Agents Clearly Note Their Preferences

By Anthony S. Policastro

Talk about being specific, I found one agent who is so specific as to the type of manuscript he is looking for, it is as if you were sitting next to him having a cup of coffee.

Andrew H. Zack, president of The Zack Agency in San Diego, has many detailed posts on his blog, all that's new(s) from A to Z and on his website that clearly spell out the kinds of manuscripts and authors he would consider representing. He is mostly looking for nonfiction because

"…simply put, I want to represent more nonfiction. Nonfiction, generally speaking, is simply easier to sell, especially if the author has the right credentials and/or an existing platform. Why is it easier? Well, there's less good nonfiction out there and thus less competition for editors' reading time. It can be sold on proposal, which means it takes less time to read initially and so decisions come more quickly. If an author has the right credentials and/or platform, it's often a no-brainer. A serious scientist writing about a serious subject, e.g., global warming, and saying something new or controversial, will nearly always sell. At least one agent I know of makes his living just selling these types of books. And I'd like to put a dent in his business."

He plans to post a future blog on his fiction requirements. So, if you meet his requirements, you may have an agent that will sell your work.

It also will be interesting to see if Mr. Zack gets a higher number of good queries that fit his requirements now that he has clearly spelled out his preferences. Perhaps, he’ll mention this in a future blog post.

The amount of information provided by Mr. Zack is quite refreshing in the maze of agents out there. However, agents are very busy people and if you wore their shoes for one day you would understand why they don’t have reams of information out there. But, some do with the ease and speed of posting on blogs and websites. Take a look at agent Kristin Nelson's blog, Pub Rants. She has a new, relevant post almost every day and one wonders if she ever sleeps.

So why I am I writing about this? Well, the more information from agents the better because it is extremely helpful to both agents and authors. Authors can better zero in on agents who would be interested in their work, and agents will have more queries in line of what they want. After all, most agents reject more than 90 per cent of the queries sent to them and many wished they had more that fit their criteria. Agents need new authors as well as authors need agents.

The final word - do as much research as you can on an agent before you query. You can find several useful sites on this blog as well as others on the Internet.


Responses to Why Do You Write?

By Anthony S. Policastro

In an earlier post, I challenged readers look into themselves and determine why they write based on David Morrell's premise (See Why Do You Write?) that writers write because of an unresolved trauma that festers inside of them all of their lives.

We received many different and interesting responses with some in agreement and others in disagreement and some just wondering.

Not Sure

This is a very interesting question to which I am not certain I know the answer. With regard to the premise of trauma, I think it is a reasonable suggestion, made with an excellent argument. However, I don't know that I agree. Of course, a psychologist may be able to uncover some deep emotions I am masking, but I don't feel it, and I don't feel my writing is a response to anything other than the story I am trying to tell. I think it is, in general, a bit of a stretch to posit a theory on something as arbitrary as "why" with any certainty that stretches beyond your own personal experience.

But that begs the question you originally asked: Why do I write? Personally, I write to try to tell a fantastic story. I hope to entertain...but also to teach, humor, and inspire individual thought. We've all read a work that made us do that. And, I suppose, I've decided that nothing is more powerful or important than creating those feelings that so overwhelmed us in another. That, I think, is why I write.

Geoffrey Edwards - author of Fire Bell in the Night

Provided Inspiration

Once again David Morrell (and you!) have given me just what I needed. I've been struggling a bit with my WIP, and his #3 points me in the right direction. Thank you!

Patry Francis - author of The Liar’s Diary

Need to be noticed – not a trauma

Joyce Carol Oates, a celebrated author, came to Syracuse last fall to speak about writing, etc. and over the course of the evening she commented on several famous male writers (I think Hemingway was one, but I'm pushing 50 and my memory ain't what I seem to recall it once was.) Each had issues with their fathers. She didn't elaborate too deeply, saying only that their desires to earn their fathers respect drove their writing to a higher level. In fact, she quipped that we might not have all of their fine work to read had their fathers not been such bastards.

This certainly lines up with David Morrell's hypothesis.

Speaking for myself, I'm a middle child. The third of five. Consequently, I think I have a deep-seeded need to be noticed. It's certainly not unresolved trauma nor a conscious pursuit, but a motivator none-the-less.

