If you reached this page by searching for my name on Google …

… you’re most likely looking for my business, Shari’s Ink: Copywriting & Creative Services. I do all my freelance journalism, writing services, social media strategy, and communications consulting via Shari’s Ink. Please head over there now for my portfolio, contact information, and available services.

This site, ShariLopatin.com, is my official writer’s page and personal blog. Thank you for your interest!

Literary Agent Tip #2: DON’T GO ROGUE

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Yes, I know this is in direct contradiction to my blog’s tagline, “Professional Rogue Writer,” but I refuse to go rogue with literary agents. Why?

Because if I don’t follow their rules for submission, they don’t see my pitch.

It’s that simple, folks.

  • If they ask for an emailed query letter with one sample chapter, don’t include the first five.
  • If they request all pitches go to a general email for query letters, don’t send yours to their personal email.

Trust me, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. I’m used to breaking the rules to make connections. It’s how I’ve met major magazine editors and pitched them article ideas; it’s how I’ve uncovered story leads from difficult-to-find sources. In fact, I can contribute much of my current-day success to going rogue.

But when I spoke to a director of submissions at a major literary agency in New York a few weeks ago, he told me this: “The better you follow their instructions, the better chance you’ll have of getting read.” In fact, he said circumventing the literary agents’ directions probably ensures they won’t see your pitch–and if they do, they may not want to work with you.

Following the literary agents’ rules shows humility. It shows your willingness to collaborate. Most of all, it shows that you respect their time.

And guys, I can tell you that I understand this.

When I worked as a newspaper reporter, I couldn’t stand when PR people wanted me to write a story on their company, but disregarded my requests. I was always more likely to work with PR people who respected my time.

If literary agents feel the way I did as a reporter, then guess what? I’d better listen to their submission rules. And you better, too.

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

Rolling Stone, Rape, and Journalism

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It started off innocent enough. A female college student. An alleged gang rape. A magazine journalist trying to do the right thing.

I didn’t read Rolling Stone’s article, “A Rape on Campus,” about an alleged gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia frat house. But for the sake of this commentary, I didn’t have to read it.

All I read was Rolling Stone’s “Note to Our Readers” published on Dec. 5, 2014 — and that was enough.

The note, published by Managing Editor Will Dana, admits Rolling Stone’s failure to properly investigate and verify the woman’s story. It reads, “due to the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her.”

Understandable, right? Maybe for that small, weekly community newspaper, where circulation doesn’t exceed 22,000 and most of its reporting staff are interns or rookies out of college. But for freakin’ Rolling Stone Magazine, which churned out an article generating worldwide headlines and prompting a university investigation … ummm, no.

Here’s the problem with Rolling Stone’s decision.

They let the first rule of good, hard, ethical journalism slide: objectiveness. Which means checking both sides, regardless of your thoughts on the issue’s sensitivity. If your source is a Deep Throat, then you verify facts elsewhere.

This seems cold, but folks, the consequences of failing to conduct yourself in this manner, as a professional journalist, could be far colder … like what happened with Rolling Stone.

Recent reports from The Washington Post and other news outlets have since surfaced, showing “there now appear(s) to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account,” according to Rolling Stone’s note to readers.

Now, is it possible Jackie was sexually assaulted or even raped? Of course. But due to Rolling Stone’s failure to remain objective, and thoroughly verify her account, the magazine just created a greater boundary for any rape victim to cross when convincing the authorities of an attack.

Perhaps, Rolling Stone should have just stuck to its journalistic guns the first time, and refused to run Jackie’s story unless its reporters could contact the alleged attackers.

And I’m talking from experience.

Eight years ago, when I worked as a newspaper reporter covering education, a group of three girls approached me from a local college. They accused the college of covering up sexual harassment, and sometimes even assault, on a regular basis.

Of course, I took this very seriously, and started looking to interview more sources. However, no one would go on record. Since no one reported anything to police, I couldn’t verify crime reports. Eventually, I told the girls if they refused to cooperate and go on record, no story. They didn’t, and therefore, nothing ever ran.

Which brings to light something else: is this mistake by Rolling Stone representative of what’s happening everywhere to good journalism?

With the rise of social media and the blogosphere, I have seen the decline of traditional journalistic ethics in lieu of special interests and editorialized rants. This isn’t everywhere … yet. But what happens when the lines between propaganda and journalism are blurred? What happens when we can no longer trust that our sources of news are objective, allowing us to decide for ourselves?

Rolling Stone should have never made the decision it did, regardless of its editors’ and/or reporters’ views on the sensitive nature of rape. By giving in to their subjectivity, they negated objectivity, and only further tainted the very issue they were trying to protect.

