, it’s a great way for writers to break in, and it can be a good way to build a platform or a business.

Are there any specific topics in nonfiction you’re looking for now?

As long as someone has a good platform and a unique idea, I am interested in just about any area of nonfiction. One of the areas publishing seems to like right now is science meeting spirituality. I haven’t found anything I love in that yet, but I’d like to. Someone who has expertise in parenting along with a platform and a different slant would be great. Advice, relationships and health are very strong. I would love to find the next killer diet book.

Any other advice?

Go to conferences, meet agents and editors, learn your craft, go to the agents’ and publishers’ websites and study them. Christina Katz’s book Writer Mama talks about the importance of marketing and I can’t emphasize enough how important that is. That’s what sells books. I have a tips section on writing a proposal on my agency website ( I already mentioned The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, which is invaluable for finding agents. Serious writers should also join Finally, don’t give up. Agents can’t work unless we sign good books.
Cindy HudsonCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

In the Spotlight: Mary Elizabeth Braun, acquisitions editor at Oregon State University Press

Interview By Lori Russell

Mary Elizabeth BraunChanges in the publishing industry over the past several years have led many commercial houses to focus on book proposals and manuscripts that offer wide reader appeal and a potentially large financial payoff. Where does that leave authors with more regional or specialized projects? An increasing number are finding publication success with a university press.

Once home almost exclusively to academic monographs and scholarly texts, many university presses are expanding their lists of books for general audiences as well. Oregon State University Press, established in 1961, publishes about 15 works of nonfiction each year. As acquisitions editor, Mary Elizabeth Braun is responsible for evaluating both solicited and unsolicited proposals and manuscripts for possible publication. She also maintains a network of qualified outside manuscript reviewers who participate in the peer review process for each project.

Here, Ms. Braun explains the role of the university press, how it differs from a commercial publisher and what writers need to know before submitting a book proposal.

What is the role of the university press in the larger world of publishing?

University presses play a larger role than ever in the publishing world, as their lists expand to include titles of a more popular nature, in addition to the academic monographs that have always been their staples. University presses often take risks on books that a large commercial press would reject. We publish books written by new or little-known authors, or books that might sell “only” several thousand copies––low sales for a large commercial press, but not a university press. Do check out the following summary from the Association of American University Presses about the value of university presses.

How does it function differently than a commercial New York publisher or a small independent press?

Perhaps the largest single difference in how we function is that each manuscript we consider seriously for publication must go through peer review and be approved by the Press Editorial Board before it is published. Also, we copyedit each and every book we publish.

What types of projects are the best fit for a university press?

Years ago, academic monographs were the most appropriate projects for publication by a university press. Nowadays, most any intelligent, well-written project is suitable for publication by a university press. The key factor is identifying a university press that has a strong established list in the subject matter of your manuscript, e.g., regional nonfiction, history, poetry, art history, memoir, etc. This ensures that your publisher will have an established marketing network to best place, promote and sell your book. To identify a potential university press as your publisher, consult the annual directory of the Association of American University Presses.

Does a writer need to have an advanced academic degree or teach at the college- level to write for a university press?

An author need not have an advanced academic degree, or a position teaching at the college level, to be a university press author. In fact, many of our authors are freelance writers or journalists. Nor does an author have to be affiliated with the parent institution of the university press to which they submit a manuscript.

Does a writer need to contact you through an agent or can he/she send a query directly?

I prefer receiving queries directly from the author.

What is the peer review process?

If I review a manuscript or proposal and think it has solid potential as an OSU Press book, I will send it to two outside readers for review. These are usually individuals who are published authors themselves, who are knowledgeable about the subject matter of the manuscript and experienced in evaluating a project’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as its sales potential. This helps Press staff ensure the integrity of each title we publish.

What specific types of projects are you looking for now?

I am interested in intelligent, well-written, compelling books written for an educated general reader that address topics of Pacific Northwest history, natural history, culture, art and literature, as well as books of environmental history and natural resource management. First-person narratives and creative nonfiction are welcome. Do visit the OSU Press website to see firsthand what sort of books we publish and to access the submission guidelines for authors.

Feel free to contact me at 541-737-3873, or with any comments or questions. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Lori RusselLori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.

