Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents [book review]

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to traditional publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents 2017: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over.

No, really.

I love writers and publishers guides. They’re on my Christmas list every year. But this is the first one I’ve read cover to cover and come back for more. And that’s saying something.

Laid out like any other writers guide, there are essays and articles on writing advice, publishing information, and an introduction to planet literary agent before getting to the good stuff. The listings. Who’s buying, who’s selling, who’s looking for what and when. It’s all good stuff, and I can’t get enough.

Jeff Herman has a wonderful sense of humour, which helps make typical writing and publishing advice come alive and keeps the reader engaged. The listings follow an interesting format, with the agency or agent answering a series of questions. It gives you a good sense of who they are and what they do and each get equal space in the book.

Agent Questions

  • Describe the kinds of works you want to represent
  • Describe what you definitely don’t want to represent
  • How do you want writers to pitch to you?
  • Describe your education and professional history
  • How did you become an agent?
  • Knowing what you do now, would you do it again? If not, what might you do instead?
  • Do you charge fees? If yes, please explain
  • When and where were you born, and where have you lived?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not working?
  • List some of the titles you have recently placed with publishers
  • Describe your personality
  • What do you like reading/watching/listening to on your own time?
  • Do you think the business has changed a lot over the past few years? If yes, please explain
  • What do the “Big 5” mean to you?
  • How do you feel about independent/small presses?
  • What are your feelings about self-publishing?
  • Do you think Amazon is good or bad—or both—for the book business?
  • What do you like and dislike about your job?
  • What are ways prospective clients can impress you, and what are ways they can turn you off?
  • How would you describe the “writer from hell”?
  • Describe a book you would like to write
  • Do you believe in a higher and/or lower “power”?

Thorough, right?

There’s also a section dedicated to Canadian publishers, which I heart.

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents 2017: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over is available now from Amazon, Chapters, and anywhere else you buy books.

Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents

The Writer’s Best Friend and Bible!

Writers, agents, and editors all agree that Jeff Herman’s Guide is the must have, go-to reference for everyone who writes. This book will get you past the slush piles and into the hands of the people who have the power to publish.


With Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents you will learn the names and contact information for hundreds of agents and editors, and will be given the “code” for how to win them over. More comprehensive than ever, this 21st edition will give you all the insider information you need to get published, including how to write knockout pitch letters and proposals, as well as an expanded Canadian section.

Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation [book review]

Travel Canadian Pacific

If you know anything about Canadian history you know the Canadian Pacific Railway company played a role in shaping it. Marc H. Choko’s Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation tells the story based on CP’s publicity output—their marketing and graphic design in particular. It’s a unique take on telling a brand story while educating readers on how public and private interests can align for the greater good. In this case, forming a unified Canada.

Being raised in Canada, I learned about CP’s scandalous beginnings from a political point of view. I imagined the private company as the big baddie, trying to monopolize the rail industry by outbidding all competitors and making backroom deals with politicians. While it’s not not what happened, this book adds another side to the story, the part where provinces (NS, NB, BC) refused to join the Canadian Confederation without the promise of a railway linking them to (now) Ontario/Quebec and how the British government wouldn’t/couldn’t fund it. Also added was the HUGE obstacle of the Canadian Shield and Rocky Mountains—and even once CP had the contract they were near bankrupted several times finding ways across these untamed wilds.

Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation cover

Oh, and if the railway didn’t happen out west then the United States would have annexed BC—the history of the Pacific Northwest (up until 1846 this was Alaska-California under the control of British North America) was interesting in particular as the motivation for keeping British Columbia under British control was for two reasons: 1) it seemed like a shorter route to Asia and 2) gold rush. Those were the only reasons because everyone out east thought the west was worthless.

CP had an uphill battle because this opinion was so prevalent. So the company advertised. They convinced their workers to talk up the west whenever they returned home to their families and communities, they brought in influencers (sorry, travel journalists) and gifted them all-inclusive luxury vacations so they would return to Europe and share their adventures. They built stunning hotels and created a steamship line to lure wealthy travellers across the sea and continent. And over time they even created mid-range accommodation so the new middle class could come too.

Duchess Steamships Newest and Largest

Building a national railway was all well and good but CP was a for-profit company and therefore needed profits. Tourism was one thing, but to keep the rail lines safe and to increase land values they needed more people living out west. So they advertised. They worked with the government. And they built ready-made farms for people.

Because the (eastern) Canadian settlers had such a poor opinion of the west, CP reached out to Americans and Europeans instead, offering amazing deals and door-to-door (ish) travel. This was of interest to me because this is how my great grandparents came to the Canadian prairies—the promise of affordable land, a farm, and a home. I knew they got a good deal on the land but this is a whole other layer to their story.

Own Your Own Home in Canada

For 374 pages of Canadian Pacific: Creating a Brand Building a Nation, take in the history, complexity, and ingenuity of a company created from a prime minister’s vision for a transcontinental railway. Learn how the company overcame devastating obstacles like political scandal, sabotage, financial ruin, the Great Depression, two world wars, recession, competition, and critique by holding on to a clear vision, creative marketing, influential graphic design, and diversification.

One note: I read a PDF review version and must say, I have missed out. I thought this was a marketing book so didn’t mind the digital format but more than half the pages are images of CP advertisements and historical photos. If I had the hardcover I would have enjoyed this book much more. As it stands, it was a joy to read, even if it did take me six months.

Word Workout by Charles Harrington Elster [review]

People judge you by the words you use.

word workout

For the past two months I’ve spent my commuting time strengthening my vocabulary.

Fun stuff, right?


Word Workout, written and narrated by author Charles Harrington Elster, is a four-part audiobook series for improving vocabulary. I’ve tried similar programs and had trouble keeping up but not this time. This time, I kept up and learned a lot!

