Archive for January, 2008

The Patry Francis Blog Event –THE LIAR’S DIARY

January 29, 2008

The Patry Francis Blog Event –THE LIAR’S DIARY

Last year I had the opportunity to meet Patry Francis ( at the BackSpace event at the Algonquin in NYC.   Her first novel, THE LIAR’S DIARY, had hit stores in February 2007 and I snagged a copy to read back at my hotel.  Yowzah.  Talk about your compelling reads!  I’ve been a big fan of this book since its release, and in my writing classes I often said that Patry was “an author to watch”.

Then I heard that Patry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and that the fates seemed determined to silence this magnificent new literary voice.  The news sent shockwaves through the book world.  We were all shocked, all stunned, and every one of us felt impossibly helpless.  We’re writers…what the hell can we do?

Silly question.

 A could of good-hearted folks, Susan Henderson and Laura Benedict  cooked up the idea of getting the blogging authors to step up and support Patry by helping to promote the paperback release of LIAR’S DIARY.  When my friend, Karen Dionne (of BackSpace) asked me if I’d like to help I jumped right in… and found that there were over 300 of us working to make that book a major hit.  It’ll help Patry financially, sure, but more importantly it’ll show her that there is love and support out there.  That kind of good will can move mountains and maybe it can apply some leverage to the healing process.    

Here’s a link to the book-trailer:

Here’s a link to an audio sample

Go find the book on Amazon

Be a friend by telling a friend.

Join with folks all across the country who are standing together in this.  And…hey, it’s also a hell of a good book.

If you need an incentive, then the first ten people who send me proof that they’ve purchased the book from Amazon will receive signed copies of my next book, BAD MOON RISING before anyone else gets it.  As soon as I get my author copies I’ll sign ‘em and ship ‘em to the first folks who email me proof of purchase.  (And…hey, let’s write some reviews for her, too!)


Mario Acevedo
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January 21, 2008

Okay…now we’re onto the next phase of finding a literary agent. 

When you have your manuscript nice and clean, then the next stage is to build that list of agents.  First, a quick recap of one important bit: I recommend using to search for recent deals in your genre/subgenre.  Look for deals by the significant authors in your genre.  The deal listings will name the agent who represented the book and the editor who purchased it.  Here’s an example of a one of my own deal listings from Publishers Marketplace.

Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry’s PATIENT ZERO, in which a Baltimore police detective is recruited by a secret government organization to help stop a group of terrorists from launching a weaponized plague against America that turns its citizens into zombies, to Jason Pinter at St. Martin’s, in a three-book deal (including PATIENT ZERO), by Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger.

When you see “to” before a name, that’s the editor;  “by” indicates the agent.

You can then do searches on the editor to see the other books they’ve bought (and the agents who repped them), and you can search the agents by name.  You can also search the categories (fiction debut, thriller, young adult, etc.) and that’ll pull up a couple of years’ worth of listings.

Make sure you double-check to see if the agent and/or editor is still at that firm before you pitch.  These folks move like nomads.  For example, the editor who bought my books at St. Martin’s Press, Jason Pinter, is no longer there.  He scored his own book deal and has left editing to writer crime novels for Mira.

Also, when compiling your list of agents you have to remember that the better ones typically have very few spots left on their lists, and that means that they’ll be very picky when agreeing to look at works from new authors.  You have to pitch the hell out of it.

In one of my earlier blogs I posted a sample of a book pitch letter to an agent.  Go take a look at that.  I landed an agent with that letter; students of mine have used variations on it to sell their works.

Okay, so now you have your list and your query letter.  The next step is to get that letter out to everyone on your agent list.  Never do the one-at-a-time method.  Years pass, you get old, stars burn out to carbon cinders before you get through the whole list.  This is your career, be pro-active.

The way I did it, I sent ten copies of that letter out to agents.  I got six go-aheads to submit material (four partials and two complete manuscripts). 

Normally agents take anywhere from 3 months to an entire age of the world to get back to you.  They’re busy, yeah I get that.  I suggest following up with a note or an email after a few weeks, just to see if they’re aware that it’s in their office.  Some may snap back at you for pestering them.  Too bad, this is business and follow-up is a part of any business.  The trick is to be very brief, business formal, and business casual.  Something like:

“Dear Kira,

Just following up to see if you received the partial on BIG FAT NOVEL, which you requested last month. 

Joe Schmoe”

When approaching an agent, here’s what you should have ready:

QUERY LETTER:  Use good quality stationary and matching envelopes; do not hand write anything except your signature; include either a self-addressed and stamped envelope, or SASE, or request a reply via email.  Or both.
COMPLETE MANUSCRIPT:  Have it clean, edited, and in final draft.  Never query with an unfinished manuscript –not unless you already have an agent and books in print.  NOTE: Your manuscript should be in Times New Roman (or Courier), 12 point type, double-spaced, with the default margins of Microsoft Word.  Paragraphs should be indented and there should be no spaces between paragraphs.  Print only in black on paper that is 94 or 96 brightness (or better).  Don’t bother with expensive watermarked paper; just make sure it’s as bright and opaque as possible.  I also BOLD the entire manuscript as it creates better contrast between paper and ink, which makes it easier on the eyes of the editor or agent.  This courtesy costs a little extra, but courtesy is always appreciated.  Also, when mailing the manuscript, mark the envelope with REQUESTED MATERIALS; otherwise it’ll vanish into a slush pile somewhere.

MARKETPLACE ANALYSIS:  This is a list of books that would in your same genre/subgenre.  List about a dozen and include the title, author, publisher (including imprint), date of original publication, page count and format (paperback, trade paperback, or hardcover).  I usually offer this in my query and include it, asked or unasked, with the manuscript.  You want the agent (or editor) to know where you think your book belongs; you want to make it clear that it’s part of an established genre; and you want to send a message that the genre is active.  This marketplace analysis is your argument that your book can and will sell because there is a ready market out there made up of readers of these other authors.

SYNOPSIS: Have a short 3-5 page synopsis of the entire story, written in present tense (weird, yeah, but that’s how they do it).  Be lively and have fun with the writing.  Run this by a few friends to see how it reads, and try reading it aloud to look for clunky sentences.

Now you’re ready to roll.

There’s more to say on finding an agent (particularly in regards to networking), so we’ll come back to this topic later this week.

Good luck!
Jonathan Maberry 


January 18, 2008



After you’ve made the “Hey, I need an agent!” decision, the next step is to identify the right one for you.  And the first step in that is to make sure you don’t fall prey to some of the many, many unscrupulous agents in the business.


Literary agents get 15% of your gross and that fee is taken out of the checks sent from a publisher.  They also get percentages of foreign sales, film rights, etc., but the bottom line is that agents make their living off of fees based on actual sales.  And, take note, you’ll know the exact amount of your advance from the contract you sign with the publisher and you’ll get an end of year accounting from the agent that clearly shows what monies were received by the publisher, the amount of their fee-based deduction, and the monies disbursed to you.  With royalties you’ll be given a copy of the royalties breakdown, which is sent by the publisher to the agent along with the royalties check.  The agent will deduct the agency fee and send a check along with a copy of the royalties breakdown to you. 


Since I posted the first part of this thread the other day I’ve received a lot of email from writers who have been gouged by agents who charge all sorts of fees: submission fees, reading fees, evaluation fees, marketing fees, and even editing fees.  Even though these practices are technically legal (though prohibited by agent trade organizations), I always advise my students and friends to avoid those agents like the plague.  An agent living off of incremental pre-sale fees is in business to make those fees.  There’s no incentive for them to ever sell anything. 


Some agents will offer to sell additional services, such as website design, PR kits, catalog placement for book events and fairs, print and Internet ads, book cover designs (publishers always use their own designs, so these would be a pointless waste of cash), business cards, writing class enrollments, etc.  These are all money-gouging scams.


There are exceptions, sure.  Some good agents do charge fees for copying and postage.  Of all the fees discussed those are the ones a writer might agree to.  Making copies of a hefty manuscript and mailing copies around is expensive.  Okay, that one’s a maybe.  But if they ask for submission or reading fees then look elsewhere.


I know a lot of agents, and every legitimate agent I know holds most kinds of fee-charging agents in contempt.  Yes, I understand it’s a way for a start-up agency to get operating capital.  Sorry, I have no sympathy for that.  Take out a business loan or mortgage your house –don’t fleece the author.


Agents that charge to edit your book are also suspicious.  More often a good agent who likes your book but believes it to need work will suggest that you go out and find a book editor (not a book doctor –a topic for another time) and then come back with the revised version.  They will seldom if ever even suggest an editor.   It’s an ethical point, a conflict of interest.


Freelance editors abound (but check them out, too).  Get references if you can and follow up with those references.  A rare few agents may work with you to edit your book, but this is less common and it chews up an agent’s time.


I’ve heard of a few agents who routinely steer their clients toward self-publishing, POD (print on demand), vanity press, e-publishing, or other services where the author has to pay some or all of the expense of having their book published, distributed, or placed.  Don’t go there.  Legitimate agents SELL your book, they don’t pimp it for vanity press ‘publishers’.


There’s a great resource for writers who want to check to see if an agent has a shady track record. is great.  It’s not complete, of course, but it’s pretty damn far-reaching.


Also, there’s a pretty scathing expose of these fee-based agents, TEN PERCENT OF NOTHING: The Case of the Literary Agent from Hell by former FBI agent Jim Fisher (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004; hardback).  And check out THE STREET SMART WRITER: Self Defense Against Sharks and Scams in the Writing World by Jenna Glatzer and Daniel Steven (Nomad Press, 2006; trade paperback). 


In my next blog we’ll talking about how to build a target list of reputable agents who are positioned to sell your kind of book and have the track-record and connections to do so.


Please feel free to use this blog thread to share your experiences (good and bad) with finding agents.  The more everyone knows, the better everyone’s chances are in getting sold without getting fleeced.


If you have a question you don’t want to post on the blog thread, drop me an email at


Tune in tomorrow and until then…write like you mean it!


Jonathan Maberry        



January 16, 2008

For the first twenty-five years of my writing career I didn’t have a literary agent.  Most of my early sales were magazine features and columns for which you don’t use an agent; and then a few textbook sales which tend to yield money so small an agent would like set himself on fire rather than bother with making that kind of deal.


When I decided to try and break into fiction  –something totally new for me—I figured I needed an agent.  Now I needed to find one.  Any writer who hits that moment realizes how daunting it is.  Unsigned writers fear agents because they know that to a very great degree there’s no way to get sold without one.


First thing I did was to ask everyone I know who had an agent for suggestions on how to go about finding one.  They all said the same thing, and the advice they gave SOUNDED right at first, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it.  What they said was: “Find a low-level or mid-level agent, someone who is just getting in the business, and sign with them.  They’re the only ones looking to take on new clients and you can rise with them.”


Sounds good, right?  Sounds reasonable.  Think again.


Business is all about messaging.  There’s always a subtext to anything said in business.   That said, think of the message that you send out if you only try for agents who are either bottom-rung or brand new to the business.  It says: “My work isn’t good enough to be represented by a top agent.” Sadly that message comes across loud and clear.


That didn’t work for me.  I have more faith in my writing than that (as subjective as that might be) and I wanted a really good agent.


So I sat back and thought about who and what an agent is and made some reasonable deductions: 

  Agents are human.  Not Olympian gods.  I’d met some at writers conferences.  None of them had horns, none of them threw lightning bolts. 

Agents are working stiffs, too.  There have to be good and bad agents.  There have to be lucky or unlucky agents.  There have to be rising stars and has-beens.  There have to well-connected agents and those to whom most doors are still closed.  That’s the way every business is, no matter what business we’re talking about.


Some of today’s top writers are still repped by the agents that handled their first works.  The biggest deals are made by agents on the inside track of the business.  Read the market news, this bears out most of the time.  If so, then big agents must be taking on new clients (who then go on to make big money).


One of the common pieces of good advice for writers trying to find an agent is to look in the dedication and acknowledgments pages of books by writers of the same genre.  Writers often thank their agents (and editors) and that’s a great way of beginning to build a target list.


Other resources include using (which costs $20/month) and (free) to search for agents whose recent track record shows that they have the chops and connections to make decent deals for authors.  It’s worth checking those resources to see who is representing debut authors as well.


Tomorrow we’ll talk about the next steps to take. 

  Keep Writing!Jonathan  Jonathan Maberry (my author website) Career Doctor for Writers  (my consulting business) Writers Corner USA (the writers center I co-founded) 


January 14, 2008



Only four months and counting…


BAD MOON RISING, the final book of the Pine Deep Trilogy (which began with 2006’s GHOST ROAD BLUES and continued with 2007’s DEAD MAN’S SONG) will be released everywhere on May 8. 


I’m getting pretty excited about the release of BAD MOON RISING, and for a number of reasons.  First, the book has one hell of a lot of action in it.  The growing threat discussed in the first two books explodes in the third and the second half of that book is basically one big, rolling battle between the dwindling forces of good and the swelling forces of evil.  The dead rise to attack the world of the living with a Red Wave of murder.  I had sooooo much fun writing that book.


