Lit Agent Reveals How to Avoid 10 Near-Fatal Errors



10. The Everything-but Writer. You’d be surprised at many people hang around this writing community who know everything there is to know about writing, about marketing, about publishing, but never actually get themselves settled in their chair to write. They Facebook, they Twitter, they create queries and maybe even proposals, but they never manage to get down to the sometimes-drudgery of writing a whole book.

Antidote: Start eating the proverbial elephant, one bite at a time. Stop playing at being a writer and start producing.

9. The Assertive Writer. In this industry, it sometimes feels as if we need to rattle cages and demand some attention. Resist the urge. It’s dangerous to do anything that may earn you the label of “difficult.” It’s a small world and editors move around. Few things will damage your career quite so fast.

Antidote: Let your agent do the heavy lifting so you can remain unscathed.

8. The Know-It-All Writer. Nothing is as unattractive as a writer who is always right. This usually crops up during the editing process and can earn you a reputation faster than you can say syntax error.

Antidote: Pray that you’ll always keep a learner’s attitude. Getting a book published is a team effort. Value your team.

7. The Judgmental Writer. How many times have you heard a new writer denigrating the work of someone who helped blaze the trail? All too often. Under the guise of literary criticism, we often rip our colleagues to shreds. Some of those writers we criticize have hundreds of thousands of readers. We are also demeaning those readers. What does that buy us? There is nothing inherently better in one type of storytelling over another. Literary is not “better” than commercial fiction.

Antidote: Learn from the successful writers instead of disparaging them.

6. The Lone Ranger Writer. Some of the more timid writers among us would love to hole up in their writing cocoons and simple shut out the world. Unfortunately, in this day, that’s not possible. Publishers expect us to connect, to network and to partner with them on promotion.

Antidote: Even before you are published begin to connect with potential readers and potential colleagues.

5. The Writer/Artiste. Suffering from the “vapours” and “waiting on the Muse” went out with the Victorian dime novels. Writing is a career—a business. Yes, it is also an art, but as someone who’s made a living as a successful artist, I can assure you that you have to harness your creativity with discipline in order to produce.

Antidote: Practice discipline—the spiritual disciplines and the discipline of regular work habits. Don’t let emotions derail your God-given creativity.

4. The Jack-of-All Trades Writer. Don’t be the writer who resists being “branded.” How many times have I heard, “I write it all—fiction, nonfiction, Children’s picture books and poetry.” I could write a whole book on this. Think of yourself as a river. Which do you think makes the biggest impact: a wide, meandering, shallow stream; or a deep, narrow, swift-moving river?

Antidote: Focus!

3. The Bottom-Line Writer. If it’s all about the bottom line, you’re in the wrong business. I’m not saying that you can’t have a financially successful career as a writer but it’s much like choosing to be an actor. It’s tough in the early years to get steady employment and it’s always a buyers’ market. You’ve heard the advice, “Don’t quit your day job.” It’s true. It takes a number of years to work up to a good steady income. The pressure of trying to make an unrealistic income will compromise your art.

Antidote: Check your expectations against reality. And don’t quit your day job too soon.

2. The Head-in-the-Sand Writer. Every career move has potential pitfalls. Each contract has the potential for failure built in. A writer needs to be aware that if his sales numbers are low, he’s going to have a harder time making each subsequent sale.

Antidote: Your agent will weigh the pros and cons of every career decision carefully, trying to insure success on a project-by-project basis. Be aware.

1. The Impatient Writer. This industry moves at a snail’s pace and it seems to get slower every year. There’s very little that can be done to speed it up—everyone is overworked and understaffed. If a writer tries to push, he’ll very likely push himself off the desk and into the round file.

Antidote: Wait on the Lord. Practice patience. There’s no way to speed things up so there’s no sense of beating one’s head against the wall needlessly.


provided by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”


 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.





9 Ways to Hang Onto Your Writing Money

Beth Fowler headshotRetain Rights – Your agent (or you) should negotiate to retain as many rights as possible. Learn more at

Join the Club — Compare prices for office supplies. Sam’s Club, for example, ( has good deals. Plus, Sam’s Club Business Member cards are cheaper than other categories of Sam’s memberships.

Be Thrifty — Buy notebooks and other supplies at thrift stores. Thrift shops and second-hand goods stores supply what’s donated and typically won’t restock it, so when you see something you might need, buy it.

Read Already Read Books ­— Search online at,, and in bricks ‘n’ mortar secondhand stores for print books costing a fraction of new ones.

Deduct — “Every year the IRS discovers millions of mistakes on tax forms,” writes Leslie Haggin Geary, of CNN. In some cases taxpayers fail to claim all the deductions to which they’re entitled. My accountant advises recording writing-related expenses as well as income. Expenses for me include miles traveled to lead a writing workshop and printer ink.

Pay Zilch to Get Agents — Agents get paid when they sell your book.

Donate — Donate books and other stuff you don’t need to recognized charities. Ask for receipts. Visit and find answers to FAQs donors have in Publication 526, Charitable Contributions and Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property.

Avoid Unscrupulous Vanity Publishers – Visit for info on vanity publishers and their ilk.

Swoop – Pluck coins off the sidewalk. Money is money. “I did notice I found pennies every time I was working on my book, or doing any kind of writing, or doing readings with people,” writes Carla Houle at

Ship it Media Mail — According to the U. S. Postal Service, special postal rates are, “Generally used for books (at least eight pages), film, printed music, printed test materials, sound recordings, play scripts, printed educational charts, loose-leaf pages and binders consisting of medical information, and computer-readable media.” My friendly post master tells me that manuscripts shouldn’t be sent via “Media Mail” because they haven’t been published.

Let others call you a cheapskate, a penny pincher, a tightfisted miser. Simply smile and say “Thank you for the compliment,” as you hang on to your writing dollars.


Article by Beth Fowler, author of the beloved coming-of-age novel “Ken’s War.”


 ken's war coverWhen teen rebellion & culture shock collide. Shop here: Ken’s War

Ken’s War is vibrant with authority … Fowler’s elegantly written novel risks exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion.” Nancy Springer, award- winning author of YA books.