Agented Authors Share Tips on Finding an Agent

Once you’ve landed an agent and have sold your first book—then what? At this month’s SCBWI-NM ShopTalk meeting, our panel of four agented and published authors shared their experience to the delight and enlightenment of our members.

Advice to Help Find Your Way
Kyle T. Cowan: Kyle, actor and author of Sunshine is Forever, majored in screen writing. He says there is no one way to find an agent. Each author’s experience is different. Kyle googled and sought agents looking for what he writes.
Along Kyle’s journey, he was advised to turn one of his screenplays into a novel—a jump, he says, into a new dimension. “Screenwriting is all visual. You write only what you see; write the scene from the action is happening and then you add the dialogue. There are so many layers in a book.”

Q: Is it possible to change genres with your agent?
Kyle: This is a good question to ask when you’re interviewing agents. Some agencies, such as Andrea Brown Literary Agency, will represent across-the-board, or give you permission to find another agent. Be aware: some editors and publishers want their authors to stay in the same niche and genre. Keep that in mind. They’re interested in you and your brand.

Loriel Ryon: Loriel’s debut novel, Into the Tall, Tall Grass, grades 5 & 6, is coming out in April 2020, with Margaret. K. McElderry Books. Loriel also googled middle grade agents and looked in Acknowledgements for names in her search. She is working with an associate agent and has found the communication with her to be excellent. The importance of having an agent to Loriel is that her agent explained her contract for her and will deal with anything that could go wrong.

What helped were two excellent current comps—comparative or competitive titles—which she believes can help get an author in the door. Her editor is totally different. She raises questions and doesn’t try to solve them for her.

Caroline Starr Rose: Among Caroline’s books are Blue Birds, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, May B., and her latest book coming out in 2020, Miraculous. Caroline submitted to slush piles for twelve years before an editor advised her to get an agent. She does not advise this, but to seek an agent right away. An agent will get your foot in the door much quicker. Most important: Do your homework. Know what agents are looking for. Choose an agent you feel good about working with, and someone you can have a long-term relationship with.

Kit Rosewater: Kit’s debut novel, The Derby Daredevils, coming out in early 2020 and is currently working on Book 2. To find an agent, read reviews, social media, and publications such as Publisher’s Weekly.

Kit says having an agent is insurance. Agents are there for anything that goes awry. Her agent fought for Kit to get the illustrator of her dreams. Kit cc’s her agent in all emails with her editor. To get your book ready, Kit suggests asking people who are not writers or critique partners, CP’s, to read it, one round each. She polishes after each round.

More Sage Advice:
  • Check out this helpful website:
  • Build your brand as an author, not your series or book titles.
  • Send thank-you’s to readers who pre-order; create a database to stay in touch with important contacts and readers.
  • When things are quiet at the publisher’s, not to worry. More is going on than you realize.
  • Consult SCBWI’s The Book for resources such as critique partners, agents and editors.
  • Make sure the revisions requested by agents and/or editors fit your vision of your book.
  • With picture books, have three books under your belt to offer more if the one that is being considered is not accepted.
  • Pay for a professional edit to get a book ready.
  • Last but not least: Never pay an agent up front. Agents get paid when you get paid. 
Introductory Photo: By Linda Wilson

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter and is working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on Facebook.

Market Your Product

Market Your Product

As authorprenuers, we must market our products i.e., books, articles, and niche.  

Platform, Brand, and Website form the vehicle to make that happen. These, along with your mission statement tell your readers who you are and what you are about. Closely aligned they present a consistent message.

Your Platform is a useful necessity for all authors whether you write essays, articles, blogs or books, fiction or nonfiction. Brand is who you are. You are your brand, built by words, images and delivering as promised. Success depends upon visibility. We communicate with clarity and offer valuable information because Content is King.

