CritiqueMatch

CritiqueMatch is a platform where writers and beta readers connect and exchange work for free! New: You can also buy a critique or beta-reading service from our top-rated users!

Apr 15, 2021

Using Stephen James’ Eight Requirements to Improve Chapter One

By: K.N. Quinn

I have read a lot of first chapters during my time on CritiqueMatch. I base my feedback heavily on “Stephen James’ 8 requirements of a story's beginning,” from his book Story Trumps Structure. These eight requirements are essential to writing a solid first chapter that will hook the reader, and have helped me become not only a better writer but also a better critique partner. 

Apr 14, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Fiona Kenshole

A warm welcome to literary agent Fiona Kenshole! Fiona came to agenting after nearly a decade as VP at Laika Studios, creating a development slate of new projects for the Academy Award-winning animation studio including the Oscar-nominated THE BOXTROLLS and CORALINE.

Previously she was a senior publisher in the UK where she published authors including Michael Bond (Paddington Bear), P.L Travers (Mary Poppins) and the Laureate Michael Morpurgo (War Horse) and was UK editor for Beverley Cleary, Lois Lowry, Bruce Coville, Gary Paulsen and Cynthia Voigt amongst others. She was nominated for “Editor of the Year” at the British Book Awards.

Apr 13, 2021

Prettiest Book in the Book Show

By: KD Powell

I’ve been on CritiqueMatch for quite a while. I’ve seen a lot of new people appear and vanish as soon as they arrive. Cruising the ‘search partners’ feature is a good way to see who is active on the site and who is not. People like myself and a few others will often be in the first few pages of the site while some drift all the way to the back pages or vanish altogether. I always wonder why they left and what happened, even if I’m not partnered with them. Now, most people go inactive on the site for practical and personal reasons. Maybe they only have a limited amount of time because of work, school, or personal stuff. 

Apr 12, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Maggie Cooper

A warm welcome to Maggie Cooper, literary agent at Aevitas Creative Management! Based outside of Boston, Maggie has been with Aevitas since 2018. Prior to agenting, she worked at small and academic presses, as a writing teacher, and as a bookseller. She holds a degree in English from Yale University, attended the Clarion Writers Workshop, and earned her MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she served as an editor for The Greensboro Review.

Apr 9, 2021

Write What You Know: Famously Misunderstood Writing Advice

By: Meg Fisher

“Write what you know” is perhaps one of the most hackneyed pieces of writing advice out there. It’s one of the first things you’ll hear in any intro-level writing class and is always bound to be a proposed cure for writer’s block. I’ve been writing for several years, and for a lot of that time, I would cite this phrase as the worst piece of advice one to give to any writer. It just seems too restrictive and simplistic. How could I, in good conscience, endorse any advice that seemed to actively discourage research and exploration? However, I feel that the problems I had with this advice simply arose out of misunderstanding. “Write what you know” can most literally be interpreted as “write about a familiar setting or circumstances that you have lived through.” But to me, “write what you know” refers to the emotional core of a story. It tells you to write about your grief, your fears, your euphoria. 

Apr 8, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Ann Leslie Tuttle

A warm welcome to literary agent Ann Leslie Tuttle! Ann Leslie joined DG&B in 2017 after working for 20 years at Harlequin Books where she worked on an extensive and varied list of bestselling and award-winning titles in romance and women’s fiction. She received her B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from the University of Virginia. Helping to grow the careers of established and debut writers has always been Ann Leslie’s passion. Ann Leslie lives in New York City with her husband and young daughter, who is just discovering the magic of books and writing.

Apr 7, 2021

Critique Partners: Covering the Basics

By: Addy Thome

Your critique partners (CPs) will be some of the most insightful readers to ever look through your book. Why? Because unlike your readers, they’re writers. Writers like you who have studied the craft, have written their own books, and are probably planning to seek (or actively seeking) publication.

Before we get into the benefits of having a CP, let’s discuss the difference between CPs and beta readers. 

Apr 6, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Amelia Appel

A warm welcome to associate literary agent Amelia Appel! Amelia joined Triada after previously assisting at McIntosh & Otis, Inc. and Writers House. She is seeking adult fiction, non-fiction, and YA.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you. 
Amelia: I was a college athlete!  I ran indoor track in the winter and played softball in the spring.  I like to think being a student athlete was proper training for the multi-tasking and time management that’s essential for tackling an agent’s daily workload.

Apr 5, 2021

A 3-Step Process for Worthwhile Critiques

By: Don Evitts

As writers, you’d think we’d always know what to say in a critique, but if you’re like me, that isn’t true. That can make critiquing somewhat problematic, so I’m going over my commenting process.

Step 1. Identify the Subject:

Whenever you’re commenting, it’s important to clearly state what you’re commenting on. Don’t just say things like “What?” or “No!” It’s unhelpful and comes off as rude and sarcastic. Plus, you’re not giving your critique partner anything to work with.

Apr 1, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Jennifer Rofé

A warm welcome to Jennifer Rofé, senior literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Some of Jennifer's clients include New York Times bestseller Meg Medina, author of the Newbery Medal winner MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS; Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner Crystal Allen, author of the middle grade series The Magnificent Mya Tibbs; and Amber Ren, illustrator of the New York Times bestseller Because by Mo Willems and the forthcoming Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste.

Jennifer has been on the faculty of many conferences including the Big Sur Writer's Workshop and numerous SCBWI conferences, and she is especially known for her The "So What?" Factor presentation. Jennifer earned a BA in English and a minor in Social and Ethnic Relations with a focus on multicultural literature from UC Davis and has a background in secondary education.

