November 14, 2010

WRITING ADVICE: Nathan Bransford 10 – Once and Future Wisdom

Nathan Bransford was once a West Coast agent with the New York literary agency, Curtis Brown, Ltd. For nine years, he wrote a popular blog reflecting on and illuminating the publishing world. Humorous, serious and ultimately enlightening, I’ve looked at how THE ESSENTIALS (PLEASE READ BEFORE YOU QUERY) influenced my writing. I am using them with his permission and if you’d like to read his blog which has started to evolve but which I still highly recommend go to

We come now to the last three bits of advice, and while they are important, they aren’t really that entertaining! He collected a glossary of publishing terms:, a writing advice database:, and FAQs:

These are fine and dandy, and the links are here for your delectation, but I can’t say they had any impact on my writing. HOWEVER, I am going to take a bit of advice from this set of FAQ. I sincerely hope I need it someday. On meeting agents face-to-face, Bransford says:

“First up: don't be nervous. Seriously. I don't bite, attack, make fun, disparage, or karate chop…don't feel like your chances of being published are hinging on what you say. They're not. So don't be nervous…if we don't get a chance to speak, just e-mail me. I'm sitting in on a pitch session on Sunday, but other than that, it's not the best idea to pitch stuff to me verbally in the halls. Not because I'm not interested in what you're working on (I am), but I need to see the writing. What it sounds like verbally doesn't really matter, I'm always going to say the same thing: ‘e-mail it to me’. If it comes up in conversation, great. But if you're looking for me to say whether it's a good idea or not -- I won't really be able to tell for sure without seeing the writing. Also, the pitch session is a good opportunity to ask any questions you have about the industry or about your writing -- I'm happy to help!

After sending out dozens of “cold” query letters and receiving from every one a “no”, while all were polite, my impression is that I am merely one of thousands of supplicants at the altar of publishing. They don’t know me from Adam and while my letters are “correct”, they have obviously made only a minimal impression. I HAVE received a few “please send more” responses, but each one ended with a polite “no thank you”.


We don’t have the money to chase agents around at conferences across the country, and to be truthful, most do not invite agents at all. SCBWI in California (and in Minneapolis) does. WorldCon SF convention in whatever city hosts it does; but other than that, where DO you meet agents?

I’d really, really like to test Mr. Bransford’s advice as I can no longer approach him now. He has resigned from the agenting business to begin a career as a technology reviewer for CNET, an online tech review site. Good luck to him. I am keeping an eye on his site carefully to see if he is able to maintain the traffic level now that his services are no longer available.


No comments: