Writing Info & Links

About These Links.

Every external link (those going to pages outside Wendy's website) opens in a new window. The author, Wendy Isdell, has reviewed each and added the links by hand. However...

Content Warning: This site is G-rated. :) However I cannot control what others say outside my website. So parents please keep an eye out (and young ones, use your head--when in doubt, ask an adult). I do not necessarily endorse, support nor claim responsibility for the content of these links.

Age Warning: Over time, all information becomes outdated. Most website links, unlike fine wines, do not improve with age. These links have been recently refreshed but they do age quickly.

External Links

Writing Resource Links

Links to external sites, sorted alphabetically.

Agent Resource Links

Links to external sites, sorted alphabetically.

  • Agent Research and Evaluation: a "watchdog" company for agents - you can check here on the track record of a specific agent, or purchase their services.
  • Writer Beware: page operated by the Science Fiction Writers of America, full of warnings about agents and publishers to avoid.
  • WritersNet: searchable list of agents, plus a discussion board for authors.

Writer & Agent Organization Links

Links to external sites, sorted alphabetically.

Other Author Links

Links to external sites, sorted alphabetically.

  • Authorlink: a site with information for writers, agents, and editors, including some works by authors
  • BookTalk: authors can discuss and announce their newest works
  • Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts
  • Writer's Digest: contains articles for writers, both aspiriting and published, including writing prompts and ways to polish your manuscript
  • The Writer's Market: Paid subscription, searchable index of publishers, agents, and other locations where writers can sell what they write. This is the primary source for information in my opinion for publishing information.
  • Writing-World.com: list of resources for young writers, including blogs, 'zines, discussion groups, tips, contests, and writing/editing help.
  • YoungWritersOnline.net: A bulletin board with writing help and review, contest listings, writing exercises, and of course chat with other writers.

Links for Everyone

Links to external sites, sorted alphabetically.

Information for Writers

How do I become a writer?

Well, first of all, hold on.

In order to become a writer you have to first be a writer. That means practice. That means loving what you do. (Or else hating it with a passion that approximates love.) It also means putting up with seemingly-endless frustrations and rejections and computer-crashes which threaten your livelihood.

That is all part of being a writer. Plus, aside from the actual writing, there is a lot of the "business" of writing that you have to take care of, too.

That said, let's continue on. There are two paths to becoming a writer, and a different school of thought surrounds each.

Method One

Get an Agent.

Many established writers recommend getting an agent. (So do many agents, interestingly enough.) The theory behind this move is that agents can save you time and headaches by sending out your manuscript for you, using connections to make the sale go smoothly, and negotiating more money for you.

To find an agent, probably the best way now is online. Use the links here or a search engine to find "literary agent." If you write in a specific genre, like "horror," you might want to tack that on to the end to narrow your results.

Traditionally, most agents work in New York City, since that is where the biggest publishers were throughout the twentieth century. Today, it is your choice whether you want an agent who lives in New York, or one who lives elsewhere. The main benefit of a New York agent is proximity; he or she could take potential editors out to lunch, or otherwise meet face to face. Technology has narrowed the gap quite a bit, but I would still go with the "traditional" (read: suggested, but not required) route, to find an agent who lives near your publisher(s) of choice.

Naturally, you pay for the agents' services in the form of a commission-- usually 10-15% out of your paycheck, plus office fees and the like. So keep that in mind, before you choose your method.

Note: office fees are one thing, but "reading fees" are another. In my personal opinion, I recommend avoiding agents who charge "reading fees" or "processing fees," or who recommend a particular place to edit your book for you. I consider a legitimate agent to be one who makes his or her living by selling books, not by reading or editing them. But again, that is just my opinion.

Method Two

Forget the Agent. Get a publisher.

