Well, 2023 is off to a good publishing start. My new short story, Night Drifting, is featured in the latest edition of Variant Literature magazine. Working with the editors there was a pleasure! Meanwhile, Cathy’s new story, The Marx Hotel, is out in Drunk Monkeys magazine. We’re both tickled to be getting our new work out there.
Both of these literary magazines are online publications, though Variant Lit also has a book publishing arm. Online publication has some nice perks. Stories are easy to share, to promote, and to post on other platforms. They also tend to be free to readers, for the most part.
Cath and I have published both ways, and I can’t say that I have a clear favorite. How about you? Do you prefer to click and read or hold your story in your hands?
Let us know! And keep writing, friends. It could be your best year yet.
What’s the longest you’ve waited to see a piece of your work in print?
TWO YEARS ago Karen and I were notified that we would have stories in same issue of Gargoyle, an international literary magazine published by Paycock Press. Of course, this was during the height of the pandemic and, understandably, all did not go as planned.
Anyway, the wait is over and we’re so excited to both have a story in this terrific anthology! GargoyleMagazine #75 is a massive (nearly 500-pages!) collection of some incredible fiction, nonfiction, and poetry by a diverse group of authors. Publisher Richard Peabody started this publication way back in 1976 and it’s still going strong. Check it out, and grab a copy if you’re so inclined.
And if you’re waiting to hear from a publisher, or to read galleys, or to actually hold a piece of your own writing in your hands, we wish you all the patience and persistence necessary to see it through. With writing, we all know, sometimes it’s all about the work. Sometimes it’s all about the wait.
We hope your writing is going well—that it’s as fun as a summer party, as fruitful as a peach pie, as easy-flowing as a dog on a surfboard…okay, that’s enough.
Cathy and I are back from the Association of Writers & Writing Program’s 2022 AWP Conference & Bookfair, held this year on March 23-26 in Philadelphia. We had a blast. Talked into the wee hours of the night, caught up on every aspect of our lives, imbibed an impressive amount of wine—as well as a few martinis.
We also attended some amazing panel discussions in a conference that convened more than 7,000 publishing professionals. We’ll be sharing some of what we learned in a series of posts. There’s no way we could cram it all into one. Panel topics ranged from explorations of voice and point of view in narrative to nailing your first book deal to the role of feedback. And so much more.
First up, we attended a panel titled “Call Your Agent: Finding Representation for Your Writing.” This extremely helpful panel gave some great tips for authors looking for representation for their books. Agents on the panel included:
Dana Murphy – The Book Group (handles Y/A, adult, nonfiction)
Duvall Osteen – Aragi Inc. (handles literary fiction, humor, and narrative nonfiction)
Bullets below are not attributed to any particular agent but are a collection of quotes from all of the above. These are the questions anyone querying needs to ask, with answers straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
What should authors look for in an agent?
Someone you can trust editorially, who will commit to you in all stages of your career. Someone you can get both good and bad news from.
Someone who will be your biggest fan, but not a blind one. An agent translates the industry for you. What did that publisher mean?
An agent’s job is to know things you don’t.
What are agents looking for?
Duvall: I’m looking for a big, loud voice in a novel, a person I’ve not heard before. Less plot, more VOICE.
Comparative titles, query letter are important, but sample pages are the most important. It’s an extremely crowded marketplace. We see all the challenges a book might face upfront. Something very fresh and inventive is crucial—a new narrator, new setting, new storyline—all facilitate getting your book seen and read.
How to find an agent:
Look at your favorite books and read the acknowledgements to see if an agent is thanked.
Do your homework. Research agents to find out why they’d be right for you. What have they represented? Why would you fit on their list?
Follow agents who seem like a good fit for your book on social media. You’ll learn when they’re open to queries and what they’re seeking at any given moment.
On the all-important query letter:
An effective query letter has three parts: Hook, Look, and Books. The hook gets the agent’s interest, the look encourages them to read on, and books refer to comparative published titles.
Look at the agency’s website for submission guidelines: formatting, page count, etc., and follow them!
The VOICE of a writer is the most important thing in a query. Match the tone and voice of the query letter to the tone and voice of your book.
Keep your query brief. Agents read queries quickly. They’re looking for what’s jumping out at them and feels different.
If you’ve heard nothing in six to eight weeks, send your query again.
A footnote on comparative titles:
Always include comparative titles. This shows respect for both your work and the agent’s time. Comparing your book to others shows you are thoughtful about your work in the context of the marketplace.
Comparative titles are books that are kin to yours, that would be in the same section on a bookshelf.
Make sure the comps you give are contemporary novels, not classics.
