Having written more than 6,000 pieces for The New York Times and countess pieces for highly respected publications around the world since the mid-70’s, Allan Kozinn’s musical insights will find a new outlet, as we launch our very own culture magazine, with a target rollout date of August 1st, 2015.

Allan currently writes for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Opera News, Classical Music Review, San Francisco Classical Voice, Musical America and others, with new offers coming in daily for both print and radio.

Liberated from mainstream editorial constraints, we hope to spotlight up-and-coming artists by covering Greenwich-Village-in-the-60’s-like artistic ventures and personalities, wherever they may be found, in addition to big names and venues with established brands, that readers currently follow.

Music reviewing in its various forms is Allan’s forte, and will remain his focus for the new culture magazine, as well as the publications that quickly sought him out when he parted with the Times in December — newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Collaborating with Valley Voice co-founder, Alexander Theberge, we aim to meld Alex’s reputation for providing top shelf graphic layout and technical support, with Allan’s consistently and artfully expressed music knowledge, to create an uncluttered cultural space where readers can bask in all things creative, without having to navigate a minefield of intrusive pop-up ads.

Our magazine — name to be announced — will include regular columns for reviews, a feedback forum, coverage of music, art, venues, museums, news, commentary and Q&A’s, in addition to poetry, an advice column, bios, features, and contests. Although the format will be tidy and organized, we hope to come-off as professional, but relaxed — kind of “OCD meets Zen”.

When I asked Allan what aspect of this venture he’s most looking forward to, he said, “I’d like to have my own advice column, but it would probably be about as well received as John Lennon’s 1969 faux diary…. Seriously, though, it’ll mostly just be nice to write about anything that looks interesting to me, without having to convince people who may know nothing about it, that it has value.

“For instance,” Allan told me, “when the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first visit to America came around, I mentioned to my editors that we ought to commemorate it in some way, and they basically rolled their eyes. Until, a couple weeks before the anniversary, one of them came to my desk with Billboard, Rolling Stone and a couple of other magazines and asked, ‘why are the Beatles on the cover of these magazines?’ Covering contemporary classical music was often an uphill battle as well. I trust my instincts, and I’m pretty sure that if I find something interesting, I’ll be able to talk this editor into it.”

During his two years as a general culture reporter, Allan wrote about art, theater, jazz, books and other cultural topics that we hope to cover in the new magazine. And although the paper’s editorial “needs” sometimes meant that his cultural news column, ArtsBeat, read like a celebrity crime blotter, he was also able to report on new music and other topics that he felt were a more crucial part of the cultural conversation.

When Allan was reassigned in September of 2012, a petition circulated and web pages popped up, voicing disapproval of the Times’ decision to pull him from reviewing. A barrage of public and private notes of solidarity came in for months, and still trickle in. One reader wrote, “For thirty years, I’ve had Kozinn with my coffee — I’ve read every review he’s ever written.” Many suggested Allan start his own website for reviews, and promised to follow him there. Others offered to help fund it, and purchase subscriptions. We’re still working on that portion of the model. Paywalls are tricky, and we want to do it right. The idea is to make our work accessible to as many people as possible, but we’ll have running expenses, too, so we’re working on finding a healthy balance.

Contact info, submission guidelines and job opportunities will be posted in May.

kozinn with my coffee IMG_4454

We Get this a Lot: Can you connect me with a publisher?

What do you say, as a published author, when friends and strangers ask you to “hook them up” with a publisher? I can’t be the only person hearing this, in an industry where there are more good, unpublished writers, than published. People do what they can to get ahead. It’s just good business; you truly have to be your own advocate.

But, there are plenty of misconceptions about how this works. And if you’re not careful, you’ll offend a lot of people who’ll just assume that you’re holding out.

My responses are so similar whenever I reply to such inquiries, that I should probably write a form letter, to use. (But I hate form letters — good to change them a bit here and there, at least.) But feel free to borrow as much of this as you find useful.

If I had a form letter, it would look something like this:

Dear (wonderful person),

Thanks for thinking of us, it’s good to hear from you. I’m glad to hear you are ready to find a publisher for your book. I would gladly assist you in this, if it were in my power to do so. However, it is not. I can give you a little insight into how this works for us, and where you might begin.