The book also has a fun twist in that I’ve written a lot of real-world people into the book.  I tapped a number of good folks in the horror industry and asked if I could write them into the story.  Since the book deals with a massive Halloween celebration (during which very bad things happen) I wanted to have some fun with blurring the lines between reality and fantasy.  So… I contacted a bunch of friends in the horror biz and asked if I could write them into the book.  They all agreed, so in BAD MOON RISING you can expect to meet TOM SAVINI (make-effects wizard), STEPHEN SUSCO (screenwriter for the Grudge flicks), JAMES GUNN (screenwriter of the new Dawn of the Dead), BRINKE STEVENS (scream queen), DEBBIE ROCHON (scream queen), KEN FOREE (star of the original Dawn of the Dead), JIM O’REAR (stuntman and haunted attraction consultant), and JOE BOB BRIGGS (drive-in movie critic and actor).  Also making a brief appearance is MEM SHANNON (one of my all-time favorite Bluesmen!).


And these folks aren’t just doing walk-ons.  They actually get into the action.  Question is…will they make it out of Pine Deep alive?


This is going to be fun!


Jonathan Maberry



January 10, 2008

One of the highlights of my week is a 90-minute class I teach on Wednesdays –Novels for Young Writers.  Currently there are seven students in the group: one boy and six girls, ranging in age from 13 to 16.


This group of young writers (and I try never to use the word ‘kids’ around minds as keen as theirs) signed on to learn the basics of how to write a YA (young adult) novel.  But we quickly expanded our format to include poetry, short stories, and even scripts.  Each week I give a short talk on some aspect of either the craft of writing or the business of publishing.


The real fun of each class, however, are the experimental writing exercises we do in class.  I think it’s boring to just write, critique, rewrite, blah, blah, blah.  That tends to keep writers locked into a certain range, and quite often it either narrows the limits of their own skill or keeps them from exploring ways to cross those limits.  Soooo….I used my teen class to see how we can break through those glass ceilings.


Each week I give two or three exercises, and each week the students dazzle me.  They think differently than adults do, probably because they haven’t yet been made to conform to ‘ordinary’ thinking.  They break conventions on a regular basis.  They demonstrate insight that adults probably never expect in writers that young.  And they learn fast.  Lordy, lordy do these so-called ‘kids’ learn fast.


The writing they do the first week or two is safe, controlled.  They haven’t yet learned to trust their own intellect or value the complexity of their own imagination.  The writing the do in the following weeks and months is totally different.


Sure, there are current limits to diction, style, etc, but each time I see them and listen as they read their latest work I see those limits being pushed back or disregarded entirely.


We did some experiments where I placed a big and complex piece of quartz crystal on the table in the classroom and asked them first to describe it as they would in a story written for their peers.  Then I asked them to describe it to someone who was blind from birth.  Then to describe it to someone who has been blind since early childhood.  And so on.  Each time we tried the exercise the students had to realign their thinking; they had to find new ways of expressing themselves based on shifting needs and expectations in the target audience.


Each time we do one of these writing exercises I’m both delighted and totally blown away.  Next week I’m going to ask them if I can post some of their work in a future blog.  You’ll see.


Happy Writing, folks

Jonathan Maberry


Writers Corner USA

Magazine Query Letter

January 8, 2008

Last week I posted a query for pitching a novel.  Today I’m picking up that thread and posting a query for a magazine article. 

NOTE:  A couple of folks have asked if you need to query a short story, and the answer is definitely “no”.  Just submit.   

For queries, there are a lot of different formats, but here are the ones I’ve used successfully over the last few decades.  The first is a standard SNAIL MAIL query, which leads with a thematic hook; the other is an EMAIL query that leads with credentials/platform.   



Mary Smith, Editor  / KidStuff 

I am the author of 20 nonfiction books and over 1100 articles, many of them about safety awareness for families.  I’m also a martial arts instructor with forty-five years experience, and have taught thousands of classes and workshops on safety for children and families.

 Kids don’t need to learn how to fight…they need to learn how not to.  Martial arts classes don’t teach kids how to get into fights, they teach them courage, self-respect, and confidence.  These are qualities that help children steer clear of violence. This is the primary focus of the modern martial arts school, and it’s a healthy, positive, and very powerful method that is working wonders with today’s kids. 

