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Agent Savant

The musings of literary agent Laurie McLean

Top 10 Ways to De-Stress in a Multi-Book Deal

Written By: laurie - Sep• 10•15

My fantasy author/client, J.M. Frey (@scifrey), has landed her second three-book publishing deal in less than a year. Ambitious. Terrifying. She must have a plan or face total annihilation!!! And she’s nice enough to share her top 10 tips for surviving the next two years with six books to write, edit, and promote.

SkylarksSongCast by JM Frey


by J.M. Frey

YAY! After ten years of writing, slogging, submitting, revising, shopping, and marketing, I have two fantastic series coming out in the next three years. What I am talking about, of course, are my two very awesome three-book deals with REUTS Publications – The Accidental Turn Series and The Skylark’s Saga.

But. Uh-oh. I have six books to write.

So, in order to combat the worrying, the fear, and the amount of writing to be done (I estimate I will have written about 446,000 words in novels/novellas alone between June 2015 and September 2016 if I meet my own deadlines, not counting the blog posts and screenplays), this is how I handle it:

  • Write
    • Carve out time every day. Mine is between 1pm and 4pm, and I try to write an average of 4k in that time. And starting with my next book, I’m hoping to do it on my recumbent exercise-bike desk so I can do my words and my physio at the same time!
  • Don’t Write
    • Don’t. Go do anything else. Hang out with friends at the pub or play board games. Watch TV or a go to the cinema, or the theatre. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play with a kitten. Go to the spa. Refill your creative well, and think through your plot-problems away from the pressure of the blank page and the blinking curser. As tempting as it might be to tell yourself that you are going to just sit there and write and write and write until it’s all done, you’ll burn yourself out. Headaches, eyestrain, and aching shoulders and wrists help no one.
  • Talk it out with other writers/your betas
    • The hardest part of this writing-a-series thing for me has been “And then what happens next, and how does that relate back to what’s already been written, and how will that support what I want to do after?” Finding the perfect balance of plot continuation, over-arching Big Bads, but enough minute interest in the details of the individual scenes and moments in the books has been a struggle. Luckily, the beta readers who all read book #1 have made themselves available to me to do books #2 and #3 as well, so I have people intimately familiar with the book who can help me when I’m stuck.
    • Other writers’ perspectives might help, too. I often tell large chunks of my plots to other writers, bouncing ideas off of them, or getting feedback. Often, when I hear, “Oh, that reminds me of so-and-so’s book” or “Oh, just like in That Important Book” from someone else, I pay attention to that. And generally I use it as a springboard into “Okay, if that’s the way that bit is usually told, what twist can I put on it? How can I make it fresh, different, or told from another perspective?”
  • Talk about literally anything else with people who are not writers
    • Again, take the time to breathe, to de-stress, to touch base with the rest of your life and friends.
  • Carry it with you
    • I have my manuscripts with me all the time when I’m in the editing stage. That way if I’m waiting for an appointment, or in transit, or waiting for a friend, I can do small bursts of red-pen editing.
    • I also have notebooks with me so I can write; alternately, I open a new email addressed to myself and tap out a scene or two.
    • It seems kind of silly, but in this way, you’ll see the grains in the hourglass of the tasks you have to perform trickling down. Even if it’s one at a time, at least they’re moving!
  • But don’t carry it to bed
    • Get enough rest, and make your sleep space your serene space. No work allowed between the sheets!
  • Use your support system
    • Your agent and editors are there for a reason. Bounce ideas off them, ask what they wish they could read in the next books, and don’t be afraid to outright ask, “Well, what would you write if you could write it?” I’ve found that asking always leads me down paths I hadn’t originally thought I’d go, and usually for the better.
    • Let them know what your planned writing schedule is, when they can expect drafts, what you’re working on now, etc. and generally keep them in the loop. That way you don’t feel like you’re writing into the void and they don’t feel kept in the dark. And be realistic about your deadlines. (Note to self: Editing always takes twice as long as I think it will.)
    • Ask for their preferred dates and schedules, too. Don’t be afraid of being honest about whether you think you can meet their deadlines.
  • Be organized
    • Have a file or a selection of note cards with each character’s physical attributes, their common phrases, and their preferences. It makes you look silly if a character hates coffee in book one and loves it in book two.
    • I keep separate notebooks for the two separate series so I can keep all the drabbles, good one liners, and plot ideas separate.
    • I also have a wall of note cards that have reminder notes, plot notes, due dates, etc. in big sharpie so it’s easy to read from my desk.
    • I also keep a folder of files for each separate book on my desktop. And another folder marked “Templates”. Each time I begin to work on a new project, I copy the templates into the novel’s folder and fill them out – pitch, one page-synopsis, three-page synopsis, potential series synopsis, press release, about the author, list of desired places to solicit reviews, appropriate reviewers, appropriate awards submissions, etc. That way I have lots of useful marketing documents when it comes time to do the marketing.
  • Offload what you can – the less you have on your plate, the less heavy it feels
    • Hire a publicity manager, if you can afford it.
    • Buy a book-blog tour from a company you like instead of trying to organize one yourself, if you can afford it.
    • Ask friends to take care of organizing the launch party.
    • Find an intern to help write/send out press releases or update your social media, if they’re willing.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – even if that’s housework help, or editing help, or organizing help. Literally the worst thing someone can say is “No, sorry.”
  • Compartmentalize
    • I choose specific days to work on specific projects, so I’m not trying to do everything at once. And from there I also break that down to “write the thing” and “market the thing” so I know what sort of hat I should be wearing as soon as I sit down.
    • Lists
    • All the lists.
    • All of them.
    • With small, cumulative goals that you can achieve easily.
    • Taped to the wall.
    • Checking things off feels so nice.