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, journalist, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics (like this post). Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

5 Literary Agents Who Blog About Query Writing

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I hope that someday, when I land a literary agent (and then a publishing contract), I can share with you the magical query letter which sealed the deal.

Until then, I can’t tell you if I’m doing things right, but I know five others who can! Before I started writing my novel’s query letter, I conducted plenty of research on WHAT literary agents look for in a solid pitch. I asked myself:

  • Which queries generate interest, and why?
  • Is there a certain format that works?
  • What information should I exclude?

To answer those questions, I read a lot. But specifically, here are 5 literary agents (or agencies) who helped me the most. They either blog about the query writing process, or post general advice on their websites:

1) Rachelle Gardner: literary agent, Books & Such

2) The Knight Agency: A Literary Agency

3) Janet Reid, Literary Agent

4) BookEnds Literary Agency

5) Query Shark (OK, maybe not a literary agent, but an AWESOME resource!)

And although this isn’t from a literary agency, Writer’s Digest published an awesome list of successful query letters which landed agents: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries.

So if you’re hoping to be the next Gillian Flynn or James Dashner, I hope this list helps you!

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

Why Quality Still Matters on Social Media

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Ever since Facebook’s latest algorithmic checkmate, the Internet has been buzzin’ about ways for brands to continue reaching their followers.

(In case you haven’t been tracking the trends, Facebook dropped its organic reach to low, single-digit percentages. In other words, if you don’t pay to promote your posts to your current followers, most won’t see you.)

Here are some of the conclusions I’ve read these past few months, from other social media experts:

  • It won’t stop at Facebook. Paying to reach your followers will become the new norm across all social media. Soon, other platforms—like Twitter and LinkedIn—may follow suit.
  • Creating quality content will no longer be enough. You’ll have to reinforce your message through as many places as possible (Facebook, LinkedIn, email, Twitter, etc.).
  • For the first time since social media swept the world off its feet, frequency of posts may supersede quality.

So whether you’re a writer, a business owner, or a content marketing nut, here’s what I want to talk about: this sudden notion that quantity will begin trumping quality. Ahem. Yeah, I don’t think so.

First, let me state this:

I do agree that you should reinforce your message through as many channels as possible, as long as it makes sense. Social media should never be your only marketing tool. When possible, include email, SEO/SEM, print, banner ads, T.V., radio, and even billboards.

But just because Mark Zuckerberg shook the rug under our feet, we should not start questioning the validity and importance of producing quality content. Why? It’s simple, really:

Even if you post five times per day, NO ONE will pay attention to your posts if they aren’t moved to action.

And my friends, only quality posts that are engaging, strategic, and visually compelling will prompt action—whether through likes, shares, link clicks, or comments. As a writer, you need to understand your audience, you need to know your voice, and you have to recognize what this medium was developed to do.

Social media was designed to be social, and I think many companies or brands have forgotten that. If your content isn’t quality, relevant, and engaging, it will be ignored.

Did you like this post? Then get more like it! Sign up for the Shari’s Ink eNewsletter and get FREE resources on social media news, publishing trends, and effective writing tips, every month. Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media manager living in Phoenix, Ariz. 

Literary Agent Tip #1: DO YOUR RESEARCH

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I’ve pitched about 10 literary agents, as of today. Ten. Literary agents.

They include the reps for Gillian Flynn, Stephenie Meyer (we both live in Phoenix!), John Green, Dan Brown, and James Dashner.

Prepare the automated rejections!

But seriously, these folks are top, top grade agents. And why not start with the best? Which leads me to the first lesson I learned upon my quest for a book deal:

Do your literary agent research BEFORE finishing your book!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t consider my book complete until finishing the first draft and editing it. Therefore, I ended my book, stepped away for a month, then started the editing/rewriting process.

It was during this month—between finishing the draft and editing—that I began my literary agent research. And here’s how I did it:

  1. Decided the genre which best described my book
  2. Deciphered the audience (YA, new adult, middle grade, adult fiction, etc.)
  3. Brainstormed which published books were similar to mine
  4. Googled their authors’ names with the term “literary agent” (i.e. John Green literary agent)
  5. Got the agent’s name and visited his/her website

Then, I created an Excel spreadsheet.

I used to work as a public relations professional in corporate communications. Whenever we were preparing a splash, we always developed a list of target reporters, their beats, and their contact information … all wrapped with a bow in an Excel spreadsheet.

We separated these reporters into “tiers:”

  • Tier one consisted of reporters who covered stories most aligned with our pitch. They also had the largest reach, or influence.
  • Tier two expanded further out, and included reporters who worked for community publications with a smaller reach.
  • And so on …

As I began compiling my list of literary agents, I did the same thing, preparing everything in Excel. My thought was this: once editing is complete, I’ll have a list of top tier, and second tier, literary agents to begin pitching.

