The Next Step Is A New Step

Okay, so after 4 years of reading, researching, note-taking, sitting-and-thinking, writing, drafting, redrafting, deleting, polishing and proof-reading, I have finally finished the first novel in my planned series of nine novels set during Hollywood’s heyday. Book One opens in 1927 at the birth of the talkies and Book Nine closes in 1959 at the death of the movie studio system.

But that only means I’ve taken the first step on the Road to Publication. The next step? Convince a literary agent to read the first few chapters. If they like what they read, they’ll ask to see the rest. If they like that, they’ll offer to represent my work to potential publishing houses. And then…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Contacting literary agents is done by what’s called a ‘query letter’ which must be:
(a) succinct…the first commandment of query letters is, ‘Thou shalt not exceed one page.’
(b) professional…no scented, pink notepaper or chocolates – no matter how expensive or delicious
(c) memorable…literary agents receive up to 100 of these letters each week so yours had damn well better stand out
(d) convincing…with 100 of these to go through each week they’re just looking for an excuse to say “No thanks!”
(e) intriguing…the aim of the query letter is to get them to say, “Send me your first three chapters.”
(f) relevant…if the only sort of author they represent writes books on politics and religion why would you waste everyone’s time, patience and postage stamps asking them to represent your novel about 1920s Hollywood?

AND I need to accomplish all of this in three paragraphs on one page. But aside from that, really, there’s no pressure. Needless to say, pulling this off is an art form unto itself. So on the pages of this blog I’m going to share with you my process as I work my way down a carefully-filtered list of literary agents with whom I think I might be a good match. Wish me luck – any and all comments are welcome!


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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13 Responses to The Next Step Is A New Step

  1. Barry Allender says:

    Hello Martin, another chapter in your life, I know you have done your best and I am looking forward to seeing you reach your success, all that research, time and effort will pay off , good luck and I know you may have go through many agents before one says yes, but one will say yes, I am sure, to a wonderful 2011, Barry Allender

  2. Robert says:

    Good lux and which of your new characters have you based on me? .

    • Philosophy Club Co-Pres says:

      Oh, Robert, you want SEVERAL characters based upon you? I’d settle for a measly little one! (Bryan wants three.)

  3. Chezzie says:

    Go get ’em MFTB, if anyone can do this you can!!! I await the next chapter with anticipation.
    Happy New Year to you both…………………
    Love Chezzie xx

  4. Renee says:

    Martin I hope there’s not many new steps to take before some literary agent snaps you up and puts you to print. I’m certain your book is more than worthy for Amazon, and I WANT TO READ IT!

    Good luck all the way honey! X

  5. Gary Griffiths says:

    I am thrilled that you are willing to share this with me. I will read everything in your blog. Thanks Love Gary.

  6. Martin,

    Your comments are on track as far as they go. Two other important steps will make for success in locating a literary agent. First, you need to search out the most likely agents for your historical fiction. Second, you need to discover what titles somewhat like your title these literary agents have placed with publishers (so that a reference can be dropped into your 3 paragraphs).

    For example: A year ago (December 11, 2009) this debut fiction was placed.
    Son of the late Hollywood director Preston Sturges, P.G. Sturges’s SHORTCUT MAN, a sharp-edged crime novel set in LA featuring a fixer with a conscience who is hired by a film producer to follow his wife, bringing his work a little too close to home, to Anna deVries at Scribner, in a two-book deal, by Nicole Robson and Ryan Fischer-Harbage at Fischer-Harbage Agency (World).


  7. Vilma Daprano says:

    Hey Martin I’m thrilled that you are doing this – I will certainly be following your blogs till publication! I would have loved to have been around in those days in Hollywood with the furs and silk gowns etc. Love the glamour – you would have fit right in too!



  8. Melsy says:

    Hey my first blog! Way to go Marty. Reminds me of that night at the shrine so many years ago. I’ll see if I can find the photo…..
    Good luck (or shouldn’t i say that?) with the sharks.


  9. Sunshine says:

    good idea martin darling. sort of like Julia and Julia. Who will play you in the movie adaptation?? i am subscribing and following your every word. sounds like a fun ride. happy new year my sweet. xox

  10. Linda Mansouria says:

    Hey, Martin,
    Go get ’em tiger! I have no doubt your dream will be coming true in no time at all. Soon we will all be asking for your autograph. I wish you lots of success and good luck.

  11. Barb says:

    Oh Marties, Good Luck and how excitment!
    I am sure you will soon be famous so don’t forget us, will you.
    Big hugs,

  12. Jen says:

    Hey Martin,
    What an awesome idea!! I have no doubt, that you’ll have success, because you’re such a go-getter….and very funny too! I can’t wait to read the book.
    Best of luck!

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