Mar 31, 2021

Another Day, Another Rejection Notice

By: Bobbie R. Byrd

        You’ve finally done it: you’ve completed the final edit on your debut novel. Your creative obsession bears the term THE END on the last page. The words are on paper; now the fun part begins. Time to get that puppy published!
        Thus, begins your quest for a literary agent or publisher. You start with what’s known as the query. That’s when you realize you need a synopsis of your novel. Two weeks later, and with most of your pulled-out hair still on the floor, you have a coherent summary to go with your query letter. You work up a list of potential agents and publishers, research them all, read through their submission guidelines with a fine-toothed comb, set up your query tracking software, and send out a batch of queries. 

Mar 29, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Ellen Goff

A warm welcome to Ellen Goff, Associate Agent at HG Literary. Ellen graduated from The University of Chicago with a BA in English, a minor in Cinema and Media Studies, and a focus in Creative Writing. Ellen has worked everywhere from The White House under the Obama administration to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. At HG Literary, she assists Carrie Hannigan on all children's titles from picture books to middle grade to young adult. Ellen's own list consists of YA writers and illustrators. She is also a Foreign Rights Associate on HG's foreign rights team. Ellen runs a YA writing group and workshop in NYC.

Mar 26, 2021

3 Tips on Giving a Helpful Critique

By: Kiefer Nunez

Have you ever received a critique on your writing that leaves you scratching your head? You read and reread all the comments, and you’re still left dumbfounded because of how vague they are. It’s like when a friend says, “I hate politics.”

You ask, “Why?” 

They respond, “It’s not for me.” 

The response inclines you to ask follow-up questions or forces you to assume the answer. Being vague isn’t helpful. So below, I’ve listed three tips to write helpful critiques. 

Mar 25, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Danielle Bukowski

A warm welcome to Danielle Bukowski, Associate Agent & Foreign Rights Manager at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. (SLL). Danielle joined the foreign rights department of SLL in 2014 and works closely with Szilvia Molnar to promote SLL’s titles abroad. Her clients have been excerpted in the New Yorker, finalists for prizes, and have multiple foreign sales. Recent and forthcoming books include Memorial by Bryan Washington (Riverhead, 2020), At the Edge of the Haight by Katherine Seligman (Algonquin, 2021), The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson (William Morrow, 2021), The Stars We Share by Rafe Posey (Viking/Pamela Dorman Books, 2021), They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez (Little A, 2019), and The Reluctant Fortune-Teller by Keziah Frost (Park Row, 2018). Danielle graduated from Vassar College with a concentration in English.

Mar 24, 2021

Creating Memorable Characters in Your Writing

By: Patricia Jellerson

Are you satisfied with writing an interesting and readable manuscript? Of course! But we want more, right? Every author hopes to have a work that people just can’t put down, a ‘page-turner.’ For many readers, character and character development are the most important elements of fiction writing. They want to be drawn in and fully involved with the people you have created. Often, the plot could be weak, but an interesting character will move it along and still capture the reader’s interest. But, how do we create memorable characters? 

Mar 23, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Michael Carr

A warm welcome to Michael Carr, literary agent at Veritas Literary Agency. With a strong background in editing and writing, Michael enjoys teaching at workshops and conferences to help develop emerging writers. He is fluent in Spanish and also speaks Portuguese and French. Before joining Veritas, Michael had professions as diverse as programming simulators for nuclear submarines and owning an inn in Vermont.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you.
Michael: I once took a camel trek through the Tunisian Sahara and slept in an earth-sheltered building that had been used as the set for Luke Skywalker’s uncle and aunt’s house in the original Star Wars movie. Most of the old set was still there, slowly fading in the desert sun. The room cost me five dollars for the night.

Mar 22, 2021

Using Word Clouds to Improve Your Writing and Marketing

By: Emily Michel

We have all seen the lists of no-no words. That, very, just, then, and dozens of others you are supposed to stay away from. But what about the ones particular to you, a quirk or ten you picked up over your many years of being human? And how do you even know you are overusing them if they aren't on someone's prefabricated list?

If you couldn't guess from the title, the answer is word clouds.

Mar 19, 2021

The Poop on Critique Partner Duties

By: Joanne Steel Yordanou

You’ll be doing your critique partner a favor in stating what stage you’re in with your work. There are some writing teachers who give profound advice about both writing and critiquing. Then you can check off what you need from your partner: High-level feedback; Grammar; Line-by-line; Plot feedback; Character feedback; and Other. You may have read Lisa Cron’s description of giving up plotting and pantsing for your protagonist’s internal struggle in The Story Genius or Robert McKee’s dissection of substance, structure and style in Story and these things may be swirling your mind as you read your partner’s piece. But a writing teacher once taught me about the poop sandwich, and it is this brown burger that you should keep in mind as you critique your partner’s work.

Mar 17, 2021

What Feedback to Implement

By: Rachel Hanley

When my first short story was accepted for publication, I knew to expect at least one round of revisions with the magazine’s editing team. No problem. I was even excited for my first professional editor letter. 

Then I got the letter. They made lots of small suggestions and even one larger suggestion that re-framed an entire scene. The team’s insight made complete sense to me, so I implemented everything without any complaints. Well, almost everything. Then there was the feedback for the ending. The editors wanted me to change the ending, and they had a specific idea of how the story should end… and I hated it. Their version just wasn’t a story I wanted to tell. If I made the change, I would no longer feel proud of publishing this work; it wouldn’t really feel like my work anymore.

Mar 16, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Katie Salvo

A warm welcome to Katie Salvo, senior literary agent at Metamorphosis Literary Agency.

A traditionally published novelist, certified copy editor, and avid reader with eclectic genre interests, Katie Salvo loves nothing more than to see authors succeed in introducing new ideas and fresh voices to the publishing industry. With a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Katie has a background in literary criticism, philosophy, political theory, and history. She is particularly interested in representing women’s fiction, suspense, romance, middle grade, young adult, LGBTQ+, narrative nonfiction, and historical biography.

