Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sue Harrison’s “Writing the Third Dimension”, part 31: What’s a Literary Agent?

Welcome back! For the rest of this year we invite you to return here, specifically on the fourth Thursday of each month for the newest installment of Sue Harrison’s teaching: Writing The Third Dimension. You can read and learn from all the fabulous segments from 2013-2015 by clicking on the page title WRITING THE THIRD DIMENSION, found under Writers’ Helps & Workshops on my drop-down menu. Please feel free to ask questions and leave comments for Sue. Now for the topic for month thirty-one:


“Writing the Third Dimension” – part 31: What’s a Literary Agent?

You’d be surprised how often I hear that question — from audiences at book presentations, from readers, from new writers, and even from a few long-time writers. So as we tackle the challenge of presenting a book to publishers, let’s start with a post about literary agents. I’ll present this information in a question-and-answer format to make the post more user-friendly.

Q: What does a literary agent do?

A: A literary agent presents his/her clients’ work to companies that might be interested in publishing that work.

Q: Can’t I do that myself?

A: Many small publishers and university presses do accept manuscripts submitted directly from the author. Large commercial publishers do not. They know that literary agents take on only the manuscripts they believe they can sell, so in this way the agent acts as a first reader, weeding out books that are not marketable.

Q: What types of manuscripts do literary agents accept?

A: Most literary agents accept only full-length material. In other words, not poetry, not short stories, and usually not magazine articles.

 Q: How do I find a literary agent?

A: The Internet has become a valuable tool for writers who are seeking representation by a literary agent. Simply do a search for “literary agent” and you will find pages (and pages and pages) of agents. Go to their websites and read their requirements and preferences. Then list those who seem to be interested in the type of book you have written.

Q: How do I know the agencies I’ve selected are reputable?

A: One of the best resources out there for authors is a website called Preditors & Editors at On their home page, click on “Agents & Attorneys,” which will give you a comprehensive list of literary agents, including those who are legitimate and those who are not. The Preditors & Editors website also explains the “rules” of etiquette between agents and clients and potential clients. Just knowing those usually-unwritten rules can tilt the odds in your favor as you try to acquire a literary agent.

 Q: How are literary agents paid?

A: Literary agents take a percentage (usually 15%) of whatever money your work makes once they sell it. If your agent sells rights beyond direct publication — foreign rights, movie rights — they will probably  work with another agency that specializes in these areas. In that case, the usual rate is 10% to each agency, a total of 20%. Do NOT ever pay a literary agent to simply read your work. Most agencies that ask for money up front seldom sell anything. Why would they? They can earn a fine income from writers willing to pay $500 or more to have their work considered.

Q: How does the author get paid?

A: We’ll discuss advances and royalties in the next few months, but just to give you a general idea, most monies are paid directly to the agency. The agency then deducts their percentage and a small amount for expenses (for copies, mailing, long distance phone calls) and sends a check for the remaining funds to the author. Most agencies are very good about forwarding money due their authors within several weeks or less.


Q: Besides sell my book, what else does an agent do for me?

A: I’ve had the privilege of working with three very fine U.S. literary agents (my home country), and each of them helped me in so many ways, including generating enthusiasm among potential acquiring editors; providing information about the publishing world; opening connections to professional writers, editors, and publicists; walking me through the legal complications of contract negotiation; vetting all contracts; and sometimes just providing a kind and encouraging comment in the face of rejection. I also have worked with numerous agents in other countries. They, too, have positively influenced my career. Their services include translating and negotiating contracts, providing information about income taxes in other countries, and sometimes even arranging publicity tours. Once you have an agent, you are part of a team. You’re not facing that large, sometimes vicious, world of publishing on your own, which can make all the difference between failure and success.

Q: How long did it take you to find your first literary agent?

A: Almost five years! Writing books is not a life for the easily discouraged.

Q: Why so long?

A: In those days, prior to the Internet, the querying process took much longer than it does now. Everything had to go through snail mail, and simultaneous submissions to various agencies were discouraged. (Now they are accepted as a part of the “game.”) However, there was a more important reason. My novel, Mother Earth Father Sky, wasn’t yet good enough for publication. Through the suggestions of agents who rejected my queries but were kind enough to explain why (That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.), I was able to shape Mother Earth Father Sky into the novel that became an international bestseller.

