Laura Cross, author of The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, Launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, February 08, 2010
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Laura Cross's family and friends in Detroit, Michigan knew she would move on to bigger and better things when she began writing and performing plays for them as a child. Actually, they hoped she would move on to bigger and better things--they were tired of being her only audience!

When Laura packed up the moving van it was to head to California where she earned Certificates in Writing and Feature Film Writing for the UCLA Writer's Program. Laura's writing life has included magazine writing, script reading for production companies and literary agencies, leading writing workshops and blogging about screenwriting and non-fiction writing. She's also written some absolutely fabulous nonfiction books but sadly, as a ghostwriter, she has to keep the titles under wraps! Laura divides her time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Find out more about Laura by visiting her websites:

Friend her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter: @ScreenplayChick and @TheScribeChick

The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent
By Laura Cross

This book is for every prospective author who has sought to have their manuscript transformed into a printed book. It guides you through the process of contracting a literary agent and convincing them that you are in fact the next great bestseller. From formatting a query letter to ensuring your manuscript looks presentable, every step of the process from inception to execution will be laid out in vivid detail for you.

Both published writers who have successfully found and acquired an agent and literary agents who are inundated with manuscripts and requests in the thousands every year, have been interviewed for this book and have provided their personal stories, tips, and tricks as to how you can get into the publishing industry through an agent. Finally, once you have found your agent, you will learn how to read contracts, accept offers, and understand what details will be handled exclusively by your agent.

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Publishing Group (June 2010)
ISBN: 1601384033

Notes: The print version comes out in June 2010 and you can pre-order it on Amazon. The e-book version is available for purchase on Laura's site, where you can also download a free sample chapter.

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Laura Cross's book The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment.

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: You mentioned that, although you've written over 30 books, this would be the first one with your name on it. Could you tell us a little about that path that led you to so many books, although without the byline?

Laura: I was working with friends and associates--line editing and researching, and helping them organize and outline their books--and somewhere along the road it developed into ghostwriting a complete manuscript. I loved the whole process of bringing a book together and I began offering ghostwriting services--from there it developed into a career.

WOW: What types of books do you ghostwrite?

Laura: Most of my books are prescriptive nonfiction. Initially I specialized in what I knew about (business, entrepreneurship, and marketing) and that gradually grew into additional topics as I began attracting specific types of clients. Now I also write about social media and branding, finance and investment, self-help and relationships, lifestyle and motivation, and health and fitness. I’ve written two travel guides, which were fun, though that’s not a large part of my business.

WOW: I love the possibility of so much variety. As a ghostwriter you don't have the luxury of waiting for a muse to tease the words out of you. People are expecting you to deliver on deadline. Maybe we can all learn a little from your writing habits. Paint us a picture of where and how you write.

Laura: I’m not sure there is a creative muse for prescriptive nonfiction. When it comes to developing a client’s book I’m like a doctor who lines up her daily appointments--every hour of the day is scheduled. Mornings are spent on marketing, social networking, reading blogs, writing posts, answering emails, and developing my own projects. Afternoons I spend on client projects, whether it’s writing or editing or working on a book proposal. My projects are lined up several months in advance, if I didn’t follow a strict regiment I would wander off course and wouldn’t be able to begin the next project on time. Milestones and deadlines are essential.

I have a nice home office with an attached patio (for taking much-needed breaks). It’s a quiet space with no distractions, which allows me to focus. I have a rustic refurbished six-foot wood plank table where I write. I had my eye on that table for three years before I could afford to buy it. It was expensive but it was one of the best investments I ever made--it’s large enough to hold all my papers, notes, and books, and most importantly, my cat, who likes to curl up near me when I’m typing. It creates a romantic, nostalgic atmosphere. It makes me feel like I stepped into an author’s studio in the 1940s. I can’t help but be inspired to write when I sit at that desk.

WOW: Your desk and working space sound wonderful! Do you have any hints for getting the job done? Do you set daily goals for yourself?

Laura: I absolutely set daily goals. Every writing project has a timeline. During the writing phase I try to complete five pages per day.

WOW: Five pages is a good goal. Many of our readers write fiction and debate whether outlines improve books or stifle creativity. Since your books are non-fiction maybe you can add to the debate on outlines from a non-fiction perspective. Do you think they're useful when you're writing?