Mar 11, 2021

Overcoming Writer’s Block 101

By R. L. McIntyre

Creativity is a fickle thing. It appears at the most inopportune times when the ability to transfer it to the page is limited, which makes its absence when we’re ready to write even worse. Often, it might feel like trying to wrangle a cat. If you own a cat, you know they determine when they will hang out or not. It’s not something you can force. Somedays, you can convince the creativity cat to sit with you, and it’s great. Other days, you sit with a blank page ready to begin an adventure, and the cat leaves.

Mar 10, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Jon Michael Darga

A warm welcome to literary agent Jon Michael Darga! Jon has represented and edited books across a diverse range of genres, which include the forthcoming titles How to Save a Life, Entertainment Weekly reporter Lynette Rice’s oral history of “Grey’s Anatomy”; Anthony Chin-Quee’s memoir I Can’t Save You, about the hidden truths of race and survival in the medical world; and Violet Lumani’s forthcoming YA trilogy, beginning with Foretold, centered around a girl with OCD learning to hone her divinatory powers.

Mar 9, 2021

Finishing Your Novel: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

By: Lily Sayre

Reaching the end of your novel can feel impossible. Perhaps your inspiration has run out, your plot is wearing thin, and you’re lost in the messy middle of your manuscript. Or maybe you’ve sat down as I often have, with a brilliant idea that fizzles out the moment you try to put it on a blank page.

All authors can agree that regardless of where you are in the writing process or what your goal for your manuscript may be, finishing your novel is essential. Although it may seem like your story “just isn’t working,” the odds are that you can make it to your ending by applying these four techniques I’ve used to finish more than eight manuscripts in seven years:

Mar 8, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Amy Elizabeth Bishop

A warm welcome to literary agent Amy Elizabeth Bishop! Amy Elizabeth Bishop joined DG&B in 2015 after interning for them in 2014. Her list includes titles such as The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim (a Reese's Book Club selection and NYT bestseller), The Silence of Bones by June Hur (a Junior Library Guild selection and Edgar Award nominee), and Living Brave by Shannon Dingle (forthcoming Summer 2021). Before diving into the world of publishing, she graduated from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in Creative Writing. Though she grew up upstate, she currently resides in Astoria, Queens. You can find her on Twitter at @amylizbishop.

Mar 5, 2021

Courtesies That Catch a CP

By: Jessie Schat

Whether new to CritiqueMatch (welcome!) or a long-time resident, finding a solid, dependable critique partner (CP) is vital. No pressure, right? Unfortunately, some can’t seem to keep a partner around after the first read, or a CP flakes after so long. If that hits home for you, I’m sure you’ve wondered that famous “Why?”

And no, I don’t believe it was your onion breath this time.

Mar 4, 2021

Working with a Critique Partner: A Match Made in Heaven

By: C.S Gregg 

Like every geek worth their salt, I have lofty aspirations of becoming a prolific writer. Also, like many geeks, I have no friends. Specifically, my life is marked by a dearth of friends willing to pour through the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of words of that novel I’ve been talking about for so many years. So, finding a critique partner has been the missing ingredient to taking my craft to the next level. That’s right, I call writing “my craft.” Impressed? Well, CritiqueMatch has been an invaluable tool in helping me find the critique partners who have given me the confidence to speak with such hubris. And, like any tool, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use it. Here are a few tips that I think might help you to find and work with critique partners online.

Mar 2, 2021

What it Takes to Write

By: Andrew Rydberg 

One of the most difficult parts about writing is getting started. You’ll get a million ideas, characters, scenes - you name it. But every time you sit down and are about to put it all on paper, your mind goes blank. Doubts start flooding in, you forget some of the key items you wanted to include, and every menial distraction becomes overbearing. Finally, you say, “forget this!” and walk away, thinking maybe next time will be better. It’s a common roadblock. But it’s not as hard to get around as you think.

Mar 1, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Hannah VanVels

A warm welcome to Hannah VanVels, literary agent at Belcastro Agency! Hannah’s life is consumed by all things bookish, and she can usually be found curled up with a good cup of coffee or a glass of wine. She earned her BA at the University of Michigan and holds MA degrees from Tel Aviv University and the University of Chicago. In addition to agenting, Hannah owns a freelance editing business. Hannah has worked various book-related jobs including a stint as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble, a freelance editor for scholarly and academic essays and journals, and most recently as the acquiring editor at a young adult imprint with HarperCollins Publishing. Hannah loves working closely with authors and coming alongside them to make their vision come to life on page. She lives in West Michigan with her partner, two German Shepherds, and two cats.

Feb 26, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Alethea Spiridon

Alethea Spiridon was an editor for Harlequin Books in Toronto for almost seven years, working with writers such as Bobby Hutchinson, Roberta Gellis, Lori Foster, Cathy Yardley, Lori Wilde, Jill Shalvis, Anne Stuart, and Pamela Morsi to name a few. Alethea joined Entangled in 2011. She enjoys a fresh, fun, flirty voice, and anything that can make her laugh and see the lighter side of life. That being said, she’s also drawn to contemporary alpha male stories and lush historical romances. As a freelancer through her company www.freelanceeditor.ca she has edited all genres of books in every category from finance to philosophy, fiction and non-fiction, magazines, websites, academic titles, and textbooks. 

Feb 25, 2021

Into the (Query) Trenches

By: Madeline Dau

You’ve just completed your novel. You’re excited, riding an exhilarating wave of momentum because you just typed “The End” at the bottom of your masterpiece. So, what happens next? There are hosts of hurdles in between your newborn manuscript and seeing your book on the shelves. 

Here, I’ll explore ten initial steps for the traditional publishing journey.

