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The Crowd:

All it takes to become a published writer

August 05, 2009|By B.W. Cook

DeMarco-Barrett moderated the evening with the agents, attracting a sold-out audience, sharing a glass of Chardonnay and listening to the insiders’ message on the state of the publishing business.

In the crowd were author Allison Johnson, “Entrepreneur Magazine” staff member Jill Amadio, former editor of “Westways Magazine,” Beth Fhaner, who is now working in the music business on the television side of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, and “Orange Coast Magazine” contributor Ben Peters with his photographer wife, Adele.

Also on hand were Irvine Unified School District administrator Jeannie Fritsche, inspirational speaker Dolley Carlson and Marrie Stone, who co-hosts DeMarco-Barrett’s radio program called “Writers on Writing,” which airs on KUCI-FM. Steller Scape Gallery owners Jeannie Denholm and Diane Nelson were also front and center for the evening with the pros.


Agents are often asked what it takes to break into publishing. The answer is always the same.

“It takes outstanding writing,” Sonnack said. Van Haitsma added, “Good writing is good writing. Sometimes it is important to be topical. The author may relate to very important events of the day, but the quality of the work is and has always been the only true criteria for publication.”

The agents also shared that many novice writers will send in an inquiry requesting a critique of their work. Van Haitsma addressed this subject emphatically, stating, “I love to help writers, but it is not my job to offer criticism. I simply do not have the time. Material must be in the best possible form that that writer can provide.”

Capron chimed in, “That does not mean that any writer’s work will not be edited and re-edited, but in order to be considered, it must be in a polished and professional form.”

The audience was also told that every agent has a different requirement concerning submission and inquiry.

Some want an entire manuscript, while most others only want a sample of several chapters or 50 to 100 pages. If they like the sample, they will ask for more.

They also shared that, given the vast number of unsolicited submissions, it is crucial (if possible) to find a personal connection to the agent that you are submitting material to for consideration.

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