Laura: I break my projects into three phases: development, writing, and editing/revising. Most of my time is spent on preparation: refining the idea, researching (and interviews), organizing the material, and outlining. I always work with a detailed outline, which the client approves before I commence the writing stage. Sometimes the outline will fluctuate a little once I begin writing, but it usually doesn’t stray too far from the initial direction. Once the detailed outline is developed and approved, I use it as the blueprint or map to follow during the writing stage. I basically lay it out as the foundation of the book and fill in the content. For me, this method makes the actual writing process super easy. I can’t imagine working without an outline.

WOW: I'm in the middle of a non-fiction book and find that I'm not writing in order: first Chapter One, then Chapter Two, etc. Do you write "in order" or find that you jump around from section to section?

Laura: I’m the same! I jump around all the time. Since I complete all the necessary research before I begin writing I’m aware of which sections may be more challenging and which will be easier or more enjoyable. I tend to write the easier or more enjoyable stuff first because I know it will go faster and will allow me to have more time to spend working on the difficult sections.

WOW: Thank goodness, now I know I’m not the only one! Do you ever find you become bored with a project? Do you work on more than one project at a time to avoid losing the enthusiasm for a project?

Laura: I don’t work on more than one client’s project at a time, except during the period of time between finishing the first draft and beginning revisions when the client is reviewing the project and making any notes--I’ll use that time to work on a smaller project, such as editing another client’s book. But I do split my days between working on clients’ projects and my own projects, which helps keep me motivated.

WOW: I'm sure we'll be learning plenty about literary agents during your WOW! Blog Tour for The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published but one question about your experience with literary agents. Do ghostwriters use literary agents to find them work or "sell" their skills to people looking for a ghostwriter?

Laura: Absolutely! I do acquire plenty of clients on my own who initially approach me to develop their book proposals and they turn into ghostwriting projects once they land book deals, but the best ghostwriting projects and much of my gigs come from literary agents and publishers. It’s rumored that more than 80% of traditionally published books are ghostwritten. Many celebrities, experts, motivational speakers, doctors, attorneys, sports figures, scientists, and business leaders lack the time or the skill to write a compelling book and they require ghostwriters or co-authors. And it’s not just nonfiction, some bestselling fiction authors don’t have the time to produce the volume of work released under their names and they hire fiction ghostwriters to write manuscripts "in their style" based on their ideas or story outlines.

WOW: I knew James Patterson worked with ghostwriters but I had no idea it was so widespread! What's next for you? Will your next project have your name on it or be shrouded in the mystery that is ghostwriting? What is your dream-writing project?

Laura: I have a few client book proposals lined up and, of course, those are ghostwritten, but as far as larger book projects right now I’m focused on writing my own book. I really enjoy mentoring other writers and sharing what I’ve learned on my writing path, so the next book will be another one for writers. I’m also focusing on teaching writing classes in a new online platform I’m launching this spring that encourages participants to engage with one another and recreates the live workshop experience.

I’ve adapted a few scripts for clients as a hidden writer (I earned my certificate in Feature Film Writing from UCLA’s Writer’s Program) and my "dream-writing project" is a screenplay adaptation of a specific book I’ve been interested in for a while. I’m still trying to option the film rights, which just became available earlier this year when a producer let his option fingers-crossed.

WOW: Everyone at WOW! will have their fingers crossed for you and we’ll be watching for your name n the credits at our local movie theaters--keep us updated.

Want to join Laura on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

February 8, 2010 Monday
Laura will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Laura's book!

February 9, 2010 Tuesday
Break out the hammer and nails--today Laura Cross tells us how to build a writer's platform. She's also holding a Winner's Choice Giveaway! Winner of the contest wins a PDF of her book Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent or membership to one of her online classes ($369 value): Writing the Non-fiction Book Proposal, Writing the Non-fiction Book, or Establishing Your Writer's Platform.

February 10, 2010 Wednesday
Author Laura Cross tells readers how a good synopsis can get a novel published. And don't miss today's super giveaway! The winner gets to attend one of three online classes ($369 value) Laura is teaching this spring.