Feb 24, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Abby Muller

A warm welcome to Abby Muller, associate editor at Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, where she acquires fiction and narrative nonfiction. She has edited titles including Made in China by Amelia Pang and the forthcoming Pump by Bill Schutt, Clean Air by Sarah Blake, and Off the Edge by Kelly Weill. She reads widely, but has a particular soft spot for well-researched nonfiction about culture or language, as well as for character-driven narratives and for fiction that blurs genre boundaries. She has been spending quarantine baking sourdough bread like everyone else and learning to embroider.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you. 
Abby: Algonquin is from North Carolina and so am I! I live in Brooklyn now, but by total coincidence, I grew up about ten minutes from our Chapel Hill office, which is itself around the corner from the coffee shop where sleep-deprived teenage Abby would buy espresso drinks (necessary to stay awake on the long drive to oboe lessons).

Feb 23, 2021

Critique Partnerships – It’s a yes from me!

By: Skylar Shoar

I’ll begin this post by saying what I always tell my critique partners: all opinions are my own–choose to take from them what you believe will enhance your work.

What is a critique partnership? Why do you need it? How can you get one?

These are all great questions, and every author, especially new or aspiring writers, should aim to know the answers. 

Why?

Feb 22, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Elizabeth Stranahan

A warm welcome to Elizabeth Stranahan, Associate Editor at Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Children's Books. Elizabeth is interested in young adult and middle-grade fiction that is character driven, filled with banter, and challenges readers to life’s big questions, as well as middle-grade nonfiction that makes complex concepts accessible and relatable. At Crown, she has worked with New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams, Elle McNicoll, whose debut A Kind of Spark was a Blackwell Best Book of the Year, YA thriller writer Alexa Donne, and the Smithsonian Latino Center among others. When not tending to her email, Elizabeth can be found catching up on the latest gymnastics competition, quilting, and rewatching Derry Girls—occasionally at the same time.

CM: How did you become an editor? Can you describe the career path for those looking to enter the publishing industry?
Elizabeth: I knew I wanted to pursue publishing, editing specifically, relatively early in college. I watched an interview between an editor and an author and became fascinated with the idea of a job where your role was to try and ask the right questions to draw out a story. 

Feb 18, 2021

You’ll Know It When You See It, and Other Confusing Advice about Finding a Writer’s Voice

By Mary Keever

As a lifelong avid reader and a prolific writer of letters and tolerable business prose, I thought I might’ve had some grasp of what makes a written story engaging to readers. Nope. When I launched into what was to be my debut masterpiece, I understood nothing about the mechanics of writing a good book.
        I floundered along, learning most things the hard way, including the expectation that writing must have its own voice. Its own what, now? I had no idea what that might mean. And yet, it turns out my early work had a voice. A strong, clear, haughty voice sure to turn readers off at hello. Wanting my linguistic mastery to shine, I spelled out facts, writing to an imaginary panel of scholars ready to pass judgment on my slightest grammatical misstep. I used no contractions for this cadre of sophisticates, no shortcuts, no small words where a perfectly good multi-syllable alternative would do. Everything properly spelled out, clearly defined, hammered home. 

Editor Spotlight Series - Erin McClary

A warm welcome to Erin McClary

Erin is an Associate Editor at Sourcebooks—one of the nation's largest independent publishers and the country's biggest woman-owned publisher—located just outside of Chicago, Illinois. After 14 years of working in brand and digital marketing, she decided to pursue her passion of reading and editing and barreled her way into the publishing industry, where she acquires adult fiction and nonfiction. Erin currently lives in Naperville, Illinois, with way too many books and not enough time to read.

CritiqueMatch: How did you become an editor? Can you describe the career path for those looking to enter the publishing industry? 
Erin: I did not take the traditional path to publishing (i.e., majoring in English, interning at a publishing house, and then working my way up). I went to business school where I studied marketing before going on to work in brand and digital marketing for fourteen years. When I moved back from the Bay Area to the Midwest, I came across an independent publisher located just outside of Chicago (I mistakenly thought I would have to move to NYC if I wanted to work in publishing…not true! There are a number of amazing publishers located all over the U.S.). I was able to demonstrate how the skills I had developed working in marketing would transfer over into a career as an acquisitions editor, and they liked that I had a different background and could bring a unique perspective to the role.

Feb 16, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Toni Kirkpatrick

A warm welcome to Senior Acquisitions Editor Toni Kirkpatrick! Toni began her publishing career at St. Martin’s Press, where she worked for more than a decade acquiring commercial fiction. She joined Crooked Lane Books and Alcove Press in 2019.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you. 
Toni: I don’t know how fun this is, but I am an author as well. I published a short story collection under my maiden name Toni Margarita Plummer. So I know publishing from both sides and am able to relate to writers as a writer myself. 

Why You Should Talk to Strangers

By: Alice Baine

Writing is strange. I find it both bizarre and wonderful that we have this indomitable urge to forge stories from our imagination, then graft them into a tangible medium for the enjoyment of random strangers. It makes very little sense, but it’s also something that makes us human. We need to produce art.

This passion consumed me ever since I was old enough to comprehend it. My free time went to pounding words out of a keyboard until they somehow arranged themselves into a completed novel, ready in all its glory to wow the world.

Feb 11, 2021

The Art of Critiquing: How Others Can Help You Sculpt Your Work

By L. J. Hasbrouck

Many consider writing to be a solitary journey, but it’s dangerous to go alone. Okay, maybe not dangerous, but I’d advise against it. Here’s why.

There’s a massive world out there filled with people like us: creators who want to tell their stories. But telling isn’t enough, as many editors will advise when it comes to your writing. You thought I was going to write something about “showing” here, but I actually want you to share. It’s scary because we’re all afraid other people might not enjoy our work or think we’re talented authors. Maybe you write as a hobby and don’t care about getting your work out there. That’s understandable. But sharing it with other authors, editors, and readers can help you see things you’d likely never see on your own.

