Dave Cullen, author of Columbine

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):






  • 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.

Editors' advice

Query/pitch letters

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

    If you want to publish with a major book publisher, you need an agent. Those three sites have permanent links with good advice on how to go about finding one. They are a great place to start:

Selling your book: Using the web / social media