Professional Poetry Editing & Critique

I am excited to share my experience and skills with poets at all stages in their careers who seek honest and meticulous critiques and feedback on individual poems or full length manuscripts. Critiques include line-by-line editing, structural and thematic concerns, and advice on every aspect of a collection, including publisher suggestions.

$55 (Poetry Sample): edit and critique your poetry (1,000 words or less).

$190 (Short Book Review): edit and critique your short poetry collection/chapbook (up to 5,000 words).

$325 (Complete Book Review): edit and critique your full-length poetry collection (up to 10,000 words), as well as provide guidance on preparing your book for submitting to publishers.

I am also a mentor and critiquer at The Bridge, hosted by Brooklyn Poets. Connect with me there too!

I call John Sibley Williams trusted friend and reader now. When I shared my most recent manuscript with him, his responses were extremely thorough and sensitive. John deeply respected my poems and my intent, even when he had thoughtful and honest suggestions to offer. He was always cognizant of his approach versus my own, a rare gift.
— Amy Small-McKinney
I have never received such detailed and genuine feedback of my poetry. Prompt in his turnaround and constructive at every level, John’s edits not only showed me a pathway out from the muddle I’d found myself in, but also key tactics to use in making myself a better poet. With a keen perception for theme and style, he understood completely the purpose and intended message of my manuscript. His feedback that was both holistic with a general overview and specific with line edits where needed. I will return to his editing services time and time again.
— Daniel Lassell
I had an exceptionally positive experience working with John. He is a careful, thoughtful reader who can see what’s working well in a poem, and what needs a new approach. In my case, I had a few long poems that I could never seem to whip into shape. He helped me find the form that worked best for my material, and to find the sweet spot between providing enough information to a reader to follow along and maintaining the mystery in a poem that a reader wants to discover for themselves.
— Maximilian Heinegg
Working with John Sibley Williams was a phenomenal experience that far exceeded my expectations. He provided nuanced readings of each one of my poems and attended to the larger themes in my collection. A generous editor, he saw what each poem was doing (or tried to do), then pinpointed ways to make it stronger. Through discerning and exacting feedback, he is also deeply respectful. His aesthetic range facilitates incisive feedback about how to maximize each poem’s effect on a potential reader. He also provided comments on my collection as a whole, including the sequencing of poems and the arc of the manuscript. In working with John, I learned so much about myself as a poet, and his feedback made me feel invigorated and ready to revise. Without a doubt, John is now one of my most important readers. I’ll definitely be sending him more work in the future!
— Shannon Winston
I met John at a time I was seeking to re-energize my poetry writing after a long hiatus. I started my collaboration with John by sending him 4 poems for his review—some new, some stuck in limbo for many years. I have found John’s review and commentary on my work to be very helpful, encouraging, and honest. He provides both big picture and detailed observations and, while my style is much different from his, I feel John respects and hears my voice. I look forward to continuing my work with him.
— Connie Soper
I enjoyed the process and appreciate John’s careful eye. I really needed an objective viewpoint, which others hadn’t given me. John provided detailed responses and thorough line edits. He also has a great “bedside” manner, meaning that I asked for hard criticism and the truth and he provided those while being eager and encouraging, hard-nosed and exacting. I really appreciate this experience and want more of it.
— David Lohrey
I worked with John Sibley Williams on two batches of poems and found his critique to be invaluable in my revision process. He is a very careful and thoughtful reader. He provided thorough and detailed responses to the poems as well as an overview response for each poem. He is able to critique work that is outside of his own aesthetic and his critique is offered in the spirit of making better poems. I highly recommend his services.
— Feral Willcox

Writing Coach/Mentor

In addition to editing services, I offer my services as a writing coach or mentor. Together we will establish an ongoing relationship, tailored to provide you the accountability and feedback you want. In this role, I can provide:

 Regular check-ins via email, Skype, or phone: on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis, we can discuss your progress on a project, strategies for overcoming writer’s block, and/or ways to bolster your writing routine through writing prompts and reading assignments

 Editing services on individual poems and manuscripts

 Advice regarding publication, networking, and sharing your work

*Email me at jswilliams1307@gmail.com to come up with a strategy. Pricing varies according to your needs.

Marketing Plans

I'll use the knowledge I've gained during my time marketing to help you create a solid marketing plan to promote your book. I’ll use your CV or resume to tailor a strategy that fits your genre, goals, location, and background.

$45 (Basic): create a personalized 1-page plan to help you promote your book

$75 (Premium): create a personalized 2-page marketing plan and write a press release for your book.

$125 (Professional): All of premium PLUS creation of a personalized marketing schedule and media query templates.

Publisher Query Letters

I will help you draft a publisher query letter and/or draft a comprehensive marketing plan. I can also provide advice on how you should go about obtaining publication. Additionally, I am willing to assess or draft your author bio, book description, and other materials to assist your journey.

$45: review and make comprehensive edits to your existing query letter.

$95: personally craft your query letter for agents and publishers.

$175: craft your query letter + 5 publisher recommendations with contact info + 1 pg. marketing plan.