Feb 10, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Caitlyn Averett

Caitlyn Averett is an Assistant Editor at Hachette with Little, Brown and Company/Jimmy Patterson. She’s worked on bestselling series by James Patterson, such as Max Einstein and Middle School, Rebecca Rode’s Tides of Mutiny (9/7/2021), and Maeeda Kahn’s Nura and the Immortal Palace (Summer 2022). She is also a writer and has a background in dance, and when she’s not reading, writing, or editing (which is rarely), she’s probably over-analyzing movies/TV shows or playing with her kittens.

CritiqueMatch: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Caitlyn:
1) I’d never been to NYC before moving there to start working in publishing. 
2) I grew up in a solar-powered house. 
3) I was a theater kid growing up. 

(Number 1 is the lie! My house growing up was completely powered by solar energy, I was always at dance class and musical theater rehearsals, and had visited NYC a few times over the years before moving to the city.) 

Pro-Critiquer Interview Series with Kayla M.

A warm welcome to Pro-Critiquer Kayla M!

CritiqueMatch: Why did you want to pursue freelance editing?
Kayla: I started out with editing “critique” partners’ manuscripts on CritiqueMatch and found it to be very rewarding. I love reading, so being able to help authors develop their manuscripts with everything from world-building to plot and character arcs just feels right. I also discovered that I am very good at it. I pride myself on picking up on little details that others miss, and I make my suggestions in a caring and understanding way so that clients feel that I’ve truly connected with their story and its characters.  

CM: What is the best way clients can approach you on CritiqueMatch?
Kayla: I always prefer that my clients communicate with me before sending any work to me. I think it’s important for me to understand what the client wants out of their editing services with me. Equally important, I want to make sure that I’ve efficiently communicated what a client can expect from me. So, a little blurb about your work and what kind of feedback you want (general feedback, length of work, expected turnaround time, specific questions regarding a character or element in your story, etc.) are always helpful. Once we establish all the details, I get to work on your manuscript as soon as you’ve sent it my way. 😊

Feb 4, 2021

Pro-Critiquer Interview Series with Jackie H.

Jackie H profile picture on CritiqueMatch

A warm welcome to Pro-Critiquer Jackie H.

CritiqueMatch: Tells us about your critiquing/ editing journey. 
Jackie: About a decade ago, while I was working on my dissertation, I took a part-time job as a writing tutor at a local community college, and over time, that morphed into a position as a tutoring coordinator and a tutor trainer.  When I’d first applied for the tutoring job, I mostly saw it as a resume-builder, but I learned (and relearned) so much about writing in those years.  Suddenly I had to explain aspects of grammar and syntax and organization that had become natural to me, which meant that I had to go back to the books myself!  I still work as a writing tutor for an online platform, and I’m still learning every day!

Editor Spotlight Series - Rhonda Penders

Rhonda Penders spotlight
A warm welcome to Rhonda Penders, Editor-in-Chief of The Wild Rose Press. She and her business partner, RJ Morris, opened their publishing house in 2006 and continue to be the sole owners today. Penders has been on both sides of the query process and brings a special touch of compassion to authors. She believes that publishing is a team effort between the author, the editor, and the publisher.  

Penders has worked as a small town newspaper reporter, a confessional magazine writer, and is a published romance author. But it is her story “Feeding Squirrels with Dad,” published by Chicken Soup for the Soul; Alzheimer’s Caregivers Edition that is the work of her heart.  

Penders lives in Upstate NY with her husband of 36 years.  Her three grown sons live nearby on their own. Follow her on Facebook.

Jan 31, 2021

Pro-Critiquer Interview Series with Brandan R.

Brandan R profile on CritiqueMatch
A warm welcome to Pro-Critiquer Brandan R

CritiqueMatch: Tells us about your critiquing/ editing journey. 
Brandan: I started off critiquing about a decade ago on poetry websites as well as helping other students at my college with their non-fiction pieces. It wasn’t until I joined CritiqueMatch about a year and a half ago to find partners to improve my own writing that I really delved in critiquing and editing fiction. It’s an amazing thing to see how much my own writing and skill in the craft improves alongside theirs when I help them with their stories. Since then, I accumulated over a dozen CPs and helped critique and edit ten complete novels (two of which have since been published) ranging from sci-fi/fantasy, to romance, young readers, and horror. In addition to these, I’ve gone through handful of novellas, and multiple short stories and poems alongside dozens of single chapters and narrative outlines. 


CM: Share a fun fact about you.
Brandan: I’m a huge geek, through and through. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy—reading, watching, and playing games in the genre—and have never lost the desire to keep living off it. Things such as Dungeons & Dragons and other TTRPGs, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, the Expanse, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, the Cosmere, (and many, many more) have influenced the way I write and look at other people’s writing. Even though I’ve branched out in other directions since my youth, such as horror and romance, my first love in SF/F. If you tell me that’s what you want to be looked at, I doubt I’d be able to say no!

CM: Why did you want to pursue freelance editing?
Brandan: Put simply, I fell in love with the process during my time on CritiqueMatch. My own successes using CM aside, I made several long-term friends utilizing the platform and, more importantly, a core group of diverse writers that share my passion for writing that I’ve come to depend on for every project I undertake. I found myself looking forward to helping other writers figure out what works and what needs to be tweaked in their novels or stories and I feel an immense amount of pride in my partners as I re-read their drafts and the improvement is palpable. When I learned about the freelance opportunities that the CritiqueMatch was offering, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s something I love, so why not?  