Q: If I decide to self-publish, do I need a literary agent?

A: Not unless you begin to receive offers from other publishing entities: audio, movie, foreign, or large commercial publishers. If you are an experienced contract lawyer, you may not need an agent, but in general a good agent will get you a better contract than you can negotiate for yourself.

Q: If I want to procure an agent to represent my work, what do I do next?

A: It’s all about having a worthy manuscript — no multiple blatant typos, a manuscript formatted according to agency preferences, a strong voice, characters who pull a reader into the story — AND a very good query letter. Next month on Writing The Third Dimension, we’ll discuss query letters.

Do you have other questions about literary agents? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comment section.

Strength to your pen!


 *Writing the Third Dimension, copyright, 2010 Sue Harrison*

Sue HarrisonBestselling author, Sue Harrison, has written two bestselling Alaska trilogies: The Ivory Carver Trilogy and The Storyteller Trilogy – all of which went digital in May 2013. She also wrote a middle readers’ book SISU. Prior to the publication of her novels, Harrison was employed at Lake Superior State University as a writer and acting director of the Public Relations Department and as an adjunct instructor in creative writing and advanced creative writing. For more information, click here. To inquire about booking Sue for workshops or speaking engagements this year, click here.

Thanks for joining us! Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. We invite you to come back September 24, 2015, for part 32.



Revisiting my bucket list from 10,000 feet up

I so very much love to stand out under the expansive sky at night, looking at the countless stars and the beauty of the night sky. The unique globe we live on, the bubble of air we live in, totally astound me. The curve of the atmosphere above and around us … the vastness of God’s creation … that serves to sustain life, almost takes my breath away. I am in awe over and over again. 

All month I’ve been planning to tell you about something I was able to do this summer. As my title suggests, I made a change to my bucket list — you can refer to my bucket list post HERE — because I completed one adventure I’ve been wanting to do for about seven years now. It was time to go …

 tandem  sky-diving!

On August 1st my four daughters, my grandson, and I went to the little local airport where I had reserved time for myself and my youngest daughter to tandem skydive. It was a gorgeous, sunny, hot day with a few fluffy clouds in the wide blue sky and a little breeze. An ideal day for jumping out of a plane.

7.our plane

After filling out and signing those just-in-case legal release forms …

1.Signing forms pre-jumpwe met our jumpmasters and got fitted into the proper safety gear.

We selected the jump with video, which, at the time of this writing, we have not yet seen. I dread mine and later I’ll tell you why. After that we got a short instruction of what to do, what not to do, and what to expect.

Because there were enough jumpmasters (experienced skydivers) available, my daughter and I were able to go up in the same plane together and jump about a minute apart. So cool!

8.Lynn boarding plane

My jumpmaster and I boarded the plane first, as you see in the above photo, followed by my daughter and hers – who happens to be the owner/operator of the business. I sat behind the pilot and faced my jump partner, while my daughter – in order to exit first – sat by the door, her jump partner behind her.

10.waving on take-offIn the above photo the plane’s window is ajar, and behind the pilot’s arm you can just see my hand as I’m waving to my family watching us taking off.

9.there we go!And there we go!

The flight up to 10,000 feet over the beautiful Annapolis Valley was exquisite and I loved it! The Valley is very beautiful and rich with colour and amazing landscape divided up with lakes, the Bay of Fundy, many plots of farmlands, the towns and little communities, and the hilly and forested regions. It was a great opportunity to see in a different way the part of the world God made for me (us) to live in, and it was such a thrill.

The photo below is a small sampling, so imagine this view from completely above the Valley:

This photo of Annapolis Valley is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I do love to fly! In a little Cessna it’s even more thrilling. During the flight I found that I was nervous and excited, more excited than nervous, and not the least bit afraid. You might argue that being nervous is fear, but for me it was just concern about whether I’d remember what to do. As it turned out, I didn’t remember everything and I survived anyway.  🙂

Nearing jump time we were securely clipped together, newbies in front of and to our jumpmasters, and at the right elevation the first couple rolled forward out the door and disappeared. We followed. It was astounding! Strangely, I think that was my favourite part of the jump. No fear. It was not terrifying in the smallest way, just plunging out into wide open air space and rolling two or three times in midair. Oh. My. Goodness. Now I can hardly believe I DID IT!

The freefall was so fast, dropping for about 40 seconds before the ‘chute was released. I found the freefall to be very loud with the air beating against us as we plummeted (as one daughter on the ground called it) toward the earth. I had no bearings and found the straps uncomfortably tight – but that’s a good thing, really. It was when the parachute was released that the discomfort hit me. The tight straps, the feeling of motion sickness, the problems I had because of not remembering to keep myself positioned correctly, all took away from what was otherwise an amazing experience. Yet, I don’t regret it. Not at all. And most people aren’t affected the way I was; my daughter wasn’t.

The view is amazing from up there. What I noticed was the difference in air temperature; the closer we got to the ground the warmer the air became. A bonus for me is that as we neared our landing my jumpmaster surprised me by giving me temporary control of the steering! Pulling the left cord moved us left, pulling the right one … you guessed it … steered us right. Then he took over to guide us safely into our landing. 

coming down; Althea orange, Lynn multiIn the above photo look for the two colourful dots, the bottom orange one is my daughter’s parachute, the top tri-coloured one is mine.

Here’s a closer view of my descent: 14.Lynn coming in for a landing

It seemed quite awhile, but was not long at all, before I could make sense of what was beneath us. I could see the landing strip, my family standing watching and taking pictures, and the ground getting closer quickly. My daughter landed neatly with us coming in moments after, landing beside them. It was a thrill to be able to do that, and she was immediately determined it would not be her only jump.  🙂

landed.4Moving in for a happy hug.

As you can see above, the clouds were filling in more of the sky after we landed, which made me glad we jumped when we did. Before we left for home we each were given a First Jump certificate as proof and recognition of our accomplishment.  🙂

And how do I feel about the experience? I can say “I did it!” I won’t solo, although I might tandem jump a second time; right now I’m not sure. It was exciting. It was something I have wanted to do for several years, even though most people think I’m crazy even to have considered it. That’s okay. I DID IT. And I’m glad I did. I know what to expect now so a second jump should be even better.

Oh, and why do I dread seeing the video? Well, it was a close-up of my less-than-enthusiastic facial expressions as I was trying to take in everything while feeling a little queasy, and it’s not pretty when the wind forces hard against one’s face.  Yes, I know … vanity. (smile)  I was told the first jump is an experience of all that’s happening, and that’s true enough; the second and later jumps are when one can enjoy the experience more fully and be able to appreciate it better. Maybe so. Perhaps one day I will test that theory.

I doubt I would ever discourage anyone from tandem skydiving. What I would do is urge them to relax and remember to do all that is instructed. It will make it much more fun. It’s an amazing experience! I am so glad I DID IT!

we did it! 3

Have you ever skydived? What crazy adventure have you done that you would love to do again, or why would you never repeat it?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂





Book Review: Audrey (Cow) – by Dan Bar-El

Audrey (Cow)Book: Audrey (Cow)
Author: Dan Bar-El
Illustrator: Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Publisher: Tundra Books
Date: November 11, 2014
Genre: children's fiction; 
action & adventure; animals 
Pages: 240
Price: hardcover $19.99 US, 
$21.99 CDN;
kindle $10.63 US, $11.99 CDN
My Rating: Entertaining, 
wonderfully uniquely told story 
of determination and friendship
in the face of challenges

I received this book from Library Thing in exchange for my honest review.

Audrey (Cow), by Canadian award-winning children’s author Dan Bar-El, is an entertaining children’s book that adults will want an excuse to read.

The first things you will notice about this book is its size, hard cover, and great illustrations. It’s built like a novel with large print, the illustrations by Tatyana Mai-Wyss are delightful  – in colour on the jacket, black and white throughout the book – and its first recommendation is by Doris the deer.  Yes, a deer.