When writing a novel, it can be difficult to explain it. ‘What’s your novel about?’ Uh, can you just read it? That’s where John Sibley Williams comes in. His attentive openness gives you the space to express from a deeper place. He is able to take that deeper place and reflect it back to you in the form of a perfect description of what you are trying to say. He has extensive knowledge on the literary community but also how to join you and see your vision for your book. From there he crafts a profound query letter and gives you publishers he has researched that would be perfect for your book. Working with John is something I wish I would have done years ago!
— Justin Blackburn

Agent Representation

Literary Genres: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Types of Publishers I Work With: midsize, university, chapbook, and indie presses.

My Rates:

$45/hour

Email me at jswilliams1307@gmail.com for more information

Authors whose books I've represented:

∫ Katey Schultz, Flashes of War, Apprentice House, 2013 (Short Story Collection)

∫ Megan Gannon, Cumberland, Apprentice House, 2014 (Novel)

∫  Karen Babine, Water and What It Knows, University of Minnesota Press, 2015 (Nonfiction/Essay Collection)

∫ Tanya J. Peterson, Twenty-Four Shadows, Apprentice House, 2016 (Novel)

∫ Sam Snoek-Brown, Hagridden, Columbus Press, 2014 (Historical Fiction Novel)

∫ Adrian Gibbons Koesters, Many Parishes, BrickHouse Books, 2013 (Poetry)

∫ Paul Ketzle, The Late Michael Brown, Apprentice House, 2014 (Novel)

∫ Penn Stewart, Fertile Ground, Knox Robinson Publishing, 2015 (Historical Fiction Novel)

∫ Mary Jane Ryals, Cutting Loose in Paradise,Pineapple Press, 2015 (Novel)

∫ Trish MacEnulty, The Pink House, Apprentice House, 2016 (Novel)

∫ William Reichard, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, 2015 (Poetry)

∫ Marjorie Power, Seven Parts Woman, WordTech, 2016 (Poetry)

∫ Margaret O. Howard, Lalin Bonheur,  Wild Child Publishing, 2016 (Genre Fiction)

∫ Amy Ratto Parks, Radial Bloom, Folded Word Press, 2017 (Lyrical Essays)

∫ Adrian Koesters, Union Square, Apprentice House, 2017 (Fiction)

∫ Marjorie Power, Oncoming Halos, Kelsay Books, 2018 (Poetry)

∫ Sarah Coomber, The Same Moon, TouchPoint Press, 2018 (Memoir)

∫ Pen Pearson, Bloomsbury's Late Rose, Chickadee Prince Books, 2019 (Historical Fiction)

∫ John Schouten, Evenings When the Sun, FutureCycle Press, 2020 (Poetry)

