Literary agencies located across the African continent

postage stamps

  Photo courtesy of Graham Soult


Writers looking for literary agencies in African countries will not find an overabundance of them. To maximize the chances of impressing one of these few agents with your talent, prepare your strategy carefully. Read my 25 steps to finding and working with a literary agent.

Learn how to get your book published successfully by reading Jane Friedman’s advice to authors. If you write short stories or poems, take a look at Ayelet Tsabari’s free guide to publishing in literary magazines.

I welcome information about any other literary agencies located in African countries.


Egypt

Sphinx Agency – Ahmed Ibrahim
Tanany Book Services – Mostafa Tanany


Nigeria

The Lumina Literary Agency


South Africa

The Lennon-Ritchie Agency – Aoife Lennon-Ritchie
Talk To Me Literary Agency – Monica Seeber
Van Aggelen African Literary Agency – Bieke Van Aggelen


Zimbabwe

Chirikure Chirikure


We’ve reached peak vanity (I hope)

Now that we all have a book, a blog, a microphone, or a stage, we are well equipped. We can reach an audience. We can communicate our messages. We are empowered. Someone somewhere is paying attention to us.

Someone, or maybe many people, are paying attention and judging. They’re deciding whether we’re wasting their time and if they should shift their attention to someone more entertaining or intelligent or informed.

No one is assigned to stop us from making fools of ourselves by being unprepared, unethical, or ungracious when we take the stage or publish our work. Our vanity has demanded a means to get attention, and now we have it. Are we ready?

Asa Rodger

  Photo courtesy of Asa Rodger

Heartbreak all around

Sad news of romantic love lost or in jeopardy has come too frequently this spring. It makes me melancholy, and it makes me try harder to rationalize everyone’s emotional reactions in order to pretend that any of them make sense.

loveEach human being, myself included, is a tangle of emotional contradictions. At the moment, I can’t help thinking we’ve gotten the idea of love all wrong—so wrong that we wind up conflicted at every turn. We’ve overcomplicated love. We’ve reinforced a mythology of love that is unnecessarily unrealistic. We’ve insisted that love is about tender feelings for another person, but I’m not sure we’re being honest.

If love is a way of feeling—an emotional state—then maybe it’s more correct to imagine love as the exquisite joy that arises within a person who has been accepted, validated, encouraged, and valued in any number of ways. Who wouldn’t want more of that? The risk of losing such an emotional high is like the prospect of going through detox.

Are we confusing ourselves with the words we use to speak of love? If we were to revise the usual definitions and come up with more appropriate metaphors, could we understand ourselves better as beings in whom a sense of love is evoked rather than bestowed? Should we correctly term love a response rather than an interaction? Maybe love doesn’t have an object.

It’s easy to predict that heartbroken lovers will experience love again. The inevitability of finding new love is part of what makes love look to me more like an enviable state of mind than a relationship between two people.

It’s old news from Psychology Today but worth remembering:

In the world of relationships, the most important numbers to learn are: five to one. That is the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones that predicts whether a marriage will last or become one of the sad statistics of divorce.

The Psychology Today article briefly summarizes some of the research findings of John M. Gottman, whose blog I found just this moment in order to link to the source of the studies. The blog looks like a wonderful distraction.

Tell me if I’m wrong, but Gottman’s research seems to support my purely extemporaneous contention. Grant, if you will, that the feeling or experience of love evaporates rather quickly, or can transform into pain, when the sensation of being regarded positively by another person is disrupted or the scales don’t remain tipped five to one. It can happen suddenly, or gradually over a long period of time.

Try to disregard all the clichés we use to describe it. Might love be nothing more than one person’s response to another’s behavior? Even if the other person’s actions are intentionally supportive, affirming, romantic, manipulative, or seductive, should they be termed loving? Shouldn’t we use separate, more accurate words for the effort and the reaction, the cause and the effect? Would more exact word pictures help us to understand the necessity of working at long-term relationships? Would precision with language allow us to comprehend why some people cannot feel loved? Would factual labeling make true love appear less haphazard and elusive?

