Six Tips on finding a Literary Agent, from Bestselling Author Jo Furniss #WriteTip

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the ongoing guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome to this site author Jo Furniss, who speaks about her writing journey — how she found an agent, and publication success, with her fantastic debut, an amazon-bestselling apocalyptic thriller, All the Little Children.

Take it away, Jo!

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Jo Furniss Amazon bestselling All the Little ChildrenOnce upon a time, if you’d asked me about Fate, I would have scoffed. Destiny, Luck, Serendipity: opiate of the masses. But when I met my literary agent—in an extraordinary moment of Twitter-based chance—it felt like Providence herself had intervened.

Back in 2012, when I was at home with my two young children, I decided to take my flailing career in hand and study a Masters in Professional Writing. As a former BBC journalist, I planned to write non-fiction books, but during the narrative modules two things happened: I discovered that I really love writing fiction, and I wrote a short piece that had the potential to be more. My recently-published novel, All the Little Children, emerged from that early exercise.

As well as the nuts and bolts of writing, I learned one pragmatic lesson during the course: writing is work. If you wait around for the Muse or the perfect writing desk or for the kids to graduate, you’ll never get it done. If there’s one piece of advice I have to offer fellow writers on getting the first draft done it’s this: don’t be precious, just write something and worry later about what happens next.

Scroll ahead to 2015. With lots of baby steps – interrupted by one big leap during which I relocated the family from Switzerland to Singapore – the novel was finished. By which, I mean, it had been workshopped, critiqued and edited. It wasn’t finished finished, but it was as good as I could make it and ready to go out.

I’m British and the novel is set in England. So I drew up a shortlist of literary agencies in London. I made my submissions personal to each agent. Where possible, I got an introduction – tapping up former tutors, workshop leaders, people I’d chatted to in the coffee queue at conferences. I got creative in bigging up those slim connections…

After a few rejections, I stopped to re-edit my opening chapters in response to feedback. And then I went back to submitting and waiting. I also went for regular coffee and counselling sessions with an American writer friend who was submitting her novel in the US.

One day she sent me an urgent message: Have you seen this #mswl on Twitter? (I had to look up mswl: it means Manuscript Wish List.) The tweet was from an agent in Chicago looking for a novel exactly like mine. I mean exactly like mine. Her tweet could be my elevator pitch. It was weird… almost, a less cynical person than myself might claim, Fated.

I sent my manuscript to Danielle Egan-Miller and within a few days I was represented by her agency. Her #mswl had been inspired by a conversion with an editor at a publishing house: that editor later gave me a two-book deal.

Over the years, I’ve read a lot about getting an agent, but less about what happens next. Agents have different approaches, of course. My agent was hands-on and, even though she felt the novel was in relatively good shape, we did two rounds of edits, plus a copy edit before it went out.

Danielle also started taking an interest in my second novel at this stage, requesting a synopsis in order to pitch it alongside All the Little Children. A two-book deal is attractive to publishers, so if you have a well-developed second project, emphasise this fact to a prospective agent. Bear in mind, though, that it’s quite a pressure to finish the second novel to deadline – a very different experience to writing the first with all the time in the world! My agent emphasised that the two-book deal is not every writer’s preference.

After we signed with Lake Union Publishing, there were further developmental edits, a copy edit and a line edit. Because the book would be published across Amazon’s platforms in the US and Australia as well as the UK, we had to give the title more international resonance. ‘All the Little Children’ was top of my shortlist, so I was pleased that the publisher – and their marketing team – came out in favour.

For the cover design, I sent notes on everything from significant imagery to preferred colour schemes, and the designer came up with cover concepts. The final choice was one that the publisher knew would work well on their online platform; a bold image, not too much detail that would be lost in a thumbnail-size image.

Finally, I got an early morning call one day from my agent: All the Little Children had been selected for Kindle First, a major promotion on Amazon. After such a long journey to publication – and that intervention from Fate – it was a special feeling to know my book was in the hands of a team who would champion it.

Jo’s tips on finding an agent:

  • make sure your manuscript is ready before it goes out: competition is fierce and it has to be in the best shape possible
  • make a shortlist of agents: research in the Writers and Artists Yearbook
  • personalise your submission: many agents give interviews to blogs about their reading preferences
  • use your network: don’t be shy at asking tutors or other writers for agent recommendations
  • get on Twitter: #mswl!
  • speak to a prospective agent before you sign: check out the personal factor, can you communicate easily, do they get you as well as the book? You will work closely with this person and turn to them for advice for years to come!