Audrey (Cow).3Interested?  It is an unusual approach and carries the story all the way through.

It seems in real life there was a cow in Ohio that escaped the slaughterhouse in Ohio in 2002. Her experience inspired Dan Bar-El to write the story of Audrey (Cow).

Audrey enjoyed her life on the farm with her mother and many animal friends. The one thing she dreaded was the big truck that would arrive every so often onto which would be loaded a few select cows. They would never return. Everyone knew what happened. Her own mother was taken that way. Audrey was determined to not end up the same way when she was grown and set about to devise a plan of escape, enlisting the help of her animal friends.

Audrey (Cow) is an amusing story told from the viewpoints of the animal characters through interviews. Each has its own individual personality, opinion, and contribution to the escapade. There even are humans unwittingly used to help.

Audrey (Cow) reads like a mild thriller and is a great adventure story. It’s a safe read for children, holds one’s attention, and gives the reader a sense of satisfaction. 

As I said, Audrey (Cow) is an entertaining children’s book that adults will want an excuse to read. No children to read it to? Never mind the excuse; read it anyway!

You can find Audrey (Cow) on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Book Review: Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse – by Mary DeMuth

Not MarkedBook: Not Marked: Finding Hope & 
Healing After Sexual Abuse
Author: Mary DeMuth
Publisher: Uncaged Publishing 
Date: November 25, 2013
Genre: adult, Christian resource, 
Pages: 251
Price: $14.95 Audible; $8.05 Kindle; $10.98 Paperback
My Rating: a raw, honest testimony of personal struggle, 
faith & healing

I received this book in audible  format from the author in exchange for my honest review.

If you, or someone you know, has ever suffered abuse – especially sexual abuse – Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse should be next on your/their TBR (to be read) list. 

Mary DeMuth tells all in this book. She suffered horrible abuse, including repeated sexual abuse, as a young girl. In this book she bravely tells her story, not for sympathy, not to glamourize anything, not to shock anyone, but to show God’s strength in her weakness and to encourage others that there IS healing after the incurred shame placed on one’s well-being.

Mary DeMuth and her husband, Patrick, narrated the audible version, each telling her story from their standpoint. Patrick met and married Mary long after it all happened, but he learned the hard and emotionally painful way how the abuse left her wounded, distrustful, and shamed. He watched her struggle to find a place of peace and healing for her life. He learned he had to find a way to gently support and encourage her in a  loving way however he could, thereby growing in understanding and compassion himself.

This is a story of survival, a story of hope and healing, a story of learning to trust in the letting go.

If you like to be read to, I encourage you to purchase the audible version of Mary DeMuth‘s Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse because this book is well worth the listen. You may find it difficult to hear some parts (as I did) because of Mary’s vulnerability and honesty, but if you stay with it you will be glad you did.

NOTE: This book is not for young readers, but parents can use segments of it to warn and advise their children. It can be an opportunity to teach compassion for the many children who have a dark secret of shame, or to encourage one’s children to ask questions when they are unsure about something. 

You can find Not Marked: Finding Hope & Healing After Sexual Abuse on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Sympathy extended to Sue Harrison

As you know, Sue Harrison is a generous contributor to my blog, sharing her wisdom and experience as an international best-selling novelist. Her “Writing the Third Dimension” posts are informative, helpful, and appreciatively anticipated each month.

Sue has also been a longtime caregiver of her elderly family members. The circle of life brings us all the way around to taking care of the ones who cared for us, and on it goes. Recently she has had more help, which is such a good thing as it is very draining being the main care provider.

With regard to that … This brief post is to inform you that Sue’s precious mother passed away on July 28; therefore, life has been more hectic than usual for Sue the past two weeks. If you wish to leave notes of sympathy and encouragement for Sue, please do so in the comment section for this post where she will read them. You also can visit her blog and leave condolences there. 

Although Sue and her husband are taking a much-needed break from the usual demands of life, a time which I hope will be restorative and healing, there will be a “Writing The Third Dimension” post this month. Sue sent it to me today and it’s now scheduled for August 27. It’s a good one – as usual. In September she will respond to comments and questions regarding the topic.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