  • Start building your writer Platform now without delay and maintain it to keep connecting with your clients; building a Platform takes time,
  • Clearly show what you have to offer and what makes your work stand out,
  • Develop an email list of subscribers to build your following, and offer subscribers free eBooks, articles, and newsletters
  • Guest post on sites within your niche to reach additional readers, and invite those bloggers to contribute to your site,
  • Social Media is a part of Platform, use it often,
  • Identify your target audience’s needs and suggest meaningful alternatives,
  • Be the wealth of information that can work for their success with info that solves a problem,
  • Qualify your work stating your connections and building expert status as an authority,
  • Accept responsibility for ongoing marketing and promotion of your services,
  • Create or update an email signature to promote your website, book and products,
  • Respond to comments, be reachable,
  • Join organizations that will support your work,
  • Promote, promote, promote with posts and news via your social media pages,

Links of interest:
Create a Strategy that Delivers Great Content:

What does it take…Great Content:

Write clear & concise, personable yet professional.
Know your reader.
Use quotes & antidotes whenever you can.

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts. Visit her web-blog: 

Facebook at: Deborah Lyn Stanley

Opportunities Are Everywhere

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

If you hold a glass partially filled with liquid, what is your perspective? Is the glass half-filled or half empty?

For the last fourteen years, I've been writing about publishing, I believe the glass is half full. As I look over the landscape of the publishing world, I see opportunities are everywhere. Magazine editors are actively looking every day for writers who understand their publication and write targeted articles for their readers. Editors of online publications are reading their email and looking for excellent material to use. Book editors are also actively reading their mail (and email) and continually listening to literary agents and writers as they pitch their ideas. Over the years, I've been inside some of the top literary agencies in New York City. These agents are looking for the next bestseller that they can champion to their editor friends.

One of the keys to seizing an opportunity is looking for change. The marketplace is constantly changing. New publications start. New editors come on the scene. Long-term editors will leave their publisher and start to work as a literary agent. These changes are only a few of the many transitions in the marketplace. 

When you read about these changes, I encourage you to understand they are opportunities for you as a writer. Each of these professionals is actively looking for a new stable of writers. Your pitch has to be right on target but it can make a huge impact if it comes at the right time. 

Through my years in publishing, I have made my own transitions from magazine editor to writer to book editor to literary agent to acquisitions editor.  For the last seven years, I have acquired books for a New York publisher. Yes I live in Colorado but no one cares where I live as long as I get the work done. I've worked with many authors to explore and bring their books to the marketplace. Each day I'm actively looking for excellent book proposals which I can present to our publication board. Because Morgan James Publishing  is based in New York, I've got a New York phone number and mailing address. In a pattern that is familiar to many in the publishing world, I telecommute for my acquisitions editor role. If I can help you, don't hesitate to reach out and send me your proposal.

Here are several keys as you explore the opportunities:

—continue to build relationships with anyone and everyone in the publishing community. You never know when a relationship may become important to you. Writers become editors. Editors become literary agents. Literary agents become editors. The fluid nature of the community means you should work each day to expand your connections.

—continue to grasp opportunities large and small which keep you active in the publishing world. There are times when the phone does not ring and you receive no personal email. How do you handle those times? Do you pull into your shell and do nothing or do you increase your activity? I encourage you to write more query letters and pitch more ideas. Activity will breed activity.

—take action every day to write what you want to write and continually touch the marketplace. Earlier this week I exchanged emails with a long-term friend. He has been dreaming for years about writing a book—yet never put his fingers on the keyboard and produced any writing. The days continue to pass and he has not taken action. I encouraged him to choose a small number of words that he wants to write each day and then commit to working at his writing. If you take this small action step, you will be surprised after a month or two at the accumulated writing. It does not happen without taking action.

Let's return to the half-filled glass. Do you see opportunity? I hope so and from my experience I know opportunity is everywhere. You have to seize it. What steps are you taking? Let me know in the comments below.


How Is your glass half full or half empty? This prolific writer and editor sees opportunities are everywhere. Get insights here. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  One of his books for writers is Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success. One of Terry's most popular free ebooks is Straight Talk From the Editor, 18 Keys to a Rejection-Proof Submission. He lives in Colorado and has over 205,000 twitter followers 

How to Quickly Land a Freelance Writing Job

Since I'm a freelance writer and a writing coach, people are always asking me, "How long should it take before I get my first big writing job?"

To me, that question implies that the person asking it is waiting for work, not actively seeking work.

And without actively seeking new jobs or assignments it can take a long, long time for a freelance job to simply fall in your lap.

So, if you're wondering how long it should take before you land your first big writing job, stop wondering and start doing all you can to make it happen.

