Category Archives: publishing

Trouble deciding whether to self-publish?

Henry Herz just shared this lovely flowchart as a guide for writers who are—or should be—weighing their publishing options. I want to start showing it to every prospective client before I offer representation. The effect, I hope, might be akin to getting a second opinion before undergoing surgery.

Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing: Which Should You Choose?
(Reprinted courtesy of The Write Life)

 

My thanks to Herz and The Write Life for authorizing the dissemination of their infographic. Five years from now, people will look at this chart and wonder why it wasn’t always common knowledge. Right now, it’s still breaking news to most people.

Should authors seek agents for their book-length collections of short stories?

I’ll bet you thought there could be a yes or no answer to this question. Reality is much more complicated and ever changing.

It’s possible, but rare, for a creative writer to be so talented that, even though his or her first book is a collection of short stories, an agent would find it logical and worthwhile to begin working with the person in anticipation of future, more commercially viable, creative output. By “commercially viable,” I mean desired by big trade book publishers. In almost six years of agenting, I’ve encountered only one such writer, and I asked the person to get back in touch with me when a novel-in-progress is completed. However, there are quite a few literary agents in the U.S. who happily take bigger risks than I do. Every agency is different, as a look at each of our websites will reveal.

Almost every time I receive a query from a short-story writer looking for an agent, the letter I’ve copied and pasted below is the basic form of my response. Of course, my form reply doesn’t cover everything I’m looking for in a client, which is what the guidelines on my website are intended to convey to writers.

My form response is designed to encourage novice writers of short stories to begin learning about the business aspects of a professional writer’s career. Some eventually will decide that they don’t want their writing to be more than a hobby, because turning it into work isn’t pleasurable for them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, except when hobbyists are unfortunately misguided into believing they’re entitled to demand that literary agents invest time and money to assist them as a courtesy, pro bono. Most writers are smart enough to catch on to business realities very quickly. There are many terrific publishing options for hobbyists.

My agency’s form reply to queries from short-story writers

It’s nice of you to contact me about representation. Please note that detailed query guidelines are posted on my website.

For an author of short fiction, accumulated writing credits are an important part of a query. Major book publishers in the U.S. typically prefer to acquire book-length collections of short stories only if the authors already have had a considerable number of the stories published in reputable literary magazines or anthologies. If you’re not sure which literary journals are the most prestigious, then you can find out where some prizewinning short stories first appeared by taking a look at these books, which should be available at your local library:

Pushcart Prize

Best American Short Stories & Best American Nonrequired Reading

The O. Henry Prize Stories

More of these types of anthologies are listed at:

Treated & Released

You can learn about submitting your work to literary journals and magazines by reading:

Poets & Writers

The Writer‘s Guide to Publishing in Literary Magazines and Entering Contests
by Ayelet Tsabari

The Review Review

I wish you the best of luck with your writing career.

isolated pen

© Geotrac | Dreamstime Stock Photos

For writers who have succeeded at having short stories published individually, a few agencies actively call for submissions of book-length collections of short stories. As of October 2014, two of them are the Renée Zuckerbot Literary Agency and the Waverly Place Literary Agency. An agent’s submission guidelines are subject to change at any time, so please alert me if I fail to notice when the current information about these agencies becomes obsolete. If I see it’s no longer true, I’ll cross it out.

There is hope that ebook publishing will permit a short-story renaissance. In all honesty, it’s more likely that the ease of self-publishing ebooks and POD books, coupled with the increased numbers of free online literary journals, will make many more short stories available to readers at little or no cost, and then the supply will outpace the demand from readers. At the same time, it’s interesting to note that more online literary journals are paying their contributors a modest amount, perhaps to attract better stories to publish, because they have lots of competition for submissions these days.

Dynamic, isn’t it?

Please feel free to share in the comments section the links to or names of any literary agents asking to see short-story collections. I hope this information is helpful.

Litmags: the new breeds

Three years ago, I posted a list of ten literary magazines with good-looking websites. Only four of them are still in business. Maybe it’s time for a new list, but now that every other litmag is using the free Arcade Basic blog theme from WordPress, or something similar, there are lots of attractive clones.

365 tomorrowsBeauty’s only skin deep anyway. A better list might be based on popularity, except that the big magazines with the very largest circulations tend to maintain their show-dog status for years or even decades at a time. Zzzzzzzz.

