Advice for Writers & Journalists
I get asked frequently for advice or tips—often in a tweet. I have no magic words to convey into 140 characters, but if you're serious about it, I have encountered a whole lot of helpful stuff that I can share below.
If some of the categories sound Greek (What the hell is a query letter?) then I suggest you start with one of the books or overviews down there. Publishing is a complex business, and can be baffling at first, but those links are to people who are great at sorting it out.
If you're just getting started writing, I highly recommend a writing program, or at least a writing course to start. Writing is something you have to plunge in and do—not something I can tell you how to do in an email or tweet. But a great guide, who can help you unlock your own talent, and push you in ways you never imagined—priceless.
You probably want to start with one of these two, my own summaries on writing and publishing. (They are repeated under the appropriate categories below):
- My best advice on writing (my thoughts, captured by agent Rachelle Gardner on her blog).
- Two essential books for people writing books:
- Betsy Lerner's The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
- Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
- What my mentor Lucia Berlin taught me—my essay in Vanity Fair.
- A place to write: why you need one (coming).
- MFA or not MFA. Short answer: usually.
- Great advice from Martin Amis
- How to break into publishing. A quick summary I composed to help a friend trying to break into the biz. (It's geared to nonfiction, with a note on how fiction differs.)
- How to get published. Agent Rachelle Gardner's excellent summary, with more details and links.
- Jonathan Karp: amazing interview in Poets & Writers This should be required reading at every MFA program, to start.
These are the best brief how-to guide's I've found:
- Query Letter Mad Lib: Ignore the cute title. This is a great intro post, that lays out what a query should be, with everything to leave in and out. It's agent Nathan Bransford, who has a great reputation on this stuff.
- Examples of a Good Query Letter: Three great examples, with analysis, by agent Nathan Bransford.
- How to Write a Query Letter: A slightly different approach, by agent Rachelle Gardner.
- 23 Successful agent query letters: From GalleyCat.
For related links, see the margins of all those posts. The agents who created them have all sorts of great links in their sidebars.
Agent websites with great advice
Selling your book: Using the web / social media
- Creating a primary website: My evolution over 10 years
- My experience using Facebook & Twitter, etc. effectively (coming)
- WSJ: How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise (books). The Jan 2011 piece could use a lot more meat—more details and more analysis of what works—but it's a very good start. And I think we're still figuring out what works.