John Sibley Williams is a rare find. He is a gifted wordsmith and knowledgeable about the publishing world. He is as serious and passionate about the work of others as he is about his own. Once he has committed to a work, he doesn’t give up ... even when its author does.
I learned of John from a friend whose book he placed, and honestly he sounded too good to be true. But because my friend is a bit of a cynic, I decided to give him a try. I found that John is discerning, honest, generous and has almost supernaturally fast turnaround. He will share as much or as little information about the process as his clients want. In my case, I had too many other irons in the fire, so I just let him work his magic on my all-but-orphaned book. One day, he sent me an email: “Congratulations!” As a writer, when you have John in your corner, you never feel alone.
— Sarah Coomber
John has been invaluable to my career as a professional writer. Because he took the time to get to know me as a person, and to read my books and get to know them, he has represented me well in the industry of writing and publishing. With so many people publishing books, it is increasingly difficult to get noticed, let alone prove that your writing is worth someone’s valuable time. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without a professional agent. John is a professional agent, and an outstanding one at that. I was picked up by a publisher soon after he began pitching my novel Twenty-Four Shadows. I highly recommend working with John Sibley Williams to advance your career.
— Tanya J. Peterson
“John Sibley Williams is a human being, not an Agency with a capital A. He is personable and engaged, and he gives you honest assessments of your work that show he’s actually read it. When I hired John as the agent for my novel, Hagridden, I felt confident we might get places together. And when I saw his first market analysis, I knew I’d made a good decision—the man knows his markets.
This was all what I’d hoped for. But when I read his first pitch and promotional material for my book, I realized I’d lucked into so much more. In his queries, John demonstrated an ability to cut through all the text of my manuscript and find the beating heart of it. He understood things I barely dared to whisper to myself, and he found a way to express them in pitches and summaries that were at once glowing and matter-of-fact, the very tone I’d always found impossible when I tried to write these things myself. He approaches his work with the mind of a poet and a lover of the written word, and he pitched my novel not just as a book he was trying to sell but as a book he wanted to share with the world.
The toil of submitting work on your own is like grinding teeth in your sleep: headache-inducing wear that erodes your confidence to a throbbing nub. Thanks to John’s excellent work, not only has Hagridden found a home at a small press, but also, I have maintained—even improved—my confidence in my work.”
— Sam Snoek-Brown
You might think that a literary agent who works by the hour would have little motivation to place your book, since the more hours he works on sending your book out, the more money he makes. And, were you working with some other for-hire agent, you might be right. However, for my first book I worked with both John Sibley Williams as well as a high-powered agent at a prestigious agency, and John was the agent who found a home for my book. In one case, both of them sent the same book to the same small press, but only John was able to procure a request for the full manuscript. Not convinced? I have two colleagues who also asked John to represent their work, and John has placed all three of our books. Do you know any other agent with a 100% success rate? Wouldn’t a book contract six months from now be preferable to years of near-misses with contests? Send John your book, friends. I can’t offer any better advice.
— Megan Gannon
John Sibley Williams made the publication of my first novel a reality quicker than I would have thought possible. I had my manuscript turned down by two New York City agents and began to wonder if what I had written was worthy of being published—the worst thing for any writer is self-doubt. But within six months of working with John, I had an offer on the table. I could not believe my eyes when I opened the email. Appropriately enough, he sent me the news while I was at a writer’s conference. John’s expertise at writing query letters, pitches, and synopses—not to mention his ability to navigate the vast publishing world and find a publisher who is a fit for a particular manuscript—makes him an incredible asset for any writer hoping to have their work published. You might think my experience is singular, but many of my colleagues from graduate school have also benefitted from John’s insights, connections, and knowledge. We have collectively decided to erect the John Sibley Williams Annex on the campus of our Alma Marta, a nice Edwardian library filled with all the books he helped publish.
— Penn Stewart
I heard about John Sibley Williams through a friendly independent literary conference in the southeast. At this conference, we may meet someone at a dinner table over gulf seafood, which is how I happened to meet someone who’d just found out his book had been accepted for publication. As we writers know, this moment is a huge win for a writer, just to get a book taken.
So we all toasted the writer, and I asked the details of the publication. He told me it was a niche market book—literary history—and that his agent had found the right independent publisher for him.
“He’s a nice guy,” the writer said of his agent, John Sibley Williams. “And a poet in his own right.” And these understatements, I’d say. John is making waves in the poetry community with his own work.
As an agent, you could not ask for a better person. I contacted John, who was thorough, honest and perceptive. He placed my second novel within a year. I’d tried this particular publisher years before with another book that it turned down. This time, because of John’s keen way of submitting with the right details and a good cover letter, the book was taken.
I’ve recommended John as an agent to other writers who are talented and perhaps weary of submitting, weary of mainstream agents, or not their own best advocates for “the pitch,” or who are just not knowledgeable about the behemoth that publishing can be. John is savvy and sensitive, a rare gem in this world.
— Dr. Mary Jane Ryals
I’m 67 and have been publishing in journals and anthologies since my mid-20’s. I also have a string of chapbooks to my name, all from small presses. But landing a publisher for a full length collection just wasn’t happening. The manuscripts I’d entered in contests had done well sometimes, but never well enough. And I didn’t know how to approach small press editors on my own, regarding a full length poetry manuscript. Then two friends recommended working with John. I knew he was an agent and a poet but didn’t know he was an agent for poetry! I had never heard of such a creature. I looked at the testimonials on his website, hired him, and within a couple of days he was submitting queries and copies of the manuscript for me. Two months later our goal was met. Besides all this, he’s a delight to work with. Warm, friendly, confident, positive, and realistic. An unusual combination of traits, in my experience.
— Marjorie Power
John is a wonderful resource for writers looking to get published with a reputable press. He is supportive, responsive, and extremely knowledgeable about the marketplace. I have used his services and have recommended him to others. In addition, John offers excellent advice for marketing your work. That was a bonus!
— Trish MacEnulty
Anyone fortunate enough to have John Williams navigate the super-competitive world of book sales for them may leave the helm to him with complete confidence. As my marketer, he scheduled a signing tour that put me, a newly-published first-time author, in the biggest bookstores in the Pacific Northwest. Pulling out all the stops, he then secured me a featured-speaker engagement at the award-winning Nye Beach Writers Series in Newport, OR, and followed that by arranging a conference appearance at the Central Oregon Writers Guild’s conference in Bend, OR. John is a real 3D asset; he’s dedicated, he’s diligent and he delivers. On top of all that, he’s also real nice guy; a real bookselling proposition.
— Wallace J. Swenson
John is a superb publicist and literary agent. In short order he has lined up readings to promote my new book and has given me myriad helpful suggestions about how and where to publicize my work. John is a consummate communicator. He’s always quick to respond to any communication and his responses are always thoughtful, upbeat, encouraging, clear and articulate. He’s a pleasure to work with, and it’s a relief for me to know that my work is getting out there in the larger poetry demimonde far faster than it would if I were promoting it myself.
— Leah Stenson
I’m an editor and freelance writer myself, but when it came to marketing my fiction manuscript and selling myself, I hit a wall. Working with John Sibley Williams was not only helpful, but educational and enjoyable. His book summary, marketing plan, and query letter for my manuscript demonstrated depth, professionalism, and keen insight into the publishing industry. His words gave me the jump-start I needed to reach out to nationally known agents and publishers with confidence.
— Katey Schultz