Anyway, so that’s how I’m handling it. Every time that little voice from the shadowed corner speaks up, I tell it to hush. I remember that I have nothing to fear, because my publisher, my agent, my editor – they wouldn’t have signed if they didn’t think I could do it. And then I get back at it. I do the thing. I check something off the list nearly every day, even if that’s just “Write 1k words” and that makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something, that I’m getting there, that I’m one step closer on this 446,000 step journey. So…yeah. I got this.

Skylarks Song Deal

Author JM Frey

Fall Titles of Note

Written By: laurie - Aug• 24•15

Wow, everyone! Fuse Literary clients have a ton of great books coming out this Fall! Check out these titles and maybe something will excite your imagination as we head into the colder weather. Nothing like a hot beverage and an exciting book for a cold day or night.

  • A young adult Sherlock Holmes origin story with a female Moriarty as his crime-solving partner instead of his arch-nemesis. Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty.
  • An Aurealis-award winning epic fantasy from a talented new Australian novelist. A Curcible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan.
  • The final book in the bestselling YA Iron Fey series. Yes, we finally have to say goodbye to Ash and Meghan! (Nooooooooo…) The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa.
  • A Fight Club with werewolves paranormal romance. Harvest Moon by Lisa Kessler.
  • A spin off series in the bestselling Immortal Circus universe featuring Mab’s changeling assassin hunting in our world. Yow! Pale Queen Rising by A.R. Kahler.

See more here:


TEEN FUSE: Gideon’s War (Guest Blog Post)

Written By: laurie - Jul• 07•15

I have known award-winning children’s author, Douglas Rees, for a long, long time. When Fuse Literary acquired the assets of Ambush Books, a publishing company that Doug and I founded three years ago, we were thrilled that four of his young adult historical fiction titles would once again shine in the spotlight. Doug is a teen librarian in San Jose, California. And when he was informed recently that kids don’t want to read historical fiction, he got angry. “If we don’t understand history we are doomed to repeat it,” he said. Then he wrote this:   -Laurie


By Douglas Rees

Why write a book about the Spanish-American War, especially one aimed at teens? Because of how totally current it is. Today, the Middle East is full of young Americans slogging through mountain passes that deterred Alexander the Great, or risking their lives in semi-secret service on the plains of Iraq. Beyond these, there are over 400 overseas military posts in almost every corner of what we used to call “The Free World”. The majority of our young people, even if they are not in military service themselves, know someone who has been. Most often this is someone who is a veteran of the fighting in the Great War On Terrorism. (And Not At All For Oil.)

It goes straight back to 1898, to Manila Bay, San Juan Heights, and the coast of Santiago. In July of 1898, the United States was not an imperial nation. In December, it was. In between, in a hundred days of active conflict, at a cost of 365 battle deaths, the United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and title to the Philippines. It created a protectorate over Cuba, arrogating to itself the right to overthrow its government. To secure its Pacific dominions, it connived the takeover of Hawaii from some wealthy and seditious sugar planters who had overthrown the legitimate government. We were Imperial, with an imperial military. In 1898, the U.S. Army, such as it was, had no overseas garrisons. By 1901, it was fighting its way into the Forbidden City of Beijing.

It was a revolutionary change, and we today all live in the world it created. We rely on today’s young Americans to maintain it, and they will be stuck with the bill. It may be that some of them are wondering why. Gideon’s War is a book for them.


Gideon’s War, a previously unpublished historical novel about Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and the Spanish-American War, is out now from Teen Fuse. It joins three of Douglas Rees’ YA backlist titles: Smoking Mirror (a tale of Paul Gauguin in the South Seas), Lightning Time (a pre-Civil War story about the infamous John Brown), and The Janus Gate (a ghost story about a famous John Singer Sargent painting.) All are told from a teen’s point of view.