Everyone is driven by something...if only we were all color-coded like the sale items at Wal-Mart.

Matthew Dunn - author of The Good Silver


I don't agree. I write because it's a natural part of the way I connect with the world. What goes into that and what motivates it is the whole of my experience, not just the hard parts.

I've interviewed many songwriters in the course of my work, and would say that what I've heard from them supports that. One may write from trauma at a given time, and come back to keep figuring that out, sure, but there are other reasons which lead one to write as well.

Kerry Dexter

Still wondering

I read the blog about David. I don't know. I have always written, have always had the intense desire to write. I can not go through life without writing. I think that you probably relate to what I am saying here.

I don't know. I think that David probably has a point. The first novel I wrote, I actually became quite ill while writing it. But, when I read it now, I realize that it is beautiful in so many aspects; I just can't explain it.

I related to some of those characters so much, that I have to wonder if David doesn't have a good point here. And, the fact that he is a best-selling author makes me wonder even more!!!! Good article.

Sharon A. - Phoenix, AZ

A passion that cannot be ignored

I write because it is a passion I cannot ignore. . . Trauma? Everyone has at least one form of trauma in their life and most people quite a few. So, my question is, since everyone has one form of trauma, why isn't everyone a writer? I do believe that writing is therapeutic and of suggested by psychologists. However, I am not sure I agree that writers write because of a trauma. I believe that each person has been given a gift or talent we cannot ignore. We have also been given free will. It is up to us how we use the blessing.

Amy W. - Peoria, IL

Expressing what they can’t express in public

To answer your question from my view, I believe everyone has various reasons. For the most part, I believe that many times, writers are expressing themselves in a way that may not be socially acceptable in "real life".

Soni S. - Tucson, AZ

Discussed this topic and disagrees

My friends and I have had this discussion in various ways over the years. Does an artist have to be damage or summer some trauma to produce and be meaningful? On the one hand to say yes makes sense, because trauma is by definition destructive if only by degrees. Art being born out of the impulse to create is the exact opposite, so it should and does prove healing.

I don’t quite agree with this argument. What about the adults and children, who have had happy lives, and love to draw, tell stories, dance etc.? In those cases wouldn’t this line of reasoning fall away unless you count birth, first fall when learning to walk, the first pangs of hunger.

Or if someone writes love poetry or stories and they are happy in their relationship would this still apply?

Desire Hendricks - somewhere in the Midwest

Makes her happy

In response to your query, I write because it gives me a high and I can't wipe the smile from my face.

Isabel B. - Florida

If you want to read more, there are 100 blog posts on on why people write, which are not based on David's interesting and thought-provoking premise.


Fiction Tips Via Kovach Via Larson

By Michael Neff

Here is some matter by Ron Kovach of WriterMag that I found helpful for Writer's Edge. He's talking about Erik Larson and making fiction points in the context of Larson's historical bestseller, THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY. A little Q&A worth posting:

You're clearly fond of foreshadowing. How would you describe its storytelling value?

I think foreshadowing is a fundamental element of suspense. I think that if you can somehow hint--and the more obliquely you can hint, the better--that something bad is going to happen, no reader is going to leave you until he or she finds out what that thing was. It's like Chekhov said: If you show a revolver in the first act, you have to shoot it by the last act. People come to a work with a sense of unity in their minds, and if you tell them that something black is going to happen, they want to know what that black thing is and will stay with you to find out--provided it's not too far down the line, and provided that between the two points is not just a bland plateau of nothing. Foreshadowing is vital, I think, for any work.

You really keep Devil in the White City rolling. What advice do you have for writers about keeping a narrative engaging and moving along?

For one thing, the first piece of advice I would have is read John Irving, because he is one novelist who is very transparent in his use of technical maneuvers to keep you going. Cut-aways, foreshadowing and so forth.

One of the things that's very valuable in foreshadowing is, in a given chapter, instead of presenting the whole story to completion, [you] take it almost to completion and leave that lingering question. You withhold detail at a certain critical point, cut away to something else and then, when you come back, you have held the reader's attention, partly because you just said something's going to happen. The trick is when you cut away, you have to cut away to something good.


Daddy like!