Writers ought to be able to grapple with this idea better than I’m doing. What do you think? (That is, those of you who don’t believe it’s better for love to remain mysterious.) I’m open to debate and certainly don’t have the answers. Point me to some relevant research or just give me your thoughts.

Why be honest?

Authors must be asking themselves whether it’s really wise to be honest in their professional dealings these days. The flamboyant examples set by too many untrustworthy public figures send the message that honesty is outmoded, or simply of no competitive advantage. And yet, I continue to judge prospective, as well as current, clients unfavorably if they lie.

I’m a harsh critic when someone fails to live up to promises or when a person implies something that isn’t true in order to secure a benefit of some sort. These days, fraud detection starts on receipt of a prospective client’s query. I commonly hear from writers who already have self-published the books they want me to represent, although they don’t bother to reveal the information in their queries. Presuming their failed do-it-yourself publishing projects might disqualify them, they omit the information and come off looking like liars. The extra few seconds it takes me to discover the book’s publication details aren’t the source of annoyance. It’s the lack of honesty that bugs me.

Posted on my agency’s website is a link to the answer I give authors who ask if I can interest traditional publishers in their self-published books. It’s no secret.

I can’t be the only one who believes honesty is a virtue and its lack a primary indicator of someone with whom I’d rather never be associated. In practice, though, my own honesty when communicating with prospective clients doesn’t always work in my favor.

More than a few authors have complained privately to me that their literary agents set them up with false promises or unwarranted enthusiasm and then failed to find publishers for their books. From the moment I launched my business, I took pains to avoid being perceived as that kind of agent. I’ve been brutally honest about the amount of work involved in getting a book published, but it shouldn’t be surprising that truth isn’t what a lot of writers care to hear. Many prefer the fairy tale, and when given the choice, they’re bewitched by the flattery and bravado of someone less scrupulous.

In the long run, I hope valuing honesty pays off. Whether it does or doesn’t, I’ll choose to align myself with people who are not only talented but whose strong moral character and intrinsic honesty is as apparent in their professional dealings as it is in their writing.

roosting birds

Give it time

Slow down is not advice any writer wants to hear, because the goal of being published is so alluring. Give it time. Learn how to do it well. Wait until the cake is done before you take it out of the oven. The results will be so much more satisfying.

Nine years ago today I started this blog, coincidentally the same year I met David Sanders at the Kenyon Review Literary Festival. This year, his collection of poetry Compass & Clock was published by Swallow Press, just in time for the celebration of National Poetry Month. If you listen carefully, you can hear my old neighbor and dear friend describe the necessity of patience as he explains his writing process to WOUB Digital’s podcast host Tom Hodson: “It’s a book that I’ve been working on for thirty years or so, and these are the poems that have risen to the top.”

Congratulations, David! Salut.

Encouragement for aspiring authors: foolishness will eliminate most of your competition

Aspiring authors eager for encouragement can be glad of one thing, which I can promise will never change: human nature. Most of their competitors—other writers vying to win readers—will fail to capitalize on the opportunities they’re given. They will consider themselves too talented to be overlooked, too intelligent to take advice, and too exceptional to fail.

Day after day, I receive queries from authors whose books were published, either traditionally or nontraditionally, but then languished without appreciable sales. These writers took or were given their chances and did not make the most of them. Usually, they haven’t recognized or tried to rectify the problems that kept their books from reaching or appealing to readers. When it’s too late, they want someone else to repair the damage.

I don’t often hear from unsuccessful authors who know exactly where they stand. I’m contacted by those who are mystified by book buyers’ disappointing reactions to their work. Oblivious to the reasons, these particular writers remain confident that fairytale success will find them if only they believe in themselves.