Jo Furniss Amazon bestselling author Agent advice Jo Furniss is the author of the Amazon Best-seller All the Little Children (Lake Union Publishing, September 2017). Originally from the UK, Jo is a former BBC journalist who has lived in Cameroon and Switzerland, and now resides with her family in Singapore. You can visit Jo Furniss on her Facebook page.
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Have you gone the indie or trad route? Would you consider submitting to one of Amazon Publishing’s fifteen imprints? Do you prefer the independence of self-publishing? Or maybe publication by the Big Five or a small press is the only way for you? Share your thoughts and if you have questions on writing or publication for Jo Furniss, ask them in the comments! She’s giving away a copy of her bestselling book to one of the commenters!

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This man from Bangalore has rescued more than 700 Dogs #WATWB

We are the World BlogfestWe are the World Blogfest is here with its sixth edition.

To spread peace and humanity on social media, a few of us have worked together to create the We are the World Blogfest. In a world where news and social media are awash with negativity, we aim to turn the focus on to small but significant stories that renew our faith in humanity.

The cohosts for the August 2017 WATWB are: Simon Falk, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese
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In the spirit of “In Darkness, Be Light,” I’d like to share the story of Rakesh Shukla, an Indian software engineer who’s found his life’s calling in the rescue and care of almost 750 dogs that no one wants. (Click on the link for the dogs’ pics and stories– a feast of cuteness and compassion galore!)

Mr Shukla, who founded a software company along with his wife 10 years ago, spends three to four days every week on the farm, taking care of his canines.

“I had worked in Delhi, in the United States and then set up my own company in Bangalore,” he said. “Life was all about buying big cars and expensive watches and living a fancy life. I had travelled and seen the world many times over, but I was not happy.”

Then Kavya came into his life: a beautiful 45-day-old Golden Retriever that he fell hopelessly in love with. It was in June 2009, and Mr Shukla remembers clearly the day he brought her home. “When we got home, she went and hid in a corner. I got down to her level on the floor and I was calling out to her. She was looking at me, she was scared, but I could see she wanted to trust me,” he said.

Why do we need the We Are the World Blogfest? #WATWB

Today, our daily timelines are clogged with tragedies, and there’s more reason than ever to try and find a little goodness in the world. My suggestion: Join the We are the World Blogfest.

We are the World BlogfestI’m down with a bad back and writing deadlines, so I’ll let my friends do the talking.

In an open letter to humanity, my friend Mary Giese says:

We are the World BlogfestWe have the responsibility of creating a peaceful world rather than tearing it down.

Humanity, we have a lot of work to do to turn this around.

To turn the tide of darkness and make this world light.

So that we can smile and laugh and be happy for ourselves and our neighbors.

The violence, the hate, the bigotry, the judgment has to stop.

We must coexist with love and kindness for all of humanity and create a world that Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Alfred Nobel would be proud of.

Are you with me?  (Click here for her entire post)


And my friend Andrea Michaels says:

It’s true that negative news, emotions tend to get more attention. We remember negative events longer and more emotionally than positive ones. According to some studies our vocabulary to describe people is 74% negative.(!) How sad is that.

A study on couples however showed that if we give in to this tendency, and use more (or about the same amount of) negative and positive expressions about each other, it leads to divorce. Words have meaning, they have weight.

No wonder we fell out of love with the world today. (Click here to read her entire post)

What about you? Have you joined an initiative for positivity? What good news have you read today? Will you join the We are the World Blogfest? To Sign up, or know more: CLICK HERE.


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Want Tips on Conducting Research for Your Project? #amwriting

researchHere on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome author and teacher, Rebecca Reynolds. She has appeared on this blog before, to talk about how to conduct successful interviews and today she shares her wisdom on conducting research for a fiction or non-fiction project.

You may want to carry out research for your writing – to supply some period colouring, or historical detail, or simply to prevent howlers like having Romans eat tomatoes (in fact they were first cultivated by Aztecs and Incas and came to Europe from the New World).

The research I did for a non-fiction work, Curiosities from the Cabinet: Objects and Voices from Britain’s Museums, involved finding out all I could about each of the 36 objects in the book, then slimming this down into short introductions to longer contributions from interviewees about each one.