More interesting are the Silken Windhounds, Dandie Dinmont Terriers, and Catahoula Leopard Dogs in my database of literary publications. Some already are being fetishized by readers. Have you heard of them?

365 tomorrows – speculative flash fiction

The Awl – longform essays, humor, and some fiction

Bust – erotic fiction and female perspectives on pop culture

The Bygone Bureau – personal essays, cultural criticism, humor, and comics

The Collagist – progressive short fiction, poetry, essays, and novel excerpts

Conduit – poetry, fiction, and nonfictionEscape Into Life

Escape Into Life – poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and comics

Esopus – short plays, essays, poetry, and fiction

Guernica – essays, poetry, and fiction

Hobart – short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry

Joyland – fiction and essays

The Morning News – essays, humor, and cultural criticism

n+1 – fiction, essays, criticism, and translation

NOWNESS – digital storytelling

[out of nothing] – digital textBust

The Rumpus – essays that intersect culture

Strange Horizons – speculative fiction

Teen Ink – poetry, fiction, and nonfiction

Thought Catalog – literary journalism

Untoward Magazine – humorous fiction

Given that this list is twice as long as the previous one, maybe a handful of these publications will exist three years from now. Submit or subscribe or take them for a walk if you want to keep them healthy.

Creative writing workshops and journals for physicians

physician

(Image courtesy of Penny Mathews)

The list of physicians who’ve sidelined as creative writers is extensive. The existence of the World Union of Physician Writers is a testament to the long tradition. Among the active writing groups, Pegasus Physicians meet regularly on the Stanford University campus and a creative writers’ group invites new members at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. You can find the SEAK Physician and Lawyer Fiction Writers Group on LinkedIn.

A few workshops for physicians who write

Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

Columbia University Medical Center’s Program in Narrative Medicine

Doctors Who…

The Examined Life Conference hosted by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine

Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine

Literature + Medicine hosted at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

Medicine Unboxed

Narrative Medicine

SEAK’s How to Earn Money as a Physician Writer

Seven Doctors Project (7DP)

The Storytelling Workshops collaboration between Massey College, Ars Medica, and the University of Toronto Health, Arts, and Humanities Program

Taos Writing & Wellness Retreat for Health Professionals presented by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Office of Continuing Education and The Permanente Journal, Kaiser Permanente

The Writing and Publishing CME course at Harvard Medical School

The Yale Internal Medicine Residency Writers’ Workshop for Yale residents

Journals that publish creative writing about the medical professions

Of course, any literary journal can publish the creative work of a physician, but the publications listed here specialize in the topics of illness, healing, and the medical professions.

AJN: American Journal of Nursing
Abaton – Des Moines University
Ars Medica
The Barefoot Review
Bellevue Literary Review – New York University Langone Medical Center
Blood and Thunder – University of Oklahoma College of Medicine
CHEST Journal
Connective Tissue – University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio’s School of Medicine
Dermanities – Online Journal of Community and Person-Centered Dermatology
The Examined Life Journal – University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
The Healing Muse – SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics & Humanities
Hektoen International
Hospital Drive – University of Virginia School of Medicine
The Human Touch – Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado
The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine – Columbia University
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
Journal of Medical Humanities
Journal of Poetry Therapy
Journal of Progressive Human Services
Leaflet – The Permanente Journal, Kaiser Permanente
Lifelines – Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College
Medical Literary Messenger
Narrateur – Hofstra North Shore—Long Island Jewish Health System School of Medicine, Hofstra University
Narratio Medicina
Oasis – Wake Forest School of Medicine
The Perch – Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health
The Pharos – Alpha Omega Alpha
Plexus – University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine
Poems in the Waiting Room
proto – Massachusetts General Hospital
Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine – Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Survivor’s Review
Third Space – Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Wild Onions – Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine

Learn more

Creative Writing for Surgeons by Carol EH Scott-Conner, MD, PhD

Doing business in the public eye

business in the public eye

(Photograph courtesy of Mompes)

Most of a literary agency’s business is conducted quietly, behind the scenes. Attempting to bring any of it to light is difficult, because significant context often is missing. Every profession shares this quandary. Looking in from the outside, observers are forced to oversimplify and stereotype other occupations and businesses, because it’s impossible to experience all of them firsthand.