CM: Describe your critiquing/ editing style. How do you differ from other editors?
Brandan: For every critique I undertake, I’ll read the submission at least twice—four or five times depending on how much work it needs. My first reading is always straight through without any edits so I can get an idea of the story, its pacing, plot, and characters. After that, I’ll read it again and begin to add in-line comments or notes (depending on what kind of critique I’ve been asked to do). While I may pick apart the narrative a lot, possibly making it look overwhelming, I try to always give suggestions to improve it. I’ll also add comments on what really hooked me. While I examine and critique on every aspect of the writing, my personality and education tend to lead me to focus most heavily on worldbuilding that’s been included in the text, including culture, taboos/mores/folkways, and history. If you have a magic system, expect it to be picked apart as I help you figure out exactly what the rules work, if its consistent, and—on occasion—even the philosophical questions relating to it.  

CM: Can you describe the typical profile of your clients?
Brandan: The bulk of my clients would be considered beginners, but I have worked with multiple self-published authors to help improve the new projects and work they’ve already released into the world. I’ve also had the pleasure to work with two traditionally published authors who have entrusted me with the first chapters of their books to determine if the story, characters, and plot was worth pursuing, or even what book they should work on next. For everybody I work with, beginning writer to established author, I put my full effort into the critique, giving honest feedback, suggestions for improvement, and encouragement to continue. 

CM: Beyond the traditional editing services, is there anything else you help your clients with?
Brandan: One of the hardest things in writing a novel apart from getting your thoughts on the paper, is to plan what will happen in the narrative. While some people simply write, others plot everything in advance. Sometimes, the plotting doesn’t look coherent or make sense—perhaps they got stumped at what plot points were necessary. I’ve worked with both my critique partners and paid clients on helping flesh out those story maps and give suggestions to help smooth the narrative and get ready for starting their alpha drafts. Some forms of plotting and planning I’ve helped with include: the basic story structure, Save the Cat beat sheets, Kishōtenketsu, the snowflake method, hero’s journey, and freeform planning. 
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Genre Specialization

Genres/sub-genres you’re accepting clients for:
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy, Romance, Horror, Short Stories, Literary Fiction
  • Non-fiction, Poetry, Children’s/Middle-Grade Literature
What you’re not interested in:
  • Erotica, fan-fiction
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Client Testimonials

Client: B.G., Paid Critique, Dec. 2020  
“Wow! The final chapter of Book 1 and I am blown away by commitment to helping me improve my writing skills and diligence for over ten months! I am so happy to work with you, you've brought me a long away from where I started!”

Client: W.A., CP Critique, Aug. 2020  
“A wonderful critique! You pointed out a lot of details and mistakes that I didn't notice before, and your thorough suggestions helped me improve my story significantly. I'll definitely heed your advice. Thank you so much!”

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Bio
First, a little bit about myself so you know what perspective I’ll be looking at your writing from. Professionally, I am a museum curator and a college administrative specialist. I have a Bachelor’s in liberal arts with minors in history and behavioral studies, a Master’s in history focusing on ethnography and folklore, and I’m currently pursuing a graduate certificate in digital curation and a Ph.D. focusing on ethnography and anthropology. 

I have a fantasy/romance novella being traditionally published later this year and is the first in a series of novellas and short stories. I also have short stories, poetry, and non-fiction pieces published in online and physical literary journals and anthologies. I’m an avid reader, artist, and TTRPG player. I’m engaged, have a daughter, and a plethora of pets, including four cats, five silver pheasants, and a turtle.

All that said, the bulk of my writing is in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy genre. While I am most comfortable and perhaps most helpful editing pieces in that niche, I have no problem with any genre and have helped edit and critique everything from non-fiction to romance, horror, Children’s, YA, NA, and poetry. As you might have guessed from my degrees, much of my focus when working with other authors is on world-building (history and culture), character interaction, and pacing. If you have a magic system, expect it to be picked apart. Just know I’ll never tell you something doesn’t work without also giving you suggestions for improvement.

Brandan R profile on CritiqueMatch



Jan 28, 2021

Interview with Reagan Rothe - Black Rose Writing


Reagan Rothe spotlight
A warm welcome to Reagan Rothe, creator of Black Rose Writing, an Indie Press located in Texas, and a fellow published author. 

He currently serves on Ingram’s Publisher Advisory Board and is a Social Media Certified Professional. Rothe has contributed to IBPA's Independent, NetGalley Insights, and other reputable literary channels. 

He lives with his beautiful wife, Minna, and has two children, Lena and Walter Lee. 
Reagan Rothe picture
CM: Share a fun fact about you. 
Reagan: I’m a scratch golfer with a career low round of 64 (-8). I’ve had 3 open-heart surgeries, which hold the lead against 1 career hole-in-one.

CM: How did you decide to create your own publishing company? Tell us a bit about your journey at Black Rose Writing. 
Reagan: Through my journey as a fellow author, I wanted to improve upon my experiences and create something more personable and transparent. I started by publishing a few titles when I had free time, doing this part-time from 2006 – 2009. Then in 2009, based on the data and passion I had for publishing deserving authors and give them a chance, Black Rose Writing became my full-time career. We’ve grown financially each year since 2009, adding new staff and teams.

CM: How many authors/books do you work with per year? 
Reagan: We are publishing just over 200 titles per year. This number hasn’t increased in the last two years, as we continue to focus on marketing our authors/books more than increasing our book output. The breakdown for 2021 is almost 50-50 for new authors and our current authors—which is really exciting to know that we have over 100 titles being released in 2021 by authors we’ve already published at least once.

CM: How involved with a book are you, past the editing stage?
Reagan: I’m still very much involved with every title we publish. While I don’t design the covers, format the interior, or personally copy edit a book anymore, my time is spent more perfecting a book’s metadata, marketing strategies, and reviewing our data (such as paid ads or reaching out to media).  