So, now I’m out the other side here are some reflections on the research process:

  • Check as often as you have time for. Even very knowledgeable people can be inaccurate, accidentally or on purpose. I found one interviewee’s contribution needed chopping in half and a disclaimer that this was their ‘personal vision’ added. Others omitted central things, or occasionally got facts wrong.
  • It’s difficult when you can’t find evidence to support something which is widely accepted. One of the objects in the book is ‘the vegetable lamb,’ a fern that looks like a plant/animal hybrid which appeared in many cabinets of curiosity. After hours in the British Library and elsewhere, I couldn’t actually find any evidence that anyone had ever believed it was a cross between an animal and plant, but plenty of evidence that people believed other people believed it, or wanted to believe it themselves. Likewise, I couldn’t find evidence that Milton had definitely worked on his epic Paradise Lost in his country cottage, now a museum, despite being told this by the curator and by the museum’s publicity. I wimped out both times, saying that Milton ‘probably’ worked on the book there, and that people were ‘said to believe’, the lamb was a cross.
  • Research is sooo much easier than it used to be. At times, it’s a click and you’re there. At times, I felt I was doing little more than reconfiguring what was already on the web. Charles Darwin’s letters, with notes summarizing each letter, biographies of the correspondents, links to further letters between them and a keyword search facility? I’ll take that. Online account books for the slave trading voyages of ex-Mayor of Liverpool Thomas Leyland? I’ll take that too (thanks, University of Michigan).
  • Research is time-consuming. And the results often don’t pay off in the word count.
  • Nitpicking academic articles rock. Particularly if they pin down a fact or find a source which would have taken you forever (or more likely never), such as whether friends of philosopher Jeremy Bentham socialized with his clothed corpse (they almost certainly did).
  • Write down more than you think you’ll need. I’ve had to return to a book two or even three times to pin something down exactly, when my notes were too skimpy.
  • Wikipedia? Sure, not rigorous, but a very very good starting (and sometimes finishing) point.
  • And when in the writing process should you do it? The teacher on the first ever creative writing class I attended asked this question and the answer, to our surprise, was towards the end of the writing process – so that it would not swamp the narrative. Instead, info should be sought out when needed. This is very different from my experience of academic document-based research, where you will probably have to let existing findings call the tune to a much greater extent.

Wherever your work lies between these two extremes, I would recommend having a clear aim in mind when you start – though surprises can, and hopefully will, happen.

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Curiosities from the Cabinet: Objects and Voices from Britain’s Museums is available from Amazon , Smashwords , and to order from your local bookshop.

How to conduct ResearchRebecca Reynolds is a teacher and non-fiction writer. Her main places of museums work have been the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. She blogs here.

How do you conduct research for your writing, and what stage? Are you a reader, a writer, or both? Care to tell us about an interesting bit of research you’ve done for your projects? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Rebecca?

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I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join, if you haven’t as yet, to post the last Friday of each month a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity. You could add a link and a badge to one of your regular posts that weekend, in order to participate.

This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here is a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment on August 25th!

Writer's Retreat

Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community. If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button. (Feel free to share this post if you like it. You’ll find icons to re-blog it via WordPress and Blogger to the left of this post.)

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Did You Give or Receive Love Today? Anyone Need a Hug? #socialmedia

Love someone

Kindness, love, brotherhood, beauty– all of them look closer to fiction than fact as I receive dark news from all over the world. Or maybe it is my dark frame of mind as I start on a new novel.

I don’t know that I can change the world. But each of us can make a change in our own worlds, and bring about a change, however tiny, for someone else.

I try to be a positive presence in life, and online, for writer friends and readers– and today, I’d just like to reach out to everyone who visits: talk to me about your triumphs, the good things that happened to you, the kindness you gave and received, things that made you smile and laugh. And if it is a sadness you want to share (if you’re comfortable with doing so here or via messages or email) and just want someone to listen, I’m here.

I have a bad back today, but I also had a few good meals, read a book, got a bit of work done, got a few smiles and hugs. That’s my happiness for the day sorted, love given and received. Sending out love, light and hugs to all my bloggy friends on here.

What bit of love did you give or receive today? Want to tell us your good news? Tell us what you’re upset about? Anyone need a hug?


If you need more positives and smiles in your lives, I co-host the monthly We Are the World Blogfest: I’d like to invite you to join. Post a snippet of positive news that shows our essential, beautiful humanity on Bloggingthe last Friday of each month– and read heartwarming snippets from others.

This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity. Here is a sampler. Click here to know more. Sign up here and add your bit of cheer to the world on the next installment of August 25th!

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Please join Daily (w)rite on its Facebook Page in case you’d like to be heard by this community.If you liked this post, you can have biweekly posts delivered to your inbox: click the SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL button.

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