First you want to decide what your objective is. If you are writing to see it in print, and so your friends can order it, and don’t want the hassle of dealing with agents and publishers, there’s Amazon, where you can have your manuscript up immediately at no cost. And there are plenty of self publishing firms out there, now. I am not familiar with them, and can’t make a recommendation, but Google should be of some help. Read the reviews, though.

As for us, Allan [my husband] and I have different situations. Whenever Allan writes a book, it’s because someone else had the idea — a publisher or The New York Times, where he works, or someone’s rich Uncle — and contacts him, asking him to write it. He never has to worry about all the paperwork that an agent generally handles, and simply agrees to terms (a fee, an advance, word count, etc.) and writes it. It’s not usually the same entity twice, and Allan is never in the position of trying to market his work.

I, on the other hand, write a variety of genres, and therefore, try to carefully select a good publisher for a particular manuscript. Then I query. There’s no magic button.

Here’s my advice for anyone just getting started: Buy a current Writer’s Market, from Writer’s Digest Books. This is not a sales pitch, they don’t even know I exist. But it is the holy bible of freelancing — the nuts and bolts of getting published. It contains publisher listings, that tell you what different publishing houses are looking for, contact information and submission guidelines. It gives details, like how much they pay per word and how many titles they publish a year.

In addition to submission information, it explains how it all works, warns you of common pitfalls and even tells you how to format a manuscript or find an agent.

From there, just remember to keep writing, be objective if you want useful feedback, and don’t take “no” personally. Some of the best writers out there could wallpaper a small room with their rejection slips.

Then find a writer’s group in your community or online and keep applying what you learn. It’s the kind of thing you figure out as you go.


Of course, even having taken the time to bother responding, there will be people who have watched too many movies and picture you in sunglasses by the pool, sipping a drink with an umbrella in it, while your servants bring you bags of money and fan mail by the hour, while you laugh an evil, knowing you could have helped them, but didn’t.

But there’s nothing you can do about that. Smile and carry on.

Choosing a Literary Agent

Guide to Literary Agents

Guide to Literary Agents

Here I am, once again, trying to choose a literary agent. Fellow writers who are actively seeking publication, probably feel my pain.

Here’s my dilemma… Generally, agents have their specialties. They’ve often worked with a certain genre in the past, in some capacity — children’s book editor for a large publishing house, for instance. Their contacts are what they are. The titles they’re interested in, are generally those where they already have a solid foot in the door with the right publishers.

Here’s my problem. I have written such a wide range of manuscripts — everything from picture books to adult novels, fiction and nonfiction, and topics ranging from religion to edgy gender issues, and tons of poetry. I’ve written curriculum, plays, music, and I’m working on a screenplay. In contracting with an agent, I am agreeing to allow them to represent all of my work, when they may only be interested in a small percentage of what I do.

So, I end up researching agents, only to put the idea on the back burner again, in frustration, as I have every few years, literally, for decades.

Now, I have so many manuscripts piling up that I know I have to bite the bullet and let someone do my legwork for me. Completely committed to it THIS time, I bought the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents from Writer’s Digest, and dug in.

Having read it through, I realized that I am in really good shape. I had already addressed the dos and don’ts, have written great cover letters and synopsis’ and have tight, finished manuscripts to submit.

But here’s the biggie that I had neglected. Platform! Platform! Platform! Platform was hammered throughout the book, by publishers, agents and writers. It’s a brave new world, where social media has become an important part of the formula for success.

Other than FB, I’ve neglected the part of the business where I get myself out there, so that the agents I query will have something to see if they Google me, and know I’ll be able to take an active part in promoting my books.

So, here I go! I’m getting some blogs off the ground — long overdue, I know — and have been updating my neglected social media sites for the sake of platform, and adding a few fun ones like Instagram and Photo Bucket. I like Google+ and will build that site, and I have a strong presence on LinkedIn and Lit.org. I’m on Twitter and have started trying to find interesting bloggers and writers to follow.

Which brings me full-circle, to where I always sink into the proverbial tar pit, having done all the readying ad nauseam.

But this time, I’m going to start actively querying agents. For real, this time. No, really. I am…