CM: How do you acquire books? How has the process changed during the pandemic?
Reagan: We still acquire titles based on our online submission form. I review every submission query, and then based on the strengths of the query, decide whether to accept a manuscript for further review. Once a manuscript has been requested, it gets assigned to one of our acquisition reviewers. Our process has not been directly impacted by the pandemic. 

CM: Who are some of the rising stars in Mystery or Fantasy genre that we should keep an eye on? 
Reagan: For Black Rose Writing, we have several authors on the rise for mystery and fantasy. For fantasy, readers should check out JR Konkol, Elle Lewis, and Christopher Monteagle. For mystery fans, check out Len Boswell, Bill Percy, Clark Viehweg, and A.J. McCarthy.

CM: What is the demand for stories set in a COVID-19 world?
Reagan: I’ve received some pitches from our current authors and new submissions with a COVID-19 angle or impact. I don’t feel there is a strong demand, more of a slight uptick in writer’s using this current event to try to jump on board. I also don’t feel there is a large wave of readers just waiting to not only live through the pandemic but also read about it in their next thriller. 

CM: Can you name a few virtual events that you will attend in the following months?
Reagan: Black Rose Writing will have a presence and online booth at AWP2021. As for future events, such as the Book Expo, we are still waiting on the announcement for whether they will be virtual or in-person. We will make a decision closer to the event date(s) based on the safety of our team and families.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Reagan: I read a bunch of great titles in 2020, but the series I’m most eager about completing is Joe Abercrombie’s The Age of Madness. The final book in the trilogy is due out late 2021, and I’ll read that book within a few days. The First Law world he created and its characters are just too good if you love hardcore fantasy. 

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re acquiring:
  • Fiction: Action/Adventure, Chick Lit, Children’s Book (with full illustrations only), Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Historical, Horror, Humor, Inspirational/Spiritual, LGBT, Literary, Mystery/Suspense, New Adult/Coming of Age, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Women’s, Young Adult.
  • Non-fiction: Biography/Memoir, Business, History, Inspirational/Spiritual, Self-Help, Sports, True Crime
What you’re not interested in:
  • Poetry

_______

2 Black Rose Writing Author Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)

The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride by Joe Siple, 2018
Special Access by Mark A. Hewitt, 2013
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Do you accept un-agented submissions? Yes




Jan 19, 2021

What areas of publishing are oversaturated more recently?

It's hard to chase publishing trends but knowing what areas of the market are over-saturated could be helpful for writers pitching their stories to agents and editors.

We asked the question "What areas of publishing are over-saturated more recently?" to 6 literary agents in the fall of 2020. Here's how they responded: 

Mary C. Moore, Kimberly Cameron & Associates:  Publishing tends to be cyclical, so what I say may be oversaturated now, will change quickly. However, we are on the tail end of a YA royal fantasy glut, and I would guess that we will see an oversaturation of witch fantasies and horror in the near future, as a lot are being bought up right now. MG in general enjoyed a big surge these past two years, so it may be harder to sell in soon, like YA is, but hopefully not. Personally, I think WWII and superhero stories are overdone, but they are still regularly hitting the shelves. The “Girl” titled thrillers have calmed down a bit, but are still a hard pitch. The reality is, if you have a fresh take on any genre/story you can break through, no matter the state of the market. But you need to know the market to understand what a fresh take would be, so read, read, read. And be reading current books!

Jackie Williams, The Knight Agency:  Interesting question! I think it's more challenging to stand out in the YA market, particularly YA fantasy nowadays. The concept needs to be super strong and fresh. I've seen a lot of great YA books not get the coverage they deserve, and more recently, editors who have the option of acquiring both YA and adult books shift more towards adult fiction.

Felicia Eth, Felicia Eth Literary Representation: Recently we’ve seen a plethora of dystopian novels, dependency memoirs, and lots of historical novels attempting to redress racial and multicultural issues.

Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency: Mysteries have become oversaturated in the last couple of years. I feel there are still plenty of readers, but editors have become much more selective in acquiring mysteries due to the market.

Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency: Trump! Enough Memoir.

Linda Glaz, Hartline Literary: I know most editors have recently been very full of historic and historic romance, and were leaning toward contemporary and suspense, but my guess is, we will see suspense getting full very soon here. Hopefully, that will be good news for historic authors. Contemporary romance never seems to see dark days.


Check out more literary agent interviews with our Agent Spotlight Series!

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Jan 12, 2021

How hands-on in the editing process are literary agents?

A literary agent's job is to sell the book, not necessarily edit it. Yet, many agents help authors polish their books prior to sending it to editors. But how hands-on in the editing process are agents really? The answer? It varies significantly by agent, but many provide detailed feedback! 

Here's how 10 literary agents responded: 

Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency:  It really depends on the manuscript.  Some authors come in with manuscripts in very strong shape and might need just light edits whereas others may need more editorial feedback.  In the latter case, I am hands-on and will go back and forth to try and make the manuscript as strong as possible.  For a debut author who has never written before, there tends to be more feedback and editorial focus whereas a bestselling, experienced author might need more help with career building, marketing, and branding rather than editing. 

Mary C. Moore, Kimberly Cameron & Associates:  I tend to be heavily involved in the editing process, although less so than I was at the beginning of my career. Again, it depends on the individual, but I expect no less than one round of revision with a new project, and on average, do three rounds of revision. These revisions are focused on big picture developmental edits; I rarely if ever, do line-editing for my clients.

Jackie Williams, The Knight Agency:  I'm very hands-on. I love supporting the author and creating a dialogue on how to improve the manuscript. And every manuscript needs something different. My editorial comments are entirely at the author's discretion, but it's one of the best parts of the job to get creative with the author and figure out the solutions needed for their book. 