If you really want to have a successful freelance writing business, and you have writing skills (for the types of things you wish to write), then there's no reason you can't have a great assignment within a few weeks or even a few days.

You simply need to go after the type of writing job you want.

And, as the more successful freelance writers know, many times the best writing jobs are never advertised.

Today take some time to identify the type of clients you want.

Then target these clients and market your services to them.

For example, if you'd like to write for small local businesses, get out the phone book and look for some of the small businesses you'd like to target in your area.

Write down the name and address for each business you want to target.

Next, see if each of these businesses has a website.

Go to the websites to get the contact information you need for each business.

You want to find out who the business owner is so you can address your LOI (letter of introduction) to this person.

Next, create a list of services you can offer these business owners.

Then, create a letter of introduction to send to them, explaining what you do and why you'd like to write for them.

Include your list of services with your letter of introduction.

Try to get letters like this mailed off to a dozen small businesses this week.

Next week, follow up by phone with each person you sent a letter to.

When you call, introduce yourself and then ask if they received your letter.

If they did, ask if they have any questions about what you do or what you have to offer.

And, most importantly, ask if they have any work you might do for them right now.

I realize that calling and actually asking for an assignment might be so far out of your comfort zone that you've never, ever considered doing this.

And a phone call might seem like it's too "old school" to use as part of any marketing strategy these days.

But a phone call works.

And it really isn't that painful either.

Try it!

For more writing tips and resources, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a writing coach, and editor at

Getting Press

Getting Press

An ongoing challenge for anyone in business - an author, marketer, consultant, or all of the above - is getting recognized. The more the public knows you, the more likely they will be to read your books, hire you, etc. One of the best ways to get known is through press.

But how do you go about getting press?

I posed this question on my Sunday night #GoalChat Twitter chat. Here's what I - and some of my community - had to say.

Q4. What are the most effective ways of getting publicity?

Q5. What advice do you have for getting press?

What are your tips for getting press? Please share in the comments.

* * *

For more on Getting Press, read the entire #GoalChat recap on the topic.

Also, check out the newly released 3rd edition of The Frugal Book Promoter by WOTM's Carolyn Howard-Johnson.

* * *

Debra Eckerling is a writer, editor and project catalyst, as well as founder of The D*E*B Method: Goal Setting Simplified and Write On Online, a live and online writers’ support group. Like the Write On Online Facebook Page and join the Facebook Group.  Debra is the author of Your Goal Guide, being released by Mango in January 2020, as well as Write On Blogging: 51 Tips to Create, Write & Promote Your Blog and Purple Pencil Adventures: Writing Prompts for Kids of All Ages. She is host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat and the Guided Goals Podcast, and a speaker/moderator on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.

3 Tips for Writing Your Life Story

Contributed by Patrick McNulty

Ready to write the story of your life?

There’s an old saying that everyone has a book in them. When it comes to autobiographies or memoirs, that’s definitely the case!

Writing a life story allows you to do more than just leave a legacy. You can also inspire and guide others with your words. The best life stories really impact the people that read them. They can cause profound and lasting change.

Before you get down to writing your life story  make sure you’ve taken the time to prepare properly.

After all, you only get one life. Why not tell its story well?
These three tips will help you make your life story writing experience as positive as possible.

Choose Between Autobiography Or Memoir

Often, the terms autobiography and memoir are used interchangeably. However, there’s a difference between them.

An autobiography covers the complete chronology of a person’s life, while a memoir focuses on a particular part.

To illustrate this, let's consider a chef preparing to write his life story. If he wanted to include stories from childhood all the way through to his adult cooking career, he would write an autobiography. If he wanted to focus on a time where they ran their own restaurant, they would write a focused memoir.

For many people, writing a memoir is the best choice. Why? It cuts to the chase. Most people have a somewhat predictable upbringing. Why not skip it, and get to the good stuff?

No matter which type of life story you choose to write, keep it honest, gripping, and impactful. This will keep your readers enthralled until the last page. 

Transport Yourself Back In Time

You know the feeling when you come across an old photo or hear a song that transports you back to a particular time in your life?

When writing your life story, you want to trigger as many rich memories as possible.

