Resources for Writers
Each Wednesday, our friends from Beyond the Margins will be guest posting. First up, author and Grub alum Dell Smith, with some great websites that all writers should bookmark.
All writers seeking agent representation, story, poetry, and/or novel publication rely on resources from which they gather information about the publishing industry. As a writer in the all-of-the-above category (sans poetry), I generally return to the resources that have served me well regarding information about agents, publishers, literary magazines, online magazines, and contests.
As a public service to writers new at the publishing game, and to introduce seasoned vets to resources they may not be aware of, the following is my list of favorite go-to resources:
- Poets and Writers — website and magazine. A good place to start. The magazine is published bimonthly, and includes articles about the business of publishing, writing advice and author interviews, plus details about grants, scholarships, contests, hot markets, and MFA programs. The March/April 2010 issue features coverage of the Vona Voices Workshop by Boston’s own Jenn De Leon, who I can say I knew when from a common Grub Street class we took a few years back. The P & W website boasts a free database of job listings, small presses, and lit mags.
- Nathan Bransford. An affable writer who spent eight years as an agent with the Curtis Brown agency, Nathan features topics ranging from Do You Own Your Characters or Do Your Characters Own You? to Where do you go for Inspiration? He describes his writer conference experiences, introduces a basic query formula, and each Friday recaps that week in publishing. He also hosts a writing advice database that answers questions writers may have about the many phases of the writing and publishing process.
- Duotrope’s Digest. “A free writers’ resource listing over 2825 current Fiction and Poetry publications.” Duotrope’s database is easy to search and offers a submission tracker for registered users. Search results show a current description of each publication, which genres and themes publications are looking for, requested work lengths, available pay scale, and links to publication websites.
- Query Shark. Endlessly entertaining and informative. The conceit is simple: writers submit their query letters and an established literary agent critiques them, giving reasons why they may or may not elicit requests to see more work. The strong-willed submit a revised query to find out what progress they’ve made. Learn all the rookie mistakes, and see what elements determine the Holy Grail of queries—the positive response.
- Miss Snark. Almost three years dark, this anonymous agent’s blog is still available and full of timeless, snarky advice.
- Guide to Literary Agents, by agent Chuck Sambuchino. A great literary agent and agency resource. For example, one ongoing column features posts about authors and what they went through to get an agent. There’s helpful information about how to find agents for a particular market; for example, Christian, romance/erotica, poetry, and nonfiction. My favorite posts concern new agents, because many are more open to taking on new or untried clients.
- Writer Beware. So, you’ve finished your first novel and you’ve got an agent’s attention. Before you sign with the agent, check out this website which posts alerts and documents scams regarding shady publishers and agents. Sure, 99% of agents/publishers play nice, but there are those that want to make a stealth buck off of dreamy-eyed writers. Search here first before you sign a contract.
What resources do you use? Which websites are crucial to your publishing experience?
Dell Smith is a fiction writer. He grew up on Cape Cod and left town to study filmmaking. He writes stories and novels, and works as a technical writer at a software company northwest of Boston. He has also worked as a videotape editor, cook, music video lackey, TelePrompTer operator, accounts receivable clerk, assistant film editor, caterer, roadie, flea market vendor, videotape duplicator, and wedding videographer. He has lived in Worcester, Bridgeport, Van Nuys, Billerica, Ithaca, Florham Park, Fairfield, and Simi Valley. He brings his life experience to bear in his fiction. His writing has appeared in Fiction, J. Journal, and Grub Street’s 10th anniversary anthology Hacks. He is a regular contributor to The Review Review and maintains a blog, Unreliable Narrator at dellsmith.com, featuring essays on movies, writing, and the publishing biz, along with book reviews and author interviews. He is currently writing a novel. But who isn't?