My work as an agent is neither routine nor boring, which makes it fun. After five years, I no longer feel like a novice, but that doesn’t mean I can ever stop learning. Most knowledge workers recognize that continually educating ourselves and monitoring industry intelligence are necessary aspects of our jobs; otherwise, we’d consign ourselves rapidly to obsolescence.

Many of us have been watching and commenting on the latest machinations of big corporations. Because of their size and reach, the largest companies involved in publishing and bookselling must contend with heightened public scrutiny. That’s good, because we need to be reminded that these big corporations establish de facto standards for balancing competition and cooperation, which other businesses in the industry then will emulate. If the biggest companies succeed by dodging taxes, being aggressively adversarial, poaching talent, emphasizing volume over quality, crowdsourcing free content, eschewing customer service, and exploiting their employees, then every other businessperson within the book publishing industry’s entrepreneurial ecosystem will begin to see value in those strategies. Ruthless tactics can appear much less unethical when they’re necessary for survival.

The outrage and dissent, even when inarticulately expressed in debates riddled with inaccuracies, help to reassure me that we haven’t completely lost our ethical sensibilities. And by the way, in the grand scheme, I really enjoy being in a position to advocate for the artist.

Exactly when did kindness and courtesy became unbusinesslike and unsexy? Certain old-fashioned business practices are worth reinstating.

Literary agents for textbook authors

Instead of textbooks, I prefer to handle the licensing of trade books, which are sold to the general public. Some books might be suitable for either type of publishing, but often the author is not. If the author thinks of herself or himself as a textbook author, then heading in that direction probably is a good idea.

The first 4 things a textbook author needs to know

  1. A concise explanation of the different types of book publishing can be found on the University of Chicago Press website in a free chapter of William Germano’s Getting It Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books. Without an understanding of these fundamentals, it will be a struggle for a textbook author to make the appropriate connections.
  2. THINKING LIKE YOUR EDITOR by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato

  3. The elements of a textbook proposal have been described thoroughly in Thinking Like Your Editor: How to Write Great Serious Nonfiction and Get It Published by Susan Rabiner and Alfred Fortunato. The book can be found at a nearby library via WorldCat.org. Information on this topic is easy to locate online using a search term such as “textbook proposal.”
  4. The meaning of “author platform” should not be alien and should not be confused with CV.
  5. Textbook publishers offer on their websites helpful, detailed guidelines for authors, because it’s assumed that many authors will contact the publishers directly with their book proposals. Currently, some of the largest English-language textbook publishers are Macmillan Higher Education, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Education, and Cengage. There are many other textbook publishers.

Who might be able to help

Literary agents who specialize in textbooks

If a textbook project has sufficient commercial potential, the author might be able to enlist the assistance of a literary agent. Submissions guidelines can be found on each literary agency’s website. For example, Susan Rabiner, who is particularly interested in science and economics, says, “What I want to see is an author who is well connected in the field and knows how the field is being taught and what is lacking from existing textbooks.”

The agents listed here are working primarily in the English language.

Barbara Collins Rosenberg
The Rosenberg Group
Marblehead, MA

Carole Jelen – carole@jelenpub.com
Waterside Productions, Inc.
San Francisco, CA

Elizabeth Evans
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency Inc.
New York, NY

Jeff Herman
The Jeff Herman Agency
Stockbridge, MA

John W. Wright
John W. Wright Literary Agency
New York, NY

Michael Lennie
Lennie Literary Agency & Author’s Attorney
San Diego, CA

Michael Snell
Michael Snell Literary Agency
Truro, MA

Neil J. Salkind and Lynn Haller
Salkind Literary Agency / Studio B Productions, Inc.
Great Neck, NY

Rubin Pfeffer
Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC
Chestnut Hill, MA

Sam Stoloff
Frances Goldin Literary Agency
New York, NY

Sandra Dijkstra
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Del Mar, CA

Stephanie Ebdon
The Marsh Agency
London, UK

Sterling Lord
Sterling Lord Literistic
New York, NY

Susan Rabiner, Sydelle Kramer, and Eric Nelson
The Susan Rabiner Literary Agency, Inc.
New York, NY

Will Lippincott
Lippincott Massie McQuilkin
New York, NY

Zick Rubin and Brenda Ulrich
The Law Office of Zick Rubin
Newton, MA

Publishing attorneys with hourly or percentage-based fees

Lloyd Jassin
Law Offices of Lloyd J. Jassin
New York, NY

I’ll be happy to update this list with additional suggestions and agencies. Feel free to comment or send email to mail(at)robinmizell.com.