In the Spotlight: Page Jordan, Barnes & Noble Community Relations Manager

Page Jordan

By Cindy Hudson

Barnes & Noble is a national bookseller willing to work with local authors to help them get their books on the shelves. Community Relations Managers (CRMs) serve as the “go-to people” for writers who want to participate in that process. Page Jordan is one of these CRMs. Working from a flagship store in Clackamas, Oregon, Jordan loves the time she spends meeting with writers and organizing community events such as author presentations.

Here Jordan gives advice to authors about how to approach Barnes & Noble about stocking a book as well as other ways to help promote their work.

Do you have a section in the store to showcase local authors and local subjects?
Oh yes. Barnes & Noble encourages us to bring a local flavor into the store. Each location carries somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 titles. About 40,000 of those are common to every store in the nation. The rest are specific to an individual store and its local community. While it may seem to you that every Barnes & Noble looks the same and has the same displays and the same books, there is actually a lot of room for each store to enhance the local area and carry what the local community wants to read.

What is the normal distribution channel for books carried by Barnes & Noble?
The majority of books we carry go through a buying process determined by our home office in New York, but stores on a local level can help facilitate that process. While we don’t make the ultimate decision to carry the book at the local store level, we can steer authors to our home office so they can get the information they need to be considered.

Do you buy books directly from authors?
No. We carry books available through wholesalers, and we can help folks figure out which wholesaler to go with. I give out the Barnes & Noble Acceptance Criteria Sheet to anyone who asks about it. This sheet has great information and it puts the author directly in touch with our small press department in New York.

What does a book need to be carried by Barnes &Noble?
It has to have an ISBN, it has to have a bar code and it has to have a certain kind of binding. The book also must be available through a wholesaler for us to carry it on the shelves. All that information is on our Acceptance Criteria Sheet. We also look to see if it is priced competitively with other titles of similar quality. Basically what an author needs to do if a book isn’t already in distribution is submit a finished copy of the book, not a manuscript, but a finished copy to our small press department along with a marketing and promotion plan, trade reviews, and a little something on what makes that book unique. All these factors will play a role in whether we will carry it or not.

Do you carry books by people who are self-published?
We generally don’t carry those on the shelves. What we have available for the print-on-demand or the self-published author is an event called New Writers Night. We typically schedule this with four to six authors who are all self-published. We invite them to come to our store on a particular night or afternoon. They bring their own books with them, make a presentation and perhaps have a question-and-answer session with the audience. We sell the books on consignment at the store during the event, and audience members can have them signed at the time. When the reading is over, authors take the books that didn’t sell back with them, and our home office pays them for the books they sold.

Every store has the opportunity to do one or two of these New Writers Nights a year, but the store locations with CRMs do a whole lot more in the way of events than stores without CRMs. You can call any Barnes & Noble store to ask if they have a CRM on staff.

Can people come to you for general advice about publishing?
I try really hard to give time to every author who comes into our store with questions. I’ll sit down with them and we’ll have a brainstorming session that will help them think about ways of getting their book out there while they’re going through the process of trying to get it into Barnes & Noble. Maybe they can connect with local clubs, local civic organizations or local churches. It’s like I’m helping them look through their personal address book to see whom they can connect with. I encounter so many authors who have no idea what to do and they are desperate to know, and I try to help them with that. I do know how precious those creations are. No matter what the topic or what the book is about there’s somebody out there who wants to see it, who wants to read it.

What else can an author do?
I strongly encourage authors to get out there and pound the pavement, make themselves known, make their books known. I’ve run into folks who were self-published, who started with a grass roots effort who have gone on to make it really, really big. Not every book is going to have that kind of success, but when authors work hard at promoting their work it can make a huge difference in the book’s ultimate success.
October 2007 Family Fun MagazineCindy Hudson writes for national trade magazines, regional magazines, online publications and daily newspapers. Her website and its companion blog, publishes reading lists, book reviews, author interviews and other book club resources. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Portland, Oregon, where she writes weekly for The Oregonian. Visit her online at

RSS RSS Subscribe to Writers on the Rise

  • This Blog Moving to as of December 30, 2009… December 27, 2009
    We’re moving! Writers on the Rise archives have been here for years. I hope that WordPress will let the archive live on for a good long time. However, it’s time to move on, bittersweet as change may be. Please come and find me at my new digs: And while we’re both thinking of it, […]
    The Writer Mama

RSS RSS Subscribe to WOTR Comments


Christina Katz's Facebook profile
April 2021

Blog Stats

  • 303,619 hits