My article, Happy, Safe and Strong: Martial Arts for Today’s Kids, discusses how martial arts such as karate, judo, taekwondo and other ostensibly combative systems have been modified to meet the real needs of growing kids.  Instead of violence, the kids are taught values; instead of aggression they’re taught discipline; and instead of fear they are taught to understand and appreciate the differences  –and similarities– between themselves and their classmates. 

The article features interviews with parents and kids, and discussions with martial arts instructors who are on the cutting edge of this new way of teaching health, fitness, values, and strength to kids. 

The article runs 2000 words and would be ready for mailing within two weeks of your request to look it over.  The piece is illustrated with wonderful color photos, and model releases are available. I look forward to working with you on this entertaining project.    

Kindest Regards

Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Warrington PA 18966

Home: (215) 555-1234

Cell: (215) 808-0945





 Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Warrington PA 18966

Home: (215) 555-1234

Cell: (215) 808-0945



November 25, 2003

 Mary Smith, EditorKidStuff
Play Ave.
New York  NY  10017-5514

Dear Ms. Smith, 

Kids don’t need to learn how to fight…they need to learn how not to.  Martial arts classes don’t teach kids how to get into fights, they teach them courage, self-respect, and confidence.  These are qualities that help children steer clear of violence. This is the primary focus of the modern martial arts school, and it’s a healthy, positive, and very powerful method that is working wonders with today’s kids. 

My article, Happy, Safe and Strong: Martial Arts for Today’s Kids, discusses how martial arts such as karate, judo, taekwondo and other ostensibly combative systems have been modified to meet the real needs of growing kids.  Instead of violence, the kids are taught values; instead of aggression they’re taught discipline; and instead of fear they are taught to understand and appreciate the differences  –and similarities– between themselves and their classmates. 

The article features interviews with parents and kids, and discussions with martial arts instructors who are on the cutting edge of this new way of teaching health, fitness, values, and strength to kids. 

The article runs 2000 words and would be ready for mailing within two weeks of your request to look it over.  The piece is illustrated with wonderful color photos, and model releases are available. 

Since 1979 I’ve sold 1100 articles and short stories and am the author of sixteen nonfiction books and three novels.  I’m a founding partner in The Writers Center USA in Doylestown, PA and regularly teach at writers’ conferences.  I’m also a martial arts instructor myself and have taught the art to adults and kids for 45 years.

 I look forward to working with you on this entertaining project.  Please respond via email to     

 Kindest Regards 

 Jonathan Maberry 


Keep queries to one page, get to the point, and make sure you deliver what you promise.  Hope this helps.  If you don’t want to post a comment or question, feel free to hit me via email at 

Happy writing! 

Jonathan Maberry 

Editorial services 

Writers Corner USA   

Query Pt 2 Pitching Your Novel

January 4, 2008

Yesterday I posted a blog about query letters, and aside from a handful of comments posted here I got something along the lines of eight hundred emails.  Yowzah!  It’s great to hear from so many folks. I promised to post a couple of query letter samples, and I’m going to do that today and tomorrow. 

  Today I’m posting a query for a novel.  It’s actually the query I used to pitch my first novel, Ghost Road Blues, to a bunch of New York agents.  I pitched it to the ten agents whose track-record and connections I felt would give my book the best chance.  In another blog I’ll discuss how I found an agent (it’s not as hard as it sounds). For today though, let’s look at the basic query: 

Jonathan Maberry

PO Box 84

Southampton PA 18966


August 22, 2004

 Joe Bloggs

The Big Literary Agency

100 Success Street

New York, NY 10000 Dear

Mr. Bloggs, 

Pine Deep, PA has always had a reputation for being ‘the most haunted town in America’; they’ve even built their tourism around it –with the nation’s largest haunted hayride and other spooky attractions.  The problem is that Pine Deep really is the most haunted town in America, and that’s not going to be such a good thing for the folks that live there.  Halloween is coming early to Pine Deep and things are about to get truly spooky.   

Ghost Road Blues is a supernatural thriller in which ordinary people face extraordinary events, and how they deal with those events will forever change their lives.  Or end their lives.  This is a story of people confronting darkness –the darkness without, or within—in which we see some embrace that darkness, lured by its promise of power; and others take a stand against it, even at the risk of losing everything they love.   

The novel kicks off with a hunt for a brutal serial killer and then turns left into the creepy backroads that cut through the darkened cornfields of rural America.  As the hunt intensifies other forces come into play, turning Ghost Road Blues into a collision of natural –and unnatural—forces.   