Maybe it’s the program pacing, maybe it’s because Elster spends ample time on each word pronouncing, describing, defining, and taking about, or maybe driving in my car is the perfect way to consume this style of teaching, but I found this program fun and worthwhile.

Published by Macmillan Audio, Word Workout is a nice way to spend a commute. There are quizzes at the end of each section—you’re not to advance until you get all the questions right! I’ve gone through the first two levels and am looking forward to levels three and four.

In a world where good grammar and strong writing skills are no longer seen as important, I’m thrilled an audiobook series like this is around reminding me the words I use say a lot about me. This program is a good reminder I can always improve my craft. Just because I’m an employed writer doesn’t mean I know everything!

Dancing on the Head of a Pen [Book Review]

Of the nearly eight million words that have floated through my head onto a page, some of which have been deemed publishable, I am happy with about four dozen sentences. Four of those sentences I think are especially fine. I weep whenever I read them in public, mostly at the thought of having been lucky enough for those words to have chosen me and for my having been smart enough to say yes to them when they came my way. (80)

Dancing on the Head of a Pen

Dancing on the Head of a Pen from prolific writer Robert Benson is not just a book about writing a book. It’s a book about writing (you know, the action part) a book.

And don’t let the title fool you. Sure, it’s an artful look at the philosophical side of the craft, but it doesn’t stay there. From making decisions to the discipline of showing up and writing every day, this book about writing a book takes the reader on a journey from inquisition to inspiration. Really!

The book came into my life at an interesting time. I had been exhausted for months and used it as an excuse to watch TV instead of write.

I didn’t know what to write, my ideas never went anywhere, no one seemed interested, my day job took the best of me.

My excuses, although true, weren’t the truth. I wasn’t writing because I got out of the habit. Instead of pushing through when things got tough I reverted to thinking about writing, wishing I was writing, and reading books about writing. Then I read Benson’s chapter on staying sharp. “Whether working on a book at the moment or not, a writer should always be writing.”

The book dropped out of my hands and I picked up my notebook. I plotted a short story and entered it into a writing contest. In an instant (understatement!) my attitude turned and my excuses evaporated. He’s right. Even when I’m not working on anything I need to keep writing.

Always be writing

After my breakthrough I picked up Dancing on the Head of a Pen and continued on. It was here I found advice I’ve never considered: don’t share your work too soon.

Too many suggestions from too many directions too early and a writer can be devastated and unable to write for days, certain the work is no good and never will be. Too much talk too soon and the writer gets lost, causing the work to slow to a crawl. (152)

I thought about my short story and recalled a few months before sharing the idea with friends. They laughed it off and I laughed with them. “Yeah, how silly.”

At the time I thought little of the event, the idea was silly. So why did I stop writing? Was this where things derailed? Because I shared my silly idea too soon?

I don’t know if the idea is good or not, I don’t know if I’ll win the contest or if it will go any further. But now I know my story needed to be written.

No matter what, keep on writing. Keep it close, until it’s finished, and then share it with anyone who will listen.

There are stories that must be told and must be heard, stories waiting on you and me to do the telling. (164)

Murder Simply Brewed [book review]

Murder Simply Brewed

Murder Simply Brewed by Vannetta Chapman

Just listen to this description of Murder Simply Brewed (An Amish Village Mystery) by Vannetta Chapman.

Spring has arrived in Middlebury, Indiana, and Amber Wright is optimistic about the growing profit from her collection of Amish shops—until she receives a call that Ethan Gray is dead. Hurrying over to A Simple Blend, she finds a solitary hole in the front window and the store manager lying next to the espresso machine, dead from an apparent heart attack. All the money is still in his register. When Amber hires a young Amish woman, Hannah Troyer, to take over the shop’s duties, the two women become fast friends—as well as amateur sleuths.

What now? As soon as I read the synopsis I exclaimed “I have to read this book!”

To which my husband shook his head.

An Amish murder mystery is not in my regular reading repertoire, not even close. But I was intrigued. Nay, hooked. What’s there not to love? Set in modern times this old-school teenager teams up with an Englisher to discover if the grumpy coffee-shop worker really did have a heart attack…or if he was murdered.

Of course he was murdered. It’s in the title.

I don’t know much about Indiana or the Amish culture but it didn’t distract me from enjoying this well-written book. Sure, people fell in love after, like, three days but how is that different from any other romance novel? And there’s a murder mystery! It was entertainment bliss.

It was!

The pacing was good, the characters were interesting enough (although I wish Hannah was the main character instead of Amber, I thought Amber was boring…but maybe Hannah will get to star in the next book), and I really couldn’t guess who the villain was.

Spoiler alert!

Although, if I’m honest I got lost when the culprit was revealed. Where did the snake come from? And what was that whole sugar-swapping thing again? How was that not a problem for anyone else? Oh yeah, and what was the whole Larry thing about? That didn’t even make sense! I mean, I know it was explained but it felt like an afterthought. Oh…and the solve seemed a bit too easy after all the mystery and intrigue and suspense building up to the climax. And, was anyone even punished? Did I miss that part?

But I liked the book enough to let all that stuff go.

I also enjoyed how the Amish facts were weaved into the storyline and I didn’t feel like I was in school. Most of the details weren’t random but instead elements to help move the characters towards solving the murrrrrder.

Would I recommend this book? Sure! Have fun, but don’t for a second take any sleuthing tips from Amber and Hannah. Would I read the sequel? Oh yes. Especially if Hannah is the star!

Murder Simply Brewed (An Amish Village Mystery) is available on Amazon, Zondervan, Barnes & Nobel, and Booksamillion in paperback, e-book, or audio book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.