Still can’t stop talking about it: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Day 19: I sincerely wish I could stop talking about it. I wish writers who send me queries had read Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal and implemented the strategies she outlines in the book. I wish I didn’t need to tell so many prospective clients to back up and learn exactly what publishers and readers expect of them in 2014. I wish I were a fairy godmother with the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and business sense with the flick of a glitter-spangled wand. I’m weary of repeating myself. I’m whining today.

GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina KatzHowever, there is good news! There’s an upside of my frustration, which I assure you is shared by at least a few other agents, as well as book editors and publishers, not to mention successful authors who frequently are asked how they got so lucky. The bright side is that the unbelievably small percentage of writers who apply—that is, put into practice rather than just reading—Christina Katz’s advice can achieve an enormous advantage over the larger number of writers who don’t.

Think about that. Did you just feel the power shifting?

Christina doesn’t promise instant results, and she doesn’t say it’s easy when it’s not. No one ever truly masters self-promotion in a turbulent market, and the mere attempt takes a lot of time. More hard work is exactly what average writers or wannabes will not confront. They believe they should be finished with the work part when they put the last words on the last pages of their manuscripts. They’re ready for the cake, punch, and applause precisely when the going really gets tough. C’mon. Take advantage of their mistakes.

Writers need to exploit every possible asset in order to stand out among thousands of contenders and to get their books noticed among the incredible quantity of titles now frictionlessly available to readers. Those readers easily can choose similar content in other media, often at less expense. Writers who are aware of their competition, respect readers, perfect their manuscripts, consider their art a career, and demonstrate their ability to engage their intended audience, well…

We know who they are.

Full disclosure

Christina Katz is my friend, but I recommend her book because the advice in it is so good. Chuck Sambuchino wrote a similar manual called Create Your Writer Platform, but then I must admit that Chuck’s a friend, too. There’s also Amanda Luedeke’s ebook, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I’ve met Amanda. I like and respect her. She’s a dynamo. Several other books cover this very topic, and some of these resources are likely to be available at the nearest library. By the way, my old neighbor Bob Robertson-Boyd developed the WorldCat interface that shows the closest library where a copy of a particular book can be borrowed.

Musical accompaniment

Believe it or not, I do have a heart. It gets crumpled a lot, to the tune of “The Laugh of Recognition.” Over the Rhine are some of my favorite musicians.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Litmags that specialize in literary travel writing

From my public literary magazine database, I’ve gathered a list of publications devoted to literary travel writing (usually not including space or time travel, for which there are many other outlets). The travel theme gives these journals an identity that appeals to someone like me, who enjoys meandering.

Did you know there’s an International Society for Travel Writing whose website includes information on conferences and publishing opportunities?

White Sands (Fré Sonneveld)

(Photograph courtesy of Fré Sonneveld)

Don’t hesitate to tell me if I’ve overlooked your favorite literary magazine that specializes in travel writing. Perhaps I should have included better-known glossies like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure. I do like to read those at the dentist’s office.

Bibliophilic Wanderlust

Boat

Bunyan Velo

Caligae Travel Files (for sale)

Coldnoon: Travel Poetics, International Journal of Travel Writing

The Journal of African Travel-Writing (no longer published)

Literary Bohemian

Lowestoft Chronicle

Nowhere

Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine

Perceptive Travel

Pure Slush: A Year of Travel (during 2014)

Roads & Kingdoms

Silk Road Review

Tales To Go

The Travel Almanac

Travel Chronicles

Travel Classics

The Travel Itch

Travelers’ Tales: Editors’ Choice Flying Carpet

The Traveling Poet

Traveltainted

Vela

[wherever]

The Telegraph holds a weekly travel writing competition. Writers can email their entries.

Are you traveling and journaling this summer? Would you post a link to your story, if your travel writing is published this year? (This is a new blog theme. The comment link is just below the title for each post, which is a little counterintuitive, I think.)

Additional resource

The Review Review occasionally publishes lists of literary magazines that share a particular theme or orientation. Head on over there for the lowdown.