Ghost Road Blues will appeal to the readers of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, and the novels of Robert McCammon, Dan Simmons and Bentley Little.  It’s a mainstream thriller with a supernatural bite.  The book is 140,000 words and is ready for immediate mailing.  I would be happy to send a synopsis, sample chapters (or the complete ms.) along with a competitive analysis that clearly shows how strong and active this genre is, and has been.   

Your own remarkable track record with thrillers of every stripe is impressive, and you’ve done so well with best-sellers as well as first-time authors such as Joe Schmoe, Jane Doe and Iver Biggun that it’s clear you get this genre.  I look forward to hearing from via email.  


Jonathan Maberry  

So…the query has a number of significant points.  The first paragraph opens with a hook and then builds on the hook’s premise, exploring it in a way that promises that the book will be fun to read (no matter what the subject matter).  The second paragraph gives the title and establishes the genre, but also describes the ‘essence’ of the book.  The third paragraph suggests the format of the book, discussing the way in which the story unfolds.   

None of these paragraphs bogs down with too much plot.  You have to intrigue and entice with a book that will fit into a known genre/subgenre.  If that works then the agent or editor will ask to see chapters (for style) and a synopsis (for plot/story). 

Paragraph four reinforces the market position of the book by citing other authors whose books define and drive the genre/subgenre.  This paragraph also provides details such as word count, and then offers deliverables (chapters, complete manuscript, etc.).  Notice that it’s worded not to ask whether these can be sent but rather offers choices to allow the agent/editor to pick.  That’s a much better sales strategy.  The paragraph also wraps with a subtle reminder that we all know that we’re talking about a marketable and potentially moneymaking product (rather than an enduring work of art).  Art is crucial, sure, but this is a business sales letter.  Stay focused on that point and save the art for when you’re dealing with readers and interviewers. 

The final paragraph establishes why you’re pitching to a specific agent or editor.  Do your homework.  Don’t shoot in the dark and send it to just anyone who handles fiction.  Use resources like PublishersMarketplace and others (more on this in the agent blog).  

Bottom line: let this person know that you’ve picked them because they are positioned and experienced in your genre.   End on a firm and positive note, not a plea.  Don’t apologize for being a newbie or for ‘bothering’ them (as I’ve seen in queries); and don’t use overly formal language.  Write conversationally but with a business message threaded throughout.  Confidence is crucial (but don’t use crap like ‘this is the best book you’ll ever read’ or other over-selling stuff). And, if you have a sense of fun in your tone that’s appealing.  Desperation isn’t. 

Hope this helps.  If you don’t want to post a comment or question, feel free to hit me via email at 

Happy writing! Jonathan Maberry 


Writers Corner   


January 3, 2008



Nothing scares new writers more than the prospect of having to write a query letter.  Most of the writers I know would rather be gnawed on by rats rather than draft a query and (even worse) send the damn thing out to editors.


I remember the very first one I wrote, way back in my second year of college (1978!).  Though my journalism courses hadn’t yet covered how to write a query letter I was eager to jump into magazine feature writing.  So I wrote one that I thought would be effective and fired it off. 


It came back with ‘Are you serious?’ written in red ink across the page.


If there are, say, 25 things you should NEVER do in a query, I managed to do them all, and I invented a few new ones.  The editor thought the query was a joke sent in by one of his editor buddies –a kind of absolute worst-case query.


Soooo…I broke another old rule about queries and I called the editor on the phone.  This was waaay before the cell phone era.  When I explained that I was a college student and was genuinely trying to pitch an article to him (and after he stopped laughing) he took a few minutes to explain to me how and what queries are. 


Based on that discussion I was able to build a model query and have used it, in one form or another, to sell over 1100 articles and 20-odd books.  That’s not to say that I never got any more queries (I could wallpaper Nebraska with the queries I’ve gotten over 30 years in the biz) but my sell ratio jumped and I’ve sold virtually everything I’ve pitched.  Not necessarily to the first market or editor to whom it was sent, but I generally will sell what I pitch. 


The moral here is that industry is not looking for writers to reinvent the wheel.  There are certain things they need to see in a query and they need to be able to make a decision about the pitch in a few quick seconds.  Anything that interferes with that process wastes the editor’s time and also sends a clear message that “I’m not a professional”.


On the other hand, it helps to understand why rejection letters happen (maybe I’ll cover that tomorrow).


Nowadays I teach workshops on query writing and the art of the book pitch and my students are going on to nail sale after sale.  That totally jazzes me.  There’s nothing more exciting for a writing teacher than to have his students become successful.


More on this tomorrow.




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