Tag Archives: Chuck Sambuchino

Guest Post: Chuck Sambuchino Shares What 12 Debut Authors Did RIGHT On Their Journeys to Publication

Hey! My buddy Chuck is stepping in to guest blog! Check it out…

three covers

_ Chuck headshot biggerChuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) of Writer’s Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. His latest humor book, WHEN CLOWNS ATTACK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE (Sept. 29 2015), will protect people everywhere from malicious bozos and jokers who haunt our lives. His books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, and more.

I love interviewing debut authors. I interview them for my Guide to Literary Agents Blog, and make sure to include at least a dozen such interviews in each edition of the Guide to Literary Agents, such as the new 2016 edition. These interviews are very helpful to aspiring writers, because the authors come clean about what they believe they did right, what the wish they would have done different, and other advice for writers.

So I went back to 12 debut author interviews of the past few years and focused on one single important question I asked them: “What did you do RIGHT on your journey to publication that others can learn from?”

The results are inspiring and fascinating. See below, and learn from 12 writers who have come before you and succeeded.

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“I was very specific on who I queried to get as my agent. It’s quality over quantity and I only queried agents who I thought would truly get my story. I also think being open to critique and feedback is vital. Most authors who go on submission will get rejections. Being open to hearing the why, and working on it, is vital.”

– Aisha Saeed, author of Written in the Stars

“I didn’t put the books out there until they were ready to be seen. Really ready. These days there’s such a huge rush to get your writing out there as soon as possible, and there are lots of systems in place to let you. I could write something in the morning and have it for sale on Amazon that night. And because of this rush and these systems, a lot of people put stuff out there before it’s ready, or before they’re ready. No one expects to win Olympic gold their first time in a gym, but lots of people seem to think their first attempt at a first draft should be a mass success and acknowledged by a major publisher. I spent years learning how to write and how to tell a story, and I think I’m fortunate that during a lot of that time there weren’t any of these quick, easy avenues. I wanted to tell the best story I could, and I spent the time to make sure it was. I rewrote and edited the hell out of it before I submitted it.”

Peter Clines, author of Ex-Heroes

“I didn’t give up. I queried widely. Widely. Like more than 100 queries. I was getting a good number of requests, but the partials and fulls would keep getting rejected, for different reasons. I felt like I should quit—shelve the project and start on something new—but this was the book I loved and wanted to debut with, so I kept researching and kept querying. In the end, I got two offers of representation, and it was worth all those horrible months in the querying trenches.”

Katie M. Stout, author of Hello, I Love You: A Novel

“I just never quit. A successful writer friend recently told me that’s the only difference between a published writer and someone who used to/wanted to be a writer. And certainly, my fifteen years as an independent bookseller has helped—giving me contacts in the industry, a working knowledge of the market, and daily interaction with the audience.”

– Jamie Kornegay, author of Soil

“I joined a critique group. Getting honest feedback about your story is vital to its success. I read, and then dismiss many of the ideas suggested by my critique group members, but some of the changes I have made based on those amazing writer-friends have made all the difference in the world.”

– Marcia Berneger, author of Buster the Little Garbage Truck

“I tried to treat writing and publishing like a career, even when it couldn’t even pay for a coffee. That meant being serious about my efforts, investing in ways to improve my craft, and approaching other publishing professionals with courtesy and respect. I also always tried to remember that publishing is a long game—getting rejected or having to put a novel aside doesn’t mean inevitable failure, only that it’s not the right project at this moment, for this market.”

– Karina Sumner-Smith, author of Radiant: Towers Trilogy Book 1

“I never gave up and I kept moving forward instead of stalling out on a single story. I’d finish a manuscript, send out queries, and immediately start writing something new. When I had the next manuscript finished and polished, I put the older one in a digital drawer and started to query the new one. Wash, rinse, repeat. If I’d spent all those years revising my very first story, I never would have improved enough to write a mystery novel like Claws of the Cat. It’s hard to put 100,000 words in a drawer. It hurts to let years of effort go. But if I hadn’t kept moving forward, I wouldn’t be the author I am today.

– Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery

“I read a lot. I also sought out other writers online—forums, blogs, social media—and read as much as I could about the writing process and, later, the publishing industry. Information is power! But really, I just wrote my heart out. Whenever I sat down to draft a new story or revise an old one, I would think, You can do better.”

– Claire Kells, author of Girl Underwater

“I revised the heck out of my book so that by the time I sent it in, it was in good shape. I also did a ton of agent research before I began querying. I figured out what my comps were and which agents were looking for what. I read the ‘Successful Queries’ series on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, as well as the Query Shark’s entire archive of letters.”

Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes

“I asked for help from the people with experience. It took many years, believe it or not, for me just to reach out and say, ‘I’m not sure what to do from here.’ That solicitation is what led to my first book contract.”

Elizabeth Kiem, author of Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy

“I started as a book blogger, and that really helped me get to know the business of publishing. What books were coming out, how authors were marketing, etc.”

– Lindsey Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

“It sounds like a cliché but just taking the initiative is probably the biggest factor that allowed me to succeed. I’m pretty sure there are plenty of journalists out there who are way more talented than myself and who want to write books. But many of them don’t take the risk and actually do the damn thing.”

– Thomas Lee, author of Rebuilding Empires: How Best Buy and Other Retailers are Transforming and Competing in the Digital Age of Retailing

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

September 2015 sees the release of three of Chuck’s new books, the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents, the 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and his anti-clown humor book When Clowns Attack: A Survival Guide. If you’d like to win one of Chuck’s books, post a comment before noon (Eastern Time) on October 12th. One commenter will be picked at random. Must live within US/Canada to receive a print book. Outside North America may receive a PDF ebook. Beware clowns.

Our book give-away winner is Allison Baxter! Thanks for commenting, Allison! 

 

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What Do You Do While You’re Waiting?

urlAuthor Rachel Eddey shared some thoughts, on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blogabout what you should do when you have an agent but your book hasn’t sold yet. One of my clients asked me what I thought about these suggestions (Hi M-E!). Since I think there are some good ideas here, I’d like to comment on Ms. Eddey’s suggestions, from an agent’s point of view.

1. Provide a timeline tie-in: Sure, this sounds like a good idea. I mean, if you’ve written a novel about something historical that has an anniversary coming up, of course you want to let your agent know. Or if your novel features a virus gone wild in a futuristic society and there have been a run of news articles on pandemics or something, of course you want to let your agent know that, too. I like this kind of information because when I’m speaking with editors it’s nice to be knowledgeable about these things. It can give an otherwise run-of-the-mill pitch a little oomph. (Not that ANY of my pitches are run-of-the-mill…)

2. Gather connections. Ms. Eddey is really into LinkedIn. I was on linked in for years and when I became an agent I decided to shut down my account. It was just not the right social media for me to participate in. BUT I do think it’s important for authors to gather connections. This can be done in so many ways, including using Twitter and Facebook, going to conferences and meeting editors, entering writing contests, and following/commenting on other people’s blogs. When you’ve made some connections, of course you want to let your agent know about them. Please don’t bombard your agent with this though. If my clients started sending me emails about how they have a 3rd degree LinkedIn connection with most of Random House I’d tear my hair out. But if you’ve started a nice Twitter relationship with Stephen King or Amy Tan or someone, I’d kind of like to know about it.

3. Research editors. I suppose authors can do some research into editors, but I wouldn’t go nuts with this. Part of why you want an agent is because agents work very hard at forging connections with editors. I make it my business to do my research regarding editors. But if there’s an editor who you think would be perfect for your manuscript, of course you should let your agent know about them. I’m assuming you read widely in the field in which you write, and you may have some information that your agent doesn’t have. Is there a cool new author in your genre? You can let your agent know about them, to potentially put their editor on your submission list. Good communication between you and your agent, about your work and your thoughts on publication, can open up the conversation about where your work might land best. Ultimately though, I think it’s your agent’s job to know where to send your manuscript.

4. Ask for advice. This relates to #2. I mean, if you have a respected author giving you input on your manuscript, definitely take it! I don’t think you need to really work this one, but I guess it can’t hurt either.

5. Build your platform. I definitely agree with this. I tell all my clients that they need to have someplace online where folks can find them (including editors). So, if you’re not presently blogging but think that would be a hoot, then go for it! But if the mere thought of blogging gives you the heeby jeebies, please don’t do it. There’s nothing worse than a bad blog. But getting involved on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterist, etc… are all good ideas. But choose your social media wisely. Only do what fits for you, and what you’re going to keep up with. Dead Twitter account? Bad idea. Facebook that’s growing cobwebs? Just skip it. Also,  if your manuscript touches upon “issues,” get gigs talking about those issues, at conferences, at schools, online, on the radio or television (if you can). And then, of course, let your agent know what you’ve done!

I think that whatever you do, the key is to be in good communication with your agent. Don’t try to do your agent’s job (please) but step into your role as an author. Act like an author, because you are one! To be honest though, the main thing I want my clients to do while I’m busy submitting their work is to write another manuscript!

Besides nail-biting and finger crossing, what do you do while your work is out on submission (for those with agents) or what do you do while you’re querying?

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