Felicia Eth, Felicia Eth Literary Representation: The answer here varies from project to project but on the whole, I am quite hands-on. Rarely does a project get sent out by me where the author hasn’t gone through one or two revisions, and I can recall one project which was a first book, where the author revised the proposal 8 or 9 times, but I did end up getting him a $100,000 advance. But honestly, I’ve worked just as hard with books that sold for $7500. 

Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency: I am very hands-on.  I usually go through anywhere from two to eight drafts of a manuscript before I send it out.  I’m a compulsive grammar-corrector, so my comments always cover copyediting as well as big picture stuff, like character development, plot and writing.  

Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency: Every book goes through full editing with me before it is queried to editors. 

Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency: I am not an editor instead, more of a cheerleader.  There are many superb editors turned agents. Most of the manuscripts I represent are written at a top level.  If there is a manuscript I believe needs work, and I am Gaga over it, I suggest to the potential client a handful of paid for editing former editors. This does not guarantee publication and the author pays for the editing out of their own pocket.

Linda Glaz, Hartline Literary: Probably a LOT more hands-on than my clients would like. I am fanatic about getting a proposal in its absolute best condition without annoying typos and obvious inconsistencies. I want an editor’s first take to be: “Now, THAT’S great work!”

Duvall Osteen, Aragi Inc: Quite, especially at a macro level. First, I work with authors on bigger picture edits, and edit more via asking broad questions rather than line by line. Of course, there is also a time when focused editing is necessary, and that takes shape based on the individual needs of the book, and the work style of the author.

Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary: Very much so. It is so very difficult to sell a book and made much more so if you don’t present the absolute best version of a proposal or manuscript that you can to the editors you are pitching.  They are bombarded every day from every angle, and as such, their lists and their mindsets are tilted towards a reason to say no.  I like to try and remove as many reasons for that “no” as possible before we send out, so as to give an author the absolute best shot at a good sale and a good home.  And even then, most of the process of selling the book is filled with rejection, even when making a ‘big’ sale.   


Check out more literary agent interviews with our Agent Spotlight Series!

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Jan 5, 2021

How many authors do literary agents represent?

Querying writers frequently wonder about their chance to get a literary agents. An often asked question is:

How many authors do literary agents represent at any given time?

The number may reveal an agent's activity, workload, selectiveness, or network. Well, no need to wonder any more! We asked 7 literary agents. Here are their responses:

Mary C. Moore, Kimberly Cameron & Associates: It’s constantly fluctuating, but I usually have around 20-25 clients, with around 10 super active clients (i.e. clients that are in the middle of a project whether it’s being written/submitted/negotiated). I’ve found over time my list has become very curated around the authors, i.e. I’m looking for strong writers with interesting backgrounds, voices, and perspectives that I feel I can really help have a long career. So these days, although I’m always excited about the projects I sign, I’m more excited about the writer themselves when I offer representation.  

Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency: Right now, I have 22 clients.  While there are certain genres I gravitate towards (like mysteries and historical fiction), over time I’ve found myself broadening the list of genres I represent.  For instance, last year I sent out the first memoir, interior design book and horror novel I had ever represented.  If you had asked me a year before if I had any plans to work on those genres, I probably would’ve said no, but the right projects came along that made it easy to say yes.

Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency: I represent approximately 60 authors. People sometimes say that is too many. You have to remember that not everyone is at the same stage at the same time. Some are writing their next book and so there isn’t anything I need to do at that time other than disburse royalties to them. Some I am editing their manuscript and that takes more interaction or some I am querying. Once the query letter goes out, then it’s just checking back with the editors and keeping the authors notified of responses. Early on I had to realize that, while I would like to be an author’s agent for their whole career, that might not happen. Sometimes an author’s writing changes and they don’t fit what I represent. Sometimes an author’s book’s sales are low and they really don’t need an agent any longer. Sometimes an author stops writing for one reason or another.

Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency: About 50.  Some authors have books out now, others are between books, others not active. My list has grown.  I still hunt for the books I wish to represent

Linda Glaz, Hartline Literary: I have 54 at the present. Many are currently on sabbatical for various reasons, but most are actively writing and pursuing publishing credits. Obviously, I’ve learned how important the agent/author relationship is long term, and have adjusted to the different personalities who are amazing to work with, and those who aren’t. I try very hard to stick with “amazing.”

Duvall Osteen, Aragi Inc: I represent roughly 45 clients, but only about half are active at any single time. A few of my authors are professionals in other fields, so they may really only write one or two books. I don’t typically take on clients who only plan to write one book, but in each case, I loved the person and the material so much, I was happy to be a part of the work. My author list hasn’t really changed over time, and I don’t anticipate that it will – I am committed to representing authors whose work I love, and that looks wildly different all the time. You’ll find a lot of diversity on my list, of material and among my authors. I have broad tastes, so I’m always eager to read from a wide variety of voices and styles.

Heather Jackson, Heather Jackson Literary: I currently represent 40 clients at various stages of the publication or pre-publication process, but I try not to ‘sell’ more than 12-15 titles a year so that I can be deeply involved in every aspect of the book’s path to readers.  I believe that the sale to a publisher isn’t the endpoint, but rather the start; I try to use the years I had on the other side of the desk to build a bridge for the author, so they can understand the publishing process best and I can help shepherd them through each step.  The beauty of becoming an agent—and the primary force behind my decision to become one—is that the editorial and creative concepts can be and have been broadened out to all of my interests, not just one segment of the marketplace. As an editor, I could work on one particular genre; now I can work with authors who write commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, and of course, the more practical non-fiction that I have been lucky enough to have had success with throughout my years as a publishing professional. So I’m ridiculously lucky to be able to ‘play’ in the field of the ideas that excite me most while helping authors to find homes for their brilliance and creativity. 


Check out more literary agent interviews with our Agent Spotlight Series!

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