No amount of testimony by successful authors whose years of struggle and relentless practice enabled their careers will convince a writer who doesn’t want to face the unpleasant aspects of the business of creative writing. The obstacles include endless revisions and rejections, critical scrutiny, meager pay, and a market robust enough to cater to readers’ every whim rather than every writer’s wallet. Unwavering perfectionism, sincere humility and willingness to learn, and the ability to connect with audiences are rare qualities even in the most talented writers. That’s why there are so few success stories, compared to failed attempts, in book publishing. The coincidence of necessary personal and professional qualities is truly unusual.

Occasionally, good writers do recognize how much effort and time it will cost them to achieve the careers they envision, and the realization paralyzes them. They may believe they can’t handle the pressure or the demands on their time, that the market isn’t fair, or that their aspirations are self-indulgent. I have more sympathy for them than for the failed author who is hobbled by a big ego. The fact remains that authors today have more choices and resources than ever before to enable their success. Along with those choices and opportunities goes the personal responsibility to make the best use of them.

Sounds true, you say, but where should a writer who honestly wants to improve seek reliable, free advice? Here are a few good sources.

Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published by Jane Friedman

Online Critique Groups for Writers

A Flowchart For Diagnosing Self Publishing Problems by Morris Rosenthal

Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

Lion of St. Mark

  Lion of St. Mark

Best online explanations of POV

I analyze and evaluate creative writing. Perhaps then, I ought to be able to teach it, except that I believe good creative writing instructors have additional indispensible skills, including the ability and patience to explain a concept six ways from Sunday. I’m not a teacher. Whenever I need to tell a writer to begin thinking about the narrative mode that we call point of view, I recommend several online resources.

First, it’s important to learn the terminology. Then, accept that everyone will misapply the terminology. The concepts don’t change, though, regardless of how they’re labeled.

Start by understanding the elements of narrative mode

Choosing Your Narrative Mode: Storytelling Perspectives and Options
by Glen C. Strathy

Narrative Modes in Fiction: Telling Your Story (Writing Essentials)
by Beth Hill

Then drill down to the specifics of POV

View to a Skill: Understanding Point of View
by Janice Hardy

What Is Point of View?
by Joshua Essoe

The Basics of Point of View for Fiction Writers
by Joseph Bates

The Art and Soul of POV
by Toni McGee Causey

Consider the effects of different points of view

A Study in Third Person Point of View
by Michael Neff

Some Thoughts on Third Person vs First Person Novel Narratives
by Les Edgerton

Using First Person POV
by Genevieve Graham

Another Perspective on POV (omniscient and limited omniscient)
by Martin Brown Publishers, LLC

Use multiple points of view with care

What Is Head Hopping and How Can We Avoid It?
by Marcy Kennedy

Mastering Multiple POV in 6 Steps
by Lisa Walker England

These resources will lead you to many more, including books on the topic, if your concerns about your work’s POV are more specific. My thanks go to all of the generous writers who have shared these pointers.

Aspiring authors who understand and purposefully use the described techniques produce far better work than writers who can’t explain their choices. Intuition* is powerful, but being able to justify intuitive decisions is better.

Don’t ask which POV I prefer or which one is correct, because the answer always will be the POV executed well.

Detroit lit: online, print, and audio

Detroit’s literary community has been enjoying national attention recently. These publications, which feature creative writing, are based in the city and its suburbs. I included the suburban cities, because it seemed there ought to be more literary magazines in the Motor City. What did I miss? In a year or two, will this list be twice as long?

Cruel Garters (in Bloomfield Hills)

Fifth Estate (in Ferndale)

The MacGuffin (in Livonia)

Marvels & Tales, Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies

The Periphery

Radio Campfire (creative audio)

Sammiches and Psych Meds

[SIC] Student Arts Journal

The Strand Magazine (in Birmingham)

undr_scr review

Wayne Literary Review

White Cat Publications’ various magazines (in Livonia)

A few more insights

Amy Sacka Photography

Literary Detroit

The Literary Map of Detroit sponsored by the Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies and the Department of English and Modern Languages

Detroit Public Library

  Detail of the entrance to the Detroit Public Library