Your five senses are powerful helpers here. What type of music were you listening to at a particular time in your life? What kind of clothing did you wear?

Old photos, diaries, and conversations with longtime friends can help. Often, over time, our memories become a little foggy. Bring them into focus the best way you can.

If you feel comfortable doing so, consider including some personal photos or other items within the pages of your life story. This adds a level of intimacy for your reader which wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Make Your Readers Feel Something Strong

To make your life story as effective as possible, you need to share your total truth, without holding back.

Glossy, halfhearted tales won't keep readers interested, at all. You need to be vulnerable and put it all out there.

Think back to the best autobiography or memoir you’ve ever read. You probably felt joy at the author’s successes, and despair during their nadirs.

The key to doing this effectively is to strike a golden mean between too much and too little emotion.

Too little emotion runs the risk of boring your readers, while too much can come across as melodramatic and inauthentic.

Solicit feedback on your early drafts to finetune the emotional potency of your life story. Getting this right is perhaps the main determinant of its impact.

Above all, make your life story exactly as you want it to be. Feel free to break every suggestion on this page.

In the words of Thomas M. Cirignano - “Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book, if written, results in a person explained.”

Are you ready to explain yourself?

About the Author

Patrick is a writer and aspiring novelist. He's originally from London but travels around Europe. When not at his keyboard working on dystopian fiction, he can be found at the local coffee establishment, enjoying an iced Americano and a novel.


The Lazy Way to Be a Great Writer

What To Do When A Book Fails

Writing Secret to Getting Ahead

Building a Story Pitch

Fine Art of Asking for Reviews

The Fine Art of Asking for Reviews, Blurbs and Anything Else

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Excerpted and Adapted from the third in the multi award-winning How To Do It Frugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

To find even more support for your book or your career, we often need to get more comfortable with asking. You can put your reporter’s hat on and ask—tactfully—questions that will help your career or for favors that will help you expand your base (including reviews, blurbs, advice, etc.). Make the point that your contact’s answer or help is a gift to you, and that you would be pleased to reciprocate when the need arises. Try some of these possibilities:
  • Ask fellow attendees at writers’ or other conferences.
  • Ask directors of conferences if they offer a review exchange or provide an area where you can distribute fliers or sell your books. If the answer, is no, ask if they have other suggestions or know of other resources that might help you.
  • Ask instructors and presenters if they have a list of pertinent resources or know where you can find one.
  • When you’re on the Web, look at the resource pages of the Websites owned by bloggers and other online entities to glean ideas and help. Use the contact feature to ask questions or send queries.
  • Think about classes you have taken. The instructors may have a policy against reviewing students’ work but may be a resource for other needs; , ditto for your fellow students. (I hope you would try to do the same for them!)
  • Ask members of your critique groups or business/professional organizations.
  • When you read, make a note of books and their authors, columnists, experts in your field. Almost all magazines, newspapers and journals list publishers, editors, columnists, etc. and you might be surprised at how many might say “yes” to a request for a blurb or a mention of your service or book as a resource. 

This little how-to article was extracted and adapted from my giant (415 pages) of How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career third in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers by Carolyn Howard-Johnson.                                                        There is just so much to know about putting reviews to work for your book and endorsements (for your book or business!) Learn more about my books for writers and visit my free Writers’ Resources pages at:                                                                    It’s also easy to use my review blog. Just follow the submission guidelines in the left column at  I am also proud to celebrating the launch of the third edition of my The Frugal Book Promoter which—in its first edition—was the flagship book of my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.  My publisher, Modern History Press, is helping me with the launch with a discount  on his website at

5 Basic Functions of Dialogue

In an article over at Writer’s Digest, the author explained that ‘real’ dialogue doesn’t spell everything out.

So, what does this mean?

Well, people communicate with more than just words and often there’s a lot left unsaid in a conversation. Narration or the protagonist’s thoughts can fill in the blanks.

Here’s an example from “Crispin – The Cross of Lead” (honored with the John Newberry Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution To American Literature For Children):

“Where’s Bear?” she asked when we entered the back room.


“You mustn’t be seen,” she said. “He should have told you.”

I made no reply, assuming Bear had told her of the attack on me, and that she felt a need to protect me. If Bear trusted her, I told myself, so should I.