February 12, 2010 Friday
Today Laura will be answering questions sent in by readers. Do you have a question for Laura about agents, ghostwriting, writing platforms, or another writing subject? Submit a question and you might win a PDF of her book Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent.

February 15, 2010 Monday
Laura Cross, author of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, tells readers about her life as a ghost--ghostwriter, that is! Don't miss her post How To Land High-Paying Ghostwriting Book Projects.

February 16, 2010 Tuesday
Writer Laura Cross will be sharing Five Secrets Every Writer Should Know About Query Letters with Thursday Bram. You can also enter to win membership in one of Laura's writing classes ($369 value).

February 17, 2010 Wednesday
Stop by for a great interview with Laura Cross, author of Guide to a Literary Agent.

February 18, 2010 Thursday
Laura will be stopping by Hell or High Water Writer with 5 Tips for Polishing Your Pitch and a chance to win a PDF of her book Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent.

February 22, 2010 Monday
Are you ready for an agent? Laura Cross, author of The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, helps you answer that question today. She's also giving away an e-copy of her book.

February 26, 2010 Friday
Stop by Words by Webb for a review of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent by Laura Cross.

March 3, 2010 Wednesday
Laura Cross, author of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, is telling all her secrets today...secrets about query letters. She's also giving away an electronic copy of her book. Don't miss it!

To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to host Laura Cross or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Laura Cross's book The Complete Guide To Hiring A Literary Agent: Everything You Need To Know To Become Successfully Published! And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!


PenPoint Editorial Services said...

Fantastic post...very informative. Does the author have any time to be on any more blogs? I'd love to have her a guest on mine. Thanks.

Margay Leah Justice said...

How did you learn so much about agents? I've been researching and still feel like I know so little about them.

Unknown said...

This is one of the first blog posts that I have read today and I found some great advice to keep me inspired for a while. Although, I am a little jealous that my writing space isn't as nice :) Thanks for all of the advice and insights!

ccarpinello said...

I look forward to your book. Literary agents have long been a mystery to me. I am always looking for different ways to approach them. I am assuming that even though I write children's fiction, I will find a lot of adaptable information.

Glad to see that you write 5 pages a day on your own projects. I have tried using a word count per day but find myself continually checking to see how many words I have, especially when the writing isn't going well.

Cheryl Carpinello
author of "Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend"

Edwina said...

Excellent interview with helpful info!

Please enter me in the drawing:


Anonymous said...

Hi Horrible Sanity, Margay, Janel, Cheryl, and Edwina - glad you enjoyed the interview and found the post informative. Good luck with all your writing endeavors.

@Horrible Sanity - Thanks for your interest, I will email you directly about the possibility.

@Margay - as a ghostwriter I have worked with literary agents for many years and gained quite a bit of insight. However, I did research the topic further when preparing to write the book, including interviewing literary agents and published authors who successfully attained agents.

@Janel - love your avatar! I think all you really need is one item in your writing area that sets the mood, makes you feel good, and keep you inspired. It doesn't have to be an expensive item. It could simply be a motivational quote scribbled on a piece of paper and tacked to your wall.

@ccarpinello, Cheryl - setting a page count goal motivates me to write. Ultimately, the goal is to write - the page or word count is irrelevant. As long as I write, I've achieved the goal -- no point in beating yourself up if you don't hit a specific word or page number. (Of course, when it comes to client projects I have to hit that page count or I'm in trouble :)


Dianne G. Sagan said...

Laura, you are an amazing and talented writer. Great advice about making your time count and keeping things moving. Your book sounds awesome and what a great resource.I'm looking forward to following your tour.

Amber Polo said...

You're book sounds like a winner. So many writers need this information. Even now with 2 agents reading full ms, I may end up back in Square 1.
My blog readers would also love to meet you at Wordshaping -

Thanks for writing your book,

Unknown said...

Dear Laura, I'm learning a lot already from the free chapter download. Thank you! I'm currently putting together a nonfiction book proposal and I have a question I hope you can answer. I know I need to come across to an agent as confident of my material and my ability to deliver it well, but how can I demonstrate my confidence, and relate the scope of each chapter, when the book isn't written yet? ~Deb Kincaid

Desiré Hendricks said...

