My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness. I pour it out in a poem to the king, shaping the river into words. (Psalm 45:1)

Welcome to our new blog!

Note that this blog is primarily for members of CWOSA. Only those members who have signed up as authors to the blog are able to post on this site, although all may leave comments.

You may not pass on any posts from this blog without permission of the author, but you may pass on a link if you wish to share something written.

To join CWOSA, you are required to either be a Christian writer or aspiring writer who lives in Southern Africa, or a Southern African Christian writer living overseas. If you qualify and wish to learn more, click on this link.


1. Read the topmost post, then click on "comments".
2. Read the last comment to see the most recent addition to the story.
3. Copy/past the entire story to date into a new comment box.
4. Add a further three words.
5. Click on Comment as. If you are signed in, your name will appear. Click on Publish.
6. If you're not signed in, click the small dropdown arrow, and select Name/URL. Give us the name we know you as, and click on Publish.

Remember! This is meant to be a story!
Have fun!

Thursday, 29 November 2012

LOOKING FOR AN AGENT: What He Doesn't Want to Hear.

I have recently had my first book, Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, published and released to the global market. I did it without an agent. I'm blessed!

However, I am now in the market for an agent. I realise that I will only have one crack at each one I approach, so I'm doing my homework.

What should I not say in my query letters to them? 

Following is  a list of some of the things I should avoid saying:

  • "I see from your website that you represent science fiction and fantasy, but I have written this cosy romance, and thought you might like to look at it."
Agents often specialise in specific types of literature for a reason. They have their contacts in that field, and that's where they are confident. I must study their websites, and if they don't represent your field, I mustn't  waste their time or mine. I must look for another agent.

  • "I have attached my novel for you to read. It is a rather large download, but I'm sure you'll find it worth the effort."
I must avoid filling his (her) inbox with long emails or attachments. I need to send a brief, well-formatted query. If the agent wants to see my work, he'll ask. Sending a full manuscript is a guaranteed formula to make sure he won't even read my work.

  • "If you are interested, I will send you the book as an attachment."
If he is interested, he will almost certainly only want to see a full book proposal telling him about the book, why I've written it, who I've written it for, and why I'm the best person to write the book. He will then decide if it's worth his time reading the entire manuscript. Again, I need to study the submission guidelines on his website.

  • "This is a draft copy and I'm open to your suggestions to improve it."
I must remember, I'm writing to an agent, not an editor. Premature submission is not an option if I'm trying to find an agent. He is a busy man and according to what I've read, most of his reading is done at home. He's not interested in material that is not the very best I have to offer. If I recognise it needs more work, I must do the work--or pay an editor to help.

  • "My writing is on a par with John Grisham but without the legal angle." 
I may think my writing is like John Grisham, and my mother may agree. It's highly unlikely, however, and it's for the agent to decide. Don't try to compare your work to other authors or boast about your amazing writing skills. He is a professional, and he will decide for himself.

  • "I have a number of other books I'd be happy to send you to look at as well."
Unless this is the first of a series, I must limit myself to one book. If it is one of a series, I should mention that in my query letter, but only offer to send a proposal for the one book. Yes, the agent may be interested in knowing I have other books in me, but this is not the time for me to impress him with all the books he's going to have to look at. At this stage, he's only interested in whether I am a good enough writer, and whether he'll be able to sell my work--the book on offer.

  • "I have published eleven books which all sold well." 
Truth is, I have contributed to ten published books, and had one book published by a major publishing house. Strength Renewed, my first "solo" book, was released a couple of months ago, so it's too early to say how well it's selling. I must remain truthful and not try to give a false picture of my abilities and success (or failure) rate.

  • I know this book has the makings of a top best-seller, and it will make a lot of money for both of us.
I can't possibly know this. Come to that, nor can he. I mustn't have unrealistic expectations, nor try to tell him how good I think I am. It's up to him to decide if I'm any good.

  • Sorry to bother you again, but did you receive my last three emails?
Agents are busy people. Some will acknowledge receipt of the email. Most will not. Some will send a form letter once they've looked at it. Others will write a short email. Still others won't reply at all. I find this bad manners, but according to much of what I've read, it often happens. I need to read their websites and make a note of when I can expect to hear from them. If they say I won't hear for 3-4 weeks, I should wait at least 5 weeks before dropping a polite note to see if they have had a chance to look at it yet. If I get no reply then, I should move on to the next agent.

  • It is two weeks since I wrote to you and there has been no reply. You might at least show a bit of decency and respond promptly. I'm a busy person, and I'm sitting waiting to hear from you!
Whatever I do, even if I think they are being tardy or unreasonable, I should not show my annoyance. I am not only trying to "sell" my book idea, I'm trying to sell myself as a client. If they think I'm going to be a problem, they will immediately say, "No thank you!" Even if they accept me as their client, I need to remember I am not their only author. I must not expect to hear from them every day or two.

  • I received your letter of rejection, but . . . "
So he's written to say "No thanks!" At least he's written. I need to acknowledge his letter politely, and thank him for his time--then move on. I should never be so unprofessional as to try and change his mind. No is no. If I really believed he was the right person, it would be a good thing to take another look at my query and see what might have put him off. But it's too late to try again with him. I must remember--I only have one shot.

  • Oh fantastic! You've sold my novel? Now I can quit my day job and start my next book.
From my sale of Strength Renewed, I know only too well that signing the contract was only the first step in a long journey. Even now that the book is on the shelves of shops across the world, I still have little time for writing that next book. Most of my writing time is spent on marketing and blogging. If I still had a day job, I would not be quitting. (Taking some leave to catch up on marketing, maybe. But I would need that income!)

Okay, now I know what not to say, I need to figure out what I do need to tell a prospective agent. More in a few days.

OVER TO YOU: Did you know all these? Do you have anything to add? Is there any point you don't agree with?

SHIRLEY CORDER lives near the coast in Port Elizabeth, South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on times when God spoke to her during the rough times spent in the cancer valley. Please visit Shirley at, where she encourages writers, and at, where she encourages those in the cancer valley. Follow her on Twitter or on FaceBook, or sign up for her newsletter.


  1. Go for it, Shirley! You are an example to all of us.

  2. I have read this information before, but it's useful to read it all again in one place.

    Thank you for an interesting and helpful blog