Perfect blend of dialogue and narration.

With this in mind, let’s go over some of the functions of dialogue with the help of narration.

1. Dialogue helps reveals the character’s traits.

“Hey, Pete. Looks like you’re having some trouble with that tire. Need a hand?”

“Ugh,” moaned Pete as he struggled to lift the tire. “I-I got it.”

So, here with a bit of dialogue, it shows that Pete may have a chip on his shoulder, maybe because he’s smaller than the other character. He’d rather struggle than accept help.

Here’s another example:

“The car’s stuck in the mud. There’s no way we’re getting it out of there. It won’t budge,” said Desmond.

Brain shoved his baseball cap back on his head. “All we have to do is get the truck. We’ll hook on a tow line and pull her out.”

In this scene, through dialogue we learn that Desmond sees the cup half empty – he can’t see how something can be accomplished. Brian on the other hand sees the cup half full. He knows he can get the job done. And, we know Brian wears a baseball cap.

Here’s another example:

“I’ll have turkey on rye with the mayo, lettuce, and tomato on the side. And, I’d like the bread lightly toasted. Please be sure it’s just lightly toasted. And, I’d like water, no ice, with two lemon slices on the side.”

Just from a simple lunch order, we know that the character is extremely picky. She knows what she wants and expects to get it.

I got this scenario from “When Harry Meet Sally” with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. It’s an amazing scene in the movie.

2. Dialogue can show what a character does for a living.

Christine looked over the documents. “Who’s responsible for these prints? They’re all wrong. The bathroom should be on the second floor and the living area should be an open concept. Somebody’s head is going to roll.”

In this scene, Christine obviously deals with blueprints. Maybe she’s an architect reviewing a subordinate’s plans. We also know she’s in charge and doesn’t take mistakes lightly.

Here’s another simple example:

“Give her oxygen and get her into the OR stat.”

From this little bit of dialogue, we can assume the person talking is a doctor and she’s working in an emergency room.

Here’s another example:

Rachel tapped the pencil on the desk. She looked around the room. Everyone was busy writing. “Man, I should have studied,” she whispered.

In this scenario we can assume Rachel is a student and her class is taking a test. We also know she wasn’t prepared for the test.

3. Dialogue can show relationships.

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage?”

From this conversation, we know the two involved are siblings, probably brothers. And, it would seem the one who has to clean the garage is older and has more chores. He’s also annoyed about that fact.

Now on the flip side, you can have information dump in dialogue – this isn’t a good thing:

“Mom said you have to clean the garage before going to practice,” said Frank with a smile.

“Geez. How come you don’t have to clean the darn garage? Just because you’re two years younger than me you get away with everything.”

It’s easy to see that the last sentence is added just to inform the reader that Frank is two years younger than his brother. This is information dump.

4. Dialogue can show how educated a character is through choice of words.

“You need to ascertain whether you and he are compatible.”

“You need to figure out if you two are a good match.”

Simple examples, but you get the point.

5. Dialogue can show tension between characters.

Sammy dropped his books and stood with his fists clenched. “Do that one more time and you’ll never do it again.”

Dylan shook his hands. “Ooohhh. I’m scared. Do you mean don’t do this again?”

This scene clearly shows tension between Sammy and Dylan. And, it shows that Dylan is the instigator of the tension.

Here’s another example:

Sara stormed up to Alicia’s desk. “You stole my idea. Mr. Peter’s is doing a full campaign based on it. Tell him it’s my idea or I’ll tell him.”

“That’s not happening,” said Alicia without hesitation. “If you weren’t careless enough to leave your notes on your desk, I wouldn’t have seen them.” She pulled a lipstick and mirror out of her desk and fixed her lips. “If you go to the boss, he won’t know who to believe. Want to risk him think you’re lying to get ahead?”

Again, this is a tension packed scene.

There are also other functions of dialogue like conveying underlying emotions, creating atmosphere, and driving the plot forward. Using dialogue and narration allows you to paint vivid pictures. Your choice of words will give your characters and your story life.

Writing a Scene with Good Dialogue and Narration

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting and rewriting business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

You can follow Karen at:



Perseverance Pays Off

Read as a Writer

Writing a Novel? Try This!

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...