FUSE Literary Acquires Penumbra Literary and Adds Jennifer Chen Tran as Associate Agent

Written By: laurie - May• 26•15

May 25th 2015 – San Francisco, California – FUSE LITERARY, the hybrid literary agency that brings technology and innovation to the more traditional aspects of book publishing, today announced the acquisition of Penumbra Literary LLC and the addition of its principal and owner Jennifer Chen Tran as an Associate Agent at the firm.

Jennifer Chen Tran

“We are always on the lookout for people and technology that will further our vision to create the literary agency of the future,” said Laurie McLean, who formed Fuse Literary (formerly Foreword Literary) two years ago alongside her business partner Gordon Warnock.

Gordon and Laurie were impressed by Jennifer’s entrepreneurial spirit and professionalism, as well as her wide-ranging client list and background in publishing law. Penumbra’s focus on books that can change the world also fit right in with the Fuse Literary mentality. Prior to establishing Penumbra Literary, Jennifer served as Of Counsel at The New Press and interned at Zachary Shuster and Harmsworth literary agency.

“We’ve always sought to not only be the change in publishing but to do so in a socially responsible manner,” Gordon said. “We’re very excited about what Penumbra brings to the table.”

“I’ve been following Fuse for awhile,” Jennifer said, “and after Jen Karsbaek stepped back from being an agent to being the agency’s Midwest scout, I reached out to Gordon and Laurie, and things just developed from there. The timing was right for me both personally and professionally and I can’t say enough good things about Laurie, Gordon, and everyone else at Team Fuse.”

“Fuse Literary is at the forefront of continual changes in the publishing industry, and their motto of ‘Igniting Author Careers’ is progressive and in perfect alignment with my core values for my author-clients. I am elated to join Team Fuse and continue to grow and champion my authors’ careers, and to assist them in publishing books that entertain, delight, and make a difference in the world.”

As a Fuse agent, Jennifer is now seeking a balance of nonfiction and fiction, specifically: literary fiction, commercial fiction, women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, mature Young Adult, New Adult, graphic novels, memoir, narrative fiction, lifestyle books, narrative non-fiction, and commercial non-fiction (particularly in the areas of biography, current affairs, medical, history, pop-culture, social entrepreneurism, and psychology). As a second-generation Taiwanese-American, Jennifer is particularly drawn to fiction that represents diverse characters from marginalized and under-represented communities. As for non-fiction, Jennifer loves to work with passionate individuals in shaping book proposals that are both inspirational and instructive.


Fuse Literary is a new type of hybrid literary agency, blending the knowledge and skills of traditional book publishing with the brash new opportunities engendered by digital publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, social media, and technology. The company has agents in California, New York, Vancouver, and Chicago. Founding partners Laurie McLean and Gordon Warnock are joined by agents Connor Goldsmith, Emily Keyes, Michelle Richter, Sara Sciuto, and Jennifer Chen Tran, as well as book scout Jen Karsbaek, in house publicist Estelle Hallick, and a wide-ranging group of interns and readers. For more, visit or follow us on Twitter @FuseLiterary.

For more information contact:
Gordon Warnock, Fuse Literary, 916-549-5864
Jennifer Chen Tran, Fuse Literary 516-350-1653

Big News Coming

Written By: laurie - May• 18•15

Fuse Literary is making a big announcement on Monday, May 25th: Memorial Day holiday. It will be memorable. Stay tuned…

Under His Spell

Written By: laurie - Apr• 07•15

Happy Book Birthday to Linda Wisdom for Under His Spell from Joyride Books. It’s a contemporary romance that takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, where two local kids “conjure” up a husband for their divorced mom. While the hero is all flesh and blood, the romance is pure magic. Touches of gothic haunts abound, as well as Wisdom’s classic snarky humor.

Pitch-O-Rama March 28th!

Written By: laurie - Feb• 25•15


Join me and 11 other agents and editors for the 12th annual Women’s National Book Club, San Francisco Chapter’s Pitch-O-Rama from 8 am to noon on Saturday, March 28th! At $65 for members and $75 for non-members, that comes out to around $6 a pitch. I would say I feel cheap, but instead I’ll say, “What a bargain for all you San Francisco Bay area writers!”

The details can be found by downloading this 2-page flyer! or by visiting the WNBA-SF website:

Half-Million Dollar Deal for Michael J. Sullivan

Written By: laurie - Feb• 25•15

I am so proud to tell you all that we just inked a $540,000 deal for epic fantasy and science fiction author Michael J. Sullivan of Riyria fame. Hadrian and Royce would be so proud of their Creator. Read the anatomy of the deal here:

Michael J. Sullivan

Happy Book Birthday, Riding the Odds!

Written By: laurie - Feb• 02•15

Riding the Odds by Lynda K. Scott

I love science fiction. I love romance. I love adventure. And, apparently, I also love sentient tattoos! This book has it all. And it’s a rollicking ride to boot. Give it a try. It’s only $1.99, but that price won’t last.

Vote for The Forever Song!

Written By: laurie - Jan• 13•15

Forever Song