Don’t base comps on plot. How is your WRITING similar? Sometimes that involves movie/TV shows as well, and you can include these, but make sure to give a book comparison, too.
Comps let agent know who is going to buy your book. Think of Amazon’s: “People who liked this book also bought…”
Don’t say there’s nothing like my book out there—it’s probably not true, and it says you work outside the box. Agents work inside. Even a whiff of this is bad.
What if an agent urges you to revise and resubmit?
Be happy! This happens when a book is promising, but an agent doesn’t have time to edit it with you. You need to edit it yourself and send it back.
The agent will sometimes take pains to give you specific feedback, so don’t rush back with your revision. Process and digest the feedback. Take your time. Don’t be afraid the agent will forget you.
A final note: Above all, agents want to see that you’re trying—to position your book, to frame it correctly, and that you’re thinking about how your book fits them and their list. Do your homework, write a polished, professional letter. An agent is your partner in the publishing business, so be a good business partner in return.
I was thrilled to have my novel, Arborview, included in thisBookTrib recommended list of novels set in small towns.
Small towns are a genre unto themselves in literature. Please check out some of these titles. Some wonderful writers here, and settings that showcase community, connection, meaning–and sometimes the lack thereof.
Please mark February 10 on you calendars! I’m hoping you can join us for an upcoming reading and discussion of my novel Arborview. It’s a virtual event, so there won’t be any safety concerns.
The hosting library does a terrific job supporting the local literary community, and there is always a great turnout. Here’s all the pertinent info from organizer Kate Farrish:
If you’re a fan of fascinating female characters and graceful writing, you’re going to want to read Arborview, Karen Guzman’s second novel, and hear her discuss it Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. on Zoom.
The Tolland Public Library Foundation is sponsoring the free talk as part of its long-running Eaton-Dimock-King Author Series. In the novel, Guzman, a former Hartford Courant reporter, recounts the tale of two women who face hidden betrayals by the people they love most trying to start new chapters in their lives.
“Told with Karen Guzman’s trademark compassion, Arborview is the book we need right now: poignant, hopeful, and full of heart,” says New York Times bestselling author Michelle Richmond.
To register for the talk, visit tolland.org/library, scroll down to the Online Events calendar, click on it and navigate to Feb. 10 for the Karen Guzman event. Those who have registered ahead of time will receive the Zoom link by email.
We’re wishing everyone the best this holiday season. What books are on your gift list this year? And which ones are you hoping to receive? Please share. I just finished Andre Dubus III’s outstanding Gone So Long, and I’m gifting it to my husband.
In this season of giving, I’d like to ask anyone who has read Arborview to please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. These reviews have become so important—too important, but that’s another story—and promoters and publishers keep an eye on them. If you can spare a few minutes, I would be ever so appreciative. You can just rate the book and jot a few words. “Nice read” or “enjoyed this” are fine.
This holiday season is off to a great start, from a writing perspective. I’m thrilled to have my short story, Pilgrims, in the new issue of Gargoyle Magazine.
Based in Arlington, Virginia, Gargoyle is run by editor Richard Peabody, a fixture on the Washington, D.C., literary scene. It’s such an honor to have my work featured alongside the talented fiction, poets, and nonfiction writers in this handsome volume. This packed issue is more book than magazine, and the range and power of the work is really impressive.
If you feel like kicking back over the holidays with some terrific work, or would like to make a gift to the reader in your life, please consider ordering this issue, and share your thoughts on Write Despite?
Happy almost Halloween. Arborview is almost one month old, and I have to say it’s been a fun and productive month. I had a terrific Zoom launch reading hosted by my local library, and I have a few more events scheduled in coming months.
Numerous blogs and promoters have already featured Arborview, and we’ve received some really nice reviews, for which I am truly grateful.
Well, Arborview has officially been in the world for one week, and the reception has been heartwarming. Thanks to everyone who reached out with congratulations and who is already reading Arborview. Please share your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
Eighteen people attended my launch reading via Zoom, which was hosted by my local library, and since then the book has been making the rounds on several Book Launch Blog Tours.
How am I feeling? Relieved, gratified, kinda tired. Arborview is being marketed much more heavily that my debut novel was seven years ago. All this blogging, and chatting, tweeting and instagrammingtakes time. Precious time.
Not that I’m complaining! I’m just eager to pour more of myself into my new writing project…which I am VERY excited about. My job as an author now is to divide my time between promoting Arborview and forging ahead on my new project. (Oh, and hold down my full-time paying job and raise my kid!)
Tips, anyone? How do you balance the marketing aspects with the creative aspects of being an author in this digital age? I welcome all advice.
And for anyone on NetGalley, Arborview is listed all this month. Apply to review, if you’d like. You get a free digital copy.