Some authors go directly to the publisher without the benefit of representation. While some publishers have switched to reading only manuscripts offered through agents, others have maintained an open-minded policy. In order to submit to these, you have to find:

  1. The right publishers
  2. Their correct addresses
  3. The name of an editor with that publisher, who handles your particular type of story.
If you don't have that last item, your work will probably get thrown into the "slush pile" of unaddressed, mostly-unwanted manuscripts which builds up in every publishing house.

Step One: Information. To get the right contact information, search online, or go to your local library or bookstore. (Note: when this article was written, a printed book was the only way. Thank your lucky stars, you can go online!) I recommend a book called the Writer's Market, although there are plenty of others like it available. Make sure to get the latest edition, otherwise some addresses or names may be outdated.

Step Two: The Query Letter. Once you have the address, do not send your whole manuscript. Instead, send a short letter describing the book and your writing background, so that the editor can decide if he or she wants to see the whole book. This is called a query letter. Think of it as a commercial--you have to compress all the value of your book into a thirty-second spot. Go for it.

Step Three: The Synopsis. The editor, may ask to see the novel at this stage, or perhaps a "synopsis." (Some may even ask for a synopsis to be sent with the initial query letter.) A synopsis is a summary of the book wherein every 20 pages of novel, more or less, are compressed into one page of description. If your book is nonfiction, they may ask for an "outline." This is a chapter-by-chapter list of the contents of your book, and how they are interrelated.

Step Four: Polish! Once a publisher asks to see your novel, you have to send it. By this stage, obviously, you should have already finished your novel! When you finally send your work, make sure it is free of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. ifF it loks lke Thiss, nobuddy wannts to reed itt. If you can get it perfect, do so. The publisher will make changes anyway, but a flawless presentation makes you look professional. However, if you have to choose between surface repairs (like grammatical errors) and genuinely good writing, go ahead and spend your time on the writing. The surface repairs are what editors are for.

Step Five: Deal with the publisher. There will be a lot of paperwork to handle. There will be contracts to sign, galleys to read, promotional material to review (possibly). You may get numerous copies of you book where the editor has made all kinds of changes. You may disagree with some of these; go ahead and tell them so, politely. Depending on how important the change is, negotiations may take place and the change may be taken out. Just remember... the longer you argue, the longer it is before your work gets in print. Sometimes it is easier to give ground on the little stuff.

How Much Does an Author Make?

Or, "Why I am a starving artist."

There are two ways an author can make money directly on the books she or he writes:

  1. Advance - this is money the author gets when the publisher first agrees to print a book. It is usually divided--half when the publisher agrees to print it, and half when the author actually delivers the book for them to edit and print.
  2. Royalties - this is money that the author gets each time his or her book is sold, often 8-12% of the net receipts-- that is, the money that the publisher receives, regardless of whether the book is sold at retail or wholesale price. For paperback books, this averages out to about 25 cents per book!
A lot of aspiring writers are hopeful that their first book will make a lot of money and that they will be able to live off their writing right away. Listen to me. Keep those dreams. But until you become the next Piers Anthony or Michael Creighton, you are going to need a day job.

Now the royalties are usually against (or "not in addition to"), the advance. The advance is where established writers often make their living. But for newcomers in the field, you should not expect a large sum unless you're famous, extremely lucky, or blessed with an astounding agent.

Now because the royalties are against the advance, that means you don't start getting checks until your royalties add up to more than the advance. Here's how long it takes: for Gebra I got some money the first six months it was on the shelf. But when Chemy came out in February 1996, I started getting money in September 1997. That was a long time.

MACDADDI(TM) Writing Tool

By popular request. Here's a rudimentary tool to randomize physical characteristics for quick characters. This is the Beta version, so use at your own risk!

Incidentally, MACDADDI™ stands for "Make A Computer Do All the Details, Darn It!"

Click ~HERE~ for the program.

(4-8-02: Beta Ver. 2.5 now available.)
(4-12-02: Beta Ver. 3.0 now available.)
(4-18-02: Beta Ver. 3.1 now available.)