I'll be following your blog tour this week. The topics are great.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i am new to the world of blogs and writing. I totally enjoyed your interview, especially loved your description of the table where you write and the presence of your cat. As soon as I sit down to write my cat has to be on my lap. maybe I just need a big beautiful table like you describe.
Thanks for all the helpful info. I plan to follow your tour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dianne, Amber, Deb, Desire', and Jill - thanks for your comments.

@Dianne - as a fellow ghostwriter I suspect you have the same experience with keeping things moving with your clients.

@Amber - getting your full manuscript into the hands of two agents at the same time is an impressive accomplishment (and rare, since most agents request exclusive submissions). It sounds like you'll have an agent in no time.

@Deb - when you're pitching a nonfiction book idea to an agent or publisher you're declaring that you are THE go-to expert on the particular subject. When submitting a nonfiction book proposal, even though you haven't written the manuscript yet, you will have conducted extensive research, written one to two sample chapters, identified your target market, analyzed competitive books, and created a detailed outline (chapter by chapter with headings, sub-headings, sub-categories, etc.) You will already know what the book will "look like" when it is written -- the number of chapters, word count, images, illustrations, graphs, charts, examples, anecdotes, case studies, checklists, interviews, etc. -- all of this information should make it easy to relate the scope of each chapter. If you have positioned yourself as an expert and established a strong platform (which are essential elements for landing a nonfiction book deal with a major publisher), then you will have demonstrated that you are more than capable (and confident) to author the book.

@Jill - my cat does the lap thing, too! I can usually work around it. It's when I'm trying to write and he decides he wants to sleep on the computer keyboard that we start having "issues"


Unknown said...

Thanks, Laura. I'm glad I have five months to whip this proposal into shape before my writers conference! Great advice. Best of success with your book. ~Deb Kincaid

Loren said...

I've been looking for a book just like this. I have draft of a finished manuscript and not the slightest clue as to how to shape it and present it properly. Thank you Laura.

Margo Dill said...

I needed this post today. Isn't that weird? Laura, I downloaded your free chapter and that's just what I needed. I am in the midst of looking for an agent for a YA novel that I have worked on for about 5 years--through workshops and critique groups, too. And I told myself I am just going to start sending it and stop tweaking it. And I have received 3 rejections, one request for a partial, and I am feeling down. UGH! But I know that's ridiculous--so I was glad to see the example at the end of your book where the author contacted twenty-two agents. Research and perseverance are the keys, I think. :) (And maybe a glass of wine every now and then.)

Thanks for the free chapter download! Can't wait to see the whole book.


Beth C. said...

Great interview. As an aspiring novelist, I'm always seeking out more information on agents and the querying process. If I'm not lucky enough to win, I'll need to purchase your book.

My question regards ghostwriting. Has it ever bothered you to not be acknowledged in public for your ghostwriting work?

I've had numerous small publications, and I take pride in seeing my name on that byline. I admire ghostwriters for putting forth so much effort without getting the direct credit.

Toni said...

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your expertise! So many of us are trying to do our homework on literary agents, but having the information in one place is a godsend!

I have spent a couple of years ghostwriting website content. I'd certainly enjoy moving on to something more challenging. I look forward to learning more from you.

Larina said...


Your career path is intriguing to me, so I apologize that I'm not asking about the book on literary agents (which sounds terrific), but simply *must* ask what you find most rewarding about ghostwriting. It's an interesting career choice for a writer. Egoless, if you will. Along the same line, what's the most difficult thing about being a ghostwriter? Do you ever finish a book and think, "Boy, I sure wish I could tell people I wrote *that* one"?

danceluvr said...

Since you're a ghost writer, maybe you can answer a question that's been plaguing me for some time.

In a ghost writer contract, often there's a clause that prohibits the ghost writer from revealing s/he wrote the contracted book.

So how can anyone verify your experience if you can't offer any evidence of your involvement?

I mean, I could claim to have ghost written any book, and who's to say otherwise?

I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I've just wondered.

Linda. said...

How do you do it? Everything. Your book is perfect timing. I just completed my proposal and finishing up my sample chapters. I need direction.

good interview,


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm surprised to see so much interest in ghostwriting - if you want to learn more, my blog stops at Day by Day Writer on Friday, Feb 12th and at Freelance Writing on on Monday, Feb 15th will delve deeper into the subject.

