• Literary Agents and Online Workshops

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments No comments

    Guide to Literary Agents BookDear WBN:

    How important is it to have an agent if I want to publish a book? What does an agent do I can’t do myself?

    Alice H.

    Bastrop, TX


    JG: It’s important and it’s not. (Don’t you just love these wishy-washy answers? I know I do.) It’s important to have an agent if you are hell-bent on selling your book to a well-known publishing house. Some examples of publishing giants include HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin, Little, Brown—that’s “Little, Brown,” not “Little” [comma] “Brown.” Glad we cleared that up. The reason is that most of the biggies don’t accept unsolicited submissions, meaning that any manuscripts that reach them from an author directly rather than an agent on behalf of an author will be thrown in the garbage immediately, no questions asked. In short, agents can get you in the door.

    What’s more, they sell. “Literary agent” is really just a fancy term for book salesman. They run around town, pumping their contacts, talking up you and your book, until they find a publisher willing to pay a million dollars for it and you live happily ever after just like J.K. Rowling. Okay, okay, not quite that much, but you get the picture. The point is your agent believes in your project and wants to see it published and knows people who can make that happen.

    On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with a boutique publisher and don’t mind doing the legwork to get your manuscript into the right hands, or you’re planning to self-publish your book, you might not need an agent. As always, the decision comes down to what you need and want as a writer. Give it some thought. If you’re having trouble deciding, WriteByNight is just an email away.


    DD: As usual, my business partner leaves it to me to include the shameless and blatant company plug. Alice, we’ve just yesterday announced our May/June special, which is 40% off our Agents Package. In honor of the WLT’s upcoming Agents Conference, we’re offering verbal critique on your manuscript plus four private coaching sessions, all designed to get you and your manuscript looking shiny and new before going face-to-face with literary agents. (Note that you don’t have to be attending the conference–or even be a Texan–to take advantage).


    Pro Bono MegaphoneDear WBN:

    Do you guys ever work pro bono, or for barter?

    Jerry D.

    Hobe Sound, FL


    DD: Umm, not really. In special circumstances we have, but it’s not common. But at the risk of turning this into too much of a plug (yet again), you do have a chance to win freebies if you follow us on some social media channels. We give short manuscript critiques to random Twitter followers, and sometimes do giveaways on Facebook. And in our newsletter and blog we do occasional trivia-type things for free stuff. Oh, and if you come to Write Here you can drop your name in the box for the monthly drawing, where you can win prizes and get WBN discounts. But living in Hobe Sound, that’s a hike.

    The short answer is no, but we wish we were in a position to.


    Online Workshops drawingDear WBN:

    What do you think about online learning for writers (Gotham, Zoetrope, Writer’s Digest. etc)?

    Jeff Q.



    JG: I think they’re great if the offerings are in line with your needs, and a big fat waste if they’re not. You don’t need me to tell you that every writer is different. (But I did tell you, of course, because I’m obnoxious.) What works for Jane won’t necessarily work for Joe. For that reason, I strongly advise that you carefully assess your unique needs and goals before you enter into any community of writers, online or off. A creative writing workshop furnishes feedback from a variety of perspectives: Is that what you need right now, or would you do better with, say, focused attention from a professional, or the (usually free) opportunity to hear talented writers read? Furthermore, are you okay with the fact that you will never meet your fellow workshop participants face-to-face? If you’re the kind of writer—nay, the kind of person—who thrives on human contact, an online workshop may not be for you.

    If you decide that an online workshop is, in fact, just what the doctor ordered, make sure you do your research. Gotham, Zoetrope, Writer’s Digest: These are name institutions you can trust, not necessarily to blow your mind—I can’t promise you that—but to not steal your money. In choosing an online workshop, steer clear of obscure, back-alley providers promising the world from some dusty corner of the Internet, all for the low low price of $5,000! A workshop should not cost $5,000. If it does, expect to speak to Shakespeare himself.


    To get your burning questions answered, email them to me with “Dear WBN” in the subject line. Do it now, before you forget. And before we run out of questions and have to start making these up, which would be ridiculous. Be prepared for us to edit your question for space; and for typos, of course. Not that we’d ever dream that you’d send us any writing containing typos. Right? Right?


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