And now that I’ve reached the moment of truth, I can tell you … this works, kid!

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Shari Lopatin is a professional writer, editor, and social media strategist who lives in Phoenix, Ariz. She recently finished her first novel and blogs about the lessons she learns while finding a literary agent, among other topics. Want to follow Shari’s progress toward a book deal? Then join The Readers Club! Sign up here.

I’m Back! And Writing About the Literary Agent Hunt

I know, I know … it’s been a year. However, I am officially back and re-launching this Rogue Writer blog. How have you all been?

I’ve redesigned the entire website (if you’re reading this in email, head on over there now, and check it out). I feel chic and sleek. The site is very Feng Shui. Seriously. It’s the new trend online; haven’t you heard?

Anyway, with this re-launch, I have new goals in mind, which means I’ll be writing about some different things. For one, I FINISHED MY FIRST NOVEL! For two, I quit my corporate job to re-launch my freelance writing business, Shari’s Ink.

With these things in mind, here’s what you can expect from Rogue Writer:

  1. Lessons on how to find a literary agent and pitch your book (based off my experiences as I go)
  2. Updates on the publishing industry
  3. Social media and tech trends
  4. Weird, random observations (just like before)

Is there anything else you’d like to hear about from my newly launched blog? Please COMMENT and share!

Any Literary Agent Recommendations?

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile … what, a year? … yeah, a loooong while. OK, anyway, I’m excited to announce that I finished my first novel!

Finishing my book MEME

If you’ve ever written a book, then you TOTALLY get this feeling of lunacy. Not only have I finished writing it, but as of today, I’m only 30 PAGES AWAY from finishing my first round of serious edits. Once that’s complete, it’s literary agent time, baby!

I’ve already done some research and developed a full Excel spreadsheet, but I’m writing today to ask YOU something: do you have any recommendations?

My novel is a dystopian new adult fiction book. It crosses the genres of science fiction, thriller/suspense, and general fiction, in the same way as George Orwell’s “1984” or Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” If you know of any literary agents seeking these types of work, and you trust them, I’d love your recommendation. Please comment below!

Thanks for your help, ladies and gentlemen.

The Toilet Talker

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You know you’ve met one. Perhaps you’ve never seen their face. Or known their name. But … you know you’ve met one.

The dreaded toilet talker.

I’ll give you a hint. This species of human being usually reveals its hidden nature within the confines of a public bathroom. Inside a stall. RIGHT NEXT TO YOU … as you’re taking a tinkle … or even worse …

That’s right. The toilet talker knows no shame. The toilet talker understands no boundary. This individual sits there, his or her thighs pressed neatly against cool, white porcelain, and blabs on a cell phone while urine rains into the pool of water waiting so patiently below. The toilet talker’s victims are many, from the unfortunate spouse or friend or parent on the other end of the cell phone, to the sisters quickly and quietly washing their hands in the sink–to YOU–sitting there benevolently in the neighboring stall, listening to a stranger’s thoughts on Russian/American relations in Crimea and wincing each time a spat of flatulence slips between their words.

You feel embarrassed for them, but also for you. Because suddenly you know that their 6-year-old son’s rash might be the chicken pox, and their boss reemed them for not meeting that quarterly deadline.

Probably because you spent too dang long in the bathroom, you think. And suddenly, you come to realize that this person has given a whole new meaning to the term, “TMI.”

Yes, this is the toilet talker. I’m sure you’ve met one. Care to tell?

Yea, I’ve been taking a blogging break

If you’ve been expecting new posts from me, sorry to disappoint, y’all.

But I promise, I’m not sitting around at night picking my nose (although, that does sound appealing … in a lazy, non-conformist kind of rebellion sorta way).

Naw. I just decided that, for the time being, blogging is going to take a backseat to REAL novel-writing. Because between Zumba, my NEW JOB (you may now congratulate me by kissing my toes), trying to eat like a dignified human being, and feeding the two minions which live under my roof (a.k.a. my cats) … I only have so much free time in the day.

And really, that time gets split between my family and my writing. And rather than writing my blogs, I’m writing my novel.

So I hope you understand. I’m not sure if I’ll be gone for a month, or a year. I may publish an occasional post to keep my funny gene stimulated. But if you stay subscribed via email, I promise to let you know when I finish my first novel! If you even care …

In the meantime, thank you ALL for the wonderful awesomeness you have bestowed upon me these past couple of years. From gold-pooping bacteria and chicken nuggets in a frozen bag of veggies, to my Jewish cat who’s mastered the art of guilt … we’ve had a blast!