@Loren - congratulations on finishing your manuscript. All the best with your agent search.

@Margo - You have a great attitude and you're right - research and perseverance are they key to success. Don't get discouraged. There is an agent that is right for you and your material.

@Beth - I get this question a lot, "Has it ever bothered you to not be acknowledged in public for your ghostwriting work?, and the honest answer to that is a resounding "No". Yes, I'm proud of my writing ability, especially when one of "my" books is successful for the client - but ghostwriting is my job and the credit is the paycheck. The books are not written in my "voice" nor do they come from my initial ideas. It's not "my baby" I'm developing. And though I am often excited about specific projects, they're not something I become passionate about, like they are for the client or for an author writing his or her own book.

@Toni - if you're considering transitioning into ghostwriting books, you'll definitely want to learn more about connecting with literary agents and check out the blog stops this Friday and next Monday.

@Larina - I suppose ghostwriting is an interesting career choice for a writer. It's not something I consciously "choose' - it happened, I enjoyed the process, and (not being a 9 to 5 kinda girl) I quickly realized it was a viable way to make a living on my terms. The best part of being a ghostwriter? I get to choose who I want to work with and the projects I want to write. I can work from anywhere at anytime. Any my salary is based on my value, not an hourly wage. The most challenging aspect of being a ghostwriter? Like anything, there's been a learning curve - learning how to evaluate a project, learning how to effectively capture each client's distinct voice, and learning how to schedule projects to ensure they stay on track and run smoothly.

@danceluvr - to respond to your question "I could claim to have ghostwritten any book and who's to say otherwise?" No professional, ethical, trustworthy ghostwriter would ever reveal (or even "hint") that he or she authored a specific book. Doing so would be unethical and could easily result in a lawsuit. The ghostwriter's reputation would be destroyed. Who would want to work with a ghostwriter who doesn't stay hidden?

So, how can anyone verify a ghostwriter's experience? For portfolio samples you want to be very careful when using ghostwritten material due to non-disclosure agreements. My contracts specify that I may use up to a specific number of ghostwritten content for portfolio purposes, without identifying the “author” or book title (instead I identify a project by topic and type of client – for example, “A how-to entrepreneurial book for a prominent business leader”) Most professional, established ghostwriters receive referrals from literary agents and publishers. Obviously, when I receive referrals for ghostwriting projects from literary agents or publishers, they clearly know the titles of some of my ghostwritten books, because they referred previous projects.

@Linda - congratulations on completing your book proposal. I hope the free chapter from my book provided some additional direction on finding and selecting agents to pitch.


Rturnernow said...

I am so impressed by this book... so invaluable... Cover Design, by the way, PERFECT!

CSD said...

Facebook just said to leave a comment. Didn't say where. ( I know - details ...) Lots! of people left comments there. I hope they read the last post.
Thanks C Donnell

Kathy Adair said...

What a great interview. Thanks for making this terrific offer. I would love an opportunity to receive this book. Thanks to you all.

suzemuse said...

wow what a lot of information! fab-u-lous!! ghostwriting?? wow. please enter me in the drawing i read about on facebook, thanks

Kirsten Cliff said...

This would be the perfect gift for a writer friend of mine who's working on her first book, which is about depression. I know she is almost at the looking-for-an-agent stage and this book could help her so much. Plus it's her birthday on the 22nd so I've just found the perfect gift! Thanks :)

RedHeadedQuilter said...

That was a great interview. Would love to win a copy of her book!

Anonymous said...

Hi Rturnernow, CSD, Kathy, Suzemuse, Kirsten, and RedHeadedQuilter -- thanks for your comments.

I loved the photo of the retro typewriter for the book cover, it's nice to learn other writers get a kick out of it too.


WOW! said...

Hi Ladies!

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. :) We held a random drawing by writing all your names on a slip of paper and picked one out of a bag.

Congratulations goes to "suzemuse"!

I didn't see an e-mail address on your profile, so please contact us at: to claim your prize--a copy of Laura Cross's book, The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent.

Thanks again to every one who commented, and please check out Laura's tour dates for more giveaways and excellent information about agents.

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