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  • Writer's pictureColleen

A Few of My Favorite (Writing Resource) Things

Agents, the industry and free advice.

While I did study screenwriting back in college, I did not study novel writing, publishing, marketing, or a whole bunch of other things that would be generally useful to the writer I am becoming now. So when I decided I wanted to be a novelist, and be traditionally published (still dreaming this dreaming this for anyone out there who wants to be my agent, it will be an absolute pleasure to meet you), I had to do a wee bit of research. I enjoyed I enjoyed that process, as I’m a total dork who loves to learn something new all the time. But I also love sharing what I learn, so here’s a list of some of my favorite writing resources so far.

When You’re Looking for an Agent:

- Publisher’s Marketplace: Incredible database about who represents who and what things sold and to whom. $25/month for membership. A wise investment when you are getting ready to query, so you can really dive into info about agents and what their preferences and track record is like. Great tool for writers who are looking to publish traditionally. Not a great tool if you are looking for interesting fonts.

- AAR Database: Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc. Membership-based organization. Many agents choose to join this – if they are in it, you can be pretty sure they are reputable. (But as my snarky teens would say “Don’t fall victim to illogical thinking” and believe the opposite: there are plenty of reputable agents who choose not to join AAR.

- Agent Query and Query Tracker: A little clunky to use, but another great tool when researching agents and whether they are open to queries, and what genres they like, etc. You can get some info for free, and then there’s premium access for $25 a year.

- Manuscript Wishlist (and #MSWL): Wicked cool resource and probably one of the most exciting hashtags invented for writers. You can search twitter for #MSWL and come up with all the tweets from agents (and some editors, which means you need to do your research) with what agents are literally “wishing” to see cross their desk. Their website is also really helpful and has lots of good info. And it’s actually an updated-looking website, which is refreshing.

When You Want to Know More about the Publishing Industry:

- Literary Marketplace: One of the first things people in publishing will tell you to check out. I admit this one isn’t my favorite, but I also tend to get cranky because of boring font choices. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.

- Writer’s Digest: The publishing side of the folks that put on the conference I went to that I now talk about all the time as “band camp.” Incredible content on their website –successful query letters, for example, that landed writers their agents. Super helpful, and a wee bit inspirational, which is my favorite mixture of information.

- Writer Beware: For every great, reliable, and credible resource, there are three that are actually scammers trying to take your money. This site helps you spot them. And also makes you glad that you haven’t fallen for scams, because there are zillions. It’s sponsored by the Science Fiction Fantasy Writers Association, SFWA, in collaboration with a bunch of other genre membership groups.

Humans who are Amazingly Smart and Helpful in the Publishing Industry and Share Their Advice for Free (and are also available for paid consulting):

- Query Shark (Janet Reid): Scariest and most helpful human (shark?) on the planet when it comes to perfecting a query. Also wicked funny. And an actual agent in the biz. Check her out. You can read her online critiques of other queries and learn sooo much. You can also submit yours for a free evaluation via her blog, or pay for a private critique. I attended her workshop at Writer’s Digest Conference and took so many notes my hand cramped up. Then I read every query she ever critiqued online.

- Nathan Bransford: Former agent, current author, and his website is consistently named one of the best online resources for writers. The amount of information and content he has for free is amazing, and you can hire him for consultations as well. Excellent newsletter too.

- Jane Friedman: Wicked smart human who hits the small intersect between creative artistry and publishing business sense. Marry those two things and you’re a success. Her site has lots of great info including her newsletter, which you want.

- Mark Malatesta: Former agent, current consultant, has so much info to share (for free) that he has multiple websites to hold it all (he is also available as a consultant for hire. Someone should tell him that he shouldn’t give away so much for free). has a list of all the different resources you can find for every stage of your book. It’s like the rabbit hole of publishing info. I once spent an hour just reading his definitions of genres and the dozens of examples that fit each category. Incredibly helpful newsletter too.

- Amy Collins / New Shelves Books: I met Amy when I took her one-day seminar “Successful Writers Run Successful Businesses” at Writer’s Digest Conference and learned an incredible amount of helpful info. If you’re one of those people (like I was!) who wants to just sit in a room and write and not think about marketing or your platform (I hated that word) then you need to learn from Amy. Her newsletter is always full of great links of what is going on in the publishing industry. Amy is also the human who told me about an incredibly helpful tool when you’re trying to figure out “comps” for your book / query / life. Check out (Amazon Product Visualization tool) and enter any book title. It will search that book and show you a fabulous pictogram of every book that people who bought that one also searched for on Amazon. It’s amazing data. You want to try it. Then you want to come back up for air because you can easily get lost and lose time. Like that part in Percy Jackson when they go into the Lotus Hotel.

Who or what did I miss that you think should be on this list? Send me a note at and I’ll write a follow-up post with all your contributions. Thanks!

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